Calai s

an English Town in France
1347–1558
Calais was of huge strategic and fnancial signifcance to England in the middle ages
and beyond, yet it has not received the attention it deserves. Here, in the frst full-
length examination of Calais under English governance, both the political and military
importance of the town, and its role as the centre of the prime export trade of medieval
England, that in raw wool, are examined. Chronicle sources are carefully exploited to
provide narratives of the major events in the town’s history, its capture by Edward III,
the Burgundian siege of 1436 and its loss to the French in 1558, while thematic chapters
survey the fnances and organisation of the garrison and its role in English politics in the
ffeenth century. Tere is also full consideration of the economic function of the wool
staple and the lives of English wool merchants, using both the Cely and the Johnson
collections of contemporary letters and papers.
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Calai s
an English Town in France
1347–1558
Susan Rose

THE BOYDELL PRESS
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© Susan Rose 2008
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation
no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system,
published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast,
transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means,
without the prior permission of the copyright owner
Te right of Susan Rose to be identifed as
the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with
sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
First published 2008
Te Boydell Press, Woodbridge
ISBN 978 1 84383 401 4
Te Boydell Press is an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd
PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Sufolk IP12 3DF, UK
and of Boydell & Brewer Inc.
668 Mt Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620, USA
website: www.boydellandbrewer.com
A CIP record for this book is available
from the British Library
Tis publication is printed on acid-free paper
Designed and typeset in Garamond Premier by
Te Stingray Ofce, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester
Printed in Great Britain by
CPI Antony Rowe Ltd, Chippenham, Wiltshire
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ContEnts
List of illustrations vii
Abbreviations viii
Preface ix
introduction: 1
England and France in the mid fourteenth century
1 Te siege and capture of the town: 7
Edward III and the burghers of Calais
2 a new ruler and a new regime: 23
the town and the garrison in the early years of English rule
3 setting up the staple: a new role for Calais 39
4 triumph and disaster: Henry V, the collapse of the 54
anglo-Burgundian alliance and the resurgence of France
5 Calais as a base for political intrigue: 73
Yorkists, lancastrians and the earl of Warwick
6 Te heyday of the Company of the staple: 95
merchants and their lives
7 Religious and political change: 112
Henry VII, Henry VIII and the Reformation
8 Te town and trade: the later fortunes of the Company 134
of the staple and of the Johnson partnership
9 Te end of the story: the loss of Calais to the French 153
Conclusion 172
Bibliography 175
Index 183
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For Rona, Hannah, Katherine and sadie
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li st oF i llustRati ons
Map of Calais and the Pale in the mid sixteenth century x
Figure 1 Fort nieulay on the site of newenham Bridge 67
Figure 2 Te day watch-tower 117
Figure 3 Guisnes and the Castle 123
Figure 4 sixteenth-century view of Calais from the sea 136
Figure 5 View of modern Calais from the sea 137
Figure 6 Drawing of Calais harbour 138
and the buildings outside the walls
Figure 7 Exports of raw wool through the port of london, 145
Michaelmas 1529 – Michaelmas 1543
Figure 8 Te siege of Calais, 1558 165
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Disclaimer:
Some images in the printed version of this book are not available for inclusion in the eBook.
To view these images please refer to the printed version of this book.
aBBREVi ati ons
Bl British library
CCR Calendar of Close Rolls
CPR Calendar of Patent Rolls
EHR Te English Historical Review
LL Lisle Letters, ed. M. st Clare Byrne (Chicago, 1981)
ODNB Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
tna Te national archives, Kew
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PREFaCE
t
his idea for this book was frst conceived some time ago, but in the in-
terim i have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to discuss
and mull over some of the interpretations put forward at the Fifeenth Century
conferences, both in formal sessions and during the enjoyable dinners and out-
ings which have always been a feature of these gatherings.
it will also be clear to any reader how much i have benefted from the work of
others who have been interested in the fortunes of Calais while it was in English
hands. Tis applies particularly to Dr David Grummitt and Professor Morgan,
whose doctoral theses have helped me greatly. i am of course responsible for any
errors in this work, but it would not have even got started without their invalu-
able work on the mass of material relating to Calais in the national archives.
i am deeply in their debt. i am also very grateful to Cliford Rogers for allow-
ing me to use his unpublished transcription and translation of the saint-omer
Chronicle (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, Ms fr. 693).
Tanks are also due to the staf and librarians at the national archives and
the British library who do so much to smooth the path of any historian and
writer.
Finally my thanks are due to my family, who have nobly put up with my inter-
est in Calais, and in the case of my husband accompanied me on a visit to the
town and the Pale.
Tis book is dedicated to four of my granddaughters; i hope they will
enjoy it.
Highgate, 2007
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Map of Calais and the Pale showing the boundary as drawn in the survey of 1536.
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· 1 ·
i ntRoDuCti on:
EnGlanD anD FRanCE i n tHE Mi D
FouRtEEntH CEntuRY

A
fter 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 pris-
oners 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 and so is everyone else in the town, men,
women and children, for i wish to repopulate Calais with pure-blooded
English.1
Why did a state of war exist between England and France at this time, and
why was so much time and efort expended on the siege of this town ? Why
did Edward intend to hold it as an English possession, the clear motive behind
the banishment of all its original inhabitants ? Te frst of these questions can
be answered fairly easily. Tis was the fnal important episode in the 1346
campaign of the Hundred Years’ War, the campaign that included the crush-
ing French defeat at Crécy and also English successes in Brittany and Gascony.
Hostility between these two kingdoms in north-west Europe was no new thing.
some historians have been inclined to see it as a consequence of the norman
Conquest of England. Te fact that a vassal of the king of France (the duke of
normandy) was a king in his own right across the Channel could not but lead
to friction. if the king of France attempted to enforce his feudal superiority in
respect of English royal-held lands within his own realm, this would be barely
acceptable to someone who in his kingly role saw himself as the equal of any
1 Froissart, Chronicles, ed. G. Brereton (Harmondsworth, 1968), 109–10.
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· 2 · Introduction
monarch and particularly of any king of France. Te degree of friction and its
propensity to lead to open warfare varied with the relative strengths and also the
personalities of the rulers of France and England. afer the accession of Henry
II and his marriage to Eleanor, duchess of aquitaine, most of western France
was in English hands as well as the ancestral norman lands. Te persistence of
Philip II augustus of France and the incompetence of John of England led to
the loss of the greater portion of these territories, although Gascony, Bordeaux
and its immediate hinterland never fell to the French at this time. Tis ensured
that as dukes of aquitaine, English kings continued to be nominal vassals of the
French monarch.
low-level warfare on the borders of the duchy and disputes over the juris-
diction of both French royal law courts and English ducal courts could lead to
more serious confict. Te terms of the treaty between Henry III of England and
louis IX in 1259 (the treaty of Paris) had established a new framework for rela-
tions between the two rivals, but the problem of aquitaine (from the French
point of view) remained. Edward I’s acquisition of the county of Ponthieu in
northern France in right of his wife Eleanor of Castile served to aggravate the
possibilities of confict. twice, in 1294 and 1324, the French king confscated the
English counties, accusing both Edward I and Edward II of failing to observe
their oaths to their feudal superior. Te wars that resulted did little to settle the
underlying problems, and no-one at the time would have been surprised at the
renewal of hostilities in the future.
When this did come about afer 1337, however, the nature of the war and
relations between the two monarchs changed. Te quarrel became not an ar-
cane dispute over legal rights or even a personal vendetta or power struggle, but
a long-running and at times bitterly fought war, which profoundly altered both
the states involved, their self-images and the nature of their governance.
in the hands of contemporary chroniclers from both sides, the wars took on
a heroic chivalric aspect. Writers in the seventeenth century and later tended to
see events from a more nationalistic stance. More recently attention has to some
extent turned away from great men and great events to the efects of the wars on
the lesser people of both town and countryside, whether as taxpayers, soldiers or
those miserably faced with the destruction of their homes and livelihood.2 Here
we are concerned with the political and military situation in the immediate
prologue to the campaign of 1346 and its culmination, the siege of Calais.
Te death of Charles IV of France in 1328 leaving no legitimate male heirs
of his body placed Edward III of England in a potentially interesting position.
Charles had lef one living daughter, and to the dismay of his wife the posthu-
mous child she bore shortly afer his death was also a daughter. as the nephew
of the late king, the child of his sister isabella, Edward was the closest living
male relation. He was, however, only sixteen years old, and his position as king
in England was compromised by the activities of his mother and her lover Roger
2 A. Curry, Te Hundred Years War (Basingstoke, 2003), has a full discussion of the histo-
riography of the Hundred Years War on pp. 5–27.
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Introduction · 3 ·
Mortimer ; this pair had deposed Edward’s father and still largely controlled the
young king. Few in France wished to see this ‘wicked and shameless woman’
in a position of power, and the accession of Philip of Valois, a frst cousin of
Charles IV, was accepted happily by his future subjects.3
By 1337 the situation was diferent. Edward III had forcefully asserted himself
against the malign infuence of his mother and had been king in fact as well as
name since 1330. He wished both to establish his own reputation as a powerful
monarch and warrior and also to undo the efects of the treaties concluded by
isabella and Mortimer with both scotland and France, which seemed unfavour-
able to English interests. Te treaty with France, concluded in 1327, had not led
to the restoration of lands lost by the English in 1324–5 but did ensure that Ed-
ward III was required to perform homage for the remaining territories. on the
ground, the local agents of the French crown also did all they could to infringe
on or ignore English rights and similarly to advance French claims to lands, dues
and other sources of income. Te so-called ‘shameful’ peace of northampton
in 1328 not only recognised Robert Bruce as rightful ruler of scotland but did
nothing to hinder the continuance of the alliance between scotland and France.
Edward was able to restore some of the military prestige of the English Crown
when scotland once more sank into political turmoil afer the death of Bruce.
Te English victory at Halidon Hill in 1333 wiped out the memory of their de-
feat at Bannockburn and also demonstrated the efectiveness of English archers
against a charging army. Te French, however, saw their alliance with scotland
as a useful way of putting pressure on Edward. He was less likely to fght in
France, if French support was threatened for scots incursions on his northern
frontier.
By 1337 the tensions between Philip VI and Edward III had worsened. in
May, Philip took the decisive step of once more announcing the confscation of
the duchy of aquitaine for a breach of feudal law, while Edward was spending
large sums of money trying to buy support against France from the princes of
the Empire holding land on her northern frontiers. He had also acted to secure
the friendship of Flemish towns, which depended on English wool for their
vital textile industry. in october Edward made an even more important and ag-
gressive move, ostensibly in reaction to Philip’s confscation of his duchy. a doc-
ument giving authority to ambassadors to negotiate on his behalf included the
statement that he, Edward, not Philip, was the rightful king of France. at frst
not a great deal was made of this claim, but, at a ceremony held in Ghent in early
1340, Edward openly assumed the title of king of France, while the major towns
of Flanders pledged loyalty to him in this role. a crushing naval victory at sluys
in June of the same year over the French and their allies the Genoese seemed to
herald real advances for the English cause. Te land campaign, however, soon
3 E. Perroy, Te Hundred Years War (London, 1962), 75. Te Salic law of succession in
France was usually held to forbid the succession of a female ruler. It was not so clear that
a female could not transmit the right to the throne to a male descendant.
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· 4 · Introduction
became bogged down, with lack of funds leading to discontent among his Flem-
ish allies and desertions from his own forces.4
His acute fnancial difculties did not force Edward to abandon all thought
of war with France. although truces interrupted the fghting, and strenuous
diplomatic initiatives were also undertaken by the papacy in an endeavour to
bring peace, neither side was prepared to back down. Te situation was further
complicated by a succession dispute in Brittany that became entangled in the
major confict. in 1345 armies under the command of English noblemen and
with a mixture of English and local troops were at large in Brittany, Flanders
and Gascony. it is against this background that we must place the decision
of Edward himself to lead an expedition to France in the summer of 1346, an
expedition that reached the norman coast on 12 July at the small port of saint-
Vaast-la-Hogue on the Cotentin peninsula.
Te two states that had already been in a state of war for nearly ten years
were not, on the face of it, equally matched. Te French kingdom was much
more populous, much wealthier and of much greater signifcance in European
afairs than England. it contained many large and wealthy towns as well as Paris,
the capital and by far the most populous city in the west. Te papacy had been
based at avignon in Provence since 1305, and while the papal lands were not
part of France itself, many felt that the popes were unduly infuenced by the
French crown. until the failure of the Capet male line, France had also enjoyed
long years of peace with few foreign adventures or serious internal disputes.
Joan Evans, writing of France before the Hundred Years’ War, described the
country as enjoying ‘a state of material prosperity that had not been appreciated
until it was lost’. Tere was ‘modest comfort among the poor’ and ‘magnifcence
among the rich’.5
England, in contrast, had a population that, according to the highest estimate,
may have reached about four million, one-third of that estimated for France.
Te Crown had been involved in warfare either overseas or against Wales and
scotland for much of the preceding ffy years or so. Disputes between the
Crown and its most powerful subjects had also been relatively frequent, while
the memory of the deposition of Edward II by his wife and her lover was still
fresh in the 1340s. on the other hand, the king had at his disposal trained and
experienced military men and commanders. Despite the need to consult his
subjects by means of Parliament, he also had a potentially much more fexible
and efective system for tapping the wealth of the community than that avail-
able to the ostensibly richer king of France.
For both realms, quantities of administrative and fnancial sources survive.
Tere are of course gaps in the records caused by the passage of time, the lack
of suitable storage, or deliberate destruction, particularly in France at the time
of the Revolution. Records that reveal the states of mind of rulers or the basis
4 A full account of these events can be found in M. H. Keen, England in the Later Middle
Ages (London, 1983), 122–35.
5 J. Evans, Life in Medieval France (London, 1925), 135.
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Introduction · 5 ·
on which they took decisions are much harder to come by than accounts, writs,
muster lists and the like. Chroniclers may refer confdently to the reasons behind
an action, but it is hard to know if this is anything other than inspired specula-
tion or wisdom gained afer the event. Tere is for example little agreement on
Edward III’s intentions as he sailed from Portsmouth in company with some six
hundred other vessels that July morning in 1346. Was his destination intended
to be Gascony, where an English and Gascon force under the command of the
earl of Derby was being besieged by the French, under the command of the duke
of normandy, the son of Philip VI, at aiguillon ? Did a sudden shif in the wind
make this impractical, forcing the king to land in normandy instead ? or had he
always planned to make this his landfall ? once ashore, what was the overall aim
of the whole expedition ? What aims motivated his strategy ? Cliford Rogers
has looked closely at these issues, pointing out that some historians believe that
the king had no real strategy at all, that he ‘could not plan a campaign’. others
suggest that Edward wanted to demonstrate Philip VI’s inability to protect his
own subjects from the devastation caused by the English army, and that being
faced with a pitched battle formed no part of Edward’s original plan. Rogers
himself believes that Edward, on the contrary, wished avidly to manoeuvre
Philip into ofering battle, provided that this could take place in a location of
Edward’s choosing, and that this aim makes sense of the whole campaign.6
Even the restrained language of a letter of Michael of northburgh, one of
the king’s clerks, included in avesbury’s chronicle makes clear that there was
an element of a gamble in this plan if it existed. Te march through normandy,
even if it caused much destruction, was punctuated by encounters that could
easily have gone heavily against Edward’s men. northburgh notes that at Poissy
‘at the re-making of the bridge there came men of arms in great numbers with
the commons of the country and of amiens well armed’. Here the English pre-
vailed with few casualties. similarly, when a ford across the somme was located
at Blanquetache, the French had a force of ‘fve hundred men-at-arms and three
thousand of the commons armed, to hold the passage’, and the safe crossing of
the bulk of the English army was not a foregone conclusion. avesbury himself
then continues with an account of the crushing victory for Edward and his army
against the feudal host of France at Crécy. Tis concludes with the signifcant
sentence, ‘from what i have heard his [the king’s] purpose is to besiege Calais’,
and the remark, ‘and therefore my lord the king hath sent to you [that is the
government in England itself ] for victuals and that too as quickly as you can
send’.7
Froissart provides a much fuller description of the battle, enriched by stories
of notable acts of chivalry, like the way the blind king of Bohemia insisted on
6 Te question of the various interpretations of Edward’s strategic goals is discussed at
length in C. J. Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp : English Strategy under Edward iii, 1327–1360
(Woodbridge, 2000), chap. 10, ‘Te invasion of 1346 : strategic options and historiogra-
phy’, pp. 217–37.
7 R. Avesbury, De Gestis Mirabilibus Regis Edwardi Tertii, ed. E. M. Tompson (London,
1889), 370–71.
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· 6 · Introduction
being led by his knights into the thick of the fghting and was then found by the
English, mortally wounded, afer it was all over. Concerning the decision to lay
siege to Calais, however, Froissart only details the route taken by the English
army, north along the coast until, having spent a day at Wissant, ‘they came be-
fore the fortifed town of Calais.’8 Te implication almost is that the town was
an obstacle in their path and they had no choice but to attack it. Rogers rejects
both this idea and the notion that the decision to head for Calais was taken only
afer the victory at Crécy. in his view, Edward had always intended to conclude
the 1346 campaign with an attack on Calais ; this would provide the fnal op-
portunity to bring the war to an end, as Parliament had been promised when
Edward was appealing for fnancial aid, by luring Philip once more into battle
and defeating him even more comprehensively than at Crécy.9
Tis view does, perhaps, imply that Edward had an enormous amount of
confdence not only in himself but in the prowess of his army. it also requires
the belief that the promise to Parliament was more than a piece of necessary
rhetoric. nevertheless there is no argument about the time, money and re-
sources that were poured into the siege of Calais by the English, and for that
reason alone the prize of the town must have been seen as highly desirable. We
will now turn to a description of the town itself and the siege by which it fell
into English hands.
8 Froissart, Chronicles, 89–96.
9 Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp, 274–6.
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· 7 ·
1
tHE si EGE anD CaPtuRE oF tHE toWn:
EDWaRD i i i anD tHE BuRGHERs oF Calai s

T
he town of Calais might appear at frst sight to be an odd choice for the
expenditure of so much time, efort 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 fat coastal plain of Flanders. around Calais the terrain
was very marshy, and travel overland was difcult in wet weather or during the
winter, while there was also a danger that a storm surge in the north sea could
damage the protecting dunes and undermine the town and its defences. Grave-
lines, at the mouth of the river aa, had the advantage of reasonable communi-
cations by water with its hinterland, especially the busy town of saint-omer,
and enough current in the river to prevent the port silting up. Calais had no
such river, only two small streams draining into the harbour, which was largely
man-made, depending for shelter from gales in the Channel on a sandbank re-
inforced with faggots and marsh grass known as the Risban (the Flemish word
ris means both rushes or faggots). silting up, caused largely by sand blown of
the dunes, was something of a problem, leading to the need to scour the ditches
and dredge the harbour at regular intervals.1
Te town itself, like many ‘new towns’ in the twelfh century, was laid out
on a rectangular plan, with a castle in the north-west corner. it had an ordered
1 Alain Derville has written on the early history of Calais in ‘Calais avant 1347 : la vie
d’un port’, in A. Lottin and J.-C. Hoquet (eds.), Les Hommes et la mer dans l’Europe du
nord-ouest : de l’antiquité à nos jours (Villeneuve d’ Ascq, 1986), and in A. Derville and
A. Vion, Histoire de Calais (Westhoek, 1985). He sets out the origins of the town in both
places and supplies both possible meanings of ris, ‘Calais avant 1347’, 191 ; Histoire de Ca-
lais, 21. Te need to keep the port clear of silt and drifed sand is mentioned in the town
records.
Calais.indb 7 27.5.2008 15:08:37
· 8 · Chapter 1
street pattern that seems to have changed little between the time it was laid out
and the early sixteenth century, when a plan was made of the town for Henry
VIII.2 its history before its capture by the English is relatively well documented,
and the town was evidently modestly prosperous. By the beginning of the four-
teenth century it had passed to the control of the rulers of artois from that of
the counts of Boulogne, and it produced a reasonable income for its overlord,
mainly from dues on the herring fshery and the shipping using the harbour.
a circuit of walls had been built as early as 1228, and the town also had a double
ditch into which the waters of the local streams and the sea at high tide were di-
verted. Tere were two quays lying outside the walls, with entry to the town via
the lantern gate, probably so called because of a light kept burning in its upper
levels. Tis gate was certainly placed so that its light would guide vessels safely
along the channel from the sea into the harbour.
Te area within the walls has been calculated as between 40 and 50 hectares,
about half the size of saint-omer or lille. an estimate of the population at any
one time is hard to make. according to one estimate, around 1300 it may have
been as high as 14,000 all told, including those living in the fshermen’s shacks
outside the walls and in the parish of st Peter’s. Tis number, which has been
calculated from those paying the taille in 1298, adding on an estimate for those
who were too poor to pay, seems very high given the usual population estimates
for the ffeenth century of around 4,500.3 Te total probably declined mark-
edly following the years of famine and dearth around 1315–18, which afected
the Flanders region particularly badly.4 Te plagues afer the initial visitation of
the Black Death in 1348 also reduced the population, but even allowing for this
the diference between the two fgures is large.
Te chief occupation of the townspeople was fshing for herring and the
associated salting and packing of the catch, for trade both with other French
towns and further afeld. Tis was mostly by water, since there were no good
roads, suitable for carts, leading inland towards saint-omer or ardres or along
the coast to Boulogne. a careful analysis of the surviving town accounts from
the period before 1347 seems to indicate that Calais was not closely linked to
any one inland town but transhipped and distributed goods all along the coast.
Quite large quantities of wine, for example, came into the port, not directly
2 Tis plan is BL Cotton MS Augustus I ii 71. It is reproduced in J. G. Nichols (ed.), Te
Chronicle of Calais in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII (London, Camden Society,
1846), between pp. xxviii and xxix.
3 Tis estimate comes from Derville and Vion, Histoire de Calais, 43. Te authors suggest
that the non-payers constituted 50% of the population, which may be too high ; or alter-
natively the calculation from the number of households to the total population may also
have produced too large a fgure by using too great a multiplier.
4 D. Nicholas, Medieval Flanders (London, 1992), 206–8, suggests that 5–10% of the
populations of Bruges and Ypres died of want at this time. P. T. J. Morgan devotes chap. 3
(pp. 48–68) of his thesis, ‘Te Government of Calais, 1485–1558’ (DPhil thesis, Oxford,
1966), to the population of Calais in Tudor times. At this date the population of Calais
was around 4,000, with perhaps another 4,000 people living in the Pale and the vil-
lages, including Guisnes.
Calais.indb 8 27.5.2008 15:08:38
The siege and capture of the town · 9 ·
from wine-producing areas but ofen via England, the usual destination of the
Bordeaux wine feets. Tese cargoes were then split up and sent on to fnal desti-
nations in the surrounding region. Raw wool also came from England, some of
it intended for the small textile industry in the town or the English wool staple
based at saint-omer in 1313–14 and 1320–24. Tere is some evidence that the
herring fshing and salting industry had begun to decline from the 1320s, per-
haps because of the changing pattern of the migration of the herring shoals in
the north sea. Tis has led to the suggestion that Calais fshermen no longer
able to make a good living from herring took to piracy in the north sea and
Channel with enthusiasm, attacking both English and Flemish ships more or
less at random. Tere is, however, little evidence in English records that piracy
was more prevalent among Calais mariners than those based at other ports
along the coasts of normandy or Picardy. apart from a certain Pedrogue, who
was active in Edward I’s reign, there are about as many mentions in English
royal records of trading privileges and safe-conducts granted to Calais men as of
suspected cases of robbery at sea.5
Tus far therefore there might seem to be very little to distinguish Calais
from other ports along the northern French coast. Was it on this showing really
so diferent from Boulogne or from Dieppe ? its major advantage from the Eng-
lish point of view, however, lay not in any aspect of its economy but in its situa-
tion. it was the nearest port to England with a better harbour than Wissant, its
early rival as the port of entry for English passengers. it was also the nearest port
to Flanders, a county dubiously loyal to its technical overlord the king of France
and adjacent to imperial lands. By 1346, Edward III had already devoted a great
deal of efort and money to attempting to build alliances with the ruling bour-
geoisie of the leading Flemish towns, Ypres, Ghent and Bruges, and the rulers of
neighbouring imperial counties, particularly Hainault and Brabant. Calais, on
the other hand, had tended always to support the French king against his rebel-
lious Flemish subjects. Calais ships had been present at the battle of Zierikzee in
1305 when French forces had defeated the rebellious Guy de namur, and there
had also been a Calais contribution to the French feet at sluys in 1340. Many
Flemings harboured hostile feelings for the men of Calais, tartly expressed by
Jan van artevelde of Ghent in 1339 when he was recorded as swearing that he
would attack Calais, since it was a nest of robbers, and put them all to death.6
Edward would face no objections from Flanders if he took the town ; indeed he
might well be able to count on active support from this area.
We can therefore reasonably speculate that Edward III, whether he always
intended to make for Calais afer the successful completion of his 1346 chevau-
chée or whether he decided that this was the best destination to head for only
in the afermath of his crushing victory at Crécy, might have weighed up the
situation somewhat in this manner. to return to the ports of normandy and the
Cotentin would give the impression of a retreat, however unjustifably, and was
5 Derville and Vion, Histoire de Calais, 39–40.
6 Derville, ‘Calais avant 1347’, 207.
Calais.indb 9 27.5.2008 15:08:38
· 10 · Chapter 1
therefore out of the question. His forces had also burnt and sacked the ports
from Cherbourg and Barfeur and their surrounding countryside to ouistre-
han, the out-port of Caen, earlier in the campaign ; there would be now little in
the way of victuals to feed his forces in these districts. He had ordered supply
ships to make for le Crotoy when writing to the Council afer the fall of Caen
in July. Tis town, although in Ponthieu, notionally an English possession, was
not as defensible as Calais. Te king could probably embark his army there for
the return voyage, but it might be more difcult to hold permanently. saint-
Valéry across the somme would pose a threat, and it was deep within French
territory compared with Calais. Te town had in fact been sacked by a detach-
ment of English troops under Hugh Despenser on 24 august before any supply
ships could arrive from England and before the victory at Crécy on the 26th.7
Calais had a reasonably good port, it was near both his allies and his own realm,
and, surrounded by marshy ground, it was defensible from a landward attack.
Te king could well argue that its capture and colonisation made good strategic
sense.
some historians, with Perroy as the most prominent, have maintained on
the contrary that the siege of Calais was undertaken almost casually, without
any real consideration of the benefts of taking the town or of the efort that
would be needed to subdue it.8 Tere is little if any real evidence for these views.
Edward in 1346 was a thoroughly experienced military commander. He had
ample experience of the conduct of sieges, most notably the one that had failed
at tournai in 1340, and would also have been well aware of events at aiguillon
on the borders of Gascony, where troops of the earl of Derby were besieged by
a large French force for months in 1345–6. Tere would have been no doubt in
his mind about the need for all kind of supplies in large quantities if a projected
siege of Calais was to be brought to a successful conclusion. on the other hand,
Cliford Rogers has seen the siege as intended to be the fnal provocation that
would stir Philip VI to confront Edward in a battle that would bring the war to
an end, with an English victory triumphantly endorsing the result of Crécy.9
once Edward had made up his mind, he acted decisively and quickly. He lef
Crécy on 28 august, allowing only one day for the burial of the dead and the
collection of booty. Te army marched for the coast, reaching it at Étaples, and
then went north, burning and sacking the towns and villages on their route. Éta-
ples itself, Montreuil, Wissant and Boulogne all sufered in this way, until on 3
september 1346 Edward and his forces arrived outside the walls of Calais. some
credence is given to the idea that this destination had been decided on long in
advance by the fact that the bailli of Calais and his colleagues had been very
nervous about the intentions of the English and the state of their defences for
some time. Eforts had been made to increase the food stores in the castle and
7 J. Sumption, Te Hundred Years War, i : Trial by Battle (London and Philadelphia, 1990),
525.
8 Perroy, Te Hundred Years War, 119–20.
9 Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp, 274–5.
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The siege and capture of the town · 11 ·
the available munitions. Te town had been using spies sent north into Flanders
and to England to try to fnd out the intentions of their neighbours and the
strength of the alliance with Edward from the outbreak of the war. in 1344
a certain Jehan Ragout was ordered to go to Rochester and then up the Tames
estuary and to all nearby ports to try and fnd out how many ships might be
available to an English invasion feet.10 another man even took his horse with
him when he was similarly sent to try and fnd out English intentions or ‘l’estat
du paix’ in the wording of the town’s accountant Pierre de Ham. Te bailli also
sent messages begging for reinforcements to the town garrison to Philip VI and
the marshals of France in July 1346, the frst a matter of days afer the landing of
Edward III at saint-Vaast-la-Hogue. others followed in august as news of the
movements of Edward’s army reached him. Te response from the French king
and the marshals was muted, but even so Pierre de Ham could refect as he saw
the English army come into view along the road from Boulogne that the town
was relatively amply provisioned, the walls were in good repair with the ditches
scoured of the drifing sand, and weapons for the garrison and townspeople
were to hand.11 Te garrison also had two experienced commanders, Jean de
Vienne and Enguerrand de Beaulo. Teir hope would have been that the town
could easily hold out until Philip VI could mount an expedition to raise the
siege and expel the English from France.
Te English were faced with the organisation of a military endeavour on what
became an extraordinary scale. it has been called with justifcation ‘the largest
single military operation undertaken by England till the modern period’.12 tak-
ing the town by storm was not really an option ; apart from the strength of the
walls and other fortifcations, the marshy ground of its environs could not sup-
port the weight of large war machines. Te contemporary chronicler Geofrey
le Baker specifcally mentions the lack of frm ground for catapaults and the
like when explaining why the king was unwilling to make a direct assault.13 Te
town and its people would have to be reduced to starvation and thus forced to
surrender. Te town must, therefore, be properly invested to prevent its resup-
ply, while the English forces needed to do this would themselves have to be fed
and supplied in what was a bleak and inhospitable environment, especially in
winter. Determination and persistence were called for, but also administrative
and logistical skills of a high order. How was this achieved by the ruler of a rela-
tively small and impecunious kingdom operating overseas with few ‘profes-
sional civil servants’ to assist him, relying mainly on the good will of the gentry
and leading townspeople in England for government at home ? in this instance
the siege aroused great interest not only in England and France but also in other
European states, so there are many chronicle accounts of major incidents. Tere
10 F. Lennel, Histoire de Calais, i (Calais, 1908), 85.
11 J.-M. Richard (ed.), ‘Compte de Pierre de Ham, dernier bailli de Calais (1346–7)’, Mé-
moires de la Commission départementale des monuments historiques du Pas-de-Calais, 1
(1893), 241–58.
12 Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp, 273.
13 A. R. Myers, (ed.), English Historical Documents, iv (London, 1969), 87.
Calais.indb 11 27.5.2008 15:08:38
· 12 · Chapter 1
are also English royal records and accounts that allow an appreciation of many
aspects of the administration. Te surviving evidence does not provide all the
answers, but there is enough to get some idea of how things were done.
one problem that has not been much discussed is the location of the haven
used by the besieging forces, particularly before the spring of 1347. access to
a good port was essential to the supply and reinforcement of Edward’s forces.
Edward rapidly set up a base for his army, described in some detail by Froissart
using material from the chronicle of Jean le Bel. on an area of frmer ground
on the landward side of Calais, in the area called saint-Pierre near the bridge
and fort at nieulay (later called newenham Bridge by the English), a virtual
new town was built. it had ‘properly ordered streets’, wooden houses roofed
with thatch, a market on Wednesdays and saturdays, and in fact, in Froissart’s
words, ‘haberdashers and butchers’ shops, stalls selling cloth and bread and all
other necessities, so that almost anything could be bought there’. its name, Vil-
leneuve-le-Hardi, roughly translatable as ‘Cheeky new town’, refects the spirit
of confdence and boldness prevalent among Edward and his army.14 it was,
however, over a mile from the coast, and Calais harbour was dominated by the
castle and the small fort, still in French hands, on the Risban. Te harbour could
not be blockaded while this was the case and was, therefore, open to receive sup-
ply vessels for the defenders, if they could evade the English ships cruising in the
Channel. Equally ships from England could clearly not tie up at the town quays
in these circumstances, and trying to unload supplies on the open beaches away
from the town itself would not have been easy.
one of the frst actions of the king on reaching Calais was to send orders to
the mayors and other ofcials of port towns from newcastle on tyne in the
north to Bristol in the west. Merchants were promised fair prices and rapid
payment for all victuals and supplies sent to Calais, including bread, corn, wine,
beer, meat, fsh, bows, arrows and bowstrings.15 although the town itself is al-
ways described as the destination for all these goods, it may very well have been
the case that the vessels in fact went to Gravelines in friendly Flemish territory
and the goods were then sent on by cart and pack-horse to the English camp.
Even afer the English captured the Risban and enlarged and strengthened the
fort in late april 1347, English ships would still have been vulnerable to attacks
by the defenders’ artillery and would have been unable to approach the quays
right under the town walls. Tere would have been little sympathy for Calais at
Gravelines, which had twice been sacked by forces from the other town in the
recent past.16 as the siege progressed, royal agents scoured the English country-
side for food and other supplies for Calais, with the export of corn forbidden
unless it was destined for the royal army. an indication of the widespread ef-
fects of the siege can be gauged from items like the accounts of the making of
hurdles and ladders for use at Calais at Takeham in the sussex Weald, which
14 Froissart, Chronicles, 97.
15 T. Rymer, Foedera, ed. G. Holmes (repr. Farnborough, 1967), ii : 205.
16 Derville and Vion, Histoire de Calais, 40.
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The siege and capture of the town · 13 ·
were taken to shoreham for onward shipment in no fewer than 30 wagonloads
in early December 1346.17 Much of the foodstuf collected was stored in ware-
houses in orwell and sandwich, and even far to the west in Plymouth, before
being dispatched overseas. Te amount that came to the camp overland from
Gravelines has been noted, but it seems likely that much of this was sent from
England rather than being Flemish in origin.18
Te king’s need for money was as urgent as that for supplies. Te English par-
liament called in september 1346 had granted the king more taxation to cover
the expenses of the siege, but only afer a detailed account of all their contribu-
tions to date and the difculties caused by demands for such large sums had
been recorded on the Parliament Roll. Te Commons’ petitions, signifcantly
in view of the terms of the proclamation above, included one complaining that
payments for victuals provided over the summer, which should have been due
on John the Baptist’s day (24 June), were still outstanding.19 Tere was support
for the king and his war, but it was not unconditional ; the weight of the burden
placed on the whole community of the realm was well appreciated.
Te fact that the harbour was still open to the French until the spring of 1347
was undoubtedly one reason for the length of the siege. Philip VI was beset
by severe fnancial difculties. His confdence and that of his most important
nobles with regard to renewing warfare on land had collapsed following the
disaster at Crécy, but a greater degree of determination was shown in organising
relief supplies for the beleaguered town by sea. at frst, in september, the galley
feet hired from the Genoese in late 1345 was used. Tis feet had arrived too
late to be involved in the campaigns in the summer of 1346 or to interrupt the
invasion feet : the nineteenth-century historian of the French navy bewailed
this tardiness almost as a form of treason and a cause of the disasters sufered
by France.20 in september, however, these galleys captured and destroyed an
English supply feet in the waters of Calais. one French chronicle gleefully
describes how twenty-fve English ships were captured within sight of the
English army and all the crews slaughtered.21 Despite this success, the Genoese
vessels were laid up at abbeville in october and their crews sent home. Philip
VI bought the ships, 30 galleys and 2 lings, for over 18,000 forins but made no
further use of them.22
Much more successful was the use of French ships, both little vessels smaller
17 R. A. Pelham, ‘Sussex Provisions for the Siege of Calais in 1346’, Sussex Notes and Queries,
5 (1934), 33–4.
18 Sumption, Trial by Battle, 537–8.
19 Parliament of 1346, Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, 1275–1504, gen. ed. C.
Given-Wilson (CD-ROM, Leicester, 2005).
20 C. de la Roncière, ‘La Marine au siège de Calais’, Bibliothèque de l’École des chartes, 58
(1897), 563.
21 H. Lemaître, (ed.), Te Chronicle of Gilles li Muisit (Paris, 1906), 167.
22 A. Merlin-Chazelas (ed.), Documents relatifs au clos des galées de Rouen et aux armées de
la mer des rois de France de 1293 à 1418 (Paris, 1977–8), 129–32. Although this was a large
sum, it was much less than that necessary to keep the crews and ships on the royal payroll
as contracted with Genoa. Te crews of just 3 galleys and 2 lings had accumulated wages
Calais.indb 13 27.5.2008 15:08:38
· 14 · Chapter 1
than a modern fshing boat and larger ones used as escorts. Te masters of these
ships knew the coasts near Calais intimately and could keep inshore avoiding
the English vessels attempting to block access to the port. Te accounts of Jean
de l’Hôpital, charged with paying these mariners, include payments to a total of
over ffy vessels with substantial crews made up of armed men as well as sailors.
Payments are also recorded to a similar number of victuallers, most with crews
of six or seven men. Tese ships came from all along the north coast of France
from Honfeur to Boulogne, with some from Calais itself that had managed to
escape the siege.23 Te most successful ship master was probably Colin Hardi,
a veteran of the battle of sluys, who, lured by the promise of great rewards for
anyone who would resupply Calais, led a convoy of ships into the port in no-
vember and at least two more in the spring. Te main relief efort by sea was
made in February and March 1347. Te victuals were collected mainly at Dieppe
and abbeville, including wheat, beans, peas, garlic and onions, and salt herring,
and loaded on to the victuallers. at Dieppe the vessels were so heavily laden
that they grounded and were dragged into deep water by over three hundred
women pulling on hawsers. at least two squadrons got past any English ships
patrolling of the port (the precaution was taken of sending out at least one ship
in advance to try and discover their whereabouts) and into Calais in late March
and early april. a French historian has extolled the bravery of these seamen,
seeing them as motivated by a desire more for glory than fnancial gain. Teir ef-
forts were brought to an end, however, by May 1347, when the English took the
Risban, placed canons on the fortifcations and sank at least one ship to block
the channel into the port.24
Te siege also had, of course, other aspects than the grave logistical problems
facing both sides. although Edward III himself was present in the camp for
most of the tedious months of the investment of the town, this was far from the
only matter of concern to the king. Te need to raise both money and reinforce-
ments from England itself, already mentioned, was a constant worry. other
English armies were engaged in France, not only in Gascony and its borders
(long disputed between the French and the English monarch as duke of aqui-
taine) but also in Brittany (where the English had intervened in a succession
dispute). a setback to English arms in either area would have weakened Ed-
ward’s position and encouraged his enemy. Fortunately French resistance in the
south-west seemed to have virtually collapsed once they abandoned their siege
of aiguillon. Te earl of lancaster led an anglo-Gascon force north to Poitiers,
which was pillaged and burnt in early october. other towns in the region
were so thoroughly demoralised by this event and the lack of any protection by
French forces that they were prepared voluntarily to accept English rule. in Brit-
of over 19,000 forins during the period from their departure from Marseille or Nice to
the end of October when they were paid of.
23 Merlin-Chazelas (ed.), Documents relatifs au clos des galées de Rouen, ships : 115–17, 133–9 ;
victuallers : 139–42.
24 Ibid., 118–19, 121, 123 ; La Roncière, ‘La Marine au siège de Calais’, 567–9.
Calais.indb 14 27.5.2008 15:08:38
The siege and capture of the town · 15 ·
tany things remained quiet until the late spring of 1347. Te English ‘man on the
spot’, sir Tomas Dagworthy, was capable both as an administrator and as a mil-
itary commander and seemed to have the situation well under control. Charles
of Blois, Philip VI’s chosen candidate as duke of Brittany, however, besieged the
fortress of la Roche-Derrien, an English enclave near the north coast, in May
1347. afer some delay, Dagworthy set forth to relieve the garrison, and follow-
ing a confused and bloody assault on 20 June he not only defeated the French
but captured Charles as well. Te news of this defeat reached Philip as he fnally
decided to move his army towards Calais. in Brittany as well as Gascony, French
arms had sufered not only defeat but also humiliation.25
From the point of view of those both within and without the walls of Calais,
the importance of these events was both psychological and practical. Te appar-
ent superiority of English arms seemed to be confrmed, while these military
diversions in other parts of France made tax collection and the raising of troops
more and more difcult for Philip. it is possible to portray his state of mind in
the immediate afermath of the defeat at Crécy as something approaching a kind
of breakdown. When it became clear that Edward had decided on a lengthy
siege of Calais, Philip seemed to have no idea of what his next move should be.
He disbanded the remnants of his defeated army in september, only to order
it to reassemble at Compiègne on 1 october. He was fnally able to convince
his ally David II of scotland to invade the north of England at much the same
time. Te hope was that this would force Edward to abandon his positions at
Calais to defend his own kingdom. Te scots crossed the border on 7 october
but found the northern lords including William de la Zouche, archbishop of
York, ready for their enemy. Te two armies met at neville’s Cross just south of
Durham on a site criss-crossed with walls and ditches. Tis impeded the move-
ments of the scots men-at-arms, who began to fall to the arrows of the English
archers. Te largest scots battalion turned and fed, leaving David on the feld
with only a small number of men. as the evening came on he was abandoned
even by these remnants of his army and, quite badly wounded, was captured by
the English. He was to remain a captive in london for the next eleven years.
Tere would be no help for Philip from this quarter. it was perhaps in a mood of
desperation that on 27 october he ordered the dispersal of the few troops who
had gathered at Compiègne. Te garrisons of French towns in artois and the
Boulonnais remained, but that was all.
to a modern strategist it is clear that the attitudes and the actions of the
Flemings were overwhelmingly important at this stage of the siege. Edward
could not supply his troops without their co-operation. if he could secure
their active help in attacks on French garrisons, this would be even more to
his advantage. Philip was well aware that many of the Flemish townspeople,
in particular those from Bruges, Ypres and Ghent, who had been in a state of
more or less open rebellion for some time, were supporters of the English. Teir
25 Both the Gascon and the Breton campaigns are treated in detail in Sumption, Trial by
Battle, esp. chaps. 11 and 13 and pp. 495–7, 541–50, 571–6.
Calais.indb 15 27.5.2008 15:08:38
· 16 · Chapter 1
expected hostility and ability to harry his rear, if he moved north to approach
Calais from the direction of Gravelines when he had fnally collected a force to
relieve the town, was a major constraint. He also could not reduce the garrisons
of towns like saint-omer to increase the numbers in his feld army, since this
would leave them open to Flemish attack. a chronicle probably written very
shortly afer the events of 1346–7 by a townsman of saint-omer gives a very
vivid picture not only of the intermittent warfare between the French and the
Flemings but also of the feeling within the town.26 Te writer at one point talks
of the ‘evil Flemings who hate nothing so much as the king and the Crown of
France’. Tey are castigated for ignoring the fact that the king ‘has spared them
from death—which they richly deserve given that they have abandoned their
rightful and natural king’.27 another indication of the acute nervousness afect-
ing many of the French towns in the neighbourhood of Calais is a collection of
letters that passed between them in February 1347. a rumour was going about
that the siege was about to be abandoned by Edward. Te authorities in aire
had no news of this for those in arras but wrote feelingly about the way both
English and Flemish troops were laying waste the countryside round the town.
saint-omer had much the same news to relay but had also heard the alarming
information that the earl of Derby was about to land near Calais with 50,000
men. a week later arras was still trying to fnd out the truth, begging all those
towns that received their letter to tell its bearer everything they knew.28
Te true situation in northern France in the frst half of 1347 was in fact
complex and full of twists and turns. Edward and his forces were frmly ‘dug in’
around Calais. He had good relations with the Flemish towns and some of the
nobility ; a Flemish army with an English contingent led by sir Hugh Hastings
in fact had been active in artois during most of the Crécy campaign. at the very
beginning of the siege he had thought it necessary to divert his allies to attacks
on neighbouring towns rather than letting them come to assist with the siege, as
according to Gilles li Muisit he believed it was not a good idea to have English
and Flemings in the same camp.29 Flemish activity around saint-omer and
Béthune was very useful in unsettling the French and tying down quite large
numbers of men. Te young count of Flanders, louis de Male, whose father
had been killed at Crécy, was still loyal to the French king. Tis set him at odds
with many of his subjects, and, while he was on a visit to Flanders to attempt
some kind of reconciliation, the Flemish, with active English encouragement,
more or less forced on him an engagement to Edward’s daughter isabel. louis
managed to evade his minders while out hawking in March 1347 and, before
26 Tis chronicle was used by Cliford Rogers in War Cruel and Sharp. An edition of the text
is promised under his editorship. In the mean time I am very grateful for his kindness in
allowing me to use a draf of his transcription and translation.
27 Saint-Omer Chronicle, fol. 216r.
28 A. Guesnon (ed.), ‘Documents inédits sur l’invasion anglaise et les états au temps de
Philippe VI et Jean le bon’, Bulletin philologique et historique du Comité des travaux his-
toriques et scientifques (1897), 236–40.
29 Lemâitre (ed.), Chronique de Gilles li Muisit, 166.
Calais.indb 16 27.5.2008 15:08:38
The siege and capture of the town · 17 ·
the marriage could take place, fed to the French court ; for once it was Edward
whose schemes had failed rather than Philip.
in the spring of 1347, Philip fnally began to make strenuous eforts to move
to the relief of Calais. He received the sacred standard of French kings, the ori-
famme, at the monastery and royal mausoleum of st Denis on 18 March. His
intention was to summon his army to meet him at amiens by the end of april.
By May only a few troops had assembled, but Philip moved forward to arras.
it seemed likely that not until July would his forces be large enough to raise the
siege. During this time, intermittent fghting continued in the border region
between the French and the rebellious Flemings with English help. a com-
bined English and Flemish assault on saint-omer failed in april, but a later
attempt by the French garrison to pursue their enemy across the frontier into
Flanders and take the hilltop town of Cassel was equally unsuccessful in June.
Meanwhile the situation in Calais itself was becoming desperate. Chronicle
accounts from French, Flemish and English sources dwell on the lack of food,
with the wretched inhabitants forced to eat horses, dogs, cats and eventually
rats and mice, with some frying the skins of these animals in oil.30 Tis kind of
description can be seen as almost conventional when discussing a town in the
last stages of a prolonged siege, but there is little doubt that conditions inside
the town became very bad.
one English chronicler, Henry Knighton, adds the detail that at about this
time, when no further relief ships could get past the English artillery in the
tower on the Risban, about fve hundred ‘men of the lower class’ lef the town
to ask succour from Edward. Tis was denied them, as was re-entrance to the
town, so ‘they lingered between the army and the town, and sufering much
from hunger and the cold they died day afer day’.31 Te truth of this incident is
less easy to verify ; Jean le Bel, the very well-informed chronicler from liége, re-
counts a story of a similar incident in the early stages of the siege before the win-
ter of 1346–7 ; in his version fve hundred ‘useless mouths’ were expelled from
the town. When they came to Edward’s camp, they were brought into his great
chamber and there they were given food and drink and three shillings sterling
each and allowed to go on their way. le Bel stated that he recorded this because
of the ‘grande gentillesse’ of the king.32 Te former incident could be interpreted
as part of the conventional siege narratives of the time. For example, in 1418–19
Rouen was besieged for nearly six months by the English, and a contemporary
poem makes great play of the besieged eating cats, dogs, rats and mice : ‘for 30
pennies went a rat / for two nobles went a cat / for sixpence went a mouse / they
lef but few in any house.’ it then goes on to describe in harrowing terms the fate
of the poor expelled from the town to die in the ditch, fnishing, ‘and the dead
30 Te detail is from the chronicle of Gilles li Muisit, quoted in K. DeVries, ‘Hunger, Flem-
ish Participation and the Flight of Philip VI : Contemporary Accounts of the Siege of
Calais, 1346–7,’ Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, n.s. 12 (1991), 143.
31 Knighton’s Chronicle, quoted ibid., 142.
32 J. Viard and E. Déprez (eds.), Chronique of Jean le Bel (Paris, 1904–5), ii : 112–13.
Calais.indb 17 27.5.2008 15:08:38
· 18 · Chapter 1
knew nought of death / so secretly they gave up their breath / without a noise or
any cry / as if they slept, so did they die.’33
Jean le Bel’s more optimistic story refects the behaviour expected of a true
exemplar of chivalry, a reputation that Edward III was keen to cultivate and that
was enhanced shortly afer the conclusion of the siege by the foundation of the
order of the Garter in early 1349. Whether some were expelled from the town
or earlier had voluntarily tried to throw themselves on the mercy of the besiegers
or not, there is no doubt that by the summer of 1347 the town was in dire straits.
two fnal attempts to send in supplies by sea had failed. Te frst expedition in
May turned back at Boulogne when the ship masters saw the number of English
ships of the town.34 a second, which set of on 25 June, was totally defeated by
an English force at the mouth of the somme. Jean de Vienne probably got news
of this disaster quickly ; he may also have known that Philip VI had fnally lef
arras and was now encamped at Hesdin ffy miles south of Calais with a sub-
stantial army. Vienne set out in a letter to Philip in the plainest possible terms
the urgent need to attack the English as soon as possible. He wrote :
right dear and dread lord, know that although the people be all well and
of good cheer, yet the town is in sore need of corn, wine and meat. For
know that there is nothing which has not been eaten, both dogs, cats and
horses, so that victuals we can no more fnd in the town except we eat
men’s fesh.
He went on to state that ‘we have resolved amongst us that, if we have not suc-
cour quickly we shall sally forth from the town into the open feld to fght for
life or death’. His plea for help was entrusted to the Genoese master of a small
craf, which attempted to slip past the Risban fort and out of the harbour with
one other at dawn. Both were seen ; one retreated safely to Calais ; but the Ge-
noese vessel was driven ashore near the English lines. Te messenger attached
the letter to an axe and threw it overboard before he was captured but this was
retrieved at low tide and taken to Edward. He no doubt read it with much in-
terest and then kindly forwarded it to Philip. its complete text was eventually
included in Robert of avesbury’s chronicle.35
Philip did respond to this plea, eventually leaving Hesdin on 15 July. Te
route of his march lay by way of Fauquembergues, where he delayed for three
days, to lumbres near saint-omer. Here he proclaimed that it was the duty of
all able-bodied men to join him on pain of the loss of all their possessions. By 26
July he was outside Guisnes and fnally appeared on the high ground at sangatte
on the 27th.36 Tis may seem like a dilatory rate of advance, given the relatively
short distances involved, but in his defence it can be said that the army by this
33 Myers (ed.), English Historical Documents, iv : 220–2.
34 Saint-Omer Chronicle, fol. 226r

v.
35 E. M. Tompson (ed.), De Gestis Mirabilibus Regis Edwardi Tertii (London, 1889),
386–7.
36 Saint-Omer Chronicle, chapter entitled ‘How the king of France departed from Hesdin
and went to encamp on the Mount of Sangatte’.
Calais.indb 18 27.5.2008 15:08:38
The siege and capture of the town · 19 ·
time was very large and would have been impeded by quantities of slow-moving
wagons with baggage, victuals and all the other things needed by so large a body
of men.37
once he reached sangatte, the French army could be seen by those in the
town and also of course by the English. Tose in the town desperately signalled
to the king, trying to make him understand their dire situation. Te English
chronicler Geofrey le Baker describes how they greeted their hoped-for deliv-
erers at frst with a display of banners and a ‘great clamour of trumpets, drums
and clarions on the highest tower towards the French army for the space of half
an hour’. Every day that followed the noise and the size of a fre lighted on the
battlements grew less, until on the third night ‘they signifed that their power
to protect the town was ended’.38 Tere was, however, no immediate French
assault on the English camp, which was well defended both by earthworks and
the marshes and waterways around the town. Te French did manage to take
a tower defending the southern approach to the bridge at nieulay, but afer this
the reports of scouts seem to have convinced Philip that the chances of relieving
the town by an assault on its besiegers were remote. Te saint-omer chronicle
reports that the king was told that ‘he was wasting his time by staying there since
he could only obtain supplies with great danger’. negotiations with the English
with two cardinals acting as intermediaries had got nowhere, as had suggestions
that the matter could be ended by some form of chivalric challenge to battle at
a chosen time and place. on the night of 1–2 august orders were given to the
French to break camp. ‘Ten was seen great disorder ; some were abandoning
their baggage-carts, others smashing in their wine-casks, and a large portion of
the artillery was burned.’ By dawn the smoke rising from the French encamp-
ment as their tents and other supplies were set on fre would have been clearly
visible from the walls of Calais. it would have been clear that there was no alter-
native but to surrender the town to the English king and his forces.39
Tis surrender has since become one of the best known ‘set pieces’ of medi-
eval history. it was very widely reported by contemporaries. Te best-known
story is that of Froissart, which draws heavily on the chronicle of Jean le Bel.
Tis explains how negotiations began between the governor of the town
Jean de Vienne and King Edward as soon as it was realised that Philip VI had
withdrawn with his army. Te negotiators on the English side were sir Walter
Manny,40 a very well-known soldier who had many contacts at the French court
as well as being one of Edward III’s most trusted subordinates, and lord Basset.
Vienne set out the position in Calais clearly ; the town was starving. Manny
took the line that Edward was in no mood to ofer clemency to the town. He
pointed out that ‘the people of Calais have caused him so much trouble and
37 Sumption, Trial by Battle, 578, calculates that Philip had between 15,000 and 20,000
men at his disposal.
38 Myers (ed.), English Historical Documents, iv : 88.
39 Rogers discusses the negotiations with the cardinals in some detail in War Cruel and
Sharp, 278–82.
40 His name is also spelt ‘Mauny’ : J. Sumption, ‘Mauny [Manny], Sir Walter’, ODNB.
Calais.indb 19 27.5.2008 15:08:38
· 20 · Chapter 1
vexation, have cost him so much money and so many lives, that you cannot
wonder that he should be enraged against them’. nevertheless he agreed to
plead for mercy for the townspeople with the king. When he returned to Ed-
ward, Manny found that the king was adamant that no mercy should be ofered
to the town. He was only induced to change his mind when Manny suggested
that one day it might be the English who were faced with losing their lives in
these circumstances. Englishmen would go to a siege ‘less cheerfully if you have
these people put to death, for then they [the French] would do the same to us
if they had the chance’. Te king gave way and told Manny to return to Vienne
and tell him ‘this is the limit of my clemency : six of the principal citizens are to
come out with their heads and their feet bare. Halters round their necks and the
keys of the town and castle in their hands. With these six i shall do as i please
and the rest i will spare.’
Tis news was received in Calais with much distress, but the richest man
in the town, Eustache de saint-Pierre, stood up and ofered himself as one of
the six. Gradually others came forward until all six were assembled. Dressed as
Edward required, only in their shirts, they were led out of the town by Vienne,
riding on a little pony because he was too weak to walk ; behind came all the
people of the town, ‘men, women and children of Calais . . . weeping and wring-
ing their hands’. Manny then took the six to Edward’s chamber, where he was
surrounded by the whole court. Te six knelt before him and put their lives
in his hands. all the court were much distressed by seeing ‘men so humiliated
and in such mortal danger’. Te king alone was unmoved and demanded their
instant execution. Tis time Manny’s fervent pleas on their behalf had no efect.
However,the queen, Philippa of Hainault, although she was heavily pregnant,
‘humbly threw herself on her knees before the king’ and in turn pleaded for
mercy for the six. Tis time the king’s heart was sofened ; he could not refuse
her plea. Te six were handed to her ‘to do with what you like’. Tey were then
taken to her apartments, clothed and fed, and fnally, according to Froissart,
were ‘presented with six nobles each, led through the English army, and went to
live in various towns in Picardy’.41
Te best-known modern representation of the story is probably the monu-
mental sculpture by Rodin to be seen in the albert Embankment gardens in
london and the town square of Calais.42 Tis shows the burghers in all their
misery, a poignant appeal for pity and compassion. a history of Calais from the
1980s includes a preface that refers to the Rodin statue as recalling for all times
‘la resolution et l’abnegation’ of these heroic citizens.43 What, however are we to
make of this story ? is it to be taken at face value : a stirring story of self-sacrifce
and of the value of mercy ? is it a brilliant piece of what we might call ‘public
relations’ or even ‘spin’ ? is it a kind of morality tale with lessons to impart ? or
41 Froissart, Chronicle, 103–9.
42 Tere are also casts in sculpture galleries in America and the Musée Rodin in Paris.
43 J.-M. Moeglin, ‘Édouard III et les six bourgeois de Calais’, Revue historique, 291–2 (1994),
229.
Calais.indb 20 27.5.2008 15:08:38
The siege and capture of the town · 21 ·
part of a ‘national mythology’ ? Does the form of the story gradually alter with
more and more details being added until it becomes almost a theatrical scene ?
it is impossible to reach fnal conclusions on many of these questions at this
distance from the events. We cannot know what exactly Edward had in mind
on that august day when setting out the terms for the surrender of Calais. Tere
are strong arguments that this was a symbolic event designed from the frst to
resound through the courts of Europe emphasising Edward’s victory but also his
chivalry and willingness to be merciful.
Edward was evidently well aware of the value of a powerful image to enhance
his prestige and his authority. Te gold noble struck afer the victory at sluys in
1340 has a representation of the king himself on board his ship on the obverse,
a unique use of the coinage at the time for the commemoration of a notable
event. Te dramatic story, told by le Bel originally and given much wider cur-
rency by Froissart, is not found in all chronicles of the time. Geofrey le Baker
has a much simpler narrative in which Jean de Vienne surrenders the town to
the king, accompanied by other knights and burgesses, all of them with ropes
around their necks. afer being ofered the keys of the town, Edward ‘received
what was ofered to him and with royal clemency sent the captain, ffeen
knights and as many burgesses to England, granting them generous gifs and
liberty to go where they liked’. Te remainder of the townspeople were fed and
then expelled, most of them taking the road south to Guisnes.44 on the other
hand the saint-omer Chronicle, written shortly afer the event and by someone
living nearby, mentions the king’s heart being sofened by the pleas of ‘the queen
and her ladies and a great many knights’ on their knees. Te group given clem-
ency was, however, composed of Vienne with two knights and two burgesses ;
it is also stated that the knights were taken to England to be ransomed in the
usual way.45
Tere does seem, therefore, to be justifcation for the view that the surrender
of Calais was deliberately made into an event designed to add to the reputation
of the victorious king and to send a message to future adversaries. Tis is despite
the view that contemporaries record it at face value and do not see it as a mise en
scène. later writers put forward diferent interpretations. Voltaire raised some
doubts about Edward’s real intentions, but most nineteenth-century French
historians saw the actions of the six burghers as the peak of patriotic devotion
and willingness to sacrifce all for the sake of one’s country.46 By the second
World War, when Perroy was writing his history of the Hundred Years’ War, he
dismissed the incident as ‘a page in a picture book’.47 Te most recent account
of the siege in English ignores the incident, stating merely that ‘on 4 august
44 Myers, English Historical Documents, iv : 89.
45 Saint-Omer Chronicle, chapter ‘How the town of Calais surrendered to the king of Eng-
land afer the departure of the king of France’.
46 Moeglin discusses interpretations of accounts of the siege in detail in ‘Édouard III et les
six bourgeois de Calais’, 237–41.
47 Perroy, Te Hundred Years War, 120.
Calais.indb 21 27.5.2008 15:08:38
· 22 · Chapter 1
he [Edward] received the keys to the city.’48 in France a detailed study of the
incident and contemporary accounts of it places it within a ritual of humilia-
tion that was sometimes used on the surrender of besieged cities.49 Whatever
our view of the surrender ‘ceremony’, Edward was victorious and could at least
briefy bask in the fame that this brought him.
Problems remained to be faced. How could this new possession of the English
Crown in France be defended ? How should it be governed ? Would the amount
of time and money expended on its capture prove justifable ? Tese questions
would require the attention of the governments of all English monarchs during
the succeeding centuries while the town remained in English hands.
48 Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp, 282.
49 Moeglin, ‘Édouard III et les six bourgeois de Calais’, 291–2 ; idem, Les Bourgeois de Calais :
essai sur un mythe historique (Paris, 2002).
Calais.indb 22 27.5.2008 15:08:39
· 23 ·
2
a nEW RulER anD a nEW REGi ME:
tHE toWn anD tHE GaRRi son
i n tHE EaRlY YEaRs oF EnGli sH RulE

T
he 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 efgy is surrounded by images of
the most important military men in these campaigns, among them not only the
king, Edward III himself, but also the earl of Warwick, the earl of lancaster and
lord Despenser. He did not survive to witness the triumphant entry of the king
into his new domain, but the fame of the victory followed him home to norfolk
and was recorded for all to see in his parish church.
What was Edward’s attitude to the town and its inhabitants now that they
were securely within his hands ? Te town was stripped of everything of value by
the English ; with a certain amount of glee, Tomas Walsingham recorded that
‘there was not a woman in England of any account who did not enjoy the pick-
ings of Caen, Calais and other places’. Tis booty was not confned to valuables
but also ordinary household goods ; ‘coats, furs, quilts . . . table cloths, necklaces,
wooden bowls and silver goblets, linen and cloth’.2 Te French inhabitants of the
town were apparently expelled with only a few given leave to remain. as early
as 12 august, proclamations were issued throughout eastern England promis-
ing grants of property and other benefts to those who would settle in Calais.
new immigrants were promised that they would have, ‘liberties, privileges and
1 Sumption, Trial by Battle, 585.
2 Quoted ibid., 582.
Calais.indb 23 27.5.2008 15:08:39
· 24 · Chapter 2
immunities so that with their families and goods they may be able to remain
and live there safely’.3 Te impression created by this and other evidence is that
Calais in fact rapidly became an English town, what distinguished French his-
torians have called ‘a little piece of England in France’.4 it is certainly true that
the policy of repopulating Calais with English settlers was pursued with some
vigour. Te campaign was led by important English merchants, already well
known to the king because of their involvement in the raising of loans to fnance
the war. Tese included William de la Pole in Hull, John de Pulteney in london
and Roger norman in southampton.
Te relative success of their activities can be judged by a surviving roll of
grants made in the autumn of 1347. 189 separate grants are recorded, with the
property usually described as an ‘inn’ (that is, in modern terms, a house), but
also occasionally as a cottage or shop or an empty site.5 Te grants were made to
men from all over England, to judge by those whose names include their place
of origin. Wiltshire, shrewsbury, Watford, ipswich, london, Ely, sandwich and
lancaster are all mentioned. some of the new settlers may have been from the
lands allied to England ; their names are given as ‘Dalmaigne’ (d’allemagne),
a term that was used for the Empire in general. one or two were certainly ital-
ians, including one whose name was anglicised as ‘almeric skafeny of Pavye’
(Pavia), probably identical with the aymery of Pavia who was later involved
in a conspiracy in the town (described below). apart from Walter Chiriton,
another of the leading fnanciers of the wars, who was himself granted property
in the town, there are others who can be also identifed as london merchants,
including Tomas Gisors, a member of a family that had long been established
in the City as pepperers or vintners.6 Te most prominent person to receive
a grant of property was Queen Philippa ; she received a large block of property
near the Maison Dieu on 24 august. Tis may well have been in anticipation of
the birth of the princess Margaret, which occurred about this time.7
Tere is no way of knowing how many of these grantees actually moved to
Calais, but clearly they saw holding property there as potentially of beneft to
themselves and their families. Tese grants also sometimes give details of the oc-
cupations of the new owners ; there are, for example, a cordwainer, a goldsmith
and a butcher. it is hard to be sure that only a very few of the original inhabitants
were allowed to stay in the town. Te chronicles all suggest that only twenty-
3 Translated from Rymer, Foedera, iii/1 : 130, in D. Greaves, ‘Calais under Edward III’, in
G. Unwin (ed.), Finance and Trade under Edward III (Manchester, 1918), 314.
4 Calmette and Déprez, quoted in J. Le Patourel, ‘L’Occupation anglaise de Calais au XIVe
siècle’, Revue du Nord, 34 (1952), 228.
5 Te details of the grants can be found in CPR 1345–8 : 561–8. Tey were originally en-
rolled on a separate Calais Roll.
6 S. Trupp, Te Merchant Class of Medieval London (Ann Arbor, 1962), 345 ; C. M. Bar-
ron, London in the Later Middle Ages : Government and People, 1200–1500 (Oxford,
2005), 249.
7 CPR 1345–8 : 566. Te Complete Peerage, x : 393, gives her date of birth as 29 August. She
married John de Hastings, earl of Pembroke, in 1359 and died soon afer 1 October 1361,
leaving no descendants.
Calais.indb 24 27.5.2008 15:08:39
A new ruler and a new regime · 25 ·
two or so individuals at the very most were granted royal licences to stay put.
Te most notable of these is Eustace de saint-Pierre, the hero of the story of the
self-sacrifcing burghers of Calais.8 Te number of those expelled, however, is
unknown ; some of the poor may have been thrown out during the siege, as we
have seen ; others may have slipped out of the town on those victuallers that did
get through the English blockade or may have crept out under cover of darkness
or by bribing the besiegers.
Philip VI, perhaps because of the efect on his reputation of his withdrawal
from Calais without any attempt to relieve the town, treated at least some of
those expelled with a degree of generosity, despite Froissart’s claim that they
received nothing.9 in early september from his camp at amiens he issued a de-
cree that all those expelled should have the right to follow their trade in France
without paying extra dues and that when ofces or other benefts were forfeit
to the king, they would be granted to Calaisiens. Furthermore a commission
including men from Calais would be set up to resolve any disputes arising from
this decree. at least twenty grants of this kind can be traced in the French royal
records in the years 1348–52. some of the property given to the expelled towns-
people had been confscated from individuals who had aided the English or
committed crimes, but the majority had formerly belonged to lombards who
had disregarded the laws against usury.
Many seem to have stayed in the region of Calais, particularly in saint-omer,
where the wealthy d’aire (Dayre in English documents) family re-established
themselves. Baude d’aire was granted a house called la Couppe at saint-omer
and other property at Montreuil in august 1348. some of the d’aire property
in Calais itself had been among that granted to Queen Philippa immediately
afer the siege, and some was granted to the Carmelites for their new house
in september 1347. one Pierre de Bouvelingham from Calais was granted the
house and furniture in Bourges confscated from a butcher who had been ban-
ished from the town. Te former procurators of Calais, Fouques le Chien and
Jehan Hervuaz, converted their grant into cash when they sold the property of
one of the lombards for 200 écus d’or in november 1348.10 another group of
the refugees travelled far from their home town, being sent to Carcassone by
Philip ; there had been suspicions of disloyalty in the town, and the group from
Calais were credited with being particularly loyal to the French Crown.11 Tere
remains a suspicion, however, that many of the ordinary townsfolk either did re-
main in the town at least for the frst years of the English occupation or melted
into the general body of anonymous poor folk in northern France, leaving no
trace in the records.
8 CPR 1345–8 : 561.
9 Froissart, Chronicles, 110. Froissart enlarges on the ‘great burghers and their noble wives
and their handsome children’ who were forced to leave everything behind. He continues,
‘they managed as well as they could and the majority went to the town of Saint-Omer’.
10 M. E. Molinier, ‘Documents relatifs aux Calaisiens expulsés par Edouard III’, Le Cabinet
historique, 24 (1878), 251–80.
11 L. S. Torn, ‘Te Colonisation of Calais’ (B.Litt. thesis, Oxford, 1953), 77–9.
Calais.indb 25 27.5.2008 15:08:39
· 26 · Chapter 2
Te fact that Eustace de saint-Pierre was granted both money and property
by Edward III afer the siege tarnished his heroic reputation in France when
these benefts came to light in the archives in the early nineteenth century. Per-
haps he can be excused by pointing out that he was not a member of the garrison
or a knight, and as a leading townsman he had much to lose if he was expelled
along with the others. He is probably the source of the details of the town
administration, which Edward soon obtained and which were largely put into
efect under the new regime.12 saint-Pierre may also have been put under consid-
erable pressure to remain and may in truth have had little choice in the matter.
His heirs certainly did not inherit any of his Calais property as they were said
to be loyal to France,13 a fact that hints that he may have remained under some
duress. similar pressure may have been put on one John uphowe. He appears in
English records as the master of the engines and carpentry at Calais.14 His task
would in fact have been to maintain and operate the system of sluices that con-
trolled the water in the moats and other waterways around Calais. His expertise
would have been vital to the safety of the town and its defences and not easily
found among the victorious English.
By the end of september 1347, Edward was in a position to have some under-
standing of what the taking of Calais meant in terms of its need for good gov-
ernance and defence. Te truce concluded with Philip VI at this time defned
the area now under English control as the ‘town of Calais and the lordships of
Marck and oye and their lands’. Tis constituted a block of territory not greatly
diferent from the extent of the Pale in the later ffeenth century ; broadly speak-
ing it was the town itself and the coastal marshes stretching inland towards the
higher country round ardres. Te treaty of Brétigny and the additional articles
of Calais in 1360, the high point of Edward III’s conquests in France, extended
this area a little to include, as well as Calais itself, ‘the castle town and lordship
of Marck, the towns, castles and lordships of sangatte, Coulogne, Ham, le
Wal and oye ; with lands, woods, marshes, rivers, rents, lordships, advowsons
of churches and all other appurtenances and places lying within the following
limits and bounds’ (which were then specifed).15 to this was also added the
whole county of Guisnes in full sovereignty. Despite the extent of these lands it
was immediately obvious that they could not be self-sufcient. so much of the
land surrounding Calais was marshy that the growing of enough food to feed
the town and its inhabitants as well as those living in outlying settlements was
not possible. if Calais was to be held it must be provisioned either from England
or with the co-operation of Flanders. Tere is insufcient evidence to calculate
the total number of souls who would rely on these supplies. Te approximate
12 CPR 1345–8, 561.
13 Te grants to Saint-Pierre can be found in Rymer, Foedera, iii/1 : 138, grant of 40 marks
on 8 Oct. 1347 said to be ‘for keeping and good order of Calais’ ; CPR 1345–8 : 561, grant
of property. Reversion of property to the English Crown on his death can be found in
Torn, ‘Colonisation of Calais’, 98–9.
14 TNA, E101/167/8, m. 2.
15 Myers, English Historical Documents, iv : 104–5.
Calais.indb 26 27.5.2008 15:08:39
A new ruler and a new regime · 27 ·
numbers of the garrison are known, but there are no fgures that can be used to
estimate the size of the general civilian population, whether French or English,
at this date. Te most recent French historian of the town sees the town as se-
verely depopulated, at least in the immediate afermath of the siege ; as he points
out, Edward’s grants concern around 190 properties, while there were probably
about 2,000 houses within the walls before 1347. His melancholy conclusion
is that for the town there were now no means of earning a living, no trade, no
industry, no fshing.16
Tere is, however, plenty of evidence of the attention devoted by the king
and his ofcers to the question of the victualing of Calais and the strain this
imposed on local ofcials and communities in many parts of England. While
the siege was still underway, orders were being sent to ship masters to abandon
their expected voyages in order to take food to Calais. in april 1347 the Plenty
of Hook was diverted to Calais instead of Bordeaux with her cargo of 500 quar-
ters of wheat. in august 1347, the need to supply the camp had led to a serious
shortage of bread-corn in london ; two vessels loading corn for Bordeaux in the
Pool of london were discharged by royal command, despite the wishes of the
owners of the cargo, in order for this foodstuf to be sold in the City.17
in the months afer the successful ending of the siege not only were royal
purveyors very active in seeking foodstufs for the garrison but also individual
merchants were granted licenses to ship corn to the town. Te supplies for the
garrison included large quantities of fodder for the king’s horses ; the need to
ship hay from England as well as bread, oats, peas and beans for this purpose
gives some ides of the difculty of getting provisions locally.18 all told over
14,000 quarters of wheat, 4,000 quarters of malt, 8,000 quarters of oats, nearly
2,500 quarters of beans and peas and over 3,000 carcasses of beef were shipped
to the garrison of Calais between 1347 and 1361. Tis was to feed a garrison that
numbered just over a thousand men during these years.19 Tis number included
knights and squires, hobelars, horse and foot archers and the masons and other
workmen needed to maintain the fortifcations.20 Most of this large quantity of
food was supplied by the system of purveyance. Tis was a system whereby, exer-
cising powers that were part of the royal prerogative, ofcials, usually authorised
by the sherif of the county concerned, took what was requested from local
suppliers with the promise that those whose goods were taken would be paid at
some future date. it is not hard to imagine how unpopular this system was when
payments by the Crown were ofen extremely tardy.
Te advent of the Black Death in 1348 caused problems here as it did for so
16 Derville and Vion, Histoire de Calais, 57 : ‘De vivres point — ni de commerce, ni d’indus-
trie, ni de pêche.’
17 CPR 1345–8 : 372, dated August 1347. Te two ships concerned were the Katerine of La
Hope and the Jonette of La Hope.
18 CPR 1345–8 : 333, 409.
19 Tese fgures come from the table in S. J. Burley, ‘Te Victualling of Calais, 1347–65’,
Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 31 (1948), 53.
20 S. J. Burley, ‘Te Victualling of Calais 1347–65’, 51.
Calais.indb 27 27.5.2008 15:08:39
· 28 · Chapter 2
many other aspects of contemporary life. in 1351, in the frst parliament held
since the arrival of the pestilence, the Commons petitioned the king that be-
cause of the shortage of corn in England and the fact that much land was now
lying fallow and uncultivated that no commissions for purveyance should be
issued. Te king’s answer was to emphasize the desperate need for victuals in
Calais and to promise that payment would be made by the purveyors on the day
stated in their commission while the amount requested would be reduced by
half.21 Tere may well have been some hollow laughter from the Commons at
this response ; complaints about purveyance to feed armies or merely to supply
the royal household can be found in the records of most meetings of Parliament
from 1298 onwards and continue throughout Edward III’s reign. Te system
was open to abuse despite the best intentions of the king and his fnancial of-
fcials. Purveyors could use their position for their own advantage, like the two
leicester men who were accused of operating a ‘racket’ in the county in 1351.
Tey either took payments from suppliers not to take their goods or, having
taken them, sold them on their own account and to their personal proft. Te
result in this particular case was that over forty pigs and a large number of beef
carcasses did not reach Calais.22 two years later money collected for victuals for
Calais in Holt in norfolk was embezzled by the local constable.23 Tese cases
are known because they were investigated by the authority of commissions, with
their fndings enrolled in Chancery, but it is reasonable to suppose that many
more similar incidents occurred.
licences to merchants to take foodstufs to Calais for sale can be found on
the same rolls. looking at them in a group allows some deductions to be made
about what became a regular trading route. although the Crown was con-
cerned that the corn should not end up in the hands of the enemy,24 the licences
are ofen phrased in fairly general terms ; the corn or other victuals may go to
Calais or Gascony or even Flanders. a licence like the one issued to two ipswich
men in 1350 to ship 300 quarters of wheat to Calais alone, which also required
them to provide sureties that this would happen, is fairly unusual.25 it does seem
likely that the food situation was particularly difcult in Calais in 1350–51.
a collection of documents sent to the Exchequer by John de Wesenham from
lynn, one of the most important merchants supplying Calais, relates to one
series of supply voyages from lynn at this time. He was assisted by Tomas de
Fery, a royal sergeant-at-arms, and sent 750 quarters of wheat, 500 quarters of
beans, 1,002 quarters of malt and 500 quarters of oats in no fewer than ffeen
vessels at intervals between January and March 1350. Te provisions cost £795
21 Parliament of February 1351, Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.
22 CPR 1350–54 : 161.
23 CPR 1350–54 : 461.
24 In 1349 searches were authorized of ships laden with grain in the Tames as it was al-
leged that the cargoes were being shipped to enemy ports rather than a long list of au-
thorised destinations. CPR 1348–50 : 311.
25 CPR 1348–50 : 556.
Calais.indb 28 27.5.2008 15:08:39
A new ruler and a new regime · 29 ·
16s. 8d. and their transport a further £171 17s. 6d.26 in 1352, however, John de
Wesenham was allowed to ship 400 quarters of rye to Gascony because it could
not be sold at a proft in Calais.27 By 1355 the licences also tend to include ale as
well as bread-corn in the cargo, perhaps an indication that the town was becom-
ing more populous and its townspeople more secure. it is also noticeable that
the issue of these licences falls of almost completely during the period of rel-
ative peace in France afer the signing of the treaty of Brétigny, only to reappear
with the outbreak of war again at the end of the 1360s. When the surrounding
areas, whether in direct English control or not, were relatively peaceful, large
quantities of foodstufs for the townspeople were perhaps brought into Calais
in the normal course of trade without a great need for additional supplies from
England.28
Governing his new acquisition also faced Edward with the need to make
relatively rapid decisions. since Calais was frst of all a military base (Geofrey
of Harcourt told Edward that with its possession he would wear ‘the keys to
the realm of France’ at his belt),29 a military hierarchy was necessary to control
the forces of the garrison. at least the bones of this structure would need to be
in place before the king returned to England. on the other hand, the despatch
with which Edward issued the proclamation about property grants in the town
made clear that Calais would also continue to be a trading centre with (it was
hoped) a considerable body of townspeople. John de Montgomery was in fact
appointed captain of the town of Calais immediately before Edward lef for
England, landing at sandwich on 12 october 1347. a separate captain was ap-
pointed for Calais castle and also ofcials known as the marshal and the sene-
schal. By the following year a treasurer and a victualler were also appointed, to
control the considerable sums of money needed to pay and supply the garrisons
in the town, the castle and the other strong places in English control outside the
town walls. Te details of this administration changed a little in the remainder
of the fourteenth and early ffeenth century (for example, the captain was styled
‘governor’ between 1361 and 1370) but remained much the same in essence.
Tere seems to have been considerable difculty, however, in fnding a suit-
able and acceptable method of governing the civil population of the town and
the areas outside the walls. at frst, despite his apparent policy of forcing the
evacuation of all the French inhabitants, Edward seems to have decided to keep
in being the laws and customs of the town, as granted by Countess Mahaut of
artois in 1317. Te French Rolls include not only two copies of her charter to
the town, one followed by a formal confrmation by Edward, but also a docu-
ment called ‘Certain articles to be kept in the town of Calais’ and another that
sets out in considerable detail the way in which Calais had been governed by the
26 TNA, E101/173/11. Writ and indenture still enclosed in the original small leather bag.
27 CPR 1350–54 : 318. Wesenham’s activities as a purveyor are also discussed in Burley, ‘Te
Victualling of Calais’, 53.
28 Tese licences can be found in CPR 1354–8 : 307, 314, 406, 457, 468, 472, 477, 483 ; CPR
1358–61 : 6, 12, 312 ; CPR 1364–7 : 35, 36, 259, 291, 292, 310, 317 ; CPR 1370–74 : 90–91.
29 Froissart is the source of the remark. Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp, 249.
Calais.indb 29 27.5.2008 15:08:39
· 30 · Chapter 2
duke of Burgundy as count of artois. it seems at least probable that this infor-
mation was supplied by Eustace de saint-Pierre, whether willingly or not : his
annuity of 40 marks ‘for services rendered in safekeeping of the town’ is dated
at this time. Te articles to some extent summarise the actions taken by Edward
to this point but are signifcantly headed, ‘it is the will of the king that the an-
cient customs and rights that existed in the town of Calais before its capture
should be kept and upheld there in the future in all their points’.30 Te charter
was formally confrmed on December 3. to at least one French historian this
was no more than an exercise in public relations ; in reality Calais from then on
had English institutions run by Englishmen.31 Te more commonly held view is
that, until 1363, the old ways were implemented as far as possible.
Te day-to-day government of the town was in the hands of thirteen échevins,
a term usually translated as ‘aldermen’. Te role of the bailli or bailif, formerly
the ofcial appointed by the rulers of artois to protect their interests and collect
the revenues due to them, was, afer the fall of the town, amalgamated with that
of the seneschal appointed by Edward. Within a short period of time, his usual
title was in fact that of bailif, and his powers and duties were hardly diferent
from those exercised previously. Te échevins were elected for a year by their
predecessors (the frst group under the English regime were appointed by the
king) and were probably all Englishmen. Tis body had the duty frst of all to
maintain the town watch, a duty placed on all those living in Calais, and one that
was quite onerous. apart from this responsibility, the échevins collected the dues
and customs in the port and the rents of property due the king, and served in the
town courts dealing with disputes between citizens. if a member of the garrison
was also involved, then the captain would play a part in the pro ceedings.
it is in fact in the area of justice and the law that Edward’s promise to main-
tain all the former customs was least efective. Te charter of 1317 included in
the town government a group of so-called cormans, who seem to have had some
legal expertise and purpose, but there is no trace of them afer 1347.32 Tis may
indicate that, while the structure of the town court was little changed, its proce-
dures became similar to those used in England. Tere was thus in the town itself
and the suburb outside the walls a dual civil/military administration. Te civil
institutions soon became closely linked to the establishment of the Wool staple
in Calais in the 1360s and will be further discussed in the next chapter. outside
these limits in the area later known as the Pale, formerly the lordships of Marck
and oye, the system of the former overlord, the duke of Burgundy (the count
of artois), seems to have continued to operate with power now in the hands of
royal rather than ducal ofcials.
Behind the rather dry administrative and legal documents that provide most
30 Te frst three of these documents are printed in Rymer, Foedera, iii/1 : 139, 142–4,
and are discussed along with the last in Le Patourel, ‘L’Occupation anglaise de Calais,’
232–3.
31 Derville and Vion, Histoire de Calais, 57.
32 Le Patourel, ‘L’Occupation anglaise de Calais’, 232, 235 ; D. Greaves, ‘Calais under Ed-
ward III’, 318–22.
Calais.indb 30 27.5.2008 15:08:39
A new ruler and a new regime · 31 ·
of the evidence of how the town was governed, there are some indications, as
might well be expected, of tensions and nervousness among the inhabitants,
whether members of the garrison or ordinary townsfolk. First of all, although
Philip VI had lef the town to its fate in a somewhat ignominious fashion, this
did not mean that there were no attempts by the French to retake it and wipe
out the shame of its loss. Te English captured the outlying castles at oye and
Marck and those at sangatte and Coulognes in 1348–9 in order to increase the
security of their possession and curtail the irritation of skirmishing on the bor-
ders. Te most notable occurrence, however, was an attempt by the French cap-
tain of saint-omer to suborn some of the Calais garrison and thus get within
the walls. Te story reads like an episode of a chivalric romance but is apparently
grounded in fact.
some time in the autumn of 1349, Geofrey de Charny, in command at saint-
omer, got in touch with aymery de Pavia, an italian resident in the Calais gar-
rison. one English chronicler says that he had in fact earlier been in the service
of the French Crown with their force of Genoese galleys. He had also been
appointed captain of the galleys by Edward III in april 1348.33 Charny ofered
him a large sum of money ; perhaps as much as 20,000 ecus d’or to open a gate for
himself and his men. aymery seems to have been greatly attracted by the money
ofered, but also disturbed by the nature of the betrayal suggested. He may have
sent letters to Edward telling him of the conspiracy, or the king got wind of it in
some other way and summoned aymery to london. Te result, in either case,
was that the king, now fully informed of the plot, planned to ambush Charny
and his men. Both he and the prince of Wales slipped into Calais as unobtru-
sively as possible with a small force of archers and men-at-arms. on the night of
31 December 1349 /1 January 1350, a small group of Frenchmen approached the
walls ; a gate was opened and all crept into the town. once they were inside the
wall, however, the drawbridge was raised and the Frenchmen found themselves
trapped, facing the king and his men. all the Frenchmen were captured. Edward
then led a sortie out of the town by one gate and the Black Prince by another
to engage with the main body of the French forces outside the walls on marshy
ground. a furious hand-to-hand battle ensued ; the king and his companions
were outnumbered and in some danger, but his cries of ‘a Edward, seint
George’ brought aid, and eventually most of the French were killed or captured.
Te king himself fought with Eustache de Ribemont, like Charny a notable
French knight, and overcame him. Froissart then describes a scene, redolent of
the chivalry that was the real inspiration of his chronicle. Te king presented
Ribemont with his own ‘chapelet richement garni de perles’34 in recognition
of the bravery with which he had fought, and then set him free, while the other
knights were imprisoned to await their ransom. aymery himself later fell into
the hands of the French and was executed afer being horribly tortured.35
33 Rymer, Foedera, iii/1 : 159.
34 A circlet richly decorated with pearls.
35 G. Daumet, Calais sous la domination anglaise (Arras, 1902), 14–18 ; Froissart, Chroniques,
ed. S. Luce and G. Raynaud (Paris, 1869–99), iv : 71
Calais.indb 31 27.5.2008 15:08:39
· 32 · Chapter 2
an incident like this, coming shortly afer the trauma of the Black Death,
would have increased the nervousness of the population and hardly encouraged
the immigration of more settlers. Tis division of interests between the mer-
chants and townspeople, whom Edward was clearly keen to encourage to move
to Calais, and the garrison and military needs in general seems to have caused
problems in the frst years of the conquest. Edward had encouraged trafc to
the port by requiring vessels from Dover and other ports to put into Calais frst
before any other Channel port. He had exempted Calais merchants from all
dues and taxes, except royal customs, on merchandise exported to England for
three years. He had also declared that Calais should be the staple port for a wide
range of goods including cloth, feathers, tin and lead. it is hard to judge how
successful these measures might have been in normal times ; in the disturbed
and dismal afermath of the Black Death they seem to have had little efect. By
august 1348, English merchants were petitioning vigorously to be exempt from
the staple regulations and for licences to take their goods, particularly cloth, to
Gascony and other destinations.
some other faint impressions of life in the town can be gathered from some
of the commissions, pardons and other documents recorded on the patent rolls
in Chancery. What exactly had Richard atte Wode been up to in early 1350 ? He
was of high social rank, a royal sergeant-at-arms and an échevin of the town,
but he was sent back from Calais and incarcerated in the tower of london for
‘forming unlawful assemblies with men in the town and confederacies with
them’.36 it is suggested that these were the cause of disturbances and even the
possible loss of the town, but in the end he was pardoned and only expected
to fnd sureties to ensure ‘that he would behave faithfully henceforward in
that town, and if he should hold meetings or commit other like delict there he
should incur forfeiture of life and members and of his lands, goods and chat-
tels’.37 We can only speculate that some concerted action of both townsmen and
soldiers against the situation in the town, perhaps a lack of food, was contem-
plated, but no precise details of his ofence are recorded.
a garrison of the size of that at Calais was, of course, very unusual at this
time. it was also unusual in that it was intended to be there for the foreseeable
future. By this time normally being formed out of the indentured retinues of
the captains, feld armies were usually put together for the campaigning season,
and once the campaign was over, the men would be paid of. Frequent warfare
could create quasi-professional men-at-arms or archers, but garrison duties were
diferent. in this case, military life would become dominated by routine duties
and a regular way of life. Tere would be little chance of booty or stirring acts
of bravery, but there would, perhaps, be a chance to build a new life away from
the constraints of village life, or to escape from past problems. Tat this was the
case is a possible interpretation of some of the mentions of individual members
36 CPR 1348–50 : 590.
37 CCR 1349–54 : 196. He seems to have been received back into royal favour, as he was
granted 12d. per day for life as a member of the Calais watch in 1353. CPR 1350–54 :
491.
Calais.indb 32 27.5.2008 15:08:39
A new ruler and a new regime · 33 ·
of the Calais garrison in royal records. John Walker of stanlake, for example
was pardoned in 1351 for robbing the parson of his home village because of his
good service in Calais.38 Pardons were also granted to at least three members of
the garrison in the same year for causing deaths in England.39 another group of
pardons in 1360–61 for members of the Calais garrison related to six deaths and
one rape, most also occurring in England some time before the pardons were
granted.40
Te cost of maintaining Calais and ensuring its safety was, of course, consid-
erable. Tis included the wages of the garrison, the cost of their victuals and the
necessary maintenance of the fortifcations not only of the town and its castle
but also of the outlying defences, like the castles at Guisnes, oye and Marcke.
Tere are a number of the detailed accounts or particulars of the treasurer of
Calais, still surviving among the records of the Exchequer, which give a reason-
ably complete picture of the way in which the available funds were spent and
the totals involved. it is less easy to relate this material to the overall fnancial
position of the English Crown during the reign of Edward III, especially when
the war with France resumed in earnest in 1355–60 and 1369–77. Te fnancial
records of this period, although at times they can seem to be obsessed with the
smallest details, were not designed to make it easy to draw up a balance sheet,
as it were, of the king’s fnances. Te king’s ordinary revenue, made up of vari-
ous dues and customary payments, the income from Crown lands, the profts
of justice and the like, seems to have amounted to something in the region of
£30,000–£35,000 per year. to this must be added the income from the various
imposts on trade, principally the (variable) export duty on wool and wool fells,
and the income from taxes that might be granted by the clergy, or agreed to by
parliament for the laity, when called upon to do so by the king in time of war.
Te amount that should be raised by the usual tax, in the form of a ffeenth
of the value of moveables in the countryside and a tenth of their value in the
towns, could be calculated in advance but was invariably reduced by collection
difculties and other problems. in this situation, the king frequently needed to
raise loans, usually secured either against the customs revenue or against the
value of jewels and the like in his possession. Te need of the English Crown for
loan fnance in times of war had, in fact, led to the bankruptcy of their principal
creditors in the earlier part of the century. Te collapse of the italian banking
houses of the Bardi and Peruzzi in 1340 was only the most spectacular incident
of this kind. later, in 1347, Walter Chiriton, one of the london merchants who
took up property in Calais, was the head of a syndicate that lent the enormous
sum of £66,666 to the king for the expenses of the siege itself, secured on the
customs payable on a forced loan of wool.41 Tis turned out to be a disastrous
speculation : by July 1348 Chiriton was forced to seek aid from his rival John
de Wesenham, who lent him £4,000 secured this time against the king’s great
38 CPR 1350–54 : 36
39 CPR 1350–54 : 37, 71, 215.
40 CPR 1358–61 : 476, 504, 505, 507, 510, 513, 529.
41 Sumption, Trial by Battle, 568.
Calais.indb 33 27.5.2008 15:08:39
· 34 · Chapter 2
crown, which was in Chiriton’s possession.42 Tis did not avert disaster, and he
was bankrupt by the following year, owing at least in part to the interruption to
trade caused by the Black Death.43
Te total income of the English Crown from all these sources has been
variously estimated at between £100,000 and £200,000 per annum. Te higher
sum was perhaps the result of various accounting manoeuvres, with the ‘real’
income being nearer £120,000.44 of this total the expenses of Calais, that is to
say the whole area in English hands, in the wages of the garrison and the neces-
sary supplies, not only of victuals but also war materials, and those needed for
the maintenance of the fortifcations, came to around £20,000, about a ffh of
the total resources of the Crown in time of war. Tere is no doubt that this was
a considerable burden. in the reign of Richard II, when the French wars were
going badly for the English, John of Gaunt is recorded as saying bitterly, ‘Ca-
lais greved more England and dede more hurt therto than proft, for the grete
expensis aboute the keeping therof.’45
Te accounts of the treasurer of the town allow us to gain a detailed break-
down of these expenses. Tose for 1351/2 and 1352/3, years that saw little active
fghting, reveal that money received from the Exchequer reached a total of
£7,529 10s. 5d. in the frst year and only £4,746 13s. 4d. in the second.46 Te
treasurer also received small sums from the dues and rents payable in Calais
and some profts on exchange transactions. His accounts were also improved
by credits from the victualler. at this date the garrison’s food was not supplied
free but paid for by each individual by a deduction from his wages. Tese wages
are recorded in detail, as also are the various payments made by the treasurer.
Te general necessaria section of these payments can be revealing. it is evident,
for example, that the captain of Calais himself, accompanied by a small retinue,
travelled frequently to london to consult with the council, to collect money or
to attend Parliament. Te crossing to Dover was relatively expensive at a cost of
around £5 for the whole party and their horses. Te unrest in Calais in 1350–51,
hinted at above, is confrmed by the entry of a payment of 51s. 4d. for expenses
incurred on the execution of men from Kent for murder and sedition. Tirty-
two archers also received extra pay for watching outside the walls of Calais on
fourteen dark nights.47 Friars minor were paid for celebrating masses in the
castle chapel at a rate of 6d. per day. among the military specialists and artisans
employed, including artillerymen, a plumber, a tiler, and carpenters, there is
also one spy or scout (explorator). His name, Hankine van schise, suggests that
he was Flemish, if not one of the original inhabitants of the town.48 turning to
the maintenance of the town and its defences, both accounts record the costs
42 T. H. Lloyd, ‘John de Wesenham’, ODNB.
43 G. Holmes, ‘ Walter Chiriton (f. 1340–1358)’, ODNB.
44 E. Perroy, ‘L’Administration de Calais en 1371–1372’, Revue du Nord, 34 (1952), 220–21.
45 Quoted in Derville and Villon, Histoire de Calais, 64.
46 TNA, E 101/170/16 and E 101/171/1.
47 TNA, E 101/170/16, fol. 22v.
48 TNA, E 101/171/1, fol. 13r.
Calais.indb 34 27.5.2008 15:08:39
A new ruler and a new regime · 35 ·
of paving the town ; this cost 3s. 8d. per rood and probably relates to the roads
over the marshes.49 Tis was still going on in 1354–5 when stoonpikkers were
employed for this purpose.50
Te accounts for 1371/2 give the precise composition of the garrison in detail.
it consisted of a total of around 1,132 men. 481 were based in the town and castle ;
ardres, (temporarily in English hands at this date) was held by 320, audruicq
by 50 and Guisnes by 80, while the strongholds of Marck, oye, Hammes and
sangatte held between 35 and 14 men. Te men’s wages, as recorded by William
Gunthorp, the treasurer for these years, are in some cases at higher rates than
those normally used.51 Te garrison of Calais Castle was paid as follows : knights
received 2s. per day, scutiferi (men-at-arms) 12d., hobelars (mounted men armed
with swords and with basic armour) 8d., archers (no distinction is made be-
tween mounted and foot archers) 6d. a sum called a regardum, a kind of bonus
payment, which may have been included because of the lack of opportunities
for booty while part of a garrison force, was also paid. at ardres the pay rates
were slightly diferent again, with knights receiving 3s., men-at-arms 12–18d.,
mounted archers 9d. and foot archers 6d. Te total cost in wages and fees, in-
cluding those of ofcials, various specialists like gunners, plumbers and a tiler,
collectors of customs and ofcials of the mint came to just under £20,000. Vari-
ous special items were also included in this, like the costs of transporting £1,000
in gold from london to Calais by way of Dover (50s.) and payments for goods
lost in the war to one Marie, a domicella de Hone (66s. 8d.).52
Work on the fortifcations, most importantly on the Risban tower, which
commanded the harbour entrance, came to £645 9s. 6¾d. ofset against this
sum was the income accruing to the Crown from various rentals and dues. Tese
varied from the income from fsheries like that under the bridge at Melleques,
to the value of a small amount of bread-corn grown near ardres, and the rents
of properties in Calais town, including that in the frerlane that was leased to
John de Wesenham for 13s. 4d. per year. all told the income from the region
itself came to £1,585 15s. 2¾d. in this account. Te fnal conclusion was that royal
expenditure on Calais of all kinds came to £20,264 2s. 9d. and exceeded the
money received from the Exchequer and that arising locally by £1,418 6s.53
Despite John of Gaunt’s view expressed above, there is no doubt, however,
that Edward III thought that the expenditure on Calais was fully justifed. in
the period from the early 1350s to 1360 the town played an important role in
Edward’s strategy with regard to the war with France. in 1351 raids had been led
49 TNA, E 101/171/1, fol. 15v.
50 TNA, E101/171/3.
51 Te usual rate was a knight 2s., a man-at-arms 12d., a mounted archer 6d., a foot archer
3d. H. J. Hewitt, Te Organisation of War under Edward III (Manchester, 1966), 36. Te
accounts for the 1350s contain no payments for a regardum, while the pay of the captain
himself varied from 3s. 6d. to 4s. per day.
52 Te term can apparently mean either young lady or harlot.
53 Te details of the Treasurer’s account for 1371–2 come from E. Perroy (ed.), Te Accounts
of William Gunthorp, Treasurer of Calais, 1371–72, Mémoires de la Commission départe-
mentale des monuments historiques du Pas de Calais, 10 (Arras, 1959).
Calais.indb 35 27.5.2008 15:08:39
· 36 · Chapter 2
from Calais towards saint-omer and ardres by two of the leading English com-
manders : Henry of lancaster, who probably had more experience at this date
of fghting the French than any other English captain, and sir Walter Mauny
or Manny, another experienced soldier and diplomat, whose association with
Calais went back to the siege, when he had been involved in the negotiations
for the surrender of the town. in 1355, the town served as the starting point
for a major expedition into northern France led by the king himself. Tis had
been planned as the northern arm of a two-pronged attack on France, with the
prince of Wales leading a chevauchée from Gascony while his father launched
an attack from Cherbourg, in conjunction with their ally, Charles of navarre.
Both forces were held in port for most of the summer by contrary winds, and by
september, Edward was forced to change his plans. Te alliance with navarre
had collapsed ; a landing on the Cotentin peninsula was out of the question.
Te substitute strategy was to mount a quick destructive raid from Calais into
Picardy moving south, perhaps to provoke John of France into giving battle.54
Te earlier raids probably did not increase the number of military men in Ca-
lais, being undertaken by the garrison as a welcome opportunity for action. Te
expedition of 1355, involving the presence of the king and other men of note in
the town, as well as around 10,000 soldiers, would have almost overwhelmed
the burgesses and their resources. included in the total were around a thousand
men-at-arms from Flanders, Brabant and the German states, drawn to fght
alongside Edward not only by his reputation for chivalry and success but also
by the prospect of booty and lucrative ransoms.55 Te force lef Calais at the
end of october and was back, camped outside the walls, in around two weeks.
no battle had ensued, although much destruction was caused to French-held
territory.
Te following year, that of the Black Prince’s crushing victory at Poitiers,
Calais was not a centre of activity. Most interest centred on the Prince and his
intentions, although a relatively small-scale raid into France was also conducted
by Henry of lancaster, moving into normandy in late June from his landing
place at saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. if Edward III himself had originally intended
to lead a third raid from Calais, as has been suggested, this did not place.56afer
the Black Prince’s triumph and the capture of King John II of France, strenuous
eforts were made to conclude a treaty between the warring parties and bring
the fghting to an end. in all the draf treaties, along with the mention of many
other territorial gains, it was laid down that the English would hold Calais and
the Pale and the county of Guisnes in full sovereignty. it was the failure of any
of these drafs to be ratifed by the French, despite the desperate desire of John II
to return to his devastated kingdom from his imprisonment in England, which
decided Edward in 1359 to lead another chevauchée deep into French territory
from Calais. When news of his intention got abroad, once again crowds of
54 Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp, 287–8, 295–304.
55 Ibid., 297.
56 Ibid., 341–7, 349.
Calais.indb 36 27.5.2008 15:08:39
A new ruler and a new regime · 37 ·
unemployed men-at-arms from all over western Europe poured into the town,
eager to fght under Edward’s banner and, as before, to share in the expected
booty.
Henry of lancaster had to be sent ahead of the main English army to disperse
the crowds of armed men without adequate provisions or shelter, before the
situation became unmanageable. lancaster led them on a foray to saint-omer
and then in the direction of the somme. Tey joined up with the main English
royal army outside Calais on the end of october. Edward then informed the
foreign men-at-arms that he could not take them into his army as paid troops,
but they were welcome to join his forces for a share of any booty that might be
gained. some took up this ofer but others lef for home Te king’s army from
England then set out on a foray that would take them to Reims and the out-
skirts of Paris.57 Te townspeople of Calais may well have watched the army’s
banners fading in the distance with a deep sense of relief. in this instance, the
devastating march of the English through the French countryside was followed
by the negotiations that produced the treaty of Brétigny. Tis was intended
to end the wars, setting out clearly what territory and what rights each of the
contending monarchs possessed. Te position, as far as Calais was concerned,
was no diferent from that agreed in the earlier truces. Te town and its environs
were to be part of the lands of the king of England in full sovereignty. Te only
major change to the borders of English territory, as set out in the treaty, would
be the retaking of ardres and audruicq by Philip of Burgundy in 1377.
Te conclusion of this treaty, however, provides an opportunity for consider-
ing the condition of Calais as it had developed in the thirteen years since the
siege. Te English hold on the town had proved to be secure ; the garrison, the
fortifcations and the natural defences of the marshes had kept it secure from
attempts to retake it. Yet was it really the key to the kingdom of France ? Te
duchy of aquitaine in the south-west, the dowry of Eleanor, the queen of Henry
II, was far more extensive (even given that its borders were porous and fuctu-
ated frequently). it was in this part of France that all the most spectacular eforts
of the English had taken place in the 1350s. northern France had been compre-
hensively laid waste, as Jean de Venette poignantly recorded in his Chronicle,58
but deeds of extraordinary military prowess had all taken place far from Calais.
in many circumstances it was strategically wiser for an English king to land in
northern France, not in the extreme north-east corner, but centrally in nor-
mandy or the Cotentin. Tis was the case with the expedition of Henry of lan-
caster in 1356. Calais’s convenience as the nearest port to England was of course
immense. Tis could ease diplomatic negotiations and even at times allow the
town to be a convenient ‘listening post’ to gauge the importance of events or
development of opinions on the far side of the Channel. a casual observer in
1360 would, however, it is suggested, see the town’s importance as residing es-
sentially in its military and ofcial roles at this early date. Commercial life or the
57 Ibid., 386–90, 400–402.
58 J. de Venette, Te Chronicles of Jean de Venette, ed. J. Birdsall (New York, 1953) 93–4.
Calais.indb 37 27.5.2008 15:08:40
· 38 · Chapter 2
development of a civic society, whether heavily infuenced by English models
and customs or not, was not so evident. Te events of 1359–60 epitomised this.
Edward III’s expedition of 1359, with the focking to the town of foreign men-at-
arms, the elaborate ceremonies surrounding the return of John II from England
and the ratifcation of the treaty of Brétigny in st nicholas’s Church, crowded
the town with soldiers and courtiers. Te presence of merchants, except as sup-
plying the needs of these customers, would have passed almost unremarked. We
have already, however, pointed to Edward’s desire for a wider commercial role
for this new acquisition of the English Crown, and it is to this we will turn in
the next chapter.
Calais.indb 38 27.5.2008 15:08:40
· 39 ·
3
sEtti nG uP tHE staPlE:
a nEW RolE FoR Calai s

I
f Calais was to be more than a garrison town, it needed a sound com-
mercial base. Edward III’s action in encouraging new immigrants to
settle in the town immediately afer 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 trad-
ers to base themselves. Without, however, going as far as the French historians
who deny that Calais ever had any economic value for England and claim that
its possession was only a matter of prestige,1 it can be argued that, at least until
the last decade of the fourteenth century, there were considerable difculties
in developing a vibrant urban society in Calais outside its role as a military and
diplomatic base. Te solution to the problem was, perhaps, found in the estab-
lishment of Calais as the staple town for the sale of English wool and wool-fells
to continental, mainly Flemish, merchants.
Tere was nothing new in the idea of setting up a staple system. it involved
the designation of one or more places as the only locations in which wool (or
any other commodity) could be legally bought or sold. Te system was benef-
cial for the Crown, since the trade could be regulated and dues collected more
easily if it was concentrated in one place, or perhaps a small group of towns.
it also had advantages for merchants, who could be reasonably sure that they
would fnd both buyers and sellers in the staple town, and that the trade and
traders would enjoy a measure of ofcial protection. Tere was also a perception
that a staple was particularly advantageous to the merchants in the largest way of
business, since it ofered opportunities for them to establish quasi-monopolies
and squeeze out the ‘little men’. Wool was the commodity most ofen subject to
1 Perroy, ‘L’Administration de Calais’, 223 ; Derville and Vion, Histoire de Calais, 66.
Calais.indb 39 27.5.2008 15:08:40
· 40 · Chapter 3
staple legislation, since it was by far the most valuable article of trade for English
merchants. Te taxation of wool, usually in the form of export dues (both cus-
toms duties and additional subsidies) on wool going overseas, provided a vital
stream of ready money for English kings. Tis ‘cash fow’ was also employed
as the collateral for loans made by both foreign and English merchants, and in
this form it was the basis of English war fnance for most of the late medieval
period.
Te earliest staple for the sale of English wool had been established at st
omer in 1313, largely at the instigation of merchants who faced the danger of
arrest and the confscation of their wares in Flanders, their normal market,
because of the bad relations between England and Flanders at this date.2 Te
location of the staple, however, and the particular regulations under which it
would operate were not simple matters ; decisions on this brought together
many interest groups with conficting demands. Te king had his own priori-
ties, dictated by the fuctuating political situation in France and Flanders, the
state of any military campaign in progress or contemplated, and the condition
of royal fnances. Merchants were not united on all aspects of staple policy ; it
might depend whether they were in a small or large way of business, whether
they were london-based or came from other trading or wool-producing areas
like Yorkshire or East anglia. Tose who sold to italians tended to have a dif-
ferent point of view from those who sold to the cloth makers in Bruges, Ghent
and Ypres or other towns in Flanders. in london itself there could be intense
rivalry between the members of the diferent livery companies involved in the
wool trade in the later fourteenth century. Provincial woolmen and growers had
yet other interests. some of these difering groups might favour home staples
(staple towns nominated in England) over one abroad. Tey might wish to
see the export trade solely in the hands of foreign merchants or might fnd the
prohibition of export by denizen merchants destructive of their whole business.
it is not surprising, therefore, to fnd that royal policy on the location and regu-
lation of a wool staple changed frequently throughout the fourteenth century,
responding to the diferent fnancial and political pressures on the Crown at
any one time.
as far as Calais was concerned, these changes of royal policy were of great
concern, particularly before 1399 when the wool staple was fnally frmly located
in the town. Te Company of the staple of England, as it became known, main-
tained its base in Calais from that date until the end of the years of English rule.
Tere are, however some problems in trying to establish how this company was
organised and how it acted to control the trade in wool and wool-fells. not sur-
prisingly, its records were kept at Calais, and when the town fell to the French
in 1558 all were apparently lost and presumably destroyed. as the staplers them-
selves mournfully recorded in the ordinance Book that they compiled afer the
loss of Calais, ‘our former books, lawes, orders and muniments made by longe
2 R. L. Baker, ‘Te Establishment of the English Wool Staple in 1313’, Speculum, 31 (1956),
444–53.
Calais.indb 40 27.5.2008 15:08:40
Setting up the staple · 41 ·
cours of tyme by the wisdome aand prudenties of our grave auncestours made,
collected and registered were from us with the seide towne of Callais surpriused
and witholden’.3 Te ordinance Book almost certainly mirrors at least some of
these ‘lawes and orders’, but there are no early minute books or other papers that
would enable us to have a clear idea of the internal organisation and activities of
the Company, as can be obtained for some of the london livery companies, for
example the Grocers or the Mercers.4
Te staplers’ mournful comment on the total loss of their records in 1558 was
not completely accurate. one earlier document does survive. Tis is the Regis-
ter of the Company, which was presumably either in london at the time of the
fall of Calais or in the personal possession of one of the ofcers of the Company
and carried away from the town when he lef as a refugee. Tis book is now in
the Borthwick Collection at the university of York.5 it is a large leather-bound
ledger into which, beginning in the reign of Edward IV, were copied the most
important royal grants and similar documents of the Company. its date is not
in dispute, since the earliest documents in the book have elaborate decorated
initial letters, while for those dating from the later years of Edward IV the begin-
ning of each document is ruled and laid out for the insertion of the decoration,
but this has not taken place. all the entries are also in the same hand until the
end of Edward IV’s reign, afer which a variety of hands can be found. Te last
documents in the book date from the reign of James I. Te importance of this
collection is that it makes clear that the Company was, in its own opinion,
founded in Bruges in 1341. Tis is the date of the frst entry in the Register. Tis
may be no more than a refection of the common medieval desire to demon-
strate a respectably lengthy ancestry. Te succeeding entries, however, set out
the powers of the Company in Calais and make clear that by 1359 it was a cor-
porate entity with elected ofcials, powers of jurisdiction in disputes between
merchants, and even a gaol in which to incarcerate the recalcitrant. Te collec-
tions of some of the private papers of two stapler families, the Celys and the
Johnsons, can throw some further light on the Company in the later ffeenth
and sixteenth centuries, but for the earlier period the records of the Crown are
also very important.6
3 Te Ordinance Book of the Merchants of the Staple, ed. E. E. Rich (Cambridge, 1937), 104.
4 For the history of the Grocers’ Company, see P. Nightingale, A Medieval Mercantile
Community : Te Grocers’ Company and the Politics and Trade of London, 1000–1485 (New
Haven and London, 1995), and for the Mercers, A. F. Sutton, Te Mercery of London :
Trade, Goods and People, 1130–1578 (Aldershot, 2005).
5 York, Borthwick Institute, MS Staple 2. Te Staple collection of MSS was transferred
from the BL to York in the 1990s.
6 Te Cely letters have been published by the Early English Text Society, Te Cely Letters
1472–1488, ed. A. Hanham (Oxford, 1975). An earlier edition by H. E. Malden, Te Cely
Papers (London, 1900), includes some accounts and other material not in the Hanham
edition. Te Johnson letters and papers have not been published but are commented
on extensively in B. Winchester, Tudor Family Portrait (London, 1955). Te letters have
been transcribed in B. Winchester, ‘Te Johnson Letters, 1542–1552’ (PhD thesis, Uni-
versity of London, 1953).
Calais.indb 41 27.5.2008 15:08:40
· 42 · Chapter 3
Before the fall of Calais to the English, the wool staple had been located both
overseas, most commonly at Bruges, and also in England itself at ‘home staples’.
in 1343 a petition presented by merchants to parliament argued forcefully for
the move of the staple from Bruges back to England itself. Teir reasons for
requesting this are of some interest, revealing both contemporary attitudes to
trade and the way the wool trade in particular was entangled in royal policy
making. Te idea of free trade as advanced by nineteenth century liberals was
completely foreign to medieval thinking. Te need for controls was axiomatic,
to protect the various interests involved against the machinations of their rivals
or other authorities, for example, in this case, those in Bruges, Ghent and Ypres,
who were accused of manipulating the market in English wool to the beneft of
their own merchants and clothiers. specifcally they were accused of destroying
the cloth industry of ‘the lesser towns of Flanders’ by forbidding these towns
to ‘work any cloth and have burned their looms to the great detriment and
abasement of English wool’. a return to home staples would, it was claimed,
conversely raise the price of English wool. another issue was that of bullion ;
all governments at this date were very anxious to control the supply of bullion
within their realms and regarded its export as draining away the wealth of the
state. Te gold coins used in Bruges were generally considered to be overvalued
compared with the English noble (the English gold coin), leading to losses
on exchange for English merchants. Te petition also refers extensively to the
losses incurred by merchants who were ‘impoverished and ruined because their
wool was taken from them at Dordrecht’ (a notorious example of the king
manipulating the wool market to raise war fnance), or who had sufered losses
from other royal forced loans in wool.7 on this occasion, the king responded
by promising them recompense from the customs revenue, but this clause il-
lustrates the intimate connection between the taxes on wool and royal fnances
especially in time of war.8
in Bruges itself at this time there was a mayor of the staple elected by the
English merchants trading there, but in the view of later commentators this
does not imply that a company in the formal legal sense existed, but rather that
this was a company in the informal sense of a group with a common purpose.
Te grant from 1341 in the staple Company register described above, perhaps,
suggests that this view was not held by contemporaries. a similar group, includ-
ing in fact many of the same individuals, also existed to collect the wool cus-
toms at this date. Te issue of home staples was not resolved to the petitioners’
satisfaction in the parliament of 1343, and the staple remained abroad, moving
from Bruges to Middelburg and back again, until in 1352 the export of wool was
banned altogether.9 Te cause was no mystery ; following a spate of tit-for-tat
7 Tis relates to wool sent to Dordrecht in 1337/8 to back a loan to the king.
8 Commons Petition to King Edward III, Parliament of April 1343 ; Te Parliament Rolls of
Medieval England.
9 T. H. Lloyd, Te English Wool Trade in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1977). Te chapter
‘Quest for a staple policy’, pp. 193–224, gives details of all the twists and turns in the
royal policy on wool staples at this period.
Calais.indb 42 27.5.2008 15:08:40
Setting up the staple · 43 ·
robberies at sea, ‘the king has learned that the mariners of Flanders, by order of
their superiors, are preparing to set out to sea to infict what damage they can
on the king and his subjects until they recover the damages which they pretend
they have received from the king’s subjects’.10 Exports were only resumed afer
the passage of the ordinance of the staple in the parliament of 1353, and this was
recast as a statute a year later.
Tis statute set up a list of towns where staples would be established. Tese
included Westminster, York and lincoln, as well as Carmarthen in Wales and
four towns in ireland. More controversially in the eyes of modern commenta-
tors, it prohibited denizen merchants from the export of wool. Tis would be
lef entirely in the hands of aliens (Flemings or italians in the main), who would
buy their supplies in England and bear all the costs and difculties of transport
overseas, exchange problems and the like themselves. Tey would also of course
pay the custom and subsidy on export at the higher alien rate, to the beneft of
the king’s fnances. as well as these provisions, the statute included clauses re-
garding general mercantile practice, including the settlement of debts. Tis part
of the statute remained in force for many years, ensuring that the home staples
had some relevance and continued in existence long afer the clauses relating
specifcally to the export trade in wool had ceased to operate.11 By 1357 denizen
merchants were permitted to resume exporting wool, provided they paid taxes
at the alien rate, and by 1359 a staple had been re-established in Bruges. Entries
in the staple Company Register, mentioned above, that refer to the Company
being at Calais at this date are confusing but again clearly refect what the
Company saw, in the later ffeenth century, to be the ‘preferred version’ of its
origins. Te image created by the Register is that the Company was frmly based
at Calais as a legally constituted body from 1359, despite all the contradictory
evidence that also exists.
How did these continual changes, which must have made commercial life
difcult for both buyers and sellers, relate to Calais ? its great advantage was that
it was under English control ; abrupt changes of policy by a foreign ruler could
not suddenly throw the market into confusion. on the other hand, while the
town was well situated for merchants coming from the cloth-making centres in
Flanders, it was out of the way for those wishing to export to italy. For them,
direct export by sea from England from a port such as southampton was the
best solution. Te king was also in a much better position to deal with problems
concerned with bullion and the coinage in his own territories rather than in
those of a rival ruler. Tese arguments were appreciated by the king, who had
summoned an assembly of merchants in May 1361, including six from Calais
itself, to discuss the whole question of staple towns for the sale of wool. at
the opening of the Parliament of october 1362, it was claimed in the opening
speech that Calais would be a ‘good and convenient place and location for the
10 CCR 1349–54 : 506, quoted in Lloyd, Te Wool Trade, 205.
11 Ordinance of the Staple : Edward III, Parliament of September 1353 ; Te Parliament Rolls
of Medieval England.
Calais.indb 43 27.5.2008 15:08:40
· 44 · Chapter 3
wool and residence of merchants’, avoiding the problems caused by the king’s
lack of jurisdiction in foreign places and at least some of the currency difcul-
ties. Te Commons’ reaction to this was somewhat muted ; the knights of the
shire felt unable to comment but noted that some merchants agreed with this
and others did not. Te matter should be held over until a better idea could be
got of merchant opinion.12 We do not know if any such consultation took place,
but on 9 February 1363 Calais was declared to be the staple town for the sale of
wool and wool-fells. Te matter of the location of the staple was, however, only
one aspect of a change of policy towards Calais that the king had in mind. in
the following month, March 1363, a charter was issued to a group of twenty-six
English merchants granting them the right to govern Calais. Te system set up
by the old charters of Countess Mahaut was revoked. two of this group, John
Wroth and John de Wesenham, would hold the position of mayors, and the
remaining twenty-four would be aldermen.13
Tis can be interpreted as the moment of the formal foundation of the
Company of the staple, but in efect it seems more concerned with the handing
over of the government of the town to a group of merchant oligarchs. Certainly
many of those named in the charter were heavily involved in the wool trade.
Wesenham we have already mentioned as a lynn merchant with a major inter-
est in the victualing of Calais, who also owned property in the town. He had
been one of the partners in the syndicate to farm the customs in 1346 and had
helped clear up the consequences of Walter Chiriton’s bankruptcy in 1349.
More recently, in 1360, he had been commissioned to put a feet to sea for the
protection of trade in the north sea. Tere is no doubt that he was well known
to the king and would probably have been privy to the thinking behind this
turn of events. Wroth had been an alderman of the city of london since 1358,
was lord Mayor in 1360/61 and was mayor of the Westminster staple in 1353/4,
a position only held by a leading wool merchant. He was a member of the Fish-
mongers’ Company, who despite their name were deeply involved in the wool
trade. We can speculate here that it may have been intended to bring together
leading merchants and contributors to royal loans in a scheme to link trading
advantages with the internal control of Calais.
if there was such a scheme, it seems to have been a spectacular failure, serv-
ing only to infuriate wool merchants outside the magic circle of the twenty-six
aldermen and to provide poor governance for Calais. in parliament in october
1363, the Commons petitioned vigorously that the ‘new company of merchants
now residing at Calais’ should desist from placing an extra 40d. per wool sack
duty on cargoes entering the town, ‘which money [the Commons complained]
is received to their own use’. Te ‘trickery’ of this company had resulted in large
quantities of wool remaining unsold, to the ‘very great damage of the people’.
12 Edward III, Parliament of October 1362 ; Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.
13 Lloyd, Te Wool Trade, 210–11. For Wesenham’s career, see T. H. Lloyd, ‘John Wesenham,
(f.1333–1382)’, ODNB. For John Wroth, see S. L. Trupp, Te Merchant Class of Medieval
London (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1976), 375.
Calais.indb 44 27.5.2008 15:08:40
Setting up the staple · 45 ·
Te king accepted the petition with as good a grace as possible, agreeing that
this extra payment should be removed.14 in December a commission was also
set up to investigate the whole matter. Te report of the evidence given by wool
merchants who were not part of the privileged group repeats one accusation
over and over again. all the changes brought in by this group were not for the
beneft of the ‘communes Marchantz sibien as estranges come as autres’,15 but
for the proft only of the mayors and aldermen. Tey had moved the location
of the weigh house to a place near their own premises, but very inconvenient
for everyone else. instead of supplying the ordinary merchants with good ware-
houses at a reasonable rent, as had normally been done in other staple towns,
the mayors and aldermen had bought up or rented much property in the town,
causing ‘outrageous damage’ to all other merchants. Te governing group had
refused to listen to complaints or grant merchants their usual rights.16 in the
face of all this, in June 1364 the king withdrew the charter granted in 1363 and
set up a new system of governing the town, clearly separated from that of the
staple. Te mayor of Calais would administer the town with twelve aldermen
including burgesses of Calais. Te staple would have its own organisation of
a mayor and constables to deal with the regulation of trade in the usual way. Te
most important ofce holders in the town would be appointed by the Crown,
with the link between staple and town being maintained by the provision that
the mayor of the staple would also be an alderman of Calais.17 Blame for the
failure was attached to Wesenham, who found himself imprisoned in the tower
with Henry Brisele, the master of the Calais mint. Tey were both released
a year later, and little more is known of Wesenham’s career.
Te belief that the group of twenty-six involved in this episode in fact con-
stituted the frst members of a regulated company in charge of the Calais staple
rather than an ad hoc grouping of very wealthy wool merchants trading to the
town is hard to substantiate. it is not possible to show any continuous existence
of the group afer the collapse of their venture in 1364. on the other hand, since
there is no charter in existence for the staplers before the reign of Elizabeth I, it
is very difcult to say when the Company came into being as a formal corporate
entity. Te majority of the evidence seems to point to some time early in the
reign of Henry IV. it is clear that for most of the ffeenth century the members
of the Calais staple acted as an organised group and were bound by rules regard-
ing their trading operations and the internal organisation of the Company. in
the fourteenth century the prospects of wool merchants exporting via Calais
varied widely and were ofen subject to sudden and unpredictable change.
Te basis for a formal regulated company has seemed almost non-existent to
14 Edward III, Parliament of October 1363 ; Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.
15 ‘Te ordinary merchants, whether aliens or denizens’.
16 R. L. Baker, ‘Te Government of Calais in 1363’, in Order and Innovation in the Mid-
dle Ages : Essays in Honor of Joseph R. Strayer, ed. W. C. Jordan et al. (Princeton, 1976),
213–14.
17 Ibid., 210–11.
Calais.indb 45 27.5.2008 15:08:40
· 46 · Chapter 3
modern historians, but, as the Register reveals, this was not the view taken by
the staplers themselves in the 1470s.
From 1369 to the 1390s the location of the wool staple continued to be fre-
quently changed, along with the regulations governing its operations. Te staple
was abruptly removed from Calais in 1369, when the resumption of war with
France was imminent. Te Channel was full of French privateers, and Flemish
merchants were thought to be reluctant to venture over the border into English
territory for fear of the loss of their goods or their lives. English merchants
were also banned from the export trade, only to see both ordinances rescinded
in august 1370. Te staple was once again in theory located in the town, but,
to the dismay of the burgesses and to the beneft of the king’s fnances, licences
(for which high fees were charged) began to be issued in considerable numbers,
allowing the export of wools from English ports to other places. Te Com-
mons’ petition presented in the parliament of november 1373 complained that
this was to ‘the great loss damage and decrease of proft’ not only of the king
but ‘the said town of Calais and to the great scarcity of money’.18 Tis petition
was probably inspired by the london wool merchants, most of them members
of the Fishmongers’ or Grocers’ Companies, who were closely linked to the
Calais staple. one-third of the members of the Grocers’ Company were wool
merchants, including those with the largest share of the trade at this period.19
Te royal reply to the petition was not favourable to their interests, leaving
matters to deteriorate from their point of view until 1376 with the meeting of
the so-called Good Parliament. Te Commons’ petition for the restoration of
the staple at Calais on this occasion was phrased in much more direct terms,
forcefully condemning the issuing of licences to export wool otherwise than to
the staple. ‘Te same staple’, they claimed, ‘and bullion since have been and still
are in great part withdrawn and almost completely ruined, at the procurement
and counsel of the king’s said intimates and of others of their faction for their
singular proft, to the great prejudice and damage of the king and his realm
and in destruction of the aforesaid town of Calais.’20 Richard lyons, a london
merchant who had farmed the petty customs and tonnage and poundage since
1373, was impeached in this parliament on grounds that included his purchase
of licences to avoid the Calais staple. Te town, with its close association with
the wool trade in the hands of prominent london merchants, had been drawn
into the maelstrom of court politics at the time and equally into the factions
and quarrels in the city of london.
it is hard to know how genuine are the claims that Calais was being ruined
by the royal policy regarding the staple. Te requests made in a long series of
18 Commons Petition : Edward III, Parliament of November 1373 ; Te Parliament Rolls of
Medieval England. Te reference to a shortage of money relates to the operation of the
Calais Mint, discussed below.
19 Nightingale, A Medieval Merchant Community, 239. Eleven members of the Grocers’
company conducted 20% of the total trade in wool by quantity in 1365–6.
20 Commons Petition : Edward III, Parliament of April 1376 (the Good Parliament) ; Te
Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.
Calais.indb 46 27.5.2008 15:08:40
Setting up the staple · 47 ·
petitions from the town in the same parliament do, however, convey a strong
desire for stability. at one time, according to the petitioners, the mayor could
himself provide a considerable body of armed men to defend the town if the
garrison had to mount a sortie elsewhere. Tis was no longer the case. Tere is
a nostalgic demand for the reissue of Countess Mahaut’s charter except in so
far as it related to real property. in response the king set out, in efect, a new
constitution for the town, with a mayor and twelve aldermen with powers to
maintain the town and raise money in the usual ways. Because of the changes in
land law since the conquest of the town, the burgesses also petitioned for each
alienation of property to be governed by the law in existence at the time it was
made. Requests were also made for the right to import supplies from England
without paying dues and taxes, something the townspeople asserted they had
been able to do from the time of Richard I of England, even when Calais was
in French hands. Tey also wanted the right to pasture their cattle on the dunes
along the coast and drew attention to the number of empty and ruinous prop-
erties in the town, which made it hard to man an adequate watch on the walls
and gates. Te governor and treasurer of the town should have had the right to
rent these empty properties at a small sum to English people to repopulate the
town. Tese and other clauses regarding inheritance rights and the like seem
to have received careful royal consideration, with the majority getting at least
a cautiously favourable response. Te overall impression created was that the
town was sufering from real difculties ; some could perhaps be put down to
the fortunes of the war with France, which was no longer a series of English
victories. others, however, were probably the consequence of the constant ma-
nipulation of the staple regulations by a king in fnancial difculties. no-one at
this date seemed to question the policy of trying to control trade by a mixture of
fnancial and legal restrictions, but it could have unfortunate consequences for
some of those involved.
stability in the wool trade and in the operation of the staple were, however,
unlikely to be fully restored until warfare in northern France and unrest in
Flanders were either much diminished or at an end. Civil war in Flanders from
1379 to 1385 undoubtedly much reduced the demand for English wool from the
clothiers of the region, the best customers for the commodity. Fears of a French
invasion of England in the summer of 1381 did not greatly disrupt trade to Ca-
lais, but by 1383 the amount of wool shipped directly to the town fell drastically.
in ‘good’ years about 15,000–16,000 sacks of wool were shipped to Calais ; this
was the case in both 1380/81 and 1381/2. in 1382/3 this declined to 2,191 sacks,
and in 1384 only eighty-three sacks were unloaded on the quays. Tis must have
been little short of a disaster for the town, throwing porters, labourers and other
ancillary workers out of work. Te merchants themselves had, in this instance,
themselves taken the initiative to move to Middelburg in Zeeland, beyond the
reach of the French, who had taken control of the western part of Flanders and
thus could prevent Flemings from reaching Calais. Tere are mentions of ‘the
staple at Middelburg’ in letters patent and elsewhere, but this seems to have
been no more than the kind of informal grouping that had earlier been sited at
Calais.indb 47 27.5.2008 15:08:40
· 48 · Chapter 3
Bruges.21 it was not a formally constituted body. it is not quite clear how the
success of Middelburg as a wool market relates to a memorandum addressed
to Parliament in 1382, which complained bitterly of the disadvantage sufered
by grosse leins, that is poor-quality wool, if merchants were forced to go to the
Calais staple and had to pay tax and duties at the same rate as on the best, more
valuable wools. Te memorandum does, however, make clear the diverse inter-
ests among the wool growers and merchants and the fact that the Calais staple
did not receive universal support.22 Despite the success of the Middelburg sta-
ple, however, the powerful group of london merchant capitalists who, together
with the burgesses of Calais, wished the staple to return to what they now evi-
dently considered should be its normal home eventually achieved their aim.
Te wishes of this group carried the day when the staple returned to Ca-
lais once a truce had been concluded with France in 1389. Within a matter of
months, however, in the parliament of november 1390, a petition to restore the
home staples set up in the legislation of 1353 was accepted. Moreover, denizen
merchants were not only prevented from buying wool from growers except at
the staple but were also once more formally excluded from the export trade in
wool. Te shire knights representing wool growers and landlords had success-
fully put pressure on parliament to agree to a policy that, it was hoped, would
raise the price of wool at the staples. although there is no mention of wools of
diferent qualities in this petition, it probably had the support of the same lords
and wool growers who had tried to make their case in 1382. Within a year these
provisions had been reversed. English merchants returned to the export market,
but while Calais retained the title of staple, licences to send goods elsewhere
were plentiful and a source of ready money for the Crown.23
Te long-desired stability and permanent establishment of the staple at Ca-
lais did not come until afer the deposition of Richard II. one of the earliest acts
of Henry IV’s frst parliament restored the liberties of the staple at Calais on the
terms that remained in force for many years. all wool exported from England
must pass through the staple at Calais, except for low-quality wool exported
from Berwick, and the wools taken by italian or spanish merchants directly by
sea to their home ports. Petitions were presented later in the reign complain-
ing of the issue of licences to avoid the staple, but their wording is much more
restrained compared with that of petitions in earlier years. Tat in 1401 speaks
mainly of ‘the defation of the price’ of staple commodities at Calais caused by
licences.24 in 1411 the petition was primarily concerned to point out, not the
damage sufered directly by the town or its trade, but the loss to the customs,
and fnished with the request that anyone who spied on those who were avoid-
21 F. Miller, ‘Te Middleburgh Staple, 1383–88, Cambridge Historical Journal, 2 (1926),
63–5.
22 G. Dodd, ‘Te Calais Staple and the Parliament of May 1382,’ EHR 117 (2002), 95–103.
23 Richard II, Parliament of January 1390 ; Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. Tis
petition is also discussed in Lloyd, Te Wool Trade, 243.
24 Henry IV, Parliament of January 1401 ; Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.
Calais.indb 48 27.5.2008 15:08:40
Setting up the staple · 49 ·
ing the customs by exporting outside the staple should have the ‘third part’ of
the proft of the prosecution ‘for their trouble and labour’.25
over half a century elapsed between the siege of Calais by Edward III and
the fnal establishment of the staple for the sale of wool, wool-fells and the
lesser commodities of hides, tin and lead in the town. During this period the
staple system was usually in operation but its location and the regulations under
which it operated varied widely and ofen quite rapidly. Given the slowness in
communications at the time and the many other difculties that ofen faced
merchants—the efects of war, the insecurity of transport by sea and by land,
the labyrinthine exchange system—it is perhaps a matter of some surprise that
the wool trade fourished to the extent it did. By the time it was frmly estab-
lished in Calais and one can begin to talk of the Company of the staple as a cor-
porate body with its own ofcers and internal regulations, the export trade in
wool was past its peak, and cloth exports were taking over its leading position.
nevertheless it does seem that the fnal settlement of the wool staple at Calais
and the emergence of the Company of the staple were crucial in allowing the
town of Calais to develop in a diferent direction from its role as a military base.
it was thus able to become a viable economic entity and a lively urban centre
during its period under English rule. Te pessimistic view of the French histori-
ans mentioned at the beginning of this chapter paints far too gloomy a picture
of the town and its economy.
By this time, the beginning of the ffeenth century, the population of the
town had probably increased considerably from its low point in the 1350s. an
important element saw themselves as English but also viewed the town as their
permanent home. Tis group was large enough by 1368 to petition parliament
asking that children born in Calais or Guisnes as well as Gascony should be
able to inherit property in England on the same basis as those born in England
itself. Tis petition states specifcally that ‘the aforesaid lands . . . are for the most
part inhabited by the people of our lord the king from England’, and hints at
a signifcant expansion of the resident population.26 a petition from 1397 also
testifes to the commercial development of the port. Tis is aimed at the repair
and maintenance of the beacons marking the entrance to the port and the area
called Paradise. Tis was outside the walls of the town and had no military
signifcance. it was probably the base of the fshermen and their families who
had made the export of herrings an important part of the town’s economy in
the days before the siege. Even if the herring shoals had migrated north, as some
suspect, there would still have been a big market for other fsh in the town, the
garrison and the Pale. Te petition graphically described how ‘the terrible on-
slaught and rages of the sea’ had undermined the coastal defences and the walls
at this point so that their collapse was threatened. Te petitioners demanded
that all vessels coming into Calais except fshing boats should ensure that they
25 Henry IV, Parliament of November 1411 ; Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.
26 Edward III, Parliament of May 1368 ; Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.
Calais.indb 49 27.5.2008 15:08:40
· 50 · Chapter 3
were ballasted with ‘good stones’ to use in the repairs or else pay dues of two
pence per ton.27
apart from the activity generated by the wool trade itself—the bustle round
the harbour when the wool ships docked, the moving of the wool sacks to the
wool houses, the needs of the resident merchants and factors, and the infux
of buyers from Flanders—the Company itself had a large body of ofcers and
other employees in Calais. Te governance of the Company was in the hands
of ‘the maior and his lieutenant constables’ and the court of the Company, to
whom ofcials swore oaths.28 a good idea of the number and nature of the of-
fcers employed can be gathered from the ordinance Book compiled afer the
loss of Calais by the English in 1558. Te Company was re-established in Bruges,
but there is every sign that the organisation set out mirrored as far as possible
that of the Company at its former base. incidental mentions of the Company
and its operations in the Cely correspondence and Johnson papers reinforce
this impression. Te Company owned and ran a weigh house where wools
from England were checked. When a wool ship came into port, the ‘clerke of
the collectrie’ and his deputies were ready on the quayside to record the cargo
in precise detail. Each merchant’s shipment was listed in a book along with the
details of the customs paid. Te clerk would also keep a careful count of old and
new wools, material of such commercial sensitivity that he was forbidden to re-
veal to any save ‘the head for the tyme beinge’—‘the nombre sort or quantite of
olde woulles or olde felles’ that remained ‘in the bookes or toune unsolde’.29 Te
Company also employed, among others, wool brokers and fell brokers, a solici-
tor, an attorney ‘in lawe’, wool packers, viewers and searchers of wools and fells,
and valuers. Te ordinances set out how a merchant might be admitted to the
Company, (by patrimony, ‘redemption by fre gife commonly called gratis, and
by apprentishode’).30 it also sets out the general rules governing the shipping of
wool to Calais ; two feets per year, one sailing around 20 March and one about
15 July, were prescribed. Careful inspection was to be made of wool ships to
ensure they did not leak. Te wool sacks had to be of the correct weight, and
so on.31 in charge of much of the record-keeping, accounts and administration
of all these regulations was an ofcial called the husbande, whose skills were
a mixture of those of an accountant or bookkeeper and something rather like
a modern company secretary. it was clearly an onerous and important position,
27 Richard II, Parliament of September 1397 ; Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.
28 Te Ordinance Book of the Merchants of the Staple, 118, gives the text of the oath of the
upper clerk. He swore to be obedient to the mayor, his lieutenant constables and the
company of the merchants of the Staple, and to be ‘ready and attandaunt at alle tymes
requisitie’ in his ofce to fulfl his duty of keeping the Company’s records.
29 Ibid., 121.
30 Ibid., 132–42. Tis section covers everything expected of apprentices, including the facts
that they should be born in wedlock, with both parents English born, and not ‘the sonne
of any bounde man’. Tis requirement indicates a much earlier origin than the reign of
Elizabeth I for these rules.
31 Ibid., 142–64, the ‘Ordinaunce for generalle shippinges’.
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Setting up the staple · 51 ·
demanding a measure of tact (he had power to oversee the Mayor’s expenses) as
well as administrative ability.32
although many of the more senior ofcials of the Company spent consider-
able periods in london, having very frequent business with the king and his
Council, the bulk of the business of the Company was conducted in Calais. it
was this, of course, that led to the loss of their records afer 1558. Te staple Hall
(usually called the Place by the later ffeenth century) was in the Market Place
immediately adjoining the town hall.33 it is not known when this property
was acquired by the Company or when the Place was built. Te Company also
owned other property in the vicinity, used for storing wool before sale and the
like. it was, therefore, from both the commercial and the social points of view
a very important element in the prosperity of Calais. as far as the Crown was
concerned, it was perhaps seen primarily as a source of ready money ; the link
between the customs paid by wool merchants, royal credit and loans to the
Crown has already been discussed. Te link became even stronger in the context
of the Crown’s need to fnance the defence of Calais and pay the garrison.
Te Company, both as an informal group and as a regulated company, was
also given a vital role to play in the bullionist policy followed by the English
Crown, along with virtually all other European governments at the time. as has
been said, this held that the prosperity of a nation and its people was directly
linked to the amount of gold and silver coinage circulating in that country. Te
balance of trade, instead of being an abstract concept calculated and ofen ma-
nipulated by the fnancial arm of the government, was a concrete entity easily
measured at least in theory. Was specie being exported from or imported into
the realm ? Te former would drain wealth from the nation ; the latter would
lead to its increase.34 English wool merchants, by and large, during the late four-
teenth and ffeenth centuries, did not import goods in any quantity in return
for their exports of wool ; their business was, therefore, a signifcant source of
bullion in the form of the coins brought into the country in payment for their
wool. Te Crown was anxious to control and to tap for its own advantage
this source of both gold and silver coins. Tis apparently simple situation was
complicated by merchants’ use of various credit instruments in their trading
activities (though this was largely ignored by the authorities) and by a notable
shortage of both gold and silver in Europe in the later middle ages, a shortage
that at times became severe. Tere was, therefore, acute competition for bullion
among all European states. nevertheless, the Calais staple and the staplers were
used as instruments to maintain the fow of bullion into England.
Te cash element in the payment for wool sold in Calais was ofen made
in coins struck by Burgundian and other foreign mints. once the staple was
32 Ibid., 123–4.
33 Its position is clearly indicated on the plans and drawings to be found in the Cotton
collection in the BL, especially the plan in MSS Cotton Augustus I. ii. 70 and 71. A num-
bered and identifed plan of the location of buildings in medieval Calais can be found in
H. A. Dillon, ‘Calais and the Pale’, Archaeologia, 53/2 (1893), facing p. 303.
34 J. L. Bolton, Te Medieval English Economy, 1150–1500 (London, 1980), 297.
Calais.indb 51 27.5.2008 15:08:40
· 52 · Chapter 3
located in Calais, the staple merchants were expected to deposit two marks in
bullion for every sack of wool sold at the Mint, which was established in Calais
in 1363, at the same time as the staple. Tis bullion would then be reminted as
English nobles, and these coins would usually be returned to England. if the
balance of trade was in English favour, this procedure caused few problems for
the English, but it could lead to their equally bullionist trading partners (usu-
ally Burgundy for much of the relevant period) placing obstacles in the way of
Burgundian merchants taking specie to Calais. Te Mint, however, seems to
have operated successfully from about 1363 to 1403. in its most productive year,
1364, more gold coins were struck in the town than at the Mint at the tower
in london. its closure in 1403 seems to have been caused by a great shortage of
gold or silver in any form, something that seems to have afected most European
mints at the time. its reopening in 1422 can be linked to an easing of this prob-
lem, but it soon became more contentious politically. By the 1430s the alliance
between the English and the Burgundians was breaking down for a mixture of
political and economic reasons. one powerful cause of the breakdown in good
relations was the belief that English regulation of the wool staple at Calais, and
the bullion ordinances in operation there, were undermining the prosperity
of the Burgundian lands, including the cloth-making towns of Flanders. Tis
hostility eventually led to the Burgundian siege of the town in 1436, but in this
context the most important consequence was the ending of the minting of coins
at Calais in 1439/40, although the Mint itself was not formally abolished.35
in efect, this lef the staple Company as the only instrument available to the
English Crown for the control of trade across the Channel. Te Company was
bound yet more closely to the Crown, with royal fnancial imperatives a major
concern for its leaders. on a more personal level, one aim of the establishment
of the Mint, that only English coins should circulate in Calais, was clearly
impossible to enforce once the Mint had ceased operation. By this date it was
essential for a merchant to be aware of the difering values and declared specie
content of a wide range of coins from many diferent mints. He also had of
course to check them for their condition and weight since many could have lost
value from wear and tear or by deliberate clipping. only afer this process was
completed could he begin the process of calculating the value in a common cur-
rency of the coins in his possession.
Many other European mints that had sufered like that at Calais from the
general shortage of bullion, both from about 1402 to the 1420s and from about
1440 to the 1460s, reopened in the second half of the ffeenth century when
new silver mines in central Europe came into production. Calais did not. Tis
was probably not for commercial reasons but because it was no longer in the
interests of the Crown for it to do so. Te staplers, like other merchants, may
have increased their use of bills and other credit instruments, but they had also
became adept at the handling of money in many diferent forms and from many
35 P. Spuford, ‘Calais and its Mint : Part One’, in Coinage in the Low Countries (880–1500),
ed. N. J. Mayhew (Oxford, 1979), 171–83.
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Setting up the staple · 53 ·
diferent origins. Te astute may have found in this situation a chance for proft
by manipulating exchange rates. Te range of coinage with which William Cely,
for example, was faced in 1482, and of which he had to know the exchange rates,
demonstrated how by this time Calais and the Company of the staple was at the
centre of a Europe-wide web of trade.36
it is true that no detailed calculation is possible of the success or otherwise
of Calais as a centre for the wool trade. Te fgures do not exist. it is clear, how-
ever, that even if the export trade in raw wool was declining compared with
that in fnished or semi-fnished cloth, there were many merchants and traders
throughout the ffeenth century and into the sixteenth who found that they
could make a reasonable living in this line of business. For this membership
of the Company of the staple was essential and unquestioned. it can also be
argued that it was this Company that gave Calais its economic stability and
established its character as a commercial as well as a military centre during the
period of English rule.
36 Te Cely Letters, letter 187, p. 172.
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· 54 ·
4
tRi uMPH anD Di sastER :
HEnRY V, tHE CollaPsE oF tHE anGlo-
BuRGunDi an alli anCE anD tHE
REsuRGEnCE oF FRanCE

A
t 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.
Te elaborate ceremonies surrounding the marriage of Richard to isabella, the
seven-year-old daughter of the French king, were conducted at the same time.
Tese events were the culmination of prolonged negotiations and preparations,
but they fnally took place afer the expenditure of much time and a great deal
of money. Te meeting between the kings was held at a specially prepared en-
campment outside ardres. Full details of the ceremonial used on this occasion
survive, recorded by an eye-witness. Richard arrived clad in a long scarlet gown
emblazoned with his personal badge of the white hart. Charles wore a shorter
one decorated with the device of a bend sable engrailed argent, apparently in
memory of Richard’s frst wife anne of Bohemia. With scrupulous care, to
avoid giving either precedence over the other, the two kings advanced to greet
each other at a central point ; at the moment of meeting, all the members of
their large entourages knelt. Te monarchs then threw back the hoods on their
robes, shook hands and kissed. Te most prominent nobility present ofered
wine and sweetmeats, and suitable gifs were exchanged. Considerable thought
had clearly gone into the choice of these, with neither wishing to be outshone
by the other. Gilt cups and ewers, buckles and nefs, the model ships used as table
decoration, all in the most costly materials, were exchanged, together with jew-
ellery, including a collar of pearls and other precious stones worth over 5,000
marks.1 over the four days of the meeting, Richard appeared in more and more
1 Examples of the kind of objects involved are listed on Richard II’s Treasure Roll, now the
subject of an illustrated website (www.history.ac.uk/richardII).
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Triumph and disaster · 55 ·
costly garments, made of velvet and other silks, while Charles seems to have
worn the same robe all the time. Finally on the last day of the encounter, the lit-
tle princess was handed over to her new lord, and on 4 november the pair was
married in st nicholas’s Church in Calais itself.2
all this sounds like elaborate play-acting, culminating in the distasteful (in
our eyes) ‘marriage’ between a man of nearly thirty and a small child, but it un-
doubtedly had a serious diplomatic purpose, not only in the negotiations that
were concluded during the ceremonies, but also in the successful projection
of Richard’s image as a magnifcent and powerful ruler to the most important
court in Europe, that of France. How did all this, however, afect Calais, its gar-
rison and its townspeople ? First of all, it is clear that this event was only excep-
tional in its scale and in the presence of two crowned heads at the same time in
the immediate vicinity of the town. one of the motives for the capture of the
town had been its usefulness as a crossing point and base immediately across
the Channel. Groups of important travellers came and went at most seasons of
the year, sometimes at the head of an armed force, sometimes almost surrepti-
tiously, depending on their mission and the relations between England and her
neighbours at the time. it was part of the business of the town to accommodate
travellers, provide for their entertainment and send them on their way, whether
to war or to some more peaceful pursuit. Te great occasions which touched the
town, like the marriage of Richard and isabella and all the attendant ceremonial
at ardres, would have been welcomed with pleasure, as much for the business
they created as for the excitement of the townspeople. all were apparently wel-
come at the wedding feast in Calais itself, for ‘grete halys and tentis [were] sette
up on the grene without the castell for to resceyve alle maner of peple’.3 a wider
section of the populace than the court and the nobility were able to enjoy the
festivities.
Events like this kept the town in the mind of those who were involved in pub-
lic afairs or who had a need to travel, quite apart from those who were soldiers
or merchants. By the mid ffeenth century, at least to those living in the south
and east of England, Calais may well have been better known than York or
a midland town like Derby. Te wedding of Richard and isabella was only one
among the public events in which the town played at least a supporting role. Te
murder of Tomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, in september 1397 ‘in the
back room of a Calais hostel’ cast a more sinister light on the town.4 it was far
enough from london and the court for the precise circumstances and timing
of this deed to be obscure. Te Brut contains a circumstantial account of how
Gloucester was tied to his bed and then strangled with towels and smothered
under his feather bed, details that were also recorded on the parliament roll, but
2 N. Saul, Richard II (New Haven and London, 1997), 228–30, 353–4. Te eye-witness de-
scription is in P. Meyer, ‘L’Entrevue d’Ardres’, Annuaire bulletin de la Société de l’histoire
de France, 18 (1881), 209–24. Te church of St Nicholas was demolished when the Castle
at Calais was enlarged afer the recapture of the town by the French.
3 F. W. Brie (ed.), Te Brut, or Te Chronicles of England (London, 1906–8), 350.
4 Saul, Richard II, 379.
Calais.indb 55 27.5.2008 15:08:41
· 56 · Chapter 4
the lack of any real protest in England at these events demonstrates how Calais
could at the same time be part of and remote from English public afairs.
afer agincourt in october 1415, Henry V’s army, elated by victory but
exhausted and hungry afer the battle and their march across northern France,
made their way home from Calais. Te elite French prisoners, including Charles
of orleans, made their journey into captivity by the same route. Charles would
not return until 1435, when he accompanied Cardinal Beaufort to Calais in the
weeks immediately before the Congress of arras. Te long, sad funeral proces-
sion of Henry V himself fnally reached Calais afer his death at Vincennes on
31 august 1422, some time afer 5 october. some twenty-two carts all draped
in black brought the body of the king, his possessions and his widow into the
port, surrounded by mourners bearing candles. By the end of the month, a feet
of specially commissioned vessels brought the cortege to Dover, where a further
series of elaborate ceremonies began.5
later, in 1431, Henry VI crossed from Dover to Calais for his coronation as
king of France. on this occasion the royal party lef England at the end of april
and did not leave the town for Rouen, the chief city of ‘English’ normandy
until the end of July. since he brought with him not only his own household
but fve surgeons and his teacher and large quantities of stores of all kinds, this
royal visit must have allowed many townspeople to conduct a satisfyingly large
amount of business.6
Tese and similar occasions focused attention on the town and did perhaps
create the enormous foating population that has led at least one recent writer
to see the town and its society as being hollow and empty with little real pur-
pose.7 Tis is, however, to ignore the place that Calais undoubtedly held in the
consciousness of the English Crown. one important manifestation of this was
the way in which the burden of fnancing the town garrison was accepted, even
if at times it seemed as if fnancial disaster was imminent. Te survival of many
accounts and related documents allows this aspect of the governance of the
town to be looked at in some detail in this period as well as in the fourteenth
century.
By the beginning of the ffeenth century, the establishment of the garrison
in the town and the surrounding castles and its annual cost had become more
or less standardised. Te total needed to fnance the garrison amounted to
about £18,000 in time of war and about £10,000 in time of peace. Te separate
establishments of Calais and its castle, and the outlying protective ring of strong
points, oye, Marck, Balinghem (from its capture in 1412), Guisnes, Hammes
and sangatte, varied in time of war (that is, when no truce was in operation
between the English and the French) from over 500 men in the captain’s retinue
at Calais itself to forty at sangatte. in peacetime the captain’s retinue numbered
460 men, while that at sangatte was halved to twenty men. Te total for the
5 C. Allmand, Henry V (London, 1992), 174–6.
6 R. A. Grifths, Te Reign of Henry VI (Stroud, 1998), 190–91.
7 Derville and Villon, Histoire de Calais, 70.
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Triumph and disaster · 57 ·
whole Pale came to about 1,200 men in wartime and 780 in time of peace.8
Te usual source of the money for the soldiers’ pay was the subsidy payable on
the export from England of wool and wool-fells, or the loans raised against the
security of the proceeds of this tax. Tese loans were normally provided at least
in part by wool merchants. Te intimate link between the proftability of the
export trade in wool and the support of Calais was no secret to contemporar-
ies. Te soldiers of the garrison certainly appreciated it and took direct action
to ensure that traders, from the point of view of the soldiers, realised their
responsibilities. in the winter of 1406/7, the garrison mutinied because its pay
was months in arrears. Te soldiers seized the wool stored in the staplers’ wool
houses and threatened to sell it at whatever price they could get, so that their
wages might be paid. one chronicle then describes the scene when Henry IV,
presumably afer getting the news of the situation in the town, summoned mer-
chants from the City of london to a meeting. He screamed at them, ‘You have
gold ; and i want gold ; where is it ?’ Despite this inauspicious start to negotia-
tions, a loan was raised and the men paid of.9
Tere is some evidence revealed by a careful and detailed study, not only of
Exchequer rolls but also of the subsidiary indentures and other documents, that
this incident does not reveal the whole story of the fnancing of Calais in the
early ffeenth century. it has been suggested that a workable system had evolved
in the later fourteenth century, which ensured that money was available to pay
the garrison and that the cost was bearable by the Crown. trouble erupted in
1406/7 because the system temporarily broke down. one issue was the lack of
sufcient coins to pay the garrison. While the mint at Calais was operating,
bullion deposited by the merchants as part of their liability to customs duties
could, when recoined, be used to pay the soldiers. Te mint was closed in 1403,
a victim of the bullion crisis afecting most of Western Europe at this date. Te
bullion shortage and the consequent closure of the mint focused attention on
the second issue. Tis related to the methods in place for keeping royal accounts
and transferring credits from the receivers of taxes and other dues to those who
had incurred expenses on behalf of the Crown. Te prime source of money for
Calais, as we have said, was the wool subsidy, an addition to the customs duties
properly understood, which was voted in parliament from 1355 and intended for
the defence of the realm. Tere were, however, other royal ofcials or royal debt-
ors who were well aware that this stream of royal income was relatively reliable
and held out reasonable prospects of the early repayment of a loan or the cover-
ing of legitimate expenses. if a reservation was placed on the proceeds of the
wool subsidy for the needs of the defence of Calais, it was possible for the gar-
rison to enjoy a measure of fnancial stability ; if no such reservation was made
and Calais had to compete with all the other claimants clamouring for payment,
8 J. L. Kirby, ‘Te Financing of Calais under Henry V,’ Bulletin of the Institute of Historical
Research, 23 (1950), 166.
9 Te material in this and the following paragraph is derived from D. Grummitt, ‘Te
Financial Administration of Calais during the reign of Henry IV, 1399–1413’, EHR 113
(1998), 277–99.
Calais.indb 57 27.5.2008 15:08:41
· 58 · Chapter 4
then there was a chance to say the least that it might face hardships of the kind
that resulted in the mutiny of 1406/7. another important factor that worked
strongly in the favour of Calais was allowing staple merchants to pay a propor-
tion of their dues in Calais itself, rather than at the port in England where the
customs ofcials had sealed the sacks of wool with the royal seal or coket. as
had happened with the deposit of bullion at the mint, if this was allowed, the
funds were in fact in the town itself and available to the treasurer.
Te accounting systems of the Exchequer, which has been characterised as an
over-cautious, ‘cumbersome and parchment-bound ofce’, were not designed
to show clearly what steps were being taken to allow a government with strictly
limited resources to achieve at least some of its goals.10 Tese steps emerge from
a consideration of patents, indentures and particulars of account, as well as the
formal receipt and issue rolls and foreign accounts. as an example, we can look
in detail at the system used by nicholas usk, treasurer of Calais in 1400. in Feb-
ruary of this year, a reservation in favour of Calais was placed on the proceeds
of the wool subsidy payable in southampton, london, lynn, Boston and Hull,
the main wool-exporting ports. Tis amounted to 13s. 4d. per wool sack, which
was in fact paid by the exporting merchants in Calais ; usk or his deputy would
then certify by indentures to the collectors in the ports concerned that they had
received the money. Te collectors would take the indentures to the Exchequer,
where the sums of money listed would appear in the Receipt roll as assignments.
usk’s accounts reveal that he received £29,007 in this way and £18,177 in other
assignments and cash from the Exchequer. in the two and a half years from
august 1399 to March 1403, his expenses amounted to just over £62,000 ; old
debts reached £10,000, so there was still a shortfall, but given the standards of
the time it was manageable.11
Te mutiny of 1406/7 followed a period when the reservation system was
suspended and the subsidy money was almost completely diverted to other uses,
and the treasurer of Calais’s arrears soared to over £30,000. Calm for both sol-
diers and wool merchants was only restored when the staplers as a body, led by
Richard Whittington, provided loans to restore the fnances of the garrison on
the clear understanding that the system of reservations would be reintroduced.
Tis promise was honoured, even though other royal creditors with claims to
assignments on the wool subsidy went unpaid. Duke Humphrey, for example,
was unable to collect £866 13s. 4d. of the moneys needed to buy lands from sir
Matthew Gournay. nevertheless, the value and practicality of the system of res-
ervations on the wool subsidy, combined with the ability of wool merchants to
pay this reserved portion in Calais, were demonstrated in the later years of the
reign of Henry IV. it can well be argued that the ‘high priority given to the ef-
cient fnancing of Calais’ makes clear ‘that successive English governments con-
10 A. L. Brown, Te Governance of Late Medieval England 1272–1461 (London, 1989), 53.
11 Grummitt, ‘Te Financial Administration of Calais’, 283–5. Grummitt gives further de-
tailed examples, including that of the indentures made with the Hull collectors in 1403.
Calais.indb 58 27.5.2008 15:08:41
Triumph and disaster · 59 ·
sidered the town and marches a worthy investment’.12 Te strength of Henry
IV’s initial reaction to the mutiny at Calais and the relative speed with which
order was restored may also refect the fact that a serious attempt to mount an
attack on Calais was feared to be under preparation at saint-omer at much the
same time. large quantities of weapons, particularly artillery, and other muni-
tions were collected, but the attack never materialised, probably because of the
tensions between Burgundians and orleanists at the French court.13
Tere is no sign that Henry V or his successor were less inclined to devote
funds to the defence of the town. Te treasurer who took ofce in July 1413 was
Roger salvayn. His accounts reveal assignments on the customs of Hull in the
same manner as before, and also, more unusually, an assignment on the receiver-
general of the duchy of Cornwall. a case before the barons of the Exchequer in
early 1414 shows that he was using a similar system of indentures, agreed with
individual merchants who had paid their customs dues in Calais itself, to that
used in the previous reign. on this particular occasion, money paid by three
lincolnshire woolmen was intended to pay some of the expenses of the garrison
of Marck, but the indenture was lost by William swynbourne, the captain of
that castle. swynbourne then asked for the seizure of the lincoln men’s wools
so that he could sell them and keep the proceeds to the value of the missing
assignment. Te furious merchants brought a case in the Exchequer court for
the restitution of their property. Tis kind of problem ensured that salvayn was
more frequently in England to attend council meetings and the like than he was
in Calais. Te day-to-day business of his ofce seems to have been handled by
his clerk or occasionally by his wife.14
afer the success of Henry V’s campaign in normandy, which began in 1417,
to some extent Calais was less prominent in military matters. Te major cam-
paigns were centred on normandy to the west. Calais’s position was reasonably
secure, since the surrounding lands were among the possessions of Philip the
Good, duke of Burgundy, England’s ally. By 1420, when the treaty of troyes,
which recognised Henry V as the heir of Charles VI, was signed, the hostile
France that recognised the Dauphin as King Charles VII was many miles away
on the far side of the loire. an optimist might have envisaged Calais’s future
role as not only the most convenient gateway to the English lands across the
Channel but the potential diplomatic centre and contact point between the
lands of the allies, the duke of Burgundy and the king of France and England.
Te prestige of the town was refected not only in the amount of money will-
ingly spent on its garrison but in the status of those who were appointed its
captain. Edward III had treated this as an honourable ofce for men of knightly
12 Ibid., 298–9.
13 Bertrand Schnerb, ‘Un Projet d’expédition contre Calais’, in S. Curveiller and D. Clauzel
(eds.), Les Champs relationnels en Europe du Nord et du Nord-Ouest des origines à la fn du
premier Empire (Calais, 1994), 179–88.
14 Kirby, Te Financing of Calais’, 172–5 ; Salvayn’s widow Matilda presented his accounts
for audit afer his death in 1419 and was apparently involved in his afairs during his life-
time.
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rank who would each hold it for a short period. Tus between 1370 and 1375
the position was held by nicholas de tamworth, Roger de Beauchamp, John de
Beurle and Hugh de Calvyle.15 in the ffeenth century the ofce was reserved
for the highest in the land ; successively between 1401 and 1435 John Beaufort,
earl of somerset (the half-brother of Henry IV), Henry, Prince of Wales (the fu-
ture Henry V), Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (one of the richest men in
England and a notable military leader) and John, duke of Bedford (the brother
of Henry V, in charge of afairs in France afer the latter’s death), were the cap-
tains of Calais.16 it is hard to think of a stronger demonstration of the hold the
possession of Calais had on the minds of England’s rulers.
in the early years of the reign of Henry VI the support of Calais and its gar-
rison remained a priority for the government of the young king, but there was
room for disagreement about the strategic importance of the town. if normandy
and areas further south were the main centres of English military intervention
in France, then Calais was to some extent sidelined, merely a strong point on
the edge of English territory, with its immediate neighbours to the north being
Burgundian lands. Tere is some evidence that at least until the failure of the
English siege of orléans in 1429, this is how the duke of Bedford regarded the
town. His brother Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, conversely, was much more
concerned with the town itself and the trade of the staplers. His marriage to
Jacqueline of Hainault in 1423, and his attempt to gain control of her duchy
in 1425, had directed his attention to the low Countries and increased the im-
portance of Calais to him as the vital English base in this region. Tere was no
question, however, that the Crown continued to be willing to fnance the town,
although at times the arrears of pay due to the garrison built up alarmingly. in
1423 the staplers once more were more or less held to ransom by the soldiers,
who seized wool awaiting sale in the town until a loan of £4,000 was forth-
coming from the infuriated merchants. Te system of assignments continued,
although some were made on sources of income like the ransom payments due
from the scots in respect of their king James I, which were much less secure than
the customs payments. in 1427 it was feared that another mutiny by the garrison
was threatened unless more funds were made available to the treasurer Richard
Buckland.17 Tis was averted, but by 1433 the situation of the town was clearly
becoming more precarious.
Te fnancial position of Henry VI was made unusually clear in october of
this year in a memorandum ‘showed to the lord our king in the present parlia-
ment’ by Ralph, lord Cromwell, the treasurer of England. Tis stated baldly
that the ‘ordinary yearly charges’ of government exceeded the revenue from all
sources by £35,000 per year. Calais was treated as a separate entry in the listing
of royal revenue and expenditure, producing from its own resources £2,866 1s.
15 D. Greaves, ‘Calais under Edward III,’ in G. Unwin (ed.), Finance and Trade under Ed-
ward III (London, 1962), 349.
16 Kirby, ‘Te Financing of Calais,’ 165.
17 Grifths, Te Reign of Henry VI, 180–82.
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Triumph and disaster · 61 ·
5½d., but incurring expenses of £11,930 6s. 8d., not including the cost of the re-
pairs needed to newenham Bridge.18 Te accumulated burden of ancient debt
relating to the garrison was rolled up with that for the Marches of scotland,
aquitaine, Fronsac and ireland and came to the enormous total of £110,584 2s.
6d., more than two-thirds of the total royal debts of £164,814 11s. 1½d.19 Te
fgures for the expenses of Calais are comparable with those for the peacetime
support of the town already noted, but in the context of the overall parlous f-
nancial position of the Crown, the burden of the defence of the town is clear.
Te diferent views of the strategic importance of the town held by the duke
of Bedford and the duke of Gloucester also began to resonate forcefully in
discussions between the brothers and in the royal Council. Te situation had
become one of some urgency, since a serious mutiny involving at least half of the
garrison of the town itself had occurred in January 1433. sir William oldfall,
Bedford’s deputy in the town, rode straight for the duke’s base at Rouen, when
forced out of the town by the mutineers. Te duke himself reached Balinghem
castle, a few miles outside Calais, at the beginning of april and at frst seemed
prepared to negotiate with the soldiers. He entered the town and even held
a long meeting there with Gloucester and other royal councillors from England
to discuss the whole situation. When, however, Gloucester and his party had
returned to England, Bedford turned the full force of his rage at their insubor-
dination on the mutineers. Four leaders were executed, and over 200 men of the
garrison were banished from the town, thus losing any prospect of recovering
their arrears of pay. Bedford then lef for Rouen, leaving the town somewhat
aghast at his severity. it has been pointed out that the Chronicle of London,
probably refecting opinion in the City (always closely connected with Calais),
gleefully recorded that the duke of Bedford sufered bad health from this time
until his death in 1435.20
Te reality was that the division between Bedford and Gloucester on the
strategy to be followed in France in the face of the resurgent forces of Charles
VII posed a serious threat to the safety of Calais. While Bedford was in England
from July 1433 to July 1434, money for the garrison almost dried up ; the payment
of only £590 was authorised by the Exchequer in this period, in contrast to the
more normal level of around £8,000–£11,000 per annum while Gloucester was
in charge in England. it was Bedford’s aim that what money there was should
be used in the defence of normandy.21 Te push for a truce between England
and Charles VII, however, grew stronger with intervention by the papacy in the
same year, resulting in the congress at arras that met from august to september
1435. at this congress, the English delegates led by Cardinal Beaufort became
gradually more and more suspicious of the intentions of Philip the Good of
Burgundy. English attempts to conclude a truce, perhaps always somewhat half-
18 Newenham Brudge was the English name for Nieulay on the outskirts of Calais, a fort
protecting the sluices that controlled the watercourses around the town.
19 Myers (ed.), English Historical Documents, iv : 516–22.
20 Grifths, Te Reign of Henry VI, 194–6.
21 Ibid., 198.
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hearted, got no further than some bad-tempered exchanges with the French and
the hurling of petty insults. Te English ambassadors lef on 31 august.
Te Burgundians had, however, devoted much thought to the issue of
whether the duke could in honour renounce his oath of loyalty to the English
Crown (taken when the treaty of troyes was accepted by Burgundy)22 in
order to be reconciled with Charles VII. Tere had undoubtedly been contact
between the two sides before the formal meetings at arras. Tere were also
nightly informal meetings in secret between the Burgundians and the repre-
sentatives of Charles VII, as well as the sessions with the mediating cardinals.
on the question of the duke’s honour, a defnitive statement was issued by the
cardinals. His oath to the English had been invalid ; these promises were (as an
eye-witness later remembered) ‘contre bonnes meurs, incivilz, ou prejudice de
la chose publique et contre la couronne et magesté royal et de droit n’estoyent
nulz’.23 Te Chronicle of London commented bitterly of the same event, ‘undir
tretys is treson’, pointing out that the duke was swearing allegiance to one ‘that
had mordred his owne fadyr before tyme’. Te treaty itself, however, was fnally
promulgated at an elaborate ceremony in the abbey church of st Vaast at arras,
including, somewhat ironically, the taking of oaths by both sides and a public ad-
mission by the French king of complicity in the murder of Philip’s father, Duke
John. Finally all present raised their hands as a sign of acceptance of the peace,
and the congregation lef the church to be greeted by signs of general rejoicing ;
once more it was claimed, ‘le noble sang de France estoit ralliez ensamble’.24 For
Calais the consequences were much more immediate and alarming. instead of
being to some extent protected from attack by the French by Burgundian terri-
tory, Calais and the Pale were now a small English enclave surrounded by hostile
lands. Te only direction from which reinforcements or supplies could come
was by sea from England. Te English position was worsened even more by the
death of the duke of Bedford, the most efcient of Henry V’s brothers both as
a military commander and as a civil administrator, a matter of days before the
reconciliation of France and Burgundy. Humphrey of Gloucester, now the only
remaining uncle of the young king, was, as we have seen, always interested in the
welfare of Calais and committed to its defence, but he was not the equal of his
brother in military matters and could not command the royal Council in the
same way.
Te general situation in France as far as the English were concerned was very
bad in the weeks afer the blow of the Burgundian defection to Charles VII.
Both Dieppe and Harfeur, Henry V’s frst conquest, fell into French hands, and
one chronicler sadly wrote, ‘thus Englishmen began to lose a litell and a litell
22 Tis treaty established the dual monarchy of England and France, with Henry V and the
heirs of his body recognised as the legitimate rulers of France on the death of Charles VI,
thus disinheriting the Dauphin, the future Charles VII.
23 Testimony of Raoul le Bouvier as to events at Arras given 6 Nov. 1451, in J. G. Dickenson,
Te Congress of Arras, 1435 (Oxford, 1955), 231.
24 Ibid., 185, quoting Antoine de la Taverne, Journal de la paix d’Arras.
Calais.indb 62 27.5.2008 15:08:41
Triumph and disaster · 63 ·
in normandie’.25 Philip the Good seems to have been persuaded by the end of
the year that an attack should be mounted on Calais. Fortunately the English
were well informed as to the situation at Philip’s court, particularly a meeting
that took place at Ghent on 8 March 1436. Te English court had received
‘certayn tydynges’ from ‘specyall frendes and espiall’, detailing the steps Philip
was taking to put together a force to attack the town. He had drawn up a series
of agreements with Ghent and the other important towns of Flanders that, in
return for various privileges including the provision that no English cloth could
in future be sold by Englishmen in any market within the lands of the duke of
Burgundy, they would provide him with 30,000 men and ships said to be ready
at sluys, Barfete26 and Rotterdam, ‘to besiege this towne the whiche is right
feble arrayed’.27
Tis news must have reached England within a few days of the meeting, since
it was copied and rapidly distributed widely throughout the kingdom with
a covering letter from the Council. Te copy received by William Curteys, abbot
of Bury st Edmunds, is dated 26 March. Tis letter rehearsed the contents of the
spy’s report and went on to elaborate on the absolute need to defend Calais.
Te town was a great jewel to the kingdom, and its loss would bring ‘manyfold
and importable hurtes and harmes’ to this land. if it fell, England would lose its
reputation, being accused of ‘perpetuelle reproche, vilonye and shame thorgh
the world yf so fell,’ and this could be put down to ‘lak of covenable defense in
tyme’. Moreover the writer drew attention to ‘the grete ordinaunce that the seid
calling hym duc of Burgoigne . . . as well of grete gunnes and that in grete nom-
bre as of engynes and al ymaginacions of were’, was preparing to send against
Calais. Te abbot was then requested to send as many men as he could within
eight days to form part of a relief force.28 similar letters went to all towns and
other corporations throughout England ; there is, for example, another copy in
the salisbury town archives.
Certainly, by medieval standards, Gloucester and the Council had moved
swifly to do something about the evident threat to Calais. Gloucester himself
was formally appointed as captain of the town, the castle and all the outlying
fortifcations, for a period of nine years. sir Richard Woodville had in fact been
appointed his deputy, at a Council meeting attended by the king himself, im-
mediately before the opening of parliament in october 1435. Te merchants of
the staple, whose support for the Crown was essential to the fnancing of the
garrison, used the opportunity to petition the king concerning the ‘poor town
of Calais, which stands in great jeopardy and uncertainty’, requesting the strict
implementation of the partition ordinance requiring at least one-third of the
purchase price of wool sold in Calais to be paid in bullion and then delivered to
the town mint. Tey also further petitioned that strong action should be taken
25 Grifths, Te Reign of Henry VI, 201.
26 Now Biervliet.
27 J. A. Doig, ‘A New Source for the Siege of Calais in 1436’, EHR 110 (1995), 412.
28 Ibid., 410–11.
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against those who tried to avoid the staple and its regulations (and sometimes
customs dues as well) by exporting wool from out-of-the way creeks and other
devious means. Tese petitions were accepted by the Crown, saving the usual
exemptions of italians exporting wool via the straits of Morocco and poor
quality wool from Berwick on tweed.29 in February Robert Whittingham of
the Drapers’ Company became treasurer in place of his father-in-law Richard
Buckland, who died around this time.30 in March the very experienced sene-
schal of Gascony, sir John Radclife, became deputy instead of Woodville ; this
was to prove a key appointment in the defence of the town, since Radclife was
not only energetic but also had recent experience of siege warfare.
Te warning in the letter sent to English towns about the artillery being
prepared by the Burgundians for the siege was only too accurate. some of the
enormous amounts of artillery requested from the duke’s territories, including
that from as far away as Cravant on the Yonne, south of troyes, nearly 600 km
from Calais, were not expected to be at saint-omer, the rallying point for the
duke’s forces, before June. Te amount and nature of the artillery demanded by
the duke, both cannons and mortars and the older-style siege engines not using
gunpowder, posed an obvious threat to Calais itself and the outlying fortifca-
tions in the Pale. local preparations in artois echoed those made in 1406/7 for
an abortive attack on Calais. a large group of workmen had been assembled
at the abbey of st Bertin outside saint-omer, engaged in chipping out stone
cannon-balls, mixing gunpowder and making other preparations. Tere were
even facilities at the abbey to forge gun barrels. Payments included in the duke’s
accounts also relate to the manufacture at saint-omer of ‘engins volants’ and
‘couillarts’, examples of the large catapults used at sieges since ancient times.
other similar engines were sent for from sluys and Rotterdam.31
Te frst batch of gunpowder artillery arrived from abbeville around 12 June.
included among the ‘deux grosses bombardes, canons, veuglaires et autres artil-
leries’ was one siege gun so large that it was a drawn on a cart pulled by twelve
horses, with a further six added when the road became more difcult beyond
Hesdin. More guns then came in from Bruges with quantities of other muni-
tions including lances and crossbow bolts. Te most important guns were those
that had the furthest to come from Burgundy itself. Te bombardes or siege guns
were even larger than those from abbeville and included three named guns,
Bourgogne, Prusse and Bergère, which had been used against the French in 1433.
Tese weapons required from eighteen to thirty-six horses to draw their carts. it
is hard to imagine how so many animals were controlled and harnessed to pull
such enormously heavy loads. River crossings, including those at Bar (the seine)
29 Te straits of Gibraltar were usually called ‘of Morocco’ at this date. Te petitions can be
found on the Roll for the parliament of October 1435, Te Parliament Rolls of Medieval
England, items 19 and 22.
30 Susan Rose, ‘Buckland, Richard’, ODNB.
31 M. Sommé, ‘L’Armée bourguignonne au siège de Calais’, in P. Contamine, C. Giry-
Deloison and M. H. Keen (eds.), Guerre et société en France, en Angleterre et en Bourgogne,
xiv–xv siècle (Lille, 1990) 203, 205.
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Triumph and disaster · 65 ·
and at Châlons (the Marne), posed further problems. Te bridge at Bar was
specially reinforced, while at Châlons the guns had to be transferred to boats for
the crossing. in the event, even though this train of guns made relatively good
progress on its long trek north, it arrived afer the end of the siege, though they
may have been employed at the assault on the castle at Guisnes.32
all those munitions that did arrive in time may have amounted to as many
as 12 siege guns (bombardes), 60 veuglaires, 55 mortars (crapaudeaux) and 450
small arms (culverines). Tis mass of matériel had to be moved from saint-
omer down the river aa in barges to Gravelines, and then across the marshes to
Calais itself. Te total cost of all these preparations, let alone the expenses of the
army itself, cannot be precisely calculated because of the loss of some accounts,
but it was clearly enormous.33 For those waiting in some trepidation in Calais
itself for the coming onslaught, the presence of so much heavy artillery can only
have been extremely worrying. Te fortifcations of Calais itself, the castle and
the outlying fortifcations at oye, Marck, Balinghem, Guisnes and sangatte had
not been extensively ‘modernised’ to cope with the threat posed to town and
castle walls by heavy guns.34
Edward III had starved the town into submission, and in fact its best defence
was usually considered to be the marshy ground and twisting waterways and
drainage channels with which it was surrounded. Te unstable nature of the
ground and the vulnerability of the port area to sudden storm surges from
the Channel, which undermined the foundations of the walls, had made it
hard and expensive to keep the walls, such as they were, in good repair. Tere
were also no sources of building stone or good-quality timber within the terri-
tory ; all materials for repairs except chalk rubble from near sangatte had to be
brought from England. in the immediate period afer the taking of the town
by the English, a regular workforce of masons and carpenters had been part of
the establishment of the garrison. By the 1430s, the pay of these workmen was
in arrears like that of the soldiers, but, more seriously, there is evidence that the
works were neglected, supervision was lax, and supplies were being diverted
to private purposes. Buckland, the treasurer from 1421 to 1436, seems to have
used timber meant for repairs at Calais for work on his own country house in
northamptonshire.35
Te sluices that controlled the waterways that were the main defence of
the town were mostly at newenham Bridge (known to the French as nieulay)
outside the fortifcations on the road to Boulogne. Te sluices and the tower
built on the bridge to protect them were very vulnerable to fooding caused by
breaches in the wall of sand dunes that protected this low lying area from the
32 Ibid., 203–4.
33 Ibid., 205–6, 198–200.
34 Tis usually involved the erection of extensive earthworks, sometimes in front of the
walls, sometimes to reinforce them from behind, to absorb the force of cannon fre. Te
complete redesign of fortifcations to protect them from cannon fre was largely a 16th-
century development.
35 Rose, ‘Buckland, Richard’, ODNB.
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fury of storms in the Channel. looking at nieulay nowadays (Figure 1), when
there are no signs of any waterways and the site is occupied by the ruins of
a large French fort dating from the seventeenth century, separated by some dis-
tance and a considerable amount of modern building from the sea, it is hard to
understand how much the earlier buildings sufered from the encroachment of
the sea. if a storm broke through the dunes, the whole complex of waterworks
and fortifcations was in danger of being washed away. Te rush of water would
then pour down the Hammes River into Calais harbour, where the quays and
walls would be in similar danger. What money there was to spend on repairs at
Calais in the early years of the ffeenth century was in fact largely spent on ofen
fruitless eforts to stop up breaches in the sea defences near newenham Bridge
and to repair the waterworks. Tis was the case in 1421 and 1428 ; in 1430, when
Henry VI was in the town before his French coronation, workmen came over
from England to help with the works ; as the Council were informed, unless the
breach in the dunes was stopped up, ‘the town of Caleys is like in right short
tyme to be utterly distruyed with oute recovery thorowe grete concourse and
outrage of waters’.36
Radclife, the newly appointed deputy to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, as
captain of Calais, not only had plenty of warning of Burgundian intentions to
attack the town and the Pale but was energetic and imaginative in his prepara-
tions for the coming hostilities. Te Brut, which in this instance may be based
on eye-witness testimony, recorded how Radclife, the garrison and the towns-
people set about opening up
a faire brode dike on the south side of the toune and made three strong bul-
werkes of erthe and clay, one at the corner of the castell without the toun,
another at Bulleyn gat and another at the postern be the Princes inne. and
att Mylke gate was a fair bulwark made of breke. . . . and they fortifet the
walles toures and dikes on ich side of the toune with-in and with-out. and
dresset thie lopes and theire gunnes to shote both hye and lawe.
Te brick bulwark dated from the time of Richard Woodville, but the others
must have been the result of a great deal of hurried and backbreaking labour.
some attempt was also made to improve the defences of the outlying forts. Rad-
clife advised all those living out in the Pale to come into the town ‘and bring al
thaire goodes and breke doun theire houses’. Many did come, but others ‘stale
away’ to Picardy or Flanders. in Calais itself all were required to swear an oath of
loyalty to the king or, if unwilling, to leave and ‘take thire goodes and go theire
way where they wold’.37
in april, in fact on st George’s day, Radclife, as it were, tested the prepara-
tions. He had the alarum bell rung by the day watch without informing the gar-
rison. Te soldiers’ immediate concern was apparently to bring to safety all the
36 H. M. Colvin (gen. ed.), Te History of the King’s Works (6 vols. in 7; London, 1963–82),
i : 431, 436–7.
37 Brie (ed.), Te Brut, 573–4.
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Triumph and disaster · 67 ·
Figure 1. Fort nieulay was built on the site of the English fortifcations at newen-
ham Bridge by Vauban in 1677. Tis view shows the path of the watercourse (now
a grassy area) and the position of the sluices that allowed the Pale to be fooded as
a means of defence.
‘bestys that were pasterung about the toun’, but even so they armed themselves,
as did the townspeople. Te author of the Brut remarks that Radclife ‘did it for
a sport because it was st George’s day’, but it also served as a useful rehearsal of
the actions to take when the Burgundian army in fact began at last to move on
the town.38 in England itself, the burgesses of sandwich became alarmed as well
at the thought of the possibility of a Burgundian invasion of the Kent coast and
set about repairing their own walls. Tey laid planks across the gates to make it
easier to get from one house to another in the event of an attack.39 Te Council
had in the meantime exerted all its powers to put together a large army to rein-
force the parlous state of English forces not only in Calais but in normandy as
well. Probably to Radclife’s great relief, one section of this army, some 2,000
men under the command of the count of Mortain, sailed into Calais harbour
in early May.40 Tere was little more that could be done in the town except to
wait for the appearance of Philip and his army, composed of forces from all his
38 Ibid., 574.
39 Grifths, Te Reign of Henry VI, 208.
40 Ibid., 201.
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dominions, with particularly large contingents from the town militias of Ghent
and Bruges.
Te Brut includes narratives of two raids apparently made by the forces
under Mortain and under lord Camoys, who had came to Calais with the
same reinforcements. Both these raids seem to have had the purpose of stealing
cattle either in the countryside south of Gravelines or in the neighbourhood
of ardres, something that would add usefully to the victuals in the town if the
siege was prolonged. Tose who raided towards Gravelines managed to bring
their booty back across the sands in the harbour at low tide despite a spirited
sortie from Gravelines itself. Te chronicler recorded that so many cows were
taken that the price in Calais fell to 12d. per head for a good milch cow. Te raid
towards ardres also seemed to have gone well, but on the way back the soldiers
put up three hares, and while they were hunting them they were ambushed by
a party of Picard soldiers. some of Camoys’s men were killed, others fed to-
wards the castle at Guisnes, but Camoys rallied the remainder and beat of their
adversaries and got back safely to Calais with his booty.41
Finally Philip and his army began to move in the second week of June. Te
English account of the siege asserts that he had 150,000 men and 12,000 carts ;
the fgures mean little except as an illustration that it was an enormous force
that began to move out of Gravelines.42 Teir frst objective was the castle of
oye, under the command of nicholas Horton with a normal garrison of under
sixty men. Te chances of his successfully resisting Philip were remote, espe-
cially when the lay of the land is considered. oye and the other forts were situ-
ated in the completely fat, marshy and largely treeless plain surrounding Calais ;
there was little shelter except the walls of the castle itself, and these would have
succumbed very quickly to Philip’s guns. Te Brut has a story of the castle’s
being taken by the Burgundians by trickery. Te garrison were all in the hall
listening to the Burgundian herald ofering them terms when soldiers entered
through an iron grill that had been lef open in the buttery ; 56 men of the gar-
rison were captured and hung ‘under the castell without eny pite’. Te captain
and two companions were taken prisoner ; one, William Bullion, later turned
up in Calais and was executed on suspicion of spying for Burgundy. Te castle
itself was completely destroyed. Te same fate then overtook Marck (2 July),
which fell to an assault, Balinghem, which was handed over to the Burgundi-
ans with all its stores without a blow being struck, and sangatte again yielded
‘shamefully and cowardly’. only at Guisnes was there determined resistance
despite the use of a ‘gret brazen gun’ and two iron bombardes by the attackers.
Te Picards positioned the bronze gun in a cellar in the town and demolished
one tower of the castle, but the defenders ‘it fortifet ageyn with tymber and
dong’.43 Tis castle had a good defensive position with a high motte dominating
41 Brie (ed.), Te Brut, 575–6.
42 Te account of the siege that follows is based on ibid., 576–80.
43 Brie (ed.), Te Brut, 579.
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Triumph and disaster · 69 ·
the surrounding countryside and managed to hold out against the attacks of the
men of Picardy.
By 9 July Philip was outside the walls of Calais and the town was invested
by land. Te harbour, however, was still open to English vessels, and as long
as this was the case Philip’s chances of taking the town were slim. He was well
aware that Humphrey of Gloucester was energetically collecting a relief force
in England, and that there was probably only a relatively short space of time
before this sailed. Te need for a feet to blockade the town by sea had not been
neglected. From as early as March 1436 the duke and his ofcers had been mak-
ing strenuous eforts to put together a feet at sluys.44 By June small groups of
ships had been arrested for the duke at Boulogne and Dunkirk. Tese included
three large ships and also a Portuguese galley, which had brought a group of
shipbuilders from Portugal to help with repairs and even the building of a new
galley for Philip. Te plan to block Calais harbour by sinking old ships loaded
with bricks in the channel leading to the town was also put forward early in the
preparations, and the vessels needed were collected at Dunkirk and sluys ; these
were small fshing vessels described as crayers or busses, which were loaded with
nearly 90,000 bricks, hopefully creating an immoveable obstacle when sunk in
the freeway.45 Te maritime communities on the coasts of Flanders and Zealand
were not entirely supportive of all this activity. Tey seem to have been very
nervous of possible reprisals or raids from the English, and these ports were
clearly full of rumours about possible attacks. one rumour picked up by fsher-
men from ostend from some Hanse traders was that an English feet with over
20,000 men was about to invade Flanders.46
By the end of June Philip had only twenty-four ships ready at sluys and the
other ports. Further orders were sent out to arrest more merchant shipping.
Tese produced a motley collection of vessels from Venice, Genoa, iberia and
most of the ports of northern France. Te intention was to transport men-at-
arms to Calais, but this feet was not ready until 2 July, by which time Philip’s
land army was on the march and had already taken oye and Marck. Te impres-
sion of confusion and near panic among those charged with organising this feet
gradually became more and more noticeable from the tone of the messages fy-
ing between Philip, his wife isabel of Portugal, and various ofcials. Te major
impediment to the sailing of the feet was that the men-at-arms refused to em-
bark because they had not been paid. Tis was not resolved until around 20 July,
more than ten days afer the beginning of the siege of Calais ; the morale of the
land army was not improved when from their encampments they could easily
see English ships coming into the port unimpeded and loaded with supplies.47
Philip had attempted to calm his land forces by saying that the feet could not
put to sea because of contrary winds ; on 20 July the feet was in fact battered by
44 J. Paviot, La Politique navale des ducs de Bourgogne, 1384–1482 (Lille, 1995), 73.
45 Ibid., 75.
46 Ibid., 76.
47 Ibid., 77–8.
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a storm on coming out of the estuary of the Zwyn. at last on 25 or 26 July the
feet reached Calais to face a bombardment from the English artillery on the
Risban fort and the town walls. six of the fshing boats loaded with bricks were
successfully sunk in the channel at high tide. Te Burgundians cannot have had
accurate knowledge of the port, its tides and the channel, because at low tide the
Calaisiens braved the fre from the Burgundian vessels of the port and broke up
and burnt these ships, removing the obstruction. Te Burgundian chronicler
Monstrelet then recorded the ignoble end of this episode ; ‘car bonnement ne
povoient demourer sur les marches d’entre Calais et d’angleterre pour ce que la
mer y est très périlleuse come dient les marronniers . . . et parce qu’ils ne désir-
aient pas rencontrer la fotte anglais qui étaient annoncée les vaisseaux bourgui-
gnonnes se retirent’.48
Te Brut gleefully reported on the same incident, adding the details that the
sinking of the block-ships was botched because of the fre coming from the walls
of the town and that afer the townspeople had cleared the ships, those working
on this task were ‘refresshid wele’, and the stones and bricks were used for work
on st Mary’s Church. on the dunes the Flemings saw what had happened and
‘were full sory in theire hertes and were full gretely therewith abasshit’. Te siege
in fact only lasted three days longer. a skirmishing party of the Bruges militia
outside the Boulogne gate was caught unawares by some horsemen hidden in
the bulwark at the same place, and thirty-six Bruges men were taken prisoner
while the rest fed. on their return to their camp the Ghent militia ‘loughe hem
to scorn’, leading to bad feelings and even fghting between the two militias. Te
Ghentaners themselves were attacked by a sortie from the town the next day
with heavy casualties, losing a siege work they had built on the dunes.
Te night afer this event, a small party of English reinforcements led by lord
Wells landed behind the Risban, making ‘so gret noice’ that the duke and the
Ghentaners were sure that this was the feared arrival of Gloucester with a large
force. all those encamped on the east of the town then crept away under cover
of darkness, leaving most of their supplies behind, including the guns, some of
which were found buried in the earth. Te Bruges contingent, which was on
the south side of the town, awoke as usual to the sound of the English trumpet-
ers blowing on the Milkgate tower. Tey then discovered that most of the rest
of the army and the duke himself were gone ; they at once ‘brake doune theire
tentes and sette thiere loggynges on fyre and fed theire way in all that ever they
myght’. Te news of the collapse of the siege of Calais soon spread to Guisnes,
where the defenders on the towers could see the smoke of the burning camp.
Te Picards then also withdrew, but in better order, taking the ordnance with
them. Te garrison of the castle, however, knowing that by this time Gloucester
had arrived with large new forces, overtook the feeing men and captured the
‘gret brazen gunne . . . and two other gret bombardes of yron’ and took them
into Calais for display.
on the English, side this sudden victory and the utter discomfture of Philip
48 Paviot, La Politique navale, 80.
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Triumph and disaster · 71 ·
the Good were greeted with an outburst of joy and relief. Poems and songs were
written to laud the raising of the siege, and the gleeful emotions expressed are,
perhaps, an indication of the real fear that the town would be lost. in one poem,
each success of the English is mentioned. one of the verses begins ‘Remember
ye of Brugges : how ye ferst wan youre shone’, going on to describe the skirmish
at the Boulogne gate. another heaps shame on the Picards ; ‘Remember ye
Picardes, at seege eke as ye lay / of Guynes that strong castel how ye fed away’.
Te fnal verse uses a play on the word ‘feme’, meaning ‘put to fight’ or ‘drive
away’, to pour scorn on all the Flemings :
Tus prove i that Flemmynges is but a femed man
and Flaunders, of Flemmynges, the same name began.
and therefore ye Flemmynges that Flemmynges ben named,
to compare with Englisshmen ye aught to be ashamed.49
another poured its bile over the head of the duke of Burgundy. He was called
o thou Phelippe, fonder of new falshede
Distourber of pees, Capiteine of cowardice
sower of discorde, repref of al knyghthode.50
all this abuse looked back to the English accusation that he had broken his
oath and lost all honour when he had sworn fealty to Charles VII at arras. some
at least of this literary outburst may have been ofcially inspired, or written by
lydgate the court poet. Te fact that some was included in the text of the Brut,
however, indicates that it touched a real nerve with the English and did refect
much contemporary opinion.51 Philip himself took refuge in making the best
of things. He wrote to Charles, duke of Bourbon, shortly afer the ignominious
end of the siege, claiming that in fact no siege had ever taken place. outside Ca-
lais he had established ‘an encampment only and not designed for a siege’. He
claimed that the problem was that he had doubts about ‘the determination and
loyalty of our Flemish people, and especially the men of Ghent’. He mentioned
that no artillery was fred into the town and that no appeal was made to the
townsfolk to surrender as was customary at the start of a siege.52 Contemporary
Flemish chroniclers tended to blame the disaster for Burgundy on the failure
of the feet. Te author of the Livre des trahisons de France said that the all the
army’s eforts had been in vain because ‘ils n’estoient pas enclos du costé de la
mer’.53 Jean de Waurin, who was present, thought that the whole enterprise
was unwise and doomed to failure because Calais could not be adequately
49 Brie (ed.), Te Brut, 582–4.
50 Grifths, Te Reign of Henry VI, 223–4.
51 J. A. Doig, ‘Propaganda, Public Opinion and the Siege of Calais in 1436,’ in R. E. Archer
(ed.), Crown, Government and People in the Fifeenth Century (Stroud, 1995), 77–106.
52 R. Vaughan, Philip the Good : Te Apogee of Burgundy (Woodbridge, 2002), 81–2.
53 Sommé, ‘L’Armée bourguignonne’, 213.
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blockaded by sea. ships could not safely anchor of the harbour because of the
currents in the channel.54
Modern commentators have tended to see a wider range of factors as respon-
sible. Te Burgundian administration was overstretched organising so large an
endeavour, involving all the duke’s widespread dominions. Tere was a chronic
shortage of money, and also long delays in ensuring that the money needed
reached the right people. Delays also hindered the collection of artillery and the
mustering of the feet.55 on the other hand, it has been suggested that the so-
called English victory was in fact provided for them by the Burgundians, whose
forces were anything but united and who had mismanaged the blockade of
Calais.56 some blame is also attached to the admiral of Flanders, who lef all re-
sponsibility for the command of the feet in the hands of deputies. Preparations
for the siege also took so long that there was no element of surprise whatsoever,
and little or no co-operation between the land army and the navy. Finally, ac-
cording to some sources, the weather in July 1436 was atrocious.57
on the English side, once the euphoria had subsided, a thoughtful observer
might have pondered the fact that if the ruler of the surrounding lands was
hostile then Calais might well be extremely difcult to defend. it was afer all
true that Philip’s formidable heavy artillery, for whatever reason, had not been
deployed against Calais ; this could easily have brought the walls down, as his
guns had at Guisnes. Te observer might also have realised that, with so much
national prestige and emotional capital invested in holding Calais, evidenced by
the outpouring of excitement when the siege was raised, relinquishing the town
would hardly be an option for any English monarch in the foreseeable future.
54 Vaughan, Philip the Good, 81.
55 Paviot, La Politique navale, 82–3.
56 Grifths, Te Reign of Henry VI, 205.
57 Sommé, ‘L’Armée bourguignonne,’ 212–13.
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· 73 ·
5
Calai s as a BasE FoR Poli ti Cal i ntRi GuE:
YoRKi sts, lanCastRi ans
anD tHE EaRl oF WaRWi CK

I
t 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. Te alarm at the prospect of the Bur-
gundian 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 efort was invested. Tat neither of these
things happened is an indication of the competing interests centred on the
town. on the one hand, the fact that the Flemish towns were very reluctant to
get involved in their duke’s adventures testifed to their respect for English arms
and their reluctance to conduct open warfare against a major trading partner.
on the other hand, the duke himself continued to make warlike plans, includ-
ing one that involved fooding the Pale by attacking the sluices at newenham
Bridge, though to what purpose was not clear. on the English side, the drif,
lack of leadership and lethargy becoming increasingly visible in English govern-
ment, largely because of the character of the young king Henry VI, was afecting
policy in the overseas territories as well as matters in England itself. as the situ-
ation for English arms in both normandy and south-west France became more
and more unsettled and losses mounted, some argued that all the available men
and money should be dispatched to these regions. others, especially the duke
of Gloucester, as we have seen, wanted to concentrate forces in the Calais area,
where equal dangers seemed to threaten.
Te precariousness of the town’s physical condition, a quite separate problem
for the government, could not, however, be ignored or pushed aside. Te early
ffeenth century seems to have been a period of particularly stormy weather in
the Channel and north sea. Te great food on st Elizabeth’s day in november
1421 was credited with the drowning of a hundred thousand people in the area
around Dordrecht in the netherlands and, in efect, redrew the map of that
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region. another unusually strong storm in the Channel in June 1439 broke
through the dunes near newenham Bridge, and at high tide over 2,000 acres
were fooded with sea water.1 on the ebb tide the food water poured into the
Hammes River and began to wash away the bridge itself, and then the north-
west corner of the Calais town walls and the castle, since the river fowed into
the moat at that point. Despite strenuous eforts all summer to repair the dikes
and close the breach, it only grew wider until, afer an equinoctial storm in
september, the jetties in the harbour were threatening to collapse, and even the
Risban tower, the major defence of both town and harbour, was being under-
mined. Tree old ships were fnally sunk in the breach, but even this did not
stop the onrush of the sea, and ‘this stopping was borne away like as was all the
others aforesaid’.2
in this situation urgent help came from England, supervised by the Clerk of
the king’s works. Te need was for large baulks of good timber, all of which had
to be shipped from England. in March 1440, 1,400 oaks were contributed by
religious houses in Essex and 1,760 more from royal forests in Kent. However,
by 1442 the breach had still not been properly stopped, and, as a deposition to
a commission of inquiry remarked, attempts to devise new sluices had ‘turned
the king to great cost and to no avail and to great mischief and hurt to the said
bridge and to all the works thereabout’.3 Complaints of serious damage to the
harbour and the associated waterways were in fact a common feature of all the
surviving accounts of the surveyor of Calais. Money to pay the workmen and
buy materials was never easily forthcoming ; in times of real emergency, all the
available able-bodied people in the town, whatever their status, might fnd
themselves recruited to pour clay and stones into the breaches in the sea de-
fences. Tis happened in the afermath of the storms of 1439 and also between
1453 and 1456, when the Risban was again in imminent danger of being washed
away. Te accounts of work on the jetties in the harbour reveal that they were
constructed with an outer framework of beams held together by metal clamps
and bolts, with a ‘stufng’ of chalk rubble and material brought into Calais as
ballast in ships. Te framework was prefabricated in southeast England and
then put into place at low tide, something that at times made it necessary for
the carpenters to work all night. in fact, in the next twenty years over £25,000
was spent on works to the waterways and sea walls, including those at the har-
bour and newenham Bridge, with only limited efectiveness in controlling the
destructive power of storm tides and fooding.4
Te constant need for money, not only for the maintenance of the fortifca-
tions but also for the garrison’s pay, continued to be a major problem for the
Crown. Prolonged periods without pay ofen resulted, in this period as it had in
1 Te coastline of the Calais region today is considerably changed from that in the ff-
teenth century ; nowadays there is a large area of reclaimed land between the site of
Newenham Bridge (now Fort Nieulay) and the sea.
2 Quoted in Colvin, History of the King’s Works, i : 439.
3 TNA E101/193/5, quoted ibid., 440.
4 Ibid., 436–44.
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Calais as a base for political intrigue · 75 ·
the past, in the disafected soldiery’s seizing wool from the staplers’ warehouses
to sell on their own account. Tis occurred on at least four occasions in the
frst half of the ffeenth century, in 1423, 1433, 1442 and 1454. Te alternative
to this kind of forced sale was agreed loans, also from staple merchants, repay-
able out of the customs, usually by allowing the creditor merchants exemption
from paying dues until the loan was cleared. Te garrison and the staplers were
bound together, since the merchants needed the security provided by the sol-
diers to pursue their trade in peace, and the soldiers were well aware that, in the
last resort, money for their pay would come, by some means or other, from the
staplers.
in the years from about 1439 to about 1454, the security of Calais was at
the mercy of events elsewhere. at the outset of this period, with Burgundy
still hostile to England, its position looked precarious. Both states attempted
to manipulate the regulation of trade between them to gain fnancial or com-
mercial advantage, a matter which will be considered in the next chapter. in
the political sphere, the location of diplomatic negotiations for a possible truce
between England and France at oye in 1439–40 helped ensure that no direct
attack would be attempted by either Burgundy or France at this time. once
the negotiations were over, much greater attention was focused on the major
areas of France still in English occupation, normandy and Gascony, than on the
small enclave of Calais. Great magnates continued to be appointed as captains
of the town and the Pale, (Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, was succeeded by
Humphrey staford, duke of Buckingham, in 1441) but these appointments
have been called ‘a cosmetic operation designed to inspire confdence in the
staplers and the garrisons’.5 actual authority in Calais was exercised by lieuten-
ants, like the efective sir Tomas Kyriell or William Pirton, the deputy of the
earl of sufolk at Guisnes.
in many ways their task must have been difcult ; the money needed to pay
the garrison or buy necessary supplies was hard to extract from the treasury in
london, faced with the competing demands of forces in other parts of France.
Pirton was supposed to receive his own pay from the revenues of Guisnes itself
but, in fact, by 1444 had debts of at least £2,378 covered by a loan from suf-
folk. Te garrisons, as was well understood, would mutiny if not paid. Even if
their pay was not too gravely in arrears, there may well have been a problem in
keeping the soldiery occupied when no military action was in prospect beyond
minor skirmishing on the borders of the Pale. Te continual training and ex-
ercises of modern armies were not employed in any organised way at this date.
Te ill-defned borders of English territory, especially in the ‘high country’ to
the east of Guisnes, were the scene of minor raiding and the thef of cattle by op-
portunist French forces, or retaliations by the English. Tis activity could easily
get out of hand, with serious consequences for the continuance of the fragile
truce concluded in 1441. it could not be entirely ignored by the commanders
of the garrisons. Tere is, however, little information about these activities,
5 Grifths, Te Reign of Henry VI, 471.
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and unfortunately virtually no information about the ‘domestic’ aspects of the
lives of those charged with the defence of Calais. We do not know if they were
normally accommodated in the castle at Calais or the other fortifcations or
whether they had families in the town itself or the village at Guisnes.
Te garrison and indeed Calais itself began to play a rather diferent role
in the afairs of England from the mid 1450s. Te importance of Calais up to
this point had been twofold. on the one hand, the export trade in raw wool
conducted by the company of the staple was vital as a source of income to the
Crown, derived from the duties payable as the goods lef the country. on the
other hand, the capture of Calais had been a triumph ; its continued possession
was a symbol of English power in continental Europe. on a more pragmatic
level, it also provided an invaluable entry point for Englishmen to France, the
netherlands and the Empire, whether bent on military, diplomatic, commercial
or even personal afairs. as English armies faced defeat and eviction from both
Gascony and normandy, Calais looked both vulnerable and isolated. Tis was
the case afer 1450, when normandy was lost, and perhaps even more so afer
the French victory at Castillon in 1453, which for the frst time brought Gas-
cony under the direct rule of the French Crown. nevertheless, at this date, the
town became an important element, not in continued war with France, but in
the convoluted power struggles between factions at the English court. Control
of the town was an element in the gradual slide into civil war, the so-called Wars
of the Roses.
Humphrey staford, duke of Buckingham, as we have seen, was appointed
captain of Calais in 1441. although his later career was as a lancastrian and
supporter of Margaret of anjou, eventually being killed at the battle of north-
ampton in 1460, he did not act as other than a fgurehead at Calais and gave up
the position at the end of 1449, when the debts he had incurred on behalf of the
Crown in this position had reached £19,395, an enormous sum even granted his
income in this period of some £4,000 per annum. He was promised repayment
from the proceeds of the sandwich customs and an extra 6s. 8d. from the sub-
sidy on wool exported from other ports. His successor Edmund Beaufort, duke
of somerset, was soon owed an even larger sum by the Crown, £21,649 by June
1453, but it was not these debts but the bitter enmity that developed between
somerset and Richard, duke of York, that led to Calais’s becoming a factor in
the intrigues at the English court.6
somerset was very close to his cousin Henry VI, but, according to his most
recent biographer, the cause of the breach between York and somerset was not
the latter’s appointment as lieutenant and governor-general of France and the
duchies of normandy and Guyenne in December 1447, ofces to which York
had a plausible claim, but the supine way in which somerset allowed the Eng-
6 Both York and Somerset were closely related to Henry VI. Somerset was descended from
John of Gaunt (Edward III’s third son) by his third marriage, which legitimated the
Beaufort family. Richard, duke of York, was a descendant of Edward III through both
Lionel of Clarence (his second son) and Edmund of York (his fourth son).
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Calais as a base for political intrigue · 77 ·
lish to be unceremoniously kicked out of their northern French territories in
1449–50.7 Te real cause of this disaster may have been the ‘asinity’ of Henry
VI, but for the duke of York all the blame lay at the door of somerset.8 to him,
the way in which somerset retreated from Rouen in october 1449 with his
family, afer paying a large ransom, and then nine months later also withdrew in
much the same way from Caen, was dishonourable and inexcusable. From the
summer of 1450 relations between the two became worse and worse. somerset’s
appointment to the captaincy of Calais in 1451, a clear mark of royal support,
can only have increased York’s fury at somerset’s apparent continuation in the
king’s favour. Te writer of the Brut, usually seen as Yorkist in sympathy, some-
what caustically remarked that somerset ‘rewled the king and his reame as he
would’.9
afer his appointment, somerset set about building up the garrison of Calais
to something near its normal wartime establishment, but this could easily be
justifed by the situation in France, where French armies were in the ascend-
ant. in early 1452 there was real fear that Charles VII of France might direct his
next attack at the Pale.10 York had alluded to this in a letter written in Febru-
ary, which set out his political agenda, his hostility to somerset and his desire
to see him removed from any position of infuence in favour of himself. Tese
points were stated even more strongly in the petition he presented to Henry
VI at Blackheath in March of the same year. Te situation in london, which
seemed to threaten armed confict, was successfully defused on this occasion.
York was compelled to enter into an agreement to desist from any acts that
could be interpreted as rebellion against the king.11 nevertheless, the underly-
ing tensions within the nobility and court, increasingly polarised between the
partisans of somerset and the king on the one hand and those of York on the
other, remained.
at Calais, somerset brought in men loyal to the Beaufort family as his own
lieutenant (lord stourton), as captain of Calais castle (lord Wells) and as lieu-
tenant of Guisnes (sir Tomas Findern), but it would have been very surprising,
given the way in which noble afnities dominated the political scene at this
time, if he had done anything else. He also made great eforts to ensure that the
garrison was paid ; again, this does not necessarily imply that he was attempting
to secure the loyalty of the soldiers to himself personally rather than to the king.
it was well understood by this time that if the garrison’s wages were in arrears for
too long a period, a mutiny was likely, with the staplers’ wool at risk of seizure
by the soldiers. Te dire fnancial state of the Crown ensured that the customs
revenue was, as before, the only source of funds likely to produce the amounts
7 C. Richmond, ‘Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (c.1406–1455)’, ODNB.
8 Ibid.
9 Brie (ed.), Brut, 521.
10 A letter sent to Lord Cliford by the king in March 1452 not only spoke of fears about
a new siege of Calais but also the possibility of an invasion of England. Sir N. H. Nicolas
(ed.), Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council, vi (London, 1837), 119.
11 Grifths, Te Reign of Henry VI, 693–7.
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needed. Tere would have been a natural reluctance to endanger this one source
of ready money for the Crown. Certainly somerset had much support on the
Council. a council warrant stated that any delay in paying the garrison would
‘cause the nombre of the newe crewe to avoid and depart oute of the said towne
of Calais’.12 Te parliament of 1453, which contained few if any partisans of
York, also supported the garrison by granting higher customs duties, including
the usual 20s. per wool sack of the Calais supplement. it is arguable whether this
awareness of the situation in Calais in both Council and parliament demon-
strates somerset’ s personal infuence or more general alarm at the situation in
France as Gascony was fnally lost to the English Crown. Whatever the motiva-
tion, it was clearly necessary to provide for the defence of Calais.
By august 1453, York’s conviction that royal government, if not as yet the
Crown, was in the wrong hands, was open and generally acknowledged. almost
immediately afer news of the battle of Castillon reached him, Henry VI went
into a catatonic state. Richard, as heir apparent (until the birth of Prince Ed-
ward in october) and the senior male member of the royal family, took control
of the Council. in november, somerset was charged with treason over the con-
duct of the war in France and put in the tower. in april 1454, afer a delegation
of peers had found no sign of understanding or response in the king, York was
formally appointed protector of the realm. His position in the country at large
had already been greatly strengthened by the nevilles, the earls of salisbury and
Warwick, joining his party at court and in the council. at this point, in addi-
tion to his other ofces, York appointed himself captain of Calais. He held this
position until somerset was released from the tower when Henry apparently
recovered his faculties around Christmas 1454. somerset quickly became once
more the king’s intimate friend and his favoured councillor. His former ofces,
including the captaincy of Calais, were all restored to him.
neither York nor the nevilles responded well to their renewed exclusion
from power by one a chronicler favourable to their party called ‘this evil duke’.13
By late May 1455, the duke of York and his party had gathered together an
armed force. Tey confronted the king and his supporters at st albans. ap-
parently while coming to the rescue of lord Cliford, somerset was killed in
a bloody and confused battle in the narrow streets of the town around the
market place. Te king, who had emerged bravely enough with his banners
and noble supporters from the abbey at the start of the fghting and had been
slightly wounded by an arrow, was now completely in the power of York. at
a ceremony shortly afer the fghting had ceased, Henry VI once more appointed
York protector of the realm, and Warwick captain of Calais.14
York’s renewed hold on power did not last long ; over the winter of 1455/6
12 G. Harriss, ‘Te Struggle for Calais : An Aspect of the Rivalry between Lancaster and
York’, EHR 75 (1960), 33–4.
13 Benet’s Chronicle, in K. Dockray, Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and the Wars of the Roses :
A Source Book ( Stroud, 2000), 66.
14 Te battle is described in many contemporary chronicles including W. Marx (ed.), An
English Chronicle, 1377–1461 (Woodbridge, 2003), 73.
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the king’s mental health again improved, and his supporters regained power in
the Council despite their defeat at st albans. at this juncture, what has been
called the ‘one enduring achievement of decisive importance for the Yorkist
cause was Warwick’s appointment to the captaincy of Calais’.15 at no previous
period since the siege in 1347 had the town fgured so prominently in English
government afairs, nor had positions in its governance been previously seen as
especially desirable or the subject of confict between noble factions.
What had changed to make the town so important in the jockeying for
power at the court of Henry VI ? one factor may have been that, as the struggle
between the lancastrians and the Yorkists became more and more bitter, it was
recognised and valued by those contesting for power that the town contained
the largest group of armed and experienced soldiers anywhere in the English
realm. Te garrison had never previously fought at any great distance from the
boundaries of the Pale, and certainly not in England itself, but if its loyalty to
its captain could be assured it might be a potent weapon in his hands. We have
already said something about the evidence of the energy somerset devoted to
ensuring the support of the garrison once he had become captain in 1451. it
is also the case that when York became protector in april 1454, having taken
steps to claim the captaincy for himself, he took rather similar steps and can-
celled the patents of those ofcers appointed by somerset. since York’s charges
against somerset included his too easy surrender of normandy to the French
in 1449–50, this might merely show a lack of trust in the military capabilities
of somerset’s men. York also negotiated a loan from the staplers, but before
any money could in fact be paid to the garrison the soldiery took matters into
their own hands and seized not only the wool stored in the port but also all the
victuals on hand.
at this point in the summer of 1454 various competing interests centred on
the town and the Pale. Te garrison clearly wanted its pay but may have had
some residual loyalty to the commanders appointed by somerset. Tese com-
manders had no desire to acquiesce in their own removal in favour of York’s
men and were in all probability being drawn into the divisions visible in the
court and the Council. Te staplers undoubtedly wanted to recover the value
of the goods seized and to restore stability to the town so that trade might con-
tinue. York himself wanted to ensure that he might enter the town as captain
and enforce his authority over it. Tis was unlikely to occur unless the garrison
received their arrears of pay. in these circumstances, he needed the support of
the staplers, who were prepared to provide loans in the hope of either recover-
ing or being compensated for their lost wool. Te garrison held out for the full
immediate payment of their arrears before allowing York himself or his repre-
sentatives into the town. negotiations dragged on into the autumn, but before
any settlement could be reached the king, as we have seen, emerged at least par-
tially from his catatonic state. By February 1455, somerset was once more out of
prison and in favour at court, and York’s power had evaporated. Te captaincy
15 Harriss, ‘Te Struggle for Calais’, 30.
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of Calais was no longer in his hands. By the end of May, fortune’s wheel had
turned again. somerset had been killed at the frst battle of st albans, and War-
wick had been granted the captaincy of Calais immediately afer the apparent
triumph of the Yorkists.16
Tis series of events might seem to imply that control of the town was seen as
particularly important by York, who had, perhaps, understood that this might
be a decisive factor in the success of his opposition to his enemies at court. Te
court and the Council were, however, the main arenas in which the two factions
among the nobility played out their struggle, even if York’s failure to impose his
will on Calais in the summer of 1454 tended to undermine his claim to exercise
full royal authority. it is at least arguable that Warwick himself, rather than
York, had grasped the potential strategic importance of Calais and personally
demanded the captaincy from York (the king being entirely in York’s power)
in the immediate euphoria of the victory at st albans. subsequent events give
some credence to this view. Te immediate problem was, of course, that the
garrison had still not been paid ; the arrears were in fact mounting rapidly, and
the question of the staplers’ seized wool had not been resolved. Te staplers
would only loan further funds if they had adequate guarantees of repayment,
while the garrison were in no mood to allow Warwick to enter the town and
take up his appointment as captain until they were paid most of what was owed.
During further negotiations to secure loans from the staplers, the garrison sold
the stolen wool for 26,050 marks. Te soldiers’ need for money was desperate
by this time, which may explain this action ; their demands from the Crown
also increased to include a pardon for this illegal sale as well as their back pay.
Te staplers now also required compensation for this loss as well as secure ar-
rangements for the repayment of loans. By December 1455, agreement had been
reached with the staplers ; the garrison, which was in a strong position since
it could control access to the town and the harbour, was now earnestly urged
by the Yorkist council to accept the terms ofered to them. Te letter from the
Privy Council has been described as hovering ‘between reproach and cajolery’.
Te soldiery were ofered 20,000 marks in cash within twenty days of the ad-
mission of Warwick or his deputy, with payments in the future secured on the
customs. all past ofences would be pardoned. Finally, the garrison was begged
not to ‘entende to any governaunce the whiche should hurte us’ and to refrain
from anything ‘the whiche might be to the rejoyssing of oure enemies’.17
agreement was fnally reached in February 1456. Te king’s recovery, which
was now evident, put pressure on the staplers’ Company to accept it, since they
may have feared that an end to Yorkist infuence would give the queen and the
lancastrians the opportunity to disallow the staplers’ right to the repayment
of their loans from the customs. Te formal agreement itself was presented to
Parliament. it recorded that that the staple Company was prepared to lend
16 Tis series of events is based on the accounts in Grifths, Henry VI, 754, 756 ; Harriss,
‘Te Struggle for Calais’, 30–53.
17 Harriss, ‘Te Struggle for Calais’, 40–44.
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a total of £29,964 2s. 4d. to the Crown plus the remainder of the arrears due
to the garrison. a sum of £66 13s. 4d. was included in the loan for the wages of
the commissioners who would go to Calais to work out the fnal amount. Tis
very large sum of money (lord Cromwell’s estimate of royal revenue in 1433 had
listed the king’s net annual income as only £26,966 2s. 10½d.)18 would be repaid
out of the obligations already received and a long-term charge on the customs
of sandwich19 and southampton. Warwick may well have uttered a sigh of relief
when he eventually entered Calais as its captain on 20 april 1456, nearly a year
afer his initial appointment. Te complex negotiations and the compliance
of the staplers Company had in fact ensured that the arrears of the garrison’s
pay had been cleared.20 once pardons had been secured for the misdeeds of
the garrison, Warwick was able to appoint his own men to ofcial positions, as
somerset had done, while keeping a frm grip on the captaincy itself.
Had this been his aim from the frst ? Had Warwick’s ambition lain behind
the vigour with which York apparently pursued the Calais question afer the
frst battle of st albans ? no clear evidence bears directly on this point, but
there are some suggestive hints. First of all, although York resigned as protec-
tor (probably under compulsion from the queen’s supporters) as the Calais
agreement was being fnalised, no attempt was made to deprive Warwick of the
captaincy at this point. Was only Warwick himself fully aware of the potential
power base he had acquired ? Te fact that he took up residence in the town as
soon as possible and did not conduct its afairs through a lieutenant, unlike all
previous captains, might seem to confrm this. He also pursued a very diferent
military strategy from earlier captains. Previously attention had been focused
on the land borders of the Pale and on the ability of the garrison to resist a siege
like that in 1436 or a possible direct assault by France. Warwick looked seaward
and to the use that could be made of Calais as a base for a squadron of ships
operating in the Channel to ‘keep the seas’. shipmen from Calais had had the
reputation of being involved in piracy before the days of Edward III, but there is
little evidence of ships other than merchantmen and fshing boats being based
there in the period of English rule, until the mid ffeenth century. in 1454
a group of Calais ships had been accused of plundering a Dordrecht ship, the
Seynt Barbara, of her cargo of wheat and wine to the value of £120.21
Warwick may have initially had no wider aims than to indulge in a little judi-
cious piracy in the Channel to enhance his resources with booty. He has, how-
ever, been credited with rapidly and deliberately deciding to use Calais as a base
for the ‘keeping of the seas’, in efect taking over the royal duty of defending the
realm and protecting its merchants, which Henry VI was demonstrably unable
18 Myers, English Historical Documents, iv : 516–19.
19 Payment from the Sandwich customs would only begin when the money due to the duke
of Buckingham from before 1450 had been paid.
20 Te commissioners concluded that, including compensation for the value of the wool
sold by the mutinous soldiers, the fnal statement of account came to a total of £65,444
14s. 9¾d.
21 CPR Henry VI, 1452–61 : 173. Te case rumbled on till at least 1458 ; ibid., 437–8.
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to do. Te destructive French raid on sandwich in late august 1457 had greatly
angered and alarmed traders and townspeople in ports all along the south coast.
Te king himself had no ships of his own. Warwick, therefore, indented with
the Crown to keep the seas for three years from november 1457, with payment
promised from the customs receipts. Te chances of his receiving any money for
this purpose were probably slim, since the customs revenue was already heavily
committed for other purposes, but it did give him ofcial sanction for collect-
ing armed ships in Calais harbour, many in his own possession. other terms of
his indentures allowed him to keep any prizes and in efect to have full authority
over matters like safe-conducts or the disposal of prisoners. Without in any way
acting illegally, he was in the position of being able to establish an independent
power base in Calais, whether for himself or for the beneft of the Yorkist cause.
it has been rightly said that ‘the Earl of Warwick at Calais and on the high seas
was a free agent’.22
His feet‘s frst major encounter, in May 1458, was with a spanish feet of
twenty-eight vessels, including sixteen ‘gret schippis of forecastell’, of Calais
itself. Warwick sent to sea a squadron consisting of fve similar ships, three
‘carvells’ and four small pinnaces. Te encounter lasted from three in the morn-
ing till ten o’clock and resulted in Warwick’s men taking six spanish ships but
incurring heavy casualties of their own. altogether, on both sides, according
to a participant, over 200 men were killed and 700 injured. it was the greatest
battle ‘upon the se this xl wyntyr’.23 it could not be seen as a clear victory for
Warwick’s forces, and thus, according to our informant, the earl was sending
for more ships with the intention of seeking further engagements. Te second
battle that summer involved the seizure of around seventeen vessels from the
Hanseatic feet, returning from the bay of Biscay with salt. unlike the battle
against the spaniards, there was no legitimate way this could be interpreted as
an action against the king’s enemies. in June of the following year his feet was
involved in another dubiously legal afair. a group of spanish ships who were
sailing in company with two Genoese carracks was attacked ; most of the vessels
were seized and the cargoes taken into Calais for disposal.24 Warwick plausibly
needed the proceeds of the sale of prize goods to pay the garrison, whose wages
were once more in arrears. it is also clear that his activities at sea were welcome
to many in England, particularly on the south coast, who feared more French
raids like that on sandwich in 1457, and who had lost goods to sea robbers.
John Bale, a london chronicler, praised ‘the erle of Warrewyk, having a strong
and myghte naveye kepte the strayt sea,’ (the Channel) and ‘all the cominalte
of this lond hadde him in greet laude and chierte’. Bale perhaps ominously also
22 C. F. Richmond, ‘Te Earl of Warwick’s Domination of the Channel and the Naval Di-
mension to the Wars of the Roses, 1456–60’, Southern History, 20/21 (1998–9), 6.
23 Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifeenth Century, ed. N. Davis, R. Beadle and C. Rich-
mond (Oxford, 2004–5), ii : 340–41.
24 Richmond, ‘Te Earl of Warwick’s Domination of the Channel’, 7.
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noted that only the earl ‘laboured for the honour and profte of the king and the
londe’, being prepared to fortify Calais and perform other feats of arms.25
if, however, Warwick’s position at Calais seemed secure, since most of the
south-east of England, which had a crucial role in supplying Calais and its gar-
rison, was on his side, relations between Warwick, York and the Crown were
breaking down. Te queen had accused York and the neville father and son,
salisbury and Warwick, of disloyalty at a Council meeting at Coventry in June
1459. over the summer, we may presume that York and salisbury in England
and Warwick in Calais debated what their next steps should be. on 20

septem-
ber, Warwick arrived in london with an armed force largely composed of the
Calais garrison. Te intention was that this group should be combined with
those of the duke of York, who was in ludlow, and those of salisbury, who had
to march south from Middleham in Yorkshire. Te lancastrians (Henry, the
queen and their supporters) acted quickly to prevent this junction taking place,
but on 23 september their attack on salisbury and his men at Blore Heath, near
newcastle-under- lyme, ended in disaster. Te lancastrian leader lord audley
was killed along with 2,000 men. Te meeting of the three Yorkist leaders then
took place at Worcester. Te decision was taken to withdraw to ludlow, a York-
ist stronghold, to await the lancastrian army, probably double the size of their
own forces. Te turn of events, which had seemed inconceivable in 1455, now
appeared imminent ; many of the soldiers from Calais had lef their posts and
come to England to fght for a noble faction against their own monarch. Te
coming battle could not be explained, in the usual way, as an attempt to rid the
king of evil counsellors. Henry VI’s own banner was prominently displayed over
his tents, positioned among his army, drawn up at ludford Bridge, on the plain
below ludlow castle.
sir andrew trollope, who had spent most of his adult life fghting in France,
and who had been master porter of Calais since 1455, was in charge of this
Calais contingent. a direct attack on royal forces in the presence of the king
whom he had sworn to serve was too much for his sense of honour. it has been
suggested that his links to the Beaufort family were also an issue, but his oath
to the king and the horror of open resistance to God-given authority, which
was part of the contemporary mind-set, may well have weighed more heavily
with him.26 Clearly the paying of the garrison’s arrears, before Warwick took
over the captaincy, did not infuence the allegiance of trollope and his men
at this juncture. Tey were the best armed and most experienced part of the
Yorkist army. Faced with the news that most of trollope’s squadron had slipped
way to join the king, some time on 12 october, York and the nevilles retreated
to ludlow Castle from their battle lines, under cover of an artillery barrage,
25 R. Flenley (ed.), Six Town Chronicles of England (Oxford, 1911), 147.
26 Trollope’s support for the Lancastrian cause continued to the end of his life. He was
leader of a Lancastrian squadron at the battle of Wakefeld (where one report suggests he
disguised his men as Warwick’s retinue by giving them the bear and ragged staf to wear),
wounded at second St Albans and fnally killed leading the van of the Lancastrian army
at Towton in 1461. A. Curry, ‘Sir Andrew Trollope’, ODNB.
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and then fed for their lives. Te remainder of their forces had no alternative
but to surrender. York himself went over the Welsh mountains to take ship for
ireland. Warwick, salisbury and York’s eldest son, the earl of March, rode south
to Devon. Here a ship was found, and by way of Guernsey they reached Calais
on 2 november.27
Te situation that confronted them in the town and the Pale was probably
rather better than they may have anticipated. Te lancastrians had responded
to Warwick’s arrival in England to support York with more resolution than
usual. Henry, duke of somerset, Edmund’s son, had been appointed as captain
of Calais (Warwick being now a rebel) on 9 october, just before the events at
ludford Bridge. By the end of the month, he had put together a force including
trollope and his men and had sailed for the town to take control. However, the
remnant of the garrison in the town, commanded by lord Fauconberg, War-
wick’s uncle, refused him entry to the port. according to one English Chronicle
‘the sovdyers that came with hym were strypped oute of theyre harnrys by thaym
of Caleys’.28 somerset’s ships were forced to make landfall in the bay at the foot
of scales Clif on the border of the Pale. From this point, what was lef of his
forces made their way inland with some difculty and established themselves in
the castle at Guisnes ; the confict between the Yorkists and lancastrians in Eng-
land was reproduced in miniature in the Pale, with the town and castle of Calais
in Yorkist hands confronting the lancastrian garrison in Guisnes Castle.
once re-established in his fortress, Warwick proved immune to the attempts
of the Crown to dislodge him. although his estates in England had been taken
into royal hands following his attainder in the parliament held at Coventry in
november 1459, he still had the support of many of the staplers. Te Coventry
parliament attempted to prohibit trade with Calais and placed restrictions on
supplies being sent to the town, but to little avail. Te staplers were probably
convinced that there was little hope of the lancastrians’ repaying the debts
of the Crown incurred under the Yorkist regime. Warwick’s foreign policy,
which was pro-Burgundian at this point, was also more popular with them
than the pro-French policies of the queen and her party. as far as supplies were
concerned, many in Kent and elsewhere on the south coast were prepared to
ignore the restrictions in gratitude for what they saw as Warwick’s support for
their safety and their trade by his earlier actions in the Channel. Te English
Chronicle reported that ‘it was seyde that alle Kent fauored and supported
thaym [Warwick’s men]’.29 soon, in fact, a trickle of supporters of Warwick,
and through him the Yorkist cause, came from Kent to join the earl. it was now
clearer than ever that Calais was no longer an outpost of English power on the
27 M. A. Hicks, Warwick the Kingmaker (Oxford, 1998), 169, suggests they lef from north
Devon, but this would have entailed a much more difcult voyage round the Cornish
peninsula than the relatively straightforward passage to Guernsey from somewhere like
Dartmouth. John Dinham was responsible for obtaining the boat.
28 ‘Forced to give up their arms and armour’ ; Marx (ed.), An English Chronicle, 1377–
1461, 81.
29 Ibid., 82.
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far side of the Channel but, from the point of view of Henry VI’s government,
a rebel base providing security for those plotting against their regime.
Developments in the last days of 1459 and in 1460 confrm this interpreta-
tion. although the royal forces had tried to imprison Warwick’s own ships in the
harbour at sandwich in December, in January 1460 John Dinham and a force
from Calais came into the harbour at sandwich, perhaps before dawn, certainly
early in the day. Te lancastrian commanders lord Rivers and his son, sir an-
thony, were captured ‘in theyre beddes’, and Warwick’s ships were freed to join
the rest of his squadron at Calais, leaving only the Grace Dieu behind because
she was ‘broke in her botome’.30 Rivers and his son were taken captive to Calais,
where they endured being exposed to public scorn by salisbury and Warwick.
Teir relatively humble origins were made fun of (Warwick teased Rivers that
his father was ‘but a squyer’ who had ‘sthen hymself made by maryage’).31 not
long afer this exploit in March, Warwick sailed from Calais to join York and his
party in ireland to prepare for what was in fact the Yorkist invasion of England.
By late May, Warwick had returned to Calais, his reputation enhanced by suc-
cessfully facing down a feet commanded by the duke of Exeter, Henry VI’s naval
commander, of Dartmouth. Exeter had made no attempt to attack Warwick’s
feet when he had encountered it but had turned away and run for sanctuary to
the nearest port.
in Calais itself, Fauconberg’s men had decisively defeated the lancastrian
forces from Guisnes in an engagement at newenham Bridge in april, although
a small remnant still held out in the castle and engaged in skirmishing against
Warwick’s men. a letter dated 14 June from a Calais resident, probably either
a master mariner or a merchant, to a correspondent in the Middle temple gives
a vivid picture of the continued use of the town as a base for assaults on ‘enemy’
shipping ; he gives details of an attack by ‘diverse caruelles and balingers of warr’
on three French war ships and the capture of a ‘holke’, with a cargo largely of
victuals, despite an artillery battle between the ships of Boulogne. it fnishes
signifcantly with the remark that ‘daily as my lorde (Warwick) hafe any knowl-
age of an enemye anone my lorde makes his schippes to go to the see’. Tis writer
was also well aware that the plans put together in ireland were about to be put
into operation.32 ten days later, on 24 June, Fauconberg led another assault on
sandwich, which resulted in the town being secured as the Yorkist base on the
south coast. Warwick, his father salisbury, and the earl of March landed at the
port two days later.33 From the Yorkist point of view, Calais had amply proved its
worth as a base from which to mount their bid for the Crown. Te triumphant
advance on london of the Yorkist forces was watched with pleasure in Calais.
Within a matter of weeks, Warwick returned to the town to be greeted enthusi-
30 Marx (ed.), An English Chronicle, 1377– 1461, 82.
31 C. L. Scofeld, ‘Te Capture of Lord Rivers and Sir Anthony Woodville, 19 January 1460’,
EHR 37 (1922), 253–5.
32 Te letter is transcribed in C. L. Kingsford, ‘Te Earl of Warwick at Calais in 1460’, EHR
37 (1922), 544–6.
33 Hicks, Warwick the Kingmaker, 177.
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astically by his wife and mother and the townspeople ; somerset realised that his
position at Guisnes was untenable, and afer submitting to the earl he withdrew
to Dieppe. Following these successes, there now seemed every likelihood that
the Pale would enjoy stable rule, that piracy in the Channel would be control-
led, and that the staplers could look forward to peaceful trading conditions.
Te disaster that overtook the Yorkists on the last day of 1460 at the battle
of Wakefeld, where the duke of York and many others of his party were killed,
did not in the end greatly delay this happy outcome of events for Calais. By the
end of March 1461, the former earl of March, now proclaimed king as Edward
IV, had slaughtered many of the lancastrians at towton and driven Henry VI
and his queen to precipitate fight to scotland. Te staplers had, it appeared,
backed the winning side afer all. in the view of one commentator, Warwick’s
determined use of sea power and his successful keeping of the seas were ‘a direct
cause’ of Henry’s deposition.34
Te years between 1461 and 1469 were in fact relatively without incident for
Calais and its inhabitants. Te knowledge that the fugitive Queen Margaret had
bought French support for the lancastrian cause by promising to restore Calais
to France, if she ever regained power, perhaps did not cause much overt alarm.35
a letter to John Paston I in the autumn of 1462 included another rumour that
‘there were cc in Caleyse sworn contray to the Kyngys well for defaute of there
wagys and that Qwen Marget was redy at Boleyn with myche syluir to paye the
souderys in cas they wold geue here entresse’.36 Warwick continued as captain
but paid only occasional feeting visits to the Pale ; his attention as ‘the domi-
nant fgure in the new regime’ was fxed on more important issues, particularly
the pacifcation of the north and the reduction of those strongholds still in lan-
castrian hands.37 Problems still remained for the garrison and for the town.
First of all was the old one of fnance. How could the wages of the soldiers
be paid ? in this instance a more permanent solution was found than the usual
expedient of borrowing from the staplers with repayments coming from the
customs revenue in a more or less ad hoc fashion, according to the needs of the
garrison for pay and the Crown for fnance, at any particular time. By a so-called
act of Retainer, frst negotiated in 1466 but confrmed and reissued in 1473, the
payment of the garrison, in the town and the castle and at Guisnes, Hammes and
the Risban tower, would become the responsibility of the Company of the sta-
ple. Te company would, in return, collect the custom and subsidy on all wool
exported from England, except that going to italy, which did not pass through
the staple, and the ‘ordinary’ revenues arising in Calais. according to the de-
tailed arrangements, the Company would pay the garrison a total of £10,022 4s.
8d. per annum and also maintain the fortifcations. a further £3,000 per annum
from the customs proceeds would be retained by the staplers to pay of gradu-
34 Richmond, ‘Te Earl of Warwick’s Domination of the Channel’, 14.
35 Hicks, Warwick the Kingmaker, 235.
36 Paston Letters, ii : 287.
37 Hicks, Warwick the Kingmaker, 220.
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Calais as a base for political intrigue · 87 ·
ally the Crown’s debt to them of £32,861. Tey would also pay some small fees
and dues amounting to around another £800 and cover the costs incurred in the
safe convoying of the wool feets to the town. if, afer these annual obligations,
which fnally amounted to £15,022 4s. 8d., there was any surplus remaining, this
would be paid to the Crown.38 it has been calculated that from 1467 to 1483
there was an annual average surplus paid to the Crown of £705.39 Te payment
of the Calais garrison was no longer a drain on English royal fnances.
similarly, Edward IV was able to reduce the danger of attack by Burgundy,
which had been a more or less ever present worry for the burghers and traders
of the town since the siege of 1436. Te Yorkists had tended to look for support
from Burgundy since the beginning of their campaign against the lancastrian
regime. it could be seen as a natural consequence of their hostility to a truce
with France in the 1440s and the accusation that normandy had been lost
through the treacherous inertia of Edmund, duke of somerset. Edward con-
cluded a commercial treaty with Burgundy in 1467 and betrothed his sister
Margaret to the new Duke Charles the following year. England and Burgundy
were once more allies. His attitude to France, a more potent threat to the secu-
rity of Calais, generally refected the old animosity between the two kingdoms.
Tis policy caused little controversy in England until it became an issue in the
rif between Edward IV and his erstwhile henchman Warwick, increasingly
apparent afer 1467. once Edward had recovered the throne in 1471, he main-
tained his alliance with his brother-in-law and mounted an invasion of France
in 1475. Tis bloodless invasion led to the conclusion of the treaty of Picquigny
and the payment of a pension to Edward by louis XI. Te delicately balanced
relations between England, Burgundy and France that ensued ensured a period
of relative security for Calais. Tis might have been thrown into disarray by the
death of Charles of Burgundy in battle in 1477. However, despite the subse-
quent takeover of both Picardy and artois by France, thus surrounding the Pale
with French territory, there seemed little fear of a French attack in the last years
of Edward’s reign. louis’s priorities lay elsewhere, and he had perhaps little wish
to stir up trouble so near his northern borders.
Given that Warwick had so successfully used his base in the town as a spring-
board for the Yorkist enterprise against Henry VI, was there a possibility that, as
his relationship with Edward IV deteriorated , the town could be used in a simi-
lar way ? Te king’s agreement with the staplers had made it much more difcult
to use the bait of promising to pay the garrison’s arrears of pay as a way of gain-
ing infuence with the soldiers. Te more complex issue of how the loyalty to
the Crown of the soldiery in general, and their local commanders in particular,
might be manipulated or undermined by the captain remained. although the
garrison, as has been frequently remarked, was the largest and most professional
38 E. Power, ‘Te Wool Trade in the Fifeenth Century’, in E. Power and M. M. Postan
(eds.), Studies in English Trade in the Fifeenth Century (London, 1933), 74–5.
39 D. Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1547 : A Study in Early Tudor Government’ (PhD thesis,
University of London, 1997), 44.
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body of fghting men in the territories of the king of England, these men did
not constitute an army in the modern sense of the word, with a clear chain of
command leading back ultimately to the Crown. Many were the indentured re-
tainers of one or other of the holders of the most important military posts in the
Pale, the captain of Calais himself or his lieutenant, for example.40 Teir status
in this matter was no diferent from that of most of the men fghting in France
before the 1450s, or of the members of the liveried retinues of nobles, ofen de-
scribed as the defning feature of so-called bastard feudalism. in this situation,
was their frst loyalty to their ‘good lord’, the phrase ofen used in indentures and
other documents, or to the Crown ? Both somerset in the 1450s and Warwick
on his appointment as captain made sure that the most important commands
were in the hands of their supporters. Yet how efective was this tactic ? sir an-
drew trollope’s defection to Henry VI’s forces at ludford Bridge was the direct
cause of the fight of Warwick and his co-conspirators from the feld of battle in
disarray. on the other hand, lord Fauconberg had refused entry to the port of
Calais to Henry, duke of somerset, later in the same year, even though somerset
had been appointed captain by Henry VI in Warwick’s place.
Despite these uncertainties, there seems to be little doubt that Warwick
intended to use Calais as the base for his plot against Edward IV in 1469 and
possibly, as before, as the springboard for an invasion of England. Relations
between the earl and the king had deteriorated since the king’s marriage in
1464. Warwick probably disliked the queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and found
the rapid advancement in the king’s favour of her many relations very irritating.
a more serious source of disagreement with the king was over relations between
England and Burgundy and England and France. as has been said, the king
greatly preferred an alliance with Charles of Burgundy to a rapprochement with
louis XI of France. Despite his acquiescence in the Yorkist friendship with Bur-
gundy in 1459–60, Warwick had actively and persistently campaigned against
both the alliance of 1467 and the marriage of Margaret and Charles. He found,
however, that he was no longer able to infuence the king. a further source of
tension related to a family matter. Warwick was determined to marry his elder
daughter isabel to the king’s brother George, duke of Clarence ; Edward refused
to sanction the match. in the summer of 1469 Warwick seems to have brought
the complex web of intrigue aimed at restoring his dominance over Edward to
some sort of conclusion. in June his latest great ship, a potential warship, the
Trinity, had been commissioned with elaborate ceremonies at sandwich. in
July isabel was married to Clarence in st Mary’s church at Calais without royal
consent. Within fve days the wedding party was back in England, and before
the end of the month Warwick seemed to have mounted a successful coup.
40 It has been calculated that at least half the garrison was made up of personal retainers,
with the remainder probably being auxiliaries, servants etc. rather than true fghting
men. J. R. Rainey jr, ‘Te Defence of Calais, 1436–77’ (PhD dissertation, Rutgers Uni-
versity, 1987), cited in Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1547’, 58–9.
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Calais as a base for political intrigue · 89 ·
Following a misjudged reaction to a rising in the north, probably fomented by
Warwick, Edward was Warwick’s prisoner.
By october, however, Edward had reasserted his authority and attempted
a reconciliation with Warwick. it did not last beyond the spring, when rebel-
lion broke out in lincolnshire ; on this occasion, intercepted letters lef no
doubt that Warwick and Clarence hoped to use the rising as a cover for their
own moves against the king. Both were forced to fee with a small group of sup-
porters, taking ship at Dartmouth on 9 april 1470. at this point Edward’s ex-
perience of events in 1459 proved invaluable. He had little doubt that Warwick
would again make for Calais with the intention of using the town as his base,
as he had done eleven years before. Warwick had some idea of the swifness of
the king’s reaction to his fight when he heard that his Trinity had been seized at
southampton before this great ship could join the squadron from Dartmouth.
on arrival of Calais, the marshal lord Duras denied Warwick access to the har-
bour, remaining adamant even when the young duchess of Clarence went into
labour on board ship and lost the baby. Warwick was forced to make instead for
Harfeur in normandy.41 Te failure to gain entry to Calais, however, was not
fatal to Warwick’s plans. afer a summer spent in negotiations with louis XI
and Margaret of anjou, Warwick once more sailed for England on 9 september.
By the end of the month Edward IV was in exile in Bruges, and Henry VI had
been restored to the throne.
How did these rapid changes in loyalties afect Calais ? Philippe de Com-
mines, who visited Calais on behalf of the duke of Burgundy in the immediate
afermath of Warwick’s coup d’état in favour of Henry VI, has given a picture of
the fears and uncertainties in the town. He found that the entire garrison was
wearing Warwick’s livery, with the badge of the bear and ragged staf, and that
the door of his lodgings was adorned with white crosses and rhymes in praise
of the alliance between Warwick and louis XI. signifcantly he was told that as
soon as the ferry came from England with the news of Edward’s fight to Bruges,
in less than a quarter of an hour, everyone was wearing the Warwick badge.
Commines then comments it was hard to know who did this out of fear and
who did it out of support for Henry. Te priority for many at this time was to
be on the winning side.42 We may fnd it signifcant that support for Henry was
shown by wearing Warwick’s badge ; clearly few, if any, believed that Henry him-
self had played any active role in his own readeption. a similar somewhat am-
biguous attitude to allegiance is, perhaps, shown in the bastard of Fauconberg’s
abortive attempt to use the Calais garrison against Edward IV afer his return
to England in 1471. Fauconberg had induced the Calais garrison to set sail for
Kent and to march on london with ‘a greate people of Kent and of shipmen’,43
with some vague idea of assisting Henry VI. He was probably unaware of his
cousin Warwick’s death at Barnet and of Edward’s complete destruction of
41 Hicks, Warwick the Kingmaker, 286–7.
42 P. de Commines, Mémoires, ed. J. Blanchard (Paris, 2001), 243–5.
43 C. L. Kingsford (ed.), Chronicles of London (Oxford, 1905), 185.
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the lancastrian army at tewkesbury on 4 May until he arrived at london on
the 12th. He and his followers were now in the eyes of contemporaries clearly
‘haynous traytours and robbers’. Faced with the determined defence of the City
of london by its citizens, most of his followers slipped away, with those from
Calais making for their ships on the Tames to return to Calais ‘the sonest they
cowlde’.44 Few wished to remain to face Edward’s vengeance.
When considering the whole role of personal loyalties and the membership
of noble afnities in the actions of the Calais garrison and other armed forces of
the day, it must be remembered that indentures routinely included a phrase that
made clear that war against the king was excluded from the obligation to serve
one’s lord. in 1408 an indenture between Henry, Prince of Wales, and Tomas,
earl of arundel, stated that the obligation was to serve :
en temps de pees come de guerre, a pees e a guerre sibien depar decea come
de la ou sur la miere pur terme de a vie et pour estre ovesque monditsei-
gneur le prince a pes et a guerre encounter toutz gentz du monde except
nostre tresredoubteseigneur le Roy Henry.45
a less formal indenture between Warwick himself and Robert Cuny esq. from
1467 includes the phrase ‘the said Robert is w’holden and belest with and to-
ward the said Erle ayenst all persons his ligeance except’, that is saving his loyalty
to the king.46 such a provision would not have been regarded as a mere form of
words at this time but a serious undertaking. open rebellion against the mon-
arch was not only treason but also a sin.
Tere is no doubt that captains of Calais did make eforts to ensure that
members of their afnities occupied the most important positions in the town.
Tis process has been set out for somerset and Warwick in detail.47 Tis has
shown that Warwick in 1456 got the support not only of well-known profes-
sional soldiers like John Dinham and his uncle lord Fauconberg but also Calais
burgesses including John Prowde and Richard Whetehill. it must be remem-
bered that this was the expected way for a great lord to act when he was in the
position of being able to put lucrative positions or other advantages in the way
of his ‘men’. Te whole system of good lordship that permeated society from top
to bottom was predicated on this fact. it only became a potential danger when
the system of government was weak or under attack, as was certainly the case in
the late 1450s and 1460s. Warwick’s powerful personality and his driving ambi-
44 C. F. Richmond, ‘Fauconberg’s Kentish Rising of May 1471’, EHR 85 (1970), 673–92.
‘Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV. in England and the Final Recouerye of His King-
doms from Henry VI.’, ed. J. Bruce, in Tree Chronicles of the Reign of Edward IV, introd.
K. Dockray (Gloucester, 1988), 37.
45 M. Jones and S. Walker (eds.), ‘Private Indentures for Life Service in Peace and War,
1278–1476’, in Camden Miscellany, xxxii (London, 1994), 137. ‘In time of peace as of
war, in peace and in war both at home and abroad or at sea for life in order to assist the
said lord the prince both in peace and in war against all people of the world except our
most dread lord King Henry.’
46 Ibid., 172.
47 Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1547’, 49–51.
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Calais as a base for political intrigue · 91 ·
tion were what made his hold on Calais a danger to the monarchy, rather than
the way he made appointments, which was not in itself unusual for the time.
afer Warwick’s death at the battle of Barnet in 1471 and the triumph of the
Yorkist cause, Edward IV appointed one of his most loyal supporters, William,
lord Hastings, as lieutenant not captain of Calais. Tis has been taken as sign
that the king wished to keep better control of the place, since he himself was the
titular captain. some of Warwick’s appointees, who had not abandoned their
loyalty to the Crown, did, however, remain in ofce. newly appointed men, on
the other hand, ofen had direct links to the royal household as well as a posi-
tion in Calais in the retinue of Hastings.48 Te fact that these new men included
sir John Paston ( John Paston II)49 makes it possible to not only to see how the
system of ‘good lordship’ operated in a particular case but also to get a more
intimate picture of life in Calais for the garrison at this time from some of the
asides and casual remarks in letters in the Paston collection.
Te idea of serving in Calais was not strange to the gentry of norfolk.
a neighbour and relation of Margaret Paston’s, osbert Mundford , had served in
the garrison in the 1450s and had jocularly ofered to buy John Paston I a ‘stoop
of beer to comfort you afer your travail of the sea’, should Paston visit him in
Calais.50 a member of another family, the Knyvets, had been commander of the
castle at sangatte at the time of the Burgundian invasion of 1436 and had been
accused of surrendering it ‘shamefully and cowardly without any stroke’.51 John
Paston II probably took up service in Calais afer the fall of the lancastrians
in the 1470s for two reasons. He needed an income and would receive a wage
as a member of the garrison. it was also a way of wiping out the memory of his
and his brother’s support of the lancastrians, particularly the earl of oxford,
in 1470 and at the battle of Barnet in 1471. it would show unmistakeably his
desire to serve a new ‘good lord’, William, lord Hastings. From some date in the
summer of 1472, John Paston II was as familiar with Calais as with london.52
He travelled frequently back and forth between the two as his military duties
and his family concerns required. Tis may well have been the normal pattern
for the ‘gentle’ members of the garrison ; their presence was not continuous but
interrupted by frequent visits to their estates and families in England.
Tis does not imply that John Paston II took his duties lightly. in the au-
tumn of 1473 he was in correspondence with a maker of armour in Bruges, who
wished to make him a complete set of ‘harness’ at a price ‘que vous seres content
48 D. Grummitt, ‘ William Lord Hastings, the Calais Garrison and the Politics of Yorkist
England’, Te Ricardian, 12 (2001), 262–74.
49 Te identifcation of members of the Paston family can cause problems ; here John Pas-
ton I (1421–1466) is the father of both John Paston II (Sir John, 1442–1479) and John
Paston III (1444–1502). Edmund (d. by 1504) was also his son.
50 Paston Letters, ii : 485. Mundford was taken prisoner by Fauconberg at Sandwich in June
1460 and executed at Calais.
51 R. Virgoe, East Anglian Society and the Political Community of Late Medieval England, ed.
C. Barron, C. Rawclife and J. T. Rosenthal (Norwich, 1997), 164.
52 C. Richmond, Te Paston Family in the Fifeenth Century : Endings (Manchester, 2000),
146.
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· 92 · Chapter 5
de moy’.53 at much the same time, Hastings also wrote praising Paston for his
‘gode attandancez’ and his ‘gode and efectuelle deuoirs’ that he had put into his
assistance to Hasting’s deputy ‘in all suche thinges as mowe concerne the sauf-
garde of my charge there’.54 Paston also had time to travel into Flanders ; on one
occasion, in early 1473, to Ghent, where he not only saw the duke of Burgundy
himself but also family friends, including two ladies known as Gretkyn and Ba-
bekyn. He was clearly firting with these two ; though, having remarked that one
of them looked much better because she had lost some weight, he was then ir-
ritated because she asked all the time, ‘How faret master John yowre brother ?’55
Te social element of life as a member of the garrison could also be enhanced by
young and noble visitors to the town. John Paston was charged by Hastings to
look afer lord souche and two young heiresses, one sir Tomas Hungerford’s
daughter, the other lady Harrington. Paston called them ‘iii grett jowellys’ but
also refected that since Calais was ‘a mery town’ it presumably had more than
enough going on to keep them entertained.56
Certainly he himself expected to be ‘verry mery at Caleys thys Whitsontyd’.
He not only needed his ‘newe vestment of whyght damaske’ to wear there, but,
on a more sober note, he remarked that since his former ‘lord’ the lancastrian
earl of oxford was rumoured to be causing trouble in Essex, it was as well for
him to be out of the way on the other side of the Channel.57 later in the same
year he asked for his musical instruments to be sent up to london so that he
might have them in Calais ‘to avoyde idelnesse’ there.58
By 1475, when Edward IV’s expedition to France was in preparation, John
Paston II was urging his younger brother Edmund to join him in the garrison.
Te pay was reasonable ; a young man could be ‘in suche wagys as ye schall can
lyve lyke a jentylman’. Tere was also a clear opportunity for the young man to
join his brother, as another member of the garrison had died leaving a vacancy ;
it was ‘nowe ore neuer if ye can brynge it a-bowt’.59 John Paston III, despite all
his responsibilities for the family estates in norfolk, also spent some time in the
town in 1475 and later.60 Te overall impression of those letters in the Paston
collection that are either written from Calais or refer to the town and the garri-
son is how little fuss or bother was made about the journey from England to the
Pale and how normal it was for someone of their social standing to be involved
in matters there.
it is also the case that the role of the town as a source of news and intelligence
for those in England regarding happenings in France and the Empire was fully
appreciated. letters to or from the Paston brothers ofen paint a vivid picture of
53 Paston Letters, ii : 409. ‘Te price will be agreeable to you.’
54 Ibid., ii : 410.
55 Ibid., i : 455.
56 Ibid., i : 460–61.
57 Ibid., i : 463.
58 Ibid., i : 472.
59 Ibid., i : 486.
60 Richmond, Te Paston Family in the Fifeenth Century, 150–51.
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Calais as a base for political intrigue · 93 ·
the situation. in 1477 John Paston II, in a letter to his brother, afer describing
louis XI’s siege of Boulogne, remarked that ‘it weer worthe xlm li’ (£40,000) if
only it was in English hands.61 Edmond Bedyngfeld’s letter of august 1477 to
John Paston II similarly gave a clear and succinct account of the siege of saint-
omer by the French king with the shrewd comment that the French were far
more concerned to act against the Burgundians than the English.62 Much of the
other content of the letters concerns the family preoccupations of the Pastons,
but there is also family banter that casts some further light of Calais life. John
Paston III on one occasion remarked that you could get as good food (‘deynte
vytayll’) in norwich for 1d. as the treasurer of Calais produced for 15d.63 Tere
are also hints that Calais was relatively unhealthy. Te younger John advised
his older brother to dress particularly warmly when in the town, since he was
convinced he had been ill there because of the cold. Te older John likewise
blamed a stomach ailment on the town ; he wrote in 1475, ‘i mysslyke somewhat
the heyre heer for by my trowthe i was in goode heele whan i came hydder and
all hool and to my wetyng i hadde neuer a better stomake in my lyfe and now
with-in viii dayes i am crasyd ageyn.’64
Te role of Calais in the buying and selling of horses, a constant feature of
the Cely correspondence, also appears in this collection. John Pympe, a Paston
friend from Kent, was so keen for John Paston III to buy him a horse in Calais
that he fnally took to verse, addressing him in these terms :
Fresh amorouse sihtys of cuntreys ferre and straunge
Have all fordonne yowr old afeccioun
in plesurys new yowr hert dooth soore and raunge
so hye and ferrew that, like as the fawcon
Which is aa-lofe tellith scorne to loke a-down
on hym that wont was her federys to pyke and ymps
Ryght so forgotyn ys yowr pore Pympe.
He fnished his plea, ‘thys being the vi lettyr that i have sent yow’.65 taken all to-
gether, this evidence does reveal another side to the life of the Calais garrison in
the late ffeenth century. Tere were pleasures there to enjoy without any coun-
tervailing feeling of being remote or cut of from home and family in England.
Edward IV successfully strengthened the chain of loyalty, if not quite of com-
mand, to the beneft both of the Crown and of the town. once Edward’s army
had departed back to England in 1475, afer the campaign ended by the treaty
of Piquigny, the inhabitants of Calais may perhaps have felt that they could now
look forward to a period of greater stability, when the focus would be more
frmly on the wool trade and the Company of the staple than on the repercus-
sions of political turmoil in England and the doings of the garrison. Warwick
61 Paston Letters, i : 502.
62 Ibid., ii : 419–20.
63 Ibid., i : 580
64 Ibid., i : 594, 487.
65 Ibid., ii : 417–18.
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· 94 · Chapter 5
had perhaps come close to making the town and the Pale a private fefdom in
a way much more familiar in the lands of the Empire than in England. Te ter-
ritory was, however, by 1475 frmly back under royal control, with reinforced
links to the royal household and to the merchants of the city of london. sir
John Paston was perhaps not the only soldier who found life there had not only
fnancial advantages but was also agreeable and entertaining.
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· 95 ·
6
tHE HEYDaY oF tHE CoMPanY
oF tHE staPlE:
tHE MERCHants anD tHEi R li VEs

T
he act of Retainer, particularly afer its confrmation 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 fortifcations 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. Te cycle of
the soldiers’ wages being in arrears, followed by threatened or actual mutinies
by the garrison, crisis loans to the Crown by the staple merchants, and prom-
ised repayment from the already heavily anticipated receipts from the customs
would be broken. Te Company and its members would have more control of
their own afairs and would not be so much at the mercy of events that were
none of their making.
Te merchants had operated for much of the previous ffy years in a difcult
and demanding environment. Te possibility of attacks from either Burgundy
or France on their trading base and the incidence of piracy in the Channel var-
ied with the political situation, but at times they could reach crisis level. Tis,
of course, happened in 1436 with the Burgundian siege of Calais. For English
merchants, these foreign troubles had been compounded by the period of civil
strife in the 1450s and 1460s, which many hoped was now ended by the resump-
tion of the Crown by Edward IV in 1471. Teir trading partners, principally
merchants from Flanders and Brabant, had faced similar difculties ; in their
case largely concerning conficts between the dukes of Burgundy and the pow-
erful trading cities of Flanders. Both groups of merchants were also caught up
in the consequences of the prevailing views of the nature of wealth, particularly
with regard to international trade, and the way in which this might advantage
or disadvantage a ruler and a state. as we have said, the rulers of both Burgundy
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· 96 · Chapter 6
and England followed bullionist policies and were concerned to put barriers
in the way of an outfow of bullion from their territory, since this constituted,
in their view, a seeping away of wealth. in modern terms, tight protectionist
policies were followed, ensuring the close regulation of trade and the terms on
which it was conducted. in the case of Calais these policies had also been infu-
enced by the way in which the proceeds of the wool customs were used by the
state as collateral for loans, and the need to ensure that there was enough coin
in the hands of the treasurer of Calais, that is physically present in his cofers,
to pay the garrison.
until 1404 the existence of the Calais mint had helped to deal with these
pressures, since foreign specie brought in by merchants was deposited there
for recoining, and some of this money could be used to pay the garrison. Te
closure of the mint, probably as a result of the Europe-wide shortage of bullion
in the early years of the ffeenth century, did not mean that these policies were
abandoned. in fact, as a result of petitions in the parliaments of 1420 and 1421,
the mint reopened in 1422. in that year the necessary dies for striking the coins
were sent over from london to the treasurer of Calais, Richard Buckland.1
Bartholomew Goldbeter was appointed as master of the mints at the tower of
london, Bristol, York and Calais in 1423, holding the position till his death in
1431.2 Both gold and silver coins were once more struck in Calais beginning in
July 1422. From the point of view of the merchants, the most important aspect
of the reopening of the mint was the conditions that were consequentially at-
tached to the sale of their wools at the staple. What proportion of the proceeds
had to be received in specie and deposited at the mint for recoining ? Te regu-
lations in force initially are not recorded, but in the 1429 parliament a series of
articles were presented to the king and accepted by him, which set out the basis
on which the wool trade would be conducted at the staple.
Te most important of these ordinances, usually known as the Bullion and
Partition ordinances, had a lasting efect on the fortunes of the staplers and the
trade of Calais. Regarding bullion, it was stated ‘that the whole payment for the
said wool, wool-fells and tin shall be made promptly in gold and silver without
any trickery or plotting’. Te ordinance than goes on to order that ‘the bullion
shall be brought into the mint at Calais, that is to say for each bale of wool of
which the sack weight is sold for 12 marks [£8], £6 ; 10 marks [£6 13s. 4d.] £5, 8
marks [£5 6s. 8d.] £4, and for the wool-fells at the same rate to be forged into
the king’s coin’.3 if this ordinance had been enforced to the letter it would have
outlawed the use of credit in the wool trade, the normal way in which business
was conducted with the merchants from the low Countries, the great majority
of the purchasers of wools at the staple. not only would these merchants have
had to bring quite large sums in coin to Calais, making them vulnerable to rob-
1 CCR Henry VI, 1422–9 : 12.
2 CCR Henry VI, 1422–9 : 59–60.
3 Parliament of 1429, item XXVII [Staple at Calais] ; Te Parliament Rolls of England. Te
mark was a money of account equal to ⅔ pound (see p. 102 below) ; neither the pound
nor the mark was minted as a coin in England.
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The heyday of the Company of the Staple · 97 ·
bery on the road, but such ‘export’ of coin from the territories of Burgundy was
very unwelcome to the duke, who held bullionist views quite as strongly as the
English monarch, and was prepared to outlaw the carrying of bullion out of his
realm.
Te partition ordinance was also disruptive of the usual methods of the
staplers. it required a seller to ‘make true and equal division of the money
thereof with him who has wool or wool-fells for the same countries that his
wool or wool-fells are from, and he is enjoined and ordered to make division
with him without fraud or deception’. Te wording of this ordinance as it stood
was somewhat ambiguous ; the way in which it was enforced by the Company
became clear from the complaints of those who came to dislike it intensely.
Te system set up required all the proceeds from wool sales to be pooled in the
hands of the Company. individual merchants would only receive their share
when all the wool from a particular crop had been sold, something that might
take a considerable time. Further ordinances put forward at the same time refer
to other difculties facing the staplers. some long-term residents in the town
were accused of ‘plotting by subtle means to lower the price’ of wool with for-
eign merchants. other traders from Flanders, Holland, Zealand and elsewhere
were accused of smuggling wool out from England ‘trussed up in tonnes, pipes
[wine barrels], barrels, sacks and fardles’, hiding it ‘under wood, wheat, oats,
seacoal and in other ways’, to get round the obligation to trade only through
the staple. Finally there was a complaint at the way in which the wool price had
fallen, while that of foreign luxuries imported in galleys and carracks had risen,
‘to the destruction of this realm, which God forbid.’4
in the ensuing years, the mint at Calais struck quite large sums, mostly in
silver coins. Te restrictions on credit that brought bullion into the mint also
led to a large drop in the wool exports to Calais. Burgundian merchants found
the bullion ordinance very onerous, while the duke found in this regulation
another reason for moving away from his alliance with England towards rec-
onciliation with France. When a retaliatory boycott of the import of English
cloth to Burgundy failed to bring any change in English attitudes, the duke
began his preparations for the siege of Calais in 1436. in the next four years
fewer than 600 sacks of legally exported wool reached the staple. Te ofcials
of the Company stuck frmly to the view that all existing stocks must be sold
before any new wool could be put on sale, and the wool merchants from the
low Countries kept away from the market. Te interruption of the trade in
reality benefted no-one ; the king’s customs revenue declined drastically ; the
duke of Burgundy also lost tax moneys ; the merchants, whether in England or
Burgundy, faced bankruptcy. a summary of the situation in Calais, made for
a Dutch delegation that came to the town in 1438 to attempt to negotiate some
sort of compromise agreement, set things out clearly. Because of the partition
ordinance, a wool merchant might have to wait a long time before receiving his
share of the proceeds. He might fnd himself with no ready money to lay out
4 Parliament of 1429, item XXVII [Staple at Calais] ; Te Parliament Rolls of England.
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on new stock for the coming year. Tere was no possibility of bargaining over
prices, which tended to be set by the merchants in the largest way of business.5
Te staple system led ‘to a de facto although not de jure native monopoly of the
wool trade in northern Europe’ ;6 the partition ordinance worked to ensure that
that monopoly was concentrated only in the hands of a few wealthy men.
During the 1440s, the court and parliament were made well aware of the
impediment to trade constituted by the bullion regulations. Te manifest
unfairness of the partition system for all but the most important merchants
also became clear to many. a petition in the parliament of 1442 requested that
both be rescinded, leaving only some minor restrictions in place. Tis received
a rather ambiguous answer from the king, apparently leaving matters in the
hands of the staplers themselves. on their own authority, in the autumn of the
same year, the Company of the staple removed the requirement on merchants
to deposit a proportion of their proceeds at the mint. Tis may in fact have been
no more than the ofcial recognition of a situation which already existed. no
coins were struck at Calais afer 1440, when only £600 of silver was minted,
although in 1431/2 and 1433/4 over £40,000 in silver had been struck.7
Te partition ordinance was rescinded at the same time, although it had
the support of the most important wool merchants. Tere is some evidence to
suggest that the Company of the staple was split for most of the late 1430s and
1440s between pro- and anti-partition groups. Tese have been represented as
the rich men ‘standing for oligarchical government, the partition ordinance and
high prices’ against ‘the commonalty of smaller wool merchants’ standing for
democratic control, no partition ordinance and low prices.8 Te details of this
confict, however, do not survive, and it may well be that the intense dislike of
the ordinance among those buying wool at the staple was as much responsible
for its withdrawal as the opposition among some English woolmen. as early
as 1433, the Four Members of Flanders, the association of the leading Flemish
trading cities, had written to the Diet of the Hanseatic league informing its
members that Flanders had instituted a boycott of English cloth because of the
way the wool trade at Calais was now conducted. Tey claimed ‘that the English
at Calais enacted several years ago great sharp, strict and unjust ordinances con-
cerning wool, which are being stifened from year to year so that it is impossible
to procure English wool save at heavy cost’. Tis was to the detriment not only
of Flemish merchants but also of the Hanse, since it led to a rise in the price of
Flemish cloth.9
Raw-wool exports had, of course declined markedly from their peak in the
early fourteenth century, partly at least because exports of cloth, conversely, had
rapidly increased, but the fgures that have been collected for the period from
5 Power, ‘Te Wool Trade’, 85–6.
6 Lloyd, Te English Wool Trade, 256.
7 P. Woodhead, ‘Calais and Its Mint : Part Two’, app. i, in Mayhew (ed.), Coinage in the Low
Countries, 198.
8 Power, ‘Te Wool Trade’, 88.
9 Ibid., 85.
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1439 to about 1460 vary widely, from more than 10,000 sacks per year to much
lower totals.10 Te political events, both in England and in northern Europe,
described in the previous chapter were responsible for this, as well as the efect
of the ordinances. Te recovery of the wool trade via the staple to at least mod-
est prosperity was as much dependent on political stability as a benign trading
environment. Te 1463 parliament confrmed the privileges of the Company of
the staple, although it also gave statutory recognition to the right of northern
woolmen to export their wools from newcastle without going through the
staple. Te confrmation also included requirements to deposit a proportion
of the sale price for coining at the Calais mint, but this must either have been
carelessly copied over from earlier ordinances or was never enforced, since the
mint had closed in 1440.11 Tere is no evidence that it reopened at this peri-
od.12 When the act of Retainer was frst confrmed in parliament in June 1467,
the staple was described as ‘now late in ruyne and decay and likely to have been
dissolved’.13 Tis was perhaps something of an exaggeration, but it is clear that
the staplers’ decision to support the Yorkists was eventually proved to be the
right one, both for the health of the Company as a whole and its base in Calais
and for the prosperity of individual merchants.
Te way in which one particular family partnership operated can be exam-
ined in some detail because of the fortunate survival of the Cely letters and
papers. Tese cover the period from 1472 to early 1488, with gaps from novem-
ber 1482 to 1483 and for the whole of 1485 and 1486.14 Te Cely family were
established citizens of london. Te older Richard was himself a stapler and had
done well enough to acquire lands in oxfordshire and northampton and an
estate and family home, Bretts Place, at aveley in Essex. His three sons, Robert,
Richard the younger and George, were also all actively involved in the wool
trade, although the main correspondents in the surviving letters are Richard the
younger, usually in london or Bretts Place in Essex, and George and the family
factor, William Cely (perhaps a cousin, though this is not certain), usually in
Calais or its environs. although the letters are mostly concerned with business
afairs (this is the reason they have survived, since they became evidence in an
action for debt in Chancery by Richard Cely the younger against the widow of
his older brother George), casual remarks and asides allow a picture to be built
up of the lives of the merchants of the staple, something illuminated by few
other sources. Te papers themselves also include what have been called ‘docu-
ments of the most personal or trivial kind’, since George seldom threw papers
10 E. M. Carus-Wilson and O. Coleman (eds.), England’s Export Trade, 1275-1547 (Oxford,
1963), 61–3.
11 Lloyd, Te English Wool Trade, 278.
12 Te last coins struck at the Calais mint that have been found are dated 1439, with the last
Pyx report being dated 29 Sept. 1439. Woodhead, ’Calais and Its Mint : Part Two’, app. i,
p. 198.
13 Lloyd, Te English Wool Trade, 279.
14 See p. 41 n. 6 above.
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away and virtually never sorted them out.15 some of these papers also provide
valuable insights into Calais life.
as far as their wool business was concerned, the way in which the Celys
(and, one must presume, most other staple merchants) operated is fairly clear.
one member of the partnership, in the case of the Celys usually either Richard
Cely senior or his son Richard junior, would visit their usual ‘brogger’ or mid-
dleman in a wool-producing area of England to examine samples of the wool
he had collected from the producers, some time afer the shearing of the focks
in the summer. William Midwinter of northleach in Gloucestershire was the
Celys’ usual supplier, though others are mentioned in the letters. once a sale
had been agreed and certifed by an indenture, the wool had to be packed and
then transported to london. once in london it might be stored awaiting the
sailing of a wool feet, or it might go almost immediately to the wool quay to be
loaded onto a vessel for Calais. it was against the rules of the staple to sell wool
in london.
Before shipment, the bales of wool had to be weighed, frst of all in the pres-
ence of both seller and buyer to determine the fnal cost (sales were usually
by weight), and then by the customs ofcials so that the liability for customs
and other dues could be calculated. Te wool was packed in canvas sarplers,
which were numbered and marked with the merchant’s mark and a letter code
that indicated the type of wool and the quality. Tus M on a bale of the Celys’
Cotswold wool meant it was of middle not fne quality. Te position of the
code was also important ; ‘clif’ wool (the damaged and possibly dirty wool
from the animal’s rear) was marked on the side of the sarpler ; ‘end’ wool (the
wound feece) on the top. Wools were also graded and priced by their origins,
with the most expensive coming from Herefordshire and shropshire (known as
leominster and March wools) ; the Celys mostly traded in the wools from the
Cotswolds, which might be further sorted into good, middle, good young and
middle young grades.
Te marking of the bales and the careful grading were essential, since most
sales were by sample, a system that put a lot of responsibility on the wool pack-
ers who wound the feeces, sorted them and fnally packed them in the canvas
sarpler covers. Tese men were specialists, employed by the Company itself ;
their oath is recorded in the surviving 1565 ordinance Book of the Company.
Tey swore that they would make their ‘packing of wools truly indiferently and
sufciently so that you shall not pack or wrap or cause to be packed or wrapped
in the feeces of the wool earth stones dung or sand’ [which would increase the
weight of the sarpler]. Tey would also ‘truly name all manner of the wools by
you packed of the country where they were grown afer the nature of the said
wools and not of any other country, in any manner of wise’.16 it was essential for
the Company and for individual merchants that their customers felt they could
15 A. Hanham, Te Celys and Teir World : An English Merchant Family of the Fifeenth Cen-
tury (Cambridge, 1985), p. ix.
16 1565 Ordinance Book, 129–30, quoted ibid., 117.
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The heyday of the Company of the Staple · 101 ·
trust the markings on the bales. George Cely wrote back in haste to his father
from Calais when something had clearly gone wrong with the packing : ‘in the
reverence of God see better to the packing of your wool that shall come or else
your wool is like to lose that name that it had afore in time past. i never wist you
send coarser wool to Calais for the country than this last was.’17
once the bales had been weighed by the Customer at the port and the cocket
(customs seal) afxed, the bales were loaded. Tis was overseen at the quayside
by a member of the partnership, who would make a careful note of where each
bale was placed. it was the common practice that the shipment should be di-
vided among the various vessels sailing. Tis would, hopefully, minimise the
risk of a total loss, whether from piracy or from shipwreck. Te wool feets usu-
ally sailed twice a year and were escorted by armed ships as a protection against
robbery at sea. news that the ships had lef was eagerly awaited in Calais, where
George was ofen in a fever of impatience waiting for this information. if the
ships became separated on the crossing, the anxiety increased until all had been
accounted for. His clerk William Cely wrote to him in october 1482 while he
was away at one of the autumn marts in Flanders, ‘sir the wool ships be come
to Calais all save 3 whereof 2 be in sandwich haven and one is at ostend and he
[the ship master] hath cast all his wool overboard.’18
once the ships were safely in the harbour at Calais, they were unloaded and
the wool bales registered by the staple collectors, on payment of a duty of 1d.
in the pound on the sales value of the wool. a sample also had to ‘awarded’ by
the staple ofcials to certify that it was of the claimed quality ; on at least one
occasion, the Celys’ factor, with the collusion of the staple packer, changed the
covers on a bale found to be full of ‘gruf’ (coarse) wool for that of a sarpler of
fne wool so that the whole consignment would not be downgraded. afer this
process, the wool was then ready for sale by individual negotiations between the
parties. it was more than likely that it might be stored for some time in one of
the wool-houses in Calais before it was once more on the move, this time almost
invariably to one of the cloth-making centres in Flanders, travelling along the
coast road to Gravelines, across the estuary of the aa, and then on to its fnal
destination.
up to this point we have said very little about the fnancial aspects of the
wool trade ; these were labyrinthine in their complexity. Tere were diferences
in the system of weights used in England and Calais ; there was s system of con-
ventional discounts and rebates in use to allow for things like the weight of the
canvas wrappers on the bales. Tere were the various fees and dues payable, as
well as the custom and subsidy due to the English Crown. Tere were freight
charges for transport from the Cotswolds to london and then on by sea to
Calais. Tus to calculate what the price should be at Calais, to ensure a reason-
able proft to the merchant, would be difcult in any circumstances ; with the
17 Te Cely Letters, letter 93.
18 Ibid., letter 198. A ship master could, by custom, throw cargo overboard if he believed
the vessel was in danger of foundering.
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incomplete information provided by the Cely letters, it is virtually impossible.
From the calculations that have been done it has been suggested that the proft
margin on the best wools was good, but that the ‘middle’ wools (on which the
taxes were the same as on the best wool) very seldom brought a good return, or
indeed any proft at all, to the merchant.19
Te usual bargain made with a purchaser involved credit, one reason why the
bullion ordinance caused so much disruption. a cash payment, which could
vary between half and a third of the total price, was usually demanded immedi-
ately, with the balance due by bills of exchange in two instalments at intervals of
three and six months. Te payment terms could cover a longer period, perhaps
as long as eighteen months, but this was the usual arrangement. Tese deferred
payments were ofen collected by the seller himself at one of the big regional
marts in Flanders. Te most important were the Bammis mart at antwerp in
september–october, the Cold mart at Bergen-op-Zoom in December, and
the sinxen or Whitsun mart, also at antwerp. a further complication, in both
cash transactions and those involving credit and fnancial instruments of some
sort, was the question of the exchange rate to be used. as far as cash payments
were concerned, both gold and silver coins of many diferent origins circulated
in Calais. Te closure of the mint undoubtedly reduced the amount of English
coin available, so that the majority in circulation was probably of Burgundian
provenance. Tere were two issues for a merchant to consider when he accepted
payment in cash ; frst, what was the ofcial exchange rate for a particular coin ?
secondly, what was the condition of the coin, that is, did it contain the amount
of bullion that it should or had it been deliberately or accidentally damaged ?
When it came to recording a transaction the merchant also kept his accounts in
‘money of account’, that is pounds, shillings and pence ; these units were not rep-
resented in the coinage. Te English coins normally in use in the late ffeenth
century were, in silver, the groat (4d.), the half groat, the penny, the ha’penny
and the farthing. Tere were three diferent gold coins, all called nobles : the old
noble, valued from 1464 at 8s. 4d., the rose noble valued at 10s., and the angel
noble valued at 6s. 8d. Tis last coin related directly to the alternative account-
ing system to that of pounds, shillings and pence, that of the mark worth 13s. 4d.
(⅔ of a pound) and the half mark worth 6s. 8d.
to navigate his way through these complexities, a merchant needed to be
very cautious and also adept at rapid calculations. in his counting-house in
Calais, a stapler would have had the scales and weights necessary to weigh the
coins, and also a chequered cloth marked out in columns (like that used in the
Exchequer in london), which was used in rather the same way as an abacus.
Te kind of situation that would have been an everyday occurrence when sell-
ing wool is set out in the record of a sale between George Cely and an unnamed
merchant in august 1480. George was paid half the price in cash at the rate of
25s. 4d. Flemish to £1 pound sterling ; this amounted to £34 12s. 6d. Flemish.
George actually received the following coins :
19 Hanham, Te Celys and Teir World, 121–9.
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The heyday of the Company of the Staple · 103 ·
93 andrews at 4s. 6d. each
18½ crowns at 5s. 4d.
6 Venetian ducats and 2 salutes at 5s. 6d.
1 Rhenish gulden at 4s. 4d.
5 utrecht gulden at 4s.
and £8 0s. 2d. in double briquets at 4½d.20
all this in George’s calculations came to £37 5s. 8d. Flemish, so he gave the
purchaser change in 12 Guilhelmus (coins minted by William VI of Holland)
valued at 4s. 4d. each and 14d. in small coins.21
Te terms on which the credit part of this particular transaction would be
concluded are not recorded, but they can be inferred from those of other bar-
gains. one issue that ofen arose was the way in which exchange rates might
move between the agreement for sale and the fnal payment on a deal at one of
the Burgundian marts. Te Calais rates, which were used in the town itself, were
set out on a table displayed in the lower hall of the Place, the common name of
the staple Hall at Calais, and might difer quite widely from those in use at the
marts. Tese were usually promulgated by the duke of Burgundy at the opening
of the mart and were then used in all transactions taking place there. Tis was
yet one more factor a wool merchant had to take into account when making
a bargain. He could make an overall loss on a transaction if his estimation of the
movement of exchange rates was wrong, something that still causes problems
in a modern business environment. Tis was, of course, quite a diferent matter
from the need to have confdence in a customer and his ability to meet his bills
when they were presented. Te Celys conducted much of their business with
a small group of well-known merchants, usually from Bruges. Teir largest cus-
tomer was John de lopez, presumably of spanish or Portuguese origin but very
well established in Flanders and able to purchase large quantities of wool.
De lopez was certainly involved in a complicated deal with the Celys in
1484, which allows an unusually close look at the way the staple system oper-
ated in practice rather than in theory. among the Cely papers is a group of
documents that were closely examined by the Chancery clerks at the time of
the original lawsuit and seem to demonstrate that George Cely was deliberately
falsifying his accounts in respect of a deal with de lopez. Tere are two sepa-
rate accounts relating to this wool sale among the papers, and also a separate
report from William Cely sent to london from Calais at the time. a close
comparison of all three makes clear that the deal as reported by William has
not been accounted for accurately in George’s personal ‘book’. Disentangling
20 Te various coins in the list can be identifed as follows : Andrew, a Burgundian gold
coin with the cross of St Andrew on the obverse ; crowns, probably French gold coins ;
Rhenish and Utrecht gulden, gold coins struck by the Rhineland Electors or the bishop
of Utrecht : both ducats and salutes were Venetian gold coins. Double briquets were
Burgundian silver coins. Hanham, Te Celys and Teir World, 177 table 3, sets out the
valuation of gold coins used in Calais in Flemish shillings and pence.
21 Ibid., 179. Te transaction itself can be found in TNA C47/15, fol. 11.
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the diferences between English and Calais wool weights and the currencies
used is no easy matter. Te purpose of what is quite an elaborate deception is
also obscure, until it is realised that what is at stake is not an attempt to defraud
either de lopez or Richard, George’s partner, but to cover up a breach of the
regulations imposed on its members by the staple Company. George had ap-
parently sold a large quantity of wool to de lopez, all on credit, with the pay-
ment eventually due in london bills. in 1484 the Company had put in place
a ban on credit sales, and always discouraged payments in london since this
made it hard for the Company to discharge its obligation to pay the garrison’s
wages.22 Te Company members might approve such regulations in a session of
their court, but did not always obey them if they operated to harm their own
personal business.
other aspects of the wool trade and the conduct of business at the marts,
however, were probably an enjoyable part of the business life of the Calais
staplers. Te safety of the journey to antwerp or Bergen op Zoom on horse-
back from Calais worried the partners in london, and the merchants usually
travelled in a group. once there, as well as conducting their own business and
seeking out their debtors, staplers like George more or less invariably had a large
number of commissions to fulfl for family, friends and business contacts. Eve-
ryday goods and exotic luxuries from all over the known world could be bought
at these marts, with far more choice than was available in Calais or london.
one list exists in the Cely papers of the goods bought by George at the Cold
mart at Bergen op Zoom in 1482. He spent a total of £10 4s. 7d. on everything
from corals, furs, a tapestry or bed-covering in the fashionable verdure pattern
(twining leaves and stems), a lute and lute strings and 3 ells of satin to salmon
and tunny (cured or salted in a barrel). Earlier, in 1478, a friend called shipden
commissioned him to buy printed books including one called Belial, a satire
about the devil, suing in the heavenly courts over the possession of souls.
Te staplers also frequently travelled to Bruges itself. Tis was not only
where many of their customers had their base but was also a banking centre.
Tere was a large English community of merchants and clothiers in the town, so
that important contacts could be made and friendships fourished. Te staplers
seem to have frequented particular inns in the town, and they would ofen carry
out commissions for one another as they did at the marts. in 1482 George was
in Bruges for more than six weeks, staying at the ‘shepys Clawe’ (the English
version of the Flemish name, which in fact translates as the ‘sheep’s Head’), and
paying extra for a fre and a glass window in his room.23 it was also at Bruges
that the staplers made contact with wisselers, Flemish money-changers and
bankers, who could provide cash for bills and also arrange the transfer of money
to london. Te question of the role of interest on the sums involved in all these
22 A detailed exposition of this ‘fraud’, including a transcription of some of the key entries
in the accounts, can be found in A. Hanham, ‘ “Make a careful examination” : Some
Fraudulent Accounts in the Cely Papers’, Speculum, 48 (1973), 313–24.
23 Hanham, Te Celys and Teir World, 219.
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The heyday of the Company of the Staple · 105 ·
transactions is difcult to determine, since the practice of usury was outlawed
by the Church. However, it seems that by manipulation of the exchange rate
used by the receiver of a loan and that used when it was repaid, what amounted
to covert interest could be charged. Te rates varied according to the mart ; at
the sinxen mart at antwerp in 1480 between 2.5 per cent and 4.4 per cent of
the sum lent was charged.24
looking at the way the staplers operated in the wool trade in the later
ffeenth century, one view of their activities lays emphasis on their extreme
conservatism. Tey were quite happy to deal with two separate systems of wool
weights in England and in Calais, with neither being used anywhere else. Tey
only used the more up-to-date banking methods, used in international trade
by the italians, in an emergency. Te collection of debts from customers at the
marts was a somewhat ramshackle system, largely operating on a customary
basis. Yet for all this, it permitted the Company to discharge its obligations and
its members in the main to enjoy a reasonable standard of living in what was
certainly a demanding way of business.25
in Calais itself, many of the staplers, who do not seem to have usually brought
their families to live in the town, took lodgings with a local family. although
George Cely himself owned a property in the town with a yard and a stable,26
he also lived in lodgings ; in 1479, with a widow, Mrs Bornell.27 at this time he
was still unmarried and was open to all the temptations of the town. as might
be imagined in a place containing a large body of soldiers, as well as merchants,
their clerks and apprentices, there were plenty of opportunities to meet young
women. George received a carefully composed declaration of love from a cer-
tain Clare writing in French. ‘Tout le Coer de Clare est à vous Jorge Cely, tous jour
en mon Coer’, she declared and demanded that George should write to her. she
mentions that she had given George a token at table (‘ceste ensaigne que je vous
dissoye à la table que je vous enuoraye vne letter’) that she would write to him.
We cannot say whether this is a hint at a decorous evening spent at a family din-
ner, or a glance across the table in some tavern. George’s servant Bartholomew
brought the letter with a token to prove its authenticity. Te fact that the letter
is in French may indicate rather closer relations with the French neighbours of
Calais than is ofen thought to be the case.28 Te back of a business letter about
the sale of fells, from John Dalton, a Cely factor, includes the words of a love-
song, also in French, which may be connected with an evening spent with Clare.
it is a drinking song in dialogue form, which would have allowed plenty of op-
portunity for a young couple to enjoy themselves.29
24 Hanham, Te Celys and Teir World, 191.
25 A more detailed discussion of the fnancial aspects of the Staplers’ business can be found
in A. Hanham, ‘Foreign Exchange and the English Wool Merchants in the Late Fifeenth
Century’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 46 (1973), 160–75.
26 Te Cely Papers, 192.
27 Te Cely Letters, letter 28.
28 Ibid., letter 54 ; Hanham, Te Celys and Teir World, 49–50.
29 Te text runs in Hanham’s translation : ‘I drink to you Mademoiselle / I pledge you sir /
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in the early 1480s, before his marriage, George seems to have had at least one
other liaison in Calais, which was discreetly referred to in letters from Dalton
and William Cely. Tese concern a woman called Margery, who seems to have
borne George at least two children, both of whom died in infancy. Te frst
is mentioned in a letter from Richard to George in Calais describing Richard
and his father sitting in the new orchard, presumably of the family house in
Essex, with Richard the younger explaining to his father ‘aull as hyt whos’ in
Calais and the father being ‘rhyt sory for the dethe of the schylde’.30 Te father’s
compassion for his son’s loss shows understanding for a young man away from
home and lef to his own devices. news of the second child comes frst from
a letter from William Cely to George in london telling him that ‘Margery’
wants a new dress for her churching ‘as sche hadd the toder tyme’. sadly, a letter
dated sixteen days later told George that Margery’s (and we must presume his)
daughter had ‘past to Godd’. Te baby ‘hadd a grett pang : what sycknesse hytt
was i cannot say’, William concluded.31 Te fact that the staplers had liaisons
with women in Calais seemed to be generally treated in a matter-of-fact way,
even if worthy of mention in a letter. two other letters reported that the woman
renowned for her ‘good podyngys’ was with child, but the father was said to be
not George but another stapler, identifed as the man who bought an irish dag-
ger from John Dalton.32
Te fact that George Cely enjoyed singing with Clare is not surprising, since
among the Cely papers is an account of the money he spent on music and danc-
ing lessons and on repairs to his instruments, apparently the harp and the lute.
Te payments were incurred in 1471–3 and were made to one Tomas Rede,
said to be a harper at Calais. He taught George dance-tunes and songs, things
that would be very welcome in company.33 He does not seem to have had any
ofcial position, so it might be presumed that there was enough interest in
music in the town for him to earn his living from lessons and the like. Te songs
George learnt can for the most part be identifed with surviving pieces. John
Paston had also sent for his instrument when a member of the garrison at much
the same time.34 Perhaps both soldiers and the younger merchants spent their
leisure time together playing and singing around tavern fres in the winter and
outside on summer evenings. Te songs they sang, including Myn hertis lust and
O rosa bella (both by the composer John Bedyngham), give the impression that
because you are so pretty / I drink to you mademoiselle / I feel love in its spark / which
pierces me through the heart / I drink to you mademoiselle / I pledge you sir.’ Te Celys
and Teir World, 50.
30 Te Cely Letters, letter 117
31 Ibid., letters 181, 188.
32 Ibid., letters 141, 142.
33 Te accounts are printed in A. Hanham, ‘Te Musical Studies of a Fifeenth Century
Wool Merchant’, Te Review of English Studies, n.s. 8 (1957), 271–4. For further informa-
tion on the songs, see D. Fallows, A Catalogue of Polyphonic Songs, 1415–1480 (Oxford,
1999), 56, 58, 59, 60, 65, 385, 550.
34 John Paston II to John Paston III, 22 Nov. 1473 ; Paston Letters, i : 472
Calais.indb 106 27.5.2008 15:08:44
The heyday of the Company of the Staple · 107 ·
their company included young women. Tere is another verse scribbled on an
odd scrap of paper that perhaps expresses some regret at the possible outcome
of such pastimes. Te writing has been interpreted to mean, ‘to waste thy sub-
stance at night and repent in the morning. if he sorrowed at eve as he does in
the morning, many a man would ride on horseback who now goes on foot.’35
archery provided another way of occupying the young men at Calais. in august
1478, a match was arranged by the married staplers resident in Calais, challeng-
ing the bachelors to a competition, with a dinner costing 12d. a man as the prize.
one doubts if this was enough to divert the staplers’ younger colleagues from
the other pleasures in the town.36
Calais was not devoid of the jealousies and quarrels that easily grow among
a relatively isolated population where the majority are competing in the same
feld of activity. on one occasion, as Richard wrote to George in september
1478, a friend of the Celys had lef a large bundle of goods in his wool-house in
‘schewsrete’ while he went back to london. Te wool-house had been broken
into, a casket taken out of the bundle and its contents stolen. a servant had
gone into the yard, found the window open and looking in saw canvas, linen
cloth, chair covers, knives and other things strewn about. Te Company of-
fcials had ordered everything to be packed up again and taken into the staple
Hall, otherwise these goods might also have been stolen during the night.37
a more personal disagreement with a certain Botrell in January 1481 led him
to throw dung into the Celys’ wool-house through an open window hoping
to spread it all over their stock of fells. Joyse Parmenter, one of their servants,
got a man ‘wyth a donge forke in hys hand to caste the dong aside’, but Botrell
beat him up and spread the dung about to the damage of the stock. Parmenter’s
reaction was to get together a group of other staplers to bear witness to the
damage, asking them to breakfast frst, so there would be support for the Celys
in any claim for compensation.38 Botrell was evidently punished for these ‘dis-
courtesies’, as Parmenter called his behaviour, for in august of the same year he
was let out of prison and warned to ‘voyde the town of Cales and the Marches,
wyfe, chyldern and goodes by Friday nexte noon, payn of deth’. William Cely
was confdent that in these circumstances his employers would soon regain pos-
session of one of their wool-houses. a dispute over this may have been the root
of the trouble.39
Te Celys, like many of their contemporaries, found comfort in the practices
and liturgies of the church, but as far as one can tell it was not a matter of great
personal concern. Te appropriate ceremonies should be properly performed
in the accepted manner, but there was little room for a more introspective ap-
proach in their busy lives. in september 1476 George Cely was asked by his
brother Robert to buy two vernicles for a friend, like those recently given to
35 Hanham, ‘Te Musical Studies’, 274.
36 Te Cely Letters, letter 29.
37 Ibid., letter 34.
38 Ibid., letters 140, 142.
39 Ibid., letter 185.
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· 108 · Chapter 6
st olave’s, Hart street, in london, probably at one of the marts in Flanders.40
Te fne Flanders work on the vernicles may have been admired in london.41
a letter from 1479 records the death of ‘your man wyth your akys’ at Calais
and reassures George that a mass and derge and ‘all ye ryghtys a Cresten man
schuld haue’ have been duly performed.42 Te salutations in the letters tend
to be conventional and formulaic ; ‘thanks be to God’ or ‘by the grace of God’
and the like. William Cely addresses both brothers in the most formal terms as
‘right worshipful sirs and my reverent masters’, concluding his letters only with
the phrase ‘by yowre servuant William Cely’. Even a certain Tomas Kesten,
writing a masterful begging-letter to the Celys in 1484 when he was in consid-
erable fnancial difculties, only writes that he promises ‘as i am a Christende
to pay you and euery man as sone as i can’, with the hope that ‘if God and you
my goode maysterys wolde helpe me wyth your goode worde and wylle wpon
a goode mareage i myght the soner helpe bothe you and oder’.43
in Calais itself, the towers of the two major parish churches of st nicholas
and st Mary dominated the view of the town from the sea, together with the
towers of the town hall and the staple Hall. st nicholas’s Church was near the
castle and probably that most in favour with the garrison. it was there that Ri-
chard II married isabel of France in november 1395. st Mary’s also stood within
the walls and was more closely connected with the town and the burgesses. in
1462 it acquired a new bell, later known as La belle anglaise, in all probability
bought with donations from merchants ; there is no evidence, however, that the
Celys donated any gifs to this church or in fact ever attended it. Teir loyalty
was to st olave’s, Hart street, in london, perhaps an unmistakeable indication
of how they identifed themselves. Teir true base was in london, and they were
londoners. other staplers divided their loyalties. Tomas Betson lef money to
repair the rood lof at all Hallows, Barking by the tower, in london but also
£30 to the ‘garnishing of the staple Chapel in st Mary’s to buy some jewel’.44
Tis church could also play a role in public afairs ; it was here that George duke
of Clarence was married to isabella neville in 1469 by the archbishop of York,
the earl of Warwick’s brother, an occasion celebrated with enormous pomp and
expense.45 Tere were few other religious buildings in the town, the most nota-
ble being a Carmelite convent. Tere was nothing comparable to the cathedral
at saint-omer or the many churches and religious foundations in Bruges.
More revealing of their personal tastes and the amenities of the town are the
40 Te Cely Letters, letter 5.
41 A vernicle was an embroidered or woven representation of the face of Christ on a cloth,
representing that traditionally used by St Veronica to wipe Christ’s face on the way to
Calvary.
42 Te Cely Letters, letter 75.
43 Ibid., letter 219.
44 C. Carpenter, Introduction to Kingsford’s Stonor Letters and Papers, 1290–1483 (Cam-
bridge, 1996), p. xxix.
45 Hicks, Warwick the Kingmaker, 232. Hicks locates the marriage in the castle, but there
was no suitable chapel there for the celebration by an archbishop of a nuptial mass that
had strong political implications and needed to be publicly advertised.
Calais.indb 108 27.5.2008 15:08:44
The heyday of the Company of the Staple · 109 ·
petty-cash accounts that can be found mixed in with more important matters
in the Cely papers. one is an account for food for a week at lent. Tis includes
a very wide range of both fsh and shellfsh, everything from oysters and mus-
sels to salmon, green fsh, eels, cockles and porpoise. Tese were cooked with
cinnamon, spices, herbs, mustard and vinegar. During the week, the Celys
entertained guests on four occasions, including on one evening the master
lieutenant (the deputy of the mayor of the staple and the leading ofcial of the
Company in the town). Te total cost came to 39s. Flemish ; these seem to have
been lighthearted occasions, though one wonders precisely what was implied by
the entry ‘lent allsson to pay for wymnen 4s. 6d. Flemish’.46 George Cely, and to
a lesser extent his brother Richard, were also extremely interested in hawks and
horses. it almost seems as if the obtaining of well-trained hawks from contacts
in the netherlands was a minor part of their business, so frequently were they
asked to fulfl a commission of this kind. William Cely wrote to the brothers in
september 1482, complaining how expensive goshawks had become in Calais,
three or four nobles a hawk. similarly, earlier in the same year, he reported how
John Dalton had bought a new young horse at the fair in oldenburgh ‘of a gray
colour and he is but young for he was never broken yet’, but he thinks he will
develop as well as Bayard, another horse that seems to have been a great favour-
ite. all this is a reminder that while the occupation of stapler in Calais at this
period was a way of life requiring good business sense and acute awareness of
fuctuations in the market, the merchants could enjoy hawking in the marshes
of the Pale and derive pleasure from owning a good horse much as they would
have done on their estates in England.
Perhaps surprisingly, the garrison hardly features in the Cely correspondence,
except with regard to negotiations with the staple authorities over their pay.
Te assumption might be that the merchants had little contact with or interest
in the soldiers, although on the other hand, since the Celys’ correspondence is
mainly about their wool business, frequent mentions of the garrison would not
be expected. What evidence there is suggests that the merchants and soldiers
had relatively good relations at this time. a letter of november 1480 from Wil-
liam Maryon to George Cely at Calais raised the possibility that George might
be tempted to join up with his friends in the garrison (‘seche sowdyerys as ye
be aquaynted wythall’)47 if war were to break out at this time. William Cely
also wrote to George two years later, explaining how he had assured the contact
with a possible bride for George that those who knew him in Calais ‘both mer-
chauntys and soudeers commend yow grettly sayng yf that gentellwoman schuld
be worth dubbell that sche ys ye were worthy to hawe her’.48 More generally,
there is also evidence that the merchant community lent money on a personal
basis to the soldiers. George himself was willing to lend against pledges (he lent
6s. 8d. to one soldier against a cameo), while William Cely reported to George
46 Te Cely Papers, item 137, pp. 188–91.
47 Te Cely Letters, letter 110.
48 Ibid., letter 215.
Calais.indb 109 27.5.2008 15:08:44
· 110 · Chapter 6
and Richard in london on a complicated situation regarding the repayment of
a debt for £60 incurred by one John Garnett, soldier.49
since it is clear how closely both the business activities and the family loyal-
ties of merchants like the Celys linked them to london, an issue of some im-
portance is the ease with which communications could be maintained between
Calais and london, one indication being the time taken to exchange letters,
or to travel from one to the other. as far as business letters are concerned, the
speed of the post was always a matter of interest. Correspondents tended to
record carefully what letters had been received and by what route, so that any
that seemed to be missing could be traced. in the spring of 1482, on 2 april,
Richard Cely informed his brother George at Calais that he had received a let-
ter written on 27 March.50 at the end of the month the post was even quicker ;
William Maryon in london wrote on 20 april that he had received a letter
written on 15 april at Calais.51 Tis looks like a reasonable service, but delays
could occur. William Cely at Calais, writing to his master George at Bergen-op-
Zoom on 23 april, noted anxiously that, though he had sent letters to london
‘at every passage’, none had come from london in the last few days.52 it was not
until 2 May that he could inform him that letters had fnally come through from
london, written on 22 april.53 in the month of april 1482, as another example,
George received a total of twelve letters in the surviving collection.
Tis evidence is, of course patchy ; there is no way of knowing if many more
letters were, in fact, sent or received, but from those that do survive this brief
survey conveys the impression that in normal circumstances the postal arrange-
ments worked well and caused little real anxiety. When delays did cause anxiety
to Richard and George in london in october and november 1483, the reason
was not the dilatoriness of William Cely in Calais in answering their queries,
or storms in the Channel, but the fact that a close watch was being kept on
the Channel crossing by Richard III’s ofcers at the time of the Buckingham
rebellion, and ‘no man that yeed that would bear any letters for searching’.54 as
far as the journey to and from Calais goes, this again was not a source of great
anxiety. Tere is some evidence that travellers came up the Tames to the city,
afer staying at one of the outlying suburban villages, rather than going overland
the whole way from Dover. Tis was certainly the case in an account of daily
expenses from the 1480s. Te accountant is one of George Cely’s servants or
apprentices, perhaps William. He accounts for boat hire up and down river be-
tween Woolwich and london on frequent occasions and also includes payment
for the wherryman. it was only 1d. to go by river to the city, cheaper than getting
shaved (4d.) or having shoes mended (3d.).55
49 Te Cely Letters, letter 217.
50 Ibid., letter 148.
51 Ibid., letter 153.
52 Ibid., letter 156.
53 Ibid., letter 160.
54 Hanham, Te Celys and their World, 302 ; Te Cely Letters, letter 201.
55 TNA, PRO, C47/37/16, fol. 28.
Calais.indb 110 27.5.2008 15:08:45
The heyday of the Company of the Staple · 111 ·
Calais was of course of political and strategic importance to the English as
well as the centre of a vital component of English trade. is there evidence that
at this period the staplers were made unduly anxious by the situation of their
commercial base and the shifing alliances of this borderland between France
and Burgundy ? in some ways it is hard to come to a defnite conclusion on this
point. Many of the letters include snippets of news about the current relation-
ship between neighbouring rulers or rumours of raids and the like. it was, how-
ever, expected of a letter-writer at this time that bits of news would be included
at the end of any missive. in the absence of more formal ways of getting news,
this was obviously welcomed by the recipients. Tus William Cely fnished
a letter to Richard and George in December 1483 with news of a skirmish of
Calais between some English ships and a mixed French and Breton feet. Te
Bretons fed, but thirty sail were taken from the French by Calais ships. His
disgust is reserved for the English ships that let the Bretons escape. similarly
in January 1487 he goes into some detail about the state of afairs in Bruges
and Ghent and the burgesses’ quarrel with their ruler the King of the Romans
(that is, Maximilian). His anxiety, however, is strictly commercial ; he thinks
that a conclusion of the trouble will be to the great beneft of English trade ; he
fnishes by saying news has just arrived of ambassadors from Bruges and Ghent
going to Maximilian to sue for peace ; and, that done (he says), ‘shall an embassy
come from thence into England in as possible haste as may be to make a good
peace’.56
Te life of a wool merchant in the latter decades of the ffeenth century in
Calais was, therefore, busy and exacting but also provided many opportunities
for making new contacts and savouring new experiences. Te control that the
Company had over merchants and their activities might be irksome at times,
but it had been part of the conditions of the trade for over one hundred years by
the time the act of Retainer was agreed. Te Calais merchants had to be aware
of the negotiations with the Crown over the method of paying the garrison, or
over the ‘surplusage’ that it was hoped would be available in any one year, but
this was perhaps less of an interruption to trade than the erratic and sudden
demands for loans to the Crown that had been frequently made before 1466.
in Calais itself the staplers formed a distinct community a little apart both
from those permanent residents who were burgesses and from the garrison.
Teir factors and apprentices might be long-term residents in the town, but the
Company members themselves travelled continually back and forth across the
Channel. in their hearts they seem to have remained londoners for the most
part, but, nevertheless, Calais society could be agreeable, with many opportuni-
ties for the energetic and enterprising in merchant circles as in military ones.
56 Te Cely Letters, letter 240.
Calais.indb 111 27.5.2008 15:08:45
· 112 ·
7
REli Gi ous anD Poli ti Cal CHanGE :
HEnRY Vi i, HEnRY Vi i i anD
tHE REFoRMati on

T
he 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. Tose who would once have
been called Captain were now designated lieutenant (from 1471) or Deputy
(afer 1508) ; their power and authority clearly came from the king and were
dependent on his approval. it is debatable to what extent these changes refected
wider developments in the governance of the whole realm of England or were
driven by the particular circumstances of Calais itself. it was beyond the seas,
surrounded by the territory of both the Empire and France, but its great value to
England was not doubted. ofcial documents ofen included phrases describ-
ing the town as a jewel among the possessions of the king of England. a poem
written not long afer the fall of the town to the English in 1347 described it
as ‘Caleys that ryall towne / ever yt mot wel cleve / unto the crown of mery
Yngland.’1 Te writer of the Libelle of Englyshe Polycye, around 1436, called it
and Dover the ‘tweyne eyne to kepe the narowe see’,2 and the key to English
prosperity. Te Venetian ambassador Giovanni Michele reported in 1557 to the
senate of Venice that without Calais, the English ‘would not only be shut out
1 Quoted in D. Grummitt, ‘ “One of the mooste pryncypall treasours belonging to his
realme of Englande” : Calais and the Crown, c.1450–1558’, in D. Grummitt (ed.), Te Eng-
lish Experience in France, c.1450–1558 : War Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange, (Aldershot,
2002), 48. Te original poem can be found in Political Poems and Songs Relating to Eng-
lish History Composed during the Period fom the Accession of Edward III to that of Richard
II, ed. T. Wright (2 vols. ; London, 1824–46), ii : 226.
2 G. Warner (ed.), Te Libelle of Englyshe Polycye (Oxford, 1926), 2.
Calais.indb 112 27.5.2008 15:08:45
Religious and political change · 113 ·
from the continent but also from the commerce and intercourse of the world’,
becoming ‘dependent upon the will and pleasure of other sovereigns’ for access
to other lands.3 in these circumstances, the question of the way the town and the
Marches should be ruled, and the links between these areas and the remainder
of the realm, remained a live issue for the Crown till the end of English rule.
What were the precise intentions of Henry VII and Henry VIII with regard
to the governance of Calais ? Was the system in place under earlier ffeenth-
century monarchs continued with only minor changes ? or was a new style of
government for Calais but one aspect of a design to establish a more centralised
and coherent system of government in all parts of the English realm ? Were
changes introduced in reaction to events, or were they part of some plan, per-
haps associated with a notable individual royal servant like Tomas Cromwell ?
at this period there is a much better chance of attempting to answer questions
like these because of the rather diferent and more copious evidence surviving
from this period compared with that for earlier decades. until the closing dec-
ades of the ffeenth century, most evidence for the government of Calais comes
from Exchequer accounts and the principal classes of Chancery writs. While
there are, as we have seen, also some private business and family letters, there are
few informal documents relating to public afairs. From the 1490s, the account-
ing methods used for Calais change, with the surviving documents in a diferent
format. Tere is also a much larger body of material relating to things like land-
holdings in the Pale and the town, the local regulations for the town and the
state of the fortifcations. a great many more informal state papers, letters and
reports also survive. two large collections of the letters of lords Deputy, those
of lord lisle,4 in ofce from 1533 to 1540, and those of lord Cobham from 1544
to 15505 also exist. Tis body of material allows a much better idea to be gained
of the aims of policies afecting Calais, and their relation to the political situa-
tion in England in general, ofen matters of speculation in the earlier years.
in many ways the last years of the ffeenth century and the opening years of
the sixteenth were a quiet period for Calais. Henry VII, as a lancastrian, was
of course well aware that the town had supported the Yorkists from the 1460s,
but he also knew that in 1484 the authorities in the town had been suspected of
complicity in the rebellion against Richard III led by the duke of Buckingham,
and that the garrison of Hammes had gone over to support the tudor claim to
the throne at the end of the same year.6 Most of those appointed to administra-
tive and military posts in the town and the Pale by Richard III remained in post
3 Te report is quoted in J. G. Nichols (ed.), Te Chronicle of Calais in the Reigns of Henry
VII and Henry VIII to the year 1540 (London, 1846), pp. xxv–xxvi.
4 Te Lisle papers were seized when Lord Lisle was arrested and put in the tower in 1540.
Tey are now in TNA as SP 3, vols. 1–18. A large selection was edited by M. St Clare
Byrne and published in 1981 in six volumes (Te Lisle Letters, Chicago, 1981) ; this was fol-
lowed by a single-volume edition aimed at the general reader, Te Lisle Letters, selected
and arranged by Bridget Boland (London and Chicago, 1983).
5 BL Harley MSS 283–4.
6 Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1547’, 57–8.
Calais.indb 113 27.5.2008 15:08:45
· 114 · Chapter 7
until the 1490s. a residual fear that Calais could become a base for a rival regime
perhaps motivated the removal of some ofce holders at the height of the Perkin
Warbeck afair. sir Tomas Twaytes, the treasurer, was in fact convicted of
treason in 1495, and adrian Whetehill, the Comptroller, was bound in recogni-
sance and fned £200 on suspicion of complicity in support for Warbeck. it has
been argued that the majority of those appointed to major ofces at this time,
and, similarly, many of those holding minor posts as well, were members of the
king’s household and thus stood towards the king in a special relationship.
some have seen this as something akin to the building of an afnity, and
a continuation of the system once known as bastard feudalism. Many historians,
perhaps inadvertently, convey a sense of disapproval of this way of appoint-
ing royal ofcers, implying that decisions were too closely based on personal
connections instead of ideas of merit and the like. Tis, in their view, ensured
that public life could only too easily become dominated by factions headed
by prominent individuals, and the quarrels between them. Tis interpretation
perhaps misunderstands the nature of government and personal connections in
a small but hierarchical society. at any one time the ‘pool’ from which a ruler
could select those to serve him was limited. in a society where travel and com-
munication in general were slow and ofen unreliable, personal links were all
important. Where else but at court, or in the household of a prominent noble,
would a rising administrator gain the experience needed for more important
appointments ? some might advance through the Church, but would also
need the all-important personal recommendation when an appointment was
being made.
Te idea of good lordship, of needing and receiving support form a social
superior, while in turn providing something similar to inferiors, could be found
at all levels of society. Te Pastons, with their endless complex legal problems
exemplify this need in the ffeenth century. in the lisle letters, the modes of
address from inferiors to superiors demonstrate similar attitudes : lisle’s serv-
ants describe themselves in letters as ‘your lordship’s most bounden during life’
or ‘your lordship’s most bownden servant’.7 showing much the same attitude,
in an earlier period, William Cely usually addresses George and Richard, his
employers, ‘Right worshipful masters afer due recommendation i lowly recom-
mend me unto your masterships’.8 social deference was expected and expressed
and was the norm of a society held together by personal bonds. Tese, however,
only became a source of disharmony or even confict if those in authority were
weak or indecisive. open disloyalty to the monarch was something that very
few would undertake lightly. a more bureaucratic professionalism could easily
come into being alongside this personal system, as administration itself devel-
7 Tis is the usual form of salutation used in letters from people like John Husee to either
Lord or Lady Lisle.
8 Salutation used commonly in the letters from William Cely to his two employers ; Cely
Letters, passim.
Calais.indb 114 27.5.2008 15:08:45
Religious and political change · 115 ·
oped, with better systems and methods of record keeping, without necessarily
replacing it.
Given Henry VII’s reputation for fnancial acumen, it is not surprising that
the accounting system for Calais underwent changes during his reign. Te Ca-
lais accounts until 1489 had gone through the normal Exchequer route, fnally
being enrolled on the lord treasurer’s Remembrancer’s Rolls of Foreign ac-
counts. From this date, however, the treasurer of Calais presented his accounts
at the king’s Chamber, where they were scrutinised and accepted as ‘declared’
accounts. instead of the cumbersome rolls previously used, the Calais declared
accounts can be found from 1489/90 in large paper folios, many of which have
clearly been meticulously checked, as is evidenced by the initials on each page.9
Te receipts of the treasurer included the income from rents and dues arising
in Calais and the Pale. Te most important element was the money due from
the Company of the staple under the terms of the act of Retainer of 1466. Tis
was renewed in 1487, with the signifcant change that the Company would no
longer retain any of the ‘surplusage’ over and above the money they were bound
to pay from the custom receipts for the maintenance of the Calais garrison. all
would now go the king, since the staplers’ debts from the reigns of Edward IV
and earlier had been paid of. as a detailed study of the accounts has made clear,
this provision enabled the Company to make regular payments into the Cham-
ber, averaging nearly £2,000 per year. Tese cash payments were particularly
welcome as a source of bullion for the Chamber.10
Te king, indeed, found this apparently plentiful source of ready money far
too useful to ignore. in the later years of the reign, the Company found itself
under heavy pressure to pay large sums into the Chamber, which impinged on its
ability to fund the wages and expenses of the garrison at the rate originally laid
down. Tus in 1505–9 the staplers only paid £5,784 per annum to the treasurer
of Calais instead of the £10,022 laid down in the statute ; in the same period a
yearly average of £4,020 found its way to the king’s Chamber.11 Te fnal renewal
of the act of Retainer in 1515 placed this diversion of funds on a legal footing ; it
was clearly laid down that half the sum of around £10,000 due to the king from
the staplers should go to Calais and the remainder to the king ‘in his chamber,
his Exchequer in Westminster or ellis where in suche place and to suche persons
as his Grace shall appoynte to his use’.12 Tis system remained in force until the
staplers found themselves unable to collect the sums required from the customs
on wool as the trade itself slipped into decline. From around 1523 the staplers
found themselves in increasing fnancial difculties, until by 1532 their debts to
the Crown had grown to the sum of £22,163 9s. 10d. Te system set up by the
act of Retainer was no longer viable, and the act itself was suspended in March
1533. Te fnances of Calais, if it was to be maintained as a military base, if it was
9 Te books can be found in TNA at E101/200/16 and DL/28/2 nos. 1–3 for the reign of
Henry VII.
10 Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1547’, 181–2.
11 Ibid., 183.
12 7 Hen VIII cap. 10, quoted ibid., 185.
Calais.indb 115 27.5.2008 15:08:45
· 116 · Chapter 7
in truth a jewel of the English Crown, would have to be re-examined and some
new policies devised. Before, however, looking at how Henry VIII and his min-
isters dealt with this problem, the maintenance of the fabric of the town and the
fortifcations at the end of the ffeenth century will be examined.
Te most important building that was constructed in the reign of Henry
VII, to a modern observer, is the day watch-tower or Tour de Guet (Figure 2).
Tis is because it alone of all the buildings of ffeenth- and sixteenth-century
Calais, together with the much damaged and rebuilt Church of our lady,
survives in a recognisable form. it can clearly be seen on the sixteenth-century
views of the town and still today dominates the view from the sea (see Figure 5
in Chapter 8 below). it now stands as a rather forlorn and isolated tower in the
midst of a square used mainly as a car park, but originally it was attached to the
town hall, the crease of the pitch of its roof bring visible on the east side. in the
sixteenth-century view, to the west there was also a more elaborate tower that
adorned the staple Hall (see Figure 4 in Chapter 8 below).13 not a great deal is
known about the appearance of this building, and from about 1499 the staplers
also used the former Princes inn, which lay behind the old hall, as their head-
quarters. a rough sketch exists of this afer the staplers had rebuilt it with cor-
ner towers and heraldry over the central gateway. it became the Hôtel de Guise
afer the French reconquest of the town, and some traces of it existed until the
almost complete destruction of old Calais in 1940–45.14
Te main problem facing those charged with maintaining the fortifcations
of the town and the other strong works in the Pale, at this period, was how to
protect the town or the garrisons against the siege guns and artillery possessed
by any likely enemy. Edward IV had tried to ensure that the garrison was well
equipped with gunpowder weapons of all kinds.15 Tere may in fact have been
more ordnance available in the town and its outlying fortresses, in his reign,
than in the tower of london, the base of the Master of the ordnance, but little
had been done to adapt the walls to withstand the onslaught of the improved
bombards and other siege guns of the period. Te old castle to the north-west
of the town still had only the high stone walls usual before the later ffeenth
century ; these could not stand for more than a very short time against the
bombardment of the improved artillery of the period. Te usual remedy was
to reinforce the walls and ramparts with extensive earthworks, which could
absorb the force of the missiles hurled against them. Tey might also be lowered
in height and provided with large platforms or outworks on which guns could
be mounted. in Calais, it was also essential to keep the moats, waterworks and
sluices in repair, since these waterways were also an important element in the
defence of the town.
13 Te place of this tower in modern views of the town has been taken by the tower of the
Hôtel de Ville, constructed in the early nineteenth century.
14 Colvin, History of the King’s Works, iii : 339.
15 Te whole issue of the use of artillery at this period is discussed in D. Grummitt, ‘Te
Defence of Calais and the Development of Gunpowder Weaponry in England in the Late
Fifeenth Century’, War in History, 7 (2000), 253–72.
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Religious and political change · 117 ·
Figure 2. Te day watch-tower, built by Henry VII, which presides over the market-
place of modern Calais. it is the only substantial building surviving from the period
of English rule.
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· 118 · Chapter 7
Between 1492 and 1502, the moat or ditch between the Milkgate and the
Beauchamp tower, on the seaward side of the town immediately behind the East
jetty, was dug out and provided with a new countremure or brick facing. Te
day watch-tower was newly built, and repairs were undertaken to the castle and
some of the outlying forts like that at Hammes. Te windows were repaired in
several of the buildings in royal ownership in the town, while the waterworks at
times needed emergency repairs, for example in the winter of 1489/90 when yet
another old hulk was sunk in the watercourse at newenham Bridge to try and
alleviate the efects of storm damage. Te repairs to the castle do not seem to
have done anything to remedy its ‘old-fashioned’ defences but were in part con-
cerned with displaying emblems associated with the tudors, including two ‘gret
red rosis’. a similar rose with ‘a crowne over it’ was placed over the lantern gate,
the main entrance to the town from the sea. King’s beasts, in this case a dragon
and a greyhound, were also placed on the quayside by the gate.16 Tirty-six tons
of expensive Caen stone (which had to be transported by sea from normandy)
were used in ‘the Counsail chambre at Calais for a fayre fore front of a batil-
ment with rosis, portculyoses and ostrisfethers’.17 it could be argued that this
display of emblems, intended to signify the permanence and stability of the
tudor dynasty, was not wasteful ; Calais was a centre of diplomatic encounters
and negotiations as well as a military base, and in the early 1500s this function
was of great importance, while an attack from either the French or the imperial
forces was relatively unlikely.
Te work-force needed to undertake these works was relatively large and,
given a total population in Calais of around 4,500, formed a signifcant ele-
ment in the town. it has been estimated that over 700 individual workmen were
employed by the Crown at Calais between 1489 and 1497, excluding the skilled
masons, plumbers and carpenters who were permanent members of the gar-
rison. Many of these men worked for only a few days for the Crown, but, even
so, these fgures give some idea of the availability of labour in the town and the
importance of the royal works as a source of casual employment. Tere were also
some workmen whose main source of income was the Crown, for example the
nine labourers who worked for a whole year on the ditch and the countremure.
From the form of their surnames, a large proportion of the workers had Flemish
or Germanic origins ; names like de Heer, Easterling, Hansman, or those begin-
ning with the particle ‘van’ certainly point to this. some were perhaps men who
lived in the Pale itself ; others may have been drawn to Calais from further afeld
by the availability of work.18
in general, however, Henry VII’s reign marked a period of peace for Calais.
16 Tese beasts, which also included the lion and the antelope, were a frequent feature of
royal buildings constructed at this period ; for example, St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
17 Colvin, History of the King’s Works, iii : 341, quoting TNA E101/201/17.
18 Tis paragraph is based on an analysis of the details of workmen contained in TNA
E101/200/17 and DL/28/2 nos. 1–3, the declared accounts of the Treasurer of Calais
covering the period 1489–97. Tis is contained in S. Rose, ‘Te Royal Works at Calais in
the Reign of Henry VII’ (MA dissertation, University of London, 1991).
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Religious and political change · 119 ·
Te attention of France was focused on northern italy rather than its own
northern frontier, and, while there were trade disputes with the imperial au-
thorities in the netherlands and tensions caused in the early 1490s by Margaret
of austria’s support for her supposed nephew, the impostor Perkin Warbeck,
these did not seriously threaten armed intervention in the Pale. it has in fact
been suggested that ‘in the early sixteenth century Calais society was no longer
dominated by war’.19 on Henry VII’s death, however, Calais itself became an
important factor in policies put forward by Henry VIII and his ministers, and
the town was afected not only by Henry’s view of his relations with France and
the Empire, and the way in which he conceived of his role as king, but also by
religious afairs and the tumult of the Reformation.
although expenditure at the beginning of the reign was very low, money
was once more made available to spend on improvements and repairs at Calais
a little before Henry’s expedition to France in the summer of 1513. His arrival
in the port at the head of an army of 11,000 men recalled, as it was perhaps
intended to, the great days of Edward III and Henry V, although the only ac-
tions undertaken were sieges of tournai and Térouanne. at this time, work
was undertaken on the Falconbridge bulwark and the bulwarks and great wall
behind the castle. Tese bulwarks were outworks intended to strengthen the old
walls. Tey were usually faced with stone or brick work, but provided defence
in depth rather than height, with a central core of earth or rubble to absorb the
force of artillery. Each was also provided with a gun platform with defensive
loops. Te earliest examples of this kind of defensive works tended to be round,
while those designed in the later sixteenth or seventeenth centuries had com-
plex diamond-shaped exterior forms, intended to create a clear feld of fre in all
directions. improvements like those undertaken in the 1490s were also made to
the ditch on the north side of the town. altogether it seems some £5,500 was
spent on the Calais fortifcations between 1511 and 1521.20
Tis was, however, nowhere near enough money to give Calais proper pro-
tection and modernised fortifcations. Te state Papers include a continual
stream of reports both from those in authority in the town and from special
commissioners, complaining that the town’s defences were insufcient or in bad
repair. in 1521, 1526, 1527 and 1528 these complaints came to the Council. in 1527
it was Wolsey himself who reported that the town was ‘in no litel disorder . . .
clerely unfurnished of tymbre ston borde and of every thing requisite for the
same’.21 storms in the Channel, which had caused such problems in the 1430s
and the winter of 1489/90, were again responsible for a breach in the dunes near
newenham Bridge and damage to a new wharf in the harbour. Te authorities
made lists of the repairs that were needed, but there is little evidence that these
were undertaken until 1530, when £1,400 was spent on work to the harbour
and the food defences at newenham Bridge. Tis was probably the result of
19 Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1547’, 147.
20 Colvin, History of the King’s Works, ii : 342–3.
21 Ibid., 344.
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· 120 · Chapter 7
the appointment of a new surveyor of the works. Te new incumbent of the
post, William lambert, went to london in early 1531 to show the king and the
Council his plans for the town. Money was spent, but yet another survey in
1532 revealed that things were still in a bad way. sections of the walls had fallen
down, the wharf at the lantern gate needed between 600 and 700 tons of
timber to be fully protected from storms, while the ditches, as ever, needed to
be scoured and rid of accumulated silt and rubbish. Te suggested works were
estimated to cost £1,200.22
Henry VIII himself was well aware of the situation, since he spent some time
in october 1532 in Calais and in the intervals of negotiations with Francis I
of France drew up ‘a devyse . . . for the fortifcacion of the said towne’. Tis
was addressed to the king’s almoner Edward lee and dealt with repairs and
improvements to the town’s defences as a whole, and also to the harbour. Te
king’s plans are detailed and carefully thought out and intended, above all, to
add to the ability of Calais to withstand an artillery bombardment from the
heaviest guns then made. He suggested that for example ‘Becham’s bulwerke’
should be made ‘so massy that it be not well bateable’. Te feld of fre of its guns
should extend from ‘the see to the mouth of the haven, as alonges the greve to
Flanders wardes and the way to lantern gate’. it should be connected to Beau-
champ’s tower by ‘a travers . . . with an arche for the water to pass under . . . for
the defence of the brais as for the covering of the sighte of the same soo as no
man shall loke nor see alonge the said brais’. Beauchamp’s tower should also
be ‘taken downe to the too wyndose at the nether end of the iveys groyng on
the same’ and then ‘massied up with lyme and sand, stone rubishe and chalke’,
with a gun platform on the top. Te king’s scheme then described all the other
fortifcations at Calais, making the same kind of recommendations ; bulwarks
should be ‘massied up’, provided with gun platforms with co-ordinated felds of
fre, and ofen with a light bridge connecting the bulwark to the main walls so
that reinforcements could be rushed in or the defenders swifly withdrawn. His
fnal recommendation was that the whole wall should be repaired with new gun
loops and with ‘a rampier of erthe to be laide to the wall as too cartes may goo
afront thereupon’ the same height as the wall.
With regard to the haven, the king’s concern is focused on the need to
strengthen the east jetty and also on the improvement of the sluices and food-
gates controlling the waterways around the town. Tese foodgates themselves
should be protected with a travers. He also recommends the provision of earth
dikes to protect the low country from fooding by the sea, one going from the
sluice in Dikeland (the marshy country immediately around the town) to the
high country, and the other protecting the area on either side of the ‘plashe’ at
newenham Bridge. all the earth needed for these dikes should ‘be digged but
onely in too places where by reason therof too grete pondes to be made wherin
so moche the more water shalbe receyved’.23
22 Colvin, History of the King’s Works, ii : 346.
23 Henry’s ‘device’ is in BL Cotton MS Faustina E VII, pp. 33–8. It has been printed in Te
Calais.indb 120 27.5.2008 15:08:45
Religious and political change · 121 ·
it has been suggested that Henry had no expectation that his scheme would
be implemented in a short space of time. none of his ideas appear in a list of
repairs that needed to be carried out, drawn up in 1533 when lord lisle became
deputy.24 Perhaps Henry’s notoriously fckle attention was engaged more on his
religious and personal afairs at this time than on this scheme, or perhaps the
amount of money needed to complete the whole programme was too large.
accounts for repairs carried out in the winter of 1533/4 relate mostly to small
items of maintenance like repairs to the tiling of the roof of the ordnance house
and the King’s Wardrobe and to work on the ‘seabanks’.25 Tey incidentally
provide a picture of how the works were organised ; carts carry chalk and rubble
from scales clif to the West jetty ; others bring ‘sea turf ’ from the ‘Flomarsh in
Dyckland’ to repair the sea banks. Bricks are taken from the ‘Kinges bryckerye
at newname bridge to the Maysons lodge’. supplies are sent by boat from st
Peter’s just outside the walls of Calais to Guisnes, but none of the work carried
out was of major importance.26 if the defences had been thoroughly modernised
according to the king’s plans, the town would certainly have been in a much
better position to resist the French in 1558.
lisle wrote frequently to the Council in london, either complaining that
the fortifcations were in a dire state of repair or requesting more money or
materials when work was authorised. He was well aware of the weakness of
the Beauchamp and Dublin towers, and these were in fact rebuilt in 1535 with
the reduction in height and the provision of gun platforms that the king had
described in his ‘device’. other recurring problems were the collapse of sections
of the walls and the need for repairs to the harbour works. outside the town
itself, he was commanded to level some of the sandhills that had accumulated
along the road to Gravelines and could hide the advance of an army from impe-
rial territory and obstruct the feld of fre of the guns on the Calais defences.
sir Edward Ryngeley, the high marshal of Calais, reported to lisle in June 1534,
when he was at Hampton Court on a visit to the king, how he had met the king
in the garden there. He had explained to the king how much work was being
carried out in the town on the towers and walls, and especially on the sandhills.
His letter fnished, ‘sir my poor vice shall be unto your lordship that the drags
and plows shall go still upon the sandhills till such a time that you may shoot
level over them from the mount at Beauchamp tower.’27 an earlier letter in May
from John Husee, lisle’s london agent, included a carefully worded section
that hinted at the fact that no money had been received for this work ; the king
had desired ‘Mr treasurer to present his hearty thanks to your lordship’, but no
money was specifcally mentioned.28
Chronicle of Calais, 125–9.
24 J. S. Brewer, J. Gairdner and R. H. Brodie (eds.), Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic,
of the Reign of Henry VIII (London, 1862–1910), vi : item 930.
25 Ibid., item 78.
26 Ibid., item 1577.
27 LL ii : letter 212.
28 LL ii : letter 186.
Calais.indb 121 27.5.2008 15:08:45
· 122 · Chapter 7
Despite this apparent royal approval, it could hardly be said that all was well
with the general state of the physical defences of the Pale. two years later, in
March 1536, lisle wrote directly to Tomas Cromwell reporting on a visit to the
castle of Guisnes, a vital fortress almost in sight of the French at ardres. lisle
said that ‘i rode to Guisnes and there . . . have viewed the break of the wall there
and as far as we can perceive and see the said wall will fall daily more for the
greater part of it that standeth is cloven and every day falleth’. Te damage was
probably caused by a heavy frost which was also responsible for the collapse of
the wall between the lantern gate and the Water gate at Calais. in lisle’s view
there ‘was no remedy but a new wall must be made on the outside of the same’.
Tis would be 500 feet long and should include a bulwark with a 30 foot gun
platform on the top. it would cost £1581 3s. 4d.29
in this case the repairs were put in hand almost at once, with over 400 feet
of the new wall built by July. Tese works became the frst phase of an extensive
rebuilding programme at Guisnes, which went on from 1536 to 1541 (see Figure
3). Tere are, in this case, various reports from commissioners and plans made
in the years up to 1551, which testify to the work carried on.30 in 1541, when
relations with France were tense, miners from Cornwall and Devon were sent
over to help in the excavations. Tere seems to have been a total of over 1,400
men employed on the works which were costing an average of over £1,500 per
month. Te work slackened of over the winter but was pursued with the same
energy in the summers of 1542 and 1543. it might be thought that as a result
Guisnes would have been a strongpoint, whose formidable fortifcations would
have been a real impediment to any attack. Much of the work was, perhaps, of
low quality or misconceived (a massive bulwark erected in front of the keep had
to be demolished in 1551, possibly because springs had undermined the foun-
dations ; the fooding of the diggings for foundations had caused problems in
1541). in 1552–3, £6,627 5s. 8d. was spent on this fortress, and a further £1,217 the
following year.31 When the castle was attacked in 1558, however, it succumbed
to an artillery bombardment in less than a week, despite the spirited and vigor-
ous defence of the garrison.
Much of the work at Guisnes in the 1540s was undoubtedly a response to
the French repair of the fortifcations at ardres. Tese were less than ten miles
from Calais itself and much nearer to Guisnes. small bulwarks made mainly of
earth were also thrown up on the western edges of the Pale as additional strong
points and are shown on the maps or ‘platts’ made in 1545 and 1550.32 From
1541 also the money available for works at Calais itself was increased to levels
far beyond those pleaded for by lisle. one calculation puts the total spent by
Henry VIII on the fortifcations of the Pale at £12,675 between september 1538
29 LL iii : letter 653.
30 Tere are plans and drawings of the fortifcations at Guisnes in BL Cotton MS Augustus
I ii, fol. 23, and 71 supplementary 15. Also see Sir P. Egerton (ed.), Life of Lord Grey of
Wilton (London, 1846), p. xxiv.
31 Colvin, History of the King’s Works, ii : 367–9.
32 Ibid., 372–5.
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Religious and political change · 123 ·
Figure 3. a drawing of the town and castle of Guisnes, although the whole area
within the castle walls is not included. Te captions on the drawing itself are in
French. Te large bulwark shown before the castle walls may be the Mary bulwark,
which played an important role in the siege of the castle in 1558. Te earth mound
that was the core of this outwork is the only feature of the castle now remaining,
surmounted by an eighteenth-century clock tower. (Bl Cotton Ms augustus I ii,
fol. 23)
Calais.indb 123 27.5.2008 15:08:46



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· 124 · Chapter 7
and his death in January 1547. a further £30,736 was spent during the reign of
Edward VI, making an average of £7,500 per annum for the last twenty years of
English rule.33
Was it in truth the ‘strongest town in Christendom’, the phrase used by the
duke of norfolk to a French ambassador in 1541 ?34 Tere were perhaps good
reasons to doubt this. First of all, there were clearly difculties in obtaining
supplies of good quality materials for the works. Tere were brickworks and
lime-kilns in the Pale, but these could not provide all that was needed. Te only
stone quarried within the same boundaries was a poor sort of chalk rubble from
Escalles (scales Clif). Tis could be used for inflling behind the framework of
a wharf or for the core ‘stufng’ of a bulwark, but it was not suitable for facing
stone or the like. anything of this nature had to be brought over from England
or obtained otherwise outside the Pale. Te same applied to all timber needed
in building except for bundles of faggots, which could be cut in the woods near
Guisnes. Tere are also signs, in Henry VIII’s time, of a shortage of suitable
labour ; fnding sufcient skilled bricklayers was a particular problem, while the
soldiers of the garrison were sometimes brought in to help with general labour-
ing. lee, the surveyor of the works at Calais, assured Tomas Cromwell in 1539
that he had not found men ‘more willing nor take more paynes than they doo’,
but there is room to doubt that this was really the case.35 a couple of years later
a Welshman was hanged at Guisnes, convicted of stirring up trouble among the
workmen.
another problem, which is constantly referred to in all the documentation
concerned with the works, is the nature of the subsoil around the town and the
damage caused by the high tides and frequent foods to the system of moats,
sluices and ditches that formed a major element in the defences of the town.
Deep excavations had to be made to fnd frm ground on which to build towers
or bulwarks. in 1541 at Guisnes it was necessary to dig down twenty-fve feet to
fnd frm footing for a new bulwark, and chains of men were employed, trying
to drain the water collecting in the pits. on the other hand, the marshy nature
of the low country of the Pale could be seen as its best defence. no invading
army could advance through the mud and ‘plashes’ of the area and certainly
could not bring up its artillery over such sof ground. Tis was well understood
by the commanders of the garrison. in 1534, sir Robert Wingfeld was ordered
to refood the land he had drained for pasture.36 a year earlier, one Gervois de
Vader, probably to the great concern of the ofcers, had reported that he had
brought a group of horses with his servants over the marsh at Cowbridge, and
found it hard enough to support carts where once it had been impassable. in his
view any ‘car may pass over it as in the streets of Calais’.37
Te defence of the town also depended on more than the state of its fortifca-
33 Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1547’, 167 and note. Colvin, History of the King’s Works, ii : 361.
34 Ibid., 356.
35 Ibid., 353.
36 Letters and Papers, vii : items 431, 1362.
37 Ibid., vi : item 852.
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Religious and political change · 125 ·
tions. How well trained and efective was its garrison in the sixteenth century ;
were they true fghting men or were they, at least in part, seekers afer com-
fortable jobs ? Had too many members of the permanent garrison successfully
petitioned those who could dispense patronage at Calais, and appoint those
who caught their eye to a ‘room’, as the phrase went, in the garrison with the
wages and other perquisites which belonged to it ? Te fghting men who were
brought over from the British isles for particular campaigns in France, usually
known as ‘crews’, were ofen ill disciplined and could cause trouble in the town.
in 1523, at the time of the expedition into French territory led by the duke of
sufolk, there was a near riot triggered by a purse being cut in the market square
in Calais when a Welsh soldier was buying apples.38 it was some time before
calm was restored. Elis Grufydd, a Welsh member of the permanent Retinue,
writing of the soldiers sent over to Calais at the end of Henry’s reign, had hardly
a good word to say of any of them. Both the soldiers and their ofcers were
fghting from purely mercenary motives. Tey were ‘the palest and weakest and
the least able to look afer themselves that ever came out of England’. Te only
trouble their captains took ‘was to lie with whores in their beds at Calais until
dinner time’.39
Grufydd found those who were in the town in 1545 for the campaign against
Boulogne to be no better. He described the forces as ‘depraved British and
foreign soldiers from all nations under the sun’, including Welsh, English, Corn-
ish, irish, Manx, scots, spaniards, Gascons, Portingals, italians, arbannoises,
Greeks, turks, tartars, almains, Germans, Burgundians and Flemings.40 Tese
were mercenaries, supplementary ‘crews’ sent over for a particular campaign,
but it is clear that there had been concern about the permanent members of the
garrison, or the Retinue as it was called at this date, for some time. in the late
ffeenth century this concern tended to centre on the issue of the loyalty of the
garrison to the Crown and fears that a powerful lieutenant or deputy might act
like the earl of Warwick and attempt to set up a personal military base in Calais
which might be used against the Crown. Te way in which Edward IV seemed
to tie both command at Calais and membership of the garrison much more
closely to himself and the court has already been discussed. Te issues in the
sixteenth century were somewhat diferent. Holding a permanent position in
the garrison in Calais and the Pale had become desirable. supplicants wrote to
the deputy pleading that they might be considered for any vacancy ; money or
valuables probably changed hands frequently in this connection.
Tere are many letters in the published lisle correspondence and the series
of letters and papers that testify to this. in august 1533 sir John Russell made
38 M. B. Davies (ed.), An Ill Journey for Englishmen : Elis Grufydd and the 1523 French Cam-
paign of the Duke of Sufolk (Farnham, 2006), 20 ; based on Hall’s Chronicle.
39 E. Grufydd, ‘An ill journey for Englishmen’, in ‘Chronicle 1523–50 from his History of
Wales to 1551’, trans. and ed. M. B. Davies (typescript in the library of the Institute of His-
torical Research, London), 27 ; the transcript was published in the Bulletin of the Faculty
of Arts of the Fouad I University, Cairo, 7, 11, 12 (1944–50).
40 Grufydd, ‘Boulogne and Calais, 1545–1550’, in ‘Chronicle 1523–50’, 14.
Calais.indb 125 27.5.2008 15:08:46
· 126 · Chapter 7
clear to lisle his doubts about this kind of proceeding : regarding the sale of an
ofce by one George Browne to a certain Pole, Russell stated, ‘this thing i am
and have been always against as much as any man, for the reason thereof the
King shall never be well served nor the town well furnished’.41 others, however,
wrote to lisle in a diferent tenor, like John Grenville, who wanted to know the
moment an old member of the garrison died so that he could ofer ‘the room of
a spear’ to a ‘friend of mine’. He openly promised lisle 20 marks (£13 13s. 4d.)
and a ‘kirtle of velvet’ for lady lisle if all went well.42
Tis open sale of positions in the retinue was only one of the problems con-
cerning the governance of the town and the Pale, which had become increas-
ingly obvious afer the arrangement with the Company of the staple set up by
the original act of Retainer in 1466, and its subsequent extensions in 1487 and
1515, had collapsed. Te Company had frst been unable to fulfl its fnancial
obligations to the Crown and provide the wages of the garrison in 1523, in
part probably a consequence of the disruption of trade caused by the duke of
sufolk’s expedition in that year. By 1527, the staplers were forced to petition
the king, begging him to reverse the decline in the town’s trade ; meanwhile
the wages of the garrison slipped into arrears. By 1532 the Company owed the
Crown over £22,000 ; the following year the act of Retainer was abolished.
Tis lef the problem familiar from the frst years of the English occupation of
Calais of how the town was to be fnanced and governed. Relations between
the Crown and the staplers were fnally resolved on the basis of an indenture
agreed in october 1535, which will be further discussed in Chapter 8 below.43
Money for the garrison was found in the funds accruing to the Court of aug-
mentations.
Te wider problems presented by Calais were investigated by a commission
headed by sir William Fitzwilliam, directed by Tomas Cromwell to inquire
into the activities of the main ofcers in the town and the Pale, the state of the
retinue, the rents and other dues in the possession of the Crown, the condition
of the harbour, and fnally ‘every thing whatsoever it bee touching and in any
wise concerning the prouft, weale, suretie ordenaunce and good governaunce
of this towne and marches’.44 Te fndings of the commissioners cannot have
given much comfort to Cromwell, since Fitzwilliam began his report to him
with the following dismal conclusion. ‘We assure you that we have fownde this
towne and marches farre out of ordre, and so farre that it wold greve and pitie
the hart of any good and true Englissheman to here or see the same.’45 Fitzwil-
liam then goes on to describe a somewhat unconvincing picture of how willing
those in authority were to admit that things had fallen into a sorry state, and
the joy in the streets expressed by the people, who exclaimed, ‘How moche are
41 LL i : letter 44.
42 LL i : letter 60.
43 Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1547’, 186–7.
44 Te charge to the commissioners is BL Cotton MS Caligula E ii, p. 106a, printed in Te
Chronicle of Calais, 133–5.
45 Cotton MS Caligula E ii, p. 98, printed ibid., 130–33.
Calais.indb 126 27.5.2008 15:08:46
Religious and political change · 127 ·
we bound unto our gracioux souvereign lord that it pleaseth his majesty to loke
upon us.’46 sworn information was taken from juries composed both of members
of the garrison and of aldermen, burgesses and commoners. Fitzwilliam’s con-
clusion was that the town could only be brought back into good order by an act
of Parliament setting out anew all the various duties, responsibilities and powers
of the various ofcers and the means by which they should be appointed.
Tis act was passed in 1536, and its terms not only explain some of the prob-
lems that had arisen in the territory but also set out what was hoped to be the
remedy for them.47 Te preamble made the usual assertion that Calais was one
of the ‘mooste pryncipall treasours belonging to this the realme of England’ and
declared that the act was necessary because of the decay of the town and the
neglect of the ofcers. it set out the exact composition of the Retinue and the
number of ofcers, including all those who would be in receipt of royal wages.
Te membership of the Council to govern the town was established, with the
precedence of the ofcers to be included (the Deputy, the High Marshal, the
lieutenant of the castle, the treasurer, the High Porter, the Comptroller and
the under marshal) in the town itself and at Guisnes, Hammes, the Risban
tower and newenham Bridge. no burgesses or members of the staple were to
be included. all these ofcers were expected to be resident, requiring licences
to leave the town. Te selling of ‘rooms’ was explicitly forbidden. Moreover,
the number and nature of the members of the Retinue was now laid down by
statute, not by the terms of the individual indentures of ofce-holders as had
been the case in the past. Tis can certainly look like a determined shif in royal
policy, but may refect more a change in bureaucratic methods than a change in
the administration, which was obvious in the town itself.
Problems that had arisen in the territory as a whole were addressed in other
clauses. Tere was a perceived need to increase the population of the English-
born in the town ; there were too many aliens and too many vacant houses or
plots. too many members of the garrison also acted as ‘artifcers and handy
crafsmen’. Tis would be forbidden, except for those who were also ‘bowyers,
fetchers, crossbowmakers, armourers or smiths’, pursuing crafs with military
signifcance. no soldiers were to be ‘butchers, bakers, brewers, poulterers,
fshmongers, chandlers, or other vitaillers’ ; nor should they keep taverns or
alehouses or retail shops. Te hope was that this would create opportunities for
English crafsmen and shopkeepers to come to the town. other clauses forbade
the holding of property by aliens, though the taking out of letters of denizenship
by property-holders was encouraged, with the requirement to repair decayed
houses. only those who spoke English might keep a ‘tippling house’. similarly,
the clergy must speak English and must be resident. Te possibility of a siege
perhaps lay behind the requirement that all households must have provisions
46 Ibid., 131.
47 Statutes of the Realm, iii : 27 Henry VIII, cap. lxiii. Te Act is also dicussed by Grum-
mitt, ‘ “One of the mooste pryncypall treasours”’, 46–62.
Calais.indb 127 27.5.2008 15:08:46
· 128 · Chapter 7
for six months in store and keep ten gallons of water readily available.48 Finally,
it was laid down that Calais would acquire the right to send two members to all
future parliaments, one chosen by the deputy and the council, the other by the
mayor, burgesses and freemen of the town.
What was the rationale for these clauses ? one conclusion might be that the
soldiers of the retinue had become very hard to distinguish from the ordinary
townsmen. When their wages fell into arrears, taking up another occupation
might have been necessary for survival, especially if they now had families liv-
ing in the town. Wariness of aliens could be easily explained by nervousness
about spies from enemy territory. Were clergy who preached in something other
than English to be discouraged because of their suspected reformist views or
because they might be spreading disafection ? Te original commission led by
Fitzwilliam had required those appointed to seek out any who had ‘imagenyd,
conspired, concelyd, spoken committed or doon any treason’ against the king.49
Was there something of the same fear here ? it’s hard to say. Te career of Robert
ap Reynold of oswestry, a Welshman, who, having failed as a merchant, joined
the Calais garrison in 1531/2, gives some indication of the reality behind the
investigation and the terms of the act. He certainly was involved in trading
activities, apparently being both a horse dealer and a supplier of exotic pets like
canaries. He also seems to have been prepared to concoct rumours and spread
gossip in order to maintain his position as an informant to the court in london.
in 1539/40 this led to his imprisonment and considerable trouble in the gar-
rison, since he implicated sir John Wallop, the commander at Guisnes, in a so-
called plot. Much of the evidence of his activities comes come from the writings
of Elis Grufyd, who loathed him, but even so there were clearly problems with
certain members of the garrison at this time.50
Te precise motivation behind giving Calais the right to two MPs is also
open to speculation. on the one hand, it could be portrayed as a measure to
strengthen the links to the Crown of an important frontier town. Berwick on
tweed had sent members to Westminster from around 1512. tournai had also
sent members to parliament in 1515 during its brief period in English hands, and
it has been suggested that this was a way of demonstrating that this recently
conquered town was now in truth an English town and part of the dominions
of the king of England. it was also the case that the overall number of MPs,
which had been more or less static during the ffeenth century, had begun to
increase quite markedly in the sixteenth.51 Tis right was conferred on Calais
by statute, not by the simple issue of a writ of summons, with the method of
48 Calais had a very uncertain water supply ; the French in the 17th century attempted to
deal with this by building an enormous cistern onto the side of the Church of Our Lady
in the town.
49 Te Chronicle of Calais, 133.
50 P. T. J. Morgan, ‘Robert ap Reynold of Oswestry, a Friend of Tomas Cromwell’, Transac-
tions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society, 58 (1965), 77–83.
51 A. D. K. Hawkyard, ‘Te Enfranchisement of Constituencies, 1509–1558’, Parliamentary
History, 10 (1991), 1–26.
Calais.indb 128 27.5.2008 15:08:46
Religious and political change · 129 ·
election and the payment of a parliamentary wage of 2s. per day also set down in
the legislation. Tis seems to indicate a more considered policy change, perhaps
the initiative either of sir William Fitzwilliam, who had led the investigation
into the governance of Calais and probably drafed the act itself, or of Tomas
Cromwell. similarities have been drawn with the act for the administration of
justice in Wales, passed in the same parliament, which ‘incorporated united
and annexed [Wales] to and with this his realme of Englande’.52 Both territories,
one a detached enclave across the sea, the other a mountainous and half-tamed
region, with a population that seemed foreign to many Englishmen, were to be
tied more securely to the Crown and the central government in this manner. in
the case of Calais, the provision for MPs could also be interpreted as clarifying
the constitutional position of this territory as an integral part of the present
realm of England and not some remnant of the lost lands in France.
Most of those who were chosen either by the council of Calais or by the
burgesses to represent them in parliament were ‘diligent and mainly obscure
soldiers, ofcials and aldermen’,53 who showed little inclination to act independ-
ently in the house of Commons. in 1539, however, the burgesses chose as their
MP one Tomas Broke. He was an alderman and held a minor position in the
administration of Calais, but he also seems to have had a close connection with
Tomas Cromwell and to have been a fervent supporter of the reform party
within the Church of England. He was not, of course, alone in this. Questions
of religious belief had caused dissension and confusion in Calais for some time
before his election to the House of Commons. Tis issue linked the town closely
to the situation in England with regard to the Reformation, to the king’s own
views on religion, which were subject to change, and to the balance on Henry
VIII’s Council between reformers and conservatives in religion. Te willingness
of both Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Tomas Cromwell to
take action in favour of reformers in Calais also had great infuence on the way
matters developed. Particularly as relations between England and the Catholic
powers on the continent deteriorated, there was also the additional fear of the
possibility of the possession of Calais being a pawn in plots by papal supporters
against Henry himself.
until the 1530s Calais was an ecclesiastical backwater. Tere were few reli-
gious houses and none of any note. Te town itself was divided into two par-
ishes, with churches dedicated to our lady and st nicholas. outside in the Pale
were around twenty other other parishes, but most of the clergy were absentee
pluralists.54 Te Crown was patron of all these livings and undoubtedly re-
garded them as a useful source of rewards for clerical clients ; the total possible
income from them was some £500, a not entirely negligible amount.55 Te frst
good evidence that the Reformation was having an impact in Calais came in
52 Ibid., 8.
53 H. F. Chettle, ‘Te Burgesses for Calais, 1536–1558’, EHR 50 (1935), 501.
54 P. T. J. Morgan, ‘Te Government of Calais, 1485–1558’ (DPhil thesis, Oxford University,
1966), 210.
55 Ibid., 213.
Calais.indb 129 27.5.2008 15:08:46
· 130 · Chapter 7
1528. Philip smith, a native of Calais, who was the staplers’ chaplain and also
the parson of Pepling in the Pale, was found to keep no fewer than twenty-four
‘suspicious’ books, including works by Erasmus, luther and Melanchthon, in
the chapel at staple Hall. in some ways the only surprising thing about this was
that such books had not been found in Calais before. Te constant journeying
of the merchants and others to the marts in the low Countries and to places
like antwerp provided many opportunities to examine and buy such works and
to make contact with those attracted to the new ideas. Both John Frith and Wil-
liam tyndale were at antwerp at this time and may have had links with smith.
smith was recalled to England and interrogated by Wolsey but did not sufer
any other penalty.56
in 1533 and 1534 other suspected lutherans were investigated in Calais,
and most of the acts of the Reformation parliament were implemented in the
territory with little apparent difculty. Te small community of nuns in the
town was dispersed with no trouble, but for the moment the Carmelite friary
remained.57 splits over religion were, however, becoming more obvious in the
council of Calais and the garrison. lord lisle, deputy since 1533, and his wife
were both conservative in their views, and lady lisle in particular was wedded
to the old ways. a report had been sent to Cranmer in 1535 that lisle was reluc-
tant to administer the oath of supremacy as the law required. John Husee, lisle’s
confdential agent, had advised him also not to ‘meddle no more with such like
matter for they are here taken for the worst part’, when lisle had sent another
member of the garrison to Cromwell for reading possible forbidden books.58
Husee also wrote to lady lisle in 1538, begging her to ‘leave part of such cer-
emonies as you use as long prayers and ofering of candles and at some time to
refrain and not speak though your ladyship have cause when you hear things
spoken that liketh you not’.59 Both were opposed in certain circumstance by the
archbishop of Canterbury’s commissary in Calais, John Butler, a friend of re-
form.60 in london Tomas Cromwell, who was in frequent contact with lisle,
ofen seemed to favour reform but was also constrained by the king’s attitudes,
which were liable to change erratically, and by the wider political situation both
in England and in Europe, which was also subject to rapid change.
in this delicately balanced situation, Cranmer nevertheless attempted to
further the cause of reform in Calais by sending preachers to the town. Dr
Hoore, who arrived in 1536, was, according to Elis Grufydd, treated shamefully
by the deputy and his supporters. Tey spread false stories that during lent 1537
Hoore had ridden to Boulogne to visit prostitutes. Tere was no proof of the
56 Ibid.
57 Ibid., 215–7.
58 Husee to Lisle ; LL ii : letter 264.
59 Husee to Lady Lisle ; LL v : letter 1120.
60 Te commissary was the personal representative of the archbishop in the Pale. Te area
was anciently attached to the diocese of Térouanne but had been transferred to Canter-
bury by the Pope afer its conquest by Edward III.
Calais.indb 130 27.5.2008 15:08:46
Religious and political change · 131 ·
story, but it efectively destroyed Hoore’s reputation.61 in the summer of the
same year, two priests, William Minstrelsey and William Richardson, were ac-
cused of holding papist views and dispatched to london as prisoners. Cromwell
in fact rebuked lisle and the council severely by letter for neglecting to do this
with sufcient speed. Te king was astonished at the ‘papistical fashion that is
maintained in that town’ (Calais), and Cromwell hinted that lisle would lose
his position if he let such abuses be ‘sufered or winked at as have been hitherto
in manner in contempt of his most royal estate’.62 Minstrelsey was hanged later
that year ; Richardson, who had been called by John Butler ‘a great enemy to the
truth’ and confessed on examination to the possession of indulgences and the
denial of the royal supremacy, would sufer a worse fate in 1540.63
Te situation became even more tangled with the arrival in Calais in the sum-
mer of 1538 of a priest known as adam Damplyp, although apparently his name
was really George Bucker. Tis young man had been in Rome with Cardinal
Pole but had then gone on to Germany, where he had become a fervent reformer.
on reaching Calais on his way back to England, he initially made a favourable
impression on both lord and lady lisle, but was then found to be preaching
what they and the council saw as heresy in the chapel of the Carmelite convent.
to their consternation, his views proved to be very popular in the town, with
everyone focking to hear him. Grufydd’s account of these events suggests that,
as well as concerns about the doctrine he was teaching, especially with regard
to the question of the Real Presence in the Mass and the need for justifcation
by faith alone, the key lutheran belief, his popularity aroused jealousy among
the Carmelites in particular, who saw him receive more gifs in three weeks than
they had received in three years. His fnal sermon exposed as a fraud supposed
miraculous Hosts kept in the shrine of the Resurrection in st nicholas’ Church
in Calais, which had been pulled down by royal decree the previous Easter.64
Te council was at frst undecided how to react to these events but took the
step of sending Damplyp to london for the investigation of his views. once
this had occurred, the incident became caught up in the struggles and intrigues
at court over religion and between the various noble factions. Both Cromwell
and Cranmer were involved, as were Cromwell’s opponents, the faction led by
the duke of norfolk. From the letters sent by lisle to london and other papers,
it seems that most of those concerned were trying at the same time to avoid too
great a violation of their personal beliefs and to follow, as far as possible, the
attitude to Catholic beliefs being promoted by the king. Te king’s attitudes at
this time seemed to be shifing in a more conservative direction. now that papal
supremacy was no more in England, the king saw less need to maintain friendly
relations with reformers. Te duke of norfolk and his supporters could see that
61 E. Grufydd, ‘Chronicle’ extract, ed. P. T. J. Morgan, ‘Un Chroniqueur gallois à Calais’,
Revue du Nord, 47 (1965), 201.
62 Cromwell to the Council of Calais ; LL iv : letter 980.
63 L. E. Whatmore, ‘Martyrdoms at Calais in 1540 ?’, Downside Review, 64 (1946), 171.
64 Te whole Damplyp story is told in Elis Grufydd’ s Chronicle. See Morgan, ‘Un Chroni-
queuer gallois’, 201–2.
Calais.indb 131 27.5.2008 15:08:46
· 132 · Chapter 7
if Cromwell was successfully linked to a supposed nest of heretics in Calais it
would be easier to destroy his infuence with the king.65
Te activities of William smith, newly appointed as priest at our lady’s
Church, John Butler, the commissary, and the MP Tomas Broke made the
accusation that the garrison and townsmen of Calais were turning more and
more towards heretical ideas easy to maintain. smith made strenuous eforts to
encourage the reading of the Bible in English and even on one occasion, accord-
ing to Grufydd, gave a sermon comparing lady lisle to Jezebel.66 lisle made
little efort to calm the situation ; Grufydd again has a story of lisle greeting
a great lout of a soldier who had been bullying those who did not attend Mass
with the words, ‘aha leach my friend ! look how your faith and mine is coming
back in this town.’ it was not perhaps surprising that when Broke spoke against
the act of six articles in the House of Commons in June 1539, and repeated his
opposition outside the House, that he was arrested, along with John Butler, and
put briefy in the Fleet prison.
in Calais, lisle and his supporters continued to attack the supporters of
the Reformation in the town and the garrison. as the international situation
became more threatening in 1540, it was easy for norfolk and lisle to convince
the king that the situation should be thoroughly investigated by a commission,
which was despatched under the leadership of sussex. Te situation became
more complicated when it emerged that the two Catholic priests imprisoned
earlier, were possibly implicated in a plot to hand Calais over to Cardinal Pole.
Richardson and Peterson were convicted of treason and executed with con-
siderable brutality in the market square on 10 april 1540, as the Chronicle of
Calais recorded. another priest, Edmund Brindholme of our lady’s Church,
and a layman, Clement Philpot, were similarly executed in august of the same
year.67 lisle himself was connected to the supposed conspiracy through his
chaplain Gregory Botolph, and he was removed from his position and forced
to return to England to face imprisonment.68 turpin, the chronicler of Calais,
noted ‘in the monithe of June arthur Plantagenet, vicounte lisle . . . was put in
the towre of london, his goods seased his wyfe kepte in one place his dowghtar
in another and his dowghtares in anothar place that none of them might speke
with other and all his servaunts discharged’.69 Tis did not prevent sussex and
his commission from continuing to put pressure on suspected Protestants, with
Broke fnding himself in more trouble, being accused both of eating meat in
lent and of acting fraudulently as deputy customer at the lantern gate.
some degree of stability was not restored until the young but energetic lord
Maltravers was made deputy towards the end of the year, a position he held until
65 P. Ward, ‘Te Politics of Religion : Tomas Cromwell and the Reformation in Calais,
1534–40’, Te Journal of Religious History, 17 (1992), 155–70. Also A. J. Slavin, ‘Cromwell,
Cranmer and Lord Lisle : A Study in the Politics of Reform’, Albion, 9 (1977), 316–36.
66 Morgan, ‘Te Government of Calais’, 224.
67 Te Chronicle of Calais, 47–8. Whatmore, ‘Martyrdoms at Calais in 1540 ?’, 168.
68 Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1547’, 75–7.
69 Te Chronicle of Calais, 48.
Calais.indb 132 27.5.2008 15:08:46
Religious and political change · 133 ·
1544. a contemporary assessment of his time in ofce noted ‘the perfection’
with which he governed Calais. Te quality of the garrison was much improved,
and ‘he furnished them of horse and supplye for exersice of feates of armes’. He
moreover ‘did not spare to make them banquets’ as well.70 Certainly the ques-
tion of religious beliefs was no longer as divisive as it had been in the recent
past, while worsening relations with France made the readiness of the Retinue
a matter of greater concern.
in the years from the accession of Henry VII in 1485 to the death of his son
in January 1547, Calais had not ceased to engage the interests of the monarch.
its functions as a military base and as a centre of diplomacy had been very evi-
dent. Both kings had led armies though the port and out into the Pale to wage
war against France. Henry VIII in particular had used the town as the base for
ceremonial encounters with other rulers. although the meeting of the Field of
Cloth of Gold had taken place in 1519 in the open country between Guisnes
and ardres, all the English participants and their multifarious requirements
had come through the port of Calais. in 1532 there were similar festivities for
the meeting of Henry VIII and Francis I, culminating with a ‘costly banquete’
at sandingfeld on the borders on the Pale, laid on by Henry. turpin’s Chroni-
cle of Calais in fact largely consists of accounts of the princes, lords, bishops
and others of importance who passed though the town on various missions.
on a more mundane level, the need to care for the town and its defences was
a continuing burden. Tere is little doubt that this was seen as necessary, even if
at times maintenance was somewhat neglected. less certain is how life seemed
on a more everyday basis to the townspeople. Concentrating on the records of
the garrison and the works can convey the impression of a town in a continual
state of decay and of a garrison in a more or less constant state of alarm. one
interpretation asserts that the ‘men of the Pale lived in fear’.71 another view,
backed up by concentrating more on the relations between the Pale and the gov-
ernment in london, sees it as a ‘political community [that] actively infuenced
national politics’.72 to a French historian, it was ‘un petit morceau d’angleterre
overseas’.73 a consideration of the business community and the more personal
aspects of life in the sixteenth century may help to reach a more balanced con-
clusion on the importance of the town and the life of the people of Calais at
this time.
70 Ibid., 190.
71 Morgan, ‘Te Government of Calais’, 242.
72 Grummitt, ‘ “One of the mooste pryncypall treasours”’, 62.
73 Joseph Calmette, quoted ibid.
Calais.indb 133 27.5.2008 15:08:47
· 134 ·
8
tHE toWn anD tRaDE :
tHE FoRtunEs oF tHE CoMPanY oF tHE
staPlE anD oF tHE J oHnson PaRtnERsHi P

W
e are fortunate that Calais in the early sixteenth century was
extensively surveyed by royal ofcials. Tere is thus in existence
a collection of plans or ‘platts’, to use the contemporary expres-
sion, sketches of the town and prominent places in the Pale, and terriers and
rentals with details of all the landholdings.1 Te 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.
Te small sketch of the walls and the quayside outside the lantern Gate (Figure
6), the area known as Paradise, the quarter where fsherman lived, shows groups
of half-timbered houses with courtyards and gardens as well as the long curve of
the east jetty, so ofen damaged by the action of the tides and the waves. Te pat-
tern of landholding is recorded in a thorough survey carried out in 1556 using
the most up-to-date methods of the day. Tere is also a sixteenth-century copy
of a terrier or rent roll dating from the reign of Edward IV.2 other documents
from the sixteenth century detail the dues and tolls payable to the Crown from
the Pale and set out the regulations governing the conduct of business in the
town and the garrison. From this evidence we can build up a good picture of the
life of the townspeople. Many were, of course, in business as traders and artisans,
whether members of the Company of the staple or not. a more intimate im-
1 BL Cotton MS Augustus I ii ; a view of the town is fol. 70, a map of the Pale, fol. 71, and
the sketch of the quayside is fol. 57a. Tere are also sketches or plans of Guisnes and
some of the other fortifcations.
2 Te survey of 1556 is TNA E315/371 and 372. Tis survey has been extensively analysed
in H. Dillon, ‘Calais and the Pale’, Archaeologia, 4 (1892), 289–388. Te Edward IV ter-
rier is E315/407. Tere is also a rental in BL Harley MS 3880. Te surveyors of 1556 used
compass bearings and accurate acreages to identify holdings.
Calais.indb 134 27.5.2008 15:08:47
The town and trade · 135 ·
pression of the way of life of one family of staple merchants can be gained from
the Johnson papers, another collection of family letters and accounts that, like
those of the Cely family, came to be preserved in the national archives because
of a legal action.3
a description of the town written in 1520, from the point of view of a visi-
tor who was neither a soldier nor a diplomat nor a trader but who came out of
a spirit of curiosity, much like a modern tourist, is also worthy of note. Te
writer, a monk from the Benedictine abbey at Montreuil, visited the town just
afer the meeting of Henry VIII and Francis I at the Field of Cloth of Gold be-
tween Guisnes and ardres. He was fairly complimentary about its appearance,
even if he was less enthusiastic about the inhabitants. He arrived in the evening
afer the gates were closed and thus spent the night in an inn in the suburbs.
once inside the walls the next morning, he saw the whole town including the
port and ships, the royal residence, the houses of merchants, churches, in fact
everything that was either grand or unusual. His experiences with the Calaisiens
echo those of any person who has arrived in a town in the wake of a major event
without having made advance arrangements. in his view the prices charged for
accommodation and food to Frenchmen were extortionate. in his case, he and
his companions were charged twenty solidos for 2 mackerels and a chicken, with
bread and four small bottles of wine.4 Te innkeeper wanted even more money
for their beds and the stabling of the horse for the following night, but an ap-
peal to a soldier of the garrison prevented the monk from having to pay this
sum. it was nevertheless clear to him that the men of Calais were unpleasant
and grasping.5
Returning to the surveys mentioned above, it is possible to use them to get
a detailed idea of the boundaries of the Pale and the landholdings within it,
with the area of each accurately recorded as far as was possible. Te boundaries
difered little from those set out in the treaty of Brétigny in 1361, except in the
area known as the Picardy encroachments, to the south-west in the so-called
3 Some items from the Johnson collection have been printed in Letters and Papers, Foreign
and Domestic, for the Reign of Henry VIII, passim. Te remainder are unpublished, but
those relating to the trading company were transcribed by Barbara Winchester, ‘Te
Johnson Letters, 1542–1552’ (PhD thesis, London, 1953). Te later letters, dealing with
the fortunes of the family afer the company ceased trading, have not been transcribed.
Te typescript volumes of letters, which form part of Winchester’s thesis, have been
used here to refer to the letters, and the numbers given to them are those used in these
volumes (which are continuously paginated).
4 It is hard to relate this fgure to modern values ; Servois, the editor of the printed version
(next n.), comments that the meal was expensive for the period, even if the menu had
been better than that recorded.
5 Te account of this visit is in a letter in the Vatican archives ; it has been transcribed and
edited by G. Servois, ‘Un Voyage á Calais, Guines, Ardres et Boulogne en 1520’, Bibli-
othèque de l’École des chartes, ser. 4, 3 (1857), 1–6 (also published separately). When the
monk reached Ardres he found it equally hard to fnd accommodation in the town, even
though this was French territory. When he visited the site of the Field of Cloth of Gold
he was most impressed by Henry VIII’s temporary buildings, likening the event to the
arrival of the Queen of Sheba at Solomon’s court.
Calais.indb 135 27.5.2008 15:08:47
· 136 · Chapter 8
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The town and trade · 137 ·
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Calais.indb 137 27.5.2008 15:08:49
· 138 · Chapter 8
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to a post, the blade of which was engraved with the words, ‘no man be so hardy
to take me awaye. Ffor this ys the right pale between ingland and Ffraunce.’6 Te
descriptions of the landholdings in the Pale also make plain the extent to which
much of the land was now used productively compared with the fourteenth
6 Quoted from TNA SP1/168, fol. 185, dating from c.1540, in Morgan, ‘Te Government of
Calais’, 19.
Calais.indb 138 27.5.2008 15:08:53



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The town and trade · 139 ·
century. Many artifcial waterways or watergangs used for drainage purposes are
mentioned, ofen designed to fow into the major rivers, those of Hammes and
of Guisnes. Te garrison and its ofcers had land in the so-called scunnage or st
Peter’s, an area now the site of the modern industrial town. Te other parishes in
the Pale were divided into plots rented by various individuals. in Froyton (now
Fréthun), for example, there was an area of marsh and also the little Common
of 54 acres. Te rest of the parish was divided between eight plots varying in size
from 30 to 405 acres ; one named house, the Red Chamber, was held by Robert
Whetehill, a member of a prominent Calais family.7 Much of the land was pas-
ture ; there was also some arable, woods in the high country and fsheries which
were commercially exploited. Tat on the border between Froyton and Calkwell
(Coquelles) was known as Whetehill’s fshery.8 Hopyards are also mentioned
elsewhere in the survey, with the hops being used for the considerable quantity
of beer brewed in Calais.9 More information about the ‘betterings’, as they were
called, the improved and drained land in the Pale, is found in a list of the cus-
toms of the Pale. Tis mentions not only the digging of dykes and ditches but
the planting of quickset hedges to control stock and improved farming methods
like the use of copious quantities of dung.10 During the late ffeenth century and
the beginning of the sixteenth the Pale of Calais clearly became a much more
productive place than it had been in the fourteenth century.
in a full analysis of the survey published in the late nineteenth century, the au-
thor H. a. Dillon was fortunate in being able to relate the buildings mentioned
to the existing street plan of Calais. Even at that date, however, before the de-
struction of the old town in the second World War, there were few remnants of
English Calais extant. all the area to the west of the town, including the Church
of st nicholas, had been demolished when the Citadel was built by the French
in the seventeenth century, although some small fragments of the old castle wall
were incorporated into the new fortifcations at one point. in the eastern part
of the town, the Church of our lady remained along with the day watch-tower
and the gateway of the staplers’ inn (the Prince’s inn of the ffeenth century),
renamed the Hôtel de Guise afer the recovery of the town by the French. in
the western parish of st nicholas were originally situated most of the buildings
needed by the garrison and the royal ofcials. Tese included a gun foundry, the
royal Bakehouse, the King’s Wardrobe and numerous store houses and work-
shops. in the eastern parish of our lady were found most of the commercial
buildings, as well as the headquarters of the Company of the staple and the
town hall, both of which were in the market place. Most of the large proper-
ties mentioned had names ; thus Tomas Windebank lived in the Nettlebed
near the church of our lady, while near the market-place were Robert love’s
property the Swanne, Richard swart’s Rose and John Delanoy’s Woolsack.11 Tere
7 Dillon, ‘Calais and the Pale’, 339–40.
8 Ibid., 336.
9 One hopyard was at Hammes near the castle ; ibid., 344.
10 Ibid., app. ii, pp. 370–1.
11 Ibid., 317–8.
Calais.indb 139 27.5.2008 15:08:53
· 140 · Chapter 8
is no reason to think that these tenements were taverns. altogether it has been
calculated that Calais in 1556 contained about 30 almshouses, 78 houses ft to
be called ‘mansions’, 6 brewhouses, more than 8 general storehouses, 81 special-
ist wool stores, and 22 herring hangs or fsh stores. Tere were charities for the
relief of poverty, known as trinity tables, associated with both parishes, which
held property in the town. Many of the houses had gardens or courtyards, and
there were other open spaces in the town as well as the market-place, giving it
a pleasant open aspect even if completely surrounded by fortifcations.12
Te wealth of the town was evident from the inventory of church goods
taken in 1552/3.13 Te Church of our lady was well provided for, with a goodly
collection of church plate, including no fewer than six ‘challiceis with sixe pat-
entes all gilte weyng cxxx ounce’. Tere were sets of vestments in the canonical
colours, including several embroidered with fowers of gold. Te altar frontals
included one of ‘grene silk with birdes of golde’. in addition there were all the
towels, canopies, pots, candlesticks and other items needed to ensure that serv-
ices were properly celebrated and foreign visitors suitably impressed. Te parish
was also holding £330 in cash at that date, although some was earmarked for
repairs and the minister’s wages.14 st nicholas’s Church likewise had a worthy
collection of church plate valued at £35 16s. 4d., but there is perhaps a hint of
the disturbances caused in the 1530s by the preaching of adam Damplyp and
the general support for the Reformation in the town in the fact that noted as
‘stolen out of the church’ are various items including ‘a case that covered the
sacrament lined with grene’, valued at 18d., and ‘two canapies for the sacrament,
one of redde sarsenet fringed with golde and a nother of white silke needle
worke fringed with golde’, worth 2s.15 Most of the parish churches in the vil-
lages of the Pale, on the other hand, had very little in the way of the objects and
vestments needed to perform the liturgy of the Mass and more or less nothing
of any value. sometimes there is a note that a chalice has been sold, or that bells
have been stolen ; one set of bells was in fact said to have been sold ‘for the mak-
ing of a bulwark’.16 Te fact that so many clergy were absentees in the early part
of the century perhaps contributed to this state of afairs, while the spread of
Protestant theology may also have ensured that there was no great enthusiasm
to provide new vestments and the like.
a set of detailed regulations also survives for the way in which the gates
should be opened and closed and the watches set. it is clear from these that the
daily opening of the gates was attended with some ceremony. afer the watch
bell had been rung three times, ten gatekeepers would march into the market-
place, led by ffes and drums, and would meet there the watch ‘appointed for
that daye which be fortie in number’. Tey would then move of to the Deputy’s
12 Te gardens and courtyards are clearly visible on the sketch of the quayside, Figure 6.
‘Void’ ground and gardens are also noted in the survey.
13 Te inventories are printed in Dillon, ‘Calais and the Pale’, app. v.
14 Ibid., 384–6.
15 Ibid., 386–8.
16 Ibid., 383.
Calais.indb 140 27.5.2008 15:08:53
The town and trade · 141 ·
lodging, where the keys of the gates to be opened would be handed over. Te
whole party would then return again to the market-place, where the master
porter or gentlemen porters would join them and lead them to the lantern
Gate. an elaborate ritual was then set down relating to the order of opening
the wickets and fnally the great gate itself. Tis ceremony could be varied at
diferent times of the year and if any of the other gates were also going to be
opened. Particularly elaborate procedures were laid down for the herring season
(from Michaelmas, 29 september, to st andrew’s day, 30 november), when the
harbour would be full of foreign vessels. Te process of shutting the gates was
similarly complex but attended by less ceremony. once the gates had been shut,
all lodging-house keepers were supposed to inform the ‘clerk of the reports’ of
the numbers and places of origin of any strangers staying with them. Te way
the watch should be kept was also prescribed, with special arrangements for
Christmas and Easter week as well as the herring time.17 Were these regulations
a sign of nervousness among the townspeople or the garrison ? at times when
war seemed to threaten, the watch was perhaps kept more rigorously, but rather
similar routines would have been found in most walled towns in this period.
Calais was a busy town and port, which had long prospered both from the wool
trade and the autumn herring fshery as well as its function as a major crossing
point of the Channel. all this brought goods and traders from both sides of
the straits of Dover into its port and its market, and in contemporary opinion
made necessary the kind of regulations detailed above.
Te nature of this trade, although not its precise extent, can be understood
from the categories of goods on which tolls were imposed. Fish, wheat, rye,
beans and rapeseed were both brought into the town and sent out into Picardy
and Flanders. General merchandise travelling the same route included beer
and ale, wax, honey, dyestufs, wine, spices like pepper, ginger and cinnamon,
mercery and more everyday goods like faggots and tiles. Te market for luxury
goods in Calais, especially when events involving great public displays of wealth
were taking place, is hinted at by the special regulations afecting jewellers
bringing ‘gold or silver broches, stones or anye ringes oytches or such lyke’ into
Calais. Tey were expected to pay a toll of 6d. at oye sluice. Tis was quite
separate from the penalty of forfeiture imposed on those who were suspected
of smuggling jewellery or gold into Flanders and Brabant to avoid the bullion
regulations.18
Compared with the ffeenth century, when the commercial concerns of
the Company of the staple and the military needs of the garrison dominated
the town, there are some small indications that, particularly in the period of
peace in the late 1490s and early 1500s, some at least of the town’s inhabitants
had time for other pursuits. Fishing and fowling in the marshes were favourite
17 Te Chronicle of Calais : ‘Ordenances for watch and ward of Calais’, transcribed from BL
Cotton MS Faustina E vii, pp. 89–102b, can be found on 140–62. Te rules for the open-
ing of the Lantern Gate are on 141–3.
18 ‘Te Casualties of Mark and Oye’, of which these dues form part, are printed in Dillon,
‘Calais and the Pale’, app. i, pp. 367–9.
Calais.indb 141 27.5.2008 15:08:53
· 142 · Chapter 8
occupations of both merchants and soldiers. Te Customs of the Pale laid down
that anyone resident outside the lordship ‘shall not foule within the lordship
without he agre with the Baillie’.19 Te territory was also very well placed, at the
point where Flemish and Germanic culture met that of France, for the acquisi-
tion of books both in Ms and in print. one correspondent of the Celys, as
already mentioned, commissioned George to buy for him ‘in the mart two little
books imprinted. one is entitled or called “Belial” and another “Formularium
instrumentorum”.’20 other evidence from the mid ffeenth century relates
to texts, like a verse version of De Re Militari, being produced in Calais. one
manuscript of this treatise has a verse epilogue in which the writer specifcally
mentions that Calais is his home. two other manuscripts are extant that origi-
nally belonged to William sonnyng, ‘alderman de Calleis et a son fys’. Tese
probably date from the 1470s. Te second of them contains material relating
to the laws and customs of Calais, and also a copy of the LIbelle of Englyshye
Polycye, the poem that emphasised the need to control the narrow seas for the
beneft of England’s prosperity.21
ofcers in the Calais garrison have also been identifed as book-lovers, at
times commissioning splendid volumes, which fnally became part of the Royal
library. Te most prominent of these was sir Tomas Twaytes, who was in
Calais from 1468, treasurer from 1485 to 1490, but arrested on suspicion of
supporting Perkin Warbeck in 1494. He acquired a fve-volume set of Froissart’s
Chroniques, some Xenophon, a collection of other Flemish and French chroni-
cles, and possibly also a copy of the Brut or English chronicle.22 lord Hastings,
sir John Donne and sir John tyrell have also been identifed as bibliophiles
based in Calais in the reign of Edward IV.23 Given these predecessors in the
garrison, it is easier to understand why lord Berners, the Deputy of Calais in
1520–26 and 1531–3, spent much of his time in the town completing his trans-
lation of Froissart’s Chronicles into English, a formidable undertaking that he
began in 1521 and fnished about 1525. He also translated Te Golden Book of
Marcus Aurelius into English from a French version in 1532.24
at a less exalted social level, other residents of Calais were also writing,
translating and publishing their works at much the same time. Elis Grufydd,
the Welsh member of the garrison, whose chronicle is such a valuable source
19 Dillon, ‘Calais and the Pale’, app. ii, p. 374.
20 Hanham, Te Celys and their World, 213–4. ‘Belial’ was a story about Belial suing in the
court of Heaven for the possession of souls ; the other was a collection of legal precedents
for use in a church court.
21 J. Bofey, ‘Books and Readers in Calais : Some Notes’, Te Ricardian, 13 (2003), 67–74.
22 His copy of the ‘Grand chronique de France, 1329–1350’ is BL Royal MS 20 E VI. Te frst
folios are splendidly illuminated and decorated, but from fol. 24r, although spaces are
lef for decorations in the text, none are provided. Tis may mean that the volume was
unfnished when Twaytes was arrested and the MS was confscated by the Crown.
23 A. F. Sutton and L. Visser-Fuchs, ‘Choosing a Book in Late Fifeenth Century England
and Burgundy,’ in C. Barron and N. Saul (eds.), England and the Low Countries in the Late
Middle Ages (Stroud, 1995), 82 ; Bofey, ‘Books and Readers in Calais’, 72.
24 J. P. Carley, ‘Bourchier, John, second Baron Berners (c.1467–1533)’, ODNB.
Calais.indb 142 27.5.2008 15:08:53
The town and trade · 143 ·
for events in the town in the 1520s and 1540s, also translated medical and
geographical texts and had no trouble fnding the books on which he based
the earlier parts of his chronicle (which begins with the creation of the world)
while stationed in the town.25 Tomas Broke, who was involved in the turmoil
of the Reformation in Calais, as we have seen, also wrote at least one religious
text of a plainly reformed nature, Certeyn Meditacions and Tings to be Had in
Remembraunce . . . of Every Christian before He Receive the Sacrament of the Body
and Bloude of Christ. Tis appeared in 1548, when he had been elected as an MP
for Calais for the second time. He also translated texts by Calvin and produced
an edition of Te Fourme of Common Praiers Used in the Churches of Geneva.26 it
is too easy to assume that Calais was an isolated enclave of English territory cut
of from communication with its neighbours. in many ways, by the sixteenth
century it was something of a cultural crossroads, where infuences from both
the north and the south met to produce a much more vibrant society than is
sometimes imagined.
When living in Calais, for example, the lisles had close and easy relations
with individual Frenchmen and were happy to send some of lady lisle’s chil-
dren by her frst husband to be educated in France. James, the youngest Basset
child, was sent to school in Paris, at the Collège de Calvi, at the age of 7 in 1534,
under the special protection of Guillaume Poyer, the president of the Parle-
ment de Paris, whom lord lisle had met as part of a French embassy.27 Te
experiment was not altogether a success, since the Collège demanded payment
in advance, and it then transpired that the pupils were expected to speak latin
at all times. Tis did not improve James’s chances of learning to speak French.
afer some time with a private tutor in saint-omer, he was sent back to Paris
in 1537 and enrolled in the Collège de navarre, one of the most distinguished
educational institutions in France.28 in 1534 anne Basset, his sister, was sent to
live with an aristocratic family at abbeville, while a year later Mary Bassett went
to another family, related to the frst, in the same place.29 Te lisles seem to
have seen their time in Calais as providing an opportunity to give the children
a thorough grounding in both French language and culture.
Te Company of the staple had traditionally had few links with France, with
virtually all its wool sales being to merchants from the low Countries, who
supplied the cloth makers of Flanders with their essential raw material. By the
beginning of the sixteenth century, the wool trade had declined markedly from
its peak in the fourteenth century but was still proftable. in the years from 1500
to the end of the reign of Henry VIII, most of the wool exported went from the
port of london to the staple at Calais, although small amounts of wool were
also exported from Hull, Boston, newcastle and southampton. although there
25 Morgan, ‘Un Chroniqueur Gallois á Calais’, 195.
26 D. Grummitt, ‘Broke, Tomas, (b.c.1513, d. in or afer 1555)’, ODNB.
27 LL v : letters 553–4, 556, 559–60, 563 relate to James Basset’s time in Paris in 1534.
28 Te letters relating to James Basset at the Collège de Navarre are LL iv : letters 1044–5,
1051–3, 1062, 1064, 1068, 1070, 1078, 1235.
29 LL iii : letters 570–74, 577–8, 587–8, 597A.
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· 144 · Chapter 8
were of course ofen quite sharp variations from year to year, sometimes caused
by extraneous problems like the state of relations with foreign powers, or the
existence of a state of war and the consequent interruption of trade, the total
number of sacks of wool exported averaged around three thousand per year.
Te graphs of the total annual raw wool exports created for England’s Export
Trade do not show any sudden deterioration of the trade in the early sixteenth
century, rather a gentle decline with, in fact, some improvement in the 1530s
(see Figure 7).
Te Company of the staple was constrained not only by trading conditions,
but also by the terms of the act of Retainer of 1466 and its renewals, particu-
larly that of 1515. Tese bound the company, as we have already explained, to
providing the money necessary for the payment of the garrison at Calais. Te
Company was able to fulfl these conditions until 1523 but afer that date in-
curred larger and larger debts to the Crown. it seems that this may have been
due not so much to the decline of their trading activities but the rapacious way
in which the terms of the act were enforced by the Crown. By this date also the
Company had declined greatly in size. General pardons issued in 1470–72, at
about the time of the confrmation of the act of 1466, listed as merchants of
the staple men originating from all over England from Devon to York, though
londoners (usually noted as members of the Mercers’ or Grocers’ Companies)
are the most numerous, followed by merchants from York and leicestershire.30
in 1527 the staplers sent a heartfelt petition to Wolsey begging relief from the
dire straits in which they found themselves. Tey had declined in number, they
claimed, from a company of 400 to around 140–160 shippers. Teir problems
were, so they said, due to ‘the contynuall debate, contention and warre’ that had
prevented buyers coming to Calais and the shippers from sending wool to the
staple. over all hung the ‘ponderous acte of reteynor’, which made it easy for
buyers to bargain for lower prices, since they knew of the obligations that made
it necessary for the staplers to sell their stock as quickly as possible. Te petition
also mentions the strength of the competition from spanish wool in the Flem-
ish market, and fnally the disease and high mortality that had badly afected
English wool focks in the recent past. Tis had allowed ‘rich graysiers, brogers,
and engrossers’ to raise prices so high that it was impossible for the staplers to
make a living, especially as it ‘standeth with reason and with the comen wealth’
that English clothiers should be ‘frst served’ and have the pick of the market in
raw wool.31
Te growth of the cloth industry in England and the increased competition
from spanish wools in the markets of Flanders were probably the most impor-
tant reasons for the decline in exports of raw wool from England. Tere were
also, of course, more general economic problems at the period, which undoubt-
edly caused the Company to be an easy target for those who feared that the
30 CPR Edward IV, 1467–77 : 212–13, 290–92, 315–16.
31 Te petition is printed in R. H. Tawney and E. Power (eds.), Tudor Economic Documents
(London, 1951), ii : 24–8.
Calais.indb 144 27.5.2008 15:08:53
The town and trade · 145 ·
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realm was in a state of general decay. a pamphlet dating from about the 1530s,
entitled ‘a treatise concerning the staple and the Commodities of this Realme’,
roundly accused the Company of the staple, and their carrying of wool out of
the realm to Calais, of being the cause of most of the economic problems of the
day. one problem, it claimed, was their use of credit rather than ready money
(something that, of course, had been going on for over a century) ; other dif-
fculties related to their competition with the clothiers for raw wool.32 Tere is
32 Ibid., iii : 90–114, ‘A Treatise concerning the Staple and the Commodities of this
Realme’, c.1519–35.
Calais.indb 145 27.5.2008 15:08:54
· 146 · Chapter 8
also evidence that the merchants of the low Countries no longer found Calais
a good and convenient place in which to do business. Te number coming to
Calais dropped considerably, even when good wools were available through the
Company.33 Te immediate consequence of this fnancial crisis for the Company
was that they were compelled to deliver into the king’s hands their property
in Calais, including both the original staple Hall and the refurbished Prince’s
inn. Tis was eventually recovered by the Company in 1550. to some extent the
revocation of the act of Retainer, and the ending of its fnancial provisions, cre-
ate an unduly pessimistic impression of the fortunes of the wool trade and the
Company in the period from the 1540s to the loss of the town. Clearly the wool
trade was no longer the main element of England’s export trade or a convenient
cash cow for the Crown, but, although operating on a reduced scale, it was not
inherently unproftable. Te fortunes of the family partnership of Johnson &
Company illustrate this well and also reveal the changes that had taken place in
the Company of the staple since the days of the Celys.
Te Johnson family itself and its connections exemplify how, in the sixteenth
century among merchant families, Calais in truth seemed to be as much part
of the English realm as any of the islands around the coasts. Te founder of
the Johnson clan, Willem Jansen, had probably come to london from the
low Countries with his family, eventually taking out letters of denizenship.
two of his sons, William and Richard, already in trade as drapers, then went
to Calais, where William became an alderman. although he was married, he
had no children. His brother Richard, however, had three sons by his second
wife, John, otwell and Richard. Richard, the youngest of these, was born in
Calais in 1521, and his older brothers may also have been born in the town.34
John was apprenticed to a wealthy member of the staple Company, anthony
Cave, a fortunate choice of master that determined the course of both John’s
career and his personal life. By the time the sequence of surviving business let-
ters and other documents begins in 1542, John was acting as a partner of Cave,
who had no sons of his own, and was married to Cave’s niece sabine saunders.35
By this marriage, he was intimately linked with the landowning gentry of the
midland counties. Te Caves were a well-connected and wealthy family, as were
the saunderses. sabine was one of a family of twelve ; her oldest brother was
a prominent Chancery lawyer, while another, laurence, was ordained in the
Church of England and would eventually sufer martyrdom in the persecutions
in Mary’s reign.36 Johnson and his family were based frmly in this milieu, living
at Glapthorn Manor near oundle from the summer of 1544. it was from this
pleasant base among the rolling hills and woods of northamptonshire that John
made his frequent trips to Calais in pursuit of his business interests.
When he stayed in the town, as he ofen did for quite long periods, he was not
33 Rich, Te Ordinance Book of the Company of the Staple, 17–18.
34 B. Winchester, Tudor Family Portrait (London, 1955), 22–3.
35 Ibid., 65–6.
36 Saunders’s fate was recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
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The town and trade · 147 ·
out of the ambience of his wife’s family connections. anthony Cave had been
brought up by his uncle William saxby, also a merchant of the staple. saxby
had owned a large quantity of property in Calais itself, including no fewer than
three wool-houses and other tenements, some of which was lef to anthony
Cave when William died in May 1517. another of Cave’s saxby uncles, John, had
himself a son called William, who had married anne Baynham, the daughter of
a Calais merchant.37 When John Johnson stayed in Calais, he normally lodged
with Mistress Margaret Baynham, a widow, and was clearly on intimate terms
with her and her family. Her precise relationship to the saxby family is not
known, but she may well have been the widow of a brother of anne. in one let-
ter from Henry southwick, John Johnson’s apprentice and agent in Calais, she
is referred to as Johnson’s aunt.38 Mrs Baynham visited England in the summer
of 1548 and was expected to stay with the Cave family at tickford in Bucking-
hamshire, where the Johnsons were invited to join the party.39 Tis is probably
but one example of the web of relationships and business and family contacts
that linked well-to-do families in the English countryside with the townspeople
of Calais. Tere is nothing in the Johnson papers to suggest that these links were
exotic or unusual.
another family, the tates of Coventry, london and Calais, show the same
kind of linkages, this time enduring over a long period. Te information comes
from the records of the Mercers’ Company, since all those mentioned were
either mercers themselves or the children of mercers. John tate II ,who died
in 1515, was a merchant of the staple with property in Calais, shipping wool
through sandwich in the 1460s. His brother Robert I was also a stapler. John’s
sons Bartholomew and Tomas kept up the connection with Calais in a rather
diferent way ; both seem to have become not staplers but soldiers in the garri-
son, with Tomas being mayor of the town in 1532 and 1540. it seems reasonable
to suppose that there were other families, whose records do not survive, who
similarly moved easily between England and its territory on the far side of the
Channel.40
Much more similar to the way of life of George or Richard Cely in the 1470s
and 1480s was that of John Johnson’s younger brother otwell. He usually re-
mained in london, in a house that belonged to anthony Cave in lime street,
and was concerned with the administration and fnances of the family company.
His letters and the accounts he kept show a shrewd business sense and a deter-
mination to keep track of the fnances of the partnership, which seems to have
existed on a fnancial knife edge. Tey also show how the actual commercial
37 Te family tree of the Cave and Saxby families appears in Winchester, Tudor Family
Portrait, 17. Te will of William Saxby, dated 5 April 1517, appears in R. E. C. Waters,
Genealogical Memoirs of the Extinct Family of Chester of Chicheley, Teir Ancestors and
Descendants (London, 1878), i : 75–6.
38 Typescript of Johnson letters, letter 398, p. 707.
39 Ibid., letter 592, p. 1045.
40 A. F. Sutton, A Merchant Family of Coventry, London and Calais : Te Tates, c1450–1515
(London, 1998), passim.
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· 148 · Chapter 8
operation of a typical stapler partnership was misunderstood in ‘a treatise
concerning the staple’, the pamphlet mentioned above. Te use of cash was not
really an option for staplers. Virtually all the business was done by credit instru-
ments or bills of exchange. Te old-fashioned system of settling bills in person
at the marts in the low Countries was, however, still that normally used. on
one occasion Henry southwick lamented to his master John Johnson that ‘by
a great misfortune’ one merchant’s bills ‘are chawed with mysse or rattes soo that
they are no more then legable’. He was not unduly worried, as ‘the men be hon-
est’ and ‘the billes be pledable ynoughe’.41 it is noticeable, however, that most
trade in wool at Calais now involved ‘Hollanders’, including merchants from
Harlem and ‘laythes’ (leiden). Tere is little mention of Bruges or Ypres, and
it was at the marts at antwerp that the settlement of bargains was usually made.
Te partnership also employed their own agent in antwerp, Robert andrew,
a clear indication of the importance for their business of that market and all its
exchange and banking facilities.
Te raw wool to be sent to Calais was collected by Johnson himself, ofen
from neighbours in northamptonshire, but, more importantly, he also owned
a large fock himself. By around 1550 he may have owned as many as a thousand
sheep. anthony Cave was also himself a producer of wool. in the 1540s the
surviving letters are ofen full of complaints that the price of wool had become
extortionate and that there were real shortages of the best and fnest Cotts
(Cotswold) wools.42 in 1547 Johnson wrote to Cave about the supply problems
and other matters. He complained that he could not, ‘at any reasonable reco-
nynge get anye wull of sir Raphe Warryn’, one of their neighbours. Tis was
perhaps particularly galling because, as he went on to explain, ‘the sayles be lyk
to be good that a chylde maie now sell wull at Callais’.43 once the raw wool or
fells had been purchased, they were sent to london to await one of the biannual
wool feets in much the same way as had happened in the ffeenth century, with
the goods of the partnership split up among several ships. Te consignment
that went by the winter wool feet in 1545 was divided among seven ships, most
from the port of london but including the Trynyte from Hull and the Mary
Pitie from Flamborough.44 in Calais the wool was stored in various wool-houses
until it was sold. Te clearest idea of how this was organised comes from letters
written by John Johnson, giving directions to Henry southwick, his apprentice,
or Humphrey lightfoot, who acted as John Johnson’s factor, when Johnson
was about to return to England leaving them in charge. in June 1545 light-
foot was told that wool belonging to the partnership could be found in two
separate wool-houses, the weigh-house, ‘Mistris Baynam’s heringe hange’, the
‘skollehowse behind William stevin’s’, and ‘a lytell howse in Masindewe street’.
41 Typescript of Johnson Letters, letter 65, pp. 123–4, dated 24 July 1544.
42 Winchester, Tudor Family Portrait, 175–6.
43 Typescript of Johnson Letters, letter 473, p. 837.
44 Ibid., letter 250, p. 460.
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The town and trade · 149 ·
Finally, in the ‘longe Hayle’ were large quantities of wool and fells belonging to
anthony Cave.45
letters passed frequently and ofen quite speedily between london, Glap-
thorn and Calais. Richard Johnson, for example, wrote to John on 21 april 1548
from Calais ; six days later John wrote a reply at Glapthorn.46 Tis was not an
unusually fast exchange. Te general tone of these letters between the partners
in Johnson & Company and their friends makes clear the good relations which
existed between them and ofen, in small asides or passing comments, casts
some light on life in the town. What might be called the Baynham circle was
very close to the Johnsons and Caves. one of the most poignant letters in the
whole collection graphically describes the impact that an outbreak of the plague
could have on a small community like that of Calais. Te Baynham household
were frst touched by the outbreak on Palm sunday 1545 (29 March). a friend
who had been staying in Mrs Baynham’s house fell sick, so everyone lef the in-
fected premises. Te same thing happened to her sister’s daughter. Both families
took refuge in
my garden in masondue street, where she and i and with a great nombre
of yonge frute do continue in great sorowe and heviness of harte, God be
mercyfull unto us and comfort us. and what shall become of these two
sick persone we are uncerten yet, but they are very weake and feble. Tey
be in Gode’s hands.
Te letter concludes with a postscript :
Tis beinge written in the morning. John Grant and Margery, my sister’s
daughter departyd this worlde about xi of the clock before dinner. nowe is
our lamentation and mourning greater than ever it was before.47
Te sudden and painful death of otwell Johnson from the sweating sickness on
10 July 1551 in london was another demonstration of the ofen appalling impact
of infectious diseases at the time.48
Most communication with Mrs Baynham, however, was on a happier note,
recording the exchange of presents, beer, quails or cheese, for example. it is also
clear that as well as dealing in wool on her own account, Mrs Baynham had an
interest in the herring trade. although the great majority of the letters in the
surviving collection deal with the wool trade and the operation of the staple sys-
tem, it is clear that the Johnson brothers and their associates were also involved
with trading other commodities, usually through Calais. in 1542 otwell became
the owner of a ship, the George Bonaventure of Calais, which was to be used in
the distribution of the autumn herring catch, dried and smoked in the Calais
herring hangs and then packed in barrels for export. Te cargo of the George was
45 Ibid., letter 184, p. 354.
46 Ibid., letter 554, pp. 974–77.
47 Ibid., letter 114, pp. 229–30 ; Mrs Baynham to John Johnson, written on 1 April.
48 Tis death was reported to John Johnson in Calais in a letter written the same day ; John
received it on 15 July. Typescript of Johnson Letters, letter 701, p. 1236.
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· 150 · Chapter 8
destined for le Havre in normandy, but, like two earlier consignments of her-
ring belonging to the Johnsons in the same year, the vessel was taken by scottish
pirates just of her destination. Tese misadventures illustrate the point that,
judging from the evidence in the Johnson papers, the possible loss of cargoes
to privateers and the like was more of a worry to Calais merchants than attacks
across the land frontiers. one of the few occasions when Johnson mentions
anxiety about the journey to Calais also relates to the rumoured presence of
French ships in the Channel. in his view this made it ‘veray daungerous to passe
bitwene Dover and Calleis’, so he would retire to Glapthorn and wait there for
better news.49
Te English campaigns in France in the 1540s caused annoyance to mer-
chants because ships were arrested by the Crown and were not available for the
wool feets or because storehouses at Calais were similarly taken over for royal
goods. Tere could also be anxiety about how war would afect the possibility
of settling bills at the marts and the whole system of exchange. Te possibility
of a successful French invasion of the Pale was not something that seemed to
weigh on the minds of the townspeople or visiting merchants. in 1545 Johnson
was of the opinion that the French had little appetite for such an attack, and
they would receive ‘short cortesie’ if they did attempt it.50
Te news circulating in the town is ofen added as the last paragraph to let-
ters, or the correspondent may apologise for no news being available, a continu-
ation of the practice common in the earlier letter collections. Te topics most
frequently commented on concern the low Countries and the Empire, rather
than France. one letter from southwick to John Johnson, written from Calais
in February 1546, makes fun of French attacks on Boulogne but proposes taking
precautions against problems cashing bills in Flanders should war break out in
that quarter.51
Te Johnson brothers, and their family connections in both England and Ca-
lais, were all fervent supporters of reformed religion. Te news recorded, there-
fore, ofen relates to this. one letter to anthony Cave in June 1545 mentions
the Diet of Worms and remarks on ‘the princes of the contry beinge turned
from Papists to Protestantes viz from the Devill to God’.52 since the bulk of the
surviving correspondence related to the reign of Edward VI, no hostility to sup-
porters of the reformed religion in Calais was mentioned ; the turmoil caused by
preachers like Damplyp seemed to have subsided. in imperial territory, things
could be more difcult for those who held heterodox beliefs. Richard Johnson
wrote to his brother from antwerp in november 1547, letting him know that
49 Typescript of Johnson Letters, letter 201, p. 383.
50 Ibid., letter 175, p. 342.
51 Southwick remarked : ‘John of Calles, general of a C [i.e. 100] men kepethe the Red Pile
at the Frenchemen’s noses quietlye which ys a great displeser to owr sayd enemye.’ His
idea concerning bills was to put them ‘in some Flemmynge’s name’, if Johnson knew
someone who could be trusted in this way. Typescript of Johnson Letters, letter 99,
pp. 199, 200.
52 Ibid., letter 175, p. 343.
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The town and trade · 151 ·
his wife’s aunt had been arrested at saint-omer for ‘certain folysshe wordes
spoken against an image of saynt adrian’.53
overall, the evidence from the Johnson papers portrays the lifestyle of the
members of this family company, and its connections in Calais, as quiet, re-
strained, professional but not unduly puritanical. Even if the wool trade could
be depicted as in decline compared with the fourteenth or even much of the
ffeenth century, to the Johnsons it was an established way of life with a rhythm
and a system of its own. a wool merchant had to be cautious and aware of
events that could upset either the supply of the raw material in England or the
market for his wares in Flanders and elsewhere. Tere was clearly a need for me-
ticulous accounting in view of the varying rates of exchange, the varying values
of the coinage used and the customs of the trade, with varying allowances and
discounts in operation. Richard Johnson, the youngest of the brothers, who was
ofen lef in charge at Calais while John went home to Glapthorn, was at times
seen by his older brothers as lacking in skill and application in these matters.
John was well capable of writing letters in both French and Flemish,54 and the
assumption can be made that Richard also had at least some skill in Flemish,
since he travelled ofen to antwerp.
Te personal commissions that the brothers ofen fulflled for relations and
friends provide further insights into Calais life, as do some of their personal ac-
counts. When John Johnson frst went to Calais in 1538 he was able to buy shoes
and other clothing from local crafsmen with no trouble, including the costs
of trimming his best gown with fur. at least one goldsmith also worked in the
town, since in 1545 Johnson ordered a ‘casting-bottell for rosewatter’ to be made
out of silver, some of which he himself supplied.55 a more unusual request that
Johnson expected Henry southwick to fulfl was to provide a ‘round tent’ for
his friend Mr Brudenell. Te tentmaker was apparently to be found in Bruges.
Te fnished design would be about 24 feet wide with an adjoining ‘jaques’ and
would be ornamented in the Brudenell colours of blue and red.56
Perhaps in an attempt to expand their activities, the Johnsons also imported
small quantities of cloth through Calais into England. in 1546 otwell expected
to be able to sell fisadoes imported from Calais at a good price, even if the
proft margin was reduced to allow the Johnsons to get a foothold in a new line
53 Ibid., letter 536, p. 942 and n. Eventually Somerset intervened with the Imperial authori-
ties on the woman’s behalf, and she escaped the full rigour of the law on the grounds that
she was drunk when she made the remarks.
54 Typescript of Johnson Letters, letter 270, p. 497, for example, is in French to a merchant
from Dunkirk. In 1546 John Johnson advised Richard Whethill of the well-known Ca-
lais family that if Whethill sent him a letter in English, he would translate the same into
Flemish. Ibid., letter 242, p. 452.
55 Ibid., letter 297, p. 542. Tis bottle was for Anthony Cave’s wife, since Cave had men-
tioned this among other demands, including those for a doublet of a particular design,
wine, vinegar and a sturgeon in other letters, including letter 145. In letter 318, p. 578,
Johnson asks for the bottle to be sent over quickly because it is needed for Mrs Cave’s
imminent confnement.
56 Typescript of Johnson Letters, letter 318, 10 February 1546, pp. 577–8.
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· 152 · Chapter 8
of business. Te same could not be said of some linen cloth that had also been
imported through Calais ; no-one in london was interested at the kind of price
John wanted otwell to charge.57 By 1550, the Johnsons had also moved into the
business of shipping victuals to Calais. in May of that year otwell was writing
to John giving him news of the shipment from lynn of wheat to Calais and also
the extension of this trade to malt and possibly rapeseed, on which he antici-
pated the proft could be good.58
Johnson & Company ran into severe fnancial difculties soon afer their
move into the grain trade, and in fact the partnership was bankrupt by 1553. Tis
commercial disaster for one group of merchants should not, however, be taken
to imply that by 1558 Calais, as a trading centre, was in terminal decline. Te
Johnson failure refected some unwise investments and a lack of fnancial con-
trol following the death of otwell, who had held all the strings of the business
together in his capable hands. of the remaining brothers, John and Richard, the
former was really hankering afer the life of a country gentleman, and the latter
lacked the commercial and fnancial expertise to control all the many bargains
in which the partnership was involved. Calais itself, however, was still commer-
cially viable as a port of entry of English produce to the low Countries and the
adjacent French lands, and as a source of imports from these areas to England.
Merchants had learned to live with the nature of the Pale. What caused them
alarm, on occasion, was not the possible threat posed by French armies on the
borders but the presence of hostile shipping in the Channel and the dangers this
threatened to their own ships and their cargoes. Tese sixteenth-century traders
would have endorsed the plea made to the Crown by the ffeenth-century
writer of the Libelle of Englyshe Polycye :
Cherysshe marchandyse, kepe thamyraltye
Tat we bee maysteres of the narowe see.59
57 Typescript of Johnson Letters, letter 402, pp. 717–18.
58 Ibid., letter 624, pp. 1104–5.
59 Te Libelle of Englyshe Polycye.
Calais.indb 152 27.5.2008 15:08:54
· 153 ·
9
tHE EnD oF tHE stoRY:
tHE loss oF Calai s to tHE FREnCH

D
espite 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. Te Celys and the Johnsons displayed
greater concern in their letters over events in the low Countries and the Em-
pire than in France. it has been suggested, however, that, afer the French had
recovered Boulogne in 1550,2 there was in fact much to fear from France, and
that French attention defnitively moved away from italian adventures towards
the northern frontier and expansion in that area. Tis, inevitably, would focus
attention on the question of Calais and the Pale.
in the 1540s two incidents had, perhaps, given an early indication that the
attitude of the French was changing from that expressed by louis XI, who had
told his son on his death-bed not to make any attempt on Calais for fear of
disturbing the English.3 Te frst was a dispute over an area of pasture on the
border between Guisnes and ardres called the Cowswade. in the spring of 1539,
French farmers were found to have built a bridge over a stream, which allowed
their cattle easy access to this grazing, to the fury of the English, who saw it
as part of the Pale. Te dispute escalated over the summer of 1540, afer the
arrival of lord Maltravers as deputy. Te garrison at Guisnes demolished the
French bridge, which led to a furry of letters passing between the governments
of Henry VIII in london and Francis I in Paris. Henry also sent more men to
1 ‘Je consentirai volontiers à passer deux ans aux Enfers pour avour le plaisir de chaser les
Anglais de Calais.’ From C. Demotier, Annales de Calais, depuis les temps les plus reculés
jusqu’à nos jours (Calais, 1856), 101, quoted in Morgan, ‘Te Government of Calais’, 239.
2 Te French recovered Boulogne by purchase in 1550, four years earlier than specifed in
the Treaty of Camp in 1545.
3 ‘De ne mener nulle pratique sur Calais de paour d’esmouvoir les Anglois’. Quoted in Der-
ville and Vion, Histoire de Calais, 83.
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Guisnes. over the winter, attempts to settle the dispute failed, and for a brief
period in the spring of 1541 it looked as if war might in fact break out over this
essentially trivial dispute. afer a last exchange of letters over French attempts
to mow the hay on the pasture, in the end, both sides let the matter drop. Te
whole incident has been seen as a ploy in the intricate diplomatic situation at
this date, involving Henry’s relations not only with France but also the Empire.
it also, perhaps, should have made clear to the English commanders in Calais
that a resolute response to French incursions or threatened aggression might
well cause the French to withdraw rather than to escalate the dispute further.4
Te second incident occurred during the war in the Boulonnais, afer Bou-
logne itself had fallen to the English in september 1544. a French force entered
the Pale from the east and did considerable damage to the villages on the road
to Gravelines. as otwell Johnson reported to his brother John at Glapthorn, he
had received a letter from Henry southwick in Calais, in which there is
mencion of a shrode feat that Frenshemen did in Monday last, being the
21 of this present [september] in our lowe countrey of Calleis, vidit. Tey
burnte olderkerke, newekerke, Hofekerke, and oye, saving hier and ther
is a howse standing and went clearly away unfought with, but to our losse
of 3 or 4 hundred of our Englisshe white coates, the Cleveners of our side
showing themselves veray hyerlinges, God send us some other recompense.
some men say that they come to Wale and ther bournte also.5
Te fact that accurate news of this raid had reached otwell a matter of days afer
it had taken place gives some idea of its scale. on the other hand, otwell’s let-
ter goes on tranquilly to deal with outstanding bills of exchange and betrays no
sense of alarm at any possible extension of French activity. Te garrison should,
perhaps, have noted that the low country was more or less indefensible unless
fooded. Even if there had been fortifcations in this area (the castle at oye had
been demolished in 1436 and never rebuilt), they would have provided little
protection against a swifly moving mounted raiding party. Te townspeople of
Calais, nevertheless, trusted in the efectiveness of their fortifcations, the gar-
rison and the considerable amount of artillery on the walls and the bulwarks.
Was this trust in fact justifed ? Te works undertaken in the early 1540s on
the orders of Henry VIII had been largely completed and undoubtedly did im-
prove the ability of the town’s defences to withstand an artillery barrage. Te
Beauchamp bulwark in particular was well designed and had a wide feld of fre,
covering both the harbour and the road along the dunes to the east. Te weak
spot was the old castle in the north-west corner of the town, but, as could have
been argued at the time, this area had forward protection from the fortifcations
at newenham Bridge. Te sluices at the bridge and at the harbour also allowed
this corner of the defences to be swifly surrounded by water by letting in the
4 Grummitt, ‘Calais, 1485–1540’, 95–100. Grummitt puts the dispute frmly in its wider
context both in English politics and the European situation.
5 Typescript of Johnson Letters, letter 226, pp. 425–6.
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sea, making any successful assault unlikely. Tomas Petit, who drew the surviv-
ing ‘platt’ of the Pale in the Cotton collection in the British library, was made
surveyor of the works at Calais in 1546, although he seems to have done little
work in the town until 1549/50 when some repairs were ordered. More exten-
sive building work took place in 1551/2, with a total of over £30,000 being spent
before December 1553, but the detailed accounts have not survived. in Mary’s
reign, plans were drawn up for the building of at least three new bulwarks, but
none of this work was carried out before 1558.6
Te suspicion must be that the existing works had begun to sufer from lack
of maintenance and also from the fact that royal attention was focused else-
where. it is useful to compare the total military costs of Calais and the marches
with those for campaigns in both scotland and France. Figures put together for
the Privy Council showed that the overall costs of Calais from about 1538 to
the end of July 1552 reached a total £371,428 18s. 9⅝d. (divided between about
£151,000 on fortifcations and about £220,000 on wages.) Te total cost of op-
erations in France from 1544 to 1550 reached £1,342,552 3s. 7¾d. Costs incurred
on campaigns in scotland from 1542 to 1550 reached £954,115 18s. ⅞d. Was the
average cost of £26,530 per annum for the defence of Calais really excessive
for the English Crown ? Te answer perhaps lies in the other obligations and
expenses that arose and the government’s view of priorities. Te costs of Calais
perhaps only seemed burdensome to the Crown when other military adventures
were also in progress.
apart from the fortifcations themselves, the safety of Calais depended on
the weaponry available to the defenders. a thorough analysis of the victualler’s
accounts for the later ffeenth century has shown that from around the 1470s
the best contemporary guns were made available to the town. Between 1473
and 1478, 212 new or refurbished guns, ranging from one great bombard called
the Great Edward of Calais to 116 brass and eight hake (personal) guns, were
bought by the victualler in ofce at the time, William Rosse. in 1481 a survey
of the supplies in the town and Pale recorded 124 large guns on the walls and
bulwarks and about sixty-four smaller weapons. at Guisnes there were sixty-six
cannons of all descriptions and about forty-fve smaller weapons.7 in 1533, a list
was drawn up of the ordnance ‘now about the quarters of Calais’ and also of
the ‘ordnance needful for defence of the town’. in the town at this date were
284 pieces, including both brass and iron guns, some clearly of considerable
size. Tese included seven brass serpentines and ffy-one iron ones and two
brass culverins. Te list of the additional artillery needed went into consider-
able detail : on the Bolen (Boulogne) gate, for example, twelve more pieces
were needed, including three double brass serpentines and three more for the
mount (bulwark). in all, according to the writer of the list (it was produced as
part of the survey of the town’s defences undertaken by a commission headed
6 Colvin, Te History of the King’s Works, ii : 357–9.
7 Grummitt, ‘Te Defence of Calais’, 263–6.
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by lord lisle), another 70 guns were required at Calais.8 Tis was only for the
town itself ; no mention was made of the outlying fortifcations or the castles
at Hammes or Guisnes. Most of this additional armament was probably sup-
plied, but it would only provide an adequate defence for the town if supplies
of powder and shot were also sufcient and the guns could be served by skilled
gunners.
By the reign of Edward VI in 1552, there was room for doubt whether in fact
the royal government was willing to provide these essential supplies in sufcient
quantities. at the end of July and the beginning of august in this year letters to
and from members of the Council mention the need for munitions at Calais
and Guisnes. Te problem is seen as lack of money. sir Philip Hoby wrote to
William Cecil on 1 august that he must ‘remind my lords of the lack of muni-
tions for Calais and Guisnes’ and that a remedy is ‘impossible without money’.
two days later his exasperation at the lack of response was such that he wrote
‘For God’s sake help the miseries of the ordnance ofce for lack of money.’9
as well as paying attention to these pleas for munitions, the Privy Council
might have been well advised to take rather more notice of reports brought
back from France by Tomas stucley. stucley had lef England in 1551 when
under suspicion by the northumberland regime as a supporter of the duke of
somerset. He had then entered the service of Henry II of France but reappeared
in England in august 1552, apparently with intelligence of French intentions to
move against Calais and even invade England itself. Te young king recorded
carefully in his journal that stucley had been told all this by Henry II himself
because the king was ‘perswaded that he [stucley] wold never retorne againe
into England’. Henry’s plan was that once he was at peace with the Emperor, he
‘ment to besiege Cales and thought surely to wine it by the way of sandhills [the
dunes along the coast] for having Risebank both to faver the toune and also to
beat [bombard] the market place’. When stucley told Henry II this was impos-
sible, Henry then went on to explain that he in fact also intended to invade Eng-
land, landing in the neighbourhood of Falmouth and Dartmouth. Te reaction
of the Privy Council to this information was to inquire from the English am-
bassador in France whether it was likely to be true. on hearing that the French
king, not unnaturally, denied ever having had such a conversation, stucley was
put in the tower. stucley’s own confession afer his arrest should perhaps have
been taken more notice of, since it not only revealed the good intelligence that
the French had of Calais and its defences, but to some extent seemed to betray
knowledge of a plan to attack Calais, very similar to that employed in 1558. He
apparently said that the fort at newenham Bridge was of ‘no importance in
strength’, while Risban, the key to the harbour, was ‘pregnable in 4 howres’. He
also remarked that ‘the drowning of the country by sluses’ served ‘no purpose’.10
8 Letters and Papers, vi : item 930.
9 C. Knighton (ed.), Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Edward
VI, 1547–1553, Preserved in the Public Record Ofce (London, 1992), items 689, 692,
pp. 248–9.
10 Te Journal of Edward VI, printed in Literary Remains of King Edward the Sixth, ed. J. G.
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Te only person who perhaps had second thoughts about the importance of
stucley’s revelations was William Cecil, who wondered whether stucley should
be sent back to France as, in efect, a double agent, and concluded that it was
important ‘to see the estate of Callise and Guynes and the marches well ordered
and garded with ofcers’.11
other evidence in fact makes clear that by this date some at least at the French
court were beginning to think seriously about the possibilities of the reconquest
of Calais and the Marches. Tis change of heart did not, of course, take place in
isolation but in the context of the relations between the various European states,
particularly France and the Empire, at this date. Te accession of Mary and her
marriage to Philip II of spain drew England into the orbit of the Habsburgs,
with the result that the policy of cautious friendship with France, which had
largely been followed by northumberland, was no longer a possibility. England
seemed to have joined the enemies of France, with the likelihood that English
forces would assist those of Philip II in any war, most probably on the borders
of the low Countries. Te Habsburg fortress of Gravelines was almost as near
to Calais as the French fortress of ardres. an English feet in the Channel could
be of great value in keeping secure communications between the low Countries
and spain. Te fuctuations in relations between these states can be gauged
from incidents like the ofer in 1553 (probably somewhat tongue in cheek) of
anne de Montmorency, the Constable of France, to come to the help of Calais
if attacked by the Emperor. some two years later the French envoys negotiating
for a truce with the Habsburgs took careful note of the state of the fortifcations
when passing through Calais on their way to Gravelines.12
Te one person close to Mary’s government who seemed to have grasped the
possible direction of French policy towards the English enclave was her ambas-
sador in Paris, Dr nicholas Wotton. Wotton was a highly experienced diplomat
with much experience in both France and imperial lands ; he may also have lived
in Calais as a child, since his father Robert Wotton was appointed High Porter
in 1508 and Comptroller from 1519. nicholas would have been about eleven
years old on his father’s frst appointment. His older brother followed his father
into the Calais administration, being treasurer from 1540 until his death in
1551. Wotton thus probably had a better understanding of the vulnerability of
the town and the Marches than other diplomats or privy councillors in Mary’s
service. He was formally appointed ambassador to Henry II by Mary in august
1553, one of his advantages from her point of view being his quietly conservative
religious views.13 His concerns over Calais came to the fore when Henry sutton
Nichols (London, 1857), ii : 455–6. Stucley’s confession is printed from the Cotton MSS
as a footnote to the Journal. As his later career as a privateer and adventurer made clear,
Stucley was something of a rogue, so that the scepticism with which his revelations
were greeted is perhaps not surprising. Peter Holmes, ‘Tomas Stucley (c.1540–1578)’,
ODNB.
11 Literary Remains of Edward the Sixth, ii : 542.
12 D. Potter, ‘Te Duc de Guise and the Fall of Calais, 1557–1558’, EHR 98 (1983), 485.
13 M. Zell, ‘ Wotton, Nicholas’, ODNB.
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Dudley arrived in France as an exile from England. Dudley had military experi-
ence as a member of the garrison of Boulogne in 1547 and was openly hostile to
Mary’s regime, particularly her eforts to return England to Catholicism. Henry
II was prepared to give some limited support to the group of disafected English
Protestant exiles in France to which Dudley belonged when it suited his plans
for dealing with the Habsburgs, especially Philip II.14 Wotton became con-
cerned about their activities and especially those of Dudley in november 1556.
in a series of reports he explained that, from contacts with merchants at Rouen,
he had heard that Dudley was inciting the French king to attack the Pale. Dud-
ley was putting about the story that there were only victuals there for less than
three weeks and that he and his fellow conspirators could hand the place over to
the French. Four days later, Wotton reported an even more alarming conversa-
tion with a gentleman of Henry II’s bedchamber. Tis gentleman, on being told
that Dudley’s brother Edward, lord Dudley, was captain of Hammes Castle,
remarked happily, ‘Why then he may do the French King’s pleasure.’15
Te fow of intelligence on the same matter continued at the end of the
month. on 30 november Wotton wrote that an informant had told him that
Dudley’s role in any attack on Calais would be to hold the straits of Dover
against English ships, to prevent any aid or provisions reaching the town. in
Wotton’s opinion, the queen should use merchants travelling in Brittany and
normandy to discover if there was any truth in these rumours. it was certainly
the case that disafected Englishmen and also scots were being ofered commis-
sions in Henry’s forces. Te queen’s response to these reports was a request for
Wotton to make a formal complaint to Henry II regarding the ‘help and reward’
given to those plotting against herself, pointing out ‘how dishonourable this
violation of their word is and the bad example it may be to other princes’.16
at much the same time Wotton had news of another and potentially more
serious plot against Calais. Tis involved a French poet from le Mans, one
nicolas Denisot. Denisot was clearly charming, handsome, clever and unscru-
pulous, and very attractive to women. He had fed France for England around
1547 to escape an imbroglio over a woman of higher social class than his own.
in England, being well educated in all the fashionable Renaissance literary
skills, he had become tutor to the three daughters of Edward seymour, duke
of somerset. He was back in France by 1549, again under something of a cloud,
and may possibly have been also passing information to the French king by this
time.17 in 1556, he was engaged to teach the children of sir Edward Grimston,
the Comptroller of Calais, despite having a mignonne dame in Paris and plenty
of opportunities for employment there. as Wotton put it in a report in octo-
ber, warning the queen of his possible activities, ‘he being a crafie childe it is
14 J. A. Löwe, ‘Sutton [Dudley], Henry’, ODNB.
15 W. Turnbull (ed.), Calendar of State Papers, Foreign Series, of the Reign of Mary, 1553–1558,
Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty’s Public Record Ofce (London,
1861), 275–6.
16 Ibid., 281.
17 C. Jugé, Nicolas Denisot du Mans, 1515–1559 (Paris and Le Mans, 1907), passim.
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thought he goes not thither but to practise some matter of importance’.18 By
January 1557 Wotton had news, which he relayed to the Council in london, of
what Denisot and an accomplice had intended to do in Calais. Teir scheme
was apparently to remove a section of timber from the wall of the powder maga-
zine at Calais and then ignite all the powder and munitions, causing a large ex-
plosion and probably a lot of damage to the castle and the town. Te conspiracy
came unstuck when Denisot’s colleague committed suicide19 and Denisot was
arrested. Denisot, however, escaped from his prison, the town and the Pale,
typically with the assistance of ‘a young maid whose parents knew nothing
of it’. she went on his behalf to ardres and managed to arrange his escape to
France with the Governor. Wotton remarks ruefully that the council of Calais
‘think that Devisat [sic] went about no secret practice against them’, but he has
information from Paris that ‘the common report there is it lacked but little that
Calais was delivered to the French king’.20
Wotton was very punctilious in reporting all the gossip in the French capital
to Mary’s Council and in listening to the sometimes scarcely believable stories
of his informants.21 Tere is, however, little evidence that the Privy Council in
london was greatly alarmed by his stories. in May 1557 Giovanni Michiel, the
envoy from the Venetian Republic to Mary’s court, sent a long and detailed
description of the condition of the English realm to the senate in Venice. Te
section on Calais and Guisnes betrays no hint of concern about the security of
the territory, although it does make clear its importance to England as a means
of ‘access to other countries’. Even though the Pale was separated from the rest
of the kingdom by the straits of Dover, help was always at hand, since ‘they can
at any time without hindrance, even in spite of weather, at their pleasure enter
or leave the harbour (such is the experience and boldness of their sailors)’. More-
over, as Calais was very near both France and the Empire, the English could
‘join either the one or the other as they please . . . in prejudice of the enemy’. Te
inhabitants were also of ‘most unshaken fdelity’, and the territory was consid-
ered ‘by everyone as an impregnable fortress’, not only because of the garrison
but because of the way the Pale could be fooded. Te only slight hint of doubt
is the remark regarding the fooding that ‘some engineers doubt it would prove
so if put to the test’.22
Michiel’s assessment of the security of Calais, and the imperturbability of
the Privy Council in England, would soon prove to be greatly mistaken. in the
spring of 1557 French forces under the duke of Guise had been sent to italy but
had had little success. another French force under the Constable Montmorency
18 Calendar of State Papers, Foreign, 1553–1558, 281.
19 Morgan, ‘Te Government of Calais’, 246.
20 Calendar of State Papers, Foreign, 1553–1558, 281, 284.
21 A man called Lant was particularly ready to tell Wotton somewhat tall stories of plots
against the queen. Ibid., 285–6.
22 Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts Relating to English Afairs, Existing in the Ar-
chives and Collections of Venice and in Other Libraries in Northern Italy, vi/2 : 1556–1557,
ed. R. Brown (London, 1881), 1050–51.
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had attacked Philip II in the north-east. Tis force sufered a total defeat by
Philip’s forces, which included a small English contingent, at saint-Quentin
in august 1557. in these circumstances, what direction should French policy
take ? Tere was an urgent need for a military success to wipe out the efects of
the disaster at saint-Quentin and to strike a blow against the Habsburgs and
their allies. Tere seems to have been something of a rush among leading French
military men and advisers to the king to claim the credit for the plan to attack
Calais, once it had proved successful ; opinion among recent writers, however,
ascribes the plan frmly to the initiative of the king himself.23 Tere was already
to hand intelligence of the real state of afairs in the Pale. Henri II had acquired
a set of plans of the fortifcations in 1552/3. Te French ambassador to England,
François de noailles, had taken a close look at the fortifcations on his return
to France in June 1557. His opinion that they were in a ‘hopeless state’ rapidly
found its way to Jean de sénarpont, the French governor of Boulogne. infor-
mation like this may well have infuenced the king’s decision to recall his best
military commander, and one of the most powerful men at the court, the duc
de Guise, from Rome. Guise received his new orders on 14 september, at much
the same time as the duke of alva’s forces entered Rome. By 9 october he was
back in France and appointed lieutenant du roi, a position that gave him almost
viceregal powers throughout the kingdom.
Te frm plan to attack the English Pale may have been drawn up at a meet-
ing at Compiègne in november. Tere were, of course, other possible targets
for the French, including saint-Quentin. Te case for Calais was strongly made,
and immediately afer this meeting, at the king’s instigation, sénarpont and the
very experienced military engineer Piero strozzi reconnoitred the town and its
fortifcations. Despite all the regulations about the control of aliens in the town,
set out in the watch regulations from the time of Henry VIII, these two, in some
sort of minimal disguise, were able to wander unchallenged round the town,
looking carefully at the fortifcations and other means of defence. Te conclu-
sion drawn from their investigations seems to have been that, while an immedi-
ate attack would have been unwise as the town was still full of soldiers from the
English forces present at the battle of saint-Quentin, who were drifing slowly
back to England, it might be possible to attack the town in the depths of the
winter around the time of the new Year festivities. Tis would be something
of a gamble ; the marshy ground might make an approach very difcult, but on
the other hand such an undertaking would achieve surprise since winter attacks
were very rare at this date. Moreover, the English garrison was ofen reduced
at this time of year, both to save money and because the chances of any attack
were thought to be minimal. Guise was well aware of the dangers of mounting
a campaign like this in the winter, writing to the king that what was impossible
in the winter could be easily done in the spring. However, he concluded, the
information he had received about the condition of the enemy did give him
great hope.
23 Tis matter is fully discussed by Potter, ‘Te Duc de Guise’, 481–512.
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From the beginning of December 1557 the French force were assembled at
Compèigne ; there were some German and swiss mercenaries as well French
troops, and care was taken to equip them with hurdles and the like, to allow
artillery to be put in place on marshy ground. Te French do not seem to have
made any particular eforts to keep all these preparations secret. Te Venetian
envoy sent reports to the serenissima, including a fair idea of French inten-
tions. spanish and Flemish informers also knew much of what was afoot, even
if they were not certain of the destination of the army being gathered together.
Te only military commanders in Flanders, artois and Picardy who seemed to
ignore what was in preparation were the English in Calais. Te deputy of Calais,
at this crucial point in its history as an English town, was Tomas Wentworth,
lord Wentworth, who was in his early thirties in 1557. He had held the position
since september 1553, despite having been a loyal supporter of northumberland.
He had some military experience, having fought well at Pinkie against the scots,
but was dismissed as ‘rather lightweight’ in a dispatch of simon Renard, the
ambassador of the Emperor. He also had a young pregnant wife and a small son
under two years old present with him in the town. He perhaps hoped that, as
had happened in the past, the most that the French intended was a raid into the
Pale, burning and looting in the countryside but keeping away from the towns
and their artillery.
By the middle of December, rumours were clearly fying round the whole
northern frontier area about what seemed to be in preparation by the French.
notice was taken of small signs like the fact that the bakers of ardres had been
ordered to produce enormous quantities of bread. Te spanish commanders
at Gravelines and at Hesdin received messages from their spies, which made it
clear that far more than a raid was intended ; the content of one message was
later proved to have been very close to the plan the French actually followed.
Tese were all sent on to Wentworth, and he was sufciently alarmed by 27 De-
cember to arrange a meeting between himself and lord Grey, the commander
at Guisnes, to discuss what to do. a letter was sent to Mary, conveying the intel-
ligence that the French army might be intending to attack Calais, but there was
still very little sense of urgency. it is doubtful whether any extra precautions had
been taken to deter an attack by this time. Te master of the ordnance at Ca-
lais was in london, having gone there the previous May to seek more supplies,
and had not yet returned. no stocks of victuals had been laid in to prepare for
a siege. no approach had been made to the spanish to the north to seek their
aid if an attack did materialise.
Te report of the meeting on 27 December between Wentworth, Grey
and the commanders of the other fortifcations, which went with the letter to
Mary, exuded an almost defeatist tone. no attempt should be made to defend
Guisnes town ; all the forces should be withdrawn to the Castle, where a great
want of victuals was noted. Tis becomes the common plaint as all the various
fortifcations are discussed ; it was reported that there was only the Captain’s
store at Hammes, the same at newenham Bridge and Risban. in Calais itself
the situation was no better, something the writers of the report put down to
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‘the restraint in the realm’, which has prevented victuallers ‘to have any re-
course hither ; whereby is grown a very great scarcity of all such things [butter,
cheese, bacon, wheat, etc.] here’. Te real danger in their opinion was to the low
country, which could not be defended, and it was, therefore, their intention to
‘gather all our men into strengths [fortresses], and with the same to defend your
pieces to the uttermost’. Te fnal sentence of the report, however, ends on the
gloomy note, ‘all the power is insufcient to defend the pieces in case the enemy
shall tarry any space in the feld’.24
Te Privy Council’s reaction to these missives was to order the general muster
of a relief force and the collection of a feet, actions that would undoubtedly
take some time to accomplish. it must also be remembered that, even if letters
were passed from Calais to london with the greatest possible speed, they were
still received at least a day or more later, when the situation in Calais itself had
moved on. Wentworth further confused matters by following up his communi-
cations of 27 December with another letter two days later, which said that, afer
all, Hesdin and perhaps Risban rather than Calais itself were the main objects
of any French attack, information that was also sent on 30 December to Vande-
ville, the captain of Gravelines :
Mes espies dissent que les ennemys ont en tests Renty ou Hesdyng de votre
coste ou la Risebanque de la nostre ; à quoi nous pourvoyns le mieulx que
pouvons pour leur donner la bienvenue.25
Wentworth, secure in this belief, did not ask for help from the spanish garrison
but spoke sardonically of making the French welcome.
on 31 December his complacency was rudely shattered. Te advance guard
of the French cavalry appeared on the hills above sangatte, while a French feet
from Boulogne had put to sea to cut communications between Calais and
English ports and prevent the arrival of reinforcements in the town. Te way
in which matters then developed is set out in a letter from Wentworth to the
queen dated 2 January 155826 and a petition sent to the queen in March of the
same year by John Highfeld, Master of the ordnance in Calais, who in fact
returned to the town on new Year’s Day.27 Tese give a clear picture of what
happened, which can be supplemented by letters and other documents in the
French archives.
Te initial attack was made on the fort at newenham Bridge and the small
bulwarks at Fréthun and nesle. Te bulwarks could not be held,but the men
escaped, even managing to bring some of the cattle of the marsh with them.
some of this area was fooded with fresh water from the Hammes river, but,
24 E. Arber (ed.), An English Garner : Ingatherings fom our History and Literature, iv (Lon-
don, 1882), 187–9. Letter and report of Lord Wentworth to Mary.
25 ‘My spies say that the enemy intends to attack Renty or Hesdin on your side or Risban on
ours ; if they do we shall do our best to make them welcome.’ Wentworth to Vandeville,
30 Dec. 1557 ; quoted in Potter, ‘Te Duc de Guise’, 491.
26 An English Garner, iv : 192–5.
27 Ibid., 196–201.
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Wentworth wrote, ‘i would also take in salt water about the town but i can-
not do it by reason i should infect our own water wherewith we brew . . . our
brewers be so behind hand in grinding and otherwise . . . we shall fnd that one
of our greatest lacks. Howsoever the matter go we must shortly be forced to let
in salt water.’ at the beginning of this letter, however, Wentworth felt reason-
ably optimistic. He had convinced himself that the enemy, although present in
great numbers, was sufering from a lack of victuals in their own camp. He also
told the queen that the French had, as yet, been unable to unload their large
artillery pieces from the ships and put them in place to bombard the town. if
the queen could but send the English feet and also reinforcements of both men
and supplies (which he had also requested from Philip II in the netherlands),
all might yet be well. By the end of the letter the tone was more cautious. He
knew that the French were going to attack from the Risban ; the town was full of
refugees from the low country. His fnal remark, ‘i fear this shall be my last letter
for that the enemy will stop my passage : but i will do what i can tidily to signify
unto your Majesty our state’, reveals a more realistic estimate of the situation of
the defenders of Calais.28
no matter how swifly the queen and her Council reacted to the news from
the Pale, it was far too late to put together a relief force to drive the enemy away
from the town of Calais itself. Given the slowness of communications and the
time it took to assemble ships and men, this was out of the question. Went-
worth wrote his letter at ten o’clock on the evening of sunday 2 January. Te
order from the Privy Council to ‘certain nobles and gentlemen’ to put together
a scratch force from their servants and tenants to gather at Dover on the follow-
ing Friday or saturday had only gone out on the same day.29 sir William Wood-
house, the vice-admiral of England, had been informed of the French approach
to Calais on 31 December, but by the time he managed to get a small squadron
of ships of the town on 3 January, the Risban fort was already in French hands
and it was impossible for English vessels to enter the harbour. Te orders to him
to clear the narrow seas and ‘chase the enemy thence’ with a much larger force
went out on January 8, by which time Calais had fallen. again his response was
swif, but a severe long-running epidemic of fu reduced the number of men ft
to serve as crew, and a storm on 9/10 January damaged those ships that had put
to sea.30
Te full story of the French assault on Calais is set out in Highfeld’s peti-
tion. Tis states that early on the morning of 3 January the deputy ordered the
women and servants at Marck to seek refuge in Flanders, with their cattle, if
possible. it is probably at this time that lady Wentworth and other refugees
lef Calais, making their way along the sand dunes to the estuary of the aa and
then crossing the river to Gravelines. Tis journey along an exposed road in
28 Ibid., 193–5.
29 C. Knighton (ed.), Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Mary I,
1553–1558, Preserved in the Public Record Ofce (London, 1998), 305.
30 D. Loades, Te Tudor Navy : An Administrative, Political and Military History (Aldershot,
1992), 172–3. Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, 1553–58, 307.
Calais.indb 163 27.5.2008 15:08:55
· 164 · Chapter 9
harsh weather conditions (there was a prolonged hard frost) cannot have been
easy. at the town itself, the French pressed forward with great success ; frst
newenham Bridge fell, followed shortly aferwards by the tower and bulwark
on the Risban. in both cases, the commanders felt that their position was hope-
less ; the garrison at newenham Bridge fell back to the shelter of the town walls
without striking a blow ; that on the Risban tamely surrendered to the attackers,
convinced they could do little against the heavy guns, which the French had
brought round behind the town and installed on the dunes, to cover both the
Risban tower and the harbour.
it is arguable that the loss of these two strong points in fact made Calais inde-
fensible. Te sluices which controlled the waterways were at newenham Bridge
and now controlled by the French. Te opportunity to use the ‘water weapon’
had been lost. Risban tower controlled access to the harbour as well as providing
a platform from which all the seaward walls of the town could be bombarded at
close range. no reinforcements from England could come directly to the port,
and the direct line of communication with England had been severed. at this
point, however, when Calais was open to the full weight of the assault of the
French army and its artillery, Wentworth seems to have shown the energy and
courage that had been lacking earlier. Te country people who had focked into
the town were organised to assist in its defence. a few Flemings and spaniards
did manage to get past the French patrols in the low country to ofer their help.
Highfeld mounted a determined counter-barrage against the enemy but lost
some of his best pieces quite quickly and also sufered from a lack of ‘cannon-
eers and pioneers’. Despite the weight of the French barrage, the town had not
sufered a great deal of damage by Wednesday night. on Tursday (6 January),
a fresh barrage opened up against the Castle, where the walls were weakest. ac-
cording to Highfeld, the decision then seems to have been taken to withdraw
the English forces from the Castle to concentrate them in the town ; the plan
was that the Castle towers would be flled with gunpowder, which would be
fred as the French approached the fortifcations. Tis did not succeed ; the mu-
nitions failed to ignite. Te French made an assault from the Risban across the
harbour at low tide and were soon inside the castle itself (see Figure 8). other
sources suggest that the French found the castle contained only a few defenders,
who fed into the town, but that the French then faced a determined counter-
attack centred on the bridge over the Castle moat. in either case, it seems that
at some point in the night of 6/7 January there was hand-to-hand fghting in
the streets of Calais, and the decision had to be taken whether to fght to the
death or negotiate surrender. Highfeld clearly wished to paint himself in the
most favourable colours possible and suggested that he was for fghting on,
while Wentworth felt that this would serve no purpose. in the early hours of the
morning of 7 January the terms were agreed. all the inhabitants of the town and
the garrison could leave with what they could carry, except for ffy of the most
prominent individuals who would be held for ransom.
Te civilians, who had mostly congregated in the two churches and some of
the larger wool-houses, could have taken up the ofer of French citizenship and
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The end of the story · 165 ·
remained in the town, but this was hardly an alluring prospect at this juncture.
Te swiss and German mercenaries in the pay of the French thoroughly looted
the town and were guilty of some assaults. Even in the intense cold, the trek over
the dunes to the safety of Gravelines was preferable to remaining in the ruins
of Calais. John Foxe included in his Book of Martyrs the story of one refugee
family. John Torpe and his wife, good Protestants but in poor health, found
themselves ‘cast out into the wild felds harbourless desolate and despairing
of all hope of life ; having their young infant taken away from them in the said
felds by the soldiers’. Tis time, however, the story did not end in disaster. Te
Torpes were looked afer overnight by Flemish villagers and found their child
sitting by the fre in an inn when they made their way to the coast to take ship
for England.31
Meanwhile Guise and his commanders, although no doubt elated by the
swif fall of Calais, were still faced with the necessity of taking the subsidiary
fortresses of Hammes and Guisnes, which still held out. Tey also faced the
possibility of having to face a relieving force from Gravelines or from England.
Te chances of relief from England were in fact minimal ; the storm that had
31 An English Garner, vi : 202.
Figure 8. Te siege of Calais in 1558. it clearly shows the disposition of the forces of
the duc de Guise and their attack across the harbour from the Risban to the castle. it
was originally published in Rome by Claudio Duchetti in 1602 as Il vero ritratto di
Cales preso a Inglesi del Re Christianissimo l’Anno m·d·lviii. (Bl, Maps C.7.e.4)
Calais.indb 165 27.5.2008 15:09:01



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· 166 · Chapter 9
damaged Woodhouse’s feet and the news of the fall of Calais, which reached
london on 10 January, had the efect of paralysing Mary’s not over-active ad-
ministration. Te English were stunned by this unforeseen and unnervingly
swif disaster. lord Grey of Egerton, the commander at Guisnes, could more
reasonably look for aid to the spanish forces commanded by Emmanuel Phili-
bert of savoy in Bruges. Emmanuel Philibert was well informed of the situation,
since not only did lord Grey send his wife to Bruges as his envoy but Highfeld
the gunner had also been allowed to leave Calais by dint of some well-aimed
bribery and had fed to Bruges with his wife.32
it was Grey’s intention to fght to the death. He had already written to Mary
early on 4 January telling her of the situation at Calais as he saw it and pointing
out that he ‘was clean cut of from all aid’. For lack of reinforcements he would
be ‘forced to abandon the town [of Guisnes] and take in the soldiers thereof for
the Castle’. But having victualled the Castle to the best of his ability, he would
‘not fail to do the duty of a faithful subject and Captain although the enemy
attempt never so stoutly’.33 Tere are in fact several good accounts of what then
transpired. one was written by Tomas Churchyard the poet, who was sta-
tioned on the Mary bulwark at Guisnes throughout the siege.34 another is part
of a biographical note of the services of lord Grey of Wilton by his son arthur,
who was himself present throughout the action.35 Grey knew the Pale well, hav-
ing been lieutenant of Hammes castle in the 1530s, with a house in Calais, where
he was one of a known Protestant group among the garrison. He had also had
military experience during the siege of Boulogne and in the Pinkie campaign in
scotland, where he sustained a pike wound in the mouth. He was appointed to
Guisnes in 1552 by the duke of northumberland despite his closeness to somer-
set. He was kept in post by Mary, who may have thought his military experience
was more important than his adherence to reformed religion.36
at Guisnes, Grey had some 1,300 men in the Castle, including 500 spanish
reinforcements who had been sent in by Vandeville from Gravelines. of these
150 were stationed in the Mary bulwark, which had been rebuilt as one of the
most up-to-date kind of defensive work, possibly able to stand a prolonged
artillery bombardment (see Figure 3 in Chapter 7 above). He had also had, of
course, more time than Wentworth in Calais to prepare for the French assault.
arthur Grey’s account of the siege of the town is vividly written and gives a very
clear picture of what this kind of action involved. on Monday 13 January at
daybreak, the French brought up their guns and began the bombardment of
the Mary bulwark, using two batteries of thirteen and nine guns. Despite its
strength, the bulwark was damaged ; the enemy guns ‘clean cut away the hoop
32 An English Garner, vi : 200.
33 Letter of Lord Grey to Mary. Ibid., 203–4.
34 Tis is printed ibid., 205–17. Churchyard had an extensive and varied military career and
wrote prolifcally ofen on public events as well as moral and improving verses.
35 Arthur, Lord Grey, A Commentary of the Services and Charges of William Lord Grey of
Wilton, ed. P. de M. Grey Egerton (London, 1840).
36 J. Lock, ‘Grey, William, thirteenth Baron Grey of Wilton, (1508/9–1562)’, ODNB.
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The end of the story · 167 ·
of brick of the whole front of our bulwerk wherewith the flling being but of
late digged earth like sand did crumble away’. Te French then sent in a party of
‘xl or ffy forlorn boys with swords and rondells to view and essay the breach’.
Tese boys were allowed through the breach, and having ‘received a few pushs
of the pike, they retired’. two bands of Gascons then attacked, but this time the
fghting was extremely ferce, with the defenders using artillery, pots of wild fre
and other weapons, so ‘jolly Mr Gascon was sent down with more haste than
he came up’. nevertheless, French artillery continued to cause a lot of damage
to the fortifcations before night fell. all that night the garrison then worked at
repairing the breach.
Grey then continues to describe the fghting on the next day. Te French had
by this time brought up a very heavy gun, which was placed in the market square
of the abandoned town, and which played on the castle walls and the bulwark.
Tis continued on Wednesday, with shot from this gun driving ‘clean through
the rampart and a new countremure of earth raised upon the same’. Grey was
very nearly killed, sitting on a bench in the bailey with other ofcers. Tat afer-
noon another assault was made through the breach in the walls by the swiss and
the Gascons. Tis became the most bitter hand-to-hand fghting, with neither
side gaining the advantage. in the end, Grey brought into play two guns he had
kept hidden, and ‘the ditches and the breach being covered with men, what
havoc they made it is not hard to guess’. it was clear that though ‘we went not
scot-free so surely no small number of their carcases took up their lodgings that
night in the ditch’. once again the night was spent in trying to repair damage,
but now the English and their spanish allies were running out of munitions, not
only powder and shot but also pikes. at this juncture Grey himself was acciden-
tally wounded in the foot by the scabbardless sword of one of his own soldiers
in the darkness and confusion.
When morning came, afer a disturbed and noisy night, the besieged gar-
rison saw that the enemy had spent the time making a bridge across the ditch.
a continual bombardment knocked out the last two guns on the bulwark and
killed the gunners. afer another furious assault, it was clear that the Mary bul-
wark could be held no longer, and the few survivors managed to withdraw into
the castle itself. During the night a trumpeter came to the side of the ditch and
announced that Guise was prepared to ofer a parley to Grey. Te remnants of
the garrison by now had had enough, and the soldiers ‘all came in rout together
. . . and prayed him [Grey] to harken to the message and to have consideration
of their lives which as long as any hope remained they willingly had ventured’.
Grey would have rejected their pleas, wondering ‘what sudden unwonted faint-
ness of mind had so assailed them’. His council, however, agreed that a parley
was necessary. Grey’s wish was that his garrison should march out of the castle
under their ensigns. Tis the French were not prepared to grant, nor would the
garrison return to the walls to fght for this right. Te soldiers felt that to put
them in to further jeopardy was ‘but like oxen to thrust them to the butcher’s’.
in the agreement fnally reached, Grey and his senior ofcers were taken pris-
oner, but the remaining soldiers would be allowed to leave each with ‘their
Calais.indb 167 27.5.2008 15:09:01
· 168 · Chapter 9
armour and weapons and a crown in his purse’.37 Grey’s defance of the vastly
superior French forces38 did not save Guisnes, but it did restore some pride to
the English, who had been lef with the uncomfortable feeling that treachery
had somehow been involved in the fall of Calais so easily and so quickly.
at Hammes, the last remaining fortifcation in the Pale, the garrison saw the
French fag fying over Guisnes castle on 20 January. Tey were all well aware
that no help would come to them. lord Dudley had sent a letter to Wentworth
on 3 January, which made very clear his feeling of isolation in his castle in the
marshes. He explained how he had heard ‘much shotte this nighte’. He sent what
intelligence he had of the enemy and begged for more supplies ; ‘and suerlie if
i had bene better appointed with horsemen and footmen i would have trusted
with the help of this gentleman that is with me to have bene the deaths of manye
more’.39 He received no answer to this plea, as the letter was intercepted by the
French and never reached the deputy, nor to a later one sent to the spanish. no
doubt feeling abandoned to their fate, under cover of darkness, lord Dudley
and his men slipped away through the marshes to the safety of saint-omer.40 in
less than three weeks the whole Pale had fallen into French hands.
Tis astonishing news was greeted with jubilation in Paris and the deepest
gloom in England. Henry Machyn recorded in his diary :
Te x day of January heavy news came to England and to london, that the
French had won Cales the whyche was the heviest tydyngs to london and
to England that ever was hard of for lyke a traytor yt was sold and delivered
unto them the [blank] day of January.41
Te spanish ambassador reported that that the English even refused to go to
Mass afer hearing the news.42
Te French found to their delight a large quantity of booty in Calais itself ;
apart from the wool and wool-fells in the staplers’ stores, almost a million gold
pieces were said to have been captured, along with 160 guns of various calibres.
Henry II made a triumphant entry into the town on 25 January, within days
of the fnal French triumph. to Guise the victory was a sign of God’s favour,
a view echoed by the choir of the royal chapel in Paris, singing Psalms includ-
ing ‘When israel came out of Egypt’ with its imagery of the sea feeing and the
37 Grey, A Commentary, 18–38.
38 Te exact size of the French army is not known, but the best estimate suggests that
there were 29,000 infantry, including about 6,000 Swiss. Te cavalry fgures might be
anything from 2,500 to 5,000, but they took little part in the fghting at either Calais or
Guisnes. Potter, ‘Te Duc de Guise’, 495.
39 Intercept quoted ibid., 493.
40 Morgan, ‘Te Government of Calais’, 268–9.
41 J. G. Nichols (ed.), Te Diary of Henry Machyn, 1550–1563 (London, 1848), 162–3.
42 Calendar of Letters, Despatches, and State Papers, Relating to the Negotiations between
England and Spain, Preserved in the Archives at Simancas and Elsewhere, xiii : Philip and
Mary, July 1554 – November 1558, ed. R. Tyler (London, 1954), 351.
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The end of the story · 169 ·
hills dancing before the might, in this instance, not only of God but also of the
armies of France.43
afer the initial euphoria had died down, the French made strenuous eforts
to protect their new conquest. Tey feared either an attack from the spanish
forces on their northern border or an attempt by the English to mount an ex-
pedition to retake their lost territories. Guise wrote to the cardinal of lorraine
at the end of January that he expected an attack before the French had the time
and the leisure to establish themselves in Calais.44 no such attack in fact ma-
terialised, despite the fact that a swif counter-stroke would have provided the
best chance of recovering the Pale. Mary’s government made some efort to put
together a feet, but it all came to nothing. Te only minor salve to English feel-
ings of humiliation by their enemy was a successful attack by English ships on
a French army attacking Gravelines in July. Tere were in fact three very small
groups of English troops still hanging on, in two fortifed churches and a small
bulwark near the border with Gravelines around oye. Tey were not fnally
moved until attacked by the new commander of Calais in august. to the relief
of the French, who had faced considerable difculties in supplying the forces
holding the Pale, as well as attempting emergency repairs on the damaged forti-
fcations, no further military response came from either England or the spanish
in the netherlands.45
Te question of the future of Calais and the Marches then became one of
the issues discussed at the negotiations for a peace between France, spain and
England that produced the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in april 1559. By this
time Mary was dead, and the English had little leverage at the peace conference,
which dealt mainly with the concerns of Philip II and Henry II. a provision
was included in the treaty that the English could regain Calais by purchase for
500,000 écus afer eight years, provided that during the whole period no act of
aggression had been committed against France. Tis was a blatant face-saving
device and did little to assuage English anger and the suspicion that treason was
the real cause of the loss of the Pale.
Was this suspicion justifed ? Tere is little evidence to support the claim ; no
individual can be identifed who benefted from the loss, who received any kind
of reward from the French. it was perhaps natural that the civilian refugees,
some of whom settled near the tower of london at st Katherine’s, others of
whom joined relations all over England and Wales (the widow of Robert ap
Reynold fnished her life living with cousins in steyning in sussex),46 should
want to blame the garrison who from their point of view had let them down
so badly. Highfeld, the gunner who bribed his way out of captivity,47 had no
doubts about the cause of the disaster :
43 Potter, ‘Te Duc de Guise’, 495.
44 Ibid., 506. Potter, 507, is of the opinion that ‘an immediate Anglo-Burgundian counter-
attack from Gravelimes would almost certainly have succeeded’.
45 Ibid., 507–11.
46 Morgan, ‘Robert ap Reynold of Oswestry’, 83.
47 Highfeld’s wife had providently collected all his money and plate together, so he was
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· 170 · Chapter 9
Te cause was not only by the weakness of the Castle and the lack of men :
but also i thought there was some treason for as i heard there were some
escaped out of the town ; and the Frenchmen told me that they had intel-
ligence of all our estate within the town.48
Te French, however, had had this information for months and had no need to
buy traitors to obtain it. Wentworth was undoubtedly very slow to act on the
information that he had and confused matters by changing his mind over the
seriousness of the situation just before the French attack. Mary’s government
was perhaps culpable in taking so little account of the accurate and alarming
information provided by Wotton, at a time when it was not too late to reinforce
the town and the Pale.
of the most important ofcers, the captains of the Risban tower and of new-
enham Bridge, who had shown little or no inclination to fght the French, were
executed. lord Grey, the hero of Guisnes, was ransomed but found it very hard
to raise the necessary sum, eventually being helped by a loan (not a grant) from
Elizabeth. He complained in 1560 that this debt and others he had incurred lef
him and his family ‘utterly undone for ever’. He was soon once more in royal
service on the scottish borders and was appointed governor of Berwick.49
Wentworth was indicted for treason by Mary’s government, and put on trial
by Elizabeth afer his return from captivity in 1559. He was acquitted for lack
of evidence and largely retired from public life thereafer. Edward Grimston,
who had also gone into captivity with Wentworth, managed to escape from the
Bastille in Paris by sawing through the bars of his cell window with a fle smug-
gled in by the English ambassador. He avoided detection in Paris by claiming
to be a scot. When he fnally got back to England in December 1559, he too
was put on trial but was comforted by the knowledge that the queen had ‘fully
resolved to pardon’ him. He was in fact acquitted. He later also served in scot-
land, and then settled down to the life of a country gentleman in sufolk.50
Was Calais then soon forgotten by the English despite the trauma of its loss ?
Te provisions of the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis were abrogated by an English
attack on le Havre in 1560 in league with Huguenots. nevertheless, from time
to time, the recovery of the town was occasionally seen by the English as both
possible and desirable. a list was drawn up early in Elizabeth’s reign of all those
still remaining in the Pale who might assist an invading force. it was not very im-
pressive. about thirty named individuals are included, both men and women,
but most seem to be of fairly lowly status, for instance at ‘ark [arques] an odd
fellow called mounsieur de Prye ; sure’ or at Hammes ‘one Haines that hath in
farme all the fshing in the pooles from Hammes to ard [ardres]’. Te inform-
able to ofer Monsieur d’Estrées a bag containing 350 crowns. Highfeld was in fact jailed
by the Spanish in Bruges.
48 An English Garner, iv : 200–201.
49 Julian Lock, ‘Grey, William, thirteenth baron Grey of Wilton’, ODNB.
50 Barry Denton, ‘ Wentworth, Tomas second Baron Wentworth’, and C. S. L. Davies,
‘Grimston, Edward’, ODNB.
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The end of the story · 171 ·
ant, however, insisted that ‘yf there be anie hollow-harted amongst them they
all will hate him lyke a toade’.51 in 1568 the marquess of Winchester suggested
that ‘many years experience hath shown him how necessary the possession of
Calais is to England for defence of the coast between Dover and Portsmouth’,52
but the queen was not inclined to do more than negotiate in a rather desultory
way with the French, when opportunity ofered, for the return of the Pale. Te
opinion of the seventeenth-century historian Fuller—‘now it [Calais] is gone,
let it go. it was but a beggarly town’—perhaps refected what was the general
view in England by that time.53 Te staplers, who had of course sufered the
biggest losses of any group excluded from the town, might not have agreed with
this verdict, but it was clear that the English had lost the desire to recover the
town now part of the proudly-named French Pays reconquis.
51 A transcription of BL Harley MS 282, fol. 154, is included in Nichols, Te Chronicle of
Calais, pp. xxx–xxxii.
52 R. Lemon (ed.), Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reigns of Edward VI,
Mary, Elizabeth, 1547[–1603], Preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty’s
Public Record Ofce, i : 1547–1580 (London, 1856), 307.
53 T. Fuller, Church History of Britain, ii : 428, quoted in Morgan, ‘Te Government of Ca-
lais’, 280.
Calais.indb 171 27.5.2008 15:09:01
· 172 ·
ConClusi on

E
dward 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 lef was a vague
remembrance that the town had once been an English possession. More recent
historians, indeed, ofen 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 fnance the garrison and defend the Pale. Geofrey Elton remarked
that ‘Calais—expensive and useless—was better lost than kept’, although he ac-
knowledged that neither Mary nor the nation saw it that way.1 Conrad Russell
saw it as a fnancial burden, which was also frequently a base for political disaf-
fection. in his view, even keeping the garrison in food was ‘not a practical propo-
sition for a small power in a time of infation’. its loss was fnancially ‘a blessing
but it was also a national humiliation.’2 Elizabeth was bound to demand its
return at Cateau-Cambrésis, but this was something of a face-saving measure.
in norman Jones’s view it was doubtful whether the ‘English government ex-
pected ever to get the territory back’.3 in much the same spirit, neither of the
two most prominent tudor naval historians thinks it worthwhile to speculate
what might have been the efect on the armada campaign if Calais, the scene
of the famous fre-ship incident, had been in English rather than French posses-
sion at that juncture. nicholas Rodgers merely remarks on Calais roads as ‘open
and dangerous’,4 while David loades adds that the anchorage was also open to
1 G. Elton, England under the Tudors (London, 1955), 222.
2 C. Russell, Te Crisis of Parliaments : English History, 1509–1660 (Oxford, 1971), 26–7,
144.
3 N. L. Jones, ‘Elizabeth’s First Year : Te Conception and Birth of the Elizabethan Politi-
cal World’, in C. Haigh (ed.), Te Reign of Elizabeth I (Basingstoke, 1984), 41.
4 N. A. M. Rodger, Te Safeguard of the Sea : A Naval History of Britain, i : 660–1649 (Lon-
don, 1997), 269.
Calais.indb 172 27.5.2008 15:09:01
Conclusion · 173 ·
English attack, even if supplies for the spanish could have been obtained from
the French governor of the port.5
is there some justice in these views, with their underlying assumption that
all rulers between 1347 and 1558 were in fact wasting money on a useless, even
if prestigious, English possession across the straits of Dover ? i would answer
this question with a resounding ‘no’. First of all, although there were frequent
fnancial crises during the years of English rule, these were due more to the rigid
nature of medieval royal fnance, especially in the frst years of its possession
by England, than to an absolute inability on the part of the Crown to aford
the ‘luxury’ of maintaining the town, the Pale and the garrison. Te system set
up under the act of Retainer in the last third of the ffeenth century worked
remarkably well and eventually broke down because of the king’s diverting the
funds generated by this arrangement elsewhere. From the 1530s Henry VIII, and
to a lesser degree Edward VI, maintained the funding for the garrison at a satis-
factory level and were able to spend quite generously on updating the fortifca-
tions, while also incurring heavy military expenditure elsewhere.
Tere is perhaps more room to doubt whether the town was ever much use
as point of entry to France for English armies. For this purpose it was situated
too far north and too far from the centre of the French kingdom. Ports on the
norman coast were much better placed for this purpose. Te most efective
campaigns mounted by English kings on the far side of the Channel began with
their armies landing in this region, not at Calais. Te town was, however, in-
valuable as a diplomatic ‘listening post’, with opportunities for gathering infor-
mation from and making contacts with the ofcial and unofcial travellers who
used it as a staging post, not only on voyages across the Channel but between
France and the imperial lands to the north. turpin’s Chronicle, which lists all
the notable travellers passing through the town between 1492 and 1540, permits
an appreciation of this aspect of the life of Calais. Te years 1533 and 1534, for
example, record the passage through the port on both their outward and their
return journeys of the duke of norfolk and his party ‘to goo to the pope or to
the frenche kynge or to bothe’, the return to England of the duke of Richmond,
and the passage to and from the court of Henry VIII of ‘ser Philipe de shaboot
high admiral of Frunce’ and his companions.6 Te Venetian envoy, writing in
1557, may have made a mistake when assessing the strength of Calais’s fortifca-
tions, but he was right to some extent when he said that its possession prevented
the English, ‘being on an island’, from being ‘shut out from the commerce and
intercourse of the world’.7
Te town’s importance as the site of the wool staple was only one aspect of
the economic value of the town to England. its loss fnally brought the export
trade in raw wool to an end as a signifcant part of English overseas trade. Te
Company of the staple itself never recovered from the loss of its base and its
5 Loades, Te Tudor Navy, 251.
6 Te Chronicle of Calais, 44–5.
7 Calendar of State Papers, Venetian, 1556–7, 1050.
Calais.indb 173 27.5.2008 15:09:01
· 174 · Conclusion
enforced move to Bruges. it can be argued, however, that this was as much due
to the general changes in trading conditions and practices in sixteenth-century
Europe, which made a staple system no longer appropriate as a way of manag-
ing trade, as the loss of Calais. Before the export trade in raw wool declined to
negligible proportions, individual merchants, the Crown and ultimately the
realm as a whole had benefted from the trade and the prosperity it brought.
it is also the case, as the Johnson letters demonstrate, that staple merchants
were prepared to trade in other goods, particularly wine and all manner of
things from the netherlands. Tere is at least the possibility that, if Calais had
remained in English hands, this general trade would have gradually taken over
from the business of the staple, with the town becoming a trading centre for the
region, perhaps as a rival to antwerp. Fuller was able to dismiss Calais as a beg-
garly town because, by the time he wrote, entrepreneurs’ attention was directed
to the indies and the americas. in 1558 this development lay in the future, and
perhaps it could not have been anticipated in view of spanish domination of the
atlantic at that time.
Te loss of the town and the Pale undoubtedly caused a loss of English pres-
tige, especially as a military power. Tere would, in fact, be no further really suc-
cessful British military interventions on the continent until the late seventeenth
century and the career of the duke of Marlborough. Te loss of this ‘principal
treasure’ of the realm of England perhaps did compel the English to turn their
attention, with much greater force, away from the lands across the straits of
Dover towards the atlantic and eventually the americas and india. Te future
of England and ultimately the British realm lay in sea power and overseas em-
pire, not in close and direct involvement in the tangled politics of the northern
states of continental Europe.
Calais.indb 174 27.5.2008 15:09:01
· 175 ·
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i nDEX
Aa river 7, 65, 101, 163
Abbeville 13, 14, 64, 143
Agincourt, battle of 56
Aiguillon, siege of 10, 14
Anne of Bohemia, queen of England 54
Antwerp 130, 147, 151
Aquitaine, duchy of 3, 37
Ardres 8, 35, 36, 37, 54, 68, 122, 133, 135,
153, 157, 159, 161
Arras 71
Congress of 56, 61–2
Artevelde, Jan van 9
artillery, Burgundian 64–5
Audricq 37
Avesbury, Robert, chronicler 5
Aymery of Pavia 24, 31
Bale, John, chronicle of 82–3
Balinghem 56, 65, 68
Barnet, battle of 91
Baynham, Margaret 147, 148–9
Beauchamp, Richard, earl of Warwick 60
Beauchamp, Roger de 60
Beaufort, Cardinal 56, 61
Beaufort, Edmund, duke of Somer-
set 76–80
Beaufort, Henry, duke of Somerset 84,
86, 88
Beaufort, John, earl of Somerset 60
Beaulo, Enguerrand de 11
Bedford, John, duke of 60, 61, 62
Berners, Lord 142
Betson, Tomas 108
Beurle, John de 60
Bisele, Henry 45
Black Prince ; see Edward, Prince of Wales
Blore Heath, battle of 83
Botolph, Gregory 132
Boulogne 8–9, 10, 69, 85, 93, 125, 153, 154,
158, 160, 162, 166
Brétigny, Treaty of 26, 29, 37, 135
Brindholme, Edmund 132
Broke, Tomas, MP 129, 132–3, 143
Bruce, Robert, king of Scotland 3
Bruges 15, 40, 42, 43, 64, 68, 70, 104, 108,
111, 147, 166, 173
Brut, Te 55, 67, 68, 70, 71, 77
Buckland, Richard, Treasurer of Calais 60,
96
bullion 43, 46
bullionism 51, 96
Bullion Ordinance 96–7, 102
Calais, passim
Act of 1536 127–8
almshouses in 140
artillery in 116, 155–6
books and learning in 142–3
booty taken at 168
borders of and landholdings 24–5, 26,
135–40
Carmelites in 25, 130–31
communications with 110, 149
fnance 56–8, 60–61, 73–4, 80, 86–7,
115, 126, 155
diet at 109, 135
disputes among merchants 107
fshing and fowling 141–2
fooding as a defence 124–5, 162–4
fortifcations of 73, 116–21, 154
foundation of 7–9
garrison of 32–3, 34–5, 61, 74, 87–8,
125–6, 127
governance of 29–30, 45, 47, 127
harbour works 120–21
horse trade in 93, 109
Mint 52, 57, 96–7
MPs for 128–9
music in 105–6
as a naval base 81–3
Our Lady’s Church ; see St Mary’s Church
plans of 134
Calais.indb 183 27.5.2008 15:09:02
· 184 · Index
Calais (cont.)
records of 113, 115
reformation in 129–133
refugees from 169
regulations for the watch in 140–41
St Mary’s Church 70, 88, 108, 129, 132,
139, 140
St Nicholas’s Church 55, 108, 129, 131,
140
trade of 49, 142
treatment of French refugees from 25
victualing of 27–29, 162
workforce in 118
Calvyle, Hugh de 60
Camoys, Lord 68
Castillon, battle of 78
Cateau-Cambrésis, Treaty of 169. 170
Cave, Anthony 146, 147, 149, 150
Cecil, William 156, 157
Cely, George 101, 102–10
Cely, Richard, junior 107, 109–10
Cely, William 53, 99, 101, 103–4, 106
109–10
Cely family, letters 99–100
Charles IV of France 2
Charles VI of France 54, 59
Charles VII of France 59, 61, 62 71, 77
Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy 87–8
Charles, duke of Orleans 56
Charny, Geofrey de 31
Chiriton, Walter 33, 44
Clarence, George, duke of 88–9, 108
Cloth of Gold, feld of 133, 135
Cobham, Lord 113
coinage 102–3
Company of the Staple 86, 98–9, 104, 139,
143–6, 173 ; see also Staple Company ;
Staplers
ordinance book 100
regulations 100–101
Compèigne 160, 161
Coulognes 31
Cowswade 153–4
Cranmer, Tomas, archbishop of Canter-
bury 129–32
Crécy, battle of 1
Cromwell, Ralph, Lord, Treasurer of
England 60
Cromwell, Tomas 113, 122, 124, 126, 129,
130–32
Curteys, William, abbot of Bury St Ed-
munds 63
Dagworthy, Sir Tomas 15
Damplyp, Adam (George Bucker) 131, 140,
150
Dartmouth 85, 89
David II of Scotland 15
De Re Militari 142
Denisot, Nicholas 158–9
Dieppe 9, 14, 62, 86
Dillon, H. A. 139
Dinham, John 85, 90
Dordrecht 42, 73
Dover 56, 110, 150, 171
Dudley, Edward, Lord 158, 168
Dudley, Henry Sutton 158
Dunkirk 69
Duras, Lord 89
Edward III of England 1, 31 32
relations with France 2–4, 9
and Crécy campaign 5–6
and siege of Calais 11–13
and burghers of Calais 19–21
Edward IV of England 87, 92, 95, 115
Edward VI of England 150, 156
Edward, Prince of Wales 31, 36, 78
Elizabeth I of England 45
Exeter, duke of 85
Fauconberg, bastard of 89
Fauconberg, Lord 84, 85, 88, 90
Findern, Sir Tomas 77
Fishmongers’ Company 44, 46
FitzWilliam, Sir William 126–7, 129
Flynderon, Sir Tomas 137
Foxe, John 165
Francis I of France 153
Fréthun 139
Froissart, Jean, chronicler 1, 5–6, 12 19, 25,
31, 142
Gaunt, John of 34
Geofrey le Baker, chronicler 11, 19, 21
Ghent 3, 15, 40 42, 63, 68, 70, 71, 92, 111
Gilles li Muisit, chronicler 16
Glapthorn Manor 146, 150, 151
Gloucester, Humphrey, duke of 58, 60–63,
69, 73, 74
Good Parliament ; see parliaments
Gravelines 12, 16, 65, 68, 101, 121, 157, 161,
161, 163, 165, 166, 169
Grey, Lord, of Wilton 161, 162, 166, 170
Grimston, Sir Edward 158, 170
Grocers’ Company 46, 144
Calais.indb 184 27.5.2008 15:09:02
Index · 185 ·
Grufydd, Elis, chronicler 125, 128, 131, 132,
142
Guisnes 18, 35, 49, 56, 65, 68–9, 70, 74, 84,
85, 86, 133, 135, 153, 156, 161, 167
fortifcations of 122, 124
river 139
siege of 165–8
Halidon Hill, battle of 3
Ham, Pierre de 11
Hammes 35, 36, 86, 113, 116, 156, 158, 161,
165, 166, 169, 170
river 66, 73, 139, 162
Hanseatic feet 82
Hanseatic league 98
Hardi, Colin 14
Harfeur 62
Harlem 147
Hastings, William, Lord 91–2
Henry III of England 2
Henry IV of England 57, 58–9
Henry V of England 56, 59 60
Henry VI of England 56, 60, 66, 73, 76–8
Henry VII of England 113, 115, 116, 118–19
Henry VIII of England 113, 119, 120, 124,
129, 133, 153, 173
Henry II of France 156, 158, 159, 169
Henry, duke of Lancaster 37
herring 149
Hesdin 161
Highfeld, John 162 163–4, 169–70
Hoore, Doctor 131
Horton, Nicholas 68
Husee, John 121–2, 130
indentures of service 90
Isabel of Portugal, duchess of Burgundy 69
Isabella of France, wife of Richard II 54–5
Isabella, regent of England 2, 3
Jacqueline of Hainault 60
James I of Scotland 60
Jean le Bel, chronicler 12, 17–18, 19
John II of France 36
Johnson family :
and religion 150–51
origins of 146
bankruptcy of 152
Johnson, John 146–9, 151
Johnson, Otwell 147, 149, 151–2, 154
Johnson, Richard 149, 150, 151
Knighton, Henry, chronicler 17
La Roche-Derrien 15
Lambert, William 119
Lancaster, earl of 14
Le Crotoy 10
Le Havre 170
Leiden 147
Libelle of Englyshe Polycye 112, 142, 152
Lisle, Lady 139, 143
Lisle, Lord 113, 121–2, 126, 130–32, 143
London, Chronicle of 61, 62
Lopez, John de 103
Louis IX of France 2
Louis XI of France 87–8, 89, 93, 153
Ludford Bridge, battle of 83, 88
Ludlow 83
Lynn 151
Male, Louis de 16
Maltravers, Lord 133, 153
Manny (Mauny), Sir Walter 19–20, 36
March, earl of 84, 85, 86 ; see also Edward IV
Marck 31, 35, 56, 65, 68, 69, 163
Margaret of Anjou, queen of England 76,
83, 86, 89
Margaret of York, sister of Edward IV 87–8
marts in Flanders 102, 104, 105, 147
Mary I of England 157, 161, 163, 166
Maximilian of Habsburg 111
Mercers’ Company 144
Michele, Giovanni 112, 159
Midddelburg 42, 47–8
Middelham 83
Minstrelsey, William 131
Monstrelet, Enguerrand de, chronicler 70
Montgomery, John de 29
Montreuil 135
Mortain, count of 67
Mortimer, Roger 3
Mundford, Osbert 91
Neville, Richard, earl of Warwick 78–89,
90–91
Neville, Isabel, duchess of Clarence 88–9,
108
Neville’s Cross, battle of 15
Newenham Bridge 65–6, 73, 85, 118,
119–20, 154, 156, 161, 164, 170
Northampton, peace of 3
Ostend 69
Oxford, earl of 92
Oye 31, 35, 56, 65, 68, 69, 74, 154, 169
Calais.indb 185 27.5.2008 15:09:02
· 186 · Index
parliaments :
of 1346 13
of 1351 28
of October 1362 43–4
of October 1363 44–5
of November 1376 (‘Good Parliament’)
46–7
of 1382 48
of November 1390 48
of 1435 63–4
of 1442 98
of 1453 78
at Coventry, November 1459 84
of 1463 99
Partition Ordinance 97–8
Paston, Edmund 92–3
Paston, John I 86, 91
Paston, Sir John (John Paston II) 91–3
Paston, John III 92–3
Pepling 130
Petit, Tomas 155
Philip VI of Valois and France 3, 6, 25
Philip II of Spain 157, 160, 163, 169
Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy 59,
61–3, 67–72
and defence of Calais 13–14, 17–19
Philippa of Hainault, queen of England 20,
24, 25
Philpot, Clement 132
Pinkie, battle of 161, 166
Piquigny, Treaty of 93
Pirton, William 74
Poitiers, battle of 36
Pole, Cardinal 132
Ponthieu 2, 10
Portsmouth 171
Prince’s Inn 146
Prowde, John 90
Radclife, Sir John 64, 66–7
records and sources 4–5, 134–5
fnancial and tax 33–4
Retainer, Act of 86, 95, 99, 111, 115, 126,
146, 173
Reynold, Robert ap 128
Ribemont, Eustache de 31
Richard II of England 54–5
Richard, duke of York 76–86
Richardson, William 131, 132
Risban and Tower 7, 12, 18, 35, 70, 73, 86,
156, 161–4, 170
Rivers, Lord 85
Rivers, Sir Anthony 85
Rodin, Auguste 20
Rosse, William 156
Rouen 77
Ryngeley, Sir Edward 121
Saint-Pierre, Eustache de 20, 25, 26, 30
Saint-Omer 7, 8–9, 16–17, 36, 37, 59, 64,
65, 108, 143, 151, 168
chronicle of 19, 21
staple at 40
Saint-Quentin, battle of 160
Saint-Vaast-la-Hogue 4, 11, 36
Saint-Valéry 10
Salisbury, earl of 78, 83, 84, 85
Salvayn, Roger, Treasurer of Calais 59
Sandwich 29, 31, 67, 81, 83, 85, 88
Sangatte 18, 19, 35, 56, 68, 91, 162
Saunders, Sabine 146
Saxby, William 147
Scales Clif (Escalles) 84, 121, 124
Sénarpont, Jean de 160
ships :
George Bonaventure 149
Gracedieu 84
Mary Pitie 148
Plenty of Hook 27
Seynt Barbara of Dordrecht 81
Trinity 88, 89
Tryntye of Hull 148
Sluys 69
battle of 3,9,14, 21
Smith, Philip 130
Smith, William 132
Southampton 43, 81, 89
Southwick, Henry 148, 151
St Albans, frst battle of 78, 80
Staford, Humphrey, duke of Bucking-
ham 74, 76
Staple Company 40, 44, 49 ; see also Com-
pany of the Staple
records 41, 43
ordinances 50–52
Staple Hall 51, 103, 108, 146
Staple Inn 139
staple system 39–40
location of wool staple 46, 48
Staplers 115
loans to the Crown 78, 80–81, 86
support for Warwick 84–5
Stourton, Lord 77
Stucley, Tomas 156–7
Swynbourne, William, captain of Marck 59
Calais.indb 186 27.5.2008 15:09:02
Index · 187 ·
Tamworth, Nicholas de 60
Tate family 147
Tewkesbury, battle of 90
Térouanne 119
Torpe, John 165
Twaytes, Sir Tomas, Treasurer of Calais
114, 142
Tour de Guet 116
Tournai 119
Towton, battle of 86
trade, policy on 42
Trollope, Sir Andrew 83, 88
Troyes, Treaty of 59, 62
Turpin, Richard, chronicler 132–3
Usk, Nicholas, Treasurer of Calais 58
Vienne, Jean de 11, 18, 19
Villeneuve-le-Hardi 12
Wakefeld, battle of 86
Wallop, Sir John 128
Walsingham, Tomas, chronicler 23
Warbeck, Perkin, pretender 114, 119, 142
Warwick, earl of ; see Neville, Richard
Waurin, Jean de, chronicler 71
Wells, Lord 70, 77
Wentworth, Tomas Lord Wentworth
161–4, 170
Wesenham, John de 28–9, 33, 35, 44, 45
Whetehill, Adrian 114
Whetehill, Richard 90
Whetehill, Robert 139
Whittingham, Robert, Treasurer of Calais
64
Whittington, Richard 58
Winchester, Marquess of 171
Wingfeld, Sir Robert 124
Wissant 9, 10
Wolsey, Cardinal 119, 144
Woodhouse Sir William 163, 166
Woodstock, Tomas of, duke of Gloucester
55
Woodville, Elizabeth, queen of England 88
Woodville, Sir Richard 63
wool exports 98–9
wool trade 47–8, 96–8, 100–103, 143–6,
147–8, 173–4
fnancial aspects 101–2, 104–5
Woolwich 110
Worms, Diet of 150
Wotton, Dr Nicholas 157–9, 170
Wroth, John 44
Ypres 15, 40, 42, 147
Zierikzee, battle of 9
Calais.indb 187 27.5.2008 15:09:02
Calais.indb 188 27.5.2008 15:09:02

Calais an English Town in France 1347–1558
Calais was of huge strategic and financial significance to England in the middle ages and beyond, yet it has not received the attention it deserves. Here, in the first fulllength examination of Calais under English governance, both the political and military importance of the town, and its role as the centre of the prime export trade of medieval England, that in raw wool, are examined. Chronicle sources are carefully exploited to provide narratives of the major events in the town’s history, its capture by Edward III, the Burgundian siege of 1436 and its loss to the French in 1558, while thematic chapters survey the finances and organisation of the garrison and its role in English politics in the fifteenth century. There is also full consideration of the economic function of the wool staple and the lives of English wool merchants, using both the Cely and the Johnson collections of contemporary letters and papers.

Calais an English Town in France 1347–1558

Susan Rose

T HE B OY DE L L PR E S S

Suffolk IP12 3DF. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied. adapted.com A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library This publication is printed on acid-free paper Designed and typeset in Garamond Premier by The Stingray Office. NY 14620. Rochester. Woodbridge. performed in public. without the prior permission of the copyright owner The right of Susan Rose to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright.boydellandbrewer. Designs and Patents Act 1988 First published 2008 The Boydell Press. Chorlton-cum-Hardy. transmitted. USA website: www. UK and of Boydell & Brewer Inc. Manchester Printed in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe Ltd.© Susan Rose 2008 All rights reserved. recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means. 668 Mt Hope Avenue. broadcast. Chippenham. stored in a retrieval system. Woodbridge ISBN 978 1 84383 401 4 The Boydell Press is an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9. Wiltshire . published.

Henry VIII and the Reformation 8 The town and trade: the later fortunes of the Company of the staple and of the Johnson partnership 9 The end of the story: the loss of Calais to the French Conclusion Bibliography Index vii viii ix 1 7 23 39 54 73 95 112 134 153 172 175 183 . lancastrians and the earl of Warwick 6 The heyday of the Company of the staple: merchants and their lives 7 Religious and political change: Henry VII. the collapse of the anglo-Burgundian alliance and the resurgence of France 5 Calais as a base for political intrigue: Yorkists.ContEnts List of illustrations Abbreviations Preface introduction: England and France in the mid fourteenth century 1 The siege and capture of the town: Edward III and the burghers of Calais 2 a new ruler and a new regime: the town and the garrison in the early years of English rule 3 setting up the staple: a new role for Calais 4 triumph and disaster: Henry V.

Katherine and sadie .For Rona. Hannah.

l i s t o F i l lu s t R at i o n s Map of Calais and the Pale in the mid sixteenth century Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6 Figure 7 Figure 8 Fort nieulay on the site of newenham Bridge The day watch-tower Guisnes and the Castle sixteenth-century view of Calais from the sea View of modern Calais from the sea Drawing of Calais harbour and the buildings outside the walls Exports of raw wool through the port of london. Michaelmas 1529 – Michaelmas 1543 The siege of Calais. 1558 x 67 117 123 136 137 138 145 165 Disclaimer: Some images in the printed version of this book are not available for inclusion in the eBook. . To view these images please refer to the printed version of this book.

1981) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography The national archives. M.a B B R EV i at i o n s Bl CCR CPR EHR LL ODNB tna British library Calendar of Close Rolls Calendar of Patent Rolls The English Historical Review Lisle Letters. ed. st Clare Byrne (Chicago. Kew .

both in formal sessions and during the enjoyable dinners and outings which have always been a feature of these gatherings. who have nobly put up with my interest in Calais. and in the case of my husband accompanied me on a visit to the town and the Pale. This applies particularly to Dr David Grummitt and Professor Morgan. 2007 . Finally my thanks are due to my family. Thanks are also due to the staff and librarians at the national archives and the British library who do so much to smooth the path of any historian and writer.P R E Fa C E t his idea for this book was first conceived some time ago. i am also very grateful to Clifford Rogers for allowing me to use his unpublished transcription and translation of the saint-omer Chronicle (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Paris. but in the interim i have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to discuss and mull over some of the interpretations put forward at the Fifteenth Century conferences. 693). i am of course responsible for any errors in this work. it will also be clear to any reader how much i have benefited from the work of others who have been interested in the fortunes of Calais while it was in English hands. Ms fr. whose doctoral theses have helped me greatly. Highgate. but it would not have even got started without their invaluable work on the mass of material relating to Calais in the national archives. This book is dedicated to four of my granddaughters. i am deeply in their debt. i hope they will enjoy it.

.Map of Calais and the Pale showing the boundary as drawn in the survey of 1536.

·1· . This was the final important episode in the 1346 campaign of the Hundred Years’ War. Hostility between these two kingdoms in north-west Europe was no new thing. following a siege lasting just under a year. who have been serving there for pay. Brereton (Harmondsworth. 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. Froissart describes how the king called his marshals to him and puts these words into his mouth : sirs. 109–10. the clear motive behind the banishment of all its original inhabitants ? The first of these questions can be answered fairly easily. ed. all other soldiers.1 Why did a state of war exist between England and France at this time. men. Chronicles. if the king of France attempted to enforce his feudal superiority in respect of English royal-held lands within his own realm. G. take these keys of the town and castle of Calais and go and assume possession of them. and why was so much time and effort expended on the siege of this town ? Why did Edward intend to hold it as an English possession. this would be barely acceptable to someone who in his kingly role saw himself as the equal of any 1 Froissart. 1968).intRoDuCtion: EnGlanD anD FRanCE in tHE MiD F o u Rt E E n t H C E n t u RY  A fter Edward III of England had taken the town of Calais. The fact that a vassal of the king of France (the duke of normandy) was a king in his own right across the Channel could not but lead to friction. some historians have been inclined to see it as a consequence of the norman Conquest of England. the campaign that included the crushing French defeat at Crécy and also English successes in Brittany and Gascony. for i wish to repopulate Calais with pure-blooded English. are to leave the place just as they are and so is everyone else in the town. women and children.

The quarrel became not an arcane dispute over legal rights or even a personal vendetta or power struggle. as the nephew of the late king. low-level warfare on the borders of the duchy and disputes over the jurisdiction of both French royal law courts and English ducal courts could lead to more serious conflict. He was. The death of Charles IV of France in 1328 leaving no legitimate male heirs of his body placed Edward III of England in a potentially interesting position. and to the dismay of his wife the posthumous child she bore shortly after his death was also a daughter. has a full discussion of the historiography of the Hundred Years War on pp. in 1294 and 1324. Edward was the closest living male relation. Edward I’s acquisition of the county of Ponthieu in northern France in right of his wife Eleanor of Castile served to aggravate the possibilities of conflict. soldiers or those miserably faced with the destruction of their homes and livelihood. The wars that resulted did little to settle the underlying problems. after the accession of Henry II and his marriage to Eleanor. duchess of aquitaine. whether as taxpayers. The terms of the treaty between Henry III of England and louis IX in 1259 (the treaty of Paris) had established a new framework for relations between the two rivals. most of western France was in English hands as well as the ancestral norman lands. however. but the problem of aquitaine (from the French point of view) remained. although Gascony. which profoundly altered both the states involved. Curry.·2· Introduction monarch and particularly of any king of France. . the nature of the war and relations between the two monarchs changed. the wars took on a heroic chivalric aspect. When this did come about after 1337. twice. Bordeaux and its immediate hinterland never fell to the French at this time. their self-images and the nature of their governance. accusing both Edward I and Edward II of failing to observe their oaths to their feudal superior. however. More recently attention has to some extent turned away from great men and great events to the effects of the wars on the lesser people of both town and countryside. The persistence of Philip II augustus of France and the incompetence of John of England led to the loss of the greater portion of these territories. 5–27. in the hands of contemporary chroniclers from both sides. The degree of friction and its propensity to lead to open warfare varied with the relative strengths and also the personalities of the rulers of France and England. The Hundred Years War (Basingstoke. but a long-running and at times bitterly fought war. and his position as king in England was compromised by the activities of his mother and her lover Roger 2 A. the French king confiscated the English counties.2 Here we are concerned with the political and military situation in the immediate prologue to the campaign of 1346 and its culmination. English kings continued to be nominal vassals of the French monarch. 2003). and no-one at the time would have been surprised at the renewal of hostilities in the future. This ensured that as dukes of aquitaine. the child of his sister isabella. only sixteen years old. the siege of Calais. Charles had left one living daughter. Writers in the seventeenth century and later tended to see events from a more nationalistic stance.

3 By 1337 the situation was different. saw their alliance with scotland as a useful way of putting pressure on Edward. The so-called ‘shameful’ peace of northampton in 1328 not only recognised Robert Bruce as rightful ruler of scotland but did nothing to hinder the continuance of the alliance between scotland and France. The land campaign.Introduction ·3· Mortimer . Edward III had forcefully asserted himself against the malign influence of his mother and had been king in fact as well as name since 1330. at a ceremony held in Ghent in early 1340. at first not a great deal was made of this claim. which seemed unfavourable to English interests. was the rightful king of France. Edward openly assumed the title of king of France. . He was less likely to fight in France. It was not so clear that a female could not transmit the right to the throne to a male descendant. Edward. ostensibly in reaction to Philip’s confiscation of his duchy. The English victory at Halidon Hill in 1333 wiped out the memory of their defeat at Bannockburn and also demonstrated the effectiveness of English archers against a charging army. a crushing naval victory at sluys in June of the same year over the French and their allies the Genoese seemed to herald real advances for the English cause. concluded in 1327. soon 3 E. 75. while the major towns of Flanders pledged loyalty to him in this role. and the accession of Philip of Valois. Edward was able to restore some of the military prestige of the English Crown when scotland once more sank into political turmoil after the death of Bruce. He had also acted to secure the friendship of Flemish towns. in october Edward made an even more important and aggressive move. Philip took the decisive step of once more announcing the confiscation of the duchy of aquitaine for a breach of feudal law. however. Few in France wished to see this ‘wicked and shameless woman’ in a position of power. was accepted happily by his future subjects. He wished both to establish his own reputation as a powerful monarch and warrior and also to undo the effects of the treaties concluded by isabella and Mortimer with both scotland and France. The Salic law of succession in France was usually held to forbid the succession of a female ruler. while Edward was spending large sums of money trying to buy support against France from the princes of the Empire holding land on her northern frontiers. a document giving authority to ambassadors to negotiate on his behalf included the statement that he. a first cousin of Charles IV. Perroy. The treaty with France. in May. this pair had deposed Edward’s father and still largely controlled the young king. The French. had not led to the restoration of lands lost by the English in 1324–5 but did ensure that Edward III was required to perform homage for the remaining territories. but. The Hundred Years War (London. not Philip. however. on the ground. if French support was threatened for scots incursions on his northern frontier. dues and other sources of income. By 1337 the tensions between Philip VI and Edward III had worsened. the local agents of the French crown also did all they could to infringe on or ignore English rights and similarly to advance French claims to lands. 1962). which depended on English wool for their vital textile industry.

writing of France before the Hundred Years’ War. . There are of course gaps in the records caused by the passage of time. Records that reveal the states of mind of rulers or the basis 4 A full account of these events can be found in M. in contrast. and strenuous diplomatic initiatives were also undertaken by the papacy in an endeavour to bring peace. equally matched. one-third of that estimated for France. The papacy had been based at avignon in Provence since 1305.4 His acute financial difficulties did not force Edward to abandon all thought of war with France. The Crown had been involved in warfare either overseas or against Wales and scotland for much of the preceding fifty years or so. it is against this background that we must place the decision of Edward himself to lead an expedition to France in the summer of 1346. and while the papal lands were not part of France itself. neither side was prepared to back down.5 England. he also had a potentially much more flexible and effective system for tapping the wealth of the community than that available to the ostensibly richer king of France. until the failure of the Capet male line. The two states that had already been in a state of war for nearly ten years were not. England in the Later Middle Ages (London. the king had at his disposal trained and experienced military men and commanders. quantities of administrative and financial sources survive. may have reached about four million. described the country as enjoying ‘a state of material prosperity that had not been appreciated until it was lost’. Life in Medieval France (London. Evans. For both realms. 135. Disputes between the Crown and its most powerful subjects had also been relatively frequent. on the face of it. Flanders and Gascony. the lack of suitable storage. had a population that. 122–35. much wealthier and of much greater significance in European affairs than England. The situation was further complicated by a succession dispute in Brittany that became entangled in the major conflict. with lack of funds leading to discontent among his Flemish allies and desertions from his own forces. the capital and by far the most populous city in the west. Joan Evans. on the other hand. many felt that the popes were unduly influenced by the French crown. although truces interrupted the fighting.·4· Introduction became bogged down. according to the highest estimate. it contained many large and wealthy towns as well as Paris. The French kingdom was much more populous. in 1345 armies under the command of English noblemen and with a mixture of English and local troops were at large in Brittany. particularly in France at the time of the Revolution. Keen. or deliberate destruction. 5 J. H. Despite the need to consult his subjects by means of Parliament. 1983). an expedition that reached the norman coast on 12 July at the small port of saintVaast-la-Hogue on the Cotentin peninsula. There was ‘modest comfort among the poor’ and ‘magnificence among the rich’. 1925). while the memory of the deposition of Edward II by his wife and her lover was still fresh in the 1340s. France had also enjoyed long years of peace with few foreign adventures or serious internal disputes.

7 Froissart provides a much fuller description of the battle. and the safe crossing of the bulk of the English army was not a foregone conclusion. 10. wished avidly to manoeuvre Philip into offering battle. Was his destination intended to be Gascony. like the way the blind king of Bohemia insisted on 6 The question of the various interpretations of Edward’s strategic goals is discussed at length in C. There is for example little agreement on Edward III’s intentions as he sailed from Portsmouth in company with some six hundred other vessels that July morning in 1346. the son of Philip VI. J. but it is hard to know if this is anything other than inspired speculation or wisdom gained after the event. that he ‘could not plan a campaign’. War Cruel and Sharp : English Strategy under Edward iii.Introduction ·5· on which they took decisions are much harder to come by than accounts. forcing the king to land in normandy instead ? or had he always planned to make this his landfall ? once ashore. Thompson (London. on the contrary. pp. to hold the passage’. even if it caused much destruction. chap. 7 R. ed. was punctuated by encounters that could easily have gone heavily against Edward’s men. ‘from what i have heard his [the king’s] purpose is to besiege Calais’. similarly. what was the overall aim of the whole expedition ? What aims motivated his strategy ? Clifford Rogers has looked closely at these issues. 2000). Here the English prevailed with few casualties. M. The march through normandy. included in avesbury’s chronicle makes clear that there was an element of a gamble in this plan if it existed. This concludes with the significant sentence. Avesbury. the French had a force of ‘five hundred men-at-arms and three thousand of the commons armed. others suggest that Edward wanted to demonstrate Philip VI’s inability to protect his own subjects from the devastation caused by the English army. when a ford across the somme was located at Blanquetache. at aiguillon ? Did a sudden shift in the wind make this impractical. one of the king’s clerks. provided that this could take place in a location of Edward’s choosing. 1889). northburgh notes that at Poissy ‘at the re-making of the bridge there came men of arms in great numbers with the commons of the country and of amiens well armed’. 370–71. De Gestis Mirabilibus Regis Edwardi Tertii. ‘and therefore my lord the king hath sent to you [that is the government in England itself ] for victuals and that too as quickly as you can send’. muster lists and the like. avesbury himself then continues with an account of the crushing victory for Edward and his army against the feudal host of France at Crécy. under the command of the duke of normandy. ‘The invasion of 1346 : strategic options and historiography’. Rogers. E. and the remark. writs. 217–37.6 Even the restrained language of a letter of Michael of northburgh. Chroniclers may refer confidently to the reasons behind an action. and that being faced with a pitched battle formed no part of Edward’s original plan. 1327–1360 (Woodbridge. Rogers himself believes that Edward. . pointing out that some historians believe that the king had no real strategy at all. enriched by stories of notable acts of chivalry. where an English and Gascon force under the command of the earl of Derby was being besieged by the French. and that this aim makes sense of the whole campaign.

We will now turn to a description of the town itself and the siege by which it fell into English hands. Concerning the decision to lay siege to Calais. Rogers rejects both this idea and the notion that the decision to head for Calais was taken only after the victory at Crécy. 8 Froissart. as Parliament had been promised when Edward was appealing for financial aid. by luring Philip once more into battle and defeating him even more comprehensively than at Crécy.’8 The implication almost is that the town was an obstacle in their path and they had no choice but to attack it. imply that Edward had an enormous amount of confidence not only in himself but in the prowess of his army. 274–6. however. and for that reason alone the prize of the town must have been seen as highly desirable. Chronicles. Froissart only details the route taken by the English army. this would provide the final opportunity to bring the war to an end.9 This view does. 89–96. Edward had always intended to conclude the 1346 campaign with an attack on Calais . ‘they came before the fortified town of Calais. after it was all over. north along the coast until. in his view. nevertheless there is no argument about the time. money and resources that were poured into the siege of Calais by the English. perhaps. mortally wounded. . it also requires the belief that the promise to Parliament was more than a piece of necessary rhetoric. having spent a day at Wissant. War Cruel and Sharp.·6· Introduction being led by his knights into the thick of the fighting and was then found by the English. 9 Rogers.

around Calais the terrain was very marshy. was something of a problem. ‘Calais avant 1347’. He sets out the origins of the town in both places and supplies both possible meanings of ris. was laid out on a rectangular plan. especially the busy town of saint-omer. Les Hommes et la mer dans l’Europe du nord-ouest : de l’antiquité à nos jours (Villeneuve d’ Ascq.1 t H E s i E G E a n D C a P t u R E o F t H E toWn : E DWa R D i i i a n D t H E B u R G H E R s o F C a l a i s  he town of Calais might appear at first sight to be an odd choice for the expenditure of so much time. like many ‘new towns’ in the twelfth century. it was less than two hundred years old. caused largely by sand blown off the dunes. having been founded around 1165 by Matthew of alsace. while there was also a danger that a storm surge in the north sea could damage the protecting dunes and undermine the town and its defences. count of Flanders. count of Boulogne. it had an ordered 1 Alain Derville has written on the early history of Calais in ‘Calais avant 1347 : la vie d’un port’. 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. and enough current in the river to prevent the port silting up. 21. at the mouth of the river aa. which was largely man-made. effort and money and so many men on its capture. Hoquet (eds. depending for shelter from gales in the Channel on a sandbank reinforced with faggots and marsh grass known as the Risban (the Flemish word ris means both rushes or faggots). Histoire de Calais. leading to the need to scour the ditches and dredge the harbour at regular intervals. silting up. Derville and A. Gravelines. Vion. only two small streams draining into the harbour. 1986). 1985). T ·7· . Lottin and J. Calais had no such river.). The need to keep the port clear of silt and drifted sand is mentioned in the town records. in A. 191 . had the advantage of reasonable communications by water with its hinterland.-C. Histoire de Calais (Westhoek. at much the same time as his brother Philip.1 The town itself. and in A. and travel overland was difficult in wet weather or during the winter. with a castle in the north-west corner.

The area within the walls has been calculated as between 40 and 50 hectares. P. or alternatively the calculation from the number of households to the total population may also have produced too large a figure by using too great a multiplier.3 The total probably declined markedly following the years of famine and dearth around 1315–18. a circuit of walls had been built as early as 1228. for example.). with perhaps another 4. and the town also had a double ditch into which the waters of the local streams and the sea at high tide were diverted. J. Oxford. 3 (pp.000 people living in the Pale and the villages. probably so called because of a light kept burning in its upper levels.000. 43. and it produced a reasonable income for its overlord. This gate was certainly placed so that its light would guide vessels safely along the channel from the sea into the harbour. 3 This estimate comes from Derville and Vion. an estimate of the population at any one time is hard to make. 206–8.4 The plagues after the initial visitation of the Black Death in 1348 also reduced the population. suggests that 5–10% of the populations of Bruges and Ypres died of want at this time. when a plan was made of the town for Henry VIII. to the population of Calais in Tudor times. Nichols (ed. for trade both with other French towns and further afield. At this date the population of Calais was around 4.000 all told. The chief occupation of the townspeople was fishing for herring and the associated salting and packing of the catch. came into the port. since there were no good roads. not directly 2 This plan is BL Cotton MS Augustus I ii 71.·8· Chapter 1 street pattern that seems to have changed little between the time it was laid out and the early sixteenth century. Morgan devotes chap. Camden Society. Histoire de Calais. including Guisnes. . 1846). The Chronicle of Calais in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII (London. which may be too high . 4 D. xxviii and xxix. leading inland towards saint-omer or ardres or along the coast to Boulogne. including those living in the fishermen’s shacks outside the walls and in the parish of st Peter’s. according to one estimate. but even allowing for this the difference between the two figures is large. suitable for carts. around 1300 it may have been as high as 14. ‘The Government of Calais. Quite large quantities of wine. which affected the Flanders region particularly badly.2 its history before its capture by the English is relatively well documented. seems very high given the usual population estimates for the fifteenth century of around 4. 1485–1558’ (DPhil thesis. 1992). adding on an estimate for those who were too poor to pay. between pp. This number. By the beginning of the fourteenth century it had passed to the control of the rulers of artois from that of the counts of Boulogne. 48–68) of his thesis. mainly from dues on the herring fishery and the shipping using the harbour. about half the size of saint-omer or lille. 1966). The authors suggest that the non-payers constituted 50% of the population. It is reproduced in J. and the town was evidently modestly prosperous. T. Nicholas. This was mostly by water. which has been calculated from those paying the taille in 1298. There were two quays lying outside the walls. Medieval Flanders (London. G. with entry to the town via the lantern gate. a careful analysis of the surviving town accounts from the period before 1347 seems to indicate that Calais was not closely linked to any one inland town but transhipped and distributed goods all along the coast.500.

its early rival as the port of entry for English passengers. Calais ships had been present at the battle of Zierikzee in 1305 when French forces had defeated the rebellious Guy de namur. apart from a certain Pedrogue. and was 5 Derville and Vion. perhaps because of the changing pattern of the migration of the herring shoals in the north sea. lay not in any aspect of its economy but in its situation. since it was a nest of robbers. might have weighed up the situation somewhat in this manner. indeed he might well be able to count on active support from this area. and the rulers of neighbouring imperial counties. This has led to the suggestion that Calais fishermen no longer able to make a good living from herring took to piracy in the north sea and Channel with enthusiasm. There is. Calais. however.6 Edward would face no objections from Flanders if he took the town . it was the nearest port to England with a better harbour than Wissant. and put them all to death. there are about as many mentions in English royal records of trading privileges and safe-conducts granted to Calais men as of suspected cases of robbery at sea. Ghent and Bruges. Edward III had already devoted a great deal of effort and money to attempting to build alliances with the ruling bourgeoisie of the leading Flemish towns. however unjustifiably. on the other hand. some of it intended for the small textile industry in the town or the English wool staple based at saint-omer in 1313–14 and 1320–24. There is some evidence that the herring fishing and salting industry had begun to decline from the 1320s. it was also the nearest port to Flanders. We can therefore reasonably speculate that Edward III. whether he always intended to make for Calais after the successful completion of his 1346 chevauchée or whether he decided that this was the best destination to head for only in the aftermath of his crushing victory at Crécy. ‘Calais avant 1347’. attacking both English and Flemish ships more or less at random. . and there had also been a Calais contribution to the French fleet at sluys in 1340. 207. the usual destination of the Bordeaux wine fleets. to return to the ports of normandy and the Cotentin would give the impression of a retreat. Many Flemings harboured hostile feelings for the men of Calais. These cargoes were then split up and sent on to final destinations in the surrounding region. 6 Derville.5 Thus far therefore there might seem to be very little to distinguish Calais from other ports along the northern French coast. particularly Hainault and Brabant. however.The siege and capture of the town ·9· from wine-producing areas but often via England. 39–40. Ypres. By 1346. Raw wool also came from England. Was it on this showing really so different from Boulogne or from Dieppe ? its major advantage from the English point of view. Histoire de Calais. little evidence in English records that piracy was more prevalent among Calais mariners than those based at other ports along the coasts of normandy or Picardy. a county dubiously loyal to its technical overlord the king of France and adjacent to imperial lands. had tended always to support the French king against his rebellious Flemish subjects. who was active in Edward I’s reign. tartly expressed by Jan van artevelde of Ghent in 1339 when he was recorded as swearing that he would attack Calais.

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Chapter 1

therefore out of the question. His forces had also burnt and sacked the ports from Cherbourg and Barfleur and their surrounding countryside to ouistrehan, the out-port of Caen, earlier in the campaign ; there would be now little in the way of victuals to feed his forces in these districts. He had ordered supply ships to make for le Crotoy when writing to the Council after the fall of Caen in July. This town, although in Ponthieu, notionally an English possession, was not as defensible as Calais. The king could probably embark his army there for the return voyage, but it might be more difficult to hold permanently. saintValéry across the somme would pose a threat, and it was deep within French territory compared with Calais. The town had in fact been sacked by a detachment of English troops under Hugh Despenser on 24 august before any supply ships could arrive from England and before the victory at Crécy on the 26th.7 Calais had a reasonably good port, it was near both his allies and his own realm, and, surrounded by marshy ground, it was defensible from a landward attack. The king could well argue that its capture and colonisation made good strategic sense. some historians, with Perroy as the most prominent, have maintained on the contrary that the siege of Calais was undertaken almost casually, without any real consideration of the benefits of taking the town or of the effort that would be needed to subdue it.8 There is little if any real evidence for these views. Edward in 1346 was a thoroughly experienced military commander. He had ample experience of the conduct of sieges, most notably the one that had failed at tournai in 1340, and would also have been well aware of events at aiguillon on the borders of Gascony, where troops of the earl of Derby were besieged by a large French force for months in 1345–6. There would have been no doubt in his mind about the need for all kind of supplies in large quantities if a projected siege of Calais was to be brought to a successful conclusion. on the other hand, Clifford Rogers has seen the siege as intended to be the final provocation that would stir Philip VI to confront Edward in a battle that would bring the war to an end, with an English victory triumphantly endorsing the result of Crécy.9 once Edward had made up his mind, he acted decisively and quickly. He left Crécy on 28 august, allowing only one day for the burial of the dead and the collection of booty. The army marched for the coast, reaching it at Étaples, and then went north, burning and sacking the towns and villages on their route. Étaples itself, Montreuil, Wissant and Boulogne all suffered in this way, until on 3 september 1346 Edward and his forces arrived outside the walls of Calais. some credence is given to the idea that this destination had been decided on long in advance by the fact that the bailli of Calais and his colleagues had been very nervous about the intentions of the English and the state of their defences for some time. Efforts had been made to increase the food stores in the castle and
7 J. Sumption, The Hundred Years War, i : Trial by Battle (London and Philadelphia, 1990), 525. 8 Perroy, The Hundred Years War, 119–20. 9 Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp, 274–5.

The siege and capture of the town

· 11 ·

the available munitions. The town had been using spies sent north into Flanders and to England to try to find out the intentions of their neighbours and the strength of the alliance with Edward from the outbreak of the war. in 1344 a certain Jehan Ragout was ordered to go to Rochester and then up the Thames estuary and to all nearby ports to try and find out how many ships might be available to an English invasion fleet.10 another man even took his horse with him when he was similarly sent to try and find out English intentions or ‘l’estat du paix’ in the wording of the town’s accountant Pierre de Ham. The bailli also sent messages begging for reinforcements to the town garrison to Philip VI and the marshals of France in July 1346, the first a matter of days after the landing of Edward III at saint-Vaast-la-Hogue. others followed in august as news of the movements of Edward’s army reached him. The response from the French king and the marshals was muted, but even so Pierre de Ham could reflect as he saw the English army come into view along the road from Boulogne that the town was relatively amply provisioned, the walls were in good repair with the ditches scoured of the drifting sand, and weapons for the garrison and townspeople were to hand.11 The garrison also had two experienced commanders, Jean de Vienne and Enguerrand de Beaulo. Their hope would have been that the town could easily hold out until Philip VI could mount an expedition to raise the siege and expel the English from France. The English were faced with the organisation of a military endeavour on what became an extraordinary scale. it has been called with justification ‘the largest single military operation undertaken by England till the modern period’.12 taking the town by storm was not really an option ; apart from the strength of the walls and other fortifications, the marshy ground of its environs could not support the weight of large war machines. The contemporary chronicler Geoffrey le Baker specifically mentions the lack of firm ground for catapaults and the like when explaining why the king was unwilling to make a direct assault.13 The town and its people would have to be reduced to starvation and thus forced to surrender. The town must, therefore, be properly invested to prevent its resupply, while the English forces needed to do this would themselves have to be fed and supplied in what was a bleak and inhospitable environment, especially in winter. Determination and persistence were called for, but also administrative and logistical skills of a high order. How was this achieved by the ruler of a relatively small and impecunious kingdom operating overseas with few ‘professional civil servants’ to assist him, relying mainly on the good will of the gentry and leading townspeople in England for government at home ? in this instance the siege aroused great interest not only in England and France but also in other European states, so there are many chronicle accounts of major incidents. There
10 F. Lennel, Histoire de Calais, i (Calais, 1908), 85. 11 J.-M. Richard (ed.), ‘Compte de Pierre de Ham, dernier bailli de Calais (1346–7)’, Mémoires de la Commission départementale des monuments historiques du Pas-de-Calais, 1 (1893), 241–58. 12 Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp, 273. 13 A. R. Myers, (ed.), English Historical Documents, iv (London, 1969), 87.

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Chapter 1

are also English royal records and accounts that allow an appreciation of many aspects of the administration. The surviving evidence does not provide all the answers, but there is enough to get some idea of how things were done. one problem that has not been much discussed is the location of the haven used by the besieging forces, particularly before the spring of 1347. access to a good port was essential to the supply and reinforcement of Edward’s forces. Edward rapidly set up a base for his army, described in some detail by Froissart using material from the chronicle of Jean le Bel. on an area of firmer ground on the landward side of Calais, in the area called saint-Pierre near the bridge and fort at nieulay (later called newenham Bridge by the English), a virtual new town was built. it had ‘properly ordered streets’, wooden houses roofed with thatch, a market on Wednesdays and saturdays, and in fact, in Froissart’s words, ‘haberdashers and butchers’ shops, stalls selling cloth and bread and all other necessities, so that almost anything could be bought there’. its name, Villeneuve-le-Hardi, roughly translatable as ‘Cheeky new town’, reflects the spirit of confidence and boldness prevalent among Edward and his army.14 it was, however, over a mile from the coast, and Calais harbour was dominated by the castle and the small fort, still in French hands, on the Risban. The harbour could not be blockaded while this was the case and was, therefore, open to receive supply vessels for the defenders, if they could evade the English ships cruising in the Channel. Equally ships from England could clearly not tie up at the town quays in these circumstances, and trying to unload supplies on the open beaches away from the town itself would not have been easy. one of the first actions of the king on reaching Calais was to send orders to the mayors and other officials of port towns from newcastle on tyne in the north to Bristol in the west. Merchants were promised fair prices and rapid payment for all victuals and supplies sent to Calais, including bread, corn, wine, beer, meat, fish, bows, arrows and bowstrings.15 although the town itself is always described as the destination for all these goods, it may very well have been the case that the vessels in fact went to Gravelines in friendly Flemish territory and the goods were then sent on by cart and pack-horse to the English camp. Even after the English captured the Risban and enlarged and strengthened the fort in late april 1347, English ships would still have been vulnerable to attacks by the defenders’ artillery and would have been unable to approach the quays right under the town walls. There would have been little sympathy for Calais at Gravelines, which had twice been sacked by forces from the other town in the recent past.16 as the siege progressed, royal agents scoured the English countryside for food and other supplies for Calais, with the export of corn forbidden unless it was destined for the royal army. an indication of the widespread effects of the siege can be gauged from items like the accounts of the making of hurdles and ladders for use at Calais at Thakeham in the sussex Weald, which
14 Froissart, Chronicles, 97. 15 T. Rymer, Foedera, ed. G. Holmes (repr. Farnborough, 1967), ii : 205. 16 Derville and Vion, Histoire de Calais, 40.

The siege and capture of the town

· 13 ·

were taken to shoreham for onward shipment in no fewer than 30 wagonloads in early December 1346.17 Much of the foodstuff collected was stored in warehouses in orwell and sandwich, and even far to the west in Plymouth, before being dispatched overseas. The amount that came to the camp overland from Gravelines has been noted, but it seems likely that much of this was sent from England rather than being Flemish in origin.18 The king’s need for money was as urgent as that for supplies. The English parliament called in september 1346 had granted the king more taxation to cover the expenses of the siege, but only after a detailed account of all their contributions to date and the difficulties caused by demands for such large sums had been recorded on the Parliament Roll. The Commons’ petitions, significantly in view of the terms of the proclamation above, included one complaining that payments for victuals provided over the summer, which should have been due on John the Baptist’s day (24 June), were still outstanding.19 There was support for the king and his war, but it was not unconditional ; the weight of the burden placed on the whole community of the realm was well appreciated. The fact that the harbour was still open to the French until the spring of 1347 was undoubtedly one reason for the length of the siege. Philip VI was beset by severe financial difficulties. His confidence and that of his most important nobles with regard to renewing warfare on land had collapsed following the disaster at Crécy, but a greater degree of determination was shown in organising relief supplies for the beleaguered town by sea. at first, in september, the galley fleet hired from the Genoese in late 1345 was used. This fleet had arrived too late to be involved in the campaigns in the summer of 1346 or to interrupt the invasion fleet : the nineteenth-century historian of the French navy bewailed this tardiness almost as a form of treason and a cause of the disasters suffered by France.20 in september, however, these galleys captured and destroyed an English supply fleet in the waters off Calais. one French chronicle gleefully describes how twenty-five English ships were captured within sight of the English army and all the crews slaughtered.21 Despite this success, the Genoese vessels were laid up at abbeville in october and their crews sent home. Philip VI bought the ships, 30 galleys and 2 lings, for over 18,000 florins but made no further use of them.22 Much more successful was the use of French ships, both little vessels smaller
17 R. A. Pelham, ‘Sussex Provisions for the Siege of Calais in 1346’, Sussex Notes and Queries, 5 (1934), 33–4. 18 Sumption, Trial by Battle, 537–8. 19 Parliament of 1346, The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, 1275–1504, gen. ed. C. Given-Wilson (CD-ROM, Leicester, 2005). 20 C. de la Roncière, ‘La Marine au siège de Calais’, Bibliothèque de l’École des chartes, 58 (1897), 563. 21 H. Lemaître, (ed.), The Chronicle of Gilles li Muisit (Paris, 1906), 167. 22 A. Merlin-Chazelas (ed.), Documents relatifs au clos des galées de Rouen et aux armées de la mer des rois de France de 1293 à 1418 (Paris, 1977–8), 129–32. Although this was a large sum, it was much less than that necessary to keep the crews and ships on the royal payroll as contracted with Genoa. The crews of just 3 galleys and 2 lings had accumulated wages

24 Ibid. led a convoy of ships into the port in november and at least two more in the spring. by May 1347. .· 14 · Chapter 1 than a modern fishing boat and larger ones used as escorts. which was pillaged and burnt in early october. Documents relatifs au clos des galées de Rouen. in Britof over 19. seeing them as motivated by a desire more for glory than financial gain. include payments to a total of over fifty vessels with substantial crews made up of armed men as well as sailors. placed canons on the fortifications and sank at least one ship to block the channel into the port. at Dieppe the vessels were so heavily laden that they grounded and were dragged into deep water by over three hundred women pulling on hawsers. The victuals were collected mainly at Dieppe and abbeville. 123 . The need to raise both money and reinforcements from England itself. ‘La Marine au siège de Calais’. garlic and onions. La Roncière. including wheat. victuallers : 139–42. most with crews of six or seven men. 567–9. other English armies were engaged in France. Payments are also recorded to a similar number of victuallers. 133–9 . The earl of lancaster led an anglo-Gascon force north to Poitiers. These ships came from all along the north coast of France from Honfleur to Boulogne. a veteran of the battle of sluys. who. other aspects than the grave logistical problems facing both sides. other towns in the region were so thoroughly demoralised by this event and the lack of any protection by French forces that they were prepared voluntarily to accept English rule. 118–19. beans. lured by the promise of great rewards for anyone who would resupply Calais. The main relief effort by sea was made in February and March 1347. of course.24 The siege also had.). not only in Gascony and its borders (long disputed between the French and the English monarch as duke of aquitaine) but also in Brittany (where the English had intervened in a succession dispute). peas.23 The most successful ship master was probably Colin Hardi. at least two squadrons got past any English ships patrolling off the port (the precaution was taken of sending out at least one ship in advance to try and discover their whereabouts) and into Calais in late March and early april. ships : 115–17. when the English took the Risban. however. and salt herring. this was far from the only matter of concern to the king. a French historian has extolled the bravery of these seamen. 121. although Edward III himself was present in the camp for most of the tedious months of the investment of the town.000 florins during the period from their departure from Marseille or Nice to the end of October when they were paid off. 23 Merlin-Chazelas (ed. Their efforts were brought to an end.. with some from Calais itself that had managed to escape the siege. charged with paying these mariners. and loaded on to the victuallers. was a constant worry. The masters of these ships knew the coasts near Calais intimately and could keep inshore avoiding the English vessels attempting to block access to the port. already mentioned. Fortunately French resistance in the south-west seemed to have virtually collapsed once they abandoned their siege of aiguillon. a setback to English arms in either area would have weakened Edward’s position and encouraged his enemy. The accounts of Jean de l’Hôpital.

571–6. The news of this defeat reached Philip as he finally decided to move his army towards Calais. The scots crossed the border on 7 october but found the northern lords including William de la Zouche. leaving David on the field with only a small number of men. sir Thomas Dagworthy. in Brittany as well as Gascony. and following a confused and bloody assault on 20 June he not only defeated the French but captured Charles as well. 541–50. He disbanded the remnants of his defeated army in september. Ypres and Ghent. was captured by the English. The English ‘man on the spot’. The garrisons of French towns in artois and the Boulonnais remained. but that was all. quite badly wounded. an English enclave near the north coast. were supporters of the English. Philip was well aware that many of the Flemish townspeople.25 From the point of view of those both within and without the walls of Calais.The siege and capture of the town · 15 · tany things remained quiet until the late spring of 1347. if he could secure their active help in attacks on French garrisons. Trial by Battle. He was finally able to convince his ally David II of scotland to invade the north of England at much the same time. Their 25 Both the Gascon and the Breton campaigns are treated in detail in Sumption. Dagworthy set forth to relieve the garrison. however. . esp. This impeded the movements of the scots men-at-arms. Philip VI’s chosen candidate as duke of Brittany. in particular those from Bruges. The hope was that this would force Edward to abandon his positions at Calais to defend his own kingdom. Edward could not supply his troops without their co-operation. in May 1347. He was to remain a captive in london for the next eleven years. The apparent superiority of English arms seemed to be confirmed. it was perhaps in a mood of desperation that on 27 october he ordered the dispersal of the few troops who had gathered at Compiègne. Charles of Blois. who began to fall to the arrows of the English archers. ready for their enemy. French arms had suffered not only defeat but also humiliation. it is possible to portray his state of mind in the immediate aftermath of the defeat at Crécy as something approaching a kind of breakdown. There would be no help for Philip from this quarter. 495–7. as the evening came on he was abandoned even by these remnants of his army and. archbishop of York. was capable both as an administrator and as a military commander and seemed to have the situation well under control. When it became clear that Edward had decided on a lengthy siege of Calais. Philip seemed to have no idea of what his next move should be. to a modern strategist it is clear that the attitudes and the actions of the Flemings were overwhelmingly important at this stage of the siege. only to order it to reassemble at Compiègne on 1 october. 11 and 13 and pp. this would be even more to his advantage. who had been in a state of more or less open rebellion for some time. besieged the fortress of la Roche-Derrien. The largest scots battalion turned and fled. while these military diversions in other parts of France made tax collection and the raising of troops more and more difficult for Philip. chaps. after some delay. The two armies met at neville’s Cross just south of Durham on a site criss-crossed with walls and ditches. the importance of these events was both psychological and practical.

Chronique de Gilles li Muisit. as according to Gilles li Muisit he believed it was not a good idea to have English and Flemings in the same camp. 28 A.29 Flemish activity around saint-omer and Béthune was very useful in unsettling the French and tying down quite large numbers of men. louis managed to evade his minders while out hawking in March 1347 and. with active English encouragement. begging all those towns that received their letter to tell its bearer everything they knew. Bulletin philologique et historique du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques (1897). 27 Saint-Omer Chronicle.· 16 · Chapter 1 expected hostility and ability to harry his rear. a rumour was going about that the siege was about to be abandoned by Edward. was a major constraint. at the very beginning of the siege he had thought it necessary to divert his allies to attacks on neighbouring towns rather than letting them come to assist with the siege. The authorities in aire had no news of this for those in arras but wrote feelingly about the way both English and Flemish troops were laying waste the countryside round the town. Guesnon (ed. ‘Documents inédits sur l’invasion anglaise et les états au temps de Philippe VI et Jean le bon’.26 The writer at one point talks of the ‘evil Flemings who hate nothing so much as the king and the Crown of France’. whose father had been killed at Crécy. 29 Lemâitre (ed. An edition of the text is promised under his editorship. while he was on a visit to Flanders to attempt some kind of reconciliation. a week later arras was still trying to find out the truth. 236–40. He had good relations with the Flemish towns and some of the nobility . 216r.28 The true situation in northern France in the first half of 1347 was in fact complex and full of twists and turns. the Flemish. a chronicle probably written very shortly after the events of 1346–7 by a townsman of saint-omer gives a very vivid picture not only of the intermittent warfare between the French and the Flemings but also of the feeling within the town. He also could not reduce the garrisons of towns like saint-omer to increase the numbers in his field army. louis de Male.27 another indication of the acute nervousness affecting many of the French towns in the neighbourhood of Calais is a collection of letters that passed between them in February 1347. saint-omer had much the same news to relay but had also heard the alarming information that the earl of Derby was about to land near Calais with 50. Edward and his forces were firmly ‘dug in’ around Calais. and. . The young count of Flanders. a Flemish army with an English contingent led by sir Hugh Hastings in fact had been active in artois during most of the Crécy campaign. They are castigated for ignoring the fact that the king ‘has spared them from death—which they richly deserve given that they have abandoned their rightful and natural king’. This set him at odds with many of his subjects. In the mean time I am very grateful for his kindness in allowing me to use a draft of his transcription and translation. if he moved north to approach Calais from the direction of Gravelines when he had finally collected a force to relieve the town.000 men.). 166.). was still loyal to the French king. since this would leave them open to Flemish attack. more or less forced on him an engagement to Edward’s daughter isabel. fol. before 26 This chronicle was used by Clifford Rogers in War Cruel and Sharp.

32 The former incident could be interpreted as part of the conventional siege narratives of the time.. Chronicle accounts from French. recounts a story of a similar incident in the early stages of the siege before the winter of 1346–7 . This was denied them. at the monastery and royal mausoleum of st Denis on 18 March.s. . so ‘they lingered between the army and the town.30 This kind of description can be seen as almost conventional when discussing a town in the last stages of a prolonged siege. in 1418–19 Rouen was besieged for nearly six months by the English. cats and eventually rats and mice. ‘Hunger. it seemed likely that not until July would his forces be large enough to raise the siege. but there is little doubt that conditions inside the town became very bad. Jean le Bel. as was re-entrance to the town. adds the detail that at about this time. 1346–7. when no further relief ships could get past the English artillery in the tower on the Risban. and a contemporary poem makes great play of the besieged eating cats. Chronique of Jean le Bel (Paris. 12 (1991). finishing. 1904–5). one English chronicler. Henry Knighton. quoted ibid. le Bel stated that he recorded this because of the ‘grande gentillesse’ of the king. Déprez (eds. 143. intermittent fighting continued in the border region between the French and the rebellious Flemings with English help. fled to the French court . For example. with the wretched inhabitants forced to eat horses. Flemish and English sources dwell on the lack of food. n. rats and mice : ‘for 30 pennies went a rat / for two nobles went a cat / for sixpence went a mouse / they left but few in any house. 32 J. dogs. quoted in K. 142.). a combined English and Flemish assault on saint-omer failed in april. and suffering much from hunger and the cold they died day after day’. Meanwhile the situation in Calais itself was becoming desperate. they were brought into his great chamber and there they were given food and drink and three shillings sterling each and allowed to go on their way. in his version five hundred ‘useless mouths’ were expelled from the town. ii : 112–13. Flemish Participation and the Flight of Philip VI : Contemporary Accounts of the Siege of Calais. His intention was to summon his army to meet him at amiens by the end of april. with some frying the skins of these animals in oil. During this time.31 The truth of this incident is less easy to verify . the oriflamme. the very well-informed chronicler from liége. When they came to Edward’s camp. He received the sacred standard of French kings. dogs. Philip finally began to make strenuous efforts to move to the relief of Calais.The siege and capture of the town · 17 · the marriage could take place. about five hundred ‘men of the lower class’ left the town to ask succour from Edward. Viard and E.’ Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History. for once it was Edward whose schemes had failed rather than Philip. 31 Knighton’s Chronicle. in the spring of 1347.’ it then goes on to describe in harrowing terms the fate of the poor expelled from the town to die in the ditch. ‘and the dead 30 The detail is from the chronicle of Gilles li Muisit. By May only a few troops had assembled. but a later attempt by the French garrison to pursue their enemy across the frontier into Flanders and take the hilltop town of Cassel was equally unsuccessful in June. DeVries. but Philip moved forward to arras.

· 18 · Chapter 1 knew nought of death / so secretly they gave up their breath / without a noise or any cry / as if they slept. its complete text was eventually included in Robert of avesbury’s chronicle. By 26 July he was outside Guisnes and finally appeared on the high ground at sangatte on the 27th.34 a second. English Historical Documents. 36 Saint-Omer Chronicle. 226r–v.). to lumbres near saint-omer. but the Genoese vessel was driven ashore near the English lines.’33 Jean le Bel’s more optimistic story reflects the behaviour expected of a true exemplar of chivalry. if we have not succour quickly we shall sally forth from the town into the open field to fight for life or death’. The route of his march lay by way of Fauquembergues. The first expedition in May turned back at Boulogne when the ship masters saw the number of English ships off the town. The messenger attached the letter to an axe and threw it overboard before he was captured but this was retrieved at low tide and taken to Edward. He went on to state that ‘we have resolved amongst us that. where he delayed for three days. chapter entitled ‘How the king of France departed from Hesdin and went to encamp on the Mount of Sangatte’. know that although the people be all well and of good cheer. but in his defence it can be said that the army by this 33 Myers (ed. one retreated safely to Calais . Jean de Vienne probably got news of this disaster quickly . two final attempts to send in supplies by sea had failed. he may also have known that Philip VI had finally left arras and was now encamped at Hesdin fifty miles south of Calais with a substantial army. 1889). Whether some were expelled from the town or earlier had voluntarily tried to throw themselves on the mercy of the besiegers or not. so did they die. 386–7.). De Gestis Mirabilibus Regis Edwardi Tertii (London. eventually leaving Hesdin on 15 July. was totally defeated by an English force at the mouth of the somme. Thompson (ed. iv : 220–2. so that victuals we can no more find in the town except we eat men’s flesh. which set off on 25 June. Vienne set out in a letter to Philip in the plainest possible terms the urgent need to attack the English as soon as possible. M. both dogs. a reputation that Edward III was keen to cultivate and that was enhanced shortly after the conclusion of the siege by the foundation of the order of the Garter in early 1349. He no doubt read it with much interest and then kindly forwarded it to Philip. Here he proclaimed that it was the duty of all able-bodied men to join him on pain of the loss of all their possessions. there is no doubt that by the summer of 1347 the town was in dire straits. For know that there is nothing which has not been eaten. which attempted to slip past the Risban fort and out of the harbour with one other at dawn. 34 Saint-Omer Chronicle. yet the town is in sore need of corn. . 35 E. His plea for help was entrusted to the Genoese master of a small craft.35 Philip did respond to this plea. He wrote : right dear and dread lord. fol. Both were seen .36 This may seem like a dilatory rate of advance. given the relatively short distances involved. cats and horses. wine and meat.

Manny took the line that Edward was in no mood to offer clemency to the town. This explains how negotiations began between the governor of the town Jean de Vienne and King Edward as soon as it was realised that Philip VI had withdrawn with his army. others smashing in their wine-casks. the French army could be seen by those in the town and also of course by the English. which draws heavily on the chronicle of Jean le Bel. however. no immediate French assault on the English camp.39 This surrender has since become one of the best known ‘set pieces’ of medieval history. and lord Basset. which was well defended both by earthworks and the marshes and waterways around the town. The French did manage to take a tower defending the southern approach to the bridge at nieulay.000 and 20. Those in the town desperately signalled to the king. He pointed out that ‘the people of Calais have caused him so much trouble and 37 Sumption. The saint-omer chronicle reports that the king was told that ‘he was wasting his time by staying there since he could only obtain supplies with great danger’. Sir Walter’.37 once he reached sangatte. it was very widely reported by contemporaries. ODNB.40 a very well-known soldier who had many contacts at the French court as well as being one of Edward III’s most trusted subordinates. 39 Rogers discusses the negotiations with the cardinals in some detail in War Cruel and Sharp. The best-known story is that of Froissart.000 men at his disposal. as had suggestions that the matter could be ended by some form of chivalric challenge to battle at a chosen time and place. and a large portion of the artillery was burned. Every day that followed the noise and the size of a fire lighted on the battlements grew less. trying to make him understand their dire situation.). negotiations with the English with two cardinals acting as intermediaries had got nowhere. drums and clarions on the highest tower towards the French army for the space of half an hour’.The siege and capture of the town · 19 · time was very large and would have been impeded by quantities of slow-moving wagons with baggage. . ‘Mauny [Manny]. 40 His name is also spelt ‘Mauny’ : J. the town was starving. The negotiators on the English side were sir Walter Manny. Vienne set out the position in Calais clearly . until on the third night ‘they signified that their power to protect the town was ended’. it would have been clear that there was no alternative but to surrender the town to the English king and his forces. Trial by Battle.38 There was. on the night of 1–2 august orders were given to the French to break camp. Sumption. 578. iv : 88. but after this the reports of scouts seem to have convinced Philip that the chances of relieving the town by an assault on its besiegers were remote. English Historical Documents. 38 Myers (ed. ‘Then was seen great disorder . 278–82. victuals and all the other things needed by so large a body of men. some were abandoning their baggage-carts. The English chronicler Geoffrey le Baker describes how they greeted their hoped-for deliverers at first with a display of banners and a ‘great clamour of trumpets. calculates that Philip had between 15.’ By dawn the smoke rising from the French encampment as their tents and other supplies were set on fire would have been clearly visible from the walls of Calais.

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vexation, have cost him so much money and so many lives, that you cannot wonder that he should be enraged against them’. nevertheless he agreed to plead for mercy for the townspeople with the king. When he returned to Edward, Manny found that the king was adamant that no mercy should be offered to the town. He was only induced to change his mind when Manny suggested that one day it might be the English who were faced with losing their lives in these circumstances. Englishmen would go to a siege ‘less cheerfully if you have these people put to death, for then they [the French] would do the same to us if they had the chance’. The king gave way and told Manny to return to Vienne and tell him ‘this is the limit of my clemency : six of the principal citizens are to come out with their heads and their feet bare. Halters round their necks and the keys of the town and castle in their hands. With these six i shall do as i please and the rest i will spare.’ This news was received in Calais with much distress, but the richest man in the town, Eustache de saint-Pierre, stood up and offered himself as one of the six. Gradually others came forward until all six were assembled. Dressed as Edward required, only in their shirts, they were led out of the town by Vienne, riding on a little pony because he was too weak to walk ; behind came all the people of the town, ‘men, women and children of Calais . . . weeping and wringing their hands’. Manny then took the six to Edward’s chamber, where he was surrounded by the whole court. The six knelt before him and put their lives in his hands. all the court were much distressed by seeing ‘men so humiliated and in such mortal danger’. The king alone was unmoved and demanded their instant execution. This time Manny’s fervent pleas on their behalf had no effect. However,the queen, Philippa of Hainault, although she was heavily pregnant, ‘humbly threw herself on her knees before the king’ and in turn pleaded for mercy for the six. This time the king’s heart was softened ; he could not refuse her plea. The six were handed to her ‘to do with what you like’. They were then taken to her apartments, clothed and fed, and finally, according to Froissart, were ‘presented with six nobles each, led through the English army, and went to live in various towns in Picardy’.41 The best-known modern representation of the story is probably the monumental sculpture by Rodin to be seen in the albert Embankment gardens in london and the town square of Calais.42 This shows the burghers in all their misery, a poignant appeal for pity and compassion. a history of Calais from the 1980s includes a preface that refers to the Rodin statue as recalling for all times ‘la resolution et l’abnegation’ of these heroic citizens.43 What, however are we to make of this story ? is it to be taken at face value : a stirring story of self-sacrifice and of the value of mercy ? is it a brilliant piece of what we might call ‘public relations’ or even ‘spin’ ? is it a kind of morality tale with lessons to impart ? or
41 Froissart, Chronicle, 103–9. 42 There are also casts in sculpture galleries in America and the Musée Rodin in Paris. 43 J.-M. Moeglin, ‘Édouard III et les six bourgeois de Calais’, Revue historique, 291–2 (1994), 229.

The siege and capture of the town

· 21 ·

part of a ‘national mythology’ ? Does the form of the story gradually alter with more and more details being added until it becomes almost a theatrical scene ? it is impossible to reach final conclusions on many of these questions at this distance from the events. We cannot know what exactly Edward had in mind on that august day when setting out the terms for the surrender of Calais. There are strong arguments that this was a symbolic event designed from the first to resound through the courts of Europe emphasising Edward’s victory but also his chivalry and willingness to be merciful. Edward was evidently well aware of the value of a powerful image to enhance his prestige and his authority. The gold noble struck after the victory at sluys in 1340 has a representation of the king himself on board his ship on the obverse, a unique use of the coinage at the time for the commemoration of a notable event. The dramatic story, told by le Bel originally and given much wider currency by Froissart, is not found in all chronicles of the time. Geoffrey le Baker has a much simpler narrative in which Jean de Vienne surrenders the town to the king, accompanied by other knights and burgesses, all of them with ropes around their necks. after being offered the keys of the town, Edward ‘received what was offered to him and with royal clemency sent the captain, fifteen knights and as many burgesses to England, granting them generous gifts and liberty to go where they liked’. The remainder of the townspeople were fed and then expelled, most of them taking the road south to Guisnes.44 on the other hand the saint-omer Chronicle, written shortly after the event and by someone living nearby, mentions the king’s heart being softened by the pleas of ‘the queen and her ladies and a great many knights’ on their knees. The group given clemency was, however, composed of Vienne with two knights and two burgesses ; it is also stated that the knights were taken to England to be ransomed in the usual way.45 There does seem, therefore, to be justification for the view that the surrender of Calais was deliberately made into an event designed to add to the reputation of the victorious king and to send a message to future adversaries. This is despite the view that contemporaries record it at face value and do not see it as a mise en scène. later writers put forward different interpretations. Voltaire raised some doubts about Edward’s real intentions, but most nineteenth-century French historians saw the actions of the six burghers as the peak of patriotic devotion and willingness to sacrifice all for the sake of one’s country.46 By the second World War, when Perroy was writing his history of the Hundred Years’ War, he dismissed the incident as ‘a page in a picture book’.47 The most recent account of the siege in English ignores the incident, stating merely that ‘on 4 august
44 Myers, English Historical Documents, iv : 89. 45 Saint-Omer Chronicle, chapter ‘How the town of Calais surrendered to the king of England after the departure of the king of France’. 46 Moeglin discusses interpretations of accounts of the siege in detail in ‘Édouard III et les six bourgeois de Calais’, 237–41. 47 Perroy, The Hundred Years War, 120.

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Chapter 1

he [Edward] received the keys to the city.’48 in France a detailed study of the incident and contemporary accounts of it places it within a ritual of humiliation that was sometimes used on the surrender of besieged cities.49 Whatever our view of the surrender ‘ceremony’, Edward was victorious and could at least briefly bask in the fame that this brought him. Problems remained to be faced. How could this new possession of the English Crown in France be defended ? How should it be governed ? Would the amount of time and money expended on its capture prove justifiable ? These questions would require the attention of the governments of all English monarchs during the succeeding centuries while the town remained in English hands.
48 Rogers, War Cruel and Sharp, 282. 49 Moeglin, ‘Édouard III et les six bourgeois de Calais’, 291–2 ; idem, Les Bourgeois de Calais : essai sur un mythe historique (Paris, 2002).

2
a n EW Ru l E R a n D a n EW R E G i M E : t H E toWn a n D t H E G a R R i s o n i n t H E E a R lY Y E a R s o F E n G l i s H Ru l E


he 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 surrounded by images of the most important military men in these campaigns, among them not only the king, Edward III himself, but also the earl of Warwick, the earl of lancaster and lord Despenser. He did not survive to witness the triumphant entry of the king into his new domain, but the fame of the victory followed him home to norfolk and was recorded for all to see in his parish church. What was Edward’s attitude to the town and its inhabitants now that they were securely within his hands ? The town was stripped of everything of value by the English ; with a certain amount of glee, Thomas Walsingham recorded that ‘there was not a woman in England of any account who did not enjoy the pickings of Caen, Calais and other places’. This booty was not confined to valuables but also ordinary household goods ; ‘coats, furs, quilts . . . table cloths, necklaces, wooden bowls and silver goblets, linen and cloth’.2 The French inhabitants of the town were apparently expelled with only a few given leave to remain. as early as 12 august, proclamations were issued throughout eastern England promising grants of property and other benefits to those who would settle in Calais. new immigrants were promised that they would have, ‘liberties, privileges and
1 Sumption, Trial by Battle, 585. 2 Quoted ibid., 582.

T

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in D. already well known to the king because of their involvement in the raising of loans to finance the war. there are.3 The impression created by this and other evidence is that Calais in fact rapidly became an English town. Unwin (ed. Wiltshire. leaving no descendants. 228. 4 Calmette and Déprez. which occurred about this time. iii/1 : 130. one or two were certainly italians.6 The most prominent person to receive a grant of property was Queen Philippa . M. another of the leading financiers of the wars. . The Complete Peerage. she received a large block of property near the Maison Dieu on 24 august. but clearly they saw holding property there as potentially of benefit to themselves and their families. 314. for example. Barron. The campaign was led by important English merchants. They were originally enrolled on a separate Calais Roll. there are others who can be also identified as london merchants. a house). who was himself granted property in the town. to judge by those whose names include their place of origin. in 1359 and died soon after 1 October 1361. Greaves. what distinguished French historians have called ‘a little piece of England in France’. John de Pulteney in london and Roger norman in southampton. 1962). Revue du Nord. their names are given as ‘Dalmaigne’ (d’allemagne). gives her date of birth as 29 August. She married John de Hastings. London in the Later Middle Ages : Government and People. 249. 6 S. 5 The details of the grants can be found in CPR 1345–8 : 561–8. it is hard to be sure that only a very few of the original inhabitants were allowed to stay in the town.7 There is no way of knowing how many of these grantees actually moved to Calais. 1918).· 24 · Chapter 2 immunities so that with their families and goods they may be able to remain and live there safely’. 1200–1500 (Oxford. Le Patourel. The Merchant Class of Medieval London (Ann Arbor. Ely. 2005). shrewsbury. quoted in J. with the property usually described as an ‘inn’ (that is. ‘Calais under Edward III’. some of the new settlers may have been from the lands allied to England . earl of Pembroke. including Thomas Gisors. a term that was used for the Empire in general. a goldsmith and a butcher. Foedera. Thrupp. ipswich. The chronicles all suggest that only twenty3 Translated from Rymer. london. sandwich and lancaster are all mentioned. 345 . These grants also sometimes give details of the occupations of the new owners . Finance and Trade under Edward III (Manchester. x : 393. Watford. in modern terms. a cordwainer. apart from Walter Chiriton. a member of a family that had long been established in the City as pepperers or vintners. 7 CPR 1345–8 : 566. in G. The relative success of their activities can be judged by a surviving roll of grants made in the autumn of 1347. but also occasionally as a cottage or shop or an empty site. ‘L’Occupation anglaise de Calais au XIVe siècle’. including one whose name was anglicised as ‘almeric skafeny of Pavye’ (Pavia). C.5 The grants were made to men from all over England. These included William de la Pole in Hull.). This may well have been in anticipation of the birth of the princess Margaret. 189 separate grants are recorded.4 it is certainly true that the policy of repopulating Calais with English settlers was pursued with some vigour. 34 (1952). probably identical with the aymery of Pavia who was later involved in a conspiracy in the town (described below).

S. ‘The Colonisation of Calais’ (B. 110. Baude d’aire was granted a house called la Couppe at saint-omer and other property at Montreuil in august 1348. others may have slipped out of the town on those victuallers that did get through the English blockade or may have crept out under cover of darkness or by bribing the besiegers. 24 (1878). that many of the ordinary townsfolk either did remain in the town at least for the first years of the English occupation or melted into the general body of anonymous poor folk in northern France. ‘they managed as well as they could and the majority went to the town of Saint-Omer’. leaving no trace in the records. but the majority had formerly belonged to lombards who had disregarded the laws against usury. particularly in saint-omer. the hero of the story of the self-sacrificing burghers of Calais. some of the d’aire property in Calais itself had been among that granted to Queen Philippa immediately after the siege. Thorn. where the wealthy d’aire (Dayre in English documents) family re-established themselves. 9 Froissart. ‘Documents relatifs aux Calaisiens expulsés par Edouard III’. converted their grant into cash when they sold the property of one of the lombards for 200 écus d’or in november 1348. they would be granted to Calaisiens.Litt. treated at least some of those expelled with a degree of generosity. Philip VI. despite Froissart’s claim that they received nothing. some of the poor may have been thrown out during the siege. The former procurators of Calais. He continues. 8 CPR 1345–8 : 561. The most notable of these is Eustace de saint-Pierre. Oxford. some of the property given to the expelled townspeople had been confiscated from individuals who had aided the English or committed crimes. 11 L. however. 10 M.10 another group of the refugees travelled far from their home town. Furthermore a commission including men from Calais would be set up to resolve any disputes arising from this decree.9 in early september from his camp at amiens he issued a decree that all those expelled should have the right to follow their trade in France without paying extra dues and that when offices or other benefits were forfeit to the king. one Pierre de Bouvelingham from Calais was granted the house and furniture in Bourges confiscated from a butcher who had been banished from the town. 1953). as we have seen .11 There remains a suspicion. being sent to Carcassone by Philip . . there had been suspicions of disloyalty in the town.8 The number of those expelled. Froissart enlarges on the ‘great burghers and their noble wives and their handsome children’ who were forced to leave everything behind. Chronicles. perhaps because of the effect on his reputation of his withdrawal from Calais without any attempt to relieve the town.A new ruler and a new regime · 25 · two or so individuals at the very most were granted royal licences to stay put. 251–80. Le Cabinet historique. Many seem to have stayed in the region of Calais. Fouques le Chien and Jehan Hervuaz. and some was granted to the Carmelites for their new house in september 1347. however. 77–9. E. is unknown . thesis. and the group from Calais were credited with being particularly loyal to the French Crown. Molinier. at least twenty grants of this kind can be traced in the French royal records in the years 1348–52.

with lands. similar pressure may have been put on one John uphowe. His heirs certainly did not inherit any of his Calais property as they were said to be loyal to France. rivers. castles and lordships of sangatte. m. His expertise would have been vital to the safety of the town and its defences and not easily found among the victorious English. Ham. 13 The grants to Saint-Pierre can be found in Rymer.13 a fact that hints that he may have remained under some duress. There is insufficient evidence to calculate the total number of souls who would rely on these supplies. 98–9. Edward was in a position to have some understanding of what the taking of Calais meant in terms of its need for good governance and defence. grant of property. The approximate 12 CPR 1345–8. the high point of Edward III’s conquests in France.14 His task would in fact have been to maintain and operate the system of sluices that controlled the water in the moats and other waterways around Calais. grant of 40 marks on 8 Oct. By the end of september 1347. Foedera. 15 Myers. This constituted a block of territory not greatly different from the extent of the Pale in the later fifteenth century . 1347 said to be ‘for keeping and good order of Calais’ . The truce concluded with Philip VI at this time defined the area now under English control as the ‘town of Calais and the lordships of Marck and oye and their lands’. . lordships. woods. The treaty of Brétigny and the additional articles of Calais in 1360.12 saint-Pierre may also have been put under considerable pressure to remain and may in truth have had little choice in the matter. He is probably the source of the details of the town administration. as well as Calais itself.15 to this was also added the whole county of Guisnes in full sovereignty. so much of the land surrounding Calais was marshy that the growing of enough food to feed the town and its inhabitants as well as those living in outlying settlements was not possible. 14 TNA. iv : 104–5. Despite the extent of these lands it was immediately obvious that they could not be self-sufficient. ‘Colonisation of Calais’. which Edward soon obtained and which were largely put into effect under the new regime. Coulogne. 2.· 26 · Chapter 2 The fact that Eustace de saint-Pierre was granted both money and property by Edward III after the siege tarnished his heroic reputation in France when these benefits came to light in the archives in the early nineteenth century. iii/1 : 138. E101/167/8. broadly speaking it was the town itself and the coastal marshes stretching inland towards the higher country round ardres. English Historical Documents. advowsons of churches and all other appurtenances and places lying within the following limits and bounds’ (which were then specified). extended this area a little to include. marshes. and as a leading townsman he had much to lose if he was expelled along with the others. Perhaps he can be excused by pointing out that he was not a member of the garrison or a knight. if Calais was to be held it must be provisioned either from England or with the co-operation of Flanders. Reversion of property to the English Crown on his death can be found in Thorn. ‘the castle town and lordship of Marck. 561. He appears in English records as the master of the engines and carpentry at Calais. the towns. rents. CPR 1345–8 : 561. le Wal and oye .

J. it is not hard to imagine how unpopular this system was when payments by the Crown were often extremely tardy. in august 1347. officials.17 in the months after the successful ending of the siege not only were royal purveyors very active in seeking foodstuffs for the garrison but also individual merchants were granted licenses to ship corn to the town. This was to feed a garrison that numbered just over a thousand men during these years.A new ruler and a new regime · 27 · numbers of the garrison are known. in april 1347 the Plenty of Hook was diverted to Calais instead of Bordeaux with her cargo of 500 quarters of wheat. exercising powers that were part of the royal prerogative. as he points out. The two ships concerned were the Katerine of La Hope and the Jonette of La Hope. no trade. The advent of the Black Death in 1348 caused problems here as it did for so 16 Derville and Vion. usually authorised by the sheriff of the county concerned.’ 17 CPR 1345–8 : 372. While the siege was still underway.20 Most of this large quantity of food was supplied by the system of purveyance. Burley.000 quarters of oats. despite the wishes of the owners of the cargo. took what was requested from local suppliers with the promise that those whose goods were taken would be paid at some future date.19 This number included knights and squires. the need to ship hay from England as well as bread. 18 CPR 1345–8 : 333. horse and foot archers and the masons and other workmen needed to maintain the fortifications. two vessels loading corn for Bordeaux in the Pool of london were discharged by royal command.16 There is. 409. 1347–65’. the need to supply the camp had led to a serious shortage of bread-corn in london . dated August 1347. This was a system whereby. nearly 2. 8. 4. orders were being sent to ship masters to abandon their expected voyages in order to take food to Calais. His melancholy conclusion is that for the town there were now no means of earning a living.000 quarters of wheat. but there are no figures that can be used to estimate the size of the general civilian population. while there were probably about 2. plenty of evidence of the attention devoted by the king and his officers to the question of the victualing of Calais and the strain this imposed on local officials and communities in many parts of England. no industry. ni d’industrie. 19 These figures come from the table in S. Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research. oats. 31 (1948). no fishing. . J. The most recent French historian of the town sees the town as severely depopulated. Edward’s grants concern around 190 properties. 53. in order for this foodstuff to be sold in the City. ni de pêche. 57 : ‘De vivres point — ni de commerce. peas and beans for this purpose gives some ides of the difficulty of getting provisions locally.18 all told over 14.000 houses within the walls before 1347. at this date. ‘The Victualling of Calais 1347–65’.000 quarters of malt.000 carcasses of beef were shipped to the garrison of Calais between 1347 and 1361. Histoire de Calais. ‘The Victualling of Calais.500 quarters of beans and peas and over 3. however. Burley. 20 S. whether French or English. The supplies for the garrison included large quantities of fodder for the king’s horses . at least in the immediate aftermath of the siege . 51. hobelars.

is fairly unusual. but it is reasonable to suppose that many more similar incidents occurred. having taken them. 500 quarters of beans. the corn or other victuals may go to Calais or Gascony or even Flanders. a licence like the one issued to two ipswich men in 1350 to ship 300 quarters of wheat to Calais alone. complaints about purveyance to feed armies or merely to supply the royal household can be found in the records of most meetings of Parliament from 1298 onwards and continue throughout Edward III’s reign. and sent 750 quarters of wheat. 25 CPR 1348–50 : 556. sold them on their own account and to their personal profit. In 1349 searches were authorized of ships laden with grain in the Thames as it was alleged that the cargoes were being shipped to enemy ports rather than a long list of authorised destinations. with their findings enrolled in Chancery.21 There may well have been some hollow laughter from the Commons at this response . one of the most important merchants supplying Calais. . The provisions cost £795 21 22 23 24 Parliament of February 1351.22 two years later money collected for victuals for Calais in Holt in norfolk was embezzled by the local constable. He was assisted by Thomas de Fery. like the two leicester men who were accused of operating a ‘racket’ in the county in 1351. They either took payments from suppliers not to take their goods or.002 quarters of malt and 500 quarters of oats in no fewer than fifteen vessels at intervals between January and March 1350. relates to one series of supply voyages from lynn at this time. a collection of documents sent to the Exchequer by John de Wesenham from lynn. licences to merchants to take foodstuffs to Calais for sale can be found on the same rolls. a royal sergeant-at-arms. in 1351. CPR 1350–54 : 161. 1.24 the licences are often phrased in fairly general terms . although the Crown was concerned that the corn should not end up in the hands of the enemy.· 28 · Chapter 2 many other aspects of contemporary life.25 it does seem likely that the food situation was particularly difficult in Calais in 1350–51. looking at them in a group allows some deductions to be made about what became a regular trading route. in the first parliament held since the arrival of the pestilence. The system was open to abuse despite the best intentions of the king and his financial officials. Purveyors could use their position for their own advantage. CPR 1350–54 : 461. the Commons petitioned the king that because of the shortage of corn in England and the fact that much land was now lying fallow and uncultivated that no commissions for purveyance should be issued. The result in this particular case was that over forty pigs and a large number of beef carcasses did not reach Calais. which also required them to provide sureties that this would happen. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England.23 These cases are known because they were investigated by the authority of commissions. The king’s answer was to emphasize the desperate need for victuals in Calais and to promise that payment would be made by the purveyors on the day stated in their commission while the amount requested would be reduced by half. CPR 1348–50 : 311.

the captain was styled ‘governor’ between 1361 and 1370) but remained much the same in essence. John de Montgomery was in fact appointed captain of the town of Calais immediately before Edward left for England. on the other hand. 483 . it is also noticeable that the issue of these licences falls off almost completely during the period of relative peace in France after the signing of the treaty of Brétigny. 36. ‘The Victualling of Calais’. but also a document called ‘Certain articles to be kept in the town of Calais’ and another that sets out in considerable detail the way in which Calais had been governed by the 26 TNA. however. CPR 1364–7 : 35. 314. 291. By the following year a treasurer and a victualler were also appointed. Edward seems to have decided to keep in being the laws and customs of the town.28 Governing his new acquisition also faced Edward with the need to make relatively rapid decisions.27 By 1355 the licences also tend to include ale as well as bread-corn in the cargo. Wesenham’s activities as a purveyor are also discussed in Burley. The French Rolls include not only two copies of her charter to the town. to control the considerable sums of money needed to pay and supply the garrisons in the town. Rogers. since Calais was first of all a military base (Geoffrey of Harcourt told Edward that with its possession he would wear ‘the keys to the realm of France’ at his belt). 249. 312 . 53. a separate captain was appointed for Calais castle and also officials known as the marshal and the seneschal. 477. 292. landing at sandwich on 12 october 1347. 12. were relatively peaceful. 472. . despite his apparent policy of forcing the evacuation of all the French inhabitants. 406. When the surrounding areas. the castle and the other strong places in English control outside the town walls.26 in 1352. however. whether in direct English control or not. 29 Froissart is the source of the remark. CPR 1370–74 : 90–91. CPR 1358–61 : 6. There seems to have been considerable difficulty. 28 These licences can be found in CPR 1354–8 : 307. perhaps an indication that the town was becoming more populous and its townspeople more secure. The details of this administration changed a little in the remainder of the fourteenth and early fifteenth century (for example. and their transport a further £171 17s. War Cruel and Sharp. E101/173/11. 8d. 468.29 a military hierarchy was necessary to control the forces of the garrison. 310.A new ruler and a new regime · 29 · 16s. 27 CPR 1350–54 : 318. Writ and indenture still enclosed in the original small leather bag. the despatch with which Edward issued the proclamation about property grants in the town made clear that Calais would also continue to be a trading centre with (it was hoped) a considerable body of townspeople. large quantities of foodstuffs for the townspeople were perhaps brought into Calais in the normal course of trade without a great need for additional supplies from England. as granted by Countess Mahaut of artois in 1317. at first. 457. 259. 317 . John de Wesenham was allowed to ship 400 quarters of rye to Gascony because it could not be sold at a profit in Calais. only to reappear with the outbreak of war again at the end of the 1360s. in finding a suitable and acceptable method of governing the civil population of the town and the areas outside the walls. one followed by a formal confirmation by Edward. 6d. at least the bones of this structure would need to be in place before the king returned to England.

‘L’Occupation anglaise de Calais. 32 Le Patourel. and served in the town courts dealing with disputes between citizens. This body had the duty first of all to maintain the town watch.31 The more commonly held view is that. his usual title was in fact that of bailiff. . amalgamated with that of the seneschal appointed by Edward. The civil institutions soon became closely linked to the establishment of the Wool staple in Calais in the 1360s and will be further discussed in the next chapter. ‘it is the will of the king that the ancient customs and rights that existed in the town of Calais before its capture should be kept and upheld there in the future in all their points’. if a member of the garrison was also involved. 31 Derville and Vion. in reality Calais from then on had English institutions run by Englishmen.32 This may indicate that. 235 . 142–4. The role of the bailli or bailiff. Greaves.’ 232–3. to at least one French historian this was no more than an exercise in public relations . whether willingly or not : his annuity of 40 marks ‘for services rendered in safekeeping of the town’ is dated at this time.30 The charter was formally confirmed on December 3. 57. a term usually translated as ‘aldermen’. the échevins collected the dues and customs in the port and the rents of property due the king. The articles to some extent summarise the actions taken by Edward to this point but are significantly headed. it seems at least probable that this information was supplied by Eustace de saint-Pierre. formerly the official appointed by the rulers of artois to protect their interests and collect the revenues due to them. while the structure of the town court was little changed. Within a short period of time. and his powers and duties were hardly different from those exercised previously. The day-to-day government of the town was in the hands of thirteen échevins. ‘Calais under Edward III’. and are discussed along with the last in Le Patourel. Histoire de Calais. seems to have continued to operate with power now in the hands of royal rather than ducal officials. was. the system of the former overlord. it is in fact in the area of justice and the law that Edward’s promise to maintain all the former customs was least effective. D. Foedera. but there is no trace of them after 1347. The charter of 1317 included in the town government a group of so-called cormans. and one that was quite onerous.· 30 · Chapter 2 duke of Burgundy as count of artois. ‘L’Occupation anglaise de Calais’. Behind the rather dry administrative and legal documents that provide most 30 The first three of these documents are printed in Rymer. The échevins were elected for a year by their predecessors (the first group under the English regime were appointed by the king) and were probably all Englishmen. the old ways were implemented as far as possible. until 1363. 232. 318–22. then the captain would play a part in the proceedings. who seem to have had some legal expertise and purpose. after the fall of the town. the duke of Burgundy (the count of artois). iii/1 : 139. apart from this responsibility. There was thus in the town itself and the suburb outside the walls a dual civil/military administration. a duty placed on all those living in Calais. its procedures became similar to those used in England. outside these limits in the area later known as the Pale. formerly the lordships of Marck and oye.

was an attempt by the French captain of saint-omer to suborn some of the Calais garrison and thus get within the walls. now fully informed of the plot. an italian resident in the Calais garrison.35 33 Rymer. and overcame him. the drawbridge was raised and the Frenchmen found themselves trapped.A new ruler and a new regime · 31 · of the evidence of how the town was governed. this did not mean that there were no attempts by the French to retake it and wipe out the shame of its loss. The English captured the outlying castles at oye and Marck and those at sangatte and Coulognes in 1348–9 in order to increase the security of their possession and curtail the irritation of skirmishing on the borders. Chroniques. First of all. perhaps as much as 20. a gate was opened and all crept into the town. the king and his companions were outnumbered and in some danger. and then set him free. in either case. although Philip VI had left the town to its fate in a somewhat ignominious fashion. Geoffrey de Charny. Both he and the prince of Wales slipped into Calais as unobtrusively as possible with a small force of archers and men-at-arms. S. Raynaud (Paris. of tensions and nervousness among the inhabitants. The most notable occurrence. and eventually most of the French were killed or captured. while the other knights were imprisoned to await their ransom. or the king got wind of it in some other way and summoned aymery to london. some time in the autumn of 1349. 1902). a furious hand-to-hand battle ensued . He had also been appointed captain of the galleys by Edward III in april 1348. Edward then led a sortie out of the town by one gate and the Black Prince by another to engage with the main body of the French forces outside the walls on marshy ground. 1869–99). aymery himself later fell into the hands of the French and was executed after being horribly tortured. 14–18 . however. but also disturbed by the nature of the betrayal suggested. one English chronicler says that he had in fact earlier been in the service of the French Crown with their force of Genoese galleys. there are some indications. iv : 71 . was that the king. once they were inside the wall. ed. Luce and G.33 Charny offered him a large sum of money . Daumet. all the Frenchmen were captured. The story reads like an episode of a chivalric romance but is apparently grounded in fact. 35 G. on the night of 31 December 1349 /1 January 1350. like Charny a notable French knight. a small group of Frenchmen approached the walls . aymery seems to have been greatly attracted by the money offered. however. whether members of the garrison or ordinary townsfolk. The result. Froissart then describes a scene. He may have sent letters to Edward telling him of the conspiracy. iii/1 : 159. seint George’ brought aid. planned to ambush Charny and his men. 34 A circlet richly decorated with pearls. in command at saintomer. but his cries of ‘a Edward. Froissart. Calais sous la domination anglaise (Arras. redolent of the chivalry that was the real inspiration of his chronicle. The king presented Ribemont with his own ‘chapelet richement garni de perles’34 in recognition of the bravery with which he had fought. as might well be expected. Foedera. The king himself fought with Eustache de Ribemont. facing the king and his men.000 ecus d’or to open a gate for himself and his men. got in touch with aymery de Pavia.

in the disturbed and dismal aftermath of the Black Death they seem to have had little effect. except royal customs. but in the end he was pardoned and only expected to find sureties to ensure ‘that he would behave faithfully henceforward in that town. tin and lead. This division of interests between the merchants and townspeople. pardons and other documents recorded on the patent rolls in Chancery. coming shortly after the trauma of the Black Death. it is hard to judge how successful these measures might have been in normal times . but no precise details of his offence are recorded. He had also declared that Calais should be the staple port for a wide range of goods including cloth. a royal sergeant-at-arms and an échevin of the town. but there would. it was also unusual in that it was intended to be there for the foreseeable future. of course. perhaps. CPR 1350–54 : 491. very unusual at this time. field armies were usually put together for the campaigning season. on merchandise exported to England for three years. some other faint impressions of life in the town can be gathered from some of the commissions. feathers.· 32 · Chapter 2 an incident like this. That this was the case is a possible interpretation of some of the mentions of individual members 36 CPR 1348–50 : 590. but garrison duties were different. and if he should hold meetings or commit other like delict there he should incur forfeiture of life and members and of his lands. as he was granted 12d. would have increased the nervousness of the population and hardly encouraged the immigration of more settlers. military life would become dominated by routine duties and a regular way of life. and once the campaign was over. He had exempted Calais merchants from all dues and taxes. Frequent warfare could create quasi-professional men-at-arms or archers. be a chance to build a new life away from the constraints of village life. in this case. By august 1348. but he was sent back from Calais and incarcerated in the tower of london for ‘forming unlawful assemblies with men in the town and confederacies with them’. There would be little chance of booty or stirring acts of bravery. . 37 CCR 1349–54 : 196. per day for life as a member of the Calais watch in 1353. a garrison of the size of that at Calais was. the men would be paid off. perhaps a lack of food. or to escape from past problems. English merchants were petitioning vigorously to be exempt from the staple regulations and for licences to take their goods. and the garrison and military needs in general seems to have caused problems in the first years of the conquest. was contemplated. whom Edward was clearly keen to encourage to move to Calais. He seems to have been received back into royal favour. to Gascony and other destinations. Edward had encouraged traffic to the port by requiring vessels from Dover and other ports to put into Calais first before any other Channel port.36 it is suggested that these were the cause of disturbances and even the possible loss of the town. particularly cloth.37 We can only speculate that some concerted action of both townsmen and soldiers against the situation in the town. goods and chattels’. By this time normally being formed out of the indentured retinues of the captains. What exactly had Richard atte Wode been up to in early 1350 ? He was of high social rank.

and the income from taxes that might be granted by the clergy. to this must be added the income from the various imposts on trade. principally the (variable) export duty on wool and wool fells. 529.38 Pardons were also granted to at least three members of the garrison in the same year for causing deaths in England. 215.000–£35. the cost of their victuals and the necessary maintenance of the fortifications not only of the town and its castle but also of the outlying defences. were not designed to make it easy to draw up a balance sheet. The collapse of the italian banking houses of the Bardi and Peruzzi in 1340 was only the most spectacular incident of this kind. of the king’s finances. in 1347. for example was pardoned in 1351 for robbing the parson of his home village because of his good service in Calais. 71. when called upon to do so by the king in time of war. 507. the income from Crown lands.40 The cost of maintaining Calais and ensuring its safety was. especially when the war with France resumed in earnest in 1355–60 and 1369–77. the profits of justice and the like. There are a number of the detailed accounts or particulars of the treasurer of Calais. in the form of a fifteenth of the value of moveables in the countryside and a tenth of their value in the towns. in this situation. one of the london merchants who took up property in Calais. most also occurring in England some time before the pardons were granted. made up of various dues and customary payments.41 This turned out to be a disastrous speculation : by July 1348 Chiriton was forced to seek aid from his rival John de Wesenham. could be calculated in advance but was invariably reduced by collection difficulties and other problems. Sumption. Walter Chiriton. it is less easy to relate this material to the overall financial position of the English Crown during the reign of Edward III. like the castles at Guisnes.666 to the king for the expenses of the siege itself. considerable. later. still surviving among the records of the Exchequer. secured on the customs payable on a forced loan of wool.000 per year. led to the bankruptcy of their principal creditors in the earlier part of the century. . This included the wages of the garrison. John Walker of stanlake. of course. The financial records of this period. seems to have amounted to something in the region of £30. The amount that should be raised by the usual tax. 568. the king frequently needed to raise loans. 513. Trial by Battle. 505.000 secured this time against the king’s great 38 39 40 41 CPR 1350–54 : 36 CPR 1350–54 : 37. who lent him £4. The king’s ordinary revenue. which give a reasonably complete picture of the way in which the available funds were spent and the totals involved. although at times they can seem to be obsessed with the smallest details. oye and Marcke. CPR 1358–61 : 476. in fact. 510. or agreed to by parliament for the laity. 504. The need of the English Crown for loan finance in times of war had.A new ruler and a new regime · 33 · of the Calais garrison in royal records. as it were. usually secured either against the customs revenue or against the value of jewels and the like in his possession.39 another group of pardons in 1360–61 for members of the Calais garrison related to six deaths and one rape. was the head of a syndicate that lent the enormous sum of £66.

22v. 13r. not only of victuals but also war materials. ‘L’Administration de Calais en 1371–1372’. Revue du Nord. and carpenters. accompanied by a small retinue. 4d. The general necessaria section of these payments can be revealing.746 13s. E 101/170/16 and E 101/171/1. Lloyd. H. per day.44 of this total the expenses of Calais. for the grete expensis aboute the keeping therof. years that saw little active fighting. in the wages of the garrison and the necessary supplies. These wages are recorded in detail.43 The total income of the English Crown from all these sources has been variously estimated at between £100. including artillerymen. and those needed for the maintenance of the fortifications.42 This did not avert disaster. is confirmed by the entry of a payment of 51s. for expenses incurred on the execution of men from Kent for murder and sedition. with the ‘real’ income being nearer £120. The crossing to Dover was relatively expensive at a cost of around £5 for the whole party and their horses.46 The treasurer also received small sums from the dues and rents payable in Calais and some profits on exchange transactions. hinted at above. Holmes. There is no doubt that this was a considerable burden. came to around £20. a tiler. when the French wars were going badly for the English. a plumber. which was in Chiriton’s possession. 34 (1952). John of Gaunt is recorded as saying bitterly.529 10s.000. as also are the various payments made by the treasurer. to collect money or to attend Parliament. that the captain of Calais himself. Histoire de Calais. if not one of the original inhabitants of the town. E 101/170/16. ODNB.000 and £200. The unrest in Calais in 1350–51. 4d. ODNB.000. both accounts record the costs 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 T. there is also one spy or scout (explorator). at this date the garrison’s food was not supplied free but paid for by each individual by a deduction from his wages. among the military specialists and artisans employed. His name. fol. E 101/171/1. for example. in the reign of Richard II.000 per annum. Quoted in Derville and Villon. suggests that he was Flemish. and he was bankrupt by the following year. fol. Perroy. 64.47 Friars minor were paid for celebrating masses in the castle chapel at a rate of 6d. 5d. in the second. The higher sum was perhaps the result of various accounting manoeuvres. . Thirtytwo archers also received extra pay for watching outside the walls of Calais on fourteen dark nights. reveal that money received from the Exchequer reached a total of £7. travelled frequently to london to consult with the council. about a fifth of the total resources of the Crown in time of war. Hankine van schise. TNA. owing at least in part to the interruption to trade caused by the Black Death. His accounts were also improved by credits from the victualler. Those for 1351/2 and 1352/3. 220–21. in the first year and only £4. that is to say the whole area in English hands. TNA. E.· 34 · Chapter 2 crown. ‘Calais greved more England and dede more hurt therto than profit. ‘Walter Chiriton (fl. it is evident.48 turning to the maintenance of the town and its defences. ‘John de Wesenham’. G. TNA.’45 The accounts of the treasurer of the town allow us to gain a detailed breakdown of these expenses. 1340–1358)’.

52 The term can apparently mean either young lady or harlot. ardres. offset against this sum was the income accruing to the Crown from various rentals and dues. and exceeded the money received from the Exchequer and that arising locally by £1. 4d. a foot archer 3d. most importantly on the Risban tower. The accounts for the 1350s contain no payments for a regardum. fol. Treasurer of Calais. 10 (Arras. while the pay of the captain himself varied from 3s. like the costs of transporting £1. a kind of bonus payment. 6d.585 15s. a mounted archer 6d. are in some cases at higher rates than those normally used. Perroy (ed. E101/171/3. men-at-arms 12–18d. in the period from the early 1350s to 1360 the town played an important role in Edward’s strategy with regard to the war with France. as recorded by William Gunthorp. 15v. 8d. The men’s wages. it consisted of a total of around 1.51 The garrison of Calais Castle was paid as follows : knights received 2s. 481 were based in the town and castle .. the treasurer for these years. per year. H. plumbers and a tiler. oye.000. and foot archers 6d. Hammes and sangatte held between 35 and 14 men.. at ardres the pay rates were slightly different again. a domicella de Hone (66s.418 6s. 6¾d.) and payments for goods lost in the war to one Marie. 1966). this cost 3s. per rood and probably relates to the roads over the marshes. per day. to 4s. scutiferi (men-at-arms) 12d. The Accounts of William Gunthorp. The Organisation of War under Edward III (Manchester.49 This was still going on in 1354–5 when stoonpikkers were employed for this purpose.50 The accounts for 1371/2 give the precise composition of the garrison in detail. including that in the ffrerlane that was leased to John de Wesenham for 13s.. a man-at-arms 12d. archers (no distinction is made between mounted and foot archers) 6d. was also paid. 50 TNA. The final conclusion was that royal expenditure on Calais of all kinds came to £20. (temporarily in English hands at this date) was held by 320.). mounted archers 9d. J. 1959).). with knights receiving 3s. including those of officials. The total cost in wages and fees. per day. 9d. various specialists like gunners. 2¾d. all told the income from the region itself came to £1. 51 The usual rate was a knight 2s. which commanded the harbour entrance. . 1371–72. 8d.. Various special items were also included in this.52 Work on the fortifications. in 1351 raids had been led 49 TNA. there is no doubt. in this account. Hewitt. to the value of a small amount of bread-corn grown near ardres. a sum called a regardum. that Edward III thought that the expenditure on Calais was fully justified. however. audruicq by 50 and Guisnes by 80.000 in gold from london to Calais by way of Dover (50s. collectors of customs and officials of the mint came to just under £20. and the rents of properties in Calais town.A new ruler and a new regime · 35 · of paving the town .264 2s. came to £645 9s. E 101/171/1.. These varied from the income from fisheries like that under the bridge at Melleques. which may have been included because of the lack of opportunities for booty while part of a garrison force. hobelars (mounted men armed with swords and with basic armour) 8d.53 Despite John of Gaunt’s view expressed above. Mémoires de la Commission départementale des monuments historiques du Pas de Calais.132 men.. 36.. while the strongholds of Marck. 53 The details of the Treasurer’s account for 1371–2 come from E.

in conjunction with their ally. the town served as the starting point for a major expedition into northern France led by the king himself.56after the Black Prince’s triumph and the capture of King John II of France. Most interest centred on the Prince and his intentions. no battle had ensued. whose association with Calais went back to the siege. with the prince of Wales leading a chevauchée from Gascony while his father launched an attack from Cherbourg. although a relatively small-scale raid into France was also conducted by Henry of lancaster. in around two weeks. Edward was forced to change his plans. When news of his intention got abroad. in 1355.. involving the presence of the king and other men of note in the town. it was the failure of any of these drafts to be ratified by the French. The substitute strategy was to mount a quick destructive raid from Calais into Picardy moving south. 295–304. it was laid down that the English would hold Calais and the Pale and the county of Guisnes in full sovereignty.000 soldiers. The alliance with navarre had collapsed . Calais was not a centre of activity. perhaps to provoke John of France into giving battle. another experienced soldier and diplomat. Charles of navarre. strenuous efforts were made to conclude a treaty between the warring parties and bring the fighting to an end. a landing on the Cotentin peninsula was out of the question. The following year. being undertaken by the garrison as a welcome opportunity for action. 55 Ibid.. who probably had more experience at this date of fighting the French than any other English captain. War Cruel and Sharp. despite the desperate desire of John II to return to his devastated kingdom from his imprisonment in England. 56 Ibid. that of the Black Prince’s crushing victory at Poitiers. and by september. along with the mention of many other territorial gains. Brabant and the German states.· 36 · Chapter 2 from Calais towards saint-omer and ardres by two of the leading English commanders : Henry of lancaster. if Edward III himself had originally intended to lead a third raid from Calais. this did not place. camped outside the walls. which decided Edward in 1359 to lead another chevauchée deep into French territory from Calais. as has been suggested. Both forces were held in port for most of the summer by contrary winds. and sir Walter Mauny or Manny.55 The force left Calais at the end of october and was back. 349. when he had been involved in the negotiations for the surrender of the town. as well as around 10. 341–7. 297. moving into normandy in late June from his landing place at saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. This had been planned as the northern arm of a two-pronged attack on France. in all the draft treaties. although much destruction was caused to French-held territory. . 287–8. would have almost overwhelmed the burgesses and their resources. once again crowds of 54 Rogers. The expedition of 1355.54 The earlier raids probably did not increase the number of military men in Calais. drawn to fight alongside Edward not only by his reputation for chivalry and success but also by the prospect of booty and lucrative ransoms. included in the total were around a thousand men-at-arms from Flanders.

was no different from that agreed in the earlier truces. The town and its environs were to be part of the lands of the king of England in full sovereignty. however. 58 J. This could ease diplomatic negotiations and even at times allow the town to be a convenient ‘listening post’ to gauge the importance of events or development of opinions on the far side of the Channel. but centrally in normandy or the Cotentin. setting out clearly what territory and what rights each of the contending monarchs possessed.. The English hold on the town had proved to be secure . This was the case with the expedition of Henry of lancaster in 1356. before the situation became unmanageable. the garrison.57 The townspeople of Calais may well have watched the army’s banners fading in the distance with a deep sense of relief. it is suggested. eager to fight under Edward’s banner and. Calais’s convenience as the nearest port to England was of course immense. The position. lancaster led them on a foray to saint-omer and then in the direction of the somme. de Venette. the queen of Henry II. as Jean de Venette poignantly recorded in his Chronicle. the fortifications and the natural defences of the marshes had kept it secure from attempts to retake it. a casual observer in 1360 would. as far as Calais was concerned. The conclusion of this treaty. Yet was it really the key to the kingdom of France ? The duchy of aquitaine in the south-west. Edward then informed the foreign men-at-arms that he could not take them into his army as paid troops. ed. The Chronicles of Jean de Venette. 386–90. was far more extensive (even given that its borders were porous and fluctuated frequently). northern France had been comprehensively laid waste. This was intended to end the wars. however. Commercial life or the 57 Ibid.58 but deeds of extraordinary military prowess had all taken place far from Calais. would be the retaking of ardres and audruicq by Philip of Burgundy in 1377.A new ruler and a new regime · 37 · unemployed men-at-arms from all over western Europe poured into the town. to share in the expected booty. the dowry of Eleanor. Henry of lancaster had to be sent ahead of the main English army to disperse the crowds of armed men without adequate provisions or shelter. but they were welcome to join his forces for a share of any booty that might be gained. in this instance. it was in this part of France that all the most spectacular efforts of the English had taken place in the 1350s. as before. 1953) 93–4. the devastating march of the English through the French countryside was followed by the negotiations that produced the treaty of Brétigny. not in the extreme north-east corner. Birdsall (New York. in many circumstances it was strategically wiser for an English king to land in northern France. J. some took up this offer but others left for home The king’s army from England then set out on a foray that would take them to Reims and the outskirts of Paris. as set out in the treaty. The only major change to the borders of English territory. see the town’s importance as residing essentially in its military and official roles at this early date. provides an opportunity for considering the condition of Calais as it had developed in the thirteen years since the siege. 400–402. They joined up with the main English royal army outside Calais on the end of october. .

The presence of merchants. would have passed almost unremarked. with the flocking to the town of foreign men-atarms. however. pointed to Edward’s desire for a wider commercial role for this new acquisition of the English Crown. Edward III’s expedition of 1359. crowded the town with soldiers and courtiers. except as supplying the needs of these customers. was not so evident. whether heavily influenced by English models and customs or not. . and it is to this we will turn in the next chapter. the elaborate ceremonies surrounding the return of John II from England and the ratification of the treaty of Brétigny in st nicholas’s Church. The events of 1359–60 epitomised this. We have already.· 38 · Chapter 2 development of a civic society.

Edward III’s action in encouraging new immigrants to settle in the town immediately after the siege. there were considerable difficulties in developing a vibrant urban society in Calais outside its role as a military and diplomatic base. There was nothing new in the idea of setting up a staple system. who could be reasonably sure that they would find both buyers and sellers in the staple town. since the trade could be regulated and dues collected more easily if it was concentrated in one place. it needed a sound commercial base. cloth and tin in Calais in early 1348. going as far as the French historians who deny that Calais ever had any economic value for England and claim that its possession was only a matter of prestige. feathers. luring them by the grant of property. at least until the last decade of the fourteenth century. as further attempts to make it a desirable place for traders to base themselves. Derville and Vion.1 it can be argued that. · 39 · . The solution to the problem was. it involved the designation of one or more places as the only locations in which wool (or any other commodity) could be legally bought or sold. it also had advantages for merchants.3 s Et t i n G u P t H E s ta P l E : a n EW R o l E F o R C a l a i s  I f Calais was to be more than a garrison town. Wool was the commodity most often subject to 1 Perroy. however. 223 . Without. found in the establishment of Calais as the staple town for the sale of English wool and wool-fells to continental. and that the trade and traders would enjoy a measure of official protection. mainly Flemish. since it offered opportunities for them to establish quasi-monopolies and squeeze out the ‘little men’. The system was beneficial for the Crown. 66. We can interpret the establishment of a staple for lead. showed a sound understanding of this fact. perhaps. ‘L’Administration de Calais’. or perhaps a small group of towns. There was also a perception that a staple was particularly advantageous to the merchants in the largest way of business. and the exemption of Calais burgesses from all dues except royal customs on trade with England. merchants. Histoire de Calais.

as far as Calais was concerned. The king had his own priorities. because of the bad relations between England and Flanders at this date.· 40 · Chapter 3 staple legislation. maintained its base in Calais from that date until the end of the years of English rule. as it became known. Merchants were not united on all aspects of staple policy . ‘The Establishment of the English Wool Staple in 1313’. usually in the form of export dues (both customs duties and additional subsidies) on wool going overseas. since it was by far the most valuable article of trade for English merchants. Baker. particularly before 1399 when the wool staple was finally firmly located in the town. however some problems in trying to establish how this company was organised and how it acted to control the trade in wool and wool-fells.2 The location of the staple. Provincial woolmen and growers had yet other interests. its records were kept at Calais. provided a vital stream of ready money for English kings. There are. not surprisingly. The taxation of wool. largely at the instigation of merchants who faced the danger of arrest and the confiscation of their wares in Flanders. L. orders and muniments made by longe 2 R. This ‘cash flow’ was also employed as the collateral for loans made by both foreign and English merchants. the state of any military campaign in progress or contemplated. dictated by the fluctuating political situation in France and Flanders. The earliest staple for the sale of English wool had been established at st omer in 1313. and in this form it was the basis of English war finance for most of the late medieval period. it is not surprising. Those who sold to italians tended to have a different point of view from those who sold to the cloth makers in Bruges. therefore. 31 (1956). Ghent and Ypres or other towns in Flanders. and when the town fell to the French in 1558 all were apparently lost and presumably destroyed. and the particular regulations under which it would operate were not simple matters . and the condition of royal finances. whether they were london-based or came from other trading or wool-producing areas like Yorkshire or East anglia. responding to the different financial and political pressures on the Crown at any one time. Speculum. 444–53. The Company of the staple of England. however. ‘our former books. as the staplers themselves mournfully recorded in the ordinance Book that they compiled after the loss of Calais. these changes of royal policy were of great concern. They might wish to see the export trade solely in the hands of foreign merchants or might find the prohibition of export by denizen merchants destructive of their whole business. in london itself there could be intense rivalry between the members of the different livery companies involved in the wool trade in the later fourteenth century. to find that royal policy on the location and regulation of a wool staple changed frequently throughout the fourteenth century. . their normal market. some of these differing groups might favour home staples (staple towns nominated in England) over one abroad. lawes. decisions on this brought together many interest groups with conflicting demands. it might depend whether they were in a small or large way of business.

Nightingale. The collections of some of the private papers of two stapler families. powers of jurisdiction in disputes between merchants. and even a gaol in which to incarcerate the recalcitrant. as can be obtained for some of the london livery companies.4 The staplers’ mournful comment on the total loss of their records in 1558 was not completely accurate. ‘The Johnson Letters. can throw some further light on the Company in the later fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. since the earliest documents in the book have elaborate decorated initial letters. includes some accounts and other material not in the Hanham edition. its date is not in dispute. 1955). ed. F. Winchester. This is the date of the first entry in the Register. The importance of this collection is that it makes clear that the Company was. Goods and People. beginning in the reign of Edward IV. Malden. The Cely Letters 1472–1488. E. The Johnson letters and papers have not been published but are commented on extensively in B. were copied the most important royal grants and similar documents of the Company. all the entries are also in the same hand until the end of Edward IV’s reign. 4 For the history of the Grocers’ Company. after which a variety of hands can be found. which was presumably either in london at the time of the fall of Calais or in the personal possession of one of the officers of the Company and carried away from the town when he left as a refugee. and for the Mercers. E. 1975). 1000–1485 (New Haven and London. in its own opinion. Borthwick Institute. This book is now in the Borthwick Collection at the university of York. 1130–1578 (Aldershot. 104. A. but there are no early minute books or other papers that would enable us to have a clear idea of the internal organisation and activities of the Company. see P. The letters have been transcribed in B. A Medieval Mercantile Community : The Grocers’ Company and the Politics and Trade of London. collected and registered were from us with the seide towne of Callais surpriused and witholden’. 1937).5 it is a large leather-bound ledger into which. however. MS Staple 2. The Mercery of London : Trade.3 The ordinance Book almost certainly mirrors at least some of these ‘lawes and orders’. A. Hanham (Oxford. the Celys and the Johnsons. one earlier document does survive. while for those dating from the later years of Edward IV the beginning of each document is ruled and laid out for the insertion of the decoration. ed. This is the Register of the Company.6 3 The Ordinance Book of the Merchants of the Staple. Rich (Cambridge. Sutton. but for the earlier period the records of the Crown are also very important. founded in Bruges in 1341. 1953). The last documents in the book date from the reign of James I. set out the powers of the Company in Calais and make clear that by 1359 it was a corporate entity with elected officials. 1900). The Cely Papers (London. E. Tudor Family Portrait (London. The succeeding entries. . 1542–1552’ (PhD thesis. but this has not taken place. 6 The Cely letters have been published by the Early English Text Society. An earlier edition by H. 2005).Setting up the staple · 41 · cours of tyme by the wisdome aand prudenties of our grave auncestours made. University of London. 5 York. This may be no more than a reflection of the common medieval desire to demonstrate a respectably lengthy ancestry. for example the Grocers or the Mercers. Winchester. The Staple collection of MSS was transferred from the BL to York in the 1990s. 1995).

or who had suffered losses from other royal forced loans in wool. 8 Commons Petition to King Edward III. for example. in 1343 a petition presented by merchants to parliament argued forcefully for the move of the staple from Bruges back to England itself. Ghent and Ypres. The grant from 1341 in the staple Company register described above. The issue of home staples was not resolved to the petitioners’ satisfaction in the parliament of 1343. it was claimed.9 The cause was no mystery . The idea of free trade as advanced by nineteenth century liberals was completely foreign to medieval thinking. but this clause illustrates the intimate connection between the taxes on wool and royal finances especially in time of war. The need for controls was axiomatic. and the staple remained abroad. including in fact many of the same individuals. a return to home staples would. . most commonly at Bruges. The petition also refers extensively to the losses incurred by merchants who were ‘impoverished and ruined because their wool was taken from them at Dordrecht’ (a notorious example of the king manipulating the wool market to raise war finance). also existed to collect the wool customs at this date. 9 T. 193–224. but in the view of later commentators this does not imply that a company in the formal legal sense existed. Parliament of April 1343 . The gold coins used in Bruges were generally considered to be overvalued compared with the English noble (the English gold coin). all governments at this date were very anxious to control the supply of bullion within their realms and regarded its export as draining away the wealth of the state. suggests that this view was not held by contemporaries. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. who were accused of manipulating the market in English wool to the benefit of their own merchants and clothiers. but rather that this was a company in the informal sense of a group with a common purpose. and also in England itself at ‘home staples’. conversely raise the price of English wool. leading to losses on exchange for English merchants. perhaps.8 in Bruges itself at this time there was a mayor of the staple elected by the English merchants trading there. The English Wool Trade in the Middle Ages (Cambridge. to protect the various interests involved against the machinations of their rivals or other authorities. the king responded by promising them recompense from the customs revenue. Lloyd.7 on this occasion. specifically they were accused of destroying the cloth industry of ‘the lesser towns of Flanders’ by forbidding these towns to ‘work any cloth and have burned their looms to the great detriment and abasement of English wool’. H. a similar group. 1977). Their reasons for requesting this are of some interest. The chapter ‘Quest for a staple policy’. moving from Bruges to Middelburg and back again. gives details of all the twists and turns in the royal policy on wool staples at this period. in this case. pp. following a spate of tit-for-tat 7 This relates to wool sent to Dordrecht in 1337/8 to back a loan to the king. the wool staple had been located both overseas. until in 1352 the export of wool was banned altogether. another issue was that of bullion . revealing both contemporary attitudes to trade and the way the wool trade in particular was entangled in royal policy making.· 42 · Chapter 3 Before the fall of Calais to the English. those in Bruges.

that refer to the Company being at Calais at this date are confusing but again clearly reflect what the Company saw. by order of their superiors. Entries in the staple Company Register. relate to Calais ? its great advantage was that it was under English control . which must have made commercial life difficult for both buyers and sellers. This part of the statute remained in force for many years.10 Exports were only resumed after the passage of the ordinance of the staple in the parliament of 1353. as well as Carmarthen in Wales and four towns in ireland. it was out of the way for those wishing to export to italy. including the settlement of debts. They would also of course pay the custom and subsidy on export at the higher alien rate. including six from Calais itself. and by 1359 a staple had been re-established in Bruges. The Wool Trade.11 By 1357 denizen merchants were permitted to resume exporting wool. as well as these provisions. These arguments were appreciated by the king. 11 Ordinance of the Staple : Edward III. This statute set up a list of towns where staples would be established. are preparing to set out to sea to inflict what damage they can on the king and his subjects until they recover the damages which they pretend they have received from the king’s subjects’. who had summoned an assembly of merchants in May 1361.Setting up the staple · 43 · robberies at sea. quoted in Lloyd. . while the town was well situated for merchants coming from the cloth-making centres in Flanders. to be the ‘preferred version’ of its origins. it was claimed in the opening speech that Calais would be a ‘good and convenient place and location for the 10 CCR 1349–54 : 506. despite all the contradictory evidence that also exists. For them. the statute included clauses regarding general mercantile practice. How did these continual changes. and this was recast as a statute a year later. abrupt changes of policy by a foreign ruler could not suddenly throw the market into confusion. mentioned above. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. it prohibited denizen merchants from the export of wool. ‘the king has learned that the mariners of Flanders. The image created by the Register is that the Company was firmly based at Calais as a legally constituted body from 1359. The king was also in a much better position to deal with problems concerned with bullion and the coinage in his own territories rather than in those of a rival ruler. in the later fifteenth century. on the other hand. to the benefit of the king’s finances. York and lincoln. More controversially in the eyes of modern commentators. 205. ensuring that the home staples had some relevance and continued in existence long after the clauses relating specifically to the export trade in wool had ceased to operate. at the opening of the Parliament of october 1362. to discuss the whole question of staple towns for the sale of wool. provided they paid taxes at the alien rate. who would buy their supplies in England and bear all the costs and difficulties of transport overseas. exchange problems and the like themselves. These included Westminster. Parliament of September 1353 . This would be left entirely in the hands of aliens (Flemings or italians in the main). direct export by sea from England from a port such as southampton was the best solution.

1976). 210–11. in 1360. March 1363. The Commons’ reaction to this was somewhat muted . in the following month. serving only to infuriate wool merchants outside the magic circle of the twenty-six aldermen and to provide poor governance for Calais. ODNB. however. The matter should be held over until a better idea could be got of merchant opinion. (fl. would hold the position of mayors. ‘John Wesenham. The Wool Trade. avoiding the problems caused by the king’s lack of jurisdiction in foreign places and at least some of the currency difficulties. a position only held by a leading wool merchant. We can speculate here that it may have been intended to bring together leading merchants and contributors to royal loans in a scheme to link trading advantages with the internal control of Calais. The matter of the location of the staple was. Thrupp.. ‘which money [the Commons complained] is received to their own use’. Mich. He had been one of the partners in the syndicate to farm the customs in 1346 and had helped clear up the consequences of Walter Chiriton’s bankruptcy in 1349. L. H. The ‘trickery’ of this company had resulted in large quantities of wool remaining unsold. see S. in parliament in october 1363. The system set up by the old charters of Countess Mahaut was revoked. There is no doubt that he was well known to the king and would probably have been privy to the thinking behind this turn of events. but in effect it seems more concerned with the handing over of the government of the town to a group of merchant oligarchs. Certainly many of those named in the charter were heavily involved in the wool trade.· 44 · Chapter 3 wool and residence of merchants’. only one aspect of a change of policy towards Calais that the king had in mind. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. For Wesenham’s career. per wool sack duty on cargoes entering the town. see T. Lloyd.13 This can be interpreted as the moment of the formal foundation of the Company of the staple. John Wroth and John de Wesenham. More recently. He was a member of the Fishmongers’ Company. to the ‘very great damage of the people’. two of this group. Wroth had been an alderman of the city of london since 1358. 375. the knights of the shire felt unable to comment but noted that some merchants agreed with this and others did not. For John Wroth. was lord Mayor in 1360/61 and was mayor of the Westminster staple in 1353/4. The Merchant Class of Medieval London (Ann Arbor. 13 Lloyd.1333–1382)’. Parliament of October 1362 . a charter was issued to a group of twenty-six English merchants granting them the right to govern Calais. . Wesenham we have already mentioned as a lynn merchant with a major interest in the victualing of Calais. if there was such a scheme. he had been commissioned to put a fleet to sea for the protection of trade in the north sea. the Commons petitioned vigorously that the ‘new company of merchants now residing at Calais’ should desist from placing an extra 40d.12 We do not know if any such consultation took place. who also owned property in the town. who despite their name were deeply involved in the wool trade. 12 Edward III. but on 9 February 1363 Calais was declared to be the staple town for the sale of wool and wool-fells. it seems to have been a spectacular failure. and the remaining twenty-four would be aldermen.

Strayer. The belief that the group of twenty-six involved in this episode in fact constituted the first members of a regulated company in charge of the Calais staple rather than an ad hoc grouping of very wealthy wool merchants trading to the town is hard to substantiate. since there is no charter in existence for the staplers before the reign of Elizabeth I.. They were both released a year later. L. in Order and Innovation in the Middle Ages : Essays in Honor of Joseph R. causing ‘outrageous damage’ to all other merchants. it is not possible to show any continuous existence of the group after the collapse of their venture in 1364. The mayor of Calais would administer the town with twelve aldermen including burgesses of Calais. it is very difficult to say when the Company came into being as a formal corporate entity. Jordan et al. 213–14. and little more is known of Wesenham’s career. it is clear that for most of the fifteenth century the members of the Calais staple acted as an organised group and were bound by rules regarding their trading operations and the internal organisation of the Company. Baker. in June 1364 the king withdrew the charter granted in 1363 and set up a new system of governing the town. They had moved the location of the weigh house to a place near their own premises. 1976).16 in the face of all this. in the fourteenth century the prospects of wool merchants exporting via Calais varied widely and were often subject to sudden and unpredictable change. whether aliens or denizens’. The report of the evidence given by wool merchants who were not part of the privileged group repeats one accusation over and over again. on the other hand.17 Blame for the failure was attached to Wesenham. 15 ‘The ordinary merchants. The basis for a formal regulated company has seemed almost non-existent to 14 Edward III. but very inconvenient for everyone else. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. The majority of the evidence seems to point to some time early in the reign of Henry IV.15 but for the profit only of the mayors and aldermen. clearly separated from that of the staple. 16 R. the mayors and aldermen had bought up or rented much property in the town. . agreeing that this extra payment should be removed. instead of supplying the ordinary merchants with good warehouses at a reasonable rent.14 in December a commission was also set up to investigate the whole matter. 17 Ibid. the master of the Calais mint. as had normally been done in other staple towns. (Princeton. 210–11. ed. W. all the changes brought in by this group were not for the benefit of the ‘communes Marchantz sibien as estranges come as autres’. The staple would have its own organisation of a mayor and constables to deal with the regulation of trade in the usual way. with the link between staple and town being maintained by the provision that the mayor of the staple would also be an alderman of Calais. The governing group had refused to listen to complaints or grant merchants their usual rights. The most important office holders in the town would be appointed by the Crown. Parliament of October 1363 . who found himself imprisoned in the tower with Henry Brisele.Setting up the staple · 45 · The king accepted the petition with as good a grace as possible. ‘The Government of Calais in 1363’. C.

Parliament of November 1373 . A Medieval Merchant Community. Parliament of April 1376 (the Good Parliament) . English merchants were also banned from the export trade. including those with the largest share of the trade at this period. forcefully condemning the issuing of licences to export wool otherwise than to the staple.’20 Richard lyons. along with the regulations governing its operations. and Flemish merchants were thought to be reluctant to venture over the border into English territory for fear of the loss of their goods or their lives. The town. this was not the view taken by the staplers themselves in the 1470s. The staple was once again in theory located in the town. 239. at the procurement and counsel of the king’s said intimates and of others of their faction for their singular profit. The Commons’ petition presented in the parliament of november 1373 complained that this was to ‘the great loss damage and decrease of profit’ not only of the king but ‘the said town of Calais and to the great scarcity of money’. most of them members of the Fishmongers’ or Grocers’ Companies. to the dismay of the burgesses and to the benefit of the king’s finances. The requests made in a long series of 18 Commons Petition : Edward III. but. 20 Commons Petition : Edward III. as the Register reveals. The staple was abruptly removed from Calais in 1369. discussed below. 19 Nightingale. was impeached in this parliament on grounds that included his purchase of licences to avoid the Calais staple. it is hard to know how genuine are the claims that Calais was being ruined by the royal policy regarding the staple. The Commons’ petition for the restoration of the staple at Calais on this occasion was phrased in much more direct terms.19 The royal reply to the petition was not favourable to their interests. who were closely linked to the Calais staple.18 This petition was probably inspired by the london wool merchants. but. The Channel was full of French privateers. ‘and bullion since have been and still are in great part withdrawn and almost completely ruined. From 1369 to the 1390s the location of the wool staple continued to be frequently changed. licences (for which high fees were charged) began to be issued in considerable numbers. one-third of the members of the Grocers’ Company were wool merchants. only to see both ordinances rescinded in august 1370. a london merchant who had farmed the petty customs and tonnage and poundage since 1373. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. had been drawn into the maelstrom of court politics at the time and equally into the factions and quarrels in the city of london. .· 46 · Chapter 3 modern historians. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. The reference to a shortage of money relates to the operation of the Calais Mint. they claimed. to the great prejudice and damage of the king and his realm and in destruction of the aforesaid town of Calais. when the resumption of war with France was imminent. leaving matters to deteriorate from their point of view until 1376 with the meeting of the so-called Good Parliament. with its close association with the wool trade in the hands of prominent london merchants. ‘The same staple’. Eleven members of the Grocers’ company conducted 20% of the total trade in wool by quantity in 1365–6. allowing the export of wools from English ports to other places.

in ‘good’ years about 15. the burgesses also petitioned for each alienation of property to be governed by the law in existence at the time it was made. even when Calais was in French hands. unlikely to be fully restored until warfare in northern France and unrest in Flanders were either much diminished or at an end. throwing porters. in this instance.000 sacks of wool were shipped to Calais . who had taken control of the western part of Flanders and thus could prevent Flemings from reaching Calais. the best customers for the commodity. however. stability in the wool trade and in the operation of the staple were.Setting up the staple · 47 · petitions from the town in the same parliament do. but it could have unfortunate consequences for some of those involved. which was no longer a series of English victories. The overall impression created was that the town was suffering from real difficulties . which made it hard to man an adequate watch on the walls and gates.000–16. the mayor could himself provide a considerable body of armed men to defend the town if the garrison had to mount a sortie elsewhere. but this seems to have been no more than the kind of informal grouping that had earlier been sited at . in 1382/3 this declined to 2. with the majority getting at least a cautiously favourable response. this was the case in both 1380/81 and 1381/2. These and other clauses regarding inheritance rights and the like seem to have received careful royal consideration. themselves taken the initiative to move to Middelburg in Zeeland. The merchants themselves had. in response the king set out. This must have been little short of a disaster for the town. Requests were also made for the right to import supplies from England without paying dues and taxes. however. Because of the changes in land law since the conquest of the town. a new constitution for the town. This was no longer the case. Fears of a French invasion of England in the summer of 1381 did not greatly disrupt trade to Calais. some could perhaps be put down to the fortunes of the war with France. and in 1384 only eighty-three sacks were unloaded on the quays. however. but by 1383 the amount of wool shipped directly to the town fell drastically. in effect.191 sacks. They also wanted the right to pasture their cattle on the dunes along the coast and drew attention to the number of empty and ruinous properties in the town. with a mayor and twelve aldermen with powers to maintain the town and raise money in the usual ways. something the townspeople asserted they had been able to do from the time of Richard I of England. according to the petitioners. Civil war in Flanders from 1379 to 1385 undoubtedly much reduced the demand for English wool from the clothiers of the region. at one time. others. The governor and treasurer of the town should have had the right to rent these empty properties at a small sum to English people to repopulate the town. were probably the consequence of the constant manipulation of the staple regulations by a king in financial difficulties. beyond the reach of the French. There are mentions of ‘the staple at Middelburg’ in letters patent and elsewhere. There is a nostalgic demand for the reissue of Countess Mahaut’s charter except in so far as it related to real property. labourers and other ancillary workers out of work. convey a strong desire for stability. no-one at this date seemed to question the policy of trying to control trade by a mixture of financial and legal restrictions.

except for low-quality wool exported from Berwick. 1383–88. 22 G. however.24 in 1411 the petition was primarily concerned to point out. Dodd. 2 (1926).· 48 · Chapter 3 Bruges. together with the burgesses of Calais. licences to send goods elsewhere were plentiful and a source of ready money for the Crown. in the parliament of november 1390. but the loss to the customs. 24 Henry IV. denizen merchants were not only prevented from buying wool from growers except at the staple but were also once more formally excluded from the export trade in wool. Petitions were presented later in the reign complaining of the issue of licences to avoid the staple. it was hoped. one of the earliest acts of Henry IV’s first parliament restored the liberties of the staple at Calais on the terms that remained in force for many years. would raise the price of wool at the staples. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. Within a year these provisions had been reversed. but their wording is much more restrained compared with that of petitions in earlier years. make clear the diverse interests among the wool growers and merchants and the fact that the Calais staple did not receive universal support. 23 Richard II. it is not quite clear how the success of Middelburg as a wool market relates to a memorandum addressed to Parliament in 1382. The Wool Trade. although there is no mention of wools of different qualities in this petition. and the wools taken by italian or spanish merchants directly by sea to their home ports. Within a matter of months. 63–5. and finished with the request that anyone who spied on those who were avoid21 F. Moreover. more valuable wools. if merchants were forced to go to the Calais staple and had to pay tax and duties at the same rate as on the best.22 Despite the success of the Middelburg staple. Cambridge Historical Journal. Parliament of January 1390 . The memorandum does. 243. That in 1401 speaks mainly of ‘the deflation of the price’ of staple commodities at Calais caused by licences. This petition is also discussed in Lloyd. a petition to restore the home staples set up in the legislation of 1353 was accepted. all wool exported from England must pass through the staple at Calais. however. The wishes of this group carried the day when the staple returned to Calais once a truce had been concluded with France in 1389.23 The long-desired stability and permanent establishment of the staple at Calais did not come until after the deposition of Richard II. . the powerful group of london merchant capitalists who. Parliament of January 1401 . The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. ‘The Middleburgh Staple. ‘The Calais Staple and the Parliament of May 1382. not the damage suffered directly by the town or its trade. that is poor-quality wool. English merchants returned to the export market.21 it was not a formally constituted body. which complained bitterly of the disadvantage suffered by grosse leins. The shire knights representing wool growers and landlords had successfully put pressure on parliament to agree to a policy that.’ EHR 117 (2002). wished the staple to return to what they now evidently considered should be its normal home eventually achieved their aim. 95–103. but while Calais retained the title of staple. Miller. however. it probably had the support of the same lords and wool growers who had tried to make their case in 1382.

The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. the garrison and the Pale. are for the most part inhabited by the people of our lord the king from England’. . and cloth exports were taking over its leading position.Setting up the staple · 49 · ing the customs by exporting outside the staple should have the ‘third part’ of the profit of the prosecution ‘for their trouble and labour’. This petition states specifically that ‘the aforesaid lands . By the time it was firmly established in Calais and one can begin to talk of the Company of the staple as a corporate body with its own officers and internal regulations. nevertheless it does seem that the final settlement of the wool staple at Calais and the emergence of the Company of the staple were crucial in allowing the town of Calais to develop in a different direction from its role as a military base. The petitioners demanded that all vessels coming into Calais except fishing boats should ensure that they 25 Henry IV. Even if the herring shoals had migrated north. This is aimed at the repair and maintenance of the beacons marking the entrance to the port and the area called Paradise. This was outside the walls of the town and had no military significance. the population of the town had probably increased considerably from its low point in the 1350s. there would still have been a big market for other fish in the town.26 a petition from 1397 also testifies to the commercial development of the port. as some suspect. an important element saw themselves as English but also viewed the town as their permanent home. This group was large enough by 1368 to petition parliament asking that children born in Calais or Guisnes as well as Gascony should be able to inherit property in England on the same basis as those born in England itself. By this time. the export trade in wool was past its peak. it was thus able to become a viable economic entity and a lively urban centre during its period under English rule. the beginning of the fifteenth century. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. The petition graphically described how ‘the terrible onslaught and rages of the sea’ had undermined the coastal defences and the walls at this point so that their collapse was threatened.25 over half a century elapsed between the siege of Calais by Edward III and the final establishment of the staple for the sale of wool. 26 Edward III. . the insecurity of transport by sea and by land. During this period the staple system was usually in operation but its location and the regulations under which it operated varied widely and often quite rapidly. it was probably the base of the fishermen and their families who had made the export of herrings an important part of the town’s economy in the days before the siege. tin and lead in the town. the labyrinthine exchange system—it is perhaps a matter of some surprise that the wool trade flourished to the extent it did. Parliament of November 1411 . Given the slowness in communications at the time and the many other difficulties that often faced merchants—the effects of war. . The pessimistic view of the French historians mentioned at the beginning of this chapter paints far too gloomy a picture of the town and its economy. and hints at a significant expansion of the resident population. Parliament of May 1368 . wool-fells and the lesser commodities of hides.

an attorney ‘in lawe’. but there is every sign that the organisation set out mirrored as far as possible that of the Company at its former base. it was clearly an onerous and important position. wool brokers and fell brokers. a solicitor. the moving of the wool sacks to the wool houses.28 a good idea of the number and nature of the officers employed can be gathered from the ordinance Book compiled after the loss of Calais by the English in 1558. the ‘clerke of the collectrie’ and his deputies were ready on the quayside to record the cargo in precise detail. ‘redemption by fre gifte commonly called gratis. and to be ‘ready and attandaunt at alle tymes requisitie’ in his office to fulfil his duty of keeping the Company’s records. wool packers.. 28 The Ordinance Book of the Merchants of the Staple. material of such commercial sensitivity that he was forbidden to reveal to any save ‘the head for the tyme beinge’—‘the nombre sort or quantite of olde woulles or olde felles’ that remained ‘in the bookes or toune unsolde’. 31 Ibid. and valuers. 132–42. two fleets per year. 30 Ibid.30 it also sets out the general rules governing the shipping of wool to Calais . with both parents English born. The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England. whose skills were a mixture of those of an accountant or bookkeeper and something rather like a modern company secretary. accounts and administration of all these regulations was an official called the husbande. 27 Richard II. This section covers everything expected of apprentices. incidental mentions of the Company and its operations in the Cely correspondence and Johnson papers reinforce this impression. He swore to be obedient to the mayor. The wool sacks had to be of the correct weight. The Company was re-established in Bruges. among others. 142–64. and the influx of buyers from Flanders—the Company itself had a large body of officers and other employees in Calais. including the facts that they should be born in wedlock. The clerk would also keep a careful count of old and new wools. were prescribed. The ordinances set out how a merchant might be admitted to the Company. the ‘Ordinaunce for generalle shippinges’. 29 Ibid. Careful inspection was to be made of wool ships to ensure they did not leak.27 apart from the activity generated by the wool trade itself—the bustle round the harbour when the wool ships docked. This requirement indicates a much earlier origin than the reign of Elizabeth I for these rules. The Company owned and ran a weigh house where wools from England were checked. Parliament of September 1397 . viewers and searchers of wools and fells. 118. Each merchant’s shipment was listed in a book along with the details of the customs paid. . one sailing around 20 March and one about 15 July. the needs of the resident merchants and factors. (by patrimony.31 in charge of much of the record-keeping. his lieutenant constables and the company of the merchants of the Staple. The governance of the Company was in the hands of ‘the maior and his lieutenant constables’ and the court of the Company. and by apprentishode’). When a wool ship came into port. to whom officials swore oaths.29 The Company also employed. 121.· 50 · Chapter 3 were ballasted with ‘good stones’ to use in the repairs or else pay dues of two pence per ton.. gives the text of the oath of the upper clerk. and so on.. and not ‘the sonne of any bounde man’.

it was perhaps seen primarily as a source of ready money . 70 and 71. did not import goods in any quantity in return for their exports of wool . a significant source of bullion in the form of the coins brought into the country in payment for their wool. the latter would lead to its increase. a shortage that at times became severe.Setting up the staple · 51 · demanding a measure of tact (he had power to oversee the Mayor’s expenses) as well as administrative ability. was a concrete entity easily measured at least in theory. The staple Hall (usually called the Place by the later fifteenth century) was in the Market Place immediately adjoining the town hall. 123–4. as has been said. it was this. 1980). nevertheless. The cash element in the payment for wool sold in Calais was often made in coins struck by Burgundian and other foreign mints. 297. The Company. royal credit and loans to the Crown has already been discussed. both as an informal group and as a regulated company. therefore. this held that the prosperity of a nation and its people was directly linked to the amount of gold and silver coinage circulating in that country. along with virtually all other European governments at the time. The link became even stronger in the context of the Crown’s need to finance the defence of Calais and pay the garrison. 303. the Calais staple and the staplers were used as instruments to maintain the flow of bullion into England. . This apparently simple situation was complicated by merchants’ use of various credit instruments in their trading activities (though this was largely ignored by the authorities) and by a notable shortage of both gold and silver in Europe in the later middle ages. L. instead of being an abstract concept calculated and often manipulated by the financial arm of the government. ‘Calais and the Pale’. especially the plan in MSS Cotton Augustus I.32 although many of the more senior officials of the Company spent considerable periods in london. The Company also owned other property in the vicinity. The balance of trade. 53/2 (1893). having very frequent business with the king and his Council. from both the commercial and the social points of view a very important element in the prosperity of Calais. 34 J. Dillon. The Medieval English Economy. of course. Bolton. A. used for storing wool before sale and the like. A numbered and identified plan of the location of buildings in medieval Calais can be found in H. 1150–1500 (London. Archaeologia. their business was. facing p. was also given a vital role to play in the bullionist policy followed by the English Crown.33 it is not known when this property was acquired by the Company or when the Place was built. the bulk of the business of the Company was conducted in Calais.. by and large. Was specie being exported from or imported into the realm ? The former would drain wealth from the nation .34 English wool merchants. The Crown was anxious to control and to tap for its own advantage this source of both gold and silver coins. therefore. ii. it was. during the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. therefore. the link between the customs paid by wool merchants. once the staple was 32 Ibid. There was. acute competition for bullion among all European states. that led to the loss of their records after 1558. as far as the Crown was concerned. 33 Its position is clearly indicated on the plans and drawings to be found in the Cotton collection in the BL.

This was probably not for commercial reasons but because it was no longer in the interests of the Crown for it to do so. one powerful cause of the breakdown in good relations was the belief that English regulation of the wool staple at Calais. but they had also became adept at the handling of money in many different forms and from many 35 P. ‘Calais and its Mint : Part One’. . N. including the cloth-making towns of Flanders. with royal financial imperatives a major concern for its leaders. may have increased their use of bills and other credit instruments. its reopening in 1422 can be linked to an easing of this problem. both from about 1402 to the 1420s and from about 1440 to the 1460s. seems to have operated successfully from about 1363 to 1403. in its most productive year. 1364. that only English coins should circulate in Calais. and the bullion ordinances in operation there. this left the staple Company as the only instrument available to the English Crown for the control of trade across the Channel. but in this context the most important consequence was the ending of the minting of coins at Calais in 1439/40. only after this process was completed could he begin the process of calculating the value in a common currency of the coins in his possession. Mayhew (Oxford. This bullion would then be reminted as English nobles. By this date it was essential for a merchant to be aware of the differing values and declared specie content of a wide range of coins from many different mints. although the Mint itself was not formally abolished. if the balance of trade was in English favour. Calais did not. Spufford. He also had of course to check them for their condition and weight since many could have lost value from wear and tear or by deliberate clipping.· 52 · Chapter 3 located in Calais. but it soon became more contentious politically. which was established in Calais in 1363. Many other European mints that had suffered like that at Calais from the general shortage of bullion. something that seems to have affected most European mints at the time. and these coins would usually be returned to England. reopened in the second half of the fifteenth century when new silver mines in central Europe came into production. this procedure caused few problems for the English. on a more personal level. however.35 in effect. By the 1430s the alliance between the English and the Burgundians was breaking down for a mixture of political and economic reasons. The staplers. one aim of the establishment of the Mint. ed. in Coinage in the Low Countries (880–1500). The Mint. at the same time as the staple. the staple merchants were expected to deposit two marks in bullion for every sack of wool sold at the Mint. The Company was bound yet more closely to the Crown. 1979). This hostility eventually led to the Burgundian siege of the town in 1436. were undermining the prosperity of the Burgundian lands. its closure in 1403 seems to have been caused by a great shortage of gold or silver in any form. 171–83. more gold coins were struck in the town than at the Mint at the tower in london. was clearly impossible to enforce once the Mint had ceased operation. like other merchants. J. but it could lead to their equally bullionist trading partners (usually Burgundy for much of the relevant period) placing obstacles in the way of Burgundian merchants taking specie to Calais.

The figures do not exist. p. it is clear. that even if the export trade in raw wool was declining compared with that in finished or semi-finished cloth. The astute may have found in this situation a chance for profit by manipulating exchange rates. there were many merchants and traders throughout the fifteenth century and into the sixteenth who found that they could make a reasonable living in this line of business. letter 187.Setting up the staple · 53 · different origins. and of which he had to know the exchange rates. For this membership of the Company of the staple was essential and unquestioned. for example. The range of coinage with which William Cely. 36 The Cely Letters. was faced in 1482. . demonstrated how by this time Calais and the Company of the staple was at the centre of a Europe-wide web of trade. however.36 it is true that no detailed calculation is possible of the success or otherwise of Calais as a centre for the wool trade. it can also be argued that it was this Company that gave Calais its economic stability and established its character as a commercial as well as a military centre during the period of English rule. 172.

following the signing of a truce between Charles VI of France and Richard II of England. With scrupulous care.history. to avoid giving either precedence over the other. apparently in memory of Richard’s first wife anne of Bohemia. The meeting between the kings was held at a specially prepared encampment outside ardres. were exchanged.4 tRiuMPH anD DisastER : H E n RY V. together with jewellery. and suitable gifts were exchanged. with neither wishing to be outshone by the other. Richard arrived clad in a long scarlet gown emblazoned with his personal badge of the white hart. The elaborate ceremonies surrounding the marriage of Richard to isabella. were conducted at the same time. recorded by an eye-witness. Richard appeared in more and more 1 Examples of the kind of objects involved are listed on Richard II’s Treasure Roll. The monarchs then threw back the hoods on their robes.ac. Full details of the ceremonial used on this occasion survive. Charles wore a shorter one decorated with the device of a bend sable engrailed argent. the model ships used as table decoration. all the members of their large entourages knelt.1 over the four days of the meeting. the two kings advanced to greet each other at a central point . These events were the culmination of prolonged negotiations and preparations. t H E C o l l a P s E o F t H E a n G l o BuRGunDian allianCE anD tHE REsuRGEnCE oF FRanCE  A t the end of 1396. buckles and nefs. Considerable thought had clearly gone into the choice of these. · 54 · . shook hands and kissed.000 marks. Calais and its immediate surroundings were the scene of a major diplomatic encounter. now the subject of an illustrated website (www. all in the most costly materials. The most prominent nobility present offered wine and sweetmeats. the seven-year-old daughter of the French king.uk/richardII). including a collar of pearls and other precious stones worth over 5. at the moment of meeting. Gilt cups and ewers. but they finally took place after the expenditure of much time and a great deal of money.

The church of St Nicholas was demolished when the Castle at Calais was enlarged after the recapture of the town by the French. sometimes at the head of an armed force. Groups of important travellers came and went at most seasons of the year. 209–24. The eye-witness description is in P.2 all this sounds like elaborate play-acting. it was part of the business of the town to accommodate travellers. The great occasions which touched the town. 18 (1881). would have been welcomed with pleasure. like the marriage of Richard and isabella and all the attendant ceremonial at ardres. 3 F. Brie (ed. By the mid fifteenth century. ‘L’Entrevue d’Ardres’. 1997). The Brut contains a circumstantial account of how Gloucester was tied to his bed and then strangled with towels and smothered under his feather bed. 353–4. depending on their mission and the relations between England and her neighbours at the time.4 it was far enough from london and the court for the precise circumstances and timing of this deed to be obscure. while Charles seems to have worn the same robe all the time. quite apart from those who were soldiers or merchants. one of the motives for the capture of the town had been its usefulness as a crossing point and base immediately across the Channel. for ‘grete halys and tentis [were] sette up on the grene without the castell for to resceyve alle maner of peple’. 4 Saul. Richard II (New Haven and London.3 a wider section of the populace than the court and the nobility were able to enjoy the festivities. Finally on the last day of the encounter. Richard II. all were apparently welcome at the wedding feast in Calais itself. 1906–8). The murder of Thomas of Woodstock. culminating in the distasteful (in our eyes) ‘marriage’ between a man of nearly thirty and a small child. but also in the successful projection of Richard’s image as a magnificent and powerful ruler to the most important court in Europe. and on 4 november the pair was married in st nicholas’s Church in Calais itself.). The wedding of Richard and isabella was only one among the public events in which the town played at least a supporting role. sometimes almost surreptitiously.Triumph and disaster · 55 · costly garments. whether to war or to some more peaceful pursuit. 228–30. . in september 1397 ‘in the back room of a Calais hostel’ cast a more sinister light on the town. at least to those living in the south and east of England. details that were also recorded on the parliament roll. it is clear that this event was only exceptional in its scale and in the presence of two crowned heads at the same time in the immediate vicinity of the town. Saul. the little princess was handed over to her new lord. duke of Gloucester. not only in the negotiations that were concluded during the ceremonies. Events like this kept the town in the mind of those who were involved in public affairs or who had a need to travel. as much for the business they created as for the excitement of the townspeople. that of France. made of velvet and other silks. 350. or The Chronicles of England (London. How did all this. The Brut. W. affect Calais. however. but it undoubtedly had a serious diplomatic purpose. provide for their entertainment and send them on their way. Annuaire bulletin de la Société de l’histoire de France. 379. its garrison and its townspeople ? First of all. but 2 N. Meyer. Calais may well have been better known than York or a midland town like Derby.

in 1431. By the end of the month. when no truce was in operation between the English and the French) from over 500 men in the captain’s retinue at Calais itself to forty at sangatte. 7 Derville and Villon. 1998). Allmand. oye. Henry V’s army. The long. on this occasion the royal party left England at the end of april and did not leave the town for Rouen.6 These and similar occasions focused attention on the town and did perhaps create the enormous floating population that has led at least one recent writer to see the town and its society as being hollow and empty with little real purpose. Balinghem (from its capture in 1412). Henry V (London. Histoire de Calais. a fleet of specially commissioned vessels brought the cortege to Dover. 6 R. since he brought with him not only his own household but five surgeons and his teacher and large quantities of stores of all kinds. the chief city of ‘English’ normandy until the end of July. The elite French prisoners. his possessions and his widow into the port. A.000 in time of peace. made their way home from Calais. where a further series of elaborate ceremonies began. 190–91. 174–6. in peacetime the captain’s retinue numbered 460 men. made their journey into captivity by the same route. the establishment of the garrison in the town and the surrounding castles and its annual cost had become more or less standardised. after agincourt in october 1415. The Reign of Henry VI (Stroud. including Charles of orleans. Griffiths.000 in time of war and about £10. surrounded by mourners bearing candles. when he accompanied Cardinal Beaufort to Calais in the weeks immediately before the Congress of arras.5 later. however. Henry VI crossed from Dover to Calais for his coronation as king of France. Hammes and sangatte. some time after 5 october. Guisnes. By the beginning of the fifteenth century. this royal visit must have allowed many townspeople to conduct a satisfyingly large amount of business. The survival of many accounts and related documents allows this aspect of the governance of the town to be looked at in some detail in this period as well as in the fourteenth century. Marck. 70. . sad funeral procession of Henry V himself finally reached Calais after his death at Vincennes on 31 august 1422. one important manifestation of this was the way in which the burden of financing the town garrison was accepted.7 This is. The total needed to finance the garrison amounted to about £18. varied in time of war (that is. some twenty-two carts all draped in black brought the body of the king. 1992).· 56 · Chapter 4 the lack of any real protest in England at these events demonstrates how Calais could at the same time be part of and remote from English public affairs. The total for the 5 C. elated by victory but exhausted and hungry after the battle and their march across northern France. while that at sangatte was halved to twenty men. to ignore the place that Calais undoubtedly held in the consciousness of the English Crown. and the outlying protective ring of strong points. even if at times it seemed as if financial disaster was imminent. The separate establishments of Calais and its castle. Charles would not return until 1435.

when recoined. . 277–99. it has been suggested that a workable system had evolved in the later fourteenth century. The soldiers seized the wool stored in the staplers’ wool houses and threatened to sell it at whatever price they could get. from the point of view of the soldiers. He screamed at them. presumably after getting the news of the situation in the town. the garrison mutinied because its pay was months in arrears. ‘The Financing of Calais under Henry V. ‘The Financial Administration of Calais during the reign of Henry IV. The mint was closed in 1403. so that their wages might be paid. realised their responsibilities. Kirby. These loans were normally provided at least in part by wool merchants. if a reservation was placed on the proceeds of the wool subsidy for the needs of the defence of Calais. 9 The material in this and the following paragraph is derived from D. ‘You have gold . not only of Exchequer rolls but also of the subsidiary indentures and other documents. There were. in the winter of 1406/7.Triumph and disaster · 57 · whole Pale came to about 1.’ Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research. one chronicle then describes the scene when Henry IV. EHR 113 (1998). While the mint at Calais was operating. 8 J. if no such reservation was made and Calais had to compete with all the other claimants clamouring for payment. which was voted in parliament from 1355 and intended for the defence of the realm. 23 (1950). be used to pay the soldiers. summoned merchants from the City of london to a meeting. L. was the wool subsidy.8 The usual source of the money for the soldiers’ pay was the subsidy payable on the export from England of wool and wool-fells. a loan was raised and the men paid off. trouble erupted in 1406/7 because the system temporarily broke down. other royal officials or royal debtors who were well aware that this stream of royal income was relatively reliable and held out reasonable prospects of the early repayment of a loan or the covering of legitimate expenses. and i want gold . one issue was the lack of sufficient coins to pay the garrison. it was possible for the garrison to enjoy a measure of financial stability . Grummitt. The soldiers of the garrison certainly appreciated it and took direct action to ensure that traders. which ensured that money was available to pay the garrison and that the cost was bearable by the Crown. This related to the methods in place for keeping royal accounts and transferring credits from the receivers of taxes and other dues to those who had incurred expenses on behalf of the Crown. bullion deposited by the merchants as part of their liability to customs duties could. as we have said. The bullion shortage and the consequent closure of the mint focused attention on the second issue. or the loans raised against the security of the proceeds of this tax.9 There is some evidence revealed by a careful and detailed study.200 men in wartime and 780 in time of peace. The intimate link between the profitability of the export trade in wool and the support of Calais was no secret to contemporaries. where is it ?’ Despite this inauspicious start to negotiations. a victim of the bullion crisis affecting most of Western Europe at this date. that this incident does not reveal the whole story of the financing of Calais in the early fifteenth century. The prime source of money for Calais. an addition to the customs duties properly understood. 1399–1413’. however. 166.

000. the value and practicality of the system of reservations on the wool subsidy. 283–5. nevertheless. as had happened with the deposit of bullion at the mint. another important factor that worked strongly in the favour of Calais was allowing staple merchants to pay a proportion of their dues in Calais itself. The accounting systems of the Exchequer. as well as the formal receipt and issue rolls and foreign accounts. Boston and Hull. which was in fact paid by the exporting merchants in Calais . treasurer of Calais in 1400. 4d.177 in other assignments and cash from the Exchequer. provided loans to restore the finances of the garrison on the clear understanding that the system of reservations would be reintroduced. rather than at the port in England where the customs officials had sealed the sacks of wool with the royal seal or coket. combined with the ability of wool merchants to pay this reserved portion in Calais. This promise was honoured. which has been characterised as an over-cautious. even though other royal creditors with claims to assignments on the wool subsidy went unpaid. but given the standards of the time it was manageable. Duke Humphrey. The collectors would take the indentures to the Exchequer. london. Grummitt gives further detailed examples. . if this was allowed. in the two and a half years from august 1399 to March 1403. Calm for both soldiers and wool merchants was only restored when the staplers as a body. The Governance of Late Medieval England 1272–1461 (London.10 These steps emerge from a consideration of patents. so there was still a shortfall. the funds were in fact in the town itself and available to the treasurer. it can well be argued that the ‘high priority given to the efficient financing of Calais’ makes clear ‘that successive English governments con- 10 A. was unable to collect £866 13s. 4d. of the moneys needed to buy lands from sir Matthew Gournay. indentures and particulars of account. including that of the indentures made with the Hull collectors in 1403. a reservation in favour of Calais was placed on the proceeds of the wool subsidy payable in southampton. lynn. were demonstrated in the later years of the reign of Henry IV. for example. L. where the sums of money listed would appear in the Receipt roll as assignments.000. This amounted to 13s. the main wool-exporting ports. 11 Grummitt.000 . were not designed to show clearly what steps were being taken to allow a government with strictly limited resources to achieve at least some of its goals. as an example. in February of this year. 53. per wool sack.· 58 · Chapter 4 then there was a chance to say the least that it might face hardships of the kind that resulted in the mutiny of 1406/7. ‘cumbersome and parchment-bound office’. and the treasurer of Calais’s arrears soared to over £30. we can look in detail at the system used by nicholas usk. old debts reached £10. usk or his deputy would then certify by indentures to the collectors in the ports concerned that they had received the money.007 in this way and £18. 1989). Brown. ‘The Financial Administration of Calais’. led by Richard Whittington. usk’s accounts reveal that he received £29.11 The mutiny of 1406/7 followed a period when the reservation system was suspended and the subsidy money was almost completely diverted to other uses. his expenses amounted to just over £62.

Salvayn’s widow Matilda presented his accounts for audit after his death in 1419 and was apparently involved in his affairs during his lifetime. which began in 1417. ‘Un Projet d’expédition contre Calais’.12 The strength of Henry IV’s initial reaction to the mutiny at Calais and the relative speed with which order was restored may also reflect the fact that a serious attempt to mount an attack on Calais was feared to be under preparation at saint-omer at much the same time. 14 Kirby. agreed with individual merchants who had paid their customs dues in Calais itself. money paid by three lincolnshire woolmen was intended to pay some of the expenses of the garrison of Marck. an optimist might have envisaged Calais’s future role as not only the most convenient gateway to the English lands across the Channel but the potential diplomatic centre and contact point between the lands of the allies. in S. the hostile France that recognised the Dauphin as King Charles VII was many miles away on the far side of the loire. The treasurer who took office in July 1413 was Roger salvayn. to some extent Calais was less prominent in military matters. 172–5 . probably because of the tensions between Burgundians and orleanists at the French court. Les Champs relationnels en Europe du Nord et du Nord-Ouest des origines à la fin du premier Empire (Calais. and other munitions were collected.14 after the success of Henry V’s campaign in normandy. The furious merchants brought a case in the Exchequer court for the restitution of their property. Edward III had treated this as an honourable office for men of knightly 12 Ibid.). a case before the barons of the Exchequer in early 1414 shows that he was using a similar system of indentures. The Financing of Calais’. Curveiller and D. the captain of that castle. more unusually. The prestige of the town was reflected not only in the amount of money willingly spent on its garrison but in the status of those who were appointed its captain. swynbourne then asked for the seizure of the lincoln men’s wools so that he could sell them and keep the proceeds to the value of the missing assignment. The day-to-day business of his office seems to have been handled by his clerk or occasionally by his wife. to that used in the previous reign. England’s ally. . and also. particularly artillery. Clauzel (eds. The major campaigns were centred on normandy to the west. which recognised Henry V as the heir of Charles VI. on this particular occasion. 298–9. 179–88. an assignment on the receivergeneral of the duchy of Cornwall. since the surrounding lands were among the possessions of Philip the Good. 1994). Calais’s position was reasonably secure. duke of Burgundy. the duke of Burgundy and the king of France and England. His accounts reveal assignments on the customs of Hull in the same manner as before. but the indenture was lost by William swynbourne. 13 Bertrand Schnerb. when the treaty of troyes. but the attack never materialised..Triumph and disaster · 59 · sidered the town and marches a worthy investment’. This kind of problem ensured that salvayn was more frequently in England to attend council meetings and the like than he was in Calais. was signed.13 There is no sign that Henry V or his successor were less inclined to devote funds to the defence of the town. large quantities of weapons. By 1420.

which were much less secure than the customs payments. earl of somerset (the half-brother of Henry IV). Richard Beauchamp. 1962). There was no question. Thus between 1370 and 1375 the position was held by nicholas de tamworth. Roger de Beauchamp. merely a strong point on the edge of English territory. 349. ‘The Financing of Calais. duke of Gloucester. The Reign of Henry VI. 180–82. John de Beurle and Hugh de Calvyle.). This stated baldly that the ‘ordinary yearly charges’ of government exceeded the revenue from all sources by £35. in the early years of the reign of Henry VI the support of Calais and its garrison remained a priority for the government of the young king. The system of assignments continued.’ in G. His brother Humphrey. had directed his attention to the low Countries and increased the importance of Calais to him as the vital English base in this region. the treasurer of England. 16 Kirby.· 60 · Chapter 4 rank who would each hold it for a short period. There is some evidence that at least until the failure of the English siege of orléans in 1429. Calais was treated as a separate entry in the listing of royal revenue and expenditure. ‘Calais under Edward III. but by 1433 the situation of the town was clearly becoming more precarious.866 1s.000 per year. with its immediate neighbours to the north being Burgundian lands. Unwin (ed.16 it is hard to think of a stronger demonstration of the hold the possession of Calais had on the minds of England’s rulers. were the captains of Calais. 17 Griffiths. but there was room for disagreement about the strategic importance of the town. although some were made on sources of income like the ransom payments due from the scots in respect of their king James I.000 was forthcoming from the infuriated merchants. who seized wool awaiting sale in the town until a loan of £4. then Calais was to some extent sidelined. in 1423 the staplers once more were more or less held to ransom by the soldiers. 15 D. that the Crown continued to be willing to finance the town.’ 165.17 This was averted. His marriage to Jacqueline of Hainault in 1423. this is how the duke of Bedford regarded the town. in 1427 it was feared that another mutiny by the garrison was threatened unless more funds were made available to the treasurer Richard Buckland. lord Cromwell. in charge of affairs in France after the latter’s death). was much more concerned with the town itself and the trade of the staplers. duke of Bedford (the brother of Henry V. and his attempt to gain control of her duchy in 1425. however. .15 in the fifteenth century the office was reserved for the highest in the land . Henry. The financial position of Henry VI was made unusually clear in october of this year in a memorandum ‘showed to the lord our king in the present parliament’ by Ralph. earl of Warwick (one of the richest men in England and a notable military leader) and John. producing from its own resources £2. if normandy and areas further south were the main centres of English military intervention in France. successively between 1401 and 1435 John Beaufort. Prince of Wales (the future Henry V). Finance and Trade under Edward III (London. although at times the arrears of pay due to the garrison built up alarmingly. conversely. Greaves.

English Historical Documents.18 The accumulated burden of ancient debt relating to the garrison was rolled up with that for the Marches of scotland.814 11s.20 The reality was that the division between Bedford and Gloucester on the strategy to be followed in France in the face of the resurgent forces of Charles VII posed a serious threat to the safety of Calais. English attempts to conclude a truce. perhaps always somewhat half18 Newenham Brudge was the English name for Nieulay on the outskirts of Calais. The Reign of Henry VI.000–£11.Triumph and disaster · 61 · 5½d.000 per annum while Gloucester was in charge in England.930 6s. when forced out of the town by the mutineers. Bedford’s deputy in the town. iv : 516–22. 20 Griffiths. rode straight for the duke’s base at Rouen. 1½d. While Bedford was in England from July 1433 to July 1434. it has been pointed out that the Chronicle of London.584 2s. The situation had become one of some urgency. aquitaine. 19 Myers (ed. The different views of the strategic importance of the town held by the duke of Bedford and the duke of Gloucester also began to resonate forcefully in discussions between the brothers and in the royal Council. but incurring expenses of £11. The duke himself reached Balinghem castle. at this congress. not including the cost of the repairs needed to newenham Bridge. Fronsac and ireland and came to the enormous total of £110. grew stronger with intervention by the papacy in the same year. probably reflecting opinion in the City (always closely connected with Calais). sir William oldfall.). the burden of the defence of the town is clear. When. a few miles outside Calais.. 194–6. at the beginning of april and at first seemed prepared to negotiate with the soldiers. and over 200 men of the garrison were banished from the town. 21 Ibid. in contrast to the more normal level of around £8. He entered the town and even held a long meeting there with Gloucester and other royal councillors from England to discuss the whole situation. Bedford then left for Rouen. gleefully recorded that the duke of Bedford suffered bad health from this time until his death in 1435. but in the context of the overall parlous financial position of the Crown. thus losing any prospect of recovering their arrears of pay. leaving the town somewhat aghast at his severity.19 The figures for the expenses of Calais are comparable with those for the peacetime support of the town already noted. however. a fort protecting the sluices that controlled the watercourses around the town. Four leaders were executed. more than two-thirds of the total royal debts of £164. money for the garrison almost dried up . the payment of only £590 was authorised by the Exchequer in this period. 198.. Gloucester and his party had returned to England. ... Bedford turned the full force of his rage at their insubordination on the mutineers. 8d. since a serious mutiny involving at least half of the garrison of the town itself had occurred in January 1433. resulting in the congress at arras that met from august to september 1435.21 The push for a truce between England and Charles VII. 6d. it was Bedford’s aim that what money there was should be used in the defence of normandy. the English delegates led by Cardinal Beaufort became gradually more and more suspicious of the intentions of Philip the Good of Burgundy. however.

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hearted, got no further than some bad-tempered exchanges with the French and the hurling of petty insults. The English ambassadors left on 31 august. The Burgundians had, however, devoted much thought to the issue of whether the duke could in honour renounce his oath of loyalty to the English Crown (taken when the treaty of troyes was accepted by Burgundy)22 in order to be reconciled with Charles VII. There had undoubtedly been contact between the two sides before the formal meetings at arras. There were also nightly informal meetings in secret between the Burgundians and the representatives of Charles VII, as well as the sessions with the mediating cardinals. on the question of the duke’s honour, a definitive statement was issued by the cardinals. His oath to the English had been invalid ; these promises were (as an eye-witness later remembered) ‘contre bonnes meurs, incivilz, ou prejudice de la chose publique et contre la couronne et magesté royal et de droit n’estoyent nulz’.23 The Chronicle of London commented bitterly of the same event, ‘undir tretys is treson’, pointing out that the duke was swearing allegiance to one ‘that had mordred his owne fadyr before tyme’. The treaty itself, however, was finally promulgated at an elaborate ceremony in the abbey church of st Vaast at arras, including, somewhat ironically, the taking of oaths by both sides and a public admission by the French king of complicity in the murder of Philip’s father, Duke John. Finally all present raised their hands as a sign of acceptance of the peace, and the congregation left the church to be greeted by signs of general rejoicing ; once more it was claimed, ‘le noble sang de France estoit ralliez ensamble’.24 For Calais the consequences were much more immediate and alarming. instead of being to some extent protected from attack by the French by Burgundian territory, Calais and the Pale were now a small English enclave surrounded by hostile lands. The only direction from which reinforcements or supplies could come was by sea from England. The English position was worsened even more by the death of the duke of Bedford, the most efficient of Henry V’s brothers both as a military commander and as a civil administrator, a matter of days before the reconciliation of France and Burgundy. Humphrey of Gloucester, now the only remaining uncle of the young king, was, as we have seen, always interested in the welfare of Calais and committed to its defence, but he was not the equal of his brother in military matters and could not command the royal Council in the same way. The general situation in France as far as the English were concerned was very bad in the weeks after the blow of the Burgundian defection to Charles VII. Both Dieppe and Harfleur, Henry V’s first conquest, fell into French hands, and one chronicler sadly wrote, ‘thus Englishmen began to lose a litell and a litell
22 This treaty established the dual monarchy of England and France, with Henry V and the heirs of his body recognised as the legitimate rulers of France on the death of Charles VI, thus disinheriting the Dauphin, the future Charles VII. 23 Testimony of Raoul le Bouvier as to events at Arras given 6 Nov. 1451, in J. G. Dickenson, The Congress of Arras, 1435 (Oxford, 1955), 231. 24 Ibid., 185, quoting Antoine de la Taverne, Journal de la paix d’Arras.

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in normandie’.25 Philip the Good seems to have been persuaded by the end of the year that an attack should be mounted on Calais. Fortunately the English were well informed as to the situation at Philip’s court, particularly a meeting that took place at Ghent on 8 March 1436. The English court had received ‘certayn tydynges’ from ‘specyall frendes and espiall’, detailing the steps Philip was taking to put together a force to attack the town. He had drawn up a series of agreements with Ghent and the other important towns of Flanders that, in return for various privileges including the provision that no English cloth could in future be sold by Englishmen in any market within the lands of the duke of Burgundy, they would provide him with 30,000 men and ships said to be ready at sluys, Barflete26 and Rotterdam, ‘to besiege this towne the whiche is right feble arrayed’.27 This news must have reached England within a few days of the meeting, since it was copied and rapidly distributed widely throughout the kingdom with a covering letter from the Council. The copy received by William Curteys, abbot of Bury st Edmunds, is dated 26 March. This letter rehearsed the contents of the spy’s report and went on to elaborate on the absolute need to defend Calais. The town was a great jewel to the kingdom, and its loss would bring ‘manyfold and importable hurtes and harmes’ to this land. if it fell, England would lose its reputation, being accused of ‘perpetuelle reproche, vilonye and shame thorgh the world yf so fell,’ and this could be put down to ‘lak of covenable defense in tyme’. Moreover the writer drew attention to ‘the grete ordinaunce that the seid calling hym duc of Burgoigne . . . as well of grete gunnes and that in grete nombre as of engynes and al ymaginacions of were’, was preparing to send against Calais. The abbot was then requested to send as many men as he could within eight days to form part of a relief force.28 similar letters went to all towns and other corporations throughout England ; there is, for example, another copy in the salisbury town archives. Certainly, by medieval standards, Gloucester and the Council had moved swiftly to do something about the evident threat to Calais. Gloucester himself was formally appointed as captain of the town, the castle and all the outlying fortifications, for a period of nine years. sir Richard Woodville had in fact been appointed his deputy, at a Council meeting attended by the king himself, immediately before the opening of parliament in october 1435. The merchants of the staple, whose support for the Crown was essential to the financing of the garrison, used the opportunity to petition the king concerning the ‘poor town of Calais, which stands in great jeopardy and uncertainty’, requesting the strict implementation of the partition ordinance requiring at least one-third of the purchase price of wool sold in Calais to be paid in bullion and then delivered to the town mint. They also further petitioned that strong action should be taken
25 26 27 28 Griffiths, The Reign of Henry VI, 201. Now Biervliet. J. A. Doig, ‘A New Source for the Siege of Calais in 1436’, EHR 110 (1995), 412. Ibid., 410–11.

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against those who tried to avoid the staple and its regulations (and sometimes customs dues as well) by exporting wool from out-of-the way creeks and other devious means. These petitions were accepted by the Crown, saving the usual exemptions of italians exporting wool via the straits of Morocco and poor quality wool from Berwick on tweed.29 in February Robert Whittingham of the Drapers’ Company became treasurer in place of his father-in-law Richard Buckland, who died around this time.30 in March the very experienced seneschal of Gascony, sir John Radcliffe, became deputy instead of Woodville ; this was to prove a key appointment in the defence of the town, since Radcliffe was not only energetic but also had recent experience of siege warfare. The warning in the letter sent to English towns about the artillery being prepared by the Burgundians for the siege was only too accurate. some of the enormous amounts of artillery requested from the duke’s territories, including that from as far away as Cravant on the Yonne, south of troyes, nearly 600 km from Calais, were not expected to be at saint-omer, the rallying point for the duke’s forces, before June. The amount and nature of the artillery demanded by the duke, both cannons and mortars and the older-style siege engines not using gunpowder, posed an obvious threat to Calais itself and the outlying fortifications in the Pale. local preparations in artois echoed those made in 1406/7 for an abortive attack on Calais. a large group of workmen had been assembled at the abbey of st Bertin outside saint-omer, engaged in chipping out stone cannon-balls, mixing gunpowder and making other preparations. There were even facilities at the abbey to forge gun barrels. Payments included in the duke’s accounts also relate to the manufacture at saint-omer of ‘engins volants’ and ‘couillarts’, examples of the large catapults used at sieges since ancient times. other similar engines were sent for from sluys and Rotterdam.31 The first batch of gunpowder artillery arrived from abbeville around 12 June. included among the ‘deux grosses bombardes, canons, veuglaires et autres artilleries’ was one siege gun so large that it was a drawn on a cart pulled by twelve horses, with a further six added when the road became more difficult beyond Hesdin. More guns then came in from Bruges with quantities of other munitions including lances and crossbow bolts. The most important guns were those that had the furthest to come from Burgundy itself. The bombardes or siege guns were even larger than those from abbeville and included three named guns, Bourgogne, Prusse and Bergère, which had been used against the French in 1433. These weapons required from eighteen to thirty-six horses to draw their carts. it is hard to imagine how so many animals were controlled and harnessed to pull such enormously heavy loads. River crossings, including those at Bar (the seine)
29 The straits of Gibraltar were usually called ‘of Morocco’ at this date. The petitions can be found on the Roll for the parliament of October 1435, The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, items 19 and 22. 30 Susan Rose, ‘Buckland, Richard’, ODNB. 31 M. Sommé, ‘L’Armée bourguignonne au siège de Calais’, in P. Contamine, C. GiryDeloison and M. H. Keen (eds.), Guerre et société en France, en Angleterre et en Bourgogne, xiv–xv siècle (Lille, 1990) 203, 205.

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and at Châlons (the Marne), posed further problems. The bridge at Bar was specially reinforced, while at Châlons the guns had to be transferred to boats for the crossing. in the event, even though this train of guns made relatively good progress on its long trek north, it arrived after the end of the siege, though they may have been employed at the assault on the castle at Guisnes.32 all those munitions that did arrive in time may have amounted to as many as 12 siege guns (bombardes), 60 veuglaires, 55 mortars (crapaudeaux) and 450 small arms (culverines). This mass of matériel had to be moved from saintomer down the river aa in barges to Gravelines, and then across the marshes to Calais itself. The total cost of all these preparations, let alone the expenses of the army itself, cannot be precisely calculated because of the loss of some accounts, but it was clearly enormous.33 For those waiting in some trepidation in Calais itself for the coming onslaught, the presence of so much heavy artillery can only have been extremely worrying. The fortifications of Calais itself, the castle and the outlying fortifications at oye, Marck, Balinghem, Guisnes and sangatte had not been extensively ‘modernised’ to cope with the threat posed to town and castle walls by heavy guns.34 Edward III had starved the town into submission, and in fact its best defence was usually considered to be the marshy ground and twisting waterways and drainage channels with which it was surrounded. The unstable nature of the ground and the vulnerability of the port area to sudden storm surges from the Channel, which undermined the foundations of the walls, had made it hard and expensive to keep the walls, such as they were, in good repair. There were also no sources of building stone or good-quality timber within the territory ; all materials for repairs except chalk rubble from near sangatte had to be brought from England. in the immediate period after the taking of the town by the English, a regular workforce of masons and carpenters had been part of the establishment of the garrison. By the 1430s, the pay of these workmen was in arrears like that of the soldiers, but, more seriously, there is evidence that the works were neglected, supervision was lax, and supplies were being diverted to private purposes. Buckland, the treasurer from 1421 to 1436, seems to have used timber meant for repairs at Calais for work on his own country house in northamptonshire.35 The sluices that controlled the waterways that were the main defence of the town were mostly at newenham Bridge (known to the French as nieulay) outside the fortifications on the road to Boulogne. The sluices and the tower built on the bridge to protect them were very vulnerable to flooding caused by breaches in the wall of sand dunes that protected this low lying area from the
32 Ibid., 203–4. 33 Ibid., 205–6, 198–200. 34 This usually involved the erection of extensive earthworks, sometimes in front of the walls, sometimes to reinforce them from behind, to absorb the force of cannon fire. The complete redesign of fortifications to protect them from cannon fire was largely a 16thcentury development. 35 Rose, ‘Buckland, Richard’, ODNB.

another at Bulleyn gat and another at the postern be the Princes inne. The Brut. The History of the King’s Works (6 vols. looking at nieulay nowadays (Figure 1). i : 431. recorded how Radcliffe. some attempt was also made to improve the defences of the outlying forts. Many did come. ‘the town of Caleys is like in right short tyme to be utterly distruyed with oute recovery thorowe grete concourse and outrage of waters’. 1963–82). What money there was to spend on repairs at Calais in the early years of the fifteenth century was in fact largely spent on often fruitless efforts to stop up breaches in the sea defences near newenham Bridge and to repair the waterworks. where the quays and walls would be in similar danger. in fact on st George’s day. in Calais itself all were required to swear an oath of loyalty to the king or. 37 Brie (ed. This was the case in 1421 and 1428 . and dresset thie lopes and theire gunnes to shote both hye and lawe.). when Henry VI was in the town before his French coronation. the newly appointed deputy to Humphrey. which in this instance may be based on eye-witness testimony. Radcliffe. The Brut. if unwilling. . as it were.· 66 · Chapter 4 fury of storms in the Channel. He had the alarum bell rung by the day watch without informing the garrison. as captain of Calais. the garrison and the townspeople set about opening up a faire brode dike on the south side of the toune and made three strong bulwerkes of erthe and clay. to leave and ‘take thire goodes and go theire way where they wold’. 436–7. tested the preparations. it is hard to understand how much the earlier buildings suffered from the encroachment of the sea. if a storm broke through the dunes. and att Mylke gate was a fair bulwark made of breke. but the others must have been the result of a great deal of hurried and backbreaking labour. separated by some distance and a considerable amount of modern building from the sea. Colvin (gen. the whole complex of waterworks and fortifications was in danger of being washed away. . unless the breach in the dunes was stopped up. and they fortifiet the walles toures and dikes on ich side of the toune with-in and with-out. . as the Council were informed. 573–4.37 in april.36 Radcliffe. duke of Gloucester. one at the corner of the castell without the toun. . when there are no signs of any waterways and the site is occupied by the ruins of a large French fort dating from the seventeenth century. M. The rush of water would then pour down the Hammes River into Calais harbour. not only had plenty of warning of Burgundian intentions to attack the town and the Pale but was energetic and imaginative in his preparations for the coming hostilities. London. in 7.). Radcliffe advised all those living out in the Pale to come into the town ‘and bring al thaire goodes and breke doun theire houses’. but others ‘stale away’ to Picardy or Flanders. The soldiers’ immediate concern was apparently to bring to safety all the 36 H. The brick bulwark dated from the time of Richard Woodville. workmen came over from England to help with the works . in 1430. ed.

some 2. They laid planks across the gates to make it easier to get from one house to another in the event of an attack. 40 Ibid. 574. The author of the Brut remarks that Radcliffe ‘did it for a sport because it was st George’s day’. one section of this army.39 The Council had in the meantime exerted all its powers to put together a large army to reinforce the parlous state of English forces not only in Calais but in normandy as well. the burgesses of sandwich became alarmed as well at the thought of the possibility of a Burgundian invasion of the Kent coast and set about repairing their own walls. but it also served as a useful rehearsal of the actions to take when the Burgundian army in fact began at last to move on the town. . sailed into Calais harbour in early May. Fort nieulay was built on the site of the English fortifications at newenham Bridge by Vauban in 1677. 39 Griffiths. 208.000 men under the command of the count of Mortain. ‘bestys that were pasterung about the toun’.38 in England itself. This view shows the path of the watercourse (now a grassy area) and the position of the sluices that allowed the Pale to be flooded as a means of defence. Probably to Radcliffe’s great relief. as did the townspeople. composed of forces from all his 38 Ibid. but even so they armed themselves.Triumph and disaster · 67 · Figure 1... 201.40 There was little more that could be done in the town except to wait for the appearance of Philip and his army. The Reign of Henry VI.

41 Finally Philip and his army began to move in the second week of June. and sangatte again yielded ‘shamefully and cowardly’.000 carts . 56 men of the garrison were captured and hung ‘under the castell without eny pite’.). especially when the lay of the land is considered. 575–6. The same fate then overtook Marck (2 July). oye and the other forts were situated in the completely flat. something that would add usefully to the victuals in the town if the siege was prolonged. The Brut has a story of the castle’s being taken by the Burgundians by trickery. The castle itself was completely destroyed. only at Guisnes was there determined resistance despite the use of a ‘gret brazen gun’ and two iron bombardes by the attackers. and while they were hunting them they were ambushed by a party of Picard soldiers. later turned up in Calais and was executed on suspicion of spying for Burgundy. Balinghem. which was handed over to the Burgundians with all its stores without a blow being struck. The captain and two companions were taken prisoner . . 42 The account of the siege that follows is based on ibid. and these would have succumbed very quickly to Philip’s guns. 579. one. 43 Brie (ed. who had came to Calais with the same reinforcements..· 68 · Chapter 4 dominions.000 men and 12.43 This castle had a good defensive position with a high motte dominating 41 Brie (ed. but the defenders ‘it fortifiet ageyn with tymber and dong’. The raid towards ardres also seemed to have gone well. The Brut. marshy and largely treeless plain surrounding Calais . but Camoys rallied the remainder and beat off their adversaries and got back safely to Calais with his booty.42 Their first objective was the castle of oye. Those who raided towards Gravelines managed to bring their booty back across the sands in the harbour at low tide despite a spirited sortie from Gravelines itself. The English account of the siege asserts that he had 150. which fell to an assault. The garrison were all in the hall listening to the Burgundian herald offering them terms when soldiers entered through an iron grill that had been left open in the buttery . but on the way back the soldiers put up three hares. The Picards positioned the bronze gun in a cellar in the town and demolished one tower of the castle. The Brut. The chronicler recorded that so many cows were taken that the price in Calais fell to 12d.). under the command of nicholas Horton with a normal garrison of under sixty men. The Brut includes narratives of two raids apparently made by the forces under Mortain and under lord Camoys. Both these raids seem to have had the purpose of stealing cattle either in the countryside south of Gravelines or in the neighbourhood of ardres. there was little shelter except the walls of the castle itself. the figures mean little except as an illustration that it was an enormous force that began to move out of Gravelines. The chances of his successfully resisting Philip were remote. some of Camoys’s men were killed. with particularly large contingents from the town militias of Ghent and Bruges. William Bullion. per head for a good milch cow. 576–80. others fled towards the castle at Guisnes.

000 men was about to invade Flanders. Ibid. Further orders were sent out to arrest more merchant shipping. the morale of the land army was not improved when from their encampments they could easily see English ships coming into the port unimpeded and loaded with supplies. This was not resolved until around 20 July. He was well aware that Humphrey of Gloucester was energetically collecting a relief force in England. The harbour. on 20 July the fleet was in fact battered by 44 45 46 47 J. by which time Philip’s land army was on the march and had already taken oye and Marck. which were loaded with nearly 90. By 9 July Philip was outside the walls of Calais and the town was invested by land. Genoa.. and the vessels needed were collected at Dunkirk and sluys . These produced a motley collection of vessels from Venice.000 bricks. The intention was to transport men-atarms to Calais.Triumph and disaster · 69 · the surrounding countryside and managed to hold out against the attacks of the men of Picardy. iberia and most of the ports of northern France. and various officials. Ibid. 1384–1482 (Lille.46 By the end of June Philip had only twenty-four ships ready at sluys and the other ports. his wife isabel of Portugal..45 The maritime communities on the coasts of Flanders and Zealand were not entirely supportive of all this activity. The impression of confusion and near panic among those charged with organising this fleet gradually became more and more noticeable from the tone of the messages flying between Philip. . and that there was probably only a relatively short space of time before this sailed. From as early as March 1436 the duke and his officers had been making strenuous efforts to put together a fleet at sluys. 76. more than ten days after the beginning of the siege of Calais . was still open to English vessels. which had brought a group of shipbuilders from Portugal to help with repairs and even the building of a new galley for Philip. They seem to have been very nervous of possible reprisals or raids from the English. 75. The major impediment to the sailing of the fleet was that the men-at-arms refused to embark because they had not been paid. and these ports were clearly full of rumours about possible attacks.47 Philip had attempted to calm his land forces by saying that the fleet could not put to sea because of contrary winds .44 By June small groups of ships had been arrested for the duke at Boulogne and Dunkirk. and as long as this was the case Philip’s chances of taking the town were slim. 73. but this fleet was not ready until 2 July. These included three large ships and also a Portuguese galley. Paviot. one rumour picked up by fishermen from ostend from some Hanse traders was that an English fleet with over 20. however. Ibid. The need for a fleet to blockade the town by sea had not been neglected. La Politique navale des ducs de Bourgogne. 77–8. The plan to block Calais harbour by sinking old ships loaded with bricks in the channel leading to the town was also put forward early in the preparations.. these were small fishing vessels described as crayers or busses. hopefully creating an immoveable obstacle when sunk in the freeway. 1995).

and two other gret bombardes of yron’ and took them into Calais for display. including the guns. adding the details that the sinking of the block-ships was botched because of the fire coming from the walls of the town and that after the townspeople had cleared the ships. losing a siege work they had built on the dunes. They then discovered that most of the rest of the army and the duke himself were gone . . La Politique navale. knowing that by this time Gloucester had arrived with large new forces. leading to bad feelings and even fighting between the two militias. on the English. making ‘so gret noice’ that the duke and the Ghentaners were sure that this was the feared arrival of Gloucester with a large force. some of which were found buried in the earth. The siege in fact only lasted three days longer. six of the fishing boats loaded with bricks were successfully sunk in the channel at high tide. The garrison of the castle.· 70 · Chapter 4 a storm on coming out of the estuary of the Zwyn. and the stones and bricks were used for work on st Mary’s Church. ‘car bonnement ne povoient demourer sur les marches d’entre Calais et d’angleterre pour ce que la mer y est très périlleuse come dient les marronniers . side this sudden victory and the utter discomfiture of Philip 48 Paviot.48 The Brut gleefully reported on the same incident. where the defenders on the towers could see the smoke of the burning camp. The Burgundian chronicler Monstrelet then recorded the ignoble end of this episode . on the dunes the Flemings saw what had happened and ‘were full sory in theire hertes and were full gretely therewith abasshit’. however. those working on this task were ‘refresshid wele’. a small party of English reinforcements led by lord Wells landed behind the Risban. The Bruges contingent. overtook the fleeing men and captured the ‘gret brazen gunne . a skirmishing party of the Bruges militia outside the Boulogne gate was caught unawares by some horsemen hidden in the bulwark at the same place. . The night after this event. awoke as usual to the sound of the English trumpeters blowing on the Milkgate tower. on their return to their camp the Ghent militia ‘loughe hem to scorn’. because at low tide the Calaisiens braved the fire from the Burgundian vessels off the port and broke up and burnt these ships. taking the ordnance with them. all those encamped on the east of the town then crept away under cover of darkness. removing the obstruction. . 80. The Picards then also withdrew. The Ghentaners themselves were attacked by a sortie from the town the next day with heavy casualties. The news of the collapse of the siege of Calais soon spread to Guisnes. which was on the south side of the town. The Burgundians cannot have had accurate knowledge of the port. . its tides and the channel. but in better order. they at once ‘brake doune theire tentes and sette thiere loggynges on fyre and fled theire way in all that ever they myght’. et parce qu’ils ne désiraient pas rencontrer la flotte anglais qui étaient annoncée les vaisseaux bourguignonnes se retirent’. . and thirty-six Bruges men were taken prisoner while the rest fled. at last on 25 or 26 July the fleet reached Calais to face a bombardment from the English artillery on the Risban fort and the town walls. leaving most of their supplies behind.

81–2. Doig. ‘Propaganda. The author of the Livre des trahisons de France said that the all the army’s efforts had been in vain because ‘ils n’estoient pas enclos du costé de la mer’. He was called o thou Phelippe. 52 R. Poems and songs were written to laud the raising of the siege. Philip the Good : The Apogee of Burgundy (Woodbridge. one of the verses begins ‘Remember ye of Brugges : how ye ferst wan youre shone’. He wrote to Charles. Public Opinion and the Siege of Calais in 1436. Crown. ‘L’Armée bourguignonne’. 1995). Government and People in the Fifteenth Century (Stroud. claiming that in fact no siege had ever taken place. each success of the English is mentioned. and therefore ye Flemmynges that Flemmynges ben named. 213. The Brut. the same name began. 582–4. however. repref of al knyghthode. 223–4. another heaps shame on the Picards . who was present. He claimed that the problem was that he had doubts about ‘the determination and loyalty of our Flemish people.51 Philip himself took refuge in making the best of things. The Reign of Henry VI. duke of Bourbon. E.’ in R. Archer (ed.50 all this abuse looked back to the English accusation that he had broken his oath and lost all honour when he had sworn fealty to Charles VII at arras. an indication of the real fear that the town would be lost. outside Calais he had established ‘an encampment only and not designed for a siege’. some at least of this literary outburst may have been officially inspired. He mentioned that no artillery was fired into the town and that no appeal was made to the townsfolk to surrender as was customary at the start of a siege. of Flemmynges. going on to describe the skirmish at the Boulogne gate. 51 J. ‘Remember ye Picardes. . and the gleeful emotions expressed are. indicates that it touched a real nerve with the English and did reflect much contemporary opinion.). Vaughan. meaning ‘put to flight’ or ‘drive away’. in one poem. A. to compare with Englisshmen ye aught to be ashamed. at seege eke as ye lay / of Guynes that strong castel how ye fled away’. fonder of new falshede Distourber of pees. 53 Sommé. The fact that some was included in the text of the Brut.). 50 Griffiths. 77–106.52 Contemporary Flemish chroniclers tended to blame the disaster for Burgundy on the failure of the fleet. 2002).53 Jean de Waurin. perhaps. Capiteine of cowardice sower of discorde. shortly after the ignominious end of the siege. to pour scorn on all the Flemings : Thus prove i that Flemmynges is but a flemed man and Flaunders. thought that the whole enterprise was unwise and doomed to failure because Calais could not be adequately 49 Brie (ed. and especially the men of Ghent’. or written by lydgate the court poet.49 another poured its bile over the head of the duke of Burgundy.Triumph and disaster · 71 · the Good were greeted with an outburst of joy and relief. The final verse uses a play on the word ‘fleme’.

La Politique navale. and also long delays in ensuring that the money needed reached the right people. evidenced by the outpouring of excitement when the siege was raised. Delays also hindered the collection of artillery and the mustering of the fleet. according to some sources. ‘L’Armée bourguignonne. Griffiths.· 72 · Chapter 4 blockaded by sea. Paviot. and little or no co-operation between the land army and the navy. a thoughtful observer might have pondered the fact that if the ruler of the surrounding lands was hostile then Calais might well be extremely difficult to defend. had not been deployed against Calais . it was after all true that Philip’s formidable heavy artillery. The Reign of Henry VI. as his guns had at Guisnes. relinquishing the town would hardly be an option for any English monarch in the foreseeable future. 81. who left all responsibility for the command of the fleet in the hands of deputies. Preparations for the siege also took so long that there was no element of surprise whatsoever. There was a chronic shortage of money. ships could not safely anchor off the harbour because of the currents in the channel.54 Modern commentators have tended to see a wider range of factors as responsible. 205. once the euphoria had subsided. 82–3. this could easily have brought the walls down.57 on the English side. Finally. involving all the duke’s widespread dominions.55 on the other hand.’ 212–13. Sommé. The observer might also have realised that. The Burgundian administration was overstretched organising so large an endeavour. . with so much national prestige and emotional capital invested in holding Calais.56 some blame is also attached to the admiral of Flanders. for whatever reason. the weather in July 1436 was atrocious. whose forces were anything but united and who had mismanaged the blockade of Calais. Philip the Good. 54 55 56 57 Vaughan. it has been suggested that the socalled English victory was in fact provided for them by the Burgundians.

though to what purpose was not clear. The precariousness of the town’s physical condition. That neither of these things happened is an indication of the competing interests centred on the town. in effect. on the other hand. 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. on the English side. including one that involved flooding the Pale by attacking the sluices at newenham Bridge. the drift. especially the duke of Gloucester. however. the fact that the Flemish towns were very reluctant to get involved in their duke’s adventures testified to their respect for English arms and their reluctance to conduct open warfare against a major trading partner. on the one hand. as the situation for English arms in both normandy and south-west France became more and more unsettled and losses mounted. the duke himself continued to make warlike plans.5 C a l a i s a s a Ba s E F o R P o l i t i C a l i n t R i G u E : Yo R K i s t s . a quite separate problem for the government. as we have seen. be ignored or pushed aside. could not. where equal dangers seemed to threaten. redrew the map of that · 73 · I . lack of leadership and lethargy becoming increasingly visible in English government. others. The great flood on st Elizabeth’s day in november 1421 was credited with the drowning of a hundred thousand people in the area around Dordrecht in the netherlands and. The early fifteenth century seems to have been a period of particularly stormy weather in the Channel and north sea. some argued that all the available men and money should be dispatched to these regions. wanted to concentrate forces in the Calais area. largely because of the character of the young king Henry VI. was affecting policy in the overseas territories as well as matters in England itself. l a n C a s t R i a n s a n D t H E E a R l o F Wa RWi C K  t 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.

440. and at high tide over 2. in fact.4 The constant need for money. attempts to devise new sluices had ‘turned the king to great cost and to no avail and to great mischief and hurt to the said bridge and to all the works thereabout’. 436–44.3 Complaints of serious damage to the harbour and the associated waterways were in fact a common feature of all the surviving accounts of the surveyor of Calais.400 oaks were contributed by religious houses in Essex and 1. all the available able-bodied people in the town. the major defence of both town and harbour. History of the King’s Works. Money to pay the workmen and buy materials was never easily forthcoming . as a deposition to a commission of inquiry remarked. it only grew wider until. and ‘this stopping was borne away like as was all the others aforesaid’. after an equinoctial storm in september. in this period as it had in 1 The coastline of the Calais region today is considerably changed from that in the fifteenth century . Prolonged periods without pay often resulted. quoted ibid. 4 Ibid. the jetties in the harbour were threatening to collapse. might find themselves recruited to pour clay and stones into the breaches in the sea defences. but even this did not stop the onrush of the sea. and then the northwest corner of the Calais town walls and the castle. The need was for large baulks of good timber.. .· 74 · Chapter 5 region. whatever their status. in March 1440. something that at times made it necessary for the carpenters to work all night. and. another unusually strong storm in the Channel in June 1439 broke through the dunes near newenham Bridge. i : 439. Three old ships were finally sunk in the breach.000 was spent on works to the waterways and sea walls. all of which had to be shipped from England. not only for the maintenance of the fortifications but also for the garrison’s pay. by 1442 the breach had still not been properly stopped. This happened in the aftermath of the storms of 1439 and also between 1453 and 1456. Despite strenuous efforts all summer to repair the dikes and close the breach.760 more from royal forests in Kent. with only limited effectiveness in controlling the destructive power of storm tides and flooding. continued to be a major problem for the Crown. since the river flowed into the moat at that point. 2 Quoted in Colvin.. The accounts of work on the jetties in the harbour reveal that they were constructed with an outer framework of beams held together by metal clamps and bolts. with a ‘stuffing’ of chalk rubble and material brought into Calais as ballast in ships. However.2 in this situation urgent help came from England. when the Risban was again in imminent danger of being washed away.000 acres were flooded with sea water. including those at the harbour and newenham Bridge. and even the Risban tower. 3 TNA E101/193/5. The framework was prefabricated in southeast England and then put into place at low tide. in the next twenty years over £25. 1. supervised by the Clerk of the king’s works.1 on the ebb tide the flood water poured into the Hammes River and began to wash away the bridge itself. nowadays there is a large area of reclaimed land between the site of Newenham Bridge (now Fort Nieulay) and the sea. in times of real emergency. was being undermined.

Even if their pay was not too gravely in arrears. the deputy of the earl of suffolk at Guisnes. the money needed to pay the garrison or buy necessary supplies was hard to extract from the treasury in london. would mutiny if not paid.378 covered by a loan from suffolk. there may well have been a problem in keeping the soldiery occupied when no military action was in prospect beyond minor skirmishing on the borders of the Pale. in fact. This occurred on at least four occasions in the first half of the fifteenth century. faced with the competing demands of forces in other parts of France. in the years from about 1439 to about 1454. Pirton was supposed to receive his own pay from the revenues of Guisnes itself but. duke of Gloucester. however. at the outset of this period. by some means or other. in the last resort. a matter which will be considered in the next chapter. The garrisons. than on the small enclave of Calais. 1433. The garrison and the staplers were bound together. much greater attention was focused on the major areas of France still in English occupation. normandy and Gascony. usually by allowing the creditor merchants exemption from paying dues until the loan was cleared. 471. . The alternative to this kind of forced sale was agreed loans. with Burgundy still hostile to England. duke of Buckingham. and the soldiers were well aware that. since the merchants needed the security provided by the soldiers to pursue their trade in peace. were the scene of minor raiding and the theft of cattle by opportunist French forces. The Reign of Henry VI. like the effective sir Thomas Kyriell or William Pirton. 5 Griffiths. The continual training and exercises of modern armies were not employed in any organised way at this date. the location of diplomatic negotiations for a possible truce between England and France at oye in 1439–40 helped ensure that no direct attack would be attempted by either Burgundy or France at this time. it could not be entirely ignored by the commanders of the garrisons. little information about these activities. was succeeded by Humphrey stafford. by 1444 had debts of at least £2. 1442 and 1454. especially in the ‘high country’ to the east of Guisnes. Both states attempted to manipulate the regulation of trade between them to gain financial or commercial advantage. (Humphrey. once the negotiations were over. also from staple merchants. in 1441) but these appointments have been called ‘a cosmetic operation designed to inspire confidence in the staplers and the garrisons’. or retaliations by the English. with serious consequences for the continuance of the fragile truce concluded in 1441. as was well understood. in the political sphere. in 1423. This activity could easily get out of hand. from the staplers. in the disaffected soldiery’s seizing wool from the staplers’ warehouses to sell on their own account. The ill-defined borders of English territory.5 actual authority in Calais was exercised by lieutenants. its position looked precarious.Calais as a base for political intrigue · 75 · the past. repayable out of the customs. money for their pay would come. Great magnates continued to be appointed as captains of the town and the Pale. There is. the security of Calais was at the mercy of events elsewhere. in many ways their task must have been difficult .

£21. when the debts he had incurred on behalf of the Crown in this position had reached £19.649 by June 1453. he did not act as other than a figurehead at Calais and gave up the position at the end of 1449. not in continued war with France.· 76 · Chapter 5 and unfortunately virtually no information about the ‘domestic’ aspects of the lives of those charged with the defence of Calais. according to his most recent biographer. when normandy was lost. it also provided an invaluable entry point for Englishmen to France. at this date. derived from the duties payable as the goods left the country. an enormous sum even granted his income in this period of some £4. as English armies faced defeat and eviction from both Gascony and normandy. eventually being killed at the battle of northampton in 1460. which legitimated the Beaufort family. duke of somerset. Somerset was descended from John of Gaunt (Edward III’s third son) by his third marriage. The importance of Calais up to this point had been twofold. Richard. on a more pragmatic level. the town became an important element. the export trade in raw wool conducted by the company of the staple was vital as a source of income to the Crown. duke of York. the cause of the breach between York and somerset was not the latter’s appointment as lieutenant and governor-general of France and the duchies of normandy and Guyenne in December 1447. duke of Buckingham. Control of the town was an element in the gradual slide into civil war. His successor Edmund Beaufort. nevertheless. but it was not these debts but the bitter enmity that developed between somerset and Richard. the capture of Calais had been a triumph . The garrison and indeed Calais itself began to play a rather different role in the affairs of England from the mid 1450s. diplomatic. its continued possession was a symbol of English power in continental Europe. although his later career was as a lancastrian and supporter of Margaret of anjou. This was the case after 1450. .6 somerset was very close to his cousin Henry VI. He was promised repayment from the proceeds of the sandwich customs and an extra 6s. 8d.000 per annum. was soon owed an even larger sum by the Crown. Humphrey stafford. but. but the supine way in which somerset allowed the Eng6 Both York and Somerset were closely related to Henry VI. was a descendant of Edward III through both Lionel of Clarence (his second son) and Edmund of York (his fourth son). duke of York. offices to which York had a plausible claim. was appointed captain of Calais in 1441. but in the convoluted power struggles between factions at the English court. that led to Calais’s becoming a factor in the intrigues at the English court. on the one hand.395. We do not know if they were normally accommodated in the castle at Calais or the other fortifications or whether they had families in the town itself or the village at Guisnes. which for the first time brought Gascony under the direct rule of the French Crown. Calais looked both vulnerable and isolated. and perhaps even more so after the French victory at Castillon in 1453. as we have seen. the so-called Wars of the Roses. whether bent on military. the netherlands and the Empire. commercial or even personal affairs. from the subsidy on wool exported from other ports. on the other hand.

in early 1452 there was real fear that Charles VII of France might direct his next attack at the Pale. but for the duke of York all the blame lay at the door of somerset. Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council. but it would have been very surprising. but this could easily be justified by the situation in France. was successfully defused on this occasion. Duke of Somerset (c. increasingly polarised between the partisans of somerset and the king on the one hand and those of York on the other. ODNB. ‘Edmund Beaufort.Calais as a base for political intrigue · 77 · lish to be unceremoniously kicked out of their northern French territories in 1449–50.1406–1455)’. 693–7.9 after his appointment. He also made great efforts to ensure that the garrison was paid . Ibid.). given the way in which noble affinities dominated the political scene at this time. after paying a large ransom. 521. Sir N. somerset’s appointment to the captaincy of Calais in 1451. it was well understood by this time that if the garrison’s wages were in arrears for too long a period. at Calais. Brut. which set out his political agenda. Richmond. which seemed to threaten armed conflict. and then nine months later also withdrew in much the same way from Caen. with the staplers’ wool at risk of seizure by the soldiers. somerset brought in men loyal to the Beaufort family as his own lieutenant (lord stourton). 7 8 9 10 . again. 119.10 York had alluded to this in a letter written in February. The situation in london. Nicolas (ed. 11 Griffiths.). the underlying tensions within the nobility and court. The Reign of Henry VI. as before. usually seen as Yorkist in sympathy. A letter sent to Lord Clifford by the king in March 1452 not only spoke of fears about a new siege of Calais but also the possibility of an invasion of England. 1837). the way in which somerset retreated from Rouen in october 1449 with his family. a clear mark of royal support.11 nevertheless.8 to him. York was compelled to enter into an agreement to desist from any acts that could be interpreted as rebellion against the king. remained.7 The real cause of this disaster may have been the ‘asinity’ of Henry VI. was dishonourable and inexcusable. somerset set about building up the garrison of Calais to something near its normal wartime establishment. The writer of the Brut. can only have increased York’s fury at somerset’s apparent continuation in the king’s favour. the only source of funds likely to produce the amounts C. vi (London. a mutiny was likely. his hostility to somerset and his desire to see him removed from any position of influence in favour of himself. H. this does not necessarily imply that he was attempting to secure the loyalty of the soldiers to himself personally rather than to the king. as captain of Calais castle (lord Wells) and as lieutenant of Guisnes (sir Thomas Findern). From the summer of 1450 relations between the two became worse and worse. The dire financial state of the Crown ensured that the customs revenue was. somewhat caustically remarked that somerset ‘rewled the king and his reame as he would’. Brie (ed. where French armies were in the ascendant. These points were stated even more strongly in the petition he presented to Henry VI at Blackheath in March of the same year. if he had done anything else.

He held this position until somerset was released from the tower when Henry apparently recovered his faculties around Christmas 1454. ‘The Struggle for Calais : An Aspect of the Rivalry between Lancaster and York’. York’s conviction that royal government.12 The parliament of 1453. in november. also supported the garrison by granting higher customs duties. it was clearly necessary to provide for the defence of Calais. including the usual 20s. the earls of salisbury and Warwick. in april 1454. Henry VI once more appointed York protector of the realm. 2003). Dockray. .13 By late May 1455. were all restored to him. apparently while coming to the rescue of lord Clifford. joining his party at court and in the council. Henry VI went into a catatonic state. was now completely in the power of York. The king. was in the wrong hands. as heir apparent (until the birth of Prince Edward in october) and the senior male member of the royal family.· 78 · Chapter 5 needed. who had emerged bravely enough with his banners and noble supporters from the abbey at the start of the fighting and had been slightly wounded by an arrow. including the captaincy of Calais. 73. after a delegation of peers had found no sign of understanding or response in the king. which contained few if any partisans of York. Margaret of Anjou and the Wars of the Roses : A Source Book ( Stroud. 13 Benet’s Chronicle. a council warrant stated that any delay in paying the garrison would ‘cause the nombre of the newe crewe to avoid and depart oute of the said towne of Calais’. in addition to his other offices. at this point. An English Chronicle. somerset was charged with treason over the conduct of the war in France and put in the tower. it is arguable whether this awareness of the situation in Calais in both Council and parliament demonstrates somerset’ s personal influence or more general alarm at the situation in France as Gascony was finally lost to the English Crown.). Harriss. Henry VI. neither York nor the nevilles responded well to their renewed exclusion from power by one a chronicler favourable to their party called ‘this evil duke’. and Warwick captain of Calais. 33–4. There would have been a natural reluctance to endanger this one source of ready money for the Crown. somerset quickly became once more the king’s intimate friend and his favoured councillor. EHR 75 (1960).14 York’s renewed hold on power did not last long . somerset was killed in a bloody and confused battle in the narrow streets of the town around the market place. almost immediately after news of the battle of Castillon reached him. His former offices. per wool sack of the Calais supplement. Marx (ed. They confronted the king and his supporters at st albans. was open and generally acknowledged. in K. By august 1453. over the winter of 1455/6 12 G. at a ceremony shortly after the fighting had ceased. York appointed himself captain of Calais. 2000). the duke of York and his party had gathered together an armed force. His position in the country at large had already been greatly strengthened by the nevilles. 1377–1461 (Woodbridge. 14 The battle is described in many contemporary chronicles including W. took control of the Council. 66. York was formally appointed protector of the realm. Richard. if not as yet the Crown. Whatever the motivation. Certainly somerset had much support on the Council.

Calais as a base for political intrigue · 79 · the king’s mental health again improved. but if its loyalty to its captain could be assured it might be a potent weapon in his hands. nor had positions in its governance been previously seen as especially desirable or the subject of conflict between noble factions. it is also the case that when York became protector in april 1454. and York’s power had evaporated. as the struggle between the lancastrians and the Yorkists became more and more bitter. What had changed to make the town so important in the jockeying for power at the court of Henry VI ? one factor may have been that. York also negotiated a loan from the staplers. as we have seen. . and his supporters regained power in the Council despite their defeat at st albans. what has been called the ‘one enduring achievement of decisive importance for the Yorkist cause was Warwick’s appointment to the captaincy of Calais’. The staplers undoubtedly wanted to recover the value of the goods seized and to restore stability to the town so that trade might continue. We have already said something about the evidence of the energy somerset devoted to ensuring the support of the garrison once he had become captain in 1451. ‘The Struggle for Calais’. but before any money could in fact be paid to the garrison the soldiery took matters into their own hands and seized not only the wool stored in the port but also all the victuals on hand. emerged at least partially from his catatonic state. having taken steps to claim the captaincy for himself. at this point in the summer of 1454 various competing interests centred on the town and the Pale. at this juncture. somerset was once more out of prison and in favour at court. By February 1455. but before any settlement could be reached the king. negotiations dragged on into the autumn. it was recognised and valued by those contesting for power that the town contained the largest group of armed and experienced soldiers anywhere in the English realm. in these circumstances. who were prepared to provide loans in the hope of either recovering or being compensated for their lost wool. The captaincy 15 Harriss. since York’s charges against somerset included his too easy surrender of normandy to the French in 1449–50. The garrison clearly wanted its pay but may have had some residual loyalty to the commanders appointed by somerset. The garrison had never previously fought at any great distance from the boundaries of the Pale. This was unlikely to occur unless the garrison received their arrears of pay. he needed the support of the staplers. These commanders had no desire to acquiesce in their own removal in favour of York’s men and were in all probability being drawn into the divisions visible in the court and the Council.15 at no previous period since the siege in 1347 had the town figured so prominently in English government affairs. York himself wanted to ensure that he might enter the town as captain and enforce his authority over it. The garrison held out for the full immediate payment of their arrears before allowing York himself or his representatives into the town. 30. and certainly not in England itself. this might merely show a lack of trust in the military capabilities of somerset’s men. he took rather similar steps and cancelled the patents of those officers appointed by somerset.

fortune’s wheel had turned again.000 marks in cash within twenty days of the admission of Warwick or his deputy.17 agreement was finally reached in February 1456. By December 1455. it recorded that that the staple Company was prepared to lend 16 This series of events is based on the accounts in Griffiths.· 80 · Chapter 5 of Calais was no longer in his hands. The staplers would only loan further funds if they had adequate guarantees of repayment. rather than York. The court and the Council were. and Warwick had been granted the captaincy of Calais immediately after the apparent triumph of the Yorkists. 756 . Harriss. 17 Harriss. Finally. Henry VI. had grasped the potential strategic importance of Calais and personally demanded the captaincy from York (the king being entirely in York’s power) in the immediate euphoria of the victory at st albans. since they may have feared that an end to Yorkist influence would give the queen and the lancastrians the opportunity to disallow the staplers’ right to the repayment of their loans from the customs. The king’s recovery. ‘The Struggle for Calais’. The formal agreement itself was presented to Parliament. the garrison was begged not to ‘entende to any governaunce the whiche should hurte us’ and to refrain from anything ‘the whiche might be to the rejoyssing of oure enemies’. all past offences would be pardoned. however. the garrison sold the stolen wool for 26. of course. who had. The immediate problem was.16 This series of events might seem to imply that control of the town was seen as particularly important by York. subsequent events give some credence to this view. and the question of the staplers’ seized wool had not been resolved. while the garrison were in no mood to allow Warwick to enter the town and take up his appointment as captain until they were paid most of what was owed. understood that this might be a decisive factor in the success of his opposition to his enemies at court. By the end of May. somerset had been killed at the first battle of st albans. 30–53. put pressure on the staplers’ Company to accept it. 40–44. . the main arenas in which the two factions among the nobility played out their struggle. ‘The Struggle for Calais’. that the garrison had still not been paid . The soldiery were offered 20. The staplers now also required compensation for this loss as well as secure arrangements for the repayment of loans.050 marks. with payments in the future secured on the customs. was now earnestly urged by the Yorkist council to accept the terms offered to them. the arrears were in fact mounting rapidly. their demands from the Crown also increased to include a pardon for this illegal sale as well as their back pay. During further negotiations to secure loans from the staplers. which was now evident. even if York’s failure to impose his will on Calais in the summer of 1454 tended to undermine his claim to exercise full royal authority. perhaps. The soldiers’ need for money was desperate by this time. it is at least arguable that Warwick himself. which may explain this action . which was in a strong position since it could control access to the town and the harbour. 754. The letter from the Privy Council has been described as hovering ‘between reproach and cajolery’. the garrison. agreement had been reached with the staplers .

unlike all previous captains.20 once pardons had been secured for the misdeeds of the garrison. He has. but there is little evidence of ships other than merchantmen and fishing boats being based there in the period of English rule. in 1454 a group of Calais ships had been accused of plundering a Dordrecht ship. the Seynt Barbara.21 Warwick may have initially had no wider aims than to indulge in a little judicious piracy in the Channel to enhance his resources with booty. might seem to confirm this. Warwick may well have uttered a sigh of relief when he eventually entered Calais as its captain on 20 april 1456. including compensation for the value of the wool sold by the mutinous soldiers. which Henry VI was demonstrably unable 18 Myers. Warwick was able to appoint his own men to official positions.. First of all. English Historical Documents. been credited with rapidly and deliberately deciding to use Calais as a base for the ‘keeping of the seas’. Was only Warwick himself fully aware of the potential power base he had acquired ? The fact that he took up residence in the town as soon as possible and did not conduct its affairs through a lieutenant. 9¾d. iv : 516–19.964 2s. 10½d. 1452–61 : 173. shipmen from Calais had had the reputation of being involved in piracy before the days of Edward III. 4d. 20 The commissioners concluded that. Warwick looked seaward and to the use that could be made of Calais as a base for a squadron of ships operating in the Channel to ‘keep the seas’. . 21 CPR Henry VI.444 14s. as somerset had done. in effect taking over the royal duty of defending the realm and protecting its merchants. while keeping a firm grip on the captaincy itself. was included in the loan for the wages of the commissioners who would go to Calais to work out the final amount. 19 Payment from the Sandwich customs would only begin when the money due to the duke of Buckingham from before 1450 had been paid. although York resigned as protector (probably under compulsion from the queen’s supporters) as the Calais agreement was being finalised. ibid.)18 would be repaid out of the obligations already received and a long-term charge on the customs of sandwich19 and southampton. 437–8. however. nearly a year after his initial appointment. Had this been his aim from the first ? Had Warwick’s ambition lain behind the vigour with which York apparently pursued the Calais question after the first battle of st albans ? no clear evidence bears directly on this point.966 2s. to the Crown plus the remainder of the arrears due to the garrison. no attempt was made to deprive Warwick of the captaincy at this point. but there are some suggestive hints. The case rumbled on till at least 1458 .Calais as a base for political intrigue · 81 · a total of £29. He also pursued a very different military strategy from earlier captains. 4d. Previously attention had been focused on the land borders of the Pale and on the ability of the garrison to resist a siege like that in 1436 or a possible direct assault by France. The complex negotiations and the compliance of the staplers Company had in fact ensured that the arrears of the garrison’s pay had been cleared. of her cargo of wheat and wine to the value of £120. the final statement of account came to a total of £65. until the mid fifteenth century. This very large sum of money (lord Cromwell’s estimate of royal revenue in 1433 had listed the king’s net annual income as only £26. a sum of £66 13s.

returning from the bay of Biscay with salt. The second battle that summer involved the seizure of around seventeen vessels from the Hanseatic fleet. but it did give him official sanction for collecting armed ships in Calais harbour. was with a spanish fleet of twenty-eight vessels. other terms of his indentures allowed him to keep any prizes and in effect to have full authority over matters like safe-conducts or the disposal of prisoners. many in his own possession. it is also clear that his activities at sea were welcome to many in England. therefore. whose wages were once more in arrears. N. unlike the battle against the spaniards. there was no legitimate way this could be interpreted as an action against the king’s enemies. with payment promised from the customs receipts. Warwick. off Calais itself. according to a participant. 23 Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century. who feared more French raids like that on sandwich in 1457. ‘The Earl of Warwick’s Domination of the Channel and the Naval Dimension to the Wars of the Roses. 6. . he was in the position of being able to establish an independent power base in Calais. 1456–60’. a london chronicler. The encounter lasted from three in the morning till ten o’clock and resulted in Warwick’s men taking six spanish ships but incurring heavy casualties of their own. 24 Richmond. Beadle and C.· 82 · Chapter 5 to do. John Bale. ‘The Earl of Warwick’s Domination of the Channel’. Richmond (Oxford. ed. praised ‘the erle of Warrewyk. Warwick sent to sea a squadron consisting of five similar ships. Without in any way acting illegally. most of the vessels were seized and the cargoes taken into Calais for disposal. The chances of his receiving any money for this purpose were probably slim. and thus. 2004–5).24 Warwick plausibly needed the proceeds of the sale of prize goods to pay the garrison. and who had lost goods to sea robbers. ii : 340–41. Richmond. R.22 His fleet‘s first major encounter. altogether. the earl was sending for more ships with the intention of seeking further engagements. it was the greatest battle ‘upon the se this xl wyntyr’. 20/21 (1998–9). having a strong and myghte naveye kepte the strayt sea. Bale perhaps ominously also 22 C. three ‘carvells’ and four small pinnaces. 7. in June of the following year his fleet was involved in another dubiously legal affair. particularly on the south coast. in May 1458.23 it could not be seen as a clear victory for Warwick’s forces. according to our informant. a group of spanish ships who were sailing in company with two Genoese carracks was attacked . including sixteen ‘gret schippis of forecastell’.’ (the Channel) and ‘all the cominalte of this lond hadde him in greet laude and chierte’. Southern History. whether for himself or for the benefit of the Yorkist cause. over 200 men were killed and 700 injured. since the customs revenue was already heavily committed for other purposes. F. The king himself had no ships of his own. Davis. The destructive French raid on sandwich in late august 1457 had greatly angered and alarmed traders and townspeople in ports all along the south coast. on both sides. it has been rightly said that ‘the Earl of Warwick at Calais and on the high seas was a free agent’. indented with the Crown to keep the seas for three years from november 1457.

which was part of the contemporary mind-set. The queen had accused York and the neville father and son. positioned among his army.25 if. ODNB. Flenley (ed. however. 26 Trollope’s support for the Lancastrian cause continued to the end of his life. Six Town Chronicles of England (Oxford. salisbury and Warwick. to await the lancastrian army. under cover of an artillery barrage. relations between Warwick. He was leader of a Lancastrian squadron at the battle of Wakefield (where one report suggests he disguised his men as Warwick’s retinue by giving them the bear and ragged staff to wear). as an attempt to rid the king of evil counsellors. They were the best armed and most experienced part of the Yorkist army. The turn of events. and those of salisbury. on the plain below ludlow castle.26 Clearly the paying of the garrison’s arrears. did not influence the allegiance of trollope and his men at this juncture. The meeting of the three Yorkist leaders then took place at Worcester. may well have weighed more heavily with him. Faced with the news that most of trollope’s squadron had slipped way to join the king. Warwick’s position at Calais seemed secure.lyme.Calais as a base for political intrigue · 83 · noted that only the earl ‘laboured for the honour and profite of the king and the londe’. 25 R. The decision was taken to withdraw to ludlow.). now appeared imminent . The lancastrians (Henry. many of the soldiers from Calais had left their posts and come to England to fight for a noble faction against their own monarch. 1911). some time on 12 october. who had spent most of his adult life fighting in France. it has been suggested that his links to the Beaufort family were also an issue. and who had been master porter of Calais since 1455. a direct attack on royal forces in the presence of the king whom he had sworn to serve was too much for his sense of honour. who was in ludlow. near newcastle-under. of disloyalty at a Council meeting at Coventry in June 1459. The intention was that this group should be combined with those of the duke of York. in the usual way. before Warwick took over the captaincy. York and the Crown were breaking down. probably double the size of their own forces. York and the nevilles retreated to ludlow Castle from their battle lines. which had a crucial role in supplying Calais and its garrison. ‘Sir Andrew Trollope’. wounded at second St Albans and finally killed leading the van of the Lancastrian army at Towton in 1461.000 men. but his oath to the king and the horror of open resistance to God-given authority. which had seemed inconceivable in 1455. who had to march south from Middleham in Yorkshire. . was on his side. 147. The coming battle could not be explained. the queen and their supporters) acted quickly to prevent this junction taking place. ended in disaster. Henry VI’s own banner was prominently displayed over his tents. we may presume that York and salisbury in England and Warwick in Calais debated what their next steps should be. Warwick arrived in london with an armed force largely composed of the Calais garrison. being prepared to fortify Calais and perform other feats of arms. since most of the south-east of England. a Yorkist stronghold. was in charge of this Calais contingent. on 20 september. Curry. over the summer. but on 23 september their attack on salisbury and his men at Blore Heath. The lancastrian leader lord audley was killed along with 2. A. sir andrew trollope. drawn up at ludford Bridge.

The English Chronicle reported that ‘it was seyde that alle Kent fauored and supported thaym [Warwick’s men]’. he still had the support of many of the staplers. The lancastrians had responded to Warwick’s arrival in England to support York with more resolution than usual. what was left of his forces made their way inland with some difficulty and established themselves in the castle at Guisnes . it was now clearer than ever that Calais was no longer an outpost of English power on the 27 M. refused him entry to the port. 29 Ibid. Warwick the Kingmaker (Oxford. once re-established in his fortress.· 84 · Chapter 5 and then fled for their lives. The Coventry parliament attempted to prohibit trade with Calais and placed restrictions on supplies being sent to the town. Warwick. The remainder of their forces had no alternative but to surrender. Henry. duke of somerset. 81. . according to one English Chronicle ‘the sovdyers that came with hym were strypped oute of theyre harnrys by thaym of Caleys’. but to little avail. 82.. commanded by lord Fauconberg. with the town and castle of Calais in Yorkist hands confronting the lancastrian garrison in Guisnes Castle. came from Kent to join the earl. had been appointed as captain of Calais (Warwick being now a rebel) on 9 october. Warwick proved immune to the attempts of the Crown to dislodge him. Warwick’s foreign policy. An English Chronicle.27 The situation that confronted them in the town and the Pale was probably rather better than they may have anticipated. 28 ‘Forced to give up their arms and armour’ . York himself went over the Welsh mountains to take ship for ireland. 1998). and by way of Guernsey they reached Calais on 2 november. Marx (ed. salisbury and York’s eldest son. the conflict between the Yorkists and lancastrians in England was reproduced in miniature in the Pale. and through him the Yorkist cause. was also more popular with them than the pro-French policies of the queen and her party. Hicks. John Dinham was responsible for obtaining the boat. which was pro-Burgundian at this point. although his estates in England had been taken into royal hands following his attainder in the parliament held at Coventry in november 1459. but this would have entailed a much more difficult voyage round the Cornish peninsula than the relatively straightforward passage to Guernsey from somewhere like Dartmouth. rode south to Devon. as far as supplies were concerned. By the end of the month.29 soon. the earl of March.). just before the events at ludford Bridge. Edmund’s son. However. many in Kent and elsewhere on the south coast were prepared to ignore the restrictions in gratitude for what they saw as Warwick’s support for their safety and their trade by his earlier actions in the Channel. a trickle of supporters of Warwick. he had put together a force including trollope and his men and had sailed for the town to take control. A. From this point. the remnant of the garrison in the town. The staplers were probably convinced that there was little hope of the lancastrians’ repaying the debts of the Crown incurred under the Yorkist regime. Here a ship was found. suggests they left from north Devon. in fact.28 somerset’s ships were forced to make landfall in the bay at the foot of scales Cliff on the border of the Pale. 1377– 1461. 169. Warwick’s uncle.

Calais had amply proved its worth as a base from which to mount their bid for the Crown. from the point of view of Henry VI’s government. Scofield. it finishes significantly with the remark that ‘daily as my lorde (Warwick) hafe any knowlage of an enemye anone my lorde makes his schippes to go to the see’. 544–6. Exeter had made no attempt to attack Warwick’s fleet when he had encountered it but had turned away and run for sanctuary to the nearest port. perhaps before dawn. 19 January 1460’. This writer was also well aware that the plans put together in ireland were about to be put into operation. in January 1460 John Dinham and a force from Calais came into the harbour at sandwich. although the royal forces had tried to imprison Warwick’s own ships in the harbour at sandwich in December. probably either a master mariner or a merchant. his father salisbury. EHR 37 (1922). which resulted in the town being secured as the Yorkist base on the south coast. 32 The letter is transcribed in C. Warwick. 33 Hicks.33 From the Yorkist point of view. Fauconberg’s men had decisively defeated the lancastrian forces from Guisnes in an engagement at newenham Bridge in april.31 not long after this exploit in March.Calais as a base for political intrigue · 85 · far side of the Channel but. a letter dated 14 June from a Calais resident.). L. a rebel base providing security for those plotting against their regime. Their relatively humble origins were made fun of (Warwick teased Rivers that his father was ‘but a squyer’ who had ‘sthen hymself made by maryage’). he gives details of an attack by ‘diverse caruelles and balingers of warr’ on three French war ships and the capture of a ‘holke’. Warwick the Kingmaker. his reputation enhanced by successfully facing down a fleet commanded by the duke of Exeter. 31 C. L. The lancastrian commanders lord Rivers and his son. and the earl of March landed at the port two days later. to a correspondent in the Middle temple gives a vivid picture of the continued use of the town as a base for assaults on ‘enemy’ shipping . leaving only the Grace Dieu behind because she was ‘broke in her botome’.32 ten days later. Henry VI’s naval commander. . 177. sir anthony. Fauconberg led another assault on sandwich. 1377– 1461. off Dartmouth. despite an artillery battle between the ships off Boulogne. ‘The Capture of Lord Rivers and Sir Anthony Woodville. Within a matter of weeks. on 24 June. where they endured being exposed to public scorn by salisbury and Warwick. Warwick had returned to Calais. although a small remnant still held out in the castle and engaged in skirmishing against Warwick’s men. with a cargo largely of victuals. 253–5. ‘The Earl of Warwick at Calais in 1460’. were captured ‘in theyre beddes’. EHR 37 (1922). The triumphant advance on london of the Yorkist forces was watched with pleasure in Calais. Developments in the last days of 1459 and in 1460 confirm this interpretation. 82. By late May. in Calais itself. certainly early in the day.30 Rivers and his son were taken captive to Calais. Kingsford. and Warwick’s ships were freed to join the rest of his squadron at Calais. Warwick returned to the town to be greeted enthusi30 Marx (ed. Warwick sailed from Calais to join York and his party in ireland to prepare for what was in fact the Yorkist invasion of England. An English Chronicle.

the former earl of March. it appeared. Warwick the Kingmaker. except that going to italy. per annum and also maintain the fortifications. 235. the Company would pay the garrison a total of £10.· 86 · Chapter 5 astically by his wife and mother and the townspeople . By the end of March 1461. 220. that piracy in the Channel would be controlled. in the view of one commentator. if she ever regained power. backed the winning side after all. Hicks. Warwick the Kingmaker. Hammes and the Risban tower. First of all was the old one of finance. The disaster that overtook the Yorkists on the last day of 1460 at the battle of Wakefield.37 Problems still remained for the garrison and for the town. where the duke of York and many others of his party were killed. particularly the pacification of the north and the reduction of those strongholds still in lancastrian hands. Following these successes. according to the detailed arrangements. The staplers had. By a so-called act of Retainer. The knowledge that the fugitive Queen Margaret had bought French support for the lancastrian cause by promising to restore Calais to France. ‘The Earl of Warwick’s Domination of the Channel’. Paston Letters. Hicks. first negotiated in 1466 but confirmed and reissued in 1473. ii : 287. Warwick’s determined use of sea power and his successful keeping of the seas were ‘a direct cause’ of Henry’s deposition. How could the wages of the soldiers be paid ? in this instance a more permanent solution was found than the usual expedient of borrowing from the staplers with repayments coming from the customs revenue in a more or less ad hoc fashion. which did not pass through the staple. the payment of the garrison. at any particular time. The company would. 14.36 Warwick continued as captain but paid only occasional fleeting visits to the Pale . 8d. a further £3. in the town and the castle and at Guisnes.022 4s.35 a letter to John Paston I in the autumn of 1462 included another rumour that ‘there were cc in Caleyse sworn contray to the Kyngys well for defaute of there wagys and that Qwen Marget was redy at Boleyn with myche syluir to paye the souderys in cas they wold geue here entresse’. . there now seemed every likelihood that the Pale would enjoy stable rule. had slaughtered many of the lancastrians at towton and driven Henry VI and his queen to precipitate flight to scotland. somerset realised that his position at Guisnes was untenable. in return.000 per annum from the customs proceeds would be retained by the staplers to pay off gradu34 35 36 37 Richmond. collect the custom and subsidy on all wool exported from England. now proclaimed king as Edward IV. his attention as ‘the dominant figure in the new regime’ was fixed on more important issues. and that the staplers could look forward to peaceful trading conditions. would become the responsibility of the Company of the staple. and the ‘ordinary’ revenues arising in Calais. and after submitting to the earl he withdrew to Dieppe. perhaps did not cause much overt alarm.34 The years between 1461 and 1469 were in fact relatively without incident for Calais and its inhabitants. did not in the end greatly delay this happy outcome of events for Calais. according to the needs of the garrison for pay and the Crown for finance.

1933). 1997). there seemed little fear of a French attack in the last years of Edward’s reign. Postan (eds. 1485–1547 : A Study in Early Tudor Government’ (PhD thesis.Calais as a base for political intrigue · 87 · ally the Crown’s debt to them of £32. despite the subsequent takeover of both Picardy and artois by France. This might have been thrown into disarray by the death of Charles of Burgundy in battle in 1477. 39 D.38 it has been calculated that from 1467 to 1483 there was an annual average surplus paid to the Crown of £705. duke of somerset. might be manipulated or undermined by the captain remained.861. However. 44. generally reflected the old animosity between the two kingdoms. M.39 The payment of the Calais garrison was no longer a drain on English royal finances. 74–5. was there a possibility that. which had been a more or less ever present worry for the burghers and traders of the town since the siege of 1436. and he had perhaps little wish to stir up trouble so near his northern borders. it could be seen as a natural consequence of their hostility to a truce with France in the 1440s and the accusation that normandy had been lost through the treacherous inertia of Edmund. a more potent threat to the security of Calais. thus surrounding the Pale with French territory. His attitude to France.). This policy caused little controversy in England until it became an issue in the rift between Edward IV and his erstwhile henchman Warwick. The more complex issue of how the loyalty to the Crown of the soldiery in general. this would be paid to the Crown. Edward IV was able to reduce the danger of attack by Burgundy. England and Burgundy were once more allies. ‘Calais. Power and M. as his relationship with Edward IV deteriorated . as has been frequently remarked. if. Grummitt. Given that Warwick had so successfully used his base in the town as a springboard for the Yorkist enterprise against Henry VI. Studies in English Trade in the Fifteenth Century (London. the town could be used in a similar way ? The king’s agreement with the staplers had made it much more difficult to use the bait of promising to pay the garrison’s arrears of pay as a way of gaining influence with the soldiers. although the garrison. once Edward had recovered the throne in 1471. University of London. he maintained his alliance with his brother-in-law and mounted an invasion of France in 1475. which finally amounted to £15. there was any surplus remaining. was the largest and most professional 38 E. This bloodless invasion led to the conclusion of the treaty of Picquigny and the payment of a pension to Edward by louis XI. after these annual obligations. louis’s priorities lay elsewhere. ‘The Wool Trade in the Fifteenth Century’..022 4s. The delicately balanced relations between England. increasingly apparent after 1467. The Yorkists had tended to look for support from Burgundy since the beginning of their campaign against the lancastrian regime. Burgundy and France that ensued ensured a period of relative security for Calais. They would also pay some small fees and dues amounting to around another £800 and cover the costs incurred in the safe convoying of the wool fleets to the town. Edward concluded a commercial treaty with Burgundy in 1467 and betrothed his sister Margaret to the new Duke Charles the following year. 8d. . and their local commanders in particular. Power. in E. similarly.

in July isabel was married to Clarence in st Mary’s church at Calais without royal consent. Within five days the wedding party was back in England. as before. Warwick was determined to marry his elder daughter isabel to the king’s brother George. Despite his acquiescence in the Yorkist friendship with Burgundy in 1459–60. in this situation. duke of somerset. 1436–77’ (PhD dissertation. on the other hand.· 88 · Chapter 5 body of fighting men in the territories of the king of England. often described as the defining feature of so-called bastard feudalism. had been commissioned with elaborate ceremonies at sandwich. ‘The Defence of Calais. a potential warship. later in the same year. however. in June his latest great ship. even though somerset had been appointed captain by Henry VI in Warwick’s place. was their first loyalty to their ‘good lord’. in the summer of 1469 Warwick seems to have brought the complex web of intrigue aimed at restoring his dominance over Edward to some sort of conclusion. the phrase often used in indentures and other documents. with a clear chain of command leading back ultimately to the Crown. rather than true fighting men. Rainey jr. R. ‘Calais. Many were the indentured retainers of one or other of the holders of the most important military posts in the Pale. lord Fauconberg had refused entry to the port of Calais to Henry. Despite these uncertainties. Elizabeth Woodville. a further source of tension related to a family matter. and found the rapid advancement in the king’s favour of her many relations very irritating. He found. the king greatly preferred an alliance with Charles of Burgundy to a rapprochement with louis XI of France. Warwick had actively and persistently campaigned against both the alliance of 1467 and the marriage of Margaret and Charles. or to the Crown ? Both somerset in the 1450s and Warwick on his appointment as captain made sure that the most important commands were in the hands of their supporters. duke of Clarence .40 Their status in this matter was no different from that of most of the men fighting in France before the 1450s. with the remainder probably being auxiliaries. Edward refused to sanction the match. Relations between the earl and the king had deteriorated since the king’s marriage in 1464. cited in Grummitt. a more serious source of disagreement with the king was over relations between England and Burgundy and England and France. the captain of Calais himself or his lieutenant. the Trinity. there seems to be little doubt that Warwick intended to use Calais as the base for his plot against Edward IV in 1469 and possibly. these men did not constitute an army in the modern sense of the word. or of the members of the liveried retinues of nobles. for example. Warwick probably disliked the queen. J. as the springboard for an invasion of England. Rutgers University. that he was no longer able to influence the king. servants etc. Yet how effective was this tactic ? sir andrew trollope’s defection to Henry VI’s forces at ludford Bridge was the direct cause of the flight of Warwick and his co-conspirators from the field of battle in disarray. . 58–9. 1485–1547’. and before the end of the month Warwick seemed to have mounted a successful coup. as has been said. 40 It has been calculated that at least half the garrison was made up of personal retainers. 1987).

Kingsford (ed. was not fatal to Warwick’s plans. however. 286–7. at this point Edward’s experience of events in 1459 proved invaluable. who visited Calais on behalf of the duke of Burgundy in the immediate aftermath of Warwick’s coup d’état in favour of Henry VI.41 The failure to gain entry to Calais. Warwick once more sailed for England on 9 september. however. on arrival off Calais. The priority for many at this time was to be on the winning side. Warwick the Kingmaker. with the badge of the bear and ragged staff. when rebellion broke out in lincolnshire . has given a picture of the fears and uncertainties in the town. He had little doubt that Warwick would again make for Calais with the intention of using the town as his base. J. 243–5. Blanchard (Paris. By october. intercepted letters left no doubt that Warwick and Clarence hoped to use the rising as a cover for their own moves against the king. the marshal lord Duras denied Warwick access to the harbour. Edward was Warwick’s prisoner. probably fomented by Warwick. By the end of the month Edward IV was in exile in Bruges. Chronicles of London (Oxford. significantly he was told that as soon as the ferry came from England with the news of Edward’s flight to Bruges. clearly few. Mémoires. remaining adamant even when the young duchess of Clarence went into labour on board ship and lost the baby. after a summer spent in negotiations with louis XI and Margaret of anjou. everyone was wearing the Warwick badge. it did not last beyond the spring. He found that the entire garrison was wearing Warwick’s livery. He was probably unaware of his cousin Warwick’s death at Barnet and of Edward’s complete destruction of 41 Hicks. shown in the bastard of Fauconberg’s abortive attempt to use the Calais garrison against Edward IV after his return to England in 1471. 2001).43 with some vague idea of assisting Henry VI. L. if any. taking ship at Dartmouth on 9 april 1470. 42 P. . 185. Edward had reasserted his authority and attempted a reconciliation with Warwick. Warwick was forced to make instead for Harfleur in normandy.42 We may find it significant that support for Henry was shown by wearing Warwick’s badge . de Commines. and that the door of his lodgings was adorned with white crosses and rhymes in praise of the alliance between Warwick and louis XI. 43 C. as he had done eleven years before.Calais as a base for political intrigue · 89 · Following a misjudged reaction to a rising in the north. Both were forced to flee with a small group of supporters. on this occasion. How did these rapid changes in loyalties affect Calais ? Philippe de Commines. in less than a quarter of an hour. Warwick had some idea of the swiftness of the king’s reaction to his flight when he heard that his Trinity had been seized at southampton before this great ship could join the squadron from Dartmouth. perhaps. a similar somewhat ambiguous attitude to allegiance is. ed.). believed that Henry himself had played any active role in his own readeption. 1905). Fauconberg had induced the Calais garrison to set sail for Kent and to march on london with ‘a greate people of Kent and of shipmen’. and Henry VI had been restored to the throne. Commines then comments it was hard to know who did this out of fear and who did it out of support for Henry.

Jones and S. There is no doubt that captains of Calais did make efforts to ensure that members of their affinities occupied the most important positions in the town. in Camden Miscellany. introd. Dockray (Gloucester. open rebellion against the monarch was not only treason but also a sin. 1278–1476’. it only became a potential danger when the system of government was weak or under attack. that is saving his loyalty to the king. 45 M. earl of arundel. a pees e a guerre sibien depar decea come de la ou sur la miere pur terme de a vie et pour estre ovesque monditseigneur le prince a pes et a guerre encounter toutz gentz du monde except nostre tresredoubteseigneur le Roy Henry. it must be remembered that indentures routinely included a phrase that made clear that war against the king was excluded from the obligation to serve one’s lord. EHR 85 (1970).44 Few wished to remain to face Edward’s vengeance. ‘Fauconberg’s Kentish Rising of May 1471’. Warwick’s powerful personality and his driving ambi44 C. Richmond. .46 such a provision would not have been regarded as a mere form of words at this time but a serious undertaking.’. He and his followers were now in the eyes of contemporaries clearly ‘haynous traytours and robbers’. 1994). F. 49–51. J. in 1408 an indenture between Henry. with those from Calais making for their ships on the Thames to return to Calais ‘the sonest they cowlde’. This process has been set out for somerset and Warwick in detail. When considering the whole role of personal loyalties and the membership of noble affinities in the actions of the Calais garrison and other armed forces of the day.’ 46 Ibid. Faced with the determined defence of the City of london by its citizens.. from 1467 includes the phrase ‘the said Robert is w’holden and belest with and toward the said Erle ayenst all persons his ligeance except’. xxxii (London. Prince of Wales.47 This has shown that Warwick in 1456 got the support not only of well-known professional soldiers like John Dinham and his uncle lord Fauconberg but also Calais burgesses including John Prowde and Richard Whetehill. in England and the Final Recouerye of His Kingdoms from Henry VI. as was certainly the case in the late 1450s and 1460s. in peace and in war both at home and abroad or at sea for life in order to assist the said lord the prince both in peace and in war against all people of the world except our most dread lord King Henry. 172. most of his followers slipped away. it must be remembered that this was the expected way for a great lord to act when he was in the position of being able to put lucrative positions or other advantages in the way of his ‘men’.45 a less formal indenture between Warwick himself and Robert Cuny esq. Bruce. ‘Calais. 47 Grummitt. in Three Chronicles of the Reign of Edward IV.). ‘In time of peace as of war. 673–92. 37. Walker (eds.· 90 · Chapter 5 the lancastrian army at tewkesbury on 4 May until he arrived at london on the 12th. K. 1485–1547’. ed. 137. ‘Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV. The whole system of good lordship that permeated society from top to bottom was predicated on this fact. 1988). and Thomas. stated that the obligation was to serve : en temps de pees come de guerre. ‘Private Indentures for Life Service in Peace and War.

2000). rather than the way he made appointments. however.Calais as a base for political intrigue · 91 · tion were what made his hold on Calais a danger to the monarchy. it would show unmistakeably his desire to serve a new ‘good lord’. Virgoe. newly appointed men. in the autumn of 1473 he was in correspondence with a maker of armour in Bruges. who wished to make him a complete set of ‘harness’ at a price ‘que vous seres content 48 D. 51 R. C. Grummitt.50 a member of another family. a neighbour and relation of Margaret Paston’s. lord Hastings. 1442–1479) and John Paston III (1444–1502). C. osbert Mundford . The idea of serving in Calais was not strange to the gentry of norfolk. here John Paston I (1421–1466) is the father of both John Paston II (Sir John. This has been taken as sign that the king wished to keep better control of the place.48 The fact that these new men included sir John Paston ( John Paston II)49 makes it possible to not only to see how the system of ‘good lordship’ operated in a particular case but also to get a more intimate picture of life in Calais for the garrison at this time from some of the asides and casual remarks in letters in the Paston collection. The Ricardian. 52 C. ii : 485. lord Hastings. it was also a way of wiping out the memory of his and his brother’s support of the lancastrians. This may well have been the normal pattern for the ‘gentle’ members of the garrison . Edmund (d. often had direct links to the royal household as well as a position in Calais in the retinue of Hastings. Rawcliffe and J. 12 (2001). 1997). This does not imply that John Paston II took his duties lightly. John Paston II was as familiar with Calais as with london. did. some of Warwick’s appointees. ed. the Knyvets. after Warwick’s death at the battle of Barnet in 1471 and the triumph of the Yorkist cause.52 He travelled frequently back and forth between the two as his military duties and his family concerns required.51 John Paston II probably took up service in Calais after the fall of the lancastrians in the 1470s for two reasons. He needed an income and would receive a wage as a member of the garrison. 146. on the other hand. William. in 1470 and at the battle of Barnet in 1471. William. by 1504) was also his son. From some date in the summer of 1472. Edward IV appointed one of his most loyal supporters. Mundford was taken prisoner by Fauconberg at Sandwich in June 1460 and executed at Calais. . East Anglian Society and the Political Community of Late Medieval England. ‘William Lord Hastings. the Calais Garrison and the Politics of Yorkist England’. their presence was not continuous but interrupted by frequent visits to their estates and families in England. 262–74. who had not abandoned their loyalty to the Crown. had been commander of the castle at sangatte at the time of the Burgundian invasion of 1436 and had been accused of surrendering it ‘shamefully and cowardly without any stroke’. Rosenthal (Norwich. had served in the garrison in the 1450s and had jocularly offered to buy John Paston I a ‘stoop of beer to comfort you after your travail of the sea’. Barron. as lieutenant not captain of Calais. remain in office. 164. particularly the earl of oxford. 49 The identification of members of the Paston family can cause problems . Richmond. since he himself was the titular captain. The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century : Endings (Manchester. 50 Paston Letters. should Paston visit him in Calais. T. which was not in itself unusual for the time.

· 92 · Chapter 5 de moy’. one sir Thomas Hungerford’s daughter. i : 460–61. he was then irritated because she asked all the time. as another member of the garrison had died leaving a vacancy . Paston called them ‘iii grett jowellys’ but also reflected that since Calais was ‘a mery town’ it presumably had more than enough going on to keep them entertained. i : 486. ‘The price will be agreeable to you. Ibid. Hastings also wrote praising Paston for his ‘gode attandancez’ and his ‘gode and effectuelle deuoirs’ that he had put into his assistance to Hasting’s deputy ‘in all suche thinges as mowe concerne the saufgarde of my charge there’. he remarked that since his former ‘lord’ the lancastrian earl of oxford was rumoured to be causing trouble in Essex. Ibid.’ Ibid. ‘How faret master John yowre brother ?’55 The social element of life as a member of the garrison could also be enhanced by young and noble visitors to the town. it was as well for him to be out of the way on the other side of the Channel. in early 1473. ii : 409. when Edward IV’s expedition to France was in preparation.59 John Paston III.. where he not only saw the duke of Burgundy himself but also family friends. ii : 410. despite all his responsibilities for the family estates in norfolk. it was ‘nowe ore neuer iff ye can brynge it a-bowt’. letters to or from the Paston brothers often paint a vivid picture of 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 Paston Letters.57 later in the same year he asked for his musical instruments to be sent up to london so that he might have them in Calais ‘to avoyde idelnesse’ there. also spent some time in the town in 1475 and later. 150–51.58 By 1475. Ibid. a young man could be ‘in suche wagys as ye schall can lyve lyke a jentylman’.53 at much the same time. There was also a clear opportunity for the young man to join his brother. including two ladies known as Gretkyn and Babekyn. to Ghent. but.60 The overall impression of those letters in the Paston collection that are either written from Calais or refer to the town and the garrison is how little fuss or bother was made about the journey from England to the Pale and how normal it was for someone of their social standing to be involved in matters there. He not only needed his ‘newe vestment of whyght damaske’ to wear there. Ibid. though.. on one occasion. i : 455.. it is also the case that the role of the town as a source of news and intelligence for those in England regarding happenings in France and the Empire was fully appreciated...56 Certainly he himself expected to be ‘verry mery at Caleys thys Whitsontyd’. on a more sober note. Ibid. i : 472. John Paston was charged by Hastings to look after lord souche and two young heiresses. . i : 463. the other lady Harrington.54 Paston also had time to travel into Flanders . having remarked that one of them looked much better because she had lost some weight.. The pay was reasonable . He was clearly flirting with these two . Richmond. The Paston Family in the Fifteenth Century. John Paston II was urging his younger brother Edmund to join him in the garrison.

the inhabitants of Calais may perhaps have felt that they could now look forward to a period of greater stability. in a letter to his brother. after the campaign ended by the treaty of Piquigny. i : 502. Edward IV successfully strengthened the chain of loyalty. to the benefit both of the Crown and of the town. was so keen for John Paston III to buy him a horse in Calais that he finally took to verse. like as the fawcon Which is aa-lofte tellith scorne to loke a-down on hym that wont was her federys to pyke and ymps Ryght so forgotyn ys yowr pore Pympe. i : 580 Ibid. The older John likewise blamed a stomach ailment on the town . ‘i mysslyke somewhat the heyre heer for by my trowthe i was in goode heele whan i came hydder and all hool and to my wetyng i hadde neuer a better stomake in my lyffe and now with-in viii dayes i am crasyd ageyn. ‘thys being the vi lettyr that i have sent yow’.61 Edmond Bedyngfeld’s letter of august 1477 to John Paston II similarly gave a clear and succinct account of the siege of saintomer by the French king with the shrewd comment that the French were far more concerned to act against the Burgundians than the English. ii : 417–18. Ibid. but there is also family banter that casts some further light of Calais life. if not quite of command.. Ibid. he wrote in 1475. The younger John advised his older brother to dress particularly warmly when in the town.. There were pleasures there to enjoy without any countervailing feeling of being remote or cut off from home and family in England. 487. in 1477 John Paston II. this evidence does reveal another side to the life of the Calais garrison in the late fifteenth century.Calais as a base for political intrigue · 93 · the situation. a constant feature of the Cely correspondence. i : 594. Warwick 61 62 63 64 65 Paston Letters. as the treasurer of Calais produced for 15d. Ibid. a Paston friend from Kent. also appears in this collection. ii : 419–20. John Paston III on one occasion remarked that you could get as good food (‘deynte vytayll’) in norwich for 1d. after describing louis XI’s siege of Boulogne. once Edward’s army had departed back to England in 1475. since he was convinced he had been ill there because of the cold. addressing him in these terms : Fresh amorouse sihtys of cuntreys ferre and straunge Have all fordonne yowr old affeccioun in plesurys new yowr hert dooth soore and raunge so hye and ferrew that.65 taken all together.63 There are also hints that Calais was relatively unhealthy.’64 The role of Calais in the buying and selling of horses. .000) if only it was in English hands.62 Much of the other content of the letters concerns the family preoccupations of the Pastons. John Pympe. when the focus would be more firmly on the wool trade and the Company of the staple than on the repercussions of political turmoil in England and the doings of the garrison... remarked that ‘it weer worthe xlm li’ (£40. He finished his plea.

sir John Paston was perhaps not the only soldier who found life there had not only financial advantages but was also agreeable and entertaining. however. .· 94 · Chapter 5 had perhaps come close to making the town and the Pale a private fiefdom in a way much more familiar in the lands of the Empire than in England. by 1475 firmly back under royal control. with reinforced links to the royal household and to the merchants of the city of london. The territory was.

For English merchants. The possibility of attacks from either Burgundy or France on their trading base and the incidence of piracy in the Channel varied with the political situation. which many hoped was now ended by the resumption of the Crown by Edward IV in 1471. The merchants had operated for much of the previous fifty years in a difficult and demanding environment. crisis loans to the Crown by the staple merchants. happened in 1436 with the Burgundian siege of Calais. and promised repayment from the already heavily anticipated receipts from the customs would be broken. particularly after its confirmation by parliament in 1473. particularly with regard to international trade.6 t H E H EY D aY o F t H E C o M Pa n Y o F t H E s ta P l E : tHE MERCHants anD tHEiR liVEs  he act of Retainer. these foreign troubles had been compounded by the period of civil strife in the 1450s and 1460s. had faced similar difficulties . The Company and its members would have more control of their own affairs and would not be so much at the mercy of events that were none of their making. but at times they could reach crisis level. 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. Both groups of merchants were also caught up in the consequences of the prevailing views of the nature of wealth. This. The cycle of the soldiers’ wages being in arrears. and that the staplers would see their loans to the Crown gradually repaid. Their trading partners. of course. marked the beginning of a period of relative stability for the Company of the staple. followed by threatened or actual mutinies by the garrison. and the way in which this might advantage or disadvantage a ruler and a state. as we have said. the rulers of both Burgundy · 95 · T . it was reasonable to suppose that the wool trade would be prosperous enough to bear these burdens. in their case largely concerning conflicts between the dukes of Burgundy and the powerful trading cities of Flanders. principally merchants from Flanders and Brabant.

the most important aspect of the reopening of the mint was the conditions that were consequentially attached to the sale of their wools at the staple.3 if this ordinance had been enforced to the letter it would have outlawed the use of credit in the wool trade. 2 CCR Henry VI. tight protectionist policies were followed. in fact. Richard Buckland. but in the 1429 parliament a series of articles were presented to the king and accepted by him. had a lasting effect on the fortunes of the staplers and the trade of Calais. 4d. since foreign specie brought in by merchants was deposited there for recoining. and for the wool-fells at the same rate to be forged into the king’s coin’. The mark was a money of account equal to ⅔ pound (see p. since this constituted.2 Both gold and silver coins were once more struck in Calais beginning in July 1422. 1422–9 : 59–60. 8d. 10 marks [£6 13s. From the point of view of the merchants. What proportion of the proceeds had to be received in specie and deposited at the mint for recoining ? The regulations in force initially are not recorded. not only would these merchants have had to bring quite large sums in coin to Calais. probably as a result of the Europe-wide shortage of bullion in the early years of the fifteenth century. that is to say for each bale of wool of which the sack weight is sold for 12 marks [£8].1 Bartholomew Goldbeter was appointed as master of the mints at the tower of london. and some of this money could be used to pay the garrison. 8 marks [£5 6s. £6 . ensuring the close regulation of trade and the terms on which it was conducted. as a result of petitions in the parliaments of 1420 and 1421.] £4. which set out the basis on which the wool trade would be conducted at the staple. and the need to ensure that there was enough coin in the hands of the treasurer of Calais. . in modern terms. wool-fells and tin shall be made promptly in gold and silver without any trickery or plotting’. The closure of the mint. 1422–9 : 12. the mint reopened in 1422. until 1404 the existence of the Calais mint had helped to deal with these pressures. in that year the necessary dies for striking the coins were sent over from london to the treasurer of Calais. York and Calais in 1423. did not mean that these policies were abandoned. The Parliament Rolls of England. it was stated ‘that the whole payment for the said wool. a seeping away of wealth. making them vulnerable to rob1 CCR Henry VI.] £5. The most important of these ordinances. Regarding bullion. the great majority of the purchasers of wools at the staple. that is physically present in his coffers. usually known as the Bullion and Partition ordinances. 102 below) . holding the position till his death in 1431. The ordinance than goes on to order that ‘the bullion shall be brought into the mint at Calais. neither the pound nor the mark was minted as a coin in England. to pay the garrison. in their view. in the case of Calais these policies had also been influenced by the way in which the proceeds of the wool customs were used by the state as collateral for loans. item XXVII [Staple at Calais] . 3 Parliament of 1429. the normal way in which business was conducted with the merchants from the low Countries.· 96 · Chapter 6 and England followed bullionist policies and were concerned to put barriers in the way of an outflow of bullion from their territory. Bristol.

Further ordinances put forward at the same time refer to other difficulties facing the staplers. item XXVII [Staple at Calais] . The Parliament Rolls of England. whether in England or Burgundy. the duke of Burgundy also lost tax moneys . wheat. the mint at Calais struck quite large sums. Finally there was a complaint at the way in which the wool price had fallen.’4 in the ensuing years. but such ‘export’ of coin from the territories of Burgundy was very unwelcome to the duke. pipes [wine barrels]. faced bankruptcy. the merchants. it required a seller to ‘make true and equal division of the money thereof with him who has wool or wool-fells for the same countries that his wool or wool-fells are from. When a retaliatory boycott of the import of English cloth to Burgundy failed to bring any change in English attitudes. something that might take a considerable time. The wording of this ordinance as it stood was somewhat ambiguous . and he is enjoined and ordered to make division with him without fraud or deception’. Holland. hiding it ‘under wood. the king’s customs revenue declined drastically . a summary of the situation in Calais. The officials of the Company stuck firmly to the view that all existing stocks must be sold before any new wool could be put on sale. . other traders from Flanders. The restrictions on credit that brought bullion into the mint also led to a large drop in the wool exports to Calais. ‘to the destruction of this realm. while that of foreign luxuries imported in galleys and carracks had risen. and the wool merchants from the low Countries kept away from the market. seacoal and in other ways’. barrels. and was prepared to outlaw the carrying of bullion out of his realm. in the next four years fewer than 600 sacks of legally exported wool reached the staple. He might find himself with no ready money to lay out 4 Parliament of 1429. Because of the partition ordinance. to get round the obligation to trade only through the staple. a wool merchant might have to wait a long time before receiving his share of the proceeds. The partition ordinance was also disruptive of the usual methods of the staplers. The system set up required all the proceeds from wool sales to be pooled in the hands of the Company. mostly in silver coins. while the duke found in this regulation another reason for moving away from his alliance with England towards reconciliation with France. who held bullionist views quite as strongly as the English monarch. individual merchants would only receive their share when all the wool from a particular crop had been sold. made for a Dutch delegation that came to the town in 1438 to attempt to negotiate some sort of compromise agreement. The interruption of the trade in reality benefited no-one . which God forbid. the duke began his preparations for the siege of Calais in 1436.The heyday of the Company of the Staple · 97 · bery on the road. Zealand and elsewhere were accused of smuggling wool out from England ‘trussed up in tonnes. sacks and fardles’. set things out clearly. oats. the way in which it was enforced by the Company became clear from the complaints of those who came to dislike it intensely. Burgundian merchants found the bullion ordinance very onerous. some long-term residents in the town were accused of ‘plotting by subtle means to lower the price’ of wool with foreign merchants.

6 the partition ordinance worked to ensure that that monopoly was concentrated only in the hands of a few wealthy men. but the figures that have been collected for the period from 5 Power. although in 1431/2 and 1433/4 over £40. and it may well be that the intense dislike of the ordinance among those buying wool at the staple was as much responsible for its withdrawal as the opposition among some English woolmen. 8 Power. the association of the leading Flemish trading cities. no partition ordinance and low prices. ‘Calais and Its Mint : Part Two’. apparently leaving matters in the hands of the staplers themselves. This was to the detriment not only of Flemish merchants but also of the Hanse. During the 1440s.· 98 · Chapter 6 on new stock for the coming year. 198.. They claimed ‘that the English at Calais enacted several years ago great sharp. 7 P. the court and parliament were made well aware of the impediment to trade constituted by the bullion regulations. 85–6. i. do not survive. no coins were struck at Calais after 1440.000 in silver had been struck.and anti-partition groups. the partition ordinance and high prices’ against ‘the commonalty of smaller wool merchants’ standing for democratic control. The English Wool Trade. when only £600 of silver was minted. conversely. the Company of the staple removed the requirement on merchants to deposit a proportion of their proceeds at the mint. This received a rather ambiguous answer from the king. since it led to a rise in the price of Flemish cloth. which are being stiffened from year to year so that it is impossible to procure English wool save at heavy cost’. had written to the Diet of the Hanseatic league informing its members that Flanders had instituted a boycott of English cloth because of the way the wool trade at Calais was now conducted. 9 Ibid. of course declined markedly from their peak in the early fourteenth century. 6 Lloyd. These have been represented as the rich men ‘standing for oligarchical government. Woodhead. ‘The Wool Trade’. although it had the support of the most important wool merchants. the Four Members of Flanders. This may in fact have been no more than the official recognition of a situation which already existed. on their own authority. as early as 1433. strict and unjust ordinances concerning wool.).5 The staple system led ‘to a de facto although not de jure native monopoly of the wool trade in northern Europe’ . however. 256. Coinage in the Low Countries. 85. . a petition in the parliament of 1442 requested that both be rescinded. in Mayhew (ed. which tended to be set by the merchants in the largest way of business. partly at least because exports of cloth. The manifest unfairness of the partition system for all but the most important merchants also became clear to many. leaving only some minor restrictions in place.8 The details of this conflict.9 Raw-wool exports had. in the autumn of the same year. app. 88. There was no possibility of bargaining over prices.7 The partition ordinance was rescinded at the same time. There is some evidence to suggest that the Company of the staple was split for most of the late 1430s and 1440s between pro. ‘The Wool Trade’. had rapidly increased.

The heyday of the Company of the Staple

· 99 ·

1439 to about 1460 vary widely, from more than 10,000 sacks per year to much lower totals.10 The political events, both in England and in northern Europe, described in the previous chapter were responsible for this, as well as the effect of the ordinances. The recovery of the wool trade via the staple to at least modest prosperity was as much dependent on political stability as a benign trading environment. The 1463 parliament confirmed the privileges of the Company of the staple, although it also gave statutory recognition to the right of northern woolmen to export their wools from newcastle without going through the staple. The confirmation also included requirements to deposit a proportion of the sale price for coining at the Calais mint, but this must either have been carelessly copied over from earlier ordinances or was never enforced, since the mint had closed in 1440.11 There is no evidence that it reopened at this period.12 When the act of Retainer was first confirmed in parliament in June 1467, the staple was described as ‘now late in ruyne and decay and likely to have been dissolved’.13 This was perhaps something of an exaggeration, but it is clear that the staplers’ decision to support the Yorkists was eventually proved to be the right one, both for the health of the Company as a whole and its base in Calais and for the prosperity of individual merchants. The way in which one particular family partnership operated can be examined in some detail because of the fortunate survival of the Cely letters and papers. These cover the period from 1472 to early 1488, with gaps from november 1482 to 1483 and for the whole of 1485 and 1486.14 The Cely family were established citizens of london. The older Richard was himself a stapler and had done well enough to acquire lands in oxfordshire and northampton and an estate and family home, Bretts Place, at aveley in Essex. His three sons, Robert, Richard the younger and George, were also all actively involved in the wool trade, although the main correspondents in the surviving letters are Richard the younger, usually in london or Bretts Place in Essex, and George and the family factor, William Cely (perhaps a cousin, though this is not certain), usually in Calais or its environs. although the letters are mostly concerned with business affairs (this is the reason they have survived, since they became evidence in an action for debt in Chancery by Richard Cely the younger against the widow of his older brother George), casual remarks and asides allow a picture to be built up of the lives of the merchants of the staple, something illuminated by few other sources. The papers themselves also include what have been called ‘documents of the most personal or trivial kind’, since George seldom threw papers
10 E. M. Carus-Wilson and O. Coleman (eds.), England’s Export Trade, 1275-1547 (Oxford, 1963), 61–3. 11 Lloyd, The English Wool Trade, 278. 12 The last coins struck at the Calais mint that have been found are dated 1439, with the last Pyx report being dated 29 Sept. 1439. Woodhead, ’Calais and Its Mint : Part Two’, app. i, p. 198. 13 Lloyd, The English Wool Trade, 279. 14 See p. 41 n. 6 above.

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away and virtually never sorted them out.15 some of these papers also provide valuable insights into Calais life. as far as their wool business was concerned, the way in which the Celys (and, one must presume, most other staple merchants) operated is fairly clear. one member of the partnership, in the case of the Celys usually either Richard Cely senior or his son Richard junior, would visit their usual ‘brogger’ or middleman in a wool-producing area of England to examine samples of the wool he had collected from the producers, some time after the shearing of the flocks in the summer. William Midwinter of northleach in Gloucestershire was the Celys’ usual supplier, though others are mentioned in the letters. once a sale had been agreed and certified by an indenture, the wool had to be packed and then transported to london. once in london it might be stored awaiting the sailing of a wool fleet, or it might go almost immediately to the wool quay to be loaded onto a vessel for Calais. it was against the rules of the staple to sell wool in london. Before shipment, the bales of wool had to be weighed, first of all in the presence of both seller and buyer to determine the final cost (sales were usually by weight), and then by the customs officials so that the liability for customs and other dues could be calculated. The wool was packed in canvas sarplers, which were numbered and marked with the merchant’s mark and a letter code that indicated the type of wool and the quality. Thus M on a bale of the Celys’ Cotswold wool meant it was of middle not fine quality. The position of the code was also important ; ‘clift’ wool (the damaged and possibly dirty wool from the animal’s rear) was marked on the side of the sarpler ; ‘end’ wool (the wound fleece) on the top. Wools were also graded and priced by their origins, with the most expensive coming from Herefordshire and shropshire (known as leominster and March wools) ; the Celys mostly traded in the wools from the Cotswolds, which might be further sorted into good, middle, good young and middle young grades. The marking of the bales and the careful grading were essential, since most sales were by sample, a system that put a lot of responsibility on the wool packers who wound the fleeces, sorted them and finally packed them in the canvas sarpler covers. These men were specialists, employed by the Company itself ; their oath is recorded in the surviving 1565 ordinance Book of the Company. They swore that they would make their ‘packing of wools truly indifferently and sufficiently so that you shall not pack or wrap or cause to be packed or wrapped in the fleeces of the wool earth stones dung or sand’ [which would increase the weight of the sarpler]. They would also ‘truly name all manner of the wools by you packed of the country where they were grown after the nature of the said wools and not of any other country, in any manner of wise’.16 it was essential for the Company and for individual merchants that their customers felt they could
15 A. Hanham, The Celys and Their World : An English Merchant Family of the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge, 1985), p. ix. 16 1565 Ordinance Book, 129–30, quoted ibid., 117.

The heyday of the Company of the Staple

· 101 ·

trust the markings on the bales. George Cely wrote back in haste to his father from Calais when something had clearly gone wrong with the packing : ‘in the reverence of God see better to the packing of your wool that shall come or else your wool is like to lose that name that it had affore in time past. i never wist you send coarser wool to Calais for the country than this last was.’17 once the bales had been weighed by the Customer at the port and the cocket (customs seal) affixed, the bales were loaded. This was overseen at the quayside by a member of the partnership, who would make a careful note of where each bale was placed. it was the common practice that the shipment should be divided among the various vessels sailing. This would, hopefully, minimise the risk of a total loss, whether from piracy or from shipwreck. The wool fleets usually sailed twice a year and were escorted by armed ships as a protection against robbery at sea. news that the ships had left was eagerly awaited in Calais, where George was often in a fever of impatience waiting for this information. if the ships became separated on the crossing, the anxiety increased until all had been accounted for. His clerk William Cely wrote to him in october 1482 while he was away at one of the autumn marts in Flanders, ‘sir the wool ships be come to Calais all save 3 whereof 2 be in sandwich haven and one is at ostend and he [the ship master] hath cast all his wool overboard.’18 once the ships were safely in the harbour at Calais, they were unloaded and the wool bales registered by the staple collectors, on payment of a duty of 1d. in the pound on the sales value of the wool. a sample also had to ‘awarded’ by the staple officials to certify that it was of the claimed quality ; on at least one occasion, the Celys’ factor, with the collusion of the staple packer, changed the covers on a bale found to be full of ‘gruff ’ (coarse) wool for that of a sarpler of fine wool so that the whole consignment would not be downgraded. after this process, the wool was then ready for sale by individual negotiations between the parties. it was more than likely that it might be stored for some time in one of the wool-houses in Calais before it was once more on the move, this time almost invariably to one of the cloth-making centres in Flanders, travelling along the coast road to Gravelines, across the estuary of the aa, and then on to its final destination. up to this point we have said very little about the financial aspects of the wool trade ; these were labyrinthine in their complexity. There were differences in the system of weights used in England and Calais ; there was s system of conventional discounts and rebates in use to allow for things like the weight of the canvas wrappers on the bales. There were the various fees and dues payable, as well as the custom and subsidy due to the English Crown. There were freight charges for transport from the Cotswolds to london and then on by sea to Calais. Thus to calculate what the price should be at Calais, to ensure a reasonable profit to the merchant, would be difficult in any circumstances ; with the
17 The Cely Letters, letter 93. 18 Ibid., letter 198. A ship master could, by custom, throw cargo overboard if he believed the vessel was in danger of foundering.

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incomplete information provided by the Cely letters, it is virtually impossible. From the calculations that have been done it has been suggested that the profit margin on the best wools was good, but that the ‘middle’ wools (on which the taxes were the same as on the best wool) very seldom brought a good return, or indeed any profit at all, to the merchant.19 The usual bargain made with a purchaser involved credit, one reason why the bullion ordinance caused so much disruption. a cash payment, which could vary between half and a third of the total price, was usually demanded immediately, with the balance due by bills of exchange in two instalments at intervals of three and six months. The payment terms could cover a longer period, perhaps as long as eighteen months, but this was the usual arrangement. These deferred payments were often collected by the seller himself at one of the big regional marts in Flanders. The most important were the Bammis mart at antwerp in september–october, the Cold mart at Bergen-op-Zoom in December, and the sinxen or Whitsun mart, also at antwerp. a further complication, in both cash transactions and those involving credit and financial instruments of some sort, was the question of the exchange rate to be used. as far as cash payments were concerned, both gold and silver coins of many different origins circulated in Calais. The closure of the mint undoubtedly reduced the amount of English coin available, so that the majority in circulation was probably of Burgundian provenance. There were two issues for a merchant to consider when he accepted payment in cash ; first, what was the official exchange rate for a particular coin ? secondly, what was the condition of the coin, that is, did it contain the amount of bullion that it should or had it been deliberately or accidentally damaged ? When it came to recording a transaction the merchant also kept his accounts in ‘money of account’, that is pounds, shillings and pence ; these units were not represented in the coinage. The English coins normally in use in the late fifteenth century were, in silver, the groat (4d.), the half groat, the penny, the ha’penny and the farthing. There were three different gold coins, all called nobles : the old noble, valued from 1464 at 8s. 4d., the rose noble valued at 10s., and the angel noble valued at 6s. 8d. This last coin related directly to the alternative accounting system to that of pounds, shillings and pence, that of the mark worth 13s. 4d. (⅔ of a pound) and the half mark worth 6s. 8d. to navigate his way through these complexities, a merchant needed to be very cautious and also adept at rapid calculations. in his counting-house in Calais, a stapler would have had the scales and weights necessary to weigh the coins, and also a chequered cloth marked out in columns (like that used in the Exchequer in london), which was used in rather the same way as an abacus. The kind of situation that would have been an everyday occurrence when selling wool is set out in the record of a sale between George Cely and an unnamed merchant in august 1480. George was paid half the price in cash at the rate of 25s. 4d. Flemish to £1 pound sterling ; this amounted to £34 12s. 6d. Flemish. George actually received the following coins :
19 Hanham, The Celys and Their World, 121–9.

a close comparison of all three makes clear that the deal as reported by William has not been accounted for accurately in George’s personal ‘book’. These were usually promulgated by the duke of Burgundy at the opening of the mart and were then used in all transactions taking place there. The Celys and Their World. Double briquets were Burgundian silver coins. but they can be inferred from those of other bargains. 4d. Hanham. Flemish. 6d. each 18½ crowns at 5s. sets out the valuation of gold coins used in Calais in Flemish shillings and pence. gold coins struck by the Rhineland Electors or the bishop of Utrecht : both ducats and salutes were Venetian gold coins. 1 Rhenish gulden at 4s. 11. 6d. De lopez was certainly involved in a complicated deal with the Celys in 1484. in double briquets at 4½d. 177 table 3. which were used in the town itself. quite a different matter from the need to have confidence in a customer and his ability to meet his bills when they were presented. and might differ quite widely from those in use at the marts. He could make an overall loss on a transaction if his estimation of the movement of exchange rates was wrong. Their largest customer was John de lopez. probably French gold coins . There are two separate accounts relating to this wool sale among the papers. usually from Bruges.20 · 103 · all this in George’s calculations came to £37 5s. something that still causes problems in a modern business environment.21 The terms on which the credit part of this particular transaction would be concluded are not recorded. 179. crowns. and £8 0s. so he gave the purchaser change in 12 Guilhelmus (coins minted by William VI of Holland) valued at 4s. one issue that often arose was the way in which exchange rates might move between the agreement for sale and the final payment on a deal at one of the Burgundian marts. 5 utrecht gulden at 4s. This was yet one more factor a wool merchant had to take into account when making a bargain. the common name of the staple Hall at Calais. 8d. 4d. 21 Ibid. 4d. The Celys conducted much of their business with a small group of well-known merchants.The heyday of the Company of the Staple 93 andrews at 4s. each and 14d. This was. . 6 Venetian ducats and 2 salutes at 5s. The transaction itself can be found in TNA C47/15. 2d. Disentangling 20 The various coins in the list can be identified as follows : Andrew. of course. which allows an unusually close look at the way the staple system operated in practice rather than in theory. among the Cely papers is a group of documents that were closely examined by the Chancery clerks at the time of the original lawsuit and seem to demonstrate that George Cely was deliberately falsifying his accounts in respect of a deal with de lopez. The Calais rates. and also a separate report from William Cely sent to london from Calais at the time. were set out on a table displayed in the lower hall of the Place. in small coins. fol.. a Burgundian gold coin with the cross of St Andrew on the obverse . Rhenish and Utrecht gulden. presumably of spanish or Portuguese origin but very well established in Flanders and able to purchase large quantities of wool.

23 it was also at Bruges that the staplers made contact with wisselers. a satire about the devil. in 1482 George was in Bruges for more than six weeks. The purpose of what is quite an elaborate deception is also obscure. including a transcription of some of the key entries in the accounts. Everyday goods and exotic luxuries from all over the known world could be bought at these marts. until it is realised that what is at stake is not an attempt to defraud either de lopez or Richard. suing in the heavenly courts over the possession of souls. however. and paying extra for a fire and a glass window in his room. in 1478. This was not only where many of their customers had their base but was also a banking centre. furs. other aspects of the wool trade and the conduct of business at the marts. staying at the ‘shepys Clawe’ (the English version of the Flemish name. which in fact translates as the ‘sheep’s Head’). one list exists in the Cely papers of the goods bought by George at the Cold mart at Bergen op Zoom in 1482. The staplers seem to have frequented particular inns in the town. a tapestry or bed-covering in the fashionable verdure pattern (twining leaves and stems). The Celys and Their World. with the payment eventually due in london bills. once there. He spent a total of £10 4s. a lute and lute strings and 3 ells of satin to salmon and tunny (cured or salted in a barrel). George’s partner. George had apparently sold a large quantity of wool to de lopez. ‘“Make a careful examination” : Some Fraudulent Accounts in the Cely Papers’. 7d. were probably an enjoyable part of the business life of the Calais staplers. with far more choice than was available in Calais or london. 23 Hanham. Earlier. who could provide cash for bills and also arrange the transfer of money to london. can be found in A. and always discouraged payments in london since this made it hard for the Company to discharge its obligation to pay the garrison’s wages. all on credit. 48 (1973). but did not always obey them if they operated to harm their own personal business. Flemish money-changers and bankers. Hanham.22 The Company members might approve such regulations in a session of their court. . friends and business contacts. The safety of the journey to antwerp or Bergen op Zoom on horseback from Calais worried the partners in london. but to cover up a breach of the regulations imposed on its members by the staple Company. The staplers also frequently travelled to Bruges itself. 219. as well as conducting their own business and seeking out their debtors. Speculum. a friend called shipden commissioned him to buy printed books including one called Belial. The question of the role of interest on the sums involved in all these 22 A detailed exposition of this ‘fraud’. 313–24. and the merchants usually travelled in a group. on everything from corals. in 1484 the Company had put in place a ban on credit sales. staplers like George more or less invariably had a large number of commissions to fulfil for family.· 104 · Chapter 6 the differences between English and Calais wool weights and the currencies used is no easy matter. so that important contacts could be made and friendships flourished. and they would often carry out commissions for one another as they did at the marts. There was a large English community of merchants and clothiers in the town.

letter 54 . as might be imagined in a place containing a large body of soldiers.29 24 Hanham. or a glance across the table in some tavern. 29 The text runs in Hanham’s translation : ‘I drink to you Mademoiselle / I pledge you sir / . in 1479.27 at this time he was still unmarried and was open to all the temptations of the town. We cannot say whether this is a hint at a decorous evening spent at a family dinner. which may be connected with an evening spent with Clare. includes the words of a lovesong. 49–50. ‘Tout le Coer de Clare est à vous Jorge Cely. used in international trade by the italians. 25 A more detailed discussion of the financial aspects of the Staplers’ business can be found in A. one view of their activities lays emphasis on their extreme conservatism. from John Dalton. Yet for all this.. The rates varied according to the mart . with a widow. also in French. 191. Hanham. 28 Ibid. They only used the more up-to-date banking methods. Hanham. their clerks and apprentices. who do not seem to have usually brought their families to live in the town. George received a carefully composed declaration of love from a certain Clare writing in French. 26 The Cely Papers. a Cely factor.The heyday of the Company of the Staple · 105 · transactions is difficult to determine. The collection of debts from customers at the marts was a somewhat ramshackle system.28 The back of a business letter about the sale of fells. The Celys and Their World. in an emergency. there were plenty of opportunities to meet young women. 192. 27 The Cely Letters. which would have allowed plenty of opportunity for a young couple to enjoy themselves. since the practice of usury was outlawed by the Church. she declared and demanded that George should write to her.5 per cent and 4. letter 28. Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research. she mentions that she had given George a token at table (‘ceste ensaigne que je vous dissoye à la table que je vous enuoraye vne letter’) that she would write to him. However. with neither being used anywhere else. Mrs Bornell. what amounted to covert interest could be charged. tous jour en mon Coer’. as well as merchants. at the sinxen mart at antwerp in 1480 between 2.24 looking at the way the staplers operated in the wool trade in the later fifteenth century.4 per cent of the sum lent was charged. 46 (1973). it permitted the Company to discharge its obligations and its members in the main to enjoy a reasonable standard of living in what was certainly a demanding way of business. it seems that by manipulation of the exchange rate used by the receiver of a loan and that used when it was repaid. The fact that the letter is in French may indicate rather closer relations with the French neighbours of Calais than is often thought to be the case. it is a drinking song in dialogue form. The Celys and Their World. although George Cely himself owned a property in the town with a yard and a stable.25 in Calais itself. many of the staplers. took lodgings with a local family. They were quite happy to deal with two separate system