PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Count Baldwin IV of Flanders vs.
Henry II, king of Germany
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Western Belgium and western
DECLARATION: None recorded
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Power and loyalty were
the issues, territorial expansion the objective. Baldwin,
vassal to the duke of Burgundy, felt no loyalty toward
the German king and Holy Roman Emperor Henry and
sought to expand Flanders at German expense. Also
expanding his holdings, Henry sought to bring both
Burgundy and Flanders to task, clipping the power of
the former and assuming sovereignty over the latter.
OUTCOME: Henry regained the German land lost to Flanders; Baldwin became Henry’s vassal but maintained control over Ghent.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
TREATIES: Baldwin’s pledge of fealty to Henry II
After the death of Otto III (980–1002), nominal king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, his third cousin Henry II (973–1024) “the Saint” took the German throne and the designation of emperor. However, Henry was, in fact, but one of many German rulers, some equally powerful, some more powerful than he, and the princes and their various vassal states felt little goodwill toward the new king, much less any sense of fealty to the new Holy Roman Emperor. To consolidate, and even to expand, the kingdom he inherited from Otto, Henry frequently went to war with neighboring principalities. He particularly enraged the Franks and the powerful duchy of Burgundy. One Burgundian, Count Baldwin IV (988–1035), from the vassal state of Flanders, was himself expanding his holdings, mostly against the Capetian king of France, Robert II (c. 970–1031). In the closed world of medieval European warfare, Henry and Baldwin were bound to clash.
In 1006 Baldwin marched his army east and occupied the town of Ghent. From there Baldwin advanced to the Scheldt River, where he violated German soil by crossing and seizing the town of Valenciennes in the late spring. Henry, meanwhile, marched into the Burgundian village of Basle, a move that would signal the end of Burgundian independence from the empire. At Basle Henry made an alliance in June 1006 with Baldwin’s overlord, Robert (c. 970–1031) the Pious of Burgundy. The two agreed on a joint expedition to retake Valenciennes. The alliance, of course, made enemies of lord and vassal, Robert and Baldwin, and it did neither Robert nor Henry much good Baldwin turned both their armies back.
In the summer of 1007 Henry decided to try again, to discipline Baldwin and retake Valenciennes, this time alone. He led a large army across the Scheldt, laid waste to the countryside, and forced Baldwin to surrender Valenciennes and accept terms. Henry forgave Baldwin’s insolence in return for an oath of fealty, and he granted his new vassal control of Ghent. Although Baldwin was defeated, his acceptance of Henry as his new lord won for Flanders its first foothold beyond the Scheldt. Thus did Flanders become a feudatory possession of both France and Germany. In France the Flemish lands were called “Crown Flanders,” in Germany, “Imperial Flanders.