Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

JOAN OF ARC The Warrior Maid


Chapter 18
The Warrior Maid

Her helm was raised,
And the fair face revealed, that upward gazed,
Intensely worshipping––A still, clear face,
Youthful, but brightly solemn!––Woman’s cheek
And brow were there, in deep devotion meek,
Yet glorified with inspiration’s trace
On its pure paleness; while enthroned above,
The pictured virgin with her smile of love
Seem’d bending o’er her votaress.

Mrs. Hemans.

A wave of enthusiasm swept over the land as the news of the verdict of the Doctors spread. Cowed France threw off her cowardice and rose to courage and activity. Men and arms were now forthcoming for the army that began to gather at Blois, which was the nearest city to Orléans that remained in Charles’s hands. Alençon and other lords, Yolande, the Queen of Sicily, loyal cities like La Rochelle opened wide their coffers, and furnished money to finance the undertaking. An inspired Maid, a Virgin sent from God was to lead France to victory against the enemy. Because God had taken pity on the distressed kingdom the invader was to be expelled by His maiden messenger. Thus spoke the people, and men took heart of grace and prepared joyously to go to the succor of Orléans.

Possession of this city was of the greatest importance to Charles; for as it lay immediately between the provinces which had submitted to the English, and those which still acknowledged his authority, it served as a gathering point for his adherents, and a stronghold from whence they could with advantage sally out and annoy their enemies. Unless this place was taken the English could not with safety pursue the King into the southern part of the kingdom, and the success of his cause depended upon its possession. If it were lost, there was no resource left the monarch but flight. Thus upon the raising of the siege of the city depended the whole fate of France; its nationality, its very existence.

A month must pass before the full number of men and sufficient provisions could be gathered for the expedition, but Jeanne knew the need of both and was no longer impatient. From Chinon the Dauphin sent her to Tours to be fitted with armour, whither she was accompanied by her knights. It was the most important city in that part of France, and no place excelled its smiths in the making of armour. Yolande, the Queen’s mother, herself designed the armour for the warrior maiden, which was to be of steel inlaid with silver, burnished to a shining whiteness symbolic of the purity of the Holy Enterprise.

By Charles’s desire Jeanne was given a Household as became a person of her importance. She dwelt with Eleanor, wife of Jean du Puy, one of the Queen’s ladies, and her immediate attendants consisted of Jean d’Aulon, a veteran from Orléans, who acted as her equerry, or squire; the two knights who had accompanied her from Vaucouleurs, two pages, Louis de Coutes, and Raimond, while later was added Jean Pasquerel, an Augustinian friar who was her confessor. Jeanne submitted to the Household and to the splendor with which she was now clothed, because it proclaimed the favor of the Dauphin, and was therefore best for her mission.

But for her standard and her sword she herself gave directions, for concerning these she had received revelations from her Voices. When Charles would have presented her with a sword to replace the one Robert de Baudricourt had given her she told him of a weapon at Fierbois which her Voices had told her to use.

“I have sent a letter to the priests there at Saint Catherine’s asking if I may have it,” she said. “I told them that it would be found buried in the earth behind the altar. The messenger should return with it to-day.”

“If it be there,” he remarked, half laughing.

“It will be, fair Dauphin,” returned the girl instantly, with the perfect faith in her revelations that was her strength.

“But how will they know that it is the sword that you mean?” he questioned.

“There will be five crosses on the handle,” said Jeanne.

The King dropped the subject for the time being, but he resolved to watch to see if the sword were found where the maiden said that it would be. He had indorsed her, but he welcomed further proof of her inspiration. Alençon, La Trémouille and Queen Yolande were with him beside the peasant maiden, and these were listening with great interest to Jeanne’s words. And now the favorite spoke, voicing the thought that was in Charles’s mind:

“I should like to see this mystic sword, your Majesty,” he said, his tones reflecting his scepticism.

The monarch smiled at his favorite without replying, but Alençon, detecting the underlying mockery, exclaimed with some heat:

“By St. Martin! if the Pucelle says that the sword is under the altar at Saint Catherine’s, it is there. And who denies it shall answer to me.”

“Gently, my cousin, gently,” spoke Charles lazily. “There will be time enough for private quarrel after Orléans. ’Tis not doubt that made La Trémouille so speak, but a natural desire to witness the marvel.”

At this moment there came one who spoke to one of the gentlemen in waiting, who instantly approached the King.

“Your Majesty,” he said, “a man waits without. An armourer of the city. He has but come from Fierbois, and he bears a sword which he is to deliver to the Maid whom he has been told is here.”

“Let him present himself at once,” said Charles eagerly.

Amid a hush of expectancy the armourer whom Jeanne had sent to Fierbois entered, and advanced toward the King. At a sign from the monarch he handed to him the sword that he bore. Charles drew the weapon from its sheath and examined it curiously. It was an ancient blade, and though it had been cleaned still showed traces of rust. Upon the handle there were five crosses, as Jeanne had said there would be.

“Did the priests know that the sword was there?” he asked of the man.

“No, Sire. They said at first that the Maid must be mistaken, as they knew of no such sword; but, after much labor and search, ’twas found just where the Maid said that it would be. It was very rusty when it was taken from the earth, but when the priests started to clean it the rust fell away of itself. So marvellous is the matter deemed that there is a great stir over it at Fierbois, and the priests have had this scabbard of crimson velvet made for the Maid to carry the sacred weapon in.”

“The matter is of a truth marvellous,” commented Charles, laying the sword in Jeanne’s eager, outstretched hands. “But good blade though it be, Pucelle, it will need sharpening before it can be used.”

Jeanne hung her head, blushing.

“It shall never be used for the shedding of blood,” she said reverently. “I love it already, fair Dauphin, but it shall not be used to kill. I could not shed blood.”

Charles smiled slightly at the shamefaced confession. Here was the maiden anxiously awaiting the gathering of men-at-arms that she might lead them into battle, yet declaring that she could not shed blood.

“And your standard?” he said gently. “Did you not say that you had received divine direction regarding it also?”

“Yes; but––” Jeanne paused reluctant to continue. She did not understand the reason for the design upon the standard, and was diffident about telling of it. After some urging, however, she told Charles the exact design that was to be emblazoned upon it, and was dictated to her by her saints––Margaret and Catherine, and the monarch had it painted accordingly.

It was made of white linen, a precious fabric at this time, and over its field were scattered golden lilies. In the midst of it God was painted holding the world and sitting upon the clouds; on either side an angel knelt; the motto was Jesus Marie. The standard was symbolic of her mission: the lilies of France, the country she had come to save; God, who had sent her; and Jesus, the Son of Mary, her watchword. On the reverse side of the standard Charles had fashioned the chosen blazon of the Maid: a dove argent, upon a field azure.

This was the great standard to be used for the rallying of all her host. She had also a banner and a pennon. On the banner was our Lord crucified between the Holy Virgin and Saint John. This was to be used for the gathering of the men for prayer and praise after they had confessed and made their consciences clean. On the pennon was wrought the Annunciation, the angel with a lily kneeling to the Blessed Virgin. It was to be used as a signal to those who fought around her as guards to her body. The standard Jeanne declared that she would carry herself, which was unusual for one who was to act as general. But such was the command of her heavenly guides.

“Take the standard on the part of God, and carry it boldly,” they had told her.

While all these preparations were being made Jeanne made a visit of a few days to Alençon’s wife and mother at St. Florent near Saumur. Jeanne of Orléans made Jeanne of D’Arc warmly welcome. She was but a young girl herself, daughter of Charles Duke of Orléans, then nearly fifteen years a prisoner in England, whose city the English were besieging, and therefore had a peculiar interest in the purpose of Jeanne D’Arc. She feared, though, for her husband’s safety, remembering the three years that he too had been a prisoner to the English, and she told these fears to Jeanne just as the latter was starting to return to Tours.

“Fear nothing, madame,” comforted Jeanne. “I will bring him back to you as well as he is now, or even better.”

While Jeanne was at St. Florent the two knights, Poulengy and Metz, had gone with many others from Tours on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Puy en Velay; for this year of our Lord, 1429, was the year of Jubilee, as any year was called when Good Friday and the Annunciation fell upon the same day. The years in which this occurred were always marked by strange and great events, and crowds flocked to the church which was the oldest dedicated to Our Lady.

The morning that the knights were to return Jeanne sat in an upper room of the house of Jean du Puy, whose wife had charge of her. It was the room where she received people, and was connected with the portal by a flight of stairs. There were many in the chamber, for she was now the commissioned Maid of War, with much to attend to. Presently her attention was caught by a commotion in the street below, and there came shouts and cries, and then the sound of footsteps. Wondering at the tumult, for,––though many people were always waiting in the street below to see her come and go; sometimes striving to get close enough to kiss her hands or any part of her garments and hailing her as a messenger of hope,––there was seldom any disturbance inside the portal. Her amaze grew as footsteps were heard ascending the stairs. Presently there came a quick rush of men in haste. As the door was flung wide a young voice cried:

“Jeanne, Jeanne! where are you? We have come to you, Jeanne.”

Jeanne uttered a cry of joy as Pierre and Jean, her brothers, came into the room, followed by the two knights and Father Pasquerel, her confessor.

“Oh, boys!” she cried, trying to clasp both of them in her arms at once. “When did you come? How did you get here?”

“We came with the knights and Father Pasquerel from Puy en Velay, where we went with mother on a pilgrimage. Then we came on here,” Pierre told her, giving her a bearlike hug.

“With mother?” exclaimed Jeanne in surprise. “Did mother go on a pilgrimage to Puy en Velay?”

“Yes; she sends her love and blessing to you. She made offerings for you there,” spoke Jean.

“And father?” questioned she anxiously. “How is father?”

“He grieves over your absence, Jeanne, but he sends his blessing and love also.”

“Now God be thanked,” cried the Maid, weeping for very joy. “Oh, ’tis good to have you here, boys. Now you two shall be members of my Household, and be with me wherever I go.”

Happy indeed was Jeanne made by the coming of her brothers. It seemed like bringing her home to her. Now with Jean and Pierre with her, and the love and blessing of her parents she could proceed on her appointed way with light heart.

By the twenty-fifth of April everything was ready for the march to Orléans. Jeanne now left Tours and went to Blois to meet the captains and soldiers. She found a busy scene at the little town. The roads were full of oxen, cows, sheep and swine all gathered for the victualling of Orléans. What with the lowing of the cattle, the bleating of the sheep, and the riotous noise of the soldiers in camp everything was in an uproar. Jeanne established her Household, and then sent for the captains to come to her. Officers of wide renown were they: De Gaucourt, the old commander of Orléans, whom she had already met; Rais and Boussac, two marshals of France; Culent, the Lord admiral; and La Hire, the Gascon freebooter. They revered her as a saintly child, but left her declaring among themselves that the Maid would inspire the army with courage, but as for war––When had there been a woman since the time of Deborah who had known aught of its art? This Jeanne found out afterwards.

After this meeting Jeanne sent by a herald to the English a letter which she had dictated at Poictiers just after the decision of the Doctors:

“JHESUS MARIA

“King of England, and you, Duke of Bedford, calling yourself Regent of France, you, William de la Poule, Comte de Sulford, John, Lord of Talbot, and you, Thomas, Lord of Scales, who call yourselves lieutenants of the said Bedford, listen to the King of Heaven: Give back to the Maid who is here sent on the part of God the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good towns which you have taken by violence in His France. She is sent on the part of God to redeem the royal rights. She is ready to make peace if you will hear reason and be just towards France, and pay for what you have taken. And you Archers, brothers-in-arms, gentiles, and others who are before the town of Orléans, go into your own country, at God’s command; but if you do not, look to hear news of the Maid, who will shortly go to see you to your great hurt. King of England, if you will not do this, I am the head of the army, and wherever I meet your people in France I will make them flee, whether they will or no, and if they will not obey, I will kill them all. I am sent from God, King of Heaven, body for body, to drive you all out of France; but if the soldiers obey, I will have mercy on them. Be not obstinate, therefore, for you shall not hold the kingdom of France from God, the King of Heaven, Son of Saint Mary; from him shall Charles hold it, the true heir, for God, the King of Heaven, wills it so, and so has it been revealed by the Maid. If you do not heed the word of God and the Maid, in whatever place we find you, we will put you to a greater rout than has been known in France for a thousand years, if you will not hear reason. And be sure that the King of Heaven will send greater strength to the Maid and to her good soldiers than you can bring with all your might, and then we shall see who has the better right, the King of Heaven or you. The Maid begs you and bids you, Duke of Bedford, not to bring destruction on yourself. If you will heed her you may come in her company where the French shall do the greatest work that has ever been done for Christianity. Answer then if you will still continue against the city of Orléans. If you do so you will soon recall it to yourself to your great misfortune.

“Jeanne the Maid.”

Then into every part of the camp this girl of seventeen penetrated. Armies of the time were full of brutal license, and gambling, blasphemy, and other vices were prevalent. Wickedness of all kinds was the rule. But rude, rough, and lawless though the soldiers were they had their adorations, and reverenced holy things. To them the fair young girl was a saint. They adored her, and talked freely among themselves about her habits of life. She was good to the poor, she confessed daily, oftentimes she heard mass three times a day; there was too a grace of purity about her such as one might bear who descended from Heaven. So when Jeanne declared that the war was a Holy War, and that all who followed her must go clean of sin, gambling and dicing ceased, and men went to be shrived daily. La Hire, too, fierce ruffian though he was, gave up swearing, though he begged so hard to leave him something to swear by that she, having a sense of humor, left him his baton.

All now being in readiness on the morning of the twenty-eighth of April the army started on its march to Orléans. The day was bright and beautiful, ideal for the beginning of such an enterprise. The brilliant sunlight flooded the fields and meadows gay with wild flowers. At the head of the army marched a long procession of priests bearing crosses, swinging censers, with holy banners as on a pilgrimage, and chanting the “Veni Creator”; the grave and solemn music of the church accompanied strangely by the fanfares and bugle notes of the army. Following these came Jeanne on a great white horse that the King had given her. She was clad in white armour inlaid with silver––all shining like her own Saint Michael himself. A radiance of whiteness and glory under the sun––her uncovered head rising in full relief from the dazzling breastplate and gorget. With her rode D’Aulon, her squire, following immediately after were her own faithful knights, her brothers, confessor, and pages; while behind them stretched the main body of the army, a forest of glittering spears, the divisions commanded by the respective generals. Then came the long train of carts and cattle to which the army formed an escort. God’s Maid indeed seemed Jeanne as she rode, and with hearts beating high with hope the citizens of the town blessed her as she passed up the road on the way to Orléans.

Blois was thirty miles from the besieged city, on the right bank of the River Loire, on which side Orléans was also situated. It was Jeanne’s plan, in accordance with directions from Her Voices, which told her to go forward boldly, nothing doubting, to go direct to Orléans by the road on the right bank, entering the city by its western gate, past the English fortifications. But, knowing nothing of the country, she left the guidance of the army to her captains, who deceived her.

The English had built a line of strong fortresses called bastilles around Orléans––fortresses which closed all the gates of the city but one. To the French generals the idea of trying to fight their way past those strongholds and lead the army and supplies into Orléans was preposterous; they believed the result would be the destruction of the army. Jeanne’s theory of the art of war was simple; she believed it to consist in attacking at once the principal body of the enemy, but after the recent experience at Rouvray the generals hesitated to face their enemies in the field. The generals therefore decided to march to Orléans by the left bank of the river. How they were to cross the river when they came opposite to the city they seem not to have considered. Intending to use Jeanne’s trust in the divine favor to stir up the enthusiasm of their soldiers they did not tell her their plans, but made her believe that Orléans was situated on the left, or south, bank of the Loire.

Therefore, crossing the bridge at Blois they marched up the south bank of the stream. As had been said, it was thirty miles from Blois to Orléans, and the army passed one night in the fields. For the first time Jeanne slept in armour, and was in consequence bruised and chafed. When it is considered that this armour included a helmet (worn by her only at night); a neck-piece or gorget; a corselet; hip joints; a kind of skirt of steel, open in the centre for freedom in riding; strong shoulder plates; steel sleeve, gauntlets, thigh pieces, knee-joints, greaves, and shoes; every piece being of steel, the wonder is that a mere girl could have carried such a weight.

About noon of the succeeding day the army came upon the heights of Olivet, two miles south of Orléans, from which the city and the position of the besieging army could be plainly seen. Then Jeanne saw how she had been deceived. Between her and the town of Orléans lay the wide river, the broken bridge, and the camps of the English.

How the cattle and so great a company of men-at-arms were to be ferried across under the artillery of the English, who held the bridge and the strong keep of Les Tourelles which guarded passage at this point, was a problem. On the further shore the people swarmed the walls and quays of the city, laboring to launch boats with sails, and so purposing to ascend the stream and meet the relieving army. But a strong wind was blowing down stream and it was impossible to bring up the heavy barges needed to transport men and provisions, while the army and the convoy seemed open to attack by Suffolk and Talbot, who could cross the river safely under the guns of the fort on the island and the bridge.

Jeanne was bitterly indignant, and spoke her mind pretty plainly to the generals, to whom the absurdity of their plan was now apparent. She wished to attack the bastilles of the English on this side of the river at once, and the soldiers were eager to follow her, but the generals implored her not to think of it, as even though these were taken they would not have the strength to hold them. So again the army took up its march from Olivet and wended its way up the river to a point six miles above the city. The march was watched anxiously from the leaguered city, and so flat was the country that every movement could be marked after the troops left Olivet. When the expedition stopped, the Count of Dunois, natural half brother of the Duke of Orléans and commander of the city, took boat and rowed up stream and across to meet it. Jeanne spurred forward to meet the hardy young man, brown of visage, who leaped from the boat.

“Are you the Count of Dunois?” she asked.

“I am,” said he, “and right glad of your coming.”

“Was it you that gave counsel that I should come by this bank and not by the other side, and so straight against Talbot and the English?”

“I and wiser men than I gave that advice, believing it to be best and safest,” he returned mildly.

“In God’s name, the counsel of Messire is safer and wiser than yours.” She pointed to the water running rough and strong, a great wind following it, so that no sailing boats could come from the town.

“You thought to deceive me, and you rather deceived yourselves, for I bring you better help than ever came to any captain or city, the help of the King of Heaven. It is not given for love of me, but comes from God himself, who at the prayer of Saint Louis and Saint Charlemagne has had pity on the city of Orléans, and will not suffer that enemies shall have the body of the duke and his city also. But have patience. By the help of God all will go well.”

And in a moment, as it were, the wind, which was contrary and strong, shifted, and became favourable, so that each vessel could now tow two others. Dunois was much impressed by this signal grace from God, and regarded the Maid reverently. Then taking advantage of the change he had the heavy barges towed up the river five miles, where the supplies were embarked without danger of attack, the army having marched along the river bank to the same place. As the loaded barges went down stream to the city, the garrison made a sortie against the English bastille of St. Loup, to prevent its defenders from firing upon the flotilla, and thus secured the safe arrival of the supplies.

This being accomplished the Count of Dunois wished Jeanne to return with him to the city. The people were impatiently awaiting her coming, he said, and it would give them courage and hope merely to behold her. But Jeanne was reluctant to leave the army. It had been determined that it should go back to Blois, and make a new march, returning to Orléans by the north or right bank, according to the Maid’s plan. Later it was found that Jeanne could have taken the army and supplies by the English forts just as she had designed; for the English soldiers were in a demoralized condition of superstitious terror. They too had heard of the coming of the divine Maid, but they believed her to be a witch in league with Satan. The French generals did not take this fact into account.

Jeanne feared now to leave her army. She had been deceived once; how could she know that the captains would keep the promise to return with the soldiers? Then too she might lose her hold upon the men if they were without her presence. So she was reluctant to consent to enter the city. Dunois implored the captains to promise to return, and to be content without her, and so save the disappointment of the people. The captains promised, and so, sending her own confessor, Father Pasquerel, and the great standard with the soldiers, Jeanne crossed the river with Dunois, taking with her her Household and a force of two hundred lances.

It had been noon when they reached the heights of Olivet, but the march up the river, the transporting of the supplies, and the return march down the Loire had taken much time, so that it was nearly eight o’clock in the evening when she rode into the city, by way of the Burgundy gate. She was in full armour, mounted on the white horse, with her white pennon, on which was the Annunciation with the two angels, each bearing a lily in his hand, carried before her. At her left side rode Count Dunois in armour, richly appointed, and behind her came her Household and many noble and valiant lords and squires, captains and soldiers, with the burghers of Orléans who had gone out to escort her. At the gate crowds of people were waiting; the rest of the soldiers and the men and women of Orléans. All the bells of the city were ringing, and the people laughed, and wept, and shouted for joy. The Maid, the God-sent Maid had come; and they rejoiced greatly, not without cause. For they had endured much labour, and weariness and pain, and what is worse, great fear lest they should never be succored, but should lose both life and goods. Now they felt greatly comforted through the divine virtue of which they had heard in this simple maid.[8]

Through the glare of the torches Jeanne saw the sea of faces turned adoringly toward her. She stretched out her mailed hands toward them lovingly:

“Be of good cheer,” she cried. “Messire hath taken pity on your distresses.”

There came a press to touch her, and to touch even the horse on which she rode. So closely did the people come that a torch bearer was pushed against the pennon and the fringe took fire. Almost instantly Jeanne spurred forward, leaned down, and put out the flame with her hand, and the people shouted with enthusiasm.

To the cathedral of Saint Croix the procession wended, and entering it the maiden returned thanks. Once more the line of march was taken up, the people accompanying her the whole length of the city to the house of Jacques Boucher, treasurer of the duke of Orléans, where she was received with joy. She was to be the guest of Madame Boucher as long as she remained in the city. The Squire d’Aulon, her brothers, the two knights, and her pages were lodged in the same house.

Jeanne was in Orléans at last, ready to show the sign for which she was sent.


[8] Journal du Siège, upon which this description is founded.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE to CHAPTER 19 Warrior Maid

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