Thursday, April 9, 2009

Philip the Fair

The reign of Philip III. was very short. The insolence and cruelty of the Provençals in Sicily had provoked the natives to a massacre known as the Sicilian Vespers, and they then called in the King of Aragon, who finally obtained the island, as a separate kingdom from that on the Italian mainland where Charles of Anjou and his descendants still reigned. While fighting his uncle's battles on the Pyrenees, and besieging Gerona, Philip III. caught a fever, and died on his way home in 1285.

His successor, Philip IV., called the Fair, was crafty, cruel, and greedy, and made the Parliament of Paris the instrument of his violence and exactions, which he carried out in the name of the law. To prevent Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders, from marrying his daughter to the son of Edward I. of England, he invited her and her father to his court, and threw them both into prison, while he offered his own daughter Isabel to Edward of Carnarvon in her stead. The Scottish wars prevented Edward I. from taking up the cause of Guy; but the Pope, Boniface VIII., a man of a fierce temper, though of a great age, loudly called on Philip to do justice to Flanders, and likewise blamed in unmeasured terms his exactions from the clergy, his debasement of the coinage, and his foul and vicious life. Furious abuse passed on both sides. Philip availed himself of a flaw in the Pope's election to threaten him with deposition, and in return was excommunicated. He then sent a French knight named William de Nogaret, with Sciarra Colonna, a turbulent Roman, the hereditary enemy of Boniface, and a band of savage mercenary soldiers to Anagni, where the Pope then was, to force him to recall the sentence, apparently intending them to act like the murderers of Becket. The old man's dignity, however, overawed them at the moment, and they retired without laying hands on him, but the shock he had undergone caused his death a few days later.

His successor was poisoned almost immediately on his election, being known to be adverse to Philip. Parties were equally balanced in the conclave; but Philip's friends advised him to buy over to his interest one of his supposed foes, whom they would then unite in choosing. Bertrand de Goth, Archbishop of Bordeaux, was the man, and in a secret interview promised Philip to fulfil six conditions if he were made Pope by his interest. These were: 1st, the reconciliation of Philip with the Church; 2nd, that of his agents; 3rd, a grant to the king of a tenth of all clerical property for five years; 4th, the restoration of the Colonna family to Rome; 5th, the censure of Boniface's memory. These five were carried out by Clement V., as he called himself, as soon as he was on the Papal throne; the sixth remained a secret, but was probably the destruction of the Knights Templars. This order of military monks had been created for the defence of the crusading kingdom of Jerusalem, and had acquired large possessions in Europe. Now that their occupation in the East was gone, they were hated and dreaded by the kings, and Philip was resolved on their wholesale destruction.

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