Charles I, Count of Flanders

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Charles the Good
Blessed Charles the Good.jpg
Statue in the Basilica of the Holy Blood, Bruges
Born 1084
Odense, Denmark
Died (1127-03-02)2 March 1127
Bruges, County of Flanders (now Belgium)
Beatified 1884
Feast 2 March

Blessed Charles the Good (1084 – 2 March 1127) was Count of Flanders from 1119 to 1127.[1] He is most remembered for his murder and its aftermath, which were chronicled by Galbert of Bruges.


Charles was born in Denmark, only son of the three children of King Canute IV (Saint Canute) and Adela of Flanders.[1] His father was assassinated in Odense Cathedral in 1086, and Adela fled back to Flanders, taking the very young Charles with her but leaving her twin daughters Ingeborg and Cecilia in Denmark. Charles grew up at the comital court of his grandfather Robert I and uncle Robert II. In 1092 Adela went to southern Italy to marry Roger Borsa, duke of Apulia, leaving Charles in Flanders.

Charles was a knight in the crusades from 1108 to 1110, although his role in the conflict is uncertain.[2] Charles travelled to the Holy Land in 1107 or 1108 with a fleet of English, Danes and Flemings.[3] This is possibly the fleet of Guynemer of Boulogne, described similarly. He was offered the crown of the Kingdom of Jerusalem but refused for reasons unknown.[4]

In 1111 Robert II died, and Charles' cousin Baldwin VII became count. Charles was a close advisor to the new count (who was several years younger), who around 1118 arranged Charles' marriage to the heiress of the count of Amiens, Margaret of Clermont, daughter of Renaud II, Count of Clermont. The childless count Baldwin was wounded fighting for the king of France in September 1118, and he designated Charles as his successor before he died on 17 July 1119.[5]

In 1125 Charles expelled Jews from Flanders, attributed to them the great famine which afflicted his domains in that year.[6] During the famine, Charles distributed bread to the poor, and took action to prevent grain from being hoarded and sold at excessively high prices. Prodded by his advisors, he also began proceedings to reduce the influential Erembald family, which was heavily engaged in this activity, to the status of serfs. As a result, Fr. Bertulf FitzErembald, provost of the church of St. Donatian,[7] the most important church in Bruges, masterminded a conspiracy to assassinate Charles and his advisors.

On the morning of 2 March 1127, as Charles knelt in prayer in the church of St. Donatian, a group of knights answering to the Erembald family entered the church and hacked him to death with broadswords. The brutal and sacrilegious murder of the popular count provoked a massive public outrage, and he was almost immediately regarded popularly as a martyr and saint, although not formally beatified until 1882.[8]

The Erembalds, who had planned and carried out the murder of Charles, were arrested and tortured to death by the enraged nobles and commoners of Bruges and Ghent. King Louis VI of France, who had supported the revolt against the Erembalds, used his influence to select his own candidate, William Clito, as the next Count of Flanders.



  1. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Charles (Count of Flanders)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 933–934. 
  2. ^ "A Database of Crusaders to the Holy Land, 1095-1149". 
  3. ^ Gilbert of Bruges. The Murder, Betrayal, and Slaughter of the Glorious Charles, Count of Flanders. pp. 25, fn 76. 
  4. ^ Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The First Crusaders, 1095-1131. p. 176. 
  5. ^ Marique, Pierre. "Flanders." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 11 Jan. 2013
  6. ^ "Ghent", Jewish Encyclopedia
  7. ^ later the cathedral of the bishop of Bruges, but not until 1562
  8. ^ At the Petit Palais Museum in Paris there is a remarkable painting of his funeral by the Belgian artist Jan van Beers (1852–1927).


  • Galbert of Bruges, The Murder, Betrayal, and Slaughter of the Glorious Charles, Count of Flanders, translated by Jeff Rider, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2013, ISBN 9780300152302 ([1])
  • Galbert of Bruges, The Murder of Charles the Good, translated, with an introduction and notes by James Bruce Ross ISBN 0-8020-6479-5
  • Laurent Feller, L'assassinat de Charles le Bon comte de Flandre: 2 mars 1127, Paris, Perrin, 2012, ISBN 978-2262035280
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan, The First Crusaders, 1095-1131, Cambridge University Press, London, 1997
  • A Database of Crusaders to the Holy Land, 1095-1149 (on-line)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Baldwin VII
Blason Comte-de-Flandre.svg Count of Flanders
Succeeded by