The Legend of Ulenspiegel by Charles de Coster Book I Chapter 28

In these days, the noble town of Ghent refused to pay her quota of the subsidy her son Charles the Emperor had asked of her. She could not, being void of money through the very doings of Charles. This was a great crime; he determined to go in his own person to chastise her.

For more than any other is a son’s cudgel grievous to the back of a mother.

Fran?ois of the long nose, his foe, offered him free passage through the land of France. Charles accepted, and instead of being held a prisoner he was feasted and cherished imperially. ’Tis a sovereign concord between princes to help one another against the peoples.

Charles stayed long at Valenciennes without making any show of anger. Ghent, his mother, lived free from fear, in the certain belief that the Emperor, her son, would pardon her for having acted as was her lawful right.

Charles arrived beneath the city walls with four thousand horse. D’Alba was with him, so was the Prince of Orange. The common folk and the men of petty trades had wanted to prevent this filial entry, and to call out the eighty thousand men of the town and the flat country; the men of substance, the so-called hoogh-poorters, opposed this, fearing the predominance of the lower orders. Ghent could in this way have made mincemeat of her son and his four thousand horse. But she loved him too well, and even the petty traders had resumed their trust in him.

Charles also loved his mother, but for the money he held in his coffers from her, and the further moneys he meant to have from her.

Having made himself master of the town, he set up military posts everywhere, and had Ghent patrolled by rounds night and day. Then he pronounced, with all pomp and ceremony, his sentence upon the town.

The most eminent citizens must come before his throne, with ropes about their necks, and make full public confession of their misdeeds: Ghent was declared guilty of the most expensive crimes, which are: disloyalty, treaty-breaking, disobedience, sedition, rebellion, and treason. The Emperor declared all and sundry privileges, rights, franchises, customs, and usages void and abolished; stipulating and engaging the future, as though he were God, that thenceforward his successors on their entering into their seigniory would swear to observe nothing save only the Caroline Concession of slavery granted by him to the town.
He had the Abbey of Saint Bavon pulled down in order to rear on its site a fortress from which he could pierce his mother’s bosom with cannon shot.

Like a good son eager to come into his inheritance, he confiscated all that belonged to Ghent, revenues, houses, artillery, munitions of war.

Finding her over well defended, he knocked down the Red Tower, the Toad’s Hole Tower, the Braampoort, the Steenpoort, the Waalpoort, the Ketelpoort, and many others wrought and carven like jewels in stone.

When strangers thereafter came to Ghent, they said to one another:

“What is this flat, desolate town whose wonders and praises were sung so loudly?”

And the folk of Ghent would make answer:

“The Emperor Charles hath taken her precious girdle from the good town.”

And so saying they were shamed and wroth. And from the ruins of the gates the Emperor had the bricks for his fortress.

He would have Ghent poor, for thus neither by toil nor industry nor gold could she oppose his haughty plans; therefore he condemned her to pay the refused quota of the subsidy, four hundred thousand gold carolus, and besides this, one hundred and fifty thousand carolus down and six thousand every year in perpetuity. She had lent him money: he was to pay one hundred and fifty pounds interest yearly. He took possession by force of the deeds recording his debt and paying it in this way, he actually enriched himself.

Many a time had Ghent given him love and succour, but he now smote her bosom with a dagger, seeking blood from it because he found not enough milk there.

Then he looked upon Roelandt, the great bell, and hanged from the clapper the fellow who had sounded the alarm to call the city to defend her right. He had no mercy for Roelandt, his mother’s tongue, the tongue with which she spoke to Flanders: Roelandt, the proud bell, which saith of himself:

Als men my slaet dan is’t brandt.
Als men my luyt dan is’t storm in Vlaenderlandt.

When they ring me there is fire.
When they toll me there is storm in Flanders.

Finding that his mother spoke too loud and free, he took away the bell. And the folk of the flat country say that Ghent died because her son had torn out her tongue with his iron pincers.