Siege of Sancerre, 3 January-19 August 1573

The siege of Sancerre (3 January-19 August 1573) was one of the epic sieges of the French Wars of Religion, lasting for seven months and only ended after the defenders were included in the deal that ended the Fourth War of Religion.

In the aftermath of the St. Bartholomew's Eve Massacre (24 August 1572) the Huguenots of Berry and surrounding areas took refuge in Sancerre on the Loire. The citizens refused to accept a Royal garrison sent by Charles IX but they failed to make preparations to defend their city, leaving buildings close to the walls and failing to build up a stock of supplies inside the city.

On 3 January a Royal army of 5,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry under La Chastre appeared outside Sancerre, marking the start of the siege. During January, February and March La Chastre made a number of attempts to storm the city, all of which failed, and on 20 March he decided to conduct a blockade instead.

The defenders of Sancerre quickly ran short of food, and were forced to eat their horses and mules, then the cats, rice and mice of the town and finally the dogs. 

In July news reached the city of the Edict of Pacification issued at Boulogne. This agreement had ended the siege of La Rochelle, and had given the Huguenots the right to free worship in La Rochelle, Montauban and Nismes but not in Sancerre. Despite the desperate shortage of food in the town the defenders continued to resist. By August around 500 people had died of hunger, including most of the younger children in the town.

With the war effectively over elsewhere the Royal commanders were willing to offer more generous terms. The townsfolk were offered immunity from plunder and a similar level of religious freedom as in the first three towns, in return for a payment of 40,000 livres. The siege came to an end on 19 August, and the Royal commander made his entrance into the town on 31 August. The terms of the surrender do not appear to have been respected, and Protestant worship within Sancerre almost disappeared for some time.

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 (14 February 2011), Siege of Sancerre, 3 January-19 August 1573 ,

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