CONDITION OF THE PEOPLE
BERRUYAR, Bishop of Mans, a contemporary, wrote of the time when Joan of Are appeared, that France was a land of brigands, in which it was vain to appeal for justice. The war was conducted by razzias, (raids) the people of the invaded territory being dragged to the fortresses of lawless adventurers or brigand nobles —true dens of thieves—where, if not ransomed, they died of outrages to which they were subjected. The armies of the royal cause were composed of adventurers of many nations, drawn together by the hope of pillage. The Scots were numerous, and of such a reputation, that their annihilation at the battle of Verneuil was considered by the people a compensation for defeat. The Irish, who were many in the armies of England, enjoyed no better fame. The Lombards and other Italians were noted for leaving the battle to load themselves with booty. The Normans, fallen under English sway, complained to the king of the wholesale burnings of his soldiers; but received the answer, that such was the usage of war. De Morvilliers, president of the parliament of Paris under English rule, used to pierce the tongues
of those who spoke against his manner of administration. The Armagnacs, or party of the French king, were no better than the Burgundians, and often worse. One military highwayman of their side, a Spanish adventurer named Rodrigo, left his name as a synonym for brutality. Yet, because useful to his party, he was able to marry an illegitimate daughter of the royal House of Bourbon, and became brother-in-law of the Count de Clermont. Another ruffian—samples these!—in the French cause, the Bastard of Vars, hung up on a tree as many as a hundred at a time who could not obtain their release by ransom. Finally, he was hung himself, also, in the midst of what he called the bunches of grapes. Outrages on women reached such a point of brutal baseness, that parents and husbands were forced to witness them. The lawlessness of the mercenaries was such that towns, even of their own party, refused, on the advice of their Bishops also, to admit them. Normandy, particularly, when taken by the English, was infested by brigands as by wolves. The English massacred them without pity (for they were especially hated by the brigands), and offered a reward for their capture or murder, just as is offered for the extermination of wild beasts. It is related, that in one year as many as ten thousand of these outlaws or their harborers were decapitated or hanged. Centuries did not suffice to obliterate the traces of such evils. The open country was
so deserted that wolves entered at night into the streets of Paris. In this capital itself homes were abandoned by thousands. From the Loire to the Seine, says the contemporary Bishop Bassin, from the Seine to the Somme, the peasants were slain or driven away. Lands remained uncultivated year after year. He makes a long and fearful list, not at all complete, of desert provinces. A handful of people remained in towns which had contained several thousands; and the forests gained on the hitherto fertile fields so the saying ran, "The .English brought the woods to France."
Meanwhile the English invaders pushed on their campaign. Montague, Earl of Salisbury, reputed the ablest English commander after Warwick, landed in France in 1428, ravaged the Beauce country and the neighborhood of Orleans, and laid siege to this city. He was killed however; and the command devolved on the Earl of Suffolk. To deepen the hopelessness of the French cause, an English convoy of supplies, chiefly herrings, it appears, because of Lent, defeated at Rouvray, on February 12th, 1429, a French army thrice its size, and with the advantage of choosing its own position. Then it was that the despairing Dauphin thought of abandoning the contest, and of fleeing even beyond the borders of France. North of the Loire, nothing remained to him but the fortress of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy and the devoted city of Tourney. In this dark hour Joan
of Arc took the field. Her prophetic announcement of the disaster of Rouvray on the day on which it occurred finally decided the captain of Vaucouleurs to accept her story and her mission; so he gave her armor and a guard, and sent her, "come what may," to the Dauphin at Chinon.