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Art. 48, Lustneth, lordinges, bothe yonge ant olde: Introduction

ABBREVIATIONS: AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; ANL: Anglo-Norman Literature: A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts (R. Dean and Boulton); BL: British Library (London); Bodl.: Bodleian Library (Oxford); CCC: Corpus Christi College (Cambridge); CUL: Cambridge University Library (Cambridge); IMEV: The Index of Middle English Verse (Brown and Robbins); IMEV Suppl.: Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse (Robbins and Cutler); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MWME: A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500 (Severs et al.); NIMEV: A New Index of Middle English Verse (Boffey and Edwards); NLS: National Library of Scotland (Edinburgh).

The Flemish Insurrection records a remarkable defeat of the French at the hands of the Flemish, which occurred five years before the death of Edward I (commemorated in art. 47). The anonymous English poet exults that the burghers of Bruges led by cloth-weaver Peter de Conyng were victorious over the French . The occupying French garrison was overcome by means of a revolt. Soon thereafter the professional French army suffered full-scale humiliation at the Battle of Courtrai on July 11, 1302. On the English poet’s siding with the Flemish, Robbins comments, “At this date, before the development of the native cloth industry, the English could feel sympathy for their Flemish customers of wool” (1959, p. 251). The poet’s rabid anti-French sentiment is allied in partisan mood with The Death of Edward I (art. 47), and it also suits the political climate during the making of the Harley manuscript. The copyist wants to emphasize and “demonstrate how the flower of French chivalry was humiliated by ‘an fewe fullaris’ (48.112), an encouraging example for the English as they prepare to encounter the French in the late 1330s” (Turville-Petre 1996, p. 196). In addition, the poem’s inclusion reflects Ludlow’s vital engagement with the wool trade, a regional interest that surfaces, too, in Against the King’s Taxes (art. 114) (Revard 2000b, pp. 28–29).

The conflict depicted here is given literary and social meaning as a watershed moment when two sets of values collided: those of the down-to-earth local townsmen versus those of the imperious French aristocrats who claim sovereignty and moral superiority: “What astonished contemporaries about the battle of Courtrai was that a well-equipped army, led by aristocrats — the natural bellatores of their society — could be defeated by Flemish city militias. . . . [T]he lack of military sophistication of the citizen militias is used as a stick to beat the French” (Scattergood 2000a, pp. 172–73). The French expect courtly rules of war to be upheld, whereby nobles are captured and then ransomed, but the men of Bruges deride such customs and summarily execute the leader of the French armies, Robert, Count of Artois (lines 89–96). For further details on the historical circumstances and political climate, see Robbins 1959, pp. 250–52; and Scattergood 2000a, pp. 171–74.

[Fols. 73v–74v. IMEV, NIMEV 1894. MWME 5:1405 [27]. Scribe: B (Ludlow scribe). Quire: 8. Meter: Seventeen 8-line stanzas, aaa5–7b3ccc5–7b3. Layout: No columns. Editions: Wright 1839, pp. 187–95; Ritson 1877, pp. 44–48; Böddeker, pp. 116–21; Robbins 1959, pp. 9–13 (no. 3). Other MSS: None.]

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