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The Reign of Queen Mary page 15

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The English were never less prepared for the invasion. The fleet which had ravaged the coasts of France, and the troops sent to Flanders, had totally exhausted the exchequer of Mary, which at no time was well supplied, To victual that navy the queen had seized all the corn she could find in Norfolk, without paying for it, and to equip the army sent to aid Philip, she had made a forced loan on London, and on people of property in different places; she had levied the second year's subsidy voted by Parliament before its time, and now was helpless at the critical moment.

It is only justice to Philip to state that the moment he heard of the design of the Duke of Guise, he offered to throw a garrison of Spanish troops into the town for its defence; but this was declined from the fear that, once in possession, he might remain so. The caution was worse than useless, unless the English had possessed means of defending it themselves, for Philip's possession if by consent of the English Government, would have appeared a matter of diplomatic arrangement, the capture of it by the French must be a serious blow to the military reputation of the nation. This means of defence the English Government had not. Lord Wentworth, the Governor of Calais, prescient of the approaching storm, sent repeated entreaties for reinforcements for its defence. They were wholly unattended to.

The Duke of Guise, after entering the English pale, sent a detachment of his army along the downs to Risebank, and led the other himself, with a very( heavy train of artillery, towards Newnham Bridge. He forced the outwork at the village of St. Agatha, at the commencement of the causeway, drove the garrison into Newnham, and took possession of the outwork. The bulwarks of Froyton and Nesle were abandoned, for the lord-deputy could send no forces to defend them. At Newnham Bridge the garrison withdrew so silently that the French continued firing upon the fort when the men were already in Calais; but at Risebank the garrison surrendered with the fort.

Thus, in a couple of days, the Duke of Guise was in possession of two most important forts, one commanding the harbour, the other the causeway across the marshes from Flanders. A battery on the heath of St. Pierre played on the wall to create a false alarm, whilst another in real earnest played on the castle. A breach was made in the wall near the Watergate, and, whilst the garrison was busy in repairing it, Guise cannonaded the castle (which was in a scandalous state of neglect) with fifteen double cannons. A wide breach was speedily made. Lord Went worth, well aware that the castle could not be maintained, had ordered mines to be prepared, and calculated on blowing the castle and the Frenchmen into the air together as soon as they were in.

Guise, seeing no garrison defending the breach, ordered one detachment to occupy the quay, and another, under Strozzi, to take up a position on the other side of the harbour. Strozzi was repulsed; but at ebb-tide in the evening, Grammont, at the head of 100 arquebusiers, marched up to the ditch opposite to the breach. No one being seen in the castle, Guise ordered plenty of hurdles to be thrown into the ditch, and, putting himself at the head of his men, forded the ditch, finding it not deeper than his girdle. The lord-deputy, seeing the French in the castle, ordered the train to be fired; but there was no explosion. The soldiers crossing from the ditch to the breach, with their clothes deluging the ground with water, had wet the train and defeated Wentworth's design.

The next morning Guise sent his troops to assault the town, calculating on as easy a conquest of it; but Sir Anthony Agar, with a handful of men, not only repulsed the French, but chased them back into the castle. The brave Sir Anthony, with a larger force, would have driven the French from the decayed old castle too, but he had the merest little knot of followers, and in the vain attempt to force the enemy out of the castle, he fell at the gate with his son, and eighty of his chief officers. Lord Went worth perceiving the impossibility of continuing the defence, destitute of a garrison, and having waited in vain for reinforcements from Dover, that night demanded a parley, and offered to surrender on conditions. But the French, certain of compelling a surrender, refused all conditions but the following, which Wentworth was obliged to accept: -

"The town," says Holinshed, "with all the great artillery, victuals, and munitions, should be fully yielded to the French king, the lives of the inhabitants only saved, to whom safe conduct should be granted to pass where they listed, saving the lord-deputy, with fifty other such as the duke should appoint, to remain prisoners, and to be put to their ransom. The next morning the Frenchmen entered and possessed the town, and forthwith all the men, women, and children, were commanded to leave their houses, and to go to certain places appointed for them to remain in, till orders might be taken for their sending away.

"The places thus appointed for them to remain in, were chiefly four - the two churches of our Lady and St. Nicholas, the deputy's house, and the Staple, where they rested a great part of the day, and one whole night, and the next day, till three of the clock at afternoon, without either meat or drink. And while they were thus in the churches, and those other places, the Duke of Guise, in the name of the French king, in their hearing, made a proclamation, strictly charging all and every person that were inhabitants of the town of Calais, having about them any money, plate, or jewels, to the value of one groat, to bring the same forthwith, and lay it down upon the high altars of the same churches, upon pain of death, bearing them in hand, also, that they should be searched. By reason of which proclamation, there was made a great and sorrowful offertory. And while they were at this offering within the churches, the Frenchmen entered their houses and rifled the same, where was found inestimable riches and treasure, especially of ordnance, armour, and other munitions. Thus dealt the French with the English, in recompense of the like usage to the French, when the forces of King Philip prevailed at St. Quentin; where, not content with the honour of victory, the English, in sacking the town, sought nothing more 'than the satisfying of their greedy vein of covetousness, with an extreme neglect of all moderation.

"About two of the clock next day at afternoon, being the 7th of January, a great number of the meanest sort were suffered to pass out of the town in safety, being guarded through the army with a number of Scottish light horsemen, who used the English very well and friendly; and after this every day, for the space of three or four days together, there were sent away divers companies of them, till all were avoided; those only excepted that were appointed to be reserved for prisoners, as the Lord Wentworth and others. There were in the town of Calais 500 English, soldiers ordinary, and no more; and of the townsmen not fully 200 fighting men (a small garrison for such a town), and there were in the whole number of men, women, and children (as they were accounted when they went out of the gate) 4,200 persons."

Thus was lost the great conquest of Edward III. It cost that victorious king, with a large army, an obstinate siege of nearly a year, and after having been proudly maintained for 210 years, was thus lost in eight days. The fact affords the clearest proof of the miserable government of the country by the ministry of Mary, for she herself was now incapable of diplomatic management; and it affords equal proof of the intense suspicion entertained by that ministry of King Philip, for though he again offered to regain the place for the queen, and to remove any fear of his wanting to secure the place for himself, now proposed not. to retake it entirely by his own forces, but by any number of such joined by an equal number of English, - this offer was rejected, on the plea that it was not possible to raise the necessary forces in time, that the greater part of the artillery was lost, and the soldiers would not be able to bear the rigours of the siege in the depth of winter.

The fall of Calais necessitated, as a matter of course, the loss of the whole Calais district. Having put Calais into a state of defence, the Duke of Guise marched on the 13th of January to Guisnes, about five miles distant, to reduce the town and fort there. These were defended stoutly by Lord Grey de Wilton, who had received about 400 Spanish and Burgundian soldiers from King Philip, but they were in too miserable a state of repair to be long held. The walls in a few days were knocked to pieces; the Spanish soldiers were nearly all killed, and the remaining force compelled their officers to surrender. The little castle of Ham now only remained, and situated in the midst of extensive marshes, it might have given the enemy some trouble; but its governor, Lord Edward Dudley, the moment he heard of the surrender of Guisnes, abandoned it, and fled with his few soldiers into Flanders.

The rejoicing of the French over this removal of the English from, their soil was unbounded. The mortification of the English was as great, and the wretched queen felt it so deeply, that she declared if she were opened after her death the name of Calais would be found engraven on her heart. But in reality the gain to the French was far greater than the loss to the English. The possession of Calais opened a way, at any moment of internal dissension or weakness, into the heart of the kingdom, and enabled the English to unite with the Flemings in that quarter in annoying France. To the English it was rather an expense and a burden, than a real advantage. It was a temptation to engage in inroads on the French, and in coalitions with the Flemish for such purposes, which brought no lasting result but expense; and as a means of defence of the English coasts it was useless. The British fleet was sufficient for that purpose, and was likely to be the more efficiently maintained if there were no false reliance placed on Calais. But nothing could soothe the injured national feelings for the moment but thoughts of revenge and re-conquest. Parliament met on the 20th of January, and such an intense spirit was shown for avenging the national disgrace, and recovering Calais, that it granted, besides a fifteenth, a subsidy of four shillings in the pound on land, and two shillings and eightpence in the pound on goods. The clergy, also, in Convocation, granted an aid of eight shillings in the pound. These taxes were to be paid in annual instalments in four years.

The zeal of the English was stimulated by the exultation of the French king. He made a visit of triumph to his newly recovered district of Calais, and returned to Paris to celebrate the marriage of the dauphin with the young Queen of Scots - an event which took place on the 24th of April, 1558, the greater portion of the princes, prelates, and nobles, of both France and Scotland attending the ceremony. Mary was then only in her sixteenth year, and the dauphin, her husband, a weakly and imbecile boy of but a few months older.

In England, during the spring, preparations were made for the invasion of France. Seven thousand troops were raised and diligently drilled. One hundred and forty ships were hired, which the Lord-Admiral Clinton collected in the harbour of Portsmouth, to be ready to join the fleet of Philip, and, in conjunction, to ravage the coasts of France; whilst Philip, with an army of Spanish, French, and English, should enter the country by land.

"It is verily believed," says Holinshed, "that if the admirals of England and Spain had been present there with their navies, as the other few ships of England were, and upon the sudden had attempted Calais with the aid of the Count of Egmont, having his power present, the town of Calais might have been recovered again with as little difficulty, and haply in as short a time as it was before gained by the Duke of Guise."

Holinshed says thus for the following reason. The Marshal De Termes, the Governor of Calais, had made an expedition into Flanders with 14,000 men; had forced a passage over the river Aar, reached Dunkirk, and Burg St. Winoc, and burnt them, to the ground. He was still advancing, ravaging some of the richest country of Flanders, to near Newport, when he was suddenly arrested in his progress by Count Egmont. In attempting to retreat, Egmont cut off De Termes' line of march near Gravelines by outmarching him with one wing of his army. They there came to an engagement near the mouth of the Aar, and whilst the Spaniards were cannonading them on the one side, ten English ships, under Admiral Malins, off the coast near Gravelines, hearing the roar of the artillery, sailed up the Aar, and perceiving the position of affairs, opened a terrible fire on the right flank of the French army. This surprise threw the French into confusion, and so encouraged the Spaniards that they gained a most decisive victory. The routed French ran in hundreds into the sea, where the English secured 200 of them; and, by consent of Count Egmont, received them as their prisoners in order to obtain their ransom. Five thousand of the French perished on the field of battle, or at the hands of the enraged peasantry, whose lands and houses they had just before destroyed, and who had followed the army of Egmont crying for vengeance.

Marshal de Termes, Senarpont, Governor of Calais, and many of the French officers were taken prisoners, and the garrison of Calais was annihilated almost to a man, creating such a panic in the few left to guard the town, that, as Holinshed observes, had the combined Flemish and English fleet been there, Calais had, in all probability, been retaken.

But this fleet and the English army, instead of aiming to recover Calais, had sailed to make an attack on Brest. The English fleet, consisting of 140 sail, commanded by the Lord Admiral Clinton, and carrying a land force of 6,000 men, under the Earls of Huntingdon and But-land, had joined a much smaller squadron of the Flemings, and reached Brest. But their progress had been so dilatory that the French had made ample preparations to receive them, and, despairing of effecting any impression on Brest, they fell on the little port of Conquest, which they took and pillaged, with a large church and several hamlets in its immediate neighbourhood. They then marched some miles up the country, burning and plundering, and the Flemings, in the eager quest of booty, going too far a-head, were surrounded, and 400 of them cut off. The English, with more caution, regained their ships. The Duke D'Estampes, having collected a strong body of Bretons, appeared upon the scene, and the Lords Huntingdon and Rutland, not thinking it prudent to engage, drew off their forces, and now finding the people on all the coasts up in arms, returned home without executing any further service.

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