CHRISTENDOM AT THE TIME OF JOAN of ARC
Section 1.—General View
Joan was born almost at the close of the Great Schism of the West. This deplorable division of Western Christendom was due, at least indirectly, to Philip IV (le Bel) of France; who, making the Papacy practically an appendage of the French crown, aimed at making himself the arbiter of the Christian world. The great international power of the Pope, who was long the acknowledged judge and peacemaker of the Catholic nations, the defender of the oppressed, the educator and restrainer of kings, was defied and broken by Philip le Bel, and was never regained. The ill-omened monarch really began the Hundred Years' War with England, which brought his country more than once to the very verge of destruction.
The Great Schism was the work of the French Cardinals, preponderant in the conclave and Roman Court since the days of Avignon. They desired to continue dominant, and make the Papacy French. In the very year of Joan's birth there were three Papal claimants, one having been added by the Council of Pisa in 1409.
In 1417 Pope Martin V was elected, and the schism was over, ostensibly at least, and as far as the Head of the Church was concerned. But the effects have never quite ceased; the Papacy has never regained its prestige. The contesting claimants of the tiara, lacking authority, and wishing to conciliate the great to their respective causes, were unable to restrain the pretensions and abuses of kings and nobles. Of the antipope Clement VI, one of his adherents wrote: "He has so subjected the clergy to the great ones of the world, that each one of these seems to be Pope more than the Pope himself." The powerful seized the Church benefices and dignities, and bestowed them on their favorites. These things were allowed by Popes in order to restrain the great from open schism. And thus it came to pass by degrees, that, "in the most Christian Kingdom and under the most Christian King, lay and married folk were heard to speak of 'my benefice, my abbey, my monks'; no wonder that the abbeys and the monks became discredited." Heresy, which had never since the time of Clovis f ound a home in Europe, was now acclimatized, and showed its character and consequences in the fearful excesses of the Hussites. In the following century Luther and others would divide Western Christianity probably forever. Even after the election of Martin V, the false Benedict XIII was still sustained by the ambition of Alfonso of Arragon, and by Count Armagnac. Pope Martin died on February 20th, 1431,
as the trial of Rouen was beginning; and it is proved that Joan had never heard the name of his successor, Eugene IV.
The evil genius of Mahometanism had long been menacing and enslaving the Christian nations. In 1415, Mahomet, penetrating as far as Salzburg, had carried away thirty thousand prisoners. Adrianople had been their second capital since 1360. The threat of a sultan to make his horses feed on the altar of St. Peter's was by no means rash. The last emperors of Constantinople, with scarcely more than the city in their possession, gave, in their abasement, their daughters to the sultans, and followed them to war, even against the cities that wished to remain faithful. All Christian civilization had perished in Asia and Africa before the sword of Islam, which threatened Italy, torn by internecine war, and was still maintained in Spain through the dissensions of the Christians. There was sore need of a Godfrey de Bouillon, of a Charlemagne. Was the remedy promised by Joan of Arc when she spoke of a deed to be done more wonderful than had yet been seen in Christendom?
The time was pregnant, with great events. The discovery of new worlds, begun by Portugal, was soon to reach its climax in the possession of America. The age of printing was about to dawn. Meanwhile, Gallicanism, formulated and carried into practice by Philip le Bel, menaced, in the Councils of Constance and
Basle, under the inspiration and support of the University of Paris, the very existence of the constitution of historic Christianity. The all-dominant mediaeval Papacy lost its international power; and the long discord of France with the center of Christendom was begun or emphasized.
Section 2.—England and France
England and France should have united for the defense of Christendom; instead, there was waged between them the War of a Hundred Years. As long as England was under English rule, the two nations were friendly. The invasion of William of Normandy was the root of the trouble, which reached its climax under Henry Plantagenet of the House of Anjou. The hostility between the two nations has never been since quite extinguished. The Hundred Years' War was caused by Philip le Bel, and continued by his posterity. Philip's three sons, each king for a short time, died early. But, previously, and during the reign of their father-in-law, Philip le Bel, the three wives of the royal sons were seized and convicted of adultery, or connivance threat—probably after the manner of the Templars-their husbands doing nothing in their defense. One was done to death, more or less slowly, in prison; another was divorced and imprisoned, and died soon after her inclosure in a cloister. The third, having been imprisoned, was finally released.
This was one of the many atrocious "affaires," not always without shedding of blood, which happened in the days of this king, who was the murderer of the Templar Knights, as well as of Pope Boniface VIII. The "horrible scandal," as Lavisse calls it in his History, was as obscure as the other horrible "affaires"; but during it, many men and women were tortured, and many suffered death. Historians have thought it probable that the sanguinary drama was really hatched by Isabelle, daughter of Philip le Bel and wife of Edward II of England. Her English title, given by the poet Gray, is notorious as well as deserved—the "She-wolf of France." She became the mistress of Sir Roger Mortimer and murderess of her husband.
Philip le Bel seized the Duchy of Guienne by duplicity (as is generally admitted) from Edward I; and war began in 1294. This was the real beginning of the Hundred Years' War. Peace was made in 1303. Edward II married Isabelle, the daughter of Philip; and Guienne was restored. This arrangement led to frightful calamities; and the independence of France was twice imperiled. In 1338, Edward III, whose claim to the French throne rested on his mother Isabelle (contrary to the Salic Law), contested the crown with Philip VI, son of Charles of Valois, who was the brother of Philip le Bel. The defeat of the French at Slugs (1340) and at Crecy (1346) by Edward III, and at Poitiers (1356) by the "Black Prince,"
who made King John of France prisoner, extended and assured the dominion of England over a great part of the conquered country. Charles V of France and Du Guesclin, however, recovered nearly all the English had taken, save Calais and Bordeaux. Henry V, of the usurping House of Lancaster, renewed the claim to France; and defeated Charles VI at Agincourt in 1415. By the treaty of Troyes in 1420 the whole of France was ceded to Henry V, who entered Paris some months after, and died the following year at the age of thirty-four. Two months after him died the unfortunate French Monarch, Charles VI. His son, now eighteen years old, the "gentle Dauphin" of Joan of Arc, and afterwards, through her, King Charles VII of France, was now the rival claimant to the French throne, against the infant son of Henry V of the House of Lancaster.
Section 3.—Dissensions of the French Princes
It has been remarked that France created three claimants to the Papal throne, and now she was torn to pieces by three contending parties—French, Burgundian, and English. To sustain the schism in the Church she set one cardinal against another; now her royal princes shocked humanity by their murderous feuds. Her Gallicanism, which aimed at destroying the organization of the Church, saw its counterpart in the unparalleled excesses of the Parisian.
Charles VI was called to the throne in 1380 at the age of twelve, under regents (his uncles) and tutors who robbed the treasury. When he became mad (intermittently) in 1392, the first peer of the realm, Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, sought the chief post. After his death in 1404, his son, John the Fearless, had the same ambition. To secure his influence, he gave one of his daughters to the Dauphin Louis, Duke of Guienne; and his son Philip was married to Michelle, daughter of the king. The rival of John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, was his first cousin, Louis, Duke of Orleans, the brother of the king. Louis was nearer to the throne, and claimed the right of regency. He was handsome, talented, fond of pleasure, and a favorite of Queen Isabeau, the ill-reputed wife of Charles VI. The bitterest hostility raged between the rival cousins. John accused Louis of imposing excessive taxation, and of wasting the public revenues. In 1407 the uncles of these two princes reunited them, even under the seal of Holy Communion received together. Three days after, on November 23rd, Louis was murdered in rue Barbette, in the evening, as he came from the quarters of the queen. John avowed the murder and retired from public view, but soon returned. In his name, John Petit, a great doctor of the University of Paris, and a great opponent of Papal prerogatives, justified and glorified the crime in a public discourse. Valentine de Milan, widow of Louis, vainly
seeking justice, died of grief at Blois, on December 4th, 1408, recommending her sons to avenge their father. Her sons were Charles, Duke 'of Orleans, eighteen years old, father of the future Louis XII; John, Count of Angou-leme, uncle of Francis I; and the Count des Venus, who died childless. With these was her husband's illegitimate son, the gallant and noble-hearted soldier afterwards called Count Dunois, but now named in the unabashed speech of the time the Bastard of Orleans. This courteous, loyal, and princely leader, the soul of the defense of Orleans, was the glorious and most faithful companion of Joan of Are; after her death he retook Normandy and Guienne from the English.
In 1410 the Duke of Orleans wedded the daughter of Count d'Armagnac; and hence we have the murderous party-cry of Armagnac, as we have the equally murderous cry of Burgundy; both parties were almost equally traitorous, and both called in the invader from overseas. The federation formed by Count d'Armagnac was chiefly composed of royal princes. The most important matter was to obtain possession of the king and of the city of Paris. After atrocious ravages, in which the peasants were the chief victims, the peace of Bicetre was concluded on November 2nd, 1410; the leaders on both sides agreeing to quit Paris. The governor of the city was, however, really the lieutenant of Burgundy. In 1411 the
Armagnac party began the civil war anew with the fury of wild beasts. They tortured the peasants to extort money, they outraged the women, and burnt the, country where they passed. The most horrible sacrileges caused them no scruple. They were excommunicated, and the feeble king offered protection to all who would slay them. The Parisian mob, inflamed by the Burgundians, inaugurated a reign of terror, said to have been more terrible than that of the later French Revolution. The Armagnacs then did what the Burgundians had done, and handed over their country to England by the treaty of the 8th of May, 1412. For John of Burgundy had raised an army of one hundred thousand men in Picardy, Flanders, and Hainault; and devastating the country as cruelly as did the Armagnac party, had gone secretly to, Calais to seek an alliance between one of his daughters and the heir of the English crown. Strengthened by seven thousand English recruits, he repelled his opponents, and sent his allies to live on the country as they returned to Calais. The Duke of Clarence, in accordance with the stipulations of the treaty with the Armagnacs, landed in France, and the second stage of the Hundred Years' War began. In the same year that the two French parties were betraying their country to England, Joan of Arc, was born. Seventeen years later, on the date of the traitorous treaty, she began to roll back at Orleans the tide of the invasion.
Henry V, after the first troubles of his reign, demanded the hand of Princess Catherine of France, with several provinces as her dowry. Refused, he landed at Harfleur on August 14, 1415; and took it after six weeks. Agincourt followed on the 25th of October. The Duke of Burgundy, in an interview with Henry V and the Emperor Sigismund agreed to the partition of France, while his soldiers spared nothing in their ravages on both banks of the Somme. He himself laid waste the environs of Paris, invaded Beauce, and getting possession of the queen, instituted a form of government at Troyes. The efforts of Pope Martin V were fruitless for the union of the French parties. The horrors of the Burgundians, masters of Paris, in 1418, surpassed beyond measure all that had preceded, while John of Burgundy and Queen Isabeau entered the city in triumph. The legates of the Pope in vain appealed to the English king to make peace; but the two cousins, Burgundy and the Dauphin, came together, not without suspicion, to be reconciled at Montereau. During their interview on the middle of the bridge, John the Fearless was struck dead, after his career of crime, by one of the followers of the Dauphin. What was the cause, no one can say—whether a sudden altercation, or an attempt to seize the Dauphin, or malice aforethought. It has never been proved that the Dauphin had instigated the deed. Joan of Are, afterwards deplored the murder; and it was
said figuratively, though not quite truly, that by the wound of the cleft skull, long after visible, the English entered France. At the date of the fatal interview of Montereau, the Dauphin was seventeen years of age; and Joan of Are, eight.
Immediately the ardently partisan University of Paris called for vengeance, and the Burgundians, its close allies, more enraged than ever, now led by Philip, son of John the Fearless, made closer their alliance with the English. To them the unworthy queen also appealed for revenge. A treaty recognizing Henry V as King of France was ratified at Paris, and proclaimed at Troyes, at that time practically the Burgundian capital, on Henry's arrival there on May 20th, 1420. The demented king, Charles VI, was made to declare that Henry, to whom he gave his daughter Catherine, was his beloved son and heir, and regent of France while awaiting the crown. Paris was governed by the English, and its parliament proscribed the Dauphin Charles, as did his unnatural mother. There was a revival of patriotism amongst the French; some provinces, like Languedoc, returned to the national allegiance; and Thomas, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Henry V, was slain at the French victory of Bauge, March 22nd, 1421. On hearing this news, Henry landed again in France, took Meaux after a six months' siege, but died on the 30th of August, at Vincennes, at the age of thirty-four. Charles VI, his insane father-in-law, followed him to the
grave on the 22nd of October. John, Duke of Bedford, brother of Henry, was at the time regent of France; and after a treaty of friendship with the Duke of Brittany and his brother Richmond, or Richemont, wedded a sister of the Duke of Burgundy. Richemont married another. The Dauphin Charles was unable to make headway against the skillful politician and soldier Bedford, whose successes were crowned by the victory of Verneuil, August 17th, 1424, a day almost as disastrous for France as was Agincourt. The national party struggled in its decomposition for five years more, until Joan the warrior Maid rolled back the tide of English victory.