|Battle of the Golden Spurs|
|Part of the Franco-Flemish War|
Depiction from the Grandes Chroniques de France
|Commanders and leaders|
| William of Jülich |
Pieter de Coninck
8,000–10,000 militia infantry
3,500 assorted infantry
|Casualties and losses|
|c.100–300 killed||c.1,000–1,500 men-at-arms and knights killed|
The Battle of the Golden Spurs (Flemish : Guldensporenslag; French : Bataille des éperons d'or) was a military confrontation between the royal army of France and rebellious forces of the County of Flanders on 11 July 1302 during the Franco-Flemish War (1297–1305). It took place near the town of Kortrijk (Courtrai) in modern-day Belgium and resulted in an unexpected victory for the Flemish. It is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Courtrai.
Flemish (Vlaams) also called Flemish Dutch (Vlaams-Nederlands), Belgian Dutch, or Southern Dutch (Zuid-Nederlands), is a Lower Franconian / Dutch dialect. It is spoken in the whole northern region of Belgium as well as French Flanders and the Dutch Zeelandic Flanders by approximately 6.5 million people. The term is used in at least five ways. These are:
French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.
The Kingdom of France was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was among the most powerful states in Europe and a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.
On 18 May 1302, after two years of French military occupation and several years of unrest, many cities in Flanders revolted against French rule and massacred many Frenchmen in the city of Bruges. King Philip IV of France immediately organized an expedition of 8,000 troops, including 2,500 men-at-arms, under Count Robert II of Artois to put down the rebellion. Meanwhile, 9,400 men from the civic militias of several Flemish cities were assembled to counter the expected French attack.
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country, and the seventh largest city of the country by population.
Philip IV, called Philip the Fair, was King of France from 1285 until his death. By virtue of his marriage with Joan I of Navarre, he was also King of Navarre as Philip I from 1284 to 1305, as well as Count of Champagne. Although Philip was known as handsome, hence the epithet le Bel, his rigid and inflexible personality gained him other nicknames, such as the Iron King. His fierce opponent Bernard Saisset, bishop of Pamiers, said of him: "he is neither man nor beast. He is a statue."
A man-at-arms was a soldier of the High Medieval to Renaissance periods who was typically well-versed in the use of arms and served as a fully armoured heavy cavalryman. A man-at-arms could be a knight or nobleman, a member of a knight or nobleman's retinue or a mercenary in a company under a mercenary captain. Such men could serve for pay or through a feudal obligation. The terms knight and man-at-arms are often used interchangeably, but while all knights equipped for war certainly were men-at-arms, not all men-at-arms were knights.
When the two armies met outside the city of Kortrijk on 11 July, the cavalry charges of the mounted French men-at-arms proved unable to defeat the mail-armoured and well-trained Flemish militia infantry's pike formation on the battlefield. The result was a rout of the French nobles, who suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Flemish. The 500 pairs of spurs that were captured from the French horsemen gave the battle its popular name. The battle was a famous early example of an all-infantry army overcoming an army that depended on the shock attacks of heavy cavalry.
Military education and training is a process which intends to establish and improve the capabilities of military personnel in their respective roles. It begins with recruit training, proceeds to education and training specific to military roles, and may also include additional training during a military career. Military training may be voluntary or compulsory duty.
Infantry is a military specialization that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers or infanteers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.
A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear formerly used extensively by infantry. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the Late Middle Ages to the early 18th century, and were wielded by foot soldiers deployed in close quarters, until their replacement by the bayonet. The pike found extensive use with Landsknecht armies and Swiss mercenaries, who employed it as their main weapon and used it in pike square formations. A similar weapon, the sarissa, was also used by Alexander the Great's Macedonian phalanx infantry to great effect. Generally, a spear becomes a pike when it is too long to be wielded with one hand in combat.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Battle of the Golden Spurs became an important cultural reference point for the Flemish Movement. In 1973, the date of the battle was chosen to be the date of the official holiday of the Flemish Community in Belgium.
The Flemish Movement is the political movement for greater autonomy of the Belgian region of Flanders, for protection of the Dutch language, for the overall protection of Flemish culture and history, and in some cases, for splitting from Belgium and forming an independent state.
The Day of the Flemish Community of Belgium is an annual commemoration in the Flemish Community in Belgium on 11 July which marks the anniversary of the Battle of the Golden Spurs (Guldensporenslag) in 1302.
The origins of the Franco-Flemish War (1297–1305) can be traced back to the accession of Philip IV "the Fair" to the French throne in 1285. Philip hoped to reassert control over the County of Flanders, a semi-independent polity notionally part of the Kingdom of France, and possibly even to annex it into the crown lands of France.In the 1290s, Philip attempted to gain support from the Flemish aristocracy and succeeded in winning the allegiance of some local notables, including John of Avesnes (Count of Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland). He was opposed by a faction led by the Flemish knight Guy of Dampierre who attempted to form a marriage alliance with the English against Philip. In Flanders, however, many of the cities were split into factions known as the "Lilies" (Leliaerts), who were pro-French, and the "Claws" (Clauwaerts), led by Pieter de Coninck in Bruges, who advocated independence.
The Franco-Flemish War was a conflict between the Kingdom of France and the County of Flanders between 1297 and 1305.
The County of Flanders was a historic territory in the Low Countries.
The crown lands, crown estate, royal domain or domaine royal of France refers to the lands, fiefs and rights directly possessed by the kings of France. While the term eventually came to refer to a territorial unit, the royal domain originally referred to the network of "castles, villages and estates, forests, towns, religious houses and bishoprics, and the rights of justice, tolls and taxes" effectively held by the king or under his domination. In terms of territory, before the reign of Henry IV, the domaine royal did not encompass the entirety of the territory of the kingdom of France and for much of the Middle Ages significant portions of the kingdom were the direct possessions of other feudal lords.
In June 1297, the French invaded Flanders and gained some rapid successes. The English, under Edward I, withdrew to face a war with Scotland and the Flemish and French signed a temporary armistice in 1297, the Truce of Sint-Baafs-Vijve, which halted the conflict.In January 1300, when the truce expired, the French invaded Flanders again and by May were in total control of the county. Guy of Dampierre was imprisoned and Philip himself toured Flanders making administrative changes.
Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. Before his accession to the throne, he was commonly referred to as The Lord Edward. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved from an early age in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons. In 1259, he briefly sided with a baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford. After reconciliation with his father, however, he remained loyal throughout the subsequent armed conflict, known as the Second Barons' War. After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was hostage to the rebellious barons, but escaped after a few months and defeated the baronial leader Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Within two years the rebellion was extinguished and, with England pacified, Edward joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. The crusade accomplished little, and Edward was on his way home in 1272 when he was informed that his father had died. Making a slow return, he reached England in 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 19 August.
The First War of Scottish Independence was the initial chapter of engagements in a series of warring periods between English and Scottish forces lasting from the invasion by England in 1296 until the de jure restoration of Scottish independence with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328. De facto independence was established in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn. England attempted to establish its authority over Scotland while the Scots fought to keep English rule and authority out of Scotland.
After Philip left Flanders, unrest broke out again in the Flemish city of Bruges directed against the French governor of Flanders, Jacques de Châtillon. On 18 May 1302, rebellious citizens who had fled Bruges returned to the city and murdered every Frenchman they could find, an act known as the Bruges Matins . [ citation needed ]With Guy of Dampierre still imprisoned, command of the rebellion was taken by John and Guy of Namur. Most of the towns of the County of Flanders agreed to join the Bruges rebellion except for the city of Ghent which refused to take part. Most of the Flemish nobility also took the French side, fearful of what had become an attempt to take power by the lower classes.
In order to quell the revolt, Philip sent a powerful force led by Count Robert II of Artois to march on Bruges. Against the French, the Flemish under William of Jülich fielded a largely infantry force which was drawn mainly from Bruges, West Flanders and the east of the county. The city of Ypres sent a contingent of five hundred men under Jan van Renesse, and despite their city's refusal to join the revolt, Jan Borluut arrived with seven hundred volunteers from Ghent.
The Flemish were primarily town militia who were well equipped and trained. 5 feet (1.5 m)-long wooden shaft and topped with a steel spike. They were a well-organized force of 8,000–10,000 infantry, as well as four hundred noblemen, and the urban militias of the time prided themselves on their regular training and preparation. About 900 of the Flemish were crossbowmen. The Flemish militia formed a line formation against cavalry with goedendags and pikes pointed outward. Because of the high rate of defections among the Flemish nobility, there were few mounted knights on the Flemish side. The Annals of Ghent claimed that there were just ten cavalrymen in the Flemish force.The militia fought primarily as infantry, were organized by guild, and were equipped with steel helmets, mail haubergeons, spears, pikes, bows, crossbows and the goedendag . All Flemish troops at the battle had helmets, neck protection, iron or steel gloves and effective weapons, though not all could afford mail armor. The goedendag was a specifically Flemish weapon, made from a thick
The French, by contrast, fielded a royal army with a core of 2,500 noble cavalry, including knights and squires, arrayed into ten formations of 250 armored horsemen.During the deployment for the battle, they were arranged into three battles, of which the first were to attack and the third to function as a rearguard and reserve. They were supported by about 5,500 infantry, a mix of crossbowmen, spearmen, and light infantry. The French had about 1,000 crossbowmen, most of whom were from the Kingdom of France and perhaps a few hundred were recruited from northern Italy and Spain. Contemporary military theory valued each knight as equal to roughly ten footmen.
The combined Flemish forces met at Kortrijk on 26 June and laid siege to the castle, which housed a French garrison. As the siege was being laid, the Flemish leaders began preparing a nearby field for battle. The size of the French response was impressive, with 3,000 knights and 4,000–5,000 infantry being an accepted estimate. The Flemish failed to take the castle and the two forces clashed on 11 July in an open field near the city next to the Groeninge stream.
The field near Kortrijk was crossed by numerous ditches and streams dug by the Flemish as Philip's army assembled. Some drained from the river Leie or Lys, while others were concealed with dirt and tree branches, making it difficult for the French cavalry to charge the Flemish lines. The marshy ground also made the cavalry less effective. [ citation needed ]The French sent servants to place wood in the streams, but they were attacked before they completed their task. The Flemish placed themselves in a strong defensive position, in deeply stacked lines forming a square. The rear of the square was covered by a curve of the river Leie. The front presented a wedge to the French army and was placed behind larger rivulets.
The 1,000 French crossbowmen attacked their 900 Flemish counterparts and succeeded in forcing them back.Eventually, the French crossbow bolts and arrows began to hit the main Flemish infantry formations' front ranks but inflicted little damage.
The French commander Robert of Artois was worried the outnumbered French foot would be attacked from all sides by superior, heavily armed Flemish infantry on the other side of the brooks.Furthermore, the Flemish would then have their formations right on edge of the brooks and a successful French cavalry crossing would be extremely difficult. He therefore recalled his foot soldiers to clear the way for 2,300 heavy cavalry arranged into two attack formations. The French cavalry unfurled their banners and advanced on the command "Forward!".
Some of the French footmen were trampled to death by the armoured cavalry, but most managed to get back around them or through the gaps in their lines.The cavalry advanced rapidly across the streams and ditches to give the Flemish no time to react. The brooks presented difficulties for the French horsemen and a few fell from their steeds. Despite initial confusion, the crossing was successful in the end. The French reorganized their formations on the other side to maximize their effectiveness in battle.
Ready for combat, the French knights and men-at-arms charged at a quick trot and with their lances ready against the main Flemish line.The Flemish crossbowmen and archers fell back behind the pikemen. A great noise rose throughout the dramatic battle scene. The disciplined Flemish foot-soldiers kept their pikes ready on the ground and their goedendags raised to meet the French charge. The Flemish infantry wall did not flinch and a part of the French cavalry hesitated. The bulk of the French formations carried on their forward momentum and fell on the Flemish in an ear-splitting crash of horses against men. Unable at most points to break the Flemish line of pikemen, many French knights were knocked from their horses and killed with the goedendag, the spike of which was designed to penetrate the spaces between armour segments. Those cavalry groups that succeeded in breaking through were set upon by the reserve lines, surrounded and wiped out.
To turn the tide of the battle, Artois ordered his rearguard of 700 men-at-arms to advance, joining the battle personally with his own knights and with trumpets blaring.The rearguard did not attack the Flemish however, remaining stationary after its initial advance to protect the French baggage train. Artois' charge routed some of the Flemish troops under Guy of Namur, but could not break the entire Flemish formation. Artois' men-at-arms were attacked by fresh Flemish forces and the French fought back with desperate courage, aware of the danger they were in. Artois defended himself skillfully. His horse was struck down by a lay brother, Willem van Saeftinghe, and the count himself was killed, covered with multiple wounds. According to some tales, he begged for his life, but the Flemish refused to spare him, claiming that they did not understand French.
When ultimately the French knights became aware that they could no longer be reinforced, their attacks faltered and they were gradually driven back into the rivulet marshes. 10 km (6 mi) by the Flemish. Unusually for the period, the Flemish infantry took few if any of the French knights prisoner for ransom, in revenge for the French "cruelty".There the disorganized, unhorsed, and mud-drowned French cavalry was an easy target for the heavily armed Flemish infantry. A desperate charge by the French garrison in the besieged castle was thwarted by a Flemish contingent specifically placed there for that task. The French infantry was visibly shaken by the sight of their knights being slaughtered and withdrew from the rivulets. The Flemish front ranks then charged forward, routing their opponents, who were massacred. The surviving French fled, only to be pursued over
The Annals of Ghent concludes its description of the battle:
And so, by the disposition of God who orders all things, the art of war, the flower of knighthood, with horses and chargers of the finest, fell before weavers, fullers and the common folk and foot soldiers of Flanders, albeit strong, manly, well armed, courageous and under expert leaders. The beauty and strength of that great [French] army was turned into a dung-pit, and the [glory] of the French made dung and worms.
With the French army defeated, the Flemish consolidated control over the County. Kortrijk castle surrendered on 13 July and John of Namur entered Ghent on 14 July and the "patrician" regime in the city and in Ypres were overthrown and replaced by more representative regimes. Guilds were also officially recognised.
The battle soon became known as the Battle of the Golden Spurs after the 500 pairs of spurs that were captured in the battle and offered at the nearby Church of Our Lady.After the Battle of Roosebeke in 1382, the spurs were taken back by the French and Kortrijk was sacked by Charles VI in retaliation.
According to the Annals, the French lost more than 1,000 men during the battle, including 75 important nobles.These included:
The Flemish victory at Kortrijk in 1302 was quickly reversed by the French. In 1304, the French destroyed the Flemish fleet at the Battle of Zierikzee and decisively defeated the Flemish at the battle at Mons-en-Pévèle.In June 1305, negotiations between the two sides led to the humiliating Peace of Athis-sur-Orge in which the Flemish were forced to pay the French substantial tribute. Robert of Béthune subsequently lost against the French between 1314–20.
The town of Kortrijk hosts many monuments and a museum dedicated to the battle.
The Battle of the Golden Spurs had been seen as the first example of the gradual "Infantry Revolution" in Medieval warfare across Europe during the 14th century.Conventional military theory placed emphasis on mounted and heavily armoured knights which were considered essential to military success. This meant that warfare was the preserve of a wealthy elite of bellatores (nobles specialized in warfare) serving as men-at-arms. The fact that this form of army, which was expensive to maintain, could be defeated by militia drawn from the "lower orders" led to a gradual change in the nature of warfare during the subsequent century. The tactics and composition of the Flemish army at Courtrai were later copied or adapted at the battles of Bannockburn (1314), Crecy (1346), Aljubarrota (1385), Sempach (1386), Agincourt (1415), Grandson (1476) and in the battles of the Hussite Wars (1419–34). As a result, cavalry became less important and nobles more commonly fought dismounted. The comparatively low costs of militia armies allowed even small states (such as the Swiss) to raise militarily significant armies and meant that local rebellions were more likely to achieve military success.
Interest in Medieval history in Belgium emerged during the 19th century alongside the rise of Romanticism in art and literature.According to the historian Jo Tollebeek, it soon became connected to nationalist ideals because the Middle Ages were "a period that could be linked with the most important contemporary aspirations" of romantic nationalism.
Amid this resurgence, the Battle of the Golden Spurs became the subject of an "extensive cult" in 19th- and 20th-century Flanders. [ citation needed ]After Belgian independence in 1830, the Flemish victory was interpreted as a symbol of local pride. The battle was painted in 1836 by a leading Romanticist painter Nicaise de Keyser. Probably inspired by the painting, the Flemish writer Hendrik Conscience used it as the centerpiece of his classic 1838 novel, The Lion of Flanders (De Leeuw van Vlaenderen) which brought the events to a mass audience for the first time. It inspired an engraving by the artist James Ensor in 1895. A large monument and triumphal arch were also subsequently erected on the site of the battle between 1906–08. The battle was evoked by King Albert I at the start of World War I to inspire bravery among Flemish soldiers as an equivalent of the Walloon six hundred Franchimontois of 1468. In 1914, the Belgian victory against German cavalry at the Battle of Halen was dubbed the "Battle of the Silver Helmets" in analogy to the Golden Spurs. Its anniversary, 11 July, became an important annual Flemish observance. In 1973, the date was formalised as the official holiday of the Flemish Community.
As the Battle of the Golden Spurs became an important part of Flemish identity it became increasingly important within the Flemish Movement. Emerging in the 1860s, this sought autonomy or even independence for Dutch-speaking Flanders and became increasingly radical after World War I. The battle was seen as a "milestone" in a historic struggle for Flemish national liberation and a symbol of resistance to foreign rule. Flemish nationalists wrote poems and songs about the battle and celebrated its leaders.As a result of this linguistic-based nationalism, the contribution of French-speaking soldiers and command of the battle by Walloon noble Guy of Namur was neglected.
The Battle of Bouvines was fought on 27 July 1214 near the town of Bouvines in the County of Flanders. It was the concluding battle of the Anglo-French War of 1213–1214. A French army of approximately 7,000 men commanded by King Philip Augustus defeated an Allied army of approximately 9,000 commanded by Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV.
Guy of Dampierre was the Count of Flanders (1251–1305) and Marquis of Namur (1268–1297). He was a prisoner of the French when his Flemings defeated the latter at the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302.
The Peasant revolt in Flanders 1323–1328 was a popular revolt in late medieval Europe. Beginning as a series of scattered rural riots in late 1323, peasant insurrection escalated into a full-scale rebellion that dominated public affairs in Flanders for nearly five years until 1328. The uprising in Flanders was caused by both excessive taxations levied by the Count of Flanders Louis I, and by his pro-French policies. The insurrection had urban leaders and rural factions which took over most of Flanders by 1325.
Robert II was the Count of Artois, the posthumous son and heir of Robert I and Matilda of Brabant. He was a nephew of Louis IX of France. He died at the Battle of the Golden Spurs.
The Battle of Furnes was fought on 20 August 1297 between French and Flemish forces.
The Battle of Mons-en-Pévèle was fought on 18 August 1304 between the French and the Flemish. The French were led by King Philip IV "the Fair" in person.
The Battle of Roosebeke took place on 27 November 1382 on the Goudberg between a Flemish army under Philip van Artevelde and a French army under Louis II of Flanders who had called upon the help of the French king Charles VI after he had suffered a defeat during the Battle of Beverhoutsveld. The Flemish army was defeated, Philip van Artevelde was slain and his corpse was put on display.
A goedendag was a weapon originally used by the militias of Medieval Flanders in the 14th century, notably during the Franco-Flemish War. The goedendag was essentially a combination of a club with a spear. Its body was a wooden staff roughly three to five feet long with a diameter of roughly two to four inches. It was wider at one end, and at this end a sharp metal spike was inserted by a tang.
Pieter de Coninck was a weaver from Bruges well known for his role in the events surrounding the Battle of the Golden Spurs. He was not the head of the weavers' guild as is popularly believed. Together with Jan Breydel, a butcher, he was in the forefront of the popular uprising that led to the Battle of the Golden Spurs. Right before that battle he was knighted together with two of his sons.
Jan Breydel is credited with leading the Bruges Matins, a violent uprising against Philip the Fair.
Jacques de Châtillon or James of Châtillon was Lord of Leuze, of Condé, of Carency, of Huquoy and of Aubigny, the son of Guy III, Count of Saint-Pol and Matilda of Brabant. He married Catherine of Condé and had issue; his descendants brought Condé, Carency, etc. into the House of Bourbon. One of his daughters, Béatrice, married in 1315 Jean/John, son of Guillaume of Flanders and his wife Alix de Clermont-Nesle.
Kortrijk is a Belgian city and municipality in the Flemish province of West Flanders.
The Chest of Courtrai is a medieval oak chest that bears a carving depicting scenes from the Franco-Flemish War, including the 1302 Battle of the Golden Spurs at Kortrijk, Flanders, between Flemish citizen foot-soldiers and French Knights. The chest is among the few surviving contemporaneous depictions of those historically significant events.
On 23 August 1328, the Battle of Cassel took place near the city of Cassel, 30 km south of Dunkirk in present-day France. Philip VI, fought Nicolaas Zannekin, a wealthy farmer from Lampernisse. Zannekin was the leader of a band of Flemish independence rebels. The fighting erupted over taxation and punitive edicts of the French over the Flemish. The battle was won decisively by the French. Zannekin and about 3200 Flemish rebels were killed in the battle.
The Brugse Belofte or Blindekens procession is a yearly Catholic parade held since 1304 in the Flemish city of Brugge on Assumption of Mary. In yearly remembrance of the safe homecoming of the craftsmen from the battle of Mons-en-Pévèle in 1304 against the French knights, a candle is brought by a procession to the church of Saint Mary of the Blinds.
The Battle of Arques was fought on 4 April 1303 in the French city of Arques between the County of Flanders and the Kingdom of France.
Willem van Saeftinghe was a lay brother in the Cistercian abbey of Ter Doest in Lissewege, West Flanders, Belgium. He fought at the Battle of the Golden Spurs, and became a Flemish folk hero.
The English expedition to Flanders (1297–98) was an English expedition to Flanders that lasted from August 1297 until March 1298. King Edward I of England in an alliance with Guy, Count of Flanders, as part of the wider Anglo-French War (1294–1303), led an English force to Flanders, hoping to form military alliances and support to lead a combined force against King Philip IV of France. The expedition was a failure in gaining military support and after a peace was reached between King Edward I of England and King Philip IV of France, Edward left Flanders in March 1298.
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