THF MAID PREPARES FOR WAR
The King commands the armor
CHARLES did not waste time waiting for the written report, but at once ordered that soldiers and supplies be collected for the march on Orleans. Queen Yolande, a woman of much ability, went to Tours and Blois to begin preparations, being presently joined by the Duke of Alencon, sent by the King to assist her.
Joan was now, in fact, chef de guerre, chief of war. It was the royal decree that captains and all others of whatever rank must follow her leadership. Those hardened old warriors—many of them Armagnac raiders and captains of "free companies"—would not always be easy to handle, which is no wonder when we remember that for years they had been little more than bandits, obeying nobody, not even the King. What they really thought of the King's order, and of Joan, we shall never know. Probably it seemed to them a great new adventure, led by a kind of mascot, or enchantress, who was going to give them victory. Whatever they thought they began
arriving at Tours, and were sent on to Blois where Queen Yolande and Alencon had organized their camp.
Joan with her page had also come to Tours, conducted by Jean d'Aulon, called "one of the best men in the kingdom," named by the King as chief of her personal staff. They rode with Queen Yolande, who provided them with lodgings in the luxurious home of an old friend and former maid of honor, Eleanore de Paul, now married to a distinguished citizen, Jean du Puy.
At Tours it must have seemed to Joan that her troubles had come to an end. The people thronged about her, wearing small medals struck in her honor. Soldiers marched through the streets, her soldiers to be, breaking into cheers when she appeared among them. In all this she found a divine assurance of victory. She was humbly grateful for having been chosen to save France.
The Maid's military household received important additions at Tours. A second page, a youth called Raymond, was assigned to her; also a priest, Father Pasquerel, as almoner and confessor. Furthermore, she was joined by two of her brothers, Jean and Pierre, who, hearing the astonishing reports, had followed their sister to war. How proud they were of her, and how eagerly she listened to their news! Her devout mother had undertaken a pilgrimage to a distant shrine, to pray for her soldier daughter!
The King commanded that armor be constructed for Joan,
and for each of her two brothers. Tours was famous for its armorers—there was a whole street of them—but the master workman to whom was given the task of fashioning a suit of steel for the Maid must have found himself somewhat puzzled. He had never made armor before for a young girl, and to get it gracefully shaped, and adjusted and comfortable to the wearer was something of a task.
It was what is known as "white armor," of polished, unbrowned steel, and very beautiful. It gave the wearer an unearthly look, and probably no one better than Joan realized the effect this would have on her followers, and upon the enemy. It was such armor as this that Saint Michael had worn in her visions of him—the armor of the holy pictures, the armor of Heaven.
By an ancient record of the city of Tours Joan's armor cost the sum of one hundred francs, the equal of a thousand dollars, today. As we have seen, a strong horse in that day could be had for twelve francs. Joan's armor cost the value of eight horses. Her two knights were likewise provided with new armor. Everywhere was preparation for the great campaign—busy days for the armorers of Tours.
A banner and a sword
Joan still had the sword presented to her by Robert de Baudricourt. She now learned that her heavenly Council wished her to have something different, a blade consecrated by knightly deeds. At St. Catherine de Fierbois, the Voices said, there was buried near the altar a sword upon which were stamped five crosses. They told her to send for it.
Joan sent an armorer of Tours with a letter to the clergy at Fierbois, telling them of this and asking them to send the sword, provided that it was their wish that she should have it. They searched as she directed and found the sword with the five crosses on it, buried not very deeply in the earth, but covered with rust. The priests, who reverently undertook to remove the rust, reported that it fell away at their touch. Afterward, with those of Tours, they had two sheaths made for it, one of red velvet, and one of cloth of gold. But these were not for service. Joan herself had another made, a strong sheath of leather. This sword Joan especially loved. Her Voices had directed her to it, and it had been found near the altar of Saint Catherine, one of her Voices. The reader will remember Fierbois as the place of Joan's last stop before Chinon. The sword had belonged to some brave knight—tradition said to Charles Martel, who had offered it on the
altar of Saint Catherine, after his victory over the Saracens, in 732.
Even more than her sword Joan prized her banner. It was made for her in Tours, by commandment, as she said, of Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. The material of this banner was white linen or fustian, and it was fringed with silk. On it was the figure of God holding the world, at each side a kneeling angel. Inscribed upon it were the words JESUS MARIA, and the field of it was "sown with lilies."
Joan also had a pennon, on which was pictured the Annunciation, with an angel holding a lily. The work on the banner and on the pennon was done by a man named Hauves Poulvoir who had a daughter named Heliote, of about Joan's age. During the days when the work was in progress Joan and pretty Heliote Poulvoir became close friends. Joan was a soldier, getting ready for battle, but amid all the warlike preparations she found joy in the friendship of this young girl. It is easy to imagine the awe in which little Heliote would hold the Maid, who communed with Voices that were sending her to war.
"Joan, Joan, won’t you be afraid when you face the cannons and the arrows, and the poised spears?"
"I may be – that is with God. It is certain that I am to be wounded – my blood will flow."
"Yes, it has been revealed to me."
"And you will still go?"
"I must go, though it be to my death."
We know that Joan at Tours spoke of the wound she would receive at Orleans, for it is mentioned in a letter written a full two weeks before the event. (The author's larger work "Joan of Arc—Maid of France," vol. I, pp. 166-167, contains a fac-simile and translation of this letter.) Yet in spite of the prospect of battle and the knowledge that she must suffer, her month there could hardly have been less than a happy one. For the moment she had to face neither conspiracy nor bloodshed. Wherever she turned there was love, faith, and friendliness. The blessings of the cathedral were conferred upon her, her banner, and her arms. Her lodgings were sought by those who regarded her as the hope of France. She was on the way to do the work for which she was born.