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Subject: Some history behind the game rss

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Jarek Szczepanik
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I. Introduction

Recently I've added Tournay to my collection. I couldn't resist getting it, since this game shares some features with two of my favourite titles: Race for the Galaxy and Troyes. It's another game by the authors of Troyes, with the same climatic graphics I liked so much. I hardly heard about the city of Tournay before I saw the game. If not for geology I wouldn't have heard about it at all (there are a lot of Carboniferous rocks in this part of Belgium and one stage of the Carboniferous system is called Tournaisian). I've never visited the city of Tournai (it's rather called Tournai than Tournay), and it looks like it's my loss - I would like to see the oldest private houses in Europe you can find there. I already know which city I'll go to during my next visit in Belgium.

Just like in Troyes, in Tournay the authors have added some history of the city they based their game on. Let me make a little investigation...

II. The buildings

Most (if not all) prestige buildings are the real buildings. The Belfry, Pont des Trous or Tour des Six are real monuments you can find in Tournai. I think I will leave the pleasure of finding real counterparts of the buildings from the game to the readers.

One prestige building has attracted my attention - Tour Henry VIII. Was it some local ruler or Henry VIII of England? It turned out that it's the Tower of Henry VIII of England after all! Why was he in Tournai? After a short research it turned out that Tournai was in English possession during his rule. Why? Let me make...

III. A brief digression on the history of Tournai

The city was a part of the County of Flanders, one of the richest regions in medieval Europe. From 12th century the county became a vassal of France, and Tournai was a border city with some degree of autonomy (the Tournaisis). During the second half of 14th century, the Tournaisis, along with the rest of Flanders, fell into the sphere of influence of the House of Burgundy. After the collapse of Burgundy, the former border was restored and Tournai became again a vassal to the French crown. In 1394, after the treaty Senlis, the western part of Flanders was given by France to the Habsburgs. Charles VIII of France, who has just begun a war over the Kingdom of Naples, wanted to secure the eastern border by making an unfavourable agreement with the Holy Roman emperor. However, the Tournaisis remained a French enclave in the Habsburg Low Countries.
The aforementioned war over Naples was the beginning of a series of conflicts known as The Italian Wars. In 1511, Henry VIII of England joined the Papacy and Spain in one of these conflicts - the war against France, hoping to retrieve English possessions on the continent, lost after Hundred Years' War. The expedition to west France was a failure, but Henry was able to gain Tournai in 1513. The city was even represented in the 1515 Parliament of England. The fortifications and a new citadel, including Tour Henri VIII, were reconstructed between 1515 and 1518 (mostly due to anti-English feelings among population). Work ceased because Henry VIII planned to restore the town to France. Unused building materials had to be sent to Calais because no one in Tournai wanted to buy them. Tournai was returned to the French crown under the treaty of London (1518) - the first non-aggression pact between the major European nations, signed in response to the rising power of the Ottoman empire. Only three years later, the city was captured by the Habsburgs and added to their possessions in the Low Countries, where it remained until Napoleonic era (with a short break during the rule of Louis XIV).

IV. Events

Out of the events appearing in the game, some have historical background. The three battles took place near Tournai.

a) battle of Bouviness

One of the most important battles of medieval times. In July 1214 the French army defeated the coalition of the County of Flanders, the Kingdom of England and the Holy Roman Empire, which had almost twice as many men as the French. Though the initial cause which led to the battle, was a minor one, two major conflicts of that time - Anglo-French and Welf-Staufen rivalry - found their conclusion at the battlefield near Bouviness.
The story begins with the death of Baldwin IX of Flanders, who was also the Latin Emperor of Constantinople. His only heiresses, Joan and Margaret had soon been transferred into custody of Phillip II of France. The elder girl - Joan - married Ferdinand of Portugal. When the newlyweds were coming back to Flanders, Phillip's son has conquered a few Flemish cities, including Saint Omer - an important center of trade of French wine. He also captured Joan and Ferdinand on their way home, and forced them to renounce claims to the lands he had just taken. Seeking for revenge, Ferdinand broke allegiance with Philip and assembled an anti-French coalition. His most valuable allies were John I of England (Joan's uncle) and Otto IV Welf - the Holy Roman Emperor (John's nephew). John has just lost most of his possessions in France, and wanted to use the conflict between France and Flanders to take back his lost lands. He also wanted to gain prestige, in order to deal with dissatisfied English barons. Otto in turn, was interested in the alliance, because defeating Phillip II of France would deprive Frederick II of Hohenstaufen - his rival to the imperial throne - a powerful ally (France was backing up Frederick). The victory would also have strengthened his position as the emperor.
When the battle began, it first seemed that the forces of the coalition will prevail over the French. The Flemish infantry did their work in holding the French cavalry from advancing and even drew them back (it was one of the first medieval battles which proved the value of the infantry). The English were initially winning but after one of their commanders was taken prisoner, the soldiers fled. The Flemish cavalry was defeated too (Ferdinand was taken prisoner). The imperial forces in the center were defeated last (the emperor had barely escaped with his life).
The battle has serious consequences for all three losers: Ferdinand spent almost rest of his life as a French prisoner, John had to return to England when he had to face the First Barons' War. Otto withdrew to his private possessions in Germany, was forced to abdicate the imperial throne and died a few years later of grief.
If it were Phillip who was defeated, there probably wouldn't had been emperor Frederick II Hohenstauf and the tragic consequences of his rivalry with the Pope, and John would had become the most powerful ruler in Europe.

b) battle of Cassel

Actually there were three battles of Cassel (1071, 1328 and 1677). I presume the authors had either the 1071 or 1328 battle in mind. Since the event in the game makes you loose money, I'm inclined to think that the card refers to the 1328 battle.

The first battle of Cassel (1071) was an internal succession conflict in the county of Flanders. Cont Baldwin VI of Flanders was succeeded by his son, Arnulf III the Unlucky. However, his uncle Robert the Frisian, challenged Arnulf's succession to the throne of Flanders and began rallying support, mainly in northern Flanders. Robert was hungry for power, even though he promised Baldwin VI to protect his nephew and respect his rights to the throne. Thanks to family and political connections, Arnulf gathered powerful allies - he had the support of the King of France, and a contingent of Norman knights led by William FitzOsborn (adviser of William the Conqueror). Count Eustace II of Boulogne, Count Eustace III of Boulogne, and Godfrey of Bouillon (both Eustaces fought in the battle of Hastings, Eustace III and Godfrey became later the heroes of the First Crusade) also joined his case.
Despite such a powerful support, Arnulf's army was attacked by Robert before it could organize. The battle was a draw (both Robert and Arnulf's mother were captured during the battle - the prisoners were exchanged later and the battle continued), but Arnulf's death (possibly by accident, from the hand of the Norman knight, Gerbod the Fleming) has ended the conflict in Robert's favour - he won the title of the Count of Flanders.

The second battle of Cassel took place in 1328 - king Phillip VI of France defeated the Flemish rebels.
The cause of the revolt was the policy of the new count of Flanders - Louis I. Due to his upbringing and marriage, he chose pro-French (and anti-English) policy, which threatened the economy of the county (dependent on English wool). To pay the financial consequences of the Franco-Flemish war 1297-1305 (the battle of Courtai was a part of this conflict), the count raised the taxes. Moreover, the harvest in 1323 was poor. All these factors led the peasants to refuse paying taxes to the count. Under the leadership of Nicolaas Zannekin, a rich peasant, the rebels captured many towns (most joined the rebellion on their own), turned against aristocracy and clergy. Soon, even the iggest cities, like Bruges, joined the rebels. The count initially negotiated with the rebels, but the situation was so tense, that the agreement was soon broken and the count was taken hostage by the rebels.
Charles IV of France (the last of the house Capet) offered the arbitrage between the rebels and the count. The rebels agreed under the condition that the King will capture the city of Ghent (its inhabitants were driven out from their city and joined the rebels). Finally, in 1326, the count was released and agreed on a peace offer proposed by the King of France. Louis had to respect the customs and liberties of the communes of Flanders.
The revolt erupted again after the death of king Charles IV. The Flemings hoped that the king of England will ascend to the French throne (which would be beneficial to the economy of the county). However, French nobles chose Phillip VI de Valois as their ruler. The rivalry between two monarchs will lead a few years later to the Hundred Years' War. Louis of Flanders asked the new king for help against the revolted burghers. The King agreed to organize an expedition. The rebels raised enough men to fight the enemy in the open countryside, and the rebel forces met the Royal army at the Battle of Cassel, where they were defeated and Zannekin was killed.
After the battle, the cities which participated in the revolt had their privileges canceled or restricted. The King took many hostages to Paris, for a good behaviour of the burghers. Fortifications of Bruges, Ypres and Kortrijk were to be destroyed. The bell in the belfry in Ypres was broken (having a bell was a great prestige for a city), and the burghers of Bruges had to apologize to the Count, throwing themselves on their knees before his castle. When the Hundred Years' War broke, the Count retained his pro-French policy, which earned him another insurrection (under the Flemish hero, Jacob van Artevelde).

c) battle of Courtai

Also known as the Battle of the Golden Spurs, it took place in July 1302.The French army was defeated by the Flemish rebels (mostly citizens of Bruges and other cities in the County). The battle was the first major example of the late medieval battles, in which heavily armed men-at-arms - so far dominant in European armies - were defeated by the infantry-only opponent. Its date is an official holiday for the Flemish community.
The story begins with the trade war between England and Flanders (1270-5). Margaret II of Flanders (she appeared in the story of the battle of Bouviness) confiscated the goods of the English tradesmen in the County to force King Henry III of England to make good payments owed (a money fief), for her support during the revolt of the barons. She agreed that Henry will recruit mercenary soldiers from her lands but since she did not send soldiers at her expense to fight, Henry did not see reason to restore the fief. The war turned out to be catastrophic for the economy of the County. Flemish cities depended on the textile trade, and without English wool they couldn't produce anything (aside from that decision Margaret was a wise ruler). The townspeople pressured the countess and her son Guy to agree to resume the trade with England. Even after the war was over, Guy found it difficult to rule the county due to bad economy and dissatisfied subjects.
The taxes under count Guy became so high that the complaints led king Phillip IV of France (Guy was his vassal) to tighten control over the County. The unhappy count allied with England, and in return Phillip announced the incorporation of the County to the crown. Guy was defeated in the battle of Furnes (the French killed almost everyone who surrendered, which was against all conventions of the time), and the King of England withdrew his support for the Count. The Flemings found direct French rule to be even more oppressive and begun to revolt. When the French started to punish the families of the rebels from Bruges, the townspeople took revenge in the Bruges Matins (May 1302) - a nocturnal masacre of all the French in the city (they identified French by asking all suspected people to pronounce a Flemish shibboleth - schilt ende vriend - to be honest I would be a goner too if I were in Bruges that night). The King couldn't let this go unpunished and sent a powerful army to pacify Bruges.
Meanwhile the rebel forces from various parts of Flanders gathered and laid siege to the castle of Courtai, housing a French garrison. The siege was unsuccessful and the French forces approached. The future battlefield was crossed by numerous ditches and streams dug by the Flemings to defend from a surprise attack by the cavalry. The French brought about 8000 men (incl. 3000 cavalry). The French commander, Count Robert, sent the infantry to lead the initial attack (which went well). But suddenly he called them back, so the mounted nobles could claim the victory. While the shaky and muddy ground could be easily crossed by the infantry it posed a serious problem to the heavy cavalry which became useless. Disorganized and mud drowned French cavalry was an easy target for the disciplined Flemish pikemen. In despair, the French garrison from the castle wanted to help Robert but was stopped by Flemish reserves held especially for this purpose. Seeing that the battle is lost, the French forces fled the field.
Prior to the battle, the Flemish soldiers were order to take no prisoner and kill every captured French soldier, noble or not. This was the revenge for the battle of Furnes (among Flemish commanders were the nobles who lost their fathers or sons in that battle). The large number of golden spurs that were collected from the French knights gave the battle its alternative name - the Battle of the Golden Spurs.
Despite this heroic victory, the revolt was crushed by the French two years later. However, only the western part of the County was incorporated into France. The rest remained independent as a fief of the Kingdom of France.

d) William the Conqueror

Another English king in the game. This one seems more obvious - William married Matilda of Flanders, the daughter of Count Baldwin V of Flanders. This marriage raised William's prestige as a ruler. However, the event in the game named William the Conqueror is a negative one. At the beginning the relations between England and Flanders were friendly. The situation changed after the death of Baldwin VI of Flanders (check the battle of Cassel section). William FitzOsborn (the adviser of William the Conqueror) was to marry the widow after Baldwin and help her children to defeat the rebellion of their uncle, Robert the Frisian. However, FitzOsborn was killed at Cassel. The new Count of Flanders - Robert - remained hostile towards William the Conqueror. He even accepted Edgar the Ætheling - a pretender to the English throne - into his court, and married his half-sister to the king of France, Philip I, who was opposed to Norman power.
Another clue for hostile William-Flemish relations dates back to the time before William became the King of England. Count Baldwin V of Flanders was related not only to William, but also to Tostig Godwinson (the one who invited Harald III of Norway to invade England in 1066) - his half-sister Judith was Tostig's wife. Tostig took refuge in Flanders in 1065 and even hired Flemish mercenaries, who later fought at Stamford Bridge. However, at that time Baldwin was already an old man, and it seems he didn't intervened to prevent William's plans to invade England.
So I couldn't link William the Conqueror to any negative event in the history of Tournai or Flanders.

V. Concluding remarks

That's all folks. I hope that post wasn't too dull and you haven't fallen asleep. I found digging through the history of Flanders interesting (it's rather an exotic region for me) and wanted to share that pleasure with you.
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Awesome. Literally so.
 
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Jarek Szczepanik
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Thank you. When I play a game with some history in the background, I like to tell stories about people and places that are connected to the game.
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