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.

Advertisements

Friday 13th and the end of the Knights Templar

dayIt’s one of those weeks again when a Friday 13th occurs and our thoughts turn to the Knights Templar. So why is the 13th so significant?

On the morning of Friday 13th October 1307, a huge dawn raid saw Templars all over France rounded up and imprisoned. Orders to conduct this raid had been secretly circulated to law enforcement officers – bailiffs as they were termed – from the King of France.

King Philip the Fair had resolved to destroy the order with one devastating blow. Each bailiff would have read the king’s words with trepidation:

A bitter thing, a lamentable thing, a thing which is horrible to contemplate, terrible to hear of, a detestable crime, an execrable evil, an abominable work, a detestable disgrace, a thing almost inhuman, indeed set apart from humanity.

The king claimed that while the Templars said they were Christian, they were in effect nothing of the sort. Honest men had informed the royal authorities that these knights were spitting and urinating on crucifixes and worshipping devilish idols. Worse, the Templars were giving each other illicit kisses all over their bodies including the “base of the spine”.

Every member of the Knights Templar was to be held for trial by the church while the King of France would take over all the assets of the Templars – buildings, gold, farms, etc.

Some knights managed to escape including the Preceptor of France, Gerard de Villiers. One has to feel rather sorry for another terrified knight who ditched his white mantle, shaved his beard and got into disguise but was still apprehended by the king’s men.

IMG_0960
Templars: once revered, now hated

The evidence suggests that nearly all the Templars had no idea what was about to happen. As the bailiffs kicked down their doors, the knights surrendered to their doom.

They were carted off to grim dungeons where many experienced a range of tortures to extract confessions. The king was determined that they would admit their guilt to the charges of sodomy and heresy.

Many of those taken away to have their feet roasted or hung up with their arms tied behind their back – two common forms of torture – were old men by the standard of the day. They were retired warriors or members of the order who had always been farm managers or administrators.

Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master, was probably the most surprised victim of the Friday 13th arrests. Only the day before, he had been an honoured guest at the funeral of the king’s sister-in-law.

Avignon – seat of the pope who crushed the Templars

In the fourteenth century, the papacy moved out of Rome to France. Clement V was the first pope to be based in Avignon beginning the building of a palace that still dominates the city centre. It was Clement who would bend to the will of the King of France, Philip, and banned the Knights Templar. He was the pope who sent out orders to all the Christian rulers of Europe to round up the knights and seize their assets.

Clement’s immediate successors continued to reign from Avignon and enlarged the palace but by the end of the 1300s, the popes had returned to Rome. Gradually, the huge Gothic pile that had been erected began to decay. Decorations were ripped out and ornaments spirited away. The French revolution resulted in some damage inspired by anti-clericalism and then in the nineteenth century, the building became a barracks with a false floor installed.

Repairs were undertaken and some pseudo-Gothic additions, imaginings of what the palace would have looked like at its height. Regardless of all the indignities the palace has suffered, it is still a glorious sight today. I visited Avignon as well as nearby Arles and Nimes this year. Some images of the palace for you to view here.

 

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

 

 

Les Rois Maudits – A Cursed Monarchy

I must confess that I haven’t seen this French mini-TV series but it comes highly recommended and I’ll try and download it.  Les Rois Maudits is the history of Philippe the Fair, the King of France who finally suppressed the Templars.  The angle taken in the TV series is that King Philippe had basically run out of money and eyed up the Templars as a tempting source of booty.  And the rest, as they say, is history.   Here is the start of the series:

Why did King Philip of France crush the Templars?

 

King Philip le Bel enters Paris

King Philip of France owed a massive amount of money to the Templars and the Order had a large fortress in Paris reputedly sitting on large stocks of deposited bullion.

During a riot over a currency devaluation, the king fled to the security of the Templar fortress and reputedly, while there, couldn’t help noticing the vast amount of wealth the order possessed.

Having shaken down the Jews in France, and expelled them, plus turned the screws on the church and people – the Templars came into his range of vision. Being a medieval monarch was always an expensive business but Philip was determined to balance his books, even if that was done in a rather violent and unorthodox manner.

Some have argued 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 is a myth. The historian Dan Jones writes that there wasn’t something incredibly exceptional about King Philip’s debts though concedes that he was a thoroughly unpleasant character.

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.

200px-Philippe_IV_Le_BelHe 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?

The Templars then were undone not so much because of Satanic rituals and sodomitic initiations but because a cash strapped French king kept licking his lips every time he passed the Paris Temple. It was too much money to ignore!

Templars – timeline to termination!

templar2In 1307, the King of France issued orders to arrest all Templar knights in his kingdom. They were summarily rounded up, tortured in dungeons and confessions extracted. So what was the timeline to termination?

  • 14 September 1307 – King Philip of France issues secret orders to the bailiffs and seneschals in his kingdom to round up the Templars and arrest them when given the signal
  • 13 October 1307 – the signal is given and France’s Templars find themselves clapped in irons
  • 19 October to 24 November 1307 – first round of trials with 138 Templars, most of them confessing to their alleged guilt
  • 24 October 1307 – Grand Master Jacques de Molay makes his first confession of guilt
  • 25 October 1307 – De Molay goes before the University of Paris to restate his confession of guilt
  • 22 November 1307 – De Molay retracts his confessions to cardinals sent to interview him by Pope Clement V
  • 22 November 1307 – Pope Clement V gives up trying to resist the French king and demands that all Christian rulers in Europe follow the French example and arrest their Templars as well as confiscating their property
  • May 1308 – a letter arrives at Cyprus from Pope Clement V calling for the arrest of Templars on the island
  • 28 June to 2 July 1308 – about 54 Templars tried at Poitiers where the pope was in residence
  • August 1308 – the Chinon Parchment, revealed in recent times, appears to show the pope absolving the Templars but as a puppet of the French king there was little he could realistically do
  • 13 September 1309 – Two inquisitors arrive in England to question Templars there
  • December 1309 – Pope Clement V authorises the use of torture to gain rapid confessions
  • 1310 – papal commission into the trials of the Templars
  • 12 May 1310 – 54 Templars are burnt at the stake
  • May 1310 – the Archbishop of Sens takes control of the trial process until 1316
  • 22 March 1312 – Pope Clement V issues the papal bull Vox In Excelso suppressing the Knights Templar
  • May 1312 – Pope Clement V issues the papal bull Ad Providam transferring the assets of the Knights Templar to the Knights Hospitaller
  • 21 March 1313 – the Knights Hospitaller pay enormous compensation to the king of France most likely saving their order from the same fate as the Templars
  • 18 March 1314 – Jacques de Molay and the preceptor of Normandy Geoffroi de Charney retract their confessions saying they were extracted under torture. They are burnt at the stake before Notre Dame as heretics