PHILIP IV. (LE BEL, "THE FAIR "): King of France (1285-1314), son of Philip III.; b. at Fontainebleau (37 m. s.s.e. of Paris) 1268; d. Nov. 29, 1314. A contemporary Flemish monkish chronicler, having in mind his persistent and unscrupulous efforts to subjugate Flanders, speaks of him as " a certain king of France . . . eaten up by the fever of avarice and cupidity." Guizot, quoting with approval this medieval characterization, adds:
" And that was not the only fever inherent in Philip IV. he was a prey also to that of ambition and, above all, to that of power. When he mounted the throne, at seventeen years of age, he was handsome, as his nickname tells us, cold, taciturn, hash, and brave at need, but without fire or dash, able in the formation of his designs and obstinate in prosecuting them by craft or violence, bribery or cruelty, with wit to choose and support his servants, passionately vindictive against his enemies, and faithless and unsympathetic toward his subjects, but from time to time taking care to conciliate them either by calling them to his


aid in his difficulties or dangers, or by giving them protection against their opposers. Never, perhaps, was king better served by circumstances or more successful in his enterprises; but . . . he had a scandalous contempt for rights, abused success, and thrust the kingship in France upon the high-road of that arrogant and reckless egotism which is sometimes compatible with ability and glory, but which carries with it in germ . . . the native vices and fatal consequences of arbitrary and absolute power" (Hist. of France, i. 457, New York, 1884).

His political success was scarcely as real as this characterization implies; for while he was able to rob England of Guienne he was ultimately compelled to restore it, and while for a time he dominated and oppressed Flanders, his victory was followed by humiliating defeat. By his marriage to Johanna of Navarre (1284) he added Navarre, Champagne, and Brie to the royal possessions. Lyons was later (1312) subjected to the crown.

In ecclesiastical matters his success was more marked and permanent; but even when he contended most effectively against papal usurpations he manifested no higher qualities or motives than those set forth above. His refusal to yield to the demand of Boniface VIII. (q.v.) that he make peace with the king of England was due not to a clearly defined view of the proper relations of Church and State, but to his determination to have his own way and his willingness to defy what he must have recognized as the highest spiritual authority on earth. The same may be said of his successful retaliatory measures in response to Boniface's bull Clericis laicoa (Feb. 25, 1296). He had gained so large a measure of authority in France that the French clergy, whether they sympathized with his defiance of the pope or not, dared not antagonize him, paid to the king the war subsidies demanded in spite of papal prohibition, and obeyed the king in withholding all papal dues. That Boniface deserved to be chastised for his arrogance does not make of Philip a heroic champion of civil liberty in administering the discipline. This is true also of his defiant treatment of the bull Unam sanctum (q.v.). His burning of this most arrogant papal pronouncement, his confiscation of the estates of prelates who sided with the pope, and his response to the pope's bull of excommunication by throwing the pope into prison, furnish no proof that he was a reformer. The fact is that he regarded neither God nor man when his own supposed interests were at stake. He manifested the same spirit in manipulating the college of cardinals so as to secure the election of a pope (Clement V.) committed to the interests of France and pledged to remove the papal capital to Avignon. He secured the removal of the papal seat to French territory not in order that, he might bring about a reformation in the papal administration, but that he might prevent other sovereigns from using the organized power of the papacy against himself and might be assured of papal and curial cooperation for the aggrandizement of the French monarchy. He compelled the captive pope and Curia to cooperate with him in the destruction of the Templars (q.v.), not because he believed that the order had become scandalously immoral and blasphemously and diabolically irreligious, as members of the order were tortured into confessing, but because he was jealous of their political power and lack of subserviency, and covetous of their vast wealth. He persecuted the Jews not chiefly because he wanted them to become Christians, but as a means of appropriating their wealth. His avarice was also manifested in his debasing of the coinage of the realm. It is not to be supposed that the well conceived and well executed measures for consolidating and increasing the authority of the crown, overcoming civil and ecclesiastical opposition, and enriching the royal exchequer were the product of his own independent thinking. He was surrounded with able and unscrupulous counselors (such as William of Nogaret), who subserviently ministered to his consuming desire for power and glory and who profited personally by his successful exploitations. See BONIFACE VIII.; and CLEMENT V.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Important sources are: Codex diplomaticus Flandriæ 1298-15,25, ed. T. de L. Stirum, Bruges, 1879 sqq.; and Lettres inédites de Philippe Ie Bel, Toulouse, 1887. Discussions, besides those in the church histories dealing with the period, are: A. Baillet, Hist. des démelé:s du Pape Boniface Vlll. avec Philippe Ie Bel, 2 parts, Paris, 1718; M. Bouquet, Recueil des historiens des Gaules, vol. xxi., 23 vols., ib. 1738-76; J. Jolly, Philippe Ie Bel, ses deeaeins, des actes, son influence, ib. 1889; Milman, Latin Christianity, vol. vi.; Pastor, Popes, i. 57 sqq.; and the literature under Bomnifce VIII. and CLEMENT V.


CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 06/03/04. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely