Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 12

ERRORS OF HISTORIANS

At the news of the battle of Herrings, joined to so many previous reverses and discouragements, several of Charles's courtiers were of opinion that he should leave Orleans to its fate--retire with the remains of his forces into the provinces of Dauphine or Languedoc--and maintain himself to the utmost amidst their mountainous recesses. Happily for France, at this crisis less timid counsels prevailed. The main merit of these has been ascribed by some historians, and by every poet, to the far-famed Agnes Sorel. "It was fortunate for this good prince," says Hume-- he means Charles VII.--"that, as he lay under the dominion of the fair, the women whom he consulted had the spirit to support his sinking resolution in this desperate extremity....Mary of Anjou, his Queen, a princess of great merit and prudence, vehemently opposed this measure....His mistress, too, the fair Agnes Sorel, seconded all her remonstrances, and threatened that, if he thus pusillanimously threw away the sceptre of France, she would seek in the Court of England a fortune more correspondent to her wishes."

More recently, the great dramatist of Germany has considerably improved the story, by suppressing the fact that Charles was already married, and making him proffer his hand and his crown to the lovely Agnes.

" She might adorn
The fairest throne on earth, but she disdains it.
My paramour she is, and by that name
Alone doth she desire to be called." *

* Schiller, 'The Maid of Orleans' act i. scene 4.

We feel reluctant to assist in dispelling an illusion over which the poetry of Schiller has thus thrown the magic tints of genius. Yet it is, we fear, as certain as historical records can make it, that it was not till the year 1431, after the death of Joan of Arc, that Agnes Sorel appeared at court, or was even seen by Charles. It is not improbable that the change in his character after 1439 may have proceeded from her influence ; such at least was the belief of Francis I., when he wrote beneath her picture these lines ;--

"Gentille Agnes, plus d'honneur tu merites
La cause etant de France recouvrer;
Que ce que pent dedans un cloitre ourrer
Close nonain ou bien derot ermite"

But even this opinion it would not be easy to con- firm from contemporary writers.

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