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Philip Chute, Standard Bearer to King Henry VIII
at the Siege of Boulogne, 1544

  by Francis Chute, September, 2006


Why Boulogne? Philip's Achievement
The Attacks Before The Siege Historical Sources
The Siege Summary of the English Forces


The man who glares out icily from the oldest portrait at The Vyne, was a war hero who restored his family's fortunes for 200 years. Yet until recently, all we knew from the reference books was that the King rewarded Philip with heraldic honour for his "valour at the Siege of Boulogne in 1544", and gave him lifetime governorship of Camber Castle on the Kent coast. In the last few years, however, we have researched manuscripts of that date; what emerges is a story well worth the telling.

The first great discovery was that Henry VIII also gave Philip a gemstone from his royal ring - a supreme accolade indeed, from a king who chopped his courtiers' heads off for failing to solve his personal problems. Philip's military superior Edward Rogers received no reward after Boulogne, which confirms (not that confirmation is needed) that Philip's valour was individual, not mere participation. Next, we note that Philip's captaincy of Camber was never interrupted at a change of sovereign, though when new kings/queens were crowned, it was normal for incoming courtiers to find jobs for their friends and kick out the existing incumbents. Even across the transitions from Henry to Edward to Mary to Elizabeth, fraught with Catholic/Protestant vindictiveness, Philip's career advanced seamlessly. He was made bailiff to Queen Anne of Cleves. Under Bloody Mary he received lucrative posts as Searcher and then Comptroller of Customs. When he died in Elizabeth's reign, he still governed Camber. So, we must ask, why did he enjoy this extraordinary success, which looks as if he never lost personal favour with the Tudor royals as a family?

This leads us to sift through the story of the Siege of Boulogne. The English documents are no help at all. They were written to glorify the king's success. There is no trace in them of any episode which might cast doubt on His Majesty's godlike control of the field of battle. Indeed, three huge oil paintings were made soon after for propaganda, depicting in detail three stages of the 1544 operation. The largest one, of the army before Boulogne, shows the king standing near a group of cannon, directing operations. He towers above the soldiers round him, and is dressed in full armour. Yes, he was a royally tall man (as we know from Holinshed's Chronicles); but no, by that date he could hardly stand; still less do so in heavy armour. In truth he was old and diseased; his legs (which Queen Catherine Parr was skilled at bandaging) were too swollen to bear the pressure of armour; he had to be hoisted on to a horse; normally he was carried on a litter. So the painter and chronicler were each doing what England expected - keeping up a royal myth.

But the French documents give us the clues we are looking for.

WHY BOULOGNE?


[Jackie's note: to view photographs of the sites mentioned in this article, you can't do better than http://www.mincoin.com/. From the index on the left side of the page, click "Galerie Photos". This brings up an interactive map, which not only gives you an overview of the entire area, but allows you to click on individual cities for photographs of that city. For Boulogne, click on "Boulogne-sur-mer", on the left side of the map. "Calais", also mentioned in this article is near the top of the map near the red dotted line representing the "Tunnel sous la manche" (or the Channel Tunnel).]


Half a mile from the concrete and iron of the modern ferry port, stands one of the great walled towns of northern Europe. If cross-Channel travelers ever looked beyond the banal commercial town, they could see in the 'Haute Ville', a huge square of high stone walls, 420 by 320 metres, with ramparts, towers and guarded gates, almost unchanged since they were built about 1231. The old Counts of Boulogne were powerful men: Godefroi de Bouillon was a famous Crusader; Stephen, Count of Blois and Boulogne, became King of England. And the fortress town had international prestige, since its Castle, built on Roman foundations, is said to have been impregnable - even to the Vikings when they overran the rest of northern France. In the cavernous underground galleries you can see huge blocks with which breaches have been repaired, in some places with chunks of sculpted stone. It is a seriously important fortress.

Therefore, when Henry VIII devised his strategy to ally with the Emperor Charles V against France, and in the spoils of victory to enlarge England's territory in France, he naturally saw Boulogne as his first objective. It lay a few miles from Calais, England's sole possession on the Continent, and should be an easy conquest if his army was large enough. The king therefore assembled over 30,000 men for the task, and records show that Philip Chute was involved in waggon-transport for the king’s material. It was a colossal logistic operation even before the army left English soil. The cost to the Treasury was prodigious.

Henry's showmanship added to the cost. Having staged a flamboyant confrontation with the French king Francis I a few years earlier, at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, Henry planned the conquest of Boulogne with similar spectacle. Much of his army was specially dressed in red, and the royal entourage had gold borders to their scarlet uniforms.

An advance contingent was sent to prepare the ground before the King himself reached Calais in July 1544. The bulk of the force was under three commanders: the Duke of Suffolk, Lord Russell and the Earl of Surrey. The 30,000 under them included a large German contingent supplied by the Emperor. King Henry had a personal force of 1200, half being cavalrymen, the others pikemen, archers, crossbowmen, etc. The King's Band included Edward Rogers, Captain, at 10 shillings pay per day, and Philip Chute, Standard Bearer at 6 shillings.

THE ATTACKS BEFORE THE SIEGE

Some of the French accounts are as one-sided as the English ones. There were, however, several eye-witnesses, men trapped in the town, who left a daily record of their experiences. The most complete history of the siege, including detailed statistics of soldiery on both sides and an expert analysis of the day-to-day military operation, is that of Alexandre Marmin, pub­lished in 1825. He drew up a map of the various military dispositions and the places of each main attack. He used at least five English sources as well as several French. This is his story, in which the most important part to us relates to the first days before lines were immovably drawn for the siege itself; and in particular to the evidence he cites from a M. Crepieule, one of the eye-witnesses.

Before King Henry arrived, the English occupied the lands round Boulogne, including its old Roman lighthouse, the Tour d'Odre, which fell on July 22nd with scarcely a shot fired, and then (24th) the lower town below the fortress, which they pillaged. Flushed with success, the English became "de plus en plus opiniatres dans leurs desseins" - increasingly headstrong (?bloody-minded) in their schemes. Thus provoked, Philippe Corse, aide-de-camp to the town governor and the most experienced soldier there, led a series of sudden sorties by slamming down the drawbridge and rushing out with horsemen through the English advance guard, who were too surprised to stop them. A sortie on 25 July for example "chased Winters and his soldiers from a key position they had occupied on the hill of Dringhen".

The English morale leapt when the king arrived on 26th July. He began setting up his HQ at the village of TerIincthun, 3 kilometres north of Boulogne. One can imagine all the ceremony and posturing of King's courtiers dressed up for an easy victory, and the normal disorder as incoming men of different functions (archers, halberdiers, crossbowmen, pikemen, grooms, smiths, etc) are being settled into appropriate dispositions - and hence the disarray while lines were drawn and tents and stables set up. This is the time when one is most vulnerable to attack.

The men of Boulogne saw the king come and "décident de frapper fort" [decided to strike hard]. They quickly organised a sortie, and the surprise was total when the drawbridge was lowered before a charge of cavalry and infantry. The besieged men headed for Terlincthun, that is, towards the headquarters of Henry VIII. Several men of the royal escort ranged themselves before this vigorous charge and met their deaths. But as the element of surprise went, the Boulonnais had to return under a rain of arrows and bullets. The brother of the rhymester, Perrotin Morin, was in this expedition; he came back carried by his comrades with his shoulder horribly mutilated by the blow of an axe; he took several days to die." (Dossiers, p. 22).

Crépieule, one of those inside Boulogne, had written "les assiégés, dans une de leurs sorties, attaquerent I' escorte du roy d'Angleterre qui se rendait au quartier général a Terlinctun, lui tuerent 7 officiers et 40 soldats. " **

[The besieged, in one of their sorties, attacked the English king's escort which was moving into its headquarters at Terlinctun, and killed seven officers and 40 soldiers].

** We cannot trace Crepieule's MS today, but Marmin, a scholarly and careful writer, frequently quotes him as a reliable source)

This must, by elimination, be the event when Philip performed his act of valour.
At no other point, so far as records show, was the royal entourage involved in close fighting.

By the evening of the 26th, the king's enormous bodyguard was in full military readiness. From then on, the encircled town was under artillery bombardment - 40,000 cannon balls fell in 7 weeks - and any sizeable foray from a main gate was nipped in the bud. The only other time when Henry came near the French was after the surrender was signed, when he set lines of English soldiers on both sides of the road and forced the refugees with their carts to leave between the lines under his gaze. Neither French nor English accounts record any attack near the king on that occasion; the French governor had given his word.

THE SIEGE

While not relevant to Philip Chute's exploit, it is worth outlining the human side to the siege. (You can skip this bit if you wish, and return to Philip in the following section.) The defenders' records give the familiar picture of a mass of heterogeneous people, accidentally cooped up in a besieged city, while cannon balls fall unpredictably among them over seven long ghastly weeks. There was treachery and cowardice as well as heroism.

Boulogne was such a well-built and well-provisioned fortress that when the English first landed, its Governor, a Marshal Dubiez, thought it prudent to go and take command of the weaker castle of Montreuil nearby, leaving his son-in-law Courcy de Vervins in charge. Courcy had little military experience, but had as right hand man Philippe Corse, a highly expert soldier who effectively organised the defense as well as leading marauding sorties in person. Corse commanded a mercenary force of some 500 Italians. Unhappily for the defenders, Corse was hit by a cannonball in early August, and died later; this caused consternation among soldiers and citizens alike, who had no confidence in Courcy. There was more distress when the defenders, on a quick sally outside the walls, picked up a paper tied to an arrow, giving details of the weak spots in the town's defenses. This was clearly a message intended for the English, and a suspect within the walls was summarily hanged.

Leadership was taken up by the civilian Mayor, Eurvin, whose morale-boosting bravery has gone down in local history. (A street is still named after him.) He rallied the resistance, despite a threat of mutiny of the Italian mercenaries who saw no point in fighting after Corse was slain. It is curious that not only did M. Crépieule keep a day-by-day record from inside the town, but a local priest, Anthéol Morin, wrote a similar, record in heroic verse couplets. And later, a Baron d'Ordre, who may be the same as the man of that name who commanded a group of soldiers in the town, wrote yet another epic poem describing the Siege.

All agree that Courcy was the first to contemplate surrender. Some historians suspect he could have had a meeting earlier with Henry's court and taken money on a promise to hasten the town's surrender. Another explanation is that the defenders ran out of gunpowder; but nobody says they were starved out. There is no doubt that some 40,000 cannonballs fell, that walls were breached and thousands died. Whatever the reason, Courcy decided to surrender in early September and, without getting general consent, went with an embassy to King Henry, where terms were agreed. Eurvin and the populace apparently reacted furiously and threatened violence to Courcy if he didn't retract the surrender. But by Sept 14th it was fait accompli. On the 18th Henry moved into Boulogne in procession.

News came that the Emperor had made peace with the French behind his back. This led to conferences and a treaty with France. Henry knighted several men on the 30th September, and the same day sailed home to England.

The French accounts tell of shameful rape, slaughter and pillage by the English in defiance of the surrender terms, and terrible sufferings of the refugees after they had humiliatingly left between files of English and German soldiery. Soon after, his compatriots censured Dubiez for leaving his post, hanged Courcy for cowardice, and made Eurvin a public hero.

PHILIP’S ACHIEVEMENT

The central facts are:

 

·         the King gave him a gemstone from his ring, which was surely an impulsive gesture at a rare moment of unselfish emotion;

·         Philip is always recorded as Standard Bearer to Henry VIII, who for his valour at Boulogne received from the king the augmentation of his family coat of arms with a Canton displaying a Lion of England;

·         Philip enjoyed unbroken favour from all Tudor monarchs;

·         In his portrait he holds a dog, traditional symbol of fidelity.

To enlarge our interpretation, we may set those facts against the background:

·         that in pre-1544 documents Philip is always described as 'yeoman' or 'king's servant', never as gentleman;

·         that some Somerset Chutes had been condemned for treason in supporting the Pretender Perkin Warbeck against Henry VII (and at least some fled Taunton for Suffolk, where they had cousins by marriage, the powerful Cheney family)

·         that Philip owed his start in public life to the patronage of Sir Thomas Cheney, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports; Cheney maintained an officers' training camp at Shurland Castle in Kent, and Philip may well have been given his basic military training there.

Knowing the history of the Siege, we can now deduce that Philip's act of valour was in withstanding the French surprise attack on 26 July, and, from the gift of the gemstone and the subsequent royal family favour, we deduce that the King saw Philip as a key figure in defending his royal person against wounding or death, and that he commended Philip to all his children.

Henry may well have had the fright of his life when, amid the pageantry and the bowing and scraping, he forgot the danger of a French pre-emptive attack. Given the ferocity of a cavalry charge, it is likely that Philip was wounded; and if so, we can imagine the King, later that day, being carried to the dressing station and impulsively giving Philip the gemstone. (Rogers, Captain of the Royal Band, was probably not at his post when the attack was repulsed, as he was not knighted later.)

Why was Philip not knighted? Perhaps because he was not then classed as a gentleman. Or because he had been sent home earlier, among the gravely wounded?

Whatever the reason, one can easily imagine the follow-up, back in England, from his relative and patron Sir Thomas Cheney, who knew the whole story of the Chute disgrace after Warbeck. Cheney, as Court Treasurer, had opportunity and motive to mention to the King that the Chute family were ancient gentry but had blacked their name during the preceding reign; and that now it might be the right moment to restore their family name to honour.

The heraldic award, indeed, cost Henry less than knighting Philip - which, as a public accolade, might have involved letting slip the secret that the royal person had very nearly been savaged by a Frenchman.

That danger may have been especially great if it was Philippe Corse himself who led the charge against the king's headquarters; he as a mercenary would have no chivalrous scruple in killing a king.

From this well-founded story we may confidently add to Philip's name the battle-honour "Terlincthun 26 July 1544" and the credit for restoring the tarnished dignity of the Chutes as well as their landowning wealth.

Attached are various accounts from English and French sources of the whole course of the Siege of Boulogne. They are the result of research on both sides of the Channel, and give confidence that we now have as much detail as will (probably) ever be known, to make the deductions on which this further bit of Chute history is based.

Historical Sources

English.

1.a. Rymer's History of the Siege and Capture of Boulogne 1544, a MS in the British Museum (Calig. E.IV, fo1. 57-68); published with notes by Lt. Col. J H Leslie in the 1922 Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, pp. 188-199.

This is the only day-by-day account in English, but is woefully inadequate as history.  It does contain useful statistical data on commanders and regimental strengths, which French historians accept. But its focus is the ceremonial doings of the king and the nobles, and its standpoint is aloof from the flesh-and-blood battle. Far too often, a military action is written off as an "alarombe' (alarm) without explanation. (Philip Chute, not being a noble who supplied men and money to the enterprise, is of course never mentioned.)

 

Moreover, as to the course of events, Rymer is culpably selective. For example, he reports the 25th July sortie when "the frenche-men came out of the toune of Boulloigne on foote and Skyrmyshed with our Footmen harde by the Braye in grete Space; and at the said Skyrmyshe Mr Winter's brother was slaine, with divers others on both Parties". This corresponds closely with the French writers. But he makes no mention whatever of the 26th July sortie, which in the French accounts reached "I' escort du roi'. For that day, Rymer is wholly occupied with detailing the ceremonial order of parade of the King's entourage as it left Calais (which takes up 25 obsequious lines of print), and then his majestic progress. The King "marched foorth" from overnight camp at "Marguyson" (modem Marquise) and was met by "Sir Rauffe Elderka wt a greate Companye of light Horsemen" who conducted "the Kinges Majestie ... to the campe before Bolloigne, wheare the Duke of Suffolke met wt Him and brought Him to the north syde of the toune nere to the Sea, wheare he camped in good ordre."

 

It would have been imprudent for Rymer to record what really happened to spoil that "good ordre"; just as the painter of the Cowdray painting had to ignore the King's physical handicaps and show him in the most majestic light. (No "warts and all" for a Tudor king!)

 

l.b. The published text of Rymer is accompanied by a verbal description (dated 1772) of the oil painting formerly at Cowdray Castle, Sussex, which depicted in great detail the disposition of the English forces at the Siege. It was probably painted under supervision of Sir Anthony Browne, who as Henry VIII's Master of Horse was present throughout the siege. The painting itself was destroyed in the Cowdray fire (1793) but a copy engraved by James Basire in 1788 is conserved at the British Museum.

2.        Francis Godwin, Bishop of Llandaff & Hereford, in his Latin history Rerum anglicanarum Henrico VIII, Edwardo VI et Maria regnantibus annales (London 1616) gives a four page summary of the Siege of Boulogne, but probably with little detail.

(This writer has not seen the original, only the translation made by Sr, de Loigny in the Vol. 7 Bulletin of the Societe Academique de Boulogne, 1904-1907. p. 392 on.)

 

French

1.   Of the two verse epics mentioned, that by the priest Morin in 179 stanzas (published in an edition by F. Morand) was written day by day from inside the besieged town. He seems rarely to have left shelter to check what he is told, never hints at the unpopularity of Courcy de Vervins, and is poorly regarded by French historians. Baron d' Ordre's verse is more elegant but less informative.

 

2. Crépieule's eye-witness account is in sober prose. His MS appears to have been lost, but in 1825 it was available to Marmin, who often quotes it as a reliable authority.

 

3. Alexandre Marmin's history of the Siege was published in 1825 as an extended Note to Baron d'Ordre's epic poem. Marmin also supervised the drawing of a Map, which shows troop dispositions and the points at which each main attack was directed. His is much the most detailed account in French, quoting many English and French sources and applying an obviously expert knowledge of military operations. Our summary of the Siege above and below is based on him and on source 7.

 

4. Page de la Vie d' Eurvin, by Benard (1855) is a competent summary of the Siege, concentrating by definition on the heroism of Mayor Eurvin.

 

5. Histoire de Boulogne sur Mer, by A. d'Hauttefeuille et L. Benard (1860) is the source which suggests (Vol I, p.229) that the July 26th sortie might have been led by Philippe Corse.

 

6. Boulogne sur Mer a travers les Ages, by Andre Verley (1979), contains in Vol. II, p. 107 a section we have included on uniforms and early sallies.

 

7. Les Dossiers de I' Histoire boulonnaise, Vols 1 & 2, publ. Jan/Feb. & March/Apr. 1977, provide the fullest modern account in easily readable magazine form. Copy held at Boulogne Municipal Library, who kindly allowed the attached pages to be photocopied.   Unfortunately the Dossiers do not quote sources for their information, but there is no sign that the account is not objective.

 

8. There is a further MS in Boulogne archives, Antiquités du Boulonnais by Dubuisson, in which pp. 715 ff are said to cover the siege. This was not seen by your editor:

 

Map of the Siege

Marmin explains why in one respect - his placing of the Royal Guard - he departs from the authority of the Cowdray painting. He says his instinct was to accept the Cowdray version, that the royal guard was deployed in reserve, close to the king's HQ at Terlincthun, had it not been for a record of the death of Hunt, the king's smith. From this detail he deduces that the whole Royal Guard were probably placed within range of cannonades from the town, or of French raiding parties; he therefore shows them situated in the space between the Corps d' Avant-Garde and the Corps de Bataille.

 

Rymer's actual words re Hunt (14 Aug.) are: "Hunt, the Kinges Smythe, was slayne, wt a gon, in my Iorde Admyrall his Leger (leaguer) in his Forge". Marmin's deduction from one man's presumed station when killed seems hardly enough cause to contradict Sir Anthony Browne's version of how this key English force was deployed. Admittedly the portrayal of the king in full armour was false; but this insertion for propaganda purposes is perhaps not enough to undermine the general credibility of the Cowdray picture.

 

However, even if the Royal Guard did deploy within range of French cannon or sorties, Philip's deed of valour must have occurred at the earlier date of July 26th, because:

(i) Philip seems to have personally defended the King, so the danger did not come from a long-distance cannonball;

(ii) there is no French record of a sortie aimed at the King after July 26th;

(iii) after the shock of that attack, the royal guard would have been doubly vigilant in its new position, and would not have let any other French sortie near enough to endanger the king. (Rymer frequently reports occasions when careless sentries were hanged.)

 

COURSE OF THE SIEGE

On 20 July the artillery opened the first breach in the walls. Courcy de Vervins, acting governor of Boulogne, feared an attack and cleared the livestock from the lower town by the port; he had the Cordeliers Convent set on fire to prevent his enemies using it. The Englisb saw the smoke, guessed the reason, and rushed in to put out the fire. They occupied the whole lower town and used its buildings for shelter. On the 21st "muche spoile" was taken, "assault, pytche and tarre" and "very much spoile of cattell". Next day, the English surrounded and captured the town's Roman lighthouse, the Tour d' Odre; its small garrison were taken prisoner, but freed in exchange for the same number of English prisoners.

 

To get a quick victory, the English raised their bombardment level from 700 balls a day

to 2,000 - about one per minute. Most were solid stone balls, but some were 'Greek fire', hollowed into a primitive 'shell' with a fuse. The French retaliated with surprise sallies; on 25 July the Porte Flamengue drawbridge was slammed down and "like a devil from his box, 300 men rushed out, shouting; with sabres and lances Ph. Corse's surprise sally chased the besiegers as far as the hill of Dringhem, returning before the English could counter-attack". From the walls the Boulonnais saw 20 English redcoats lying dead, including one of the senior officers, brother to Lord Winter. The 26 July sortie has been mentioned already.

 

It may be of interest to enumerate the English force (as calculated by Marmin with help of data from Rymer)

 

 

Men

of whom

horsemen

at start of siege

24,000

2,100

arrived 28 July, infantry freed from duty in Scotland

9,000

 

arr. 6 August from Montreuil, 2 cavalry companies

200

200

arr. 12 Aug. from Montreuil, Flemings

 500

 

 

arr, 12 Aug. a cavalry company

100

100

arr. 13 Aug. a German cavalry corps including one company of horse artillery

 

300

300

arr. 14 Aug. a detachment of Spanish cannoniers

 

100

 

arr, 19 Aug. German cavalry which had quitted siege of Montreuil and come to Boulogne

 

4,000

4,000

with them came 6 infantry cos. & 2 artillery cos. say

 

800

 

Total force

 

30,900

6,700

 

 

 

Breakdown of numbers between Commanders. approx.

 

 

Avant-garde under Lord Russell:

 

 

  8 battalions of infantry

4,800

 

  4 squadrons cavalry

600

600

  1 company foot artillery

100

 

                         subtotal

5,500

600

 

 

 

Corps de Bataille under Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk:

 

 

  20 battalions infantry

12,000

 

    6 squadrons cavalry

900

900

    1 company horse artillery

100

100

    4 companies foot artillery

400

 

                            subtotal

13,400

1,000

 

 

 

Arriere-garde under Lord Surrey (the poet)

 

 

  9 battalions infantry

5,400

 

  4 squadrons cavalry

600

600

  1 company foot artillery

100

 

                            subtotal

6,100

600

 

 

 

Observation Corps under Count de Buren

 

 

   6 companies infantry

600

 

  26 squadrons cavalry

3,900

3,900

   2 companies foot artillery

200

 

                            subtotal

4,700

3,900

Note: Count de Buren commanded the German troops who had besieged Montreuil under orders of Duke of Norfolk. Apart from these main commanders, other officers are shown in the Cowdray paintings.

 

Total force excluding Royal Guard

29,700

6,100

Royal Guard under King's immediate Command

 

 

  2 companies archers under Chester & Willoughby

200

 

  2 companies of pikemen

200

 

  2 companies of crossbowmen

200

 

  1 elite cavalry co. under Duke of Albuquerque

100

100

  2 cos. men at arms under Earl of Essex & Sir

  Thos. Darcy

200

200

  1 co.light cavalry

100

100

  1 co. demi-lances

100

100

  1 co. horse artillery under John Uprichards

100

100

  1 co. foot artillery under Harman

100

 

                                 subtotal Royal Guard

1,300

600

 

 

 

Grand Total English Force, estimate

 

31,000

6,700

 

It was partly the expense of maintaining this huge force which obliged the king to call a halt to his invasion of France after the long drawn out Siege of Boulogne was completed. The ransom money paid by the French to recover Boulogne in the reign of Edward VI was still insufficient to restore the English Treasury to solvency.

 

(Le roi d'angleterre) pour icelle battre avoit amené par mer trois cens pieces dartillerie de toute sorte. (Guillaume Paradin, 1510-1590, who wrote a history of the wars of his time)  [The King of England for this battle brought by sea three hundred pieces of artillery of various kinds].

 

Marmin comments that for 300 pieces of artillery, 9 companies of foot artillery and two of horse artillery would be enough men, since at that date each piece of artillery only required 2 canonniers and 3 loaders. There would of course have been present numerous pioneers (i.e. diggers and general manual labour) to help handle guns as well as dig level platforms for them; these are not included in his numerical estimate above.

 

He adds that the besiegers brought mills for grinding com, bread-ovens and a huge amount of livestock. He doubts Crépieule's estimate that they had 28,000 pack-horses, but accepts

that they had 100 mills which were turned by horse-power, 15,000 cattle and "une infinité

de moutons et d' autres vives". [an infinity of sheep and other livestock]

 

By contrast the defence garrison - per Marmin - consisted of:

·         100 cavalrymen at arms, commanded by Nicolas de S1. Blimont, baron d'Ordre;

·         500 French infantrymen under Francois de Renty, Sieur d' Aix;

·         300 French infantrymen under Jacques de Bochebaron, Sieur de Lignon;

·         500 Italian infantry under Philippe Corse; and

·         about 100 canonniers.

 

Rymer however says that among the refugees from the town after surrender, i.e. those who would not stay and accept King Henry's authority, were 2000 "Men of Warre of the Toune ... to the nombre in all ijm”. Allowing for previous casualties, we may estimate the initial defence force as at least 3000. Even on that calculation, the besieged were outnumbered by a ratio of 10 to 1.

 

Courcy de Vervins, acting Governor of Boulogne

The French accounts stress the fearfulness and indecision of Courcy, as being largely responsible for the capitulation of the town. Some writers hint that before the Siege began he had taken a bribe to agree an early surrender. If he was so feeble, it is surprising that Marshal Dubiez would have left his son in law in charge, though his reasoning was that:

·         Boulogne was well provisioned;

·         It was also better fortified than Montreuil, where Dubiez thought he himself was more needed to organise defence;

·         Philippe Corse's experience was amply good enough to support Courcy.

 

By blaming/executing Courcy it was easier to highlight Eurvin as the real hero of Boulogne. Dubiez was also censured, but in fact he defended Montreuil so well that its siege was lifted.

The course of the siege may be read in the French and English versions from 'Dossiers' and Rymer.

 

A letter survives from Henry VIII to Queen Catherine Parr dated September, saying the siege is taking longer than expected, but since more gunpowder is expected from Flanders, the end is certainly near.

 

A few further quotes from French sources are added below.

 

1. Luxurious uniforms.

Having said that the troop commanded by the Duke of Albuquerque (Spaniard; ambassador from the Emperor Charles V) wore gold-embroidered uniforms, Verley (op. cit.) adds:

“Selon l'historien anglais Hebert, l’uniforme des soldats était du plus grand luxe. La caval erie légère portait des cottes de mailles et des tassettes; son uniforrne était bleu brodé de rouge. La cavalerie de ligne était vêtue de rouge avec des revers jaunes et l'infanterie également était en rouge. Par ailleurs, il se trouvait dans cette armée un corps d'Irlandais d'environ mille hommes portant une chemise de lin, longue et étroite, recouvert d'un manteau; ils allaient tête nue, les cheveux épars ayant pour annes trois dards, une épée et une barre de fer."  [According to the English historian Hebert, the uniform of the soldiers was of great luxury. The light cavalry carried coats of mail and tassettes; its blue uniforme was embroidered in red. The line cavalry of line was attired in red with yellow lining and the infantry also was in red. In addition, in this army was a group of approximately one thousand Irishmen wearing shirts of flax, cut long and narrow, covered with a coat; they went "They went bare-headed, with dishevelled hair, armed with three javelins, a dagger and an iron bar".]

 

2.  Events of 22 - 26th July

Extracts from Histoire de Boulogne sur Mer, by A. d'Hautteville et L'Benard.Vol I (1860) p.229; and from 'Les Dossiers de l' Histoire Boulonnaise' (1977):

 

Cependant le siége continuait avec une tenacité sans exemple. La basse-ville, ouverte de toutes parts, fut prise par I'ennemi (24 juillet) et pillée; la Tour d'Odre, occupée par un faible détachement, fut enlevée sans combat (22 juillet) et les Anglais, encouragés par ces premiers succês, devinrent de plus en plus opiniâtres dans leurs desseins.

[However, the siege continued with an unprecedented tenacity. The lower-city, open on all sides, was taken by enemy on July 24th and was plundered; the Tour d’Odre (Roman lighthouse), occupied by a weak detachment, was taken without resistance on July 22 and the English, encouraged by these first successes, became increasingly obstinate in their intentions.]

 

Philippe Corse apporta un temps d’arrêt à l’ardeur belliqueuse des assiégeants; dans une sortie avec ses Italiens, il porta le désordre dans les rangs anglais et chassa Winters et ses soldats

d'une position irnportante qu'ils occupaient au revers de la montagne de Dringhen, pres du

village de St. Martin (25 juillet). (HBM)

["The besiegers' ardour for war was pulled up short by Philippe Corse who, in a sortie with his band of Italians, caused disorder in the English ranks, and drove out Winters and his soldiers from an important position they occupied on the rear of mountain of Dringhen, close to the village of St Martin (July 25). (HBM)] [He commanded a 500-strong force of Italian mercenaries].

 

Les cris des blessés résonnent encore le lendemain lorsque Henri VIII en personne, arrivant de Calais, prend Ie commandement du siége. Acte militaire ou psychologique, il est bien difficile de se prononcer avec certitude, mais l'ardeur des soldats redouble à la vue de leur souverain, car la victoire ne peut être loin. Les Boulonnais apercoivent également l'arrivée de l'armée royale et decident de frapper fort.

[The cries of the casualties still resound the following day when Henry VIII in person, arrives in Calais to take command of the siége. Whether a military or psychological act, it is quite difficult to decide with certainty, but the ardor of the soldiers redoubles at the sight of their sovereign, because victory cannot be far away.  The Boulonnais also take note of the arrival of the royal army and decide to strike harder.]

 

Ils organisent hâtivement une sortie, et la surprise est totale lorsque le pont levis s'abaisse devant une charge de cavalerie et d' infanterie. Les assiéges se dirigent vers Terlincthun, c’est à dire vers le Quartier Général de Henri VIII. Plusieurs hommes de l’escorte royale se portent au

devant de cette charge et y trouvèrent la mort, mais l’effet de surprise passé, Ies Boulonnais doivent rentrer sous une pluie de flèches et de boulets.  Le frère du rimailleur, Perrotin Morin, faisait partie de cette expédition, il en revint soutenu par ses camarades, son épaule horriblement mutilée par un coup de hache. Il mettra plusieurs jours avant de mourir.

(Dossiers)

["They quickly organised a sortie, and took the English completely by surprise when the drawbridge was dropped to let loose a charge of cavalry and infantry. The defenders headed towards Terlincthun, which was the headquarters of Henry VIII. Several men of the royal escort stood to face the charge and met their deaths, but when the element of surprise was past, the Boulonnais had to retreat under a hail of arrows and bullets. The brother of the rhymester, Perrotin Morin, was one of the attackers; he came back supported by his comrades, his shoulder horribly mutilated by the blow of an axe. He took several days to die"]

 

3. Courcy less valiant than his soldiers and/or corrupt.

Paradin (op. cit.) says that despite the 300 artillery pieces and the 'prodigious efforts' of the English king to take Boulogne ...'

"néanmoins les Souldars qui estoient dedans avoient Ie coeur en si bon endroit, qu’il ne l'eut jamais prinse (=prise) sans le Seigneur de Vervin, qui par faute de coeur, et voulant (comme lon dit) faire son proufit particulier, rendit ladite ville au Roi d'Angleterre."

"Although the soldiers in the town had such valiant hearts that the town would never have been taken without the Seigneur de Vervin, it was his faint-heartedness and (as some say) desire for personal profit which betrayed the town to the English King."]

 

4. Ill-treatment of Refugees & English robbery of sacred statue.

The general history of the Pas de Calais says:

"Le gouverneur, contre l’avis du mayeur et des échevins, négocia Ia capitulation de la ville. Le jour de la Sainte Croix, un cortége pitoyable de 3664 personnes quitta Boulogne en direction d’Etaples et d'Abbeville pour être aussitot la proie de soudards et de pillards. En ville, çe fut la mise à sac qui atteignit jusqu'à l'abbaye Notre Dame; la statue miraculeuse de la Vierge fut emportée outre-Manche."

["The governor, against the wishes of the mayor and of the aldermen, negotiated the surrender of the city.  On the day of the Holy Cross, a pitiful cortége of 3664 people left Boulogne in the direction of Etaples and Abbeville to be at once the prey of roughneck soldiers and plunderers. In the town, our injury reached all the way to the abbey; the 'miracle-working' statue of the Virgin was carried to the other side of the channel."]

 

 

 

 

 


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