RING, BELLS OF REIMS!
And now, faithful reader, let us abstract our minds from all this plotting great or small, to enter into the joy of one simple heroic heart—in truth the last great happiness which Jeanne d'Arc was to experience in her short career.
Reims awaited Charles like a coy but not unwilling bride; he came, indeed, like a bridegroom in strength with his army of 12,000 men headed by the maiden conqueror of Orleans and Patay, whom the Remois were even more eager to acclaim and welcome, as the king did not fail to observe. At Septsaulx, four leagues from Reims, the chief burghers came to deliver the keys of their city, subject to certain easy terms with which Charles readily complied. Regnault de Chartres was now free to take possession of his archbishopric, a want from which he had not previously seemed to suffer; and it was with small feelings of gratitude toward Jeanne that he proceeded to do so.
Poor Marie d'Anjou, the official queen, had been left behind at Berry, not at .all to her pleasure, Charles alleging for pretext the danger she would incur and the need of conserving the royal purse. I
wonder if Agnes Sorel had anything to do with the matten . . .
I should mention that, a few days before, at Chalons, a little group of peasants from Domremy had greeted Jeanne, much to her delight and satisfaction. How astonished were those humble friends to see their old playmate, Jeannette of Le Bois Chesnu, so changed in her shining white armor, like a handsome young St. Michael herself, the magnet of all eyes and manifestly the thriller of all hearts, serene and gracious amid the outpouring crowds! It is recorded that one of these friends asked her:
"Jeanne, don't you fear sometimes in all these encounters with the enemy?"
She replied: "I fear only the treason!"
Charles entered Reims in the early evening of Saturday, July 16, 1429, Jeanne riding beside him, to the rapturous emotion of the crowds, who raised the ancient cry of "Noel! Noel" signalizing the sacre or consecration of a king. The whole night was spent in preparations for the morrow, and at early dawn a party of noble cavaliers rode to the Abbey of St. Remy in order to procure the Sainte ampoule or holy vase containing the oil said to have been used at the consecration of Clovis, the first Christian king of France. (Among these was the young Sire de Rais, who in after years earned for himself a most unenviable celebrity. See note under Last Records.)
At nine o'clock the ceremony began, concluding at two. Surrounded by six lords and six bishops, Charles
was invested with the royal insignia, after which he took the prescribed oaths and the Duc d'Alencon made and declared him chevalier. Then the archbishop anointed him with the sacred oil, making over him the sign of the cross and pronouncing him to be the true and rightful sovereign of France.
Meanwhile Jeanne stood near the altar, in a spot still pointed out, worn by the kisses of many generations. She wore her white armor and held her standard in hand—that standard which had been at the pain and was now fittingly at the honor. A lovely and heroic figure, we may be sure, which the genius of art has since labored to rescue from the past. What a pity that there was no painter in Reims capable of transmitting to us that immortal scene!
The ceremony ended, Charles mounted the jube or tribune in order to show himself to the vast congregation, which instantly broke forth into acclamations and cries of "Noel Noel!" (In a strict sense the word is applied to Christmas and the observance thereof, or to a Christmas hymn.) A moment afterward Jeanne threw herself at his feet and, shedding tears of joy, congratulated him in such words as these:
"Noble Prince, the will of God is now accomplished which had commanded me to raise the siege of Orleans, then to bring you to this ancient city of Reims in order to receive the holy consecration which proves you to be the true king to whom of sacred right belongs the Kingdom of France."
Some writers contend that she added to this speech
a fervent request to be allowed to return to Domremy and her proper humble station, seeing that she had fulfilled her whole mission and there was nothing more that she might do. But this is now discredited by the best authorities, a view in which the present writer concurs. Jeanne was never a "quitter"; there was plenty of work for her to do, as none knew so well as herself, if only the plotters and obstructors would leave her a free hand. But at the moment when she seeks to do more and better for France, her enemies about the king succeed in depriving her of his confidence and support.
On this same day Jeanne was made the happier by seeing her father and receiving his forgiveness,—though I don't know what he had to forgive; this is, I guess, an easy function which parents like to keep in practice. Charles demanded to see the old man, talked to him graciously, and made him a good present of money. Then Jacques d'Arc returned to Domremy to tell the folks all about it. He was never to see his daughter again.
While the fetes attending the consecration were still in progress, came some agents of Burgundy to salute Charles in honor of the event. Meaningless gesture as it seemed, there was a real purpose behind it, and that was to hamper and delay Charles in his march forward as much as possible—"by battle or otherwise" were the terms of Philip's pact with Bedford, just signed at Paris. Time was very necessary
to the latter, and he gained several days, as Charles lost them, by this embassy to Reims.
Finally the Burgundians went away, after proposing a short truce; their "gesture" had not in the least taken in Jeanne, who divined correctly that Philip sought peace only when he had reason to fear the French.
Laon now sent in its submission, and the king, in virtue of his consecration, touched some scrofulous sufferers at the abbey of St. Marcoul—would, I might believe that he healed them! Other towns acknowledged Charles in rapid suit, but Jeanne found the going too slow for her taste. It was no doubt too fast for La Tremoille, trying to make an honest penny out of every pact or negotiation.
On August 3, while Bedford was still in Paris, there came a rumor to the army that he was near at hand and ready to give battle. The French then marched to La Motte de Nangis, where they waited a whole day vainly for Bedford, who was attending to more important business elsewhere.
In fact, the allies would seem to have been well served both in the camp and councils of Charles, for Bedford had utilized these ruses and delays in organizing the defense of Paris, recruiting soldiers in Normandy, and taking over Winchester's or rather the Pope's 5000 men, whom he stationed in Paris. Besides, Philip of Burgundy had sent him a body of Picards.
While Bedford did not care to provoke a pitched
battle with an army which had been almost constantly victorious under the Maid, he felt reassured now as to the English position. Paris was safe, even as against a more resolute adversary than Charles; and he began to-repose more confidence in the diplomacy of Philip. No doubt he (Bedford) was informed of the posture of things in the king's council, of the letting down of the Maid; and from this latter circumstance he might well derive his chief comfort.
"I will have her yet," he said to himself with savage assurance. "Treachery will be more than a match for her spells and sorceries, hound of hell that she is. And she shall pay in her body and soul for Orleans and the rest!"