Today was Open Monument Day in Flanders, when various historical sites are on display and particular activities laid on for the interested public. F and I struck eastwards, to Neerwinden and to Tienen, both places which I already know well but where there was a little extra being provided.
In Neerwinden, site of a terrible battle in 1693 (and again 1793), Wim from the local historical society was providing a guided tour of the battlefield. Here he is at the chapel of the Holy Cross, north of Neerwinden, taking us over the course of the battle.
Alas, the battlefield itself doesn't give tremendously good photographs, since it is quite literally a set of fields. However another local enthusiast demonstrated the use of contemporary firearms for us:
Apart from Tristram Shandy and Lord Perth, quoted in my previous entry, Wim told us a couple more anecdotes worth following up. One concerns the Duke of Berwick, son of James II and Arabella Churchill, who was fighting on the French side of the battle, got cut off and tried to escape posing as an Allied officer, and had the misfortune to encounter his own uncle – not the future Duke of Marlborough but his younger brother Charles – and was captured by him. In fact, here it is in Berwick's own words:
This interests me particularly because in 1695 Berwick married Honora, the young widow of Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, who died of wounds sustained in the Battle of Neerwinden and is apparently buried in Huy. Honora's brother John was my 5x great-grandfather.
The other fascinating story, which I must now chase down, is that another of the soldiers captured during the battle (but this time the other way round, an Irish soldier fighting for the Allies but captured by the French) was actually a disguised woman, known variously as Christian Davies or Mother Ross, whose story was told many years later in a book attributed to Daniel Defoe. I must have a closer look at that.
After that F and I went into Tienen for lunch, where we bumped into a man with a Siberian eagle-owl on his arm. As you do. The owl's name is Siba.
We met up with P, who was a big part of F's school career, with her daughter M, to see what was up.
There was Roman re-enactment.
And a Celtic band.
By now P's wife E had joined us, and their older daughter S. We were treated to a very gory explanation of Roman battlefield medicine. S took it all in with such great interest, and helped out with extracting a slingshot projectile; I wonder if a medical career lies in front of her.
A lovely warm day, and the exercise did me no harm at all.