Beyond the Page: Where History Meets Metzlingen

Opening Scene: The Battle of Guinegate

It’s common knowledge amongst historical writers that only a portion of what we actually research ends up on the page. For ten pages of research reading, perhaps only a line or two might be written to place the reader into that historical setting. What happens to the rest of that information? Well, every writer is different, but as for me, I keep folders of notes on my computer. I refer back to them often and build them as I go. For those of you who enjoy history, or those of you who enjoy going Beyond The Page‘s of your books for further research, here’s the next in a series of posts to help illuminate “Where History Meets Metzlingen” in The King’s Sword.

“10 Things to Know About” the Battle of Guinegate


“The battle was well fought, but war is changing . . .The world with it. The swords of our chivalrous past are now met with ceaseless innovation.” – The King’s Sword

1. The King’s Sword (TKS) opens in Matthias’s point of view at the end of the Battle of Guinegate. This battle took place on August 7, 1479.

2. Where exactly is Guinegate? Guinegate, as it was known in medieval times, was part of the Burgundian Netherlands. Consisting of what we now know as parts of Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Hauts-de-France (northern area of France), the Burgundian Netherlands were the northern part of the Burgundian lands. Comprised of a number of Imperial and French fiefs, they were ruled by the House of Valois – Burgundy from 1384 to 1482 and then by Hapsburg heirs. Now known as Enguinegatte, it is in the northern most region of France.

3. Who fought in this battle? The battle took place primarily between the French troops of King Louis XI and those of the Archduke (later Emperor) Maximilian of Austria and the Hapsburg dynasty. It is my understanding that Maximilian’s forces were mainly comprised of Flemish / Burgundian troops, but also included (but were not limited to) various German, Hapsburg, Imperial, and mercenary men-at-arms.


4. Why was it fought? Mary of Burgundy was the only child of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. At his death at the Battle of Nancy on January 5, 1477, Mary inherited the vastly wealthy Burgundian territories. The French King was quite eager to get his hands on her inheritance, seizing lands and trying to get her to marry his son. Mary however, married the Archduke Maximilian on August 19, 1477, who was determined to secure the Burgundian inheritance for them and their children.

5. What was significant about this battle? One significant thing about the battle was the use of pikes. The Swiss were famous for their use and for being a fierce fighting force. The Swiss fought as mercenaries all over Europe and were instrumental to the defeat of Charles the Bold.

6. How were the pikes used? The infantrymen formed squares. The front pikes were lowered horizontal, making it difficult for charging calvary to penetrate the squares. The pikes of the middle men remained vertical, allowing people to withdraw.

7. Did the archduke really fight on foot? Yes, all accounts that I found said that the Archduke Maximilian joined the infantry on foot. Many of his nobles are said to have joined him among the first part of the square, instead of remaining with the calvary. This is where Matthias fights on the field, at the side of his prince, standing as an ally of Archduke Maximilian.

8. What was the result? The battle lasted six hours, leaving 7000 men dead on the field. Though the French were routed, and Archduke Maximilian returned victorious to Ghent, the battle would be just a part of a rivalry between the French and the House of Hapsburg that would last for a looooong time.


9. Was there more than one Battle of Guinegate? Yes, there was. The next Battle of Guinegate, otherwise known as the Battle of the Spurs, took place on August 16, 1513. The Italian Wars were ongoing at this point. The English forces of King Henry VIII (yes, that Henry VIII) and the Imperial forces of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (as of 1486) joined together as part of the League of Cambrai against the French.

10) Where did I find information about the battle? For the description of the battle, I used a variety of sources, including technical discussions on the history of warfare and the tactics that were used (such as the Swiss pike square formation). I was also able to find and translate old battle reports, along with dissertations regarding the battle, such as “Die Schlacht bei Guinegate vom 7. August 1479” presented in December 19, 1890 by Hermann Klaje, and another on the same subject presented by Ernst Richert in 1967.

PHOTOS. Featured Photo) Albrecht Dürer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 2) The University of Texas at Austin. From the Cambridge Modern History Atlas, 1912. 4) Albrecht Dürer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 9) Woodcut depicting meeting of King Henry VIII and HRE Maximilian I from Public Domain

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