Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Maid of France
Being The Story Of The Life And Death of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc)
CHAPTER 18

Cover for Andrew Lang's The Maid of France Cover Page for Andrew Lang's The Maid of France
THE AUTUMN CAMPAIGN

SAFELY arrived at Gien, Charles disbanded an army which it is said that he could no longer pay, though he had money for La Tremoille. D'Alencon went to his wife and his vicomti of Beaumont ; the captains returned each to his own place of command ; "and the Maid abode with the King, taking heavily their departure, especially that of d'Alencon, whom she loved most, and for whom she would do what she would not do for another." A late writer of 1484 avers that the King wished to send Jeanne to war against Rouen, but La Trdmoille objected, and despatched her (which is true), with his half-brother, d'Albret, to attack St. Pierre le Moutier, on the upper Loire. De Cagny says that d'Alencon, superseded by d'Albret as lieutenant-general, had gathered a force to assail Normandy, and implored the King to let the Maid ride with him. "For her sake many will join who will not budge without her." But La Tremoille, de Gaucourt, and the Archbishop made the King refuse, " and never again would suffer her and d'Alencon to be together. She had done things incredible to those who had not seen them, and still would have done had they behaved to her as it was their duty to do."

Historians are apt to maintain that the King's advisers, the Archbishop of Reims, La Tremoille, de Gaucourt, and others, had now nothing nearer their hearts than the ruin of the Maid. But it is not easy to see any evidence in favour of the hypothesis that the advisers were personally hostile to Jeanne. She had been very useful, she might be useful again ; though when once the politicians had entered on diplomatic courses, hoping to buy the Duke of Burgundy from the English alliance, the Maid's determined belief that peace could only be gained at the point of the lance, was embarrassing. None the less the theory that the Council engaged her in enterprises which they intended to fail is incredible, though historians so impartial and so learned as Quicherat and Vallet de Viriville write that, after the check at Paris, "the art" (of her adversaries) "now lay in preventing Jeanne from redeeming her fall." Manifestly, on the other hand, it was the interest of the King's advisers that, when she did fight, she should be victorious; but their private schemes and jealousies directed their choice of the places where she was to be employed, their diplomacy made any great enterprise impossible, while their avarice or their poverty left their generals destitute of money and supplies adequate to their enterprises. Jeanne could do no great work because of their unbelief. That Jeanne was deliberately betrayed, is one of the two erroneous opinions prevalent concerning this part of her career. It is an example of the old myth of nous sommes trahis. The other error is the idea that her Voices deserted her, and that in her heart she knew her mission was ended.

This theory is partly based on the remark of Dunois averring that she limited her mission to the relief of Orleans and the crowning of the King. But here Dunois, as abundant evidence proves, was mistaken. The King, Jeanne proclaimed, was to enter Paris, the Duke of Orleans was to be released, the English were to be driven out of France. But though Jeanne certainly expected these results from the impetus which she had given, and though they actually were attained at last, it would be hard on her, and it would be rash to assert that she firmly believed she would live to see the fulfilment of her mission. To Dunois and the Archbishop of Reims, as later to a lady, Marguerite Touroulde, she said explicitly that she knew no more than other people about the hour or place of her death. Aware that she might fall any day, in any skirmish, she could entertain no sure belief that she was destined to behold the complete triumph of her cause.

Again, we no longer find her maintaining that she is to achieve, that her Voices command her to achieve, any one great deed. She only fights for the Cause, and she goes where the captains send her. But the reason is obvious. The truces deprived her and deprived France of any special objective. Paris was not to be assailed. Distrustful of d'Alencon, who, as of the Royal blood and adventurous, was jealously regarded by the faineant King, and who had not distinguished himself by generalship, the Council would not allow Jeanne to ride with him against Normandy. Her own strategy, we shall see later, was the best, and was approved of by the Duke of Burgundy. She wished, as she told her judges, to go into the He de France in October, and reduce Paris by cutting off the supplies of that great city. But she was not permitted by the Council to take part in these operations.

She had to move in the train of the Court. The Queen now came to join the King, and Jeanne had to follow their indolent train to Selles-en-Berri and to Bourges, where the Queen settled. Here d'Albret lodged Jeanne in the house of Marguerite La Touroulde, who gave evidence in the Trial of Rehabilitation, and here Jeanne abode for three weeks, being often at prayer in the churches. Marguerite told Jeanne that " she did not fear to risk herself in war, because she knew that she would not be slain." The Maid answered that she had no more security than others who fought. She would not touch the rosaries of women who asked for this favour, "Touch them yourselves, they will get as much good from your touch as from mine."She gave freely to the poor, with a glad heart, saying, "I am sent for the comfort of the poor and needy." "She was very simple and innocent, knowing almost nothing, except in affairs of war." Marguerite and Jeanne slept together, and often went together to the baths.

Meanwhile the King moved about from place to place, Montargis, Loches, Jargeau, Issoudun, settling for two months, on November 15, at Mehun-sur-Yevre. He went everywhere except to the front. His Council now determined to attack La Charity, a strong town on the bend of the upper Loire, which had no apparent strategic value at this stage of the war. But Charles and his advisers must have known that the long delayed, and by Bedford often prayed for, arrival of Henry VI with a new English army, was to occur in the spring of 1430. As we show later, it was part of the Anglo-Burgundian plan of campaign of April 1430 to send a large and mobile force to the towns and forts held for Burgundy by Gressart, commanding in La Charite\ The Burgundian purpose, in April 1430, was to keep harassing, from La Charity, the rear of the French, while relieving Paris by attacking their front in Lagny, Melun, Sens, and other towns which were weakening and ruining the capital by stopping supplies.

Thus the strategy of Charles's advisers, November 15, 1429, to anticipate the Anglo-Burgundian schemes by seizing La Charite St. Pierre le Moutier, and other places under Gressart's command, was no mere freak, as historians have asserted ; but was rather a sagacious forecast of the intentions of the enemy. Unhappily, while the King gave orders for the expedition against La Charity, he left his army destitute of money and supplies. This can hardly be set down to the fault of his generals, d'Albret and the Maid. She ; for her part, was anxious, as always, that the army should operate in the He de France, to secure the reduction of Paris.

The commandant of La Charite, Grasset or Gressart, was a free lance, who had been a mason, it is said ; but that was an old story. For many years he had secured his reputation as a soldier. As leader of a company, he had captured La Charite' in 1423. He had once seized La Tremoille and held him to ransom ; he warred for his own hand, and La Tremoi'lle owed him a grudge. His niece had married a Spaniard by birth, a soldier of fortune, and uncle of Alexander Borgia (Pope Alexander VI). This Spaniard was bailiff of another town, St. Pierre le Moustier, some thirty miles from La Charity, to the south, and d'Albret determined to discuss the nephew before the uncle.

At Bourges, d'Albret and the Maid gathered their array ; she is mentioned as in command with d'Albret in an official document of November 24, in which the people of Bourges are commanded to raise 300 gold crowns for the army besieging La Charite. It thus appears, in face of all attempts to deny the fact, that Jeanne at this time held a position officially recognised, and that not "public rumour" alone "attributed the command to the Maid." The English Government, also, we shall see, described Jeanne as leading the hosts of the Dauphin.'' Contemporaries of both parties knew what a modern critic repeatedly denies.

The siege of St. Pierre le Moustier seems to have begun on or shortly after October 25. When Jeanne had taken it, she and d'Albret then sent to the town of Clermont, asking for ammunition to attack La Charity, and the people added a gift of a sword, two daggers, and a sperth or battle-axe, for "the Messenger of God," the Maid.

We know about the Maid's brilliant success at St. Pierre le Moutier only from the evidence of d'Aulon. After some days of artillery fire a breach was made in the walls, and an assault took place. The garrison was very numerous, and repelled the storming parties, which retreated. D'Aulon, who had been wounded, and could walk only with crutches, was a spectator. He saw the Maid left alone beneath the wall, accompanied merely by her own people, her two or three lances, probably her brothers, who never deserted her, and their men. D'Aulon managed to get into the saddle, rode to her and asked her why she did not retreat, but remained alone. She raised the salade of her helmet and said, " I am not alone, with me are 50,000 of my own, and retreat I will not till I have taken this town."

"Whatever she might say, she had only four or five men with her," remarks the literal d'Aulon, "as I know for certain, and so do several others who were looking on ; so I urged her to retire like the rest. Then she bade me tell the men to bring faggots and fascines to bridge the moat : and she herself gave the same order in a loud voice."

In a moment the thing was done, whereat d'Aulon was all amazed, " and the town was stormed, with no great resistance." This was the true Jeanne touch, as we talk of "the Nelson touch"; the indomitable tenacity, the gift of encouragement. Whatever she meant by " 50,000 of her own,"--probably she only expressed her sense of heavenly protection,--she did not ask the viewless 50,000 to bridge the moat. If she saw a vision of legions of angels, she was also perfectly awake to the nature of her actual surroundings, and to the fact that angels are not sappers and miners.

Henceforth neither dAulon nor any of her companions was asked, in 1450-1456, any questions about her later fights till her capture. It has been suggested that the judges of 1450-1456 wished to spare the feelings of many who, at that time, were reconciled to the King, after being his opponents. But the gap in the evidence for a period on which the judges at Rouen laid stress is most unsatisfactory.

On November 9, Jeanne was at Moulins in the Bourbonnais, where St. Colette happened to be. One morning the Saint heard the bells of her convent sound for matins three hours too early, and feared that people might take this for a signal given by the nuns to the enemy. The Saint, therefore, to whom nothing was impossible, made all the clocks of the town go three hours too fast, while she caused the sun to rise three hours too early! This miracle shows what legend could do for St. Colette ; even legend took no such liberties with the Maid. Whether Jeanne met the famous Saint or not is unknown.

Jeanne now wrote from Moulins to the people of Riom, requiring munitions for the attack on La Charite; she and the Lords with her being slenderly provided. The note is brief, and not in her style; it does not bear her motto, Jesus Maria. The town of Riom promised money, but gave none. On the other hand, the people of Orleans behaved with their usual generosity. Possibly La Charite was attacked partly because it was a nest of cosmopolitan bandits with no fixed allegiance even to Burgundy, and all the neighbouring towns had an interest in its capture. But Orleans never failed the cause of France and the Maid. The people sent gunners, pay for the men, clothes against he bitter winter weather, and some of their own artillery.

Matters went ill at La Charite. At that period sieges could not well be prosecuted in winter: in November and December 1428, Orleans had a respite from English attack. On November 24, as we have seen, the people of Bourges were asked for 1300 gold crowns, for lack of which the siege must be raised. By this time the Marechal de Boussac had joined the French besieg- ing forces, which were numerically inadequate. They had to raise the siege ; they lost some of their artillery, for the King sent no money and supplies : the money from Bourges never arrived. M. Villaret suggests that the King or his advisers perhaps kept it, while M. de Beaucourt throws the blame on "the ill-will of La Tr^moTlle." But this ill-will his authorities do not here so much as mention. The leaders had publicly announced that they must raise the siege if they were not supplied, and they were not sup- plied. It has been erroneously said, on no evidence at all, that in January 1430, Gressart surrendered La Charite" in exchange for the money from Bourges. But as in the following April Gressart was as strong as ever, the story is a manifest fable.

At Rouen the judges made much of the failure at La Charite

" What did you do in the fosses ? "

" I caused an assault to be made."

" Did you throw holy water ? "

" I neither threw nor caused it to be thrown by way of aspersion."

" Had you advice from your Voices ? "

" I wanted to go into France, but the captains said it was better to go first to La Charite."

" Why did you not enter the town, as you were commanded by God ? "

"Who told you that I had commandment from God?" She had no revelation about La Charite. Her Voices said nothing either way.

The long Act of Accusation, or Requisitoire, accuses her of having made, at La Charite" and Compiegne, many unfulfilled prophecies as matters of revelation.

No evidence is given, none was ever given, no witnesses were ever cited. It is probable that she, like all commanders, en- couraged her troops, " You must win, you are sure to have them " ; as Dunois says, "she would sometimes speak gaily on matters of war to animate the men." She denied that, in the cases charged, she pretended to speak by revelation; and we are not enabled to criticise the stories to the opposite effect.

One witness, by way of exception, was actually named by the judges, a visionary or impostor, Catherine de la Rochelle, one of M. Vallet de Viriville's Pucelles, really a married woman with a family. Examined by the official at Paris, she accused Jeanne of being under the protection of the Devil ; and that gives us the measure of Catherine de la Rochelle. What we know from the Maid about this miserable creature is that she met the woman at Jargeau, and at Montfaucon in Berri. Catherine averred that a lady in white and gold appeared to her, bidding her procure heralds from the King, and trumpeters, and go demanding gold from the good towns ; not a bad idea, as the war was failing for want of money, and the scheme provided a pleasant billet for Catherine. She had, she said, the secret of finding hidden treasure. Jeanne bade her go home, look after her household, and take care of her children. She also consulted St. Catherine, who said that her namesake's story was nonsense; and Jeanne so informed the King, to the huge discontent of the divineress and of the charlatan, Brother Richard, who patronised her. Catherine had advised Jeanne not to go to La Charite, "because it was much too cold," Catherine being a matron who loved her comforts. She wished to be an ambassadress of peace to the Duke of Burgundy, and Jeanne said that " peace was only to be won at the lance's point." In fact, Catherine's aim was to be the prophetess of the King's Council and of the politicians. Jeanne sat up all night with Catherine to see the lady in white, to no purpose ; but Catherine must have equally failed to see the Saints of Jeanne!

The so-called "Bourgeois de Paris," a violent Burgundian, makes the Grand Inquisitor say in a sermon that Brother Richard was a fatherly man to Jeanne, Catherine, and two other women ; he " coached them," says M. Anatole France {il les endoctrinait), " he led them as he pleased." We are not aware of a single instance in which Jeanne acted on the coaching of Brother Richard. Their acquaintance began when she converted him from the Burgundian to the French party, at least he turned his coat as soon as they met. That he coached her is not proved by offering a citation from a witness who merely says that she confessed to the man at Senlis. Nor is there any proof that Jeanne " smelled a rival " in Catherine de Rochelle : she detected a humbug. Most certainly Brother Richard did not lead Jeanne as he pleased : he did not lead her at all,--this is the old theory of Beaumarchais (1730). Jeanne found out the foolish pulpiteer and his pupil, who had a genius for advertisement. According to the Bourgeois, quoting the sermon of the Grand Inquisitor, Brother Richard at Jargeau, on Christmas Day, administered the Holy Communion thrice to Jeanne and twice to a Breton visionary who was later burned. I do not observe that the accusers at Rouen pressed this charge, whatever its value may be, against the Maid. It is a pity, of course, that Brother Richard was allowed to be a hanger-on of the Court, but we do not learn that on any occasion Jeanne acted on his advice. She never was led by priests. She never confided, we must keep on repeating, to a priest the monitions of her Voices, by which she was directed. It was therefore impossible for priests to "indoctrinate" or coach her, as regards her mission, though they might raise her indignation against the Bohemian heretics.

In the autumn campaign, to resume, it does not appear that the Maid was in any way to blame for the failure. The King raised a force which he would not pay or victual. Jeanne wished that force to strike at a vital point " in France." The captains led her to St. Pierre le Moustier, where their supplies of all sorts ran low, but the tenacity of the girl stimulated the men to a successful effort. They then marched without adequate supplies to La Charity, and raised the siege when the money for which they had asked as essential was not provided. La Charity as there was none to rescue it, " must have capitulated one day or another," says a critic. The remark is innocent, an army without money and supplies could not wait for the remote day of capitulation !

The policy of the Royal counsellors had damaged, none the less, the prestige of the Maid as invincible. Enthusiasm in the loyal provinces had been frittered away by the dawdling French diplomatists, the dupes of Burgundy. But it is not to be supposed that the politicians had a set purpose to cheapen the Maid. They merely attempted no advance on a great scale ; the King merely failed, as always, to show himself on horseback at the head of his troops. The truces continued ; there was no policy, military or civil ; they " waited for something to turn up."

In December, in the presence of La Tremoille and Le Macon (de Treves), who are accused of being enemies of the Maid, the King gave to her and her family letters ennobling them. The name of "our dear and beloved " Jehanne is spelled " du'Lys." Her whole kith and kin are ennobled, "that the memory of the divine glory and of so many favours may endure and increase for ever." Jeanne's father, mother, and three brothers and all their kinship and lineage are included ; and noblesse is to descend both in the male and female lines, though " they may, perchance, have been of other than free condition." No armorial bearings are mentioned in the grant, but the Maid told a painter at Rouen, and told her judges, that her brothers bore two lilies of France, or, on a shield azure, between them was a sword supporting a crown ; the new name of the family was du Lys. She herself had never used a shield or armorial bearings ; the King gave them to her brothers. The Royal gratitude gave rank without lands and gear. In later days Jean du Lys succeeded to Baudricourt's captaincy of Vaucouleurs : Pierre was supported by the town and Duke of Orleans; and the good town provided a pension long enjoyed by the mother of the Maid, for the city possessed a virtue not commonly found in princes.

The King may have meant well, but his money sank into the corpulent La Tremoille like water into sand. The Royal accounts prove that he was always receiving presents of horses (he fell off his at Montepilloy) and of money. In the high tide of distress at Orleans (February 1429) he got 10,000 gold crowns. On September 22, 1429, he had 6594 gold crowns and 5890 livres tournois, to pay 2000 men-at-arms and archers, of whose exploits nothing is heard, and who may have been men in buckram. Meanwhile Charles had not a crown piece for Guy de Laval, who therefore gave orders to sell his lands. When Chateau Thierry surrendered, La Tremoi'lle obtained the revenues and escheats of the town. He got the Governorship of Compiegne, and he had monstrous pensions. This Falstaff was absolute with the King, from whom he took much and to whom he lent something ; and when the Maid was captured, but not yet sold to the English, Charles could not ransom her; the money was needed for La Tremoi'lle, whom the Constable could not manage to capture or despatch. Richemont did his best, he had a plot going, and, at an unknown date, had even a plan for taking possession of the Maid, so one of his agents confessed.

In December 1429 there was, in addition to the activity of the captains round Paris, one hopeful feature in the war. La Hire was a soldier, whatever his faults. He seized and held the town of Louviers, within twenty miles of Rouen, and the French believed that the English dared not attempt to recover it while Jeanne lived.

If Jeanne could have despaired, she might well have abandoned hope and the military life, for how much they had wasted of her allotted year!

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