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Count of Flanders

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Count of Flanders

Coat of arms of the Counts of Flanders.

The Count of Flanders was the ruler or sub-ruler of the county of Flanders from the 9th century. The title was held for a time by the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Spain, until it was effectively abolished during the French Revolution after 1790 when the region was annexed to France. The title has also twice been granted to younger sons of the King of the Belgians, the most recent holder dying in 1983.

Although the early rulers, from Arnulf I onwards, were sometimes referred to as margraves or marquesses, this alternate title largely fell out of use by the 12th century. Since then the rulers of Flanders have only been referred to as Counts.

The Counts of Flanders enlarged their estate through a series of diplomatic manoeuvres. The counties of Hainaut, Namur, Béthune, Nevers, Auxerre, Rethel, Burgundy, and Artois were acquired via marriage with the respective heiresses. The County of Flanders itself suffered the same fate. By the marriage of Countess Margaret III with Philip II, Duke of Burgundy, the county and the subsidiary counties entered a personal union with the Duchy of Burgundy in 1405. The county itself ceased to exist in 1795.

The Counts of Flanders were also associated with the Duchy of Brittany prior to its union with France. Count Baldwin VII married Hawise, the daughter of Alan IV, Duke of Brittany. Later Joan, the daughter of Arthur II, Duke of Brittany, married the second son of Count Robert III. The granddaughter of Count Robert III, and the daughter of his son, Count Louis I, Joanna of Flanders married John Montfort. During his imprisionment, she fought on behalf of Montfort, alongside English allies, during the Breton War of Succession for the Ducal crown, which was won definitively by her son John V, Duke of Brittany. It was through this House of Montfort that the Duchy of Brittany was eventually joined to the throne of France.

List of Counts of Flanders

House of Flanders

House of Estridsen

House of Normandy

House of Alsace or House of Metz

House of Flanders

In 1244, the Counties of Flanders and Hainaut were claimed by Margaret II's sons, the half-brothers John I of Avesnes and William III of Dampierre in the War of the Succession of Flanders and Hainault. In 1246, King Louis IX of France awarded Flanders to William.

House of Dampierre

  • William I (r. 1247-1251), son of Margaret II and William II of Dampierre
  • Guy I (r. 1251-1305), son of Margaret II and William II of Dampierre, imprisoned 1253-1256 by John I of Avesnes, also Count of Namur
  • Robert III ("the Lion of Flanders") (r. 1305-1322), son of Guy
  • Louis I (r. 1322-1346), grandson of Robert III
  • Louis II (r. 1346-1384), son of Louis I
  • Margaret III (r. 1384-1405), daughter of Louis II,

House of Burgundy

House of Habsburg

Charles V proclaimed the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 eternally uniting Flanders with the other lordships of the Low Countries in a personal union. When the Habsburg empire was divided among the heirs of Charles V, the Low Countries, including Flanders, went to Philip II of Spain, of the Spanish branch of the House of Habsburg.

Between 1706 and 1714 Flanders was invaded by the English and the Dutch during the War of the Spanish Succession. The fief was claimed by the House of Habsburg and the House of Bourbon. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht settled the succession and the County of Flanders went to the Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg.

  • Charles V (r. 1714-1740), great grandson of Philip III, also Holy Roman Emperor (elect)
  • Maria Theresa (r. 1740-1780), daughter of Charles IV, jointly with
  • Joseph I (r. 1780-1790), son of Maria Theresa and Francis I
  • Leopold (r. 1790-1792), son of Maria Theresa and Francis I
  • Francis II (r. 1792-1835), son of Leopold, also Holy Roman Emperor

The title was abolished de facto after revolutionary France annexed Flanders in 1795. The Emperor Francis II relinquished his claim to the Low Countries in the Treaty of Campo Formio of 1797, and the area remained part of France until the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Modern Usage

House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

In modern times, from 1840 onwards, the substantive title Count of Flanders has been granted to two younger sons of the Kings of the Belgians (Latin: rex Belgarum). The second of these died in 1983, since when the title has not been conferred again.

House of Bourbon

The title Count of Flanders is one of the titles of the Spanish Crown. It is a historical title which is only nominally and ceremonially used.

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