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 11

THE MAID'S VICTORIES AT ORLEANS

THE arrival of Jeanne in Orleans on the evening of April 29 was not the occasion of fiercer fighting, but of a pause in hostilities. She herself, and the circumstances of the case, brought not a sword, but peace, for three or four days. She would not take part in the war till she had summoned the English to depart in peace. Moreover, the main part of the relieving army, all but the Maid's two hundred lances, had at once begun to retrace their way to Blois, to bring back another convoy of cattle and supplies of grain. Dunois had remained in Orleans, but he felt that his presence in Blois was necessary. There were suspicions that the Council of the Dauphin would think that enough had been done, and would hesitate to place so large a force within Orleans, crowded with fugitives from the surrounding country, and still inadequately provisioned. The Council was always, and not unjustly, suspected of indolence and faintness of heart. Dunois was therefore determined to go and use his influence.

Jeanne herself was reluctant to wait for the forces at Blois, and, says Dunois, would scarcely give her assent to his departure. She wished to summon the English to depart in peace; and she did so, on April 30, while Dunois was still by her side. Her letter to the English is dated on"Tuesday in Holy Week,"March 22, 1429. She had dictated it before she was accepted by the Commission at Poitiers, but it was not delivered to the English by her heralds till April 30. (On the blunders about the herald, see notes.) Headed"Jhesus Maria,"the letter speaks to the King of England, de la Pole (Suffolk), Talbot, and Scales, bidding them restore to the Maid, sent by God, the keys of the good French towns which they occupy and despoil. She is ready to offer peace, if they will do her right. She also addresses the English men-at-arms, gentle and simple, bidding them depart from Orleans at their instant peril."She says,"I am chef de guerre"which does not mean"commander-in-chief."She will drive them out of France, if they disobey; if they obey, she will be merciful. Charles, not they, will hold the realm. Charles is true heir; God wills it, and the Maid reveals it to him. He will enter Paris in good company. (She does not say that she will.) If they resist, we French"ferons ung si grant hahay;"not a diplomatic phrase! If they do right to the Maid, they may come with her where the French will do the greatest deed that ever was wrought for Christendom (a Crusade).

This letter was carried to the English commanders by two heralds, Guienne and Ambleville. The English, who probably laughed over the epistle, sent back Ambleville, but kept Guienne, intending to burn him."The Maid told Ambleville to return boldly to the English, they would not harm him, he would bring back his comrade safely; as he did."So a citizen of Orleans declared; but the chronicle written by another herald, Berri (who was likely to be interested in the unlucky herald, Guienne), says that the English actually erected the stake for Guienne's burning; but meanwhile they consulted the University of Paris about this monstrous breach of the law of nations--a herald being sacrosanct. Before they received a reply they were driven from Orleans, and left Guienne behind them in irons.

Though the Maid took no part in battle on April 30, La Hire and Florent d'lliers, with a force of men-at-arms and some citizens, and with standards displayed, attacked an English outpost between their fort of Paris and the city wall, and drove the men into the main work. A cry went through the town that every man should bring faggots and fire the English works; but nothing was done, because the English uttered their dreadful Hurrah! and stood to their arms. An artillery duel did as much or as little execution as usual.

It was in the evening that the Maid summoned Glasdale and the garrison of the Tourelles to depart in peace. They shouted back across the river, called her"milkmaid,"and promised to burn her if they could catch her. This was her second summons; she had yet to make her third and last. (For a strange modern legend of the events of April 30, see note on the passage.)

On Sunday, May 1, Dunois, with a sufficient escort, and with Jeanne's equerry, d'Aulon, rode forth on the way to Blois, giving a wide berth to the great English fort called Paris, north of the town, on the Paris road. Before leaving Orleans, Dunois wrote a receipt for six hundred livres tournois lent to him by the people of the town. The money was pay for the garrison and the captains to "serve till the army that came with the Maid, and was gone back to Blois, returns to this city, to raise the siege."Dunois, at least, was not content to have merely provisioned the town, but it was feared that the King's advisers would take no steps to drive away the English. Jeanne knew of Dunois' departure, and, with La Hire and others, says d'Aulon, covered the movement by a demonstration of cavalry in the fields.

On the same Sunday, Jeanne rode through the city accompanied by knights and squires, because the people were so eager to see her that the crowd almost broke in the door of her house."The folk could not have enough of the sight of her,"and they marvelled at her graceful horsemanship. It was no moment for fighting, as most of the leaders were absent, and as the relieving army was far away.

On Monday, May 2, she rode out with a great multitude following her, and reconnoitred the English positions unopposed.

Of May 3 nothing is recorded, except that the garrisons of Montargis, Chateau-Regnard, and Gien came in, and news was brought of the approach of the army and convoy from Blois. The army was coming by Jeanne's route, on the Orleans side of the river; but some writers think that the convoy and its guard approached by the other side, as on April 28. Jeanne rode out at dawn with some five hundred combatants, under La Hire, to meet the advancing host, which was unopposed.

Either Talbot, de la Pole, and the other English captains knew that their men were demoralised and terrified by the slim armed figure that with a clear girlish voice bade them begone, or they saw themselves hopelessly outnumbered. They could insult --Jeanne in the most ribald terms, but they would not stir from their forts; and Pasquerel led the van, the company of chanting priests, as safely as if he had been reading the lessons in his monastery at Tours. The route which Jeanne had preferred was at least as little exposed to English attack as the other. This is all the more certain if only part of the Blois force went by the Beauce route; the part being weaker than the whole.

The mode of entering Orleans from Blois on the north bank of the Loire was to skirt the forest at the back of the city; the only strong fort which the army passed was that called Paris. From the fort so styled to that of St. Loup, was a great gap in the investing lines, though some suppose that it was covered by a work hidden within the forest. Remains of such a work exist, but it is so remote that it cannot have been an English hold.

The entry into Orleans was effected before dinner, probably before noon. After the Maid and dAulon had dined together, Dunois entered. He had news: Fastolf, who defeated the Scots and French at Rouvray, was approaching from Paris, and was already at Janville, a day's march distant, with reinforcements and supplies for the English. The Maid seemed very glad to hear this intelligence."In God's name, Bastard, I command you to let me know as soon as you hear of Fastolf s arrival. If he passes without my knowledge, I--will have your head!"

"For that fear not,"said the gentle Dunois,"for I shall let you have the news as soon as it arrives."Dunois then took his leave.

Then the Maid, who was weary from her ride, lay down beside her hostess on a bed, while d'Aulon, who confesses to having been fatigued, also lay down on a sofa, or couchette^ in the same room. Neither he nor the Maid knew that an attack was being organised against St. Loup, an English fort far outside the remotest gate of Orleans. The purpose, some think, was to contain the English garrison in St. Loup, and prevent them from disturbing the arrival of the grain sent by water from Blois.

The Maid had not been informed of this attack, but, says d'Aulon,"she leaped from her sleep with great noise,"awakening him."In God's name,"she cried,"my Council has told me that I must go against the English; but I know not whether against their forts, or against Fastolf, who is bringing them supplies."As we shall see, her Voices sometimes woke her, and, in the moment of waking she but partially heard, or but partially understood them. In this case, at all events, they told her what she did not know, that there was fighting to be done. DAulon leaped up and began to harness the Maid in her armour as quickly as he might. While putting on her harness he heard voices in the street crying loudly that the English were doing great execution on the French. He armed the Maid, and was buckling his own harness on, when she left the room unnoticed by him.

Here her page, Louis de Coutes, takes up the tale. He says that Jeanne ran downstairs and cried to him,"Ha ! sanglant garqon, you will not tell me when the blood of France is being spilt ? Bring my horse."When de Coutes returned, Jeanne bade him bring her banner, which he handed to her through a window of the upper room. She galloped straight through the town in the direction of the remotest gate, where the noise was loudest, the sparks flying from the stones beneath her horse's shoes as she rode, say eye-witnesses.

D'Aulon followed and overtook her; de Coutes also followed. In the gateway they met citizens bearing a sorely wounded man. "I never see French blood spilt but my hair rises for horror," said the Maid. They galloped through the gateway and found, says d'Aulon, a greater concourse of their party than he had ever seen together. Clearly the attack on St. Loup was no mere diversion, as has been supposed, but was seriously meant.

They reached the fort; Jeanne is said to have forbidden plundering of the church property, left behind when the church was partially destroyed; the French raised a shout on her arrival, and the fort was taken. The losses of the assailants were small; of the English, some hundred and fifty, none escaped death or capture; some were taken who had put on priestly vestments which they found in the steeple of the church of St. Loup. Jeanne preserved their lives: "We must take nothing from churchmen," she said, helping mercy by mirth, for the prisoners were"hooded" but not "monks."

Talbot meanwhile had collected a force out of his holds and was moving to the rescue by a long circuitous route; but he now saw that all was over. A troop of six hundred rode out of Orleans to meet him, and he withdrew. Jeanne wept for the slain, who had died without the rites of the Church, and, later, confessed herself to Pasquerel.

Returning victorious, after burning the woodwork of St. Loup, the Maid, according to Pasquerel her confessor, said that the siege would be raised within five days, but that she would not fight next day, as it was the Feast of the Ascension. She gave orders that none on that day should fight till he had confessed, and that they should not permit women of ill fame to accompany them. Though there was no fighting, Jeanne again summoned the English to withdraw. She went to the end of the intact part of the bridge, where the people of Orleans had erected a fort, and called across the water to the English in the Tourelles, telling them that it was God's will that they should go. They mocked her, and she determined to pay them a visit. Her confessor says that she dictated a letter, in the usual terms, ending,"This is the third and last time that I write to you. I would have sent my letter in more honourable fashion"(the note was attached to an arrow, and shot across from the bridge fort of Orleans),"but you keep my herald, Guienne. Return him, and I will return the prisoners taken at St. Loup."

The English picked up the arrow with the note bound to it, and shouted,"News from the harlot of the Armagnacs !"Hearing this insult Jeanne wept, calling the King of Heaven to her aid. But she was comforted and dried her tears,"because, as she said, she had tidings from her Lord."She then bade Pasquerel call her early next day, she would confess at dawn.

Though there was no fighting on the day of the Ascension (May 5), a council of war was held at the house of the Chancellor of Orleans, Cousinot. Among the leaders present was Sir Hugh Kennedy, called in Scotland,"Hugh come with the penny." It was decided to take huge wooden shields and wooden shelters, next day, and assault the English forts on the Orleans side of the river, especially the great Fort St. Laurent This movement would bring across the English on the farther shore to aid their comrades on the Orleans side of the water. This, however, was to be a mere feint; as soon as the English from the farther side had crossed, the French tacticians would attack the remnant left on guard at St. Jean le Blanc, the Augustins, and the boulevard or outwork of the bridge-head fort, the Tourelles. Ambroise Lore was then sent by the nobles to bring the Maid, who, lest she should reveal the secret of the feint, was only told that they meant to attack St. Laurent, the great fort close to Jeanne's house, on the Orleans side of the Loire. The Chancellor, Cousinot, himself gave her the misleading information.

"Tell me what you have really decided" said Jeanne, "I will keep a greater secret than that." She walked up and down the room, refusing to be seated.

"Be not angry, Jeanne," said Dunois,"we cannot tell you everything at once. What the Chancellor has told you is what we have decided on, but--," and then he explained the feint, and the true point of attack. Then she was content; but next day the feint on St. Laurent was not made.

Dunois and the tacticians had apparently intended the townsfolk of Orleans to sally forth against St. Laurent with the Maid's standard flying, and under cover of the guns of the city wall and towers. The English would also sally out of their fort, would give a hurrah; the burgesses would retreat to the protection of their artillery, and the English would not pursue them home.

This would have been the usual escarmouche grand et terrible. Three or four unlucky combatants might be hit by a splinter of a stone cannon-ball, or by a crossbow bolt. One or two, in running away, might fall into a well, and be killed by the enemy, as happened now and again."Very great loss"(in one of these skirmishes) was the loss of nine prisoners by the English.

During this diversion the more regular forces, under the knights, would be attacking the forts beyond the river. But Jeanne had no desire to lead townsfolk who would not press an attack home: she was the most tenacious of leaders; she never gave way (unless she were carried off, wounded, at nightfall) till she had won the position she attacked. The townsfolk, again, desired to fight under her standard. Therefore the leaders could not carry out their tactics; next day no feint was attempted.

The leaders, it is true, according to one witness, meant to execute their plan. They stationed men-at-arms at the Burgundy gate, the gate most remote from the Regnart gate (which was nearest St. Laurent), and was adjacent to the port from which the knights meant to cross the river. De Gaucourt commanded these men-at-arms, and tried to check the outrush of the townsfolk, who were following the standard of the Maid. He found that his life was in danger. Jeanne said to him,"You are an evil man! Whether with or without your leave, the men-at-arms will come, and will be victorious as before."1

1(The scene is now placed by M. Wallon and M. Lefevre-Pontalis not on May 6, but on May 7, on the morning of the decisive victory. I am not able to acquiesce; see the next chapter.)

Thus the feint was omitted, though there is no reason to suspect Jeanne of having betrayed the military secret. She was going to take part in the genuine attack, her way was by the Burgundy gate, and the multitude followed her standard. Probably they also knew the secret, though not through Jeanne. Burgesses had been at the council of war, we are informed, and naturally burgesses would tell their wives the secret,--in the strictest confidence,--so the townsfolk were determined to be in the serious fighting. If Jeanne led them, which is not certain, they did not do her much credit on this occasion.

The mode of crossing was from the water gate, the Tour Neuve, to the He des Toiles, from which a bridge of two boats enabled them to step on to the farther bank, under the guns of the English fort of St. Jean le Blanc. But the English commander in the bridge-head fort, the Tourelles, bade his men evacuate St. Jean le Blanc as soon as he perceived that the French were launching their boats; and he concentrated his forces in the work raised on the ruins of the Augustinian monastery (Les Augustins). The Augustin fort protected the boulevard or outwork of the Tourelles on the bridge-head, and the Tourelles could not be attacked till the Augustins was won.

We have a contemporary chronicle which avers that the Maid, while most of the French attacking force was delayed in the He des Toiles, rushed with a small company, probably of townsfolk, to the Augustins, and planted her standard at the palisade. But a cry arose that the English from Fort St. Prive (directly opposite Fort St. Laurent) were coming up, whereon the enthusiasts with the Maid fled helter-skelter back to the island, doubtless throwing the force which was crossing from the island by the boat bridge into utter confusion. If this be true, the emotions of the disappointed French tacticians may be imagined: the townsfolk, as they expected, had ruined their plan. The Maid retired slowly, covering the retreat of her fugitives, while the English rushed out, showering arrows and insults on"the Milkmaid of the Armagnacs."

"Suddenly she turned at bay, and, few as were the men with her, she faced the English, and advanced on them swiftly, with standard displayed. Then fled the English shamefully, and the beaten French came back and chased them into their works. The Maid planted her standard under the fort of the Augustins, in the moat, and then came up the Marshal de Rais, while the French arrived in great numbers," and the fort was taken. All this is undeniably dramatic; but another account, not less dramatic, and more trustworthy, is given by Jeanne's equerry, d'Aulon, who himself was in the front of the battle. The first of the French who landed on the bank of the river--foot soldiers apparently, without Jeanne, who had to bring her horse across the bridge of boats--found St. Jean le Blanc undefended, marched on to Les Augustins, saw that they could do nothing there, and were returning to the island ingloriously. At this moment the Maid and La Hire brought their horses across by boat, and mounted, lance in hand. Seeing the English rushing out of the Augustins to fall on the townsfolk in the disorder of struggling for footing on the bridge of boats, they laid their lances in rest, charged the English, and drove them back into their fortress. The French who now came up were being arrayed by d'Aulon and others, among them was a gallant Spaniard, Alphonzo de Partada; when a brave man of their company broke the line and was rushing forward. D'Aulon bade him keep his place in front of the column; the man said that he would do as he pleased. Alphonzo answered that as brave men as he were obeying orders. The other replied with a sneer; Alphonzo retorted. Both men, to prove their valour, caught each other by the hand, rushed forward at their best speed, and reached the palisade. In the narrow entry, disdaining to close the gate, stood a gigantic Englishman, defending the strait with such sword blows that the assailants could not pass. D'Aulon caught sight of that famous marksman, Maitre Jean of the handgun, and bade him aim at the Englishman. At Jean's first shot the champion fell dead. Alphonzo and his rival then rushed in; other Frenchmen followed, the work was assailed on every side, sword and axe were plied, and--the English did not forestall the feat of Hougoumont. The defenders were slain or taken, except some who fled into the boulevard or outwork of the Tourelles. As for Jeanne, another eye-witness saw her in the thick of the fight, and heard her cry,"In God's name, forward, forward boldly."

The nobles who came up and helped to check the flight of the French, and retrieve the day, were de Gaucourt himself, and Archambaud de Villars, captain of Montargis and seneschal of Beaucaire, a post to which d'Aulon later succeeded. Dunois seems to have been on guard in Orleans. Many of the troops bivouacked on the scene of their victory, holding the Augustins in case the English should attempt to recover it by a night assault. Wine and food were brought in boats from Orleans to the occupants of the taken fort. D'Aulon and another witness say that Jeanne remained with them, but seem to confuse her wish to do so with what she actually did.

The Maid was weary, and went home; she had been wounded in the foot by a chausse-trape (calthrop). Though the day was Friday, when she was wont to fast, she felt it necessary to take supper. She was anxiously afraid lest the English should make a night attack on the forces left at the farther side of the river, on the weary revellers. This they certainly ought to have done, and she understood war well enough to know it. Being anxious, she was early astir on the morning of May 7."Rise with the dawn to-morrow, and you will do even better than today,"she said to her people."Keep close by me; because tomorrow I will have much to do, more than ever I had, and blood will flow from my body, above my breast."

So says Pasquerel, who was present. We know that the Maid had before April 22 predicted her wound by an arrow, and that it would not be mortal, for the prophecy was recorded on April 22. Pasquerel, of course, may have been under an error of memory when he makes her, on May 6, name the day and place of the wound. On July 9, 1429, a letter from Bruges reports that Jeanne predicted her wound, and that it would not be dangerous, to the leaders on the day when it really occurred, May 7. An Orleans lawyer gave evidence that the Maid predicted the capture of the Tourelles, her return by the bridge, though several arches were broken down, and her wound under the Tourelles. Hurt in the foot, weary, and feverish, she must have slept till that night: next day's dawn brought her crowning victory.

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