June 17, 2024

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When Brest was an English port!

When Brest was an English port!

Due to the small size of the Brest fortress, part of the English soldiers had to stay with the local population. ©Brest Page

In the fourteenthe In the century, the battles between the Plantagenets (who ruled England) and the Valois for the crown of France (the Hundred Years’ War, 1337–1453) were grafted into a war of succession: Jean de Montfort, the pretender to the Duchy of Brittany, inherited. The support of King Edward III of England, but the peers of the Kingdom of France preferred Charles of Blois.

Montfort was captured at Nantes, but his wife sent advisers across the Channel: from 1342, military reinforcements arrived from England, whose king landed in Brittany the following year.

This campaign was A failure and Edward III departed, leaving behind him a “safe and well-armed garrison” in the harbour. BrestIt provided a “safe haven” for its fleets departing for its lands in Aquitaine.

A less demanding profession?

As the castle of Brest was strong and heavily armed, the King of England did not bother to station substantial troops there. The isolation of the place deprived it of an important strategic role and the garrison played only a minor part in the fighting.

The occupation was expensive and brought about on a small scale, as the British power did not want to impose too much of a financial burden on the population, which might be pushed into a “desperate rebellion”.

Due to the small nature of the fort, few soldiers had to do Stay with the locals, but nothing else is known. Of course, there were some abuses and robberies, especially towards the end, but until 1397 when the son of Jean de Montfort bought the place, overall, the occupation was not too painful for the people.

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Departure of the British

The war of succession culminated in the Battle of Orre on September 23, 1364, during which Charles de Blois was killed: Jean de Montfort’s son became duke under the name Jean IV, but King Edward III of England did not want to return Breton. Ports including Brest were under its control.

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From 1373, John IV was exiled for six years by his former supporters, who now reproached him for being too close to the English. Meanwhile, no one, not even Du Guesclin, could take Brest by force. After Many accusations, John IV managed to recover Brest only after the death of Edward III, in the context of a significantly weakened British power: the duke was forced to buy the port and the city for the sum of 120,000 francs in gold! English soldiers sacked Brest on June 30, 1397.

Benoit Quinquis

Source: Marie-Thérèse Clotre (ed.), History of BrestCRBC, 2000.

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