Siege of Le Havre, 22 May-31 July 1563

The short siege of Le Havre (22 May-31 July 1563) saw the French expel an English garrison from the port in the aftermath of the First War of Religion.

Le Havre was occupied by the English under the terms of the treaty of Hampton Court (20 September 1562) in which Condé agreed to let Elizabeth occupy the port as a security for the eventual return of Calais. The port was occupied on 4 October 1562, but the Huguenots were to be disappointed by their new allies, who made very little contribution to the struggle. Eventually, after the death of Duke François of Guise, the last of the original Catholic leaders, Catherine of Medici was able to negotiate a peace treaty, and on 18 March 1563 the Edict of Amboise ended the First War of Religion.

This left the English garrison of Le Havre, under the Earl of Warwick, very vulnerable to attack. The port was badly fortified, the garrison over 5,000 men was short of supplied and the plague had broken out in the town. The former Huguenot rebels were eager to prove their loyalty, and a campaign against the English was the ideal opportunity.

The French began to move in mid-April. Marshal Brissac left Paris in the middle of the month, along with the Swiss troops in the city. He was also given the artillery that had been gathered for the siege of Orleans.

The siege began on 22 May and at first progress was slow. Le Havre was protected by marshland and the sea, forcing the French to build their gun batteries on a narrow spit of land on the shore. By late July the port was under heavy bombardment from a battery of forty cannon. The moat had been filled with debris, several towers destroyed and the French were preparing for an assault. The earl of Warwick, realising that his position was hopeless, began negotiations. On 28 July he agreed to surrender the port and to depart four days later. Two days later a fleet of 30 ships and 5 galliots under Admiral Clinton appeared off the town, but this was too late. The French guns were turned on the English fleet, and on the following night the garrison was evacuated by sea. On 1 August the French entered the port.

Although the fall of Le Havre ended the active English involvement in France, peace negotiations were dragged out across the winter. The Peace of Troyes was signed on 11 April 1564. Calais was not mentioned, and Elizabeth agreed to surrender any rights to Le Havre in return for a payment of 120,000 gold crowns, 20,000 crowns less than Elizabeth's original loan to the Huguenots.

The French Religious Wars 1562-1598, Robert Jean Knecht. A useful guide to the complex series of nine French Wars of Religion, including an examination of who the wars began and the main players on both sides, narrative accounts of the wars, overviews of the most important battles and sieges. Also looks at the impact of the wars on France’s neighbours, many of whom got dragged into the conflict, and on a selection of soldiers and civilians. Supported by a series of maps that help show how complex the conflict was
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 January 2011), Siege of Le Havre, 22 May-31 July 1563, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_le_havre_1563.html

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