30th June : Our Lady Of Calais

Our Lady Of Calais

Country : France

Year : 1347

For a whole year the town of Calais in France was besieged by the English, who lost many troops.  Starvation finally forced the French to give up.  But the English King, Edward III, would not accept their surrender unless six citizens of Calais came before him, bare-headed, bare-footed, dressed in rough shirts, and each with a halter about his neck.  He demanded the keys of Calais and that these men accept his pleasure, however severe, before the rest of the citizens would receive mercy.

The entire population prayed to Our Lady of Calais; those who could kneel, knelt at her shrine.

No one wanted to give his life in such a way; finally a nobleman stepped forward and offered his head as a ransom to the English king so the city of Calais would be spared.  Five others volunteered, and dressed as the king had demanded.  The irate king angrily reminded them of the losses he had suffered through their stubbornness; then he ordered the six citizens to be beheaded.

The king’s bravest and noblest warriors pleaded with him to spare the men, but in vain.  Then Queen Philippa arose from her seat beside the king and kneeling before him with tears streaming down her cheeks, she pleaded:  “My lord and husband, I have crossed the sea through many dangers to be with you.  Let me now pray you to have pity on these six prisoners.”

After a few minutes of deep thought the king declared:  “Madam, I wish you had been elsewhere this day.  I cannot deny the boon you ask me.  Take these men and dispose of them as you will.”

The gracious queen gave the six hostages better clothing, each a certain amount of money and had them safely brought back through the lines and set at liberty to return home.

The king humiliated at his queen’s mercy, spared the town.  Our Lady of Calais was, ever more than before, the merciful Mother of Calais.

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