Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France

Frontispiece for The Life of Joan of Arc book by Anatole France


HAVING left Paris on the 9th of June, Sir John Fastolf was coming through La Beauce with five thousand fighting men. To the English at Jargeau he was bringing victuals and arrows in abundance. Learning by the way that the town had surrendered, he left his stores at Étampes and marched on to Janville, where Sir John Talbot joined him with forty lances and two hundred bowmen.[1267]

There they heard that the French had taken the Meung bridge and laid siege to Beaugency. Sir John Talbot wished to march to the relief of the inhabitants of Beaugency and deliver them with the aid of God and Saint George. Sir John Fastolf counselled abandoning Sir Richard Gethyn and his garrison to their fate; for the moment he deemed it wiser not to fight. Finding his own men fearful and the French full of courage, he thought the best thing the English could do would be to establish themselves in the towns, castles, and strongholds remaining to them, there to await the reinforcements promised by the Regent.[Pg i.369]

"In comparison with the French we are but a handfull," he said. "If luck should turn against us, then we should be in a fair way to lose all those conquests won by our late King Henry after strenuous effort and long delay."[1268]

His advice was disregarded and the army marched on Beaugency. The force was not far from the town on Friday, the 17th of June, just when the garrison was issuing forth with horses, armour, and baggage to the amount of one silver mark's worth for each man.[1269]

Informed of the army's approach the French King's men went forth to meet it. The scouts had not far to ride before they descried the standards and pennons of England waving over the plain, about two and a half miles from Patay. Then the French ascended a hill whence they could observe the enemy. Captain La Hire and the young Sire de Termes said to the Maid: "The English are coming. They are in battle array and ready to fight."

As was her wont, she made answer: "Strike boldly and they will flee."

And she added that the battle would not be long.[1270]

Believing that the French were offering them[Pg i.370] battle, the English took up their position. The archers planted their stakes in the ground, their points inclined towards the enemy. Thus they generally prepared to fight; they had not done otherwise at the Battle of the Herrings. The sun was already declining on the horizon.[1271]

The Duke of Alençon had by no means decided to descend into the plain. In presence of the Constable, my Lord the Bastard and the captains, he consulted the holy Maid, who gave him an enigmatical answer: "See to it that you have good spurs."

Taking her to mean the Count of Clermont's spurs, the spurs of Rouvray, the Duke of Alençon exclaimed: "What do you say? Shall we turn our backs on them?"

"Nay," she replied.

On all occasions her Voices counselled unwavering confidence. "Nay. In God's name, go down against them; for they shall flee and shall not stay and shall be utterly discomfited; and you shall lose scarce any men; wherefore you will need your spurs to pursue them."[1272]

According to the opinions of doctors and masters it was well to listen to the Maid, but at the same time to follow the course marked out by human wisdom.[Pg i.371]

The commanders of the army, either because they judged the occasion unfavourable or because, after so many defeats, they feared a pitched battle, did not come down from their hill. The two heralds sent by two English knights to offer single combat received the answer: "For to-day you may go to bed, because it grows late. But to-morrow, if it be God's will, we will come to closer quarters."[1273]

The English, assured that they would not be attacked, marched off to pass the night at Meung.[1274]

On the morrow, Saturday, the 18th, Saint Hubert's day, the French went forth against them. They were not there. The Godons had decamped early in the morning and gone off, with cannon, ammunition, and victuals, towards Janville,[1275] where they intended to entrench themselves.

Straightway King Charles's army of twelve thousand men[1276] set out in pursuit of them. Along the Paris road they went, over the plain of Beauce, wooded, full of game, covered with thickets and brushwood, wild, but finely to the taste of English and French riders, who praised it highly.[1277]

Gazing over the infinite plain, where the earth[Pg i.372] seems to recede before one's glance, the Maid beheld the sky in front of her, that cloudy sky of plains, suggesting marvellous adventures on the mountains of the air, and she cried: "In God's name, if they were hanging from the clouds we should have them."[1278]

Now, as on the previous evening, she prophesied: "To-day our fair King shall win a victory greater than has been his for a long time. My Council has told me that they are all ours."

She foretold that there would be few, or none of the French slain.[1279]

Captain Poton and Sire Arnault de Gugem went forth to reconnoitre. The most skilled men-of-war, and among them my Lord the Bastard and the Marshal de Boussac, mounted on the finest of war-steeds, formed the vanguard. Then under the leadership of Captain La Hire, who knew the country, came the horse of the Duke of Alençon, the Count of Vendôme, the Constable of France, with archers and cross-bowmen. Last of all came the rear-guard, commanded by the lords of Graville, Laval, Rais, and Saint-Gilles.[1280]

The Maid, ever zealous, desired to be in the vanguard; but she was kept back. She did not lead the men-at-arms, rather the men-at-arms led her. They regarded her, not as captain of war but as a bringer[Pg i.373] of good luck. Greatly saddened, she must needs take her place in the rear, in the company, doubtless, of the Sire de Rais, where she had originally been placed.[1281] The whole army pressed forward for fear the enemy should escape them.

After they had ridden twelve or thirteen miles in overpowering heat, and passed Saint-Sigismond on the left and got beyond Saint-Péravy, Captain Poton's sixty to eighty scouts reached a spot where the ground, which had been level hitherto, descends, and where the road leads down into a hollow called La Retrève. They could not actually see the hollow, but beyond it the ground rose gently; and, dimly visible, scarcely two and a half miles away was the belfry of Lignerolles on the wooded plain known as Climat-du-Camp. A league straight in front of them was the little town of Patay.[1282]

It is two o'clock in the afternoon. Poton's and Gugem's horse chance to raise a stag, which darts out of a thicket and plunges down into the hollow of La Retrève. Suddenly a clamour of voices ascends from the hollow. It proceeds from the English soldiers loudly disputing over the game which has fallen into their hands. Thus informed of the enemy's presence, the French scouts halt and straightway despatch certain of their company to go and tell the army that they have surprised the Godons and that it is time to set to work.[1283]

[Pg i.374]

Now this is what had been happening among the English. They were retreating in good order on Janville, their vanguard commanded by a knight bearing a white standard.[1284] Then came the artillery and the victuals in waggons driven by merchants; then the main body of the army, commanded by Sir John Talbot and Sir John Fastolf. The rear-guard, which was likely to bear the brunt of the attack, consisted only of Englishmen from England.[1285] It followed at some distance from the rest. Its scouts, having seen the French without being seen by them, informed Sir John Talbot, who was then between the hamlet of Saint-Péravy and the town of Patay. On this information he called a halt and commanded the vanguard with waggons and cannon to take up its position on the edge of the Lignerolles wood. The position was excellent: backed by the forest, the combatants were secure against being attacked in the rear,[1286] while in front they were able to entrench themselves behind their waggons. The main body did not advance so far. It halted some little distance from Lignerolles, in the hollow of La Retrève. On this spot the road was lined with quickset hedges. Sir John Talbot with five hundred picked bowmen stationed himself there to await the French who must perforce pass that way. His design was to defend the road until the rear-guard had had time to join the main body, and then, keeping close to the hedges, he would fall back upon the army.

The archers, as was their wont, were making ready to plant in the ground those pointed stakes, the spikes of which they turned against the chests of the enemy's horses, when the French, led by Poton's scouts, came[Pg i.375] down upon them like a whirlwind, overthrew them, and cut them to pieces.[1287]

At this moment, Sir John Fastolf, at the head of the main body, was preparing to join the vanguard. Feeling the French cavalry at his heels, he gave spur and at full gallop led his men on to Lignerolles. When those of the white standard saw him arriving thus in rout, they thought he had been defeated. They took fright, abandoned the edge of the wood, rushed into the thickets of Climat-du-Camp and in great disorder came out on the Paris road. With the main body of the army, Sir John Fastolf pushed on in the same direction. There was no battle. Marching over the bodies of Talbot's archers, the French threw themselves on the English, who were as dazed as a flock of sheep and fell before the foe without resistance. Thus the French slew two thousand of those common folk whom the Godons were accustomed to transport from their own land to be killed in France. When the main body of the French, commanded by La Hire, reached Lignerolles, they found only eight hundred foot whom they soon overthrew. Of the twelve to thirteen thousand French on the march, scarce fifteen hundred took part in the battle or rather in the massacre. Sir John Talbot, who had leapt on to his horse without staying to put on his spurs, was taken prisoner by the Captains La Hire and Poton.[1288] The Lords Scales, Hungerford and Falconbridge, Sir Thomas Guérard, Richard Spencer and Fitz Walter were taken and held to[Pg i.376] ransom. In all, there were between twelve and fifteen hundred prisoners.[1289]

Not more than two hundred men-at-arms pursued the fugitives to the gates of Janville. Except for the vanguard, which had been the first to take flight, the English army was entirely destroyed. On the French side, the Sire de Termes, who was present, states that there was only one killed; a man of his own company. Perceval de Boulainvilliers, Councillor and King's Chamberlain, says there were three.[1290]

The Maid arrived[1291] before the slaughter was ended.[1292] She saw a Frenchman, who was leading some prisoners, strike one of them such a blow on the head that he fell down as if dead. She dismounted and procured the Englishman a confessor. She held his head and comforted him as far as she could. Such was the part she played in the Battle of Patay.[1293] It was the part of a saintly maid.

[Pg i.377]

The French spent the night in the town. Sir John Talbot, having been brought before the Duke of Alençon and the Constable, was thus addressed by the young Duke: "This morning you little thought what would happen to you."

Talbot replied: "It is the chance of war."[1294]

A few breathless Godons succeeded in reaching Janville.[1295] But the townsfolk, with whom on their departure they had deposited their money and their goods, shut the gates in their faces and swore loyalty to King Charles.

The English commanders of the two small strongholds in La Beauce, Montpipeau and Saint Sigismond, set fire to them and fled.[1296]

From Patay the victorious army marched to Orléans. The inhabitants were expecting the King. They had hung up tapestries ready for his entrance.[1297] But the King and his Chamberlain, fearing and not without reason, some aggressive movement on the part of the Constable, held themselves secure in the Château of Sully.[1298] Thence they started for Châteauneuf on the 22nd of June. That same day the Maid joined the King at Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire. He received her with his usual kindness and said: "I pity you because of the suffering you endure." And he urged her to rest.

At these words she wept. It has been said that her[Pg i.378] tears flowed because of the indifference and incredulity towards her that the King's urbanity implied.[1299] But we must beware of attributing to the tears of the enraptured and the illuminated a cause intelligible to human reason. To her Charles appeared clothed in an ineffable splendour like that of the holiest of kings. How, since she had shown him her angels, invisible to ordinary folk, could she for one moment have thought that he lacked faith in her?

"Have no doubt," she said to him, confidently, "you shall receive the whole of your kingdom and shortly shall be crowned."[1300]

True, Charles seemed in no great haste to employ his knights in the recovery of his kingdom. But his Council just then had no idea of getting rid of the Maid. On the contrary, they were determined to use her cleverly, so as to put heart into the French, to terrify the English, and to convince the world that God, Saint Michael, and Saint Catherine, were on the side of the Armagnacs. In announcing the victory of Patay to the good towns, the royal councillors said not one word of the Constable, neither did they mention my Lord the Bastard.[1301] They described as leaders of the army, the Maid, with the two Princes of the Blood Royal, the Duke of Alençon, and the Duke of[Pg i.379] Vendôme. In such wise did they exalt her. And, indeed, she must have been worth as much and more than a great captain, since the Constable attempted to seize her. With this enterprise, he charged one of his men, Andrieu de Beaumont, who had formerly been employed to carry off the Sire de la Trémouille. But, as Andrieu de Beaumont had failed with the Chamberlain, so he failed with the Maid.[1302]

Probably she herself knew nothing of this plot. She besought the King to pardon the Constable,—a request which proves how great was her naïveté. By royal command Richemont received back his lordship of Parthenay.[1303]

Duke John of Brittany, who had married a sister of Charles of Valois, was not always pleased with his brother-in-law's counsellors. In 1420, considering him too Burgundian, they had devised for him a Bridge of Montereau.[1304] In reality, he was neither Armagnac nor Burgundian nor French nor English, but Breton. In 1423 he recognised the Treaty of Troyes; but two years later, when his brother, the Duke of Richemont, had gone over to the French King and received the Constable's sword from him, Duke John went to Charles of Valois, at Saumur, and did homage for his duchy.[1305] In short, he extricated[Pg i.380] himself cleverly from the most embarrassing situations and succeeded in remaining outside the quarrel of the two kings who were both eager to involve him in it. While France and England were cutting each other's throats, he was raising Brittany from its ruins.[1306]

The Maid filled him with curiosity and admiration. Shortly after the Battle of Patay, he sent to her, Hermine, his herald-at-arms, and Brother Yves Milbeau, his confessor, to congratulate her on her victory.[1307] The good Brother was told to question Jeanne.

He asked her whether it was God who had sent her to succour the King.

Jeanne replied that it was.

"If it be so," replied Brother Yves Milbeau, "my Lord the Duke of Brittany, our liege lord, is disposed to proffer his service to the King. He cannot come in person for he is sorely infirm. But he is to send his son with a large army."

The good Brother was speaking lightly and making a promise for his duke which would never be kept. The only truth in it was that many Breton nobles were coming in to take service with King Charles.

On hearing these words, the little Saint made a curious mistake. She thought that Brother Yves had meant that the Duke of Brittany was her liege lord as well as his, which would have been altogether senseless. Her loyalty revolted: "The Duke of Brittany is not my liege lord," she replied sharply. "The King is my liege lord."[Pg i.381]

As far as we can tell, the Duke of Brittany's caution had produced no favourable impression in France. He was censured for having set the King's war ban at nought and made a treaty with the English. Jeanne was of that opinion and to Brother Yves she said so plainly: "The Duke should not have tarried so long in sending his men to aid the King."[1308]

A few days later, the Sire de Rostrenen, who had accompanied the Constable to Beaugency and to Patay, came from Duke John to treat of the prospective marriage between his eldest son, François, and Bonne de Savoie, daughter of Duke Amédée. With him was Comment-Qu'il-Soit, herald of Richard of Brittany, Count of Étampes. The herald was commissioned to present the Maid with a dagger and horses.[1309]

At Rome, in 1428, there was a French clerk, a compiler of one of those histories of the world so common in those days and so much alike. His cosmography, like all of them, began with the creation and came down to the pontificate of Martin V who was then Pope. "Under this pontificate," wrote the author, "the realm of France, the flower and the lily of the world, opulent among the most opulent, before whom the whole universe bowed, was cast down by its invader, the tyrant Henry, who was not even the lawful lord of the realm of England." Then this churchman vows the Burgundians to eternal infamy and hurls upon them the most terrible maledictions. "May their eyes be torn out: may they perish by an evil death!" Such language indicates a good Arma[Pg i.382]gnac and possibly a clerk despoiled of his goods and driven into exile by the enemies of his country. When he learns the coming of the Maid and the deliverance of Orléans, transported with joy and wonder, he re-opens his history and consigns to its pages arguments in favour of the marvellous Maid, whose deeds appear to him more divine than human, but concerning whom he knows but little. He compares her to Deborah, Judith, Esther, and Penthesilea. "In the books of the Gentiles it is written," he says, "that Penthesilea, and a thousand virgins with her, came to the succour of King Priam and fought so valiantly that they tore the Myrmidons in pieces and slew more than two thousand Greeks." According to him, both in courage and feats of prowess, the Maid far surpasses Penthesilea. Her deeds promptly refute those who maintain that she is sent by the Devil.[1310]

In a moment the fame of the French King's prophetess had been spread abroad throughout Christendom. While in temporal affairs the people were rending each other, in spiritual matters obedience to one common head made Europe one spiritual republic with one language and one doctrine, governed by councils. The spirit of the Church was all-pervading. In Italy, in Germany, the talk was all of the Sibyl of France and her prowess which was so intimately associated with the Christian faith. In those days it was sometimes the custom of those who painted on the walls of monasteries to depict the Liberal Arts as three noble dames. Between her two sisters, Logic would be painted, seated on a lofty[Pg i.383] throne, wearing an antique turban, clothed in a sparkling robe, and bearing in one hand a scorpion, in the other a lizard, as a sign that her knowledge winds its way into the heart of the adversary's argument, and saves her from being herself entrapped. At her feet, looking up to her, would be Aristotle, disputing and reckoning up his arguments on his fingers.[1311] This austere lady formed all her disciples in the same mould. In those days nothing was more despicable than singularity. Originality of mind did not then exist. The clerks who treated of the Maid all followed the same method, advanced the same arguments, and based them on the same texts, sacred and profane. Conformity could go no further. Their minds were identical, but not their hearts; it is the mind that argues, but the heart that decides. These scholastics, dryer than their parchment, were men, notwithstanding; they were swayed by sentiment, by passion, by interests spiritual or temporal. While the Armagnac doctors were demonstrating that in the Maid's case reasons for belief were stronger than reasons for disbelief, the German or Italian masters, caring nought for the quarrel of the Dauphin of Viennois,[1312] remained in doubt, unmoved by either love or hatred.

There was a doctor of theology, one Heinrich von Gorcum, a professor at Cologne. As early as the month of June, 1429, he drew up a memorial concerning the Maid. In Germany, minds were divided as to whether the nature of the damsel were human[Pg i.384] or whether she were not rather a celestial being clothed in woman's form; as to whether her deeds proceeded from a human origin or had a supernatural source; and, if the latter, whether that source were good or bad. Meister Heinrich von Gorcum wrote his treatise to present arguments from Holy Scripture on both sides, and he abstained from drawing any conclusion.[1313]

In Italy, the same doubts and the same uncertainty prevailed concerning the deeds of the Maid. Those there were who maintained that they were mere inventions. At Milan, it was disputed whether any credence could be placed in tidings from France. To discover the truth about them, the notables of the city resolved to despatch a Franciscan friar, Brother Antonio de Rho, a good humanist and a zealous preacher of moral purity.

And Giovanni Corsini, Senator of the duchy of Arezzo, impelled by a like curiosity, consulted a learned clerk of Milan, one Cosmo Raimondi of Cremona. The following is the gist of the learned Ciceronian's reply:

"Most noble lord, they say that God's choice of a shepherdess for the restoration of a kingdom to a prince, is a new thing. And yet we know that the shepherd David was anointed king. It is told how the Maid, at the head of a small company, defied a great army. The victory may be explained by an advantageous position and an unexpected attack. But supposing we refrain from saying that the enemy was surprised and that his courage forsook him, matters which are none the less possible, supposing we admit that there was a miracle: what is there astonishing in that? Is it not still more wonderful that Samson[Pg i.385] should have slain so many Philistines with the jaw-bone of an ass?

"The Maid is said to possess the power of revealing the future. Remember the Sibyls, notably the Erythræan and the Cumæan. They were heathens. Why should not a like power be granted to a Christian? This woman is a shepherdess. Jacob, when he kept Laban's flocks, conversed familiarly with God. To such examples and to such reasons, which incline me to give credence to the rumour, I add another reason derived from physical science. In treatises on astrology I have often read that by the favourable influence of the stars, certain men of lowly birth have become the equals of the highest princes and been regarded as men divine charged with a celestial mission. Guido da Forli, a clever astronomer, quotes a great number of such instances. Wherefore I should not deem myself to be incurring any reproach if I believed that through the influence of the stars, the Maid has undertaken what is reported of her."

At the conclusion of his arguments the clerk of Cremona says that, while not absolutely rejecting the reports concerning her, he does not consider them to be sufficiently proved.[1314]

Jeanne maintained her resolution to go to Reims and take the King to his anointing.[1315] She did not stay to consider whether it would be better to wage war in Champagne than in Normandy. She did not know enough of the configuration of the country to decide such a question, and it is not likely that her saints and angels knew more of geography than she did. She was in haste to take the King to Reims for his anoint[Pg i.386]ing, because she believed it impossible for him to be king until he had been anointed.[1316] The idea of leading him to be anointed with the holy oil had come to her in her native village, long before the siege of Orléans.[1317] This inspiration was wholly of the spirit, and had nothing to do with the state of affairs created by the deliverance of Orléans and the victory of Patay.

The best course would have been to march straight on Paris after the 18th of June. The French were then only ninety miles from the great city, which at that juncture would not have thought of defending itself. Considering it as good as lost, the Regent shut himself up in the Fort of Vincennes.[1318] They had missed their opportunity. The French King's Councillors, Princes of the Blood, were deliberating, surprised by victory, not knowing what to do with it. Certain it is that not one of them thought of conquering, and that speedily, the whole inheritance of King Charles. The forces at their disposal, and the very conditions of the society in which they lived, rendered it impossible for them to conceive of such an undertaking. The lords of the Great Council were not like the poverty stricken monks, dreaming in their ruined cloisters[1319] of an age of peace and concord. The King's Councillors were no dreamers; they did not believe in the end of the war, neither did they desire it. But they intended to conduct it with the least possible risk and expenditure. There would always be folk enough to don the hauberk and go a-plundering[Pg i.387] they said to themselves; the taking and re-taking of towns must continue; sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof; to fight long one must fight gently; nine times out of ten more is gained by negotiations and treaties than by feats of prowess; truces must be concluded craftily and broken cautiously; some defeats must be expected, and some work must be left for the young. Such were the opinions of the good servants of King Charles.[1320]

Certain among them wished the war to be carried on in Normandy.[1321] The idea had occurred to them as early as the month of May, before the Loire campaign, and indeed there was much to be said for it. In Normandy they would cut the English tree at its root. It was quite possible that they might immediately recover a part of that province where the English had but few fighting men. In 1424 the Norman garrisons consisted of not more than four hundred lances and twelve hundred bowmen.[1322] Since then they had received but few reinforcements. The Regent was recruiting men everywhere and displaying marvellous activity, but he lacked money, and his soldiers were always deserting.[1323] In the conquered province, as soon as the Coués came out of their strongholds they found themselves in the enemy's territory. From the borders of Brittany, Maine, Perche as far as Pon[Pg i.388]thieu and Picardy, on the banks of the Mayenne, Orne, the Dive, the Touque, the Eure, the Seine, the partisans of the various factions held the country, watching the roads, robbing, ravaging, and murdering.[1324] Everywhere the French would have found these brave fellows ready to espouse their cause; the peasants and the village priests would likewise have wished them well. But the campaign would involve long sieges of towns, strongly defended, albeit held by but small garrisons. Now the men-at-arms dreaded the delays of sieges, and the royal treasury was not sufficient for such costly undertakings.[1325] Normandy was ruined, stripped of its crops, and robbed of its cattle. Were the captains and their men to go into this famine-stricken land? And why should the King reconquer so poor a province?

And these freebooters, who were willing to stretch out a hand to the French, were not very attractive. It was well known that brigands they were, and brigands would remain, and that Normandy once reconquered, they would have to be got rid of, to the last man, without honour and without profit. In which case would it not be better to leave them to be dealt with by the Godons?

Other nobles clamoured for an expedition into Champagne.[1326] And in spite of all that has been said to the contrary, the Maid's visions had no influence whatever on this determination. The King's Councillors led Jeanne and were far from being led by her.[Pg i.389] Once before they had diverted her from the road to Reims by providing her with work on the Loire. Once again they might divert her into Normandy, without her even perceiving it, so ignorant was she of the roads and of the lie of the land. If there were certain who recommended a campaign in Champagne, it was not on the faith of saints and angels, but for purely human reasons. Is it possible to discover these reasons? There were doubtless certain lords and captains who considered the interest of the King and the kingdom, but every one found it so difficult not to confound it with his own interest, that the best way to discover who was responsible for the march on Reims is to find out who was to profit by it. It was certainly not the Duke of Alençon, who would have greatly preferred to take advantage of the Maid's help for the conquest of his own duchy.[1327] Neither was it my Lord the Bastard, nor the Sire de Gaucourt, nor the King himself, for they must have desired the securing of Berry and the Orléanais by the capture of La Charité held by the terrible Perrinet Gressart.[1328] On the other hand we may conclude that the Queen of Sicily would not be unfavourable to the march of the King, her son-in-law, in a north easterly direction. This Spanish lady was possessed by the Angevin mania. Reassured for the moment concerning the fate of her duchy of Anjou, she was pursuing eagerly, and to the great hurt of the realm of France, the establishment of her son René in the duchy of Bar and in the inheritance of Lorraine. She cannot have been displeased, therefore, when she saw the King keeping her an open road between Gien and Troyes and Châlons. But since the Constable's exile she had[Pg i.390] lost all influence over her son-in-law, and it is difficult to discover who could have watched her interests in the Council of May, 1429.[1329] Besides, without seeking further, it is obvious that there was one person, who above all others must have desired the anointing of the King, and who more than any was in a position to make his opinion prevail. That person was the man on whom devolved the duty of holding in his consecrated hands the Sacred Ampulla, my Lord Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop Duke of Reims, Chancellor of the Kingdom.[1330]

He was a man of rare intelligence, skilled in business, a very clever diplomatist, greedy of wealth, caring less for empty honours than for solid advantage, avaricious, unscrupulous, one who at the age of about fifty had lost nothing of his consuming energy; he had recently displayed it by spending himself nobly in the defence of Orléans. Thus gifted, how could he fail to exercise a powerful control over the government?

Fifteen years had passed since his elevation to the archiepiscopal see of Reims; and of his enormous revenue he had not yet received one penny. Albeit the possessor of great wealth from other sources, he pleaded poverty. To the Pope he addressed heart-rending supplications.[1331] If the Maid had found favour in the eyes of the Poitiers doctors, Monseigneur Regnault had had something to do with it. Had it not been for him, the doctors at court would never have proposed her examination. And we shall not be mak[Pg i.391]ing too bold a hypothesis if we conclude, that when the march on Reims was decided in the royal council, it was because the Archbishop, on grounds suggested by human reason, approved of what the Maid proposed by divine inspiration.[1332]

While the coronation campaign was attended with grave drawbacks and met with serious obstacles, it nevertheless brought great gain and a certain subtle advantage to the royal cause. Unfortunately it left free from attack the rest of France occupied by the English, and it gave the latter time to recover themselves and procure aid from over sea. We shall shortly see what good use they made of their opportunities.[1333] As to the advantages of the expedition, they were many and various. First, Jeanne truly expressed the sentiments of the poor priests and the common folk when she said that the Dauphin would reap great profit from his anointing.[1334] From the oil of the holy Ampulla the King would derive a splendour, a majesty which would impress the whole of France, yea, even the whole of Christendom. In those days royalty was alike spiritual and temporal; and multitudes of men believed with Jeanne that kings only became kings by being anointed with the holy oil. Thus it would not be wrong to say that Charles of Valois would receive greater power from one drop of oil than from ten thousand lances. On a consideration like this the King's Councillors must needs set[Pg i.392] great store. They had also to take into account the time and the place. Might not the ceremony be performed in some other town than Reims? Might not the so-called "mystery" take place in that city which had been delivered by the intercession of its blessed patrons, Saint-Aignan and Saint Euverte? Two kings descended from Hugh Capet, Robert the Wise and Louis the Fat, had been crowned at Orléans.[1335] But the memory of their royal coronation was lost in the mists of antiquity, while folk still retained the memory of a long procession of most Christian kings anointed in the town where the holy oil had been brought down to Clovis by the celestial dove.[1336] Besides, the lord Archbishop and Duke of Reims would never have suffered the King to receive his anointing save at his hand and in his cathedral.

Therefore it was necessary to go to Reims. It was necessary also to anticipate the English who had resolved to conduct thither their infant King that he might receive consecration according to the ancient ceremonial.[1337] But if the French had invaded Normandy they would have closed the young Henry's road to Paris and to Reims, a road which was already[Pg i.393] insecure for him; and it would be childish to maintain that the coronation could not have been postponed for a few weeks. If the conquest of Norman lands and Norman towns was renounced therefore, it was not merely for the sake of capturing the holy Ampulla. The Lord Archbishop of Reims had other objects at heart. He believed, for example, that, by pressing in between the Duke of Burgundy and his English allies, an excellent impression would be produced on the mind of that Prince and the edifying object-lesson presented to his consideration of Charles, son of Charles, King of France, riding at the head of a powerful army.

To attain the city of the Blessed Saint Remi two hundred and fifty miles of hostile country must be traversed. But for some time the army would be in no danger of meeting the enemy on the road. The English and Burgundians were engaged in using every means both fair and foul for the raising of troops. For the moment the French need fear no foe. The rich country of Champagne, sparsely wooded, well cultivated, teemed with corn and wine, and abounded in fat cattle.[1338] Champagne had not been devastated like Normandy. There was a likelihood of obtaining food for the men-at-arms, especially if, as was hoped, the good towns supplied victuals. They were very wealthy; their barns overflowed with corn. While owing allegiance to King Henry, no bonds of affection united them to the English or to the Burgundians. They governed themselves. They were rich merchants, who only longed for peace and who did their best to bring it about. Just now they were beginning to suspect that the Armagnacs were growing the stronger party. These folk of Champagne had a[Pg i.394] clergy and a bourgeoisie who might be appealed to. It was not a question of storming their towns with artillery, mines, and trenches, but of getting round them with amnesties, concessions to the merchants and elaborate engagements to respect the privileges of the clergy. In this country there was no risk of rotting in hovels or burning in bastions. The townsfolk were expected to throw open their gates and partly from love, partly from fear, to give money to their lord the King.

The campaign was already arranged, and that very skilfully. Communications had been opened with Troyes and Châlons. By letters and messages from a few notables of Reims it was made known to King Charles that if he came they would open to him the gates of their town. He even received three or four citizens, who said to him, "Go forth in confidence to our city of Reims. It shall not be our fault if you do not enter therein."[1339]

Such assurances emboldened the Royal Council; and the march into Champagne was resolved upon.

The army assembled at Gien; it increased daily. The nobles of Brittany and Poitou came in in great numbers, most of them mounted on sorry steeds[1340] and commanding but small companies of men. The poorest equipped themselves as archers, and in default of better service were ready to act as bowmen. Villeins and tradesmen came likewise.[1341] From the Loire to the Seine and from the Seine to the Somme the only cultivated land was round châteaux and fortresses. Most of the fields lay fallow. In many places[Pg i.395] fairs and markets had been suspended. Labourers were everywhere out of work. War, after having ruined all trades, was now the only trade. Says Eustache Deschamps, "All men will become squires. Scarce any artisans are left."[1342] At the place of meeting there assembled thirty thousand men, of whom many were on foot and many came from the villages, giving their services in return for food. There were likewise monks, valets, women and other camp-followers. And all this multitude was an hungered. The King went to Gien and summoned the Queen who was at Bourges.[1343]

His idea was to take her to Reims and have her crowned with him, following the example of Queen Blanche of Castille, of Jeanne de Valois, and of Queen Jeanne, wife of King John. But queens had not usually been crowned at Reims; Queen Ysabeau, mother of the present King, had received the crown from the hands of the Archbishop of Rouen in the Sainte-Chapelle, in Paris.[1344] Before her time, the wives of the kings, following the example set by Berthe, wife of Pepin the Short, generally came to Saint-Denys to receive the crown of gold, of sapphire and of pearls given by Jeanne of Évreux to the monks of the Abbey.[1345] Sometimes the queens were crowned with[Pg i.396] their husbands, sometimes alone and in a different place; many had never been crowned at all.

That King Charles should have thought of taking Queen Marie on this expedition proves that he did not anticipate great fatigue or great danger. Nevertheless, at the last moment the plan was changed. The Queen, who had come to Gien, was sent back to Bourges. The King set out without her.[1346]

Quand le roy s'en vint en France,
Il feit oindre ses houssiaulx,
Et la royne lui demande:
Ou veult aller cest damoiseaulx?[1347]

In reality the Queen asked nothing. She was ill-favoured and weak of will.[1348] But the song says that the King on his departure had his old gaiters greased because he had no new ones. Those old jokes about the poverty of the King of Bourges still held good.[1349] The King had not grown rich. It was customary to pay the men-at-arms a part of their wages in advance. At Gien each fighting man received three francs. It did not seem much, but they hoped to gain more on the way.[1350]

On Friday, the 24th of June, the Maid set out from Orléans for Gien. On the morrow she dictated from Gien a letter to the inhabitants of Tournai, telling them how the English had been driven from all their[Pg i.397] strongholds on the Loire and discomfited in battle. In this letter she invited them to come to the anointing of King Charles at Reims and called upon them to continue loyal Frenchmen. Here is the letter:


Fair Frenchmen and loyal, of the town of Tournay, from this place the Maid maketh known unto you these tidings: that in eight days, by assault or otherwise, she hath driven the English from all the strongholds they held on the River Loire. Know ye that the Earl of Suffort, Lapoulle his brother, the Sire of Tallebord, the Sire of Scallez and my lords Jean Falscof and many knights and captains have been taken, and the brother of the Earl of Suffort and Glasdas slain. I beseech you to remain good and loyal Frenchmen; and I beseech and entreat you that ye make yourselves ready to come to the anointing of the fair King Charles at Rains, where we shall shortly be, and come ye to meet us when ye know that we draw nigh. To God I commend you. God keep you and give you his grace that ye may worthily maintain the good cause of the realm of France. Written at Gien the xxvth day of June.

Addressed "to the loyal Frenchmen of the town of Tournay."[1351]

An epistle in the same tenor must have been sent by the Maid's monkish scribes to all the towns which had remained true to King Charles, and the priests themselves must have drawn up the list of them.[1352][Pg i.398] They would certainly not have forgotten that town of the royal domain, which, situated in Flanders,[1353] in the heart of Burgundian territory, still remained loyal to its liege lord. The town of Tournai, ceded to Philip the Good by the English government, in 1423, had not recognised its new master. Jean de Thoisy, its bishop, resided at Duke Philip's court;[1354] but it remained the King's town,[1355] and the well-known attachment of its townsfolk to the Dauphin's fortunes was exemplary and famous.[1356] The Consuls of Albi, in a short note concerning the marvels of 1429, were careful to remark that this northern city, so remote that they did not exactly know where it was, still held out for France, though surrounded by France's enemies. "The truth is that the English occupy the whole land of Normandy, and of Picardy, except Tournay,"[1357] they wrote.

[Pg i.399]

Indeed the inhabitants of the bailiwick of Tournai, jealously guarding the liberties and privileges accorded to them by the King of France, would not have separated themselves from the Crown on any consideration. They protested their loyalty, and in honour of the King and in the hope of his recovering his kingdom they had grand processions; but their devotion stopped there; and, when their liege Lord, King Charles, urgently demanded the arrears of their contribution, of which he said he stood in great need, their magistrates deliberated and decided to ask leave to postpone payment again, and for as long as possible.[1358]

There is no doubt that the Maid herself dictated this letter. It will be noticed that therein she takes to herself the credit and the whole credit for the victory. Her candour obliged her to do so. In her opinion God had done everything, but he had done everything through her. "The Maid hath driven the English out of all their strongholds." She alone could reveal so naïve a faith in herself. Brother Pasquerel would not have written with such saintly simplicity.

It is remarkable that in this letter Sir John Fastolf should be reckoned among the prisoners. This mistake is not peculiar to Jeanne. The King announces to his good towns that three English captains have been taken, Talbot, the Lord of Scales and Fastolf. Perceval de Boulainvilliers, in his Latin epistle to the Duke of Milan, includes Fastolf, whom he calls Fastechat, among the thousand prisoners taken by the folk of Dauphiné. Finally, a missive despatched about the 25th of June, from one of the towns of the diocese of Luçon, shows great uncertainty concern[Pg i.400]ing the fate of Talbot, Fastolf and Scales, "who are said to be either prisoners or dead."[1359] Possibly the French had laid hands on some noble who resembled Fastolf in appearance or in name; or perhaps some man-at-arms in order to be held to ransom had given himself out to be Fastolf. The Maid's letter reached Tournai on the 7th of July. On the morrow the town council resolved to send an embassy to King Charles of France.[1360]

On the 27th of June, or about then, the Maid caused letters to be despatched to the Duke of Burgundy, inviting him to come to the King's coronation. She received no reply.[1361] Duke Philip was the last man in the world to correspond with the Maid. And that she should have written to him courteously was a sign of her goodness of heart. As a child in her village she had been the enemy of the Burgundians before being the enemy of the English, but none the less she desired the good of the kingdom and a reconciliation between Burgundians and French.

The Duke of Burgundy could not lightly pardon the ambush of Montereau; but at no time of his life had he vowed an irreconcilable hatred of the French. An understanding had become possible after the year 1425, when his brother-in-law, the Constable of France, had excluded Duke John's murderers from[Pg i.401] the Royal Council. As for the Dauphin Charles, he maintained that he had had nothing to do with the crime; but among the Burgundians he passed for an idiot.[1362] In the depths of his heart Duke Philip disliked the English. After King Henry V's death he had refused to act as their regent in France. Then there was the affair of the Countess Jacqueline which very nearly brought about an open rupture.[1363] For many years the House of Burgundy had been endeavouring to gain control over the Low Countries. At last Duke Philip attained his object by marrying his second cousin, John, Duke of Brabant to Jacqueline of Bavaria, Countess of Hainault, Holland and Zealand, and Lady of Friesland. Jacqueline, finding her husband intolerable, fled to England, and there, having had her marriage annulled by the Antipope, Benedict XIII, married the Duke of Gloucester, the Regent's brother.

Bedford, as prudent as Gloucester was headstrong, made every effort to retain the great Duke in the English alliance; but the secret hatred he felt for the Burgundians burst forth occasionally in sudden acts of rage. Whether he planned the assassination of the Duke and the Duke knew it, is uncertain. But at any rate it is alleged that one day the courteous Bedford forgot himself so far as to say that Duke Philip might well go to England and drink more beer than was good for him.[1364] The Regent had just tactlessly of[Pg i.402]fended him by refusing to let him take possession of the town of Orléans.[1365] Now Bedford was biting his fingers with rage. Regretting that he had refused the Duke the key to the Loire and the heart of France, he was at present eager to offer him the province of Champagne which the French were preparing to conquer: this was indeed just the time to present some rich gift to his powerful ally.[1366]

Meanwhile the great Duke could think of nothing but the Low Countries. Pope Martin had declared the marriage of the Countess Jacqueline and Gloucester to be invalid; and Gloucester was marrying another wife. Now the Gargantua of Dijon could once more lay hands on the broad lands of the fair Jacqueline. He remained the ally of the English, intending to make use of them but not to play into their hands, and prepared, should he find it to his advantage, to make war on the French before being reconciled to them; he saw no harm in that. After the Low Countries what he cared most about were ladies and beautiful paintings, like those of the brothers Van Eyck. He would not be likely therefore to pay much attention to a letter from the Maid of the Armagnacs.[1367]


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