Military Wiki
Siege of Calais
Part of the Italian War of 1551–1559
1838 François-Édouard Picot - The Siege of Calais.jpg
Francis at Calais. The Siege of Calais by François-Édouard Picot, 1838
Date1–8 January 1558[1]
LocationCalais, France[Note 1]
Result French victory[2][3]
Pavillon royal de la France.png Kingdom of France  Kingdom of England
Commanders and leaders
Pavillon royal de la France.png Francis, Duke of Guise Kingdom of England Thomas Wentworth, 2nd Baron Wentworth
27,000[3] 2,500
  1. At that time, Calais was officially part of the Kingdom of France, however, not controlled under the House of Valois. The monarchs of England had ruled Calais pretending King/Queen of France until then.

The Siege of Calais was fought in early 1558 during the Italian War of 1551–1559. The Pale of Calais had been ruled by England since 1347, during the Hundred Years War. By the 1550s, England was ruled by Mary I of England and her husband Philip II of Spain. When the Kingdom of England supported a Spanish invasion of France, Henry II of France sent Francis Duke of Guise against English-held Calais, defended by Lord Thomas Wentworth, Baron Wentworth. Following failure in mid-1557, a renewed attack captured the outlying forts of Nieullay and Rysbank and Calais was besieged. When the city capitulated, England lost her last territory in France.[1]


Map showing the situation of 1477, northern France and the pale of Calais.

The victory of Louis XI of France over Charles the Bold in 1477 and the annexation of Picardy to the Kingdom of France marked the end of a status quo over the possession of Calais. For nearly a century the House of Valois had preferred to turn their armies towards Italy, rich and technologically ahead of the rest of Europe, rather than take Calais. France had to fight the English on three occasions during the sixteenth century (1526, 1544, and 1547) when they attempted to extend the English possessions in Picardy. At the behest of Pope Paul IV, in 1557 France put an end to the Truce of Vaucelles which concluded the tenth Italian war, and resumed hostilities in the Kingdom of Naples. In response, the crown of Spain returned to its customary strategy since the Battle of Ceresole: it again attacked in Picardy, and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Constable of Montmorency at the Battle of St. Quentin (1557). Henry II of France had lost his best captains and the road to Paris was open to invasion. In these circumstances, Francis, Duke of Guise, who had raised an army and prepared to lead it in Italy, was recalled to Picardy and promoted to lieutenant-general of France. To avoid the intervention of an English expeditionary force, King Henry II of France arranged, in great secrecy, to attack Calais in the winter with 30,000 men assembled at Compiegne, Montreuil-sur-Mer, and Boulogne-sur-Mer.

The capture of Calais[]

In the absence of any natural defence, continued English control of Calais depended on fortifications maintained and built up at some expense. Near Calais, the Franco-Burgundian forces were frequently pitted against the English garrison forces and against the Duchy of Burgundy. Relieved by the long confrontation between Burgundy and France, English rule over Calais was able to flourish for 150 years. The French and the Burgundians each coveted the city, but preferred to see it under the English rather than their rival.

On 1 January 1558, the French vanguard invested Sangatte and Fréthun Nielles, and the Army Corps reduced the strong point of Risban the next day. On January 3, the artillery moved into Fort Nieulay at Risban. Thomas, Lord Wentworth, completely overwhelmed by a lightning attack, handed the keys of the city to the French on 7 January. The booty taken by the French was more than they had hoped for: food for three months and nearly 300 guns. The English defences of Guînes and Hames soon also fell. Henry II of France arrived at Calais on 23 January 1558. France had reconquered the last territory it had lost in the Hundred Years' War and put an end to two centuries of fighting between England and France. The new French administration made a particularly efficient demarcation of the border, created a new division of farmland, reorganized the 24 parishes, and reconstructed villages and churches.

In England there was shock and disbelief at the loss of this final Continental territory. The story goes that a few months later Queen Mary, on her death bed, told her family: "When I am dead and cut open, they will find Philip and Calais inscribed on my heart".


Lord Wentworth, the governor of the city, and the English inhabitants of Calais and Guines returned to England. Calais was declared a "reclaimed land" to commemorate the restoration of French rule. François de Guise was able to strike back against the Spaniards: during the summer he attacked Thionville and Arlon, and was about to invade Luxembourg when the treaties of Le Cateau were signed. In April 1559 the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrai between France, Spain, and England recognized Calais as an integral part of the territory of the crown of France, and festivals were held throughout France to celebrate the peace.[citation needed] However, at the beginning of the French Wars of Religion, the new queen Elizabeth I of England, revived her kingdom's claims to Calais and took the French port of Le Havre. French forces ejected the English in 1563, and the Treaty of Troyes (1564), recognized French ownership of Calais, in return for payment to England of 120,000 crowns.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Tony Jaques (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A-E. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-313-33537-2. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  2. The Fortnightly. Chapman and Hall. 1918. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Alice Hunt; Anna Whitelock; Chawton House. Library (15 September 2010). Tudor Queenship: The Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. Palgrave MacMillan. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-230-61823-7. Retrieved 27 April 2013. 
  4. Frieda, Leone (2003 (first Harper Perennial edition 2006)). Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France. Harper Perennial. pp. 171. 

Coordinates: 50°57′49″N 1°50′51″E / 50.9636°N 1.8474°E / 50.9636; 1.8474

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).