HE was son of St. Canutus king of Denmark, and of Alice of Flanders, who, after the death of his father, carried him, then an infant, into Flanders, in 1086. His cousin-german Baldwin the Seventh, earl of Flanders, dying without issue in 1119, left him his heir by will, on account of his extraordinary valour and merit. The young earl was a perfect model of all virtues, especially devotion, charity, and humility. Among his friends and courtiers, he loved those best who admonished him of his faults the most freely. He frequently exhausted his treasury on the poor, and often gave the clothes off his back to be sold for their relief. He served them with his own hands, and distributed clothes and bread to them in all places where he came. It was observed that in Ipres he gave away, in one day, no less than seven thousand eight hundred loaves. He took care for their sake to keep the price of corn and provisions always low, and he made wholesome laws to protect them from the oppressions of the great. This exasperated Bertulf, who had tyrannically usurped the provostship of St. Donatian’s in Bruges, to which dignity was annexed the chancellorship of Flanders, and his wicked relations the great oppressors of their country. In this horrible conspiracy they were joined by Erembald, castellan or chief magistrate of the territory of Bruges, with his five sons, provoked against their sovereign because he had repressed their unjust violences against the noble family De Straten. The holy earl went every morning barefoot to perform his devotions early before the altar of the Blessed Virgin in St. Donatian’s church. Going thither one day, he was informed of a conspiracy; but answered: “We are always surrounded by dangers, but we belong to God. If it be his will, can we die in a better cause than that of justice and truth?” Whilst he was reciting the penitential psalms before the altar, the conspirators rushing in, his head was cloven by Fromold Borchard, nephew to Bertulf, in 1124. He was buried in St. Christopher’s church at Bruges not in that of St. Donatian, as Pantoppidan proves. Borchard was broken alive on the wheel, and Bertulf was hung on a rack at Ipres, and exposed on it to be torn by furious dogs, and at length was stoned to death by beggars whilst he remained on that engine. St. Charles’s shrine was placed by an order of Charles Philip Rodoan, fourth bishop of Bruges, in 1606, in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin, and ever since the year 1610 an high mass in honour of the Trinity is sung on his festival. See the life of this good earl by Walter, archdeacon of Terouenne, and more fully by Gualbert, syndic of Bruges, and by Ælnoth, a monk of Canterbury and Danish missionary at that time. See also Molanus and Miræus in their martyrologies; Henschenius, p. 158. Robertus de Monte in Append. ad Chronicon Sigeberti ad an. 1127. Jac. Maierus, Annal. Flandriæ, l. 4, p. 45, 46. Likewise Ericus Pantoppidanus in his Gesta Danorum extra Daniam. Hafniæ, 1740, t. 2. sec. 1. c. 5. sec. 32. p. 398.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume III: March.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866. March 2.