Childhood & Early Life
Philip IV was born in 1268 at the ‘Palace of Fontainebleau’ in France, to the future Philip III, the Bold, a member of the ‘House of Capet,’ and his first wife, Isabella of Aragon. He was the second of their four sons. At the time of his birth, his grandfather, Louis IX, was the king of France, while his father was the heir apparent of the kingdom.
After Louis IX died on August 25, 1270, Philip III became the king of France and Philip IV’s elder brother, Louis, became the heir apparent. Philip’s mother suffered a fall from her horse while she was 6 months pregnant and died on January 28, 1271, before his father’s coronation ceremony was held in August that year. Philip also lost one of his younger brothers, Robert, that year.
After Louis died in May 1276, possibly poisoned to death according to the orders of his stepmother, Marie of Brabant, Philip IV became the heir apparent of the French throne. Guillaume d'Ercuis, the almoner of Philip III, was his tutor.
The Aragonese Crusade that was carried out against Peter III of Aragon during 1284–1285 concluded with the Aragonese victory, following which Philip possibly went into an agreement with Peter for the safe removal of the Crusader troops.
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Philip’s marriage with Joan I of Navarre, who was the queen of Navarre and the countess of Champagne, on August 16, 1284, led him to become King of Navarre Philip I and also the count of Champagne. His royal domain expanded after this union, as Champagne and Brie, inherited by Joan I, were annexed to his kingdom. The addition of the prosperous Champagne saw a considerable increase in the French royal revenue and the withdrawal of the autonomy of a large semi-independent fief.
Following his father’s death on October 5, 1285, Philip became the king of France. His coronation ceremony was held on January 6, 1286, at the ‘Reims Cathedral.’ He maintained distance from the public. He executed certain policies for his ministers, including the ones considered unpopular, and trusted and depended on a professional bureaucracy of legalists. Philip aimed at strengthening and expanding his kingdom. His rule saw the transition of France into a more bureaucratic kingdom, considered by many as a step toward modernity.
With the Aragonese affair being settled during the initial stage of his reign, Philip focussed in reinforcing the efforts of his predecessors in reforming and rationalizing the administration. He gave instructions to look into the conduct of royal officials. His moves, however, were not taken well by the ecclesiastics, nobles, and townsmen of his kingdom, who had earlier made profits from the more lenient policies of his predecessors.
One of the most notable wars during Philip’s reign was the Anglo–French War that revolved around Gascony and occurred from 1294 to 1298 and from 1300 to 1303. King of England Edward I held the Duchy of Aquitaine as a fief and a vassal to Philip and paid homage to Philip. The relation between the two allies, however, strained after the Fall of Acre in 1291.
Things started deteriorating after a naval dispute between the English and the Normans (an ethnic group that originated in Normandy) in 1293. Following this, Edward I attempted to use his family connections to avoid war. Edward I also got engaged to Philip's sister, Margaret. In view of their upcoming wedding, it was decided that Edward I would voluntarily relinquish his continental lands to Philip as a sign of submission in his capacity as the duke of Aquitaine. In return, Philip would forgive Edward and restore his land after a grace period. This agreement maintained peace until 1294.
The outbreak of hostilities with England in 1294 was the inevitable result of the competitive expansionist monarchies.
Although the Gascony campaign of 1294 that lasted till 1303 witnessed French military victory, the war concluded after Philip and Edward I signed the ‘Treaty of Paris’ on May 20, 1303. The treaty restored the English possession of Aquitaine and Gascony, apart from confirming Philip's daughter Isabella’s marriage with Edward I’s son, Edward of Caernarvon (later King Edward II of England). The war, nevertheless, set the stage for future conflicts between France and England, paving way for the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453).
Another major conflict that occurred during his reign was the Franco–Flemish War fought between the French kingdom and the County of Flanders between 1297 and 1305. The Flemish victory on July 11, 1302, during the Battle of the Golden Spurs, a conflict between royal French army and rebellious forces of the County of Flanders, in pursuit of suppressing an uprising in Flanders, caused a lot of embarrassment to Philip.
He wanted to avenge the defeat of the Battle of the Golden Spurs and led the French army in person in the Battle of Mons-en-Pévèle on August 18, 1304. The latter resulted in a decisive French victory and the signing of the ‘Treaty of Athis-sur-Orge’ on June 23, 1305. According to the somewhat harsh treaty that the Flemish were compelled to accept, Walloon Flanders, comprising the burgraviates of Lille, Douai, and Orchies, was added to the French kingdom, while the independence of the Flanders as a fief of the French kingdom was recognized.
He maintained diplomacy with the Mongols and had contacts with the mighty Mongols in the Middle East. Although Franco–Mongol alliances against the Muslim Mamluks were planned several times, Philip never executed military plans related to this venture.
When Philip ascended to the French throne, the kingdom was already under heavy debt incurred from his father’s war with Aragon. Although he managed to pay off the debt, his subsequent wars with Aragon, England, and Flanders, along with the decline in silver production in Saxony, led his government into fiscal deficits.
Philip was in debt to both the Jews of France and the order of the ‘Knights Templar’ and considered them as a "state within the state.” On July 22, 1306, he ordered the expulsion of the Jews. He confiscated their property on August 23 that year. He also destroyed the order of the ‘Knights Templar’ the following year, thus erasing his debt against both.
In pursuit of bolstering his monarchy, Philip attempted to raise the tax of the French clergy. This was followed by a fierce conflict with Pope Boniface VIII, leading to the arrest and maltreatment of the Pope by Philip, the former’s death in 1303, and the eventual transfer of the papal court to the enclave of Avignon in 1309.
In 1312, he won Lyon for France.
Philip’s last year witnessed a scandal in the French royal family, the ‘Tour de Nesle’ affair, when his three daughters-in-law, Margaret, Blanche, and Joan were accused of adultery. It led to tortures, imprisonments, and executions.