The Seige of La Rochelle, Charente Maritime, France.

The siege of La Rochelle, bite-size. 

The siege, which started in 1627, marked the height of the struggle between French Catholics (under the king Louis XIII) and the Huguenots (Protestants) in France, and ended with a complete victory for King Louis XIII and the Catholics.

La Rochelle was a Huguenot stronghold, and it ruled itself. It was the main port for Huguenot sea power, and the strongest centre of resistance against the Catholic royal government.The city was, at this time, the second largest in France, with over 30,000 inhabitants.

The king, Louis XIII, was only 9 years old when he came to the throne, and he was heavily influenced by his fiercely Catholic mother, Marie de’ Medici.  Resistance to Catholicism exploded into a Huguenot rebellion. In 1621, Louis XIII, now aged 19, besieged and captured nearby Saint-Jean d’Angély (approx. 40 kms from the Domaine de Rochebonne), and a blockade of La Rochelle was attempted.

In 1625 the king captured the Île de Ré, just off the coast of La Rochelle, in 1625.

The English king Charles I sent a fleet of 80 ships to help La Rochelle. The English fleet landed on the nearby island of Île de Ré with 6,000 men, thus starting the Anglo-French War of 1627, with the objectives being to control the approaches to La Rochelle.

In August 1627 French royal forces started to surround La Rochelle, with an army of 7,000 soldiers, 600 horses and 24 cannons.

Entrenchments, forts and a sea wall were rapidly built.  English ships supplied the beleaguered city which rapidly became totally blockaded.

Residents of La Rochelle resisted for 14 months, with gradually diminishing help from England. During the siege, the population of La Rochelle decreased from 27,000 to 5,000 due to casualties, famine, and disease.

Surrender was unconditional. The Huguenots lost their territorial, political and military rights, but retained religious freedom. However, when Louis XIV came to the throne in 1643, religious freedom was no longer tolerated and active persecution of the Huguenots started. Most sailed from La Rochelle for the Americas, never to return.

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