Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France


LEAVING Troyes, the royal army entered into the poorer part of Champagne, crossed the Aube near Arcis, and took up its quarters at Lettrée, twelve and a half miles from Châlons. From Lettrée the King sent his herald Montjoie to the people of Châlons to ask them to receive him and render him obedience.[1471]

The towns of Champagne were as closely related as the fingers of one hand. When the Dauphin was at Brinion-l'Archevêque, the people of Châlons had heard of it from their friends of Troyes. The latter had even told them that Friar Richard, the preacher, had brought them a letter from Jeanne the Maid. Whereupon the folk of Châlons wrote to those of Reims:

"We are amazed at Friar Richard. We esteemed him a man right worthy. But he has turned sorcerer. We announce unto you that the citizens of Troyes are making war against the Dauphin's men. We are resolved to resist the enemy with all our strength."[1472]

[Pg i.436]

They thought not one word of what they wrote, and they knew that the citizens of Reims would believe none of it. But it was important to display great loyalty to the Duke of Burgundy before receiving another master.

The Count Bishop of Châlons came out to Lettrée to meet the King and gave up to him the keys of the town. He was Jean de Montbéliard-Saarbrück, one of the Sires of Commercy.[1473]

On the 14th of July the King and his army entered the town of Châlons.[1474] There the Maid found four or five peasants from her village come to see her, and with them Jean Morel, who was her kinsman. By calling a husbandman, and about forty-three years of age, he had fled with the d'Arc family to Neufchâteau on the passing of the men-at-arms. Jeanne gave him a red gown which she had worn.[1475] At Châlons also she met another husbandman, younger than Morel by about ten years, Gérardin from Épinal, whom she called her compeer,[1476] just as she called Gérardin's wife Isabellette her commère[1477] because she had held their[Pg i.437] son Nicolas over the baptismal font and because a godmother is a mother in the spirit. At home in the village Jeanne mistrusted Gérardin because he was a Burgundian. At Châlons she showed more confidence in him and talked to him of the progress of the army, saying that she feared nothing except treason.[1478] Already she had dark forebodings; doubtless she felt that henceforth the frankness of her soul and the simplicity of her mind would be hardly assailed by the wickedness of men and the confusing forces of circumstance. Already the words of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret had lost some of their primitive clearness, for they had come to treat of those French and Burgundian state secrets which were not heavenly matters.

The people of Châlons, following the example of their friends of Troyes, wrote to the inhabitants of Reims that they had received the King of France and that they counselled them to do likewise. In this letter they said they had found King Charles kind, gracious, pitiful, and merciful; and of a truth the King was dealing leniently with the towns of Champagne. The people of Châlons added that he had a great mind and a fine bearing.[1479] That was saying much.

The citizens of Reims acted with extreme caution. On the arrival of the King of France in the neighbourhood of the town, while they sent informing him that their gates should be opened to him, to their[Pg i.438] Lord Philip and likewise to the Burgundians and English captains, they sent word of the progress of the royal army as far as they knew it, and called upon them to oppose the enemy's march.[1480] But they were in no hurry to obtain succour, reckoning that, should they receive none, they could surrender to King Charles without incurring any censure from the Burgundians, and that thus they would have nothing to fear from either party. For the moment they preserved their loyalty to the two sides, which was wise in circumstances so difficult and so dangerous. While observing the craft with which these towns of Champagne practised the art of changing masters, it is well to remember that their lives and possessions depended on their knowledge of that art.

As early as the 1st of July Captain Philibert de Moslant wrote to them from Nogent-sur-Seine, where he was with his Burgundian company, that if they needed him he would come to their help like a good Christian.[1481] They feigned not to understand. After all, the Lord Philibert was not their captain. What he proposed to do was, as he said, only out of Christian charity. The notables of Reims, who did not wish for deliverance, had to beware, above all, of their natural deliverer, the Sire de Chastillon, Grand Steward of France, the commander of the town.[1482] And they must needs request help in such a manner as not to obtain their request, for fear of being like the Israelites, of whom it is written: Et tribuit eis petitionem eorum.

[Pg i.439]

When the royal army was yet before the walls of Troyes, a herald appeared at the gates of Reims, bearing a letter given by the King, at Brinion-l'Archevêque, on Monday, the 4th of July. This letter was delivered to the Council. "You may have heard tidings," said the King to his good people of Reims, "of the success and victory it hath pleased God to vouchsafe unto us over our ancient enemies, the English, before the town of Orléans and since then at Jargeau, Beaugency, and Meung-sur-Loire, in each of which places our enemies have received grievous hurt; all their leaders and others to the number of four thousand have been slain or taken prisoners. Such things having happened, more by divine grace than human skill, we, according to the advice of our Princes of the Blood and the members of our Great Council, are coming to the town of Reims to receive our anointing and coronation. Wherefore we summon you, on the loyalty and obedience you owe us, to dispose yourselves to receive us in the accustomed manner as you have done for our predecessors."[1483]

And King Charles, adopting towards the citizens of Reims that same wise benignity he had shown to the citizens of Troyes, promised them full pardon and oblivion.

"Be not deterred," he said, "by matters that are past and the fear that we may remember them. Be assured that if now ye act towards us as ye ought, ye shall be dealt with as becometh good and loyal subjects."

He even asked them to send notables to treat with him. "If, in order to be better informed concerning our intentions, certain citizens of Reims would come to us with the herald, whom we send, we should be well[Pg i.440] pleased. They may come in safety and in such numbers as shall seem good to them."[1484]

On the delivery of this letter the Council was convoked, but it so befell that there were not enough aldermen to deliberate; hence the Council was relieved from a serious embarrassment. Whereupon the common folk were assembled in the various quarters of the city, and from the citizens thus consulted was obtained the following crafty declaration: "It is our intention to live and die with the Council and the Notables. According to their advice we shall act in concord and in peace, without murmuring or making answer, unless it be by the counsel and decree of the Commander of Reims and his Lieutenant."[1485]

The Sire de Chastillon, Commander of the town, was then at Château-Thierry with his lieutenants, Jean Cauchon and Thomas de Bazoches, both of them knights. The citizens of Reims deemed it wise that he should see King Charles's letter. Their Bailie, Guillaume Hodierne, went to the Lord Captain and showed it to him. Most faithfully did the Bailie express the sentiments of the people of Reims: he asked the Sire de Chastillon to come to their deliverance, but he asked in such a manner that he did not come. That was the all-important point; for by not appealing to him they laid themselves open to a charge of treason, while if he did come they risked having to endure a siege grievous and dangerous.

With this object the Bailie declared that the citizens of Reims, desirous to communicate with their captains, were willing to receive him if he were ac[Pg i.441]companied by no more than fifty horse. Herein they displayed their good will, being entitled to refuse to receive a garrison within their walls; this privilege notwithstanding, they consented to admit fifty horse, which meant about two hundred fighting men. As the citizens had foreseen, the Sire de Chastillon judged such a number insufficient for his safety. He demanded as the conditions of his coming, that the town should be victualled and put in a state of defence, that he should enter it with three or four hundred combatants, that the defence of the city as well as of the castle should be entrusted to him, and that there should be delivered up to him five or six notables as hostages. On these conditions he declared himself ready to live and die for them.[1486]

He marched with his company to within a short distance of the town, and then made known to the townsfolk that he had come to succour them.[1487]

The English were indeed recruiting troops wherever they could and pressing all manner of folk into their service. They were said to be arming even priests; and the Regent was certainly pressing into his service the crusaders disembarked in France, whom the Cardinal of Winchester was intending to lead against the Hussites.[1488] As we may imagine, King Henry's Council did not fail to inform the in[Pg i.442]habitants of Reims of the armaments which were being assembled. On the 3rd of July they were told that the troops were crossing the sea, and on the 10th Colard de Mailly, Bailie of Vermandois, announced that they had landed. But these tidings failed to inspire the folk of Champagne with any great confidence in the power of the English. While the Sire de Chastillon was promising that in forty days they should have a fine large army from beyond the seas, King Charles with thirty thousand combatants was but a few miles from their gates. The Sire de Chastillon perceived, what he had previously suspected, that he was tricked. The citizens of Reims refused to admit him. Nothing remained for him but to turn round and join the English.[1489]

On the 12th of July, from my Lord Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop and Duke of Reims, the townsfolk received a letter requesting them to make ready for the King's coming.[1490]

The Council of the city having assembled on that day, the clerk proceeded to draw up an official report of its deliberations:

"... After having represented to my Lord of Chastillon that he is the Commander and that the lords and the mass of the people who...."[1491]

He wrote no more. Finding it difficult to protest their loyalty to the English while making ready King Charles's coronation, and considering it imprudent to recognize a new prince without being forced to it, the citizens abruptly renounced the silver of speech and took refuge in the gold of silence.

On Saturday, the 16th, King Charles took up his[Pg i.443] quarters in the Castle of Sept-Saulx, ten miles from the city where he was to be crowned. This fortress had been erected two hundred years before by the warlike predecessors of my Lord Regnault. Its proud keep commanded the crossing of the Vesle.[1492] There the King received the citizens of Reims, who came in great numbers to do him homage.[1493] Then, with the Maid and his whole army, he resumed his march. Having traversed the last stage of the highroad which wound along the bank of the Vesle, he entered the great city of Champagne at nightfall. The southern gate, called Dieulimire, lowered its drawbridge and raised its two portcullises to let him pass.[1494]

According to tradition the coronation should take place on a Sunday. This rule was found mentioned in a ceremonial which was believed to have served for the coronation of Louis VIII and was considered authoritative.[1495] The citizens of Reims worked all night in order that everything might be ready on the[Pg i.444] morrow.[1496] They were urged on by their sudden affection for the King of France and likewise by their fear lest he and his army[1497] should spend many days in their city. Their horror of receiving and maintaining men-at-arms within their gates they shared with the citizens of all towns, who in their panic were incapable of distinguishing Armagnac soldiers from English and Burgundians. Wherefore in all things were they diligent, but with the firm intention of paying as little as possible. Seeing that to them the coronation brought neither profit nor honour, the aldermen were accustomed to throw the burden of it on the Archbishop, who, they said, as peer of France,[1498] would receive the emoluments.


Charles VII

From an old engraving


The royal ornaments, which, after the coronation of the late King, had been deposited in the sacristy of Saint-Denys, were in the hands of the English. The crown of Charlemagne, brilliant with rubies, sapphires and emeralds, adorned with four flowers-de-luce, which the Kings of France received on their coronation, the English wished to place on the head of their King Henry. This child King they were preparing to gird with the sword of Charlemagne, the illustrious Joyeuse, which in its sheath of violet velvet slept in the keeping of the Burgundian Abbot of Saint-Denys. In English hands likewise were the sceptre surmounted by a golden Charlemagne in imperial robes, the rod of justice terminated by a hand[Pg i.445] in horn of unicorn, the golden clasp of Saint Louis' mantle, and the golden spurs and the Pontifical, containing within its enamelled binding of silver-gilt the ceremonial of the coronation.[1499] The French must needs make shift with a crown kept in the sacristy of the cathedral.[1500] The other signs of royalty handed down from Clovis, from Saint Charlemagne and Saint Louis must be represented as well as could be. After all, it was not unfitting that this coronation, won by a single expedition, should be expressive of the labour and suffering it had cost. It was well that the ceremony should suggest something of the heroic poverty of the men-at-arms and the common folk who had brought the Dauphin thither.

Kings were anointed with oil, because oil signifies renown, glory, and wisdom. In the morning the Sires de Rais, de Boussac, de Graville and de Culant were deputed by the King to go and fetch the Holy Ampulla.[1501]

It was a crystal flask which the Grand Prior of Saint-Remi kept in the tomb of the Apostle, behind the high altar of the Abbey Church. This flask contained the sacred chrism with which the Blessed Remi had anointed King Clovis. It was enclosed in a reliquary in the form of a dove, because the Holy[Pg i.446] Ghost in the semblance of a dove had been seen descending with the oil for the anointing of the first Christian King.[1502] Of a truth in ancient books it was written that an angel had come down from heaven with the miraculous ampulla,[1503] but men were not disturbed by such inconsistencies, and among Christian folk no one doubted that the sacred chrism was possessed of miraculous power. For example, it was known that with use the oil became no less, that the flask remained always full, as a premonition and a pledge that the kingdom of France would endure for ever. According to the observation of witnesses, at the time of the coronation of the late King Charles, the oil had not diminished after the anointing.[1504]

At nine o'clock in the morning Charles of Valois entered the church with a numerous retinue. The king-at-arms of France called by name the twelve peers of the realm to come before the high altar. Of the six lay peers not one replied. In their places came the Duke of Alençon, the Counts of Clermont and of Vendôme, the Sires de Laval, de La Trémouille, and de Maillé.

Of the six ecclesiastical peers, three replied to the summons of the king-at-arms,—the Archbishop Duke[Pg i.447] of Reims, the Bishop Count of Châlons, the Bishop Duke of Laon. For the missing bishops of Langres and Noyon were substituted those of Seez and Orléans. In the absence of Arthur of Brittany, Constable of France, the sword was held by Charles, Sire d'Albret.[1505]

In front of the altar was Charles of Valois, wearing robes open on the chest and shoulders. He swore, first, to maintain the peace and privileges of the Church; second, to preserve his people from exactions and not to burden them too heavily; third, to govern with justice and mercy.[1506]

From his cousin d'Alençon he received the arms of a knight.[1507] Then the Archbishop anointed him with the holy oil, with which the Holy Ghost makes strong priests, kings, prophets and martyrs. So this new Samuel consecrated the new Saul, making manifest that all power is of God, and that, according to the example set by David, kings are pontiffs, the ministers and the witnesses of the Lord. This pouring out of the oil, with which the Kings of Israel were anointed, had rendered the kings of most Christian France burning and shining lights since the time of Charlemagne, yea, even since the days of Clovis; for though it was baptism and confirmation rather than anointing that Clovis received at the hands of the Blessed Saint Remi, yet he was anointed Christian and King by the blessed bishop, and at[Pg i.448] the same time and with that same holy oil which God himself had sent to this prince and to his successors.[1508]

And Charles received the anointing, the sign of power and victory, for it is written in the Book of Samuel:[1509] "And Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it upon his head and kissed him, and said, 'Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance and to deliver his people from their enemies round about. Ecce unxit te Dominus super hereditatem suam in principem, et liberabis populum suum de manibus inimicorum ejus, qui in circuitu ejus sunt.'" (Reg. 1. x. 1. 6.)

During the mystery, as it was called in the old parlance,[1510] the Maid stayed by the King's side. Her white banner, before which the ancient standard of Chandos had retreated, she held for a moment unfurled. Then others in their turn held her standard, her page Louis de Coutes, who never left her, and Friar Richard the preacher, who had followed her to Châlons and to Reims.[1511] In one of her dreams she had lately given a crown to the King; she was looking for this crown to be brought into the church by heavenly messengers.[1512] Did not saints commonly receive crowns from angels' hands? To Saint Cecilia an angel offered a crown with garlands of roses and[Pg i.449] lilies. To Catherine, the Virgin, an angel gave an imperishable crown, which she placed upon the head of the Empress of Rome. But the crown curiously rich and magnificent that Jeanne looked for came not.[1513]

From the altar the Archbishop took the crown of no great value provided by the chapter, and with both hands raised it over the King's head. The twelve peers, in a circle round the prince, stretched forth their arms to hold it. The trumpets blew and the folk cried: "Noël."[1514]

Thus was anointed and crowned Charles of France issue of the royal line of Priam, great Troy's noble King.

Two hours after noon the mystery came to an end.[1515] We are told that then the Maid knelt low before the King, and, weeping said:

"Fair King, now is God's pleasure accomplished. It was His will that I should raise the siege of Orléans and bring you to this city of Reims to receive your holy anointing, making manifest that you are the true King and he to whom the realm of France should belong."[1516]

The King made the customary gifts. To the Chapter he presented hangings of green satin as well as ornaments of red velvet and white damask. Moreover, he placed upon the altar a silver vase with thirteen golden crowns. Regardless of the claims asserted by the canons, the Lord Archbishop took[Pg i.450] possession of it, but it profited him little, for he had to give it up.[1517] After the ceremony King Charles put the crown on his head and over his shoulders the royal mantle, blue as the sky, flowered with lilies of gold; and on his charger he passed down the streets of Reims city. The people in great joy cried, "Noël!" as they had cried when my Lord the Duke of Burgundy entered. On that day the Sire de Rais was made marshal of France and the Sire de la Trémouille count. The eldest of Madame de Laval's two sons, he to whom the Maid had offered wine at Selles-en-Berry, was likewise made count. Captain La Hire received the county of Longueville with such parts of Normandy as he could conquer.[1518]

King Charles dined in the archiepiscopal palace in the ancient hall of Tau, and was served by the Duke of Alençon and the Count of Clermont.[1519] As was customary, the royal table extended into the street, and there was feasting throughout the town. It was a day of free drinking and fraternity. In the houses, at the doors, by the wayside, folk made good cheer, and the kitchens were busy; there were that day consumed oxen in dozens, sheep in hundreds, chicken and rabbits in thousands. Folk stuffed themselves with spices, and (for it was a thirsty day) they quaffed full many a beaker of wine of Burgundy, and especially of that wine of delicate flavour that comes from Beaune. At every coronation the ancient stag, made[Pg i.451] of bronze and hollow, which stood in the courtyard of the archiepiscopal palace was carried into the Rue du Parvis; it was filled with wine and the people drank from it as from a fountain. Finally the burgesses and all the inhabitants of Blessed Saint Remi's city, rich and poor alike, stuffed and satiated with good wine, having howled "Noël!" till they were hoarse, fell asleep over the wine-casks and the victuals, the remains of which were to be a cause of bitter dispute between the grim aldermen and the King's men on the morrow.[1520]

Jacques d'Arc had come to see the coronation for which his daughter had so zealously laboured. He lodged at the Sign of L'Ane Rayé in the Rue du Parvis in a hostelry kept by Alix, widow of Raulin Morieau. As well as his daughter, he saw once more his son Pierre.[1521] The cousin, whom Jeanne called uncle and who had accompanied her to Vaucouleurs to Sire Robert, had likewise come hither to the coronation. He spoke to the King and told him all he knew of his cousin.[1522] At Reims also Jeanne found her young fellow-countryman, Husson Le Maistre, coppersmith of the village of Varville, about seven miles from Domremy. She did not know him; but he had heard tell of her, and he was very familiar with Jacques and Pierre d'Arc.[1523]

Jacques d'Arc was one of the notables and per[Pg i.452]haps the best business man of his village.[1524] It was not merely to see his daughter riding through the streets in man's attire that he had come to Reims. He had come doubtless for himself and on behalf of his village to ask the King for an exemption from taxation. This request, presented to the King by the Maid, was granted. On the 31st of the month the King decreed that the inhabitants of Greux and of Domremy should be free from all tailles, aids, subsidies, and subventions.[1525] Out of the public funds the magistrates of the town paid Jacques d'Arc's expenses, and when he was about to depart they gave him a horse to take him home.[1526]

During the five or six days she spent at Reims the Maid appeared frequently before the townsfolk. The poor and humble came to her; good wives took her by the hand and touched their rings with hers.[1527] On her finger she wore a little ring made of a kind of brass, sometimes called electrum.[1528] Electrum was said to be the gold of the poor. In place of a stone the ring had a collet inscribed with the words "Jhesus Maria" with three crosses. Oftentimes she reverently fixed her gaze upon it, for once she had had it touched[Pg i.453] by Saint Catherine.[1529] And that the Saint should have actually touched it was not incredible, seeing that some years before, in 1413, Sister Colette, who was vowed to virginal chastity, had received from the Virgin apostle a rich golden ring, as a sign of her spiritual marriage with the King of Kings. Sister Colette permitted the nuns and monks of her order to touch this ring, and she confided it to the messengers she sent to distant lands to preserve them from perils by the way.[1530] The Maid ascribed great powers to her ring, albeit she never used it to heal the sick.[1531]

She was expected to render those trifling services which it was usual to ask from holy folk and sometimes from magicians. Before the coronation ceremony the nobles and knights had been given gloves, according to the custom. One of them lost his; he asked the Maid to find them, or others asked her for him. She did not promise to do it; notwithstanding the matter became known, and various interpretations were placed upon it.[1532]

After the King's coronation, jostled by the crowd in the Rue du Parvis, one can imagine some thoughtful clerk raising his eyes to the glorious façade of the Cathedral, that Bible in stone, already appearing ancient to men, who, knowing naught of the chronicles, measured time by the span of human existence. Such a clerk would have certainly beheld on the left[Pg i.454] of the pointed arch above the rose window the colossal image of Goliath rising proudly in his coat of mail, and that same figure repeated on the right of the arch in the attitude of a man tottering and ready to fall.[1533] Then this clerk must have remembered what is written in the first book of Kings:[1534]

"And there went out a man base-born from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Geth, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had a helmet of brass upon his head and he was clothed with a coat of mail with scales; and the weight of his coat of mail was five thousand sicles of brass. And standing he cried out to the bands of Israel and said to them: I bring reproach unto the armies of Israel. Choose out a man of you, and let him come down and fight hand to hand.

"Now David had gone to feed his Father's sheep at Bethlehem. But he arose in the morning and gave the charge of the flock to the keeper. And he came to the place of Magala and to the army which was going out to fight. And, seeing Goliath, he asked: 'Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?'

"And the words which David spoke, were rehearsed before Saul; and he sent for him. David said to Saul, 'Let not any man's heart be dismayed in him; I, thy servant, will go and fight against this Philistine.' And Saul said to David 'Thou art not able to withstand this Philistine nor to fight against[Pg i.455] him; for thou art but a boy, but he is a warrior from his youth.' And David made answer, 'I will go against him and I will take away the reproach from Israel.' Then Saul said to David, 'Go and the Lord be with thee.'

"And David took his staff which he had always in his hands, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and he took a sling in his hand; and went forth against the Philistine.

"And when the Philistine looked and beheld David, he despised him. For he was a young man, and ruddy, and of a comely countenance. And the Philistine said to David: 'Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with a staff?' Then said David to the Philistine: 'Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, which thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand that all the earth may know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for it is his battle, and he will deliver you into our hands.'

"And when the Philistine arose and was coming and drew nigh to meet David, David made haste and ran to the fight to meet the Philistine. And he put his hand into his scrip and took a stone, and cast it with the sling and fetching it about struck the Philistine in the forehead, and the stone was fixed in his forehead and he fell on his face upon the earth."[1535]

Then the clerk, meditating on these words of the Book, would reflect how God, the Unchanging, who saved Israel and struck down Goliath by the sling of a shepherd lad, had raised up the daughter of a[Pg i.456] husbandman for the deliverance of the most Christian realm and the reproach of the Leopard.[1536]

From Gien, about June the 27th, the Maid had had a letter written to the Duke of Burgundy, calling upon him to come to the King's anointing. Having received no reply, on the day of the coronation she dictated a second letter to the Duke. Here it is:

Jhesus Maria

"High and greatly to be feared Prince, Duke of Burgundy, Jehanne the Maid, in the name of the King of Heaven, her rightful and liege lord, requires you and the King of France to make a good peace which shall long endure. Forgive one another heartily and entirely as becometh good Christians; an if it please you to make war, go ye against the Saracens. Prince of Burgundy, I pray you, I entreat you, I beseech you as humbly as lieth in my power, that ye make war no more against the holy realm of France, and that forthwith and speedily ye withdraw those your men who are in any strongholds and fortresses of the said holy kingdom; and in the name of the fair King of France, he is ready to make peace with you, saving his honour if that be necessary. And in the name of the King of Heaven, my Sovereign liege Lord, for your good, your honour and your life, I make known unto you, that ye will never win in battle against the loyal French and that all they who wage war against the holy realm of France, will be warring against King Jhesus, King of Heaven and of the world, my lawful liege lord. And with clasped hands I beseech and entreat you that ye make no battle nor wage war against us, neither you, nor your people, nor your subjects; and be assured that whatever number of folk ye bring against us, they will gain[Pg i.457] nothing, and it will be sore pity for the great battle and the blood that shall be shed of those that come against us. And three weeks past, I did write and send you letters by a herald, that ye should come to the anointing of the King, which to-day, Sunday, the 17th day of this present month, is made in the city of Reims: to which letter I have had no answer, neither news of the said herald. To God I commend you; may he keep you, if it be his will; and I pray God to establish good peace. Written from the said place of Reims, on the said seventeenth of July."

Addressed: "to the Duke of Burgundy."[1537]

Had Saint Catherine of Sienna been at Reims she would not have written otherwise. Albeit the Maid liked not the Burgundians, in her own way she realized forcibly how desirable was peace with the Duke of Burgundy. With clasped hands she entreats him to cease making war against France. "An it please you to make war then go ye against the Saracens." Already she had counselled the English to join the French and go on a crusade. The destruction of the infidel was then the dream of gentle peace-loving souls; and many pious folk believed that the son of the knight, who had been vanquished at Nicopolis, would make the Turks pay dearly for their former victory.[1538]

In this letter, the Maid, in the name of the King of Heaven, tells Duke Philip that if he fight against the King, he will be conquered. Her voices had foretold[Pg i.458] to her the victory of France over Burgundy; they had not revealed to her that at the very moment when she was dictating her letter the ambassadors of Duke Philip were at Reims; that was so, notwithstanding.[1539]

Esteeming King Charles, master of Champagne, to be a prince worthy of consideration, Duke Philip sent to Reims, David de Brimeu, Bailie of Artois, at the head of an embassy, to greet him and open negotiations for peace.[1540] The Burgundians received a hearty welcome from the Chancellor and the Council. It was hoped that peace would be concluded before their departure. The Angevin lords announced it to their queens, Yolande and Marie.[1541] By so doing they showed how little they knew the consummate old fox of Dijon. The French were not strong enough yet, neither were the English weak enough. It was agreed that in August an embassy should be sent to the Duke of Burgundy in the town of Arras. After four days negotiation, a truce for fifteen days was signed and the embassy left Reims.[1542] At the same time, the Duke at Paris solemnly renewed his complaint against Charles of Valois, his father's assassin, and undertook to bring an army to the help of the English.[1543]

[Pg i.459]

Leaving Antoine de Hellande, nephew of the Duke-Archbishop[1544] to command Reims, the King of France departed from the city on the 20th of July and went to Saint-Marcoul-de-Corbeny, where on the day after their coronation, the Kings were accustomed to touch for the evil.[1545]

Saint Marcoul cured the evil.[1546] He was of royal race, but his power, manifested long after his death, came to him especially from his name, and it was believed that Saint Marcoul was able to cure those afflicted with marks on the neck, as Saint Clare was to give sight to the blind, and Saint Fort to give strength to children. The King of France shared with him the power of healing scrofula; and as the power came to him from the holy oil brought down from heaven by a dove, it was thought that this virtue would be more effectual at the time of the anointing, all the more because by lewdness, disobedience to the Christian Church, and other irregularities, he stood in danger of losing it. That is what had happened to King Philippe I.[1547] The Kings of England touched for the[Pg i.460] evil; notably King Edward III worked wondrous cures on scrofulous folk who were covered with scars. For these reasons scrofula was called Saint Marcoul's evil or King's evil. Virgins as well as kings could cure this royal malady.

King Charles worshipped and presented offerings at the shrine of Saint Marcoul, and there touched for the evil. At Corbeny he received the submission of the town of Laon. Then, on the morrow, the 22nd, he went off to a little stronghold in the valley of the Aisne, called Vailly, which belonged to the Archbishop Duke of Reims. At Vailly he received the submission of the town of Soissons.[1548] In the words of an Armagnac prophet of the time: "the keys of the war gates knew the hands that had forged them."[1549]


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