KNIGHTFALL character profile: King Philip of France

KNIGHTFALL (1)Knightfall is the new blockbuster drama series from the History channel featuring the Knights Templar in their final days and a quest for the Holy Grail.

It mixes fact and fiction to tell a compelling story. Some of the characters existed while others are fictional or a blend of people from that period.

I’m going to closely examine some of the factual characters in Knightfall. And I’m starting with King Phlip of France, played by actor Ed Stoppard.

King Philip the Fair of France

The villain of the piece, if you’re a Templar fan! King Philip was a capricious monarch with a track record of squeezing money from different social groups in France to pay off his debts. The Jews, the church and Lombard merchants had all been given a shaking down by the king’s enforcers eager to snatch their loot.

But it took some daring to take on the Knights Templar.

philipWhy did Philip come after the knights? After all, the last Grand Master – Jacques de Molay – had been a trusted individual who had even helped to bear the coffin of his sister-in-law – Catherine de Valois –  at her funeral, days before his arrest.

Philip had first become aware of the Templar’s wealth when he had taken refuge in their Paris headquarters during severe rioting. The disturbance was his own fault. He had devalued the currency and Parisians felt short changed. So, they took to the streets and fearing for his life, Philip scuttled into the Paris Temple. What he saw there set him on a course that would destroy the order.

The huge amount of money Philip believed the Templars owned made them a target for his avarice. However, the Templars were sitting on cash that they held in trust for their rich clients. They didn’t own vast amounts – they held it to be paid back to knights on crusade who could withdraw the money using a primitive version of bank cheques while they were abroad.

philipPhilip didn’t grasp this. You could say he was financially unsophisticated. Instead, he just saw lots of loot he could get his hands on if only he could trump up some charges against the Knights Templar, shut them down and grab their assets. And that’s exactly what he did.

When the king’s soldiers arrived at the Paris Temple expecting to cart off enormous sacks of treasure – they found next to nothing. The fabled wealth turned out to be exactly that – a fable. Most likely there had been a run on the Templar bank as the order’s military fortunes declined. They were losing battle after battle in the Middle East and so what was the point in banking with them?

That didn’t stop Philip spending years putting pressure on the Pope and his inquisitors to find the Templars guilty and end up burning Jacques de Molay at the stake in front of Notre Dame cathedral.

This spectacular act of vindictiveness has astonished people down the ages. It’s left people wondering what ulterior motives the king would have had for such brutality. Did he think, as some have suggested, that the Templars were planning a coup against the monarchy in France? Were they hoping to carve out their own kingdom in southern France? Had they hidden their wealth abroad even as far as Scotland or modern day Portugal?

TemplarsAnd what of the outlandish charges made against the Knights Templar – that they engaged in sodomy, denounced Christ, worshipped a strange head and desecrated the crucifix? Most historians think these were standard issue trumped up charges used to discredit enemies of the state.

But – could the king really have believed these charges? Philip seems to have genuinely thought he was continuing the saintly legacy of his grandfather, Louis IX – a crusader king who had brought Christ’s crown of thorns to Paris.  Could Philip have sincerely felt the Templars were heretical and had to be crushed?

Whatever the truth, King Philip certainly succeeded in suppressing the Templars but it didn’t prove to be the major cash boost that he had hoped for. And it left him with a reputation for paranoia, sadism and greed.

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Ten accusations made against the Knights Templar

Templar artworkIn 1307, the Knights Templar were rounded up, imprisoned and tortured under secret orders issued by the King of France. The trials of top Templars would last for years and lead to many being burnt at the stake including the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay. He was incinerated in public in front of Notre Dame cathedral.

A string of scandalous accusations were made against the Knights Templar to justify smashing the order. I recommend Malcom Barber’s detailed account of The Trial of the Templars if you want to learn a lot more.

MolayHere were some of the most noteworthy charges:

  1. New entrants to the Templar order had to deny Christ, the Holy Virgin and the saints
  2. Templars were told that Christ was a false prophet and there was no hope of receiving salvation through belief in him
  3. Knights were ordered to spit on a crucifix and even urinate or trample on it
  4. The order worshipped a head of some description, possibly that of a cat or with three faces or an idol called Baphomet
  5. This idol was encircled with cords, which the Templars then wore around their waists
  6. The Knights Templar rejected the sacraments of the Catholic church
  7. It was thought that the Grand Master and other leading Templars could absolve sins even though they were laymen and not priests
  8. New entrants were kissed on the mouth, the navel, the stomach, the buttocks and the spine and homosexuality was encouraged
  9. The Templars were only interested in financial gain and pocketed donations for their own use
  10. Chapter meetings and initiations were held in strictest secret with only Templars present and those that revealed any details to people outside of the order would be punished with imprisonment or death

A short film from the Smithsonian includes a reenactment of what the alleged initiation ritual looked like.

Top baddies of the Middle Ages!

 

 

Here they are – the TOP baddies of the Middle Ages!

170px-John_of_England_(John_Lackland)KING JOHN OF ENGLAND

  • Took on the barons and lost, then made to sign Magna Carta
  • Excommunicated by the Pope
  • Mislaid the crown jewels in a marshy swamp
  • Fled in the face of an invasion of England by the King of France

 

200px-Philippe_IV_Le_BelPHILIP THE FAIR OF FRANCE

  • Never seemed to have enough money
  • So shook down the church and France’s Jewish population
  • Then saw how much wealth the Templars when he fled to their Paris headquarters during a riot against his proposed currency devaluation
  • Issued secret orders to arrest all Knights Templar on trumped up charges of sodomy and heresy then attempted to seize the wealth he’d seen

Honorius3POPE HONORIUS III

  • The Inquisition really got going with Honorius
  • He sanctioned the new Dominican order to go heretic hunting
  • Wrote a very odd book called the Grimoire of Honorius with helpful tips on how to summon up demons in order to control them and how human sacrifice could be used to root out sorcerers

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 22.44.24ENRICO DANDOLO

  • The Doge of Venice who funded the Fourth Crusade only so he could direct it against another Christian state instead of the Muslims
  • Though blind and very old, he led the crusaders against the Byzantine empire
  • Constantinople, the Christian jewel of the east, was comprehensively smashed up by the Venetians and their allies – and never really recovered until conquered by Muslim forces 250 years later

Death_of_andronic_IANDRONIKOS I KOMNENOS

  • A Byzantine emperor who ruled using terror between 1183 and 1185
  • His own people could take it no longer, rose up and overthrew him
  • A mob in Constantinople tied him to a post and beat him for three days
  • Then they cut off his right hand, pulled out his teeth, hair and eyes and then poured boiling water over his head

Frederick_II_and_eagleFREDERICK II – HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR

  • A very medieval approach to science, this absolute ruler conducted experiments on living people
  • This included imprisoning somebody in a cask with a hole to see if their would escaped from that opening at the point of death
  • Feeding two prisoners and then sending one out to hunt and the other to bed. Then disembowelling them to see which had digested his food better
  • Raising two children without any human interaction to see which language they ended up speaking