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The old part of the town, Calais proper (known as Calais-Nord), is situated on an artificial island surrounded by canals and harbours.The modern part of the town, St-Pierre, lies to the south and south-east.The municipal charter of Calais, previously granted by the Countess of Artois, was reconfirmed by Edward that year (1347).Its customs revenues amounted at times to a third of the English government's revenue, with wool being the most important element by far.

Today, Calais is visited by more than 10 million annually.

The population of the metropolitan area at the 2010 census was 126,395.

Calais overlooks the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel, which is only 34 km (21 mi) wide here, and is the closest French town to England.

Maintaining Calais was a costly business that was frequently tested by the forces of France and the Duchy of Burgundy, with the Franco-Burgundian border running nearby.

The duration of the English hold over Calais was, to a large extent, the result of the feud between Burgundy and France, under which both sides coveted the town, but preferred to see it in the hands of the English rather than their domestic rivals.

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