"Now let me go back to my poor old mother who has need of me." The King detains Joan as head of his army.
GOD can do all things and nothing is hard or impossible to Him.
And so His accredited and empowered agent, the little maid from the woods of Lorraine, made no wonder of the series of lightning-like victories that in four months changed France from a prostrate people at the feet of England, disheartened and discouraged beyond hope, getting ready to yield to the inevitable and become a province of England, to a new and buoyant nation, once again, with hands and face uplifted in joyous gratitude to the God of nations who sent them so unexpected deliverance.
With the crowning of the King at Reims, on June 17, 1429, Joan of Arc's unique mission was also crowned in triumph and her heaven-appointed task finished.
To be sure, the English still held Paris, the French capital, but that was only a matter of
another day's effort. Tomorrow the French army would march on Paris and take it without fail for their king, its rightful occupant.
That was the well-understood plan all around. Outlined by Joan, accepted by the king, and looked forward to eagerly by the army, whose banner and lances were already weighted with more victories than they could keep proper count of, and no losses at all.
Even the English expected to lose Paris immediately, unless something desperate was done to hold it. The Duke of Bedford sent a frantic message to England on June .16th for more men and arms. He said:
"The Dauphin has taken the field! He will be crowned on 'the 17th!' And he will march to take Paris on the 18th! !"
Bedford hastily drew from the surrounding districts and from Normandy all the troops that could be spared to concentrate in Paris. At the same time he renewed and strengthened his alliance with the French Duke of Burgundy, and had him send a messenger to Reims asking the newly crowned king to delay the march on Paris for a fortnight, on the pretense that he would try to arrange its delivery to Charles without fighting.
It was a brazen piece of treachery, because he and Bedford wanted just that fortnight to get reinforcements from England.
Burgundy's messenger arrived at Reims the very day of the coronation and had no great trouble in persuading the king and his council to grant the delay.
When he was gone they began to weigh matters. They would have to go on some kind of a warpath to keep up appearances and let the people see something was being done. They had let Joan believe they would go to Paris at once. Now they were not going—at least, not just yet.
What could Joan say? Well, she was no longer commander-in-chief. She was going back to Domremy and it was really none of her business. They made the bargain with Burgundy without her advice and they must keep it. She did not matter now.
Ah! but she did matter! Before the troubled eyes of some of those war chiefs rose the vision of that slender white mailed figure and her shining banner, that was for them light and strength, and day after day, turned defeat into victory. They knew in their hearts there had been no winning except in the wake of that banner. They knew that all their valor and military skill counted less than the mere sight to the army of that inspired child; that her voice was more potent at St. Loup, St. Jean le Blanc, the Augustine, the Tourelles,
Meung, Beaugency, Patay, Jargeau, Troyes, Reims, and twenty other meetings with the foe, than had been their loudest cannon. How could they head an army without her! At least, just yet. Their only knowledge of victory—those old soldiers had to say it—was when her stainless sword pointed the way.
No! They could not spare her now. They might have their councils without her. But 'they must have her in front of their war horses.
So Joan, talking to her father and her uncle Laxart, about to-morrow's glad trip home to her mother was interrupted to hear that the King wanted her. An escort of nobles was at 'the door to conduct her to the king, who was in council. She bade good-night to her father and uncle and promised to meet them early in the morning, and went at the summons of the king.
She found him and his council in session. They rose at her entrance, for though they put the slight on her of time and again holding meetings without her, yet in her presence, humble and gentle though she was, they felt they were in the presence of a superior. They might not have said as much even to themselves, but her holiness and her heroism awed
them into a deference shown only to the king beside.
"What is this?" she said on entering; "a council of war? When there is only one 'thing to do, there is no need of counsel. There is only one thing to do. To-morrow march on Paris! It is yours for the asking. Surely you are not going to delay for even one day. The Duke of Bedford must not have even one day's chance to reinforce."
There were fine men as well as mean men in that council, and the records of that day tell us that their faces lit up at Joan's words, while the angry looks of the others revealed to Joan that there was some conspiracy afoot.
She appealed by a look and a gesture to the King. He told her of their decision, that she must for the present stay with the army as commander-in-chief. He put it as a command on her.
Joan's face fell and for a space she spoke no word. She was lost in thought or in prayer. At last she broke out in a questioning tone:
"And march to Paris to-morrow?" The king looked at La Tremoille. La Tremoille looked down, pale but silent. Joan looked beseechingly from one to 'the other, then at the chancellor, whose most persuasive voice vouched the explanation:
Would it be courteous, your Excellency, to move so abruptly from here without waiting for a word from the Duke of Burgundy? You may not be aware that we are negotiating with his Highness and there is likely 'to be a fortnight's truce--on his part a pledge to deliver Paris to the king without cost to us of a fight or the fatigue of a march thither."
Poor Joan of Arc! Hero of so many glorious fights for France! It was her turn 'to quiver and grow pale. She stared dumbly at the speaker and then said slowly in a half whisper:
"Treachery and cowardice!"
The king's minister and the chancellor rose to their feet at the words, but the king motioned for silence. She went on still quietly, and slowly, as if dictating a letter:
"We took Orleans on the 8th of May, and could have cleared the country round it in three days and saved the slaughter of Patay. We could have been in Reims six weeks ago, and in Paris now, and see the last Englishman leave France before the year is out. But we struck no blow after Orleans—we counseled and counseled, instead of fighting, and gave Bedford time 'to reinforce Talbot and so had to fight the strengthened English at Patay. So at Chinon, so at Gien, councils of war sapping our time and giving strength to our enemies.
Now again we are counseling instead of marching immediately on Paris. O my king, speak the word. Bid me march on Paris to-night."
The chancellor saw the king's eye light. He hurried to interpose: "March on Paris! The road bristles with English strongholds."
Joan snapped her finger:
"That! for your English strongholds," she said. "English strongholds bristled in our way before. Where are they now? They are French strongholds, and they cost us no time, little trouble and less blood. That was the talk before we came to Reims. We met the English strongholds and they were ours for the asking. We left a line of French fortresses behind us on all our marches. Rouse, gentle king, Paris calls you. You have but to show your face before its gate and it is yours. I promise it to you. I who promised you Orleans and Reims and kept my promises. Will you not listen to me now?"
"It is madness, sire," said La Tremoille, "we must treat first with the Duke of Burgundy."
"We shall treat with Burgundy," said Joan,' and as all eyes turned on her in surprise, she added:
"—at the point of the lance!"
And the spirit that emanated from her so often when she cried "to the assault!"
seemed, to flood the room now and catch the king in its wave. He handed his sword to Joan, "You have won," said he, " carry it to Paris."
Joan waited for no more. She flew to her own quarters, calling on La Hire from the door of the council chamber to summon the generals to meet her in an hour. It was then midnight. The excitement of the last days surely warranted her to seek some rest. But France called, and there was no rest for Joan while France's interest was even in remote danger. She dictated a letter at once, and sent 'it at once, to the Duke of Burgundy.
She informed him of the coronation of his lawful sovereign and reminded him of his duty as a Frenchman to send in his allegiance without delay. It was his wisest course beside, she said, for nothing on earth could now prevent Charles VII from winning Paris and every town in France from the English. With the English she wished to make no peace. They must leave France. God willed they should not be left in France. As for himself, if the great Duke of Burgundy wanted fight let him join with his king, and let them both go together and rescue the Holy Land from the Saracens.
That was the message that the deliverer of France sent to her recalcitrant countryman, the Duke of Burgundy.
As it proved, he was not equal to the Maid's magnificent program. Instead he lent himself to the duplicity and doomed fortunes of the English invaders of his country.
Then she saw the generals, gave her commands, sent a last message to the dear old father and uncle.
At dawn the vanguard moved out of Reims and faced Paris with bands braying and banners flying. The second division followed a few hours later. Joan's impatience would not wait for them.
But they all met the ambassadors of Burgundy.
On June 18, Joan of Arc and the vanguard of the French army left Reims to take Paris from the English.
It was September 8—the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin—before the attack on Paris was begun.
Nearly three months trying to do what Joan had expected to do in three days. It would be a long and thankless task to record the doings of the army during those three months.
Joan's constant urging to go forward, the just as constant urging of the king's ministers to be in no hurry.
Hoping to win over the Duke of Burgundy from the English alliance, the king did not
want to reach Paris but to give plenty of time to Burgundy to give it up of himself.
Wishing to please Joan the army must be kept going with its face some of the time at least towards Paris. So it was one step forward and two sideways and back, every day. Meanwhile there was a score of small towns on the way mastered by the English that had to be taken. These towns lay in their round about march to Paris in the valleys of the Seine, the Oise, the Marne and the Yonne, as they flowed into each other in the race to the sea. Marcoul, Soissons, Laon, Compiegne, Chateau Thierry, Senlis, Beauvais and a half-dozen other cities, handed over their keys willingly enough to their sovereign and to the Maid. But the bloodless capture of these towns did not require a day each, so that fully sixty days were spent killing time, giving Burgundy and Bedford every chance to concentrate at Paris.
The towns they took were sad losses to the English and permanent gain to the French, especially Compiegne, which like Orleans, was a fortified key 'to a whole territory. D'Alencon wrote from Compiegne:
"The Maid is in sorrow for the king's long tarrying at Compiegne.
It seems he is content, in his usual way, with the grace that God has done him and will make no further enterprise."
The Maid wrote a letter to Reims dated, On the road to Paris, August 5":
"Dear and good friends and loyal Frenchmen, the Maid sends you news. It is true the king has made a fifteen days' truce with the Duke of Burgundy who is to give up to him the 'town of Paris peacefully on the fifteenth day. Although the treaty is made I am not content; and am not certain that I will keep it. If I do, it will be merely for the sake of the king's honor, and in any case I will keep the king's army together and in readiness, at the end of the fifteen days, if peace is not made."
But Joan could not save the king against his will, nor would she raise her standard without his authority. The English army was also in the field in the same time-killing way.
There in the neighborhood of Paris, in the valleys formed by the Oise, and the Seine and the Yonne and the Marne, the two armies skirmished around all summer, sometimes facing each other, for a day, without coming to blows.
Bedford wrote a challenge to Charles, addressing him, "You who were wont to style yourself the Dauphin, and now call yourself king."
Just like an Englishman, he laid all the blame of the wars in France, and all the consequent wretchedness of the French people, on the head of Charles. In pious frenzy he accuses him of insulting Almighty God by marching in the protection of a woman dressed like a man, and of beggarly friars. He challenged him to come out in the open and fight men, not women nor monks. But all 'this was to gain time.
The English could not be induced to come out of their earthworks. The Maid and D'Alencon were always trying to get the English to come out, and skirmishes forced by her were of daily occurrence.
At last the weary marching and more weary waiting to march, the secret treaties and the open insults, the skirmishes and retreats, and saucy challenges that brought no result, came to an end before the gates of Paris on September 7.
Joan ordered the bugles at noon to sound the assault before the gate of St. Honore.
The assault was made with all the vim that characterized. Joan's previous work.
The gate was almost won, and with it Paris would be won, when Joan was struck by a crossbolt and fell.
Badly wounded as she was she refused to retire. " I will take Paris now or die," she said.
D'Alencon carried her off by force, she crying out: "I will be here in the morning early, and in half an hour we will take Paris."
In the morning the king forbade the attempt on Paris. He had a new embassy from the Duke of Burgundy.
Bedford had taken his own 'troops out of the city and left it to Burgundy's defense, and Burgundy and the king juggled and quibbled and perpetrated some curious specimens of give-and-take treaties, which after some play at words and swords, ended by the king taking himself and his army off to the Loire again and leaving Burgundy to 'think it over safely in Paris.
It was a most inexplicable arrangement.
Joan was broken-hearted. But as became a saint she had no word of reproach for the king. She knew his bad advisers were to blame. It was of little use to blame them. They did not care for her blame. She also knew in her heart of hearts that though the freedom of France
was delayed it was sure in the end, and if the good God in Heaven could be patient with these men, surely she must be patient.
So she hung her shining armor in the Cathedral of St. Denis, the ancient burial place of the kings of France, and went to the king once more, begging him to let her go back to her former humble, quiet life.
But the king refused to let her go. There were still many towns to recover and to keep. France needed her. And more than all, her Voices said:
"Remain at St. Denis."
They did not say why. But they were to, her God's command. She would stay. But even in this La Tremoille, through the king, crossed and balked her. Wounded and helpless, she was carried off with the army all the way back to Gien, beyond Orleans. Here the king disbanded the army. For the present, there was no more fighting to do. Burgundy held Paris for the English and the king had promised not to molest him—at least for the present.
And yet nothing could save the situation for the doomed English. Bedford wrote home to the king of England:
"All things prospered with us till the great stroke at Orleans. After that divers of your
great cities and towns: Reims, Troyes, Chalons, Laon, Sens, Provins, Senlis, Lagny, Creil, Beauvais and the substance of the counties of Champagne, Beauce, and a part of Picardy, yielded to Charles VII without resistance or awaiting succors."
And he, the Duke of Bedford, in this letter to the English, blames the great losses of the English to the presence in the French army of a young woman, who for four months inspired the army with a most incredible enthusiasm. He begged that the king of England come over himself and be crowned in France, for France, and to bring men and money as much as possible. Bedford went himself to England to press personally his appeal for help.
This was late in September. All October and November was spent by the Maid in clearing up the country about the Loire. With a small force she appeared before one town after another that had not yet given in their allegiance. Sometimes her simple demand was enough; sometimes, as at La Charite", things went ill and 'the duty of the people to their sovereign had to be sent home with the point of the lance. But for the most part Joan's commission as commander-in-chief of the wars was an empty title.
The truce with Burgundy was to last till Easter of 1430. Meanwhile Joan spent a large part of the time visiting the places she had won from the English. At Reims and Orleans she was received by the people in her true character - a messenger of God.
In Easter week (April 17-23) she was in Melun with her handful of lancers. For ten years Melun had had an English garrison. At Joan's word the townsfolk rose, ejected the garrison, and threw open the bridge over the Seine, which meant the freedom of the town to Joan's army.
As she stood on the ramparts of the bridge, reviewing the scene, thanking God for a good day's work easily done, her Voices, silent for some time, came to her with a warning that before St. John's day she should be captured and imprisoned.
They bade her be of good heart for they would be her help.
That very day the young king of England, Henry VI, landed at Calais with an army, and the Anglo-Burgundian forces encamped at Compiegne, like Orleans, a strategic point commanding the road 'to Paris from the north.
On May 6 the French king, his eyes opened at last, wrote to Reims that the Duke of Burgundy
" Has never had, and now has not, any intention of coming to terms of peace, but always has favored our enemies."
Joan heard of the concentration of the enemy at Compiegne. At midnight she started with a band of about four hundred, and entered Compiegne about sunrise.
She heard Mass, then told her troopers to rest. All day she consulted with the garrison and made her plans.
In the meadow on the other side of the bridge leading over the river into the town was the advance guard of 'the besiegers, an isolated outpost. Up and down the river were other English camps.
About five o'clock she got her men together and in the evening the Maid gave the word, and a sudden sally was made on the nearest outpost while its men were unarmed. It was soon put out of commission and its occupants scattered. Joan and her lancers were retreating again into the town, when Jean de Luxemburg, of Burgundy's camp, happened to be riding by with a small force. He saw the sortie, and he dashed up to prevent Joan's return over the bridge to Compiegne. Twice she forced him off and called to her men to back into the town. She like a valiant leader riding in the rear. Now all her men were in
the gates; only a few of those nearest her d'Aulon, her brothers, and a few more. The English and Burgundians swarmed from other outposts. They got between her and the drawbridge. They drew nearer and nearer, around her, and at last an archer reaching out seized her cape and dragged her from her horse.
She was borne in triumph to the camp of the Burgundians as the prize of Jean de Luxemburg—she and the men with her—the whole English and Burgundian camp roaring with joy.
That was on the 24th of May, 1430. Joan of Are was a prisoner.