Section 1.—Advancing to Battle. Joan's Position.
Joy of the People
Joan testified at Rouen, that, from the first days of August, the direction of the campaign was taken out of her hands; she had to follow the captains. "Henceforward," says the Chanoine Debout, "the vilest political chicanery hinders and seeks to annul her work." Mr. Andrew Lang, a careful student of the Maid's career, is not far from the truth when he affirms as an irrefutable statement, that the "inner council" of Charles VII deliberately sacrificed Joan of Arc to the Duke of Burgundy. Her success and the fulfillment of her predictions were made impossible by the nefarious refusal of the chiefs of the country to co-operate with her, or avail themselves of her services.
On August 5th, the French Army turned back from Provins northwest to Coulommiers, which it reached on August 7th; thence northeast to Chateau-Thierry again, where there was a halt made for two days, the 9th and 10th.
In those days an insulting letter (dated August 7th) was sent by "John of Lancaster, Regent, and Duke of Bedford, to Charles of Valois, who was accustomed to be called the Dauphin of Vienne, who is unjustly contriving new enterprises against the crown and lordship of the most high and excellent prince, and Bedford's sovereign lord, Henry, by the grace of God, true, natural, and lawful, king of France and England." He accused Charles VII of the most infamous conduct, particularly for having in his train a disorderly woman dressed as a man, a superstitious seducer of the people who was abominable according to the Scriptures. He challenged Charles to battle anywhere he pleased; although a few days later he took good care to decline it, and marched safely back to Paris.
The French Army went forward northwest, through La Ferte, and arrived on the 11th at Crept'-en-Valois. Here the joy of the people was extraordinary. They uttered loud shouts, and wept with gladness, and came in procession singing the Te Deum to meet the king. Joan was greatly moved, and wished to be buried in the midst of the warm-hearted people. The advance of the French Army aroused the Duke of Bedford, and he left Paris at the head of his troops, moving northeast toward Mitry-en-France, below Dammartin. He took up a strong position, which French outposts, under Etienne de Vignoles (La Hire), "a valiant man-at-arms," were sent to reconnoiter. The English showed no desire to move,
while their position seemed too strong to be attacked. Night came; and next day Bedford withdrew, and the French returned toward Crept'.
Section 2.—A Drawn Battle
On August 14th the French Army advanced southwest towards Senlis, and stopped two leagues from there at the village of Baron. Here came on the 15th news that the Anglo-Burgundians were approaching on the opposite side of Senlis. Ambrose de Lore and Xaintrailles were ordered to mount and reconnoiter. They departed immediately; and riding quickly, saw on the highway of Senlis great clouds of dust arising. They dispatched a courier rapidly to the king, while they still went on nearer, and dispatched another messenger. The royal army then began to form in the open fields. It was the feast of the Assumption; and that morning at dawn, Joan, d'Alencon, and their troops, "put themselves in the best state of conscience they could." When Mass was said, they mounted their horses. At Vesper hour Bedford's host, not far from Senlis, began to cross the stream at a point so narrow that only two horsemen could ride abreast. Then de Lore and Xaintrailles rode swiftly back, and the French approached to attack the English while crossing. But they were already over. Skirmishes began, "and there were many fair passes of arms." 'Twas near sunset. The English host remained in its position, the river and a marshy pond at their rear, and thick thorny hedges on the flanks.
All night they continued to work at their defenses, setting their stockade, forming a barricade of wagons, digging trenches and forming breastworks. The English formed one compact body, the archers in front under Bedford and his nobles. Behind these were the Picards on the right, the English on the left, the two banners of France and England being displayed. There were some eight hundred Burgundians; and one of these, Jean de Villiers, carried the standard of St. George. Before the battle, the Duke of Bedford knighted the Bastard of St. Pol; and many other Burgundians received a similar honor from other noblemen.
On the morning of the 16th the French disposed their battle line.
The main body was under d'Alencon and Vendome. Rene de Bar commanded a second corps; while a third division, in form of a wing, was under the command of the marshals, de Rais and de Boussac. A strong body of skirmishers, thrown forward, was led by Dunois, d'Albret, and Joan. De Graville had the archers. The king was near the army, with de Bourbon, La Tremoille, and a numerous band of knights and squires. There was hard skirmishing all day, but it was impossible to draw the English from their strong position. Seeing which, the Maid, with the vanguard, advanced standard in hand, so near that she struck the English fortifications.
A herald was sent to say that the French would draw back, and give their foes room to choose their ground. But the English would not move. Toward evening a large number of Frenchmen joined together and advanced to the Anglo-Burgundian front. The skirmishing grew fiercer, clouds of dust rendering undistinguishable friend and foe. Monstrelet says no quarter was given, and that there were counted about three hundred slain. At last, as night fell, the French withdrew to their camp, their king to Crept'. The Maid, d'Alencon, and their soldiers remained, we are told, all night on the field; and, in the early morning, retired toward Montepilloy, where they remained till noon, at which hour it was evident that the English had definitely retired.
There was an amusing incident of this battle when Sire de La Tremoille, well fed, expensively groomed, and mounted on a fat charger, made up his mind to take part in the affray. They gave him a lance, and he actually advanced to within striking distance. Here, at the beginning of danger, his horse fell, and the warrior would have been killed or held for ransom, if he had not been promptly rescued, a thing accomplished, we are told, with much difficulty, more, in fact, than it was worth.
Section 3.—Further Successes and Vain Negotiations
The day after the encounter at Montepilloy, the strong city of Compiegne, to the north, on the Oise, sent in its keys. Before going thither, the king sent the two marshals, de Rais and de Boussac with their troops, to summon Senlis to surrender, which it did; and Count de Vendome was put in charge. Town after town, territory after territory, was offering allegiance, Joan being "greatly diligent" on the march to reduce them to submission. Valois, North Brie, the north of Ile de France, with Beauvais city and territory, soon after hoisted the French flag; while the army was about to enter Picardy, now waiting for King Charles. From Beauvais was driven out its incumbent, Bishop Cauchon, "an extreme Englishman (Anglais ex-tréme)."
The condition of the country was becoming dangerous for the haughty Duke of Burgundy. Monstrelet, the Burgundian historian, shows how near Duke Philip was to conclude a truce at Arras about the middle of August, while the royal army, taking city after city, was about to expel the invader, and impose its conditions on the rebel duke. From Arras the negotiations were continued at Compiegne, and here concluded on the 28th of August, when Joan had already left for Paris. Regnault de Chartres, the Chancellor, actually tried to hand over Compiégne to Burgundy; but the people steadfastly refused to be betrayed.
The governorship of the place was claimed and obtained by La Tremoille, and handed over to Guillaume Flavy, as his lieutenant. Flavy was a creature of the Chancellor Archbishop. From the conelusion of the truce Charles VII recognized the Duke of Burgundy as actual governor of Paris, and did not wish that he should be attacked.
Section 4.—JoanLeaves Compiegne. Message of Count d'Armagnac
King Charles was at Compiégne on the 18th of August. Here it appeared, says de Cagny, who was a captain under Alencon, that he was satisfied with the favor Heaven had shown him, and did not wish to go any farther. Here, in effect, he made the fatal truce with Burgundy, which was to last until Christmas, but was prolonged until Easter. It seems to have been kept secret for the moment.
Joan was heartsick at the king's delay; and, as at Gien, she resolved to go before him, like an eagle alluring its young to fly. She called Alencon, saying, "Fair duke, get your soldiers ready with those of the other captains; for, by my staff, I wish to get a nearer view of Paris than I have had." As the exultant troops were about to march, and Joan was getting into the saddle, a messenger came from Count d'Armagnac, to ask her, which of the three claimants of the Papacy he should follow. "I'll tell him after Paris," she said – not quite so curtly, for
for she would not offend him. She would ask, she said, her Lord when she had more time to reflect. For her own part, she affirmed she would obey the Pope who was at Rome. How often she appealed to him in her hour of sorrow!
Speaking of this incident, Joan said the messenger would have been thrown into the water if he had not promptly gotten away. "Not by me," she added; but, no doubt, by her soldiers, who were annoyed by the delay. Perhaps they knew Count Jean d'Armagnac! Jean, brother-in-law of the Duke of Orleans, was the son of Count Bernard, who had formed the Armagnac party to avenge the House of Orleans against that of Burgundy. Count Jean had abandoned the legitimate Pope, Martin V; and with King Alfonso of Arragon became a fanatical follower of the Antipope, Benedict XIII. He sustained also his intruded successor, the so-called Clement VIII. Pope Martin V had excommunicated d'Armagnac, freed his, subjects from allegiance to him, and gave his territory to the king. Alfonso abandoned the antipope, and the latter resigned his claims soon after the coronation of Charles VII. Armagnac's letter was just to cover his plight and serve as an excuse for his return to the Pope. He soon submitted. Joan declared under oath at her trial that she never had given any instruction or advice regarding the rival claimants of the Papacy.
Section 5.—Joan Marches
On Tuesday, August 23rd, she left Compiegne with "a fair company" and full of ardor, for the capital seemed about to fall, and even Normandy was ready to fall into their hands—at least so thought the Duke of Bedford.
On the way they picked up a part of the troops sent to take Senlis; and on the following Friday, the 26th of the month, Alencon and his company were lodged in the town of St. Denis, five miles north of Paris. This had been the burial place of the kings of France from the days of Dagobert. King Charles, learning that Joan, d'Alencon, and their soldiers were in St. Denis, "came, to his great regret, to the city of Senlis: it appeared he had received counsel in a contrary sense to the will of the Maid, Alencon, and their band." So wrote de Cagny. About the same time Bedford left Paris for Normandy, so great seemed the danger that this province would fall into the hands of the French. He put over Paris Louis de Luxembourg, Bishop of Therouanne, self-styled Chancellor of France for the English, with an English knight, and Simon Morhier, who called himself provost of the city. An English guard of only two thousand men, it is said, remained for its defense. Then King Charles, at the end of August, moved to St. Denis, and victory seemed to smile on the banner of France.