THE BATTLE OF SLUYS
 TWO princes now laid claim to the throne. One was
Philip, Count of Valois, a cousin
of the last three kings; the other was Edward III. of
England, whose mother, Isabella,
was the daughter of Phillip IV. and sister of Charles
IV. who had just died.
When the barons and citizens of France met together to
choose their new sovereign,
they soon determined that Philip of Valois should be
their king. For Philip was a
Frenchman, while Edward was English; moreover, Philip
was a great baron, and the
nobles hoped to win his goodwill by raising him to the
In this, however, they were doomed to disappointment,
for Philip proved ungrateful
and cruel. No sooner was he crowned than he began to
put down the nobles, whose
power he feared might clash with his own. For though
Philip was called king, he
owned no more land and possessed little more power than
some of his subjects
The new king, Philip VI., was called the Fortunate,
which seems strange, for his reign was full of misfortunes
Being fond of show, Philip was crowned with more than
usual magnificence at Rheims,
and for many days after the coronation the court was
gay with dances and
The merriment of the court was. however, interrupted by
his cousin Count Louis of
Flanders, who begged the king to come to his help, for
the Flemings had rebelled
 Philip, thinking a fine army and the glory of
winning battles a better
entertainment than were the gaieties of the court,
readily promised to give Louis
It was easy to raise an army, for the barons were eager
to conquer and plunder the
obstinate burghers of Flanders who were known to be
So "with the fairest and greatest host in
the world" Philip VI. marched into
Flanders and encamped at the foot of a hill called Cassel.
The Flemings had encamped on the top of the hill and
were eager to fight. Their
captain, however, wished first to find out the strength
of the enemy. Disguising
himself as a fish merchant, he clambered down the hill
and boldly entered the French
camp. While selling his goods he saw that the French
knights had taken off their
armour and were playing at chess or "strolling from
tent to tent in their fine
robes, in search of amusement," while the king was
sitting at supper, as undisturbed
as though he were in the midst of his gay court at
As quickly as he dared the fish merchant made his way
out of the French camp, and
hastening back to the Flemings, told them that now was
the time to take the French by surprise.
Almost at once three columns of soldiers crept silently
down the hill and attacked
the French camp, Philip himself being nearly captured.
In spite of their surprise the French quickly rallied,
and fought so bravely that the
Flemish captain as well as most of his men were slain.
This defeat ended the rebellion in Flanders. The
Flemings submitted to Count Louis,
and Philip disbanded his army and returned in triumph
The king proud of his success. and perhaps it was
partly in pride that he now
summoned Edward III. of England to come to do homage to
him for the duchy of
 Edward came with his barons, and met Philip and
his peers in the church of
Froissart, a chronicler who tells us much about these
days, says that Edward did
homage to Philip "with only mouth and word," refusing
to put his hands into the
hands of the French king, as was the custom at such a
ceremony. By so doing Edward
believed he left himself free to claim the crown of
Philip guessing that Edward hoped some day to put
forward his claim to the French
crown, set himself to harass his rival in every
He did all he could to spoil the English trade with
Flanders; he attempted to take
from the English king his duchy of Guienne; and, when
Edward went to war with
Scotland, he helped and encouraged Robert the Bruce to defy his rival.
Edward had little time to think of Philip until his war
with Scotland was ended.
Then he determined to punish the French king for the
injuries he had done him by
laying claim to the crown of France.
This, then, was the beginning of the long struggle
between France and England known
as the Hundred Years War, because it lasted all those
years, with, however, times of peace in between,
In 1337 Edward III. declared war against the French
king; the Flemings, encouraged by
Jacob van Artevelde, a rich brewer, being his allies.
Three years later the first
great battle of the Hundred Years' War took place at
sea, the French fleet being
near the seaport of Sluys, a town in Flanders Before
this the fleet had cruised from
time to time in the Channel, and sailed into English
ports One Sunday morning, while
the people were at church, the French had even sailed
up to Southampton, and sacked
and burned the town.
Then at length, in June 1340, Edward was ready to
avenge this and other hostile
acts. He sailed from London
 with a large fleet,
on board of which were
England's bravest soldiers.
As they drew near to Sluys the English saw the masts of
the French fleet, so many in
number that they looked "thick as a forest before
them." The Christopher, too, their
own English ship which the French had captured a year
before, was there. You can
imagine how angry the English soldiers and sailors felt
when they saw their own good
vessel in the van or front of the enemy's fleet. They
made up their minds that, at
all costs, they would again gain possession of the
Edward was well pleased when he saw his foes. "For many
a long day," said he, "I
desired to fight those fellows, and now we will fight
them, please God and St. George."
The sun was shining directly upon the English fleet as
it approached Sluys. Edward,
seeing this, ordered the sails to be lowered and the
ships to be turned so that the
sun would be behind them.
The French watched the great ships as they changed
their position, and soon they
cried, "They are turning tail, they are not men enough
to fight us." But in that
they were mistaken. For the English bore down upon
them, and, grappling their ships
together with hooks and chains, fought on deck with
their battle-axes and swords as
though they were on land.
You may be sure that the English did not forget to
attack the Christopher, and
before long it was taken, manned once again with
English archers, and working deadly
havoc among the French.
The battle was fierce and long, lasting from eight in
the morning until five in the
afternoon. As the day wore on the French were pushed
back upon Sluys, and there the
Flemings fell upon them; and many thousands, some say
thirty thousand, were slain,
or, jumping into the sea to save themselves from the
enemy, were drowned.
 By afternoon the great sea-battle was over, and
the English had won the day.
Philip was at Paris when tidings from Sluys reached the
capital. But no one dared to
tell the king how the day had gone. Yet he must be
At length the court fool, a jester who might say what
he pleased, cried out, "The English are great cowards.
"Why do you say so?" asked the king.
"Because they lacked courage to jump into the sea at
Sluys as the French did," answered the fool.
There was no need to say more. Philip understood that
the English had beaten him,
and his anger was terrible. Even the fool was quick to
flee from his master's presence.
Soon after this great defeat a truce was arranged
between France and England, and
King Edward went back to his own country.