Jean de Metz, Part IV
THE NOBLE DAUPHIN
We entered a large, well-lit room. Twenty feet overhead, were large and brightly painted wooden beams of the ceiling. The width of the audience hall, from the door we had just passed through to the left far wall, was close to thirty-three feet while it's length was at least seventy-five feet. The entire room was illuminated from the light of fifty torches and a huge fireplace. At the far end of the room we saw the high and richly colored canopy of the Chair of State.
Scattered throughout the audience hall were twenty-three men of the Dauphin's personal guard. Curious to see this marvel from Lorraine, the Dauphin's entire court of well dressed lords and ladies were in attendance. The sight of such wealth, displayed in their rich brocades, silks and ermine, took my breath away! The place reverberated with the noise of the grand assembly, that is, until Jeanne stepped out from behind us. A great hush swept the hall broken only by the occasional hiss of laughter. Shocked by the sight of a woman in male attire, and without any further comment or noise, they looked on in stunned silence.
The page led Jeanne forward. The crowd parted to let them pass as they quietly advanced toward the Chair of State. Bertrand, looking toward the throne, suddenly grasped my arm. He whispered in an irritated tone, "That man who sits on the throne is not the Dauphin. The swine! They have taken up Jeanne's presumed challenge and are making sport of her for their own perverse amusement."
Mockingly I murmured, "Why are you surprised at that?"
Jeanne, erect and stately, walked in a slow, even gait past several irregularly grouped courtiers. Suddenly, she turned to enter a circle of astonished nobles. She moved effortlessly through them as if gliding through a wheat field. There, beyond this sea of humanity, was the object of her long arduous journey. Jeanne quickly walked up to him. She flung herself to her knees and embraced his ankles. Then tearfully and lovingly she looked up at him. "God grant you long life, gentle Dauphin." (He found it hard to look into her eyes.)
The Dauphin, as dumbfounded as any of his courtiers, remained speechless. Jeanne continued to kneel. "Gentle Dauphin, my name is Jeanne, the Maid. The King of Heaven has sent me to bring you and your kingdom help. He bids me to give you this message: 'If it is your wish, I shall lead you to Reims, where you shall be anointed and crowned. You will be His lieutenant, for the King of Heaven is also the King of France.'"
When she finished speaking, the whole court broke into a boisterous din. Charles, still uncertain, stared at her for a long time. Finally, he pointed to the courtier who sat on the throne. "I am not the King. He is your King!"
Jeanne, surprised by his comment, fixed her penetrating gaze on him. "In God's name, good Dauphin, it is you and none other!" Impressed, the Dauphin cautiously took her by the hand and led her to the far corner of the room. All those present fixed their gaze on the Dauphin's countenance. Slowly, as the two talked privately, his intense, solemn look transformed almost into a happy expression, which for him was an extreme change!
The Dauphin motioned to and spoke with his page, who immediately responded with a bow. Jeanne, after bowing deeply to the Dauphin, followed the page. She signaled for us to come with her. The page was taking Jeanne to the chambers reserved for royal guests. Once outside, our curiosity overcame us and we burst forth with our questions.
Bertrand was hardly able to contain himself. "How did you know who the Dauphin was?"
"As I walked toward the throne I said a quiet little prayer asking my Voices for their guidance. They told me where the Dauphin was hiding and what he looked like."
"What did the Dauphin say to you when you were alone with him?" I asked.
"He first asked me about my mother and father and if I had any brothers or sisters. As he spoke, I looked into his eyes. I saw a lost and frightened man who had few friends that he could trust. I saw too his many weaknesses. This knowledge troubled me because I know that not even Jesus would violate the Dauphin's free will by commanding him to be faithful in his support of me. My Voices said, 'Daughter of God, do not be afraid for it is God's will that he be King of France.' They assured me he was the rightful heir and thus was the only one who could reunite our land." Jeanne added with her usual smile, "And who am I to question God's choice?"
Breathlessly I asked, "How were you able to win his confidence?"
Abruptly Jeanne stopped to face me. "I can't tell you that! My Voices have given explicit orders that my message was for the Dauphin's ears alone." She realized the severity of her tone and added more softly, "Ah, Angel, forgive me. I will answer your question by saying only, I am God's reply."
I did not understand her cryptic response, but I know too that it would be useless to pursue the point, so I let the subject go.
Jeanne was escorted to the nearby Coudray Tower where the Dauphin had provided her lodging. Close by was the castle's chapel. It was here that Jeanne spent the night in prayer.
The man who had blasphemed God and insulted Jeanne died an hour later when, in his drunken state, he fell into the castle's deep well and was drowned! The whole castle buzzed with talk of the occurrence. Even the Dauphin was aware of it when he called us to his private apartments.
Two guards stood at their post, one on each side of the grand double doors that led into the royal apartments. At our approach they sprang to attention and swiftly opened them. We saw, gathered together in conversation, the Dauphin with several of his advisors. Jeanne walked forward and bowed gracefully to her prince. Then, without any hesitation, she began the introductions. "My Dauphin and my Lords, these are my friends. This is Jean de Metz."
I felt quite nervous but tried not to let it show as I bowed low before him. The Dauphin, on his part, graciously extended his frail, thin hand to me. "You have served us well in Vaucouleurs. We know we can count on you to do as well here."
I could not help grinning at his compliment. "Your Highness is kind to say so. I shall do my utmost to live up to your expectations."
Jeanne turned and placed her hand on Bertrand's stout shoulder as she introduced him. He bowed low while warmly receiving Charles' hand. "You are a valiant soldier and squire. We thank you for your many years of faithful service."
Bertrand being older than I always projected a sense of self-assured confidence for which I admired him. "Your Highness honors me," he answered. "I shall serve you with my life."
The Dauphin, smiling warmly, extended his arms toward us. "Well, my friends, we are very eager to put you to work as soon as the Church has finished examining Jeanne."
She frowned sharply at this response. Not knowing the ways of courtly etiquette, Jeanne interrupted him anxiously, "When will that be, my most noble Dauphin?"
Astonished by her brash behavior, the Dauphin's face flushed red with displeasure but it quickly passed. "Soon, Jeanne, soon, but now come join us. Some of my nobles are practicing with the lance in the field below. We would like you to accompany us to watch the sport."
Jeanne did not move as she tugged at Charles' sleeve. "My noble Dauphin, first, before we go, please send in your royal secretaries so that I may dictate to them."
The Dauphin's lips parted slightly as he cocked his head in bewilderment. "Why do you need my notaries, Jeanne?"
Not letting go of his sleeve Jeanne dropped to one knee. "Most noble Dauphin, I beg you, to give your kingdom formally to me! Call the men necessary to draw up and witness this transfer." Gasps from the assembled nobles reverberated throughout the room, yet she remained unruffled by their reaction, as if none existed but herself and the Dauphin.
He was intrigued by her request and with the wave of his hand he summoned his four secretaries. The nobles present murmured and grumbled while gesturing widely among themselves, yet they were as curious as the rest of us. When the notaries had seated themselves, Jeanne began her effortless dictation.
"I, Charles the seventh, Dauphin and heir to the throne of France, do here-by give Jeanne, God's servant, this Kingdom of France to do with as she so wishes. Written, Monday, March 7th, 1429, in the Dauphin's private apartment at Chinon."
Jeanne confidently pointed to the document. "Now, my Dauphin, please sign and place your royal seal upon this paper."
With that a grave stillness descended upon the chamber! Lost in thought, Charles absentmindedly played with his thick bottom lip. While he considered the consequences of this action, his eyes darted back and forth between his two advisors. The tense moments passed slowly. Then bowing his head to avoid the stares of his stunned nobles, he strolled over to the document to comply with her request.
Lord George de la Tremoille, one of the Dauphin's favored advisors, was grossly over weight and was an extremely haughty fellow who held himself in disdain of all but the highest nobility. In profile, his eagle's beak nose, which preceded the rest of his receding features, made his face distinct! He had a fleshy face with jowls that hung slightly down from his meaty jaw. His thin, pallid lips were in a constant scowl. His calculating eyes seemed in constant motion, taking everything in. Despite his great size he moved swiftly over to the Dauphin's side. He pulled the quill from the Dauphin's hand. "My Lord, this is ludicrous. What if news of this gets known abroad!? How can you give your kingdom over to this, this... this girl! The world's aristocracy will consider you a raving mad man!"
Practically nose to nose with La Tremoille, the Dauphin, angrily took back the quill and snapped, "Like my poor insane father!" Breathing rapidly, Charles stared His Lordship down. Ultimately though, he signed the scroll and placed his royal seal upon it.
Whereupon one of the secretaries officially read the proclamation aloud so that all present could hear. Jeanne then pointed to the Dauphin and said, "Before you, my Lords, you see the poorest noble in all the Kingdom."
Before anyone could raise an objection she turned once more to the chief secretary. "Now, my good man, write this!"
'I, Jeanne the Maid and God's servant, do here-by give to God, the King of Heaven, this Kingdom of France to hold as His possession and do with as He so wishes for all time. Written, Monday, March 7th, 1429, in the Dauphin's private apartment at Chinon.' "
Once more the chief secretary read the proclamation to all present and then Charles and his four notaries signed and placed the official seal on it. At this, Jeanne joyfully yet reverently took the parchment over to the Archbishop where she went to her knees bowing low as she raised the document up to him.
The Archbishop was also a favored advisor of the Dauphin. He kept his thick, wavy, shoulder length hair neatly perfumed beneath his ecclesiastical cap. Distinguishing his brow were bushy dark blond eyebrows that arched over his large cold, dark brown eyes! He had a full roman nose and a well-cared for and ample beard encircling his strong jaw. He did not say much in the presence of others but stood in the background continually observing everyone and everything. Sharply contrasting the shabbily dressed Prince, both the Lord and the Archbishop were meticulously dressed in the finest of brocades.
Jeanne reverently spoke, "Most holy and reverend Father, you represent Our Lord, the King of Heaven, here upon the earth. As His representative, I ask you to take and bless this agreement as a gift offered to God." Jeanne remained perfectly still at his feet. Utterly as dumbfounded and amazed as the rest of us, he obeyed Jeanne's request by making a quick, sloppy sign of the cross over it.
Jeanne jumped to her feet boldly proclaiming, "Know, most noble Dauphin, that the Lord God, King of Heaven now owns all the lands of France! I, in the name of God, assure you that He accepts your most precious gift. He instructs me, through His messengers Saints Catherine and Margaret, to inform you of His wishes. He wishes to grant you stewardship over the Kingdom of France. He wants you to rule France rightly and keep His peace therein and will establish you upon the throne of our fathers! Know also, my Dauphin, that no power on earth will ever take this throne from you or your descendents!"
The Dauphin placed his fingertips to his temple and began to massage his head. Totally overcome by it all, he had developed a headache! He rubbed the side of his head for only a fleeting moment before he regained his composure. "Yes, Jeanne. This blessing that the Lord God has given me, through you, fills my heart to overflowing! I shall try to live up to His expectations."
For his size Lord George moved swiftly, between the bewildered Dauphin and Jeanne. "You and your friends are excused." Jeanne did not understand that the Lord was telling her and us to leave and so he more forcefully continued, "Go now! Allow His Majesty and his advisors to debate what will be done next."
Jeanne turned her eyes to Charles, who smiled weakly and nodded his assent. Being well behaved and careful not to offend anyone, she made no protest of the Lord's rudeness. I thought we were ushered out of the room as if we were pesky little children that had overstayed their welcome!
To my eyes she was obviously hurt by the gruffness of his speech and manner. I would even go so far as to say that she was confused and perhaps even angered by how the Dauphin and his advisors kept putting up obstacles to prevent her from accomplishing God's will. Yet she displayed incredible self-control on this and all other occasions that I had the privilege of witnessing. Being a warrior myself, I can attest to the high importance of this trait in any military commander.
Once outside of the Dauphin's apartment she expressed her frustration by rubbing her foot against the ground. "So much delay, so much time wasted. God, please, give me patience!"
The early morning air was cold for the new day was overcast and dreary. Jeanne walked over to a group of soldiers who were warming themselves over a small open fire. She began to ask them questions about the proper use the sword. They were uneasy and reluctant to reply and I knew why. I recognized one or two of them as being the self-same vermin who so crudely jeered at her last evening. I personally wanted to beat them into a pulp for what they did but Jeanne had other plans. She clearly knew how to deal with people accepting the soldiers with a warm and open heart. She looked directly into their eyes as she began to joke and pat them on their arms or shoulders. Her soft spoken, friendly manner and cheerful smile won them over and they began to reply to her questions. They showed her how to swing the sword and how to avoid the blows of the opponent.
As her first fencing lesson concluded, the soldiers applauded her quickness in grasping the basics of the weapon. She thanked them and then confidently told them not to fear the enemy for God was with them. How quickly their countenances changed from somber to zealous as her words poured into their wounded souls.
By late afternoon the sky had cleared to reveal its rich azure blue. It was a very good day for the practice of the lance, with little or no wind to interfere with its balance. The target was a large wooden figure of a knight. The figure was secured to the pole in such a way as to allow its full rotation. In its right 'hand' was a large wooden club that hung from a free-swinging chain. On the left side and close to the center of the 'knight' was a small shield target. If the shield was not hit squarely in the center, the figure would rotate around quickly, striking the rider's head, neck or upper torso with its heavy wooden club. This unpleasant experience served to speed up the learning process!
We laughed as we watched the young squires' awkward use of the lance and howled as they crashed to the ground. Some fell from their horses just because they could not balance the lance's weight while managing their mount's movement. They were all thoroughly embarrassed to do so poorly in the presence of the Dauphin and his guests. My enormous empathy for them, however, was not great enough to contain the swells of my laughter. After the squires, the nobles took their turns, proudly showing off their prowess with the lance. With each hit, a loud cheer rose up; if it was a miss, a low groan rattled through the disappointed group.
While we watched these men, the Duke d'Alençon approached the Dauphin and his entourage. The gallant Duke was a young man in his mid-twenties. He had handsome and well-proportioned features with clear brown eyes. He wore his dark brown hair short and combed back off his face. He sported a light and deftly trimmed beard that edged the outline of his strong jaw. His trimmed mustache ended just beyond his thin tapered lips. Although he was not very broad at his shoulders, he was still quite muscular. He spoke precisely in a clear, low-pitched voice. He was dressed flawlessly.
He bowed and doffed his plumed hat in a wide sweeping motion to the Dauphin. "I was out hunting quail when one of my messengers came to tell me that there was a young girl in your presence who said she was sent from God, to conquer the English and raise the siege of Orleans. That is why I came here today, to see this wonder for myself."
Jeanne, catching sight of this young nobleman, was intrigued. "My gentle Dauphin, who is this nobleman!"
Visibly amused by Jeanne's interest, the Dauphin nearly laughed out loud. "This is the Duke d'Alençon." With a wide sweeping motion of his open hand the Dauphin pointed toward Jeanne. "And this, my cousin, is Jeanne, the Maid."
As their eyes met, I could tell that they took an instant liking to each other. Jeanne blushed as she extended her hand to the Duke. "You are welcome here. The more we gather together of the royal blood, the better it will be."
Meeting such a fine nobleman filled Jeanne with great joy. After giving them a quick little bow, she ran toward a nearby horse and vaulted effortlessly onto the saddle. As she turned the stallion, it reared up and stood on its haunches. Effortlessly she commanded it into a full gallop. At breakneck speed she swooped down upon the lance rack. With one move of her outstretched arm and hand she grabbed up a fifteen-foot long lance. While smoothly leveling it, Jeanne guided the charger at full speed toward the heart of the small wooden target. With every eye fixed on her we breathlessly watched her approach the elusive target. The crack of the lance hitting the target electrified the crowd. A direct hit!
The place went wild with laughter, applause and cheers as she returned in triumph. The Duke promptly sent for his own favorite charger, a large, all black gelding with massive, finely defined muscles. When it arrived, the noise from the crowd still had not diminished. With great happiness he personally presented his magnificent gift to her. Jeanne blushed as she thanked him. It was just moments ago that they met, yet they conversed as if they were life long friends. The Duke called for another of his horses. Then when it arrived, using his own hands, mind you, he personally gave Jeanne a leg up onto her new steed. Can you imagine it, a Duke of the royal blood personally serving a peasant! If I were not there to witness it for myself, I would never have presumed it possible.
Jeanne sat majestically upon her magnificent gift. On its own part, the charger seemed to stand a little taller, a little prouder, as if it knew that now he belonged to the Maid. The cheering of the crowd continued unabated as the Duke and the Maid left for their afternoon ride.
Later, I asked, "Jeanne, you are amazing! It took me years of daily practice to perfect the coordinated use of horse and lance. How is it that you were able to learn so quickly?"
She laughed at my question. "While waiting for Sir Baudricourt to send me to the Dauphin, I spent some time watching the soldiers practice. That is how I learned the technique."
I playfully pushed my cap to the side of my head. "Even so, it does not account for your ease at handling that charger."
Jeanne jabbed my arm with her fist while she continued to laugh. "It is true, Angel, that I liked to ride my father's plow horse to and from the field. Yet you must admit that riding for eleven long days through the rough territory would improve anyone's horsemanship."
"Perhaps so, Jeanne, but you are still a mystery to me."
Over the coming weeks; that is the time before she actually left for Orleans, I watched with admiration how she diligently trained with horse, lance and sword to hone her God-given military skills to a fine razor sharp edge.
The other knights and captains tried to keep her training to a minimum. I suspect they did so in hopes of keeping her in the role of some kind of mascot. This fact angered Jeanne so much that she took to training herself.
Several low ranking personnel and I saw Jeanne's efforts. We watched her running with a lance or swinging a sword. This determination persuaded us to lend an active hand to help her train for the task that lay before her.
Jeanne was strong, for a woman her size but in reality she was much too small to handle the heavy armaments. She compensated for this by working even harder. She pushed herself to the point where every muscle in her body ached painfully. She did not tell any one of her pain but I could easily see it in her eyes. Even so we encouraged her to continue her training, because that was the only way for Jeanne to build up her strength and her ability to use these weapons.
After a while all the young men wanted to be around her, for she impressed them greatly. They very much enjoyed teaching her their skills of warfare. Jeanne made it very clear that it was for God that she was working so hard, and that she could never have a normal life. I suspect that she said this to keep us from thinking that any of us had the slightest chance of 'winning her love.'
She learned the needed skills quickly. This surprised the other soldiers who said that God must have truly sent her, for under normal circumstances it took years of practice to acquire these skills; but I already knew this to be so.
Until Jeanne was given her own suit of armor, she used pieces of armor that we were willing lend her. She found this makeshift armor very uncomfortable because it did not fit her correctly. Here again she told no one except me. She wore the armor constantly and would sometimes even sleep in it. She knew the more she wore it, the stronger she would become. She nevertheless paid a heavy price because she was covered with bruises and her muscles were extremely painful.
When it came to riding, it was the stable master who helped her the most. This man was strong, with arms like bands of iron from years of shoeing war-horses. He was meticulous in his care of these massive and powerful beasts.
Jeanne complimented him on his hard work and obvious love for these treasured animals. Here, too, she quickly made a friend. "The most important thing to remember, Maid, is to be one with the horse. Once you master this, you will be able to ride any charger." Thus the stable master began to explain the subtle techniques of handling a war-horse. He then helped her up into the saddle of one of his steeds. How her face glowed with joy and excitement as she learned the proper method of moving the courser's reins and how to shift her weight in the saddle to guide its movements.
Jeanne would practice riding her mount in full armor. She fell from the horse many times, but would always quickly remount despite her pain, which amazed all that saw her. Even so her training proved successful for the strength her body quickly grew.
When it was late in the afternoon I would tell her to stop for the day but she refused to quit. She pushed herself until the last purple rays of light faded behind the horizon.
When at night I would take off her makeshift and ill fitting armor and doublet, I could see her arms covered with small cuts and very dark bruises. The others saw only her determination to be a skilled soldier and that nothing could stop her, but I saw the price she had to pay.
How did she become so skilled so quickly? For the love of Christ, she made every effort to perfect God's gift. Jeanne wore her armor more often than she needed to despite being covered in bruises. She practiced with the lance and sword so much that she found it difficult to raise a piece of bread from her plate. She increased her riding skills by practicing until she found it painful to sit or lie upon her bed.
At first, Jeanne was no great soldier, but she soon became so because of her great compassion for helping others. It was her compassion that overcame her pains and bruises. In the future not even an arrow through her body could slow her down. Jeanne proved that even a young girl could become a distinguished warrior through her dependence on God. Her faith brought forth an energy that drove her to learn those things that she had to know.
One most important thing that I have learned from our beloved Maid is this: we all can become physical or spiritual warriors for God, if we are determined.