Jacob von Arteveld, the citizen of Ghent that was so much attached to the king of England, still maintained the same despotic power over all Flanders. He had promised the king of England, that he would give him the inheritance of Flanders, invest his son the prince of Wales with it, and make it a duchy instead of an earldom. Upon which account the king was, at this period, about St. John the Baptist’s day, 1345, come to Sluys, with a numerous attendance of barons and knights. He had brought the prince of Wales with him, in order that Jacob von Artaveld’s promises might be realised. The king remained on board his fleet in the harbour of Sluys, where he kept his court. His friends in Flanders came thither to see and visit him; and there were many conferences between the king and Jacob von Artaveld on one side, and the councils from the different capital towns on the other, relative to the agreement before mentioned; as to which, those from the country did not unite in sentiment with the king nor with von Artaveld, who kept continually reminding him of their quarrel, and exhorting them to disinherit earl Lewis, their natural lord, and his youngest son Lewis, in favour of the son of the king of England: but they declared they would never consent to such a thing. At the last conference, which was held in the harbour of Sluys, on board the king’s ship, the Catherine (which was of such an enormous size that wonders might be told of it), they made this unanimous reply: “Dear sir, the request you have made has given us much uneasiness, and may in times to come be prejudicial to Flanders and our successors. True it is, that there is not in the world any prince whom we love so much, or for whose profit and advantage we would exert ourselves so greatly as for you: but we alone cannot agree to this proposition, unless all the commonalties of Flanders give their consent. Therefore each of us will return to our different towns, and will explain in a general way this business to the inhabitants: when, if the greater part of them shall consent, we also will agree to it: we will return to you again within a month, and bring such answers as we hope will be satisfactory.” Neither the king of England nor Jacob von Artaveld could at that time obtain more or any other answer. They wished to have had a shorter day appointed, but in vain: so the king answered, he was satisfied that it should be as they determined. The conference broke up, and each returned to the town from whence he had been deputed.
Jacob von Artaveld remained some little time longer with the king of England, in order to be made acquainted with all his affairs: he, in return, promised and assured him that he would bring his countrymen over to his opinion; but he deceived himself, and did wrong in staying behind, and not being at Ghent at the time when the citizens who had been deputed by the corporations of the town arrived there: for as soon as they were returned, taking advantage of the absence of von Artaveld, they collected a large meeting of high and low in the market-place, and there explained to them the subject of the late conferences at Sluys, and what the king of England had required of them, through the advice and information of Jacob von Artaveld. The whole assembly began to murmur against him; and this request was received unfavourably by all. They said, “that if it pleased God, they never would be pointed out, or found so disloyal, as to disinherit their natural lord, in favour of a stranger.” They then left the market-place much discontented, and angry with Artaveld. Now, see how unfortunately it fell out; for if he had gone to Ghent, instead of Bruges and Ypres, and had remonstrated with them upon the quarrel of the king of England, they would all have consented to his wishes, as those of the two above-mentioned towns had done: but he had trusted so much to his prosperity and greatness, that he thought he could recover every thing back in a little time.
When on his return he came to Ghent about mid-day, the townsmen, who were informed of the hour he was expected, had assembled in the street that he was to pass through; as soon as they saw him, they began to murmur, and put their heads close together, saying, “Here comes one who is too much the master, and wants to order in Flanders according to his will and pleasure, which must not be longer borne.” With this they had also spread a rumour through the town, that Jacob von Artaveld had collected all the revenues of Flanders, for nine years and more; that he had usurped the government without rendering an account, for he did not allow any of the rents to pass to the earl of Flanders, but kept them securely to maintain his own state, and had, during the time above mentioned, received all fines and forfeitures: of this great treasure he had sent part into England. This information inflamed those of Ghent with rage; and, as he was riding up the streets, he perceived that there was something in agitation against him; for those who were wont to salute him very respectfully, now turned their backs, and went into their houses. He began therefore to suspect all was not as usual; and as soon as he had dismounted, and entered his hôtel, he ordered the doors and windows to be shut and fastened.
Scarcely had his servants done this, when the street which he inhabited was filled from one end to the other with all sorts of people, but especially by the lowest of the mechanics. His mansion was surrounded on every side, attacked and broken into by force. Those within did all they could to defend it, and killed and wounded many: but at last they could not hold out against such vigorous attacks, for three parts of the town were there. When Jacob von Artaveld saw what efforts were making, and how hardly he was pushed, he came to a window, and, with his head uncovered, began to use humble and fine language, saying, “My good people, what aileth you? Why are you so enraged against me? by what means can I have incurred your displeasure? Tell me, and I will conform myself entirely to your wills.” Those who had heard him made answer, as with one voice, “We want to have an account of the great treasures you have made away with, without any title of reason.” Artaveld replied in a soft tone, “Gentlemen, be assured that I have never taken any thing from the treasures of Flanders; and if you will return quietly to your homes, and come here to-morrow morning, I will be provided to give so good an account of them, that you must reasonably be satisfied.” But they cried out, “No, no, we must have it directly, you shall not thus escape from us; for we know that you have emptied the treasury, and sent it into England, without our knowledge: you therefore shall suffer death.” When he heard this, he clasped his hands together, began to weep bitterly, and said, “Gentlemen, such as I am, you yourselves have made me: you formerly swore you would protect me against all the world; and now, without any reason, you want to murder me. You are certainly masters to do it, if you please; for I am but one man against you all. Think better of it, for the love of God: recollect former times, and consider how many favours and kindnesses I have conferred upon you. You wish to give me a sorry recompense for all the generous deeds you have experienced at my hands. You are not ignorant, that, when commerce was dead in this country, it was I who restored it. I afterwards governed you in so peaceable a manner, that under my administration you had all things according to your wishes; corn, oats, riches, and all sorts of merchandise which have made you so wealthy.” They began to bawl out, “Come down, and do not preach to us from such a height; for we will have an account and statement of the great treasures of Flanders, which you have governed too long without rendering any account; and it is not proper for an officer to receive the rents of a lord, or of a country, without accounting for them.” When Jacob von Artaveld saw that he could not appease or calm them, he shut the window, and intended getting out of his house the back way, to take shelter in a church adjoining; but his hôtel was already broke into on that side, and upwards of four hundred were there calling out for him. At last he was seized by them, and slain without mercy: his death-stroke was given him by a sadler, called Thomas Denys. In this manner did Jacob von Artaveld end his days, who in his time had been complete master of Flanders. Poor men first raised him, and wicked men slew him. News of this event was soon spread abroad: some pitied him, whilst others rejoiced at it. The earl Lewis had remained all this time in Dendremonde, and with much pleasure heard of Jacob von Artaveld’s death, as he had very much opposed him in all his undertakings: nevertheless, he durst not yet place confidence in those of Flanders, nor return to Ghent.
When the king of England, who was waiting at Sluys for the return of the deputies, was informed in what manner the inhabitants of Ghent had slain his faithful fried and companions Artaveld, he was in a mighty passion, and sore displeased. He immediately departed, put to sea, and vowed vengeance against the Flemings and all Flanders, declaring that his death should be dearly paid for by them. The councils of the principal towns guessed that the king of England would not be much enraged against them; they therefore considered that their best method to soften his anger, would be to go and excuse themselves from the murder of Jacob von Artaveld, especially those of Bruges, Ypres, Courtray, Oudenarde, and the franc of Bruges. They sent to the king and his council for a safe conduct, that they might come over to make their excuses; and the king, whose anger was somewhat cooled, granted it to them.
The principal persons of all the chief towns in Flanders, except those of Ghent, came into England about Michaelmas. The king was at that time in Westminster, near London. They made very fair excuses, and swore most solemnly that “they were guiltless of the murder of von Artaveld, which, had they suspected, they would have guarded and defended him: that they were exceedingly vexed at his loss, and regretted it most sincerely; for they knew how kind he had been to them, how useful he was in all their affairs, and that he had reigned and governed Flanders most wisely: that since those of Ghent had slain him, they should make ample amends for it. They also explained to the king and his council, “that though Jacob von Artaveld was dead, he was not the less beloved, or less in the good graces of the Flemings, save and except in the investiture of Flanders, which he wished to be taken from the earl, their natural lord, however he may be attached to the French interest, and from his son, their lawful heir, to give it to the prince of Wales; for the Flemings would not, on any account, listen to it. But, dear sir, you have a fine family of sons and daughters: the prince of Wales, your eldest son, cannot fail being a great prince, with an ample inheritance, without desiring that of Flanders: and you have also a young daughter; we have too a young lord, whom we are bringing up and taking care of, that will be lord of Flanders: it perhaps may be, that a marriage could be brought about between them, so that the county of Flanders will in the end be possessed by one of your children.” These speeches softened very much the anger and ill-will of the king of England; and, in the end, both he and the Flemings were equally satisfied with each other. Thus, by degrees, was the death of Jacob von Artaveld forgotten.