5

THE LONG DESCENT

 

ON that same day an offer of peace arrived from the Duke of Burgundy. Joan, though convinced that no peace could be made with the English while they remained in France, was herself desirous of making peace with the Duke, but the "long, good, and assured peace" which she hoped for was not at all the sort which Philip was prepared to offer. As a matter of fact, while the King was wasting four days in negotiations at Rheims, Cardinal Beaufort, great-uncle of the boy King Henry VI, was bringing 3500 men (mustered ostensibly to fight the Hussites in Bohemia) from Calais to Paris, and Burgundy was sending recruits to the English forces.

On July 21, the French army left Rheims, and, after entering Soissons, crossed the Marne at Chateau-Thierry, then, to Joan's disgust, headed south toward Charles's beloved Loire on August 1. She was glad when, some days later, this retreat was cut off by English forces, but she was still depressed. Riding along one day, she was asked by the Archbishop of Rheims where she expected to die. "Where God pleases," she replied, "and would it were God's pleasure that I might now lay down my arms and go back to serve my father and mother." Her via dolorosa had begun, and the glory of Rheims was never to return.

At this time the Duke of Bedford sent a highly insulting letter to Charles, challenging him to fight in open field. Joan expected such a battle near Senlis on August 15, but the English refused to sally forth from their palisaded camp, and an assault on this was wisely declined by the French. Only a few skirmishes took place.

Compiegne, Senlis, and Beauvais had surrendered to the King and the Maid by August 22. From the last named town, his episcopal see, fled Peter Cauchon, Joan's archenemy, who was to try and condemn her at Rouen.

At Compiegne, Charles again became involved in negotiations with Burgundy, while Joan sorrowed. She left the King there, occupied St. Denis, and repeatedly reconnoitered the walls of Paris with d'Alencon.

On August 28, the King concluded with Philip of Burgundy an amazing armistice, which was to last till Christmas, and was afterwards prolonged till the spring. It provided that Charles might attack Paris, but that Burgundy might help the English to defend it! The town of Compiegne was to be loaned to Philip, but he refused to accept this arrangement.

Joan's attack on Paris, September 8, concerning which the accounts do not agree, seems to have been, in the purpose of the other French leaders, a mere skirmish or display, designed to help a tumult and possible revolt by French sympathizers in the city. Joan, however, intended to make of it a much more serious engagement. In any case, it failed. The Porte Saint Honore was attacked with initial success, but, after sunset, Joan was wounded in the thigh by an arrow. She continued to encourage her men, but was at length carried out of fire, protesting. Early next morning, at her camp near the city, she was urging d'Alencon to sound the trumpets for an advance, when the King's orders arrived, bidding her return at once to Saint Denis. Charles had even destroyed a bridge over the Seine, thus preventing another move against Paris next day.

After a hasty retreat southward, Charles and his army were back at Glen, on the Loire, by September 21. The forces were there disbanded, though Joan remained, in harrowing idleness, with the King.

 

For a time she could do nothing but follow in the train of the Court. The King was constantly moving from place to place, but the Queen settled for some time at Bourges, and there Joan lodged for three weeks with a lady who afterward praised her innocence and her kindness to the poor.

In the fall of 1429, Charles's advisers decided to anticipate probable Burgundian plans by seizing the towns of St. Pierre le Moustier and La Charite, not far east of Bourges. The former was brilliantly taken by a force under the Maid and d'Albret, but from the latter, the besiegers were forced to withdraw, owing to the lateness of the season and to lack of supplies, which only the faithful city of Orleans was able to furnish.

Winter wore on, while the King lavished money on La Tremoille. The ill-kept truce with Burgundy, the chief effect of which seems to have been to prevent a whole-hearted attack on Paris from being attempted, expired in the spring. Joan wrote encouragingly to the people of Rheims, and her confessor, Brother John Pasquerel, sent stern admonishments on her behalf to the Bohemian heretics.

 

Philip of Burgundy himself wrote a long paper of ad-vice to the English Council at this time. It sets forth plans for the spring campaign, and testifies to the enormous change in the military situation, which Joan had brought about. With friend and foe her reputation was indeed still great, yet she no longer received effective backing from her King, who was only just beginning to realize that his hopes of peace by means of appeasing Burgundy were illusory a fact which Joan had long since known.

Late in March 1430, the Maid, unable to refrain any longer from attempts at military action in the region near Paris, left Sully (La Tremoille's seat) with "two or three lances," and joined the small forces of certain captains, including a Scot and a Lombard, whom she encountered.

In Easter week (April 1723) at Melun, which ejected its Burgundian garrison to receive her, Joan's voices warned her that she would be captured before Mid-summer Day. Yet, in spite of this terrible foreknowledge she rode on. At Lagny, after reinforcements had arrived, she won a minor victory over a band allied with the English. Then she moved on to Senlis with a larger force.

 

The little King Henry VI had landed at Calais on April 23, and his Council hoped that he, too, might be crowned at Rheims. The capture of Compiegne now became of vital importance for the relief of Paris in Anglo-Burgundian plans. After a series of maneuvers, Joan, hearing at Crepy that Compiegne was menaced by large enemy forces, hurried thither with three or four hundred men, and arrived in the dawn of May 24. That afternoon she led a sudden sortie across the Aisne, and routed the small Burgundian force there encamped. Her withdrawal into the town would have been assured, had not several Burgundian officers chanced to come from Clairvoix near by, observed the affray, and sent for strong reinforcements. Joan for a time kept them at bay, but most of her troops had fled by boats and bridge. She was finally dragged from her horse in the swampy meadow by an archer of the Bastard of Wandomme, vassal of the Burgundian John of Luxemburg. John d'Aulon, her devoted companion since Chinon, was captured with her.

There was great jubilation in the enemy camp. The Duke of Burgundy came to gaze at the witch. The Vicar-General of the Inquisition wrote from Paris, on the day after he had received the news, to Philip, demanding that Joan be handed over to be tried for heresy. The University of Paris wrote repeatedly to Philip and to John of 1 Luxemburg, urgently making the same demand. The relative portions of theological zeal and political interest in the attitude of the Alma Mater have been much discussed, Both were present; the former was that of a body which regarded itself as the supreme theological authority in Christendom, the latter that of men who found their positions and emoluments menaced by upheavals in the status quo, which therefore must come from the devil.

On July 14, Bishop Pierre Cauchon, chosen to represent the English government in the affair, and handsomely paid by them till the end of the trial, delivered in 1 person to Philip and John his letter offering ten thousand francs a royal ransom, as he said for Joan, and claiming the right to try her, "as she had been taken in his diocese."

In the meantime, Joan, after a few days at Clairvoix, was taken to the castle of Beaulieu for a fortnight, thence forty miles north to John's castle of Beaurevoir. Here she stayed for four months, till the end of September, kindly treated by three other Joans, aunt, wife, and daughter of the Luxemburger. The oldest of the ladies begged her nephew not to deliver the Maid to the English. Joan would never promise not to try to escape. At Beaurevoir she made the attempt, in spite of her voices' opposition, by leaping from a sixty-foot tower, and was grievously, though temporarily, lamed. The court at Rouen made much of this, professing to regard it as an attempt at suicide. They could blame her for disobeying her voices when it suited them!

Negotiations between Cauchon and Burgundy dragged on through September. Joan was moved to Arras, in Burgundian territory. In November the money had been raised and the horrible deal put through. The Maid was in English hands.

The University wrote again, this time to Cauchon, urging speed in bringing Joan to Paris, to be tried by them. They wrote a letter of similar tenor to Henry VI. On December 16 the boy was crowned King of France in Notre Dame of Paris, Rheims being inaccessible, by his great-uncle Cardinal Beaufort. Before the end of the year he had settled in Rouen.

It was probably shortly before that Joan had been brought thither, and lodged in the castle of Philip Augustus. She was no longer relatively free, but "in a dark cell, fettered and in irons."

The various competitors for the honor of doing the Maid to death reached an agreement: Cauchon was to try her at Rouen, for which the subservient chapter, the see being vacant, granted him such rights as they had; the Inquisition was to be represented as cojudge; the University was to assume a sort of general moral responsibility; those who spoke for Henry VI, while authorizing Cauchon to conduct the trial in a rescript dated January 3, 1431, reserved the right to take Joan back "if she were not convicted in any matter touching the faith" a quite unnecessary precaution. In short, the stage was set.

What had Joan's party been doing to save her during all these months? The University had written to Burgundy of its anxiety lest this woman should be delivered out of his hands "by the guile and seduction of the infernal enemy, and by the malice and subtlety of evil persons" - said to be devoting all their energies to rescuing Joan. There was little ground for worry!

The Archbishop of Rheims, whom the Maid had restored to, his see, complained to his spiritual subjects on the day after Joan's capture, that she "would not take advice, but did as she chose." He had actually espoused the cause of a new prophet, a shepherd boy who claimed that he, too, had been sent by God to deliver France.

The Venetian chronicler Morosini reported, on returning home from Bruges in December, 1430, rumors cur-rent in the Flemish city that Charles had written Burgundy on no account to deliver Joan to the English, under pain of reprisals against Burgundian captives. There is no confirming evidence of this.

Alone among prominent Frenchmen, as far as we know, James Gelu, Archbishop of Embrun, solemnly warned the King against the disgraceful ingratitude of failing to ransom the Maid.