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 5

THE MISSION ANNOUNCED

We cannot fix the precise moment when Jeanne yielded to her Voices, and determined to go into France. She would rather have been torn to pieces by horses (ecartelee), she said, than thus engage in an adventure so foreign to her normal nature, if she had not been sure that the command was of God. But how was she to overcome the practical difficulties ; how win access to the Dauphin in one of his chdteaux by the Loire ? The distance was great,--four hundred and fifty miles,--much of the intervening country was Anglo-Burgundian in allegiance, and all the roads were infested by robber bands.

The captain of the nearest walled town held for the Dauphin, Robert de Baudricourt, commanding in Vaucouleurs, some twelve miles distant from Domremy, was obviously the best person to whom she could apply for aid and escort. She must have heard of Robert all her life, and especially in the spring of 1427, when her father, as representing the interests of the villagers of Domremy, had personal dealings with that captain. There was one Guiot Poignant who had been caution for the payment of the 220 e'cus dor due to Robert de Saarbruck, Damoiseau de Commercy. The damoiseau had impounded, for arrears of this money, the goods and cattle of Poignant, and Poignant demanded compensa- tion from the squire or seigneur of the villages, and from the villagers themselves. The case was left to arbitration, under the supervision of Robert de Baudricourt.

From her father's conversation Jeanne must have known the kind of person whom she had to deal with in Baudricourt. He was a blunt practical man of the sword, who had married two rich widows in succession, and who had been fighting, since he could bear arms, in the reckless wars of the marches of Loraine. He had some sense of humour, and there was no nonsense, there were no fine enthusiasms in his nature. His confession, if ever he cleared his conscience in the confessional, might have been like that attributed to Etienne de Vignolles, called La Hire. " I do the things that other men-at-arms do. Oh God, do Thou unto me in this day of battle as I would do to Thee, if Thou wert La Hire and I were God." The more Jeanne knew of de Baudricourt, the more keenly she must have felt that he was not a likely man to welcome a girl of sixteen, who said " the world is out of joint, and I was born to set it right." As it chanced, she used the very words of Hamlet : " dixit quod erat nata ad hoc faciendum?

It was while troops were being recruited in England for a new attack in force on the Dauphin's territories south of the Loire, it was in May 1428, that Jeanne first approached the redoubtable Baudricourt. He must have known that England was determined to make a fresh effort ; he probably knew that the little wedge of territory, and the little walled town where he had alone upheld so long the Standard of the Lilies, were to be the object of a special assault. By way of a remedy for all these misfortunes, a peasant girl of sixteen, accompanied by a local clodhopper, came and informed Baudricourt that she had a divine mission to save France. We may imagine that the oaken rafters of the hall rang with his laughter.

It had not been easy for Jeanne to make her way to Baudri- court. Her mother had several times spoken to her about the horror with which her father reflected on his dream of her departure from home in military company. Jeanne was obliged to conceal her purpose. She had a kinsman by affinity, one Durand Laxart, or Lassois, living at Little Burey, a village within a league of Vaucouleurs. Lassois had married the daughter of a sister of Jeanne's mother : he was thus her " cousin by marriage " ; but, as he was greatly her senior, she called him " uncle." His wife, her cousin, was then (or perhaps more prob- ably in January 1429), about to have a child, and Jeanne suggested that Lassois should ask her to attend his wife in her trouble. The Maid, as Beaupere, the most modern-minded man among her judges, declared, " had a good deal of feminine subtlety." Lassois assented, and brought her from Domremy to his own house at Little Burey. In his evidence, Lassois does not distinguish clearly between her two visits of appeal to Baudricourt, the first in May 1428, the last in January-February 1429. On one or the other occasion she asked Lassois, " Don't you know the saying that France is to be made desolate by a woman ? " (meaning the mother of Charles VII) " and afterwards restored by a Maid ? " At the same time she spoke of her desire to go into France and lead the Dauphin to Reims to be crowned. If she did not also speak of raising the siege of Orleans, this conversation must have been held in May 1428, before Orleans was menaced, for, when Orleans was besieged, she proclaimed its relief as part of her task.

The prophecy--about the ruin and restoration of France by a woman and a maid--is that of Marie d'Avignon, early in the century, and has been explained in a previous chapter. The predictions of Marie d'Avignon were widely known, fir ent grand bruit, says Quicherat. The prediction would be alluded to in sermons, and win its way into current talk.

The prophecy, or saying, probably had its effect on Lassois. He took Jeanne to his house, where she was seen by a young gentleman named Geoffroy du Fay, who already knew her parents, and heard her say that she wished to go into France. Whether this was in 1428 or 1429 is not certain, but a remark of Geoffroy reads as if he met the Maid only on her first visit to Vaucouleurs. If that was so, by May 1428 it was generally known that she had a mission to go to the Dauphin. Lassois and Jeanne visited Baudricourt ; and as Jeanne had no trace of rustic shyness, but spoke to all men with frankness and with noble courtesy, she probably asked him to send her to the Dauphin at once. This is not, however, to be gathered from the interesting evidence of Bertrand de Poulengy, an esquire then aged about thirty-five, who had known Domremy, had several times visited Jeanne's parents in their house, and had sat beneath its famous tree, when Jeanne was a child of four years of age. In the week of the Ascension of Our Lord (May 1428), Poulengy was with Baudricourt when Jeanne came to him, sent by her Lord, she said. She asked Baudricourt to despatch a message to the Dauphin in these words, " Let him guard himself well, and not offer battle to his foes, for the Lord will give him succour by mid Lent," that is, in March 1429. She said that by God's will she herself would lead the Dauphin to be crowned. Of Orleans she said nothing. Nothing here indicates that Jeanne asked to be sent to the Dauphin at once. Perhaps Baudricourt's rebuff consisted merely in a laughing refusal to send any message from a peasant maid. The advice to the Dauphin, not to challenge the English to battle, seems superfluous ; at that time he thought of nothing less. Why Jeanne fixed on next March as the date of succour cannot be known.

Jeanne added that the kingdom belonged to God, not to the Dauphin, but that God desired the Dauphin to hold the realm under himself {en commande, in commendam). These current ideas of kings as vassals of the King of Heaven, the Maid must have heard of in sermons. It is certain that, in Scotland, many sermons were preached on this topic. The opinion was so common that it is superfluous to invent a secret clerical initiator, the real source of her mission. The very coinage of the period proclaimed that " Christ is King, Christ is Emperor " ; Christus regnat^ Christus imperat. The coins, with these inscriptions, are reproduced in the illustrated life of the Maid, by M. Wallon.

We are told that Jeanne was in spiritual relations with several priests, of whom two are named. One of them was eight years old when Jeanne left Domremy, yet we are told that he heard her in confession ! The other had heard her thrice in one Lent, once on another occasion. After delivering herself of her message, the Maid, according to Poulengy, went home, attended by Lassois. The author or authors of two Chronicles, written about forty- years after the event, says that Baudricourt thought of keeping Jeanne as a leaguer-lass, a loose girl for the recreation of his men- at-arms. These authors also aver that, in the following year, Jeanne won Baudricourt's confidence by an extraordinary example of clairvoyance, or vue h distance^ which Baudricourt reported by letter to the Dauphin. There is no other authority for either story ; we are expected to believe the former, and to reject the latter anecdote. Lassois says that Baudricourt more than once advised him to box Jeanne's ears and take her home to her father ; but it is uncertain whether this counsel was given during her first or her second visit to Vaucouleurs. Jeanne was not discouraged. One of her biographers tells us that " she was not humiliated or discouraged by the contempt of the captain and the outrages of the garrison, imagining that her Voices had foretold them." Her Voices had said nothing about " outrages of the garrison," there is no mention of such outrages.

A month later, on the eve of St. John, she spoke thus to Michael Lebuin, a boy of her own age : " There is a girl between Coussey and Vaucouleurs who, within the year, will have the King crowned at Reims." She did so about three weeks later than she predicted. She spoke freely of her mission. Before she left home, in 1429, another boy of her age, Jean Waterin, u several times heard her say that she would restore France and the Royal line." Certainly the neighbours were aware of her purpose ; for, as we have already seen, her brother told her that the story went about of her having had the notion put into her head at the Fairy tree, which she denied. It is curious that her father did not send her away to his kinsfolk at Sermaize, many leagues distant, unless he reckoned that she might there find opportunity of an escort on her way to the Dauphin.

About July 17 or 18, 1428, the Governor of Champagne, Antoine de Vergy, marched a smaller force than he had expected to raise, for the purpose of reducing the region of Vaucouleurs to the English allegiance. The people of Domremy, with their cattle, retired a distance of six miles to Neufchateau, in Loraine. The family of Jeanne lodged there with a woman called La Rousse, who kept an inn ; there they dwelt for a fortnight, Jeanne said ; later witnesses said for four or five days. Her accusers averred that Jeanne went thither alone, without her parents' permission, and lived an irregular life, associating with loose women, acting as maidservant, and learning to ride. All this was false, and was amply refuted by witnesses of Domremy, who had been at Neuf- chateau in July 1428.

At her trial, in 143 1, Jeanne was asked why she summoned a young man before the official at Toul in a case of breach of pro- mise of marriage? She answered: "He summoned me, I did not summon him ; and there, before the judge, I swore to tell the truth, and, enfin, I had never promised to marry him."

Her accusers declared that Jeanne cited the young man for breach of promise of marriage, and that he refused to wed her because of her association with loose women at Neufchateau. That Jeanne should have promised to marry a young man, after vowing to remain a maiden while it was God's will, and at a moment when she was yearning to go forth on her mission, is impossible. That she sued a reluctant swain before an ecclesiasti- cal court is an absurd accusation. But as she certainly was obliged to go once to Toul, thirty miles from Neufchateau, on this business (and " several times " in a fortnight, if we believe her accusers), she must have disliked Neufchateau, and been glad, as she said, to return to Domremy. The story, told by most writers, that she confessed to having disobeyed her parents in the matter of the marriage, is a mere blunder. She said nothing of this kind.

At some time or other Jeanne frequented the church of Greux, because the village of Domremy was burned. If de Vergy's men burned the village, why did they not also burn Greux? If they did burn Domremy, the first weeks after Jeanne's return must have seen her father and brothers busy with a task very familiar to the contemporary peasants of Scotland, the rebuilding of their cottages. Happily this labour was favoured by the summer weather, when the air out of doors, at night, was cool and still. Nothing is known of what passed at Domremy, while new roofs were thatched (if the old had been destroyed), and the furniture-- probably carried off to Neufchateau in waggons at the time of the flight--was replaced.

One thing only is certain, by the end of October the Maid must have heard that Orleans was beleaguered by the English, and that they had seized and garrisoned the outposts of the city, the smaller towns on the Loire above and below it. They held and garrisoned Meun and Beaugency, between Orleans and Blois, on one side, and Jargeau, between Orleans and Gien, on the other. If Orleans fell, the English had broken through the centre, as it were, of the defence of the Dauphin, and from this base they might expect to take, one by one, his pleasant cities of Blois, Tours, and Chinon, and all that he had.

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