Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The Siege of Calais

Having cut the French army to pieces at Crecy, Edward, who was anxious to secure a good seaport in France, set out to besiege Calais, a strongly fortified city within sight of the Dover cliffs.

The town was bravely defended by a gallant Frenchman named Jean de Vienne, and in spite of the English ships blocking the port, and the English army surrounding it on all sides, the French held out stanchly. As no provisions were allowed to enter, the governor soon saw that the people would suffer from famine, so he sent out all the old men, women, and children. These were allowed to pass through the English ranks to join their friends elsewhere. But although the number of inhabitants was thus greatly diminished, and the food carefully portioned out, the famine became so great that the people of Calais ate cats, dogs, and rats, and even boiled old boots to make soup.

Month after month passed by, and although their sufferings grew greater every day, they still held out bravely, hoping the French king would send them help or drive away the English army. Once more the city gates opened, and a second troop of thin and haggard people came out; but Edward was now so angry at the obstinate resistance of Calais that he would not let them pass, and they died of hunger between the city walls and the English camp.

Finally the city was forced to surrender, but Edward declared that he would kill all the inhabitants unless six of the most prominent citizens came to him, barefooted and in their shirts, each with a rope around his neck, and bringing the keys of the city gates. When this message was delivered by the governor, the people of Calais groaned aloud, for they felt that their end was near. But St. Pierre, one of the wealthiest men in town, stepped forward, offering to be the first of the six required victims.

Two of his relatives immediately imitated him, and they were soon followed by three other noble-hearted volunteers. The six victims, in the prescribed attire, then went before Edward, escorted to the gates by their weeping kinsmen. When the Englishmen saw the Calais burghers appear, they were touched to the heart, all except Edward, who, in spite of the entreaties of the Black Prince and all his courtiers, ordered that they should be hanged at once.

The guards were about to obey, when good Queen Philippa knelt before her husband, imploring him to spare the lives of those six brave men. She spoke so movingly that all who heard her wept; then she gently reminded Edward that she had come over the sea to bring him the joyful news of the victory of Neville's Cross, won over the Scots, whose king, David Bruce, was now her prisoner.

Her entreaties softened Edward's heart, and he gave her the six Calais burghers, to deal with as she wished. Philippa had them led to her own tent, where they were richly clothed, royally feasted, and, after receiving many gifts, were sent back unharmed to their rejoicing relatives.

Philippa and the Burghers of Calais.


As Calais now belonged to the English, Edward ordered all the Frenchmen to leave it and go and live elsewhere. He next peopled the city with his own subjects, and had it guarded by an English garrison. Hither English boats brought tin, wool, and other merchandise, to sell to the French merchants who came there to buy.

Although Edward had hitherto been so successful, he was now obliged to stop making war, and to conclude a seven years' truce with France. He was forced to suspend his conquests because a terrible pestilence, called the black death, had made its way into Europe from Asia, and was now carrying off thousands of people.

The black death raged for several years, and killed about one third of the population. It was so deadly because people in those days did not know that three things are necessary for good health: pure air, pure water, and great cleanliness, not only of the body, but also of all its surroundings—clothing, houses, and streets.