THE CITY OF ORLEANS AT THE TIME OF THE SIEGE
ORLEANS is situated in the heart of France— a position typical of its importance to the royal cause, and indeed of the noble loyalty and courage of its citizens. It is built on the north bank of the Loire, where the river, coming up in a northwesterly direction, bends, almost in a right angle, to the southwest and the sea, midway in its course. A great commercial river is this bond between many provinces. The surrounding country is flat, although Orleans is built on slightly elevated ground. In 1429 its walls enclosed perhaps one-fourth of the present city; but, without the walls, there were very extensive suburbs, considered the most beautiful in France, containing a population almost equal to that of the city—perhaps in all some twenty thousand. The fortifications were quadrilateral, about twenty-five thousand or twenty-seven thousand feet along the river, seventeen thousand feet perpendicular to it. These were pierced by five gates—the Paris gate on the north, Burgundy on the east, the Bannier gate was at the northwest, the Renard gate west. The southern gate opened on the
bridge which spanned the Loire, the farther end of which bridge, across the river, was guarded by the famous Tourelles, or Little Towers. The walls, six or seven feet thick, rose to the height of twenty to thirty feet; and were defended by nearly forty towers, three stories high, and thirty or forty feet in diameter. These stood at distances of about one hundred and eighty feet from one another. Around the walls was a moat, forty feet in width, and from eighteen to twenty feet in depth. The bridge,which spanned the Loire near where the present one stands, was about one thousand feet in length, and eighty feet wide. At the sixth of its nineteen arches, from the city side, stood the tower of St. Anthony, named from a hospital for strangers that was built on an islet below. The tower was protected by the boulevard of the Beautiful Cross, so named from a large and magnificent cross erected near. At the eighteenth arch were the celebrated Tourelles—two strong towers united by an arched construction, under which passed the bridge. The nineteenth arch was reached by a drawbridge, raised and lowered from the Tourelles. Thus the water of the river passed between the Tourelles and the southern bank. The approach on this southern side was strongly defended by a stockade boulevard, sixty feet long and eighty feet wide, surrounded by a moat wide as itself. Beyond this, began the suburb of Portereau; in which, two hundred
feet from the bridge, stood the church and monastery of St. Augustine. Other churches stood farther off. There were several islands in the river in those days. The bridge rested in midstream on a narrow island, as long as itself, thus forming a cross. The larger Ile aux Toiles stretched along the southern shore eastward from near the Tourelles. And farther east, the much larger Ile aux Boeufs approached the northern shore. The eastern suburbs of the city nearly reached this island. At the other, or western side of the city, in the middle of the stream, was the Ile Charlemagne, with its fortifications. At a considerable distance beyond the city's eastern suburbs was St. Loup, standing four hundred feet over the waters of the Loire. It was a convent of Cistercian nuns, but was turned into a strong fort by the English. This was the first position carried by Joan.
The old soldier, Raoul de Gaucourt, was administrator of Orleans for its captive duke; and William Cousinot, author of the great Chronicle of the Maid, was Chancellor. Several writers of the time state that because of his captivity, a chivalrous promise had been made to the duke by the English, to the effect that his possessions of Orleans would be inviolate. The city advanced sums of money to insure its safety, and Dunois had lately treated of the matter with the invader. But the Duke of Bedford would not, and no doubt could not, leave behind him the powerful city unconquered.
The citizens meanwhile set themselves most actively to prepare the defense. Clergy and laity contributed large sums of money. The towers, gates, and moat were repaired or strengthened. Public supplication was made to Heaven; and the relics of the Saints were carried in procession. Cannons were cast—seventy-one of different calibers were set on wall and tower during the siege. In October (1428) the king sent John de Montesclere, a cannonier, who soon became famous as John of Lorraine. Various cities contributed money, powder, arms, etc. As Salisbury approached the Loire, the parliament at Bourges voted a large sum of money, notwithstanding the general misery.