The persecutions of the southern dutch population by the Frankish kings seem to have roots all the way back and well into the 11th century, and many historians have pointed to the arrest and trial of Baldwin van Vlaanderen as their starting point. Before this it seems as at least the nobility of Flanders was an integrated part of the realm and staunch supporters of the monarchy, visible through several land grants to sons of the lower nobility in service of the kings made by the Flanderian dukes as well as Baldwins service as regent of the realm during Philippe I Capet's infancy. This was to change during the early years of Philippe's reign. One must however remember that this early persecution was not aimed at the general population of the region, but rather the upper strata of the nobility, and the burnings and mock-trials so accosiated with the subject did not occur until at least a century later.
It is clear that the relations between the regent and the young king soured as Philippe began to take on more and more of the responsibilities of the crown as he matured. The fact that Baldwin did not sign any proclamations at or after the coronation of Philippe have made some historians claim that the duke was not even present at the coronation, and the fact that the trial of the former regent took place only a few months after Philippe's ascension to the throne seem to support this claim.
The reason for the arrest have however been shrouded in much mystery, as the documents from the trial have been largely lost to history, except for the actual conviction on the grounds of treason. Historians in the past have often pointed at the nationality issue, however as I have shown above this has little ground in history. Some early 20th century historians claimed that the reason simply was a personal rivalry based in personal animosity or a secret relationship between Baldwin and the Queen Mother, Anna Rurikovich, however these claims have largely been disregarded as groundless. Most modern historians claim that it was simply an early example of the centralisation attempts made by the early Capetians, as Flanders was the richest region in the realm with a remarkable far-reaching trade network that filled the coffers of the duchy.
A 17th century painting of the by then francofied city of Brugge's, with several dutchmen clearly visible, making some culture historians believe this was intended to depict the city during the middle ages. The Dutch are recognized by their characteristic black hats.
Excerpt from 'Dutch – The Sorrows'
The King's Man
Rain against chainmail made a strange sound, or so Raoul had always felt. There was something foreboding about it, it brought with it a strange pocking feeling that something would soon go wrong. He shivered from the cold, and maybe just a little from the fact that he was riding straight into a hornest's nest.
Philippe had been adamant, to the surprise of all the high nobles, and Raoul as well. Raoul had of course hoped that Philippe would do something to bring the lord's back into line, but had rather favored the idea of invading Normandie or bringing Guillame de Toulouse to heel. Attacking Baldwin was a daring act, and an utterly foolish one, since the Duke of Flanders had several grown sons as well as the gold to raise an army equal to the rest of the realm, and was there anything Philippe would not get from his vassals now it was troops. Raoul had actually considered refusing to even go, but such an act would actually be treason, unlike the acts of Baldwin, and though Raoul was many things he was not a traitor.
So he found himself here, on the road north, trudging north at the head of less than a thousand men, and far less than required if things would come to open conflict. With a thousand men Raoul had no hope of besieging the border fortresses in southern Flanders, let alone the gigantic city of Brugge or the fortresses along the border to the Roman Empire.
The troops had been gathered outside Paris and marched quickly at the urging of Raoul, in an attempt to reach well into van Vlaanderen's territory before Baldwin could summon his levies. He did not expect to succeed in this. In just a few hours they would pass the border between his own land and Flanders, and he expected to meet resistance the day after tomorrow, and that was if he was lucky. Baldwin surely had heard of Philippe's plans just a day after the the king's proclamation in the council – the duke had many friends among the nobility, and the king had very very few.
"My Lord," it was one of the outriders Raoul had sent into Vlaanderen land. None of them was expected back for hours. This cannot be good. "My Lord! There is an army marching down the road from the north, three thousand strong. At least three hundred of them are horse." This is not bad. This is hell. We cannot hope to win this.
"Who is it?" The voice was that of Aumery de Gien'Chateu, the son of one of Philippe's barons and one of the kings closest friends.
"Who do you bloody think it is, you oaf?" The young man's face turned a dark red shade but Raoul had not time for it, and wouldn't have cared even if he had the time. He was sworn to Philippe, not to the buffoons the king insisted to surround himself with. If he was to die he would at least do so with the little fighting chance they had.
"Captain! Tell the men to ready for battle.
** * **
Robert was nervous. He had not been able to relax for several days and it was taking it's toll on his old body. He had awoken to see dark rings under his eyes had he had been feeling slightly faint. Why would he do this? What can he possibly think this will achieve? He was sitting alone in the dark in his chambers. The dark had always had a way of easing his tension, but not this time. I am getting to old for this.
That was a truth if there ever had been one. At fifty-five he was the oldest among the High Lords, and about as old as most of the nobility got, give or take a few years. He had once hoped to spend his waning years in his hunting castle in southern Bourgogne, in the mountains that he had loved to ride among in his youth, when he first recieved the land from his brother. Oh brother dear, what would you have said to this? His brother had hated the High Lords – maybe it was the destiny of kings to do so – but Robert didn't really care if Philippe hated them or not, but the king had to realise that he needed them if he was to remain on the throne, and a succession war would utterly devestate the realm. He could only hope that it would not come to that, that Raoul would succeed and do so quickly, so Philippe's power was augmented, not squandered.
Did the king realise the gamble he had going? No, probably not. This was the recklessness of youth, so Robert was sure, yet a king could not afford recklessness. He had to get the young man to settle down, to find him some other distraction than the game of politics. If he had to be a fool why could he not just be the fool who doesn't understand instead of the fool who thinks he understand. Philippe's will had to be tempered, but how?
Robert tried to remember being young. It was hard to tear through the veils of memory and the illusion of eternity wisdom gave once it had been won but finally a long lost dream of a dark haired girl bathing in the mountain lakes of Bourgogne came to him with a warmth and sense of loss he had not felt for many years. He would find Philippe a wife.