Segment 4: Chinon, Poitiers, and Tours

"In God's name, the soldiers will fight and God will grant victory [En nom De, les gens d'armes batailleront et Dieu donnera victoire]."1
- Joan of Arc herself, as quoted by Friar Seguin.

Anno Domini 1429
he first part of the journey lay through the countryside between Vaucouleurs and Saint-Urbain, about 20 miles to the southwest. The area was controlled by troops loyal to the Duke of Burgundy.
Their destination during the first twenty-four hours was the abbey in the latter town, as Joan of Arc said: "... I reached the town of Saint-Urbain, where I slept in an abbey."2 This abbey, long exempt from secular jurisdiction, was then headed by an abbot named Arnould d'Aulnoy, a relative of Lord Baudricourt. Although a woman would not be allowed within the monastery itself, she would have been allowed to stay in the guest house.
Jean de Metz remembered: "... in leaving Vaucouleurs, we sometimes went by night out of fear of the English and Burgundians who were all along the route, and we spent eleven days on the road while riding towards Chinon; and while traveling I asked her if she would truly do what she said; she always replied that we should have no fear, that she was ordered to do this, that her Brothers of Paradise had told her what she had to do: it was four or five years since her Brothers of Paradise and her Lord, that is to say God, told her that she should go to the war to recover the Kingdom of France... while traveling, she would have liked to have heard Mass, as she said, because she told us: 'If we could hear Mass, we would be doing well'; but since she might be recognized we only heard Mass twice...." 3

Her own description of this dangerous ride was largely a record of the masses she heard in churches along the route:
"On the way I passed through the town of Auxerre, and heard Mass in the principal Church there."4 Auxerre was a Burgundian-held city about 77 miles southwest of Saint-Urbain; to get there the group must have passed the Burgundian garrisons at Clairveaux and Pothières and crossed a succession of icy, flooded rivers, including the Marne, the Blaise, the Aube, the Ource, the Seine, the Armançon, and the Serein. It's assumed that she and perhaps Jean de Metz entered Auxerre, despite the risk, in order to let her attend services in the massive cathedral which still looms over the town today.

Beyond Auxerre was a stretch of some 37 miles across the Baulche, l'Ouanne and Branlin rivers, past the Burgundian garrison at Mézilles, and finally on to the safety of the Dauphinist town of Gien on the Loire. News of her arrival and intentions reached the besieged city of Orléans, only about 34 miles downriver to the northwest. As the city's commander Lord Dunois would comment: "They say that a maiden passed the city of Gien...", noting that she had come to lift the siege of Orléans;5 although it would be another couple months and many more miles of travel before she would be given an army to liberate it.

At Orléans the battle of Rouvray had led to a feeling of defeatism and an attempt to end the siege by negotiation. The citizens sent a proposal to the Duke of Burgundy offering him temporary oversight of his cousin's city and the right to appoint a governor of his choice. Burgundy thought this was a splendid idea, of course (" much from his affection for his cousin of Orléans as to prevent it suffering the perils likely to befall it" said Enguerrand de Monstrelet, perhaps failing to mention Burgundy's equal affection for expanding his jurisdiction). However, his brother-in-law the Duke of Bedford was not enthusiastic about allowing so much English effort to benefit a troublesome ally who had barely contributed to the siege. His oft-quoted remark was, "I should be mighty angry to beat the bushes so someone else can get the birds from the branches." Another English partisan, Lord Raoul de Saint-Pierre-Église, made a comment to the effect that he didn't wish to chew the food only to have the Duke of Burgundy swallow it. Negotiations for the city's neutrality under Burgundian administration came to naught, and in retaliation the small Burgundian contingent was withdrawn from the siege.6 This contingent was not militarily significant, but it was politically valuable as a token of the Anglo-Burgundian alliance; for the rest of the duration of the siege, the English would go it alone.

From Gien, the future deliverer of Orléans still had some 105 miles to travel before reaching Chinon to the southwest, although this final stretch of her journey lay across the friendly bubble of Dauphinist territory within the arc of the Loire river. The highlight for her was apparently the town of Ste-Catherine-de-Fierbois, where, as she would later say, "I heard three masses in one day, and then I went to the town of Chinon. I sent letters to my king, in which I said that I was sending word to ask if I should enter the town where he was, and that I had come 150 leagues to come to his aid, and knew many good tidings for him. And it seems to me that in these letters I said that I would know the king among all the others."7 The three masses were held in the town's church, whose successor contains a plaque commemorating her stop there. The letters have not survived.
From Ste-Catherine-de-Fierbois it was only a brief 20 miles to Chinon, a narrow strip of a city on the Vienne river overlooked by a sprawling château on the nearby hill. She arrived in the city at noon around March 4th, and found a place to stay in a local home.8 It had been her intention to meet immediately with the Dauphin, but she was made to wait for two days while Charles' counselors debated whether it would be prudent to arrange an audience. Simon Charles, master of the Court of Requests, said: "I know that when she arrived at Chinon the Council debated whether or not the King should hear her... she said that she had two mandates from the King of Heaven: one was to raise the siege of Orléans; the other to lead the King to Rheims for his coronation and anointing. Having heard this, some of the King's counselors said that the King should not put any faith in Joan, and others [gave the opinion] that since she said she was sent by God and had something to say to the King, he should at least hear her. Nevertheless, the King wished for her to be examined first by clerics and men of the Church, and this was done. And finally it was decided, albeit with difficulty, that the King would hear her."9
She was escorted by Count Louis de Vendome into Charles' presence, in the audience hall at Chinon. The château at Chinon was composed of three fortresses (Saint-Georges, Le Milieu, and Couldray) linked together by bridges; the great hall in the Milieu was 75 feet long by 33 feet wide.10 This hall was apparently packed with the Dauphin's supporters, curious to see the visitor: that visitor would later remember that there were "more than three hundred men-at-arms" in the room when she arrived.11
"When I entered my King's room I knew him among the others by the advice of my voice."12
Simon Charles: "And when the King knew that she was coming, the King drew aside beyond the others. Joan nevertheless recognized him and did him reverence, and spoke with him for a long time. And having heard her, the King looked joyful."13

Jean Pasquerel gave this version of her meeting with Charles: "The Count of Vendôme now brought Joan to my lord the King, and led her into the Royal chamber. And when he saw her he asked Joan her name, to which she replied, 'Noble Dauphin, I am called Joan the Maiden ["Gentil Daulphin, j'ay nom Jehanne la Pucelle"] and the King of the Heavens sends word to you through me, that you will be anointed and crowned in the town of Rheims, and you will be the lieutenant of the King of Heaven, who is King of France.' And after many questions by the King, Joan said to him again, 'I tell you in the name of My Lord that you are the true heir of France, and the son of the [previous] king, and He has sent me to you in order to lead you to Rheims, in order that you should there receive your coronation and consecration, if you wish.' And having heard this, the King told those around him that Joan had told him a secret that no one knew or could know,mn1 except for God, for which reason he had much confidence in her. And I heard all of this from Joan, for I was not present at these events."15

Margin Note 1:
According to Guillaume Gouffier, Lord of Boisy and Chamberlain for Charles VII; and the copy of the Condemnation transcript known as the Orléans Manuscript, this "secret" involved a private prayer that Charles had made on All Saints' Day [November 1st] 1428, in which (to summarize these two accounts, which differ on some points) he had asked God to allow him to gain the throne if he was the rightful heir, and to punish him for all of the suffering that had been caused by his bid for the throne if he was not the rightful heir.

Lord Raoul de Gaucourt recalled: "I was present ... when the Maiden arrived and I saw her when she presented herself before His Royal Majesty, with great humility and simplicity, an impoverished little shepherdess; and I heard her say to the King the following words: 'Noble Lord Dauphin, I have come and am sent in the name of God, to bring aid to yourself and to the kingdom.' And having seen and heard her, for the purpose of being informed further of her state, he ordered her handed over to the care of Guillaume Bellier, the master of his household, bailiff of Troyes, and my lieutenant at Chinon, whose wife was a woman of great piety and commendable reputation. And the King ordered that Joan be visited by clerics, prelates, and doctors [of theology] in order to know if he should or could rightfully believe in her. This was done, for her words and deeds were examined by those clerics over a period of three weeks and longer, at Poitiers as well as Chinon."16

As mentioned above, she was questioned by clergymen both at Chinon, where she lived in the tower of Couldray, and later also at Poitiers. While staying at Chinon she met one of her future commanders, Duke Jean II d'Alençon, the cousin of the Dauphin and son-in-law of Duke Charles d'Orléans, who had heard news of her arrival and promptly came to see her for himself. As he described it: "... [as] I was hunting quail, a messenger arrived and notified me that a certain maiden had come before the King asserting that she had been sent by God to chase out the English... the next day I went before the King in the town of Chinon, and found Joan talking with the King. As I approached, Joan inquired who I was, and the King replied that I was the Duke of Alençon. Then Joan said 'You are very welcome. The more of the French Royal family we have together, the better."17 According to Alençon's squire, Perceval de Cagny, she took an instant liking to the Duke because of his connection to Charles of Orléans,18 about whom she had had "more revelations than about any other living man, aside from my King",19 as she would put it. Jean d'Alençon was married to Charles d'Orléans' daughter, who was also named Joan; the two women would meet when the Duke brought the saint to see his family in the Abbey of St. Florent. Duchess Joan, according to the testimony of her husband, was worried that he might be captured again (as he had been at Verneuil), since the ransom from the previous captivity had nearly bankrupted the family; Saint Joan answered: "Lady, do not fear. I will bring him back safe to you, and in the same condition, or better..."20
During the time spent at Chinon she also met one of the page boys who would shortly be assigned to her group: while she was staying in Couldray the King evidently ordered that she be placed under the watchful eye of a 14 year old page in the service of Lord Gaucourt by the name of Louis de Coutes (or de Contes), who is unfortunately most famous for being the supposed author of Mark Twain's fictional novel about Joan of Arc (a claim which Twain meant facetiously, of course, but this has nevertheless caused confusion). While he didn't actually write the book, Louis himself was genuine enough: he testified at the Rehabilitation, and is mentioned by a number of other 15th century sources. We know that the soldiers in her army later took to calling him "Imerguet", "Mugot", or "Minguet".21


In early March Charles decided to send her to Poitiers, a little over 30 miles to the south of Chinon, to be questioned by a group of theologians who had relocated to that city after the University of Paris became pro-English.
As with other uneducated visionaries (such as Saint Bernadette Soubirous, associated with the famous shrine at Lourdes, France), she would now be subjected to hassling by skeptical clergy. The girl who was mocked in her village for being "too pious" would now have her piety questioned, and according to her later confessor, Friar Jean Pasquerel, she was not amused by any of it.
The clergy delegated to examine her consisted of many high-ranking ecclesiastics, including : the Archbishop of Rheims; the Inquisitor-General of Toulouse; the Bishops of Poitiers and Maguelonne; the future Bishops of Meaux, Castres, and Senlis; and many other dignitaries.

While the transcript of the examinations (the "Book of Poitiers") has not been found, we do have testimony from a number of people who were present (click here), including one of the theologians who conducted the questioning: Friar Seguin Seguini of the Dominican Order, who would later become Dean of the University of Poitiers. The 15th century document known as "La Chronique de la Pucelle" gives the opinion that he was a "very grumpy man" ("bien aigre homme")22 and I suppose we'll have to take its word for it. The unfortunate friar also spoke with a pronounced accent from the Limousin region (a dialect which was perhaps the medieval French equivalent of a backwoods drawl, to use that analogy);mn2 as he himself admits in his testimony, his speech came in for humorous comment by the saint. Despite the rough start, he would become her supporter. His comments were as follows:
"They told us that we had orders from the King to question Joan, and to refer our verdict to the Royal Council; and they sent us to the house of Master Jean Rabateau, in the town of Poitiers, where Joan was staying, to examine her. After we arrived in that place we put several questions to her, and among other questions, Master Jean Lombard asked her why she had come, and that the King greatly wished to know what had inspired her to come before him. And she answered in impressive form that when she was watching the animals a certain voice had manifested itself to her, and said that God had great compassion for the people of France, and that it was necessary for her to come to France. Having heard this, she had begun to weep... Master Guillaume Aymeri asked her: 'You have said that the voice told you that God wishes to liberate the people of France from the calamity which it is in. If He wishes to deliver it, there's no need to have soldiers.' Then Joan responded: 'In God's name, the soldiers will fight and God will grant victory' ["En nom De, les gens d'armes batailleront et Dieu donnera victoire"]. Of which answer Master Guillaume was satisfied.

Margin Note 2:
British writers have compared this dialect to the "Broad Yorkshire" which is stereotypically spoken by 'country bumpkins' in some parts of England; an American analogy might be the infamous "Minnesota Swedish" spoken in that state.

"I asked her what dialect her voice spoke; she replied that it was a better dialect than the one I speak [and here the scribe has noted that the witness speaks the Limousin dialect; some historians have speculated that there must have been a few suppressed chuckles from the other clergy at that point. The gruff friar forged ahead, however...]mn3 And additionally I asked her if she believed in God, and she said yes, better than I. And then I said to Joan that God would not wish for us to believe in her, if nothing else appeared to make it seem that she was credible; and that we would not advise the King, based solely on her simple assertion, to give her soldiers and place them in danger, if she had nothing else to say. She replied, 'In God's name, I did not come to Poitiers to produce signs; but send me to Orléans; I will show you the signs for which I was sent,' and [she said] that we should give her men [i.e., soldiers], in whatever number as should seem right to us, and she would go to Orléans."23

Margin Note 3:
Some modern authors predictably interpret this as an angry quip (since she is now routinely stereotyped in that fashion), but historians have always viewed it as a bit of humor. The situation seems to have been as follows: she was confronted by a learned doctor of theology speaking a dialect which was considered anything but "learned", and she apparently found that amusing.

Gobert Thibault: "...I know that Joan was questioned and examined at Poitiers by the late Master Pierre de Versailles, professor of theology, at that time Abbot of Talmont, and later Bishop of Meaux at the time of his death; also by master Jean Érault, likewise professor of theology; with whom I went on the orders of the late Lord Bishop of Castres. And she was, as I said previously, lodged in the house of the said [Jean] Rabateau, in which house Versailles and Érault spoke to Joan in my presence; and when we had come into that house Joan came to meet us, and clapped me on the shoulder, saying that she would very much like to have more men of such goodwill as myself. Then [Pierre] de Versailles said to Joan that they had been sent to her by the King, to which she replied: 'I well believe that you were sent to question me', adding 'But I do not know either A nor B.' She was then asked why she had come. She replied, 'I have come in the name of the King of Heaven to raise the siege of Orléans, and to bring the King to Rheims for his coronation and anointing.' And she asked if we had paper and ink, saying to Master Jean Erault, 'Write what I tell you. "You, Suffort, Classidas, and La Poule [i.e., the English commanders Lord Suffolk, Glasdale, and [Sir John] de la Pole] I call upon you, in the name of the King of the Heavens, to go away back to England.' ("Vous, Suffort, Classidas, et la Poule, je vous somme, de par le Roy des cieulx, que vous en aliez en Angleterre.") And Versailles and Érault did nothing further at that time, as far as I recall; and Joan remained at Poitiers as long as the King..."24
As alluded to above, it was in Poitiers that she dictated her first letter to the English commanders at Orléans, which we have several copies of (click here to read the full text). The letter begins: "King of England, and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself Regent of the Kingdom of France...", and goes on to inform them that "the King of Heaven, son of Saint Mary" [i.e., Jesus Christ, son of the Virgin Mary] has appointed her to "push you out of France". Near the end she invites them to join the French in "the greatest deed ever done for Christianity" [an allusion to the Pope's planned crusade against the Hussites; she would later dictate a letter to the Hussites themselves threatening to lead a crusading army against them unless they returned to orthodox Catholicism]. This letter was apparently the first the English had heard of her; no document records their reaction.
There may have been further questioning after this point; we know that the examinations lasted about three weeks. Her confessor later said that she was bothered by the whole process: "And I also heard from Joan that she was not pleased by so many examinations, that they impeded her from accomplishing the purpose for which she had been sent..."25

She came through these examinations with the approval of the theologians, however (click here to see the official text of their conclusions). François Garivel later remembered: "Finally, after long examinations by the clergy of several faculties, they all deliberated and concluded that the King could legitimately receive her, and allow her to take a company of soldiers to the siege of Orléans, because they had found nothing in her that was not of the Catholic faith and entirely consistent with reason."26
A merchant in Bruges affiliated with the House of Morosini, Pancrazio Giustiniani, relayed the prevailing view that "... Her incontestable victory in the argument with the masters of theology makes her like another Saint Catherine come down to earth."27 Her reputation as a saint was already developing.
Jean d'Aulon, who later served as her squire and one of her bodyguards, said, "... the King, considering the great goodness in this maiden... concluded in his council that he would henceforth avail himself of her aid..."28
With this approval, a flurry of actions were taken to get her ready. She was sent to the city of Tours, 25 miles northeast of Chinon, in which troops were massing for the campaign.
In this town her war banners were made, at the cost of 25 livres-tournois29 for a standard and a pennon. The pennon showed an angel presenting a lily to the Virgin Mary; the standard apparently had an image of God or Christ holding the world on a white field covered with fleurs-de-lis, flanked by two angels and the names "Jesus" and Mary" along one side (the eyewitness descriptions differ somewhat on the details). Both were made by a man named Hauves Poulnoir (Hamish Power).
She described her standard as follows: "I had a banner whose field was strewn with lilies; and the world was painted there, and two angels at the sides; it was white in color, of white linen or boucassin [a type of canvas]; there was written upon it the names 'Jesus, Mary', it seems to me; and it was fringed with silk."30
Jean Pasquerel:"...And she therefore had her banner made, upon which was depicted an image of our Saviour sitting in judgement in the clouds of the sky, and therein an angel was depicted holding in its hands a lily flower which was being blessed by the image. I arrived in Tours at the time that this banner was being painted."31
As mentioned above, it was in Tours that she met Jean Pasquerel, a hermit of the Order of St. Augustine who would serve as her confessor / chaplain. Pasquerel had met her mother, and some of the men who had escorted her to Chinon, during a pilgrimage to Notre Dame du Puy-en-Velay around March 25th, 1429, and they insisted that he should join her at Tours.
His own testimony on that issue runs as follows: "When I first had news of Joan and at the time when she came before the King, I was at Puy, in which town were her mother and some of those who had brought her before the King. As they had some knowledge of me, they told me that it would be appropriate for me to come with them to Joan, and they would not let me go until they had brought me to her. And I went with them to the town of Chinon and then to the town of Tours in whose monastery I was Lector. And in the town of Tours, Joan was staying in the house of Jean Dupuy, a burgess of Tours; and we found Joan in this house, and those who had brought me spoke to her, saying, 'Joan, we brought you this good Father; if you knew him well you would hold him in great esteem.' To which Joan replied that she was well pleased with me, and that she had already heard people speak of me and that she would like to confess to me tomorrow. And the next day I heard her in confession and I personally sang the mass for her, and from that hour I always accompanied her, and remained with her up to the town of Compiègne, when she was captured."32
Two of her brothers, Jean and Pierre, arrived around this point, perhaps with Friar Pasquerel: the records show that the Royal treasury paid for their armor at the cost of 100 livres-tournois apiece.33

She also obtained a new sword at this point, which, as she would say, she "esteemed greatly, since it was found in the church of St. Catherine";34 [i.e., St. Catherine of Alexandria was one of her Voices]. Although she would gradually obtain a large and varied collection of weapons of all kinds, she would testify that she didn't use them, preferring to carry her banner instead so she wouldn't have to harm anyone.35

"When I was in Tours or Chinon, I sent for a sword which was in the church at Ste-Catherine-de-Fierbois,mn4 behind the altar, and right afterwards it was found.... this sword was in the ground, rusted, upon which were five crosses; and I knew it was there from my voices ... I wrote to the churchmen in that place asking if it would please them that I should have that sword, and they sent it to me.... After the sword was found the clergy rubbed it and the rust fell off without effort; an armorer of Tours went to find it."36

Margin Note 4:
According to legend, the sword had been donated to this church by Charles Martel in 732 after defeating the Saracens at the battle of Tours.

Her armor was also made at Tours, by an armorer named Colin de Montbazon.37 Surviving records show that the price came to 100 livres-tournois,38 and as with all such suits of plate armor the pieces had to be tailored for her individual measure. It was described in the archaic French of the period as "ung harnois blanc" - a full suit entirely made of plates, presenting a reflective "white" surface of steel uninterrupted by any duller sections of chain mail.
Jean d'Aulon testified: "I was appointed to guard and escort her by our lord the King. For the protection of her body, my lord the King had armor made precisely for her body, and this done he authorized a certain number of soldiers to lead and safely escort her, and those of her company, to the place of Orléans."39

Now that she had all of the necessaries, the moment had finally come.


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