Siege of Cahors, 28-31 May 1580

The siege of Cahors (28-31 May 1580) was the main military action of the Seventh War of Religion, and saw Henry of Navarre capture a city that had been promised to him as part of his wife’s dowry.

Cahors and the province of Quercy had been part of Margaret of Valois’s dowry when she married Henry of Navarre, but it had never been delivered to her. Although Navarre claimed that the persecution of the Huguenots was at the heart of his decision to go to war in April 1580, the city was his first objective, a decision that helped earn the war the name of the ‘Lover’s War’.

Cahors was a strongly defended town, protected on three sides by the River Lot. The garrison was commanded by the very able Monsieur de Vezins and was about the same size as Navarre’s attacking army. The inhabitants were strongly Catholic, and supported the garrison.

Navarre was lucky that his attack was carried out in terrible weather, and caught the garrison by surprise. He approached the city during a storm, and was able to attach a petard to a gate defending one of the bridges across the Lot without being detected (this was a new device at the time, and had probably first been used at Lisle-sur-Tarn in 1577). When the petards were detonated they were mistaken for thunder by most of the defenders, allowing Navarre’s men inside the city. However the defenders then rallied, and it took four days of street fighting before the Huguenot’s were able to take possession of the city. Vezins was killed early in the battle, probably played a part in the failure of the defence.

Elsewhere things didn’t go as well for the Huguenots, and late in 1580 peace negotiations began at Fleix in Perigord. The resulting Peace of Fleix (November 1580) was a virtual re-issue of the earlier Peace of Bergerac, and on this occasion five years of peace followed, before the death of the duke of Anjou triggered the crisis that led to the Eighth War of Religion.

The French Religious Wars 1562-1598, Robert Jean Knecht. A useful guide to the complex series of nine French Wars of Religion, including an examination of who the wars began and the main players on both sides, narrative accounts of the wars, overviews of the most important battles and sieges. Also looks at the impact of the wars on France’s neighbours, many of whom got dragged into the conflict, and on a selection of soldiers and civilians. Supported by a series of maps that help show how complex the conflict was
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 January 2018), Siege of Cahors, 28-31 May 1580 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_cahors.html

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