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Read Part One: St Joan of Arc's beginnings.
Joan of Arc had shown her sign, as she promised; she had rescued Orleans. Her next desire was to lead Charles to Reims, through a country occupied by the English, and to have him anointed there with the holy oil. Till this was done she could only regard him as Dauphin--king, indeed, by blood, but not by consecration.
After all that St Joan of Arc had accomplished, the king and his advisers might have believed in her. She went to the castle of Loches, where Charles was; he received her kindly, but still he did not seem eager to go to Reims. It was a dangerous adventure, for which he and his favorites had no taste. It seems that more learned men were asked to give their opinion. Was it safe and wise to obey the Maid? Councils were now held at Tours, and time was wasted as usual. As usual, Joan was impatient. With Dunois, she went to see Charles at the castle of Loches. Some nobles and clergy were with him; Joan entered, knelt, and embraced his knees. "Noble Dauphin," she said, "do not hold so many councils, and such weary ones, but come to Reims and receive the crown."
Harcourt asked her if her Voices, or "counsel" (as she called it), gave this advice. She blushed and said: "I know what you mean, and will tell you gladly." The king asked her if she wished to speak before so many people. Yes, she would speak. When they doubted her, she prayed," and then she heard a Voice saying to her:
"'Daughter of God, go on, go on, I will help thee; go!
"And when she heard this Voice she was glad indeed, and wished that she could always be as she was then; and as she spoke," says Dunois, "she rejoiced strangely, lifting her eyes to heaven." And she repeated: "I will last for only one year, or little more; use me while you may."
St Joan of Arc stirred the favorites and courtiers at last. They would go to Reims, but could they leave behind them English garrisons in Jargeau, where Suffolk commanded; in Meun, where Talbot was, and in other strong places? Already, without Joan, the French had attacked Jargeau, after the rescue of Orleans, and had failed. Joan agreed to assail Jargeau. Her army was led by the "fair duke," D'Alencon.
Let us tell what followed in the words of the Duc d'Alencon:
"We were about six hundred lances, who wished to go against the town of Jargeau, then held by the English. That night we slept in a wood, and next day came Dunois and some other captains. When we were all met we were about twelve hundred lances; and now arose a dispute among the captains, some thinking that we should attack the city, others not so, for they said that the English were very strong, and had many men. Seeing this difference, Jeanne bade us have no fear of any numbers, nor doubt about attacking the English, because God was guiding us. She herself would rather be herding sheep than fighting, if she were not certain that God was with us. Thereon we rode to Jargeau, meaning to occupy the outlying houses, and there pass the night; but the English knew of our approach, and drove in our skirmishers. Seeing this, Jeanne took her banner and went to the front, bidding our men be of good heart. And they did so much that they held the suburbs of Jargeau that night.
...Next morning we got ready our artillery, and brought guns up against the town. After some days a council was held, and I, with others, was ill content with La Hire, who was said to have parleyed with Lord Suffolk. La Hire was sent for, and came. Then it was decided to storm the town, and the heralds cried, 'To the attack!' and Jeanne said to me, 'Forward, gentle duke.' I thought it was too early, but she said, 'Doubt not; the hour is come when God pleases.' As the onslaught was given, Jeanne bade me leave the place where I stood, 'or yonder gun' pointing to one on the walls, 'will slay you.' Then I withdrew, and a little later De Lude was slain in that very place. And I feared greatly, considering the prophecy of the Maid. Then we both went together to the onslaught; and Suffolk cried for a parley, but no man marked him, and we pressed on. Joan was climbing a ladder, banner in hand, when her flag was struck by a stone, and she also was struck on her head, but her light helmet saved her. She leaped up again, crying, 'Friends, friends; on, on! Our Lord has condemned the English. They are ours; be of good heart.' In that moment Jargeau was taken, and the English fled to the bridges, we following, and more than eleven hundred of them were slain."
Once St Joan of Arc saw a man-at-arms strike down a prisoner. She leaped from her horse, and laid the wounded Englishman's head on her breast, consoling him, and bade a priest come and hear his confession. From Jargeau the Maid rode back to Orleans, where the people could not look on her enough, and made great festival.
The garrison of the English in Beaugency did not know whether to hold out or to yield. Fastolf said that the English had lost heart, and that Beaugency should be left to its fate, while the rest held out in strong places and waited for re-enforcements, but Talbot was for fighting. The English then rode to Meun, and cannonaded the bridge-fort, which was held by the French. They hoped to take the bridge, cross it, march to Beaugency, and relieve the besieged there. But that very night Beaugency surrendered to the Maid! She then bade her army march on the English, who were retreating to Paris. But how was the Maid to find the English? "Ride forward," she cried, "and you shall have a sure guide." They had a guide, and a strange one.
The English were marching toward Paris, near Pathay, when their skirmishers came in with the news that the French were following. Talbot lined the hedges with five hundred archers of his best, and sent a galloper to bring thither the rest of his army. On came the French, not seeing the English in ambush. In a few minutes they would have been shot down and choked the pass with dying men and horses. But now was the moment for the strange guide.
A stag was driven from cover by the French, and ran blindly among the ambushed English bowmen. Not knowing that the French were so near, and being archers from Robin Hood's country, who loved a deer, they raised a shout, and probably many an arrow flew at the stag. The French scouts heard the cry, saw the English and hurried back with the news. "Forward!" cried the Maid; "if they were hung to the clouds, we have them. Today the gentle king will gain such a victory as never yet did he win."
The French dashed into the pass before Talbot had secured it. Fastolf galloped up, but the English thought that he was in flight; the captain of the advanced guard turned his horse about and made off. Talbot was taken, Fastolf fled, "making more sorrow than ever yet did man." The French won a great victory. They needed their spurs, as the Maid had told them that they would, to follow their flying foes. The English lost some 3,000 men. In the evening, Talbot, as a prisoner, was presented to the Duc d'Alencon.
At last, with difficulty, Charles was brought to visit Reims and consented to be crowned like his ancestors.
Seeing that he was never likely to move, Joan left the town where he was and went off into the country. This retreat brought Charles to his senses. The towns which he passed by yielded to him; Joan went and summoned each. "Now she was with the king in the centre, now with the rear guard, now with the van." The town of Troyes, where there was an English garrison, did not wish to yield. There was a council in the king's army; they said they could not take the place.
"In two days it shall be yours, by force or by good-will," said St Joan of Arc. "Six days will do," said the chancellor, "if you are sure you speak truth."
Joan made ready for an attack. She was calling "Forward!" when the town surrendered. Reims, after some doubts, yielded also, on July 16, and all the people welcomed the king. On July 17 the king was crowned and anointed with the holy oil by that very Archbishop of Reims who always opposed Joan. The Twelve Peers of France were not all present--some were on the English side--but Joan stood by Charles, her banner in her hand.
When the ceremony was ended, and the Dauphin Charles was a crowned and anointed king, the Maid knelt weeping at his feet. "Gentle king," she said, "now is accomplished the will of God, who desired that you should come to Reims to be consecrated, and to prove that you are the true king and the kingdom is yours." Then all the knights wept for joy.
The king bade St Joan of Arc Joan choose her reward. Already horses, rich armor, jewelled daggers, had been given to her. These, adding to the beauty and glory of her aspect, had made men follow her more gladly, and for that she valued them. She made gifts to noble ladies, and gave much to the poor. She only wanted money to wage the war with, not for herself. Her family was made noble; on their shield, between two lilies, a sword upholds the crown. Her father was at Reims, and saw her in her glory. What reward, then, was Joan to choose? She chose nothing for herself, but that her native village of Domremy should be free from taxes. This news her father carried home from the splendid scene at Reims.
As they went from Reims after the coronation, Dunois and the archbishop were riding by her rein. The people cheered and shouted with joy.
"They are a good people," said Joan. "Never saw I any more joyous at the coming of their king. Ah, would that I might be so happy when I end my days as to be buried here!" Said the archbishop: "Jeanne, in what place do you hope to die?" Then she said: "Where it pleases God; for I know not that hour, nor that place, more than ye do. But would to God, my Maker, that now I might depart, and lay down my arms, and help my father and mother, and keep their sheep with my brothers and my sisters, who would rejoice to see me!"
What was to be done after the crowning of the king? Bedford, the regent for the child Henry VI, expected to see Joan under the walls of Paris. He was waiting for the troops which the Cardinal of Winchester had collected in England. Bedford induced Winchester to bring his men to France, but they had not arrived. The Duke of Burgundy, the head of the great French party which opposed Charles, had been invited by the Maid to Reims. Again she wrote to him: "Make a firm, good peace with the King of France," she said; "forgive each other with kind hearts"; "I pray and implore you, with joined hands, fight not against France."
The Duke of Burgundy, far from listening to Joan's prayer, left Paris and went to raise men for the English. Meanwhile, Charles was going from town to town, and all received him gladly. But Joan soon began to see that instead of marching west from Reims to Paris, the army was being led southwest toward the Loire. There the king would be safe among his dear castles, where he could live indoors, and take his ease. Thus Bedford was able to throw 5,000 men of Winchester's into Paris, and even dared to come out and hunt for the French king. The French should have struck at Paris at once, as Joan desired. The delays were excused because the Duke of Burgundy had promised to surrender Paris in a fortnight. But this he did merely to gain time. Joan knew this, and said there would be no peace but at the lance-point.
The French and English armies kept watching each other, and there were skirmishes near Senlis. On August 15, the Maid and d'Alencon hoped for a battle. But the English had fortified their position in the night. Come out they would not, so Joan rode up to their fortification, standard in hand, struck the palisade and challenged them to sally forth. She even offered to let them march out and draw themselves up in line of battle. The Maid stayed on the field all night and next day made a retreat, hoping to draw the English out of their fort. But they were too wary and went back to Paris.
Now the fortnight was over, after which the Duke of Burgundy was to surrender Paris, but he did nothing of the kind. The Maid was weary of words. She called the Duc d'Alencon and said: "My fair duke, array your men, for, by my staff, I would fain see Paris more closely than I have seen it yet." On August 23, St Joan of Arc and d'Alencon left the king at Compiegne and rode to St. Denis, where were the tombs of the kings of France. "And when the king heard that they were at St. Denis, he came, very sore against his will, as far as Senlis, and it seems that his advisers were contrary to the will of the Maid, of the Duc d'Alencon, and of their company." The king was afraid to go near Paris, but Bedford was afraid to stay in the town. He went to Rouen, the strongest English hold in Normandy, leaving the Burgundian army and 2,000 English in Paris.
Every day, the Maid and d'Alencon rode from St. Denis to the gates of Paris, to observe the best places for an attack. And still Charles dallied and delayed, still the main army did not come up. Thus the delay of the king gave the English time to make Paris almost impregnable and to frighten the people who, had Charles marched straight from Reims, would have yielded as Reims did. D'Alencon kept going to Senlis urging Charles to come up with the main army. He went on September 1--the king promised to start next day. D'Alencon returned to the Maid, the king still loitered. At last d'Alencon brought him to St. Denis on September 7, and there was a skirmish that day.
In the book of Perceval de Cagny, who was with his lord, the Duc d'Alencon, he says: "The assault was long and fierce, and it was marvel to hear the noise of the cannons and culverins from the walls, and to see the clouds of arrows. Few of those in the fosse with the Maid were struck, though many others on horse and foot were wounded with arrows and stone cannon-balls, but by God's grace and the Maid's good fortune, there was none of them but could return to camp unhelped. The assault lasted from noon till dusk--say eight in the evening. After sunset, the Maid was struck by a crossbow bolt in the thigh; and, after she was hurt, she cried but the louder that all should attack, and that the place was taken. But as night had now fallen and she was wounded, and the men-at-arms were weary with the long attack, De Gaucourt and others came and found her, and, against her will, brought her forth from the fosse. And so ended that onslaught. But right sad she was to leave and said, 'By my baton, the place would have been taken.' They put her on horseback, and led her to her quarters, and all the rest of the king's company who that day had come from St. Denis."
"Next day," says Cagny, "in spite of her wound, she was first in the field. She went to d'Alencon and bade him sound the trumpet for the charge. D'Alencon and the other captains were of the same mind as the Maid, and Montmorency with sixty gentlemen and many lances came in, though he had been on the English side before. So they began to march on Paris, but the king sent messengers, and compelled the Maid and the captains to return to St. Denis. Right sorry were they, yet they must obey the king. When she saw that they would go, she dedicated her armor, and hung it up before the statue of Our Lady at St. Denis, and so right sadly went away in company with the king. And thus were broken the will of the Maid and the army of the king."
The courtiers had triumphed. They had thwarted St Joan of Arc, they had made her promise to take Paris of no avail. They had destroyed the confidence of men in the banner that had never gone back.
The king now went from one pleasant tower on the Loire to another, taking the Maid with him. Meanwhile, the English took and plundered some of the cities which had yielded to Charles, and they carried off the Maid's armor from the chapel in St. Denis. Her Voices had bidden her stay at St. Denis, but this she was not permitted to do, and now she must hear daily how the loyal towns that she had won were plundered by the English, and all her work seemed wasted. The Duc d'Alencon offered to lead an army against the English in Normandy, if the Maid might march with him, for the people had not wholly lost faith, but the courtiers and the Archbishop of Reims, who managed the king and the war, would not consent, nor would they allow the Maid and the duke to even see each other.
St Joan of Arc wanted to return to Paris, but the council sent her to take La Charite and Saint-Pierre-le-Moustier from the English. This town she attacked first. Her squire, a gentleman named d'Aulon, was with her, and described what he saw. "When they had besieged the place for some time, an assault was commanded, but for the great strength of the forts and the numbers of the enemy the French were forced to give way. At that hour I who speak was wounded by an arrow in the heel, and could not stand or walk without crutches. But I saw the Maid holding her ground with a handful of men, and, fearing ill might come of it, I mounted a horse and rode to her, asking what she was doing there alone, and why she did not retreat like the others. She took the salade from her head, and answered that she was not alone, but had in her company fifty thousand of her people; and that go she would not till she had taken that town,
"But, whatever she said, I saw that she had with her but four men or five, as others also saw, wherefore I bade her retreat. Then she commanded me to have fagots brought, and planks to bridge fosses. And as she spoke to me, she cried in a loud voice, 'All of you, bring fagots to fill the fosse.' And this was done, whereat I greatly marvelled, and instantly that town was taken by assault with no great resistance. And all that the Maid did seemed to me rather deeds divine than natural, and it was impossible that so young a maid should do such deeds without the will and guidance of Our Lord."
Read St Joan of Arc Part Three: The Death of St Joan of Arc.