In mid-July of 1572 a French Huguenot nobleman, the Seigneur de Genlis, invaded Netherlands from France with 4,000 infantry and slightly less than 1,000 Calvary. It went badly. Don Frederic of Toledo routed the Seigneur and his troops at Quiévrain, and not two hundred Frenchmen survived (those who survived the battle proper where quickly slaughtered by local peasants). Gossip and fallout at the French Court was immediate.

A good number of courtiers and foreign figures (for example the Venetian ambassador) were sure Genlis had been sent by Admiral Coligny with the King’s knowledge. Others avowed, adamantly, that the Seigneur had gone without the knowledge or permission of either the King or the Admiral.Genlis

Frankly, and after years researching the Valois Court in this era, it is impossible for me to believe that the King did not at least know of Seigneur de Genlis’ plan in advance, whether or not he tacitly approved it, if for no other reason than the planned invasion was a very open secret at French Court. So much so that Spain caught wind of it making for an easy interception of the French near mons. Additionally, a letter evidencing Charles complicity found on Genlis when was taken prisoner.

Yet confronted with the invasions catastrophic failure, Charles denied that he sanctioned the expedition and congratulated Philip II on his victory. This represented more than a desperate effort to distance himself from a plan run amok.  His actions were at his mother Catherine de Médicis’ behest and she also demanded that he declare publicly that his subjects had disobeyed his orders in going to Flanders. All of this suborning of what was basically perjury was part of a larger struggle between the Queen Mother and Admiral Coligny for the role of chief-influencer over Charles. War with Spain was on the table and while Coligny pressed for it, Catherine was against it.

Less than two months later the winner and loser of this struggle would become painfully and bloodily clear.

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3 Responses to “A Little Invasion and some Big Questions . . .”

  1. Flanders was NOT Spanish NOR French to begin with it was/is Flemish with it’s own culture language desire to be independent nation… but for some reason people don’t want accept this … these qaurrels between the French and Spanish caused havoc bloodshed to Flanders as they only usedu itas battlefield …

    • The shaping of the map of Europe over the past thousand years was certainly a fascinating, fluid and contentious process.

      Flanders is outside my area of research/expertise but the ownership and allegiances of territories now commonly covered by the use of the word “France” (a Kingdom clearly within the purview of my knowledge) certainly changed constantly and significantly from the high-middle ages, through the renaissance and into the early modern era. For example, looking back to the time of my first novel, “The Sister Queens,” (13th century) many areas (like Champagne or Provence) which are thought of as French today were not part of that kingdom, but rather independent Counties owing divergent fealties. Provence, where my sister protagonists were born and raised and where their father was the ruling Count, owed fealty not to the King of France but to the Holy Roman Emperor. And the culture was Occitan not French. And parts of what are now France were actually not brought under that crown until Henri IV took the throne.

      My understanding is that after the collapse of the Carolingian empire the county of Flanders, like other territories that can be grouped under the term “the Low Countries” existed under a string of rulers, and that in the 16th century claimants to the territory included the dukes of Burgundy and then of the house of Habsburg. But as I say, these territories are tangential to my own work.

      • First I would like to apologizes for the messy English of my first common – should make a note to myself never to use my phone to post comments it seems my Flemish spell checker has his own version of English and the tiny window is no way to spot one’s mistakes while typing!!! And can’t find way to edit either… due me not getting along with computers!!!!

        I know France is – as all European countries for that matter – a concoct of smaller ‘states’ frogmarched by rulers into larger ‘states’. The reason there were so many wars, civil wars and mayhem in the past… however the story of Flanders struggle seems to be ‘overlooked’ by most! While many hail the ‘heroes’ who fought for an independent state, Flanders ‘freedom’ fighters are deemed to be ‘troublemakers – rightwing nationalists’ and the period your post is about was especially violent – one third of the population was either killed or forced to run – becoming unwanted refugees… the Spanish inquisition was mainly focus on the south of the Low Countries – while the French saw Flanders as a milk cow to pay for their wars and fancy lifestyle. The North in the end brokered their ‘peace deal’ with Spain thanks to leaving Flanders in the hands of the Spanish who made sure the locals would ever think again of rising against the Church and their kings. While France looked the other way… What is still today felt as treason and a reason never to trust the Dutch nor the French! This harsh reality and sore feelings were eagerly abused by the Germans in the late 1800’s to the late 1930s… and for some reasons this ‘history’ seems to be ignored by most historians who feel it’s troublesome to deal with this ‘unruly boorish backyard of France’!

        You know that my father – when a boy at school – had to wash his mouth with brown soap if he utter by accident a ‘Flemish word’? Or my cousin living in Brussels in the 1970s was not welcome to post any letters that had ‘Flemish’ addresses on it – and was told deliver her ‘mail’ herself as no postman could read should ‘address’ – her children going to a Flemish school had to run a gauntlet of swearing and insults because the French speaking locals didn’t want a Flemish school in their midst? Aldo Brussels was official bilingual and the schools – Flemish AND French – were also paid for by Flemish taxpayers? Molenbeek – the trouble spot today – was Flemish but they were pestered out in the late 1970s by an increasing number of French speakers coming from the centre of Brussels and the than French speaking mayor encourage French speakers to come in – ignoring reports that some were becoming a problem as he was so keen to keep the Flemish out and as long they spoke French it was all right?

        I honestly think – getting to know the history of this part of the world – the centre of Europe – could bring more understanding to a lot of historical events and even to present day problems in Europe… the failed state as the French call Belgium now is a product of ‘our history’ and those who try to control this area for its wealth and central location on the continent – right between the great divide of Europe of the south and north!!!

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