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The Siege of Saint-James Henry VI’s campaign to confirm himself as King of France looked to be in trouble after the Duke of Brittany switched sides.

In two parts

King Henry VI 1422-1461, 1470-1471
Music: William Byrd and John Dowland

© Voshubert65, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0. Source

The Palace de la Paluelle in Saint-James, Normandy.

About this picture …

Part of a panorama shot of the Palace de la Paluelle in Saint-James, Normandy. It shows the oldest wing of the building, which dates back at least to 1389 when it was known as as Le Manoir de Granges; it was already here in 1426 when Sir Nicholas Burdet and the rest bluffed their way out of the siege of Saint-James. The stately home takes its current name from the La Paluelle family, which came into possession of the house in about 1530.

The Siege of Saint-James

Part 1 of 2

In 1425, England’s Henry VI and France’s Charles VII were still fighting the Hundred Years’ War for the French crown. That October, John V, Duke of Brittany followed his brother Arthur’s example and backed Charles. The Earl of Salisbury and other English generals replied with raids on Brittany from their base at Saint-James in Normandy, and by February, Arthur could see that brother John needed help.
Spelling modernised

A LITTLE before this time, Sir Thomas Rampstone, Sir Philip Branche, Sir Nicholas Burdet,* and other Englishmen to the number of five hundred men, repaired and fortified the town of Saint-James,* on the frontiers of Normandy, adjoining to Brittany. Arthur, Earl of Richmond and brother to the Duke of Brittany,* which like an untrue gentleman, sworn and forsworn to the king of England, suddenly fled to Charles the Dolphin:* which much rejoicing of his favour and amity, gave to him the Constableship of France which the Earl of Buchan,* slain before at Verneuil, a small time occupied, and less space enjoyed.

This new Constable, not a little joyful of his high office, thought to do some pleasure to the Dolphin his master; and to advance his name at the first entry into his authority, he imagined no enterprise to be to him more honourable, nor to his prince more acceptable, then to void and drive out of the town of Saint-James de Beuvron, all the English nation. So, in hope of victory, gathered together above forty thousand men,* of Bretons,* Frenchmen and Scots, and environed the town with a strong siege.*

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* Sir Thomas Rempston or Rampston (?1392-1458), Sir Philip Branche (?-?1426), and Sir Nicholas Burdet (?-1441). Holinshed’s version of the siege gives much of the credit to Sir Nicholas.

* The town of Saint-James on the Rivers Beuvron and Dierge, in western Normandy near the border with Brittany. The town was fortified in 1067 by William of Normandy, King of England.

* John V (1389-1442), Duke of Brittany from 1399 to his death; Arthur (1393-1458) was his younger brother. John was invested with the title of Earl of Richmond by Edward III, but (as the two brothers had switched sides and backed the French) Henry VI did not recognise Arthur as Earl of Richmond when he became Arthur III, Duke of Brittany, in 1457.

* Hall called Charles ‘the Dolphin’ (in French, ‘the Dauphin’) because this was his royal title in 1415 when Henry V defeated him at the Battle of Agincourt. In Hall’s eyes, the King of France was now Henry’s son Henry VI, and Charles must be content to be the Dauphin still. For his part, Charles called himself King Charles VII of France.

* John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Buchan (?1381–1424), fought for the French kings honouring the ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France, and was appointed Constable by King Charles VII in 1424. He was killed on August 17th, 1424, at the Battle of Verneuil, by the English forces led by John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford.

* Estimates of the size of the French force vary. Holinshed repeated Hall’s figure of 40,000. The Great Chronicle of London (1189-1512) had a more realistic (though still possibly inflated) 20,000.

* That is, people from Brittany.

* The Siege of Saint-James began on February 27th, 1426, and ended on March 6th.


In 1426, during the Hundred Years’ War, a French army laid siege to the town of Saint-James in Normandy, where a small English garrison was stationed. The English had been raiding into Brittany, until recently an ally but now backing the Dauphin Charles, and the Duke of Brittany’s brother Arthur, Earl of Richmond, was determined to stop the raids. (58 / 60 words)

Part Two

By Lee Lockwood (1932–2010), Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. Source

Herring barrels in Eastport, Maine, USA.

About this picture …

Herring barrels in Eastport, Maine, USA. Five hundred barrels of herring were among the precious stores abandoned by the French in their flight, though had they stood their ground they had the numbers to win easily. Though they lost the battle, the French eventually won the war. Henry VI was not as committed to holding the crown of France as his father Henry V had been, and the costs of the protracted war, in gold and in human lives, were becoming a heavy burden for his subjects — especially the poor, on whom the burden of war always falls most heavily. The English were finally driven out of France (except for Calais) in 1453.

THE Englishmen within, which in number passed not six hundred men, manfully defended the daily assaults of the fierce Frenchmen. The Englishmen consulted together what way was best to be taken: and after long debating, they determined to issue out of the town and to fight with their enemies. So on a day, when the Britons were wearied with along assault, towards the evening the Englishmen came out of the town, one part by the postern of the Castle, and another part by the gate of the town, crying ‘Saint George’, ‘Salisbury’:* and set on their enemies both before and behind.

The Frenchmen seeing the courage of the Englishmen, and hearing their cry, thinking that the Earl of Salisbury was come to raise the siege, ran away like sheep, and there were taken, slain and drowned in the water, of them four thousand men and more. Besides this, these holy gallants left behind them for haste, all their tents, fourteen great guns, and forty barrels of powder, three hundred pipes of wine, two hundred pipes of biscuit and flour, two hundred frailes* of figs and raisins, and five hundred barrels of herring.

Copy Book

* They were shouting for Thomas Montagu (1388-1428), 4th Earl of Salisbury. Other accounts add the name of the Earl of Suffolk.


There were barely six hundred in the English garrison, and the besiegers had many times that number. At last, the English sallied forth from the town fighting and shouting as if they expected reinforcements to join them at any moment. The French were completely taken in, and abandoned the siege in disorder, leaving behind valuable provisions and military gear. (59 / 60 words)


Abridged, modernised and emended from ‘Hall’s Chronicle’, originally compiled by Edward Hall (?-1547) and republished in 1809 under the supervision of Sir Henry Ellis (1777-1869), drawing on the editions of 1548 and 1550. It is sometimes known by the name of its first publisher, Richard Grafton (?1506/7 or 1511-1573). See also Raphael Holinshed’s account in ‘Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland: Henry Sixt’ (1577, revised 1587) by Raphael Holinshed (1529-1580).

Suggested Music

1 2

Pavan: The Earl Of Salisbury & Galliard (arr. Stokowski)

William Byrd (1538-1623)

Performed by London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

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Dance Suite (arr. P. Warlock)

III. The Earl of Essex’s Galliard

John Dowland (1563-1626)

Performed by Thirteen Strings.

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