King Philip IV


Philip the Fair Born Fontaine-bleau, 1268; died there, 1314. King of France, grandson of Saint Louis, known especially for his long and bitter conflict with Pope Boniface VIII. In constant need of money to carry on his war against England, Philip overburdened the clergy with taxes and used for purely political purposes the money ostensIbly collected for a crusade. He even went so far as to counterfeit the currency of the realm and when the Pope, by the Bull Clericis laicos, forbade the clergy to pay the taxes, the king retaliated by forbidding the exportation of gold and silver outside of France. The canonization of Louis IX, 1297, brought about a brief reconciliation, but the arrest and trial of Bishop Saissetre awakened the conflict, and the Pope warned the king in the Bull Ausculta, Fili. To arouse public opinion Philip, goaded by his legists, Peter Flotte and Nogaret, circulated a falsified copy of the document and convoked the States General of 1302, which endorsed his policy of absolutism. The Pope countered by the famous Bull Unam Sanctam, so often misinterpreted, and which was nothing but a restatement, perhaps in too absolute tetms, of the current doctrine of the Middle Ages concerning the relations between Church and State. After the disastrous battle of Courtray in which Flotte was killed, Nogaret, the most unscrupulous of the legists, took his place, and in 1303 he publicly accused the Pope of all sorts of crimes in an assembly held at the Louvre. Boniface then resolved to excommunicate the king and to release his subjects from their oath of fealty; but before he could do it, Nogaret with the help of the two Colonnas, personal enemies of the Pope, invaded Anagni where he was residing, and offered all sorts of indignities to the aged pontiff. He was rescued after three days by the inhabitants of the town but died of shock a short time after. Under the pontificate of Clement V who had been elected, owing to his support, Philip demanded a public condemnation of Boniface as a heretic, and the annulment of all his acts from the year 1300 on. He persisted in this demand for several years, until he turned his attention to the Knights Templar, whose immense wealth he coveted. Philip IV is held by some historians as a precursor of modern liberties, but in fact he was an absolutist of the worst kind, and his theory of the power of the State, elaborated by his legists, comes directly from Paganism and is summed up in the famous saying: Si veut le Roi, si veut la Loi (The King’s will is Law).

MLA Citation

  • “King Philip IV”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 August 2012. Web. 17 August 2017. <>