Joan comes to Orleans
Section 1.--The Convoy Made Ready at Blois. Joan's Letter to the English
WHEN they spoke to her at Poitiers of the great difficulty of sending provisions into Orleans, she answered, "In the name of God, we shall put them there at our ease, without a single Englishman leaving his fortifications." It was another of her many prophecies. "She spoke wondrously of matters of war, says the Chronique de la Pucelle, referring to this time; "and rode in armor as if she had been trained from childhood."
The Chronicle of Tournay says that Joan left Chinon for Blois on April 2nd; she could arrive there next day. The journey through Blois to Orleans is northeast along the river, Blois being at about two-thirds of the way, and within forty miles or so of Orleans. It is on the north bank, and was the only place with a bridge in the hands of the French. Between it and Orleans, the English held Beaugency and Meung, with their bridges. Joan remained some days at Blois while the convoy was being prepared, and the soldiers and captains assembled.
She had her confessor Pasquerel make the standard of the priests, with the representation of Our Lord Crucified. Her own was blest in the church of St. Savior. Around it, morn and eve, at Joan's request the priests gathered with her and the soldiers, to sing hymns and anthems. She allowed no one to take part in these devotions but such as had confessed. And it was one of the marvels of her brief career that the reformation of the careless soldiers was almost instantaneous and general. She banished evil women from the camp, and exhorted with effect the men to go to confession.
It was a formality of the time to summon the foe to surrender, in order to prevent the effusion of blood. With Joan it was more than a formality. She desired that the English would recognize her supernatural mission and depart, or unite with the French in a much-needed Crusade for the defense of Christendom. After a victory she never asked of them any harder terms than before; and she wept over their dead, as over those of her country.
There is a tone of royalty and inspiration in this summons to the English king and nobles to quit France at the word of the little peasant prophetess of Lorraine. There is no senseless pride, but the clear and intense consciousness of a Divine mission in a crisis of supreme importance, and the equally intense determination to expel the invader from her country.
The letter begins with the Sacred Names of Jesus and Mary, as religious women even now write their letters. It became famous, and was shown to many during the month between the writing and dispatching, in order to make known Joan's mission. It was read to her by her accusers at Rouen at least three times, and each time she pointed out three expressions which were not hers. "Surrender to the Maid" should have been "surrender to the king"; and the words "body for body," and "I am leader of the war," were not employed by her. These do not affect the substance of her letter or her vocation. Twice, after the reading at Rouen, she predicted the loss of Paris to the English before seven years, and their total expulsion at last, as she predicts in her letter. This document is of extraordinary significance in its relation to the mission of Joan.
"King of England; and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself regent of the Kingdom of France; and you, William de la Pole, Count of Suffolk; John Lord Talbot, and you, Thomas Lord Scales, who call yourselves lieutenants of the said Duke of Bedford, give heed to the King of Heaven, and yield up to the king the keys of all the good cities which you have taken and violated in France. The Maid is come on the part of God to rescue the royal blood. She will make peace, if you leave France, and pay for what you have held. And you, archers,
companions of war, gentle and otherwise, return to your country on the part of God; if not, you will quickly see the consequence to your great loss. King of England, God has sent me to drive all your forces out of France. You will never have the Kingdom of France. The King of Heaven, the Son of Mary, gives it to the true heir, King Charles, who will enter Paris in fair array. If you heed not this message of Heaven, you will suffer such things as have not been seen in France for a thousand years."
Such is, in substance, the proclamation of the Maid by her herald; which, she said, she dictated entirely herself, but had shown to some of her, own party.
Section 2.—The Revictualing of Orleans
The two marshals of France, de Rais and de Boussac-the latter, Lord of Ste. Severe, a gallant soldier, who abandoned neither Orleans nor the Maid, but f ought with her in all her campaigns—Admiral de Culan, the fearless La Hire and de Lore, appointed to conduct the convoy to Orleans, having come to Blois with the Chancellor Archbishop, the army of three thousand, —so numbered by saner critics, with a train of sixty wagons of provisions and four thousand head of cattle, issued from Blois, probably on the morning of the 27th of April; and crossing the bridge over the Loire, began the march by the southern side, in order, no doubt, to avoid the English outposts at Beaugency and Meung,
and the mass of their troops in the strong fortifications around the northern side of Orleans. At the head was Joan with the priests, with banners displayed, chanting the Veni Creator and other hymns; it was not a very martial-looking vanguard. Joan's page, Louis de Coutes, says she ceased not to exhort the men to confess, and she received the Blessed Sacrament herself in presence of the army. The confessor Pasquerel says that two nights were passed on the way; and the page adds, that Joan was "painfully wounded" by sleeping on the ground in full and unaccustomed armor. Thus on the evening of the 28th they were in front and in view of Orleans, probably from the heights of Olivet, about two kilometers south of the river. They approached the bank, and the English evacuated the fort of St. Jeanle-le-Blanc, which was near. Seeing the river between her and the city and the main body of the English, Joan "was very angry and began to weep," says the Chronicle of Tournay. "She wept much," adds Wyndecken; "for she thought her army, shriven and full of intense fervor, would be led straight against the foe." The Chronicle of the Feast of May says the river was in flood, and the wind down-stream; so the boats could not be brought across from the city. Joan said the wind would presently become favorable, as it did in effect. The convoy advanced five or six miles farther up, to the Ile-aux-Bourdons, and Dunois came over
from the city with the boats, borne up-stream by the sails. With him came Nicolas de Giresme, commander of the Knights of Rhodes, who, soon after, passed first, fully armed, to the attack of the Tourelles, over the insecure boards thrown across the broken arch of the bridge. All were astonished at the change of wind; and the prophecy of Joan made an ineffaceable impression on the mind of Dunois. De Gaucourt, governor of the city, declared in his testimony for the Rehabilitation of Joan, that she predicted in express terms the change of wind.
Joan was, however, angry, and reproved the courteous, and no doubt reverential, Dunois for not leading her straight against the enemy. "The counsel of God our Lord," she said, "is better than yours. You thought to deceive me, and you have deceived yourselves; for I bring you the help of the King of Heaven, who has had pity on the city of Orleans." Dunois had heard all about the Maid; for when she passed through Gien, on her way to the king at Chinon, she was spoken of at Orleans; and he sent two of his knights to the king for fuller information. As a matter of fact, the reputation of Joan had already passed far beyond the boundaries of her country; and her prophecies, yet unfulfilled, were passing into history.
When Dunois and the captains with him saw Joan's army, they thought it quite incapable of resisting the English and entering the city.
"The English," Dunois said, " were very much stronger." He endeavored to persuade Joan to let them return to Blois for further reinforcements, and to enter Orleans herself, in order to encourage the people, who desired intensely to see her. She did not easily consent; her men were ready, full of ardor, and not afraid of death; it was better to lead them at once against the foe. She yielded, however, and sending back her standard and the priests, she passed over the river with Dunois, bringing her squire and page. Meanwhile, the provisions, put on the boats at Ile-aux-Bourdons, passed down with the stream, in front of the strong English bastille of St. Loup, upon which an attack was made from the city, in order to distract the garrison. It was estimated, that, at this time, the French troops in Orleans were not more than three thousand, being only one-third of the English numbers.
To avoid tumult, and perhaps needless danger to her companions, Joan resolved to enter Orleans at nightfall. She crossed the river in front of Checy, and going two kilometers farther, she waited in the castle of de Reuilly. The much honored host became one of the most trusted and devoted of her friends. In the hottest of the attack on the Tourelles, he fought beside her; and it was here, probably, he saw Joan's angels.
So distinguished did he become, that Joan begged the king to raise him to the rank of the nobility.
This seems to have been done very soon, even before the battle of Patay. And in the patent of nobility, the king says he rewards him for his "extreme fidelity" to the Maid, and refers to the vision of angels, adding that he had received the whole story from Joan herself. Henceforward, Guy de Cailli, Lord of Chateau de Reuilly, bore on his escutcheon three heads of angles.
Section 3.—Joan Enters the City
Dunois, with knights and soldiers, went out to meet the Maid at Checy. Marching back unattacked, past the English fort of St. Loup, the inspired and inspiring company reached the eastern, or Burgundian, gate at eight o'clock. Joan was in full armor, and mounted on a magnificent white horse. As she entered the city, Dunois, richly accoutered, rode at her left; she was, plainly, the hope of Orleans. Many nobles, with captains, squires, and soldiers, followed in her train. She was met by the multitudes of the city, carrying torches, who received her with transports of joy, as if an angel had descended from heaven for their relief. The Maid looked upon them all—men, women, and children – with much affection, says the Journal of the Siege; and they pressed forward with extraordinary enthusiasm to touch her and the horse on which she rode. In the presence of the crowd, a pennon of her standard caught fire from a torch; but she spurred her charger, and
turning to the banner put out the flame with a grace as knightly as if she had long since followed the wars. With unrestrained jubilee the citizens conducted her across the city; but she insisted on first paying a visit to the cathedral to thank God. Then she was lodged in the mansion of the treasurer, Jacques Boucher, on the western border of the city, not far from the English fort of St. Laurent. Her host received her with joy, accompanied by her brothers, the gentlemen who came with her from Vaucouleurs, and their servants. She had not eaten all day in the strain and excitement; and now they offered her supper. She put some wine in a cup; filled it with as much more water; and dipping in it a few mouthfuls of bread, ate only this much. Then she retired with the wife and daughter of her host.