|Siege of La Rochelle (1627–1628)|
(Siège de La Rochelle 1627–1628)
|Part of the Huguenot rebellions|
Cardinal Richelieu at the Siege of La Rochelle, Henri Motte, 1881.
|Commanders and leaders|
| Siege Army: 22,001|
| La Rochelle: 27,000 civilians and soldiers|
Buckingham: 80 ships, 7,000 soldiers
|Casualties and losses|
| Siege Army: ?|
Toiras: 500 killed
| La Rochelle: 22,000 killed|
Buckingham: 5,000 killed
The Siege of La Rochelle (French: Le Siège de La Rochelle, or sometimes Le Grand Siège de La Rochelle) was a result of a war between the French royal forces of Louis XIII of France and the Huguenots of La Rochelle in 1627–28. The siege marked the apex of the tensions between the Catholics and the Protestants in France, and ended with a complete 'victory' for King Louis XIII and the Catholics.
French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.
Louis XIII was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who was King of France from 1610 to 1643 and King of Navarre from 1610 to 1620, when the crown of Navarre was merged with the French crown.
Huguenots are an ethnoreligious group of French Protestants.
In the Edict of Nantes, Henry IV of France had given the Huguenots extensive rights. La Rochelle had become the stronghold of the French Huguenots, under its own governance. It was the centre of Huguenot seapower, and the strongest centre of resistance against the central government.La Rochelle was, at this time, the second or third largest city in France, with over 30,000 inhabitants.
The Edict of Nantes, signed in April 1598 by King Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France substantial rights in the nation, which was still considered essentially Catholic at the time. In the edict, Henry aimed primarily to promote civil unity. The edict separated civil from religious unity, treated some Protestants for the first time as more than mere schismatics and heretics, and opened a path for secularism and tolerance. In offering general freedom of conscience to individuals, the edict offered many specific concessions to the Protestants, such as amnesty and the reinstatement of their civil rights, including the right to work in any field or for the state and to bring grievances directly to the king. It marked the end of the religious wars that had afflicted France during the second half of the 16th century.
Henry IV, also known by the epithet Good King Henry or Henry the Great, was King of Navarre from 1572 and King of France from 1589 to 1610. He was the first monarch of France from the House of Bourbon, a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. He was assassinated in 1610 by François Ravaillac, a fanatical Catholic, and was succeeded by his son Louis XIII.
La Rochelle is a city in western France and a seaport on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Charente-Maritime department.
The assassination of Henry IV in 1610, and the advent of Louis XIII under the regency of Marie de' Medici, marked a return to pro-Catholic politics and a weakening of the position of the Protestants. The Duke Henri de Rohan and his brother Soubise started to organize Protestant resistance from that time, ultimately exploding into a Huguenot rebellion. In 1621, Louis XIII besieged and captured Saint-Jean d'Angély, and a Blockade of La Rochelle was attempted in 1621-1622, ending with a stalemate and the Treaty of Montpellier.
Marie de' Medici was Queen of France as the second wife of King Henry IV of France, of the House of Bourbon. She was a member of the wealthy and powerful House of Medici. Following the assassination of her husband in 1610, which occurred the day after her coronation, she acted as regent for her son, King Louis XIII of France, until 1617, when he came of age. She was noted for her ceaseless political intrigues at the French court and extensive artistic patronage.
The Blockade of La Rochelle took place in 1621-1622 during the repression of the Huguenot rebellion by the French king Louis XIII.
The Treaty of Montpellier was signed in Montpellier on 18 October 1622 between King Louis XIII of France and Duke Henry II of Rohan. The treaty followed the Siege of Montpellier and ended hostilities between French royalists and the Huguenots. Moreover, it confirmed the tenets of the Edict of Nantes, pardoned Henry II, and allowed the Huguenots to maintain their numerous forts and garrisons.
Again, Rohan and Soubise would take arms in 1625, ending with the capture of the Île de Ré in 1625 by Louis XIII. After these events, Louis XIII wished to subdue the Huguenots, and Louis' Chief Minister Cardinal Richelieu declared the suppression of the Huguenot revolt the first priority of the kingdom.
Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis, 1st Duke of Richelieu and Fronsac, commonly referred to as Cardinal Richelieu, was a French clergyman, nobleman, and statesman. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1607 and was appointed Foreign Secretary in 1616. Richelieu soon rose in both the Catholic Church and the French government, becoming a cardinal in 1622, and King Louis XIII's chief minister in 1624. He remained in office until his death in 1642; he was succeeded by Cardinal Mazarin, whose career he had fostered.
The Anglo-French conflict followed the failure of the Anglo-French alliance of 1624, in which England had tried to find an ally in France against the power of the Habsburgs. In 1626, France under Richelieu actually concluded a secret peace with Spain, and disputes arose around Henrietta Maria's household. Furthermore, France was building the power of its Navy, leading the English to be convinced that France must be opposed "for reasons of state".
In June 1626, Walter Montagu was sent to France to contact dissident noblemen, and from March 1627 attempted to organize a French rebellion. The plan was to send an English fleet to encourage rebellion, triggering a new Huguenot revolt by Duke Henri de Rohan and his brother Soubise.
Walter Montagu was an English courtier, secret agent and Benedictine abbot.
On the first expedition, the English king Charles I sent a fleet of 80 ships, under his favourite George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, to encourage a major rebellion in La Rochelle. In June 1627 Buckingham organised a landing on the nearby island of Île de Ré with 6,000 men in order to help the Huguenots, thus starting the Anglo-French War of 1627, with the objective of controlling the approaches to La Rochelle, and of encouraging the rebellion in the city.
The city of La Rochelle initially refused to declare itself an ally of Buckingham, in a state of war against the crown of France, and effectively denied access to its harbour to Buckingham's fleet. An open alliance would only be declared in September at the time of the first fights between La Rochelle and Royal troops.
Although a Protestant stronghold, Île de Ré had not directly joined the rebellion against the king. On Île de Ré, the English under Buckingham tried to take the fortified city of Saint-Martin in the Siege of Saint-Martin-de-Ré (1627), but were repulsed after three months. Small French Royal boats managed to supply St Martin in spite of the English blockade. Buckingham ultimately ran out of money and support, and his army was weakened by diseases. After a last attack on Saint-Martin they were repulsed with heavy casualties, and left with their ships.
Meanwhile, in August 1627 Royal forces started to surround La Rochelle, with an army of 7,000 soldiers, 600 horses and 24 cannons, led by Charles of Angoulême. They started to reinforce fortifications at Bongraine (modern Les Minimes), and at the Fort Louis.
On September 10, the first cannon shots were fired by La Rochelle against Royal troops at Fort Louis, starting the third Huguenot rebellion. La Rochelle was the greatest stronghold among the Huguenot cities of France, and the centre of Huguenot resistance. Cardinal Richelieu acted as the commander of the besieging troops (during those times when the King was absent).
Once hostilities started, French engineers isolated the city with entrenchments 12 kilometres long, fortified by 11 forts and 18 redoubts. The surrounding fortifications were totally completed in April 1628, manned with an army of 30,000.
They also built with 4,000 workmen a 1,400-metre-long seawall, to block the seaward access to the city. The initial idea for blocking the channel leading to the harbour of La Rochelle in order to stop all supplies to the city came from the Italian engineer Pompeo Targone, but his structure was broken by the winter weather, before the idea was taken up by the Royal architect Clément Métezeau (also Metzeau),in November 1627. The wall was built on top of a foundation made of sunken hulks, filled with rubble. French artillery was used against English ships that tried to supply the city.
Meanwhile, in southern France, Henri de Rohan attempted to raise a rebellion in order to relieve La Rochelle, but in vain. Until February, some ships were able to go through the seawall under construction, but after March this became impossible. The city was completely blocked, with the only hope coming from a possible intervention of an English fleet.
Altogether, the Roman Catholic government of France rented ships from the Protestant city of Amsterdam to conquer the Protestant city of La Rochelle. This resulted in a debate in the city council of Amsterdam as to whether the French soldiers should be allowed to have a Roman Catholic sermon on board of the Protestant Dutch ships. The result of the debate was that it was not allowed. The Dutch ships transported the French soldiers to La Rochelle. France was a Dutch ally in the war against the Habsburgs.
In the occasion of the Siege of La Rochelle, Spain manoeuvered towards the formation of a Franco-Spanish alliance against the common enemies that were the English, the Huguenots and the Dutch.Richelieu accepted Spanish help, and a Spanish fleet of 30 to 40 warships was sent from Cadiz to the Gulf of Morbihan as an affirmation of strategic support, arriving three weeks after the departure of Buckingham from Île de Ré. At one point, the Spanish fleet anchored in front of La Rochelle, but did not engage in actual operations against the city.
England attempted to send two more fleets to relieve La Rochelle.
The second one, led by William Feilding, Earl of Denbigh, left on April 1628, but returned without a fight to Portsmouth, as Denbigh said that he had no commission to hazard the king's ships in a fight, and returned shamefully to Portsmouth.
A third fleet was dispatched under the Admiral of the Fleet, the Earl of Lindsey in August 1628,consisting in 29 warships and 31 merchantmen. In September 1628, the English fleet tried to relieve the city. After bombarding French positions and trying to force the sea wall in vain, the English fleet had to withdraw. Following this last disappointment, the city surrendered on 28 October 1628.
Residents of La Rochelle had resisted for 14 months, under the leadership of the mayor Jean Guitton and with the gradually diminishing help from England. During the siege, the population of La Rochelle decreased from 27,000 to 5,000 due to casualties, famine, and disease.
Surrender was unconditional. By the terms of the Peace of Alais, the Huguenots lost their territorial, political and military rights, but retained the religious freedom granted by the Edict of Nantes. However, they were left at the mercy of the monarchy, unable to resist later when Louis XIV abolished the Edict of Nantes altogether and embarked on active persecution.
Aside from its religious aspect, the result of Siege of La Rochelle marks an important stage in the creation of a strong central government in France, in actual control of its entire territory and intolerant of any regional defiance of its rule. In the immediate aftermath this was manifested in growth of absolute monarchy, but had long-term effects upon all later French regimes up to the present.
The French philosopher Descartes is known to have visited the scene of the siege in 1627.
The siege was depicted in detail by numerous artists, such as Jacques Callot.
Around the time of the siege, a series of propaganda coins were cast to describe the stakes of the siege, and then commemorate the Royal victory. These coins depict the siege in symbolic ways, showing the city and the English effort in a poor light, while putting an advantageous light on Royal might.
The siege forms the historical background for the novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, père and the book's numerous adaptations to stage, screen, comics and video game.
The 11th book of Robert Merle's Fortune de France series, La Gloire et les perils, deals entirely with the siege of La Rochelle.
In Lawrence Norfolk's 1991 novel, Lemprière's Dictionary, the siege is the central cause of events — entirely fictional — 160 years later in London around the writing of John Lemprière's Classical Dictionary containing a full Account of all the Proper Names mentioned in Ancient Authors.
Taylor Caldwell writes about the siege in great detail in her 1943 novel The Arm and the Darkness; however she has as its commander the fictional Huguenot nobleman Arsene de Richepin, one of the central characters of the book.
Île de Ré is an island off the west coast of France near La Rochelle, on the northern side of the Pertuis d'Antioche strait. Its highest point has an elevation of 20 metres. It is 30 kilometres long and five kilometres wide. The 2.9 km (1.8 mi) Île de Ré bridge, completed in 1988, connects it to La Rochelle on the mainland.
Benjamin de Rohan, duc de Soubise (1580–1642), was a French Huguenot leader.
Jean Guiton was born in La Rochelle, where he followed the occupation of ship-owner. He became a notable Huguenot leader.
Saint-Martin-de-Ré is a commune in the western French department of Charente-Maritime.
The Siege of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, also Siege of St. Martin's, was an attempt by English forces under George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham to capture the French fortress-city of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, on the isle of Ré, in 1627. After three months of siege the Marquis de Toiras and a relief force of French ships and troops managed to repel the Duke, who was forced to withdraw in defeat. This encounter followed another defeat for Buckingham, the 1625 Cádiz Expedition, and is considered to be the opening conflict of the Anglo-French War of 1627-1629, itself a part of the Thirty Years' War.
The Recovery of Ré Island was accomplished by the army of Louis XIII in September 1625, against the troops of the Protestant admiral Soubise and the Huguenot forces of La Rochelle, who had been occupying the Island of Ré since February 1625 as part of the Huguenot rebellions.
The Anglo-French War was a military conflict fought between the Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of England between 1627 and 1629 that was part of the broader Thirty Years' War. It mainly involved actions at sea. The centerpiece of the conflict was the Siege of La Rochelle (1627–28), in which the English crown supported the French Huguenots in their fight against the French royal forces of Louis XIII of France. La Rochelle had become the stronghold of the French Huguenots, under its own governance. It was the centre of Huguenot seapower, and the strongest centre of resistance against the central government.
Jacques-Clément Métezeau, also Clément II Métezeau, was Royal architect of Louis XIII, and French engineer who completed the seawall blocking the city of La Rochelle in the Siege of La Rochelle in 1627–1628.
The Naval battle of Saint-Martin-de-Ré took place on 27 October 1622, between the Huguenot fleet of La Rochelle under Jean Guiton, and a Royal fleet under Charles de Guise.
The Huguenot rebellions, sometimes called the Rohan Wars after the Huguenot leader Henri de Rohan, were an event of the 1620s in which French Calvinist Protestants (Huguenots), mainly located in southwestern France, revolted against royal authority. The uprising occurred a decade following the death of Henry IV, who, himself originally a Huguenot before converting to Catholicism, had protected Protestants through the Edict of Nantes. His successor Louis XIII, under the regency of his Italian Catholic mother Marie de' Medici, became more intolerant of Protestantism. The Huguenots tried to respond by defending themselves, establishing independent political and military structures, establishing diplomatic contacts with foreign powers, and openly revolting against central power. The Huguenot rebellions came after two decades of internal peace under Henry IV, following the intermittent French Wars of Religion of 1562–1598.
The Siege of Saint-Jean-d'Angély was a siege,, accomplished by the young French king Louis XIII in 1621, against the Protestant stronghold of Saint-Jean-d'Angély led by Rohan's brother Benjamin de Rohan, duc de Soubise. Saint-Jean-d'Angély was a strategic city controlling the approach to the Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle.
The Siege of Montauban was a siege accomplished by the young French king Louis XIII from August to November 1621, against the Protestant stronghold of Montauban. This siege followed the Siege of Saint-Jean-d'Angély, in which Louis XIII had succeeded against Rohan's brother Benjamin de Rohan, duc de Soubise.
The Capture of Saumur was the military investment of the Huguenot city of Saumur accomplished by the young French king Louis XIII in May 1621, following the outburst of the Huguenot rebellions. Although the Huguenot city was faithful to the king, Louis XIII nevertheless wished to affirm control over it. The Governor of the city Duplessy-Mornay was tricked out of his command of Saumur and the city was invested.
The Battle of Blavet was an encounter between the Huguenot forces of Soubise and a French fleet under the Duke of Nevers in Blavet harbour, Brittany in January 1625, triggering the Second Huguenot rebellion against the Crown of France.
Fort Louis was a Royal fort built just outside the walls of the Huguenot city in La Rochelle.
René I de Rohan, (1516–1552) 18th Viscount of Rohan, Viscount and Prince de Léon, and Marquis de Blain married Isabella of Navarre daughter of jure uxoris King John III of Navarre and Catherine of Navarre, Queen of Navarre.
The Siege of Alès was undertaken by Louis XIII of France, and the city captured on 17 June 1629.
The Siege of Privas was undertaken by Louis XIII of France from 14 May 1629, and the city of Privas was captured on 28 May 1629. It was one of the last events of the Huguenot rebellions (1621-1629).