Henry VIIIOn this day in history, 30th September 1544, King Henry VIII returned to England after his victory in Boulogne. The French forces had surrendered on 13th September after a siege which had lasted from 19th July. Edward Hall records the campaign in his chronicle:

“The fourtene day of July the kynges maiestie in his royall persone passed the ses from Douer to Calis, and the six and twentie day encamped him selfe before Bolleyn, on the north syde within lesse then halfe a myle of the toune where his grace remayned tyll the toune was surrendered vnto his maiestie: the which toune he so sore assauted & so beseged with suche aboundance of greate ordinaunce that neuer was there a more valiauter assaute made, for besyde the vndermyning of the castel, tower and walles, the toune was so beaten withe ordinaunce that there was not left one house whole therein: & so sore was laied to the charge of the Frechmen that after the kyng had assauted theim by the space of a moneth, thei sent furth of the toune to the kyng two of their chief captaynes, called Mounsire Semblemound, & Mounsire de Haies, whiche declared that the chief capitayne of the toune with his retinew was conteted to delyuer the toune vnto his grace, so that they might passe with bag and baggage, which request the kynges maiestie, mercifully grauted theim. And so on the next day, the duke of Suffolke rode into Bullein, to who in the kynges name, they deliuered the keyes of the toune. And at after none departed out of Bulleyn al the Frenchmen. The nober of the men of warre, that wer strong and galaunt, that came out of the toune, were of horsemen, lxvii. of footmen, xv. C.lxiii. of Gonners viii.C. of hurte menne. lxxxvii. of women and chyldren. xix.C.xxvii. So there was in al that came oute of the toune, foure thousand, foure hundred, fiftie and foure, beside a great nomber of aged, sicke and hurt persones, that was not able to go furth of the toune. The last person y came furth, was Monsire de Veruine, grand capitaine of the Toune, which when he approched nere the place, wher the king stode, he alighted from his horse, and came to the king. And after he had talked with hym a space, the kyng toke him by the hand, and he reuerently kneling vpon his knees, kyssed his hande, and afterwarde mounted vpon hys horse and so departed.

The. xviii. day, the kinges highnes hauyng the sworde borne naked before him, by the Lorde Marques Dorset, like a noble and valyaunt conqueror rode into Bulleyn, and the Trompetters standyng on the walles of the toune, sounded their Trompettes, at the time of his entring, to the great comfort of al the kynges true subjectes, thesame beholdyng. And in the enteryng there met him the duke of Suffolk, and deliuered vnto him the keyes of the toune, and so he roade toward his lodgyng, which was prepared for him, on the South side of the toune. And within two dayes after, the kyng rode about al the toune, within the walles, and then commaunded that our Lady Church of Bullein, should be defaced and plucked doune, where he appoynted a Mout to be made, for the greate force and strength of the toune.

When the kyng had set all thinges ther in suche ordre, as to hys wisdom was thought best, he returned into England, to the great rejoysynge of al hys louyng subjectes.”

It hadn’t quite been Agincourt, but Henry VIII was triumphant.

Note: A tip for reading old spelling like this is to read it aloud. Also, “u”s and “v”s are often interchangeable and “y”s are used instead of “i”s, hence “hauyng” is “having”. Hope that helps!

Note also that Boulogne is spelled different ways in the same passage – Bolleyn, Bullein and Bulleyn. This is because there was no standardized spelling at the time. It was the same with “Boleyn”.

Notes and Sources

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3 thoughts on “30 September 1544 – Henry VIII Returns from Boulogne Triumphant”
  1. Thanks for the tips on reading old spelling, Claire, how interesting. I can’t imagine how much time it must take to decipher the research you have done – and in Old English, French and Latin!

  2. After all those weeks of having to face poor weather and ill health it must have been a relief for all of the defenders to finally have the seige raised and to be allowed to leave without being molested. There was also ill health in the camp of King Henry and it must have been welcomed that they finally raised the siege and stormed the city and that they took it quickly and without too much further fighting. Undermining the castle had of course helped to bring down part of the walls but at last they were triumphant and it was an important city and region to have won and to hold. Henry was also gracious in victory according to the rules of war; the armies were allowed to keep their arms and to depart in good order. Of course it was also a very hard city to hold as the next 18 months was to prove.

    Henry had to spend a lot of money to rebuild and to fortify the city and he had to leave a garrison to keep the city. Suffolk and Norfolk had left the town for some reason and most of the guns behind and needed to race back to stop the Dauphan from attacking and taking it back as it was poorly guarded. Henry wrote a stern letter calling all the nobles cowards and telling them off for almost losing his new city. But he did accept their humble apologies and all was well. Another attack on the army of Surrey the following year almost lost the advantage with many gentry and good soldiers killed, even if the French were beaten off. But in the end the French could not take the city back and Henry could not afford to hold it either. It was agreed that Henry would hold the city for 6 years and then the French would give him two million pounds in gold and buy it back.

    Still it was a great victory and it was celebrated as such back in England. Francis did attempt a revenge attack on England on 19th July 1545 by sailing into the Solent and landing at the Isle of White. The fleet could not sail at first but then the wind changed and we went out to repel the attackers. Unfortunately there was a great cost for beating the French and driving off the invaders that day. The English flagship, the pride and joy of the English navy; Henry’s own ship, doing a hard turn took on too much water and sank: the Mary Rose was lost with all but 45 of her crew. Even Henry could not help but be moved to cry out in agony: “Oh my brave men; my poor brave men” as he watched her sink; her Captain’s Lady at his side. Her husband together with some 300-400 others lost their lives that day. The war and the battle was won; but at what cost?

  3. One thing forgot to put in above: did the war actually bankrupt the country as it must have cost a lot. I can actually imagine certain members of the council: the treasurer for one standing there in the background as in the Tudors moaning about how much the siege and the army has cost the country and counting the pennies for the next few months. What ambitions these Kings had and although a great triumph for them to savour and King Henry saw himself as extending his ancient rights as an heir to the Plantagenets, the early ones of course had been partly Kings of France; and he saw this glory in that light. However, the war was a costly one and he could not persue his original ends; to march on Paris and take over France. Would a younger Henry have cut the war short? With the road clear; he may not have done, and merely re-grouped at Calais before marching again in the Spring, but this is 1544 and Henry is in his mid 50s and not that well anymore. He did have some plans to come back in the Summer of 1545 but other concerns took over. Border wars continued and took resources and the French made peace with the Emperor. As above; the combined force made an attempt on England and so we had to defend our shorelines. To cap it all the fleet lost its pride and joy and England’s prime commander died on 24th August 1545: Suffolk. Yes, I can indeed see the treasurer and the secratary and the home office equivalant sitting round counting the pennies.

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