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Battle of the Golden Spurs

Part of the French invasion of Flanders
Battle of Courtrai2.jpg
Illustration of the Battle of Courtrai from the 14th century
Date July 11, 1302
Location Kortrijk, Flanders
50°49′44″N 3°16′34″E / 50.829°N 3.276°E / 50.829; 3.276Coordinates: 50°49′44″N 3°16′34″E / 50.829°N 3.276°E / 50.829; 3.276
Result Flemish victory, which resulted in de facto autonomy until 1304.
Blason Comte-de-Flandre.svg County of Flanders France Ancient.svg Kingdom of France
Commanders and leaders
Blason Comte-de-Flandre.svg William of Jülich
Pieter de Coninck
Blason Comte-de-Flandre.svg Guy of Namur
Jan Borluut
Jan van Renesse.
Artois Arms.svg Robert II of Artois 
Jacques de Châtillon 
John I of Dammartin 
Blason Raoul II de Clermont (+1302) Connétable de France.svg Raoul II. de Clermont †
9,000 8,000
Casualties and losses
100 est. 1,000 est.


The Battle of the Golden Spurs, known also as the Battle of Courtrai (Dutch: Guldensporenslag, French: Bataille des éperons d’or) was fought on July 11, 1302, near Kortrijk (Courtrai) in Flanders. The date of the battle is the official holiday of the Flemish community in Belgium.


The reason for the battle was a French attempt to subdue the County of Flanders, which was formally part of the French kingdom and added to the crown lands in 1297 but resisted centralist French policies. In 1300, the French king Philip IV appointed Jacques de Châtillon as governor of Flanders and took the Count of Flanders, Guy of Dampierre, hostage. This instigated considerable unrest among the influential Flemish urban guilds.

After being exiled from their homes by French troops, the citizens of Bruges went back to the city and murdered every Frenchman they could find on May 18, 1302, an act known as the Brugse Metten. According to legend, they identified the French by asking them to pronounce a Dutch phrase, schilt ende vriend (shield and friend) and everyone who had a problem pronouncing this shibboleth was killed.[1]


The French king could not let this go unpunished, so he sent a powerful force led by Count Robert II of Artois. The Flemish response consisted of two groups, one of 3,000 men from the city militia of Bruges, was led by William of Jülich, grandson of Count Guy and Pieter de Coninck, one of the leaders of the uprising in Bruges. The other group of about 2,500 men from the suburbs of Bruges and the coastal areas, was headed by Guy of Namur, son of Count Guy, with the two sons of Guy of Dampierre; the two groups met near Kortrijk. From the East came another 2,500 men, led by Jan Borluut from Ghent and yet another 1,000 men from Ypres, led by Jan van Renesse from Zeeland.

The Flemish were primarily town militia who were well equipped, with such weapons as the goedendag and a long spear known as the geldon. They were also well organized; the urban militias of the time prided themselves on their regular training and preparation, which allowed them to use the geldon. They numbered about 9,000, including 400 nobles. The biggest difference from the French and other feudal armies was that the Flemish force consisted almost solely of infantry with only the leaders mounted, more to express their leadership than for combat.

The French were by contrast a classic feudal army made up of a core of 2,500 noble cavalry, including knights and squires. They were supported by 1,000 crossbowmen, 1,000 spearmen and up to 3,500 other light infantry, totaling around 8,000.[2] Contemporary military theory valued each knight as equal to roughly ten infantry.[3]

The battle

After the Flemish unsuccessfully tried to take Kortrijk on July 9 and 10, the two forces clashed on July 11 in an open field near the city.

The layout of the field, crossed by numerous ditches and streams, made it difficult for the French cavalry to charge the Flemish lines. They sent servants to place wood in the streams but did not wait for this to be done. The large French infantry force led the initial attack, which went well but French commander Count Robert II of Artois recalled them so that the noble cavalry could claim the victory. Hindered by their infantry and the tactically sound position of the Flemish militia, the French cavalry were an easy target for the heavily-armed Flemish. When they realized the battle was lost, the surviving French fled, only to be pursued over 10 km (6 mi) by the Flemish.

Prior to the battle, the Flemish militia had either been ordered to take no prisoners or did not care for the military custom of asking for a ransom for captured knights or nobles;[1] modern theory is that there was a clear order that forbade them to take prisoners as long as the battle was as yet undecided (this was to avoid the possibility of their ranks being broken when the Flemish infantry brought their hostages behind the Flemish lines).[4] Robert II of Artois was surrounded and killed on the field. (According to some tales he begged for his life but the Flemish refused, claiming that “they didn’t understand French”[citation needed].)


The large numbers of golden spurs that were collected from the French knights gave the battle its name;[5] at least a thousand noble cavaliers were killed, some contemporary accounts placing the total casualties at over ten thousand dead and wounded. The French spurs were hung in the Church of Our Lady in Kortrijk to commemorate the victory and were taken back by the French eighty years later after the Battle of Westrozebeke.

Some of the notable casualties:

Historical consequences

The battle was one in a string during the 14th century (started as early as 1297 by the battle of Stirling Bridge)[6] that showed that knights could be defeated by disciplined and well-equipped infantry (one other example is the Battle of Sempach in 1386). The Scots then applied this idea of attacking infantry and brought it to the battlefield at Bannockburn, where the Scottish schiltron charged English cavalry and routed them. It is also a landmark in the development of Flemish political independence and the day is remembered every year in Flanders as the Flemish Community‘s official holiday.

The battle was romanticised in 1838 by Flemish writer Hendrik Conscience in his book The Lion of Flanders (Dutch: “De leeuw van Vlaanderen“). Another unusual feature of this battle is that it is often cited as one of the few successful uprisings of peasants and townsmen, given that at the time most peasant uprisings in Europe were quelled.

The uprising originated from the people, without being provoked by a lord (the Flemish count and his most important lords were in French captivity). Only when the uprising became widespread, the count’s relatives who still were free rushed in to aid. In the first place this was a struggle of people against a lord (the French king), not the struggle between two lords.[7]

Barbara Tuchman describes this as a peasant uprising in A Distant Mirror. Though the winning army was well armed, the initial uprising was nonetheless a folk uprising. Eventually, however, the Flemish nobles did take their part in the battle—each of the Flemish leaders was of the nobility or descended from nobility and some 400 of noble blood did fight on the Flemish side.

The outcome of the battle—the fact that a large cavalry force, thought invincible, had been annihilated by a relatively modest but well-armed and tactically intelligent infantry—was a shock to the military leaders of Europe. It contributed to the end of the perceived supremacy of cavalry and triggered a deep re-thinking of military strategies and tactics.


  1. ^ a b Although the website the 11th of July says that the /sχ/ sound in schild that makes it difficult for French-speakers to pronounce had not yet developed in the 14th century, the phrase “scilt en vrient” is referenced in primary sources such as the Chronique of Gilles Li Muisis as distinguishing French from Flemish. It is also suggested that Scilt ende Vrient (Schild en Vriend): (shield and friend) is a wrong interpretation/translation of “‘s gilden vrient” meaning “friend of the guilds”.
  2. ^ Rogers, Clifford J. (1999). “The Age of the Hundred Years War”. In Keen, Maurice (ed.). Medieval Warfare: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 136–160. ISBN 0198206399
  3. ^ TeBrake, William H. (1993). A Plague of Insurrection: Popular Politics and Peasant Revolt in Flanders, 1323–1328. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812232410
  4. ^ “Battle 1302, exposition of member of Liebaert Association at Kortenberg April 2007.”. Language Log.
  5. ^ “Kortrijk: Battle of the Golden Spurs.”. Belgium Travel Network. Retrieved March 4, 2006. 
  6. ^ Ronald McNair Scott: Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, Hutchinson & Co 1982, p 47
  7. ^ “The Battle of Courtrai or the Battle of the Golden Spurs — July 11th 1302”. De Liebaart. Retrieved March 4, 2006. 

Further reading

  • Verbruggen, J. F. (2002) [1952]. The Battle of the Golden Spurs: Courtrai, 11 July 1302 (Rev. version in Engl. transl. of the first ed. ed.). Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 0851158889


Guy, Count of Flanders


Guy of Dampierre riding a horse. His surcoat bears the arms of the county of Flanders.

Guy of Dampierre (Dutch: Gwijde van Dampierre) (c. 1226 – March 7, 1305, Compiègne) was the count of Flanders during the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302.

Guy was the second son of William II of Dampierre and Margaret II of Flanders. The death of his elder brother William in a tournament made him joint Count of Flanders with his mother. (She had made William co-ruler of Flanders 1246 to ensure that it would go to the Dampierre children of her second marriage, rather than the Avesnes children of her first.) Guy and his mother struggled against the Avesnes (led by John I, Count of Hainaut) in the War of the Succession of Flanders and Hainault, but were defeated in 1253 at the Battle of Walcheren, and Guy was taken prisoner. By the mediation of Louis IX of France, he was ransomed in 1256. Some respite was obtained by the death of John of Hainaut in 1257.

In 1270, Margaret confiscated the property of English merchants in Flanders; this led to a devastating trade war with England, which supplied most of the wool for the Flemish weavers. Even after her abdication in 1278, Guy often found himself in difficulties with the fractious commoners.

In 1288, complaints over taxes led Philip IV of France to tighten his control over Flanders. Tension built between Guy and the king; in 1294, Guy arranged a marriage between his daughter Philippa and Edward, Prince of Wales. However, Philip imprisoned Guy and two of his sons, forced him to call off the marriage, and imprisoned Philippa in Paris until her death in 1306. Guy was summoned before the king again in 1296, and the principal cities of Flanders were taken under royal protection until Guy paid an idemnity and surrendered his territories, to hold them at the grace of the king.

After these indignities, Guy attempted to revenge himself on Philip by an alliance with Edward I of England in 1297, to which Philip responded by declaring Flanders annexed to the royal domain. The French under Robert II of Artois defeated the Flemings at the Battle of Furnes, and Edward’s expedition into Flanders was abortive. He made peace with Philip in 1298 and left Guy to his fate. The French invaded again in 1299 and captured both Guy and his son Robert in January 1300.

The Flemish burghers, however, found direct French rule to be more oppressive than that of the count. After smashing a French army at the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302, Guy was briefly released by the French to try to negotiate terms. His subjects, however, refused to compromise; and a new French offensive in 1304 destroyed a Flemish fleet at the Battle of Zierikzee and fought the Flemings to a draw at the Battle of Mons-en-Pévèle. Guy was returned to prison, where he died.


In June 1246 he married Matilda of Bethune (d. November 8, 1264), daughter of Robert VII, Lord of Bethune, and had the following children:

  • Marie (d. 1297), married William of Jülich (d. 1278), son of William IV, Count of Jülich. She had a son, William. Married in 1285 Simon II de Chateauvillain (d. 1305), Lord of Bremur
  • Robert III of Flanders (1249–1322)
  • William (aft. 1249 – 1311), Lord of Dendermonde and Crèvecoeur, married in 1286 Alix of Beaumont and had issue
  • John (1250 – October 4, 1290), Bishop of Metz and Bishop of Liège
  • Baldwin (1252–1296)
  • Margaret (c. 1253 – July 3, 1285), married in 1273 John I, Duke of Brabant
  • Beatrix (c. 1260 – April 5, 1291), married c. 1270 Floris V, Count of Holland
  • Philip (c. 1263 – November 1318), Count of Teano, married Mahaut de Courtenay, Countess of Chieti (d. 1303), married c. 1304 Philipotte of Milly (d. c. 1335), no issue

In March 1265 he married Isabelle of Luxembourg (d. September 1298), daughter of Henry V of Luxembourg, and had the following children:

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Guy of Dampierre
Preceded by
Henry III
Marquis of Namur Namur Arms.svg
Succeeded by
John I
Preceded by
William III of Dampierre
with Margaret
Count of Flanders Blason Comte-de-Flandre.svg
with Margaret until 1278

Succeeded by
Robert III

Christian Verhaeghe

Christian Verhaeghe was born on July 21, 1966 in Menen.
He progresses in drawing talent by many and independently exercises. 
In 1993 he became freelance cartoonist and published his first comic stories,
the two parts of “Occupied City”.
In 1994 he started a new project in collaboration with Ronny Matton.
This four-part series is called : “De Kroniek der Guldensporenslag”,
his greatest challenge up to date.
The drawing style of Verhaeghe is just like his favourite comic strip drawers
Herman and Rosinski.
The very modern design,
and on the other hand,
the older tradition of more static comics
such as the “Lion of Flanders”