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Profile - Clement IV

Submitted by James Seidel

T he ascension of Clement IV (Bertrand de Got) to the papacy was an ill-omened one. After his coronation, he rode in procession through Lyons, with King Philip IV of France, the king's brother and another duke. As they rode, King Philip noticed a wall collapsing and reined in his horse. The wall collapsed upon the procession, narrowly missing the king. Clement was thrown from his horse, though unharmed. The duke was not so lucky, he received mortal injuries. Philip's brother, Prince Charles of Valois wasal so seriously injured.

T hat Philip played a major role in Clement's election is not doubted. The extent of his influence is not known - though Clement certainly owed him "favours". Clement, as bishop of Bordeaux, was known as a weak and greedy man, honour-bound and averse to responsibility. He hid behind his comprehensive training in Roman and Canon law. It is recorded that Clement caved in on several of Philip's demands - appointing numerous French cardinals, revoking Philip's crusader vow and rescinding the move to place France under Church edict. He resisted Philip's desire for the absolution of an excommunicated friend (Guillaume de Nogaret) and the posthumous trial of Boniface. When Philip told Clement of his plans to accuse the Templars, the pope was apparently astonished and incredulous. Clement's order for a full papal investigation may have been intended to prove such accusations ridiculous - only to be hijacked by Philip's puppet cardinals that Clement had himself appointed.

C lement's confusion and uncertainty was probably the single greatest cause of the success of Philip's accusations. While initially publicly declaring his support for the Templars, he failed to act. Frightened to resist openly (remembering previously poisoned and kidnapped popes), he took a path of resistance - causing delaying and legal hurdles, but nothing definite. Finally, he was left with no choice but to dissolve the Order, or lose all credibility. Clement died one month after Jacques de Molay and Geoffrey de Charney were burnt at the stake. Both he and Philip had been cursed from the flames - a curse that proved lethal.

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