THE GREAT RETREAT AND AFTER
Section 1—The Retreat
Before starting on his hasty retreat, King Charles wrote to "his good towns" in the neighborhood, that he did not wish to overburden them with the presence of his army, but that he had determined to retire to the Loire, without, however, renouncing the design of coming back. He put Count Clermont in charge of the Isle-de-France and the Beauvais territory. The Count, however, seeing the devastation of the country by both armies, resigned. The French soldiers, left to defend the faithful territory, being unpaid, got out of hand, and committed nameless depredation on their own people.
The chronicler Cousinot seems to lay stress on Charles' royal leisureliness. He began his retreat "after dinner" at St. Denis, on September 13th; and, at the end of it, "went to dinner" at Gien, on Wednesday, the 21st. It was a rapid march, and is said to have been disorderly—southeast to Provins, south to near Sens, southwest to Chateau-Renard, nearly west to Montargis,
nearly south to Gien on the Loire. Joan, "to her great regret," went in the royal train. With what indignation she must have entered Gien, whence she had begun her triumphal march to Reims on June 29th!
"So were broken," writes the soldier de Cagey, "the desires of the Maid; and so was disbanded the army of the king." The most enthusiastic army France had ever seen was dissolved immediately. But the patriotic Maid, though grieving over the renouncement of victory, and over the avoidable sufferings of the people, was by no means broken in spirit ; nor did she cease to be an object of reverence and a source of inspiration to the people. She knew she had a mission from Heaven; and that, whether by her or others, it would be accomplished.
Section 2.—Joan Parted from Alencon. Subsequent Movements
D'Alencon was too much of a soldier either to remain at the idle, inglorious court, or to be allowed the title of commander-in-chief, when the army, as a matter of fact, was non-existent. In his place we shall, henceforth, find the Sire d'Albret, the half brother of La Tremoille, and one of those who had arranged the Burgundian truce. D'Alencon went to his possession of Beaumont, where his wife and mother awaited him; and we shall no more find the brave and noble soldier battling with Joan.
Very likely under the inspiration of Joan, he resolved to do something, if possible, with the troops which had followed him, before they had utterly disappeared. Normandy was the chief seat of English power, where the invader had endeavored to establish himself securely. Its nearness to the sea made it easy of approach. But the province had been devastated in the most fearful manner; and many there were who would welcome a French Army. Guerrillas, or robbers, were numerous; and were savagely sacrificed by the English when caught. So little secure was Normandy, that the Duke of Bedford left Paris, to prevent its revolt or occupation. Alencon determined to invade Normandy, and requested that the Maid might accompany him; urging that multitudes would flock to her standard who would not otherwise move. "But Regnault de Chartres (the Chancellor Archbishop), Sire de la Tremoille, and Sire de Gaucourt, who at that time governed the person of the king, refused absolutely." No wonder the "fair Duke" nursed a bitter grudge in his heart.
The king then "passed his time in Touraine, Poitou, and Berri," all loyal provinces, secure below the Loire. Joan was with him, apparently handed over to the guardianship of La Tremoille. She was courteously treated; the court was grateful for what she had done. To all appearances, it was quite content with what it had itself done, and intended to do no more.
From Glien she wrote to encourage the people of Troyes, and gave them news of herself, particularly of her wound at Paris. We find her at Sully on September 26th, and at Seller on October 1st—two abodes of the favorite.
Section 3.—Joan at Bourges
On the 3rd of October, Joan went to Bourges, and was lodged by d'Albret in the house of a great lady of the court, Marguerite de la Touroulde, wife of Regnier de Bouligny, chief financier, or treasurer, of Charles VII, in the first twenty-five years of his reign. This "upright and prudent" woman testified at the age of sixty-four as to what she knew of the Maid while with her. Marguerite had gone with Queen Marie to meet the king at Seller; and Joan lived with her most intimately for three weeks. They talked much together, and their chief work seems to have been the performance of exercises of devotion. They went to Mass and matins, and Joan went to confession "very frequently." Except in matters of war Joan seemed to this lady of the court to be entirely ignorant-a simple peasant girl of the Meuse side. When Marguerite said that Joan could never fear to fight since she knew she would not be killed in battle, the Maid answered that she was exposed to danger as the others, and knew no more than they of the time or place of death. Many women came to the house to have Joan bless or touch rosaries, medals, etc., but Joan laughed, and bade them touch them themselves;
it would do just as much good. She was "very generous in almsgiving, and took the greatest pleasure in helping the poor; for she was sent, she said, for them." Dame Marguerite firmly believed in Joan, who appeared to her to be "innocence itself." We recall the testimony of d'Aulon, her equerry, that, though "handsome and well-formed," Joan never awakened any disorderly thought in the bosom of her "soldier companions.’
Section 4.—Joan Unmasks Catherine of La Rochelle
Joan had met this adventuress, both before and after the siege of La Charite, at Jargeau and Montfaucon in Berri. Catherine asserted that a white lady in cloth of gold told her to go through the "good towns" with heralds from the king, demanding gold, silver, concealed treasure, to pay Joan's soldiers. The Maid told her to go home to her husband and children. Joan's Voices told her that all this woman's story was sheer folly. This she wrote to the king, and afterwards told him by word of mouth. She watched one or two nights with the pretend to see the white lady, who for the nonce failed to appear. Brother Richard, known to us since the siege of Troyes, countenanced Catherine; and both ceased to be Joan's friends. Catherine calumniated the Maid during her trial at Rouen.
Section 5.—The Taking of St. Pierre-le-Moustier
This fortified place was about eighty miles southeast of Bourges, and about thirty south of La Charite, on the upper Loire, here flowing directly northward. La Charite and this place were held by two freebooters, nominally, at least, for Burgundy. Perrinet Gressart, or Grasset, had made La Charite his capital, whence he raided the surrounding country. He had captured even La Tremoille, as he passed to negotiate with Burgundy; and held him for ransom. The Maid was not able to expel Grasset from his lair, as we shall see. He kept it even after the treaty of Arras, by which Burgundy submitted to his sovereign; and he finally acknowledged Charles VII on conditions very favorable to himself. Grasset had no children; so he provided handsomely for his nieces, even by noble marriages. One of these, Etiennette, of noble birth, was married to Francis de Surienne, called the Arragonese, a Spanish adventurer allied to the house of Borgia. Grasset looked upon him as his adopted son, and made him his lieutenant in charge of St. Pierre-le-Moustier. Joan had driven de Surienne from St. Pierre before November 9th; for on that day she wrote the news to the city of Moulins. D'Aulon, who was present, tells the story of the siege. When the place had been invested some days, an assault was made and failed, for the town was well defended
and probably Joan's little army was none too well provided with the means of success. In the repulse d'Aulon was, like Achilles, wounded in the heel by a bolt, or arrow, and could not stand, but moved as best he could on crutches. He saw Joan standing near the wall with a few companions; no doubt, her brothers amongst them. Fearing danger to her, he got on horseback, and went toward her, asking what she was doing, and why she had not followed the others. Taking off her helmet, Joan said she was not alone, but had fifty thousand of her people with her. Now, no matter what she said, continues d'Aulon, there were with her at the moment only four or five soldiers. "I am certain of it," he affirms, "as were others who also saw her. I then told her to go back as the others had done." But she quickly told him to get faggots and hurdles to bridge the moat; and called loudly to the soldiers to do so. They obeyed instantly. "I was astonished," adds d'Aulon; "for the town was taken immediately, with little difficulty."
Section 6.—Failure at La Charite
Joan's Voices neither sanctioned nor forbade this campaign on the upper Loire; they couldn't very well. But the Maid herself did not approve; she wished to fight in France proper, as it was then known. She simply obeyed the king. How much the king and La Tremoille
were interested in the matter appears from the fact that Joan had to make most of the preparations. She wrote to Moulins, Clermont, Riom, and perhaps other places, for supplies. Neither supplies nor men were adequate. The army seems to have consisted of foreigners, who were not paid; and, what was worse, they had not sufficient food. D'Albret, who was commander, admits it. Joan might have refused to move; but such was not her character. Marshal de Boussac joined her. The siege dragged on for a month—to mid-December; when the Maid, after the loss of a great part of her artillery, withdrew. The court showed no displeasure; nor had it much reason therefor. In fact, the family of Joan was ennobled soon after. The campaign was not quite fruitless; for Joan captured several other places besides St. Pierre.
Section 7.—The Ennobling of Joan's Family
The king's letter of ennoblement is dated from Meung-sur-Yevre, near Bourges, December, 1429. It is altogether special in form. The king recognizes Joan as an envoy of Heaven, and ennobles her rather as an act of gratitude to God than as a reward for her inestimable services. Not only is Joan made noble, but her parents also, and all the members of her family, with their posterity, male and female. We find grandnephews of Joan's mother claiming and receiving the title of nobility in virtue of this grant of Charles VII.
The Maid's brothers took the name of du Lys (of the Lily), the badge of the kings of France. The arms of the family was an upright sword unsheathed on a blue shield, bearing a crown on the point, with two golden lilies, one on each side. Joan herself had not requested this honor; nor did she ever bear any badge save that of her own incomparable chivalry.
Section 8.—Winter and Spring
Idle and chagrined Joan spent the rest of the winter of 1429 and the spring of 1430. She revisited some of the scenes of her prowess. She was at Jargeau, it is said, on Christmas Day; and on the 19th of January, at Orleans, the city, which never ceased to love her. Heliote, the daughter of the painter of Joan's banner, was about to marry in February; so Joan asked a gift for her from the city of Tours. In March she wrote, or signed, at Sully, the remarkable letter to the Hussites, and two to the city of Reims. The first was; no doubt, composed in great part, by Pasquerel, the Maid's confessor, who made a Latin translation of it. She refers to the destructive heresies of the Hussites and their unspeakable brutalities, threatening to abandon the English campaign, to go against them, and repay them what they had done. On the 16th and 28th of March she answered the letters sent to her in their distress and danger by the people of Reims. She bade them fear no Burgundian threats;
they would have no siege; but if there should be danger, she would come so quickly to help them that their foes would not have time to put on their spurs. In the second letter she says they will soon hear news enough of her; that is of the resumption of her campaign in Ile-de-France.