1459 saw the Wars of the Roses burst into life. The Battle of Blore Heath and the rout at Ludford Bridge made it inevitable that war was to follow. One key change made to try and ensure a Lancastrian victory was the removal of the Earl of Warwick from his role as Captain of Calais. Replaced by the Duke of Somerset, this triggered a campaign to try and seize the port from Yorkist control.
Captain of Calais
One of the most important positions that the crown appointed was that of the Captaincy of Calais. Calais was England’s gateway into the continent. It had military significance as the home of a fleet that protected English interests in the Channel.
Importance of Calais
Calais was the port to which most English exports had to sail and where imported goods entered. Control of Calais was a priority for the Treasury and Crown. So, when the conflict between Yorkists and Lancastrians flared up, it stood to reason that the Captaincy of Calais would be stripped from the Earl of Warwick and handed to a loyal Lancastrian.
5 October 1459. King Henry VI appointed the Duke of Somerset as Captain of Calais.
On 5 October 1459, that change was enacted. King Henry VI appointed the Duke of Somerset to the prestigious position. There was one significant drawback to the appointment, though: The Earl of Warwick, Earl of Salisbury and Earl of March were all in Calais, and the garrison and their followers remained loyal to them.
Fight for Calais
The Duke of Somerset was going to have to oust them from Calais to take up his position. Calais is sited in a strong defensive position. To access Medieval Calais, an attack would have to come from the sea or across one narrow strip of land. The Duke of Somerset attempted this in April of 1460. The Battle of Newnham Bridge was a resounding Yorkist victory as the Lancastrian artillery became waterlogged and could not fire.
External links relating to the appointment of Henry Beaufort 3rd Duke of Somerset as Captain of Calais
History of War – Henry Beaufort 3rd Duke of Somerset
Ferrers Household – The swings of fortune, 1459-61
Biography of Warwick the Kingmaker, from Schoolshistory.