THE SIEGE OF ST. QUENTIN
 THE first important event in the war with Spain was the
siege of St. Quentin.
St. Quentin stood on a height, protected on one side by
a great stretch of morass,
through which flowed a branch of the river Somme.
Admiral Coligny, a nephew of the constable, undertook
to hold St. Quentin against
the enemy, but it was plain that this would be no easy
matter. The marsh, which lay
to the east, was the best defence the town had, for its
walls were old and broken
down. Two holes had even been discovered in these
crumbling walls, and had been
filled up only with twigs and bales of wool.
It was important to hold the town, for, should St.
Quentin fall, the enemy would
have little difficulty in marching on Paris itself. The
hearing from Admiral Coligny that the town could hold
out only for a few days longer
without relief, hastened toward it, hoping to raise the
siege, or, if that was not
possible, at least to send provisions to the starving
D'Andelot, Coligny's youngest brother, was accordingly
ordered to cross the Somme,
wade through the marsh, and try to reach St. Quentin
with men and provisions. The
marsh was the only possible way by which to reach the
town, the others being closely
guarded by the enemy.
Montmorency, with the main body of his army, began to
move his soldiers across the
morass in order to support d'Andelot in his attempt to
enter the town. But many
 of the men lost the narrow footpaths, which were
covered with water, and
floundered in the marsh, while the boats promised by
Coligny to carry them across
the Somme did not appear for two hours after the time
they were expected.
When the boats did arrive, the eager soldiers crowded
into them so that in the
middle of the stream they were in danger of being
swamped. Seeing the danger, some
of the men jumped out to lighten the boats, and many
were drowned; while others who
reached the opposite shore could not land, so steep and
treacherous was the bank.
In the end d'Andelot and about five hundred men
succeeded in entering the town with
a small quantity of provisions.
The constable now saw that he must withdraw from his
dangerous position. He
remembered a narrow pass through which he hoped to lead
his army to safety. He sent
forward a body of cavalry to secure the passage, only
to find that he was too late;
it was already held by the enemy. The French army was
in a trap, and the Spanish
soldiers knew it.
Fiercely they swooped down upon the constable and his
army, and soon half the French
soldiers lay slain upon the ground.
Montmorency was wounded and taken prisoner, as were
many of his officers; although
the Prince of Condé, brother of the King of Navarre,
escaped as by a miracle. French
flags were strewn on the ground and captured by the
enemy, as well as nearly all the
French guns. The defeat of the French army was
This great victory was won by the Spanish in August
1557. Philip's officers begged
him to advance at once on Paris, but the King of Spain
hesitated, and missed his
St. Quentin was still untaken, and Philip determined to
stay and continue the siege.
Admiral Coligny, knowing well that every day he held
out gave his nation a day
longer to recover from the heavy blow that had been
 did not dream
of surrendering, though the townsfolk were in a pitiful
state of starvation and
For seventeen days the admiral inspired the citizens to
repulse every attack made by
the Spaniards. At the end of that time the tottering
walls gave way, and the enemy
rushed into the town.
Coligny met them almost single-handed, and fought with
desperate courage, but he was
overcome and taken prisoner. D'Andelot also resisted to
A terrible scene followed. The Spanish troops spread
over the town, killing and
torturing all whom they met, until women and little
children fled in terror, to hide
themselves in cellars or garrets—anywhere to escape
from the Spanish soldiers.
The Duke of Guise, who had been sent to Italy to help
the Pope against the Spanish,
was speedily recalled after St. Quentin had fallen. The
Pope thought that the French
had been of little use, and bluntly said so, when he
heard that Henry wished the
commander to return to France. "Go then," he told the
duke, "having done little for
your king, less for the Church, and nothing for your
In France Guise was welcomed with joy. Nobles and
men-at-arms flocked to his
standard, as brave as before the defeat of St. Quentin.
The duke led his army to Calais, and in January 1558,
after only a week's siege, the
town was stormed and taken from the English, in whose
hands it had been for more
than two hundred years.
When Queen Mary of England heard that Calais was taken
by the French she was lying
ill in bed. Her grief at the loss of the town was so
great that she became rapidly
worse. As she lay dying she said to those who watched
beside her, "If my heart is
opened there will be found graven upon it the word
After his success at Calais, the Duke of Guise soon
enjoyed another, though a different kind of triumph. His
 niece, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was married
Dauphin Francis. This marriage the duke believed would
increase his influence both
in France and Scotland.
Soon afterwards, in 1559, Philip II. made peace with
Henry, for he wished the French
king to help him to find out and kill all heretics in
France and in his own vast
The Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis was, therefore, signed
in April 1559. In this treaty,
among other arrangements, was this secret one—that the
Guises should do all they
could to slay every heretic living in France.
To make the alliance between Henry and Philip more
sure, it was arranged that the
daughter of the French king should marry the King of
After the wedding a grand tournament was held near
Paris. As King Henry tilted with
the captain of his Scottish guards, a splinter of wood
broke off the captain's
lance, pierced the king's eye, and entered his brain.
After a short illness Henry II. died at the age of forty.
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