Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

How Calais Once More Became a French Town
Henry II [1547-1559]

Thus Philip II became ruler of the Netherlands and of Spain. Already two years before he had married Mary of England. So the King of France was more than ever in danger; for Spanish possessions enclosed his kingdom on north, east, and south; on the west England threatened him across the narrow sea, for so long as Philip and Mary were husband and wife France could never hope for peace with England.

Yet with such danger surrounding him on every side, Henry, like the kings who had gone before him, kept the foolish desire for power in Italy. And while his soldiers had been defending Metz there had been fighting in Italy also. But there the French had little success, even after the great Duke of Guise took command. He was still fighting there when Henry hastily recalled him to France. For once more there was war, and Philip of Spain had marched into France, and had defeated the French in the Battle of St. Laurent. The French army was utterly shattered, the Constable taken prisoner.

When the Emperor Charles V in his quiet monastery heard of this Spanish victory he was delighted. It seemed to him that now the conquest of France was sure. "Is my son the King at Paris?" he asked impatiently. And indeed the way to Paris lay open, the fair city was at the mercy of the Spaniard. But happily for France Philip had none of the daring of his father. He did not march on Paris, but stayed to besiege the town of St. Quentin. The walls were crumbling, the garrison small, but the town held out gallantly. For well the people knew that there was not a town between St. Quentin and Paris which was strong enough to stop the triumphant march of the enemy. It was the last outpost and must be held. So bravely they held out, townsfolk and monks fighting side by side with soldiers. And even when at last the town was taken by storm, and the enemy poured in at eleven breaches at one time, they fought on and fell where they stood almost to a man.

Meanwhile the Duke of Guise was returning with all haste. He was a great soldier, and when he arrived he saw that to save France he must do something striking. The mere retaking of St. Quentin would not be enough. So instead of marching to St. Quentin he marched to Calais.

The fortress of Calais was in a bad state, the garrison was small, for the English thought that the fame of the town was enough to keep it safe. Over one of the gates indeed was written:

"The French may think this town to win,

When iron and lead like cork do swim."

But with such speed and skill did Guise strike that before a week had passed Calais was taken. The governor and about fifty other Englishmen were made prisoners, and the rest of the inhabitants were sent back to England, leaving all their money and possessions behind them.

Thus the gallant town which for more than a year had withstood Edward III, and which for more than two hundred years had belonged to England, became French once more.

To Mary of England the loss was bitter. "If you open my heart," she sighed, "you will find Calais graven upon it." She never ceased to grieve for the loss of it.

But in France the news was greeted with an outburst of joy. Nothing could have served so well to raise the drooping courage of the soldiers. Nothing could have made the Duke more dear to the hearts of the people. He was their idol, their darling, and the conqueror of Calais was greeted with cheers and applause wherever he went. His fame was at the highest, it seemed, when he and his family were raised still higher; for his niece, the Queen Mary of Scotland, married Francis, the Dauphin of France.

Francis was but a weak boy, and the Duke of Guise hoped when he became King that he, as his uncle, would have great power both in France and in Scotland.

After the taking of Calais the war lingered on for more than a year, but at length both sides were weary of it, and a peace called the peace of Cateau-Cambresis was signed in April, 1559. At this peace there was great rejoicing, and feasting, and marriage giving. For to make the peace sure Henry's little thirteen-year-old daughter was married to her father's old enemy Philip (for Mary of England had died). Henry's sister too was married to a Spanish noble. Before these princesses went away to their new homes there were great shows, and among other things a magnificent tournament. The King himself took part in this tournament, and showed himself a skillful knight.

Henry was so proud of his skill that when the jousting was at an end he wanted to run one more course, and break one more lance. So he challenged a young knight. The knight tried to excuse himself, but the King ordered him to lay his lance in rest, so he obeyed.

From either end of the lists the two horsemen galloped furiously toward each other. They met with tremendous shock, and their lances were shivered in their hands. But the young knight did not lower the broken shaft of his lance quickly enough. It struck the King's helmet, forced open his visor, and a splinter of wood entered his eye. King Henry fell forward sorely wounded on his horse's neck, and the horse feeling the reins loosened galloped madly down the lists, until it was stopped by the King's esquire.

Gently Henry was lifted from his horse and carried to his room. Doctors and surgeons were sent for in haste; but there was nothing to be done, the wood had entered his brain. For eleven days the King lingered painfully on, then he died.