Guillaume de Nogaret

Guillaume de Nogaret or William of Nogaret (1260–1313) was councillor and keeper of the seal to Philip IV of France.

Early life

Nogaret was born in Saint-Félix-Lauragais, Haute-Garonne. His father was a citizen of Toulouse, and was, so it was claimed, condemned as a heretic during the Albigensian crusade. The family held a small ancestral property of servile origin at Nogaret, near Saint-Félix-de-Caraman (today's Saint-Félix-Lauragais), from which it took its name. In 1291 Guillaume was professor of jurisprudence at the university of Montpellier, and in 1296 he became a member of the Curia Regis at Paris. From 1306, he was a seigneur of Marsillargues, Calvisson, Aujargues and Congénies in Languedoc.

Councillor to Philip IV

His name is mainly connected with the quarrel between Philip IV and Pope Boniface VIII. In 1300 he was sent with an embassy to Boniface, of which he left a picturesque and highly coloured account. His influence over the king dates from February 1303, when he persuaded Philip to consent to the bold plan of seizing Boniface and bringing him forcibly from Italy to a council in France meant to depose him. On March 7 he received, with three others, a secret commission from the royal chancery to "go to certain places ... and make such treaties with such persons as seemed good to them." On March 12 a solemn royal assembly was held in the Louvre, at which Guillaume de Nogaret read a long series of accusations against Boniface and demanded the calling of a general council to try him.

Attack on the Pope

Soon afterwards he went to Italy. By the aid of a Florentine spy, Nogaret gathered a band of adventurers and of enemies of the Gaetani (Boniface's family) in the Apennines. The great Colonna house, at bitter feud with the Gaetani, was his strongest ally, and Sciarra Colonna accompanied Nogaret to Anagni, Boniface's birthplace. On September 7, with their band of some sixteen hundred men, Nogaret and Colonna surprised the little town. Boniface was taken prisoner. Sciarra wished to kill him, but Nogaret's policy was to take him to France and compel him to summon a general council.

The tide soon turned, however. On the 9th a concerted rising of the townsmen in Boniface's favour put Nogaret and his allies to flight, and the pope was free. His death at Rome on October 11 saved Nogaret. The election of the timid Benedict XI was the beginning of that triumph of France which lasted through the Avignon captivity. Early in 1304 Nogaret went to Languedoc to report to Philip IV, and was rewarded by gifts of land and money. Then he was sent back with an embassy to Benedict XI to demand absolution for all concerned in the struggle with Boniface VIII. Benedict refused to meet Nogaret, and excepted him from the general absolution which he granted on May 12, 1304, and on June 7 issued against him and his associates at Anagni the bull Flagitiosum scelus. Nogaret replied by apologies for his conduct based upon attacks upon the memory of Boniface, and when Benedict died on July 7, 1304 he pointed to his death as a witness to the justice of his cause.

French influence was successful in getting a Frenchman, Bertrand de Got (Clement V) elected as Benedict's successor. The threat of proceedings against the memory of Boniface was renewed to force Clement to absolve Nogaret, and Clement had given way on this point when the further question of an inquiry into the condition of the Knights Templar was brought forward by Philip as a preliminary to their arrest and the seizure of their property in October 1307. Nogaret was active in getting the renegade members of the order to give evidence against their fellows, and the whole proceedings against them bear traces of his unscrupulous and merciless pen. Clement's weak and ineffective resistance to this still further delayed the agreement between him and Philip. Nogaret had become keeper of the seal this year in succession to Pierre de Belleperche.

His talents as an advocatus diaboli were given still further employment in the trial of Guichard, bishop of Troyes, charged with various crimes, including witchcraft and unchastity, which was begun in 1308 and lasted till 1313. The trial was a hint to Clement as to what might happen if the oft repeated threat of a trial of Boniface were fulfilled. Absolution was obtained from Clement on April 27, 1311. Guillaume de Nogaret was to go on the next crusade and visit certain places of pilgrimage in France and Spain as a penance, but never did so. He died in 1313 with his tongue horribly thrust out, according to the chronicler Jean Desnouelles. He retained the seals till his death and was occupied with the king's affairs concerning Flanders as late as the end of March 1313.


Nogaret is a major character in Les Rois maudits (The Accursed Kings), a series of historical novels by Maurice Druon, which were adapted into a television miniseries in 1972 and again in 2005.


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