Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 7

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

Not an Englishman remained to the south of the Loire. On the next day, Sunday, those who were on the north side abandoned their bastilles, their artillery, their prisoners, their sick. Talbot and Suffolk directed the retreat, which was made in good order, and with a bold front. The Pucelle forbade pursuit, as they retired of their own accord. But before they had lost sight of the city, she ordered an altar to be raised in the plain, had mass sung, and the Orleanois returned thanks to God in presence of the enemy (Sun day, May 8).

The effect produced by the deliver ance of Orleans was beyond calcula tion. All recognized it to be the work of a supernatural power; which though some ascribed to the devil's agency, most referred to God, and it began to be the general impression that Charles VII. had right on his side.
Six days after the raising of the siege, Gerson published a discourse to prove that this marvellous event might be reasonably considered God's own doing. The good Christine de Pisan also wrote a poem to congratulate her sex; and many treatises were published, more favorable than hostile to. the Pucelle, and even by subjects of the Duke of Burgundy, the ally of the English.


Charles Vll's policy was to seize the opportunity, march boldly from Orleans to Rheims, and lay hand on the crown - seemingly a rash, but in re ality a safe step, before the English had recovered from their panic. Since they had committed the capital blunder of not having yet crowned their young Henry VI., it behooved to be before hand with them. He who was first anointed king would remain king. It would also be a great thing for Charles VII. to make his royal progress through English France, to take possession, to show that in every part of Prance the king was at home.

Such was the counsel of the Pucelle alone, and this heroic folly was con summate wisdom. The politic and shrewd among the royal counsellors, those whose judgment was held in most esteem, smiled at the idea, and recommended proceeding slowly and surely : in other words, giving the English time* to recover their spirits. They all, too, had an interest of their own in the advice they gave. The Duke of Alen9on recommended march ing into Normandy - with a view to the recovery of Alen9on. Others, and they were listened to, counselled stay ing upon the Loire) and reducing the smaller towns. This was the most timid counsel of all ; but it was to the interest of the houses of Orleans and of Anjou, and of the Poitevin, La Tr^ mouille, Charles Tilth's favorite.

Suffolk had thrown himself into Jar geau : it was attacked, and carried by assault Beaugency was next taken, before Talbot could receive the rein forcements sent him by the regent, undet the command of Sir John Pal stoff. The constable, Richemont, who had long remained secluded in his own domains, came with his Bretons, con trary to the wishes of either the king or the Pucelle, to the aid of the victo rious army.

A battle was imminent, and Riche mont was come to carry oflF its honors. Talbot and PalstoflF had effected a junction ; but, strange to tell, though the circumstance paints to the life the state of the country and the fortuitous nature of the war, no one knew where to find the English army, lost in the desert of La Beauce, the which district was then overrun with thickets and brambles. A stag led to the discovery : chased by the French vanguard, the scared animal rushed into the Eng lish ranks.

The English happened to be on their march, and had not, as usual, intrenched themselves behind their stakes. Tal bot alone wished to give battle, mad dened as he was at having shown his back to the French at Orleans. Sir John Falstoff, on the contrary, who had gained the battle of herrings, did not require to fight to recover his rep utation, but with much prudence ad vised, as the troops were discouraged, remaining on the defensive. The French menatarms did not wait for the English leaders to make up their minds, but, coming up at a gallop, en countered but slight resistance. Tal bot would fight, seeking, perhaps, to fall ; but he only succeeded in getting made prisoner. The pursuit was murderous; and the bodies of two thou sand of the English strewed the plain. At the sight of such numbers of dead La Pucelle shed tears ; but she wept much more bitterly when she saw the brutality of the soldiery, and how they treated prisoners who had no ransom to give. Perceiving one of them felled, dying, to the ground, she was no longer mistress of herself, but threw herself from her horse, raised the poor man's head, sent for a priest, comforted him, and smoothed his way to death.

After this battle of Patay (June 28 or 29), the hour was come, or never, to hazard the expedition to Bheims. The politic still advised remaining on the Loire ; and the securing possession of Cosne and La Charitd. This time they spoke in vain ; timid voices could no longer gain a hearing. Every day there flocked to the camp men from all the provinces, attracted by the re ports of the Pucelle's miracles, believ ing in her only, and, like her, longing to lead the king to Hheims. There was an irresistible impulse abroad to push forward and drive out the English - the spirit both of pilgrimage and of crusade. The indolent young monarch himself was at last hurried away by this popular tide, which swelled and rolled in northwards. King, courtiers, politicians, enthusiasts, fools, and wise, were oflf together, either voluntarily or compulsorily. At starting they were twelve thousand; but the mass gathered bulk as it rolled along, fresh comers following fresh comers. They who had no armor joined the holy ex pedition with no other defence than a leathern jack, as archers or as coutili era (dagsmen), although, may be, of gentle blood.

The army marched from Gien on the 28th of June, and passed before Aux erre without attempting to enter ; this city being in the hands of the Duke of Burgundy, whom it was advisable to observe terms with. Troyes was garrisoned partly by Burgundians, partly by English; and they ventured on a sally at the first approach of the royal army. There seemed little hope of forcing so large and well garrisoned a city, and especially without artillery. And how delay, in order to invest it regularly? On the other hand, how advance and leave so strong a place in their rear? Already, too, the army was sufiFering from want of provisions. Would it not be better to return? The politic were full of triumph at the verification of their forebodings.

There was but one old Armagnac counsellor, the president Maison, who held the contrary opinion, and who understood that in an enterprise of the kind the wise part was the enthusiastic one, that in a popular crusade . reasoning was beside the mark. " When the king undertook this expedition," he argued, " it was not because he had an overwhelming force, or because he had full coflTers, or because it was his opin ion that the attempt was practicable, but because Jeanne told him to march forward and be crowned at Bheims, and that he would encounter but little op position, such being God's good pleas ure."

Here the Pucelle coming and knock ing at the door of the room in which the council was held, assured them that they should enter Troyes in three days. " We would willingly wait six," said the chancellor, " were we certain that you spoke sooth." - "Six! you shall enter tomorrow."

She snatches up her standard; all the troops follow her to the fosse, and they throw into it fagots, doors, tables, rafters, whatever they can lay their hands upon. So quickly was the whole done, that the citizens thought there would soon be no fosses. The English began to lose their head as at Orl(3ans, and fancied they saw a cloud of white butterflies hovering around the magic standard. The citizens, for their part, were filled with alarm, re membering that it was in their city the treaty had been concluded which dis inherited Charles VII. They feared being made an example of, took refuge in the two churches, and cried out to surrender. The garrison asked no better, opened a conference, and capitulated on condition of being allowed to march out with what they had.


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