Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc
Chapter 2

It will be now necessary to go back in our story to the commencement of the siege by the English of the town of Orleans, in order to understand the work which Joan of Arc had promised to accomplish. Orleans was the place of the utmost importance; not merely as being the second city in France, but as forming the 'tête du pont' for the passage of the river Loire. The French knew that were it to fall into the hands of the English the whole of France would soon become subject to the enemy.

The town was strongly fortified; huge towers of immense thickness, and three stories in height, surrounded by deep and wide moats, encircled the city. The only bridge then in existence was also strongly defended with towers, called 'Les Tournelles,' while at the end of the town side of the bridge were large 'bastilles,' powerful fortresses which dated from the year 1417, when Henry V. threatened Orleans after his triumphal march through Normandy. In 1421 the Orleanists defied the victor of Agincourt: again they were in the agony of a desperate defence against their invaders, ready to sustain all the horrors of a siege.

Equally keen and determined were the English leaders to take Orleans, which they rightly considered as the key of what remained unconquered to them in France. Both countries looked anxiously on as the siege progressed. Salisbury commanded the English; he had been up to this point successful in taking all the places of importance in the neighbourhood of Orleans, and that portion of the valley of the Loire was commanded by his forces, both above and below Orleans.

On the approach of the enemy, the inhabitants of Orleans turned out to strengthen the outer fortifications, and to place cannon and catapults on the walls and ramparts. The priests on this occasion worked as hard as the other citizens, and even the women and children helped with a will.

Besides Dunois, who commanded the besieged garrison, was Raoul de Gaucourt, who had defended Harfleur in 1415; he had but recently returned from imprisonment in England, and was burning to avenge his captivity. La Hire, Xaintrailles, Coulant, Coaraze, and Armagnac were among the defenders of Orleans. Many Gascons belonging to the Marshal-Saint Sévère and soldiers from Brittany helped to swell the forces of the besieged.

It was on the 12th day of October (1428) that Salisbury crossed the Loire and established his besieging force at the village of Portereau, in front of the strongly defended bridge. In the meanwhile the besieged had razed the houses and the convent of St. Augustin, in order to prevent the enemy from entrenching themselves so near the city gates. Salisbury, however, threw up fortifications on the site of St. Augustin's, and placed a battery of guns opposite to the bridge and its 'bastilles,' whence he was able to bombard the town with huge stones. The English also placed mines below the bridge and the fortresses of the Tournelles.

On the 21st, an assault was made on the bridge and its defences, which was vigorously repulsed; the whole population were in arms, and manned the walls; the women fought by the side of their husbands and brothers. After a severe fight of four hours, the besiegers were forced to withdraw.

The Tournelles were now mined and counter-mined, and were soon found to be untenable. The besieged then abandoned this fortification, and retired further back towards the centre of the bridge, which, as well as its approaches, was defended by towers. Part of the bridge on the side near the English was blown up, and a drawbridge, which could be raised or lowered at pleasure, was thrown across the open space.

Salisbury was satisfied with the result of that day's fighting, for he knew that, once he had the command of the northern side of the tower, he could take it when necessary from that quarter. What he aimed at for the present was to prevent all communication between the town and the south of France. Holding the bridge, he could prevent relief from coming to the city, and when the moment arrived he would be able to throw his men with certain success upon it from the northern side.

The evening of the day in which he had made so successful an attack, Salisbury mounted into the Tournelles in order to inspect thence the city which lay beneath him. While gazing on it, a stray cannon shot struck him on the face; he was carried, mortally wounded, from the place. That fatal shot was said to have been fired by a lad, who, finding a loaded cannon on the ramparts, had discharged it. For the English, it was the deadliest shot of the whole war.

Readers of Shakespeare will remember that, in the first part of Henry VI., the Master Gunner (no doubt that very 'Maître Jean' whose fame was great in the besieged town) and his boy are introduced on the scene, and that the boy fires the shot which proved fatal both to Salisbury and Sir Thomas Gargrave. The prominent place given to this French Master Gunner in the English play shows what a high reputation Maître Jean must have had, even among the English, at the siege.

Salisbury's death, occurring a few days after he received the wound, caused the siege to languish. Glansdale succeeded Salisbury in the command; but it was not until the doughty Talbot and Lord Scales appeared on the scene that siege operations recommenced with vigour.

The great pounding match then began again; the huge stone shot of the English, which weighed one hundred and sixty-four livres, came tumbling about the heads of the besieged, to which cannonade the French promptly replied by a heavy fire. They had a kind of bomb, of which they were not a little proud, wherefrom they fired iron shot of one hundred and twenty livres in weight. The Master of Gunners of Shakespeare's play, whose name was John de Monsteschère, made also extraordinary practice with his culverin; and he could pick off marked men in the Tournelles, as, for the misfortune of the English, had been proved in the case of Salisbury. At times Master John would sham dead, and, just as the English were congratulating themselves on his demise, would reappear, and again use his culverin with deadly effect.

On the last day but one of the year (1428), the English had been reinforced, and were now commanded by William de la Pole, Earl, and afterwards Duke of Suffolk, under whose command acted Suffolk's brother, John de la Pole, Lord Scales, and Lancelot de Lisle. In order to maintain touch with his troops posted at the Tournelles, Suffolk threw up flanking batteries on the northern side of the town. To Suffolk's already large force Sir John Fastolfe brought a force of twelve hundred men, in the month of January (1429).

The number of troops mustered by the besieged and besiegers was as follows:—

On the side of the English, there were quartered at the Tournelles five hundred men, under the command of Glansdale; three hundred under Talbot; twelve hundred with Fastolfe. Including those who had come with Suffolk at the commencement of the siege, the English force amounted to four thousand five hundred men.

On the side of the besieged, excluding the armed citizens, who were from three to four thousand strong, was a garrison numbering between six and seven hundred men; also some thousand soldiers had been thrown into the city between the middle of October 1428 and the January following.

Both in strength of position, and as regards the number of their troops, the French had the advantage. The comparative weakness of the English force—which, all told, could only count about four thousand men to carry on the siege—is to be accounted for by the garrisons which were left in the conquered places over the north and south of the country.

The siege was weakly conducted during the winter—a series of skirmishes from the bastilles or towers thrown up by the besiegers led to little result on either side; and it was not till the month of February that a decisive engagement took place.

Near Rouvray a battle was fought, which is known by the singular appellation of the Battle of the Herrings, from the circumstance that, at that Lenten season, a huge convoy of fish was being taken from the coast to Paris. In the fight, the fish-laden barrels were overthrown, and their contents scattered over the field; whence the name of the Battle of the Herrings. During this engagement, in which the French were defeated, fell, on the side of the French, two noble Scots—John Stuart, the Constable of Scotland, and his brother William.

After this action, the position of the besieged in Orleans became more perilous, and the citizens, despairing of help coming to them from Charles, were inclined to call in aid from the Duke of Burgundy. The east, north, and west of the city were covered by the bastilles or huge towers which the besiegers had thrown up, and from which they could bombard the place; and the pressure on the devoted city waxed ever stronger. By the month of April, Orleans was girdled by a chain of fortresses, from which the cannonade was incessant. The English gave names of French towns to these huge towers which threatened Orleans on every side; one they named Paris, another Rouen, and one other they called London.

The thirty thousand men, women, and children within the city walls were now beginning to suffer from the horrors of a long siege. In the town disturbances broke out, and the cry of treachery was heard—that sure precursor of the fears of the strong that the hardships of the siege would undermine the patriotism of their weaker citizens. But when things seemed at their worst, succour was near at hand.

During those winter months the Queen-mother, who had warmly interested herself in Joan of Arc's mission, had, in the Castle of Blois, been collecting troops and securing the services of some notable officers, including the Duke of Alençon. Towards the end of April Joan arrived at Blois from Poitiers, accompanied by the Archbishop of Rheims, Regnault de Chartres. On the 27th of April she left Blois on her first warlike expedition.

No certain account of the numbers of troops which accompanied the Maid has been kept. Monstrelet gives the numbers at seven thousand; but Joan, during her trial, asserted that she had between ten and twelve thousand men committed to her charge by the King. Joan's historian, M. Wallon, points out that this may be an incorrect entry made in the interest of the English at the trial, as they naturally would wish the relieving force to appear as large as possible. It has even been placed as low as three thousand. Among the officers who accompanied the Maid was a Gascon knight, named La Hire, half freebooter, half condottiere, a brave and reckless soldier, of whom it is recorded that, before making a raid, he would offer up the following prayer:—

'I pray my God to do for La Hire what La Hire would do for Him, if He were Captain and La Hire was God.'

From having been a mighty swearer, owing to Joan of Arc's influence La Hire broke off this habit, but, in order to give him some scope for venting his temper, Joan allowed him to swear by his stick.

These are but trivial details: still, they are of interest as showing what influence a simple village maiden like Joan was able to exert on those who, from their position and habits of life, might have been thought to be the last to tolerate such interference. So changed, it is said, had this rough warrior, La Hire, and many of his fellow-soldiers become in their habits while with the Maid, that they were happy to be able to kneel by the side of the sainted maiden and partake in her Lord's Sacrament of the Eucharist; and then to confess themselves to her good father confessor, Peton de Xaintrailles, the Marshal de Boussac, and the Seigneur de Rais.

Joan had the following letter despatched to the Duke of Bedford:—

'In the name of Jesus and Mary—You, King of England; and you, Duke of Bedford [Bethfort], who call yourself Regent of France; you, William de la Pole; you, Earl of Suffolk; you, John Lord Talbot [Thalebot]; and you, Thomas Lord Scales, who call yourselves Lieutenants of the said Bedford, in the name of the King of Heaven, render the keys of all the good towns which you have taken and violated in France, to the Maid sent hither by the King of Heaven. She is ready to make peace if you will consent to return and to pay for what you have taken. And all of you, soldiers, and archers, and men-at-arms, now before Orleans, return to your country, in God's name. If this is not done, King of England, I, as a leader in war, whenever I shall meet with your people in France, will oblige them to go whether they be willing or not; and if they go not, they will perish; but if they will depart I will pardon them. I have come from the King of Heaven to drive you out [bouter] of France. And do not imagine that you will ever permanently hold France, for the true heir, King Charles, shall possess it, for it is God's wish that it should belong to him. And this has been revealed to him by the Maid, who will enter Paris. If you will not obey, we shall make such a stir [ferons un si gros hahaye] as hath not happened these thousand years in France. The Maid and her soldiers will have the victory. Therefore the Maid is willing that you, Duke of Bedford, should not destroy yourself.'

And Joan finishes this strange effusion by proposing to Bedford that they should combine in making a holy war for Christianity!

This letter, written 'in the name of the Maid,' was dated on a Tuesday in Holy Week. The address ran thus: 'To the Duke of Bedford, so called Regent of the Kingdom of France, or to his Lieutenants, now before the town of Orleans.'

Doubtless the reference to the deed of arms which, once again at peace together, might be accomplished by the combined English and French armies, was an idea which seems to have floated in Joan's enthusiastic imagination, that the day might come when the two foremost nations in Christendom would fight together for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre.

As might be expected, this letter was received by the English with gibes and jeers, which was pardonable; but what was not so was the bad treatment of the messenger who had brought it to the English camp. He was kept prisoner, and, if some rather doubtful French writers of the day are to be believed, it was seriously debated whether or not he should be burnt. Let us trust this is but an invention of the enemy.

Joan, before leaving Blois, insisted on the dismissal of all camp followers—such bad baggage was certainly well left behind, and could not have followed an army led by one who, night and morning, had an altar erected, around which her hallowed flags were placed, and where the Maid, and those willing, took the Sacrament at the head of the army. It must have been a striking sight during that spring-time—that army, led by a maiden all clad in white armour, and mounted on a black charger, surrounded by a brilliant band of knights, riding along the pleasant fields of Touraine, then in their first livery of brilliant green. And a striking sight it must have been, when, at the close of the long day's march, the tents were pitched and the altar raised, the officiating priests grouped about it and the sacred pictured standards waving above, while the solemn chant was raised, and the soldiers knelt around.

One can well think how ready were those soldiers to follow Joan wherever she would lead them, and it is not improbable that such a crusade as she dreamt of, had it been possible, in which the two nations, so closely connected by religious feeling, and so closely united by position, but so long enemies owing to the rapacity and greed of their kings, might have again placed the cross on the battlements of the Holy City, under the leadership of her whom her countrymen rightly called 'The Angelic.'

Joan rode out of Blois bearing her pennon in her hand, and as she rode she chanted the 'Veni Creator.' The sacred strain was taken up by those who followed, and thus passed the Maid forth on her first great deed of deliverance.

During the whole of the first night Joan remained, as was her custom when she had no women about her, in her armour.

It was the Maid's wish to enter Orleans from the northern side, but the officers with her thought this would be a great imprudence, and followed the opposite bank of the river. Passing through Beaugency and Meung, they went on by Saint Die, Saint Laurent, and Clery, without meeting with any attack from the enemy who occupied these places. On arriving at a place called Olivet, they were within the neighbourhood of the beleaguered city. Below them rose the English bastille towers; beyond, the walls, towers, and steeples of Orleans.

Joan had hoped that the city could have been entered without further difficulty; she now found that not only the river lay between her and the town, but that the English were in force on all sides. She wished that the nearest of these bastilles, at Saint Jean le Blanc, should be stormed, and the river forded there; but this scheme was judged by her companions-in-arms to be too perilous, and Joan had again to comply with the opinion of the officers.

Riding to the eastwards, and skirting the river some four miles below the town, she and her knights forded it at a spot where some low long islands, or 'eyots' as we call them on the Thames, lay in this part of the Loire. On one of these, called l'Isle aux Bourdons, the provisions and stores for the beleaguered city were shipped and transhipped, and carried down to Orleans when the wind lay in that quarter.

It was at Reuilly that Dunois met the Maid, still chafing from her thwarted plan of attacking the English in their stronghold at Saint Jean le Blanc, and she appears to have shown him her displeasure. While this interview took place the wind changed, and the provision boats, which, owing to the wind being contrary, had not been able to make the islands, were now enabled to leave the city. They soon arrived, were laden with provisions, corn, and even cattle embarked on them, and, when thus provisioned, returned to Orleans by the canal on the left bank of the Loire, and successfully arrived at the city end of the broken bridge, whence the provisions and live stock were passed into the town.

The river was too much in flood to allow of the army being taken across, nor could a bridge of boats be made, owing to the height of the waters. Joan, however, was determined to enter Orleans, flood or no flood, for she knew what the moral effect of her appearing to the townspeople would be. Accompanied by Dunois, La Hire, and some two hundred lances, just after darkness had hidden her movements from the enemy, she left Reuilly and entered the city.

Preceded by a great banner, the Maid of Orleans, as she may now be called, with Dunois by her side, and followed by her knights and men-at-arms, rode slowly through the streets, filled with a crowd almost delirious in its joy at welcoming within its walls its long-looked-for Deliverer. The people clung to her, kissing her knees and feet, and, according to the old chroniclers, behaved as if God Himself had appeared among them. So eager was the throng to approach her, that in the press one of her standards was set on fire by a flambeau. After returning thanks for the delivery of her countrymen in the cathedral, Joan was made welcome at the house of the treasurer of the imprisoned Duke of Orleans. This citizen's name was James Boucher; and here she lodged, with her brothers, and the two faithful knights who had accompanied her during her journey from Vaucouleurs to Chinon.

A vaulted room in this house is still shown, which purports to have been that occupied by the Maid of Orleans. If it is the same building it has been much modernised, although a beautiful specimen of the domestic Gothic of the early part of the fifteenth century, known as the house of Agnes Sorel, remains much in the condition that it must have been in during the famous year of deliverance, 1429.

Although Orleans, by the action of Joan of Arc, had been succoured for the time, the enemy was still at its gates, and Joan's mission was but half accomplished. The aspect of affairs since the 29th of April was, however, greatly changed in favour of the French, and the rôles of besieged and besiegers changed. Joan's arrival had infused a fresh spirit of enthusiasm and patriotism into the citizens, and the English were no longer feared. We have Dunois's authority for the fact that whereas, up to that time, two hundred English could put eight hundred French to the rout, now five hundred French soldiers were prepared to meet the entire English army.

On the 13th of April, hostilities had recommenced. Four hundred men, commanded by Florent d'Illiers, made a sortie against the English near the trenches at Saint Pouair, driving them into their quarters. But the success was not followed up, and appears to have been undertaken without Joan of Arc's advice. To the heralds that she sent into the English camp only jeers and taunts were returned; and already the threat of burning her when caught was made use of. Joan was, however, not to be deterred by menaces and insults from doing all she could to prevent unnecessary loss of life. On one occasion she rode out half-way across the bridge, to where there stood a crucifix called La Belle Croix, within speaking distance of the English in the Tournelles. Thence she summoned Glansdale and his men to surrender, promising that their lives should be spared. They answered with derisive shouts and villainous abuse. Still commanding her patience, which was only equalled by her courage, and before returning to the town, she told them that, in spite of their boasting, the time was near at hand when they would be driven forth, and that their leader would never see England again. That they feared the Maid was evident, in spite of the insults with which they greeted her; at any rate, no attempt was made to attack her: even when almost alone, she came close to their fortifications.

Meanwhile Dunois left for Blois to bring up the bulk of the army, while Joan remained in Orleans, encouraging its inhabitants by her confidence, faith, and courage. The people, writes the chronicler of the siege, were never sated with the sight of the Maid: 'ils ne pouvaient saouler de la voir,' he graphically says.

A second ineffectual effort was made by Joan, this time at a place called the Croix Morin, to negotiate with the English, she again promising them quarter if they would capitulate, but, as might be expected, with no better result than before.

On the 2nd of May, followed by a vast throng, Joan of Arc rode out along the enemy's forts, and after closely inspecting their defences returned to vespers at the Church of Sainte-Croix. Certainly among the people there was no want of belief in, and enthusiastic devotion to, the Maid; but she had already enemies among the entourage of the King. We have already alluded to Tremoïlle's feelings with regard to her and her mission. A still more formidable enemy was the Chancellor of France, the Archbishop of Rheims, Regnault de Chartres; he and Tremoïlle worked in concert to undermine all the prestige which Joan's success in revictualling Orleans had caused at Court. The historian Quicherat, whose work on Joan of Arc is by far the most complete and reliable, considers this man to have been an astute politician, without any moral strength or courage. When with Joan of Arc, he seems to have shown firmness and even enthusiasm in her mission, but he sank into the rôle of a poltroon when her influence was withdrawn. Instead of hastening the despatch of the reinforcements from Blois to Orleans, he threw delay in the way; he seems to have hesitated in letting these troops join those under the Maid, for fear that were she to gain a thorough success his influence at Court would be weakened. When Joan fell into the hands of her foes, the Archbishop had the incredible baseness publicly to show his pleasure, declaring that her capture by the enemy was a proof of Divine justice.

It was not till the 4th of May, and not until Dunois had ridden in hot haste from Blois, that at length the aid, so long and eagerly expected, arrived.

Joan rode to meet the succouring army some two miles out of the city, bearing her flag, accompanied by La Hire and others of her knights. After a joyful meeting, they turned, riding right through the enemy's lines and along the fortified bastilles occupied by the English. Whether it was fear, or superstition mixed with fear, not a man from the English side stirred, although the English outnumbered the French. It seemed that a terror had seized on the enemy as they saw her, whom they called the Sorceress, ride by in her white panoply, bearing aloft her mystic banner.

The English had now run short of supplies, and eagerly awaited the arrival of Sir John Fastolfe, who was on his road to Orleans. Joan of Arc felt uneasy, lest she might not be able to cut off Fastolfe and his supplies, and she playfully threatened Dunois with his instant execution if he failed to tell her of the moment he learnt of his approach. Her anxiety was well founded, for the attack commenced before she had been apprised of it. She had lain down for a short repose one afternoon, when she heard the sounds of a cannonade. She instantly ordered her squire d'Aulon to arm her, as she must immediately attack the English; but whether those at the Tournelles, or the advancing force under Fastolfe, she could not yet tell.

While arming, a great clamour rang through the town: the enemy were said to be at hand, and the battle already engaged. Hastily throwing on her armour, with the assistance of her hostess and d'Aulon, she dashed off on her horse, and had only time to snatch her flag, as it was handed to her from a window, so impetuous was she to enter the fray.

As she galloped down the street the sparks flew from the stones, through the High Street and past the cathedral, and out by the Burgundy Gate. The action had already been raging, and the wounded were being borne back into the town. It was the first time the Maid came face to face with such grisly sights—the agony of the wounded, the blood and gaping wounds. Her squire, d'Aulon, who has left some record of that day, says how much she grieved over the wounded as they were carried past her; her beloved countrymen bleeding and dying affected her deeply. As her page writes, she said she could not see French blood without her hair rising with horror at the sight.

Before she reached the field the day had been lost and won, the English were in full retreat, and the battle now lay around the bastilles of Saint Loup. About a mile to the north-east of the town were the Englishmen; strongly entrenched, the place commanded that portion of the river which Talbot had garrisoned with some three hundred of his best troops. Joan now gave instructions that no aid should reach this portion of the English defences from the adjacent bastilles. All around the fight raged, and Joan was soon in the hottest of the engagement, encouraging her soldiers, her flag in her hand. Dismounting, she stood on the edge of the earthwork, beyond which the English were at bay.

Talbot, seeing his men hard pressed, gave orders for a sortie to be made from one of the other towers, named Paris, and thus cause a diversion, while another force attacked the French in their rear. This expedient, however, failed, for a fresh force appeared at this juncture from Orleans, led by Boussac and De Graville, who beat back the attack of the English. The English troops within the fortress of Saint Loup were slain or taken. Joan herself rescued some of these, and placed them under her protection; caring for them in the house she was staying in.

At the close of the day, on returning into the town, Joan told the people that they might count on being free from the enemy in five days' time, and that by that time not a single Englishman would remain before Orleans. No wonder that the joy-bells rang out in victorious clamour during all that night in May, the eve of the Ascension.

On the following day no hostilities occurred. Joan again had a letter sent to the English, summoning them as before to surrender and to quit their forts; she said this was the third and the last time that she could give them a chance of escaping with their lives. On this occasion she made use of a new way of communicating with the foe; she tied the letter to an arrow, which was discharged into the English lines. No answer was received in return.

It was now determined that the next attack against the English should be made from the left bank of the river, where they were strongly fortified at the Bastille des Augustins, a little further down the Loire than the Tournelles. On the opposite side this fortress communicated with the Boulevard of Saint Privé, as well as with the strong fortress of Saint Laurent, near which a small island, which exists no longer, called the Isle of Charlemagne, kept open their connections on both sides of the Loire. To the east, on the same side of the river, a fortress, that of Saint Jean le Blanc, which had been abandoned on the approach of Joan, had since been reoccupied by the English. It was at this spot that the next and all-important attack was directed to be made.

The French forces crossed the river over an island called Saint Aignan. The distance was so narrow between the river bank on the town side and this island, that a couple of boats moored together served as a bridge. When Saint Jean le Blanc was reached, it was found deserted by the English, Glansdale having left it in order to concentrate his forces at the Tournelles. Joan led the attack. At first the French fought badly; they had been seized by a panic, believing that a strong force of the enemy were coming down on them from Saint Privé. Rallying her men, Joan threw herself on the English, and drove them back into the Augustins. She was now eagerly followed by the soldiers.

The first barricade was carried in a hand-to-hand fight, and soon the French flags waved above the fortress so long held by the enemy. The few English able to escape retired to the Tournelles. Eager to carry on the success of the attack, and to prevent delay, Joan ordered that the fort of the Augustins be fired, with the booty it contained.

The victors, who only numbered three thousand strong, captured six hundred prisoners, one third were slain of the English, and two hundred French prisoners recovered.

This was the second occasion on which the Maid had carried all before her.

The day was closing, and the attack on the Tournelles had to be deferred for that evening. That night Joan of Arc said to her almoner: 'Rise early to-morrow, for we shall have a hard day's work before us. Keep close to me, for I shall have much to do, more than I have ever had to do yet. I shall be wounded; my blood will flow!'

This prophetic speech of the Maid is among the most curious facts relating to her life; for not only did she, during her trial at Rouen, tell her judges that she had been aware that she would be wounded on that day, and even knew the position beforehand of the wound, but that she had known it would occur a long time before, and had told the King about it. A letter is extant in the Public Library at Brussels, written on the 22nd of April (1429), by the Sire de Rotslaer, dated from Lyons, in which Joan's prophecy regarding her wound is mentioned. This letter was written fifteen days before the date (7th of May) of the engagement when that event occurred. A facsimile of the passage in this letter referring to Joan's prophecy appears in the illustrated edition of M. Wallon's Life of Joan of Arc.

Very early on the following day, Saturday, the 7th of May, it appears that an attempt was made to prevent the Maid from starting for the field, as, at a council held on the evening before by the officers, it had been considered more prudent, before renewing the attack on the English fortifications, to await fresh reinforcements from the King. When this was reported to Joan, she said: 'You have taken your counsel, and I have received mine,' and at break of day she was ready, armed and prepared for the attack. Before starting, her host wished her to eat some fish, an 'alose,' which had just been brought to him. 'Keep it,' said Joan with a smile, 'till the evening, and I will bring with me a "Godon" who will, eat his share of it.' This sobriquet of 'Godon' was evidently the generic term for the English, as far back as the early years of the fifteenth century, and may have been centuries before the French designation for our countrymen.

Thus, full of spirits and with a brave heart, the Maid rode off to meet the foe. When she reached the gate called Burgundy, she found it closed by order of De Gaucourt, Grand Master of the King's Household, who had done so at the instigation of those officers who wished the attack on the English deferred until fresh reinforcements arrived. But the Maid was not to be beaten and kept back even by barred gates.

'You are doing a bad deed,' she indignantly said to those about the gate, 'and whether you wish it or not, my soldiers shall pass.'

The gate was opened, and Joan, followed by her men, galloped to where some troops who had been left in possession of the fortifications taken on the previous day were stationed. The attack on the Tournelles commenced as soon as Joan arrived—it was then between six and seven in the morning. Meanwhile Dunois, La Hire, and the principal forces from the town came up. A desperate struggle ensued; both sides knew that, whatever the result, that day would decide the fate of Orleans—even that of the war.

The French were fighting under the eyes of their countrymen, who manned the walls, and under the guidance of a leader they already regarded as more than human—and never had they fought so well, during that long and bloody century of warfare, as they did on that day.

The English, on the other hand, knew that if they were beaten out of the Tournelles their defeat would be complete, and they too fought with desperate courage.

Down into the ditches rushed the French, and up the sides of the glacis; scaling-ladders were placed against the walls, to which the men upon them clung like a swarm of bees. The defenders met them with showers of arrows and shot, and hurled them back with lance and hatchets. Constantly beaten back, they returned as constantly to the charge. For six hours this fight lasted, and weariness and discouragement fell on the French. Joan, who had been all these hours in the thick of the engagement, seeing her men were losing heart, redoubled her efforts; and, helping to raise a scaling-ladder, she placed it against the parapet of one of the towers. While thus engaged she was struck by a bolt from a cross-bow, between her shoulder and neck. The wound was a severe one; she fell, and was carried out of the press. Although she suffered acutely, she had the nerve to draw the arrow from the wound. She refused to have the wound 'charmed,' as some of those standing around her suggested, saying she would sooner die than do anything that might be displeasing in the sight of Heaven. A compress, steeped in oil, was then applied, and it staunched the bleeding. She was faint and unnerved, and, as she seemed to feel her death was near, made her confession to her priest.

Still the Tournelles held out in spite of these repeated attacks, and Dunois, as the shadows lengthened, was on the point of calling back his forces and sounding the retreat. Joan, in the meanwhile, had been withdrawn from the fighting, and placed in a meadow at some distance from the carnage; but when she heard that the troops were about to be recalled from their attack on the Tournelles, she seemed to forget her wound, and, making her way to Dunois, implored him not to give up the fight. She assured him that she was certain they would even yet be victorious. In a few stirring sentences she rallied the men to fresh efforts, and told them that now or never would they conquer; the English, she declared, could not hold out much longer. Mounting her horse, and with flag unfurled, she again led the van; to those near her she said, 'Watch my standard; when it reaches the walls the place will be ours.'

The struggle that ensued was fierce and decisive. Inspired by the valour of Joan, the French, who appeared as fresh as before her wound, stormed the bastions and towers of the Tournelles with tremendous energy. Reinforcements had meanwhile arrived from the town, and these attacked the Tournelles in the rear. Passing over the broken arches of the bridge by means of ladders thrown across the masonry, the first man to reach the other bank was a knight of Rhodes, Nicolas de Giresme. Attacked from two sides, the English still held the Tournelles with bull-dog tenacity; but the sight of the witch and sorceress, as they considered Joan, and who they thought had met with a mortal hurt, leading the soldiers with unabated courage, caused a panic to spread through their ranks; and when a sudden shout of victory proclaimed that the white and golden banner had at length struck the walls of the fortress, the doom of the Tournelles had arrived.

Clear above the din of battle rang out the triumphant voice of the Maid: 'The victory is ours!' she cried.

Seeing the day was lost, the English now attempted to escape destruction by swimming the river; others threw themselves on a bridge, which, however, having been set on fire by the French, only caused those who hoped to cross to fall either into the flames or into the river below.

Glansdale, the English leader, who had grossly insulted Joan but a few days before, was among those who were drowning in the Loire. Seeing his peril, Joan of Arc attempted to save him, but Glansdale was swept, before her aid could reach him, down the stream, never more to return to his own land again, as Joan had prophesied.

Five hundred English perished either in the Tournelles or were drowned in attempting to escape; the rest were made prisoners by the French.

Darkness had now fallen, and although Joan had been taking part in the battle for more than a dozen hours, and had besides been grievously hurt, she would not leave the field till late in the night, in case the English at the Bastille of Saint Laurent should be inclined to avenge the fall of the Tournelles, and the victory over their comrades. But for that day, at all events, the English had had enough of fighting: 'ils n'en avaient une vouloir' for more, as the old chronicler quaintly expresses himself.

Riding back across the bridge which the citizens had in the meanwhile partially restored, Joan re-entered the city which her splendid courage had rescued from the English. 'God knows,' writes Perceval de Cagny, 'with what joy she was received'; and our English historian of those days, Hall, has left the following graphic account of the joy that went out from the people of Orleans to their saviour:—

'After the siege was thus broken up, to tell you what triumphs were made in the city of Orleans, what wood was spent in fire, what wine was drunk in houses, what songs were sung in the streets, what melody was made in taverns, what rounds were danced in large and broad places, what lights were set up in the churches, what anthems were sung in chapels, and what joy was showed in every place—it were a long work, and yet no necessary cause. For they did as we in like case would have done; and we, being in like estate, would have done as they did.'

All that day Joan of Arc had eaten nothing, and her strength must have been more than mortal to have sustained the heat, fatigue, and, above all, the anguish of her wound. At length she was able to find some repose with her kind hosts, and, after taking a little bread dipped in wine, she retired to enjoy her well-earned rest.

Orleans was now delivered, as the citizens found on waking the next morning after the battle, when the joyful news spread through the town that the English had abandoned the bastilles on the northern side of the city, leaving all their sick, stores, artillery, and ammunition. That day Lord Talbot must have used expressions probably not as poetical as those put into his mouth in the play of Henry VI.; but doubtless far more forcible—for it was now that he, for the first time, felt the bitterness of defeat, the shame of turning his back on his enemy; that enemy whom, until now, he had, after so many victories, almost grown to despise.

'My thoughts are whirled like a potter's wheel;
I know not where I am, nor what I do:
A witch, by fear, not force, like Hannibal,
Drives back our troops, and conquers as she lists.'

But although retire he had to, Talbot's retreat was made in perfect order, and in a kind of defiant fashion. Ranging his forces near to and facing the town, he seemed inclined to make a further stand, if not to carry out an attack against the city. Joan was prepared to repel such an attack, but the English contented themselves with a mere feint, a military demonstration.

The day was a Sunday, and Joan, ever loath to fight on that day, refused to give the signal for attack, saying that if the enemy chose to begin an engagement they would be met and defeated; but that she could not sanction fighting on that holy day. Prepared for whatever might occur, the Maid of Orleans then ordered that Mass should be said at the head of her troops.

When the religious act was over:

'Look,' she said, 'whether the English have their faces or their backs turned to us.'

And when she heard that they were in full retreat on Mehun-sur-Loire, she added, 'Let them depart, in God's name: it is not His wish that you should attack them to-day, and you will meet them again.'

After an hour's halt, the English continued to retreat, previously setting fire to their bastilles, and carrying their prisoners with them.

The day that saw the deliverance of Orleans was held for centuries as a national day of rejoicing in the town, and seldom have the citizens of any place had better cause for celebrating so joyful and honourable an event. The siege which Joan had thus brought to an end began on the 12th of October (1428), and ended on the 8th of May (1429). Ten days had sufficed for the heroic Maid to raise the English blockade.

Throughout France the effect of the news of the deliverance of Orleans was prodigious; and although most of the English, no doubt, believed that the result was owing to the instrumentality of the powers of darkness, many saw in it the finger of God.

When the great news reached Paris on the 10th of May, Fauconbridge, a clerk of Parliament, made the following note in his register:—'Quis eventus fuerit novit Deus bellorum'; and on the margin of the register he has traced a little profile sketch of a woman in armour, holding in her right hand a pennon on which are inscribed the letters I.H.S. In the other hand she holds a sword. This parchment may still be seen in the National Archives in Paris.

Joan, having accomplished her undertaking, lost no time in returning to the King at Chinon.


Add Joan of Arc as Your Friend on Facebook at
Joan of Arc MaidOfHeaven
Sitemap for
Contact By Email
Maid of Heaven Foundation

Please Consider Shopping With One of Our Supporters!

Copyright ©2007- Maid of Heaven Foundation All rights reserved. Disclaimer

Fundamental Christian Topsites Top Sites In Education JCSM's Top 1000 Christian Sites - Free Traffic Sharing Service!

CLICK HERE to GO TO the Maid of Heaven Foundation