Friday 13 April 2012

Unlucky For Some

I hope you’re not superstitious. Today is Friday 13th, a supposedly very unlucky day. Some people have said that it originated in the Last Supper. They say that 13 people were present and one the next day, Good Friday, Christ was crucified. The obvious flaw in that is that the Last Supper took place on Thursday, so it should be Thursday 13th that is unlucky.

What has more credibility is the story surrounding the suppression of the Knights Templar. I dealt with them before in relation to their supposed homosexual activity, but today I want to concentrate on the man who persecuted them – King Philippe IV of France (1268-1314).

King Philippe was one of those homophobes who used accusations of homosexuality for personal and political benefit. Anyone he had a grudge against was declared homosexual at some point – his son-in-law, the Templars, and even the pope – and there were a lot of people who didn’t like him, so there was no shortage of people to accuse.

Philippe’s obsession with gaining more power began before he succeeded to his throne. The year before his father died he married the reigning Queen of Navarre and began calling himself King of Navarre. He then took control of the queen’s French provinces of Champagne and Brie (I wonder if he had some nice black grapes to go with them!).

Next he set his sight on French provinces belonging to the English crown. Snubbed by King Edward I for refusing to act as subservient Duke of Aquitaine, King Philippe seized Edward’s French provinces precipitating a war that ended with the engagement of his daughter Isabel to Edward’s son Edward. This was to provide another excuse to accuse someone of sodomy – the one and only time he might have got it right.

In 1308 the wedding-coronation of the 12-year-old Princess Isabel to 24-year-old Edward (by now King Edward II) was notable in that Edward spent his wedding night with his boyfriend Piers Gaveston and gave him most of the French wedding gifts. This time King Philippe didn’t need to invent evidence.

Philippe then wanted more money as well as land. First he expelled all the Jews from France, seizing their assets. Then he levied a 50% tax on the French clergy, prompting Pope Boniface VIII to issue a papal bull preventing Philippe from seizing church property as well. Philippe called an assembly of his supporters in the clergy, bishops and nobles and had Boniface arrested and deposed. Philippe took this opportunity to spread rumours of the Pope being gay to discredit him as well.

With his own puppet Pope Clement V installed King Philippe then turned on the Templars, the wealthiest holy order in Europe. So, on Friday 13th 1307, again using accusations of sodomy, he began arresting every one of them simultaneously, thus bringing to an end the power of the Knights Templar. His papal pal Clement V dissolved the order for good on 3rd April 1312 – 700 years ago last week.

The last Grand Master of the Templars went to his death at the stake in 1314 cursing both King Philippe and Pope Clement. Ironically, a month later Clement died in torment from some unspecified illness, and Philippe was killed in a hunting “accident” 8 months later.

So, if Friday 13th is unlucky for the Knights Templar, it certainly didn’t turn out well for King Philippe IV of France or Pope Clement V either.

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