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King George's War was the third in a series of Anglo-French colonial conflicts in North America. The death of Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor, had touched off a succession crisis that pitted France, Prussia and Spain against the British.Warfare developed in the American colonies in 1744 when the French first learned on May 5, of the declarations of war on March 15, and attacked a British position at Canso, Nova Scotia, on May 13 destroying a fortification and transporting prisoners to the French stronghold at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. The French also attempted to recapture Port Royal (Annapolis Royal), but failed.Hatred of the French was stronger in New England and New York than in the other colonies. Maritime interests felt especially imperiled by the French strength at Louisbourg, a base for privateers. In addition, many staunch New England Protestants harbored a natural antipathy toward the Roman Catholic French.In 1745, a force of more than 4,000 men was raised under William Pepperrell, a wealthy merchant from Maine. George II later rewarded Pepperrell with a baronetcy, the first American colonist so honored.The French fared somewhat better on the western frontier, where their position at Crown Point on Lake Champlain was used as a staging area for Native American attacks on English settlements. Losses on both sides were extremely high, but no clear victor emerged from the fighting in the West.In 1746, the French planned a great offensive that was intended first to retake Louisbourg, then move south for an attack on Boston. However, a major storm intervened, scattered the French fleet and ended their hopes for victory.Peace was achieved with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. Anger in the colonies was so great that London responded by reimbursing the colonial governments for funds spent earlier on the Pepperrell campaign.King George’s War did not finally resolve the North American rivalry between France and Britain; that resolution would not occur for another 15 years.
Also known as Third French and Indian War (1744-1748).
Many of you may be familiar with Osprey Publishing, which produces hundreds of titles related to military history on a variety of subjects. Those interested in the forts of the British colonies and New France will enjoy two titles that Osprey released a few years ago. Forts were important to the history of the colonial frontier, as some of the pivotal battles of the wars that occurred in North America between Britain and France were fought for control over fortifications (ex. Forts Duquesne, Carillon, and the fortress of Louisbourg). Therefore, understanding them and how they were constructed is important to understanding the broader competition for empire in North America.
In 2010, Osprey released The Forts of New France: The Great Lakes, the Plains and the Gulf Coast 1600–1763 by Rene Chartrand. The book is a wonderful introduction to the various levels of fortifications and change over time of them across France’s far-flung colonial empire in North America. Several would be fought over during the series of wars between France and Britain (King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, King George’s War, and the French and Indian War).
The book is beautifully illustrated, as is customary for Osprey products, with several plates devoted to different forts in New France. The book follows a chronological and geographical flow, examining the forts of each region of New France (Gulf Coast, Plains, and Great Lakes region) from the earliest period of French colonial activity to the conclusion of the French and Indian War, when France was expelled and the territory transferred to British control.
The garrison sizes were discussed, as most forts in the regions were smaller affairs, served by only a couple dozen troops. In addition to establishing French claim over the area, the forts served as centers of trade and establishments of relations with Native Americans. Many of the early forts were established specifically to facilitate trade with Native American groups, especially those in the Great Lakes area (the Pays d’en Haut). Most forts were simple wooden construction and relatively small, but some grew into very large stone fortifications by the eighteenth century.
The forts covered allowed France to maintain its authority over such a vast swath of North America and make its claims over areas. They also served as scenes for the struggle for empire between Britain and France, and with Native Americans in North America. One fort that I was delighted to see included was Fort de Chartres in southern Illinois. I have visited this restored post several times, as it is only a couple hours from my hometown. The book discussed to two distinct fortifications at the site, first wooden, later replaced by stone, both under constant threat from the Mississippi River.
Like the French, the English (later British), Dutch, and Swedes established forts in their colonies to serve as places to claim territory, establish trade with Native Americans, and protect their imperial frontier from French and Native incursion. In The Forts of Colonial North America: British, Dutch and Swedish colonies (2011), Chartrand examined the history of fortifications built by the English, Dutch, and Swedes during the 17th century and the conquest of the latter by the English. Later, these sites became the backbone of British control over its North American colonies and the front line of defense when war with France raged. Like the French, these forts also started as smaller, simple wood-constructed stockades, with some growing into larger wooden fortifications, or taking on stone facades.
This book provides a wonderful general introduction to early colonial history along the American coast and traces the history inland, as Britain begins to establish inland forts. Several forts are illustrated in beautiful color plates that attempt to show readers what they may have looked like in their day. One fort that is featured is Fort William Henry, site of a major siege during the French and Indian War that was later novelized and dramatized in James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans and its film adaptations.
Rene Chartrand was an excellent choice to write these works, as his background is fitting for writing such works for a broad audience seeking a general informative overview. He served as curator for over three decades for Canada’s National Historic Sites before venturing into freelance writing. This allows him to write the works for the casual reader that is seeking knowledge on the broad subject as opposed to a deep academic analysis.
Both books provide wonderful information about the subjects they cover, including detailed maps, chronological tables of key events, as well as glossaries of terms related to the subjects, allowing readers who do not have the background to better appreciate the subject covered. Though geared towards general readers and non-academic audiences, these two books are great for those seeking to get an introduction to the forts of colonial America and some basic factual information surrounding them. They serve as a springboard for diving into other literature on the subjects of fortifications, New France, British America, relations with Native Americans, colonial military history, and a bit of engineering.
Well-researched and illustrated, these two books are worth having on your shelf if remotely interested in colonial era fortifications. While they focus on the sites of empire, Osprey also suggests other related titles that deal with the troops of the various imperial powers fighting for control of North America. At less than $15, these books are a great deal to begin building a library on colonial history and can be enjoyed by readers both young and old, though I would say a good minimum age for these works would be around 12-14 given the subject matter and terms used.
If a fan of Osprey books, or just a casual interested person looking for something different, certainly give these two works a try.
King George`s War: The Third of the French and Indian Wars - History
By Bob Swain
In November 1541, roughly three years before the Siege of Boulogne, King Henry VIII of England suffered one of the most severe shocks of his life when he was shown a report alleging that his plumpish 19-year-old queen, Catherine Howard, had been intimate with other men before their marriage. Even more upsetting, it seemed that she was still being unfaithful to the king under his very nose. At first disbelieving and then stunned, Henry became unhinged by the unfolding reality of Catherine’s unfaithfulness. He called for a sword and bellowed out his intention to kill her, but was he restrained by his worried courtiers. Visibly diminished by the experience, Henry withdrew from London to nurse his bruised ego in near seclusion, while his government prosecuted Catherine for treasonous behavior.
Always a heavy drinker, King Henry VIII drank even more than usual during his self-imposed exile, and in the process he aggravated the pain from a chronic ulcer on one of his legs. The king’s once-handsome physique sagged ominously, and by the start of the New Year he was nearly immobilized by his aching leg, accompanying fever, and profound depression. The dismal winter weather did nothing to help the situation. Henry sat alone, listening to his harp player or talking with Will Somers, his fool, while his unfaithful former wife was duly beheaded before a small group of witnesses on the grounds of the Tower of London.
A New Foreign War and the Siege of Boulogne
As the weather improved, moods brightened for King Henry VIII of England. He began to mull over a favorite action of many monarchs beset with troubles: provoking a foreign war to distract their subjects from the prevailing embarrassment or crisis at home. It was a comforting thought for Henry, given his decades-long appetite for foreign adventure and military glory. And reasons for starting a war were easy enough to come by, particularly with France to pick on, something he had done twice before. (Read about these and other pivotal decisions that changed the course of history inside the pages of Military Heritage magazine.)
Sufficiently stirred, Henry assembled his Privy Council in London. His sense of timing was perfect. Henry’s counselors were relieved that the king was finally interested in talking about something other than the late queen. Facing them with more majesty than he truly felt, Henry insisted that the country must seize the opportunity to wage war with her long-standing enemy, France, while the French were distracted by Spain over the issue of who would control northern Italy. Of equal importance was the opportunity to force the French monarch, Francis I, to renew his payments of Henry’s pension and other obligations under past treaties, dating back 17 years and amounting to 25,000 pounds annually.
Henry surprised the Privy Council and others at court by announcing that he intended to personally lead the invasion of France. To his astonishment and annoyance, the council objected strongly to his leading forces in battle (although he had done so briefly in 1513) and Spanish-born Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, who was negotiating an agreement to invade France with England as his ally, joined in the council’s opposition. To win support for his self-appointment, Henry let it be known that he wanted the venerable Duke of Norfolk and the Duke of Suffolk to serve as his principal aides, despite Norfolk’s recent lackluster performance in Scotland. Henry announced that Norfolk was to command the vanguard, assisted by the veteran Lord Russell, while Suffolk, in a replay of Henry’s first invasion of France in 1513, would assist Henry with the main body of the army.
The announcements reassured Henry’s critics and placated the dukes, who dutifully fell into line behind the king and began to arm at their own expense the required 300 mounted knights and 1,000 men-at-arms each nobleman was expected to furnish to the king. Meanwhile, Henry mollified many in Parliament by agreeing to have the Crown contribute funds from the renewed sale and rent of royal lands.
In mid-February 1544, Henry signed an agreement with Charles V to become allies against France. To avoid tipping their hands prematurely to Francis I, the rulers agreed to keep the pact secret until the end of May. The agreement articulated a goal of jointly taking Paris, with an English army striking through Picardy and Charles’s army approaching from the Netherlands into the Champagne-Ardennes area.
The Invasion Proceeds
King Henry the VIII of England
Henry sent an ultimatum to the French ambassador in London that June, threatening war within 20 days for the recovery of the realm of France, a goal first voiced by Edward III two centuries before. The ultimatum contained a long list of impossibly difficult conditions to obviate the need for war. Not waiting for a reply, Henry recalled his ambassador from Paris and ordered the English commander at Calais to begin transferring 5,000 men-at-arms under Sir John Wallop to aid Charles V’s invasion of France from the east, but with strict orders to husband his artillery and ammunition.
Both Henry and Charles pledged armies of 40,000 men apiece for renewed action against France. Henry vowed to lead his troops along the Somme to Paris, while Charles would approach Paris from the east. Henry renewed his intention of going to Calais after Norfolk and Russell had established the 10,000-man vanguard there, despite warnings from the king’s doctors that a rigorous military campaign could shorten his life. Henry’s enthusiasm knew few bounds, and he was determined to fit his corpulent bulk into newly crafted armor (made imperative since Henry’s waistline had ballooned from 37 to 54 inches in the past six years). Tirelessly he involved himself in the many details of the upcoming campaign, visiting the Tower mint, where workmen were turning silver plate and other precious ornaments into coins to pay suppliers and soldiers, and worrying about inventories.
Unlike earlier invasions, great quantities of foodstuffs and fodder were sent ahead to depots surrounding Calais to feed an expected main force and rear guard of 30,000 men (including 4,000 foreign mercenaries hired for the occasion), while additional flour mills and baking ovens were built near the depots. When Norfolk and Russell were ready to move the vanguard across the Channel, they were greeted at dockside by a fleet of colorfully decked-out ships awaiting the cumbersome boarding of men, horses, and matériel.
Norfolk’s Pleas to the Council
After an uneventful trip and landing, Norfolk reassembled his men, supplies, and horses and prepared to move southeastward from Calais. But without a specifically established goal beyond the original injunction to take Paris, it seemed pointless to proceed far, and this left the duke with little to do except maintain discipline and sort out supplies in his makeshift camps. Easily frustrated, Norfolk could not resist sending a sharp note back to the council, reminding the members that he had expected to know his primary objective before now.
Prodded by the irascible Norfolk, the council finally replied, explaining that Henry had been distracted by another flare-up of his ulcerated leg. Meanwhile, Norfolk laid siege to the town of Montreuil, 40 miles due south of Calais. At one time, Montreuil had been one of the wealthiest ports in northern Europe, but the river had silted up in recent years and port activity had declined. If Montreuil had been picked as an easy target, however, Henry and his council had badly misread its present strength. Montreuil’s garrison, situated above the Picardy floodplain, was safely behind stout medieval walls and armed with a more than sufficient number of cannons.
Norfolk continued to bother the council with a stream of complaints focusing on the disorganization at Calais and the shortages of bread, beer, guns, and shot for his camp at Montreuil. In addition, the wagons arriving from Charles V were not as specified, and the English horses in the duke’s camps were too small for the heavy pulling they faced. Deciding to starve out the town, Norfolk reported on the difficulty of continuing operations while steady rain inundated the low ground around his position. The relentless downpour made every movement tortuous and spoiled the grain set aside for horse and cattle fodder.
Henry Arrives in France
To his relief, Henry finally overcame the painful bout with his ulcerous leg and issued orders to Suffolk to prepare the departure of the main force for France. Arms, horses, copious foodstuffs, a mobile kitchen, and countless support staff were assembled on the southern coast of England. When all was ready, the waiting ships loaded everything, including Henry, Suffolk, and the earl of Hertford. The great fanfare of departure buoyed Henry’s spirits. When the sizable English convoy neared Calais harbor on July 14, fleet gunners fired salvo after salvo to announce the king’s arrival. They were answered in kind by cannons on the walls of the town. The resulting man-made thunder could be heard at Dover, 25 miles away. It was a suitable display for the vainglorious Henry, dressed in gold cloth decorated with a red cross over his armor and wearing a hat with crimson satin band.
Once ashore, Henry paraded through town with Hertford and Suffolk at his side. The townspeople marveled at his appearance. Officers on the scene hoped that Henry might be persuaded to remain in Calais, and he did so for almost two weeks, until an outbreak of the plague in late July panicked him into fleeing to the open countryside. Suffolk and Hertford trailed behind with the main body of troops. At the same time, Henry’s ally, Charles V, marched steadily along the left bank of the Marne to Chateau Thierry, with the Spanish monarch’s cavalry scouting to within 30 miles of Paris.
Although Norfolk’s siege of Montreuil cried out for attention, Henry chose to focus on his primary objective, Boulogne. Suffolk was ordered to move the main body of the army southwest to the vicinity of the ancient hilltop town, which was surrounded by high walls and ramparts built from a Roman fort that once had served as the base for Julius Caesar’s long-ago invasion of England.
Success at Boulogne, Stagnation at Montreuil
Meanwhile, at Montreuil, the sorry situation was made even worse when Norfolk could not stop his troops from taking double their allotted rations, despite standing orders against personal hoarding. Even more damaging to morale, everyone had been forced to drink water, since beer supplies had run out 10 days earlier. Fortunately, the quartermaster in Suffolk’s newly established camp at Boulogne had enough beer to send a goodly amount from his supply base at Wimereux. This helped conditions in the English camp, but the situation outside Montreuil remained difficult. Norfolk lacked sufficient men and siege guns to completely surround and assault the walled town, forcing him to press his men so close to the enemy that they could trade insults with the French defenders. Even at that, there were discernible gaps in his line, making it possible for the French to slip supplies into the town.
King Henry VIII’s allegedly unfaithful wife, Catherine Howard.
Hampered by inadequate resources, Norfolk also suffered the disadvantage of facing an enemy that was unusually skilled at detecting any mining under its walls. Denied this favorite avenue to breach the town’s defenses, Norfolk resorted to diplomacy, entering into negotiations with the Montreuil garrison without first consulting Henry. Not surprisingly, the unauthorized action unleashed a storm of criticism. When Henry heard of the talks, he was outraged and demanded an immediate explanation from the duke. Norfolk was embarrassed, but replied with as much innocence as he could muster that his talks had been intended merely to test the enemy’s willingness to withstand the siege. Surprisingly, this mollified Henry, although he warned Norfolk that the duke should have cleared his strategy ahead of time with the king.
Henry ordered Norfolk’s 26-year-old son, the Earl of Surrey, who had just arrived in Calais, to bring the rear guard to Boulogne. Three days later, the earl marched into Henry’s camp, leading lightly armored horsemen, archers, pikemen, and gunners on foot, along with hundreds of noncombatants, including butchers, herdsmen, millwrights, coopers, smiths, armorers, mortar makers, surgeons, and priests. Henry greeted Surrey sitting astride a horse with his armor cut away to relieve the pressure on his afflicted leg. The bemused French commanders inside the castle marked Surrey’s arrival with an artillery barrage.
Once the rear guard was deployed to its assigned position, the newly energized Henry threw himself into the siege. Constantly improving his position, Henry ordered new earthworks built and ordnance redeployed (ultimately mounting 95 guns and 50 mortars), all the while lecturing his officers on the finer points of military procedure. Within three days, the heaviest of his siege guns began to inflict serious damage on the walls of Boulogne’s castle, giving Henry confidence that the town would soon be his.
The inclement weather, which had so bothered Norfolk, now began to bedevil the king as well. Violent thunderstorms immobilized the siege, forcing everyone to protect their food supplies while struggling to keep their equipment safe and quarters dry. Days of rain turned pathways into rivers of mud, eliminating any possibility of offensive action, and the enforced inactivity transformed the camp into a dreary mess as rampant boredom engulfed the troops. Tempers flared and morale sagged while carpenters worked diligently to improvise better living quarters for the king, adding impressive porches, overhangs, floors, and windows to his tent.
After the weather improved, renewed action was delayed by a shortage of dry powder. Not until early August were the English gunners able to renew the regular shelling of walls at the Siege of Boulogne. Once bright sunshine bathed the scene, Henry found it possible to enjoy again the drama of the siege. While he was never in any great personal danger, the renewed campaign helped the king to forget that he could barely walk. Also serving to improve Henry’s mood was the output of the mobile bakery. Many observers commented that Henry looked better than he had in years.
Conditions were quite different at Montreuil, where Norfolk and his troops endured serious hardships while the king hogged resources at the Siege of Boulogne. This forced Norfolk to rely increasingly on his 600-man Irish contingent for their vaunted skill at foraging and cattle stealing. Suffolk was more fortunate as his troops, better-supplied and -armed, managed to breach Boulogne’s high walls after firing a large number of rounds from their heavy siege guns, followed by seven days of bloody assaults by men-at-arms. The bedraggled French defenders, with the walls literally crumbling around them, finally agreed to surrender, and Henry entered the town on September 18 with Suffolk and Surrey to accept the formal surrender.
A Tense Strategic Position for King Henry VIII of England
For Henry, it was a replay of his September 1513 capture of Tournai. He exulted in the victory at Boulogne, picturing it as the equal of Edward III’s capture of Calais 200 years before. But Henry’s ally, Charles V, was not so enchanted by what was happening. He complained that Henry had allowed himself to get bogged down at Montreuil and Boulogne, breaking their agreement to march jointly on Paris. Charles V lost interest in continuing the war, even though he had captured Saint-Dizier, a royal fortress guarding France’s eastern approaches to Paris. Desperately short of money, Charles decided in September to abandon his march on Paris and conclude a separate peace with the French. Henry had known from the start that this was a possibility and he responded calmly at first to Charles’s decision before erupting with anger. He accused his erstwhile ally of treachery, despite having entertained peace overtures himself from Francis.
Henry worried that his armies, left alone in the field, would have to fend for themselves while French forces converging on Boulogne would soon outnumber his own. Worse yet, Henry suspected that he would soon face a French invasion across the English Channel. Norfolk’s situation was even more perilous. The countryside surrounding Montreuil had been stripped of edibles, leaving the duke’s men and horses near starvation. To underscore their plight, scouts confirmed that virtually every ear of corn and blade of grass had been consumed, all cows and chickens commandeered, and local rabbits hunted to near extinction. At least two dozen soldiers were dying each day, along with countless horses. To make matters worse, the fall rains were beginning again. Norfolk reported with grim satisfaction that the French defenders at Montreuil had been reduced to eating horses and cats.
Retreat from Montreuil
Forced to acknowledge the deteriorating situation at Montreuil, Henry assigned Norfolk’s son Surrey to his father’s command, with instructions to forestall relief of the French garrison. Despite Surrey’s zeal, the besieged town continued to hold out, prompting Norfolk to clamor even more loudly for substantial relief. Unable to ignore Norfolk any longer, Henry considered sending Suffolk with fresh reinforcements but decided against it, believing that this might provoke a pitched battle with the French dauphin, rumored to be approaching the area with a sizable force.
Unsure what to do, Henry invited Norfolk to confer with him at Boulogne, while Surrey was given temporary command at Montreuil. Left to his own judgment, the notoriously headstrong Surrey took the opportunity to make a daring attempt on Montreuil’s Abbeville Gate. It was a foolhardy initiative, and during the subsequent attack he fell, concussed from a shell burst near his position. Surrey’s squire and friend, Thomas Clere, dragged him still unconscious to safety but was mortally wounded while doing so. The English raiding party had no choice but to abandon the attack and retrieve its addled leader.
Surrey’s misadventure was reported immediately to Henry, but the king was too distracted by other fast-moving events to comment on his young favorite’s foolhardy actions. Henry was urged by his staff and the council to return to England as quickly as possible. A fair number also suggested that Norfolk be allowed to withdraw his forces from around Montreuil. Norfolk heartily agreed with this suggestion, and Henry gave his permission reluctantly. The meeting at an end, Norfolk returned to Montreuil to extricate what was left of his beleaguered army, retrieve his badly shaken son, and regroup with Suffolk at Boulogne.
Although the moment was tense, Henry staged a leisurely farewell, riding triumphantly through the streets of the battered town and taking numerous salutes before departing for Calais. Leaving Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, and Sir Thomas Poynings in charge of the town’s half-destroyed fortress, the king returned to England in passable triumph. Once back in England, Henry exhibited excellent spirits, reporting to one and all how pleased he was with the results of his efforts, despite the still-mounting cost of the war.
Henry’s celebration in London might have gone on for some time, except for word that Norfolk and Suffolk had disobeyed the king’s orders and withdrawn the bulk of their troops from Boulogne to Calais, where some of the men-at-arms had deserted upon discovering an outbreak of plague there. Furious, Henry voiced his displeasure. The Siege of Boulogne was his hard-won trophy, and he refused to give it up or have the honor of his army besmirched. Shouting for a secretary, Henry dictated an order directing sheriffs to pursue deserters. Those found were to be hanged on the spot in a swift display of the king’s wrath. Meanwhile, Henry stewed over what to do with his commanders in France, ordering the dukes to return immediately to their posts at Boulogne.
The Siege of Boulogne by King Henry VIII (1491-1547) in 1544, engraved by James Basire, 1788 .
King Henry VIII on the Defensive
Despite the king’s wrathful admonishments, the first replies from the dukes cited the continuing danger to their position from the dauphin’s rapidly approaching army, supposedly 50,000 strong and ready to cut off the supply line between Calais and Boulogne. In their view, they had to fall back to Calais to preserve England’s remaining foothold in France. Norfolk and Suffolk concluded their report by adding lamely that Boulogne had not been abandoned, since Poynings was still there with 4,000 men.
The much-feared French attack finally fell on Boulogne, and an enemy force fought its way into the lower town one night and began looting great quantities of supplies the English had left unguarded. Roused by the assault, the garrison mounted a counterattack, routing the distracted French and killing 600 of them. Poynings’s officers counted 800 of their own dead. When news of the assault reached London, Henry was shocked. Calling another secretary to his side, he dictated another letter to Norfolk and Suffolk, angrily wondering why they had withdrawn from Boulogne without presenting their decision to the council first.
Henry had an even larger worry that distracted him from punishing his two field commanders: how to obtain sufficient funds to continue his war with the French. The Privy Council made it clear to Henry that he was running out of money. Treasury tallies revealed that the cost of the French campaign was now three times the earlier estimate. At the current rate of spending, the war would bankrupt the treasury.
Although the French had been turned back at Boulogne, the fight had not gone out of them. Francis I, Henry’s long-standing adversary, announced his intention to invade England in the spring, believing that this would be the best way of forcing the English to give up Boulogne. Francis’s fleet, which by midsummer of 1545 numbered 150 ships, was concentrated at Le Havre. Told of the threat, Henry felt compelled to pardon both Norfolk and Suffolk and ordered them home to help organize the country’s coastal defenses.
Fortifying the Channel
The threat of invasion was taken seriously in England, and tensions ran high. The stretch of English coastline between Gravesend and Portland boasted 26 castles and fortified positions, each garrisoned with a full complement of men-at-arms and gunners. English spies reported that Francis planned to make Portsmouth his bridgehead. Henry decided to establish his headquarters there, while Hertford covered the north and Norfolk kept watch on the Lincolnshire and Suffolk coasts. One-eyed Lord Russell was posted in the west, with Suffolk commanding in Sussex and Kent.
Henry issued licenses to numerous ship owners to serve as privateers in the Channel, slipping out to seize whatever French ships they could find. The semiofficial collection of 50-ton ships, armed with light guns and operating alone or in pairs, relied on speed to overtake slower moving French merchantmen. As a first line of defense, Henry planned regular patrols by his royal fleet of 60 ships, while the second line was represented by the series of forts along the coasts. These fortifications, with low but thick walls, presented poor targets for enemy warships while providing a steady platform for English guns to fire at attackers.
During offshore maneuvers of the Portsmouth-based fleet, one of Henry’s finest ships, the Mary Rose, suffered a bizarre accident. Henry and a number of his courtiers were at dockside, watching with unbelieving eyes as the ship, carrying a crew of 700, caught a shore breeze and keeled over dangerously. Water began flooding into her lower gun ports as cannons crashed headlong across her slanting decks, aggravating the ship’s list. Within minutes the Mary Rose sank, leaving only the tops of two masts above water while fewer than three dozen survivors swam for their lives. Henry could hear the terrible cries of crewmen trapped below decks as he looked on helplessly from Southsea Castle.
The English and French fleets made repeated feints at each other off Shoreham, but little happened except the exchange of ineffective cannonades. The summer weather was hot and the wind was light, and the heat, bad food, and fevers did deadly work on the overcrowded ships. Many crewmen in both fleets died, with the French experiencing the greater loss. Failing to dominate the Channel or engage the English fleet, the French admiral eventually broke off the action and withdrew his ships to Le Havre, ending the threat of invasion after only a month.
Surrey’s New Command
In France, Lord Poynings, recently elevated to baron, died unexpectedly at Boulogne on August 18. His passing was barely noticed as the ailing Suffolk, one of Henry’s oldest friends, died four days later on a trip to Guilford. Suffolk’s death was a severe blow to Henry, who was not well himself. The king found time to make command assignments in the midst of Suffolk’s funeral service at Windsor, transferring Lord Grey from Guisnes to Boulogne and having Surrey assume Grey’s position at Guisnes, eight miles south of Calais.
Excited by his new opportunity, Surrey set to work reorganizing the English forces at Guisnes, obtaining permission to move his men outside the walls of the town, where they could be used more aggressively. He launched an attack on the garrison at Ardes in the first week of September, and his forces overwhelmed the French and killed the enemy commander. The Privy Council, reacting favorably to Surrey’s achievement, issued an order placing him in charge at Boulogne. Henry further rewarded the earl with the title of Lieutenant of the King on Sea and Land, a great honor for someone who had just turned 28. Surrey displayed surprisingly good administrative skills in his expanded responsibilities, seeing to it that his soldiers were paid regularly and that the most flagrant of the camp followers were dispersed. A new sense of order began to prevail.
Surrey managed to keep the French off balance by foraging and skirmishing aggressively. He also provided Henry with long, detailed accounts of the army’s campaigns, thus feeding the king’s illusions of military glory. Meanwhile, the once-timid council wrangled with Henry over the wisdom of continuing to hold onto Boulogne, whose repair and defense were placing a heavy burden on the seriously over-stretched treasury. The cost of the combined campaigns in Scotland and France had grown to more than two million pounds, and the government’s reliance on foreign borrowings had driven up interest rates to 13 percent. To offset the mounting debt, Henry devalued the English currency again, which only pushed prices and interest rates higher.
An Advance on Chatillon
At this point in the growing turmoil, the council wrote to Surrey asking for his views on the situation at Boulogne and hinting that he should find some excuse to abandon the town. Unfortunately for the council, Surrey seemed not to understand the financial crisis, believing like Henry that finances took care of themselves in the long run. Worse still, Surrey seemed to believe that he could afford to act independently of the council, counting on the king to support him.
Deeply concerned, Norfolk wrote a private letter to his son, cautioning him (from long experience with Henry) not to encourage the king to keep Boulogne and warning him that his service to the throne would earn him small thanks. Surrey ignored his father’s advice. In his next letter to Henry, which the king shared with Norfolk, the earl exuberantly described Boulogne as the most impressive jewel in the king’s crown.
Ignoring all warnings from the council or his father, Surrey continued his raids, which allowed Henry to persuade Parliament in late November to enact another subsidy for the war effort. Gratified by Surrey’s results, the king accepted his recommendations to promote several of the earl’s favorite officers. Emboldened, Surrey sent an aide to London to discuss a plan to capture the nearby fortress of Chatillon and close off Boulogne’s supply route to the Channel. Henry quickly gave his permission, and in the early hours of January 7, 1546, Surrey led 2,000 infantrymen and 600 mounted knights out of Boulogne toward Chatillon. The French, getting advance word of the intended attack, assembled a larger force to encircle Surrey’s force and destroy it.
A Fall from Grace
Surrey had neglected to assess the likelihood of a counteroffensive as he advanced almost gaily toward Chatillon. When a sizable French force appeared on the route, Surrey responded to the challenge by ordering his front line of infantry to charge. The French gave ground, which prompted Surrey to order his cavalry forward. The English knights galloped in, slashing and spearing until they came to the enemy supply wagons. There they dismounted and occupied themselves with looting. While they were thus engaged, more French infantry came on the scene and advanced on the unprotected frontline English infantry. In the confusion, Surrey’s second line of infantry came up behind the first, which it mistakenly believed was falling back, only to be attacked in turn by the French cavalry. The English infantry fled in disorder.
First reports told of over 200 men being killed in the botched engagement, including 14 captains. Even more startling and ignominious was the news that two English battle standards had fallen into French hands. Word of the debacle at Chatillon reached Henry and the council before Surrey could make his own exculpatory report, which blamed the defeat on the disappointing performance of the infantrymen. When the council saw that Surrey was denying full responsibility, some members became so infuriated that a letter of rebuke was sent immediately to the earl. Henry, in contrast to the highly agitated council members, was remarkably philosophic about the outcome of the battle. He did agree, however, to send Hertford back to France to investigate Surrey’s leadership decisions.
Surrey was grateful for Henry’s support, but events behind the scenes indicated that the king had decided to relieve him of command. The first overt signal of a change occurred in the first week of February, when Surrey was surprised to learn that his reinforcements were to be under the command of Hertford, who had been given the equal rank of lieutenant general. The situation deteriorated further in early March when a report from one of the king’s agents at Calais complained that supplies destined for the garrison at Boulogne were falling into the wrong hands. This was the last straw for the council, and Surrey was demoted to captain of the rear guard.
Contrary to expectations, Surrey behaved well in Boulogne while awaiting Hertford. In mid-March, he reported a victory over the French in a skirmish near Etaples. Once the diminished earl accomplished the transfer of command, he returned to England to make a final report to the king and the council. Dutifully, Surrey arrived at Whitehall within days, but it took a full week for the king to find the time to receive him. While cooling his heels, Surrey was summoned by the council to answer a charge of indiscreetly disputing Scriptures with a group of young courtiers. It was hardly a hero’s welcome.
A Legacy of Debt: Aftermath from the Siege of Boulogne
A peace treaty with France was signed on June 7, 1546, and Henry agreed to sell back all his French territory within eight years’ time. Meanwhile, a nasty dispute with the Norfolk family over bogus charges of treason impelled the king to throw both Surrey and Norfolk into the Tower of London. On January 19, 1547, Surrey was beheaded. Norfolk narrowly escaped a similar fate when the king suddenly fell ill that same week. Henry’s habitual overeating, heavy drinking, chronic health issues, and the stress of political maneuvers at court combined to bring him low. Confined to bed, the monarch lapsed into and out of consciousness before dying in the predawn hours of the 28th. Two months later, Henry’s archrival, Francis I, also passed away.
Over the next 11 years, Henry’s three surviving children—Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth—succeeded in turn to the throne. Each struggled with the burden of their father’s debts. The principal culprit for their difficulties was the ruinous cost of Henry’s last war in France, which he had begun as a way of distracting himself, his court, and the public from the sorry outcome of his fifth marriage. While Henry enjoyed leading his army in the field, the diversion proved costly beyond imagining. Henry’s military misadventure brought England to the brink of bankruptcy, and in 1550—four years sooner than the treaty required—King Edward VI sold Boulogne back to the French and lost forever his nation’s last toehold on Gallic soil.
28 Rangers Rules
That year on Rogers Island (named after him) he wrote the Rules of Ranging, a manual for guerilla warfare. Rogers Island was a British fortress strategically located in the Hudson River. So many troops stayed there during the French and Indian War, the only larger North American communities were New York and Boston.
Rogers trained his men on the island. He gave his men live fire exercises, which the British thought a waste of ammunition.
And he taught them his rangers rules. For example, men should march single file, far enough apart so one shot couldn’t go through two men.
If they reached marshy ground, they should spread out abreast so they would be hard to track.
The rangers rules dictated that men take a different route home so they wouldn’t get ambushed. They shouldn’t cross a river by a regular ford because the enemy watches them.
And they shouldn’t pass lakes too close to the water or the enemy might trap them.
After the war ended, Robert Rogers went to England to get paid for his services. He didn’t. But while there he made some money publishing his journals, A Concise Account of North America and a stage play, Ponteach [Pontiac]: or the Savages of America (1766), which portrayed American Indians in a sympathetic way.
The History Guy
Anglo-French Wars = Wars between England (also referred to as Great Britain or the United Kingdom), and France. Between 1066 and 1815, the English/British and the French would fight many, many wars. Here is a list of the Anglo-French Wars.
Norman Invasion of England (1066) - William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and a vassal of the French king, conquered the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England, and made himself King of England. Resulting from this, the English and French royal families would fight many bloody wars trying to settle who was supposed to rule what. William's family acquired lands throughout France and ruled them as Englishmen, which really upset the French kings. This is a pretty watered-down, basic description of this rivalry, but these two nations have fought many, many wars, and William's conquest of England was the starting point for many of the earlier ones.
The Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) - The Hundred Years' War was actually a series of wars between England and France which lasted 116 years. Most historians break this conflict into four distinct wars. Anglo-French War-(1337-1360) - The Edwardian War
Anglo-French War-(1369-1373) - The Caroline War
Anglo-French War-(1412-1420) - Henry V invaded France, with the goal of taking the French crown. The English won the Battle of Agincourt. The French king agreed to peace a few years later, and the Treaty of Troyes ended this phase of the war in 1420.
Anglo-French War-(1423-1453) - The Lancastrian War. This phase of the war was named after the English House of Lancaster, and ended in English defeat. England lost all of her French territorial possessions except for the Channel port of Calais.
Anglo-French War-(1488) -Also known as Henry VII's Invasion of Brittany.
Anglo-French War-(1489-1492) -Also known as Henry VII's Second Invasion of Brittany.
Anglo-French War-(1510-1513) -Also known as the War of the Holy League, England joined with the Pope, several Italian states, Swiss cantons and Spain against France. King Henry VIII of England won a favorable peace from France after winning the Battle of the Spurs on August 16, 1513. The rest of the Holy League continued fighting France until the Pope Julius II's death, which helped cause the dissolution of the League.
Anglo-French War-(1521-1526) - Henry VIII joined the Hapsburg Empire in a war against France. The war proved both unpopular in England and expensive financially, and the King had difficulty raising money from Parliament. After 1523, England did not participate much in the war.
Anglo-French War-(1542-1546) -Henry VIII again joined the Hapsburg Empire in a war against France. The English captured the port of Boulogne and the French had to accept that when the peace treaty was signed. The war cost England two million English pounds.
Anglo-French War-(1549-1550) -French King Henry II declared war with the intention of retaking Boulogne, which fell to him in 1550. This war was preceded by years of border combat short of all-out war.
Anglo-French War-(1557-1560) -England's Queen Mary drew her country into war allied to Spain , whose king was her husband. Very unpopular war with the English people. England lost possession of Calais on the French mainland. When Queen Elizabeth later took the throne, religious and political differences would make England and Spain bitter enemies.
Anglo-French War-(1589-1593) -England was caught up in the great Protestant-Catholic wars sweeping Europe. England sided with Protestant Dutch rebels against Catholic Spain and with the Protestant (Huguenot) French against the Catholic French in the Wars of Religion, a series of French religious civil wars. In 1589, while still fighting Spain after defeating the famous Spanish Armada, Elizabeth sent troops to aid the French Protestants.
Anglo-French War-(1627-1628) - Also known in France as the Third Bearnese Revolt, England came to the aid of Huguenot rebels fighting the French government.
Anglo-French War-(1689-1697) -Known in Europe as the War of the League of Augsburg AND as the War of the Grand Alliance and in North America as King William's War.
Anglo-French War-(1702-1712) -Known in Europe as the War of the Spanish Succession, in North America as Queen Anne's War and in India as the First Carnatic War. This conflict also included the Second Abnaki War. The Abnaki Indian tribe allied itself with the French against the English colonists in North America.
Anglo-French War-(1744-1748) -Known in Europe as the War of the Austrian Succession and in North America as King George's War.
Anglo-French War-(1749-1754) - Known in India as the Second Carnatic War. The British East India Company and its Indian allies battled the French East India Company and its Indian allies.
Anglo-French War-(1755-1763) -Known in Europe as the Seven Years' War and in North America as the French and Indian War. France forever lost possession of Quebec/Canada. In many ways, England's victory set the stage for the American Revolution.
See also Timeline of Amerian Colonial Indian Wars for more context of the French and Indian Wars in North America that also involved Native American tribes.
Anglo-French War-(1779-1783) - Also known as the American Revolution . Also involved Spain, the United States and the Netherlands against Britain. Can also be considered as an Anglo-French War, Anglo-Spanish War and a Anglo-Dutch War.
Wars of the French Revolution, (1792-1802) -The Wars of the French Revolution spanned a decade of great political, social and military change throughout the European continent. After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the conservative, monarchical powers of Europe attempted to extinguish the new French Republic and restore the Bourbon Royal Family. When several nations combined against France, the alliances were known as "Coalitions". Thus, this series of wars are known as the Wars of the Coalitions.
Austro-Prussian Invasion of France, (1792) -In support of the deposed, but still living French King Louis XVI, Austria and Prussia invaded France. French Revolutionary armies defeated the Allies at Valmy and Jemappes and conquered Austrian-ruled Belgium. France also defeated Austrian forces in northern Italy, seizing Savoy and Nice. Can also be considered as a Franco-Austrian War and a Franco-Prussian War.
War of the First Coalition, (1792-1798) - Britain, Austria, Prussia, Spain, Russia, Sardinia and Holland combined to fight Revolutionary France. Can also be considered as a Franco-Austrian War , a Franco-Prussian War, a Franco-Dutch War , a Franco-Russian War, Anglo-French War, and a Franco-Sardinian War. Russia left the Coalition in 1794 to deal with troubles in Poland. French victories forced Holland, also known then as the Batavian Republic, to leave the Coalition in 1795. Prussia and Spain made peace with France in 1795 and Austria signed the Treaty of Campo-Formio in 1798, surrendering the Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium) to France.
This war included the battles of Neerwinden, Mainz, Kaiserlautern (early Allied victories). Later, as the Revolutionary government organized the populace and fielded huge "citizen armies" commanded by brilliant young generals like Napoleon Bonaparte, the French won many battlefield victories.
War of the Second Coalition, (1798-1801) -Britain, Austria, Russia, Portugal, Naples and the Ottoman Empire combined to fight Revolutionary France. Spain later joined France against Portugal. Can also be considered as a Franco-Austrian War , a Franco-Russian War , a Anglo-French War , a Franco-Turkish War , a Franco-Neapolitian War , a Franco-Portuguese War and a Franco-Russian War . This alliance against France formed to counter French moves in Italy formation of the Roman, Ligurian, Cisalpine and Helvetic Republics in Switzerland and Italy, and the deposition of Papal rule in Rome. Naples was conquered by the French in early 1799 and declared to be the new Parthenopean Republic.
After the Coalition war began, France intervened in an internal revolt in the Swiss Confederation. The Swiss Revolt of 1798, (1798) ended with the Swiss Confederation dissolved and the Helvetic Republic in its place. Throughout the rest of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Swiss were effectively under French rule with an army of occupation in place
Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Turkish Egypt and won the Battle of the Pyramids, continuing his march into what is now Israel and Lebanon. British Admiral Horatio Nelson wiped out the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Due to French victories on land against both Turkish and British troops, the Ottoman Empire made peace with France at the Convention of El-Arish in 1800.
Part of this Coalition war is the so-called War of the Oranges (1801), in which France and Spain invaded Portugal. France sought to end Portugal's trade with Britain, and Spain sought Portuguese territory. In the Peace of Badajoz, Portugal promised to end trade with Britain, give land to Spain, and part of Brazil to France. This "Brazilian" land is the modern-day French Guiana.
This war included the battles of Cassano, Tribbia River and Novi (early Allied victories). Following Russian withdrawal from the war due to quarrels with Austria, the French under First Consul Bonaparte won the Battle of Marengo in 1800. The Coalition collapsed after Austria lost the Battle of Hohenlinden in December, 1800 and signed the Peace of Luneville in February, 1801.
The Napoleonic Wars (1802-1815)
War of the Second Coalition (1798-1801)-Britain, Austria, Russia, Portugal, Naples and the Ottoman Empire combined to fight Revolutionary France. Spain later joined France against Portugal. This alliance against France formed to counter French moves in Italy formation of the Roman, Ligurian, Cisalpine and Helvetic Republics in Switzerland and Italy, and the deposition of Papal rule in Rome. Naples was conquered by the French in early 1799 and declared to be the new Parthenopean Republic. Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Turkish Egypt and won the Battle of the Pyramids, continuing his march into what is now Israel and Lebanon. British Admiral Horatio Nelson wiped out the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Due to French victories on land against both Turkish and British troops, the Ottoman Empire made peace with France at the Convention of El-Arish in 1800.
See also: Anglo-Spanish Wars
Anglo-French War (1803-1814)--While other European nations waged war and then sued for peace against Napoleonic France, Britain was in a continual state of war against France from 1803 through the first defeat of Napoleon in 1814.
Peninsular War (1807-1814)-This war began with the French Invasions of Portugal and Spain, and also included Great Britain, who sent forces to help the Portuguese and Spanish drive out the French. From the British perspective, the Peninsular War was a part of the long-running war between Britain and France from 1803 to 1814.
Anglo-French War (1815)--After Napoleon's defeat in 1814, Napoleon was sent into exile on the island of Elba by the victorious allies. Napoleon, however, had no intention of spending his life in exile. Gathering his followers, Napoleon escaped Elba, landed in France, and began what is referred to as "The Hundred Days," in which he reclaimed the leadership of France, and once again faced off against a coalition of foes.
His defeat at Waterloo by British and Prussian forces put an end to this last official Anglo-French war.
See also: Second Hundred Years War: A Series of Anglo-French Conflicts
Anglo-French War (1940-1942)--During World War Two, despite being allies against the Axis powers, an unusual conflict arose between the British and the "official" French government that came to power after France's surrender to Germany in 1940. The so-called Vichy French government (so named for the capital of this new French government, which sat in the city of Vichy), cooperated with the Germans and this caused concern among the British, who decided to destroy the French fleet at the Battle of Mers-el-Kébir, in which the British Navy sank or damaged eight French warships, killing nearly 1,300 French sailors. Then, in 1941, British, Free French (loyal to General DeGaulle), and other Allied forces invaded the Vichy French colonies of Syria and Lebanon, resulting in about 6,000 Vichy French casualties. Finally, in 1942, British and American forces landed in Vichy-controlled Morocco and Algeria, engaging in combat with Vichy French forces. This period of Anglo-(Vichy) French warfare was the last military conflict between Britain and France.
Edward III (1312 - 1377)
Edward III © Edward was king of England for 50 years. His reign saw the beginning of the Hundred Years War against France.
Edward was born on 13 November 1312, possibly at Windsor, although little is known of his early life, the son of Edward II and Isabella of France. Edward himself became king in 1327 after his father was deposed by his mother and her lover, Roger Mortimer. A year later Edward married Philippa of Hainault - they were to have 13 children. Isabella and Roger ruled in Edward's name until 1330, when he executed Mortimer and banished his mother.
Edward's primary focus was now war with France. Ongoing territorial disputes were intensified in 1340 when Edward assumed the title of king of France, starting a war that would last intermittently for over a century. In July 1346, Edward landed in Normandy, accompanied by his son Edward, the Black Prince. His decisive victory at Crécy in August scattered the French army. Edward then captured Calais, establishing it as a base for future campaigns. In 1348, he created the Order of the Garter.
War restarted in 1355. The following year, the Black Prince won a significant victory at Poitiers, capturing the French king, John II. The resulting Treaty of Bretigny in 1360 marked the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years War and the high point of English influence in France. Edward renounced his claim to the French crown in return for the whole of Aquitaine. In 1369, the French declared war again. Edward, by now an elderly man, left the fighting to his sons. They enjoyed little success and the English lost much of the territory they had gained in 1360.
After the death of his queen, Philippa, in 1369, Edward fell under the influence of Alice Perrers, his mistress, who was regarded as corrupt and grasping. Against a backdrop of military failure in France and outbreaks of the plague, the 'Good Parliament' of 1376 was summoned. Perrers and other members of the court were severely criticised and heavy taxation attacked. New councillors were imposed on the king. The death of the Black Prince, Edward's heir, interrupted the crisis and the king's younger son, John of Gaunt, who had ruled the country during Edward's frequent absence in France, later reversed the Good Parliament's reforming efforts.
The eldest son of Edward II and Isabella of France, Edward III was summoned to Parliament as earl of Chester (1320) and was made duke of Aquitaine (1325), but, contrary to tradition, he never received the title of prince of Wales.
Edward III grew up amid struggles between his father and a number of barons who were attempting to limit the king’s power and to strengthen their own role in governing England. His mother, repelled by her husband’s treatment of the nobles and disaffected by the confiscation of her English estates by his supporters, played an important role in this conflict. In 1325 she left England to return to France to intervene in the dispute between her brother, Charles IV of France, and her husband over the latter’s French possessions, Guyenne, Gascony, and Ponthieu. She was successful the land was secured for England on condition that the English king pay homage to Charles. This was performed on the king’s behalf by his young son.
The heir apparent was secure at his mother’s side. With Roger Mortimer, an influential baron who had escaped to France in 1323 and had become her lover, Isabella now began preparations to invade England to depose her husband. To raise funds for this enterprise, Edward III was betrothed to Philippa, daughter of William, count of Hainaut and Holland.
Within five months of their invasion of England, the queen and the nobles, who had much popular support, overpowered the king’s forces. Edward II, charged with incompetence and breaking his coronation oath, was forced to resign, and on January 29, 1327, Edward III, aged 14, was crowned king of England.
During the next four years Isabella and Mortimer governed in his name, though nominally his guardian was Henry, earl of Lancaster. In the summer of 1327 he took part in an abortive campaign against the Scots, which resulted in the Treaty of Northampton (1328), making Scotland an independent realm. Edward was deeply troubled by the settlement and signed it only after much persuasion by Isabella and Mortimer. He married Philippa at York on January 24, 1328. Soon afterward Edward made a successful effort to throw off his degrading dependence on his mother and Mortimer. While a council was being held at Nottingham, he entered the castle by night, through a subterranean passage, took Mortimer prisoner, and had him executed (November 1330). Edward had discreetly ignored his mother’s liaison with Mortimer and treated her with every respect, but her political influence was at an end.
Edward III now began to rule as well as to reign. Young, ardent, and active, he sought to remake England into the powerful nation it had been under Edward I. He still resented the concession of independence made to Scotland by the Treaty of Northampton. The death of Robert I, the Bruce, king of Scotland, in 1329 gave him a chance of retrieving his position. The new king of Scots, his brother-in-law, David II, was a mere boy, and Edward took advantage of his weakness to aid the Scottish barons who had been exiled by Bruce to place their leader, Edward Balliol, on the Scottish throne. David II fled to France, but Balliol was despised as a puppet of the English king, and David returned in 1341.
Was Henry VIII the Worst Monarch of All Time?
All those wives…
Much of Henry’s bad reputation comes from his eventful (to say the least) marital life. In need of a male heir, he got his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled in order to marry the ambitious noblewoman Anne Boleyn, inadvertently starting a revolution in the process. When Anne produced only a daughter as well, Henry had her executed for adultery and treason and immediately married Jane Seymour, who produced the much-desired son, but died in childbirth. His fourth marriage, a political match with Anne of Cleves, lasted only a few days, while number five, Catherine Howard, met the same fate as Anne Boleyn. His last wife, Catherine Parr, outlived Henry. At best, the king’s marriage track record was an object of ridicule at worst, it made him look like a monster. With all that fuss over a son, it was his daughter with Anne Boleyn who ended up as the longest-reigning Tudor monarch, Queen Elizabeth I. (She was, incidentally, voted history’s best monarch in the HWA poll).
He was constantly taking his country to war𠅊nd he wasn’t very good at it.
Though Henry VIII showed little talent as a general, England was constantly at war during his reign, with not much to show for it in the end. His repeated efforts to conquer Scotland ended up pushing that country into an alliance with France against him, while his alliance with Holy Roman Emperor Charles V soured during Henry’s crusade to end his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the emperor’s aunt. In 1542, Henry and Charles would join forces again to fight France—traditionally England’s chief rival—in what would be the third French war of Henry’s reign. By that point, Henry was too fat to lead his men on horseback he had to be carried on a litter along the battle lines. Even after Charles signed a treaty with the French, Henry continued the struggle, bankrupting himself in the process. At war’s end, all he had to show for it was the relatively minor port of Boulogne, which would soon be back in French hands anyway.
His messy separation with the Catholic Church𠅊nd relentless persecution of those who opposed it.
After years of trying and failing to get his first marriage annulled, Henry turned to wily adviser Thomas Cromwell. In 1532, Cromwell got Parliament to pass a law making Henry the head of the Church of England, effectively removing England from the pope’s authority. Henry’s power increased exponentially over the next decade, as did his wealth: All English monasteries were closed, and their assets transferred to Henry’s coffers. Opponents of the revolution, such as Henry’s old friend and adviser Thomas More, were executed under harsh treason laws.
Executions, executions𠉪nd more executions.
In the late 1530s and early s, Henry had various members of the Pole and Courtenay families executed—supposedly for conspiring against him, but mostly because their royal blood gave them competing claims to the throne. In 1541, he even ordered the execution of the frail 67-year-old Margaret Pole, once his daughter Mary’s governess. Eventually, Thomas Cromwell’s role in arranging the king’s failed marriage with Anne of Cleves would turn Henry against him as well, and he was executed in 1540. In 1547, five years after Catherine Howard’s premarital affairs (and possible adultery during her marriage to Henry) led to her execution, the king had her uncle Henry Howard put to death based on accusations from a rival family in court, the Seymours. The 16th-century historian John Stow claimed Henry had some 70,000 people executed during his reign though that was an extreme exaggeration, the number surely reached into the hundreds.
He inherited a fortune, and lost it all (and then some).
Henry VIII inherited a large fortune, the equivalent of some million today. But despite the influx of money from the dissolution of the monasteries and new taxes imposed by Cromwell, Henry’s government seemed always to be on the verge of going bankrupt, thanks to his profligate spending. Presenting the ultimate display of magnificence and power to the world didn’t come cheap—Henry’s court was one of the most lavish in history—not to mention his many expensive continental wars. His inheritance went quickly, and though annual incomes remained steady thanks to rents and dues paid by his subjects, inflation and rising prices made an impact. Twice during his reign (in 1526 and 1539) Henry devalued England’s coinage, which provided temporary relief but ended up making inflation worse. He would die in debt.
A possible explanation?
Some have argued that Henry’s serious injury in a jousting accident in 1536 marked a turning point in his transformation from a relatively generous, benevolent ruler into the “wife-murdering tyrant” many remember. By aggravating existing health problems—including sores on his legs that may have been caused by the restrictive garters he wor—-the accident restricted his movement, causing him to gain weight quickly. (Despite one persistent rumor, there is little evidence to suggest that Henry had syphilis.) His personality also changed, turning from suspicious to downright paranoid. This change, combined with his self-righteousness and absolute power, made Henry very dangerous.
His confused legacy.
By the time he died in 1547, on his 56th birthday, Henry VIII reportedly weighed nearly 400 pounds, and was a very sick, unhappy man. He remained an active ruler until the end, however, and his death left confusion and disorganization in its wake. His young son and successor, King Edward VI, was controlled by his advisers, and his death of tuberculosis in 1553 sparked a succession crisis. After Henry’s daughter Mary I regained the throne from challenger Lady Jane Grey, she spent her five years on the throne trying to bring England back to the Catholic fold. She died in 1558, and it was left to Elizabeth I to restore and solidify her father’s reforms. While not without her own flaws, historians celebrate Elizabeth for keeping England together in a time of bitter religious divisions, a feat that was particularly remarkable given that she waster all—only a woman.
The Key Factor: Mud
Once the English archers were in place, the comparatively thin line of English knights kneeled awkwardly in their armor to make the sign of the cross before advancing on foot over the waterlogged field behind the archers to a point within 300 yards of the French. The sight of the smaller English army boldly advancing so excited the mounted French knights on each flank that they largely abandoned discipline to break into a ragged attack, shouting, “Montjoie! Saint Denis!” As they spurred their horses onward, the soggy ground beneath them was churned into clinging mud, which slowed the charge immediately. Nonetheless, cheers rose from the other French nobles standing behind them as they caught the excitement and moved forward as well.
As might have been anticipated, horses quickly began to slip in the mud. As this happened, the French attackers converging from both flanks were thrown into confusion by devastating volleys from the English archers, dispatched in four clouds of arrows. Although the French knights’ armor deflected many of the arrows, their less-well-clad horses were not so fortunate—they stumbled or dropped in their tracks. Some knights were pitched to the ground. Riderless mounts bolted about, colliding with advancing French foot soldiers. By now, horses and men on the field were ankle-deep in mud. The French artillery, intimidated by the first flight of arrows, had pulled back rather than face more steel-tipped projectiles.
Less than a hundred of the mounted French knights ever reached the spike-barricade placed by the English archers. The rest lay mired in the churned-up mud—dead, wounded, or stumbling about in a daze. French cavalry commander Guillaume de Saveuse was one of the dead, killed by a mallet blow or stab wound through his armor-joint after his horse impaled itself on one of the spikes. Without pause, the second line of French began to advance on foot, moving ponderously through the mud in face of flights of arrows. Although it continued to be a cool day, the knights began to sweat in their 60 pounds of armor from the exertion of trudging through the mud. As they proceeded, many could not avoid stiff-legging their way over the dead and wounded, causing any number to suffocate in the mud.
As French knights attack the English line, their horses become bogged down in the mud as English archers continue to pour deadly fire into their ranks.
The footing grew worse as the centers of both armies locked together in hand-to-hand combat. Slowly the reinforced French attack drove the English center back, and the battle lost its form in the confined area between the woods. By one account, Henry “fought not as a king but as a knight, leading the way when possible, giving and receiving cruel blows.” The English middle rallied as the right flank engaged, but the obese York was trampled under foot. He either suffocated or suffered a heart attack, since his armor-clad body was found afterward without a wound. The Earl of Oxford was killed also, but Henry called upon Robert Howard, one of the ship captains and a friend of his youth, to take the earl’s place. Howard rose to the occasion as the English archers dropped their longbows to wade into the fray, wielding their axes and short swords.
By now, the French knights were so crammed together they could barely swing their own weapons, and when they were knocked down they found it impossible to get up from the mud in their heavy armor. The more nimble English archers made many French knights lame by slashing their short axes against the backs of their adversaries’ knees. Those sprawling on the ground were helpless to protect themselves from the archers, who mercilessly thrust their daggers through the slits of visors or into the mail covering armpits or groins. The Duke of Alenon, finding himself cut off and surrounded, shouted his surrender to King Henry, who was a few yards away coming to his brother Gloucester’s aid. Before the king could intercede, however, Alenon was slashed and beaten to death by swarming English archers. The Duke of Brabant, younger brother of the Duke of Burgundy, borrowed a lesser nobleman’s armor and galloped into the fray only to be unhorsed and quickly dispatched by archers who did not recognize his worth because his borrowed armor did not mark him as a man of distinction.
In the first two hours of the three-hour battle, the French suffered a staggering 5,000 killed in a bloodbath that included three dukes, five counts, and 90 barons. By this stage, more English knights and archers were gathering up prisoners than continuing to fight. (A French noble would fetch enough in ransom to make a poor man comparatively comfortable for life.) Meanwhile, the knights in the third French line watched the disastrous scene. In a cruel mix-up, Henry ordered the French prisoners killed when he heard that a newly arrived enemy force (actually bands of local peasants) was attacking his lightly guarded rear. The order was only fitfully obeyed by the English nobles, who found it morally repugnant to kill their French counterparts after they had surrendered, and Henry had to deputize a force of 200 low-born archers to carry out the brutal and unnecessary slaughter. When it became evident that the uncommitted third French line, daunted by the fate of the first two lines, was withdrawing from the battlefield, Henry rescinded his order, but by then dozens of duly surrendered French nobles had met a most ignoble fate in the bloodstained mud at Agincourt.
French and Indians besiege Fort William Henry (211 words)
The French and their Huron allies under the Marquis de Montcalm besieged British and colonial troops in Fort William Henry on the shores of Lake George in what is now Upper New York State. The Fort surrendered on 9 August 1757 and its loss was seen as deeply threatening to the British colonies since French strategy was to reach the headwaters of the Hudson and then capture New York.
As a condition of the surrender, the garrison was given safe-conduct to return to Britain on agreement that they should take no further part in the war, but the baggage train was attacked by Hurons wanting scalps and booty as a reward for the support they had provided. The massacre became a notorious example of “French perfidy” and “Indian …
Citation: Editors, Litencyc. "French and Indians besiege Fort William Henry". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 28 April 2009 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=4116, accessed 28 June 2021.]