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Calais: An English Town in France, 1347-1558

Calais: An English Town in France, 1347-1558

Susan Rose
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 200
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81h8v
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  • Book Info
    Calais: An English Town in France, 1347-1558
    Book Description:

    The capture of Calais by Edward III was an exploit which, coming shortly after his victory at Crecy, carried his fame as a warrior to the furthest corners of Europe. The melodramatic incident at the end of the siege with the leading citizens pleading for their lives brought the king even more public notice. Equally well known is the sad remark of Mary Queen of England in 1558 that, following its loss to the French, the name of Calais would be graven on her heart. This book fills in the gap between these two milestones. It allows the reader to understand not only the military and political importance of the town for the English but also its key role in the English economy. Utilising the richness of the personal sources surviving, from the mid fifteenth century to the last years of English rule, it also provides a more intimate picture of the vibrant life of the town with its crowds of courtiers, soldiers and merchants all enjoying and profiting from the opportunities offered by 'an English town in France'. Dr SUSAN ROSE is an Associate Lecturer at the Open University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-615-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. INTRODUCTION: ENGLAND AND FRANCE IN THE MID FOURTEENTH CENTURY
    (pp. 1-6)

    After Edward iii of England had taken the town of Calais, following a siege lasting just under a year, Froissart describes how the king called his marshals to him and puts these words into his mouth:

    Sirs, take these keys of the town and castle of Calais and go and assume possession of them. Take the knights who are there and make them prisoners or else put them on parole: they are gentlemen and I will trust them on their word. All other soldiers, who have been serving there for pay, are to leave the place just as they are...

  7. 1 THE SIEGE AND CAPTURE OF THE TOWN: EDWARD III AND THE BURGHERS OF CALAIS
    (pp. 7-22)

    The town of Calais might appear at first sight to be an odd choice for the expenditure of so much time, effort and money and so many men on its capture. It was less than two hundred years old, having been founded around 1165 by Matthew of Alsace, count of Boulogne, at much the same time as his brother Philip, count of Flanders, had set up Gravelines some miles to the north east along the coast. Both towns lay sheltered behind the sand dunes that fronted the sea on the flat coastal plain of Flanders. Around Calais the terrain was...

  8. 2 A NEW RULER AND A NEW REGIME: THE TOWN AND THE GARRISON IN THE EARLY YEARS OF ENGLISH RULE
    (pp. 23-38)

    The prestige that touched those associated with the siege of Calais is well illustrated by the elaborate tomb of Sir Hugh Hastings in the church at Elsing in Norfolk. Hastings, who had been present at Sluys and in 1346 had fought alongside the Flemish in the border region, died at Calais, probably of disease, four days before the town surrendered. His memorial brass lauds his career and, by its elaboration and evident considerable expense, reveals the gains to be made by an individual from the French wars. He had been raised from ‘well-born obscurity to great renown’.¹ His effigy is...

  9. 3 SETTING UP THE STAPLE: A NEW ROLE FOR CALAIS
    (pp. 39-53)

    If Calais was to be more than a garrison town, it needed a sound commercial base. Edward iii’s action in encouraging new immigrants to settle in the town immediately after the siege, luring them by the grant of property, showed a sound understanding of this fact. We can interpret the establishment of a staple for lead, feathers, cloth and tin in Calais in early 1348, and the exemption of Calais burgesses from all dues except royal customs on trade with England, as further attempts to make it a desirable place for traders to base themselves. Without, however, going as far...

  10. 4 TRIUMPH AND DISASTER: HENRY V, THE COLLAPSE OF THE ANGLO-BURGUNDIAN ALLIANCE AND THE RESURGENCE OF FRANCE
    (pp. 54-72)

    At the end of 1396, Calais and its immediate surroundings were the scene of a major diplomatic encounter, following the signing of a truce between Charles VI of France and Richard II of England. The elaborate ceremonies surrounding the marriage of Richard to Isabella, the seven-year-old daughter of the French king, were conducted at the same time. These events were the culmination of prolonged negotiations and preparations, but they finally took place after the expenditure of much time and a great deal of money. The meeting between the kings was held at a specially prepared encampment outside Ardres. Full details...

  11. 5 CALAIS AS A BASE FOR POLITICAL INTRIGUE: YORKISTS, LANCASTRIANS AND THE EARL OF WARWICK
    (pp. 73-94)

    It might be thought that the humiliation of Burgundian arms following the ignominious end of the siege in 1436 would have led to a notable increase in the security of Calais. The alarm at the prospect of the Burgundian attack and the palpable relief at its complete failure might have also provided an opportunity for the English to take stock of this possession of the Crown in which so much money and effort was invested. That neither of these things happened is an indication of the competing interests centred on the town. On the one hand, the fact that the...

  12. 6 THE HEYDAY OF THE COMPANY OF THE STAPLE: THE MERCHANTS AND THEIR LIVES
    (pp. 95-111)

    The Act of Retainer, particularly after its confirmation by parliament in 1473, marked the beginning of a period of relative stability for the Company of the Staple. Although the company had taken on heavy responsibilities with regard to the payment of the garrison and the upkeep of the fortifications of Calais by the terms of the Act, it was reasonable to suppose that the wool trade would be prosperous enough to bear these burdens, and that the Staplers would see their loans to the Crown gradually repaid. The cycle of the soldiers’ wages being in arrears, followed by threatened or...

  13. 7 RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL CHANGE: HENRY VII, HENRY VIII AND THE REFORMATION
    (pp. 112-133)

    The way in which Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, had used his tenure of the Captaincy of Calais to establish a base in the town, which could serve the purpose of advancing his personal interests rather than those of the Crown, provided a lesson to Edward IV and subsequent rulers that they were not eager to forget. Edward and his successors tied the town and its forces much more closely to allegiance to the Crown. Those who would once have been called Captain were now designated Lieutenant (from 1471) or Deputy (after 1508); their power and authority clearly came from...

  14. 8 THE TOWN AND TRADE: THE FORTUNES OF THE COMPANY OF THE STAPLE AND OF THE JOHNSON PARTNERSHIP
    (pp. 134-152)

    We are fortunate that Calais in the early sixteenth century was extensively surveyed by royal officials. There is thus in existence a collection of plans or ‘platts’, to use the contemporary expression, sketches of the town and prominent places in the Pale, and terriers and rentals with details of all the landholdings.¹ The sketch of Calais from the sea (Figure 4) gives an overall impression of the town; the prominent landmarks are the day watch-tower, the bell-tower of the town hall and the spires of the two churches enclosed within the circle of its walls, St Nicholas and Our Lady....

  15. 9 THE END OF THE STORY: THE LOSS OF CALAIS TO THE FRENCH
    (pp. 153-171)

    Despite the extravagant remark of Phillippe de Crèvecœur in 1489 that he would happily spend two years in Hell if he could have the pleasure of chasing the English out of Calais,¹ the English in the Pale usually felt secure behind their defences. The Celys and the Johnsons displayed greater concern in their letters over events in the Low Countries and the Empire than in France. It has been suggested, however, that, after the French had recovered Boulogne in 1550,² there was in fact much to fear from France, and that French attention definitively moved away from Italian adventures towards...

  16. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 172-174)

    Edward iii and his successors poured money and men into Calais and what became known as the Pale for over 200 years, yet, when it was lost, the ripples created in English society seem to have subsided quickly. Within a relatively short space of time, all that was left was a vague remembrance that the town had once been an English possession. More recent historians, indeed, often tend to pass over its loss with the barest of mentions, virtually all seeing the fall of the town as a blessing in disguise, since this ended the need to finance the garrison...

  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 175-182)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 183-188)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 189-189)