Philip III and IV

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© Bob Denton 2014

Philip III (1270 – 1285)

Louis IX left his son Philip with the Enseignements, a set of written instructions as to how he should comport himself during his reign.

The first task of Philip’s reign had him despatch his uncle to meet with the Emir and conclude his father’s crusade; he negotiated a ten-year truce. While he returned from the crusade to be crowned at Reims. He became known as Philippe III le Hardi (Philip III the Bold) in 1271.

Philip was twenty-five years old when crowned, despite his epithet, ‘the Bold’, he had quite a diffident and timid character. His epithet was based on how he rode and performed in battle.

His uncle, Alfonso the Count of Poitou, Toulouse, and Auvergne, died while returning through Italy from the crusade, Philip inherited his lands and incorporated them in to his realm. From among these lands he did subsequently restore the Agenais region to the English. He gained more lands by inheritance when his brother Pierre did, adding Alençon and Perche.

Henry I of Navarre had died in 1274, he was succeeded by his daughter, Joan I, just a baby. Her mother was her regent. Philip III opportunistically married his son, Philip the Fair, to the eleven-year-old heiress in August 1284. He became Philip I, King of Navarre and Count of Joan’s own possessions of Champagne and Brie.

Philip IV (1285 – 1314)

The next year Philip III died and Philippe le Bel (Philip the Fair) became Philip IV. Joan became queen of France. They had four children that survived, three boys who would each rule France and a daughter who would become Queen of England. Her territories were initially vested in the person of the king but after her husband and three sons this distinction disappeared and they were subsumed in to royal ownership.

Chivalry and courtly love – Vegetius (in full – Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus) had written in the late 4th century a treatise on the Roman military thinking and its approaches to warfare providing an insight to the background to their success. It was called De Re Militari. It outlined the importance of recruitment, training and discipline, the significance of supply lines and logistics, and gave insight to leadership, strategy, tactics and siege engines. It is the only such guide to Roman military thinking that has survived intact; in fact over 200 Latin copies of the work are extant.

The work does dart about between eras. He attributes the material to Augustus, Cato the Elder, Cornelius Celsus, Frontinus, Hadrian, Paternus and Trajan. It is full of maxims, for example ‘the main and principal point in war is to secure plenty of provisions for oneself and to destroy the enemy by famine. Famine is more terrible than the sword.’ And a rather poignant maxim, ‘si vis pacem, para bellum’ (If you want peace, prepare for war).

It would influence many in the medieval world. It was first translated into French in 1284 by Jean de Meun and appeared as Le livre de Végèce de l’art de chevalerie. de Meun was lame and was ingratiously known as Clopinel (clopiner meaning to limp).  It swiftly became the military man’s field handbook for use in medieval warfare, even though gunpowder and other developments had come along since Roman times to perhaps invalidate some of its advice.

Though this was a book on military tactics it was consumed in to the then current vogue for chilvaric thinking and practice. Chivalry of course derives from chevalier and therefore horsemanship and originated back in the 11th century. Chivalry placed the observance of religion highly and believed in patriotism and the feudal laws. A knight must keep his word, defend the meek and weak, be generous and most importantly make war of infidels and show them no mercy.

Courtly love was originally based in fiction, tales of honourable knights performing services for their ladies, or females they desired to become their ladies. But by the end of the 11th century the concept was practiced in the courts of Aquitaine, Burgundy. Champagne and Provence. It was mixed up with the emotion for crusades. The notion was then transmitted by Eleanor of Aquitaine in to the court of France and subsequently that of England.

Perhaps the two – chivalry and courtly love – were expressed best in the tales of Arthur and Camelot.


Under Philip IV the government of the country shifted away from the barons and the feudal system and became controlled by civil servants as more of a centralised state. Though this approach had him appear aloof and indifferent.

He managed to successfully arrange for his relatives to take thrones, achieving this in Hungary and Naples. He expanded France eastward by scooping up independent small territories and principalities. He failed however to do the same for the Holy Roman Empire.

The Third Crusade had seized Acre for the Crusaders in 1191 and had been their capital for most of the ensuing century. In 1290 it was evident that the Muslim forces were planning to siege Acre and hasty calls for help from Europe were met with a small response, it fell in 1291. This meant that the Crusaders had lost all possessions in the Holy Land, though it retained Cyprus, and there was little desire to call for new crusades to remedy this.

For some reason the fall of Acre seemed to be the catalyst for a chilling in the relationship between Philip IV and Edward I of England, though Edward remained the vassal of Philip with regard to his Duchy of Aquitaine.

In 1293 there was a naval incident between Norman and English forces which was therefore an international incident. But Philip chose to summon Edward to his court as his vassal count. Edward sent ambassador who were sent away, he then sent his brother to negotiate.

A bizarre agreement was agreed where Edward would formally relinquish all his continental territories and hand them over to Philip. Then Philip agreed that he would forgive him and hand them back. But he had no intention of fulfilling the second part of the agreement, his excuse was that Edward had failed to appear in his court personally. Philip also secretly arranged a pact with the Scottish that called for mutual assistance against Edward.

These decisions inevitably led to war between the two countries with Edward striving to take back Gascony. Two campaigns in 1294-1298 and 1300-1303 achieved little but cost a great deal.

In 1302 problems flared for Philip in Flanders. It was ruled by France by the consent of its nobles but the desire for independence among the Flemish people was becoming explosive.

The French-English problems had spilled over on to Bruges. It had been the exclusive importer of sheep wool from England, but now Edward I began to cut this middleman out of the business.

Given the tension Philip had garrisoned French troops in the town, which just served to ramp up local feeling. In May 1302 the Flemish militia turned upon the French garrisoned in Bruges. Apparently they asked any suspect to repeat the phrase des gilden vriend (friend of the guilds) which French speakers had difficulty in pronouncing properly. They massacred 2,000 of them.

Robert of Artois was sent by Philip to exact retribution, he was accompanied by 2,500 knights and noblemen and 4,000 foot soldiers. They were met by a force of 10,000 Flemish militia who had chosen their battlefield well. They formed beside a river, protected by ditches and marshes.

The knights charged the Flemish position becoming bogged down in the marshland and then stopped by the pikes of the militia. Over a thousand of the knights were killed including Robert. The victors collected up 500 pairs of spurs that were hung in celebration in Flemish churches.

Their independence was short-lived with England and France squabbling over it from the 1340s.

By the middle of 1306 his coffers were bare so Philip began a campaign against the Jews in his realm, basically to be able to seize their assets. He expelled 100,000 Jews from his territories and seized all their property. Much of it was sold at auction to the benefit of the royal coffers, though the king cherry-picked some of the treasures uncovered. He also brought in a laws against clipping coin to make sure that the funds realised by the auctions would not be debased. His successor, Louis X, would call for the Jews to return in 1315, because the lack of moneylenders had caused problems.

Back in 1305 the new Pope Clement V based in Avignon wrote to the Templar Grand Master and the Hospitaller Grand Master and proposed merging the two Orders; neither of them was interested. He pursued the notion and eventually asked for Philip’s help. Some sources suggest that Philip was in debt to the Templars and seized on the opportunity to propose a similar expulsion against the Templars in 1307.

On Friday 13th October Philip had many of the leading Templars simultaneously arrested. They were accused of a raft of things, anti-Christian acts, idolatry and even of homosexuality. Many confessed under torture but later recanted. The Order was dissolved, the Pope ordered that they should be arrested in every Christian country, some escaped to safe havens like Scotland and Switzerland.

Avignon Popes – Philip IV had a series of disagreements with Pope Boniface IV which eventually led to him having him arrested in 1303. Philip’s chief minister, Guillaume de Nogaret, demanded he resign and he refused, they beat him close to death then released him. He died shortly after and was even posthumously tried for a variety of crimes including sodomy. His successor Benedict XI lasted only eight months before dying in strange circumstances, Nogaret was suspected to have been involved in this.

The conclave that met in 1305 to choose the next Pope was deadlocked and eventually chose a Frenchman as Pope Clement V. The new Pope deigned to move to Rome and in 1309 set up his base as Avignon. A total of seven French popes ruled from Avignon until Pope Gregory VII decided to move back to Rome in 1376.

But two more popes would rule from Avignon from 1378 – 1437. But these were considered as antipopes operating in opposition to the legitimately elected pope.

The wars between England and France were settled by the 1303 Treaty of Paris. As part of this Philip’s only surviving daughter Isabella was betrothed to the Prince of Wales (the future Edward II).

But far from bringing the friction to an end, this had created an English claimant to the French throne and would inevitably lead to the Hundred Years’ War.

They were married when she was twelve years’ old in 1308 at Boulogne, becoming Queen Elizabeth. At the wedding her uncles were disturbed that Edward sat with a man friend rather than her. Worse, he did not grant her any lands or a household.

In fact Edward appeared more interested in young men around his court, and proved to be at the very least bisexual. Edward passed Isabella’s jewellery on to one of his men friends, Piers Gaveston, who wore this at court. Despite all of this they did have four children together.

Her father, Philip IV, fomented and funded anti-Gaveston concerns among Edward’s barons. This worked in that Gaveston was sent off to Ireland for a while and Edward awarded Isabella more interest and respect.

In 1313 Edward and Isabella travelled back to Paris and gave out embroidered purses to her brothers and their wives. At a subsequent dinner hosted by Isabella in London she noticed that two French knights were using the purses that she had given to her sisters. At her next visit in 1314 she mentioned to her father that her suspicions were that her sisters-in-law were having an affair.

This resulted in the Affaire de la tour de Nesle. Philip had the two knights watched and this led to the accusation that Blanche (wife to his son, the future Charles IV) and Margaret (wife to his son, the future Louis X) were indeed in adulterous affairs. These were taking place at an old guard tower beside the Seine, the Tour de Nesle. Joan (wife to his son, the future Philip V) was accused to have been present on several occasions, but certainly she knew of the others’ affairs.

Philip had all of those involved arrested. The two knights were tortured and confessed of adultery. They were castrated and flayed alive (others suggest they were drawn and quartered) then hanged.

The three wives appeared before the Parlement de Paris, Blanche and Margaret were found guilty of adultery, they had their heads shaven and were imprisoned for life.

There was a gap in the papacy so Margaret’s marriage could not formally be annulled. She was placed in an underground prison. After Louis ascended the throne, Margaret was found dead shortly after, raising suspicions of murder. Blanche served eight years then when her husband ascended to the throne he annulled their marriage and sent her instead to a nunnery. Charles remarried, Blanche dying the next year from the effects of her imprisonment. Joan was found innocent and put under house arrest, but released after a year. Her husband is said by some to have feared the loss of her lands, Burgundy, so forgave her in order to secure them.

Isabella was vilified for a period for her betrayal of her sisters-in-law, particularly as her marriage was none too solid.

The tension of the affair is said to have been what hastened Philip IV’s death later in 1314. He had a stroke while hunting and died several weeks later. He was buried in the Basilica of Saint Denis and succeeded by his son Louis X, known as Louis X le Hutin (Louis X the Quarreler or the Headstrong).

Forward to End of the Capetian line – Back to Saint Louis
Back to 1789 and all that!
© Bob Denton 2014