My Lord, Jean, Count of Mortain and Porcien-en-Rhetélois,it is with great joy that I answer your clarion call. It is my sincere desire that this, my testimony will preserve, for all time, the memory of my, OUR, comrade in arms, Jeanne, the Maid, the purest heart that ever graced our beloved Kingdom.
Jean d'Aulon, Part I
JEANNE CONFRONTS THE CAPTAINS
I, Jean d'Aulon, was a knight in the service of the Dauphin when he personally assigned me to the Maid's household as chief-squire. In this capacity I was in charge of her stables and the procurement of supplies. I also served as secretary and head of her personal staff. I joined her staff at Tours during the first week of April 1429, and remained in her service even during her imprisonment by the Count of Luxembourg.
Before leaving for Blois Jeanne asked, "Squire, please read to me the letter I dictated to the English demanding, in God's name, their surrender. I want to make sure it contains everything my Voices would have me say to these proud men."
I found the letter and read:
+ Jhesus Maria +
"King of England and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself Regent of the Kingdom of France; you, William de la Pole, Count of Suffolk, John, Lord Talbot, and you Thomas, Lord Sacales, who call yourselves lieutenants of the said Duke of Bedford, do justly by the King of Heaven; deliver to the Maid who is sent by God, the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good cities that you have seized and violated in France. She has come here from God to restore the royal blood. She is ready to make peace with you, if you will agree to acknowledge the wrong done to France, and pay for what you have taken. And all of you, archers, men-at-arms, nobles and others who are before the city of Orleans, go back to your own country, in God's name. If you do not, expect news of the Maid, who will come to you shortly, to your very great ruin."
"King of England, if you do not do this, I am chief of war, and in whatever place I shall find your people, I shall make them depart whether they will it or not. I am sent here by God, the King of Heaven, to put you all out of France. If they will not obey, I shall have them all killed but if they will obey, I will be merciful. Do not believe that you have God's permission to hold the Kingdom of France. It is King Charles, the true inheritor, who will hold it. For this is the will of God, the King of Heaven, as revealed to him by the Maid. He will enter Paris in good company. If you will not believe these words from God and the Maid, in whatever place we shall find you, we will fight you. If you do not do what is right, then we shall make so great a hurrah against you that it will be remembered for a thousand years. You may well believe that the King of Heaven will send more strength to the Maid and her good soldiers that you will find them invincible, and when the blows fall we shall see to whom God gives the better right. You, Duke of Bedford, the Maid begs and prays that you will not force upon yourselves your own destruction. If you listen to her, you will yet be able to come with her to where the French will do the finest deed ever accomplished for Christianity. Reply to this, if you wish to make peace in Orleans; if not, you will shortly remember it to your great sorrow. Written this Tuesday, Holy Week, March 22nd, 1429."
"It seems to me, Jeanne, that you covered all possible points, even asking these Godons to join us in a crusade against the Moslem infidels."
"Very well, Guyenne, Ambleville, take this letter to Orleans with all speed. Present it to the commander of the English, Lord Talbot himself!" With a swift salute they departed.
Meanwhile, Jeanne and her household rode to Blois to join up with the assembling forces. The morning we left Tours, the sky was a vivid blue. Jeanne's face radiated her joy as she sprang effortlessly into the saddle. Bright shafts of sunlight reflected off her armor as a gentle breeze unfurled her standard. "Forward, to the relief of Orleans!"
Jeanne commanded. All the men answered by raising their weapons and voices in a thunderous salute. To a grand flourish of trumpets and the resounding beat of the drums, the column marched forward with Jeanne in the lead! At that moment, the Dauphin's words re-echoed in my mind. "No matter how many competent captains there are, no decision will be made without first consulting the Maid." She was truly the commander of the army!
As we waited in Blois for the final preparations to be completed, Jeanne took on the Herculean task of bringing discipline to the troops. A tough nut for anyone to crack; yet she went about her labors like a woman possessed.
To help her in this quest she had a third banner made that depicted Christ crucified. It was placed next to the altar. She encouraged the army, first to go to confession, and then to attend all the morning and evening services. The morning services consisted of prayers and hymns followed by Mass. During the evening service the priests would recite the Church's evening prayers with the men devoutly responding. The services concluded with the recitation of the "Our Father," "Hail Mary," and the "Glory Be" followed by the singing of the "Salva Regina."
It was here in Blois that Jeanne met, for the first time, the Dauphin's captains. The Duke d'Alençon took her to the area of the encampment where the captains lodged. They had arranged their large pavilions so that the entrance of each faced onto the open common area. Proudly each individual captain displayed his coat of arms before his tent. Their pavilions were boldly painted in vivid blues, reds, greens, yellows, blacks and whites which made the dusty field alive with color.
The news of her approach spread quickly among the surly captains, who assembled themselves in the common area. The noise from the gawking men quickly died down as the Duke began the introductions. Alençon led Jeanne over to the Marshall of his forces, the Baron, Ambroise de Loré. The Dauphin had given Ambroise the task to assist the Duke with organizing this army of reinforcement as well as to escort Jeanne to the beleaguered city.
Sir Jean de Gamaches, barely able to contain his ire, groaned loudly which interrupted de Loré's conversation with Jeanne. This knight held Jeanne in contempt for being considered his superior when she was only a peasant woman! So strong was his resentment toward her, that his face convulsed with anger as he burst into a rage. "Well, my brother knights, since it is your desire to follow this low-born wench, this gueuse, rather than someone of my standing, I shall not stop you! Henceforth, I shall not play my part, as a knight but will serve only as a humble squire. Yet I would much prefer to have a nobleman for my master and not this peasant woman, nobody!"
Jeanne, retaining her composure at this cutting remark, narrowed her eyes as she advanced to stand toe to toe before him. "Go or stay! It matters not to me. What matters is that God's will be accomplished!" She then turned her back on him.
D'Alençon, in an attempt to make peace, had to turn Jeanne physically and said nervously, "Come friends! We are here to do battle against the Godons, not each other. Come, now, Gamaches, Jeanne, embrace and make peace." In stone cold silence, Sir Gamaches and Jeanne scowled at each other. In frustration, the Duke dragged them together and they reluctantly shook hands. "Good," D'Alençon said as he pressed his hand to his brow. "Now we are all friends again!" Though from the look of him, I knew he did not believe it. With that de Gamaches gruffly turned and left.
After some order returned to the gathering, D'Alençon introduced Jeanne to Lord Gilles de Rais. He was tall, lean; his hair, black as pitch, flowed in gentle waves over his broad shoulders. His eyes, deep set and well apart, flashed dangerously like blue lighting from a dark abyss. This fabulously wealthy baron had a wild and unruly goatee, but other than this, his appearance was meticulous, down to his polished fingernails. Adorned in his family's colors of gold and black, he stood self-satisfied in his white armor, cutting a striking figure. He towered over the Maid, as he sized her up. I heard him say, in his elegant deep voice, as if speaking to himself, "She's only a girl." Coming to his senses he sarcastically added, "Where is your thunder, Maid? We thought you had brought it with you from Lorraine."
Jeanne, unafraid, calmly looked directly into the baron's blue eyes. Unimpressed by his haughty manner, flashing eyes and glistening armor, Jeanne turned her attention to the Admiral of France, Louis de Culen.
Lord de Rais, on the other hand, was unprepared for the tremor that shook his spirit as he gazed into her soul and he staggered back.
Sir Jean Foucault, Lord of Saint-Germain, an expert in his field, was one of the French Long and Cross Bowmen Regiment commanders.
He and Jeanne were exchanging niceties when La Hire burst upon the scene. La Hire, 'the angry one,' was most famous for his incessant swearing. He turned the air blue with it! In his youth, he would lash out with his sword, causing lethal results! Now that he had mellowed in his old age, he had turned to the use of his famous, two-foot long baton, with which he thrashed anyone who provoked him. The gruff old war-horse rudely pushed and elbowed his way through the crowd. Interrupting the proceedings with his rough speech and manners he shouted, "What the hell is going on here?" La Hire was a crude fellow and so vulgar that he would scandalize even the cruelest of warriors! He always spoke his mind in a blunt, coarse way, so it was not surprising that he addressed Jeanne in terms of a peasant barmaid with questionable moral virtue.
Catching sight of Jeanne, he proclaimed, "By the Devil's throne! So, this is the 'wench' who has come to save us!" Then he laughed and the others joined him. Jeanne stared at him. This stopped his laughter and as his smile fell, he paused to consider her more closely. In his armor, La Hire was an iron-wall of a man. He was forty years old, with short, thinning gray hair, which made his round face look even fuller. He had bushy eyebrows over light brown eyes. A long, red scar that marred his left cheek looked raw and angry next to the stubble of his beard. He roared while he strutted among the captains. "Damn my soul to hell, but we shall have no need for the army, now that we have this 'fighting angel!' "
He was about to laugh again when Jeanne cut him short. "I shall have no more swearing in this army!"
Stunned into silence, La Hire stood with his mouth gaping. The others, just as amazed as he, had similar reactions. Jeanne raised her hand to emphasize her words. "Neither will I allow any gambling nor any prostitute camp followers in my army."
The captains interrupted her with their strenuous shouts of protests yet, undaunted, she stood her ground. "There shall be no swearing, gambling, drunkenness or camp followers in this army! Also, all the men must go to confession and receive Holy Communion. That includes you nobles too!"
The protests rose to a din, with each man turning to the other in astonishment and disbelief. La Hire's face turned purple with rage and he viciously beat his staff against his leg. Growling his protest, he complained, "By Satan's tail, what do you mean no gambling! By all the damned souls of hell, why can't a man drink his guts full if and when he has the mind to?!" He angrily crossed his arms over his chest as he strutted past her. "As for not enjoying a whoring wench from time to time, how are you going to stop us?! You have to be crazy, wench, if you think we shall put up with those orders!" With that La Hire let out a roar of contemptuous laughter. This girl was beyond belief!
Jeanne knew that for her to make any headway on this point, she had to confront La Hire whom the other captains admired as a 'man's man.' Jeanne grabbed his arm to pull him around. After ripping his heavy baton from him, she struck her own ungloved hand with it several times, before turning her attention back to La Hire. With her intense gaze penetrating the depths of his soul, she looked up at him and used his baton to rap against his breastplate. "You shall never again swear as long as you are a part of this army! Do you understand?"
The great La Hire, the scourge of the English, this iron wall of a man, was thunderstruck by her forcefulness! All he could do was stammer, "A man must have something to swear by; he must!"
Jeanne eased her intensity, and smiled while handing his staff back to him. "You may swear by your staff if you like! Use anything else that will suit you so long as it does not offend God or call upon His enemies! Is that agreeable to you, La Hire?"
With eyes downcast, he meekly answered, "Yes, Maid!"
Although momentarily dazed by La Hire's capitulation to Jeanne, the other captains soon recovered their senses. The din of their strong protests soon rose to a riotous level. "This is impossible! What army goes to confession? What army has ever been denied the joys of swearing, drinking, gambling or of wenching!"
With his dark eyes flashing, Gilles de Rais glared menacingly down at her. "The men will not march under such heavy restrictions, nor shall we! By what right do you give such orders?"
Patiently she waited for the noise and anger to subside. Jeanne spoke while she slowly walked among the disgruntled captains. "God has sent me here. No earthly man could make me do what I am now engaged in, but as I have said, I am here by God's command alone." One by one the captains drew closer to her. "We are fighting to accomplish God's will in the Kingdom of France. How can you expect God to help and guide us in battle? How can you expect Him to grant us victory, if we are not deserving of it? God cannot! God will not help us, unless we cleanse ourselves of all sin! We must consecrate our lives to Him! We must live and die for God alone!"
One of the captains objected, "What you ask is impossible!"
"No, you are wrong! It is possible, very possible! It is because of France's sins that God has punished her through the English. If we are to be free of English oppression, if we are to break free of their chains, then it is by God's help alone that we shall accomplish it! We shall be used by God to punish the English for their sins, for their unjust destruction of our cities, and the taking of our land. God, through us, will repay them for their murderous crimes against our people. To do this we must confess our sins and receive the sacraments!"
"What! Do you want us to become priests?" Gilles de Rais laughed with scorn.
"No! I want you to become God's soldiers! Hear me, and be assured that I speak in earnest. If you, and I mean all of you, do not come to the services tomorrow morning, and instruct your men to do likewise, then I shall leave you. I shall leave you and return to my home, because you will have shown yourselves unworthy of God's help." Without another word, she turned and left.
The silent captains watched Jeanne leave. Strutting around like a bear, La Hire was first to speak his mind. "Well I'll be damned! What do you think of that?! By the Devil's tail, she's got guts. But maybe there is something in what she says. Believe me! I don't like the idea of not being able to swear any better than the rest of you. Even so! As God is my witness, if going to church means we can crack open some more stuffed English heads and win a few more battles, then I say we should go to church more often!"
Early the next morning, with doffed hats and bowed heads, the captains went to confession before attending Mass. Sir Gamache, Gilles de Rais, Louis de Culen, they all came. La Hire, last to arrive, looked ill at ease but nonetheless stayed through it all. Within five minutes of the captains' arrival, the rest of the army assembled, all four thousand of them! Jeanne was happy and joyfully said her prayers. At the end of the Mass she personally thanked all the captains for coming. Jeanne stopped La Hire. "Do you pray?"
He looked at her with confidence. "Yes, every God damn day!"
His boldness faded and he stammered like a little boy, "I'm sorry."
Jeanne's annoyance quickly lifted and she patted his arm. "What prayer do you say?"
La Hire bowed his head. "Fair Sir God, I pray You this day, do for me what I would do for You, if I were God and You, La Hire."
Jeanne laughed and jabbed his arm. "It is a good prayer!" Then she became more serious. "La Hire, if you are willing, I have an assignment for you."
Taking him aside, she spoke in a friendly way. "Help enforce the rules I set down yesterday. I want you to make sure there is no more swearing, gambling, drunkenness or camp followers." Jeanne raised her finger in an attitude of caution. "Remember, the day these rules are no longer followed is the day I leave. Will you do it?"
His broad chest filled out in pride and he pulled his shoulders back to give her a sharp military salute. "I shall do it! I shall personally break the head of any son of a bitch who does not obey!"
Overhearing his bravado, the other captains began to laugh, "Look, a miracle! The Devil has become a saint!"