On 11 July 1302 the so-called ‘Battle of the Golden Spurs’ was
fought at Courtrai between French knights and Flemish foot soldiers. It
was one of the many battles in the war between Guy of Dampierre,
Count of Flanders, and Philip the Fair, King of France. Although this
battle was not inspired by feelings of national identity, the date (11 July)
was chosen in 1973 as the national feast-day of the Flemings.
In this article we try to explain how the unexpected victory of the
Flemish soldiers gave birth to a feeling of collective Flemish pride that
had its influence on the perception of the facts and eventually on medieval
historiography. Through the process of ‘invention of tradition’ the
‘Battle of the Golden Spurs’ became the symbol of Flemish resistance
against the French occupant. This is why Flanders still commemorates
the 11th of July, not because of what really happened, but because of
what historians thought that had happened.