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Surrender of Calais


After the departure of the French king with his army, the citizens of Calais saw clearly that all hopes of succor were at an end; a fact which occasioned them so much sorrow and distress that the hardiest could scarcely support it. They entreated therefore, most earnestly, Lord John de Vienne, their governor, to mount upon the battlements and make a sign that he wished to hold a parley. The king of England, upon hearing this, sent to him Sir Walter Manny and Lord Basset. When they were come near, Lord de Vienne said to them, "Dear gentlemen, you who are very valiant knights, know that the king of France, whose subjects we are, has sent us hither to defend this town and castle from all harm and damage; this we have done to the best of our abilities. All hopes of help have now left us, so that we are most exceedingly straitened; and if your king have not pity upon us, we must perish with hunger. I therefore entreat that you would beg him to have compassion on us, and to have the goodness to allow us to depart in the state we are in, and that he will be satisfied with having possession of the town and castle, with all that is within them, as he will find therein riches enough to content him."

Sir Walter Manny returned to Lord de Vienne, who was waiting for him on the walls, and told him all that he had been able to gain from the king. "I beg of you," replied the governor, "that you would be so good as to remain here a little, while I go and relate all that has passed to the townsmen; for, as they have desired me to undertake this, it is but proper they should know the result of it." He went to the market place and caused the bell to be rung; upon which all the inhabitants, men and women, assembled in the town hall. He then related to them what he had said and the answers he had received; and that he could not obtain any conditions more favorable, to which they must give a short and immediate answer. This information caused the greatest lamentations and despair; so that the hardest heart would have had compassion on them; even Lord de Vienne wept bitterly.

After a short time the most wealthy citizen of the town, by name Eustace de St. Pierre, rose up and said, "Gentlemen, both high and low, it would be a very great pity to suffer so many people to die through famine, if any means could be found to prevent it; and it would be highly meritorious in the eyes of our Savior, if such misery could be averted. I have such faith and trust in finding grace before God, if I die to save my townsmen, that I name myself as first of the six." When Eustace had done speaking, they all rose up and almost worshiped him: many cast themselves at his feet with tears and groans. Another citizen, very rich and respected, rose up and said that he would be the second to his companion, Eustace; his name was John Daire. After him, James Wisant, who was very rich in merchandise and lands, offered himself, as companion to his two cousins; as did Peter Wisant, his brother. Two others then named themselves, which completed the number demanded by the king of England. Lord John de Vienne then mounted a small hackney, for it was with difficulty that he could walk, and conducted them to the gate.

There was the greatest sorrow and lamentation all over the town; and in such manner were they attended to the gate, which the governor ordered to be opened, and then shut upon him and the six citizens, whom he led to the barriers. He then said to Sir Walter Manny, who was there waiting for him, "I deliver up to you, as governor of Calais, with the consent of the inhabitants, these six citizens; and I swear to you that they were, and are at this day, the most wealthy and respectable inhabitants of Calais. I beg of you, gentle sir, that you would have the goodness to beseech the king that they may not be put to death." "I cannot answer for what the king will do with them," replied Sir Walter, "but you may be sure that I will do all in my power to save them." . . .

When Sir Walter Manny had presented these six citizens to the king, they fell upon their knees and, with uplifted hands, said, "Most gallant king, see before you six citizens of Calais, who have been important merchants and who bring you the keys of the castle and of the town. We surrender ourselves to your absolute will and pleasure, in order to save the remainder of the inhabitants of Calais, who have suffered much distress and misery. Condescend, therefore, out of your nobleness of mind, to have mercy and compassion upon us." All the barons, knights, and squires, who were assembled there in great numbers, wept at this sight. The king eyed them with angry looks (for he hated much the people of Calais, for the great losses he had formerly suffered from them at sea), and ordered their heads to be stricken off.

All present entreated the king that he would be more merciful to them, but he would not listen to them. Then Sir Walter Manny said, "Ah, gentle king, let me beseech you to restrain your anger; you have the reputation of great nobleness of soul, do not therefore tarnish it by such an act as this, nor allow anyone to speak in a disgraceful manner of you. In this instance all the world will say you have acted cruelly, if you put to death six such respectable persons, who, of their own free will, have surrendered themselves to your mercy, in order to save their fellow-citizens." Upon this, the king gave a sign, saying; "Be it so," and ordered the headsman to be sent for; since the citizens of Calais had done him so much damage, it was proper they should suffer for it.

But the queen of England fell on her knees and with tears said, "Ah, gentle sir, since I have crossed the sea with great danger to see you, I have never asked you one favor; now, I most humbly ask as a gift, for the sake of the Son of the blessed Mary, and for your love to me, that you will be merciful to these six men." The king looked at her for some time in silence, and then said, "Ah, lady, I wish you had been anywhere else than here, you have entreated in such a manner that I cannot refuse you; I therefore give them to you, to do as you please with them." The queen conducted the six citizens to her apartments and had the halters taken from around their necks, after which she newly clothed them and served them with a plentiful dinner: she then presented each one with a sum of money and had them escorted out of the camp in safety.

1 Froissart, , bk. i, pt. i, chs. 320–321.


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Chicago: "Surrender of Calais," Chroniques in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 399–402. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . "Surrender of Calais." Chroniques, Vol. i, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 399–402. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Surrender of Calais' in Chroniques. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.399–402. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from