Christine de Lalaing, Princess of Epinoy
You cannot visit the square named Grand-Place de Tournai, without noticing the statue of Christine de Lalaing. Hair flowing in the wind, dressed in combat armour and wielding an axe, she looks the true warrior. She was married to Pierre de Melun, Prince of Epinoy, and, during her husband’s absence, fought the Spanish troops of Alessandro Farnese on Tournai soil. Her bravery and heroic behaviour during the siege of Tournai in 1581 earned her the gratitude and eternal respect of every Tournai resident. In fact, did you know that she is the first woman ever to have been honoured by such an impressive monument in a Walloon public space?
Gabrielle Petit is one of the female icons of Belgian patriotism. She was born in Tournai on 20th February 1893 and, at the age of 23, was executed by a firing squad during the First World War, in Schaerbeek, on 1st April 1916. She was a trained nurse and, during the War, became a spy for the Allies. She gathered and passed on information on the position and movement of enemy troops in the areas around Maubeuge and Lille. Just before her execution, she pronounced these words which are still etched in our memory: “I will show them that a Belgian woman knows how to die!”
In May 1924, a statue was erected in her honour against the wall of Saint-Brice church (Place Clovis). The young woman is depicted standing tall and looking ahead. Her homeland is symbolised by a young winged woman, kissing the resistance fighter’s forehead. The monument’s engravings include the famous final words spoken by Gabrielle Petit. Every year on 11th November, a remembrance service is held here in her honour.
Louise de Bettignies, a spy named “Alice Dubois”
Louise de Bettignies is a First World War heroine who was born in 1880 at Saint-Amand-les-Eaux (a French town located 20 km from Tournai). When the war started, Louise lived in Lille with her sister. She was a fervent patriot and played her part in defending the town alongside other partisans. Thanks to her gift for foreign languages (English, German and Italian) she succeeded in setting up an information network for the English army, adopting the pseudonym of “Alice Dubois". Arrested in Tournai on 20th October 1915, she was initially sentenced to death in Brussels on 16th March 1916, but this was transformed into a life sentence of hard labour. She died on 27 September 1918, just a few weeks before the armistice.