Here we have King Philip le Bel – or ‘the Fair’ if you prefer – entering Paris in full battle armor in 1304.
He had massive debts to the Templars – the Order had a large preceptory in Paris reputedly sitting on large stocks of deposited bullion. Though some argue that like modern banks, most of the wealth deposited with the Templars had actually been loaned out by the Order and the idea they were sitting on great amounts of booty was a myth.
Anyway, Philip decided – in effect – to kill his bank managers. Don’t cheer. Charges were trumped up and a Pope who was under the ‘protection’ of the French monarchy was encouraged, in spite of misgivings, to go along with the whole saga.
As we know, the leaders of the Order were put to torture with one even claiming that he carried his charred toes around with him in a box thereafter. They confessed. They retracted their confessions. They were burnt at the stake.
Philip went on to expel the Jews from France – as Edward I had done in England a few years earlier. But unlike Edward, he relented and asked them back again. One assumes that suppressing the Templars and the Jews removed two sources of credit from the medieval French economy, so not such a smart move.
He also picked on merchants from Lombardy thereby assuring that they preferred to transact business in London where there is still a ‘Lombard Street’. He may even have contributed to London’s eventual rise to be the world’s global financial centre (sorry New York).
In fact, when it came to having zero understanding of economics, Philip le Bel really stands out as an A grade cretin. And not just because he slaughtered our beloved Templars. He also debased the coinage – that classic refuge of the spendthrift ruler….how many Roman emperors did the same to pay their armies?
Eventually the church itself got a shaking down and one imagines he broke open every piggy bank that crossed his path. All in all, a pretty unpleasant character.