JOAN OF ARC
LORD RONALD GOWER, F.S.A.
A TRUSTEE OF THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
WITH TEN ILLUSTRATIONS
SEVEN ETCHINGS AND THREE PHOTO-ETCHINGS
LONDON JOHN C. NIMMO 14 KING WILLIAM STREET, STRAND MDCCCXCIII
My mother had what the French call a culte for the heroine whose life I have attempted to write in the following pages.
It was but natural that one who loved and admired all that is good and beautiful and high-minded should have a strong feeling of admiration for the memory of Joan of Arc. On the pedestal of the bronze statue, which my mother placed in her house at Cliveden, are inscribed those words which sum up the life and career of the Maid of Orleans:—
'La grande pitie qu'il y avait au royaume de France.'
Thinking that could my mother have read the following pages she would have approved the feeling which prompted me to write them, I inscribe this little book to her beloved memory.
The authors whose works I have chiefly used in writing this Life of Joan of Arc, are—first, Quicherat, who was the first to publish at length the Minutes of the two trials concerning the Maid—that of her trial at Rouen in 1430, and of her rehabilitation in 1456, and who unearthed so many chronicles relating to her times; secondly, Wallon, whose Life of Joan of Arc is of all the fullest and most reliable; thirdly, Fabre, who has within the last few years published several most important books respecting the life and death of Joan. Fabre was the first to make a translation in full of the two trials which Quicherat had first published in the original Latin text.
Thinking references at the foot of the page a nuisance to the reader, these have been avoided.
The subjects for the etched illustrations in this volume have been kindly supplied by my friend, Mr. Lee Latrobe Bateman, during a journey we made together to places connected with the story of the heroine.
LONDON, January, 1893.
PAGE CHAPTER I. THE CALL 1
CHAPTER II. THE DELIVERY OF ORLEANS 39
CHAPTER III. THE CORONATION AT RHEIMS 70
CHAPTER IV. THE CAPTURE 100
CHAPTER V. IMPRISONMENT AND TRIAL 138
CHAPTER VI. MARTYRDOM 242
CHAPTER VII. THE REHABILITATION 253
APPENDIX. I. JOAN OF ARC IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH HISTORY 289
II. JOAN OF ARC IN POETRY 301
FRENCH BIBLIOGRAPHY 311
ENGLISH BIBLIOGRAPHY 320
List of Illustrations
(SEVEN ETCHINGS, THREE PHOTO-ETCHINGS).
TOUR COUDRAY—CHINON FRONTISPIECE
CHINON To face page 16
STREET IN CHINON " 20
HALL OF AUDIENCE—CHINON " 28
TOUR D'HORLOGE—CHINON " 32
WEST PORTAL—RHEIMS " 80
INTERIOR—RHEIMS " 96
FIFTEENTH-CENTURY HOUSES—COMPIEGNE " 112
TOUR DE LA PUCELLE—COMPIEGNE " 128
ST. OUEN—ROUEN " 224
JOAN OF ARC.
Never perhaps in modern times had a country sunk so low as France, when, in the year 1420, the treaty of Troyes was signed. Henry V. of England had made himself master of nearly the whole kingdom; and although the treaty only conferred the title of Regent of France on the English sovereign during the lifetime of the imbecile Charles VI., Henry was assured in the near future of the full possession of the French throne, to the exclusion of the Dauphin. Henry received with the daughter of Charles VI. the Duchy of Normandy, besides the places conquered by Edward III. and his famous son; and of fourteen provinces left by Charles V. to his successor only three remained in the power of the French crown. The French Parliament assented to these hard conditions, and but one voice was raised in protest to the dismemberment of France; that solitary voice, a voice crying in a wilderness, was that of Charles the Dauphin—afterwards Charles VII. Henry V. had fondly imagined that by the treaty of Troyes and his marriage with a French princess the war, which had lasted over a century between the two countries, would now cease, and that France would lie for ever at the foot of England. Indeed, up to Henry's death, at the end of August 1422, events seemed to justify such hopes; but after a score of years from Henry's death France had recovered almost the whole of her lost territory.
There is nothing in history more strange and yet more true than the story which has been told so often, but which never palls in its interest—that life of the maiden through whose instrumentality France regained her place among the nations. No poet's fancy has spun from out his imagination a more glorious tale, or pictured in glowing words an epic of heroic love and transcendent valour, to compete with the actual reality of the career of this simple village maiden of old France: she who, almost unassisted and alone, through her intense love of her native land and deep pity for the woes of her people, was enabled, when the day of action at length arrived, to triumph over unnumbered obstacles, and, in spite of all opposition, ridicule, and contumely, to fulfil her glorious mission.
Sainte-Beuve has written that, in his opinion, the way to honour the history of Joan of Arc is to tell the truth about her as simply as possible. This has been my object in the following pages.
On the border of Lorraine and Champagne, in the canton of the Barrois—between the rivers Marne and Meuse—extended, at the time of which we are writing, a vast forest, called the Der. By the side of a little streamlet, which took its source from the river Meuse, and dividing it east by west, stands the village of Domremy. The southern portion, confined within its banks and watered by its stream, contained a little fortalice, with a score of cottages grouped around. These were situated in the county of Champagne, under the suzerainty of the Count de Bar.
The northern side of the village, containing the church, belonged to the Manor of Vaucouleurs. In this part of the village, in a cottage built between the church and the rivulet close by, Joan of Arc was born, on or about the 6th of January, 1412. The house which now exists on the site of her birthplace was built in 1481, but the little streamlet still takes its course at its foot. Michelet, in his account of the heroine, says the station in life of Joan's father was that of a labourer; later investigations have proved that he was what we should call a small farmer. In the course of the trial held for the rehabilitation of Joan of Arc's memory, which yields valuable and authentic information relating to her family as well as to her life and actions, it appears that the neighbours of the heroine deposed that her parents were well-to-do agriculturists, holding a small property besides this house at Domremy; they held about twenty acres of land, twelve of which were arable, four meadow-land, and four for fuel. Besides this they had some two to three hundred francs kept safe in case of emergency, and the furniture goods and chattels of their modest home. The money thus kept in case of sudden trouble came in usefully when the family had to escape from the English to Neufchateau. All told, the fortune of the family of Joan attained an annual income of about two hundred pounds of our money, a not inconsiderable revenue at that time; and with it they were enabled to raise a family in comfort, and to give alms and hospitality to the poor, and wandering friars and other needy wayfarers, then so common in the land.
Two documents lately discovered prove Joan's father to have held a position of some importance at Domremy. In the one, dated 1423, he is styled 'doyen' (senior inhabitant) of the village, which gave him rank next to the Mayor. In the other, four years later, he fills a post which tallies with what is called in Scotland the Procurator-fiscal.
The name of the family was Arc, and much ink has been shed as to the origin of that name. By some it is derived from the village of d'Arc, in the Barrois, now in the department of the Haute Marne; and this hypothesis is as good as any other.
Jacques d'Arc had taken to wife one Isabeau Romee, from the village of Vouthon, near Domremy. Isabeau is said to have had some property in her native village. The family of Jacques d'Arc and Isabella or Isabeau consisted of five children: three sons, Jacquemin, Jean, and Pierre, and two daughters, the elder Catherine, the younger Jeanne, or Jennette, as she was generally called in her family, whose name was to go through the ages as one of the most glorious in any land.
Well favoured by nature was the birthplace of Joan of Arc, with its woods of chestnut and of oak, then in their primeval abundance. The vine of Greux, which was famous all over the country-side as far back as the fourteenth century, grew on the southern slopes of the hills about Joan's birthplace. Beneath these vineyards the fields were thickly clothed with rye and oats, and the meadow-lands washed by the waters of the Meuse were fragrant with hay that had no rival in the country. It was in these rich fields that, after the hay-making was over, the peasants let out their cattle to graze, the number of each man's kine corresponding with the number of fields which he owned and which he had reaped.
The little maid sometimes helped her father's labourers, and the idea has become general that Joan of Arc was a shepherdess; in reality, it was only an occasional occupation, and probably undertaken by Joan out of mere good-nature, seeing that her parents were well-to-do people. All that we gather of Joan's early years proves her nature to have been a compound of love and goodness. Every trait recorded of the little maid's life at home which has come down to us reveals a mixture of amiability, unselfishness, and charity. From her earliest years she loved to help the weak and poor: she was known, when there was no room for the weary wayfarer to pass the night in her parents' house, to give up her bed to them, and to sleep on the floor, by the hearth.
She loved her mother tenderly, and in her trial she bore witness before men to the good influence that she had derived from that parent. Isabeau d'Arc appears to have been a devout woman, and to have brought up her children to love work and religion. Joan loved to sit by her mother's side for the hour together, spinning, and doubtless listening to the stories of wars with the hereditary enemy. When she could be of use, Joan was ever ready to lend a hand to help her father or brothers in the rougher labours of coach-house, stable, or farmyard, to keep watch over the flocks as they browsed by the river-side along the meadow-lands.
Joan had not the defect of so many excellent but tedious women, who love talk for the mere sake of talking: she seems to have been reserved; but, as she proved later on, she was never at a loss for a word in season, and with a few words could speak volumes. From her childhood she showed an intense and ever-increasing devotion to things holy; her delight in prayer became almost a passion. She never wearied of visiting the churches in and about her native village, and she passed many an hour in a kind of rapt trance before the crucifixes and saintly images in these churches. Every morning saw her at her accustomed place at the early celebration of her Lord's Sacrifice; and if in the afternoon the evening bells sounded across the fields, she would kneel devoutly, and commune in her heart with her divine Master and adored saints. She loved above all things these evening bells, and, when it seemed to her the ringer grew negligent, would bribe him with some little gift—the worked wool from one of her sheep or some other trifle—to remind him in the future to be more instant in his office. That this little trait in Joan is true, we have the testimony of the bell-ringer himself to attest.
This devotion to her religious duties had not the effect of making Joan less of a companion to her fellow-villagers. She could not have been so much beloved by them as she was had she held herself aloof from them: on the contrary, Joan enjoyed to play with the lads and village lasses; and we hear of her swiftness of foot in the race, of her gracefulness in the village dance, either by the stream or around an old oak-tree in the forest, which was said to be the favourite haunt of the fairies.
Often in the midst of these sports Joan would break away from her companions, and enter some church or chapel, where she placed garlands of flowers around statues of her beloved saints.
Thus passed away the early years of the maiden's gentle life, among her native fields, with nothing especially to distinguish her from her companions beyond her goodness and piety. A great change, however, was near at hand. The first of those mysterious and supernatural events which played so all-important a part in the life of our heroine occurred in the summer of 1425, when Joan was in her thirteenth year. In her trial at Rouen, on being asked by her judges what was the first manifestation of these visions, she answered that the first indication of what she always called 'My voices' was that of St. Michel. It is not a little remarkable that this vision of St. Michel, the patron saint of the French army, should have taken place in the summer of 1425, at the time of a double defeat by land and sea of the enemy of France, and when the Holy Mount in Normandy, crowned by the chapel guarded by St. Michel, was once again in the hands of the French. At the same time, Joan of Arc experienced some of the hardships of war when the country around Domremy was overrun by the enemy; and the little household of the Arcs had to fly for shelter to the neighbouring village of Chateauneuf, in Lorraine.
I will pass somewhat rapidly over the visions, or rather revelations—for, whatever doubts one may hold as to such heavenly messengers appearing literally on this earth, no man can honestly doubt that Joan believed as firmly in these unearthly visitants coming from Heaven direct as she did in the existence of herself or of her parents. On the subject of these voices and visions no one has written with more sense than a distinguished prelate who was a contemporary of the heroine's—namely, Thomas Basin, Bishop of Lisieux, who, in a work relating to Joan of Arc, writes thus:—
'As regards her mission, and as regards the apparitions and revelations that she affirmed having had, we leave to every one the liberty to believe as he pleases, to reject or to hold, according to his point of view or way of thinking. What is important regarding these visions is the fact that Joan had herself no shadow of a doubt regarding their reality, and it was their effect upon her, and not her natural inclination, which impelled her to leave her parents and her home to undertake great perils and to endure great hardships, and, as it proved, a terrible death. It was these visions and voices, and they alone, which made her believe that she would succeed, if she obeyed them, in saving her country and in replacing her king on his throne. It was these visions and voices which finally enabled her to do those marvellous deeds, and accomplish what appeared to all the world the impossible; these voices and visions will ever be connected with Joan of Arc, and with her deathless fame and glory.'
From the year 1425 till 1428, the apparitions and voices were heard and seen more or less frequently.
It is the year 1427: all that remains to Charles of his kingdom north of the Loire, with the exception of Tournay, are a pitiful half-dozen places. Among these is Vaucouleurs, near Domremy. They are defended by a body of men under the command of a knight, Robert de Baudricourt, who is about to play an important part in the history of Joan.
In one of her visions the maid was told to seek this knight, that through his help she might be brought to the French Court; for the voices had told her she might find the King and tell him her message, by which she should deliver the land from the English, and restore him to his throne. There had not been wanting legends and prophecies upon the country-side which may have impressed Joan, and helped her to believe that it was her mission to deliver France. One of the prophecies was to the effect that a maiden from the borders of Lorraine should save France, that this maiden would appear from a place near an oak forest. This seemed to point directly to our heroine. The old oak-tree haunted by the fairies, the neighbouring country of Lorraine, were all in help of the tradition. Since the betrayal of her husband's country by the wife of Charles VI., another saying had been spread abroad throughout all that remained of that small portion of France still held by the French King—namely, that although France would be lost by a woman, a maiden should save it. Any hope to the people in those distressful days was eagerly seized on; and although the first prophecy dated from the mythical times of Merlin, it stirred the people, especially when, later on, Joan of Arc appeared among them, and her story became known.
These prophecies appear to have struck deeply into Joan's soul; they, and her voices aiding, made her believe she was the maiden by whom her country would be delivered from the presence of the enemy. But how was she to make her parents understand that it was their child who was appointed by Heaven to fulfil this great deliverance? Her father seems to have been a somewhat harsh, at any rate a practical, parent. When told of her intention to join the army, he said he would rather throw her into the river than allow her to do so. An attempt was made by her parents to induce her to marry. They tried their best, but Joan would none of it; and bringing the case before the lawyers at Toul, where she proved that she had never thought of marrying a youth whom her parents required her to wed, she gained her cause and her freedom.
In order to take the first step in her mission, Joan felt it necessary to rely on some one outside her immediate family. A distant relation of her mother's, one Durand Laxart, who with his wife lived in a little village then named Burey-le-Petit (now called Burey-en-Vaux), near Vaucouleurs, was the relation in whose care she placed her fate. With him and his wife Joan remained eight days; and it might have been then that the plan was arranged to hold an interview with Baudricourt at Vaucouleurs, in order to see whether that knight would interest himself in Joan's mission.
The interview took place about the middle of the month of May (1428), and nothing could have been less propitious. A soldier named Bertrand de Poulangy, who was one of the garrison of Vaucouleurs, was an eye-witness of the meeting. He accompanied Joan of Arc later on to Chinon, and left a record of the almost brutal manner with which Baudricourt received the Maid. From this soldier's narrative we possess one of the rare glimpses which have come down to us of the appearance of the heroine: not indeed a description of what would be of such intense interest as to make known to us the appearance and features of her face; but he describes her dress, which was that then worn by the better-to-do agricultural class of Lorraine peasant women, made of rough red serge, the cap such as is still worn by the peasantry of her native place.
It is much to be regretted that no portrait of Joan of Arc exists either in sculpture or painting. A life-size bronze statue which portrayed the Maid kneeling on one side of a crucifix, with Charles VII. opposite, forming part of a group near the old bridge of Orleans, was destroyed by the Huguenots; and all the portraits of Joan painted in oils are spurious. None are earlier than the sixteenth century, and all are mere imaginary daubs. In most of these Joan figures in a hat and feathers, of the style worn in the Court of Francis I. From various contemporary notices, it appears that her hair was dark in colour, as in Bastien Lepage's celebrated picture, which supplies as good an idea of what Joan may have been as any pictured representation of her form and face. Would that the frescoes which Montaigne describes as being painted on the front of the house upon the site of which Joan was born could have come down to us. They might have given some conception of her appearance. Montaigne saw those frescoes on his way to Italy, and says that all the front of the house was painted with representations of her deeds, but even in his day they were much injured.
When Joan at length stood before the knight of Vaucouleurs, she told him boldly that she had come to him by God's command, and that she was destined to give the King victory over the English. She even said that she was assured that early in the following March this would be accomplished, and that the Dauphin would then be crowned at Rheims, for all these things had been promised to her through her Lord.
'And who is he?' asked de Baudricourt.
'He is the King of Heaven,' she answered.
The knight treated Joan's words with derision, and Joan herself with insults; and thus ended the first of their interviews.
It was only in the season of Lent of the next year (March 1427) that Joan again sought the aid of de Baudricourt. On the plea of attending her cousin Laxart's wife's confinement, Joan returned to Burey-le-Petit. She left Domremy without bidding her parents farewell; but it has been recorded by one of her friends, named Mengeth, a neighbour of the d'Arcs, that she told this woman of her intention of going to Vaucouleurs, and recommended her to God's keeping, as if she felt that she would not see her again. At Burey-le-Petit Joan remained between the end of January until her departure for Chinon, on the 23rd of February; and before taking final leave she asked and received her parents' pardon for her abrupt departure from them.
While with the Laxarts, news reached Vaucouleurs that the English had commenced the siege of Orleans. This intelligence brought matters to a crisis, for with the loss of Orleans the whole of what remained to the French King must fall into the hands of the enemy, and France felt her last hour of independence had come.
Joan determined on again seeking an interview with Robert de Baudricourt, and this second meeting between her and the knight, which took place six months after the first, had far happier results. As M. Simeon Luce has pointed out in his history of 'Jeanne d'Arc at Domremy,' the situation both of Charles VI. and of the knight of Vaucouleurs was far different in 1429 to what it had been when Joan first saw de Baudricourt at Vaucouleurs in the previous year. The most important stronghold held by the French in their ever-lessening territory was in utmost danger of falling into the grasp of the English; while de Baudricourt was anxiously waiting to hear whether his protector, the Duc de Bar, whom Bedford had summoned to enter into a treaty with the English, would not be prevailed upon to do so. If he consented, this would make the knight's tenure of Vaucouleurs impracticable. It was probably owing to this state of affairs that, on her second interview with the knight of Vaucouleurs, Joan of Arc was favourably received by him. Since the first visit to de Baudricourt by the Maid of Domremy, her name had become familiar to many of the people in and about Vaucouleurs. An officer named Jean de Metz has left some record of his meeting at this time with Joan; for he was afterwards examined among other witnesses at the time of the Maid's rehabilitation in 1456. De Metz describes the Maid as being clothed in a dress of coarse red serge, the same as she wore on her first visit to Vaucouleurs. When he questioned her as to what she expected to gain by coming again to Vaucouleurs, she answered that she had returned to induce Robert de Baudricourt to conduct her to the King; but that on her first visit he was deaf to her entreaties and prayers. But, she added, she was still determined to appear before Charles, even if she had to go to him all the way on her knees.
'For I alone,' she added, 'and no other person, whether he be King, or Duke, or daughter of the King of Scots' (alluding to the future wife of Charles VII.'s son, Louis XI.—Margaret of Scotland) 'can recover the kingdom of France.'
As far as her own wishes were concerned, she said she would prefer to return to her home, and to spin again by the side of her beloved mother; for, she added: 'I am not made to follow the career of a soldier; but I must go and carry out this my calling, for my Lord has appointed me to do so.'
'And who,' asked de Metz, 'is your Lord?'
'My Lord,' answered the Maid, 'is God Himself.'
The enthusiasm of Joan seems to have at once gained the soldier's heart. He took her by the hand, and swore that God willing he would accompany her to the King. When asked how soon she would be ready to start, she said that she was ready. 'Better to-day than to-morrow, and better to-morrow than later on.'
During her second visit to Vaucouleurs, Joan remained with the same friends as on her former visit; they appear to have been an honest couple, of the name of Le Royer. One day while Joan was helping in the domestic work of her hosts, and seated by the side of Catherine Le Royer, Robert de Baudricourt suddenly entered the room, accompanied by a priest, one Jean Fournier, in full canonicals. It appeared that the knight had conceived the brilliant idea of finding out, through the assistance of the holy man, whether Joan was under the influence of good or evil spirits, before allowing her to go to the King's Court.
As may be imagined, Joan received the priest with all respect, kneeling before him; and the good father was soon able to reassure de Baudricourt that the evil spirits had no part or parcel in the heart of the maid who received him with so much humility.
For three weeks Joan was left in suspense at Vaucouleurs, and probably it was not until a messenger had been sent to Chinon and had returned with a favourable answer, that at length de Baudricourt gave a somewhat unwilling consent to Joan's leaving Vaucouleurs on her mission to Chinon. During those weary weeks of anxious waiting, Joan's hostess bore witness in after days to the manner in which the time was passed: of how she would help Catherine in her spinning and other homely work, but, as when at home, her chief delight was to attend the Church services, and she would often remain to confession, after the early communion in the church. The chapel in which she worshipped was not the parochial church of Vaucouleurs, but was attached to the castle, and it still exists. In that castle chapel, and in a subterranean crypt beneath the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Vaucouleurs, Joan passed much of her time. Seven and twenty years after these events, one Jean le Fumeux, at that time a chorister of the chapel, a lad of eleven, bore witness, at the trial in which the memory of Joan was vindicated, to having often seen her kneeling before an image of the Virgin. This image, a battered and rude one, still exists. Nothing less artistic can be imagined; but no one, be his religious views what they may, be his abhorrence of Mariolatry as strong as that of a Calvinist, if he have a grain of sympathy in his nature for what is glorious in patriotism and sublime in devotion, can look on that battered and broken figure without a feeling deeper than one of ordinary curiosity.
A short time before leaving Vaucouleurs, Joan made a visit into Lorraine—a visit which proved how early her fame had spread abroad. The then reigning Duke of that province, Charles II. of Lorraine, an aged and superstitious prince, had heard of the mystic Maid of Domremy, and he had expressed his wish to see her, probably thinking that she might afford him relief from the infirmities from which he suffered. Whatever the reason may have been, he sent her an urgent request to visit him, a message with which Joan at once complied.
Accompanied by Jean de Metz, Joan went to Toul, and thence with her cousin, Durand Laxart, she proceeded to Nancy. Little is known of her deeds while there. She visited Duke Charles, and gave him some advice as to how he should regain his character more than his health, over which she said she had no control. The old Duke appears to have been rather a reprobate, but whether he profited by Joan's advice does not appear.
Possibly this rather vague visit of the Maid's to Nancy was undertaken as a kind of test as to how she would comport herself among dukes and princes. That she showed most perfect modesty of bearing under somewhat difficult circumstances seems to have struck those who were with her at Nancy. She also showed practical sagacity; for she advised Duke Charles to give active support to the French King, and persuaded him to allow his son-in-law, young Rene of Anjou, Duke of Bar, to enter the ranks of the King's army, and even to allow him to accompany her to the Court at Chinon. By this she bound the more than lukewarm Duke of Lorraine to exert all his influence on the side of King Charles.
Before leaving Nancy on her return to Vaucouleurs, Joan visited a famous shrine, not far from the capital, dedicated to St. Nicolas, after which she hastened back to Vaucouleurs to make ready for an immediate start for Chinon.
Joan's equipment for her journey to Chinon was subscribed for by the people of Vaucouleurs; for among the common folk there, as wherever she was known, her popularity was great. She seems to have won in every instance the hearts of the good simple peasantry, the poorer classes in general, called by a saintly King of France the 'common people of our Lord,' who believed in her long before others of the higher classes and the patricians were persuaded to put any faith in her. To the peasantry Joan was already the maiden pointed out in the old prophecy then known all over France, which said that the country would be first lost by a woman and then recovered by a maiden hailing from Lorraine. The former was believed to be the Queen-mother, who had sided with the English; Joan, the Maid out of Lorraine who should save France, and by whose arm the English would be driven out of the country.
Clad in a semi-male attire, composed of a tight-fitting doublet of dark cloth and tunic reaching to the knees, high leggings and spurred boots, with a black cap on her head, and a hauberk, the Maid was armed with lance and sword, the latter the gift of de Baudricourt. Her good friends of Vaucouleurs had also subscribed for a horse. Thus completely equipped, she prepared for war, ready for her eventful voyage. Her escort consisted of a knight named Colet de Vienne, accompanied by his squire, one Richard l'Archer, two men-at-arms from Vaucouleurs, and the two knights Bertrand de Poulangy and Jean de Metz—eight men in all, well armed and well mounted, and thoroughly prepared to defend their charge should the occasion arise. Nor were precautions and means of repelling an attack unnecessary, for at this time the country around Vaucouleurs was infested by roving bands of soldiers belonging to the Anglo-Burgundian party. Especially dangerous was that stretch of country lying between Vaucouleurs and Joinville, the first of the many stages on the way to Chinon. Although the knights and men of the small expedition were not without apprehension, Joan seems to have shown no sign of fear: calm and cheerful, she said that, being under the protection of Heaven, they had nothing to fear, for that no evil could befall her.
There still exists the narrow gate of the old castle of Vaucouleurs through which that little band rode out into the night; hard by is the small subterranean chapel, now under repair, where Joan had passed so many hours of her weary weeks of waiting at Vaucouleurs. The old gate is still called the French Gate, as it was in the days of the Maid.
It was the evening of the 23rd of February, 1429, that the little band rode away into the open country on their perilous journey. Joan, besides adopting a military attire, had trimmed her dark hair close, as it was then the fashion of knights to do—cut round above the ears. Even this harmless act was later brought as an accusation against her. Joan was then in her seventeenth year, and, although nothing but tradition has reached us of her looks and outward form, it is not difficult to imagine her as she rides out of that old gate, a comely maid, with a frank, brave countenance, lit up by the flame of an intense enthusiasm for her country and people. There can be no doubt that by her companions in arms—rough soldiers though most of them were—she was held in veneration; they bore testimony to their feelings by a kind of adoration for one who seemed indeed to them more than mortal. Wherever Joan appeared, this feeling of veneration spread rapidly through the length and breadth of the land; and the people were wont to speak of the future saviour of France, not by the name of Joan the Maid, or Joan of Arc, but as the Angelic One—'l'Angelique.'
Among the crowd who gathered to see Joan depart was de Baudricourt, who then made amends for his rudeness and churlish behaviour on her first visit by presenting her with his own sword, and bidding her heartily god-speed. 'Advienne que pourra!' was his parting salute.
The journey between Vaucouleurs and Chinon occupied eleven days. Not only was the danger of attack from the English and Burgundian soldiers a great and a constant one, but the winter, which had been exceptionally wet, had flooded all the rivers. Five of these had to be crossed—namely, the Marne, the Aube, the Seine, the Yonne, and the Loire: and most of the bridges and fords of these rivers were strictly guarded by the enemy. The little band, for greater security, mostly travelled during the night. Their first halt was made at the Monastery of Saint-Urbain-les-Joinville. The Celibat of this monastery was named Arnoult d'Aunoy, and was a relative of de Baudricourt. After leaving that shelter they had to camp out in the open country.
Joan's chief anxiety was that she might be able to attend Mass every day. 'If we are able to attend the service of the Church, all will be well,' she said to her escort. The soldiers only twice allowed her the opportunity of doing so, on one occasion in the principal church of the town of Auxerre.
They crossed the Loire at Gien; and at that place, in the church dedicated to one of Joan's special saints—St. Catherine, for whom she held a personal adoration—she thrice attended Mass.
When the little band entered Touraine, they were out of danger, and here the news of the approach of the Maid spread like wildfire over the country-side. Even the besieged burghers of Orleans learned that the time of their delivery from the English was at hand.
Perhaps it was when passing through Fierbois that Joan may have been told of the existence in its church of the sword which so conspicuously figured in her later story, and was believed to have been miraculously revealed to her.
A letter was despatched from Fierbois to Charles at Chinon, announcing the Maid's approach, and craving an audience. At length, on the 6th of March, Joan of Arc arrived beneath the long stretch of castle walls of the splendid old Castle of Chinon.
That imposing ruin on the banks of the river Vienne is even in its present abandoned state one of the grandest piles of mediaeval building in the whole of France. Crowning the rich vale of Touraine, with the river winding below, and reflecting its castle towers in the still water, this time-honoured home of our Plantagenet kings has been not inaptly compared to Windsor. Beneath the castle walls and the river, nestles the quaint old town, in which are mediaeval houses once inhabited by the court and followers of the French and English kings.
When Joan arrived at Chinon, Charles's affairs were in a very perilous state. The yet uncrowned King of France regarded the chances of being able to hold his own in France as highly problematical. He had doubts as to his legitimacy. Financially, so low were his affairs that even the turnspits in the palace were clamouring for their unpaid wages. The unfortunate monarch had already sold his jewels and precious trinkets. Even his clothes showed signs of poverty and patching, and to such a state of penury was he reduced that his bootmaker, finding that the King was unable to pay him the price of a new pair of boots, and not trusting the royal credit, refused to leave the new boots, and Charles had to wear out his old shoe-leather. All that remained in the way of money in the royal chest consisted of four gold 'ecus.' To such a pitch of distress had the poor King, who was contemptuously called by the English the King of Bourges, sunken.
Now that Orleans was in daily peril of falling into the hands of the English, and with Paris and Rouen in their hold, the wretched sovereign had serious thoughts of leaving his ever-narrowing territory and taking refuge either in Spain or in Scotland. Up to this time in his life Charles had shown little strength of character. His existence was passed among a set of idle courtiers. He had placed himself and his broken fortunes in the hands of the ambitious La Tremoille, whose object it was that the King should be a mere cipher in his hands, and who lulled him into a false security by encouraging him to continue a listless career of self-indulgence in his various palaces and pleasure castles on the banks of the Loire. Charles had, indeed, become a mere tool in the hands of this powerful minister. The historian Quicherat has summed up George de la Tremoille's character as an avaricious courtier, false and despotic, with sufficient talent to make a name and a fortune by being a traitor to every side. That such a man did not see Joan of Arc's arrival with a favourable eye is not a matter of surprise, and La Tremoille seems early to have done his utmost to undermine the Maid's influence with his sovereign. From the day she arrived at Chinon, if not even before her arrival there—if we may trust one story—an ambush was arranged by Tremoille to cut her off with her escort. That plot failed, but her capture at Compiegne may be indirectly traced to La Tremoille's machinations.
Those who have visited Chinon will recall the ancient and picturesque street, named La Haute Rue Saint Maurice, which runs beneath and parallel with the castle walls and the Vienne. Local tradition pointed out till very recently, in this old street, the stone well on the side of which the Maid of Domremy placed her foot on her arrival in the town. This ancient well stone has recently been removed by the Municipality of Chinon, but fortunately the 'Margelle' (to use the native term) has come into reverent hands, and the stone, with its deeply dented border, reminding one of the artistic wells in Venice, is religiously preserved.
Of Chinon it has been said:
Chynon, petit ville, Grande renom.
Its renown dates back from the early days of our Plantagenets, when they lived in the old fortress above its dwellings: how Henry III. died of a broken heart, and the fame of Rabelais, will ever be associated with the ancient castle and town. Still, the deathless interest of Chinon is owing to the residence of the Maid of Domremy—as one has a better right to call her than of Orleans—in those early days of her short career, in its burgh and castle. In or near the street La Haute Rue Saint Maurice, hard by a square which now bears the name of the heroine, Joan of Arc arrived at noon on Sunday, the 6th of March.
It would be interesting to know in which of the old gabled houses Joan resided during the two days before she was admitted to enter the castle. Local tradition reports that she dwelt with a good housewife ('chez une bonne femme'). According to a contemporary plan of Chinon, dated 1430, a house which belonged to a family named La Barre was where she lodged; and although the actual house of the La Barres cannot be identified, there are many houses in the street of Saint Maurice old enough to have witnessed the advent of the Maid on that memorable Sunday in the month of March 1430. Few French towns are so rich in the domestic architecture of the better kind dating from the early part of the fifteenth century as that of Chinon; and now that Rouen, Orleans, and Poitiers have been so terribly modernised, a journey to Chinon well repays the trouble. Little imagination is required to picture the street with its crowd of courtiers and Court hangers-on, upon their way to and from the castle above; so mercifully have time and that far greater destroyer of things of yore dealt with this old thoroughfare.
Two days elapsed before Joan was admitted to the presence of the King. A council had been summoned in the castle to determine whether the Maid should be received by the monarch. The testimony of the knights who had accompanied the Maid from Vaucouleurs carried the day in her favour.
While waiting to see the King, we have from Joan's own lips a description of how her time was passed. 'I was constantly at prayers in order that God should send the King a sign. I was lodging with a good woman when that sign was given him, and then I was summoned to the King.'
The church in which she passed her time in prayer was doubtless that of Saint Maurice, close by the place at which she lodged. It owed its origin to Henry II. of England; it is a rare and beautiful little building of good Norman architecture, but much defaced by modern restoration. Its age is marked by the depth at which its pavement stands, the ground rising many feet above its present level.
A reliable account of Joan of Arc's interview with King Charles has come down to us, as have so many other facts in her life's history, through the witnesses examined at the time of the heroine's rehabilitation. Foremost among these is the testimony of a priest named Pasquerel, who was soon to become Joan's almoner, and to accompany her in her warfare. He tells how, when Joan was on her road to enter the castle, a soldier used some coarse language as he saw the young Maid pass by—some rude remark which the fellow qualified with an oath. Turning to him, the Maid rebuked him for blaspheming, and added that he had denied his God at the very moment in which he would be summoned before his Judge, for that within an hour he would appear before the heavenly throne. The soldier was drowned within the hour. At least such is the tale as told by Priest Pasquerel.
The castle was shrouded in outer darkness, but brilliantly lit within, as Joan entered its gates. The King's Chamberlain, the Comte de Vendome, received the Maid at the entrance of the royal apartments, and ushered her into the great gallery, of which fragments still exist—a blasted fireplace, and sufficient remains of the original stone-work to prove that this hall was the principal apartment in the palace. Flambeaux and torches glowed from the roof and from the sides of this hall, and here the Court had assembled, half amused, half serious, as to the arrival of the peasant girl, about whom there had been so much strange gossip stirring. Now the grass grows in wild luxuriance over the pavement, and the ivy clings to the old walls of that noble room, in which, perhaps, the most noteworthy of all recorded meetings between king and subject then took place. A score of torches held by pages lit the sides of the chamber. Before these were ranged the knights and ladies, the latter clothed in the fantastically rich costume of that time, with high erections on their heads, from which floated long festoons of cloth, and glittering with the emblems of their families on their storied robes. The King, in order to test the divination of the Maid, had purposely clad himself in common garb, and had withdrawn himself behind his more brilliantly attired courtiers.
Ascending the flight of eighteen steps which led into the hall, and following Vendome, Joan passed across the threshold of the hall, and, without a moment's hesitation singling out the King at the end of the gallery, walked to within a few paces of him, and falling on her knees before him—'the length of a lance,' as one of the spectators recorded—said, 'God give you good life, noble King!' ('Dieu vous donne bonne vie, gentil Roi').
'But,' said Charles, 'I am not the King. This,' pointing to one of his courtiers, 'is the King.'
Joan, however, was not to be hoodwinked, and, finding that in spite of his subterfuges he was known, Charles acknowledged his identity, and entered at once with Joan on the subject of her mission.
It appears, from all the accounts which have come to us of this interview, that Charles was at first somewhat loth to take Joan and her mission seriously. He appears to have treated the Maid as a mere visionary; but after an interview which the King gave her apart from the crowded gallery, when she is supposed to have revealed to him a secret known only to himself, his whole manner changed, and from that moment Joan exercised a strong influence over the man, all-vacillating as was his character. It has never been known what words actually passed in this private interview between the pair, but the subject probably was connected with a doubt that had long tortured the mind of the King—namely, whether he were legitimately the heir to the late King's throne. At any rate the impression Joan had produced on the King was, after that conversation, a favourable one, and Charles commanded that, instead of returning to her lodging in the town, Joan should be lodged in the castle.
The tower which she occupied still exists—one of the large circular towers on the third line of the fortifications. A gloomy-looking cryptal room on the ground floor was probably the one occupied by Joan. It goes by the name of Belier's Tower—a knight whose wife, Anne de Maille, bore a reputation for great goodness among the people of the Court. Close to Belier's Tower is a chapel within another part of the castle grounds, but the church which in those days stood hard by Joan's tower has long since disappeared—its site is now a mass of wild foliage.
While Joan was at Chinon, there arrived, from his three years' imprisonment in England, the young Duke of Anjou. Of all those who were attached to the Court and related to the French sovereign, this young Prince was the most sympathetic to Joan of Arc. He seems to have fulfilled the character of some hero of romance more than any of the French princes of that time, and Joan at once found in him a chivalrous ally and a firm friend. That she admired him we cannot doubt, and she loved to call him her knight.
Hurrying to Chinon, having heard of the Maid of Domremy's arrival, he found Joan with the King. Her enthusiasm was contagious with the young Prince, who declared how eagerly he would help her in her enterprise.
'The more there are of the blood royal of France to help in our enterprise the better,' answered Joan.
Many obstacles had still to be met before the King accorded liberty of action to the Maid. La Tremoille and others of his stamp threw all the difficulties they could suggest in the way of Joan of Arc's expedition to deliver Orleans: these men preferred their easy life at Chinon to the arbitrament of battle. In vain Joan sought the King and pressed him to come to a decision: one day he said he would consent to her progress, and the following he refused to give his consent. He listened to the Maid, but also to the courtiers, priests, and lawyers, and among so many counsellors he could come to no determination.
Joan during these days trained herself to the vocation which her career compelled her to follow. We hear of her on one occasion surprising the King and the Court by the dexterity with which she rode and tilted with a lance. From the young Duke of Alencon she received the gift of a horse; and the King carried out on a large scale what de Baudricourt had done on a small one, by making her a gift of arms and accoutrements. Before, however, deciding to entrust the fate of hostilities into the hands of the Maid, it was decided that the advice and counsel of the prelates assembled at Poitiers should be taken.
It was in the Great Hall of that town that the French Parliament held its conferences. The moment was critical, for should the decision of these churchmen be favourable to Joan, then Charles could no longer have any scruples in making use of her abilities, and of profiting by her influence.
It was, therefore, determined that Joan should be examined by the Parliament and clergy assembled at Poitiers. The King in person accompanied the Maid to the Parliament. The majestic hall, which still calls forth the admiration of all travellers at Poitiers, is little changed in its appearance since the time of that memorable event. It is one of the noblest specimens of domestic architecture in France: its graceful pillars and arched roof, and immense fireplace, remain as they were in the early days of the fifteenth century.
Of the proceedings of that examination unfortunately no complete report exists. Within a tower connected with the Parliament Hall is still pointed out a little chamber, said to have been occupied by the Maid while undergoing this, the first of her judicial and clerical examinations. But later investigations point to her having been lodged in a house within the town belonging to the family of the Parliamentary Advocate-General, Maitre Jean Rabuteau.
It must have been a solemn moment for Joan when summoned for the first time into the presence of the Court of bishops, judges, and lawyers, whom Charles had gathered together to examine her on her visions and on her mission. The orders had been sent out by the King and the Archbishop of Rheims; Gerard Machot, the Bishop of Castres and the King's confessor; Simon Bonnet, afterwards Bishop of Senlis; and the Bishops of Macquelonne and of Poitiers. Among the lesser dignitaries of the Church was present a Dominican monk, named Sequier, whose account of the proceedings, and the notes kept by Gobert Thibault, an equerry of the King, are the only records of the examination extant. The scantiness of these accounts is all the more to be regretted, inasmuch as Joan frequently referred to the questions made to her, and her answers, at this trial at Poitiers, during her trial at Rouen; and they would probably have thrown much light on the obscure passages of her early years, for at Poitiers she had not to guard against hostile inquisition, and, doubtless, gave her questioners a full and free record of her past life.
The first conference between these prelates, lawyers, and Joan lasted two hours. At first they appeared to doubt the Maid, but her frank and straightforward answers to all the questions put her impressed them with the truth of her character. They were, according to the old chronicles, 'grandement ebahis comme une ce simple bergere jeune fille pouvait ainsi repondre.'
One of her examiners, Jean Lombard by name, a professor of theology from the University of Paris, in asking Joan what had induced her to visit the King, was told she had been encouraged so to do by 'her voices'—those voices which had taught her the great pity felt by her for the land of France; that although at first she had hesitated to obey them, they became ever more urgent, and commanded her to go.
'And, Joan,' then asked a doctor of theology named William Aymeri, 'why do you require soldiers, if you tell us that it is God's will that the English shall be driven out of France? If that is the case, then there is no need of soldiers, for surely, if it be God's will that the enemy should fly the country, go they must!'
To which Joan answered: 'The soldiers will do the fighting, and God will give the victory!'
Sequier, whose account of the proceedings has come down to us, then asked Joan in what language the Saints addressed her.
'In a better one than yours,' she answered.
Now Brother Sequier, although a doctor of theology, had a strong and disagreeable accent which he had brought from his native town of Limoges, and, doubtless, the other clerks and priests tittered not a little at Joan's answer. Sequier appears to have been somewhat irritated, and sharply asked Joan whether she believed in God.
'Better than you do,' was the reply; but Sequier, who is described as a 'bien aigre homme,' was not yet satisfied, and returned to the charge. Like the Pharisees, he wished for a sign, and he declared that he for one could not believe in the sacred mission of the Maid, did she not show them all a sign, nor without such a sign could he advise the King to place any one in peril, merely on the strength of Joan's declaration and word.
To this Joan said that she had not come to Poitiers to show signs, but she added:—
'Let me go to Orleans, and there you will be able to judge by the signs I shall show wherefore I have been sent on this mission. Let the force of soldiers with me be as small as you choose; but to Orleans I must go!'
For three weeks did these conferences last. Nothing was neglected to discover every detail regarding Joan's life: of her childhood, of her family and her friends. And one of the Council visited Domremy to ferret out all the details that could be got at. Needless to say, all that he heard only redounded to the Maid's credit; nothing transpired which was not honourable to the Maid's character and way of life, and in keeping with the testimony Jean de Metz and Poulangy had given the King at Chinon.
One day she said to one of the Council, Pierre de Versailles, 'I believe you have come to put questions to me, and although I know not A or B, what I do know is that I am sent by the King of Heaven to raise the siege of Orleans, and to conduct the King to Rheims, in order that he shall be there anointed and crowned.'
On another occasion she addressed the following words in a letter which John Erault took down from her dictation—to write she knew not—to the English commanders before Orleans: 'In the name of the King of Heaven I command you, Suffolk [spelt in the missive Suffort], Scales [Classidas], and Pole [La Poule], to return to England.'
One sees by the above missive that the French spelling of English names was about as correct in the fifteenth as it is in the nineteenth century.
What stirred the curiosity of Joan's examiners was to try and discover whether her reported visions and her voices were from Heaven or not. This was the crucial question over which these churchmen and lawyers puzzled their brains during those three weeks of the blithe spring-tide at Poitiers. How were they to arrive at a certain knowledge regarding those mystic portents? All the armoury of theological knowledge accumulated by the doctors of the Church was made use of; but this availed less than the simple answers of Joan in bringing conviction to these puzzled pundits that her call was a heavenly one. When they produced piles of theological books and parchments, Joan simply said: 'God's books are to me more than all these.'
When at length it was officially notified that the Parliament approved and sanctioned the mission of the Maid, and that nothing against her had appeared which could in any way detract from the faith she professed to follow out her mission of deliverance, the rejoicing in the good town of Poitiers was extreme. The glad news spread rapidly over the country, and fluttered the hearts of the besieged within the walls of Orleans. The cry was, 'When will the angelic one arrive?' The brave Dunois—Bastard of Orleans—in command of the French in that city, had ere this sent two knights, Villars and Jamet de Tilloy, to hear all details about the Maid, whose advent was so eagerly looked forward to. These messengers of Dunois had seen and spoken with Joan, and on their return to Orleans Dunois allowed them to tell the citizens their impressions of the Maid. Those people at Orleans were now as enthusiastic about the deliverance as the inhabitants at Poitiers, who had seen her daily for three weeks in their midst. All who had been admitted to her presence left her with tears of joy and devotion; her simple and modest behaviour, blended with her splendid enthusiasm, won every heart. Her manner and modesty, and the gay brightness of her answers, had also won the suffrage of the priests and lawyers, and the military were as much delighted as surprised at her good sense when the talk fell on subjects relating to their trade.
It was on or about the 20th of April 1429 that Joan of Arc left Poitiers and proceeded to Tours. The King had now appointed a military establishment to accompany her; and her two younger brothers, John and Peter, had joined her. The faithful John de Metz and Bertrand de Poulangy were also at her side. The King had selected as her esquire John d'Aulon; besides this she was followed by two noble pages, Louis de Contes and Raimond. There were also some men-at-arms and a couple of heralds. A priest accompanied the little band, Brother John Pasquerel, who was also Joan's almoner. The King had furthermore made Joan a gift of a complete suit of armour, and the royal purse had armed her retainers.
During her stay at Poitiers Joan prepared her standard, on which were emblazoned the lilies of France, in gold on a white ground. On one side of the standard was a painting representing the Almighty seated in the heavens, in one hand bearing a globe, flanked by two kneeling angels, each holding a fleur-de-lis. Besides this standard, which Joan greatly prized, she had had a smaller banner made, with the Annunciation painted on it. This standard was triangular in form; and, in addition to those mentioned, she had a banneret on which was represented the Crucifixion. These three flags or pennons were all symbolic of the Maid's mission: the large one was to be used on the field of battle and for general command; the smaller, to rally, in case of need, her followers around her; and probably she herself bore one of the smaller pennons. The names 'Jesu' and 'Maria' were inscribed in large golden letters on all the flags.
The national royal standard of France till this period had been a dark blue, and it is not unlikely that the awe and veneration which these white flags of the Maid, with their sacred pictures on them, was the reason of the later French kings adopting the white ground as their characteristic colour on military banners.
Joan never made use of her sword, and bore one of the smaller banners into the fight. She declared she would never use her sword, although she attached a deep importance to it.
'My banner,' she declared, 'I love forty times as much as my sword!'
And yet the sword which she obtained from the altar at Fierbois was in her eyes a sacred weapon.
THE DELIVERY OF ORLEANS.
It will be now necessary to go back in our story to the commencement of the siege by the English of the town of Orleans, in order to understand the work which Joan of Arc had promised to accomplish. Orleans was the place of the utmost importance; not merely as being the second city in France, but as forming the 'tete du pont' for the passage of the river Loire. The French knew that were it to fall into the hands of the English the whole of France would soon become subject to the enemy.
The town was strongly fortified; huge towers of immense thickness, and three stories in height, surrounded by deep and wide moats, encircled the city. The only bridge then in existence was also strongly defended with towers, called 'Les Tournelles,' while at the end of the town side of the bridge were large 'bastilles,' powerful fortresses which dated from the year 1417, when Henry V. threatened Orleans after his triumphal march through Normandy. In 1421 the Orleanists defied the victor of Agincourt: again they were in the agony of a desperate defence against their invaders, ready to sustain all the horrors of a siege.
Equally keen and determined were the English leaders to take Orleans, which they rightly considered as the key of what remained unconquered to them in France. Both countries looked anxiously on as the siege progressed. Salisbury commanded the English; he had been up to this point successful in taking all the places of importance in the neighbourhood of Orleans, and that portion of the valley of the Loire was commanded by his forces, both above and below Orleans.
On the approach of the enemy, the inhabitants of Orleans turned out to strengthen the outer fortifications, and to place cannon and catapults on the walls and ramparts. The priests on this occasion worked as hard as the other citizens, and even the women and children helped with a will.
Besides Dunois, who commanded the besieged garrison, was Raoul de Gaucourt, who had defended Harfleur in 1415; he had but recently returned from imprisonment in England, and was burning to avenge his captivity. La Hire, Xaintrailles, Coulant, Coaraze, and Armagnac were among the defenders of Orleans. Many Gascons belonging to the Marshal-Saint Severe and soldiers from Brittany helped to swell the forces of the besieged.
It was on the 12th day of October (1428) that Salisbury crossed the Loire and established his besieging force at the village of Portereau, in front of the strongly defended bridge. In the meanwhile the besieged had razed the houses and the convent of St. Augustin, in order to prevent the enemy from entrenching themselves so near the city gates. Salisbury, however, threw up fortifications on the site of St. Augustin's, and placed a battery of guns opposite to the bridge and its 'bastilles,' whence he was able to bombard the town with huge stones. The English also placed mines below the bridge and the fortresses of the Tournelles.
On the 21st, an assault was made on the bridge and its defences, which was vigorously repulsed; the whole population were in arms, and manned the walls; the women fought by the side of their husbands and brothers. After a severe fight of four hours, the besiegers were forced to withdraw.
The Tournelles were now mined and counter-mined, and were soon found to be untenable. The besieged then abandoned this fortification, and retired further back towards the centre of the bridge, which, as well as its approaches, was defended by towers. Part of the bridge on the side near the English was blown up, and a drawbridge, which could be raised or lowered at pleasure, was thrown across the open space.
Salisbury was satisfied with the result of that day's fighting, for he knew that, once he had the command of the northern side of the tower, he could take it when necessary from that quarter. What he aimed at for the present was to prevent all communication between the town and the south of France. Holding the bridge, he could prevent relief from coming to the city, and when the moment arrived he would be able to throw his men with certain success upon it from the northern side.
The evening of the day in which he had made so successful an attack, Salisbury mounted into the Tournelles in order to inspect thence the city which lay beneath him. While gazing on it, a stray cannon shot struck him on the face; he was carried, mortally wounded, from the place. That fatal shot was said to have been fired by a lad, who, finding a loaded cannon on the ramparts, had discharged it. For the English, it was the deadliest shot of the whole war.
Readers of Shakespeare will remember that, in the first part of Henry VI., the Master Gunner (no doubt that very 'Maitre Jean' whose fame was great in the besieged town) and his boy are introduced on the scene, and that the boy fires the shot which proved fatal both to Salisbury and Sir Thomas Gargrave. The prominent place given to this French Master Gunner in the English play shows what a high reputation Maitre Jean must have had, even among the English, at the siege.
Salisbury's death, occurring a few days after he received the wound, caused the siege to languish. Glansdale succeeded Salisbury in the command; but it was not until the doughty Talbot and Lord Scales appeared on the scene that siege operations recommenced with vigour.
The great pounding match then began again; the huge stone shot of the English, which weighed one hundred and sixty-four livres, came tumbling about the heads of the besieged, to which cannonade the French promptly replied by a heavy fire. They had a kind of bomb, of which they were not a little proud, wherefrom they fired iron shot of one hundred and twenty livres in weight. The Master of Gunners of Shakespeare's play, whose name was John de Monsteschere, made also extraordinary practice with his culverin; and he could pick off marked men in the Tournelles, as, for the misfortune of the English, had been proved in the case of Salisbury. At times Master John would sham dead, and, just as the English were congratulating themselves on his demise, would reappear, and again use his culverin with deadly effect.
On the last day but one of the year (1428), the English had been reinforced, and were now commanded by William de la Pole, Earl, and afterwards Duke of Suffolk, under whose command acted Suffolk's brother, John de la Pole, Lord Scales, and Lancelot de Lisle. In order to maintain touch with his troops posted at the Tournelles, Suffolk threw up flanking batteries on the northern side of the town. To Suffolk's already large force Sir John Fastolfe brought a force of twelve hundred men, in the month of January (1429).
The number of troops mustered by the besieged and besiegers was as follows:—
On the side of the English, there were quartered at the Tournelles five hundred men, under the command of Glansdale; three hundred under Talbot; twelve hundred with Fastolfe. Including those who had come with Suffolk at the commencement of the siege, the English force amounted to four thousand five hundred men.
On the side of the besieged, excluding the armed citizens, who were from three to four thousand strong, was a garrison numbering between six and seven hundred men; also some thousand soldiers had been thrown into the city between the middle of October 1428 and the January following.
Both in strength of position, and as regards the number of their troops, the French had the advantage. The comparative weakness of the English force—which, all told, could only count about four thousand men to carry on the siege—is to be accounted for by the garrisons which were left in the conquered places over the north and south of the country.
The siege was weakly conducted during the winter—a series of skirmishes from the bastilles or towers thrown up by the besiegers led to little result on either side; and it was not till the month of February that a decisive engagement took place.
Near Rouvray a battle was fought, which is known by the singular appellation of the Battle of the Herrings, from the circumstance that, at that Lenten season, a huge convoy of fish was being taken from the coast to Paris. In the fight, the fish-laden barrels were overthrown, and their contents scattered over the field; whence the name of the Battle of the Herrings. During this engagement, in which the French were defeated, fell, on the side of the French, two noble Scots—John Stuart, the Constable of Scotland, and his brother William.
After this action, the position of the besieged in Orleans became more perilous, and the citizens, despairing of help coming to them from Charles, were inclined to call in aid from the Duke of Burgundy. The east, north, and west of the city were covered by the bastilles or huge towers which the besiegers had thrown up, and from which they could bombard the place; and the pressure on the devoted city waxed ever stronger. By the month of April, Orleans was girdled by a chain of fortresses, from which the cannonade was incessant. The English gave names of French towns to these huge towers which threatened Orleans on every side; one they named Paris, another Rouen, and one other they called London.
The thirty thousand men, women, and children within the city walls were now beginning to suffer from the horrors of a long siege. In the town disturbances broke out, and the cry of treachery was heard—that sure precursor of the fears of the strong that the hardships of the siege would undermine the patriotism of their weaker citizens. But when things seemed at their worst, succour was near at hand.
During those winter months the Queen-mother, who had warmly interested herself in Joan of Arc's mission, had, in the Castle of Blois, been collecting troops and securing the services of some notable officers, including the Duke of Alencon. Towards the end of April Joan arrived at Blois from Poitiers, accompanied by the Archbishop of Rheims, Regnault de Chartres. On the 27th of April she left Blois on her first warlike expedition.
No certain account of the numbers of troops which accompanied the Maid has been kept. Monstrelet gives the numbers at seven thousand; but Joan, during her trial, asserted that she had between ten and twelve thousand men committed to her charge by the King. Joan's historian, M. Wallon, points out that this may be an incorrect entry made in the interest of the English at the trial, as they naturally would wish the relieving force to appear as large as possible. It has even been placed as low as three thousand. Among the officers who accompanied the Maid was a Gascon knight, named La Hire, half freebooter, half condottiere, a brave and reckless soldier, of whom it is recorded that, before making a raid, he would offer up the following prayer:—
'I pray my God to do for La Hire what La Hire would do for Him, if He were Captain and La Hire was God.'
From having been a mighty swearer, owing to Joan of Arc's influence La Hire broke off this habit, but, in order to give him some scope for venting his temper, Joan allowed him to swear by his stick.
These are but trivial details: still, they are of interest as showing what influence a simple village maiden like Joan was able to exert on those who, from their position and habits of life, might have been thought to be the last to tolerate such interference. So changed, it is said, had this rough warrior, La Hire, and many of his fellow-soldiers become in their habits while with the Maid, that they were happy to be able to kneel by the side of the sainted maiden and partake in her Lord's Sacrament of the Eucharist; and then to confess themselves to her good father confessor, Peton de Xaintrailles, the Marshal de Boussac, and the Seigneur de Rais.
Joan had the following letter despatched to the Duke of Bedford:—
'In the name of Jesus and Mary—You, King of England; and you, Duke of Bedford [Bethfort], who call yourself Regent of France; you, William de la Pole; you, Earl of Suffolk; you, John Lord Talbot [Thalebot]; and you, Thomas Lord Scales, who call yourselves Lieutenants of the said Bedford, in the name of the King of Heaven, render the keys of all the good towns which you have taken and violated in France, to the Maid sent hither by the King of Heaven. She is ready to make peace if you will consent to return and to pay for what you have taken. And all of you, soldiers, and archers, and men-at-arms, now before Orleans, return to your country, in God's name. If this is not done, King of England, I, as a leader in war, whenever I shall meet with your people in France, will oblige them to go whether they be willing or not; and if they go not, they will perish; but if they will depart I will pardon them. I have come from the King of Heaven to drive you out [bouter] of France. And do not imagine that you will ever permanently hold France, for the true heir, King Charles, shall possess it, for it is God's wish that it should belong to him. And this has been revealed to him by the Maid, who will enter Paris. If you will not obey, we shall make such a stir [ferons un si gros hahaye] as hath not happened these thousand years in France. The Maid and her soldiers will have the victory. Therefore the Maid is willing that you, Duke of Bedford, should not destroy yourself.'
And Joan finishes this strange effusion by proposing to Bedford that they should combine in making a holy war for Christianity!
This letter, written 'in the name of the Maid,' was dated on a Tuesday in Holy Week. The address ran thus: 'To the Duke of Bedford, so called Regent of the Kingdom of France, or to his Lieutenants, now before the town of Orleans.'
Doubtless the reference to the deed of arms which, once again at peace together, might be accomplished by the combined English and French armies, was an idea which seems to have floated in Joan's enthusiastic imagination, that the day might come when the two foremost nations in Christendom would fight together for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre.
As might be expected, this letter was received by the English with gibes and jeers, which was pardonable; but what was not so was the bad treatment of the messenger who had brought it to the English camp. He was kept prisoner, and, if some rather doubtful French writers of the day are to be believed, it was seriously debated whether or not he should be burnt. Let us trust this is but an invention of the enemy.
Joan, before leaving Blois, insisted on the dismissal of all camp followers—such bad baggage was certainly well left behind, and could not have followed an army led by one who, night and morning, had an altar erected, around which her hallowed flags were placed, and where the Maid, and those willing, took the Sacrament at the head of the army. It must have been a striking sight during that spring-time—that army, led by a maiden all clad in white armour, and mounted on a black charger, surrounded by a brilliant band of knights, riding along the pleasant fields of Touraine, then in their first livery of brilliant green. And a striking sight it must have been, when, at the close of the long day's march, the tents were pitched and the altar raised, the officiating priests grouped about it and the sacred pictured standards waving above, while the solemn chant was raised, and the soldiers knelt around.
One can well think how ready were those soldiers to follow Joan wherever she would lead them, and it is not improbable that such a crusade as she dreamt of, had it been possible, in which the two nations, so closely connected by religious feeling, and so closely united by position, but so long enemies owing to the rapacity and greed of their kings, might have again placed the cross on the battlements of the Holy City, under the leadership of her whom her countrymen rightly called 'The Angelic.'
Joan rode out of Blois bearing her pennon in her hand, and as she rode she chanted the 'Veni Creator.' The sacred strain was taken up by those who followed, and thus passed the Maid forth on her first great deed of deliverance.
During the whole of the first night Joan remained, as was her custom when she had no women about her, in her armour.
It was the Maid's wish to enter Orleans from the northern side, but the officers with her thought this would be a great imprudence, and followed the opposite bank of the river. Passing through Beaugency and Meung, they went on by Saint Die, Saint Laurent, and Clery, without meeting with any attack from the enemy who occupied these places. On arriving at a place called Olivet, they were within the neighbourhood of the beleaguered city. Below them rose the English bastille towers; beyond, the walls, towers, and steeples of Orleans.
Joan had hoped that the city could have been entered without further difficulty; she now found that not only the river lay between her and the town, but that the English were in force on all sides. She wished that the nearest of these bastilles, at Saint Jean le Blanc, should be stormed, and the river forded there; but this scheme was judged by her companions-in-arms to be too perilous, and Joan had again to comply with the opinion of the officers.
Riding to the eastwards, and skirting the river some four miles below the town, she and her knights forded it at a spot where some low long islands, or 'eyots' as we call them on the Thames, lay in this part of the Loire. On one of these, called l'Isle aux Bourdons, the provisions and stores for the beleaguered city were shipped and transhipped, and carried down to Orleans when the wind lay in that quarter.
It was at Reuilly that Dunois met the Maid, still chafing from her thwarted plan of attacking the English in their stronghold at Saint Jean le Blanc, and she appears to have shown him her displeasure. While this interview took place the wind changed, and the provision boats, which, owing to the wind being contrary, had not been able to make the islands, were now enabled to leave the city. They soon arrived, were laden with provisions, corn, and even cattle embarked on them, and, when thus provisioned, returned to Orleans by the canal on the left bank of the Loire, and successfully arrived at the city end of the broken bridge, whence the provisions and live stock were passed into the town.
The river was too much in flood to allow of the army being taken across, nor could a bridge of boats be made, owing to the height of the waters. Joan, however, was determined to enter Orleans, flood or no flood, for she knew what the moral effect of her appearing to the townspeople would be. Accompanied by Dunois, La Hire, and some two hundred lances, just after darkness had hidden her movements from the enemy, she left Reuilly and entered the city.
Preceded by a great banner, the Maid of Orleans, as she may now be called, with Dunois by her side, and followed by her knights and men-at-arms, rode slowly through the streets, filled with a crowd almost delirious in its joy at welcoming within its walls its long-looked-for Deliverer. The people clung to her, kissing her knees and feet, and, according to the old chroniclers, behaved as if God Himself had appeared among them. So eager was the throng to approach her, that in the press one of her standards was set on fire by a flambeau. After returning thanks for the delivery of her countrymen in the cathedral, Joan was made welcome at the house of the treasurer of the imprisoned Duke of Orleans. This citizen's name was James Boucher; and here she lodged, with her brothers, and the two faithful knights who had accompanied her during her journey from Vaucouleurs to Chinon.
A vaulted room in this house is still shown, which purports to have been that occupied by the Maid of Orleans. If it is the same building it has been much modernised, although a beautiful specimen of the domestic Gothic of the early part of the fifteenth century, known as the house of Agnes Sorel, remains much in the condition that it must have been in during the famous year of deliverance, 1429.
Although Orleans, by the action of Joan of Arc, had been succoured for the time, the enemy was still at its gates, and Joan's mission was but half accomplished. The aspect of affairs since the 29th of April was, however, greatly changed in favour of the French, and the roles of besieged and besiegers changed. Joan's arrival had infused a fresh spirit of enthusiasm and patriotism into the citizens, and the English were no longer feared. We have Dunois's authority for the fact that whereas, up to that time, two hundred English could put eight hundred French to the rout, now five hundred French soldiers were prepared to meet the entire English army.
On the 13th of April, hostilities had recommenced. Four hundred men, commanded by Florent d'Illiers, made a sortie against the English near the trenches at Saint Pouair, driving them into their quarters. But the success was not followed up, and appears to have been undertaken without Joan of Arc's advice. To the heralds that she sent into the English camp only jeers and taunts were returned; and already the threat of burning her when caught was made use of. Joan was, however, not to be deterred by menaces and insults from doing all she could to prevent unnecessary loss of life. On one occasion she rode out half-way across the bridge, to where there stood a crucifix called La Belle Croix, within speaking distance of the English in the Tournelles. Thence she summoned Glansdale and his men to surrender, promising that their lives should be spared. They answered with derisive shouts and villainous abuse. Still commanding her patience, which was only equalled by her courage, and before returning to the town, she told them that, in spite of their boasting, the time was near at hand when they would be driven forth, and that their leader would never see England again. That they feared the Maid was evident, in spite of the insults with which they greeted her; at any rate, no attempt was made to attack her: even when almost alone, she came close to their fortifications.
Meanwhile Dunois left for Blois to bring up the bulk of the army, while Joan remained in Orleans, encouraging its inhabitants by her confidence, faith, and courage. The people, writes the chronicler of the siege, were never sated with the sight of the Maid: 'ils ne pouvaient saouler de la voir,' he graphically says.
A second ineffectual effort was made by Joan, this time at a place called the Croix Morin, to negotiate with the English, she again promising them quarter if they would capitulate, but, as might be expected, with no better result than before.
On the 2nd of May, followed by a vast throng, Joan of Arc rode out along the enemy's forts, and after closely inspecting their defences returned to vespers at the Church of Sainte-Croix. Certainly among the people there was no want of belief in, and enthusiastic devotion to, the Maid; but she had already enemies among the entourage of the King. We have already alluded to Tremoille's feelings with regard to her and her mission. A still more formidable enemy was the Chancellor of France, the Archbishop of Rheims, Regnault de Chartres; he and Tremoille worked in concert to undermine all the prestige which Joan's success in revictualling Orleans had caused at Court. The historian Quicherat, whose work on Joan of Arc is by far the most complete and reliable, considers this man to have been an astute politician, without any moral strength or courage. When with Joan of Arc, he seems to have shown firmness and even enthusiasm in her mission, but he sank into the role of a poltroon when her influence was withdrawn. Instead of hastening the despatch of the reinforcements from Blois to Orleans, he threw delay in the way; he seems to have hesitated in letting these troops join those under the Maid, for fear that were she to gain a thorough success his influence at Court would be weakened. When Joan fell into the hands of her foes, the Archbishop had the incredible baseness publicly to show his pleasure, declaring that her capture by the enemy was a proof of Divine justice.
It was not till the 4th of May, and not until Dunois had ridden in hot haste from Blois, that at length the aid, so long and eagerly expected, arrived.
Joan rode to meet the succouring army some two miles out of the city, bearing her flag, accompanied by La Hire and others of her knights. After a joyful meeting, they turned, riding right through the enemy's lines and along the fortified bastilles occupied by the English. Whether it was fear, or superstition mixed with fear, not a man from the English side stirred, although the English outnumbered the French. It seemed that a terror had seized on the enemy as they saw her, whom they called the Sorceress, ride by in her white panoply, bearing aloft her mystic banner.
The English had now run short of supplies, and eagerly awaited the arrival of Sir John Fastolfe, who was on his road to Orleans. Joan of Arc felt uneasy, lest she might not be able to cut off Fastolfe and his supplies, and she playfully threatened Dunois with his instant execution if he failed to tell her of the moment he learnt of his approach. Her anxiety was well founded, for the attack commenced before she had been apprised of it. She had lain down for a short repose one afternoon, when she heard the sounds of a cannonade. She instantly ordered her squire d'Aulon to arm her, as she must immediately attack the English; but whether those at the Tournelles, or the advancing force under Fastolfe, she could not yet tell.
While arming, a great clamour rang through the town: the enemy were said to be at hand, and the battle already engaged. Hastily throwing on her armour, with the assistance of her hostess and d'Aulon, she dashed off on her horse, and had only time to snatch her flag, as it was handed to her from a window, so impetuous was she to enter the fray.
As she galloped down the street the sparks flew from the stones, through the High Street and past the cathedral, and out by the Burgundy Gate. The action had already been raging, and the wounded were being borne back into the town. It was the first time the Maid came face to face with such grisly sights—the agony of the wounded, the blood and gaping wounds. Her squire, d'Aulon, who has left some record of that day, says how much she grieved over the wounded as they were carried past her; her beloved countrymen bleeding and dying affected her deeply. As her page writes, she said she could not see French blood without her hair rising with horror at the sight.
Before she reached the field the day had been lost and won, the English were in full retreat, and the battle now lay around the bastilles of Saint Loup. About a mile to the north-east of the town were the Englishmen; strongly entrenched, the place commanded that portion of the river which Talbot had garrisoned with some three hundred of his best troops. Joan now gave instructions that no aid should reach this portion of the English defences from the adjacent bastilles. All around the fight raged, and Joan was soon in the hottest of the engagement, encouraging her soldiers, her flag in her hand. Dismounting, she stood on the edge of the earthwork, beyond which the English were at bay.
Talbot, seeing his men hard pressed, gave orders for a sortie to be made from one of the other towers, named Paris, and thus cause a diversion, while another force attacked the French in their rear. This expedient, however, failed, for a fresh force appeared at this juncture from Orleans, led by Boussac and De Graville, who beat back the attack of the English. The English troops within the fortress of Saint Loup were slain or taken. Joan herself rescued some of these, and placed them under her protection; caring for them in the house she was staying in.
At the close of the day, on returning into the town, Joan told the people that they might count on being free from the enemy in five days' time, and that by that time not a single Englishman would remain before Orleans. No wonder that the joy-bells rang out in victorious clamour during all that night in May, the eve of the Ascension.
On the following day no hostilities occurred. Joan again had a letter sent to the English, summoning them as before to surrender and to quit their forts; she said this was the third and the last time that she could give them a chance of escaping with their lives. On this occasion she made use of a new way of communicating with the foe; she tied the letter to an arrow, which was discharged into the English lines. No answer was received in return.
It was now determined that the next attack against the English should be made from the left bank of the river, where they were strongly fortified at the Bastille des Augustins, a little further down the Loire than the Tournelles. On the opposite side this fortress communicated with the Boulevard of Saint Prive, as well as with the strong fortress of Saint Laurent, near which a small island, which exists no longer, called the Isle of Charlemagne, kept open their connections on both sides of the Loire. To the east, on the same side of the river, a fortress, that of Saint Jean le Blanc, which had been abandoned on the approach of Joan, had since been reoccupied by the English. It was at this spot that the next and all-important attack was directed to be made.
The French forces crossed the river over an island called Saint Aignan. The distance was so narrow between the river bank on the town side and this island, that a couple of boats moored together served as a bridge. When Saint Jean le Blanc was reached, it was found deserted by the English, Glansdale having left it in order to concentrate his forces at the Tournelles. Joan led the attack. At first the French fought badly; they had been seized by a panic, believing that a strong force of the enemy were coming down on them from Saint Prive. Rallying her men, Joan threw herself on the English, and drove them back into the Augustins. She was now eagerly followed by the soldiers.
The first barricade was carried in a hand-to-hand fight, and soon the French flags waved above the fortress so long held by the enemy. The few English able to escape retired to the Tournelles. Eager to carry on the success of the attack, and to prevent delay, Joan ordered that the fort of the Augustins be fired, with the booty it contained.
The victors, who only numbered three thousand strong, captured six hundred prisoners, one third were slain of the English, and two hundred French prisoners recovered.
This was the second occasion on which the Maid had carried all before her.
The day was closing, and the attack on the Tournelles had to be deferred for that evening. That night Joan of Arc said to her almoner: 'Rise early to-morrow, for we shall have a hard day's work before us. Keep close to me, for I shall have much to do, more than I have ever had to do yet. I shall be wounded; my blood will flow!'
This prophetic speech of the Maid is among the most curious facts relating to her life; for not only did she, during her trial at Rouen, tell her judges that she had been aware that she would be wounded on that day, and even knew the position beforehand of the wound, but that she had known it would occur a long time before, and had told the King about it. A letter is extant in the Public Library at Brussels, written on the 22nd of April (1429), by the Sire de Rotslaer, dated from Lyons, in which Joan's prophecy regarding her wound is mentioned. This letter was written fifteen days before the date (7th of May) of the engagement when that event occurred. A facsimile of the passage in this letter referring to Joan's prophecy appears in the illustrated edition of M. Wallon's Life of Joan of Arc.