Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 June 2021
This study of Edward I of England's expedition to Flanders in 1297 seeks to re-evaluate the king's aims and achievements. Previous accounts have been largely negative in their assessment of Edward's performance, but this article argues that his sojourn in Flanders should not be regarded as a failure. The actions of Edward's allies and the wider context of his strategic objectives, along with the difficulties and setbacks he encountered, are given particular consideration.
Edward I's Flanders campaign of 1297–1298 is regarded as one of his least successful ventures. His intention was to defeat the French under Philip IV and recover his confiscated duchy of Gascony. The English king, it has been said, arrived too late to help his Flemish allies, already on the brink of defeat, and with a totally inadequate army. No engagements were fought, except a number of brawls between English sailors and allied infantry. On top of this lack of military success, the king was severely embarrassed financially, and in the end fortunate to extricate himself from a difficult situation.
Such is the general view from the perspective of English historians. This article will seek to re-evaluate Edward's war aims, as well as demonstrate that the English king made vital gains in Flanders, even if victory eluded him. While the main focus of the article is on Edward and his perspective, it will also consider those of his enemy, Philip, and his ally, Count Guy of Flanders.
Gascony was one of just two continental possessions left to Edward's dynasty, held after the Treaty of Paris in 1259 as a fiefdom of the French crown. In the treaty Henry III formally renounced his family claims to the former Angevin territories of Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Touraine and Poitou. Edward first received Gascony as part of a substantial endowment granted to him by his father in 1254, part of the settlement for his wedding to Eleanor, daughter of the king of Castile. Edward governed the duchy in peace for the next forty years, bar a brief campaign in 1273 against a rebellious vassal, Gaston de Béarn. His personal rule oversaw the foundation of over fifty new bastide towns and efficient reorganization of government.