Calais Lost to the French
The 7th of January 1558 AD
The reign of Mary I is chiefly associated in our national consciousness with her religious policies, epitomised in the burning of Thomas Cranmer . After her death England quickly returned to its Protestant path; but no such reversion was possible as regards Calais, lost in the last year of her life.
Calais had been captured by Edward III in 1347 after a long and costly siege. It was quickly colonised by English merchants and those who supported their trade, French inhabitants driven out to make way for the newcomers. Calais sent MPs to Parliament in England from 1372 onwards. Dick Whittington was one of the merchants who benefitted from Calais belonging to England, in 1407 serving as its mayor at the same time as he was Mayor of London .
For two centuries the port provided English traders with a route for goods to and from Europe, and generated significant tax income for the crown. It also offered a readymade bridgehead for incursions into French territory by Henry VIII and others.
Mary was pushed by her husband Philip of Spain into a war with France that had little value to her own country. While English forces fought elsewhere the Duc de Guise captured the ill-defended port; a major army and invasion fleet was quickly prepared, but rather than striking at Calais tried and failed to capture Brest; any hope of regaining England’s foothold on the continent was soon lost.
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