His services were rewarded (August) with a grant for seven years of the coveted captaincy of Calais, which had been held by the dead Somerset (ib. p. 334; Rot. Parl. v. 309, 341). The post was a congenial one to a man of his unbridled energy, and York required some one he could trust there to conduct negotiations with Philip, duke of Burgundy, and others who were hostile to Charles VII of France, Queen Margaret's uncle and friend. Messengers were in London in November from John, duke of Alençon, who was conspiring against Charles, and urging an English invasion of France. Warwick in their presence put the duke's seal to his lips and swore to accomplish his wishes, even if he had to pledge all his lands (Beaucourt, Hist. of Charles VII, vi. 52). But the lieutenants of the late captain of Calais, Lords Welles and Rivers, refused to hand over their charge to Warwick; and it was not until the garrison had been propitiated by a parliamentary arrangement for the payment of their arrears that he was allowed on 20 April 1456 to take over the command (Ord. Privy Council, vi. 276; Rot. Parl. v. 341; Ramsay, ii. 191). Alençon's conspiracy was detected in May, and Warwick seems to have stayed in England until October, when Margaret ousted York and himself from the conduct of the government, and but for the Duke of Buckingham's intervention would have put them under arrest (Paston Letters, i. 386, 392; Rot. Parl. v. 347). Warwick went over to Calais, and presently entered into negotiations with Philip of Burgundy, with whose representatives he held a conference at Oye, near Calais, in the first week of July 1457 (Beaucourt, vi. 124). Though Queen Margaret for the moment had the upper hand in England, Charles VII had good reason to resent the possession of Calais by the Yorkists. In August, accordingly, the French admiral De Brezé sacked Sandwich, from which Calais was victualled (ib. p. 145; Paston Letters, i. 416–17). But De Brezé's success only strengthened Warwick's position. The Duke of Exeter, who was captain of the sea, failed to have his fleet ready before the injury was done, and his neglect gave Warwick's friends the opportunity of obtaining the transfer of the post to him for three years, with a lien on the whole of the tonnage and poundage, and 1,000l. a year from the duchy of Lancaster (ib. i. 424; Doyle; Rot. Parl. v. 347).
In February or March 1458 he came over from Calais, with six hundred men ‘in red jackets with white ragged staves [a Beauchamp cognisance] upon them,’ to take part in the projected reconciliation of parties (Fabyan, p. 633). His share in the fatal battle of St. Albans was to be forgiven on condition that he helped to found a chantry at St. Albans for masses for the souls of the dead, and made over one thousand marks to the relatives of Lord Clifford, who had been slain in the battle (Whethamstede, i. 295–8). In the ‘love-day’ procession to St. Paul's on 25 March Warwick walked with Exeter, who bore him no good will since he had supplanted him as captain of the sea (Paston Letters, i. 424). The harmony of parties was of the hollowest description, and Calais continued to be a centre of Yorkist intrigue. Warwick returned to his post, and seems to have secretly arranged with Duke Philip for common action against France and Queen Margaret. A marriage was suggested between a granddaughter of Philip and one of York's sons, but the duke was not yet prepared to commit himself so openly to the Yorkist cause (Fœdera, xi. 410; Beaucourt, vi. 260).
Warwick, moreover, did not think it prudent to attack France directly, but did not hesitate to assail a fleet of twenty-eight ‘sail of Spaniards,’ merchantmen, including sixteen ships of forecastle belonging to Charles VII's ally, Henry IV of Castille, which appeared off Calais on 29 May 1458. Warwick had twelve vessels, of which only five were ships of forecastle, and after six hours' fighting withdrew. He had captured six ships, but one at least of these seems to have been recovered. The loss of life on the English side was considerable, and they acknowledged themselves ‘well and truly beat’ (Paston Letters, i. 428). Nevertheless this achievement and the others which followed were hailed in England with unwarrantable enthusiasm. There had not been so great a battle on the sea since Henry V's days, men said (ib.) Warwick, who affected a generous ardour for the national well-being, had already won favour with the people (Wavrin, v. 319). His exploits in the Channel made him the idol of the seafaring population of the southern ports, especially in Kent, which had suffered greatly by the loss of Normandy and the boldness of French pirates and privateers. Bent on confirming the impression he had made, Warwick within a very few weeks sallied forth from Calais, summoned a salt fleet bound for Lübeck to strike their flags ‘in the king's name of England,’ and on their refusal carried them into Calais (Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 71). This was a flagrant violation of the truce which had been made with Lübeck only two years before, and gave Queen Margaret an opening of which she did not fail to avail herself. Lord Rivers,