The Main Characters

Every conflict in history has its great names who played a major role in the events that occurred. This is not different around the Battle of the Golden Spurs. This page gives a short description of those people.

Guy of Dampierre

Guy was not predestined to become count of Flanders. But when his older brother died, he was quickly crammed for the job. He became count in 1250 en acted as a typical feudal lord. During his government the towns reached the peak of their power. They did not just accept anymore the count's interference in their affairs.

The last decades of his government were characterised by the struggle with his liege lord king Philip IV the Fair of France. Guy transferred power to his oldest son Robert of Bethune at the end of the year 1299, when the French started to attack again. Afterwards he was taken prisoner with Robert. Guy died in his prison in France in 1305, after having returned for just a short time in 1304 to his Flanders.

Robert of Bethune

Before 1300

After 1299
Before 1300
After 1299
Being the son of his father Guy of Dampierre, Robert did not differ much from his father in a political point of view. He too tried in the first place to secure his proper position before he concerned about his people. Robert took over the rule over the county in November 1299, five years before his father died. The "Lion of Flanders" most probably did not speak the Flemish language. Robert of Béthune was a good soldier who earned his spurs during the last crusade. After the capitulation of Flanders in May 1300 he went in French captivity together with his father and about fifty noblemen. Despite some romantic stories it is absolutely certain that Robert was not present at the Battle of Courtrai. He was released out of prison in 1305 and died in 1325.

William of Jülich (the Younger)

When the free sons of Guy of Dampierre asked William of Jülich to help them organise the uprising in Flanders, he was immediately prepared to do so. He was grandson of the count of Flanders from his mother's side and his grandfather was the count of Jülich. Because of the fact that no worldly title was bestowed upon him, he became a man of the church. He had functions in Maastricht and Liège and was promised the title of Archbishop in Cologne. But despite this, he enjoyed worldly pleasures and he thought of himself more as a soldier than a priest. In 1302 he must have been about 25 years old and apparently a handsome looking man. The people in Flanders accepted him without hesitation as their military leader and he was named the count's official representative.

William always stood in the first lines at battle. He led the Brugeois during the battle of Courtrai. During the battle of Mons-en-Pévèle in 1304 he entered deep in enemy lines, but this turned out to be fatal. His body was never found. This fed the legend that one day he will return to lead Flanders back to victory when his country would need him the most.

Pieter de Coninck

Pieter was a simple and poor weaver from Bruges (and not head of his trade union what is presumed too often), who was already around 40 years old in 1300. He was however gifted with great eloquence. He could motivate his listeners to such extent that they would follow him to hell and back. This caused him to become the leader of the commoners with whom he stood at the cradle of the uprising. Thanks to him this uprising was so successful among the common people. Just before the Battle of Courtrai he was knighted as reward for his services. Afterwards he became alderman in Bruges and he continued to support the commoners.

Guy of Namur

One of the youngest sons of Guy of Dampierre from his second marriage. He was sent to Flanders by his older brother John of Namur to take the military leadership of the rebellion together with William of Jülich and Pieter de Coninck. He led the troops of western Flanders at the Battle of Courtrai. On 11 August 1304 he was taken prisoner at the seabattle of Zierikzee.

John of Namur

The oldest son of Guy of Dampierre from his second marriage became count of Namur in 1298. Since his father and older brothers were captured by the French, he waited for the right moment to restore his family's position in Flanders. This happened with the uprising in Bruges in May 1302. He sent his younger brother Guy to Flanders to ensure the military leadership. After the victory in Courtrai he was named as official representative of the count.

John of Renesse

This knight from Zealand had a serious quarrel with his lord, the count of Holland. This count also had a dispute with the count of Flanders, so John of Renesse favoured his own cause by hiring out his services to the Flemings. He was considered to be one of the most competent knights of his time. That's why he had the general command during the Battle of Courtrai. He also commanded the reserve forces at that same battle.

Henry of Lontzen

Henry of Pietersheim

Goswin of Gossenhoven

Baldwin of Popperode

Robert of Leeuwergem

Otto of Steenhuyse

Thierry of Hondschote

Roger of Lille

John Borluut

William of Boenhem

Philips of Axel

Philips IV the Fair, King of France

He was the grandson of Saint-Louis and became king of France in 1285, at the age of seventeen. He was very ambitious: having a supreme reign over France as a superpower. His main vassals stood in the way of this ambition. The Flemish count, -his godfather-, was one of them while he almost independently ruled over Flanders. To annex Flanders to his royal domains became a priority for Philip.

He was not present in person at the Battle of Courtrai, but he was at the Battle of Mons-en-Pévèle in 1304. William of Jülich managed there to enter deep behind enemy lines and according to legend he drank from the king's cup in his tent. Philip barely escaped death, thanks to his bodyguards who tore of his surcotte that bore the French lilies, so that he could not be recognised.

Robert, Count of Artois

He counted as the best French knight and commander of his time. That's why he was assigned to lead the army that marched to Flanders in 1302. He had lived in Courtrai during his youth for some years and therefore he must have been quite knowledgeable on terrain conditions of the battlefield. However, this didn't help him on July 11th 1302. When he realised that the French knights were about to be thrown back, he attacked himself on his mighty steed Morel. His attack was so powerful that he entered deep into the Flemish line and, according to legend, tore of a piece of the Flemish banner. Friar William of Saeftinghe of the Ter Doest abbey smacked him down. Also according to legend he begged to save the life of his horse. In vain, because the legend says that the Flemings who attacked him said that they could not understand his language. He died together with his horse and hundreds of French knights.

Jacques de Châtillon sur Marne, Lord of Leuze

Brother of the count of Saint-Pol and uncle to the French queen Joan of Navarre. He was a typical French knight who had no feeling whatsoever with the commoners. The French king appointed him as guardian of Flanders in June 1300. His biggest shortcoming was his complete misunderstanding of the Flemish political situation. The tradition of freedom and independence of Flemish towns, being much richer and more powerful than any French town, was unknown to him. His contempt of the commoners caused the people to hate him and this undermined the efforts to integrate Flanders into France. May 18th 1302 he could barely escape the slaughter at Bruges, ironically by disguising as a common man. Eventually he will die too at Courtrai on July 11th 1302.

Pierre Flote, Lord of Ravel, Chancellor of France

Legist, royal knight and member of the royal court as prime minister. He was totally trusted by king Philip the Fair and he used all his knowledge, might and influence to underline the grandeur and the absolutism of the French king. It is mostly because of the legal pesters of Flote that the Flemish count ultimately was cornered by obligations and indictments. Flote was present at Courtrai on 11 July, because he personally wanted to teach those recalcitrant people of Flanders a lesson. It was not about to happen though, because he too died.

Charles, Count of Valois and Anjou, brother of king Philips

A younger brother of Philips the Fair. He led the French army that invaded Flanders in 1297 when Guy of Dampierre cancelled his feudal bond with the French king. He had the military command of the French troops in Flanders until 1300. Count Guy surrendered to him in May 1300.

Guy de Châtillon sur Marne, Count of Saint-Pol
Could escape.

Robert, Count of Auvergne and Boulogne
Could escape.

Louis, son of the count of Clermont
Could escape.

Raoul de Clermont en Beauvaisis, Lord of Nesle, Constabel of France

Simon de Melun, Lord of La Loupe and Marcheville, Marshal of France, Seneshal of Limousin, Quercy and Périgord

Guy de Clermont en Beauvaisis et de Nesle, Lord of Breteuil, Marshal of France

Jean de Ponthieu, Count of Aumale

Jean de Brienne, Count of Eu

Jean de Burlats, Seneshal of Guyenne, Grandmaster of the crossbowmen

Jean de Trie, Count of Dammartin

Renaud de Trie, Lord of Vaumain

Mathieu de Trie, Lord of Fontenay-en-Vexin, brother of Renaud de Trie
Taken prisoner.

Godfrey of Brabant, Lord of Aarschot, uncle of duke John II of Brabant

Arnold of Wesemael, Marshal of Brabant

John of Hainault, Count of Ostrevant, son of count John of Hainault and Holland

Robert de Tancarville, Chamberlain of Normandy

Raoul, son of the count of Soissons

Godfrey, son of the count of Boulogne

Godfrey, Lord of Aspremont and Quiévrain

Raoul de Flament, Lord of Cany and Verpilliers

Thomas de Coucy

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Copyright on text, images and photos by Joris de Sutter, unless noted otherwise.
This information is provided by De Liebaart and was last updated on February 25th 2003.