The province derives its name from the Santones, an ancient Gallic tribe that once inhabited the area. During antiquity, Saintonge was part of the Roman province of Gallia Aquitania, and Saintes became its first capital. The region fell under the control of the kings and dukes of Aquitaine, the counts of Anjou, then the counts of Poitiers, before becoming integrated for centuries in the new Duchy of Aquitaine. Occupying the frontier between Capetian and Plantagenet-controlled areas during the late Middle Ages, between 1152 and 1451, it was the site of constant struggles between lords torn between their allegiance to Anglo-Aquitaine and those linked to Paris.
Saintonge was primarily attached to Anglo-Aquitaine until the mid-fourteenth century. However, errors by Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster and Edward, the Black Prince gradually contributed to weakening English power, and the province ultimately came under the control of the King of France, Charles VII, "the Victorious", in 1451.
Saintonge was the birthplace of French explorer Jean Allefonsce (or Alfonse) in 1484, and Samuel de Champlain in 1574, who explored the New World and founded Quebec. It also was one of the centers of French Huguenots, Protestants.
The distinctive Saintongeais dialect (patouê saintonjhouê, jhabrail) was once spoken throughout Saintonge, as well as in the provinces of Aunis and Angoumois.
The region is famous for its grapes, which are used to produce cognac and Pineau des Charentes.