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War of the Cow (1275-1278)

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Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders and Marquess of Namur, main protagonist of the war
Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders and Marquess of Namur, main protagonist of the war.

The Guerre de la Vache (War of the Cow), is the most famous feudal conflict that occured between the Prince-bishopric of Liège and the Marquisate of Namur. It effectively brought into war all the major powers of the Southern Netherlands, who supported either side: the Count of Flanders (who was also Marquess of Namur), the Count of Luxembourg (ally of Namur), the Duke of Brabant (ally of Liège), and even the King of France.

The war wreaked havoc in most of the Condroz (the hilly region south of Namur, Huy and Liege), destroying 60 villages and killing some 15,000 people.

The conflict started when a peasant from the village of Jallet, of the seigneury of Goesnes, stole a cow from a bourgeois of Ciney, which belonged to Principality of Liège and tried to sell it at a fair in Andenne, under the jurisdiction of Namur.

The owner recognised his cow and notified it to the bailiff of Condroz in Ciney. The bailiff promised to spare the peasant's life if he returned the cow, but as soon as he did, the bailiff's men hanged him.

The lord of Goesnes, who coveted the position of bailiff of Condroz, pretexted that his peseant had been executed without his consent to organised an expedition with the lords of Spontin and Celles and destroyed the castle of Halloy. John of Halloy responded by setting fire to the seigneury of Goesnes. John of Goesnes then asked the aid of Guy de Dampierre, Count of Flanders and Marquess of Namur.

The coalition of Goesnes, Spontin and Celles now helped by the powerful Guy de Dampierre, besieged and destroyed Ciney. The Prince-bishop of Liège, John of Enghien, then sent his troops from Dinant to attack nearby Spontin. The war finally came to an end when the King Philip III of France intervened in 1278.

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