AWAKE, ST. GEORGE!
By this time the English were fully aroused to the danger of their position. The great conquest of Henry V was slipping away piecemeal. The spell of terror in which they had so long held the French was now broken. Jargeau had been a disgrace, Patay a disaster and a humiliation. The prestige of English arms had become a mockery, equally with that of English craft or diplomacy, both of which Jeanne had frustrated by her activity and prescient vision. Charles's march to Reims was nothing short of a triumphal procession, the towns en route, English or Anglo-Burgundian, surrendering one after another or expelling their garrisons: Nothing, seemingly, could prevent the consecration now, a thing of ominous import to the English and, most hateful thought of all, a crowning glorification of the detested Maid.
The great English Duke of Bedford, who proudly called himself the son, brother, and uncle of kings (Johannes filius, frater et avunculus regum), now roused himself to the mighty need and took account of all his resources. First he sought to recruit his armies, broken, diminished, and demoralized by recent defeats at the hands of the Maid—whom Bedford the
pious nominated as "that hound of hell!" As we have seen, he had written to the young King Henry VI concerning her baleful work at Orleans, and he had followed her every step since with cursing and apprehension. Now at length it was squarely up to him to deal with this fatale monstrum, and he set himself gravely to do it.
Bedford soon found that it was no small task to renew the numerical strength of his armed forces and to infuse them with the old fighting spirit. A happy chance occurring at this moment was of great avail to the harassed viceroy. His brother, the Cardinal of Winchester, richest and most powerful of English princes, had just arrived in France with an army of 5,000 men which the Pope had lent him, to be used in a crusade against the Hussite heretics in Germany. Winchester, with an insouciance truly English, agreed to apply this force to the work of suppressing their co-believers in France! An incident, which should teach us of how little account is religion where the interests of politicians are concerned.
Winchester, the purple prelate, at the moment actual ruler of England, was particularly attentive to the kingdoms of this world, including the papacy, which he expected to reach. He died a very old man years afterward, still hoping to grasp the tiara. Parenthetically, I may observe that there have been one or two really bad, some indifferent, and many good Italian popes, a few so-so French ones, but (thank God!) only one Englishman has ever sat in the chair of St. Peter. Adrian IV he called himself, this same
Breakspeare who started all the sorrows of Ireland by turning over that unlucky country to his friend Henry II. It was then recognized that, so long as there should be anything territorially loose about the world, it would not be safe to have an English pope. In my judgment there is a strong odor of infallibility about this conclusion of the Roman curia!
Winchester gave his powerful mind to the problems confronting the English directorate in France and the situation soon visibly improved. The immemorial policy of the English—"divide and conquer" —was sustained at every point; the nascent symptoms of French nationalism were everywhere taken note of and suppressed. I am aware that certain apologists of the English maintain that the sentiment of nationality was unknown in France at that time. (Mr. Shaw makes the point—preface to his "Saint Joan.") French historians deny this contention while admitting that conditions at large were almost anarchical, due to the Hundred Years War with England, now drawing to a close. Thus England had in great measure produced the anarchy and disorganization in France from which she sought to benefit. In how many parts of the world has she not set forth the same lesson!
Rouen, seat of the viceregal power, was subjected to a jealous scrutiny; the strong were confirmed, the weak replaced, the doubtful turned away. This refers especially to offices of trust and authority. As representing a great influence with the people, the clergy were looked after with particular care. Rouen
was an archiepiscopal see of ancient and commanding prestige; the population was leavened with a very large sacerdotal element; besides the regular priests attached to the cathedral and several churches, one must reckon a contingent of the mendicant orders. Bedford and Winchester took care that none but pro-English sentiments should flourish in this ecclesiastical community, a thing not so difficult to bring to pass, since the priests and religieux generally were wholly dependent upon British tolerance. Therefore, Rouen made itself hatefully conspicuous by the malignant attitude, which its priests high and low had assumed toward Jeanne d'Arc—only less odious, indeed, than Paris with its venal university and its recreant priests licking the shoes of Bedford. The work was thoroughly done, as we shall further see in more detail.
The royal brothers were greatly perturbed by the progress of Charles in a section supposedly given over to the Anglo-Burgundian influence. One of their first steps was to summon Philip, whose recent conduct had given ground for dissatisfaction, if not suspicion. Certainly his people on the Loire had not accounted for themselves very well, to say the least; but neither had the English themselves. It was deemed best to bring on Philip and come to a better understanding with him.
Undoubtedly they regarded Philip with some distrust, but they felt sure of him so long as the English interest remained the dominant one. And they now proposed to increase his rewards and at the same
time flatter his expectations by laying even greater responsibility upon him.
Philip came on promptly enough, reaching Paris several days before Charles made his entree at Reims. It has been said that all capitals are unpatriotic, but this is only a half truth. At the moment, however, Paris was playing the apostate in the worst sense, prostrating herself before the foreign tyrant, rendering herself with a quite superfluous zeal to the worst that could be asked of her. In this latter respect her university bore the palm, having voluntarily and without solicitation declared against Jeanne as a witch and sorceress, in the face of her approval and acceptance by the two most virtuous and eminent priests in the land, viz., Gerson and Gelu.
A great demonstration was now made to impress the Parisians, willing to be amused, as always, at any price. The alliance of English and Burgundians was reaffirmed with solemn formalities in the course of several councils. A general procession was made, in which the religious element was not neglected (in those times, if you only wanted to punch a neighbor in the eye, it was necessary to get religious backing). Finally, a dramatic scene was gotten up at the Palace of Parliament in which all the nobles, magistrates, high priests, functionaries, participated. The treaty was reread and approved by complaisance or fear; then the murder of Philip's father, John the Fearless, at the feet of Charles VII, was invoked and recited anew, with strong effect; Philip rising in emotion and adjuring the Parisians to support his cause. This was
the real dramatic stroke of the occasion, for though the Armagnac sentiment was by no means weak in Paris, Philip could reckon upon a strong following there—as indeed where could he not? Taking advantage of the psychological moment, Bedford urged the assembly to pledge anew their allegiance to the regent (himself) and to his ally, the Duke of Burgundy.
If Jeanne, marching on to Reims with her king, had any clairvoyant sense of these doings in Paris, it must have shaken her strong soul, for there were arrayed against her all the powers of this world!