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The Murder of Charles the Good

Since I, Galbert, did not have a place to write–placed as I was in the midst of a great welter of events and many burning houses (set on fire by flaming arrows shot at night onto the roofs of the town both by those besieged within the castle and by freebooters outside who hoped to have a chance for looting), surrounded by dangers during the night and skirmishes during the day–I noted down a summary of events on wax tablets until finally, in a longed-for moment of peace during the night or day, I could set this present description in order according to the sequence of events. And thus constrained, I transcribed for the faithful what you see and read.

These words come from one of the most interesting and unusual texts from the Middle Ages. Known as The Murder of Charles the Good, it is account of how Charles I, Count of Flanders, is murdered in 1127 and the chaos and warfare that grips Flanders in the days and weeks after.

The text was written shortly after these events by Galbert of Bruges, a notary who worked for Count Charles. This the only work that we know he wrote, and is remarkable account of events in 12th century Flanders.  The work describes how the powerful Erembald family orchestrates a conspiracy to murder the count, and on March 2, 1127, a group of assailants strike, killing Charles as he prayed in the Church of St. Donation in Bruges.  This sets off a chain of events, where the county falls into chaos, with various supporters of Charles trying to hunt down the Erembald family, while several nobles attempt to lay claim to the count’s throne.

For more details about the book, please see our video:

The translation of this work, by James Bruce Ross, has been in print for over fifty years, and is one of the most read books about the Middle Ages. An online version of the book is available here.  

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