The Loss of Calais – 7th January 1558

Thomas Wentworth, 2nd Baron Wentworth

On this day in history, at 6am on the 7th January 1558, Thomas Wentworth, the Lord Deputy of Calais, was forced to surrender Calais to François de Lorraine-Guise, 2nd Duke of Guise, after a siege of seven days.

Barry Denton, in his article on Thomas Wentworth, writes of how “The causes of the fall of Calais were many and various” and cites the following factors:-

  • Mary I’s privy council’s “failure to act on Wentworth’s requests in December 1557 for naval interception of French convoys of artillery and supplies up the English Channel”
  • Wentworth’s mistaken belief that the French were going to attack Hesdin, not Calais
  • Wentworth’s refusal to flood the plains around Calais when the French were approaching, “the key to the defence system”, because he wanted the water for brewing beer for the garrison
  • Wentworth’s delay in requesting reinforcements from Mary’s husband, Philip II – He did not ask until the 2nd January

Calais was the very last English territory in France and had been held by England since 1347, when King Edward III had captured it, so it was a bitter blow for Mary I. It is said that on hearing the news of the loss of Calais, Mary commented “When I am dead and opened, you shall find ‘Philip’ and ‘Calais’ lying in my heart”. How sad!

You can read more about the loss of Calais in my article 7th January 1558 – England Loses Calais.

Notes and Sources

  • Barry Denton, ‘Wentworth, Thomas, second Baron Wentworth and de jure seventh Baron Le Despenser (1525–1584)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004