Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 8

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

What they had was, principally, pris oners, Frenchmen. No stipulation on behalf of these unhappy men had been made by Charles's counsellors who drew up the terms of surrefiiler. The Pucelle alone thought of them; and when the English were about to march forth with their manacled prisoners, she stationed herself at the gates, ex claiming, " my God ! they shall not bear them away I " She detained them, and the king paid their ransom.

Master of Troyes on the 9th of July, on the 15th he made his entry into Rheims; and on the 17th (Sunday) he was crowned. That very morning the Pucelle, fulfilling the gospel command to seek reconciliation before offering sacrifice, dictated a beautiful letter to the Duke of Burgundy; without recalling any thing painful, without irritating, without humiliating any one, she said to him with infinite tact and nobleness - " Forgive one another heartily, as good Christians ought to do."

Charles Vll. was anointed by the archbishop with oil out of the holy ampulla, brought from SaintRemy's. Conformably with the antique ritual, he was installed on his throne by the spiritual peers, and served by lay peers both during the ceremony of the coro nation and the banquet which followed. Then he went to St. Marculph's to touch for the king's evil. All ceremo nies thus duly observed, without the omission of a single particular, Charles was at length, according to the belief of the time, the true and the only king. The English might now crown Henry ; but in the estimation of the people, this new coronation would only be a parody of the other.

At the moment the crown was placed on Charles's head, the Pucelle threw herself on her knees, and embraced his legs with a flood of tears. All present melted into tears as well. She is reported to have addressed him as follows : "0 gentle king, now is fulfilled the will of God, who was pleased that I should raise the siege of Orleans, and should bring you to your city of Rheims to be crowned and anointed, showing you to be true king and rightful possessor of the realm of France."

The Pucelle was in the right: she had done and finished what she had to do : and so, amidst the joy of this tri umphant solemnity, she entertained the idea, the presentiment, perhaps, of her approaching end. When, on entering Reims with the king, the citizens came out to meet them singing hymns, " Oh, the worthy, devout people ! " she ex claimed, ..." I If must die, happy should I feel to be buried here." - " Jehanne," said the archbishop to her, "where then do you think you will die?" - "I have no idea; where it shall please God. ... I wish it would please him that I should go and tend sheep with my sister and my brothers. . . . They would be so happy to see me ! ... At least, I have done what our Lord commanded me to do.'' And raising her eyes to heaven, she re turned thanks. All who saw her at that moment, says the old chronicle, " believed more firmly than ever that she was sent of God."

CARDINAL WINCHESTER.

Such was the virtue of the corona tion, and its allpowerful effect in northern France, that from this mo ment the expedition seemed but to be a peaceable taking of possession, a triumph, a following up of the Rheims festivities. The roads became smooth before the king; the cities gpened their .gates and lowered their draw bridges. The march was as if a royal pilgrimage from the cathedral of Rheims to St. Medard's, Soissons, - and Notre Darae, Laon. Stopping for a few days in each'city, and then riding on at his pleasure, he made his entry into Ch3,t eauThierry, Provins, whence rested and refreshed, he resumed his trium phal progress towards Picardy.

Were there any English left in Prance? - It might be doubted. Since the battle of Patay, not a word had been heard about Bedford; not that he lacked activity or courage, but that he had exhausted his last re sources. One fact alone will serve to show the extent of his distress - he could no longer pay his parliament: the courts were therefore closed, and even the entry of the young king Henry, could not be circumstantially recorded, according to custom, in the registers, " for want of parchment."

So situated, Bedford could not choose his means ; and he was obliged to have recourse to the man whom of all the world he least loved, his uncle, the rich and allpowerful cardinal Win chester, who, not less avaricious than ambitious, began haggling about terms, and speculated upon delay. The agreement with him was not con cluded until the 1st of July, two days after the defeat of Patay. Charles VII. then entered Troyes, Rheims - Paris was in alarm, and Winchester was still in England. To make Paris safe, Bedford summoned the Duke of Burgundy, who came, indeed, but al most alone; and the only advantage which the regent derived from his presence was getting him to figure in an assembly of notables, to speak therein, and again to recapitulate the lamentable story of his father's death. This done, he took his departure; leaving with Bedford, as all the aid he could spare, some Picard menatarms, and even exacting, in return, posses sion of the city of Meaux.

There was no hope but in Winchester. This priest reigned in England. His nephew, the Protector, Gloucester, the leader of the party of the nobles, had ruined himself by his imprudence and follies. Prom year to year, his influence at the council table had di minished, and Winchester's had increased. He reduced the protector to a cipher, and even managed yearly to pare down the income assigned to the protectorate : this, in a land where each man is strictly valued according to his rental, was murdering him. Winchester, on the contrary, was the wealthiest of the English princes, and one of the great pluralists of the world. Power follows, as wealth grows. The cardinal, and the rich bishops of Canterbury, of York, of London, of Ely, and Bath, constituted the council, and if they allowed lay men to sit there, it was only on condi tion that they should not open theii* lips : to important sittings, they were not even summoned. The English government, as might^ have been fore seen from the moment the house of Lancaster ascended the throne, had become entirely episcopal ; a fact evident on the face of the acts passed at this period. In 1429, the chancellor opens the pariiament with a tremen dous denunciation of heresy ; and the council prepares articles against the nobles, whom he accuses of brigand age, and of surrounding themselves with armies of retainers.

In order to raise the cardinal's power to the highest pitch, it required Bedford to be sunk as low in France as Gloucester was in England, that he should be reduced to summon Win chester to his aid, and that the latter, at the head of an army, should come over and crown the young Henry VI. Winchester had the army ready. Hav ing been charged by the pope with a crusade against the Hussites of Bohe mia, he had raised, under this pretext, several thousand men. The pope had assigned him, for this object, the money arising from the sale of indulgences; the council of England gave him more money still to detain his levies in Prance. To the great astonishment of the crusaders they found themselves sold by the cardinal; who was paid twice over for them, paid for an army which served him to make himself king.

With this army, Winchester was to make sure of Paris, and to bring and crown young Henry there. But this coronation could only secure the car dinal's power, in proportion as he should succeed in decrying that of Charles VII., in dishonoring his victo ries, and ruining him in the minds of the people. Now, he had recourse, as we shall see, to one and the same means (a very efficacious means in that day) against Charles VII. in France, and against Gloucester in England - a charge of sorcery.

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