Clement IV, POPE (GUIDO LE GROS), b. at Saint Gilles on the Rhone, November 23, year unknown; elected at Perugia February 5, 1265; d. at Viterbo, November 29, 1268. After the death of Urban IV (October 2, 1264), the cardinals, assembled in conclaveat Perugia, discussed for four months the momentous question whether the Church shouldcontinue the war to the end against the House of Hohenstaufen by calling in Charles of Anjou, the youngest brother of St. Louis of France, or find some other means of securing the independence of the papacy. No other solution offering itself, the only possible course was to unite upon the Cardinal Bishop of Sabina, by birth a Frenchman and a subject of Charles. Guido Le Gros was of noble extraction. When his mother died, his father, the knight Foulquois, entered a Carthusian monastery where he ended a saintly life. Guido married, and for a short time wielded the spear and the sword. Then devoting himself to the study of law under the able direction of the famous Durandus, he gained a national reputation as an advocate. St. Louis, who entertained a great respect and affection for him, took him into his cabinet and made him one of his trusted councilors. His wife died, leaving him two daughters, whereupon he imitated his father to the extent that he gave up worldly concerns and took Holy orders..
His rise in the Church was rapid; 1256, he was Bishop of Puy; 1259, Archbishop of Narbonne; December, 1261, Cardinal–Bishop of Sabina. He was the first cardinal created by Urban IV (Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica, 7). He was in France, returning from an important legation to England, when he received an urgent message from the cardinals demanding his immediate presence in Perugia. Not until he entered the conclave, was he informed that the unanimous vote of the Sacred College had confided into his hands the destinies of the Catholic Church. He was astonished; for only a man of his large experience could fully realize the responsibility of him whose judgment, at this critical juncture, must irrevocably shape the course of Italian and ecclesiastical history for centuries to come. His prayers and tears failing to move the cardinals, he reluctantly accepted the heavy burden, was crowned at Viterbo, February 22, and, to honor the saint of his birthday, assumed the name of Clement IV. His contemporaries are unanimous and enthusiastic in extolling his exemplary piety and rigorously ascetic life. He had a remarkable aversion to nepotism. His first act was to forbid any of his relatives to come to the Curia, or to attempt to derive any sort of temporal advantage from his elevation. Suitors for the hands of his daughters were admonished that their prospective brides were children not of the pope, but of Guido Grossus”, and that their dowers should be extremely modest. The two ladies preferred the seclusion of the convent.
The Neapolitan question occupied, almost exclusively, the thoughts of Clement IV during his short pontificate of 3 years, 9 months, and 25 days, which, however, witnessed the two decisive battles of Benevento and Tagliacozzo (1268), and the execution of Conradin. The negotiations with Charles of Anjou had progressed so far under the reign of Urban IV that it is difficult to see how the pope could now well draw back, even were he so inclined. But Clement had no intention of doing so. The power of Manfred and the insecurity of the Holy See were increasing daily. Clement had already, as cardinal, taken an active part in the negotiations with Charles and now exerted himself to the utmost in order to supply the ambitious but needy adventurer with troops and money. Papal legates and mendicant friars appeared upon the scene, preaching a formal crusade, with the amplest indulgences and most lavish promises. Soldiers were obtained in abundance among the warlike chivalry of France; the great difficulty was to find money with which to equip and maintain the army. The clergy and people failed to detect a crusade in what they deemed a personal quarrel of the pope, a “war hard by the Lateran, and not with Saracens nor with Jews” (Dante, Inf., canto xxviii); though, in reality, Saracens, implanted in Italy by Frederick II, made up the main strength of Manfred’s army. Although reduced at times to utter destitution, and forced to pledge everything of value and to borrow at exorbitant rates, the pope did not despair; the expedition arrived, and from the military point of view achieved a brilliant success.
Charles, preceding his army, came to Rome by sea, and upon the conclusion of a treaty, by which the liberties of the Church and the overlordship of the Holy See seemed to be most firmly secured, he received the investiture of his new kingdom. On January 6, 1266, he was solemnly crowned in St. Peter’s; not, as he had wished, by the pope, who took up his residence in Viterbo and never saw Rome, but by cardinals designated for the purpose. On February 22 was fought the battle of Benevento, in which Charles was completely victorious; Manfred was found among the slain. Naples opened her gates and the Angevin dynasty was established. Though a good general, Charles had many weaknesses of character that made him a very different ruler from his saintly brother. He was harsh, cruel, grasping, and tyrannical. Clement was kept busy reminding him of the terms of his treaty, reproving his excesses and those of his officials, and warning him that he was gaining the enmity of his subjects. Nevertheless, when, a little later, young Conradin, disregarding papal censures and anathemas, advanced to the conquest of what he deemed his birthright, Clement remained faithful to Charles and prophesied that the gallant youth, received by the Ghibelline party everywhere, even in Rome, with unbounded enthusiasm, “was being led like a Iamb to the slaughter”, and that “his glory would vanish like smoke”, a prophecy only too literally fulfilled when, after the fatal day of Tagliacozzo (August 23, 1268), Conradin fell into Charles’ merciless hands and was beheaded (October 29) on the marketplace of Naples. The fable that Pope Clement advised the execution of the unfortunate prince by saying, “The death or life of Conradin means the life or death of Charles”, is of a later date, and opposed to the truth. Even the statement of Gregorovius that Clement became an accomplice by refusing to intercede for Conradin, is equally groundless; for it has been shown conclusively, not only that he pleaded for his life and besought St. Louis to add the weight of his influence with his brother, but, moreover, that he sternly reproved Charles for his cruel deed when it was perpetrated. Clement followed “the last of the Hohenstaufen” to the grave just one month later, leaving the papacy in a much better condition than when he received the keys of St. Peter. He was buried in the church of the Dominicans at Viterbo. Owing to divergent views among the cardinals, the papal throne remained vacant for nearly three years. In 1268, Clement canonized St. Hedwig of Poland (d. 1243).