1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Flanders
FLANDERS (Flem. Vlaanderen), a territorial name for part of the Netherlands, Europe. Originally it applied only to Bruges and the immediate neighbourhood. In the 8th and 9th centuries it was gradually extended to the whole of the coast region from Calais to the Scheldt. In the middle ages this was divided into two parts, one looking to Bruges as its capital, and the other to Ghent. The name is retained in the two Belgian provinces of West and East Flanders.
1. West Flanders is the portion bordering the North Sea, and its coast-line extends from the French to the Dutch frontier for a little over 40 m. Its capital is Bruges, and the principal towns of the province are Ostend, Courtrai, Ypres and Roulers. Agriculture is the chief occupation of the population, and the country is under the most careful and skilful cultivation. The admiration of the foreign observer for the Belgian system of market gardening is not diminished on learning that the subsoil of most of this tract is the sand of the “dunes.” Fishing employs a large proportion of the coast population. The area of West Flanders is officially computed at 808,667 acres or 1263 sq. m. In 1904 the population was 845,732, giving an average of 669 to the sq. m.
2. East Flanders lies east and north-east of the western province, and extends northwards to the neighbourhood of Antwerp. It is still more productive and richer than Western Flanders, and is well watered by the Scheldt. The district of Waes, land entirely reclaimed within the memory of man, is supposed to be the most productive district of its size in Europe. The principal towns are Ghent (capital of the province), St Nicolas, Alost, Termonde, Eecloo and Oudenarde. The area is given at 749,987 acres or 1172 sq. m. In 1904 the population was 1,073,507, showing an average of 916 per sq. m.
History.—The ancient territory of Flanders comprised not only the modern provinces known as East and West Flanders, but the southernmost portion of the Dutch province of Zeeland and a considerable district in north-western France. In the time of Caesar it was inhabited by the Morini, Atrebates and other Celtic tribes, but in the centuries that followed the land was repeatedly overrun by German invaders, and finally became a part of the dominion of the Franks. On the break-up of the Carolingian empire the river Scheldt was by the treaty of Verdun (843) made the line of division between the kingdom of East Francia (Austrasia) under the emperor Lothaire, and the kingdom of West Francia (Neustria) under Charles the Bald. In virtue of this compact Flanders was henceforth attached to the West Frankish monarchy (France). It thus acquired a position unique among the provinces of the territory known in later times as the Netherlands, all of which were included in that northern part of Austrasia assigned on the death of the emperor Lothaire (855) to King Lothaire II., and from his name called Lotharingia or Lorraine.
The first ruler of Flanders of whom history has left any record is Baldwin, surnamed Bras-de-fer (Iron-arm). This man, a brave and daring warrior under Charles the Bald, fell in love with the king’s daughter Judith, the youthful widow of two English kings, married her, and fled with his bride to Lorraine. Charles, though at first very angry, was at last conciliated, and made his son-in-law margrave (Marchio Flandriae) of Flanders, which he held as an hereditary fief. The Northmen were at this time continually devastating the coast lands, and Baldwin was entrusted with the possession of this outlying borderland of the west Frankish dominion in order to defend it against the invaders. He was the first of a line of strong rulers, who at some date early in the 10th century exchanged the title of margrave for that of count. His son, Baldwin II.—the Bald—from his stronghold at Bruges maintained, as did his father before him, a vigorous defence of his lands against the incursions of the Northmen. On his mother’s side a descendant of Charlemagne, he strengthened the dynastic importance of his family by marrying Aelfthryth, daughter of Alfred the Great. On his death in 918 his possessions were divided between his two sons Arnulf the Elder and Adolphus, but the latter survived only a short time and Arnulf succeeded to the whole inheritance. His reign was filled with warfare against the Northmen, and he took an active part in the struggles in Lorraine between the emperor Otto I. and Hugh Capet. In his old age he placed the government in the hands of Baldwin, his son by Adela, daughter of the count of Vermandois, and the young man, though his reign was a very short one, did a great deal for the commercial and industrial progress of the country, establishing the first weavers and fullers at Ghent, and instituting yearly fairs at Ypres, Bruges and other places.
On Baldwin III.’s death in 961 the old count resumed the control, and spent the few remaining years of his life in securing the succession of his grandson Arnulf II.—the Younger. The reign of Arnulf was terminated by his death in 989, and he was followed by his son Baldwin IV., named Barbatus or the Bearded. This Baldwin fought successfully both against the Capetian king of France and the emperor Henry II. Henry found himself obliged to grant to Baldwin IV. in fief Valenciennes, the burgraveship of Ghent, the land of Waes, and Zeeland. The count of Flanders thus became a feudatory of the empire as well as of the French crown. The French fiefs are known in Flemish history as Crown Flanders (Kroon-Vlaanderen), the German fiefs as Imperial Flanders (Rijks-Vlaanderen). Baldwin’s son—afterwards Baldwin V.—rebelled in 1028 against his father at the instigation of his wife Adela, daughter of Robert II. of France; but two years later peace was sworn at Oudenaarde, and the old count continued to reign till his death in 1036. Baldwin V. proved a worthy successor, and acquired from the people the surname of Débonnaire. He was an active enterprising man, and greatly extended his power by wars and alliances. He obtained from the emperor Henry IV. the territory between the Scheldt and the Dender as an imperial fief, and the margraviate of Antwerp. So powerful had he become that the Flemish count on the decease of Henry I. of France in 1060 was appointed regent during the minority of Philip I. (see France). Before his death he saw his eldest daughter Matilda (d. 1083) sharing the English throne with William the Conqueror, his eldest son Baldwin of Mons in possession of Hainaut in right of his wife Richilde, heiress of Regnier V. (d. 1036) and widow of Hermann of Saxony (d. 1050/1) (see Hainaut), and his second son Robert the Frisian regent (voogd) of the county of Holland during the minority of Dirk V., whose mother, Gertrude of Saxony, widow of Floris I. of Holland (d. 1061), Robert had married (see Holland). On his death in 1067 his son Baldwin of Mons, already count of Hainaut, succeeded to the countship of Flanders. Baldwin V. had granted to Robert the Frisian on his marriage in 1063 his imperial fiefs. His right to these was disputed by Baldwin VI., and war broke out between the two brothers. Baldwin was killed in battle in 1070. Robert now claimed the tutelage of Baldwin’s children and obtained the support of the emperor Henry IV., while Richilde, Baldwin’s widow, appealed to Philip I. of France. The contest was decided at Ravenshoven, near Cassel, on the 22nd of February 1071, where Robert was victorious. Richilde was taken prisoner and her eldest son Arnulf III. was slain. Robert obtained from Philip I. the investiture of Crown Flanders, and from Henry IV. the fiefs which formed Imperial Flanders.
The second son of Richilde was recognized as count of Hainaut (see Hainaut), which was thus after a brief union separated from Flanders. Robert died in 1093, and was succeeded by his son Robert II., who acquired great renown by his exploits in the first crusade, and won the name of the Lance and Sword of Christendom. His fame was second only to that of Godfrey of Bouillon. Robert returned to Flanders in 1100. He fought with his suzerain Louis the Fat of France against the English, and was drowned in 1111 by the breaking of a bridge. His son and successor, Baldwin VII., or Baldwin with the Axe, also fought against the English in France. He died at the age of twenty-seven from the wound of an arrow, in 1119, leaving no heir. He nominated as his successor his cousin Charles, son of Knut IV. of Denmark and of Adela, daughter of Robert the Frisian. Charles tried his utmost to put down oppression and to promote the welfare of his subjects, and obtained the surname of “the Good.” His determination to enforce the right made him many enemies, and he was foully murdered on Ash Wednesday, 1127, at Bruges. He died childless, and there were no less than six candidates to the countship. The contest lay between two of these, William Clito, son of Robert of Normandy and grandson of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders, and Thierry or Dirk of Alsace, whose mother Gertrude was a daughter of Robert the Frisian. William Clito, through the support of Louis of France, was at first accepted by the Flemish nobles as count, but he gave offence to the communes, who supported Thierry. A struggle ensued and William was killed before Alost. Thierry then became count without further opposition. He married the widow of Charles the Good, Marguerite of Clermont, and proved himself at home a wise and prudent prince, encouraging the growth of popular liberty and of commerce. In 1146 he took part in the second crusade and distinguished himself by his exploits. In 1157 he resigned the countship to his son Philip of Alsace and betook himself once more to Jerusalem. On his return from the East twenty years later Thierry retired to a monastery to die in his own land.
Count Philip of Alsace was a strong and able man. He did much to promote the growth of the municipalities for which Flanders was already becoming famous. Ghent, Bruges, Ypres, Lille and Douai under him made much progress as flourishing industrial towns. He also conferred rights and privileges on a number of ports, Hulst, Nieuwport, Sluis, Dunkirk, Axel, Damme, Gravelines and others. But while encouraging the development of the communes and “free towns,” Philip sternly repressed any spirit of independence or attempted uprisings against his authority. This count was a powerful prince. He acted for a time as regent in France during the minority of his godson Philip Augustus, and married his ward to his niece Isabella of Hainaut (1180). Philip took part in the third crusade, and died in the camp before Acre of the pestilence in 1191.
As he had no children, the succession passed to Baldwin of Hainaut, who had married Philip’s sister Margaret. The countships of Flanders and Hainaut were thus united under the same ruler. Baldwin did not obtain possession of Flanders without strong opposition on the part of the French king, and he was obliged to cede Artois, St Omer, Lens, Hesdin and a great part of southern Flanders to France, and to allow Matilda of Portugal, the widow of Philip of Alsace, to retain certain towns in right of her dowry. Margaret died in 1194 and Baldwin the following year, and their eldest son Baldwin IX. succeeded to both countships. Baldwin IX. is famous in history as the founder of the Latin empire at Constantinople. He perished in Bulgaria in 1206. The emperor’s two daughters were both under age, and the government was carried on by their uncle Philip, marquess of Namur, whom Baldwin had appointed regent on his departure to Constantinople. Philip proved faithless to his charge, and he allowed his nieces to fall into the hands of Philip Augustus, who married the elder sister Johanna of Constantinople to his nephew Ferdinand of Portugal. The Flemings were averse to the French king’s supremacy, and Ferdinand, who acted as governor in the name of his wife, joined himself to the confederacy formed by Germany, England, and the leading states of the Netherlands against Philip Augustus. Ferdinand was, however, taken prisoner at the disastrous battle of Bouvines (1214) and was kept for twelve years a prisoner in the Louvre. The countess Johanna ruled the united countships with prudence and courage. On Ferdinand’s death she married Thomas of Savoy, but died in 1244, leaving no heirs. She was succeeded in her dignities by her younger sister Margaret of Constantinople, commonly known amongst her contemporaries as “Black Meg” (Zwarte Griet). Margaret had been twice married. Her first husband was (1212) Buchard of Avesnes, one of the first of Hainaut’s nobles and a man of knightly prowess, but originally destined for the church. On this ground he was excommunicated by Innocent III. and imprisoned by the countess Johanna, with the result that Margaret at last was driven to repudiate him. She married in second wedlock (1225) William of Dampierre. Two sons were the issue of the first marriage, three sons and three daughters of the second.
When Margaret in 1244 became countess of Flanders and Hainaut, she wished her son William of Dampierre to be acknowledged as her successor. John of Avesnes, her eldest son, strongly protested against this and was supported by the French king. A civil war ensued, which ended in a compromise (1246), the succession to Flanders being granted to William of Dampierre, that of Hainaut to John of Avesnes. Margaret, however, ruled with a strong hand for many years and survived both her sons, dying at the age of eighty in 1280. On her death her grandson, John II. of Avesnes, became count of Hainaut: Guy of Dampierre, her second son by her second marriage, count of Flanders.
The two counties were once more under separate dynasties. The government of Guy of Dampierre was unfortunate. It was the interest of the Flemish weavers to be on good terms with England, the wool-producing country, and Guy entered into an alliance with Edward I. against France. This led to an invasion and conquest of Flanders by Philip the Fair. Guy with his sons and the leading Flemish nobles were taken prisoners to Paris, and Flanders was ruled as a French dependency. But though in the principal towns, Ghent, Bruges and Ypres, there was a powerful French faction—known as Leliaerts (adherents of the lily)—the arbitrary rule of the French governor and officials stirred up the mass of the Flemish people to rebellion. The anti-French partisans (known as Clauwaerts) were strongest at Bruges under the leadership of Peter de Conync, master of the cloth-weavers, and John Breydel, master of the butchers. The French garrison at Bruges were massacred (May 19th, 1302), and on the following 11th of July a splendid French army of invasion was utterly defeated near Courtray. Peace was concluded in 1305, but owing to Guy of Dampierre, and the leading Flemish nobles being in the hands of the French king, on terms very disadvantageous to Flanders. Very shortly afterwards the aged count Guy died, as did also Philip the Fair. Robert of Bethune, his son and successor, had continual difficulties with France during the whole of his reign, the Flemings offering a stubborn resistance to all attempts to destroy their independence. Robert was succeeded in 1322 by his grandson Louis of Nevers. Louis had been brought up at the French court, and had married Margaret of France. His sympathies were entirely French, and he made use of French help in his contests with the communes.
Under Louis of Nevers Flanders was practically reduced to the status of a French province. In his time the long contest between Flanders and Holland for the possession of the island of Zeeland was brought to an end by a treaty signed on the 6th of March 1323, by which West Zeeland was assigned to the count of Holland, the rest to the count of Flanders. The latter part of the reign of Louis of Nevers was remarkable for the successful revolt of the Flemish communes, now rapidly advancing to great material prosperity under Jacob van Artevelde (see Artevelde, Jacob van). Artevelde allied himself with Edward III. of England in his contest with Philip of Valois for the French crown, while Louis of Nevers espoused the cause of Philip. He fell at the battle of Crécy (1346). He was followed in the countship by his son Louis II. of Mâle. The reign of this count was one long struggle with the communes, headed by the town of Ghent, for political supremacy. Louis was as strong in his French sympathies as his father, and relied upon French help in enforcing his will upon his refractory subjects, who resented his arbitrary methods of government, and the heavy taxation imposed upon them by his extravagance and love of display. Had the great towns with their organized gilds and great wealth held together in their opposition to the count’s despotism, they would have proved successful, but Ghent and Bruges, always keen rivals, broke out into open feud. The power of Ghent reached its height under Philip van Artevelde (see Artevelde, Philip van) in 1382. He defeated Louis, took Bruges and was made ruward of Flanders. But the triumph of the White Hoods, as the popular party was called, was of short duration. On the 27th of November 1382 Artevelde suffered a crushing defeat from a large French army at Roosebeke and was himself slain. Louis of Male died two years later, leaving an only daughter Margaret, who had married in 1369 Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy.
Flanders now became a portion of the great Burgundian domain, which in the reign of Philip the Good, Margaret’s grandson, had absorbed almost the whole of the Netherlands (see Burgundy; Netherlands). The history of Flanders as a separate state ceases from the time of the acquisition of the countship by the Burgundian dynasty. There were revolts from time to time of great towns against the exactions even of these powerful princes, but they were in vain. The conquest and humiliation of Bruges by Philip the Good in 1440, and the even more relentless punishment inflicted on rebellious Ghent by the emperor Charles V. exactly a century later are the most remarkable incidents in the long-continued but vain struggle of the Flemish communes to maintain and assert their privileges. The Burgundian dukes and their successors of the house of Habsburg were fully alive to the value to them of Flanders and its rich commercial cities. It was Flanders that furnished to them no small part of their resources, but for this very reason, while fostering the development of Flemish industry and trade, they were the more determined to brook no opposition which sought to place restrictions upon their authority.
The effect of the revolt of the Netherlands and the War of Dutch Independence which followed was ruinous to Flanders. Albert and Isabel on their accession to the sovereignty of the southern Netherlands in 1599 found “the great cities of Flanders and Brabant had been abandoned by a large part of their inhabitants; agriculture hardly in a less degree than commerce and industry had been ruined.” In 1633 with the death of Isabel, Flanders reverted to Spanish rule (1633). By the treaty of Munster the north-western portion of Flanders, since known as States (or Dutch) Flanders, was ceded by Philip IV. to the United Provinces (1648). By a succession of later treaties—of the Pyrenees (1659), Aix-la-Chapelle (1668), Nijmwegen (1679) and others—a large slice of the southern portion of the old county of Flanders became French territory and was known as French Flanders.
From 1795 to 1814 Flanders, with the rest of the Belgic provinces, was incorporated in France, and was divided into two departments—département de l’Escaut and département de la Lys. This division has since been retained, and is represented by the two provinces of East Flanders and West Flanders in the modern kingdom of Belgium. The title of count of Flanders was revived by Leopold I. in 1840 in favour of his second son, Philip Eugene Ferdinand (d. 1905). (G. E.)