JOAN GOES TO THE KING AT CHINON
Section 1.—Across France
Their route was long, difficult, and dangerous; and the hardy soldiers were not without apprehension. But Joan bade them fear not, for they would pass safely through. No one but this prophetess would have said so. They had to make their way, more than one hundred and fifty leagues, through territories held by their English and Burgundian foes; whose outposts or garrisons were so numerous, that no road was free from danger, and Joan's escort had to make its way as best might he, at night. Through Champagne, Bourgoyne, Nivernais, Berri, and Touraine—all held by foes or brigands—must they ride. They had to face the wintry floods and pathless forest; sometimes riding the long night through. "Several times we had reason to fear," aid Bertrand de Poulengy; "but Jeanne always told us to be at our ease; because, when we would come to Chinon, the Dauphin would receive us well." "While riding beside her," said Jean de Metz, "I used to ask the Maid whether she would do what she said; and she always bade me to be without fear; that she was ordered to do it;
that her brethren of paradise guided her in all she did; that already for four or five years her brethren of paradise and her Lord, namely God, had told her she must go into the war in order to recover the kingdom." "Each night," affirms Bertrand, "Jean de Metz and myself slept beside her fully attired in her military equipment, with no thought but one of extreme reverence. She wished to hear Mass; but in a hostile land there was no time to stay; only twice could they yield to her wishes.
The first night they found hospitality at the abbey of St. Urban, southwest of Domremy. Then they pushed on over the Aube, Seine, and Yonne to Auxerre. " There I assisted at Mass," said Joan, "in the great church; and at that time I often heard the Voices." Thence on to the famous sanctuary of her patroness St. Catherine at Fierbois, forty kilometers from Chinon. Here she heard three Masses in one day, and sent on letters to the king, assuring him that she came with heavenly assistance, that she had many good things to tell him; and that she would recognize him in the midst of his courtiers. One of the great patrons of the shrine of St. Catherine was the famous Marshal Le Meingre de Boucicaut; who, made prisoner at Agincourt, died a captive in England in 1421. The sword which the Voices told Joan to seek for in the ground behind the altar of Fierbois was probably that of the Marshal or of some ancestor.
"I had the greatest faith in the words of the Maid," said Jean de Metz; "and her words inflamed my heart with the love of God. I believe she was sent by God. She loved to hear Mass and give alms, and I myself used to put money into her hand for the poor. Instead of any form of oath she used to make the sign of the cross."
She was now approaching the Loire, many branches of which she had crossed; and she was approaching the King's Castle of Chinon, on another tributary of the river, far to the southwest of Orleans. She had thus practically traversed the entire country from east to west in eleven days.
'According to local tradition, Joan passed a night at Ile-Bouchard. Next day, having heard Mass,—for it was Sunday,—she easily reached Chinon towards mid-day, as she said; and dismounted in front of the church of St. Maurice, at the foot of the rising-ground on which the castle stood. It was the 6th of March, 1429, the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Section 2.—With the King at Chinon
Joan is truly her own best and most reliable historian, and as such she is received by posterity. We read with the utmost satisfaction her own account, often minutely detailed, of her life and exploits. This we have in her answers to her judges at Rouen.
She says that after refreshment at a hotel, she
ascended with her escort the straight, narrow, stony road, still traversed, which led to the outer most of the triple line of fortifications. The royal stronghold consisted, in reality, of three castles, separated by moats, deep and wide, over which drawbridges were thrown. The castle of St. George was toward the northeast; that inhabited by the king, in the middle; and that of Coudray to the southwest. Here had dwelt the English Plantagenet kings, Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted, and John. From this last the fortress was taken by Philip Augustus. St. Louis and succeeding kings of France made their abode within its walls. Until the days of long-range artillery it was almost impregnable. To-day its imposing ruins look down on the fair valley of the river Vienne, with its wood-embosomed, richly cultivated fields. An outer flight of steps leads up to the great throne-room, of which the dimensions can still be traced. The fireplace and chimney are sustained by a portion of the wall. Here Joan of Arc revealed her mission to the king.
Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy were known at court. They explained the mission of the Maid, and described their daring journey. Joan was not admitted immediately into the royal presence; but was provided with lodgings in the house of a good woman near the castle, the woman being, apparently, in the employ of the royal household. Here Joan remained for two days. She prayed unceasingly, and
was visited by the Angel who had appeared to her from the beginning—the Archangel St. Michael. She was visited, too, by many from the court, and asked many questions. At first she did not wish to answer and begged to be brought to the king. Her manner and answers, the letters of Robert de Baudricourt, as well as the story of her companions, impressed the court of Charles VII; and it was determined that she should be received in the presence of king and courtiers late in the evening of the 8th of March. This, according to Simon Charles, one of the chief counselors of Charles VII, was sooner than had been first determined.
The scene was brilliant and splendid. Joan says there were more than three hundred cavaliers—the flower of French chivalry—while the great hall was brightly illuminated by more than fifty torches. She was conducted into the presence of this illustrious assembly by Prince Louis de Bourbon-Vendome, the ancestor of the Bourbon kings of France and other countries. We are told by the Augustinian Friar Paquerel, Joan's confessor, that Prince Charles de Bourbon pretended to be the king. But Joan went straight to Charles VII; saluted him with great reverence and addressed him, says his secretary, Alain Chartier, as if she had been bred at court. Joan herself affirms that she knew the king by the indication of her Voices.
Thus recognized, the king led her to the end of the throne room, the courtiers retiring to the
other extremity. Here she revealed to Charles VII a secret of his own heart, known only to himself—a secret, in fact, which he could not reveal. This interview was altogether extraordinary, according to Joan's own words. The heavenly light which so often had graced her visions appeared to her as she entered the hall. An angel accompanied her; and was then or later accompanied by many of the heavenly host, who were seen, Joan declares, by the king and some of the assembly. At this moment, according to Count Dunois and others, Joan seemed to be transformed. The king, too, shared something of this transformation, for his joy was noticed by those who saw him. "There were fair revelations made to him then," said the Maid. The angel promised him deliverance, and the recovery of all France by aid of Joan herself—which shows the extent of her mission.
It appears from her own testimony, that, before her arrival. at Chinon, she did not know what the promised sign would be which would make the king accept her mission. The sign she would reveal to no one but to him. Nor could she, for it regarded his doubt of his own legitimacy, and therefore of his right to the throne of France. It seems clear, however, from Joan's words, that it was thought best to reveal it under oath to some of Charles' chief counselors, in order that they might fully understand the grounds on which Charles approved of the Maid's mission.
The vision of angels was spoken of publicly and chronicled at the time. In the royal patent of nobility given to Guy de Cailly it is stated that he also had seen the vision.
Paquerel asserts he had the story from herself, that on the day she was admitted to the Castle of Chinon, she was most grossly insulted by a cavalier, as she approached. "In the name of God," she said, "you blaspheme Him, and you so near death." Within an hour he was drowned. The name of the man has come down in contemporary writings. We frequently meet this expression of Joan, "In the name of God," when, in her public career, she urged some deed, or made some announcement in the name of Heaven. It was her inspired way of speaking; for, according to her soldier companions she never swore; and, for all oaths, used to make the sign of the cross. She abhorred oaths, said her confessor, and became very angry when she heard them, reproving severely and converting effectually the leaders and soldiers who so offended. No witness of Joan's career is more interesting than Paquerel. He met her mother and some of her escort from Vaucouleurs at the famous place of pilgrimage, Puyen-Velay; who persuaded him to go to Chinon to see her. He met her at Tours, and she received him gladly, and confessed to him next day. She became extremely attached to him, and begged him never to leave her.
He used to sing Mass before her and her military array, and never left her until she was taken prisoner at Compiegne. He tells that at her first interview in the great hall of Chinon, the king asked her name. "Gentle Dauphin," she answered, "my name is Joan the Maid (or Little Virgin), and the King of Heaven an-nounced by me that you be crowned in the city of Reims. And I tell you on the part of My Lord (of Heaven), that you are the true heir of France and son of the king. He sends me to lead you to Reims."
The princely d'Alencon was, of all the great personages of the court and cause, the most esteemed by Joan. To her he was always her "Beau Due" (Fair Duke). His attractiveness and nobility of character, his valiant military career from boyhood, his royal blood by his father's side and mother's, his descent from noble soldiers slain in war for their country's freedom, the interest of his young and gentle wife, also of royal descent, his absolute loyalty to Joan—all these reasons made the young Duke of Alencon dear to the warrior Maid. His father, commander of the French army at Agincourt, Was slain there, after having struck down the Duke of York and cloven the crown on the helmet of Henry V. Born in 1409, he had married Jeanne d'Orleans, of royal descent, daughter of Prince Charles d'Orleans, a captive in England since the fatal day of Agincourt. The young Duke himself, taken from
amongst the dead at the disastrous defeat of Verneuil, remained long a prisoner of the Duke of Bedford; but was set free for a ruinous ransom in October, 1427. As the ransom was not quite paid before the relief of Orleans, he could take no part in raising the siege. He made use of his position as commander-in-chief of the royal army and lieutenant of the king, to second always the plans of Joan of Are, and never opposed her.
The Duke d'Alencon tells, that, while shooting quails on his estates at St. Florent, northwest of Chinon, on the Loire, he heard the news of Joan's coming to the king. He went the next day to see her. As she saw him approach she asked who he was. The king answered it was the Duke d'Alencon. "You are welcome," she said; "the more princes of the royal blood we have, the better." Then the king led her into an apartment of the castle, with d'Alencon and La Tremoille. Joan made several requests of the king. One of these was to offer the kingdom to the King of Heaven, and He would do for King Charles the glorious things done for his ancestors. Several other requests d'Alencon did not remember. These are written, however, by other trustworthy chroniclers. She demanded a full amnesty for all who would return to the royal obedience, the administration of justice to the poor as to the rich—in fact a general reformation of the land.
D’Alencon said the royal interview continued from the hour of Mass until dinner.
Then the king walked out into the fields; and Joan, mounted on a war-horse the first time in her life, and carrying a lance, so astonished and charmed the king and duke by her skill, that the latter made her a present of a charger. Joan says that the Duke d'Alencon saw, at her interview with the king, the angel who brought the crown; and from her words we gather, that to him also the secret sign given to the king was revealed.
After her first interview with the king, Joan was lodged in the Coudray tower within the Castle; and a page, Louis de Coutes, fourteen or fifteen years of age, was given to wait upon her during the day. At night Joan's female companions came to stay with her. Louis testified at the Rehabilitation, that many nobles of high estate came to converse with Joan; and that he often saw her kneeling in tears when she was alone.
Section 3.—At Poitiers and Tours Her Sword and Banner
Ordinary prudence compelled the king ands counselors to have Joan's mission approved by the university faculties and the parliament of Poitiers. Joan, who burned with desire to relieve Orleans, which was pushed to the last extremes of defense, says she was examined during three weeks at Chinon and Poitiers. The examination was long and minute -
her knowledge of religion, her whole manner of life, were subjected to the most rigid scrutiny. Sharp-witted women, including the wise and virtuous princess Yolande, the mother-in-law of the king, were employed to find out all about the Maid and her history. Neither her good humor nor her clear common sense forsook her. She felt that precious time was being wasted, and there had been proofs enough of the much-needed favor of Heaven. Her quick, witty temper shines out, as, for instance, when she told the Limousin Doctor, that the Angel spoke better French than he. Meanwhile, thus scrutinized by examiners and visited by the notable people 'of Poitiers, Joan is life was as simple and pious as at Domremy.
Amongst other chroniclers, Alain Chartier, the king's secretary, and de Boulainvilliers, the royal Councilor, write of the astonishment caused by Joan's answers to the examiners on abstruse and difficult subjects. Monstrelet, a hostile Burgundian, notes the change from suspicion to full confidence in her mission. Seguin, one of the examiners, says that Joan spoke "Magno Magno" – in an exalted manner—of the visions and commands of Heaven. That is, as one inspired; and not, as the words have been mistranslated, "haughtily." Joan never showed haughtiness; on the contrary, it was her humility, girlish simplicity, her tears and prayers, that made an impression at Poitiers, as elsewhere. We are told, absurdly enough,
that she showed anger when she saw the priests coming to question her, while she clapped a cavalier on the back and welcomed him. Thibault the cavalier in question, says not a word of any sign of impatience; but that Joan touched him on the shoulder, and wished there were many such as he. She wearied of waiting and long examinations while the defenders of Orleans were being slain, and the city in danger of starvation and every outrage that would follow its capture. Every day, says the Councilor de Boulainvilliers, she begged the king with tears to let her advance against the English. Her time was short, she added; for she "would last" only a little more than a year. This prophecy was recorded at the time, and was repeated publicly.
The Commission of Poitiers, which examined Joan contained many illustrious names. It was presided over by the Chancellor, Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop of Reims. He was the ecclesiastical superior of the unjust and unworthy Bishop Cauchon, who condemned Joan at Rouen. Hence she repeatedly appealed to the decision of Poitiers, which was fair and legal, and based upon evidence indisputable and most detailed. Strangely this evidence of Poitiers disappeared, and before the Rehabilitation, which, probably, points to treason somewhere. There was plenty of it, and in high places. Treason, Joan used to say, was the only thing she feared.
The Commission decided that no evil was found in Joan; but, on the contrary, many and great virtues; that the promised sign of the delivery of Orleans ought to be accepted, and Joan provided with the means of accomplishing her mission.
If Joan was at Poitiers on the 22nd of March, as her most careful historians declare, her famous letter to the English must have been written there, for it bears this date. It seems to have been made public with the decision of the Poitiers commission, in order to explain the Maid's mission, and win popular support. It was not sent to the English from Blois for more than a month afterwards. There appears to be no doubt of the solemn proclamation at Chinon of the approval of the Doctors of the University of Poitiers and of the Parliament; for in the document as made public it is said that the Maid had been under examination and supervision for six weeks. She was back at Chinon in Easter week, she says; having been partially provided at Poitiers with a military equipment, according to the Chronique de la Pucelle. Alencon tells that he was now ordered by the king to get ready provisions and a convoy to relieve Orleans. He was sent to the Queen of Sicily, the Princess Yolande, the king's mother-in-law, to procure her assistance. All being ready, he returned to the king for money; which was collected.
According to the Chronicle of Perceval de Cagny
Joan, soon after her return, went to visit the young Duchess of Alencon at St. Florent. Heaven alone knows, writes the Chronicler, the joy she brought to the tearful wife and mother of the duke. "When I was about to leave my wife to go with Joan to the army," says the duke, "she felt the greatest alarm, for I had but lately been released from captivity for an enormous sum: 'Fear not,' said Joan to the Duchess, consoling her by a prophecy; ‘I will bring back your husband safe and sound; and perhaps in better health than now.' " Joan remained with them four or five, days. And ever after that, continues de Cagny, she was.near to d'Alencon, and more familiar with him than with any other.
According to Joan's page, Louis de Coutes, Joan was brought to Tours, famous for its manufacture of armor, twenty or thirty miles northeast of Chinon, on the Loire. Here she was lodged with the wife of Councilor Dupuy. Louis was now assigned definitely to Joan's service as. a page, with another named Raymond. "From that moment," he says, "I was always with her until she arrived before Paris. "With the pages, others were appointed to constitute her military household (êtat de maison). John de Metz was her treasurer; and he and Bertrand de Poulengy were presented with expensive sets of armor. Her special guard and guardian was her equerry, John d'Aulon, the most prudent and courteous of cavaliers.
He was taken prisoner with her, and served her in captivity. Many confidential charges had been entrusted to him by Charles VII; and at the Rehabilitation of Joan he was Seneschal of Beaucaire.
"While in Tours or Chinon," said Joan at Rouen, "I sent for a sword which was behind the altar in the church of St. Catherine of Fierbois. It was quickly found, all covered with rust. It was marked with five crosses; and was not far under ground, as well as I remember." Her Saints told her where the sword was, and that it was God's command that she should carry it. She did so up to the retreat from Paris; when she broke it on the shoulders of a bad woman who followed the army. The priests cleaned the sword, and gave her a sheath; as did, also, the people of Tours. One of these sheaths was of vermilion velvet; the other, of cloth of gold; but Joan had a very strong one made of leather.
Her banner, she said, she loved forty times better than her sword; because her Saints told her she must carry it in the name of Our Lord; it represented her cause. She carried it, she said, in order not to kill. She never even wounded any one; although she acknowledges she gave some hard knocks. It was made at Tours—a white banner, strewn with lilies, bearing the figure of Our Lord with His Five Wounds, and His Sacred Name and that of His Mother. Its approach often terrified the English foe;
and it was borne by her, or before her, until it was taken at Compiegne. Another banner with a representation of the Crucifixion was carried by the priests.
Section 4.—Joan's Attire and Appearance
The Clerk of La Rochelle describes Joan's attire as she arrived at Chinon. She was dressed as a man, with black doublet or tunic, to which the hose, or tight-fitting trousers, were attached. She wore a short robe of coarse dark-gray cloth, and a black cap on her dark hair, which was cut round at the neck, after the manner of soldiers. At Tours the king had a complete suit of ‘white’ armor made to fit her. The term "white" means that there was no painting or gilding. Joan's was the usual style of armor of that time, when the coat-of-mail, made of woven rings of steel was strengthened with metal plates, and was giving place to complete steel-plate armor. The knight was incased in steel from head to foot; there being just two small apertures to see through when the visor of the helmet was drawn down over the face. The head and chest of the war-horse were similarly protected by steel; and the flanks by thick leather, toughened by boiling. The great danger for the rider was that of being unhorsed, when he was rendered almost powerless. To assist him to rise, as well as to carry a portion of his arms or armor, he had two or three assistants.
So was Joan accoutered. Her accusers at Rouen describe her, when taken prisoner, as wearing a tabard, or rich cloak, open at the sides. Presents of rich cloth or lace were no doubt often made to her, such as we read of as being presented by order of the Duke of Orleans.
No authentic portrait of Joan's physical appearance has come down to us; and we have descriptions absolutely contradictory. D 'Aulon, her equerry's words are the most trustworthy. She was handsome and well formed, he says. And Perceval de Boulainvilliers, the king's chamberlain, who must have often spoken to her, declares she was not without beauty and was of a virile attitude. "I never," he continues, "saw such strength to bear fatigue and carry armor. She can continue six days and nights without detaching a single piece." Her voice was womanly, but could resound as a trumpet in battle. It was so touching in tone, that even the hardened wept when leaving her, and the sorrowful were filled with consolation. She herself often wept when insulted, when she saw the dead and dying, when she received Holy Communion, when in prayer, and so on. Yet all agree she was not melancholy, but joyous and enthusiastic. Although she could scrawl her name, perhaps under guidance, she knew, she said, neither A nor B. Yet she knew more than they could gather from all their books.
Tradition speaks of her dark, melancholy eyes, large and beautiful.
Guy de Laval, who was intimately acquainted with Joan, wrote of her to his mother, "I saw her mount on horseback, equipped with white armor, save her head. She held a little hatchet in-her hand. Her horse, a great black charger, would not let her mount at her lodgings. 'Bring him,' she said, `to the Cross' (before the church). There he became perfectly quiet." Her brother, he notices, was with her, wearing, also, white armor. The two brothers probably came to Tours with her confessor Pasquerel, and followed her to war.
Tours, a city loyal and generous to her king, was dear to Joan of Arc. Hither she returns after the relief of Orleans. The citizens used to reward the bearer of the news of Joan's triumphs—at Orleans, Jargeau, Patay, Reims, etc.; and when she was taken captive, public prayers and works of penance were offered to Heaven for her.