According to some legends, Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, predicted that the King of France, who spearheaded the campaign against the Order, would not outlive him by much. Indeed, Philip the Fair died on November 29th, 1314 at the age of 46. The exact cause of his death has never been established by historians. One widely accepted account insists that an accident occurred during a stag hunt:
He saw the stag coming and drew his sword, and clapped spurs to his horse and thought to strike the stag, but his horse carried him so violently against a tree that the good king fell to the ground, and was very severely hurt in the heart, and was carried to Corbeil. There his malady grew very sore.
However, this account comes from a source published in 1572. Michelet says that contemporary sources simply indicate that Philip died without fever or any visible sickness, “to the great astonishment of his physicians.” This may mean various things, including a stroke. But according to rumors that circulated soon after the king’s death, he was killed by a wild boar. This image from an old manuscript illustrates the demise of Philip the Fair, as it was imagined by some. Among those who believed in the boar story certainly was Dante, who unsympathetically wrote in Paradiso:
19.118 Lì si vedrà il duol che sovra Senna
19.119 induce, falseggiando la moneta,
19.120 quel che morrà di colpo di cotenna.
(There shall be seen the woe which he who shall die by the blow of a wild boar is bringing upon the Seine, by falsifying the coin.)
The reference to Philip the Fair, the king who was debased French coinage in 1306, leading to the livre loosing two-thirds of its value, is unmistakable. There are some indications that if the accident did in fact involve a boar, the animal simply startled the king’s horse. It is evident, however, that many contemporaries wished for Philip the Fair to have died in the most unpleasant and demeaning fashion: mauled by a wild pig.