King Charles 4 died
without descendants and Edward 3 king of England claimed the crown of France and resolved to conquer it by
force. After the English victory at Crecy,
near Abbeville, in September 1346, Edward III laid siege to Calais. The siege was long and harsh and when it was in its 11th month the starving Calaisiens decided they could take no more. The Governor, Jean de Vienne, sent a message to the English king saying he would surrender if everyone in the town, soldiers and citizens alike, was given a pardon.
Edward replied that he would accept the surrender provided six of Calais's most respected citizens came to hand over the keys to the castle and town. However, he also demanded that they should be barefoot, with nooses around their necks, and that they should beg him for mercy.
These conditions were reported back to the people of Calais and six burghers volunteered to step into the English lion's den. They were Jean d'Aire, Jacques and Pierre de Wissant, Jean de Fiennes, Andrieus d'Andres and Eustache de Saint-Pierre, one of the town's richest inhabitants, who before leaving said he was prepared to sacrifice his life for the sake of his fellow Calaisiens.
So the six walked out of the walled town to their moment of destiny. When they
arrived at the king's encampment, they were a pitiful sight.
Indeed, Edward's consort, Queen Philippine, was so moved that she pleaded with
the king not to harm them. Her words had the desired effect. Edward allowed them
to return to the town as heroes and the siege was lifted.