Tales from Froissart

edited by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University

The Battle of Dunkirk

The French forces in Flanders have been imposing obedience to the Avignon pope, Clement, on the Flemings, who previously supported the Roman pope Urban. The bishop of Norwich has assembled an English crusade to go to Flanders and defend the cause of the Roman pope Urban.

Book II, ch. 134. The English were now advanced near to Dunkirk, when, on looking towards the rising grounds on the right, in the direction of Bourbourg, and near the sea-shore, they saw the Flemings formed in a large and well-arranged battalion. On this they halted, for they thought, form the manner in which the Flemings had drawn themselves up, that they had an intention of fighting.

The principal captains assembled to consider how they should now act, and many words passed, for some, and especially the bishop, wished to march instantly to the combat; but other, such as the lord de Beaumont and sir Hugh Calverley, were of a contrary opinion, and assigned as their reason, that the Flemings had never done them any wrong; and that, in truth, they had never sent any declaration of war to the earl of Flanders, though they had entered his country.

"We do not make war in a gallant manner, but like a mob, that whoever can, may pillage. The whole country where we are is Urbanist, and follows the same opinion as ourselves: now, consider what just cause have we for attacking them."

The bishop answered, "How do we know whether they are Urbanist or not?"

"In God's name," said sir Hugh Calverley, "let us send a herald to them to know why they are thus drawn up in battle-array, and what they want; and let them be asked which pope they obey. If they answer pope Urban, you will require of them, by virtue of the bull we have with us, that they accompany us to St. Omer, Aire, Arras, or whithersoever we may wish to lead them. When they shall have had these questions put to them, we shall know their intentions, and may then call a council."

This proposal was adopted, and a herald called, whose name was Montfort, and attached to the duke of Brittany. He was ordered by these lords to ride to the Flemings, and told what he was to say, and how to act when among them. He obeyed their commands, and, clothed in his proper coat of arms, without suspecting any accident, made for the Flemings, who were drawn up in handsome order of battle. He wished to address himself to some knights; but he could not, for as soon as the Flemings saw him, without ever asking what was his business, or making any inquiries, they surrounded him and slew him like ignorant people, nor could those gentlemen who were there save him.

The English, on seeing this action, for they kept their eyes on them, were mad: as were also the citizens of Ghent who accompanied them, and were eager to urge them on, hoping that by these means new troubles would fall on Flanders.

The English said, -- "This mob has murdered our herald; they shall dearly pay for it, or we will all die on the spot." The archers were ordered to advance on the Flemings. A citizen of Bruges or Ghent was made a knight, and shortly the battle began briskly; for, to say the truth, the Flemings defended themselves very well, but the archers wounded or beat down many, when the men at arms broke through them, and with their pointed spears killed multitudes on their first charge.

In short, the English won the day, and the Flemings were defeated. They thought to keep together in a body and enter Dunkirk; but the English followed them closely and kept up the engagement so warmly that they entered the town with them. Numbers were slain in the streets or on the shore, though they gained some advantage, for the English lost four hundred at least. As the English pursued, the Flemings retired: many detached parties fought, in which several knights and squires from Flanders were slain; scarcely any escaped death or captivity.

Thus did this affair end: there were full nine thousand Flemings killed at this battle of Dunkirk.

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