AFTER THE CORONATION
Section 1.--Duplicity and Treason
THE movement of the royal troops after the coronation has been variously styled the campaign of the Ile de France, the campaign of dupes, or of stupidity; but better, in all probability, the campaign of traitors. The glamour of victory, the glory of the crowning, hid for a while the baseness of what has been called the inner council of Charles VII. The inner council was La Tremoille. Regnault de Chartres, the court archbishop, figures in it, it is true. But the statement that he was a creature of La Tremoille is not without foundation; for he was made definitely Chancellor of France the year before Joan's campaigns began; and we may be sure that, if he were not chosen by the-favorite, he was not chosen without his approval. Both, moreover, entertained a very good understanding, one with the other. There were some royal captains, too, who opposed Joan. Whoever they were they obeyed La Tremoille. However we may explain this man's influence with the king, the latter gains little credit by the campaign after the coronation.
He was not a soldier, it is clear enough; neither had he the courage, faith, or common-sense to follow the Maid, and save his people from their ruthless foes. We are rudely shocked to find that Charles VII wished to retreat, began, in fact, the retreat of his army, at the first sight of the English troops, or at the first rumor of their advance; and to find furthermore, that he could not see through the self-seeking falsehoods and measureless duplicity of the archtraitor, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. This man, who was the chief cause of the indescribable woes of France; and without whom, as Bedford acknowledged, neither Paris, nor any other portion of France, would remain in English hands, was endeavoring to make his vast possessions an independent, or almost independent, state. His hatred of the French cause seemed implacable, even after the death of his sister, Bedford's wife. Great was his joy when his soldiers captured the pure-hearted patriot, Joan of Arc; and shameless beyond time and measure his base sale of her blood to the English invader of his country.
Burgundy had gone to Paris in the first days of July to meet Bedford, and to fan the hatred of the Parisian mob against their lawful sovereign. On the 10th, the citizens renewed their traitorous oath to the English regent. Meanwhile he sent ambassadors to propose peace, or at least an armistice, to Charles VII at Reims.
His object was to gain time for the English recruits to arrive, and to gather his own army to help them. He basely deceived the Duke of Savoy by inducing him to propose terms of peace to the king of France. The inner council of Charles VII made a disastrous truce of two weeks with Burgundy's ambassadors after the coronation at Reims; and this act of political chicanery wasted the precious days of the victorious and enthusiastic army. In this agreement, Burgundy (gave a VF) lying promised to deliver up Paris to King Charles in fifteen days. The grossness of the deceit soon became apparent; yet the truce was renewed, and for a long period, at Compiegne on August 28th. By this the campaign of Charles was paralyzed; and Burgundy was allowed to defend Paris against the king of France, and—what was worse—against Joan of Arc. What wonder she failed? She could not make victorious a man who would not accept victory even from Heaven. The duped and faint-hearted king forbade Joan to attack the capital; and had her dragged away, and ran away himself to the Loire! The clever politician Bedford availed himself to the utmost of the stupidity of Charles VII, of the treason of his council, and of the ambition and duplicity of Burgundy. So he astutely made the latter, during the truce, his lieutenant in Paris and Ile de France, both weakly held and thus retained.
Section 2.—Advance and Retreat
Joan wished to advance rapidly on Paris immediately after the crowning; and so it seemed to be decided. The Angevin Letter, referred to before, said the king would leave Reims on the 18th of July. He did not leave, however, until the 21st, while Cardinal Beaufort was marching from Calais with his crusaders. The two weeks’ truce gave Burgundy time to meet him, and gather an army. Joan, in her testimony at Rouen, speaks of her interview with the ambassadors at Reims. She desired peace with Burgundy, she told them; but the English did not want peace; it would be obtained only at the point of the lance. It was these ambassadors, probably, who took her letter to the Duke of Burgundy; she knew how important it was to detach him from the English alliance. In her letter she exhorts him to make peace; she prayed and humbly supplicated a French prince not to make war on his country; let him know, however, for his good, that if he does, he will never gain a single battle. She had written to him, she says, three weeks before, inviting him to the coronation; but Philip the Good returned no answer to either letter.
From Reims, Charles VII, following the custom of his predecessors after their coronation, made a pilgrimage to a saint of royal blood, St. Marcoul, at Corbigny, six leagues north of Reims. St. Marcoul was invoked for the cure of King’s evil (scrofula);
and it was believed that he communicated his power to the kings as they visited his tomb. From Corbigny, Charles turned west, some twenty-five miles, to the little fortified town of Vailly, a possession of the Archbishop, four leagues from Soissons, farther west, and the same from Laon, which was to the north. The, army remained here one whole day. Laon sent in its keys gladly to the king. So did Soissons, however ravaged by the Armagnacs in the days of Charles VI, 1414. The horrible sacrileges and cruelties of the sack were believed to have been avenged on the fatal day of Agincourt. With all its poverty, the city received the king as fittingly as possible on July 23rd. The royal army had now entered that ancient division of the country called the Isle of France; so called because mostly, and perhaps at one time entirely enclosed by the four rivers, the Aisne, Oise, Seine, and Marne. It corresponds with the modern departments of Oise, Seine, Seine et Oise, and parts of Seine et Marne, Eure et' Loire, and Aisne. Here were the towns of Laon, Soissons, Compiegne, Senlis, Chateau-Thierry, Meaux, Paris, Provins, etc.
Charles remained three days at Soissons, while the five thousand Englishmen under Cardinal Beaufort and his nephew Bedford entered Paris on the 25th. To Soissons came the news of the submission of Chateau-Thierry, Provins, Coulommiers, Crecy-en-Brie, and many other places.
All cities and towns between Reims and Paris had opened their gates. It was a thousand pities that Paris was not taken, as it undoubtedly could have been taken by a quick direct blow immediately after the coronation. It was weakly defended, with the fortifications in bad condition. The English were detested, and the Burgundians not loved, whereas King Charles had many ardent partisans within the walls.
The royal army, instead of striking straight along the Marne to Paris, had gone up northwest, and at Soissons was at a distance of sixty miles from the capital. Now it turned senselessly due south to Chateau-Thierry on the Marne, avoiding Paris. Here the army remained all day drawn up in order of battle expecting an attack from the English. But Bedford came not; he probably thought, probably knew that there was no need of fighting. On the evening of that day, July 29th, Chateau-Thierry was needlessly occupied by the royal army. After two days the march was resumed, going southeast to Montmirail, on the first of August. Thence southwest to Provins, where there was a pause of two or three days. The slow, erratic, cowardly march kept Joan and her inspired army always at a safe distance from Paris—about fifty miles away.
The king was clearly giving up the campaign; and the faithful towns, which had just thrown off the Anglo-Burgundian yoke, were becoming terror-stricken.
They sent piteous message after message. Reims was particularly alarmed; for Burgundy kept partisans here for a year after the coronation, and was laboring hard to get possession of the city. One of the touching letters of Joan is an encouraging answer to the appeal of the citizens. It is dated August 5th, "from the fields, on the way to Paris." "My dear and good friends," she writes, "good and loyal French people of Reims, doubt not in the royal cause. I will never abandon you as long as I live." Burgundy, she continued, had obtained a truce, and promised to deliver up Paris in fifteen days; therefore, they must not be surprised if she did not enter it so soon. The truce pleased her not, and she was not quite determined to keep it. If she did, it was only to save the king's word—she evidently saw through the treason. She would keep, however, she said, the royal army together for the fifteen days. La Tremoille and his party, including his relatives, fattening on the profits of the two camps, feared the army, and wished to dissolve it. It was becoming dangerous to the position of this low-lived creature. A few days later we hear of Joan being heart-sick, no doubt, wishing she could be buried with the good people of Crepy-en-Valois, and wishing that Heaven would allow her to return to her lowly home and watch her father's sheep in Domremy. But this was only a passing wish. Her superhuman loyalty, never failed; not even ingratitude, opposition,
rejection, and treason, could shake her determination to save France. Paris must be taken, and the English driven out of the country. This was her mission, and she was determined to accomplish it. It was, very probably, some sorrowful word like the above, escaping from her heart; or her word to the king as she knelt before him at Reims; or, perhaps, the frustration of her mission by her king and his council, that gave Dunois the impression that she did not speak definitely of any other mission of Heaven save the deliverance of Orleans and the crowning of the king. After this, she seemed to fail, English courage revived, the war and the woes of France continued for twenty years. The condition of the recovered provinces and towns near the Anglo-Burgundian border became pitiable. They were trodden by both armies; for the truces were not respected, nor did they include the English, who were constantly assisted by the Burgundians one way or another.
While the craven council held the army at Provins, and other places, the fame of Joan was hardly diminished. She summoned fortress after fortress, and was obeyed. She used to leave the main body of the troops, to win allegiance to the king along the route. French officers were put in charge, and the recovered places were never lost.
Meanwhile the skillful statesman and soldier, the Duke of Bedford, saw that a strong demonstration against the French would probably frighten them, discourage the loyal towns, discredit Joan of Arc, and gain much credit for the English cause. He issued from Paris with ten thousand men, and marched to Melun, about forty miles west of Provins. But that was quite enough; he knew that his work was being done better and more safely for him by the French themselves; and so he returned to Paris.
Some of the king's company, says Cousinot, wished to return to the Loire; and the king, also, wished it very much. So arrangements were made to march due south, and cross the Seine at Bray. The English, as if sure of victory, occupied Bray overnight and captured or slew the first Frenchmen who came to the bridge, and then broke it down. The French Army did not venture to cross; but turned valiantly back--ito the great joy of d'Alencon, de Bourbon, Rene de Bar, Laval, Vendome, and their breave comrades, and most of all, of Joan of Arc.