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Flanders (Traditional province, France)

Flandre, Flandres - Vlaanderen

Last modified: 2004-07-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: flanders | flandre | flandres | vlaanderen | lion (black) |
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[Flanders]by Pierre Gay

See also:

History of Flanders

The French Flandre (singular) or Flandres (plural) is of course part of the historical region of Flanders, which is now mainly located in Belgium with the status of Region . The French and Belgian Flanders are now separated by a very complicated border.

Flanders were colonized by the Romans and incorporated to the province of Second Belgium, whose capital city was Reims (Champagne).
After the share of the Carolingian Empire, Charles le Chauve, king of Francia Occidentalis, constituted in Flanders a march he ceded to his son-in-law and vassal Baudoin I Bras-de-Fer (Ironarms) in 879. In 987, when Hugues Capet was crowned king of France, the count of Flanders was a vassal of the king of France and had himself three vassals, the counts of Boulogne, Guignes and Saint-Pol. Some parts of Flanders remained, however, possessions of the Holy Roman Empire and were called imperial Flanders.

Flanders was a wealthy and de facto independent state. During the XI-XIIth centuries, cloth industry developed, the rich cities were granted charts and built belfreys. In 1205, count Baudoin IX died in Constantinople, where he had been crowned emperor. King of France Philippe-Auguste protected Baudoin's daughters and married Jeanne de Flandres to Ferrand (Fernando) of Portugal. In 1213, Philippe-Auguste seized Lille, the capital city of Flanders. The next year, he defeated in Bouvines Ferrand and his allies, king of England John Lackland, German emperor Otto IV and the counts of Boulogne and Hainaut. Philiipe-Auguste's victory on the 'Sunday of Bouvines' (27 July 1214) against this international coalition was the first major victory by a king of France.

Flanders remained, however, more favourable to England and Germany than to France. King Philippe le Bel attempted to invade Flanders in 1300. His army was crushed by the municipal militias of Kortrijk during the famous battle of the Golden Spurs (1302), which is considered as a founding date by the Flemish nationalists. Philippe took revenge in Mons-en-Pévèle and eventually signed the treaty of Athis-sur-Orge in 1305.

During the Hundred Years' War, the king of England unsuccessfully attempted to obtain the suzereignty on Flanders. In 1369, Marguerite de Flandres married duke of Burgundy Philippe le Hardi and Flanders was incorporated to the duchy of Burgundy. The dukes established in Lille a rich court. In 1454, duke Jean le Bon took in Lille the Pheasant's Vow, according to which he promised to go on Crusade.
In 1477, after the death of duke Charles le Téméraire, the marriage of Marie of Burgundy with Maximilan of Austria gave Flanders to the Holy Roman Empire. King of France François I had to withdraw his claims on Flanders by the treaty of Cambrai (the Ladies' Peace) in 1529.

In the XVIIth century, Louis XIV progressively reconquered the Flemish cities: Gravelines, Bourbourg and Saint-Venant were incorporated to France by the treaty of the Pyrénées (1659); Douai, Courtrai [Kortrijk, now in Belgium]; Lille (Rijsel), Armentières, Bergues and Furnes [Veurne, now in Belgium] by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668); Ypres [Ieper, now in Belgium], Poperinge [now in Belgium], Bailleul (Belle) and Cassel by the treaty of Nijmegen (1678). The northern border of France was definitively fixed by the treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Ivan Sache, 21 January 2003

Description of the flag of Flanders

The banner of arms of Flanders is:

D'or au lion de sable, armé et lampassé de gueules (GASO)

In English:

Or a lion rampant sable armed and langued gules (Brian Timms)

The banner of arms of Flanders is different of the official Belgian Flemish flag but represents of course the very same Flemish lion, whose history is detailed below.

Ivan Sache, 21 January 2003

The motto Vlaenderen die Leu (Flanders the lion) was according to Eug. Sanders present on the arms of Pieter de Coninck at the Battle of the Golden Spurs on July 11, 1302 near the Groeningekouter. Some three hundred noblemen shouted it too when they saw, having fought in the French rows, that chances were turning in favour of the Flemish. In Spiegel Historiael, Louis van Velthem also refers to the lion in a song describing the battle of Blangys-Guinegatte (which took place in August 1472). Later, Hendrik Conscience used the motto in his Lion of Flanders.

The Myth
The first known attempt to establish the origins of the Flemish lion comes from John the Long, better known as Iperius, abbot and historian at the abbey of Saint-Bertrijns. According to his story, from the first count on, the counts of Flanders used arms called Oude Vlaenderen (Old Flanders). But during the Crusade of 1177, count of Flanders Philip of Alsace bravely won a black lion on a golden field from a Mohammedan monarch in a fight against the Sarracens. At his return, Philip renounced the Oude Vlaenderen and adopted 'or, a lion rampant sable' as his arms. Since then, all counts of Flanders have used these arms.
Dr. E. Warlop noticed that this lion appears for the first time on a seal of Philip of Alsace in 1162, that is fifteen years before the 'acquisition' of the lion in the Holy Land. The story of Iperius dates from the second half of the XIVth century - two centuries after the facts - and therefore cannot be correct. Moreover, there is no scientific proof for the Oude Vlaenderen ever being used by one of the counts of Flanders. All known descriptions and depictions of it date from after the story of Iperius. Warlop concludes that they found their origin in the story, which admittedly was made up for some particular reasons. The origin of the lion should therefore not be sought in the Holy Land, but in the environs of Philip of Alsace.

Lions in Philip of Alsace's surroundings
Four years before the seal of Philip, in 1158, a counterseal of Guillaume of Ypres shows a lion passant, walking to the right. Guillaume may have inherited these arms from previous counts, or maybe he brought it home from England, where he stayed for twenty years as the leader of mercenary troops in the king's service. Maybe Philip choose it as the son of Sybilla d'Anjou, sister of Godfrey Plantagenet, who used arms showing two lion rampants (walking to the left). He could also have chosen it because of his stay in England, where he was put under the protection of the king of England, Henry II Plantagenet while his parents were on a Crusade. Henry used arms with lions passants.

Symbolism of the lion
In the 12th century, the lion passant, actually a descendant of the dragon, became the symbol of pagancy and rebelry against the Church. The lion rampant on his turn became the symbol of the christian knight. That makes it plausible that Philip of Alsace, who went to the Holy Land twice, used this symbol.
A second reason could be that both Diederik and Philip of Alsace wanted to take over the inheritance of Guillaume of Ypres, against his illegal but legitimized son. As to prevent the danger of userpacy, the arms of William weren't taken over litterally: the lion passant became a lion rampant.
Finally, the arms could also be taken after Godfrey Plantagenet, as the symbol of the christian knight. A lion rampant fitted better to a triangular shield, however.

Therefore, one may conclude that the story of the acquisition of the lion during a fight against the Sarracenes may be made up, to cover up the not so fine truth.

Filip van Laenen, 29 October 1997