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THE BATTLE OF THE SPURS
 PHILIP the Bold was succeeded in 1285 by his son Philip
the Fair. "This king," says
an old chronicler, was "simple and sage, and spake but
little; proud was he as a
lion when he looked on men." But as you read about
Philip IV., called the Fair, you
will learn more about him than the old writer tells.
You will find that Philip was
greedy for wealth, greedy for power, and to get either
he would do bad and cruel
deeds. If he saw that he could not get his own way by
force, he was crafty enough to
gain it by soft words and pleasant ways.
The king loved money, and Flanders was one of the
richest countries in Europe.
Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders, was a vassal of
the French king. He was a brave
man, bent on marrying his daughters to great princes,
so that he himself might
become of more importance.
When Philip the Fair discovered that Count Guy was
secretly trying to arrange with
Edward I., King of England, that his daughter Philippa
should marry the heir to the
English throne, he was very angry. He at once invited
Guy to Paris, and the count
did not dare to refuse. Being a brave man, Guy, who
probably knew why he had been
summoned to the capital, no sooner came into the king's
presence than he told that
his daughter Philippa was soon to marry Prince Edward
As England and France were often at war, the count
hastened to add that, in spite of
the new tie with England,
 he would always serve
King Philip loyally, "as every
good and true man should serve his lord."
"In God's name. Sir Count," said the angry king, "this
thing will never do; you have
made alliance with my foe without my wit (knowledge),
wherefore you shall abide with
me." And without more ado Philip ordered Count Guy and
his two sons, who were with
him, to be put in the tower of the Louvre. The Louvre,
you remember, was a prison as
well as a palace.
For six months the king kept his prisoners, and then
set them free only on condition
that Philippa should stay in France as a hostage for
her father's good conduct.
But at the end of two years the count threw off his
allegiance to the French king in
these bold words: "Every one doth know in how many ways
the King of France hath
misbehaved toward God and justice. Such is his might
and his pride that he doth
acknowledge naught above himself, and he hath brought
us to the necessity of seeking
allies who may be able to defend and protect us."
At the same time Guy made no secret of the treaty he
had concluded with Edward I.,
by which his daughter Isabel should marry the young
English prince, since Philippa
was still a prisoner in the Louvre.
After such defiance from the count, it was but natural
that Philip should declare
war upon Flanders.
A French army was soon assembled, and before the
English had arrived to help Count
Guy, Philip had marched into Flanders, taken the town
of Lille, and won a great
For two years after this there was a truce between the
two countries. As soon as it
ended, Philip sent his brother Charles, Count of
Valois, into Flanders at the head
of a powerful army.
When the Count of Valois reached Ghent, however, no
battle was fought. For the
magistrates came willingly to offer the keys of the
city to the French prince.
 Perhaps you wonder how the magistrates came to
act as traitors to their country.
An old chronicler tells us all about it. "The burghers
of the town of Flanders," he
writes, "were all bribed by gifts or promises from the
King of France, who would
never have dared to invade the frontiers had they been
faithful to their count."
Guy de Dampierre saw that his cause was lost, and
surrendered to the Count de
Valois, with his two sons and those knights who had not
Charles urged Guy to go to Paris and trust Philip to be
merciful. So Guy set out for
the capital, and when he drew near to the palace he
dismounted and walked humbly
into the king's presence, as befitted one who had come
to sue for mercy.
But Philip had no mercy. "I desire no peace
with you," he said haughtily, as Count
Guy urged his suit, and he sent the count to prison.
Then at length he was free to
do what for years he had wished. He proclaimed that Guy
de Dampierre having
forfeited his right to Flanders, the country now
belonged to the crown of France.
In the following year, 1801, Philip thought it would be
well to pay a visit to the
province he had made his own. So with the queen, her
ladies, and a brilliant train
of courtiers, Philip the Fair set out for Flanders.
At Bruges the town was brightly decorated to receive
the royal visitors. Platforms
were placed in the square of the town, hung with rich
tapestries. Here the ladies of
Bruges were seated, wearing their most precious jewels,
their most gorgeous robes.
The Queen of France looked with some displeasure at
these richly dressed dames, with
some envy at their valuable jewels. Turning to the king
she said, "There is none but
queens to be seen in Bruges; I had thought that there
was none but I had a right to
But though the rich ladies and nobles were pleased
 thus gayly to welcome their
new lord, the people would have nothing to do with
their conqueror. They refused to
put on holiday clothes, to play games, as usually they
were quick to do, but went
about the streets silent and with sullen faces. Philip
had already proved himself a
hard master. Not only the inhabitants of Bruges, but
the people all over Flanders
were beginning to groan under the taxes imposed on them
by the King of France.
In March 1802 the Flemings resolved to bear Philip's
exactions no longer. Bruges set
the example. In the dead of night the bells rang out
from every belfry in the town,
the burghers rose up as one man, and massacred all the
French who were in the city.
This was the beginning of a fierce struggle between the
French and the Flemings.
The tidings of the massacre no sooner reached Paris
than the barons set out with an
army to punish the burghers. They met the Flemish
force, which had taken up its
position behind a deep and narrow canal, near a town
called Courtrai, in July 1802.
The French knights feared the burghers of Flanders not
at all. Recklessly they
dashed forward, putting spurs to their horses so that a
cloud of dust enveloped
them. On they dashed, the gallant knights of France,
nor saw amid the dust the
smooth water of the canal. Into the water, before they
were aware of it, fell the
foremost knights, those behind pressing those in front,
until the army was
floundering in the muddy water.
Then the Flemish fell upon the French, the rearguard
turning to run for their lives.
Robert, Count of Artois, the leader of the French army,
tried to rally his men in
vain. As he fell wounded to the ground he cried, "I
yield me! I yield me!" but the
Flemish pretended that they did not understand his
language, and put him to death.
On the battlefield lay twelve or fifteen thousand
soldiers, and among them were the
leaders of the French army. The Flemish had won the
battle of Courtrai. From the
 towers of a monastery not far from the town the
monks watched the battle. "We
could see the French flying," wrote the abbot, "over the
roads, across the fields,
and through hedges, in such numbers that the sight must
have been seen to be
believed. There were in the outskirts of our town, and
in the neighbouring villages,
so vast a multitude of knights and men-at-arms
tormented with hunger, that it was a
matter horrible to see. They gave their arms to get
When all was over, the victors took from the dead
bodies of the French knights four
thousand or even a greater number of gilt spurs, and
hung them as a trophy of war in
the cathedral of Courtrai. And ever since this hard-won
field has been called the "Battle of the Spurs."
Two years afterwards Philip defeated the Flemish fleet.
Then another battle was
fought, but both sides claimed the victory. Philip saw
that he need never expect to
crush these obstinate burghers, so he offered to make
peace with them. From that
time to the end of his reign treaties were continually
being made and broken and
remade between France and Flanders.