THE CORONATION JOURNEY
"Doubt not, you will gain all your kingdom"
BY all military rules, Joan should now have pushed on to Paris, a short two days' ride to the northward. Her army was ample and full of courage. Paris would have fallen, even opened its gates to her, as so many cities did a month later. Today, knowing all her story, we may well regret that she did not lead her army straight to the capital; but if the military leaders about her—Dunois, La Hire, the Constable, Alencon—mentioned Paris to her then, no hint of it remains. Certainly her Voices did not, or she would have gone. Time and again she declared that she acted on their counsel. Her Voices had told her to relieve Orleans, destroy the English, and conduct the King to his coronation at Reims. This she would obey to the letter. Had the King been ready to start for Reims after Orleans she would have taken him then. Had the Voices, after Patay, whispered Paris, she would have let the coronation wait. Her plan now was to go at once to Reims, then to Paris—not with a dauphin, but with a king, duly crowned and anointed. This was her plan, and much is to
be said in its favor. Charles arriving in Paris, a crowned king—the Maid at his side, was a spectacle that would speedily unite all France. The fighting would end, English soldiers would return to England. To Joan the way ahead seemed clear. She knew her people and her army; but apparently neither Joan nor her Voices in that moment thought of treachery.
The Maid and her army camped in and about Patay, and next day after dinner marched to Orleans. Expecting the King to make it his starting point for Reims, the city had dressed its streets for his welcome. But Charles, in the midst of pleasures at La Tremoille's chateau at Sully, showed little interest in Orleans, or in his coronation. The Maid rode to St. Benoit, and to Sully, to carry the great news in person, and to stir him to action.
"Come to Reims, come to Reims and receive your crown!" again she urged; and she implored him to accept and forgive Richemont, who had rendered such good service at Patay and would go with him to the coronation. Charles postponed the start for Reims, and while he promised to forgive Richemont, he refused on La Tremoille's account to receive him, or to let him join the coronation journey. Again, and a third time, Joan saw the King and begged him to start for Reims.
"Doubt not," she said, "you will gain all your kingdom, and will soon be crowned."
Seeing that she was deeply troubled, Charles spoke to her
kindly and counseled her to rest, after her battles; all of which must have sounded like mockery to Joan, who only grew weary of idleness and saw her precious days flying.
But presently, finding that most of the captains agreed with Joan, the King went to Gien, whence the coronation journey was to start. Joan, Alencon, and the army also went to Gien and began preparations for the march. At Gien she wrote a letter to the people of Tournai, inviting them to Reims, so sure was she of arriving there. Also, she wrote to the Duke of Burgundy, begging him to lay aside enmity, and render fealty to the King at Reims. Again there were delays. Provisions for the expedition were short and there was a scarcity of funds with which to pay for them. Advice against starting was about the only thing that was plentiful, and certainly the prospect of marching with a great force through an enemy country was far from alluring.
Joan was impatient with the objectors. Her faith disregarded all obstacles.
"By my staff," she said, "I will conduct the noble Charles and his company safely, and he will be crowned at the said place of Reims!"
Captains and men were with her. They would give their services to the King, they said, for this journey, and would go wherever she would go. She left her lodgings in Gien, and made her camp with them, in the field. Two days later—it was the twenty-ninth of June, Saint Peter and Saint Paul's
day—there started from Gien one of the strangest expeditions in history, a glittering pageant of twelve thousand—men at arms, nobles, princes--setting out through an enemy country, without artillery, almost without provisions and funds, led by a girl of seventeen, who was taking a king to receive his crown.
The brave array wound across the valley of the Loire and entered the woods, taking the direction of Auxerre. Four months earlier, Joan had secretly visited that city on her journey to Chinon. Her plan now was to enter by siege and assault. Arriving at the end of the third day, the army camped under the great walls, which loomed high and forbidding in the evening.
The Maid and her captains believed it would be no great matter to take the place, but the King's wily counselor, La Tremoille, had a milder and, for himself, more profitable plan. La Tremoille was always for negotiation—at a price. In this case he received two thousand crowns, with a delivery to the army of provisions, on which terms he agreed to keep the place from being assailed. The provisions were welcome enough, but the leaders, confident that they could have taken the town by assault and unwilling to leave this enemy stronghold behind them, were disappointed and indignant. They
wrathfully discussed La Tremoille, agreeing that such a compromise would not occur again. Next morning they took up the march, the army with provisions for a few days. What an amount it must have taken for that great cavalcade! Doubters and grumblers in the ranks—and in every army there are always enough of these—began to make complaint and prophesy evil; they were being led into the wilderness to die! An old chronicler writes that the Maid was everywhere, with words of encouragement and harmony.
"She rode fully armored, and spoke as wisely as any captain; and when any outcry or alarm arose among the soldiers, she came, whether on foot or mounted, and gave heart and courage to all the others, admonishing them to keep good watch and guard: though in all else she was just a simple girl."
St. Florentin was their next camp, a walled town which opened its gates to them; then the village of St. Phal, from which the Maid sent a letter to the chief men of Troyes, a large city in English and Burgundian hands. She urged the citizens of Troyes to render obedience to Charles, their true and rightful King, and have no fear for their lives or possessions. Otherwise, with the aid of God, the King would enter, regardless of all resistance. Charles also wrote, asking submission, promising to be a good king to them, if they received him.
A day later, the Maid and her army arrived under the walls of the city and went into camp. No answer had come to her
letter. The chief men of Troyes, strongly Burgundian, vowed the most sacred oaths that they would never surrender to this Maid. In a hasty letter to Reims they called her: "A fool full of the devil," declaring they had thrown her letter into the fire.
They even made a show of arms. On the day of Joan's arrival the gates of the city suddenly opened, to let out a sortie of five or six hundred English and Burgundians; but they showed little taste for battle with the Maid's soldiers and quickly scurried back again, to appear no more.
The citizens were now in a state of much alarm. They knew what had happened at the Tourelles and at Jargeau, and that their defenses were certainly no better. They had written to Reims, and to the Duke of Burgundy, but expected no help from either. Reims was even suspected of being ready to open its gates to the Maid's army. A wandering friar called Brother Richard, a mixture of preacher and prophet, then in Troyes, claimed to have knowledge that Reims would be delivered to the King.
But if Troyes was in a bad way, Joan's great army was little better off. Already at Auxerre there had been a shortage of provisions. Little had been obtained at St. Florentin, and still less at St. Phal. If Troyes held out, it was only a question of days when the glittering twelve thousand must scatter in search of food, leaving the King to return ignominiously whence he had come.
The siege could hardly have endured more than a single day but for certain earlier counsel of the Brother Richard already mentioned. Whatever else he was, Brother Richard was something of a prophet. During the previous winter he had appeared in Troyes and neighboring towns, and with other advice had exhorted the people to sow beans, in preparation for one who would come.
"Sow, good people! Sow abundance of beans; for he who comes will come quickly." Such, we are told, were his words, the significance of which seemed now clearly shown. The King had come and Joan, and with them a great army, whose support in part was the ripening wheat, rubbed from the ear in the hand, but chiefly the succulent beans that made green the wide stretches of the fertile hillside. For whatever Brother Richard may have meant, the people had taken him literally. They had sown beans with a vengeance, and but for them many of the Maid's soldiers would have died.
As it was, there was much discontent among both soldiers and leaders. Six thousand were without bread for nearly a week. Many counseled the King to return, especially as the towns still before him were in enemy hands.
The King summoned his advisers to decide what should be done; Joan was not invited to attend. Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop of Reims, presiding, stated that the army, for several reasons, could not well remain longer before the city. For one thing, there was very little food, with no supplies to be had.
plies to be had. Furthermore, there was no money to pay for supplies, and certainly it would be a very marvelous thing to take a strong city, armed and provisioned, without heavy artillery, there being no French town or fortress from which aid could be expected, nearer than Gien, now a hundred miles behind them.
The archbishop dwelt on these things, and prompted by the King asked the opinions of the others present. No one spoke encouragingly. The King, they said, had been refused admission to Auxerre, a place of fewer soldiers and poorer defenses. The general opinion seemed to be that the King and his army should turn back. Then at last a senior member of the council, Robert le Mahon, who at Loches had heard the Maid urge Charles to undertake the journey to Reims, rose to speak.
"It is my opinion," he said, "that we should send for Joan the Maid, who being of the army might very well have something to say of profit to the King and his company. When the King set out on this undertaking it was not because of any great force of arms he had, nor sums of money, nor indeed because the journey seemed very likely to succeed. The King undertook this journey solely on the advice of the Maid who steadily urged him to go to his coronation at Reims, saying he would find there little resistance, and that this was the will of God. Now, let Joan be sent for: if she counsels nothing further than has already been said, then I agree with the others that the King and his army should return. Let Joan
speak; she may say something that will lead the King to another conclusion."
The King assenting, Joan presently appeared among them and the case was laid before her by the archbishop. She listened to the end, then turned to the King.
"Noble King, will you believe what I tell you?" she asked.
"Joan, if you say something profitable and reasonable I will willingly believe it."
The timid and cautious Charles could seldom give a direct answer. Joan looked into the face of the wavering monarch:
"Yes, Joan – according to what you say."
Upon which Joan spoke out boldly
"Noble King of France," she said, "if you will remain here before the town of Troyes, it will be within your domination within two days, whether through force or through love; and of this make no doubt."
There was a stir among the counselors. When Joan spoke in that way her words carried conviction.
"Joan," said the archbishop, "could we be certain of having it in six days we might well wait. But do you speak as you see?"
"Make no doubt of it."
The meeting came to a sudden end. Joan, with Alencon, at once went to prepare for an assault. The Maid on a
courser, staff in hand, rode among -the army and set knights and squires and all others of whatever rank to work, carrying faggots, doors, tables, and shutters from the houses of the suburbs, whatever was suitable for shelters and approaches during an attack. Dunois told of this and added: "She made such marvelous diligence as might have made a captain bred all his days to war."
He added, that she set up her tent near the moat, and herself worked with such an energy as no two or three of the most experienced soldiers could have equaled. Strong and tireless as she was, the Maid seemed exalted by a holy purpose. The bold city fathers who had sworn to defend the city to their death faltered in the face of that night spectacle of a white-armored figure shouting orders, working meantime like something more than human, in preparation for the assault at daybreak. They remembered Jargeau and forgot their oath. To quote Dunois: "She worked in suchwise that next morning the bishop and burgesses of Troyes made their submission to the King, shivering and trembling."
The delegation which came out to surrender the city was preceded by the priest, Brother Richard, himself considerably frightened. He had been sent to make sure that the Maid came not from Satan, but from God. He advanced shakily, making the sign of the cross, and sprinkling holy water. Joan, amused, said to him:
"Approach boldly, I will not fly away."
The Maid entered the city riding at the King's side, carrying her banner. Brother Richard, whose prophecies had been verified and whose beans had saved the army, found himself in high favor. He is said to have preached a sermon eulogizing the Maid, and he promptly attached himself to her train.
In Troyes, as elsewhere, the people, most of whom were loyal, flocked about the Maid, striving to touch her, holding up their children to see her, weeping in the joy of their deliverance. At the church that day, she held an infant at the font for baptism, a favor sought of her by many mothers. By the terms of the surrender, only the city yielded, the English and Burgundian soldiers being permitted to withdraw with their belongings. It did not occur to Joan that the latter might include their prisoners, and when she saw them leading off a number of wretched French captives, she promptly stopped the procession and compelled Charles, out of his scanty purse, to ransom them, at the rate of about a silver franc each.
It was at Troyes that the hated treaty had been made, by the terms of which the little son of Henry V of England could lay claim to the throne of France. Charles now had the satisfaction of gaining the city where he had been deprived
"I fear only treachery"
The surrender of Troyes opened the way to Reims. Chalons, the only important town between, was known to be friendly, while Reims, long under Burgundian rule, was believed ready to welcome the French King. Regnault de Chartres, archbishop of that city, who since his accession had never been able to enter the place, now wrote requiring the people to receive the King for his coronation.
The rest of the journey was little more than a march of triumph. Alencon's squire, Perceval de Cagny, who rode with that gleaming pageant under the July sun, wrote:
"And as the King passed along, all the fortresses of the country came under his submission, because the Maid always sent some of those who were under her standard, to say at each of the fortresses to those within: 'Surrender to the King of Heaven, and to the noble King Charles.' And these, having knowledge of the great marvels that had taken place in the presence of the Maid, all placed themselves freely in submission to the King. And to those who refused she went in person, and all obeyed her. Sometimes on the way she rode with the main army with the King; at other times with the advance guard, and again with the rear guard, as she found most suitable."
Arcis was the first town beyond Troyes, but villages were not far apart, and the road
now was lined with adoring multitudes, oppressed and long-suffering people, who in Joan saw an angel of God sent for their deliverance—many of them kneeling as she passed, bending forward to kiss or touch her hands, her armor, even her horse. She asked them not to do this, for it was worship, which she would have prevented. She spoke words of comfort to them, and their tears flowed as they listened. They had suffered so much, and so long! She once said that the poor had come to her gladly, for the reason that she did not cause them unhappiness, but sustained them as well as was in her power.
Two days after leaving Troyes, on the morning of July 14, Joan and the King, with their great following rode into Chilons-sur-Marne. Among the swaying crowds there, was a small group to whom the sight of Joan riding with the King was as a strange and splendid dream. These were friends and comrades from Domremy who had traveled nearly a hundred miles, probably on foot, to see their former neighbor and playmate pass by in glory. One of them was her godfather, Jean Morel, and Durand Laxart may have been among them. Later they came to her, or she and her brothers sought them out. With what awe those simple country folk regarded their former comrade, who in a brief half year had risen to heights as far above them as the stars. To Jean Morel she made a present of a red dress she had worn, without doubt the patched
skirt in which she had set out for Vaucouleurs. If only it might have been preserved!
Asked by one if she had no fears for the days ahead, she answered:
"I fear only treachery."
It was not ordinary treachery that she meant, the betrayal of her person into the hands of the enemy, but treason that would betray the cause of France. Knowing the evil near the King, she had come to realize this possibility.