Located in northern France on the river Deule, the city of Lille was founded in the Middle Ages, with a charter dating back to 1066.
The County of Flanders, which first appeared in written documents in the 9th century, was formed after the Treaties of Verdun (843). Lille became one of its capitals and centers of commerce.
Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, inherited the city after Charlemagne's death; he in turn bequeathed it to his daughter, Gisele. Thus, through a clever matrimonial policy, the city of Lille experienced the rise in power of the Counts of Flanders until the middle of the 14th century. Together with Dijon and Brussels, the city became one of the three capitals of the Burgundy states. At their peak of influence, the region stretched from Holland to the the region of Franche-Comté in central France.
The tragic death of Charles the Reckless (the last Duke of Burgundy) in 1477 put a sudden end to the splendors of the court. Years later, Louis XIV had to use all his power and determination to annex Lille to France in 1667, during the war of devolution.
During the French Revolution, the city was besieged by the Austrians (1792) who were on their way to Paris to free the king. The Austrians did not succeed in their task.
In the 19th century, Lille became a major industrial capital; the city expanded rapidly and annexed five nearby towns. During this time the city grew to 120,000 inhabitants.
Being so close to Belgium, Lille endured heavy bombardment during WWI and WWII.
Today, with 220,000 inhabitants, Lille is part of an urban community of 87 towns, with more than 1 million people. The city earned a 2004 nomination as a "European Capital of Culture" by the EC.
Despite early Protestant revolts from pro-Calvinists, the city has retained its cathedral. Other sites include the botanical garden and probably the world's biggest flea market, the first weekend in September, drawing traders from all over Europe.
As a crossroads of Europe, travelers based in Lille can get readily high speed train nnections to London, Brussels and Paris.
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