Philip IV was the King of France from 1285 to 1314. He was an ambitious monarch who sought to increase the central authority of the crown and in doing so, aimed to subdue the French nobility as well as the clergy.
He largely succeeded in doing so by relying on accomplished civil servants rather than on his vassals and by successfully expanding the kingdom’s frontiers.
Philip also gained notoriety because of his direct involvement in the dismantling of the Knights Templar and in the indictment of the leading Templar figures.
During the reign of Philip IV, France came into conflict with England over the region of Aquitaine. Philip treated King Edward I of England as a vassal in the matter of the duchy.
After negotiations between the two, Edward I relinquished Aquitaine to Philip. Philip, in turn, promised to return the duchy to England after a grace period. However, he rather pursued a policy of effectively taking over all English territories in France.
This ensued in an open war between England and France in 1294. Due to a lack of sufficient funds, Philip had to sue for peace in 1303. As per the peace negotiations, he returned Gascony to English control and agreed to marry his daughter to the Prince of Wales.
This marriage eventually set the stage for a dispute over French succession, leading to the Hundred Years’ War.
Philip IV came into direct conflict with the Papacy during his reign. He levied additional taxes on the income of the French clergy which prompted Pope Boniface VIII to condemn his actions.
After a protracted conflict with the Pope, Philip IV gained the support of the French clergy. Boniface VIII died in 1302 and Philip then had the seat of the Pope moved to Anagni, a region where he could directly influence the Papacy.
The transfer of the seat which took place in 1309 would remain until 1377 and during this reign, the policy of the Roman Catholic Church would remain largely in line with the French royal policies.
A notorious event during Philip’s reign was the suppression and condemnation of the Knights Templar. Philip owed a large debt to the Order and aimed to end the Order’s influence on the finances of the French government.
He accomplished this by forcing Pope Clement V to condemn the Order in 1307. Hundreds of Templar officials and members were arrested in the wake of the condemnation.
The Grand Master of the Order was burnt at stake over charges of heresy. The event is also seen as part of Philip’s attempts to assert influence over the Papacy.
From the beginning of his reign, Philip sought to limit the powers of the French nobility and establish an absolute monarchy. To this end, he chose to rely on civil servants and bureaucrats to carry out his policies.
This was a modernist approach at a time when traditional nobility still held extraordinary power in other parts of Europe.