Schild en Vriend !
Throughout history mankind always made war. In battles and skirmishes where two parties fight each
other, it is of utmost importance to be able to differentiate between friend and foe. One possibility to do this is the use of uniforms. But
around 1302 the town militias barely started to wear uniform like clothing. In the heat of the battle where a few hundred or more warriors
are engaged in hand to hand combat, the visual recognition of friend and foe is practically impossible. Avoiding attacking your own
comrades needs other measures to be taken. Here the battle cry comes in. A predefined cry or little sentence is continuously shouted in
order to recognise each other. From the moment a soldier gets eye to eye with an opponent, a fraction of a second is enough to decide
between life and death.
An illustration of 'war' as a horseman of the apocalypse in a French manuscript. The interesting fact is that
the horseman is the count of Flanders!
The soldier in a war situation knows fear for the enemy and death. One of the most effective ways to
overcome this fear is to scan battle cries. Medieval battlefields were no holiday camps. Most warriors were simple people that were hired
or forced into the army just for the duration of the campaign. Scanning cries in group is a powerful instrument to feel united and encourage each other.
Scilt ende Vrient
When Jacques de Châtillon rode into Bruges on May 17th 1302 with some 800 armed French, most of
the Liebaarts were already banned. The impressive entering of the guardian frightened the Brugeois who thought that he had come to
strike down the rebellion in a violent way. So they called back the banned Liebaarts. Word was spread that during early morning the
French and their helpers would be attacked. A battle cry was chosen in order to be recognised as Liebaart and to differentiate from the
French. The phrase "Scilt ende Vrient" was taken from a famous prayer used to beg God for assistance in battle. It literally means "Shield
A useful benefit of this cry was the fact that French speaking people have a hard time pronouncing these
words in the correct way. At dawn of May 18th 1302 a few thousand Liebaarts enter Bruges, shouting "Scilt ende Vrient!". The French
are butchered, made prisoner or evicted.
Vlaendren ende Leeu
During the battle of Courtrai a different battle cry was necessary. It were not longer just the Brugeois who
were in danger, but the future of the whole county of Flanders was in jeopardy here. The chosen battle cry was as clear as evident. People
fought for Flanders in Courtrai, and the symbol of Flanders was the charge on the count's shield: the lion. The phrase "Vlaendren die Leeu"
("Flanders the Lion") was all the more at its right place because two members of the count's family were present: William of Jülich and Guy of
Namur. Both men held the military leadership of the rebellion.
The French army used a battle cry too. The exact meaning of a "montjoie" is not known, but apparently it
refers to heaps of stone used as beacons during the crusades. In later times the "Oriflamme", a special French banner that was carried at
most important battles, became connected with the word. The banner was kept in the abbey of Saint-Denis, where the French kings found
their last resting-place. Saint-Denis was the patron saint of France.
Hence the cry "Montjoie Saint Denis", or the statement of faith in the Oriflamme and strong believe in the
protection of Saint-Denis.
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