The Siege of La Rochelle

  • Jack Alden Clarke
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idees book series (ARCH, volume 17)


“So long as the Huguenots have a foothold in France, the King will never be master within his own borders or be able to enter upon any glorious undertaking without,” wrote Cardinal Richelieu in a famous passage. Confirmed as it was by all recent history, by three rebellions, by a flagrant and continual disregard of the royal will, this statement explains, if it does not justify, his distrust of the Reformed Churches. Yet Richelieu was no bigot. As a zealous Roman Catholic, he detested Calvin’s theological doctrines but his proselytizing zeal was restrained by a politic respect for the rights of conscience. He never wearied of protesting that religious persecution disgusted him.


State Paper City Wall Anonymous Author Landward Side English Army 
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  1. 1.
    Richelieu to M Le Commandeur, February 27, 1627 in his Lettres (Avenel edition) II, 391.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See for example, the anonymous Le pontife des Huguenots ou le patriarche des athées (Paris, 1626).Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    The Royal Commissioners arrived in La Rochelle on May 1 o. On the 23rd, two hundred rioters threw up barricades protesting the suppression of the Council of Forty Eight Récit de l’arrivée et réception des commissaires deputez pôr le Roy en sa ville de La Rochelle (Paris, 1626) p. 5.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Rohan, Mémoires (Michaud edition) p. 553.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Rohan to Louis XIII, Nimes, August 23, 1626. Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 3833 f. 60; see also his letter to Charles I dated November 8/18 (O.S.) 1626 in which he complains, “We are more persecuted now than after the treaty of Montpellier.” Public Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    For the details of this trial see the “Arrest de condemnation à mort contre le nommé Campreden 6 avril 1626,” Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 20965 f. 220–221 and a brief account in the Mercure françois XII, 195–98.Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    Gramond, Historia Galliae ab excessu Henrici IV p. 750–51.Google Scholar
  8. 3.
    On this point consult the memorial of the Baron de Sancé and David de Fos to Charles I dated March 29, 1626 British Museum, Harleian manuscripts 1583 f. 192.Google Scholar
  9. 1.
    “Déclaration des motifs et raisons qui ont obligé M le duc de Rohan de constituer prisonniers quelques habitans de la ville de Castres le 6 janvier 1626,” Bibliothèque nationale Fonds français 4102 f. 157–164; see also the “Minutes du procès verbal de M. Galland du synode de Castres, actes et resolutions,” Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 15827 f. 3–24, 26–29, 31–36.Google Scholar
  10. 2.
    Auguste Galland, “Moyen pour conserver l’état en repos encore qu’il y ait deux religions differentes,” Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 20341 f. 116.Google Scholar
  11. 1.
    For the proceedings of the National Synod held at Castres consult Jean Aymon, Tous les synodes nationaux des églises réformées de France (2 vols., La Haye, 17 i o) II, 325–445; and the Mercure faançois XII, 548–605.Google Scholar
  12. 2.
    Vaissette, Histoire de Languedoc XI, 1005. The dissension prevalent at Nimes during this stormy election is discussed at some length in a letter from the Consuls of Castres to those of Mazamet written on January 6, 1627. Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 20965 f. 76–77.Google Scholar
  13. 1.
    M. de Clairville to Soubise, November 16, 1626. Public Record Office, State Papers 78/80 f. iq.i.Google Scholar
  14. 2.
    Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate, October 2, 1626 Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts Relating to English Affairs existing in Archives and Collections of Venice (London, 1913) vol. XIX for 1625–26, p. 560.Google Scholar
  15. 1.
    For Montagu’s mission consult C. H. Firth Notes on the Diplomatic Relations of England and France 1603–5688 (Oxford, 1go6) p. so; Louis Batiffol, La duchesse de Chevreuse (Paris, 1924) p. 110–12. On March so, 1627 Montagu received a warrant of goo L for secret service. Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series of the Reign of Charles 11627–28 (London, 1858) p. 86, 110, 240, 243.Google Scholar
  16. 2.
    Rohan, Mémoires (Michaud edition) p. 559–60.Google Scholar
  17. 1.
    On this conference see Sir Richard Graham’s journal, State Papers Domestic LXXI, 65, which relates the circumstances, the voyage, the landing, and the advance into the island; Edward Lord Herbert of Cherbury, The Expedition to the Isle of Rhé (London, 186o) p. 24–28; and Sir Richard Grenville, A Journal of the Expedition to the Isle of Rhé (London, 1724) p. 2–3; Fontenay-Mareuil says in his Mémoires (Petitot edition) II, 32, 34 that the Huguenots wished to attack Fort Louis first but were overruled.Google Scholar
  18. 1.
    Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Expedition to the Isle of Rhé p. 27–28. The anonymous author of the Siège de La Rochelle, journal contemporain, 20 juillet 1627–4 juillet 1630 (La Rochelle, 1872) says on page 12 that Toiras has 300 horse and 2000 foot. He lost almost all his gentlemen in this encounter.Google Scholar
  19. 2.
    In developing this incident I have drawn from a variety of sources: Pierre Mervault, Journal des choses les plus memorables qui se sont passées au dernier siège de La Rochelle (La Rochelle, 1648) p. 2–17; Journal contemporain p. 9–53; the Mercure françois XIII, 803–808; and Levassor, Histoire du règne de Louis XIII V, 639 and following.Google Scholar
  20. 1.
    “Manifeste de Bouquingham avril 1627” Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 20965 f. 87–89.Google Scholar
  21. 2.
    For the early stages of the siege of Saint Martins see Henry de Vic to Lord Conway August 4 and 14, 1627 (O.S.) Public Record Office, State Papers 16/73 f. 38–39 and 98. Also “Ordre des anglais descendus en Ré pour faire sortir les français” Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 20, 965 f. 83–86; for an official French version of the siege consult a letter from Herbault to Galland November, 5627 Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 15828 f. 540–45.Google Scholar
  22. 1.
    Le secours de la citadelle de Ré envoyé la nuict du six au septième du présent mois (Paris, 1627); Philippe Prévost de Beaulieu—Persac, Mémoires (Paris, 1913) p. 168–7o.Google Scholar
  23. 2.
    Calendar of State Papers Domestic 1627–28 p. 267–68.Google Scholar
  24. 3.
    Hardwicke, Miscellaneous State Papers II, 49.Google Scholar
  25. 1.
    Jean Pierre Jurien de La Gravière, Le siège de La Rochelle (Paris, s 8gs) p. 237. To understand fully their proud independence see the jealousy apparent in the “Traicte fait par le roy d’Angleterre avec le mayre, eschevains, pairs, et bourgeois de la ville de La Rochelle” January 28, x628 Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 3735 f. 95–99.Google Scholar
  26. 2.
    Birch The Court and Times of Charles I I, 288–90. According to the Mercure françois XIII, 892 the English lost 15 to s 800 men in this battle. See also the interesting account, evidently written by an officer in Schomberg’s command La deffaite entière des anglais et leur honteuse fuite et retraite de l’isle de Rhé par l’armée du Roy commandée par Monsieur de Schomberg (Paris, 1627). He reports 15oo English killed on the causeway and 400 taken prisoner, p. I I-12. According to the anonymous author of the Relation de la défaite des Anglois dans l’isle de Ré (Niort, 1627) the French lost only 7 or 8 soldiers in this battle, p. 17.Google Scholar
  27. 1.
    “La Rochelle se disait exempte de gouverneurs et garnison étrangers par le bien fait de leurs ancestres, lesquels disas chassé les anglais de leur ville.” La Popelinière, L’histoire de France (2 vols., La Rochelle, 1581) vol. II livre 58, p. 57. Nor was it just the royal government that the Rochellese feared. They also complained to the Huguenot Assembly of Saumur that the garrison of Marans must be subject to their authority. Bibliothèque Mazarine MS 2608 f. 198.Google Scholar
  28. 2.
    Louis XIII to Molé November 15, 1627, printed in Richelieu’s Lettres et correspondance (Avenel edition) II, 719.Google Scholar
  29. 3.
    “Lettres inédites de Raymond Phelypéaux d’Herbault secrétaire d’état et de Paul Ardierson principal commis au Maréchal D’Estrées,” Archives historiques de La Saintonge et de l’Aunis XLIII (1912) 137.Google Scholar
  30. 1.
    This speech, though sometimes regarded as apocryphal, is accepted as authentic by the standard biographer. P.S. Callot, Jean Guiton, dernier maire de l’ancienne commune de La Rochelle (La Rochelle, 1847) p. 42–43.Google Scholar
  31. 2.
    See the brief note on “Le clergé et le siège de La Rochelle,” Revue des documents historiques VII (1880) 88–91.Google Scholar
  32. 1.
    “Mémoire véritable du prix excessif des vivres de La Rochelle pendant le siège” (Paris, 1628) reprinted in Edouard Fournier, Variétés historiques et littéraires (lo vols., Paris, 1856) VI, 23–27. According to a Huguenot spy captured in the midst of the siege, the richer Rochellese were eating cats, rats, mice, and horses while the poor were reduced to leather boots and similar articles. Récit véritable de ce qui s’est fait et passé en la prise et exécution de mort d’un espion sorty de La Rochelle (Paris, 1628) p. 4.Google Scholar
  33. 2.
    Arcère, Histoire de La Rochelle II, 296.Google Scholar
  34. 3.
    Christopher Penn, The Navy under the Early Stuarts (London, 1920) p. 207.Google Scholar
  35. 1.
    Richelieu, Mémoires VIII, 147.Google Scholar
  36. 2.
    For Charles’s difficulties in funding this expedition see “Octroi fait au roy d’Angleterre par le parlement pour le secours de la ville de La Rochelle” June 15, 1628 Bibliothèque nationale, Fonds français 3735 f. 100–103.Google Scholar
  37. 3.
    Rélation du grand combat naval faict devant La Rochelle le troisième octobre 1628 (Paris, 1628).Google Scholar
  38. 4.
    Pontis, Mémoires II, 76. Google Scholar
  39. 1.
    Bassompierre, Journal III, 412–13. Mervault, Journal des choses p. 320–24. Journal contemporain p. 74–75.Google Scholar
  40. 2.
    Rélation véritable de tout ce qui s’est passé dans La Rochelle tant devant qu’après le Roy y a fait son entrée le jour de la Toussaincts (Paris, 1628) p. 9.Google Scholar
  41. 3.
    These figures are taken from an official census by the mayor Jean Godefroy in 1627 and the records of the civil administration subsequent to the siege. A. de Quatrefagues, “Les deux sièges de La Rochelle. 2me sous Louis XIII” Bulletin de la société de l’histoire du protestantisme français II (1853) 190-95. Fontenay-Mareuil puts the population at 30–40,000, Mémoires II, 42. Journal contemporain says 11–12,000 inhabitants died of privations. Never, he adds, has anyone endured more during a siege p. 73.Google Scholar
  42. 1.
    There were eleven articles. Articles de la grace accordée par le Roy à ses subjets de la ville de la Rochelle (Paris, 1628).Google Scholar
  43. 2.
    Jean Saigeot, Le triomphe du Roy (Paris, 1628) p. 3.Google Scholar
  44. 3.
    Récit véritable des actions de grace et réjouissances publiques faites à Rome pour la réduction de La Rochelle (Paris, 1629) p. 5, 7.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1966

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  • Jack Alden Clarke

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