Siege of Cambrai, 11 August-7 October 1595

The siege of Cambrai (11 August-7 October 1595) saw a Spanish army under the count of Fuentes recapture Cambrai, which had been in French hands since 1581 (Ninth War of Religion).

While Henry was dealing with a Spanish threat to Burgundy, another Spanish army under the count of Fuentes invaded Picardy. Fuentes captured Le Catelet (half way between Saint Quentin and Cambrai), then moved north-west to take Doullens (north of Amiens). A French force under Henry de la Tour d’Auvergne, duke of Bouillon (also known as Turenne), Saint-Paul and Villars attempted to raise the siege, but suffered a defeat in which Villars was killed (24 July).

After taking Dourlens, Fuentes moved south-east to besiege Cambrai. Cambrai was the site of a semi-independent bishopric that had been held by the Hapsburgs until 1581, when it had been seized by the duke of Anjou. When Henry IV came to the throne the city was held by the Catholic League, but soon afterwards the governor changed sides, and at the start of 1595 the city was loyal to Henry IV.

On 11 August Fuentes began a siege of Cambrai. Henry learnt of these Spanish successes while he was at Lyon, where he had moved after forcing the Spanish out of Burgundy in the aftermath of the battle of Fontaine-Française (6 June 1595). He sent de Vic to try and lift the siege. He attempted to raise a relief force, but after this failed managed to get into the city with reinforcements (2 September). On 12 September Henry announced that he would save Cambrai or die, but he had no money, and while he was attempting to raise funds the city fell. Governor Balagny attempted to introduce a system of copper tokens to help pay for the garrison, but this angered the people. On 2 October they seized one of the city gates and let in the Spanish. The French held on in the Citadel for a few days longer, but had no supplies and had to surrender on 9 October.

The French officially abandoned their claim to Cambrai in the treaty of Vervins, 2 May 1598, which ended the war between France and Spain. One of the terms of the treaty was that each side should return any towns take since the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis, so the French lost Cambrai.

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 (25 April 2018), Siege of Cambrai, 11 August-7 October 1595 ,

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