A Preview of the Book
The Girl Who Stomped the English:
How 17-Year-Old Jehanne d’Arc Saved France at Orléans
A True Story
By Mike MacCarthy
© January 2012
Table of Contents:
Author’s Note: ()
Significant Events Prior to 1429 ()
Cast of Major Players ()
Prologue: Murder at Montereau ()
Part One: Saying ‘Yes’ to God
Chapter I: Jehanne’s Secret, January 1429 ()
Chapter II: What Jehanne Couldn’t Know ()
Chapter III: Miracle at Vaucouleurs ()
Chapter IV: Rouvay, February 12, 1429 ()
Part Two: A Witch or Not a Witch
Chapter V: Chinon (March 1429) ()
Chapter VI: Jehanne Meets With the Dauphin ()
Chapter VII: Time Running Out for Jehanne ()
Part Three: Dealing with Royal Scorn
Chapter VIII: April 1429: Time Running Out for Jehanne ()
Chapter IX: Time Running Out For Orléans ()
Chapter X: Miracle on the Loire ()
Chapter XI: La Pucelle Enters Orléans ()
Chapter XII: More Scorn in Orléans ()
Chapter XIII: Awash in Rumors and Expectations ()
Part Four: The Final Battles for Orléans
Chapter XIV: The Battle of St. Loup ()
Chapter XV: The Battle of Les Augustins ()
Chapter XVI: Miracle at Les Tourelles ()
Chapter XVII: One Last English Trick ()
Chapter XVIII: Jehanne & the French Captains ()
a. Timeline for Charles VII
b, Timeline for Jehanne La Pucelle
c. March 8, 1429: What Jehanne told Charles VII
d. The Julian Calendar for 1429
e. The Gregorian Calendar for 1429
f. Troop and Materiel Moves in Orléans before May
g. The Battle of Orléans Chronology of Events
h. The Battle of Orléans—A Historical Summary
i. Tracking English Troop and Materiel
January 6, 2012
First of all, I want to thank you for your interest in this incredible young woman and for taking the trouble to preview my book about her transition from farm girl to knight.
Today is the day that Jehanne d’Arc (aka Joan of Arc) came into the world 600 years ago. So, why do I personally care so much about the life and death of this teenage girl?
My love for her began when I was in first grade, and wheezing in bed with asthma for days and weeks at a time. Being sickly and undersized made me an easy target. Ridicule and fights represented my daily life at school—when I was well enough to attend.
At home, my real friends were books and small plastic medieval soldiers who came and went at my command across the rolling battle fields of my bedcovers. One book I had was about Jehanne d’Arc.
Besides being plain and small in appearance (like me), what I loved most about this teenage knight was how brave she was when noble men, women, and fellow knights insulted and laughed at her. I also liked how—in the end—Jehanne shut them all up with her battlefield success. I’ve been reading and writing about her ever since.
Why should you care about her life or death? Jehanne was a teenager who—because of her powerful faith—accomplished incredible feats for God and country and who actually changed the world.
Also, Jehanne is the only person (male or female) in recorded history to have led the entire military forces of a nation at age 17. Moreover, when she began her public life she was a simple farm girl who could not read, write, or even ride a horse. We know this from the detailed French government public records of at least two highly publicized trials that sought the truth of whether she had been sent by God or Satan.
Jehanne came onto the world scene during the Hundred Years War. England had been invading France since 1337, and it now appeared (in 1429) to most Frenchmen that they were on the verge of losing to the hated "Goddons" (a French version of the curse-phrase "God-damn," which English soldiers used to excess wherever they went).
My book and blog will chronicle the events of Jehanne's life starting in January of 1429, when she began a journey that would ultimately decide the outcome of the Hundred Years War. It was a journey that began in a horse-drawn cart in the midst of a blinding snow storm as she traveled with her uncle 20 miles to the nearest city.
It was during this trip that she finally shared a secret she'd been keeping since she was 13—that God had sent daily messengers to her telling her that she—an illiterate farm girl—had to help France win the war with England.
And for me, what happens to Jehanne in the early months of 1429 allows the reader to witness the simple truth of who Jehanne really was—gloriously innocent, incredibly focused, naïve, hot-tempered, and miraculous, yet humble beyond ordinary understanding, while still committed with every ounce of her being to the service of God.
Jehanne, France, and the Middle Ages in Context
Before we start the Jehanne d’Arc story, it’s important to put her times in context. For most of us, it’s understandably difficult to compare the realities of our daily lives with those of the 1400s. It may surprise us that the people of that era led productive and meaningful lives without computers, the Internet, cell phones, television, iPods, or videos. They also experienced supreme happiness and joy without radios, recorded music, electricity, bathrooms, plumbing, or insulation. They raised families without domestic personal privacy or access to modern medicine, flying machines, mechanical land travel, or paved roads. Except for the military and the wealthy, the only modes of transportation and communication in 1429 were shoe leather, beasts of burden, assorted wheeled vehicles, and water travel. For a message or package to reach its destination usually required days, weeks, or months—sometimes years.
When Jehanne came into this world, France had seen its population shrink by more than 40 percent. Before the Hundred Years War started in 1337, approximately 17 million men, women, and children lived in France, but by the time this teenager left home, the nation’s population had shrunk to roughly 10 million.
Average life expectancy for men was 34, women 28. More women died in childbirth and from disease then did men from the war, accidents, or disease. The bubonic plague had been galloping virtually unchecked across Europe, killing tens of millions—mostly the young. As much as one-third of new babies failed to reach age six with more than half dying during their first year.
Parents didn’t worry about having too many offspring—each child who reached its seventh year would be needed to assure the family’s survival. And if you, your mother, or neighbor encountered problems during childbirth, or if a rampaging wolf pack mangled your brother, father, or son while hunting for your next family meal, the only means to medical care (such as it was) would be to mount a horse and go find the local "wise-woman." Doctors of the Middle Ages were usually only available to the rich.
Evenings at home began in front of the fireplace, and as the night wore on, families used candlelight or torches to make their way around the rest of their smelly home. Disposal of bodily wastes involved emptying a chamber pot into the family’s outdoor open compost pit, or—in cities such as Orléans—out an open window where rain or melted snow would eventually wash the feces and urine into the local water supply. People seldom bathed and boiling water most often accompanied the preparation of food or drinking water—when wine was unavailable. In the average French peasant home, insulation from heat or cold did not exist. During the winter months, families most often slept in their outdoor clothing and footwear.
Also, during these times, an overwhelming majority of Europeans attended the Catholic Church and had done so since about 800 A.D. However, the French version of their faith—by peasant and nobleman alike—included witchcraft, sorcery, magic, and prophecy all blended together into one commonly held cultural belief system. As a result, legends and myths occupied an essential part of French life. Parents constantly worried about their daughters and witchcraft—that the Devil might sexually force himself on female children, making them witches for life. The French of 1429 also believed that a girl had not been overwhelmed by Satan as long as her virginity remained intact.
During these challenging times, a widely-held prophecy—commonly thought to have originated with Merlyn the Magician—had passed generation to generation. It predicted that, "France will be lost by a woman and saved by a virgin from the oak forests of Lorraine." The fact that this prophecy enjoyed such widespread acceptance helps explain most French peasants’ state of mind in 1429 when Jehanne left home to answer—after four years of intense prayer and contemplation—God’s direct call to her through visits and conversations with Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret.
A Geographic and Political Map of France (January 1429)
Sample Chapter Excerpt:
Chapter III: Miracle at Vaucouleurs
January 12, 1429
Jehanne arrived this day with her uncle Lassois in a snow storm and found shelter with a Vaucouleurs family, Henri and Catherine le Royer. Standing barely five feet-two inches, Jehanne was well-proportioned and muscular—accustomed to and unafraid of strenuous farm work. Concealed beneath her long black hair, a dark-red birthmark ran down behind her right ear ending at the nape of her neck.
Although not a stunning beauty, Jehanne had large and mildly protruding blue eyes. Gentle and innocent in appearance, her luminous gaze instantly pierced the soul of friend and stranger alike. She saw the world through kind, cheerful, and pious eyes, and tried to conceal a tendency to worry—especially about her ignorance of French politics or how to fight a war. But she’d been sent here by God, and this wasn’t the first time.
In May of 1428—in response to the urgings of her "divine visitors"—Jehanne had gone to Vaucouleurs with the same uncle to get an audience with the local Governor, Sir Robert de Baudricourt. He was the only one she’d heard of who could arrange a meeting for her with Charles VII, crown prince (aka the Dauphin) of France. It was his army that stood between the English invaders and their attempt to take over France.
But Baudricourt laughed at Jehanne back in 1428 and told her uncle to take the girl back home and give her a sound spanking. But now Jehanne had come back, determined to change the Governor’s mind. Several weeks later as a heavy rain pummeled Vaucouleurs, she sent word from the le Royer home that she had a sign from God that would convince him, and sherequested a meeting.
The le Royers had readily agreed to have Jehanne stay with them. Their friendship with Durand Lassois went back to their childhoods, and they were delighted to have this opportunity to assist in God’s work. Like most of their neighbors, the le Royers required little convincing that the girl had been sent by God.
The main room of the le Royer house was one of quiet comfort. On the left, as one entered from the street, a large open fireplace—hooded and large enough to roast an adult pig—crackled with burning oak scraps. On the right, a well-crafted wooden door led to the inner house. The doorway to the outside stood in the center of the outside wall and held a thick oak door that led down along stone steps to the street. Inside and to the right of the huge doorway hung a tasteful crucifix made by Henri. The furniture looked simple but carefully honed by a wood-working artisan.
Henri sat in one corner, whittling a small figurine. Catherine and Jehanne sat in another, spinning wool together. Just then, they heard the sound of galloping horses clattering through narrow streets, followed by the snorts and whinnies of several large animals coming to a sudden stop. Heavy footsteps ran up the front stairs. The front door burst open and a large soldier charged in.
"Sir Robert is here," he announced, soaked to the skin and out of breath. "He’s mounting the steps this moment!"
The le Royers and Jehanne stood.
Sir Robert de Baudricourt lumbered in through the open door and surveyed the room. Thick through the shoulders with an enlarged girth, this loyal French captain possessed a large face and pug nose, offset with short, dirty blond hair.
While Sir Robert perused his host and hostess, another soldier entered and closed the door behind him.
"Why, Captain Baudricourt!" Jehanne blurted, blue eyes wide with surprise. "You honor us with your visit, my lord. How may we be of service?"
The Governor continued to stare at Catherine and Henri. "I would like both of you to permit me and my two most trusted soldiers to be alone with Jehanne the Maid."
The le Royers quickly withdrew.
Each soldier now moved to guard one of the entrance doors.
Baudricourt started to pace. "You have a sign for me? What sign?"
Jehanne sat down, hands clasped as if about to pray. "Sire," she began. "You told me in our last meeting that if you only had a sign that I had been sent by our Father in Heaven —something I could only know from Him—that if I gave you such a sign, you would immediately dispatch me with an escort to the Dauphin in Chinon. Is that not so?"
Baudricourt continued to stroll, alternately studying the floor and the faces of the two soldiers. "Aye, I recall speaking similar words."
"Right now, Sire, as we speak," she continued, eyes closed and tears streaming. "The forces of the Dauphin are fighting a monstrous battle with the English in a town close to Orléans. The Count of Clermont and Sir John Stewart, Constable of Scotland, have both been badly wounded. Our forces far outnumber theirs."
She paused and sighed. "I should have been there to help."
Sir Robert stopped walking and stared at Jehanne. There was no logical way for her to know the names of any of the field commanders for the French. How could she make such a statement?
No one spoke. The sound of rain pounding on the building and streets filled the room.
Jehanne knelt down in the direction of the crucifix, crossed herself, and began to weep.
Amazed, Robert de Baudricourt stared down at the sobbing girl. Then he reminded himself that she came from a peasant family, lacked any military training or experience, and had no family connections. So how could she know of a battle near Orléans?
Hr made a mental note of the date: February 12, 1429.
* * * *
As you continue reading my blog about The Girl Who Stomped the English, you will soon realize that the moment depicted directly above became one of a handful of pivotal moments in the life of Jehanne d’Arc during the period that began January 12, 1429 and ended May 8, 1429. You are cordially invited to follow and read my weekly (or more often) posts from this book at:
Thank you again for your interest in Jehanne d’Arc and this wonderful website.