“Hello, my name is Artevelde.
Full name: Jacob Van Artevelde. My name tells you that my family came from Ertevelde. This also means we came in peace. To bring prosperity to Ghent.
First there was my father Jan, who was a soldier who fought in the Battle of the Golden Spurs. And then there was me, unashamedly black and white from Ghent, a cloth merchant and broker, and I possessed a great deal of land. Yes, I admit it, you can class me as a well-to-do bourgeoisie.
Something to do
I was also a man of the people.
I enjoyed my beer, and I drank it from a mug. I led the revolt of Ghent against the French and grew in my role as a statesman. The Hundred Years War with England meant we were prevented from trading with our business partners from across the Channel. How was I – who they called the “wise man” – going to change that?
Well, on 6 January 1340, here in Ghent, we crowned the Englishman Edward III as King of France. This allowed the wool trade to be re-established with England. Everyone in Ghent thought it was wonderful.
I thought about many things.
How could I make sure people got along? I developed a city alliance between Ghent, Bruges and Ypres. And I gave Flemish officials – yes, they even existed back then – the freedom to use Flemish in addition to Latin and French. Cheers, prosit, santé, gezondheid!
Drink an Artevelde on me
Despite my good intentions, not everything went well with everyone, what can you say? When I returned from negotiations with the English king on 24 July 1345, I was deprived of my head in the courtyard of my house here in Ghent on the Kalandeberg. The weapon? A hatchet. The perpetrator? Thomas Denijs, a weaver.
But I don’t know much more about it. Maybe we should have gone to the microbrewery on the Botermarkt to drink an Artevelde first. It’s close by, and maybe we would have found common ground and avoided my grisly end.