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 19

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JEANNE'S LAST CAMPAIGN

THE truces with Burgundy lasted till Easter, or, as some hold, ended a month earlier; Jeanne was, till then, constrained to be inactive. Only two or three trivialities are known about her occupations. On January 19 she was at Orleans, where the loyal people entertained her with wine, pheasants, and partridges. The people of Tours, though they declined to give a trousseau, at the Maid's request, to Heliote, daughter of " Heuves Poulnoir," the King's Scottish painter, provided wine for the wedding breakfast. The Maid at an uncertain date took a lease of a house at Orleans, perhaps as a home for her mother.

We know nothing of Jeanne's pecuniary resources ; she told her judges that she never asked anything from the King except for military purposes, " good arms, good horses, and the payment of her household." She had no jewels but two rings of base metal. She gave what she could to the poor. When captured she had 12,000 livres of the King's money, "no great treasure for waging war," as she said.

By March 16, Jeanne was at Sully, La Tnfmoi'lle's place, with the King. Though the truce is said by Monstrelet to have lasted till Easter (April 16), other authorities give the date as March 15. The people of Reims had written to the Maid, expressing their fear of a siege. She answered them from Sully, on March 16, "You shall not have a siege, if I meet the foes ; and if I do not, shut your gates, I will soon be with you, and I will make the enemy buckle their spurs in haste. ... I would send you other news that would rejoice you, but fear that the letter may be intercepted."

The Duke of Burgundy, in fact, had induced Bedford to cede to him all Champagne, while he was to let England hire a contingent of his subjects. England, meanwhile, had to issue proclamations against deserters for the second time in four months. Historians, deceived by a heading to this document,-- a heading invented by Rymer, the editor of Foedera, 17 10,--have supposed that the English Government spoke of "the terrifying sorceries of the Maid." In fact, a similar order against deserters had been issued before she was so much as heard of; and the English archives have yielded not a single allusion to Jeanne d'Arc, except in Bedford's memoir of December 1433, which, thanks to a blunder by Rymer, has hitherto been misunderstood, and, indeed, mainly unknown. The war with France had become unpopular in England.

The good news which Jeanne could not tell the people of Reims, was probably the fact of a great anti-English conspiracy in Paris. The arrest of a Carmelite led to the discovery of the plot, for which eight leaders were executed. The conspiracy seems to have been detected about March 21. Scottish archers were to have been admitted within the . gates, a popular rising was to have done the rest. The Scots would be of Kennedy's command at Lagny.

On March 23, Pasquerel, the Maid's confessor, wrote and signed a letter, purporting to be from Jeanne, to the Bohemian heretics. She hears that they overthrow the statues of saints, and ruin churches. If they did not, they were unworthy of the name of Reformers. The Huguenots were later to destroy the cathedral of Orleans, the statue of the Maid on the bridge, and even the modest tomb of Jacques Boucher, on which was com- memorated his hospitality to Jeanne during the great siege.

Pasquerel makes her say to the Hussites, " I would have visited you with my avenging arm ! " {style Pasquerel), " if the English war had not detained me. . . . Perhaps I will leave the English alone and turn against you." She never would have left the English alone.

On March 28, Jeanne wrote again to Reims, saying that the King had heard of a Burgundian conspiracy within the walls; but he knows that the French party in the town is loyal, and they are in his best graces. He will help them if they are besieged ; the English, we shall see, desired to take Reims and there crown their little King. "You will soon hear my good news more plainly. . . . All Bretagne is French, and the Due is to send 3000 men, paid for two months,"--a hope never fulfilled, but not a prophecy from the Voices.

Meanwhile preparations were being made in England for the arrival in France of little Henry VI with an army. We possess a long paper of advice sent to the English Council by the Duke of Burgundy, at a date certainly earlier than April 23 ; and this document gives a lucid account of the state of affairs as they were in April. The French, says Burgundy, thanks to the campaign of July-August 1429, now hold many towns and fortresses on what had been the English side of Loire, Yonne, Seine, Marne, and Oise. In these regions the English will find no supplies. Paris is beset, and oppressed by the enemy, " whereby it is daily in great peril and danger," for it had lived on the produce of the towns now in the enemy's hands. To lose Paris would be, for England, to lose the whole kingdom.

We have thus hostile testimony to the enormous change in affairs, since the Maid brought the succour of Heaven to her King in mid-Lent, 1429.

There is excellent evidence for the success of the French arms and the long misery of Paris, in the Journal d'un Bourgeois. " All the villages round Paris are oppressed by the Armagnacs, not a man of Paris dares to set his foot beyond the suburbs ; if any do, they are lost or slain or set at high ransom ; and supplies that reach Paris are charged at twice or thrice the ordinary rate."

The Anglo-Burgundian forces, provisioned from Normandy and Picardy, must therefore, says the Duke of Burgundy, labour to save Paris by recovering the surrounding towns now in French hands. "Paris is the heart of the mystic body of the kingdom " ; only by liberating the heart can the body be made to flourish. The best strategy is to fight on both sides of the Loire. Many hold that Paris should be well garrisoned, and that Henry VI should first march on Reims and there be crowned. (We know that the Burgundian party in Reims was conspiring to open the gates to Burgundy and England.) Now it is true that Henry's French subjects will be more inclined to support his cause if he be crowned at Reims. On the other hand, it is an extremely strong town, well fortified, well provisioned, and well manned, so that to besiege it would be a long affair, and the besiegers could not get supplies. (How easily this place of strength had fallen before the Maid !)

A check at Reims would be an immense disaster, and while the Anglo-Burgundian forces were concentrated there, Paris might fall. Great garrisons in Paris and in the remaining towns under English allegiance would merely eat them up, "and rather be their destruction than their salvation."

Supposing then that King Henry brings an English army of io,oco men, he should send iooo good horsemen to the places under Pierre Gressart (La Charity and others) to work the Loire country, while the Duke of Burgundy will reinforce Gressart with 200 men-at-arms. They will all combine to fight in Berri, and advance towards Orleans and the Sologne.

This advice (as we have already seen) shows the absurdity of the statement that Gressart surrendered La Charite, in January 1430, for 1300 gold crowns ; that the King took with gold the town which the Maid failed to take with the sword. At the same time, Burgundy's memoir suggests that the French attack on La Charite" was made for sufficient strategic reasons, though the assailants were left destitute by the King and the people of Bourges. However, in fact, the Anglo-Burgundians were unable to carry out their scheme.

Frontier towns, Corbueil and others, the letter of advice says, must be well manned to prevent Sens and Melun from victualling themselves (for Melun had come over to King Charles in April 17-23) ; Laon and Soissons must be attempted, to clear the road to Reims ; while Burgundy must seize Pont a Choisy (Choisy le Bac), with its bridge, to secure his communications in his attack on Compiegne,--the central and chief object of his desires : the town that, on September 30, 1429, had disobeyed the King's orders to surrender to Burgundy, preferring death to that dishonour. They had seen the Maid, and were of her spirit. It is vain, the Burgundian memorial goes on, to make any direct attack on Beauvais, Sens, and Melun, they are too strong. The real objective is Compiegne, the other movements are to relieve Paris, and to distract the French on their rear.

We now understand the Burgundian plan of campaign, which was entirely ruined, thanks to the resistance of Compiegne, though at the cost of the liberty and life of the Maid. She, according to the dAlencon chronicler, was highly dissatisfied with the plans and preparations of Charles, and left Sully at the end of March without the knowledge of her King. This is improbable, and, according to M. Anatole France, " Things fell out in quite another way. The Maid raised a company of about a hundred horse and sixty-eight bowmen, under the command of a Lombard captain, Barthelemy Baretta, . . . She was in the hands of d'Aulon, and dAulon was in the hands of La Tr^mo'ille, to whom he owed money. The good squire would not have followed Jeanne against the King's will."

Jeanne, in fact, did as she pleased ; dAulon was only her loyal servant, and was paid by her. That he, at this date, owed money to La Tremoille is (as we have already shown) an error. He borrowed the money (500 gold crowns) just two years later, when Jeanne was dead, on March 16, 1432 ; and this fact is M. France's proof for the statement that dAulon was in debt to La Tremoi'lle in March 1430! Having had to ransom himself after being captured with Jeanne at Compiegne, in 1432, dAulon was obliged to negotiate a loan for two months from La Tremoi'lle.

M. Champion correctly states that Jeanne left Sully with a little troop (her " two or three lances ") " and rode for Lagny-sur-Marne because they of Lagny made good war on the English of Paris," as says the d'Alencon chronicler. At Lagny she met soldiers of goodwill, Baretta, Kennedy (apparently not Sir Hugh, called " Come with the penny "), and Ambroise de Lore commanding there, or his lieutenant, Foucault. (Baretta commanded thirty-two men-at-arms, forty-three cross bowmen, and twenty archers.) To this handful had shrunk the armies of Dunois, La Hire, Boussac, and de Rais, with whom the Maid was used to ride ; she was not sent to accompany any of the great leaders ; she rode off from Sully and joined the first company of men warring near Paris whom she could encounter. To strike at Paris, with however weak a stroke, to be " in France," the old He de France, was always her desire. As well as the Duke of Burgundy, she understood the necessity of weakening " the heart of the mystic body of the king- dom " ; at that task she had wished to be in November, not at La Charite\ Her military instinct was correct, but she was unsupported. Yet it does not appear that she was wholly without Royal backing. She actually possessed, when captured, 12,000 livres of her King's money--all her war chest. It is probable that with this sum she supported Baretta' s handful of men.

And now her Voices abandoned her : not that they were silent, but they gave no warlike counsel. She told her judges the heart- breaking story. It was in Easter week (April 17-23), and it seems to have been in a moment of triumph, that "as I was on the ramparts of Melun, St. Catherine and St. Margaret warned me that I should be captured before Midsummer day ; that so it must needs be : nor must I be afraid and astounded ; but take all things well, for God would help me. So they spoke, almost every day. And I prayed that when I was taken I might die in that hour, without wretchedness of long captivity ; but the Voices said that so it must be. Often I asked the hour, which they told me not ; had I known the hour, I would not have gone into battle."

Her allotted year, she knew, was almost ended, but the pro- phecy of the Voices came with the shock of certainty,--the Voices that spoke not of instant death, but a myriad times worse, of capture. Would not the bravest man, with the prospect of the death by fire in case of his capture, would not Ney or Skobelev, Wallace or Gordon, have blenched ? But the Maid rode on, first in the charge, last in the retreat. There is no other such tale in history. She was the bravest of the brave.

I have said that this tidings came to her in no hour of depres- sion, but of triumph. Melun had been English for ten years : in October 1429 it had been handed over by Bedford to the Duke of Burgundy. But in April 17-23 the townsfolk ejected the Burgundian garrison and captain, and left free to France their bridge, and the passage of the Seine. " As no regular French army lay before Melun, this proves," says M. Champion, "the still abiding value and ascendant of the presence of Jeanne. She opened more brilliantly than has been generally recognised the campaign of the Oise."

From Melun, at a date unknown, Jeanne rode to Lagny, due east of Paris, and an ill neighbour to the capital, being one of the towns recovered for France in August 1429, and now held by a garrison of those which were choking " the heart of the kingdom." 11 Of Jeanne's arrival there was great talk in Paris " ; she soon gave them something to talk about. News reached Lagny that a band of three or four hundred " Englishmen " was traversing the He de France, doing as much mischief to the country as they could. The Maid, with Kennedy and his Scots ; Foucault, commanding in Lagny for Ambroise de Lord, Baretta, and other leaders, determined to meet the " English," which they did ; " and hard work they had, for the French were not more numerous than the English," says Chartier. The enemy were not under an English leader, and may have been mainly Picard allies of England. They were all slain or taken, and the French also had losses in killed and wounded. The enemy, having archers, dismounted in the English way ; probably they fortified themselves, as usual, with long pikes, or the chained palisade of stakes. Twice the French charged them furiously and were beaten back, but at last, says Monstrelet, were reinforced abundantly, and brought up field-pieces.

Among the prisoners was a gentleman, Franquet d'Arras. For some reason unknown, perhaps because he was taken by one of her own little band, perhaps merely at her request, Franquet was given to the Maid, that she might exchange him for the land- lord of the Bear Inn, at Paris, who was one of the conspirators seized after the failure of the French plot in March. But the landlord of the Bear had died in prison, or had been executed, and, at the demand of the Bailli of Senlis, Franquet was tried by him and a jury, as we call it, of men of Lagny, on charges of murder, robbery, and treachery. His trial lasted for a fortnight ; it was not a drumhead court martial ; he confessed to the charges against him, and he was executed. The Burgundians, accustomed to gentlemanly murder, robbery, and treachery, were horrified, and her judges made the death of Franquet a great point against the Maid. She replied by stating the facts as we have given them. She received Franquet as a pledge for the life of the landlord of the Bear; the landlord being dead, and civil justice demanding Franquet, she handed him over ; he was tried, he confessed, and he was executed. Burgundian writers later averred that Jeanne cut off his head with her own hand, because he refused to kneel to her !

As we have already seen, at Lagny Jeanne still had the famous sword of Fierbois, which she is commonly said to have broken while slapping a leaguer-lass with the flat. At Lagny she obtained a sword taken from a Burgundian, and bore it till her capture, " a good sword to give good smacks and good strokes " ; what she did with the sword of Fierbois she refused to say. She never slew any man ; she carried her standard in her right hand, her left held the reins. " Whether the life of war had hardened her, or whether, like all ecstatics, she was subject to sudden changes of temper, she did not show at Lagny the mildness of Pathay " (where she was not in the fighting line). " This Virgin, who previously, in battle, had no arm but her standard, now used a sword found at Lagny, a good sword to hit and strike," says a critic.

In fact, she had always worn both sword and sperth, and had daggers to boot. But no man, on any occasion,--not even in the moment of her capture,--bears witness that the Maid ever dealt a stroke with the edge. She knew that she was to be taken, and did not choose that the sword of Fierbois should fall into the hands of the enemy : apparently for the same reason she did not carry her standard at Compiegne, for we hear nothing of its capture.

Jeanne neither worked nor professed to work miracles. She did not pretend to heal people by touching them with her ring that had touched St. Catherine. Moreover, even the mythopceic nature of an excited people rarely attributed miracles to the Maid, a very extraordinary fact when we remember the amazing miracles which were freely attributed to St. Colette. But at Lagny there seems to have been a popular effort to connect Jeanne with a miracle, nothing less than that great performance of St. Colette-- a resurrection !

Once, when the Saint was absent from her convent at Poligny, a sister died. She then appeared to the Saint,--like Dr. Johnson's dead wife to Dr. Johnson in the story,--with such an aspect as too forcibly proved that she was lost. The Saint at once sent an express to the convent, forbidding the nuns to bury the dead sister before her own return. On the fourth day St. Colette went back to the sisters, and commanded the corpse to arise. The corpse did so, went to the altar, kneeled, and prayed "in the sight of a watchful multitude, breathless with wonder and profoundly affected." The corpse then walked to the confessional, made her confession, returned, ad- dressed the sisters, lay down quietly in her coffin, ceased to breathe, and was buried.

The miracle attributed to Jeanne at Lagny was less out of the common course.

Her judges asked her, " How old was the boy whom you raised up at Lagny ? "

"He was three days old, and he was brought before the image of the Blessed Virgin. I was told that the maids of the town were gathered before the image, and I was asked to go and pray to God and the Virgin that life might be restored to the child. I went, with the other maids, and prayed, and at last there seemed to be life in the child, who gasped thrice, was baptized ; then instantly died, and was buried in holy ground. For three days, as people said, he had given no sign of life. He was as black as my coat, but when he gasped, his colour began to come back."

"Was it said in the town that you had caused the resurrection, and that it was done at your prayer ? "

"I asked no questions on the subject," answered Jeanne, with proud disdain.

If it were a sin to pray, and were sorcery to receive a favourable answer, at least the prayer was collective, and all the maids of Lagny were greatly guilty.

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