Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France


SINCE the victory of Verneuil and the conquest of Maine, the English had advanced but little in France and their actual possessions there were becoming less and less secure.[467] If they spared the lands of the Duke of Orléans it was not on account of any scruple. Albeit on the banks of the Loire it was held dishonourable to seize the domains of a noble when he was a prisoner,[468] everything is fair in war. The Regent had not scrupled to seize the duchy of Alençon when its duke was a prisoner.[469] The truth is that by bribes and entreaties the good Duke Charles dissuaded the English from attacking his duchy. From 1424 until 1426 the citizens of Orléans purchased peace by money payments.[470] The[Pg i.107] Godons, not being in a position to take the field, were all the more ready to enter into such agreements. During the minority of their half English and half French King, the Duke of Gloucester, the brother and deputy of the Regent, and his uncle, the Bishop of Winchester, Chancellor of the Kingdom, were tearing out each other's hair, and their disputes were the occasion of bloodshed in the London streets.[471] Towards the end of the year 1425 the Regent returned to England, where he spent seventeen months reconciling uncle and nephew and restoring public peace. By dint of craft and vigour he succeeded so far as to render his fellow countrymen desirous and hopeful of completing the conquest of France. With that object, in 1428, the English Parliament voted subsidies.[472]


View of Orleans

VIEW OF ORLÉANS, 1428-1429


Now the most cunning, the most expert, the most fortunate in arms of all the English captains and princes was Thomas Montacute, Earl of Salisbury and of Perche.[473] He had long waged war in Normandy, in Champagne, and in Maine. At present he was gathering an army in England, intended for the banks of the Loire. He got as many bowmen as he wanted; but of horse and men-at-arms he was disappointed. Only those of low estate were willing to go and fight in a land ravaged by famine.[474] At length the[Pg i.108] noble earl, the fair cousin of King Henry, crossed the sea with four hundred and forty-nine men-at-arms and two thousand two hundred and fifty archers.[475] In France he found troops recruited by the Regent, four hundred horse of whom two hundred were Norman, with three bowmen to each horseman, according to the English custom.[476] He led his men to Paris where irrevocable resolutions were taken.[477] Hitherto the plan had been to attack Angers; at the last moment it was decided to lay siege to Orléans.[478]

Between la Beauce and la Sologne, at the entrance to the loyal provinces Touraine, Blésois, and Berry, the ducal city confronted the enemy, lying on a bend of the Loire, just as the arrow's point is lodged on the taut bow.[479] Bishopric, university, market of the country far and wide, on its belfries, towers, and steeples it raised proudly towards heaven the cross of Our Lord, the three cœurs de lis of the city and the three fleurs de lis of the dukes. Beneath the high slate roofs of its houses of stone or wood, built along winding streets or dark alleys, Orléans sheltered fifteen thousand souls. There were to be found officers of justice and of the treasury, goldsmiths, druggists, grocers, tanners, butchers, fishmongers, rich citizens as delicate as amber, who loved fine clothes, fine houses, music and dancing; priests, canons, wardens, and fellows of the university; book[Pg i.109]sellers, scriveners, illuminators, painters, scholars who were not all founts of learning, but who played prettily on the flute; monks of every habit, Black-friars, Grey-friars, Mathurins, Carmelites, Augustinians, and artisans and labourers to boot, smiths, coopers, carpenters, boatmen, fishermen.[480]

Of Roman origin, the form of the town was still the same as in the days of the Emperor Aurelian. The southern side along the Loire and the northern side extended to some three thousand feet. The eastern and western boundaries were only one hundred and fifty feet long. The city was surrounded by walls six feet thick and from eighteen to thirty-three feet high above the moat. These walls were flanked by thirty-four towers, pierced with five gates and two posterns.[481] The following is the description of the situation of these gates, posterns, and towers, with the names of those which became famous during the siege.

Passing from the south east to the south west angle of the wall, were: La Tour Neuve, round and huge, washed by the Loire; three other towers on the river bank; the postern Chesneau, the only one opening on to the water and defended by a portcullis; the[Pg i.110] tower of La Croiche-Meuffroy, so called from the crook or spur which protruded from the foot of the tower into the river; two other towers washed by the Loire; La Port du Pont, with drawbridge and flanked by two towers; La Tour de l'Abreuvoir; la Tour de Notre-Dame, deriving its name from a chapel built against the city walls; la Tour de la Barre-Flambert, the last on this side, at the south west angle of the ramparts and commanding the river. All along the Loire the walls had a stone parapet with machicolated battlements, whence pavingstones could be thrown, and whence, when attempts were made to scale the walls, the enemy's ladders could be hurled down. The distance between the towers was about a bow-shot.

On the western side were first three towers, then two gate towers called Regnard or Renard from the name of citizens to whom had once belonged the adjoining palace, where in 1428 dwelt Jacques Boucher, Treasurer of the Duke of Orléans. Then came another tower and lastly La Porte Bernier or Bannier, at the north west angle of the ramparts. On this side the walls had been constructed in the days of the cross-bow, which shot a greater distance than the bow. The towers here, therefore, were farther apart at the distance of a cross-bow shot one from the other, and the walls were lower than elsewhere. On the northern side, looking towards the forest, were ten towers at a bow-shot's interval. The second, that of Saint-Samson, was used as an arsenal. The sixth and seventh flanked the Paris Gate.

On the eastern side were likewise ten towers at the same distance one from the other as those on the north. The fifth and sixth were those of the Burgundian Gate, also called the Gate of Saint-Aignan,[Pg i.111] because it was close to the church of Saint-Aignan without the walls; the last was the great corner tower, called La Tour Neuve, which thus comes to have been twice counted.

The stone bridge lined with houses which led from the town to the left bank of the Loire was famous all over the world. It had nineteen arches of varying breadth. The first, on leaving the town by La Porte du Pont, was called l'Allouée or Pont Jacquemin-Rousselet; here was a drawbridge. The fifth arch abutted on an island which was long, narrow, and in the form of a boat, like all river islands. Above the bridge it was called Motte-Saint-Antoine, from a chapel built upon it dedicated to that saint; and below, Motte-des-Poissonniers, because in order to keep captured fish alive boats with holes in them were moored to it. In 1447, to provide against the occupation of this island by the enemy, the people of Orléans had constructed a tower, the tower or fortress of Saint-Antoine, beyond the sixth arch and occupying the whole breadth of the bridge. On the buttress between the eleventh and twelfth arch was a cross of gilded bronze, supported by a pedestal of stone. It was indeed what it was called, the Cross Beautiful,—La Belle-Croix. The buttresses of the eighteenth arch were extended, and on the abutment there rose a little castle formed of two towers joined by a vaulted porch. This little castle was called Les Tourelles. Between the nineteenth and the twentieth arch as in the first was a drawbridge. Outside it was Le Portereau; and thence ran the road to Toulouse, which beyond the Loiret on the heights of Olivet joined the road to Blois.[482]

[Pg i.112]

In those days the lazy waters of the Loire flowed midst osier-beds and birchen thickets, since removed for purposes of navigation. Two and a half miles east of Orléans, on the height of Chécy, l'Île aux Bourdons was separated from the Sologne bank by a thin arm of the river and by a narrow channel from l'Île Charlemagne and l'Île-aux-Bœufs, with their green grass and underwood facing Combleux on the La Beauce bank. A boat dropping down the river would next come to the two islands Saint-Loup, and, doubling La Tour Neuve, would glide between the two Martinet Islets on the right and l'Île-aux-Toiles on the left. Thence it would pass under the bridge which overspanned, as we have seen, an island called above bridge Motte-Saint-Antoine and below, Motte-des-Poissonniers. At length, below the ramparts, opposite Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils, it would come to two islets Biche-d'Orge and another, the name of which is unknown, possibly it was nameless.[483]

The suburbs of Orléans were the finest in the kingdom. On the south the fishermen's suburb of Le Portereau, with its Augustinian church and monastery, extended along the river at the foot of the vineyards[Pg i.113] of Saint-Jean-le-Blanc, which produced the best wine in the country.[484] Above, on the gentle slopes ascending to the bleak plateau of Sologne, the Loiret, with its torrential springs, its limpid waters, its shady banks, the gardens and the brooks of Olivet, smiled beneath a mild and showery sky.

The faubourg of the Burgundian gate stretching eastwards was the best built and the most populous. There were the wonderful churches of Saint-Michel and of Saint-Aignan. The cloister of the latter was held to be marvellous.[485] Leaving this suburb and passing by the vineyards along the sandy branch of the Loire extending between the bank of the river and l'Île-aux-Bœufs about a quarter of a league further on, one comes to the steep slope of Saint-Loup; and, advancing still further towards the east, the belfries of Saint-Jean-de-Bray, Combleux and Chécy may be seen rising one beyond the other between the river and the Roman road from Autun to Paris. On the north of the city were fine monasteries and beautiful churches, the chapel of Saint-Ladre, in the cemetery; the Jacobins, the Cordeliers, the church of Saint-Pierre-Ensentelée. Directly north, the faubourg of La Porte Bernier lay along the Paris road, and close by there stretched the sombre city of the wolves, the deep forest of oaks, horn-beams, beeches, and willows, wherein[Pg i.114] were hidden, like wood-cutters and charcoal-burners, the villages of Fleury and Samoy.[486]

Towards the west the faubourg of La Porte Renard stretched out into the fields along the road to Châteaudun, and the hamlet of Saint-Laurent along the road to Blois.[487]

These faubourgs were so populous and so extensive that when, on the approach of the English, the people from the suburbs took refuge within the city the number of its inhabitants was doubled.[488]

The inhabitants of Orléans were resolved to fight, not for their honour indeed; in those days no honour redounded to a citizen from the defence of his own city; his only reward was the risk of terrible danger. When the town was captured the great and wealthy had but to pay ransom and the conqueror entertained them well; the lesser and poorer nobility ran greater risks. In this year, 1428, the knights, who defended Melun and surrendered after having eaten their horses and their dogs, were drowned in the Seine. "Nobility was worth nothing," ran a Burgundian song.[489]

But generally being of noble birth saved one's life. As for those burghers brave enough to defend themselves, they were likely to perish. There were no fixed rules with regard to them; sometimes several[Pg i.115] were hanged; sometimes only one, sometimes all. It was also lawful to cut off their heads or to throw them into the water, sewn in a sack. In that same year, 1428, Captains La Hire and Poton had failed in their assault on Le Mans and decamped just in time. The citizens who had aided them were beheaded in the square du Cloître-Saint-Julien, on the Olet stone, by order of William Pole, Earl of Suffolk, who had already arrived at Olivet, and of John Talbot, the most courteous of English knights, who was shortly to come there too.[490] Such an example was sufficient to warn the people of Orléans.

Notwithstanding that it was under the control of the Governor, the town administered its own affairs by means of twelve magistrates elected for two years by the citizens, subject to the governor's approbation.[491] These magistrates risked more than the other citizens. One of them, as he passed the monastery of Saint-Sulpice, where was the place of execution, might well reflect that before the year was out he might have justice executed on him there for having defended his lord's inheritance. Yet the twelve were resolved to defend this inheritance; and they acted for the common weal with promptness and with wisdom.

The people of Orléans were not taken by surprise. Their fathers had watched the English closely, and put their city in a state of defence. They themselves, in the year 1425, had so firmly expected a siege that they had collected arms in the Tower of Saint-[Pg i.116]Samson, while all, rich and poor alike, had been required to dig dykes and build ramparts.[492] War has always been costly. They devoted three quarters of the yearly revenue of the town to keeping up the ramparts and other preparations for war. Hearing of the approach of the Earl of Salisbury, with marvellous energy they prepared to receive him.

The walls, except those along the river, were devoid of breastwork; but in the shops were stakes and cross-beams intended for the manufacture of balustrades. These were put up on the fortifications to form parapets, with barbicans of a pent-house shape so as to provide with cover the defenders firing from the walls.[493] At the entrance to each suburb wooden barriers were erected, with a lodge for the porter whose duty it was to open and shut them. On the tops of the ramparts and in the towers were seventy-one pieces of artillery, including cannons and mortars, without counting culverins. The quarry of Montmaillard, three leagues from the town, produced stones which were made into cannon balls. At great expense there were brought into the city lead, powder, and sulphur which the women prepared for use in the cannons and culverins. Every day there were manufactured in thousands, arrows, darts, stacks of bolts,[494] armed with iron points and feathered with parchment, numbers of pavas, great shields made of pieces of wood mortised one into the other and covered with leather. Corn, wine, and cattle were purchased[Pg i.117] in great quantities both for the inhabitants and the men-at-arms, the King's men, and adventurers who were expected.[495]

By a jealously guarded privilege the inhabitants had the right of defending the ramparts. According to their trades they were divided into as many companies as there were towers. Thus defending themselves they had the right to refuse to admit any garrison within the walls. They held to this right because it delivered them from the pillage, the rapine, the burnings and constant molestations inflicted by the King's men. But now they were eager to renounce it; for they realised that alone with only the town bands and those from the neighbouring villages, mere peasants, they could not sustain the siege; to resist the enemy they must have horsemen, skilled in wielding the lance, and foot, skilled in the use of the cross-bow. While their Governor the Sire de Gaucourt and my Lord, the Bastard of Orléans, the King's Lieutenant General, went to Chinon and Poitiers to obtain supplies of men and money[496] from the King, the citizens in commissions of two and two went forth asking help of the towns, travelling as far as Bourbonnais and Languedoc.[497][Pg i.118] The magistrates appealed to those soldiers of fortune who held the neighbouring country for the King of France. By the mouths of the two heralds of the city, Orléans and Cœur-de-Lis, they proclaimed that within the city walls were gold and silver in abundance and such good provision of victuals and arms as would nourish and accoutre two thousand combatants for two years, and that every gentle, honest knight who would might share in the defence of the city and wage battle to the death.[498]

The inhabitants of Orléans feared God. In those days God was greatly to be feared; he was almost as terrible as in the days of the Philistines. The poor fisher folk were afraid of being repulsed if they addressed him in their affliction; they thought it better to take a roundabout road and to seek the intercession of Our Lady and the saints. God respected his Mother and sought to please her on every occasion. Likewise he deferred to the wishes of the Blessed, seated on his right hand and on his left in Paradise, and he inclined his ear to listen to the petitions they presented to him. Thus in cases of dire necessity it was customary to solicit the favour of the saints by presenting prayers and offerings. Then also did the citizens of Orléans remember Saint Euverte and Saint-Aignan, the patrons of their town. In very ancient days Saint Euverte had sat upon that episcopal seat, now, in 1428, occupied by a Scot. Messire Jean de Saint Michel, and Saint Euverte had shone with all the glory of apostolic virtue.[499] His[Pg i.119] successor, Saint-Aignan had prayed to God. He had regarded the city in a peril like unto that of which it was now in danger.

The following is his story as it was known to the people of Orléans. When still young, Saint-Aignan had withdrawn to a solitary place near Orléans. There Saint Euverte, at that time bishop of the city, discovered him. He ordained him priest, appointed him Abbot of Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils, and elected him to succeed him in the government of the faithful. And when Saint Euverte had passed from this life to the other, the blessed Aignan, with the consent of the people of Orléans, was proclaimed bishop by the voice of a little child. For God, who is praised out of the mouths of babes, permitted one of them, borne in his swaddling clothes to the altar, to speak and say: "Aignan, Aignan is chosen of God to be bishop of this town." Now in the sixtieth year of his pontificate, the Huns invaded Gaul, led by their King Attila, who boasted that wherever he went the stars fell and the earth trembled beneath him, that he was the hammer of the world, stellas pre se cadere, terram tremere, se malleum esse universi orbis. Every town on his march had been destroyed by him, and now he was advancing against Orléans. Then the blessed Aignan went forth into the city of Arles, to the Patrician Aëtius, who commanded the Roman army, and implored his aid in so great a peril. Having obtained of the Patrician promise of succour, Aignan returned to his episcopal see, which he found surrounded by barbarian warriors. The Huns, having made breaches in the walls, were preparing an assault. The blessed saint went up on to the ramparts, knelt and prayed, and then, having prayed, spat upon the enemy. By God's will that drop of his[Pg i.120] saliva was followed by all the raindrops in the sky. A tempest arose: the rain fell in such torrents on the barbarians that their camp was flooded; their tents were overturned by the power of the winds, and many among them perished by lightning. The rain lasted for three days, after which time Attila assailed the ramparts with powerful engines of war. When they saw the walls fall down the inhabitants were terrified. All hope of resistance being at an end, the holy bishop, clad in his episcopal robes, went to the King of the Huns and adjured him to take pity on the people of Orléans, threatening him with the wrath of God if he dealt hardly with the conquered. These prayers and these threats did not soften Attila's heart. On his return to the faithful, the bishop warned them that henceforth nothing remained to them but trust in God; divine succour, however, would not fail them. And soon, according to the promise he had given them, God delivered the town by means of the Romans and the Franks, who defied the Huns in a great battle. Not long after the miraculous deliverance of his beloved city, Saint Aignan fell asleep in the Lord.[500]

Wherefore, in this great peril of the English, the citizens of Orléans resorted to Saint Euverte and Saint-Aignan for succour and relief. According to the marvels accomplished by Saint-Aignan in this mortal life they measured his power of working miracles now that he was in Paradise. These two confessors had each his church in the faubourg de Bourgogne, wherein their bodies were jealously guarded.[501] In those days the bones of martyrs and confessors were devoutly[Pg i.121] worshipped. It was said that sometimes they shed abroad a healing odour which represented the virtues proceeding from them. They were enclosed in gilded reliquaries adorned with precious stones, and no miracle was thought too great to be accomplished by these holy relics. On the 6th of August, 1428, the clergy of the city went to the church wherein was the reliquary of Saint Euverte and bore it round the walls, that they might be strengthened. And the holy reliquary made the round of the whole city, followed by all the people. On the 8th of September a tortis weighing one hundred and ten livres[502] was offered to Saint-Aignan. In time of need the favour of the saints was solicited by all kinds of gifts, garments, jewels, coins, houses, lands, woods, ponds; but natural wax was thought to be especially grateful to them. A tortis was a wheel of wax on which candles were placed and two escutcheons bearing the arms of the city.[503]

Thus did the people of Orléans strive to provision and protect their town.

Adventurers from all parts responded to the magistrates' appeal. The first to hasten to the city were: Messire Archambaud de Villars, Governor of Montargis; Guillaume de Chaumont, Lord of Guitry; Messire Pierre de la Chapelle, a baron of La Beauce; Raimond Arnaud de Corraze, knight of Béarn; Don Matthias of Aragon; Jean de Saintrailles and Poton de Saintrailles. The Abbot of Cerquenceaux, sometime student at the University of Orléans, arrived at[Pg i.122] the head of a band of followers.[504] Thus the number of friends who entered the city was well-nigh as great as that of the expected foe. The defenders were paid; they were furnished with bread, meat, fish, forage in plenty, and casks of wine were broached for them. In the beginning the inhabitants treated them like their own children. The citizens all contributed to the entertainment of the strangers, and gave them what they had. But this concord did not long endure. Whatever tradition alleges as to the friendly relations subsisting between the citizens and their military guests,[505] affairs in Orléans were in truth not different from what they were in other besieged towns; before long the inhabitants began to complain of the garrison.

On the 5th of September the Earl of Salisbury reached Janville, having taken with ease towns, fortified churches or castles to the number of forty. But that was not his greatest achievement; for, although he had left but few men in each place, he had by that means rid himself on the march of that portion of his army which had already shown itself ready to drop away.[506]

From Janville he sent two heralds to Orléans to summon the inhabitants to surrender. The magistrates lodged these heralds honourably in the faubourg Bannier, at the Hôtel de la Pomme and confided to them a present of wine for the Earl of Salisbury; they knew their duty to so great a prince. But[Pg i.123] they refused to open their gates to the English garrison, alleging, doubtless, as was the custom of citizens in those days, that they were not able to open them, having those within who were stronger than they.[507]

Now that the danger was drawing near, on the 6th of October, priests, burgesses, notables, merchants, mechanics, women and children walked in solemn procession with crosses and banners, singing psalms and invoking the heavenly guardians of the city.[508]

On Tuesday, the 12th of this month, at the news that the enemy was coming through Sologne, the magistrates sent soldiers to pull down the houses of Le Portereau, the suburb on the left bank, also the Augustinian church and monastery of that suburb, as well as all other buildings in which the enemy might lodge or entrench himself. But the soldiers were taken by surprise. That very day the English occupied Olivet and appeared in Le Portereau.[509] With them were the victors of Verneuil, the flower of English knighthood: Thomas, Lord of Scales and of Nucelles, Governor of Pontorson, whom the King of England called cousin; William Neville; Baron Falconbridge; William Gethyn, a Welsh knight, Bailie of Évreux; Lord Richard Gray, nephew of the Earl of Salisbury; Gilbert Halsall, Richard Panyngel, Thomas Guérard, knights, and many others of great renown.

Over the two hundred lances from Normandy there floated the standards of William Pole, Earl of[Pg i.124] Suffolk, and of John Pole, two brothers descended from a comrade-in-arms of Duke William; of Thomas Rampston, knight banneret, the Regent's chamberlain; of Richard Walter, squire, Governor of Conches, Bailie and Captain of Évreux; of William Mollins, knight; of William Glasdale, whom the French called Glacidas, squire, Bailie of Alençon, a man of humble birth.[510]

The archers were all on horseback. There were practically no foot-soldiers. In carts drawn by oxen were barrels of powder, cross-bows, arrows, cannon-balls, and guns of all kinds, muskets, fowling-pieces, and large cannon. The two English master-gunners, Philibert de Moslant and William Appleby, accompanied the troops. There were also two masters of mining with thirty-eight workmen. Of women there were not a few, some of them acting as spies.[511]

When the army arrived it was greatly diminished by desertions, having shed runaways at each victory. Some returned to England, others roamed through the realm of France robbing and plundering. That very 12th of October orders had been despatched from Rouen to the Bailies and Governors of Normandy to arrest those English who had departed from the company of my Lord, the Earl of Salisbury.[512]

The fort of Les Tourelles and its outworks barred the entrance to the bridge. The English established themselves in Le Portereau, placed their cannon and their mortars on the rising ground of Saint-Jean-le-[Pg i.125]Blanc,[513] and, on the following Sunday, they hurled down upon the city a shower of stone cannon-balls, which did great damage to the houses, but killed no one save a woman of Orléans, named Belles, who dwelt near the Chesneau postern on the river bank. Thus the siege, which was to be ended by a woman's victory, began with a woman's death.

That same week the English cannon destroyed twelve water mills near La Tour Neuve. Whereupon the people of Orléans constructed within the city eleven mills worked by horses,[514] in order that there might be no lack of flour. There were a few skirmishes at the bridge. Then on Thursday, the 21st of October, the English attempted to storm the outworks of Les Tourelles. The little band of adventurers in the service of the town and the city troops made a gallant defence. The women helped; throughout the four hours that the assault lasted long lines of gossips might be seen hurrying to the bridge, bearing their pots and pans filled with burning coals and boiling oil and fat, frantic with joy at the idea of scalding the Godons.[515] The attack was repulsed; but two days later the French perceived that the outworks were undermined; the English had dug subterranean passages, to the props of which they had afterwards set fire. The outworks having become untenable in the opinion of the soldiers, they were destroyed and abandoned. It was deemed impossible to defend Les Tourelles thus dismantled. Those[Pg i.126] towers which would once have arrested an army's progress for a whole month were now useless against cannon. In front of La Belle Croix the townsfolk erected a rampart of earth and wood. Beyond this outwork two arches of the bridge were cut and replaced by a movable platform. And when this was done, the fort of Les Tourelles was abandoned to the English with no great regret. The latter set up a rampart of earth and faggots on the bridge, breaking two of its arches, one in front, the other behind their earthwork.[516]

On the Sunday, towards evening, a few hours after the flag of St. George had been planted on the fort, the Earl of Salisbury, with William Glasdale and several captains, went up one of the towers to observe the lie of the city. Looking from a window he beheld the walls armed with cannon; the towers vanishing into pinnacles or with terraces on their flat roofs; the battlements dry and grey; the suburbs adorned for a few days longer with the fine stone-work of their churches and monasteries; the vineyards and the woods yellow with autumn tints; the Loire and its oval-shaped islands,—all slumbering in the evening calm. He was looking for the weak point in the ramparts, the place where he might make a breach and put up his scaling ladders. For his plan was to take Orléans by assault. William Glasdale said to him, "My Lord, look well at your city. You have a good bird's-eye view of it from here."

At this moment a cannon-ball breaks off a corner of the window recess, a stone from the wall strikes Salisbury, carrying away one eye and one side of his face. The shot had been fired from La Tour Notre-Dame. That at least was generally believed. It was never known who had fired it. A townsman,[Pg i.127] alarmed by the noise, hastened to the spot, saw a child coming out of the tower and the cannon deserted. It was thought that the hand of an innocent child had fired the bullet by the permission of the Mother of God, who had been irritated by the Earl of Salisbury's despoiling monks and pillaging the Church of Notre Dame de Cléry. It was said also that he was punished for having broken his oath, for he had promised the Duke of Orléans to respect his lands and his towns. Borne secretly to Meung-sur-Loire, he died there on Wednesday the 27th of October; and the English were very sorrowful.[517] Most of them felt that loss to be irreparable which had deprived them of a chief who was conducting the siege vigorously, and who in less than twelve days had captured Les Tourelles, the very corner-stone of the city's defence. But there were others who reflected that he must have been very simple to imagine that thick ramparts could be overthrown by stone balls, the force of which had already been spent in crossing the wide stretches of the river, and that he must have been mad to attempt to storm a city which could only be reduced by famine. Then they thought: "He is dead. God receive his soul! But he has brought us into a sorry plight."

Men told how Maître Jean de Builhons, a famous astrologer, had prophesied this death,[518] and how in the[Pg i.128] night before the fatal day, the Earl of Salisbury himself had dreamed that he was being clawed by a wolf. A Norman clerk composed two songs on this sad death, one against the English, the other for them. The first, which is the better, closes with a couplet, worthy in its profound wisdom of King Solomon himself:[519]

Certes le duc de Bedefort
Se sage est, il se tendra
Avec sa femme en ung fort,
Chaudement le mieulx[520] que il porra,
De bon ypocras finera,
Garde son corps, lesse la guerre:
Povre et riche porrist en terre.[521]

The day after the taking of Les Tourelles and when its loss had been remedied as best might be, the King's lieutenant-general entered the town. He was le Seigneur Jean, Count of Porcien and of Montaing, Grand Chamberlain of France, son of Duke Louis of Orléans, who had been assassinated in 1407 by order of Jean-Sans-Peur, and whose death had armed the Armagnacs against the Burgundians. Dame de Cany was his mother, but he ought to have been the son of the Duchess of Orléans since the Duke was his father. Not only was it no drawback to children to be born outside wedlock and of an adulterous union, but it was a great honor to be called the bastard of a prince. There have never been so many bastards as[Pg i.129] during these wars, and the saying ran: "Children are like corn: sow stolen wheat and it will sprout as well as any other."[522] The Bastard of Orléans was then twenty-six at the most. The year before, with a small company, he had hastened to revictual the inhabitants of Montargis, who were besieged by the Earl of Warwick. He had not only revictualled the town; but with the help of Captain La Hire had driven away the besiegers. This augured well for Orléans.[523] The Bastard was the cleverest baron of his day. He knew grammar and astrology, and spoke more correctly than any one.[524] In his affability and intelligence he resembled his father, but he was more cautious and more temperate. His amiability, his courtesy and his discretion caused it to be said that he was in favour with all the ladies, even with the Queen.[525] In everything he was apt, in war as well as in diplomacy, marvellously adroit, and a consummate dissembler.

My Lord the Bastard brought in his train several knights, captains, and squires of renown, that is to say, of high birth or of great valour: the Marshal de Boussac, Messire Jacques de Chabannes, Seneschal of Bourbonnais, the Lord of Chaumont, Messire Théaulde of Valpergue, a Lombard knight, Captain La Hire, wondrous in war and in pillage, who had lately done so well in the relief of Montargis, and Jean, Sire de Bueil, one of those youths who had come to the[Pg i.130] King on a lame horse and who had taken lessons from two wise women, Suffering and Poverty. These knights came with a company of eight hundred men, archers, arbalesters, and Italian foot, bearing broad shields like those of St. George in the churches of Venice and Florence. They represented all the nobles and free-lances who for the moment could be gathered together.[526]

After the death of its chief, Salisbury's army was paralysed by disunion and diminished by desertions. Winter was coming: the captains, seeing there was nothing to be done for the present, broke up their camp, and, with such men as remained to them, went off to shelter behind the walls of Meung and Jargeau.[527] On the evening of the 8th of November all that remained before the city was the garrison of Les Tourelles, consisting of five hundred Norman horse, commanded by William Molyns and William Glasdale. The French might besiege and take them: they would not budge. The Governor, the old Sire de Gaucourt, had just fallen on the pavement in La Rue des Hôtelleries and broken his arm; he couldn't move.[528] But what about the rest of the defenders?

The truth is, no one knew what to do. These warriors were doubtless acquainted with many measures for the succour of a besieged town, but they were all measures of surprise.[529] Their only devices were sallies, ambuscades, skirmishes, and other such valiant feats[Pg i.131] of arms. Should they fail in raising a siege by surprise, then they remained inactive,—at the end of their ideas and of their resources. Their most experienced captains were incapable of any common effort,—of any concerted action, of any enterprise in short, requiring a continuous mental effort and the subordination of all to one. Each was for his own hand and thought of nothing but booty. The defence of Orléans was altogether beyond their intelligence.

For twenty-one days Captain Glasdale remained entrenched, with his five hundred Norman horse, under the battered walls of Les Tourelles, between his earthworks on Le Portereau side, which couldn't have become very formidable as yet, and his barrier on the bridge, which being but wood, a spark could easily have set on fire.

Meanwhile the citizens were at work. After the departure of the English they performed a huge and arduous task. Concluding, and rightly, that the enemy would return not through La Sologne this time, but through La Beauce, they destroyed all their suburbs on the west, north, and east, as they had already destroyed or begun to destroy Le Portereau. They burned and pulled down twenty-two churches and monasteries, among others the church of Saint-Aignan and its monastery, so beautiful that it was a pity to see it spoiled, the church of Saint Euverte, the church of Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils, not without promising the blessed patrons of the town that when they should have delivered the city from the English, the citizens would build them new and more beautiful churches.[530]

[Pg i.132]

On the 30th of November Captain Glasdale beheld Sir John Talbot approaching Les Tourelles. He brought three hundred men furnished with cannon, mortars, and other engines of war. Thenceforward the bombardment was resumed more violently than before: roofs were broken through, walls were battered, but there was more noise than work. In La Rue Aux-Petits-Souliers a cannon-ball fell on to a table, round which five persons were dining, and no one was hurt. It was thought to have been a miracle of Our Lord worked at the intercession of Saint Aignan, the patron saint of the city.[531] The people of Orléans had wherewith to answer the besiegers. For the seventy cannon and mortars, of which the city artillery consisted, there were twelve professional gunners with servants to wait on them. A very clever founder named Guillaume Duisy had cast a mortar which from its position at the crook or spur by the Chesneau postern, hurled stone bullets of one hundred and twenty livres on to Les Tourelles. Near this mortar were two cannon, one called Montargis because the town of Montargis had lent it, the other named Rifflart[532] after a very popular demon. A culverin firer, a Lorrainer living at Angers, had been sent by the King to Orléans, where he was paid twelve livres[533] a month. His name was Jean de Montesclère. He was held to be the best master of his trade. He had in his charge a huge[Pg i.133] culverin which inflicted great damage on the English.[534]

A jovial fellow was Maître Jean. When a cannon-ball happened to fall near him he would tumble to the ground and be carried into the town to the great joy of the English who believed him dead. But their joy was short-lived, for Maître Jean soon returned to his post and bombarded them as before.[535] These culverins were loaded with leaden bullets by means of an iron ramrod. They were tiny cannon or rather large guns on gun-carriages. They could be moved easily.[536] And so Maître Jean's culverin was brought wherever it was needed.

On the 25th of December a truce was proclaimed for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord. Of one faith and one religion, on feast days the hostility of the combatants ceased, and courtesy reconciled the knights of the two camps whenever the calendar reminded them that they were Christians. Noël is a gay feast. Captain Glasdale wanted to celebrate it with carol singing according to the English custom. He asked my Lord Jean, the Bastard of Orléans, and Marshal de Boussac to send him a band of musicians, which they graciously did. The Orléans players went forth to Les Tourelles with their clarions and their trumpets; and they played the English such carols as rejoiced their hearts. To the folk of Orléans, who came on to the bridge to listen to the music, it sounded[Pg i.134] very melodious; but no sooner had the truce expired than every man looked to himself. For from one bank to the other the cannon burst from their slumber, hurling balls of stone and copper with renewed vigour.[537]

That which the people of Orléans had foreseen happened on the 30th of December. On that day the English came in great force through La Beauce to Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils.[538] All the French knights went out to meet them and performed great feats of arms; but the English occupied Saint-Laurent, and then the siege really began. They erected a bastion on the left bank of the Loire, west of Le Portereau, in a place called the Field of Saint-Privé. Another they erected in the little island to the right of Saint-Laurent-des-Orgerils.[539] On the right bank, at Saint-Laurent, they constructed an entrenched camp. At a bow-shot's distance on the road to Blois, in a place called la Croix-Boissée, they built another bastion. Two bow-shots away, towards the north on the road to Mans, at a spot called Les Douze-Pierres, they raised a fort which they called London.[540]

By these works half of Orléans was invested, which was as good as saying that it was not invested at all. People went in and out as they pleased. Small relieving companies despatched by the King arrived without let or hindrance. On the 5th of January, 1429, Admiral de Culant with five hundred men-at-[Pg i.135]arms crosses the Loire opposite Saint-Loup and enters the city by the Burgundian Gate. On the 8th of February there enters William Stuart, brother of the Constable of Scotland, at the head of a thousand combatants well accoutred, and accompanied by several knights and squires. On the morrow they are followed by three hundred and twenty soldiers. Victuals and ammunition are constantly arriving; on the 3rd of January, nine hundred and fifty-four pigs and four hundred sheep; on the 10th, powder and victuals; on the 12th, six hundred pigs; on the 24th, six hundred head of fat cattle and two hundred pigs; on the 31st, eight horses loaded with oil and fat.[541]

It became evident to Lord Scales, William Pole, and Sir John Talbot, who since Salisbury's[542] death had been conducting the siege, that months and months must elapse ere the investment could be completed and the city surrounded by a ring of forts connected by a moat. Meanwhile the miserable Godons, up to the ears in mud and snow, were freezing in their wretched hovels,—mere shelters of wood and earth. If things went on thus they were in danger of being worse off and more starved than the besieged. Therefore, following the example of the late Earl, from time to time they tried to bring matters to a crisis; without great hope of success they endeavoured to take the town by assault.[543]

On the side of the Renard Gate the wall was lower than elsewhere; and, as their strongest force lay in this direction, they preferred to attack this part of the[Pg i.136] ramparts. They stormed the Renard Gate, rushing against the barriers with loud cries of Saint George; but the king's men and the city bands drove them back to their bastions.[544] Each of these ill planned and useless assaults cost them many men. And they already lacked both soldiers and horses.

Neither had they succeeded in alarming the people of Orléans by their double bombardment on the south and on the west. There was a joke in the town that a great cannon-ball had fallen near La Porte Bannière into the midst of a crowd of a hundred people without touching one, except a fellow who had his shoe taken off by it, but suffered no further hurt than having to put it on again.[545]

Meanwhile the French, English, and Burgundian knights took delight in performing valiant deeds of prowess. Whenever the whim took them, and under the slightest protest, they sallied forth into the country, but always with the object of capturing some booty, for they thought of little else. One day, for instance, towards the end of January, when it was bitterly cold, a little band of English marauders entered the vineyards of Saint-Ladre and Saint-Jean-de-la-Ruelle to gather sticks for firewood. The watchman no sooner announces them than behold all the banners flying to the wind. Marshal de Boussac, Messire Jacques de Chabannes, Seneschal of Bourbonnais, Messire Denis de Chaîlly, and many another baron, and with them captains and free-lances, make forth into the fields. Not one of them can have commanded as many as twenty men.[546]

The King's council was making every effort to[Pg i.137] succour Orléans. The King summoned the nobles of Auvergne. They had been true to the Lilies ever since the day when the Dauphin, Canon of Notre-Dame-d'Ancis, and barely more than a child, had travelled over wild peaks to subdue two or three rebellious barons.[547] At the royal call the nobles of Auvergne came forth from their mountains. Beneath the standard of the Count of Clermont, in the early days of February, they reached Blois, where they joined the Scottish force of John Stuart of Darnley, the Constable of Scotland, and a company from Bourbonnais, under the command of the barons La Tour-d'Auvergne and De Thouars.[548]

Just at this time tidings were received of a convoy of victuals and ammunition which Sir John Fastolf was bringing from Paris to the English at Orléans. With two hundred men-at-arms the Bastard started from Orléans to concert measures with the Count of Clermont. It was decided to attack the convoy. Commanded by the Count of Clermont and the Bastard the whole army from Blois marched towards Étampes with the object of encountering Sir John Fastolf.[549]

On the 11th of February there sallied forth from Orléans fifteen hundred fighting men commanded by Messire Guillaume d'Albret, Sir William Stuart, brother of the Constable of Scotland, the Marshal de Boussac, the Lord of Gravelle, the two Captains Saintrailles, Captain La Hire, the Lord of Verduzan, and[Pg i.138] sundry other knights and squires. They were summoned by the Bastard and ordered to join the Count of Clermont's army on the road to Étampes, at the village of Rouvray-Saint-Denis, near Angerville.[550]

The next day, Saturday, the eve of the first Sunday in Lent, when the Count of Clermont's army was still some distance away, they reached Rouvray. There, early in the morning, the Gascons of Poton and La Hire perceived the head of the convoy advancing into the plain, along the Étampes road.

There they were, a line of three hundred carts and wagons full of arms and victuals conducted by English soldiers and merchants and peasants from Normandy, Picardy, and Paris, fifteen hundred men at the most, all tranquil and unsuspecting. There naturally occurred to the Gascons the idea of falling upon these people and making short work with them at the moment when they least expected it.[551] In great haste they sent to the Count of Clermont for permission to attack. As handsome as Absalom and Paris of Troy, full of words and eaten up of vanity, the Count of Clermont, who was but a lad and none of the wisest, had that very day received his spurs and was at his first engagement.[552] He foolishly sent word to the Gascons not to attack before his arrival. The Gascons obeyed greatly disappointed; they saw what was being lost by waiting. And at length, perceiving that they have walked into the lion's mouth, the Eng[Pg i.139]lish leaders, Sir John Fastolf, Sir Richard Gethyn, Bailie of Évreux, Sir Simon Morhier, Provost of Paris, place themselves in good battle array. With their wagons they make a long narrow enclosure in the plain. There they entrench their horsemen, posting the archers in front, behind stakes planted in the ground with their points inclined towards the enemy.[553] Seeing these preparations, the Constable of Scotland loses patience and leads his four hundred horsemen in a rush upon the stakes, where the horses' legs are broken.[554] The English, discovering that it is only a small company they have to deal with, bring out their cavalry and charge with such force that they overthrow the French and slay three hundred. Meanwhile the men of Auvergne had reached Rouvray and were scouring the village, draining the cellars. The Bastard left them and came to the help of the Scots with four hundred fighting men. But he was wounded in the foot, and in great danger of being taken.[555]

There fell in this combat Lord William Stuart and his brother, the Lords of Verduzan, of Châteaubrun, of Rochechouart, Jean Chabot with many others of high nobility and great valour.[556] The English, not yet satiated with slaughter, scattered in pursuit of the fugitives. La Hire and Poton, beholding the enemy's standards dispersed over the plain, gathered together as many men as they could, between sixty and eighty, and threw themselves on a small part of the English[Pg i.140] force, which they overcame. If at this juncture the rest of the French had rallied they might have saved the honour and advantage of the day.[557] But the Count of Clermont, who had not attempted to come to the aid of the Bastard and the Constable of Scotland, displayed his unfailing cowardice to the end. Having seen them all slain, he returned with his army to Orléans, where he arrived well on into the night of the 12th of February.[558] There followed him with their troops in disorder, the Baron La Tour-d'Auvergne, the Viscount of Thouars, the Marshal de Boussac, the Lord of Gravelle and the Bastard, who with the greatest difficulty kept in the saddle. Jamet du Tillay, La Hire, and Poton came last, watching to see that the English did not complete their discomfiture by falling upon them from the forts.[559]

Because the Lenten fast was beginning, the victuals which Sir John Fastolf was bringing from Paris to the English round Orléans, consisted largely of red herrings, which had suffered during the battle from the casks containing them having been broken in. To honour the French for having discomfited so many natives of Dieppe the delighted English merrily named the combat the Battle of the Herrings.[560]

Albeit the Count of Clermont was the King's cousin, the people of Orléans received him but coldly. He was held to have acted shamefully and treacherously; and there were those who let him[Pg i.141] know what they thought. On the morrow he made off with his men of Auvergne and Bourbonnais amidst the rejoicings of the townsfolk who did not want to support those who would not fight.[561] At the same time there left the city Sire Louis de Culant, High Admiral of France and Captain La Hire, with two thousand men-at-arms. At their departure there arose from the citizens such howls of displeasure, that to appease them it was necessary to explain that the captains were going to fetch fresh supplies of men and victuals, which was the actual truth. My Lord Regnault de Chartres, the date of whose arrival at Orléans is uncertain, departed with them; but he could not be reproached for going, since as Chancellor of France his place was in the King's Council. But what must indeed have appeared strange was that my Lord Saint-Michel, the successor of Saint-Euverte and Saint-Aignan, should quit his episcopal see and desert his afflicted spouse.[562] When the rats go the vessel is on the point of sinking. Only the Lord Bastard and the Marshal de Boussac were left in the city. And even the Marshal was not to stay long. A month later he went, saying that the King had need of him and that he must go and take possession of broad lands fallen to him through his wife, by the death of his brother-in-law, the Lord of Châteaubrun, at the Battle of the Herrings.[563] The townsfolk deemed the reason a good one. He promised to return before long, and they were content. Now the Marshal de Boussac was one of the barons who had the welfare of the kingdom most at heart.[564][Pg i.142] But he who has lands must needs do his duty by them.

Believing that they were betrayed and abandoned, the citizens bethought them of securing their own safety. Since the King was not able to protect them, they resolved that in order to escape from the English, they would give themselves to one more powerful than he. Therefore, to Lord Philip, Duke of Burgundy, they despatched Captain Poton of Saintrailles, who was known to him because he had been his prisoner, and two magistrates of the city, Jean de Saint-Avy and Guion du Fossé. Their mission was to pray and entreat the Duke to look favourably on the town, and for the sake of his good kinsman, their Lord, Charles, Duke of Orléans, a prisoner in England, and thus prevented from defending his own domain, to induce the English to raise the siege until such time as the troubles of the realm should be set at rest.[565] Thus they were offering to place their town as a pledge in the hands of the Duke of Burgundy. Such an offer was in accordance with the secret desire of the Duke, who, having sent a few hundred Burgundian horse to the walls of Orléans, was helping the English, and did not intend to do it for nothing.[566]

Pending the uncertain and distant day when they might be thus protected, the people of Orléans continued to protect themselves as best they could. But they were anxious and not without reason. For although they might prevent the enemy from[Pg i.143] entering within the city, they could devise no means for speedily driving him away. In the early days of March they observed with concern that the English were digging a ditch to serve them as cover in passing from one bastion to another, from la Croix-Boissée to Saint-Ladre. This work they attempted to destroy. They vigorously attacked the Godons and took a few prisoners. With two shots from his culverin Maître Jean killed five persons, including Lord Gray, the nephew of the late Earl of Salisbury.[567] But they could not hinder the English from completing their work. The siege continued with terrible vigour. Agitated by doubts and fears, consumed with anxiety, without sleep, without rest, and succeeding in nothing, they began to despair. Suddenly a strange rumour arises, spreads, and gains credence.

It is told that there had lately passed through the town of Gien a maid (une pucelle), who proclaimed that she was on her way to Chinon to the gentle Dauphin, and said that she had been sent by God to raise the siege of Orléans and take the King to his anointing at Reims.[568]

In colloquial language, a maid (une pucelle) was a girl of humble birth, who earned her livelihood by manual work and was generally a servant. Thus the leaden pumps used in kitchens were usually called pucelles. The term was doubtless vulgar, but it had no evil meaning. In spite of Clopinel's naughty saying: "Je légue ma pucelle à mon curé," it was used to describe a respectable girl of good morals.[569]

[Pg i.144]

The tidings that a little saint of lowly origin, one of Our Lord's poor, was bringing divine help to Orléans made a great impression on minds excited by the fevers of the siege and rendered religious through fear. The Maid inspired them with a burning curiosity, which the Lord Bastard, like a wise man, deemed it prudent to encourage. He despatched to Chinon two knights charged to inquire concerning the damsel. One was Sire Archambaud of Villars, Governor of Montargis, whom the Bastard had already sent to the King during the siege; he was an aged knight, once the intimate friend of Duke Louis of Orléans, and one of the seven Frenchmen who fought against the seven Englishmen at Montendre,[570] in 1402: an Orléans citizen of the early days, notwithstanding his great age he had vigourously defended Les Tourelles on the 21st of October. The other, Messire Jamet du Tillay, a Breton squire, had recently won great honour by covering the retreat of Rouvray with his men. They set forth and the whole town anxiously awaited their return.[571]


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