July 21 – The Isle of Wight comes under attack

Posted By on July 21, 2022

On this day in Tudor history, 21st July 1545, in the reign of King Henry VIII, French forces landed on the Isle of Wight in an attempt to invade the island, which lies off the south coast of England.

In the video and transcript below, I share contemporary accounts of what happened – what the French forces did to the island and what the result was…

Transcript:

On this day in Tudor history, 21st July 1545, in the reign of King Henry VIII, French forces landed at Whitecliff Bay and Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight, an island just off the south coast of England. This attack was part of the Italian Wars, a series of conflicts that involved the Italian States, France, England, the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire in the 15th and 16th centuries.

François van der Delft, the imperial ambassador, recorded the French attack on the island in a dispatch to his master Emperor Charles V, writing:

“On Tuesday [21st] the French landed in the Isle of Wight and burnt 10 or 12 small houses; but they were ultimately driven to take refuge in a small earthwork fort, and a large force, 8,000, is now opposed to them. Yesterday, Wednesday, and the previous night, nothing could be heard but artillery firing, and it was rumored that the French would land elsewhere.”

He then added a postscript saying that he’d just heard that the English forces had sunk a French galley, and that the Chevalier D’Aux of Provence had been killed.

Chronicler and Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley also records the attack:

“The 21st day of July, the French galleys and navy came before the Portsmouth haven and landed certain of their army in the Isle of Wight, and there burned and camped thereabout to the number of 2,000 men, and came every tide with their galleys and shot their ordinance at the king’s ships in the haven, but the wind was so calm that the king’s ships could bear no sail, which was a great discomfort for them.”

However, even though the English fleet couldn’t sail, the French troops were not successful in taking the Isle of Wight. A Spanish dispatch dated 28th July 1545 reports that “The French fleet has returned from Wight to Dieppe, having failed to win the harbour”. A plaque at Seaview on the Isle of Wight commemorates the repulsion of the French forces:

“During the last invasion of this country hundreds of French troops landed on the foreshore nearby. This armed invasion was bloodily defeated and repulsed by local militia 21st July 1545.”

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