Segment 2: Visions
"She was therefore right to always trust in her apparitions;
for in truth Joan was liberated, as they promised, from the
prison of the body by martyrdom and a great victory of patience." ["Unde merito eis spiritibus
semper adherere debuit; quoniam, sicut promiserant, vere Johanna
per martirium et magnam patientie victoriam a corporis ergastulo liberata fuit."]1
- Inquisitor-General Jean Bréhal, the judge who established her innocence during the postwar Rehabilitation Trial; from his 'Recollectio F. Johannis Brehalli' (June 1456)
|Margin Note 1:|
The Archangel Michael ["Miycha'el" in ancient Hebrew, meaning "Who is like God?"] is described in the Bible as the commander of the forces which defeated Lucifer and the rebel angels during the "war in Heaven" mentioned in the Book of Revelation; Michael was also one of the patron saints of the French Royal army beginning in 1422 and the patron of the island of Mont-Saint-Michel, one of the few fortified locations north of the Loire which remained loyal to the Dauphin despite repeated attempts to take it by storm.
Margin Note 2:
Saints Catherine (of Alexandria) and Margaret (of Antioch) were virgin martyrs who were popular during the medieval period.
"It taught me to be good, to go regularly to church. It told me that I should come into France [i.e., territory loyal to the Dauphin]3 ... This voice told me, two or three times a week, that I must go away and that I must come to France... It told me that I should raise the siege laid to the city of Orléans. The voice told me also that I should go to Robert de Baudricourt at the town of Vaucouleurs, who was the [garrison] commander of the town, and he would provide people to go with me. And I replied that I was a poor girl who knew neither how to ride4 nor lead in war."5
She said the first of these visions was Saint Michael the Archangel:mn1 "It was Saint Michael, who I saw before my eyes; he was not alone, but was accompanied by many angels from Heaven... I saw them with my bodily eyes, as well as I am seeing you; and when they left, I wept and greatly wished that they should have taken me with them."6
"Saint Michael, when he came to me, told me that Saint Catherine and Saint Margaretmn2 would come to me and that I should act on their advice, that they were instructed to lead and advise me in what I had to do; and that I should believe in what they would say to me, for it was by God's order."7
Meanwhile, the English victory at Verneuil was followed by a bitter dispute with Burgundy which nearly ended the alliance. This episode, one of many which illustrates the manner in which the war was driven by dynastic concerns rather than "national" issues, had begun with a marriage between Duke Humphrey of Gloucester and Jacqueline of Hainault, former Duchess of Brabant and heiress of her late father's territories of Hainault, Holland and Zeeland. Some of Jacqueline's relatives, backed by her elder cousin the Duke of Burgundy, had attempted to press their own claims on these territories. Despite the efforts of the English Council the two sides came to blows during a brief siege at Braine-le-Comte and Burgundy politely challenged Gloucester to a personal duel, which the latter accepted before heading back to England with his new love interest, Eleanor Cobham. Jacqueline was left besieged in the city of Mons and was soon taken into custody by Burgundy, who made her his ward again as she had once been as a teenager. When Gloucester failed to come to her aid, Jacqueline escaped to the city of Gouda in central Holland and was accepted as the legitimate claimant by the aristocratic faction there; Burgundy responded by embracing the cause of Holland's populist rebels. Gloucester, meanwhile, became entangled in a controversy with the English Council which threatened to lead to an internal war.8
The Duke of Burgundy set off another
dispute with England by signing a defensive treaty with the Dauphin
Charles and, while in Paris to inform Bedford of this latest development,
also decided to make advances towards the Countess of Salisbury, the young wife of one of
the chief English commanders in France. Stung by this outrage, the Earl of Salisbury vowed
to never serve in another army on the Burgundian side and threatened
to go help Jacqueline in Holland.
One of the few factors holding the alliance together at this stage was Bedford and his wife Anne of Burgundy, sister of the Duke, whose marriage had been arranged for that purpose. In December 1425 Bedford left for England to try to sort out the mess between his brother Humphrey and the Council; Anne worked to smooth things out with her own brother.9
During this period the Dauphin Charles was cobbling together a government in the city of Bourges with the aid of those lords who were still loyal to him and bureaucrats expelled from Paris by the opposite faction. His position was not an enviable one: although a few authors have commented that he enjoyed the advantage of "interior lines" within a compact territory from which he could strike out in all directions at his enemies, this is merely a euphemistic way of saying that his shrinking domain was nearly surrounded by hostile forces. While he still retained the loyalty of much of the population, support among the upper nobility was always lukewarm and he had lost control of many of the most important cities in the kingdom. The English mockingly referred to him as "the King of Bourges"; some of his own people preferred the less charitable term "le falot" ("the comical one", a reference to his awkward appearance).10 The most famous surviving portrait of Charles, by Jean Fouquet, shows a man with sorrowful eyes staring bleakly from either side of a bulbous nose, a picture of world-weariness. He was nine years older than Joan, and therefore only in his late teens and early twenties during this period. The fifth son born to the French Royal family, no one had suspected that he would ever be in line to inherit the throne until each of his elder brothers died in turn; the symbolic title Count of Ponthieu awarded to him as an infant was supposed to be the limit of his honors. Like Charles of Orléans, he was suddenly thrust at a young age into a leadership position which he probably didn't desire.
|Margin Note 4:|
David's variation on this prayer occurs in 2 Samuel 24:17, which says that God had sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem for David's sinful actions. Upon seeing the angel, David begged God to punish only himself and spare his people.
In Domrémy, Joan appears to have gained a degree of seriousness beyond her
years. As she would later comment: "Since I learned that I must come into France [i.e., after the age of
12 or 13], I took as little part as possible in games or dancing..."12
This was echoed by the witnesses at the Rehabilitation Trial,
such as Isabellette d'Epinal: "We never saw her in the street, but
she stayed in church, praying; she did not dance, to the point
that the other youth would often talk about it [or "debate it"].13
She worked gladly, spun wool, cultivated the ground with
her father, did the household chores, and sometimes looked after
the animals. She confessed gladly and often, as I saw, because Joannie [Jhenette]
the Maiden was my [son's] godmother,14
and she held
Nicholas, my son, at the font [i.e., for his baptism]."15
Jehanne de Viteau recalled that "She never swore, except [to say] 'Without fail!'; nor was she given to dancing [lit. - "she was not a dancer"]: sometimes when the other girls were singing and dancing, she herself went to church."16 Mengette similarly said, "...she donated alms from her father's property; and she was so good, simple, and pious that I and the other girls used to tell her that she was too pious."17
The war was also making its presence felt in the region. As the saint would later say: "When I had grown up and reached the age of reason, I did not generally guard the animals, but I did help take them to the pastures and to a fortified place called the Isle [i.e., the Chateau de l'Ile], for fear of the soldiers..."18 This brief comment, which gives the barest hint of the anxiety which had been a recurring theme for several generations, refers to a number of threats that the village faced during these years. A commander named Robert von Saarbrucken had attacked the nearby pro-Burgundian village of Maxey-sur-Meuse in 1419 and received payments from Domrémy in 1423. Two years later a Burgundian commander named Henri d'Orly stole Domrémy's herds of livestock, although these were returned due to the efforts of two local aristocrats, Lady Jehanne de Bourlémont and her cousin Lord Antoine de Vaudémont.19 Saarbrucken represented a type of commander which was especially worrisome. The bands of mercenaries known to the French populace as "les routiers" and later as "les écorcheurs" ("the fleecers") were an unpredictable factor: having decided to operate as "free lances" (from which the milder modern term has evolved) rather than serving in the pay of a great noble or other legitimate authority, these groups ran riot over the entire countryside and were often a lurking menace even in areas which were free from regular military activity. They specialized in extorting "protection money", and sometimes worse, from those communities which couldn't defend themselves.
Elsewhere, the war was entering a new phase.
Although 1426 had been a bad year for the English - Gloucester,
having briefly returned to his wife's cause, was defeated
by Burgundian forces at Brouwershaven in January, and
Duke Jean V of Brittany rejected the Treaty of Amiens in order to
ally himself with the Dauphin - the tide of events quickly turned.
England's internal problems were soon resolved, and
in March of 1427 the Duke of Bedford
returned to France with 300 men-at-arms,
900 archers, and a column of siege artillery, sending the Earl of
Warwick to retake Pontorson from Jean V. The latter
agreed to re-ally himself with the English a few
months later in September.20
Meanwhile, Bedford and his wife had patched things up with Burgundy after persuading Gloucester and Salisbury to abandon their plan to send an army to help Jacqueline of Hainault.21 With the restoration of the Triple Alliance linking the English with the ducal families of Brittany and Burgundy, and the arrival of 1,900 fresh troops the following Spring, the English were poised to begin a new campaign against the Dauphin.22
To clear a path for the operation, several important locations needed to be taken. On 15 July 1427 the Earl of Warwick ordered his artillery to open up on Montargis, a fortified town to the northeast of Orléans. After a month and a half the town was relieved by a French force of 1,600 men led by two of the commanders who would later lead Joan of Arc's own army: the courtly half-brother of the Duke of Orléans, Jean-le-Bâtard (better known by his later title Count of Dunois), and Lord Etienne de Vignolles, better known as "La Hire" (meaning "ire" or "anger"), a nickname awarded for his famous inability to maintain the emotionless calm expected of an aristocrat. The two dealt a decisive defeat to Lord Warwick's army on the same day that Sir John Fastolf met with a reverse at Ambrières (5 September 1427).23. After this, however, the English regained the upper hand: Bedford and his lieutenants launched fresh assaults against Montargis, La Gravelle, Laval, and other locations, seizing crucial positions in a line north of the Loire River. By the Spring of 1428 the way was open for what the English hoped would be the beginning of the final set of campaigns into the southern half of France. A critical moment had arrived, and it was also at about this time, as she later indicated, that Joan felt she could no longer ignore her saints.
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