John the Posthumous and the Curse on Philip the Fair

Okay, can I just say that I adore the nicknames the French people gave their kings? For example, today is the birthday of John I the Posthumous, was King of France and Navarre, the son and successor of Louis the Quarreler, the nephew of Philip the Tall, and the grandson of Philip the Fair (as in handsome).

King John I’’s moniker tells a sad tale though. He was born 15 November 1316 to Louis X’s queen Clementia of Hungary, more than five months after his father’s death on 5 June 1316. He was king from the moment of his first breath, and under the regency of Louis’ brother Philip.

John_I_of_France

Sadly, the little king died just five days later, on 20 November 1316. There was, of course, speculation that his uncle Philip poisoned the poor little thing, but considering the high rate of infant and child morality at the time there is no reason to suppose that to have been the case. However, the speed at which Philip V had himself crowned the new king fed into these suspicions.

The baby was interred with all the pomp and dignity due to a monarch Saint Denis Basilica in Paris.

funeral procession John I the Postumous

As it so happens, Philip’s reign was also short – he was king for less than 6 years and he died without a male heir. The crown then went to Charles the Bald, who also died without male issue and (like his eldest brother Louis X) also with a pregnant wife. The baby turned out to be a girl, and under Salic Law a girl couldn’t inherit the French throne. Thus the crown went to the cousin of these three unfortunate monarchs, Philip of Valois.

Wow. What are the odds three brothers would all become king and all die without a male heir that lived long enough to succeed them? It’s almost like the family had been … cursed! Which it had been. See, Philip the Fair had owed the Knights Templar a lot of money, so he colluded with Pope Clement V to destroy the Templars and split their loot. Philip arrested all the Templars on a Friday 13th (which is why that day is unlucky) on trumped up charges of heresy. Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was condemned to being SLOWLY burned to death), but before his execution he allegedly cursed the pope and the king to die within a year and a day. According to legend, de Molay additionally promised Philip that as part of God’s punishment on the royals the 300-year-old ruling House of Capet would be no more.

Sure enough, the king and pope both keeled over within a year. The king’s death was especially weird, considering that he was a health man in his 40s who died suddenly of a stroke while hunting. Nonetheless, Philip had left three sons and a daughter to carry on the Capet line. How could the Capet kings of France go extinct!

Well, as you see above, they went extinct with surprising quickness.

Now, Philip the Fair’s last living child was a daughter, Isabella. She had married King Edward II of England and born him several fine children, including two sons. The eldest son, Edward III of England, would later invade France and demand the French throne because while Salic Law would not give the crown to a daughter it did not say a daughter’s SON couldn’t inherit the crown. The new king of France, Philip of Valois, disagreed of course. The ensuing contest for the French throne became the Hundred Years War (1337–1453) and tore all kinds of hell out of the country.

Do not, I repeat, do NOT burn Templar’s to death on false charges. It does not work out well for you.

       

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