History Files

European Kingdoms

Western Europe


Margraves & Counts of Flanders
AD 862 - 1405

MapThe county of Flanders began with Judith (844-870), daughter of the Carolingian king of the West Franks and Frankish Roman Emperor, Charles 'the Bald'. Charles was one of Europe's most powerful kings in the ninth century, having inherited the westernmost third of the mighty Carolingian empire following the Treaty of Verdun in AD 843 (see map link, right). Judith married twice to English kings of Wessex (first to Aethulwulf and then to his son). Later she returned to the continental mainland and eloped with Baldwin Iron Arm. Charles disapproved, but Judith could not be induced to return so Charles relented and granted Flanders to the two of them.

At first Flanders was a 'march county' - known formally as a margraviate. It occupied a location on (or even across) the border with Lotharingia, the middle third of the former Carolingian empire, with the local ruler of West-Frisia watching it from its northern border. However, Flanders soon matured into a more traditional county. Finally, it passed by marriage first to the dukes of Burgundy and then to the Habsburgs. Thanks to it being inherited by the Habsburgs, Flanders ended up, uniquely, as the only territory that began the Middle Ages as part of France but ended them, as it still is, alienated from France. Today, most of historical Flanders, except for Picardy, is part of Belgium.

(Additional information by Geoffrey Tobin.)

862 - 879

Baldwin I Iron Arm

m Judith. Flanders granted to them by Emperor Charles.

879 - 918

Baldwin II

918 - 958

Arnulf I the Elder

Dau Hildegard m Dirk II, count of West-Frisia.


A desperate William Longsword of the Normans seeks reconciliation with the Flemish, but is assassinated at a peace conference. The Norman state collapses as Louis of France seizes its lands and captures William's infant heir, Richard.

958 - 962

Baldwin III


With the accession of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders. The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc (the later Luxemburg), Arnulf I the Elder is restored in Flanders, and the March of Austria is formed (or confirmed) from territory already captured from Hungary (around 960).

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern the territories shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases, most notably in the five great stem duchies, many of which were attempting to expand their own territories outside the empire, creating the various march or border regions to the east and south (click or tap on map to view full sized)

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

962 - 965

Arnulf I the Elder


965 - 988

Arnulf II the Younger

988 - 1035

Baldwin IV the Bearded

1035 - 1067

Baldwin V the Pious


Godfrey the Bearded, duke of Upper Lorraine, along with his allies Baldwin of Flanders and Count Dirk IV of West Frisia, takes up arms against Emperor Henry III, hoping to seize Lower Lorraine. Bishop Wazo organises the defence of Liège while other smaller imperial entities do likewise.


Baldwin forces Richilde, countess of Hainaut, to marry his son, Baldwin 'the Good'. The union greatly dissatisfies Emperor Henry III as he fears that Hainaut, which belongs to the Holy Roman empire, may pass into the hands of the count of Flanders, a French vassal.


In opposing Henry III, Baldwin seizes Thuin and Huy, important towns in the principality of Liège, destroying them almost entirely. These had been the emperor's main strongholds in the Sambre-Meuse region. The powerfully fortified centre of Huy defends both the passage of the Meuse and access to the Condroz region and the Ardennes, creating a strong barrier to the territorial ambitions of the counts of Namur and Leuven, as well as to military expeditions by the counts of Flanders and Hainaut.

1067 - 1128

The succession becomes confused after the death of Baldwin V. Baldwin's grandson Arnulf III seems to have been murdered by his uncle, Robert I; but then the main line of succession from Robert I dies out, and the county passes to Charles the Good, grandson of Robert through his daughter Adele, who had married Canute IV the Holy of Denmark and went on to marry Roger Borsa, duke of Apulia, and become of the mother of William, duke of Apulia.

Charles the Good, in turn, is murdered himself, and the county passes to a second cousin, William Clito of Normandy, the great grandson of Baldwin V through his daughter Matilda, who had married William 'the Bastard' of Normandy (later William 'the Conqueror'). The Norman doesn't last long (killed at the battle of Axspoele in 1128), and the succession passes to another grandson of Robert I, through his daughter Gertrude, who had married Dietrich / Theodoric II, duke of Upper Lorraine.

Gertrude's son is also named Dietrich (in German), but his name turns up in various other languages, as Thierry (French), Dirk or Didrik (Dutch or Flemish). The House of Alsace flourishes in Flanders under Dietrich and his son and daughter, Philip of Alsace and Margareta.

1067 - 1070

Baldwin VI of Mons 'the Good'


1070 - 1071

Arnulf III

Probably murdered by his uncle, Robert I.

1071 - 1093

Robert I

Second husband of Gertrude. Count of Holland (1064-1093).

1093 - 1111

Robert II

1111 - 1119

Baldwin VII

1113 - 1114

Henry II of England is forced to seek mercenaries from abroad in order to stem the successes being won by Gruffydd ap Rhys of Deheubarth in Wales. He offers Flemish mercenaries lands in Wales, particularly in Pembroke, in return for stemming the advance, and Gruffydd is only able to restore a reduced Deheubarth, with the rest still being held by Norman lords.

1119 - 1127

Charles the Good

Grandson of Robert I. Murdered.

1127 - 1128

William Clito of Normandy

Son of Robert II, duke of Normandy. Died in battle.

1128 - 1157

Dietrich (Thierry / Dirk / Didrik) of Alsace

Brother of Simon I, duke of Upper Lorraine.

1157 - 1191

Philip I of Alsace

On Crusade (1177-1178).

1178 - 1179

The mother of Duke Simon of Upper Lorraine has been intent on gaining the duchy for her second son, Ferry. Simon asserts his own claim and becomes duke despite her, but the growing dispute had not been ended. In 1178 it turns into civil war which is only mediated by Count Philip of Flanders in 1179.

1191 - 1195

Baldwin V of Hainaut

1195 - 1205

Baldwin IX

Latin emperor in Constantinople (1204-1205).

1206 - 1216


Latin emperor in Constantinople.

1206 - 1244


Daughter of Baldwin IX.

1217 - 1219


Latin empress in Constantinople.

1211 - 1233

Fernand of Portugal

1237 - 1244


Thomas II, regent of Savoy (1258-1259).

1244 - 1279


Daughter of Baldwin IX.

1280 - 1304

Guy de Dampierre


John of Flanders is an unusual appointment as the new prince-bishop of Liège, as he is Guy de Dampierre's youngest son, who himself is largely subject to invasive French suzerainty rather than imperial. The final choice over the selection goes to Pope Martin IV, a highly-appreciated confident of the king of France.

1304 - 1322

Robert III of Bethune

1322 - 1346

Louis I of Nevers


A peasant revolt in Flanders forces Philip VI of France to fight the Battle of Cassel, thirty kilometres south of Dunkirk, bringing the revolt to an end and bringing Flanders fully under French control. Supporting the king, Duke Ferry IV of Lorraine is killed during the fighting, while Duke Odo IV of Burgundy is wounded.

Philip VI at the Battle of Cassel
Philip VI shown in oil on canvas at the Battle of Cassel in Flanders - the battle was a total victory for him, securing French control of Flanders after putting down a peasant revolt

1346 - 1384

Louis II of Mâle

1384 - 1405

Margaret of Mâle

Dau. m Philip the Bold of Burgundy (1368).


Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy, had married Margaret of Mâle in 1368, and in 1384 she becomes countess of Flanders and one of the richest heiresses in Europe, thereby passing the county into the hands of the dukes of Burgundy where it remains after Philip's death. The two domains have no links to each other, either geographically or culturally, but constant journeys lead to the creation of two cultural centres, the northern one accessing the North Sea and the Hanseatic League. The fate of Flanders is now linked inextricably to that of Burgundy.

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