1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Artevelde, Jacob van

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15461201911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 2 — Artevelde, Jacob van

ARTEVELDE, JACOB VAN (c. 1290–1345), Flemish statesman, was born at Ghent about 1290. He sprang from one of the wealthy commercial families of this great industrial city, his father’s name being probably William van Artevelde. His brother John, a rich cloth merchant, took a leading part in public affairs during the first decades of the 14th century. Jacob, who according to tradition was a brewer by trade, spent three years in amassing quietly a large fortune. He was twice married, the second time to Catherine de Coster, whose family was of considerable influence in Ghent. Not till 1337, when the outbreak of hostilities between France and England threatened to injure seriously the industrial welfare of his native town, did Jacob van Artevelde make his first appearance as a political leader. As the Flemish cities depended upon England for the supply of the wool for their staple industry of weaving, he boldly came forward, as a tribune of the people, and at a great meeting at the monastery of Biloke unfolded his scheme of an alliance of the Flemish towns, with those of Brabant, Holland and Hainaut, to maintain an armed neutrality in the dynastic struggle between Edward III. and Philip VI. of France. His efforts were successful. Bruges, Ypres and other towns formed a league with Ghent, in which town Artevelde, with the title of captain-general, henceforth until his death exercised almost dictatorial authority. His first step was to conclude a commercial treaty with England. The efforts of the count of Flanders to overthrow the power of Artevelde by force of arms completely failed, and he was compelled at Bruges to sign a treaty (June 21, 1338) sanctioning the federation of the three towns, Ghent, Bruges and Ypres, henceforth known as the “Three members of Flanders.” This was the first of a series of treaties, made during the year 1339–1340, which gradually brought into the federation all the towns and provinces of the Netherlands. The policy of neutrality, however, proved impracticable, and the Flemish towns, under the leadership of Artevelde, openly took the side of the English king, with whom a close alliance was concluded. Artevelde now reached the height of his power, concluding alliances with kings, and publicly associating with them on equal terms. Under his able administration trade flourished, and Ghent rose rapidly in wealth and importance. His well-nigh despotic rule awoke at last among his compatriots jealousy and resentment. The proposal of Artevelde to disown the sovereignty of Louis, count of Flanders, and to recognize in its place that of Edward, prince of Wales (the Black Prince), gave rise to violent dissatisfaction. A popular insurrection broke out in Ghent, and Artevelde fell into the hands of the crowd and was murdered on the 24th of July 1345.

The great services that he rendered to Ghent and to his country have in later times been recognized. A statue was erected in his native town on the Marché du Vendredi, and was unveiled by Leopold I., king of the Belgians, on the 13th of September 1863.

See J. Hutten, James and Philip van Artevelde (London, 1882); W. J. Ashley, James and Philip van Artevelde (London, 1883); P. Namèche, Les van Artevelde et leur époque (Louvain, 1887); L. Vanderkindere, Le Siècle des Arteveldes (Brussels, 1879).