Philip IV, King of France
PHILIP IV, KING OF FRANCE
Reigned 1285 to 1314, called the Fair; b. Fontainebleau, 1268; d. Fontainebleau, Nov. 29, 1314. Philip brought the French monarchy to new heights of power, yet many of his contemporaries and some modern scholars assert that his ministers deserve all the credit (or blame) for his policies. It is true that his agents (Flotte, Nogaret, and Marigny) were forceful personages and that
Philip himself always let them speak for him on formal occasions. But general policy remained the same for 29 years while ministers changed, and the records show that behind the scenes Philip worked with unflagging industry. Those who have studied the period most carefully suspect that he was responsible for the events of his reign.
The Reign and Its Problems. Philip was a devoted husband, a loyal friend, and a pious Christian. But his piety, without flaw in his private life, showed two peculiarities in public. First, he had no great respect for the leadership of the Roman curia. His father's death in the disastrous Crusade against Aragon, a death that left Philip at the age of 17 to cope with a hopeless war and a heavy debt, may have engendered his doubts about papal policies. Second, Philip, the heir of crusaders, the grandson of a saint, the ruler of the largest Catholic country in Europe, believed that the French monarch was as necessary for human welfare as the Roman See. Philip's duty to God and to his people was to strengthen the Kingdom of France, and anyone who interefered with this task, baron or emperor, bishop or pope, was to be swept aside.
He and his advisers had a fairly clear concept of sovereignty. Everyone who was "in and of the kingdom" owed obedience to the king. But what was the kingdom? There were bishops in the south who were virtually independent; there were lands on the border of the Empire that had both French and German connections; worst of all, the two great and wealthy fiefs of Guienne (held by England) and Flanders had almost escaped royal control.
Some of these problems were easily solved. Self-governing towns, many barons, even the great bishops of the Midi had to accept the oversight of royal officials. The French boundary was pushed east at the expense of the Holy Roman Empire; the city of Lyons was annexed. But England fought to retain Guienne, and Flanders fought to keep its autonomy. To gain English neutrality, Philip had to relinquish most of Guienne and marry his daughter to the Prince of Wales (thus creating the later English claim to the French throne). Even then, Philip could not win a complete victory over the Flemings; he acquired only the towns of Lille, Douai, and Bethune.
These wars, fought with paid soldiers, were very expensive. Philip was always short of money; his greatest innovations and his greatest mistakes were due to the fact that he was near bankruptcy during most of his reign. He imposed the first general taxes in French history; he inflated the currency; he expelled the Jews and confiscated their property; he abused judicial procedures to extort large fines from clergy, barons, and towns.
Relations with Boniface VIII. Both financial need and the desire for sovereign independence led to his quarrel with Pope boniface viii. Philip wanted to tax the clergy without securing papal consent; Boniface forbade this in the bull clericis laicos (1296). Philip's ministers accused the clergy of disloyalty and harassed them so that they begged the pope to remove his prohibition. Boniface finally ruled that in an emergency for the defense of the realm the clergy could be taxed by the king.
The second stage of the quarrel came when Philip sought to condemn Bishop Bernard Saisset for treason. Boniface demanded the bishop's release; Philip's ministers charged that this was an attack on the authority of the king and the independence of France. A meeting of representatives of clergy, nobility, and bourgeosie was held at Paris in 1302, where Pierre Flotte denounced the pope. When the Flemings defeated the French and killed Flotte at Courtrai, there was a brief lull, but Guillaume de Nogaret was soon ordered to carry on the case. He accused the pope of simony, vice, and heresy, and persuaded most French communities, including cathedral chapters and monasteries, to appeal for a general council to depose Boniface. Nogaret went to Italy in 1303 to arrest the pope and succeeded in holding him prisoner at Anagni for a few days. A popular uprising freed the aged pontiff, but he died of the shock within a month.
The next pope, benedict xi, did not live long enough to settle the affair. After his death, mysterious intrigues, still imperfectly known, resulted in the election in 1305 of the archbishop of Bordeaux as clement v. Clement, throughout his pontificate, acted as if he were under obligation to Philip. To end the scandal caused by continued attacks on Boniface's memory, he praised the king's pious zeal and absolved Nogaret and his aides. When Philip accused the Knights templar of heresy, probably because he coveted the wealth that they had gained by operating as bankers, Clement suppressed the order even though its guilt was not proved. Worst of all, disorders in Italy gave Philip a chance to urge Clement to remain north of the Alps. The pope finally settled at avignon, just across the Rhone from France. Thus began the "Babylonian Captivity" (see avignon papacy).
Philip's determination to be a strong king in a united France made a lasting impression on the French government. All branches of the administration were professionalized, and the number of royal officials greatly increased. The high court of Parlement at Paris was strengthened and a much more efficient financial administration was created. France was already on the road to becoming a bureaucratic state, but Philip accelerated the process.
Nevertheless, whereas Philip's administrative structure survived, his unscrupulous methods tarnished the prestige of kingship. Revolts broke out after his death, and for the next century, the French monarchy rocked from crisis to crisis. Philip had very nearly exhausted the reservoir of goodwill that had been left by his grandfather. St. louis ix. It took another saint, joan of arc, to replenish it.
Bibliography: r. fawtier, ed., Camptes royaux, 1285–1314, 3 v. (Paris 1953–58); Registres du trésor des chartes (Paris 1958). j. viard, ed., Les Journaux du trésor de Philippe IV le Bel (Paris 1940). a. a. beugnot, ed., Les Olim, ou registres dec arrêts, 4 v. (Paris 1839–48); Ordonnances des roys de France, ed. e. j. de lauriÈre et al. 23 v. and suppl. (Paris 1723–1847). Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France (Paris 1738) v.21–24, contains many important documents and chronicles of the reign. p. dupuy, Histoire du différend d'entre le pape Boniface VIII et Philippe le Bel (Paris 1655). c. v. langlois, Saint Louis, Philippe le Bel, les derniers Capétiens directs, 1226–1328, v.3.2 of Histoire de France, ed. e. lavisse, 9 v. (Paris 1900–11). r. fawtier, L'Europe occidentale de 1270 à 1380. 1 ptie. De 1270 à 328, v.6.1 of Histoire générale, ed. g. glotz (Paris 1933). g. a. l. digard, Philippe le Bel et le Saint-siège de 1258 à 1304, 2 v. (Paris 1936). k. wenck, Philipp der Schöne v. Frankreich: Seine Persönlichkeit u. das Urteil der Zeitgenossen (Marburg 1905). r. scholz, Die Publizistik zur Zeit Philipps des Schönen und Bonifaz' VIII (Stuttgart 1903). j. r. strayer and c. h. taylor, Studies in Early French Taxation (Cambridge, Mass. 1939). j. r. strayer, "Philip the Fair: A 'Constitutional' King." American Historical Review 62 (1956–57) 18–32. j. r. strayer, The Reign of Philip the Fair (Princeton 1980). d. poirel, Philippe le Bel (Paris 1991).
[j. r. strayer]