Joan of Arc
Never perhaps in modern times had a country sunk so low as France,
when, in the year 1420, the treaty of Troyes was signed. Henry V. of
England had made himself master of nearly the whole kingdom; and
although the treaty only conferred the title of Regent of France on
the English sovereign during the lifetime of the imbecile Charles VI.,
Henry was assured in the near future of the full possession of the
French throne, to the exclusion of the Dauphin. Henry received with
the daughter of Charles VI. the Duchy of Normandy, besides the places
conquered by Edward III. and his famous son; and of fourteen provinces
left by Charles V. to his successor only three remained in the power
of the French crown. The French Parliament assented to these hard
conditions, and but one voice was raised in protest to the
dismemberment of France; that solitary voice, a voice crying in a
wilderness, was that of Charles the Dauphin—afterwards Charles VII.
Henry V. had fondly imagined that by the treaty of Troyes and his
marriage with a French princess the war, which had lasted over a
century between the two countries, would now cease, and that France
would lie for ever at the foot of England. Indeed, up to Henry's
death, at the end of August 1422, events seemed to justify such hopes;
but after a score of years from Henry's death France had recovered
almost the whole of her lost territory.
There is nothing in history more strange and yet more true than the
story which has been told so often, but which never palls in its
interest—that life of the maiden through whose instrumentality France
regained her place among the nations. No poet's fancy has spun from
out his imagination a more glorious tale, or pictured in glowing words
an epic of heroic love and transcendent valour, to compete with the
actual reality of the career of this simple village maiden of old
France: she who, almost unassisted and alone, through her intense love
of her native land and deep pity for the woes of her people, was
enabled, when the day of action at length arrived, to triumph over
unnumbered obstacles, and, in spite of all opposition, ridicule, and
contumely, to fulfil her glorious mission.
Sainte-Beuve has written that, in his opinion, the way to honour the
history of Joan of Arc is to tell the truth about her as simply as
possible. This has been my object in the following pages.
On the border of Lorraine and Champagne, in the canton of the
Barrois—between the rivers Marne and Meuse—extended, at the time of
which we are writing, a vast forest, called the Der. By the side of a
little streamlet, which took its source from the river Meuse, and
dividing it east by west, stands the village of Domremy. The southern
portion, confined within its banks and watered by its stream,
contained a little fortalice, with a score of cottages grouped around.
These were situated in the county of Champagne, under the suzerainty
of the Count de Bar.
The northern side of the village, containing the church, belonged to
the Manor of Vaucouleurs. In this part of the village, in a cottage
built between the church and the rivulet close by, Joan of Arc was
born, on or about the 6th of January, 1412. The house which now exists
on the site of her birthplace was built in 1481, but the little
streamlet still takes its course at its foot. Michelet, in his account
of the heroine, says the station in life of Joan's father was that of
a labourer; later investigations have proved that he was what we
should call a small farmer. In the course of the trial held for the
rehabilitation of Joan of Arc's memory, which yields valuable and
authentic information relating to her family as well as to her life
and actions, it appears that the neighbours of the heroine deposed
that her parents were well-to-do agriculturists, holding a small
property besides this house at Domremy; they held about twenty acres
of land, twelve of which were arable, four meadow-land, and four for
fuel. Besides this they had some two to three hundred francs kept safe
in case of emergency, and the furniture goods and chattels of their
modest home. The money thus kept in case of sudden trouble came in
usefully when the family had to escape from the English to
Neufchâteau. All told, the fortune of the family of Joan attained an
annual income of about two hundred pounds of our money, a not
inconsiderable revenue at that time; and with it they were enabled to
raise a family in comfort, and to give alms and hospitality to the
poor, and wandering friars and other needy wayfarers, then so common
in the land.
Two documents lately discovered prove Joan's father to have held a
position of some importance at Domremy. In the one, dated 1423, he is
styled 'doyen' (senior inhabitant) of the village, which gave him
rank next to the Mayor. In the other, four years later, he fills a post
which tallies with what is called in Scotland the Procurator-fiscal.
The name of the family was Arc, and much ink has been shed as to the
origin of that name. By some it is derived from the village of d'Arc,
in the Barrois, now in the department of the Haute Marne; and this
hypothesis is as good as any other.
Jacques d'Arc had taken to wife one Isabeau Romée, from the village of
Vouthon, near Domremy. Isabeau is said to have had some property in
her native village. The family of Jacques d'Arc and Isabella or
Isabeau consisted of five children: three sons, Jacquemin, Jean, and
Pierre, and two daughters, the elder Catherine, the younger Jeanne, or
Jennette, as she was generally called in her family, whose name was to
go through the ages as one of the most glorious in any land.
Well favoured by nature was the birthplace of Joan of Arc, with its
woods of chestnut and of oak, then in their primeval abundance. The
vine of Greux, which was famous all over the country-side as far back
as the fourteenth century, grew on the southern slopes of the hills
about Joan's birthplace. Beneath these vineyards the fields were
thickly clothed with rye and oats, and the meadow-lands washed by the
waters of the Meuse were fragrant with hay that had no rival in the
country. It was in these rich fields that, after the hay-making was
over, the peasants let out their cattle to graze, the number of each
man's kine corresponding with the number of fields which he owned and
which he had reaped.
The little maid sometimes helped her father's labourers, and the idea
has become general that Joan of Arc was a shepherdess; in reality, it
was only an occasional occupation, and probably undertaken by Joan out
of mere good-nature, seeing that her parents were well-to-do people.
All that we gather of Joan's early years proves her nature to have
been a compound of love and goodness. Every trait recorded of the
little maid's life at home which has come down to us reveals a mixture
of amiability, unselfishness, and charity. From her earliest years she
loved to help the weak and poor: she was known, when there was no room
for the weary wayfarer to pass the night in her parents' house, to
give up her bed to them, and to sleep on the floor, by the hearth.
She loved her mother tenderly, and in her trial she bore witness
before men to the good influence that she had derived from that
parent. Isabeau d'Arc appears to have been a devout woman, and to
have brought up her children to love work and religion. Joan loved to
sit by her mother's side for the hour together, spinning, and
doubtless listening to the stories of wars with the hereditary enemy.
When she could be of use, Joan was ever ready to lend a hand to help
her father or brothers in the rougher labours of coach-house, stable,
or farmyard, to keep watch over the flocks as they browsed by the
river-side along the meadow-lands.
Joan had not the defect of so many excellent but tedious women, who
love talk for the mere sake of talking: she seems to have been
reserved; but, as she proved later on, she was never at a loss for a
word in season, and with a few words could speak volumes. From her
childhood she showed an intense and ever-increasing devotion to things
holy; her delight in prayer became almost a passion. She never wearied
of visiting the churches in and about her native village, and she
passed many an hour in a kind of rapt trance before the crucifixes and
saintly images in these churches. Every morning saw her at her
accustomed place at the early celebration of her Lord's Sacrifice; and
if in the afternoon the evening bells sounded across the fields, she
would kneel devoutly, and commune in her heart with her divine Master
and adored saints. She loved above all things these evening bells,
and, when it seemed to her the ringer grew negligent, would bribe him
with some little gift—the worked wool from one of her sheep or some
other trifle—to remind him in the future to be more instant in his
office. That this little trait in Joan is true, we have the testimony
of the bell-ringer himself to attest.
This devotion to her religious duties had not the effect of making
Joan less of a companion to her fellow-villagers. She could not have
been so much beloved by them as she was had she held herself aloof
from them: on the contrary, Joan enjoyed to play with the lads and
village lasses; and we hear of her swiftness of foot in the race, of
her gracefulness in the village dance, either by the stream or around
an old oak-tree in the forest, which was said to be the favourite
haunt of the fairies.
Often in the midst of these sports Joan would break away from her
companions, and enter some church or chapel, where she placed garlands
of flowers around statues of her beloved saints.
Thus passed away the early years of the maiden's gentle life, among
her native fields, with nothing especially to distinguish her from her
companions beyond her goodness and piety. A great change, however, was
near at hand. The first of those mysterious and supernatural events
which played so all-important a part in the life of our heroine
occurred in the summer of 1425, when Joan was in her thirteenth year.
In her trial at Rouen, on being asked by her judges what was the first
manifestation of these visions, she answered that the first indication
of what she always called 'My voices' was that of St. Michel. It is
not a little remarkable that this vision of St. Michel, the patron
saint of the French army, should have taken place in the summer of
1425, at the time of a double defeat by land and sea of the enemy of
France, and when the Holy Mount in Normandy, crowned by the chapel
guarded by St. Michel, was once again in the hands of the French. At
the same time, Joan of Arc experienced some of the hardships of war
when the country around Domremy was overrun by the enemy; and the
little household of the Arcs had to fly for shelter to the
neighbouring village of Châteauneuf, in Lorraine.
I will pass somewhat rapidly over the visions, or rather
revelations—for, whatever doubts one may hold as to such heavenly
messengers appearing literally on this earth, no man can honestly
doubt that Joan believed as firmly in these unearthly visitants coming
from Heaven direct as she did in the existence of herself or of her
parents. On the subject of these voices and visions no one has written
with more sense than a distinguished prelate who was a contemporary of
the heroine's—namely, Thomas Basin, Bishop of Lisieux, who, in a work
relating to Joan of Arc, writes thus:—
'As regards her mission, and as regards the apparitions and
revelations that she affirmed having had, we leave to every one the
liberty to believe as he pleases, to reject or to hold, according to
his point of view or way of thinking. What is important regarding
these visions is the fact that Joan had herself no shadow of a doubt
regarding their reality, and it was their effect upon her, and not her
natural inclination, which impelled her to leave her parents and her
home to undertake great perils and to endure great hardships, and, as
it proved, a terrible death. It was these visions and voices, and they
alone, which made her believe that she would succeed, if she obeyed
them, in saving her country and in replacing her king on his throne.
It was these visions and voices which finally enabled her to do those
marvellous deeds, and accomplish what appeared to all the world the
impossible; these voices and visions will ever be connected with Joan
of Arc, and with her deathless fame and glory.'
From the year 1425 till 1428, the apparitions and voices were heard
and seen more or less frequently.
It is the year 1427: all that remains to Charles of his kingdom north
of the Loire, with the exception of Tournay, are a pitiful half-dozen
places. Among these is Vaucouleurs, near Domremy. They are defended by
a body of men under the command of a knight, Robert de Baudricourt,
who is about to play an important part in the history of Joan.
In one of her visions the maid was told to seek this knight, that
through his help she might be brought to the French Court; for the
voices had told her she might find the King and tell him her message,
by which she should deliver the land from the English, and restore him
to his throne. There had not been wanting legends and prophecies upon
the country-side which may have impressed Joan, and helped her to
believe that it was her mission to deliver France. One of the
prophecies was to the effect that a maiden from the borders of
Lorraine should save France, that this maiden would appear from a
place near an oak forest. This seemed to point directly to our
heroine. The old oak-tree haunted by the fairies, the neighbouring
country of Lorraine, were all in help of the tradition. Since the
betrayal of her husband's country by the wife of Charles VI., another
saying had been spread abroad throughout all that remained of that
small portion of France still held by the French King—namely, that
although France would be lost by a woman, a maiden should save it. Any
hope to the people in those distressful days was eagerly seized on;
and although the first prophecy dated from the mythical times of
Merlin, it stirred the people, especially when, later on, Joan of Arc
appeared among them, and her story became known.
These prophecies appear to have struck deeply into Joan's soul; they,
and her voices aiding, made her believe she was the maiden by whom her
country would be delivered from the presence of the enemy. But how was
she to make her parents understand that it was their child who was
appointed by Heaven to fulfil this great deliverance? Her father seems
to have been a somewhat harsh, at any rate a practical, parent. When
told of her intention to join the army, he said he would rather throw
her into the river than allow her to do so. An attempt was made by her
parents to induce her to marry. They tried their best, but Joan would
none of it; and bringing the case before the lawyers at Toul, where
she proved that she had never thought of marrying a youth whom her
parents required her to wed, she gained her cause and her freedom.
In order to take the first step in her mission, Joan felt it necessary
to rely on some one outside her immediate family. A distant relation
of her mother's, one Durand Laxart, who with his wife lived in a
little village then named Burey-le-Petit (now called Burey-en-Vaux),
near Vaucouleurs, was the relation in whose care she placed her fate.
With him and his wife Joan remained eight days; and it might have been
then that the plan was arranged to hold an interview with Baudricourt
at Vaucouleurs, in order to see whether that knight would interest
himself in Joan's mission.
The interview took place about the middle of the month of May (1428),
and nothing could have been less propitious. A soldier named Bertrand
de Poulangy, who was one of the garrison of Vaucouleurs, was an
eye-witness of the meeting. He accompanied Joan of Arc later on to
Chinon, and left a record of the almost brutal manner with which
Baudricourt received the Maid. From this soldier's narrative we
possess one of the rare glimpses which have come down to us of the
appearance of the heroine: not indeed a description of what would be
of such intense interest as to make known to us the appearance and
features of her face; but he describes her dress, which was that then
worn by the better-to-do agricultural class of Lorraine peasant women,
made of rough red serge, the cap such as is still worn by the
peasantry of her native place.
It is much to be regretted that no portrait of Joan of Arc exists
either in sculpture or painting. A life-size bronze statue which
portrayed the Maid kneeling on one side of a crucifix, with Charles
VII. opposite, forming part of a group near the old bridge of Orleans,
was destroyed by the Huguenots; and all the portraits of Joan painted
in oils are spurious. None are earlier than the sixteenth century, and
all are mere imaginary daubs. In most of these Joan figures in a hat
and feathers, of the style worn in the Court of Francis I. From
various contemporary notices, it appears that her hair was dark in
colour, as in Bastien Lepage's celebrated picture, which supplies as
good an idea of what Joan may have been as any pictured representation
of her form and face. Would that the frescoes which Montaigne
describes as being painted on the front of the house upon the site of
which Joan was born could have come down to us. They might have given
some conception of her appearance. Montaigne saw those frescoes on his
way to Italy, and says that all the front of the house was painted
with representations of her deeds, but even in his day they were much
When Joan at length stood before the knight of Vaucouleurs, she told
him boldly that she had come to him by God's command, and that she was
destined to give the King victory over the English. She even said that
she was assured that early in the following March this would be
accomplished, and that the Dauphin would then be crowned at Rheims,
for all these things had been promised to her through her Lord.
'And who is he?' asked de Baudricourt.
'He is the King of Heaven,' she answered.
The knight treated Joan's words with derision, and Joan herself with
insults; and thus ended the first of their interviews.
It was only in the season of Lent of the next year (March 1427) that
Joan again sought the aid of de Baudricourt. On the plea of attending
her cousin Laxart's wife's confinement, Joan returned to
Burey-le-Petit. She left Domremy without bidding her parents farewell;
but it has been recorded by one of her friends, named Mengeth, a
neighbour of the d'Arcs, that she told this woman of her intention of
going to Vaucouleurs, and recommended her to God's keeping, as if she
felt that she would not see her again. At Burey-le-Petit Joan remained
between the end of January until her departure for Chinon, on the 23rd
of February; and before taking final leave she asked and received her
parents' pardon for her abrupt departure from them.
While with the Laxarts, news reached Vaucouleurs that the English had
commenced the siege of Orleans. This intelligence brought matters to a
crisis, for with the loss of Orleans the whole of what remained to the
French King must fall into the hands of the enemy, and France felt her
last hour of independence had come.
Joan determined on again seeking an interview with Robert de
Baudricourt, and this second meeting between her and the knight, which
took place six months after the first, had far happier results. As M.
Simeon Luce has pointed out in his history of 'Jeanne d'Arc at
Domremy,' the situation both of Charles VI. and of the knight of
Vaucouleurs was far different in 1429 to what it had been when Joan
first saw de Baudricourt at Vaucouleurs in the previous year. The most
important stronghold held by the French in their ever-lessening
territory was in utmost danger of falling into the grasp of the
English; while de Baudricourt was anxiously waiting to hear whether
his protector, the Duc de Bar, whom Bedford had summoned to enter into
a treaty with the English, would not be prevailed upon to do so. If he
consented, this would make the knight's tenure of Vaucouleurs
impracticable. It was probably owing to this state of affairs that, on
her second interview with the knight of Vaucouleurs, Joan of Arc was
favourably received by him. Since the first visit to de Baudricourt by
the Maid of Domremy, her name had become familiar to many of the
people in and about Vaucouleurs. An officer named Jean de Metz has
left some record of his meeting at this time with Joan; for he was
afterwards examined among other witnesses at the time of the Maid's
rehabilitation in 1456. De Metz describes the Maid as being clothed in
a dress of coarse red serge, the same as she wore on her first visit
to Vaucouleurs. When he questioned her as to what she expected to gain
by coming again to Vaucouleurs, she answered that she had returned to
induce Robert de Baudricourt to conduct her to the King; but that on
her first visit he was deaf to her entreaties and prayers. But, she
added, she was still determined to appear before Charles, even if she
had to go to him all the way on her knees.
'For I alone,' she added, 'and no other person, whether he be King, or
Duke, or daughter of the King of Scots' (alluding to the future wife
of Charles VII.'s son, Louis XI.—Margaret of Scotland) 'can recover
the kingdom of France.'
As far as her own wishes were concerned, she said she would prefer to
return to her home, and to spin again by the side of her beloved
mother; for, she added: 'I am not made to follow the career of a
soldier; but I must go and carry out this my calling, for my Lord has
appointed me to do so.'
'And who,' asked de Metz, 'is your Lord?'
'My Lord,' answered the Maid, 'is God Himself.'
The enthusiasm of Joan seems to have at once gained the soldier's
heart. He took her by the hand, and swore that God willing he would
accompany her to the King. When asked how soon she would be ready to
start, she said that she was ready. 'Better to-day than to-morrow, and
better to-morrow than later on.'
During her second visit to Vaucouleurs, Joan remained with the same
friends as on her former visit; they appear to have been an honest
couple, of the name of Le Royer. One day while Joan was helping in
the domestic work of her hosts, and seated by the side of Catherine Le
Royer, Robert de Baudricourt suddenly entered the room, accompanied by
a priest, one Jean Fournier, in full canonicals. It appeared that the
knight had conceived the brilliant idea of finding out, through the
assistance of the holy man, whether Joan was under the influence of
good or evil spirits, before allowing her to go to the King's Court.
As may be imagined, Joan received the priest with all respect,
kneeling before him; and the good father was soon able to reassure de
Baudricourt that the evil spirits had no part or parcel in the heart
of the maid who received him with so much humility.
For three weeks Joan was left in suspense at Vaucouleurs, and probably
it was not until a messenger had been sent to Chinon and had returned
with a favourable answer, that at length de Baudricourt gave a
somewhat unwilling consent to Joan's leaving Vaucouleurs on her
mission to Chinon. During those weary weeks of anxious waiting, Joan's
hostess bore witness in after days to the manner in which the time was
passed: of how she would help Catherine in her spinning and other
homely work, but, as when at home, her chief delight was to attend the
Church services, and she would often remain to confession, after the
early communion in the church. The chapel in which she worshipped was
not the parochial church of Vaucouleurs, but was attached to the
castle, and it still exists. In that castle chapel, and in a
subterranean crypt beneath the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de
Vaucouleurs, Joan passed much of her time. Seven and twenty years
after these events, one Jean le Fumeux, at that time a chorister of
the chapel, a lad of eleven, bore witness, at the trial in which the
memory of Joan was vindicated, to having often seen her kneeling
before an image of the Virgin. This image, a battered and rude one,
still exists. Nothing less artistic can be imagined; but no one, be
his religious views what they may, be his abhorrence of Mariolatry as
strong as that of a Calvinist, if he have a grain of sympathy in his
nature for what is glorious in patriotism and sublime in devotion, can
look on that battered and broken figure without a feeling deeper than
one of ordinary curiosity.
A short time before leaving Vaucouleurs, Joan made a visit into
Lorraine—a visit which proved how early her fame had spread abroad.
The then reigning Duke of that province, Charles II. of Lorraine, an
aged and superstitious prince, had heard of the mystic Maid of
Domremy, and he had expressed his wish to see her, probably thinking
that she might afford him relief from the infirmities from which he
suffered. Whatever the reason may have been, he sent her an urgent
request to visit him, a message with which Joan at once complied.
Accompanied by Jean de Metz, Joan went to Toul, and thence with her
cousin, Durand Laxart, she proceeded to Nancy. Little is known of her
deeds while there. She visited Duke Charles, and gave him some advice
as to how he should regain his character more than his health, over
which she said she had no control. The old Duke appears to have been
rather a reprobate, but whether he profited by Joan's advice does not
Possibly this rather vague visit of the Maid's to Nancy was undertaken
as a kind of test as to how she would comport herself among dukes and
princes. That she showed most perfect modesty of bearing under
somewhat difficult circumstances seems to have struck those who were
with her at Nancy. She also showed practical sagacity; for she advised
Duke Charles to give active support to the French King, and persuaded
him to allow his son-in-law, young René of Anjou, Duke of Bar, to
enter the ranks of the King's army, and even to allow him to accompany
her to the Court at Chinon. By this she bound the more than lukewarm
Duke of Lorraine to exert all his influence on the side of King
Before leaving Nancy on her return to Vaucouleurs, Joan visited a
famous shrine, not far from the capital, dedicated to St. Nicolas,
after which she hastened back to Vaucouleurs to make ready for an
immediate start for Chinon.
Joan's equipment for her journey to Chinon was subscribed for by the
people of Vaucouleurs; for among the common folk there, as wherever
she was known, her popularity was great. She seems to have won in
every instance the hearts of the good simple peasantry, the poorer
classes in general, called by a saintly King of France the 'common
people of our Lord,' who believed in her long before others of the
higher classes and the patricians were persuaded to put any faith in
her. To the peasantry Joan was already the maiden pointed out in the
old prophecy then known all over France, which said that the country
would be first lost by a woman and then recovered by a maiden hailing
from Lorraine. The former was believed to be the Queen-mother, who had
sided with the English; Joan, the Maid out of Lorraine who should save
France, and by whose arm the English would be driven out of the
Clad in a semi-male attire, composed of a tight-fitting doublet of
dark cloth and tunic reaching to the knees, high leggings and spurred
boots, with a black cap on her head, and a hauberk, the Maid was armed
with lance and sword, the latter the gift of de Baudricourt. Her good
friends of Vaucouleurs had also subscribed for a horse. Thus
completely equipped, she prepared for war, ready for her eventful
voyage. Her escort consisted of a knight named Colet de Vienne,
accompanied by his squire, one Richard l'Archer, two men-at-arms from
Vaucouleurs, and the two knights Bertrand de Poulangy and Jean de
Metz—eight men in all, well armed and well mounted, and thoroughly
prepared to defend their charge should the occasion arise. Nor were
precautions and means of repelling an attack unnecessary, for at this
time the country around Vaucouleurs was infested by roving bands of
soldiers belonging to the Anglo-Burgundian party. Especially dangerous
was that stretch of country lying between Vaucouleurs and Joinville,
the first of the many stages on the way to Chinon. Although the
knights and men of the small expedition were not without
apprehension, Joan seems to have shown no sign of fear: calm and
cheerful, she said that, being under the protection of Heaven, they
had nothing to fear, for that no evil could befall her.
There still exists the narrow gate of the old castle of Vaucouleurs
through which that little band rode out into the night; hard by is the
small subterranean chapel, now under repair, where Joan had passed so
many hours of her weary weeks of waiting at Vaucouleurs. The old gate
is still called the French Gate, as it was in the days of the Maid.
STREET IN CHINON
It was the evening of the 23rd of February, 1429, that the little band
rode away into the open country on their perilous journey. Joan,
besides adopting a military attire, had trimmed her dark hair close,
as it was then the fashion of knights to do—cut round above the ears.
Even this harmless act was later brought as an accusation against her.
Joan was then in her seventeenth year, and, although nothing but
tradition has reached us of her looks and outward form, it is not
difficult to imagine her as she rides out of that old gate, a comely
maid, with a frank, brave countenance, lit up by the flame of an
intense enthusiasm for her country and people. There can be no doubt
that by her companions in arms—rough soldiers though most of them
were—she was held in veneration; they bore testimony to their
feelings by a kind of adoration for one who seemed indeed to them more
than mortal. Wherever Joan appeared, this feeling of veneration spread
rapidly through the length and breadth of the land; and the
people were wont to speak of the future saviour of France, not by the
name of Joan the Maid, or Joan of Arc, but as the Angelic
Among the crowd who gathered to see Joan depart was de Baudricourt,
who then made amends for his rudeness and churlish behaviour on her
first visit by presenting her with his own sword, and bidding her
heartily god-speed. 'Advienne que pourra!' was his parting salute.
The journey between Vaucouleurs and Chinon occupied eleven days. Not
only was the danger of attack from the English and Burgundian soldiers
a great and a constant one, but the winter, which had been
exceptionally wet, had flooded all the rivers. Five of these had to be
crossed—namely, the Marne, the Aube, the Seine, the Yonne, and the
Loire: and most of the bridges and fords of these rivers were strictly
guarded by the enemy. The little band, for greater security, mostly
travelled during the night. Their first halt was made at the Monastery
of Saint-Urbain-les-Joinville. The Celibat of this monastery was named
Arnoult d'Aunoy, and was a relative of de Baudricourt. After leaving
that shelter they had to camp out in the open country.
Joan's chief anxiety was that she might be able to attend Mass every
day. 'If we are able to attend the service of the Church, all will be
well,' she said to her escort. The soldiers only twice allowed her the
opportunity of doing so, on one occasion in the principal church of
the town of Auxerre.
They crossed the Loire at Gien; and at that place, in the church
dedicated to one of Joan's special saints—St. Catherine, for whom she
held a personal adoration—she thrice attended Mass.
When the little band entered Touraine, they were out of danger, and
here the news of the approach of the Maid spread like wildfire over
the country-side. Even the besieged burghers of Orleans learned that
the time of their delivery from the English was at hand.
Perhaps it was when passing through Fierbois that Joan may have been
told of the existence in its church of the sword which so
conspicuously figured in her later story, and was believed to have
been miraculously revealed to her.
A letter was despatched from Fierbois to Charles at Chinon, announcing
the Maid's approach, and craving an audience. At length, on the 6th of
March, Joan of Arc arrived beneath the long stretch of castle walls of
the splendid old Castle of Chinon.
That imposing ruin on the banks of the river Vienne is even in its
present abandoned state one of the grandest piles of mediæval building
in the whole of France. Crowning the rich vale of Touraine, with the
river winding below, and reflecting its castle towers in the still
water, this time-honoured home of our Plantagenet kings has been not
inaptly compared to Windsor. Beneath the castle walls and the river,
nestles the quaint old town, in which are mediæval houses once
inhabited by the court and followers of the French and English kings.
When Joan arrived at Chinon, Charles's affairs were in a very perilous
state. The yet uncrowned King of France regarded the chances of being
able to hold his own in France as highly problematical. He had doubts
as to his legitimacy. Financially, so low were his affairs that even
the turnspits in the palace were clamouring for their unpaid wages.
The unfortunate monarch had already sold his jewels and precious
trinkets. Even his clothes showed signs of poverty and patching, and
to such a state of penury was he reduced that his bootmaker, finding
that the King was unable to pay him the price of a new pair of boots,
and not trusting the royal credit, refused to leave the new boots, and
Charles had to wear out his old shoe-leather. All that remained in the
way of money in the royal chest consisted of four gold 'écus.' To such
a pitch of distress had the poor King, who was contemptuously called
by the English the King of Bourges, sunken.
Now that Orleans was in daily peril of falling into the hands of the
English, and with Paris and Rouen in their hold, the wretched
sovereign had serious thoughts of leaving his ever-narrowing territory
and taking refuge either in Spain or in Scotland. Up to this time in
his life Charles had shown little strength of character. His existence
was passed among a set of idle courtiers. He had placed himself and
his broken fortunes in the hands of the ambitious La Tremoïlle, whose
object it was that the King should be a mere cipher in his hands, and
who lulled him into a false security by encouraging him to continue a
listless career of self-indulgence in his various palaces and pleasure
castles on the banks of the Loire. Charles had, indeed, become a mere
tool in the hands of this powerful minister. The historian Quicherat
has summed up George de la Tremoïlle's character as an avaricious
courtier, false and despotic, with sufficient talent to make a name
and a fortune by being a traitor to every side. That such a man did
not see Joan of Arc's arrival with a favourable eye is not a matter of
surprise, and La Tremoïlle seems early to have done his utmost to
undermine the Maid's influence with his sovereign. From the day she
arrived at Chinon, if not even before her arrival there—if we may
trust one story—an ambush was arranged by Tremoïlle to cut her off
with her escort. That plot failed, but her capture at Compiègne may be
indirectly traced to La Tremoïlle's machinations.
Those who have visited Chinon will recall the ancient and picturesque
street, named La Haute Rue Saint Maurice, which runs beneath and
parallel with the castle walls and the Vienne. Local tradition pointed
out till very recently, in this old street, the stone well on the side
of which the Maid of Domremy placed her foot on her arrival in the
town. This ancient well stone has recently been removed by the
Municipality of Chinon, but fortunately the 'Margelle' (to use the
native term) has come into reverent hands, and the stone, with its
deeply dented border, reminding one of the artistic wells in Venice,
is religiously preserved.
Of Chinon it has been said:
Chynon, petit ville,
Its renown dates back from the early days of our Plantagenets, when
they lived in the old fortress above its dwellings: how Henry III.
died of a broken heart, and the fame of Rabelais, will ever be
associated with the ancient castle and town. Still, the deathless
interest of Chinon is owing to the residence of the Maid of
Domremy—as one has a better right to call her than of Orleans—in
those early days of her short career, in its burgh and castle. In or
near the street La Haute Rue Saint Maurice, hard by a square which now
bears the name of the heroine, Joan of Arc arrived at noon on Sunday,
the 6th of March.
It would be interesting to know in which of the old gabled houses Joan
resided during the two days before she was admitted to enter the
castle. Local tradition reports that she dwelt with a good housewife
('chez une bonne femme'). According to a contemporary plan of
Chinon, dated 1430, a house which belonged to a family named La Barre
was where she lodged; and although the actual house of the La Barres
cannot be identified, there are many houses in the street of Saint
Maurice old enough to have witnessed the advent of the Maid on that
memorable Sunday in the month of March 1430. Few French towns are so
rich in the domestic architecture of the better kind dating from the
early part of the fifteenth century as that of Chinon; and now that
Rouen, Orleans, and Poitiers have been so terribly modernised, a
journey to Chinon well repays the trouble. Little imagination is
required to picture the street with its crowd of courtiers and Court
hangers-on, upon their way to and from the castle above; so mercifully
have time and that far greater destroyer of things of yore dealt with
this old thoroughfare.
Two days elapsed before Joan was admitted to the presence of the King.
A council had been summoned in the castle to determine whether the
Maid should be received by the monarch. The testimony of the knights
who had accompanied the Maid from Vaucouleurs carried the day in her
While waiting to see the King, we have from Joan's own lips a
description of how her time was passed. 'I was constantly at prayers
in order that God should send the King a sign. I was lodging with a
good woman when that sign was given him, and then I was summoned to
The church in which she passed her time in prayer was doubtless that
of Saint Maurice, close by the place at which she lodged. It owed its
origin to Henry II. of England; it is a rare and beautiful little
building of good Norman architecture, but much defaced by modern
restoration. Its age is marked by the depth at which its pavement
stands, the ground rising many feet above its present level.
A reliable account of Joan of Arc's interview with King Charles has
come down to us, as have so many other facts in her life's history,
through the witnesses examined at the time of the heroine's
rehabilitation. Foremost among these is the testimony of a priest
named Pasquerel, who was soon to become Joan's almoner, and to
accompany her in her warfare. He tells how, when Joan was on her road
to enter the castle, a soldier used some coarse language as he saw the
young Maid pass by—some rude remark which the fellow qualified with
an oath. Turning to him, the Maid rebuked him for blaspheming, and
added that he had denied his God at the very moment in which he would
be summoned before his Judge, for that within an hour he would appear
before the heavenly throne. The soldier was drowned within the hour.
At least such is the tale as told by Priest Pasquerel.
The castle was shrouded in outer darkness, but brilliantly lit within,
as Joan entered its gates. The King's Chamberlain, the Comte de
Vendôme, received the Maid at the entrance of the royal apartments,
and ushered her into the great gallery, of which fragments still
exist—a blasted fireplace, and sufficient remains of the original
stone-work to prove that this hall was the principal apartment in the
palace. Flambeaux and torches glowed from the roof and from the sides
of this hall, and here the Court had assembled, half amused, half
serious, as to the arrival of the peasant girl, about whom there had
been so much strange gossip stirring. Now the grass grows in wild
luxuriance over the pavement, and the ivy clings to the old walls of
that noble room, in which, perhaps, the most noteworthy of all
recorded meetings between king and subject then took place. A score of
torches held by pages lit the sides of the chamber. Before these were
ranged the knights and ladies, the latter clothed in the fantastically
rich costume of that time, with high erections on their heads, from
which floated long festoons of cloth, and glittering with the emblems
of their families on their storied robes. The King, in order to test
the divination of the Maid, had purposely clad himself in common garb,
and had withdrawn himself behind his more brilliantly attired
Ascending the flight of eighteen steps which led into the hall, and
following Vendôme, Joan passed across the threshold of the hall, and,
without a moment's hesitation singling out the King at the end of the
gallery, walked to within a few paces of him, and falling on her knees
before him—'the length of a lance,' as one of the spectators
recorded—said, 'God give you good life, noble King!' ('Dieu vous
donne bonne vie, gentil Roi').
'But,' said Charles, 'I am not the King. This,' pointing to one of his
courtiers, 'is the King.'
Joan, however, was not to be hoodwinked, and, finding that in spite of
his subterfuges he was known, Charles acknowledged his identity, and
entered at once with Joan on the subject of her mission.
HALL OF AUDIENCE - CHINON
It appears, from all the accounts which have come to us of this
interview, that Charles was at first somewhat loth to take Joan and
her mission seriously. He appears to have treated the Maid as a
mere visionary; but after an interview which the King gave her apart
from the crowded gallery, when she is supposed to have revealed to him
a secret known only to himself, his whole manner changed, and from
that moment Joan exercised a strong influence over the man,
all-vacillating as was his character. It has never been known what
words actually passed in this private interview between the pair, but
the subject probably was connected with a doubt that had long tortured
the mind of the King—namely, whether he were legitimately the heir to
the late King's throne. At any rate the impression Joan had produced
on the King was, after that conversation, a favourable one, and
Charles commanded that, instead of returning to her lodging in the
town, Joan should be lodged in the castle.
The tower which she occupied still exists—one of the large circular
towers on the third line of the fortifications. A gloomy-looking
cryptal room on the ground floor was probably the one occupied by
Joan. It goes by the name of Belier's Tower—a knight whose wife, Anne
de Maille, bore a reputation for great goodness among the people of
the Court. Close to Belier's Tower is a chapel within another part of
the castle grounds, but the church which in those days stood hard by
Joan's tower has long since disappeared—its site is now a mass of
While Joan was at Chinon, there arrived, from his three years'
imprisonment in England, the young Duke of Anjou. Of all those who
were attached to the Court and related to the French sovereign, this
young Prince was the most sympathetic to Joan of Arc. He seems to have
fulfilled the character of some hero of romance more than any of the
French princes of that time, and Joan at once found in him a
chivalrous ally and a firm friend. That she admired him we cannot
doubt, and she loved to call him her knight.
Hurrying to Chinon, having heard of the Maid of Domremy's arrival, he
found Joan with the King. Her enthusiasm was contagious with the young
Prince, who declared how eagerly he would help her in her enterprise.
'The more there are of the blood royal of France to help in our
enterprise the better,' answered Joan.
Many obstacles had still to be met before the King accorded liberty of
action to the Maid. La Tremoïlle and others of his stamp threw all the
difficulties they could suggest in the way of Joan of Arc's expedition
to deliver Orleans: these men preferred their easy life at Chinon to
the arbitrament of battle. In vain Joan sought the King and pressed
him to come to a decision: one day he said he would consent to her
progress, and the following he refused to give his consent. He
listened to the Maid, but also to the courtiers, priests, and lawyers,
and among so many counsellors he could come to no determination.
Joan during these days trained herself to the vocation which her
career compelled her to follow. We hear of her on one occasion
surprising the King and the Court by the dexterity with which she rode
and tilted with a lance. From the young Duke of Alençon she received
the gift of a horse; and the King carried out on a large scale what de
Baudricourt had done on a small one, by making her a gift of arms and
accoutrements. Before, however, deciding to entrust the fate of
hostilities into the hands of the Maid, it was decided that the advice
and counsel of the prelates assembled at Poitiers should be taken.
It was in the Great Hall of that town that the French Parliament held
its conferences. The moment was critical, for should the decision of
these churchmen be favourable to Joan, then Charles could no longer
have any scruples in making use of her abilities, and of profiting by
It was, therefore, determined that Joan should be examined by the
Parliament and clergy assembled at Poitiers. The King in person
accompanied the Maid to the Parliament. The majestic hall, which still
calls forth the admiration of all travellers at Poitiers, is little
changed in its appearance since the time of that memorable event. It
is one of the noblest specimens of domestic architecture in France:
its graceful pillars and arched roof, and immense fireplace, remain as
they were in the early days of the fifteenth century.
Of the proceedings of that examination unfortunately no complete
report exists. Within a tower connected with the Parliament Hall is
still pointed out a little chamber, said to have been occupied by the
Maid while undergoing this, the first of her judicial and clerical
examinations. But later investigations point to her having been lodged
in a house within the town belonging to the family of the
Parliamentary Advocate-General, Maître Jean Rabuteau.
It must have been a solemn moment for Joan when summoned for the first
time into the presence of the Court of bishops, judges, and lawyers,
whom Charles had gathered together to examine her on her visions and
on her mission. The orders had been sent out by the King and the
Archbishop of Rheims; Gerard Machot, the Bishop of Castres and the
King's confessor; Simon Bonnet, afterwards Bishop of Senlis; and the
Bishops of Macquelonne and of Poitiers. Among the lesser dignitaries
of the Church was present a Dominican monk, named Sequier, whose
account of the proceedings, and the notes kept by Gobert Thibault, an
equerry of the King, are the only records of the examination extant.
The scantiness of these accounts is all the more to be regretted,
inasmuch as Joan frequently referred to the questions made to her, and
her answers, at this trial at Poitiers, during her trial at Rouen; and
they would probably have thrown much light on the obscure passages of
her early years, for at Poitiers she had not to guard against hostile
inquisition, and, doubtless, gave her questioners a full and free
record of her past life.
TOUR D'HORLOGE - CHINON
The first conference between these prelates, lawyers, and Joan lasted
two hours. At first they appeared to doubt the Maid, but her frank and
straightforward answers to all the questions put her impressed them
with the truth of her character. They were, according to the old
chronicles, 'grandement ebahis comme une ce simple bergère jeune fille
pouvait ainsi repondre.'
One of her examiners, Jean Lombard by name, a professor of theology
from the University of Paris, in asking Joan what had induced her to
visit the King, was told she had been encouraged so to do by 'her
voices'—those voices which had taught her the great pity felt by her
for the land of France; that although at first she had hesitated to
obey them, they became ever more urgent, and commanded her to go.
'And, Joan,' then asked a doctor of theology named William Aymeri,
'why do you require soldiers, if you tell us that it is God's will
that the English shall be driven out of France? If that is the case,
then there is no need of soldiers, for surely, if it be God's will
that the enemy should fly the country, go they must!'
To which Joan answered: 'The soldiers will do the fighting, and God
will give the victory!'
Sequier, whose account of the proceedings has come down to us, then
asked Joan in what language the Saints addressed her.
'In a better one than yours,' she answered.
Now Brother Sequier, although a doctor of theology, had a strong and
disagreeable accent which he had brought from his native town of
Limoges, and, doubtless, the other clerks and priests tittered not a
little at Joan's answer. Sequier appears to have been somewhat
irritated, and sharply asked Joan whether she believed in God.
'Better than you do,' was the reply; but Sequier, who is described as
a 'bien aigre homme,' was not yet satisfied, and returned to the
charge. Like the Pharisees, he wished for a sign, and he declared that
he for one could not believe in the sacred mission of the Maid, did
she not show them all a sign, nor without such a sign could he advise
the King to place any one in peril, merely on the strength of Joan's
declaration and word.
To this Joan said that she had not come to Poitiers to show signs, but
'Let me go to Orleans, and there you will be able to judge by the
signs I shall show wherefore I have been sent on this mission. Let the
force of soldiers with me be as small as you choose; but to Orleans I
For three weeks did these conferences last. Nothing was neglected to
discover every detail regarding Joan's life: of her childhood, of her
family and her friends. And one of the Council visited Domremy to
ferret out all the details that could be got at. Needless to say, all
that he heard only redounded to the Maid's credit; nothing transpired
which was not honourable to the Maid's character and way of life, and
in keeping with the testimony Jean de Metz and Poulangy had given the
King at Chinon.
One day she said to one of the Council, Pierre de Versailles, 'I
believe you have come to put questions to me, and although I know not
A or B, what I do know is that I am sent by the King of Heaven to
raise the siege of Orleans, and to conduct the King to Rheims, in
order that he shall be there anointed and crowned.'
On another occasion she addressed the following words in a letter
which John Erault took down from her dictation—to write she knew
not—to the English commanders before Orleans: 'In the name of the
King of Heaven I command you, Suffolk [spelt in the missive Suffort],
Scales [Classidas], and Pole [La Poule], to return to England.'
One sees by the above missive that the French spelling of English
names was about as correct in the fifteenth as it is in the nineteenth
What stirred the curiosity of Joan's examiners was to try and discover
whether her reported visions and her voices were from Heaven or not.
This was the crucial question over which these churchmen and lawyers
puzzled their brains during those three weeks of the blithe
spring-tide at Poitiers. How were they to arrive at a certain
knowledge regarding those mystic portents? All the armoury of
theological knowledge accumulated by the doctors of the Church was
made use of; but this availed less than the simple answers of Joan in
bringing conviction to these puzzled pundits that her call was a
heavenly one. When they produced piles of theological books and
parchments, Joan simply said: 'God's books are to me more than all
When at length it was officially notified that the Parliament approved
and sanctioned the mission of the Maid, and that nothing against her
had appeared which could in any way detract from the faith she
professed to follow out her mission of deliverance, the rejoicing in
the good town of Poitiers was extreme. The glad news spread rapidly
over the country, and fluttered the hearts of the besieged within the
walls of Orleans. The cry was, 'When will the angelic one arrive?' The
brave Dunois—Bastard of Orleans—in command of the French in that
city, had ere this sent two knights, Villars and Jamet de Tilloy, to
hear all details about the Maid, whose advent was so eagerly looked
forward to. These messengers of Dunois had seen and spoken with Joan,
and on their return to Orleans Dunois allowed them to tell the
citizens their impressions of the Maid. Those people at Orleans were
now as enthusiastic about the deliverance as the inhabitants at
Poitiers, who had seen her daily for three weeks in their midst. All
who had been admitted to her presence left her with tears of joy and
devotion; her simple and modest behaviour, blended with her splendid
enthusiasm, won every heart. Her manner and modesty, and the gay
brightness of her answers, had also won the suffrage of the priests
and lawyers, and the military were as much delighted as surprised at
her good sense when the talk fell on subjects relating to their trade.
It was on or about the 20th of April 1429 that Joan of Arc left
Poitiers and proceeded to Tours. The King had now appointed a military
establishment to accompany her; and her two younger brothers, John and
Peter, had joined her. The faithful John de Metz and Bertrand de
Poulangy were also at her side. The King had selected as her esquire
John d'Aulon; besides this she was followed by two noble pages, Louis
de Contes and Raimond. There were also some men-at-arms and a couple
of heralds. A priest accompanied the little band, Brother John
Pasquerel, who was also Joan's almoner. The King had furthermore made
Joan a gift of a complete suit of armour, and the royal purse had
armed her retainers.
During her stay at Poitiers Joan prepared her standard, on which were
emblazoned the lilies of France, in gold on a white ground. On one
side of the standard was a painting representing the Almighty seated
in the heavens, in one hand bearing a globe, flanked by two kneeling
angels, each holding a fleur-de-lis. Besides this standard, which Joan
greatly prized, she had had a smaller banner made, with the
Annunciation painted on it. This standard was triangular in form; and,
in addition to those mentioned, she had a banneret on which was
represented the Crucifixion. These three flags or pennons were all
symbolic of the Maid's mission: the large one was to be used on the
field of battle and for general command; the smaller, to rally, in
case of need, her followers around her; and probably she herself bore
one of the smaller pennons. The names 'Jesu' and 'Maria' were
inscribed in large golden letters on all the flags.
The national royal standard of France till this period had been a dark
blue, and it is not unlikely that the awe and veneration which these
white flags of the Maid, with their sacred pictures on them, was the
reason of the later French kings adopting the white ground as their
characteristic colour on military banners.
Joan never made use of her sword, and bore one of the smaller banners
into the fight. She declared she would never use her sword, although
she attached a deep importance to it.
'My banner,' she declared, 'I love forty times as much as my sword!'
And yet the sword which she obtained from the altar at Fierbois was in
her eyes a sacred weapon.
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