Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

War With the Flemish Merchants
Philip VI (of Valois) [1328-1350]

Although the French people accepted Philip of Valois quietly for their King there was someone else who did not. This was King Edward III of England. You remember that Edward II had married Isabella, the daughter of Philip the Handsome. She was the sister of Louis X, Philip V, and Charles IV. Her son Edward III was their nephew, and he claimed the throne of France. Although his mother, Queen Isabella, because of the Salic Law, could not inherit the throne, there was no reason, said Edward, why her son should not. It is not easy to follow the claim, for of course, if Isabella never possessed the crown she could not give it to her son.

To begin with, however, Edward did not force his claim. Of all the French lands once possessed by the English he now held only Guienne. For that he consented to do homage to Philip, but, although only a boy of sixteen, he refused to kneel before the French King, and put his hands in his, and swear to be his man. He would give, he said, only homage of the mouth. And with this Philip had to be content. And for the time being, if there was not peace, there was at least no war between the two countries. Meanwhile Philip began his reign by fighting another foe.

The right to carry the royal sword at the coronation belonged to the Count of Flanders. Louis de Nevers, Count of Flanders, came to Philip's coronation with many knights. But when the herald stood forth and cried "Count of Flanders, if you are here come and do your duty," no one answered.

Again the herald called. Again no one answered.

A third time the herald called. Still no one answered.

Thereupon the King was greatly astonished. "Louis de Nevers," he cried, "what meaneth this?"

"May it please you, my lord King," answered the Count, "be not astonished. They have called the Count of Flanders and not Louis de Nevers."

"What then?" answered the King. "Are you not the Count of Flanders?' complains of

"Truly, my lord King," said Louis. "I have the name, but not the power. The Flemish have well-nigh driven me from the land, and there is scarce a town where I dare show my face."

"Fair Cousin," cried the King when he heard that, "we swear to you by the holy oil that this day hath anointed our head we will not enter into Paris until we see you once more at peace in your own land."

At this Louis de Nevers was greatly rejoiced. But many of the French knights were displeased, and desired to wait until the next year before beginning the war. The summer was too far advanced, they said. The winter would be upon them ere they were ready for battle.

At this the King was angry. "And what say you? he asked, turning to the Constable of France.

"Whoso hath good courage will find all times good for battle," he replied.

"Well said," cried the King as he clapped the Constable on the shoulder. "Who loves me follows me."

So the King and his men marched to battle. Nearly all the great lords of France followed. For they looked upon Count Louis's cause as the cause of chivalry. It was the cause of the nobles against merchants and tradesmen.

The rebels gathered to the hill of Cassel. It is a lonely hill from the slopes of which there stretch wide plains as far as the eye can reach. From their camp upon the slopes the Flemish looked down upon the great army of the King. They did not fear him or his brave show of knights, for in the heavy armor they wore it was impossible for these knights to charge uphill.

Over the rebel camp floated a banner on which was painted a cock and under it the words:

"When this cock here shall crow

The foundling King herein shall go."

They called him a foundling because they said he had no real right to the throne. He was only adopted like some orphan child by the people of France.

For three days the two armies lay watching each other. The Flemish would not leave their safe and strong position and come down, the French knights could not charge uphill.

At length the Flemish leader, who was a brave and reckless man, disguised himself as a seller of fish, and went down into the French camp to find out what they were about.

[Illustration] from History of France by H. E. Marshall


He discovered that they were very careless, and that they kept no watch. The knights he saw wandering about from tent to tent, amusing themselves by playing at dice and showing off their fine robes. Upon this the Flemish made up their minds to attack.

Down the hill they came very quietly without war cries or noise of any kind. They reached the camp. At first the French took them for new soldiers come to help. Soon they saw their mistake. In a moment all was confusion.

The King's standard bearer dashed into his tent shouting "To arms! to arms!" But the King had neither knight nor esquire near him. So his clerk and chaplain, who were there, did their best to arm him. In a few minutes he rode forth. And when his knights saw the oriflamme flickering in the afternoon sunshine like a tongue of flame, and heard the cry "Mont-Joie! Saint Denis!" they rallied to their King, though many of the common soldiers fled.

The knights and nobles rallied, and a fierce fight took place. The Flemish fought obstinately and bravely, but they were no match for the knighthood of France. Yet they would not give way, and almost to a man they fell. For French chivalry the disgrace of Courtrai was wiped out.

This battle ended the rebellion. Philip returned to Paris, where he was received with great rejoicing. "Count," he said before he went, "I give you back your land in peace. See to it that justice be done there. For if through your fault I am forced to return it will be for my profit and your hurt."

But far from remembering the King's words the Count began to establish order by terror. He punished and despoiled the people, and treated them so cruelly that soon the land was seething once more with wrath and discontent.

Before long the Flemish found a friend and supporter in the King of England. Robert of Artois, a Prince of the Royal family, was accused of trying to kill the French King, and he fled to England. There he did his best to persuade Edward into war with Philip. Edward was busy fighting the Scots, who were helped and encouraged by Philip.

"Sir," said Robert to him one day, "leave this poor country, and turn your thoughts to the noble crown of France."

But Edward was slow to make up his mind. So Robert of Artois made cunning appeals to his pride. One day as the King sat at table two beautiful young girls came carrying a heron upon a dish. It was a present from the lord of Artois, and this was the message he sent.

"The heron is the most fearful of birds, for it fears its own shadow. It is for the heron to receive the vows of King Edward. For he, though lawful King of France, dares not claim that noble heritage."

As the King hears these words he was right wrathful. The dark blood flushed in his face. He rose to his feet.

"Sith coward hath been cast in my teeth," he cried; "I swear now and here on this heron, by the Lord on high, a year shall not pass ere I defy the King of Paris."

Then Count Robert smiled to himself, and whispered softly in his heart, "Now have I won. Now will my heron cause a great war."

Soon Edward had another call to fight. King Philip commanded the Count of Nevers to take prisoner all the English merchants in Flanders. The Flemish had long murmured under the cruel hand of their Count. This was now the signal for revolt. For the wool of English sheep was needed for the cloth of Flanders, and the whole wealth of Flanders was bound up with England. The Flemish rose in rebellion once more. Their leader was now Jacques van Artevelde. He was a brave and clever man, and loved freedom. He sent to King Edward begging him to help the Flemish, and proclaim himself King of France. "The Flemish would willingly follow," he said, "not the foundling King but the true King of France."

So in 1340 Edward proclaimed himself King of France, although he had conquered not an inch of French land. And from that day the fleur de lis of France was painted upon the English standard, and stamped upon English money, and the War of a Hundred Years was begun.

At first the war went badly for Edward. It is true he utterly destroyed the French fleet at Sluys, but by land he had little success. So after a time he was glad to make a truce with King Philip. This truce did not last long, for soon new causes of quarrel arose, and war burst forth once more.

Meanwhile Edward had lost a great supporter in Jacques van Artevelde. Jacques had promised that the Black Prince should be made Count of Flanders. But the turbulent Flemish had no mind to pass from the rule of a French prince to that of an English one. They wished to be altogether free. So they began to murmur against Artevelde. As he passed through the streets they whispered together. "Behold," they said, "yonder great master who will order all Flanders after his pleasure, the which is not to be suffered."

Also they began to whisper abroad that for nine years Artevelde had ruled them, and had gathered the taxes of Flanders, and given no account of the money. And many said that he had sent it to England secretly. These words set all Ghent on fire.

Then one day as Artevelde rode through the streets he felt that some evil was brewing against him. For those who used to greet him respectfully, and bow before him, now turned their backs upon him, and went into their houses. So he began to fear for his life, and as soon as he got to his house he closed fast his gates, and doors, and windows.

Scarcely was this done when all the street was filled with men who began to attack his house. When Jacques saw that he was hard put to it to defend himself, he came to the window bareheaded. "Good people," he cried, "what aileth you? Why be ye so sore troubled against me? Shew me in what manner I have displeased you and I will make amends."

Then the people cried out, "We would know what you have done with the great treasure of Flanders."

Humbly Jacques answered: "Certainly, sirs. Of the treasure of Flanders I have taken naught. Go now patiently to your houses, and come again to-morrow, and I will show you good account of all."

"Nay," they replied, "we will have account now. You shall not escape us so. We know of good truth that you have sent monies into England without our knowledge. Therefore shall you die."

Then Artevelde was sore distressed. "Sirs," he cried, "ye have sworn to defend me against all persons, and now ye would slay me without reason. Ye may do it an ye will, for I am but one man among you all. Ye know right well trade was well-nigh lost in this land, and I recovered it. Also I have governed you in great peace and rest. For in the time of my governing ye have had all things as ye would wish, corn, riches and all other goods."

Then they all answered as with one voice, "Come down to us, and preach not so high."

When Jacques saw that he could not appease them he drew in his head, and closed his window, and so thought to steal away by the back of his house. But already as he turned he found his house was full. About four hundred people had possession of it. And so he was taken and slain without mercy. Thus Jacques Artevelde, who had been so great a master in Flanders, ended his days. "Poor men first raised him up," it was said, "and evil men slew him at the last." And when the news was spread abroad some were sorry, and some were glad. Edward of England was right angry.