Siege of Montauban

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Siege of Montauban
Part of: Huguenot Wars
Plan of the siege of Montauban, M. Merian 1646
Plan of the siege of Montauban , M. Merian 1646
date August 22 - November 9, 1621
location Montauban
exit Withdrawal of the besiegers
Parties to the conflict

Royal Pavilion de la France.svg Kingdom of France

Croix huguenote.png Huguenots


King Louis XIII
Maréchal Charles d'Albert, duc de Luynes , Connétable de Luynes

François de Béthune , Duc d'Orval
Jacques Nompar de Caumont

Troop strength
25,000 men, 38–45 guns 6,000, 40 cannons, 32 couleuvrines

8,000 fallen, 8,000–9,000 deceased

600–800 fallen

The siege of Montauban took place from August to November 1621. It was carried out by the royal troops under the command of Louis XIII. Their opponents were the Protestant citizens of Montauban and the troops at their disposal.

Montauban, a Protestant bastion

The reform of the Church recommended by Jean Calvin met with a strong response in the French Midi . In the middle of the 16th century, several south-eastern centers took over the Reformed faith. In 1561, the Protestant elite came to power in Montauban and ruled the city without restrictions. Most of the Catholic churches were looted and destroyed. Only the Saint-Jacques church was converted to a Protestant church and so survived the religious revolution. The atrocities of the war of religion strengthened the sentiments of the Protestants in the city, which became a Protestant bastion in the Quercy . The surrounding towns and villages could not escape the influence of Montauban and also converted to Protestantism. As early as 1562, the Catholic party launched an unsuccessful attack on the city, which was then fortified more and more, which made its reputation for impregnability grow steadily. The Edict of Nantes initially recognized Montauban as a free Protestant city in which the Calvinists could continue to pursue their creed. After the death of Henry IV and the accession of Louis XIII. The political situation changed fundamentally, however, as the new king described the Protestant cities as rebels.

The beginning

Campaigns of Louis XIII. in the midi (1621–1622)

In June 1621, Louis XIII besieged and conquered. the city of Saint-Jean-d'Angély , an important strategic point from which the hinterland of the important Huguenot fortress of La Rochelle could be controlled. A siege of La Rochelle was out of the question at this time, as it would have required a navy, which Ludwig was not available at that time. Instead, he turned south with the bulk of his troops, subjugated Guyenne , besieged and captured Clairac, and from there moved against Montauban.

Armed forces

Montauban was commanded by Jacques Nompar de Caumont , duc de La Force, who was assisted by his two sons, the Maréchaux de camp Henri and Jean. The defense forces consisted of 10 companies of mercenaries who had previously fought in the War of Succession of the Margraviate of Montferrat in Savoy and in the Eighty Years' War in the Netherlands. They were under the command of François de Béthune, duc d'Orval, the younger son of Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully. There were also 30 citizen companies that had been called on by religious fanatics such as Daniel Chamier . They viewed their city as the citadel of Calvinism and also relied on the promise of Benjamin de Rohan , duc de Soubise, who had sworn to protect the city. Soubise had gathered 5-6,000 foot soldiers and 500 mounted musketeers, as well as a large number of voluntary nobles in the Cevennes and the lower Languedoc , but had to retreat to La Rochelle after the defeat at Clairac.

The siege army consisted of the same units that had previously taken Saint-Jean-d'Angély. The only exceptions were the "Régiment de Castel-Bayard", left behind to observe La Rochelle, and the "Régiment de Rambures", which was near Bergerac .

In front of the city were available:

The regiments without a flag only existed until around 1630, the others partly up to the present day, the Régiment de Picardie still exists as part of the Franco-German Brigade.

On the staff of Louis XIII. were:

The siege

The core of the Huguenot revolt in the Tarn and Garonne departments (1621–1628)
The fortifications of Montauban at the time of the siege
The Saint-Jacques church, the last vestige of the medieval church buildings. The impacts of the siege guns' bullets can still be seen in the building.

The Maréchal de Lesdiguières advised the king to perform a classical siege with the enclosure ring around the works and bastions based on the model of the siege of Amiens in 1597.

The Connétable de Luynes intended to carry out the siege in three rule-compliant steps: constant fire by the artillery, at the same time ditching the approaching trenches against the walls and ultimately the actual attack by the infantry.

On August 17, 1621, the king, the Connétable de France Charles d'Albert Duke of Luynes and the staff about 10 kilometers north of Montauban took general quarters in the Château de Piquecos, from where the siege was commanded. 25,000 men were deployed, the siege artillery initially consisted of 38 cannons. The defenders countered this with 6,000 men with 40 cannons and 32 field snakes (couleuvrines). The 20-year-old king was able to follow the events of the siege well from the castle at a higher elevation. The surrounding villages were captured and the siege could begin, although the attackers did not assume that it would be an easy matter.

Little did the Duke de Luynes know at the time that the harvest had been good that summer and that all the cattle had been brought into town. So the Protestants were well equipped.

On the morning of August 17th, the guards on the ramparts saw the first soldiers from the village of Loubejac appear. The Protestant Montaubans, commanded by François de Béthune, Alexander Du Puy Saint-André-Montbrun and Jacques Nompar de Caumont, incited by religious zealots like Daniel Chamier and others, were ready to defend their city to the utmost.

Every day the thirteen pastors of the city cheered up the troops and declared everything extraordinary as a sign of God, such as a rainbow after a futile storm of the besiegers, or two cannonballs fired from opposite positions that collided in the air.

Le Bret, a town clerk, also mentioned the women who played an active role in repelling the attacks, such as a young girl who cut off two fingers of an attacker after he appeared on a ladder at the top of the wall or Guillaumette de Gasc, who, after killing two enemy officers with a pike, was fatally wounded by a musket ball.

The attack

Immediately three attack columns and one cavalry column were set up:

  • Hornwerk Montmurat northwest on the right bank of the river
Column of the Guards under the command of Charles d'Albert, supported by Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, Honoré d'Albert d'Ailly and François de Bassompierre ( Colonel général of the Swiss Guard ), with a focus on the hornworks of Montmurat and that of Saint- Antoine. The column was led by the Régiment des Gardes françaises and the Régiment des Gardes Suisses , reinforced by the Régiment de Piémont , the Régiment de Normandie , the Régiment de Chappes and the Régiment d'Estissac
  • Bastion Moustier southeast on the right bank of the river
The second column was commanded by Charles de Guise, Prince de Joinville, assisted by Jean-François de La Guiche Saint-Géran. The attack was aimed at the suburban bastion "Moustier" in the southeast of the city. The attacks were carried out by the Régiment de Picardie, the Régiment de Champagne, the Régiment de Navarre, the Régiment de Villeroy and the Régiment de Vaillac
  • Ville-Bourbon bridgehead on the left bank of the river
The third column was commanded by Henri Duc de Mayenne, supported by Pons de Lauzières-Thémines, and was assigned to the fortifications on the suburb of Ville-Bourbon. The column consisted of the Régiment de Languedoc, the Régiment de Rambures (arrived from Bergerac), the Régiment de Saint-Étienne and the Régiment de Lauzières
  • The 3,000 rider strong cavalry under the command of Charles duc d'Angoulême had the task of supporting the infantry in case of need, as well as securing the siege. It was in the vicinity of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val

Even before the construction of the parallel trenches made progress, the besieged undertook a massive sortie on August 22nd , commanded by Capitaine Béarnais Mazères comte de Bourgfranc, who was directed against the camp of the Connétable de Luynes. The failure could be repulsed by the Piémont regiment, which lost a large number of men and officers.

A battery of eight and one battery of four guns were installed to break through the walls.

In view of the solid walls and the thrown up defenders, all attempts at storming turned out to be as useless as they were a waste of human life.

The Régiment de Picardie stormed the bastion "Moustier" on August 27 without success, leaving 600 dead on the Contrescarpe .

  • September 1st: The siege artillery, meanwhile 45 guns strong, began with the systematic bombardment of the city. A spark exploded powder kegs that were too close, killing around 40 soldiers and one officer.
  • September 4: An attack against the suburb of Villebourbon had to be paid for with 400 dead, including the Marquis de Thémines. On the same day the César de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme, with a number of Breton nobles, and three companies of cavalry reached the siege army.
  • September 16: Henri de Mayenne was struck by a musket ball in the eye in one of the trenches and killed.
  • September 22: A countermine loaded with 2,800 pounds of powder exploded beneath the Guard's battery, killing about 30 men. After that, the besieged immediately began a sortie in which the bulwarks and fascines were set on fire, and they also tried to take a cannon with them. For better burning of the bulwarks and fascines, bundles of straw were carried by women. The murderous attacks of the besieged visibly shook the morale of the royal troops.

During this time Henri II. De Rohan tried to recruit and smuggle a thousand men into the city to assist Jacques Nompar de Caumont in the continuation of the city's defense. However, the area was guarded by the cavalry of the Dukes of Angoulème and Vendôme, which were staggered as far as Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. On the evening of September 20th, three battalions of Huguenots from the Cevennes left Castres to reinforce the defenders of Montauban. They reached the Tarn at Lagrave and got to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val without any problems. On September 25, they were met by a guide from Montalban over the Aveyron to a demi- lieue (2 km) outside the city out. Despite the siege troops surrounding the fortress, consisting of infantry, cavalry and various redoubts , 700 men managed to cross the enemy lines and get into the city as reinforcements.

In October the Duke of Montmorency gathered 500 horsemen and 6,000 infantry in his Languedoc governorate in order to lead them to the siege troops. These were the Régiment de Rieux, the Régiment de Réaux, the Régiment de Moussoulens, the Régiment de Fabrègues and the Régiment de La Roquette. This had become necessary because great losses had occurred in the fighting, but also diseases (such as the plague and typhus ) had wreaked havoc in the royal ranks.

  • October 11th: The besieged made a successful sortie in which 300 prisoners were taken and a cannon was captured.
  • October 17th: A general attack by the royal troops turned into a complete failure with great losses. A counterattack cost the besiegers 400 dead.

The hail of shells continued, but the commanders began to turn against the Connétable. Some resigned their command, others said that the matter had to be ended now.

Luynes had lost her courage in the meantime, and the king was becoming increasingly dissatisfied. He wrote to the Prince de Condé :

Even if our resolutions, our care, our foresight, our vigilance, our courage cannot do anything against heaven; neither against the plague, the bloodstream in the trenches and a hundred other contagious diseases; an army reduced from 45,000 men to 5 or 6,000, without Marshals of France, without colonels, without captains, without first lieutenants or lieutenants, when there are only 10 of 120 artillery officers left, no professors (or archers) to maintain discipline No engineers or workers, when two thirds of what remains consists of perfidy and the last third remains in extreme boredom and fatigue, depressed by wounds and cold, the officers often sick due to lack of bread and food, we can counter this true To perform miracles in misery? "

Bassompierre wrote:

" ... I was of the opinion to break off the enterprise and spare the king the army until a better time comes. "

According to legend, Louis XIII, still hoping for a surrender, ordered 400 cannonballs to be fired at Montauban at the same time on an October night, which, however, did not seem to have impressed the defenders.

In the meantime the rear lines of the royal army were threatened by Henri de Rohan, who was standing with his forces in the vicinity of Reyniès . After the failed attempts at negotiations in October between the Duke of Luynes and Rohan, Louis XIII saw himself. forced to break off the siege on November 9, 1621. He moved to Toulouse and thence to Bordeaux . Before that, they had burned all the siege equipment, the surrounding villages and the Château de Montbeton ( Tarn-et-Garonne department ). The figures for the losses of the royal army vary, at least 8,000 men must have died - the total losses are likely to have been 16,000 to 18,000 men. Defenders' losses are estimated at 600 to 800.

On the march to Bordeaux, the army was commanded by François de Bassompierre . On November 11th, they took the heavily fortified Huguenot village of Monheurt , which was burned down on the king's orders and the fortifications razed.

Other personal details

"... à la grande joie des envieux de sa fortune"

(to the great joy of those who envy his [previous] luck)

and little mourned by Louis XIII, who did not forgive him for the failure of Montauban.


The city's resistance to a superior royal army, based on a well-prepared defense and a highly motivated population, earned it the admiration of contemporaries of this era. But after the besiegers were chased away, a new plague appeared in the city: it was plague and typhus that originated from the carcasses left behind in the royal camp and that wiped out many of the city's residents.

"Cars that brought the spoils of war into the city brought the poison with them, which infected many residents."

Despite his defeat, the king did not give up. The following year he returned to the region to pursue a different strategy. First he attacked the less fortified cities. He took Nègrepelisse without a fight, which ended in a massacre, since he had all male Huguenots (around 800) executed, then Saint-Antonin in June 1622 . As a result, Montauban was cut off from its surroundings and responded with an aggressive policy. Between 1625 and 1628 the Catholic towns of Moissac , Montech , Orgueil and Labastide Saint Pierre were attacked. In return, the royalist soldiers devastated the towns of Montbeton and Saint-Nauphary. As a result of the siege of La Rochelle and the capture of the city and the subsequent Peace of Alès , Montauban was forced to negotiate. On August 20, 1629, the city surrendered to Cardinal Richelieu without having been militarily defeated.

Soon after, the Catholic authorities began to recatholize the city, culminating in the construction of the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Another reprisal was the partial repeal of the Edict of Nantes by Richelieu.

The ramparts and walls of Montauban were completely torn down and never rebuilt.

Legacies of the siege

  • The impacts of cannonballs from the siege guns can still be seen on the facade and on the bell tower of the Saint-Jacques church.
  • The expression "faire les 400 coups" (to make 400 blows) comes from the time of the siege
  • In September, the "400 coups" fair takes place as a further souvenir of this time.
  • “Les boulets de Montauban” (The balls of Montauban) are made from chocolate by the confectioners from Montalban as a reminder of 1621.
  • The play “La légende des 400 coups” is staged annually in August.


  • Dénes Harai (éd.): Journal d'un officier de Louis XIII sur le siège de Montauban (1621) - Dans l'enfer de la "Seconde Rochelle" , Paris, Éditions L'Harmattan, 2012, 101 pp., ISBN 978 -2-296-99144-6 . (fr.)
  • Le Tarn et Garonne de la Préhistoire à nos jours , ouvrage sous la direction de Jean Claude Fau, Éditions Bordessoules, 2003, pp. 192–194. (fr.)
  • Les Mystères du Tarn et Garonne , Patrick Caujolle, Éditions De Borée, 2009. (fr.)
  • Histoire de Montauban , ouvrage sous la direction de Daniel Ligou, Éditions Privat, 1984. (fr.)
  • Petite Histoire générale du Tarn-et-Garonne Tome second du XVI ° siècle à la création du département (1808) , Louis Canet, Éditions de régionalismes, 2011. (fr.)
  • Histoire de Montavban depvis la fondation de son abbaie par le roy Pepin jusqu'à l'épiscopat de Pierre de Bertier, par Flottard Perrin de Grandpré chanoine de la collegiale de Saint Étienne de Tescou au diocièse de Montauban , transcription du manuscrit original de la collection d'Emerand Forestié par André Serres et Georges Forestié, 2004. (fr.)


  1. "Batailles françaises" by Colonel Édouard Hardy de Périni volume 3 (1621–1643)
  2. crow
  3. also called: Régiment de Bury
  4. also called: Villebourbon
  5. Mazères de Bourg Franc sur wikisource
  6. left of the tarn
  7. here the king is wrong
  8. 'Archer' - old French expression for easy rider
  9. With only about 40 guns this was not possible anyway
  10. , Histoire de Montavban depvis la fondation de son abbaie par le roy Pepin jusqu'à l'episcopate de Pierre de Bertier 'of Flottard Perrin de Grandpré, Canon in the College Saint Etienne de Tescou the Diocese of Montauban, the fifth book, chapter 8th (fr.)
  11. Even on today's aerial photos, almost nothing can be seen of the former fortifications, only the boulevard Chenrtlly and the rue de Pater partly give an idea of ​​the course of the former walls
  12. has only local meaning