On July 11, 1302, the Battle of the Golden Spurs (also known as the Battle of Courtrai) was fought between the Kingdom of France and the County of Flanders at Kortrijk in modern-day Belgium.
It was a major victory for the Flemish forces, who were outnumbered by the French. The battle resulted in the end of French control over Flanders, which would not be regained until centuries later.
The conflict began when King Philip IV of France attempted to assert his authority over Flanders, which had been autonomous since 958 AD. In 1297, he summoned Count Guy of Dampierre to Paris and demanded that he pay homage to him. When Guy refused, Philip declared war on Flanders.
The first few years of the war were disastrous for the French; they lost several key battles and failed to gain any ground in Flanders. In 1301, however, things changed when Philip appointed Robert II as his new commander-in-chief. Robert quickly turned things around; he won several important victories and finally managed to capture Bruges in early 1302.
With Bruges under their control, the French seemed poised to win the war. However, they made one final mistake: underestimating their opponents. The Flemish forces led by William III de Male gathered an army of 30,000 men (twice the size of Robert’s army) and prepared to do battle at Kortrijk on July 11th.
What followed was one of medieval Europe’s most famous upsets: despite being heavily outnumbered, the Flemish forces emerged victorious thanks to their innovative tactics (which included using pikes instead of swords). The French suffered heavy losses; among those killed was Robert himself. The defeat dealt a serious blow to Philip’s prestige and marked the beginning of the end of French control over Flanders.
The battle arose from tensions between the French and Flemish populations.
The Flemish were unhappy with the French occupation of their country, which had begun in 1297. In May 1302, a group of Flemish nobles met in Courtrai to discuss the situation. They decided to arm the population and to seek assistance from other countries.
On 18 June 1302, an army of some 20,000 Flemish men, including both soldiers and civilians, confronted a smaller French army at the Battle of the Golden Spurs. The Flemish were unprepared for the battle, but they fought fiercely and were victorious. The French lost over 1,000 men, while the Flemish lost only a few hundred.
This victory was a turning point in the Hundred Years’ War. It showed that the French could be defeated and encouraged other countries to rebel against French rule. The Battle of the Golden Spurs is still commemorated in Flanders today.