Calais

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© Bob Denton 2014

Calais, 1346

Nonetheless Edward’s force needed to be resupplied and reinforced so he travelled northward to secure those supplies from Flanders and from England.

He needed a Channel port and set siege on Calais. The city had a double-moat and a strong set of walls, inside its citadel had its own moat and yet more fortifications. English cannon and catapults made little impact on the well-built fortifications.

The siege lasted a whole year, the citizens reduced to eating dogs and rats, before starvation and disease meant the citizens had to surrender.

Philip had not deigned to send any relief force or make any attempt at disrupting the English supply lines. His attempts to supply the city by sea had one success but further attempts were blockaded by the English fleet.

England would go on to hold the city from 1347 to 1558. When it was lost under Mary I of England it had been their last possession in France.

Les Bourgeois de Calais – Auguste Rodin was commissioned to produce a statue to commemorate the bravery of Calais citizens to withstand the siege.

The burghers at the time of their surrender fully expected to be executed, but had been spared by the request of Edward’s queen, Philippa of Hainault, who was heavily pregnant at the time and felt their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child.

He completed it in 1889 and it did not receive rave reviews. It depicted the burghers as anguished rather than heroic. He argued it was the heroism of self-sacrifice.

It was installed by a park up on a pedestal, which had not been Rodin’s intention, he wanted it at ground level so that the citizens of the city might almost bump in to them. In 1926 it was moved outside a new town hall and to appease the sculptor placed on a lower base.

Forward to The Pestilence – Back to Battle of Crécy
Back to 1789 and all that!
© Bob Denton 2014