The place was taken by storm, amid horrors which belong to such scenes at all times, but which were doubled by the rapacity of troops who fought even with each other for the greatest share of the pillage.”
Continuing England Looses Her Last French Territory
our selection from The Popular History of England by Charles Knight published in 1862. The selection is presented in three easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
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Place: Calais, France
The Duke of Savoy, though young, was an experienced soldier, and he determined to commence the campaign by investing St. Quentin, a frontier town of Picardy. The defence of this fortress was undertaken by Coligny, the Admiral of France, afterward so famous for his mournful death. Montmorency, the Constable, had the command of the French army. The garrison was almost reduced to extremity–when Montmorency, on August 10th, arrived with his whole force, and halted on the bank of the Somme. On the opposite bank lay the Spanish, the English, the Flemish, and the German host. The arrival of the French was a surprise, and the Duke of Savoy had to take up a new position. He determined on battle. The issue was the most unfortunate for France since the fatal day of Agincourt. The French slain amounted, according to some accounts, to six thousand; and the prisoners were equally numerous. Among them was the veteran Montmorency.
On August 10th Philip came to the camp. Bold advisers counselled a march to Paris. The cautious King was satisfied to press on the siege of St. Quentin. The defence which Coligny made was such as might have been expected from his firmness and bravery. The place was taken by storm, amid horrors which belong to such scenes at all times, but which were doubled by the rapacity of troops who fought even with each other for the greatest share of the pillage. After a few trifling successes, the army of Philip was broken up. The English and Germans were indignant at the insolence of the Spaniards; and the Germans were more indignant that their pay was not forthcoming. Philip was glad to permit his English subjects to take their discontents home. They had found out that they were not fighting the battle of England.
The war between England and France produced hostilities between England and Scotland. Mary of Guise, the Queen Dowager and Regent of Scotland, was incited by the French king to invade England. The disposition to hostilities was accompanied by a furious outbreak of the Scottish borderers. They were driven back. But the desire of the Queen Dowager that England should be invaded was resisted by the chief nobles, who declared themselves ready to act on the defensive, but who would not plunge into war during their sovereign’s minority. The alliance of France and Scotland was, however, completed, in the autumn of 1558, by the marriage between the Dauphin and the young Queen Mary, which was solemnized at Paris, in the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
The Duke of Guise, the uncle of the Queen of Scots, at the beginning of 1558, was at the head of a powerful army to avenge the misfortune of St. Quentin. The project committed to his execution was a bold and patriotic one–to drive the English from their last stronghold in France. Calais, over whose walls a foreign flag had been waving for two centuries, was to France an opprobrium and to England a trophy. But it was considered by the English government as an indispensable key to the Continent—a possession that it would not only be a disgrace to lose, but a national calamity.
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