Origin of the Conflict
During the late 13th century the county of Flanders was one of the richest areas in Europe. The
count was only in name vassal of the king of France. In reality he was quite independent and one of the most influential lords of his
time. But every coin has its flip side. The wealth of the county caused the French king to become greedy and he wanted to annex
Flanders to his royal domains.
The count cornered
Guy of Dampierre, count of Flanders, was the godfather of Philip IV the Fair of France, but this did
not stop the king to work against the count in all possible ways. His aim was to weaken the political position of the count, in such
way that he could put him aside in order to take over the county himself. The king did this by granting favours and special rights to
the patricians and commoners (but never at the same time), that never took the count's responsibilities into account. The king also
put through a currency change that ignored the count's own right to give out coin. On top of this, in every big town French "guardians"
were instated who had to supervise the count's administration, nothing less than a direct interference. Guy protested against these
measures but was completely ignored by Philip. It was forbidden to the count to appear at the court of his peers (a special court with
the twelve highest vassals of the French crown) to plea his case.
The seal of count Guy of Dampierre of Flanders, ca. 1280
War raged between France and England since 1294. Count Guy of Dampierre allied with the English
king Edward I on January 7th 1297. Two days later he broke his bond as vassal with Philip IV. France reacted by sending an army
to Flanders. A battle is fought on August 20th 1297 in Bulskamp near the town of Veurne. A hastily set up Flemish army is slain and
the French continue their advance. Eight days later Edward I lands in Sluis with a small expeditionary force and he marches to Ghent
where the count is residing. During the month of September the French manage to take the towns of Lille and Bruges. An armistice
is made in the month of October while more than half of Flanders is occupied by the French.
Edward I returns to England in March 1298, after problems between his soldiers and the citizens of
Ghent. His intervention turned out to be useless. That same year in July, Edward I reconciles with the French. By doing this he breaks
his promise to Guy of Dampierre.
The armistice ends on January 6th 1300. The French army marches again under command of Charles
of Valois and starts to conquer the rest of Flanders. Count Guy, worn out at an age of over 70, transfers his power to his oldest son Robert
of Bethune. In May 1300 the last Flemish stronghold Ypres falls and the count capitulates. Guy, Robert and several high Flemish nobles
go into captivity in France. Jacques de Châtillon de Saint-Pol is named guardian of Flanders. The county is no more, Flanders is integral
part of the French royal domains.
The king in Flanders
One year later, May 1301, king Philip IV the Fair visits his new territories and has cheerful entries in the major
cities. The biggest city north of Paris, Ghent, saw great dissatisfaction amongst the commoners on a special tax on daily usable goods.
This tax was used primarily to ease the enormous debts of the town. The commoners asked the king to lift the tax and Philip granted this,
due to the magnificent feast that was held to honour him. The patricians didn't like this of course.
The patricians in Bruges wanted to avoid that something similar happened in their town. Thus they forbid
the commoners to address any such question to the king on penalty of death. Consequently the commoners stood silent and malcontent by
the side of the road where the king passed, much to his surprise. Meanwhile the patricians had spent a lot of money and efforts to receive
the king in all magnificence and splendour. This caused the French queen the comment that she thought alone to be queen, but apparently
every woman in Flanders thought of herself as queen. So richly were the people of Flanders dressed.
The effigy of king Philip IV the Fair in Saint-Denis, France
The political climate in Flanders had not changed much after the king's visit. The contrast between Liebaarts
and Leliaarts still existed and was even aggravated. The rich patricians, for the most part Leliaarts, were able to enrich themselves even more
thanks to the French occupation. The poor commoners and artisan unions, for the most part Liebaarts, were exploited even more. A few
consequent events will be the direct cause for a frontal confrontation between these two parties.
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