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 14

Cover for Andrew Lang's The Maid of France Cover Page for Andrew Lang's The Maid of France
THE WEEK OF VICTORIES

As the Maid's beau Due, d'Alencon, was commander of the King's army, she was comparatively uncontrolled in its direction; there was, however, but little union or discipline. According to the Journal du Siege, a party among the leaders was averse to attacking Jargeau, where Suffolk and his brothers, the de la Poles, with a garrison of 700 men, had been making themselves obnoxious to the Orleans people. Some captains urged that it was necessary, first of all, to encounter Fastolf,--who was at last moving from Paris with a force of 2000 lances (5000 men), artillery, and supplies, for the relief of Jargeau,--and after discussing Fastolf, to attack that town."In fact, some leaders departed, and more would have done so, but for the fair words of the Maid and other leaders. The siege was half deserted."

Jeanne was, in a sense, the chief officer of artillery, that is, in so far as the Orleans burgesses sent to her the utensils for the siege works. We have already seen the evidence of d'Alencon as to Jeanne's skill in working artillery. The heavy guns and fieldpieces sent from Orleans by water filled five sloops manned by forty boatmen, while twenty-four horses were needed to drag the chariot of the huge gun of position, resembling Mons Meg now in Edinburgh Castle. Ropes and scaling-ladders were also sent from Orleans. Of course it was then, and is now, natural to cry "Miracle"! whether seriously or in mockery, in face of d'Alencon's evidence, and even to say that the Maid, moving in a mist of hallucinations,"never observed the enemy."

On June 9, the day when Fastolf left Paris, the Maid set out for Jargeau. D'Alencon estimates his command at 600 lances: with bowmen, engineers, and artillery the force would be some 2800 strong; while with 600 lances, led by Dunois, Florent d'llliers, and other captains who joined within a short march of the town, the numbers were doubled.

A dispute arose as to the possibility of storming the town. The Maid said,"Success is certain. If I were not assured of this from God, I would rather herd sheep than put myself in so great jeopardy."Thus addressed, the army rode on, and had a skirmish with the English, who made a sortie and drove in the patrols. The Maid seized her standard, rallied the men, and occupied the suburbs of Jargeau. D'Alencon is frank enough to confess that very few sentinels were posted that night, and that an English sally might have caused a disaster. Yet La Hire, Dunois, and Florent d'llliers were commanders of great experience, though apparently as open to surprise as that master of surprises, Montrose. Jeanne herself, so careful on the night of May 6 at Orleans, was on this occasion very careless. But perhaps the victors in the South African war have no right to throw the first stone at her!

Next day (June 12) the artillery duel began, and a great gun sent from Orleans, la Bergere or Bergerie y ruined one of the towers in the wall. The breach,"after some days,"says d'Alencon (an error of memory), seemed practicable, and a council of war was being held to consider the question of storming it, when news came that La Hire was parleying with Suffolk,"so I and the other leaders were ill content with La Hire," says d'Alencon. La Hire was sent for, and it was decided to attack.

Suffolk, it appears, was offering to surrender if not relieved within fifteen days. As Fastolf with his army was approaching, the French leaders said that they would permit the English to depart instantly, with their horses. In Jeanne's opinion, according to her own account, they ought to be allowed to depart in their doublets, without their armour; otherwise they must abide the assault. She had summoned them on the previous night to yield peaceably to the Dauphin.

The terms of surrender were refused by Suffolk, and the French heralds cried,"To the assault!""Avant, gentil Duc, a L'assault" said Jeanne to d'Alencon. He hesitated; he doubted the practicability of the breach."Doubt not! The hour is come when God pleases! God helps them who help themselves. Ah, gentil Due, are you afraid ? Do you not know that I promised your wife to bring you home safe and sound?"The Duchess, indeed, remembering the huge ransom paid for the Due after Verneuil, wished to ask the Dauphin to let him stay at home. Perhaps his bride did keep him from joining the army of relief at Orleans. Jeanne had then said,"Lady, fear not! I will bring him home better than when he left"; so d'Alencon testifies.

The assault began, the skirmishers advancing: while Jeanne said to the Due,"Change your position! That gun,"pointing to a piece of ordnance on the wall,"will kill you!"and it did kill a gentleman who later found himself at the same spot.

After launching the first swarm of assailants with the scaling-ladders, d'Alencon and the Maid rushed into the breach, while Suffolk called out that he wished to speak with d'Alencon; but it was too late. The Maid was climbing a scaling-ladder, standard in hand, when a stone crashed through the flag and struck her chapeline, a light helmet with no vizor. She was smitten to the earth, but sprang up crying,"Amis, amis, sus, sus I" "On, friends on! The Lord has judged the English. Have good heart! Within an hour we take them!"

"In an instant the town was taken; the English fled to the bridges; over a thousand men were slain in the pursuit," says d'Alencon.

Suffolk himself was captured.

The town and the property stored in the church were looted, as was usual after a town was stormed. Less usual was the murder of some English prisoners, whose French captors had quarrelled over the right to their ransoms. The other prisoners were safely conveyed by boats under cloud of night to Orleans.

D'Alencon and the Maid returned to Orleans in triumph after the victory at Jargeau (June 12). The captive duke, in England, wrote, sending"salut et dilection"to his friendly and loyal accountants, and announcing that his treasurer, Boucher, Jeanne's host, has paid, in June last, thirteen golden crowns to a draper and a tailor for a rich robe and a huque to be given to Jeanne. Like the bride in the old ballad, "she was all in cramoisy" and dark green, the colours of the Due d'Orleans. Jeanne was girl enough to love rich attire; a crime, according to her judges and her false friend, the Archbishop of Reims, writing after the capture of the Maid. Here the prelate touched the lowest depth of human meanness and malignity.

On the evening of June 14, at Orleans, the indefatigable Maid said to d'Alengon,"Tomorrow, after dinner, I wish to pay a visit to the English at Meun. Give orders to the company to march at that hour."Meun was the English fortified town nearest to Orleans down the river; below it in English hands was Beaugency. The bridge-head of Meun, strongly fortified, as at Orleans, was taken by assault (June 15). A French garrison was placed in the bridge-towers, the army bivouacked in the fields, and, not attacking the castle and town of Meun, the French marched next morning (June 16) against Beaugency, whence they knew that Talbot himself had retreated to Janville. The English deserted the town of Beaugency, retiring into the castle, but leaving men ambushed in houses and sheds. These men attempted to surprise the French; there were losses on both sides, but the English were driven into the castle. The French then planted artillery and battered the castle walls, when (June 16) dramatic events occurred which are variously described. The result of them was that Jeanne in vain attempted to reconcile her King, slave of La Tremoi'lle as he was, with the truculent Constable, Arthur de Richemont, who was eager to bring to the aid of France a large force of men. In September 1428, at Chinon, the greatest assembly of the Estates before 1789 had vainly demanded the restoration of Richemont to the Royal favour. At that moment, when Orleans was already threatened, France needed union, and the sword of every loyal man. The King promised; La Tr^moi'lle made him break his Royal word. During the siege of Orleans the men of Richemont and La Tr^moi'lle were at war in Poitou. None the less, by June 8, Guy de Laval wrote to his mother that he expected Richemont to join the Royal army under d'Alencon. But d'Alencon, commanding for the Dauphin, had no terms to keep with de Richemont. To d'Alencon, besieging Beaugency, appeared (June 16) the formidable Constable at the head of a large command. How came he there? The Constable had a historian in his pay, Guillaume Gruel, and Gruel conscientiously earned his wages."In his Memoirs the other leaders are almost always sacrificed to the Constable,"says his editor, Petitot. "We must be on our guard against his partiality for his master,"says Quicherat.

Gruel asserts that his master, the Constable, had raised his force to succour Orleans; that the Dauphin sent a gentleman to bid him retire, otherwise the Royal forces would attack him; that the Constable replied,"he would see who would resist him. "He then heard of the siege at Beaugency, and made for that place, sending messengers to ask the besiegers for quarters for himself and his contingent. This is absurd! Orleans ceased to be attacked on May 8; the siege of Beaugency began on June 16; the Constable did not arrive there on his way from an attempt to deliver Orleans!

Gruel proceeds to say that his master's messengers were met with the reply that the Maid and her army were coming to fight him."In that case," he said,"I will have the pleasure of meeting them." d'Alencon mounted, the Maid mounted, La Hire and other captains asked her what she meant? "To fight the Constable!" was her reply.

"There are some of us in your company who love the Constable better than all the maids in France."

As these amenities were being interchanged, apparently while the Maid, d'lencon, and young de Laval were riding forward, the great Constable, also advancing, met them,"to the dismay of the others." "Then the Maid, with d'Alencon, young Guy de Laval, Dunois, and other captains welcomed him gladly. The Maid dismounted and embraced his knees," her way of saluting Saints and Kings. The Constable growled out,"Jeanne, they tell me that you want to fight me. I know not if you come from God--or elsewhere. If from God, I do not fear you, for He knows my good will; if from the Devil, I fear you still less."

They then rode back to Beaugency, and the Constable's men, being the latest comers, supplied the sentinels, as was the manner of war. That night the English surrendered the castle by capitulation (between June 16 and June 17, or, according to Wavrin, between June 17 and June 18). This is Gruel's account.

D'Alencon, on the other hand, says that, on the news of the Constable's approach, he and the Maid thought of breaking up the siege, as they were under Royal orders not to accept his alliance; but the Constable remained with them. Next day, (June 17) news arrived that the redoubtable Talbot was approaching with a great army to rescue the English in Beaugency. The cry to arms! was raised, and Jeanne said that it was better to use the aid of the Constable. The English in Beaugency had been allowed to depart (in the dawn of June 17). La Hire's patrols now rode in with tidings of the approach of Talbot "with 1000 men-at-arms." If we take d'Alencon's "men-at-arms"to mean "lances,"--each lance with three or four archers,--Fastolf s command would be of about 5000 men, the number at which it is usually reckoned. The army must have consisted partly of reinforcements from England, demanded by Bedford early in April. But our own MS. archives throw no light on the recruiting of this large force, we hear nothing of fresh English levies, and it is impossible to guess how Fastolf got it together. Then the Maid said to de Richemont,"Ah, beau con-nestable, you have not come for my sake, but since you are come you are welcome." Many of the French were afraid to meet Talbot and his men, and wished to retreat, so great was still the prestige of England. "In God's name!" said Jeanne, "we must fight them; if they were hanging from the clouds, we shall have them."

The apparition of the entire command of Fastolf, 5000 men, with a small contingent under Talbot, must now be explained Luckily we have the evidence of a man of the sword, Wavrin de Forestel, who rode under the standard of Fastolf. That skilled commander, who was no mere headlong leader of desperate cavalry charges, had arrived at, or near, Jargeau, only to see the flag of the Lilies floating from the newly-captured donjon. He therefore moved on Janville, within a day's march of Orleans. (He had been falsely reported to be at Janville on that day of May when the French took the fort of St. Loup.) At Janville, Fastolf waited for intelligence. Early on June 16, Talbot reached him with 40 lances and 200 archers, reporting that the French were besieging Beaugency. Fastolf went to Talbot's inn before noon; they dined together--the meal corresponded to the modern French dejeuner. Talbot insisted that they should march next day to relieve Beaugency. By starting at once they might have arrived in time; but they, like Grouchy on the morning of Waterloo, dallied over their strawberries; they did not march towards the thunder of the guns.

In fact, Fastolf was now for leaving the garrisons of the Loire towns to their fate, retiring on the English strong places, and awaiting the arrival of reinforcements promised by Bedford. The English were demoralised, he said, the French were full of confidence; but Talbot vowed that with his little company, and any who chose to join him, he would,"so help him God and St. George,"attack the enemy. His advice prevailed, they would start for Beaugency next morning. Fatal delay! Next day (June 17) Fastolf repeated the story of his anxiety. They were but a handful compared to the French, and, if they fought, they would imperil the conquests of Henry v. But Talbot and the leaders insisted on advancing to rescue Beaugency, never guessing, on June 17, that Matthew Gough had prematurely surrendered the place in the midnight of June 16-17 apparently (if not, in the midnight of June 17-18). Talbot could not have imagined such a surrender. Fastolf yielded, and, passing - Meun,--of which the town and castle were in English hands, while the French held, and the Constable had reinforced, the bridge-head towers on the south bank of the Loire,--they were within a league of Beaugency. But La Hire's patrols, as we saw, had brought in news of the English advance; Jeanne and the Constable had advised that the whole French army should move to meet Talbot and Fastolf, and the French now occupied a kopje, and were arrayed in battle order on that petite montagnette, as Wavrin calls it. There stood their host defiant, on that isle of the wide airy sea of the wooded plain of the Beauce.

It was now (June 17) that Jeanne exclaimed,"The English are ours; if they hung among the clouds," that floated high in the blue above the plain,"we must have them!" Fastolf and Talbot could not advance on Beaugency (they knew not that it had fallen, or was that night to fall) without fighting; but the sun was low in the sky. The English halted within range of the kopje; they dismounted, and formed in order of battle; the archers drove the sharp butts of their long pikes into the ground, and stood behind this improvised defence, which ought to have been, and often was, impregnable.

The French remained motionless in their excellent position. The English therefore sent two heralds,"saying that there were three knights who would fight them if they would descend into the plain."Surrey made the same offer to James IV a day or two before the battle of Flodden; but not even the rash king came down from Flodden Edge to the level fields, and d'Alencon was not less wary. The people with the Maid replied,"Go to your rest to-day, for it is late enough. To-morrow, if it please God and Our Lady, we shall see you at closer quarters."

This answer, whether dictated by the Maid or not, was more than justified by the amazing good fortune of the morrow. The English fell back on Meun, and all through the night their guns battered the bridge-head towers held by the French. Their purpose was to assault and take the towers next day, cross the river, and march to rescue Beaugency by the southern bank of the Loire. The English knew nothing of the surrender of Beaugency, and at eight o'clock of the morning of June 18 were collecting pavois (huge shields) and doors for shelter as they stormed the bridge fort of Meun. As they were thus engaged there came a pursuivant from Beaugency, with news that the fort and town were in the hands of the French, who were advancing against Fastolf and Talbot.

According to Wavrin, the French, whom he saw on June 17, were a force of 12,000 men on June 18. Monstrelet says 6000 to 8000. The English, as Beaugency had fallen, evacuated Meun and began to march towards Paris, across the great wooded plain of the Beauce. According to Wavrin, the French had no intelligence, knew not where to look for the retreating English. Some of them asked the Maid where they were to be found?"Ride boldly on," she said,"you will have good guidance."They had a strange guide enough, as it proved.

Dunois states that d'Alencon asked Jeanne what they were to do?

"Have good spurs."

"What, are we to turn our backs?" said those who heard her.
"No! but the English will not defend themselves, and you
will need good spurs to follow them."

Though the most learned of the historians of the Maid places this dialogue on the morning of June 18, from the context of the evidence it rather appears to be a saying of June 17. The French, certainly, on the morning of June 18, simply marched after Talbot's force, which was moving north by east towards Paris. Jeanne predicted for the Dauphin the greatest victory that he had won for many a day. Some eighty riders,"mounted on the flower of chargers,"galloped in advance as scouts.

The French order of battle was not what the Maid desired. La Hire commanded in the van, the eighty riders were of his company. Says the Maid's page, de Coutes, then a boy of fourteen,"She was very angry, because she was especially fond of being entrusted with the vanguard."Probably the leaders kept her in the rearguard on this occasion, as the clans forced Prince Charles to charge with the second line at Prestonpans, and as they vainly implored Dundee not to hazard himself at Killiecrankie. Nothing was more likely than that the retreating English had left an ambush in one of the woods or ravines of the plain, and the leaders would not risk Jeanne with the foremost riders.

After a long ride, the French scouts saw in the middle distance on the right the church tower of Lignerolles, on the left the little town of Pathay. The English were not visible, the country was thickly wooded. Their advanced guard was led by a knight with a white standard; then came the guns, and the waggons of the commissariat with its motley attendants, and then the main body, under Fastolf, Talbot, Ramston, and other captains. The rearguard, all Englishmen, rode behind. From the remark that"all the rearguard were English,"we may infer that the bulk of Fastolfs force were Picards and other foreigners. When they were within a league of Pathay, neither seen by the French nor seeing them, some scouts of the English advanced guard rode in, they had caught sight of a large French force advancing. Fresh scouts sent forward brought the same tidings. It was determined to post the advanced guard, with the waggons and guns, along the tall hedges on either side of the road to Pathay. As at the battle of the Herrings, the waggons would be used as outworks of a laager. Talbot, in advance, perceived two strong hedges; he dismounted, and said that he would line them with 500 picked archers and hold that pass till his rearguard joined his main body."But another thing befell him."

La Hire's eighty gallopers, riding furiously, not knowing where the English were, startled a stag from a wood: the stag rushed into the main body of the English; they all raised the view-halloo, for they never suspected the presence of the French. Unlucky sporting instinct of the English! The scouts of La Hire instantly drew bridle and quietly sent back some of their number with the message,"Found!"The French cavalry of La Hire formed in order of battle, set spurs to their horses, and charged with such impetus through the pass which Talbot was lining with his picked archers, that they cut them up before they could fix their pikes or loose their shafts.

Meanwhile Fastolf, with the cavalry of the main body, or bataille, was spurring furiously to reach the advanced guard of the English, and was mistaken by that force, or by its leader, the knight of the white standard, for the leader of the main French corps. In truth, Grouchy was coming, not, as on a later June 1 8, the Prussians. The white standard-bearer galloped, followed by his whole force, towards the Paris road, in wild panic; and Fastolf seeing this flight, and seeing La Hire and Saintrailles cutting up Talbot's archers, drew bridle. He was advised by his officers to save himself, the battle was lost. "Beholding this, Messire John Fastolf retired, sad at heart, and with a very small company, making the greatest dole that ever man made. And he would have thrown himself into the fight, but was otherwise counselled by Messire Jehan, Bastard of Thian, and others that were with him," says Wavrin.

Apparently he fled with a few mounted men, while the English foot of his command were cut to pieces by the French advanced guard, without making any resistance. Dunois reckoned that the English lost more than 4000 in killed and prisoners, while the rest of Fastolf's force was"missing."Talbot was prisoner to Saintrailles; he was led before d Alencon, Jeanne, and the Constable. "You did not expect this in the morning?"asked d Alencon, who could not forget his own captivity and the burden of his ransom. "Fortune of war!" answered the brave Talbot. Ramston, Scales, and many other leaders were taken; Fastolf was reported to have been captured, but he joined Bedford at Corbueil. Bedford deemed that he, like Sir John Cope,

"wasna blate To come with the news of his own defeat,"

and Fastolf was deprived of the ribbon of the Garter. He was afterwards reinstated. In Shakespeare, Talbot would have won the day "if Sir John Fastolf had not played the coward."

There is reason to doubt whether Jeanne saw the massacre, and the unresisting flight of the English, which she had predicted. All may have been over but the pursuit when the French rearguard reached the scene. Her page says,"She was most pitiful at the sight of so great a slaughter. A Frenchman was leading some English prisoners; he struck one of them on the head; the man fell senseless. Jeanne sprang from her saddle and held the Englishman's head in her lap, comforting him; and he was shriven."Her heart was steeled to the cruel necessities of war, for only by war could France be redeemed; but she had the soul of the chivalric ideal. That night she slept at Ligneroles.

Had but St. Michael whispered to her Paris! The army, with the Constable's force, would have followed her; the country would have risen round them; indeed the adjacent towns came in to the Dauphin. She had captured the English commissariat, waggons, food, and the English ammunition and artillery. The fortifications of Paris, we know, were in disrepair; the English garrison had probably been depleted to fill the cadres of Fastolf. The mob in Paris was as likely, at least, to be Armagnac as to be Anglo-Burgundian. However, on hearing of Pathay, the bourgeois took heed to their sentinels, began to fortify their walls, and deposed their magistrates and elected others whom they thought more true to the Anglo-Burgundian cause. To have marched straight on Paris, from Pathay, as far as we can judge meant victory; but it also meant disregard of the Dauphin, of his Council, and of La Tremoille. Moreover, the purpose of the Maid was fixed; she would first lead the Dauphin to his coronation, and then, at once, would march on Paris. This she could have done, if Charles would have saved a fortnight by following her, instantly after Pathay, to Reims.

But Paris was the right objective. During the delays, Bedford and the Duke of Burgundy were reconciled, early in July, and renewed their alliance. Bedford called in all the men who could be spared from the garrisons of Normandy. It was said, on the worst authority (see note at end of chapter), that Jeanne about this time announced a Scottish invasion of England. But, in fact, the Bishop of Winchester, Cardinal Beaufort, had arranged (in May-June, at Dunbar) a peace with Scotland as soon as he heard of the relief of Orleans. He was thus free to launch on France a force which he had enlisted in England for a crusade against the Bohemian heretics. The Articles of Agreement between the English Government and the Cardinal were made on July I, obviously after the news of the disaster of Pathay was received. The army engaged was of 250 lances and 2500 archers."The realm stands in likelihood to be lost and subverted,"says the document. The new English troops were engaged to serve from June 23 to December 21.

Moreover, in tardy response to Bedford's eager request for reinforcements, sent before the Maid took the field at the end of April, Sir John Radclyffe had been entrusted with 200 men-at-arms and 700 bowmen. On July 16, Bedford, at Paris anxiously urges the arrival of these two forces--the Cardinal's and RadclyfTe's--united,"for the Dauphin has taken the field, will instantly be crowned at Reims, and thence will march direct on Paris."Even then Charles would have been in time; but we v are to see how he deliberately rejected his opportunity. Bedford also implores Henry VI to come at once (to be crowned). The new English army of 3350 men was thrown into Paris on July 25. It was thus that the purpose of the Maid was baffled; she never gave Guy de Laval wine to drink in Paris. The enmity of the Dauphin and La Tremoille against the Constable, whose alliance they refused, the intrigues of La Tr^moi'lle, the diplomacy of the Archbishop of Reims began, from the morrow of Pathay, to ruin the most gallant of enterprises.

The Letter of Jacques de Bourbon

The authority for Jeanne's announcement of the coming of a Scottish contingent, is a letter of July 24, 1429, addressed by that strange personage, Jacques de Bourbon, to the Bishop of Laon, who was in a much better position than Jacques to know the real state of affairs. It was published in French, from the Vienna archives, by M. Simeon Luce, in 1892. The letter contains a myth about a massacre at Auxerre, which also found its way into Italian news-letters. Jacques puts Fastolf s force at 3500, and reckons the prisoners at 1500. The Pucelle is said to have predicted a great battle and victory on the road to Reims, where the enemy had no forces except the garrisons of the towns! Bedford is said, with equal absurdity, to have tried to get the holy ampoule of Reims, and be crowned King of France! Charles has an army of 30,000 horse and 20,000 foot! He is marching from Reims against Calais! The letter is of no historical value.

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