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Vice, Tyranny, Violence, and the Usurpation of Flanders (1071) in Flemish Historiography from 1093 to 1294
Violence and the Writing of History in the Medieval Francophone World: Boydell & Brewer, p.55 – 70 (2013)
The earliest sources of the history of medieval Flanders do not agree on the origins of the counts. The earliest source, the so-called “Genealogy of Arnold [I],” credibly traces the counts’ origin to Baldwin I “Iron Arm,” who eloped with and then married Judith, the daughter of Charles the Bald, around 863, while other sources push their origin back three generations and about seventy years to the shadowy “forester” Lideric.
The sources do agree, however, that once the line got started the succession proceeded with biblical regularity from father to son until the death of Count Baldwin VII in 1119. “Count Lideric of Harelbeke begat Enguerrand,” writes the author of the “Bertinian” genealogy of the counts of Flanders, “Enguerrand begat Audacer. Audacer begat Baldwin Iron Arm … Baldwin Iron Arm begat Baldwin the Bald … Baldwin the Bald begat Arnold the Great … Arnold the Great begat Baldwin … He begat Arnold,” and so on.
This succession from father to son for almost three hundred years was interrupted only once. In 1070, Count Baldwin VI of Flanders – who was also Count Baldwin I of Hainaut by virtue of his marriage to the Countess Richilda of Hainaut, widow of the previous count of Hainaut, Herman – died and left both counties to his older son, the adolescent Arnold III. Less than a year later Baldwin VI’s brother, Robert the Frisian – who was count of Holland by virtue of his marriage to Gertrude of Saxony, the widow of the previous count of Holland, Floris I – invaded Flanders and defeated his nephew at the Battle of Cassel on 22 February 1071. Arnold was killed in the battle and Robert became count. This violent transition of power, the first in the history of the county, was a significant moment for the medieval historians who wrote about it, and the ways they framed and explained it tell us something about their attitudes toward the commemoration of violence in the political sphere and how they thought it could be used to teach moral lessons.