The War of Flanders is an armed conflict which opposed the county of Flanders to the kingdom of France of Philippe le Bel from 1297 to 1305.
Philippe IV le Bel becomes king of France in 1285. He is determined to strengthen the French monarchy whatever the cost. Since the Treaty of Verdun in 843, the county of Flanders has formally been part of the kingdom of France, but has always been de facto largely, if not completely, independent of the French crown.
Flanders has some of the richest cities of the time, such as Bruges, Ghent, Ypres, Lille and Douai. But these cities are themselves divided between two factions, the pro-French Leliaards of which the majority (but not all) of the wealthy patricians and rural aristocracy belong, and the anti-French Klauwaards composed mainly of artisans and urban merchants. . These tensions are superimposed on strong social tensions, between the patriciate which has the power, in particular fiscal, and the claims of the trades of craftsmen and urban workers.
In 1288, Philippe IV of France exercised his control over Flanders on which he levied heavy taxes. Tension grew between Gui de Dampierre, Count of Flanders and the king. In 1294 Gui turned to Edward I, King of England, and arranged a marriage between his daughter Philippa (or: Philippine) and Edward II, Prince of Wales. The king of France seizes this pretext to imprison Gui and two of his sons, to force him to annul the marriage. Philippa herself was imprisoned in Paris until her death in 1306.
After these indignities, Gui turns to Edward I of England to conclude an alliance, and goes to war against France. Philippe responds by annexing Flanders to the royal domain and sends a French army.
The Count of Flanders was easily defeated at the Battle of Veurne. Edward of England abandoned the idea of helping Flanders and made peace with Philip in 1298. The French invaded Flanders again in 1299 and captured Gui and his sons Robert and William in January 1300. In May, the whole of Flanders is under control.
The conquest of Flanders was relatively easy, the Flemish cities having remained neutral until then. The patricians are not sorry to get rid of a count of Flanders who intended to control the (financial) affairs of the cities. They even turn to the King of France who has already intervened on their behalf in the past.
The rest of the urban population, meanwhile, is waiting for more justice and a better distribution of wealth, in vain. The costs generated by the visit of Philippe le Bel in 1301 lead to great unrest when the patriciate decides to pass them on to taxes affecting consumption (which will have a greater impact on the poorer population). The governor appointed by Philippe le Bel, Jacques de Châtillon, lends a hand to the Flemish nobles and patricians to regain control of Bruges and inflicts heavy sanctions on the city. Ghent will also be the scene of unrest, for similar reasons. Two sons of Gui de Dampierre take advantage of the situation to return to Flanders and stir up anti-French and anti-Leliaards feelings.
On May 19, 1302 a rebellion broke out in Bruges. The Flemish population kills Leliaards they meet, and part of the governor's French escort. These are the Matins of Bruges. De Châtillon manages however in extremis to save himself.
The revolt became general. Guillaume de Juliers, the count's grandson arrives in Bruges, and becomes the leader of the Flemish insurrection. He is supported by his uncles Jean I, Marquis de Namur and Gui de Namur. Soon all of Flanders is under their control. Only the Cassel and Kortrijk fortresses remain in French hands, while the city of Ghent, the largest