Friday, January 13, 2017

King Philippe & Friday the 13th

Long before Jason Vorhees starting cutting down teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake on screens across America, Friday the 13th has been considered a day of bad luck. Why this is so we may never know for certain. Speculation goes back to the "last supper" with Jesus and his twelve apostles (13) and even further. Most of this does, however, more often involve why 13 is considered an unlucky number rather than why Friday the 13th would be considered a cursed day. In modern times, however, the most common explanation involves a rather unsavory King of France and a certain order of knighthood that has been at the center of many wild stories, tall tales and conspiracy theories. The monarch was King Philippe IV of France, often known as "Philip the Fair" though we should note that would more accurately be translated these days as "Philip the Handsome" because, by most accounts, he was actually quite unfair.

He made a good many enemies in his own time and today about the only people who speak up for him are those who hate the people he targeted. Scots or Anglophobes sometimes defend him for being an enemy of King Edward I of England, Protestants or anti-Catholics sometimes defend him for being an enemy of Pope Boniface VIII and anti-Semites find at least one thing to praise him for, which was his expulsion of the Jews from France in 1306. This last act, however, came back to bite him quite quickly and he invited the Jews to return. However, his association with the most unlucky day on the calendar came as a result of something that happened a year after his action against the Jews. That was his suppression of the Knights Templar, with many hundreds being arrested in a coordinated, 'surprise attack' as it were on Friday the 13th, 1307.

King Philippe IV had fought with the King of England for the usual reasons of Anglo-French rivalry and he fought with the Pope basically because of an argument over who had the higher authority. The Jews were targeted largely in an effort to seize their wealth and to take control of their extensive money-lending operation. That, however, as mentioned, did not work out well. The agents he put in charge soon proved even more unpopular than the Jews had been when it came to collecting debts that were owed and he soon faced such a clamor that he asked the Jews to return to France. That still left him in need of money. So, he targeted another group that was known to control a great deal of wealth and that was the Knights Templar who, aside from their fame as crusaders, became known as rather successful bankers. However, the Templars only came to be in that position because of their reputation for honesty, piety and bravery. It was necessary then to first smear their reputation.

King Philippe IV started spreading the word that the Templars were living a double life, that they were getting up to all sorts of unspeakable things in private ranging from blasphemy and sodomy to worshiping Satan. When it came to smearing someone, "Philippe the Fair" believed in "go big or go home". As stated above, he planned his campaign well and had most of the knights arrested on Friday the 13th, 1307 in a mass, simultaneous 'attack' that would prevent them from helping each other and to get it all over with quickly. Hundreds were arrested and after a good deal of good old fashioned torture (more of the hot pokers and less of the water-boarding style) there were naturally confessions. In the end, Philippe had his way and the knights were burned alive for their many supposed crimes. As a Christian monarch, he had a great deal of authority over the religious in his country, and the Templers were of course a military religious order, but it was also not all that difficult to put sufficient pressure on Pope Clement V to have the knighthood suppressed entirely on orders from the Pope.

Given what happened in the aftermath of this infamous event, it is not difficult to see why Friday the 13th should come to be considered a cursed day. The Templars did have a very good reputation and the accusations made against them really were outrageous and too fantastic for most people to believe. More than that though, the King had enriched himself at their expense which did not look good and fairly soon after both King Philippe IV and Pope Clement V suddenly dropped dead which, especially in those days, was taken as a sure sign of divine anger. The Pope reportedly died weeping with regret over what was done to his knights and King Philippe dropped dead from a stroke while hunting which many took as God's justice being done and a fulfillment of a warning made by the last Grand Master of the order just before he was burned that both the King and the Pope would seen meet him standing before the Almighty. It wasn't all that soon after doing in the Templars but time moved more slowly then we presume and people tended to take such omens much more seriously in those day than nowadays when we are so much more scientific and rational and are only afraid of things like cow farts making weather that will kill us all. Anyway, that is the most accepted explanation as to why Friday the 13th became the most unlucky day on the calendar.

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