Statue commmemorating the 'Battle of the Golden Spurs' in 1302 in Kortrijk.

Knights defeated by infantry

Early morning, July 11th 1302, Kortrijk. Nine thousand Flemish civilians, artisans and farmers, ready to fight, are waiting for an attack by the French army of knights.

Two years before, the powerful king of France had forced the Flemish on their knees. He had replaced the popular Flemish count by a French one, he did not recognise the rights of the Flemish cities, and he kept on raising the taxes to pay for his expensive wars.

The Flemish people rose under the guidance of a weaver and a butcher. When the revolt turned out to gain wide support, the noblility joined as well, headed by the former count's relatives.

The French king brought in his knights in shining armour to teach these peasants a lesson. He thought his well-trained army would have these rebellious amateurs down in a jiffy. History teaches otherwise: the French knights were crushed. The Flemish gained an impossible victory.

The Flemish had decided beforehand not to take any prisoners; all oponents were killed on the spot. As soon as the knights noticed this, many of them fled. They were used to being held captive for a while and being freed on a handsome ransom. Infantry got killed, not cavalry! Of course, occasionally a knight would fall - more or less by accident. But the Flemish people couldn''t care less about these chivalrous traditions.

Hendrik Conscience describes this tumultuous period in a voluminous novel, in which he celebrates his love for Flanders and the Flemish language on every page.

In 1973, July 11th was proclaimed Flanders's national holiday.


Hendrik Conscience




Trivia: Adapted for the screen by Hugo Claus in 1985



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