Monday, January 12, 2015

Calais under English Rule: 1347-1558

The town of Calais, while ruled by England, was very much an English town. Most of the original French inhabitants were expelled when Edward III took the town, and English settlers brought in. The names of streets and inns were all English.

This was less true of the Pale of Calais, the territory under English control outside Calais proper, including the outlying forts at Hammes and Guisnes (now Guînes). While some English settled in the Pale, the population outside the town remained predominantly French or Flemish. The Pale covered about 20 square miles, and Guînes is about 6.5  miles from Calais by road.

Even though Edward III expelled most of the original population of the town, a few were allowed to remain: a priest, "and other auncyent personages such as knewe the customes, lawes and ordynaunces of the towne and to signe out the herytages howe they were devyded", and some others by special leave of the king. Foreigners could not become a burgess, hold freehold property or keep an inn. Over time these regulations became less well enforced, and in 1364 there was a complaint of foreigners owning hostelries in Calais. In 1413, Henry V renewed the prohibition on foreigners becoming burgesses or keeping an inn, and required foreigners settling in Calais to be taxed at 1/15th of their wealth.

Lodging keepers were required to make a report of what strangers were lodging with them each night.

During herring time, between the feasts of Michaelmas and St. Andrew, when many foreign fishermen brought their catch to Calais, there were extra precautions: only one of the town gates was open,  there was an additional watch, and foreign fishermen were not allowed in town overnight.

The Calais Staple was an important institution under English Rule. From 1348 until the French retook Calais, with brief lapses in the 14th century, most wool, woolfells, tin and lead exported from England was required to pass through the Staple, a marketplace governed by the Company of the Staple, where it could be conveniently taxed. The Staple was an important source of revenue for the Crown, and the Staplers an important source of financing.

After the garrison mutinied over unpaid wages, in 1407 Henry IV assigned half of the wool duties to pay the garrison. This was insufficient, and Henry borrowed the remainder from the Staplers, repaying them by excusing them from wool customs for a time.

While most of the Staplers and members of the garrison expected to eventually return to England, some of the burgesses, descendants of the original English settlers, expected Calais to be their home for life.

From 1365 on, the town was ruled by a mayor and 12 aldermen, but there was also a Mayor of the Staple, leading to repeated conflicts as to who had precedence, the Mayor of the Town or the Mayor of the Staple. This bickering would continue into the reign of Edward IV, to be resolved for a time in favor of the Mayor of the Staple, only to be revived in the early 16th c.

The town is estimated to have had a population of 4,500 in the 15th c.

When Henry VIII visited in 1532, the town was reckoned capable of providing 2,400 beds and stables for 2,000 horses.

Brewing beer was a major local industry. There were at least 7 brewhouses in the 16th c., including a large one owned by the crown.

A 16th century English report on Calais spells the name of its inhabitants "Calisian"

Sandeman, George Amelius Crawshay. 1908. Calais under English rule. Oxford: B.H. Blackwell; [etc., etc.].

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