Battles and SiegesLancastrians

King Henry VI and his defence of Calais, 1452

In late 1451 and early 1452 there was a heightened threat of French military actions in and around Calais. It was a risk that was taken seriously by King Henry VI as it was less than twenty years since a siege of Calais had been undertaken, without success, by the Burgundians. Political matters in England made it difficult to prepare adequately, resulting in an unusual means of attempting to fund the defence [shown in the source below].

What may be unexpected for some readers is that King Henry VI proposed that he lead the defence in person. It was a suggestion that did not come to anything, as the assault did not happen. The king did, however, take to arms at the head of a force that confronted the duke of York at Dartford in March of the same year.

Commission to John Stourton, knight, Gervase Clyfton, William Haute, Richard Waller, William Hexstall, John Warner, Thomas Burgeys, Geoffrey Pole and the sheriff of Kent, setting forth that the king’s adversary of France is about to come in person with a great army to the marches of Calais to besiege the said town and other castles, fortalices and places in the marches and thence to invade England, to prevent which no apter means can be found than if the king in person with an army cross the sea and prevent his arrival in the marches, which the king has concluded to do, yet because it is not possible to convoke the three estates and commonalities of the realm to parliament, the king has advised communication to be had without delay with the king’s subjects to find who will contribute to the execution of the king’s purpose at his own costs and how much; and appointing the said commissioners to have such communication in Kent and to record the grants to be made. By p.s etc

26th January 1452, Westminster.

Calendar of Close Roll, 1446-1452. Henry VI. Volume V, Membrane 13. Pages 512-3.


Burgundian Siege of Calais, 1435

Image Credit

The featured image depicts Calais after the era of the Wars of the Roses. It comes from Urbium Praecipuarum Mundi Theatrum Quintum Auctore Georgio Braunio Agrippinate. Part 5. Köln, 1596/97. (Van der Krogt 4, 41:1.5)

Leave a Reply