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Literature / The Lion Of Flanders Or The Battle Of The Golden Spurs

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The Lion of Flanders, Or the Battle of the Golden Spurs (Dutch name: De Leeuw van Vlaanderen, of de Slag der Gulden Sporen) is a Flemish novel published in 1938 by Hendrik Conscience. The novel is one of the earlier examples of historical fiction, dealing with the medieval Franco-Flemish war, and in particular the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. It has become known as the Flemish national epioc, and is considered a founding work of Flemish literature.

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The story uses the Battle of the Golden Spurs as the background for a love story between Machteld, the daughter of Robrecht III van Béthume (the tilar Lion of Flanders) and the knight Adolf van Nieuwlandt. The story follows various famous historical figures, such as Jan Breydel and Pieter deconinck, as they rise in rebellion against the French occupiers, leading to the famous battle where an army of infantry and archers manages to defeat an army of knights on horseback, proving that heavy infantry could be overcome, signaling the beginning of the end for knights as the all-powerful unit on the battlefield.

The golden spurs in the name of the battle refer to the hundreds of golden spurs collected from dead knights after the battle.

The great success of the novel earned Conscience the title "the man who taught his people how to read". The novel helped propel the idea of a Flemish national identity, and helped stimulate the Flemish Movement (Vlaamse Beweging in Dutch), a political group striving for Flemish autonomy, protection of the Dutch language (as Belgium has three national languages, French, German, and Dutch), protection of Flemish culture and history, and occasionally Flemish independence.

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Tropes:

  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Robrecht van Béthume, the titular Lion of Flanders, was not present at the Battle of the Golden Spurs, and remained in a French prison until after the battle was over. In the novel, he secretly escapes to take part in the battle.
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