Calais Captured and Colonised
The 4th of August 1347 AD
The dynastic conflict that we now call The Hundred Years War was already in its tenth year when Edward III’s raiding army was cornered at Crecy , but emerged victorious. His exhausted troops continued northwards, aiming to reach their allies in Flanders, or perhaps cross the Channel from one of the French ports en route.
On September 4 1346 the English arrived at Calais and began a siege of the exceptionally well fortified town – Calais had two moats to protect it, solid walls built in the previous century, marshy ground around it that made using siege engines difficult, and the port for re-supply. The siege lasted until August 4 1347, prolonged by several major supply convoys breaching the English sea blockade. Eventually, however, it was hunger that forced the surrender of the town. The French King Philip stood his army safely off, perhaps initially fearing a repetition of Crecy, then outnumbered when Flanders sent reinforcements to join Edward.
The surrender is remembered for Edward , persuaded by his Queen, showing mercy to the burghers of Calais he had wanted to slaughter. His advisors had earlier pushed him to spare the populace on the grounds that in future the boot may be on the other foot. The inhabitants were fed, then ejected from the town. Calais, long a pirate base, provided rich pickings for the English army; and soon it was an English colony, run by English administrators ( Dick Whittington one of its mayors later) and developed economically by English merchants. Calais and territory around it remained an English possession for more than 200 years: Henry VIII ’s meeting with Francis I at The Field of the Cloth of Gold was held at its edge. Only in 1558 did Mary I, engaged in a foolish war with France for the benefit of her Spanish husband, lose what had become the last toe-hold of England in France.
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