"The Supremacy of Cavalry
Assured" by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present the eighteenth story from Jeff
Provine's excellent blog
This Day in
Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this post
do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
in the French campaign to subdue Flanders, the decisive battle was
fought on a muddy field near the town of Courtrai.
Over the past two years, French king Philip IV had appointed a French
governor for the county and taken the Flemish Count "Guy of Dampierre"
hostage. Unrest by guild members and city leaders led to a heavy hand,
and many Flemish were removed from Bruges.
On May 18, 1302, the enraged exiles enacted the Bruges Matins, a
night where the illegal militia killed any Frenchman they could find,
crushing the local garrison.
A new story by Jeff ProvineIn retaliation,
Philip IV launched an army of about 8,000 (2,500 of whom were cavalry)
under Robert II of Artois, while the Flemish organized 9,000 well armed
militia. While the French had a classical army, the Flemish were proud
of their constant study and practice, considering themselves
technologically, and thus militarily, superior. They fought
unsuccessfully against the fortified French at Kortrijk on July 9 and
10, then came to face Robert's army itself.
The Flemish were well positioned as the field was not fit for cavalry
charges being filled with ditches and streams. Servants were called to
put planks in the depressions to allow the horses to charge, though many
of the French wanted to attack as quickly as possible to put down the
rabble. Robert held his ground and waited for the field to be prepared.
While avoiding Flemish skirmishers, the infantry advanced, giving first
blood to the battle. Robert began to call back the infantry to enable
the proud cavalry to win the victory, but he paused at the condition of
the field. He ordered the infantry to remain in assault until the
cavalry would be able to make their own attack effectively.
When he pronounced the field of battle ready, the cavalry hit the
Flemish lines powerfully. Though they held bravely, the French
overwhelmed the Flemish, who attempted to flee but were cut down by the
fast-moving French. The Battle of the Golden Spurs (nicknamed as such
for the victorious cavalry) was won, and Flanders remained a grudging
county under French rule.
With heavy cavalry proven effective, French knights rose to a new
standard of haughtiness. In the Edwardian War with England, this would
prove disastrous. The English, having been taught a harsh lesson by the
Scots at Bannockburn about the effectiveness of attacking infantry
against cavalry, used their longbows and infantry against the arrogant
horsemen. As the Black Prince took Paris in 1347 (just before the terror
of the Black Death, often called God's Punishment on the bloodthirsty
men), he succeeded in his bid to seize the throne.
The enormous Kingdom of England & France would be a shock to the rest of
Europe, but prove pleasing as it gave aid to Spanish conquerors and
Austrian defenders against the Ottomans. Though the Joan Rebellion in
1429 nearly toppled English control, it would not be until the Tudor
Wars that France would succeed in its break from England as Catholics
made massive rebellion to Henry's divorce of Catherine of Aragon and
break from Rome. The resulting conflicts would cripple England, which
would bounce between Mary Tudor's return to Catholicism and her
half-sister Elizabeth's religious vagueness. With only a ramshackle
fleet, the English were no match for the Spanish Armada of 1588, which
sailed into London and established Philip II of Spain as king. With
England and even the Dutch subdued, Philip was able to rest on his
laurels and manage the mighty Spanish Empire, on which the sun was never
able to set.
says in reality, in reality, Count Robert II of Artois did not wait for
his field to be prepared and called back his infantry to prove the prowess
of French cavalry. Ironically, the order proved the opposite as the
withdrawing infantry became tangled in the cavalry advance, which itself was
hindered by the terrain. The well armed Flemish were able to show the
effectiveness of infantry against struggling horsemen, defeating them so
completely that the rest of the French army fled. The battle was named
"golden spurs" after the plunder taken from dead knights. To this day, the
Flemish of Belgium celebrate July 11 as a time of victory for independence.
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Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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