Jean d'Aulon, Part XIII

CHAPTER 20

THE CORONATION

 

At the time I did not know the truth of what I will write now, although I had my suspicions. I found out this fact only after Jeanne's death. Lord de la Tremoille took immediate advantage of Jeanne's apparent failure and began to undermine her credibility with the Dauphin. He then suggested that Charles should write the officials himself. His Lordship took no chances, sending a sizable bribe along with the letter to insure its warm reception. The only thing the Dauphin knew was that his letter was warmly received, whereas Jeanne's letter was not. Thus began Charles' false belief that he did not need her help but could do very well on his own.

Days passed without their surrender and our hungry army desperately needed food. They stripped bare the land for miles around as they looked for anything that they could eat. Despite this our food supplies dwindled to a few handfuls of beans per man. To make matters worse, the clouds of dust that were stirred up by the wind choked our lungs and stung our faces. The situation was desperate!

The Dauphin called a council into session. As usual, there were as many opinions as there were men. Some suggested marching past Troyes as they had done at Auxerre. This was not a viable option, because the army had no more provisions and Troyes refused to sell them any. Rising from his chair, the Archbishop of Reims spoke pompously to the council, "Gentlemen, this town of Troyes will not sell us any supplies, even if we had the money to buy them, which we don't. And the army can't capture the town and take the food by force because it does not have any cannons or equipment to scale its walls. All things considered, I think it would be best for us to return to Gien and try again some other time."

Lord Robert le Maçon, realizing that the council was going to agree to this rash decision, interrupted the Archbishop. "It is my opinion that we should send for the Maid to give her opinion. Remember, gentlemen, she was the one who said it is God's Will that the Dauphin be crowned at Reims. That is why we left Gien in the first place. If she can say no more than what has already been said, then so be it; we'll return to Gien."

Charles listlessly nodded in agreement and had Jeanne summoned. She entered and walked directly up to the Dauphin. "Will what I say to you be believed?"

"If you say something profitable and reasonable to us, we will believe you."

"My Dauphin, will I be believed?"

"Yes, according to what you say."

Jeanne leaned her hand heavily on the hilt of her sword. "Noble Dauphin, delay no longer with wearisome councils, but order your men to attack the city of Troyes. For in God's name before three days are past, I shall cause you to enter the city. This place shall be yours, whether through love or through force - either way with courage. Have no doubt of it, the false Burgundians will be disgraced in their defeat!"

All the while Jeanne spoke, the Dauphin did not bother to look at her as he jiggled his gold chain. He leaned forward and slowly nodded his head as a sign that he had given in to her wishes. "All right, Jeanne, I will give you two days, but if by then they do not yield, I will return to Gien."

The overbearing Archbishop spoke condescendingly to her. "Jeanne, if we could be sure of taking the city in six days, we might well wait! But are you certain?"

Jeanne stood in stunned silence as she coolly stared at him. Wave upon wave of emotions crossed her face - disbelief, sorrow, resentment and then anger, yet she spoke not a word to him. Instead she returned her gaze to Charles. "In God's name, doubt not!"

Jeanne bowed low to him and then rushed from the tent. Dashing to her stallion she immediately went to work. Tirelessly she rode throughout camp, spreading the word, "To work! To the assault! Gather wood to make faggots! By my staff, we shall take this town!"

All the military men answered her call! All readily joined in the work from the high born noble to the common foot soldier. As a symbol of her determination not to leave until she achieved victory, Jeanne had her tent set up very close to the town's moat. Fully armored, she worked hard all through the night. She rushed from one area to the next ceaselessly encouraging and guiding her forces as wisely as any captain. Whenever any outcry of alarm arose among the troops, she came swiftly, whether she was on foot or mounted. She gave heart and courage to all as she ordered them to keep good watch and guard. She organized the men and supplies to make the faggots. She ordered doors, tables, and shutters, to be carried forward to serve as shelters for the men in the attack and to screen our guns during the assault. With great skill she directed the placement of the troops and the three small cannons that we had in our possession. Astonished by her stamina and utterly dazzled by her capacity to do grueling work, Mortain acknowledged her ability to guide the preparation. He proclaimed that her efforts outshone those of his most experienced captains! With all the noise that our work and preparation for battle created, the people of the town did not get much sleep. In fact we found out later, it caused them to run in panic to their churches.

With the rising of the early morning sun, we sounded in one awesome tone our twenty trumpets. Jeanne held her pennon high as she calmly but resolutely walked alone to the town's walls. "Yield to the King of Heaven and the Noble Dauphin Charles."

There were three Burgundian soldiers behind each parapet that faced us, yet not a sound was heard, not a word was spoken. As the sun's yellow rays glistened off her armor, Jeanne confidently pointed her pennon toward the walls and shouted, "To the assault! Forward!"

With a rousing blood-curdling roar, the army rushed forward to fling the faggots into the moat. Wave after wave rushed forward, braving the deadly rain of the enemy's weapons. They no sooner had filled in the moat when Jeanne ordered the ladders forward. As we fearlessly flung them against the city's wall, the town's people were stricken with terror and they sent out a message that they surrendered!

If the people feared Charles, they feared Jeanne more, because they thought she was a powerful witch. They sent a priest from the Franciscan order named Brother Richard to find out the truth of this matter.

Before I continue my story I think it is important that you know a little about Brother Richard. He was a disciple of Saint Vincent Ferrier and he tried in his own small way to follow in his master's footsteps. A born orator, Brother Richard traveled about the country preaching to vast crowds who flocked to hear him. He preached in many cities including Paris. He was constantly warning the people that the Antichrist was now alive and living in Babylon. He told them too that this Antichrist would soon appear among them and when that happened, God would let His wrath fall. He preached against all forms of vanity exhorting the people to penance and better living. His orations would stir up his listeners to such a fevered pitch that they would run to their homes and bring out their valuables. The people would build huge bonfires and fling into the roaring flames their dice and games of chance, playing cards and board games, musical instruments, rich head-dresses, crowns, and veils, finely embroidered hoods and jewels. The people would happily watch as the flames consumed their possessions. Brother Richard had enormous influence over the population of Paris. The English wanted to kill him or at least imprison him, because they thought he was referring to their young King, Henry VI, when he spoke of 'Antichrist.' So he had to flee for his life. At Troyes he preached against Jeanne calling her a witch because he believed her stunning victories over the Burgundians and English could only have been accomplished with the help of Satan.

Timidly he came out from behind the city's massive gate. He wore the gray Franciscan habit made of a long woolen material, with hood and full sleeves. He was about six feet tall and very thin. His features were well proportioned on his clean, oval face, with light brown tonsured hair, thick eyebrows and dark blue eyes.

As he approached, his body shook while he nervously read aloud the prayers of exorcism. He stopped a few feet from Jeanne, where, trembling, he grandly performed the sign of the cross and flung holy water at her. This behavior struck Jeanne as being very humorous and she chuckled as she held her hand over her mouth. "Take heart and come forward! I will not fly away."

Brother Richard was satisfied that Jeanne was not a witch, because she did not react adversely to his exorcism. He then walked up to her and promptly knelt at her feet as if she were something holy. Jeanne on her part went to her knees before him to let him know that she claimed no more sanctity than did he. The Brother took an instant liking to her and attached himself to the household staff. She did not like this outlandish priest because he was an ambitious, manipulative, restless hothead, who was always intrigued by the latest visionary. For him, Jeanne was only the means by which he could be introduced to Charles' court. Jeanne knew exactly what kind of man he was, but she was too kind-hearted to ask him to leave.

Brother Richard returned swiftly to the town and gave his report. Within minutes Bishop Jean Laiguise, the chief magistrate, and the town's nobles came before the Dauphin with the keys to the city. As part of the agreement, the Burgundian garrison was allowed to go in peace with its property. Unfortunately, they considered several dozen French prisoners to be their property and when Jeanne saw them being marched out in heavy chains, she was furious. "In God's name, stop! You shall not have them!"

Rapidly, Jeanne rode back to the Dauphin. A cloud of dust rose up from the horse's hooves, as she pulled hard on the reins! The charger stopped only a few feet from where the Dauphin stood and Jeanne jumped from her saddle. "Sire, these false Burgundians are taking with them loyal Frenchmen as prisoners! This cannot be allowed!" The Dauphin, annoyed that she was making such a fuss over a few dozen men, was nonetheless forced by her determination to pay one silver franc each for their freedom.

This done, the Dauphin, with Jeanne by his side, rode into town. The joyous cheers of the people were deafening! The sound of the shouts vibrated the air so much that I thought it would bring the walls of the building down upon us.

 


We were only ten miles away from Reims when the city sent out their bishop and magistrate to meet and give Charles the keys to the city.

 

 

 

Saturday, July 16th, in triumph, to the music of fifty trumpets and a vast number of drums, the Dauphin entered the city riding on his great white steed. There he received the tumultuous cheers of the people. The populace lined the main route of the city while others hung from the numerous windows that overlooked our way. The people yelled and screamed with joy as they waved their welcome with a flurry of white handkerchiefs. Jeanne chose to ride behind Charles among the captains, so that the Dauphin alone might receive all the glory and praise of the multitude. She nonetheless beamed with joy at this genuine outpouring of affection for their 'Noble Dauphin.'

Tradition required that the Kings of France be crowned on a Sunday. So, the people of Reims worked feverishly throughout the night to prepare the cathedral for the momentous ceremony. Not many people slept with the sound of construction ringing from the cathedral. The artisans built the platform on which the ceremony would take place. Other workers hung all the banners and trappings needed, while a third group brought a huge number of flowers to beautify the cathedral. The common people also eagerly helped by decorating the streets with banners, flags and brightly colored cloth. Great joy and anticipation for the coming event filled all who tirelessly labored!

Meanwhile, Jeanne dictated another letter to the Duke of Burgundy.

 

+ JHESUS MARIA +

"Great and venerable prince, Duke of Burgundy: Jeanne the Maid requires you by the King of Heaven, her rightful and sovereign Lord, to make a good, stable and enduring peace with the King of France. You must pardon one another fully with good hearts, as all loyal Christians are bound to do. If it be your pleasure to make war, then go against the Saracens."

"Prince of Burgundy, I beg of you, implore and require as humbly as I can, to wage war no more on the holy Kingdom of France. You must withdraw, forthwith and without delay, your people who occupy any place or fortress of this holy domain of the noble King of France. He on his part is ready to make peace with you, safeguarding his honor; it all rests with you. The King of Heaven, my rightful and sovereign Lord, would have you know for your good and for your honor and your life, that you will not win any battle with the loyal French. In addition all those who make war on this holy Kingdom of France war against the King Jesus, King of Heaven and all the world, my rightful and sovereign Lord. I pray and implore you with hands clasped no longer to do battle or make war against us, neither you, your soldiers, nor your subjects. But you must believe this truth, that whatever number of troops you may lead against us, they will gain nothing, and there will be a great sorrow from all the blood that will be shed by those who come against us."

"It is three weeks since I wrote to invite you to come to the city of Reims for the coronation of the King, which is today, Sunday, 17th day of the present month of July. I sent the letter by a herald but I have had no reply, nor have I since heard news of my herald, Ambleville. I recommend you to God, that He may guard you, if it be His will. I pray God will grant us a good peace. Written at the said place of Reims, the 17th day of July, 1429."

Before Guyenne departed with this latest letter, Jeanne embraced him tenderly. "You and Ambleville are the finest heralds in all the kingdom! I am proud to have known you both. May God bless you and protect you and keep you close to Him!"

"Maid, it is an honor and privilege to serve you. If Ambleville were here, I am sure that he would say the same." Guyenne then gave Jeanne one last grand salute before departing.

I thought it strange that she should act so morose. "Jeanne, you act as though you will never see either of them again."

At my words, a tear broke free and trickled slowly down her cheek. Then another formed that followed the course set by the first until, one after the other, she could no longer contain them and her tears formed like little rivulets down her face. "I fear I won't, and all I can do is pray that God will protect them both."

Jeanne wiped her eyes. She then put on a joyous face, for today her Noble Dauphin would become King! Sunday, July 17th, 1429, the sun shone warmly down upon us as we walked to the cathedral. In the sun's brilliant rays her white armor, polished to a high sheen, flashed and dazzled the eye. Over her armor she wore a splendid surcoat made of gold thread, red vermilion, and blue satin. The thought of her gentle Dauphin finally being crowned and anointed caused her great joy. I never saw her face glow with such a beaming radiance as it did that day. Not even at the raising of the siege of Orleans did she exude such jubilation. Everyone was happy, but no one more than Jeanne herself. By God's grace and through Jeanne's hard work and persistence, the impossible dream had become a reality.

Four great lords of the realm were chosen to escort the 'Sacred Ampoule' from the Abbey of Saint Rémi to the Cathedral of Reims. They solemnly swore to defend the 'Sacred Ampoule' to their death if called upon to do so. These honored lords were: Marshal Jean de Brosse, Baron Gilles de Rais, High Master Jean de Graville and Baron Louis de Culant, Admiral of France.

 

 

The 'Sacred Ampoule' was kept safe at the Abbey of Saint and was removed only on the day the Dauphin was to be anointed and crowned King of France.

According to ceremonial custom the four lords met the bare-footed Abbot, Jean Conard, at the front of the Abbey. There, these four lords, each riding a magnificent gelding, positioned themselves in a square formation around him. All during the slow procession to the Cathedral these lords took deliberate care to maintain their assigned positions.

Carefully Abbot Jean held the golden dove-shaped reliquary that contained the holy oil used for the king's anointing. He covered the reliquary with a beautiful stole made entirely of gold thread.

 

 

 

 

 

The mounted lords and the bare-footed Abbot entered the Cathedral through its main center doors and proceeded up the nave. The solemn procession ended at the first step of the sanctuary. The Abbot bowed humbly before the Archbishop as he extended the sacred reliquary to him. Reverently, the Archbishop accepted it and then placed the Sacred Ampoule upon the magnificent main altar. Their mission and vows now fulfilled, the mounted lords then left the cathedral.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directly following the 'Sacred Ampoule' procession the 'Royal Sword' entourage approached the altar. The 'Royal Sword's' blade was engraved with fleur-de-lis. The naked blade with its point uppermost was carried and held aloft for the entire ceremony by the Constable of France. This privilege should have gone to the Duke of Brittany, Arthur de Richemont; but courtly intrigues prevented it. Instead, La Trémoille's nephew Lord Charles d'Albret was given the honor.

 

Next the Dauphin, the peers and generals, the clergy and the most important court functionaries, as well as the delegates from the different towns made their way through the cathedral doors. The majestic sound of a hundred voices singing in polyphonic perfection rang forth as the great cortege entered the cathedral. The cathedral was filled with a marvelous mingling of fragrances from hundreds of lilies, roses, violets and the perfume of the rising incense. Thousands of soft flower petals of all kinds covered the floor. The procession advanced to the sanctuary that surrounded the high altar.

Jeanne, carrying her standard, walked forward slowly till she reached the sanctuary. There amazed by the splendor that surrounded her, she stopped, small and insignificant, before the majesty of the high altar and the towering columns that supported the lofty vaulted ceiling. The sun shone brightly through the stained glass windows, casting the varied tints of red, green, yellow, blue, and violet off her armor. This caused a remarkable effect of swirling hues and patterns to reflect upon her face. Jeanne herself stood some ten or fifteen feet from the King with her standard proudly displayed for all to see. With all the sights, sounds and fragrances that filled my mind, a sense of unreality came over me and I thought I was in heaven.

To the left of the main altar, the Dauphin took his place, while Jeanne stood off to the right. All the other dignitaries divided in half, forming two lines on each side of the sanctuary. The rest of the cathedral was filled with the Lords of the Dauphin's court, the burgesses and people of all the communities around Reims. Many dignitaries from the nearby towns had also come for the coronation.

In spite of the crowd's great size, when the ceremony began, not a sound was heard.

Charles walked to the center of the sanctuary and stood before the altar. With his hand on the Gospels, he spoke in a loud, high pitched and tremulous voice, as he took the ancient and solemn oath.

"I, Charles, do solemnly swear in the Name of Jesus Christ, before the Christian people subject to me, these things: Firstly, that the entire Christian people will at all times preserve, to the best of our power, true Peace in Godís Church.

"Likewise, that I will forbid all pillaging and iniquity of any kind.

"Likewise, that in all judgements I will demand equity and mercy so that the clement and merciful God may grant to me, and to you, HIS mercy.

"Likewise, that in good faith I will work to the best of my power to expel from my land and the jurisdiction entrusted to me, all those whom the Church declares to be heretics.

"Likewise, I will inviolably preserve the sovereignty, the rights and nobility of the Crown of France, and I will neither transfer nor alienate them.

"With my hand on these holy Gospels of God, I solemnly pledge my oath. May God thus come to my aid."

 

 

 

With this, the Grand Chamberlain, Lord George, put on and laced up the royal shoes that were covered with gold fleur-de-lis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The acting Constable, Lord Charles d'Albret, gave the Duke de Alençon the Royal Sword, with which Alençon dubbed the Dauphin, making him the first of the realm's knights. Then the Archbishop, Regnault de Chartres, gave the Duke the other insignia of Chivalry, a pair of golden spurs. This portion of the ceremony ended with Alençon buckling on to Charles' shoes the golden spurs of knighthood.

 

 

 

 

Following the Solemn High Mass and a long prayer of intercession, Archbishop de Chartres preformed the 'Holy Unction' upon the Dauphin's person by applying the Holy Oil, through small holes in his linen tunic, to his shoulders, back and breast. Then he applied the oil to Charles' hands.

The Grand Chamberlain, La Trémoille once more came forward. This time he helped to dress the Dauphin in the royal robes and gave to him the other symbols of royalty: the ring, scepter and the 'Hand of Justice.'

De Chartres escorted Charles back to the main altar. Jeanne was given the solitary honor, never accorded to anyone else, to stand with her standard in hand, by the Dauphin's side as he knelt before the Archbishop. With great reverence the Archbishop applied the holy oil to his head as he pronounced the sacred blessing. "With this holy oil, I anoint thee King, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." The Archbishop then took the crown from the altar and with the help of five other bishops slowly placed the crown upon the Dauphin's head.

Charles then took his seat upon the throne located before the main altar. This ancient wooden throne had a high towering back, large ornately carved arms and gilded in pure gold, ornately carved legs.

Then the King-at-Arms summoned the twelve Peers of the realm, six lay and six ecclesiastical, to swear fealty to His Majesty. Had France not been torn apart by a brutal civil war, the lay Peers would have been: The Duke of Burgundy, The Duke of Normandy, The Duke of Guyenne, The Count of Flanders, The Count of Toulouse and the Count of Champagne. Because those men were all enemies of Charles, substitutes had to be named. They were: Jean de Valois, the Duke de Alençon; Charles de Bourbon, the Count of Clermont; Louis de Bourbon, the Count of Vendôme; Guy de Montfort, the Count of Laval; George de la Trémoille, the Grand Chamberlain and finally Sir Raoul de Gaucourt, the Captain of Orleans.

 

Three of the six ecclesiastical Peers were present. They were: the Archbishop of Reims, Regnault de Chartres; the Bishop of Laon, Guillaume de Champeaux and the Bishop of Chalons, Jean de Sarrebrűck. The three absent Bishops from Langres, Noyon, and Beauvais were enemies of the realm. So Robert de Rouvres, Bishop of Seez; John Carmichael, Bishop of Orleans, and Jean Laiguise, Bishop of Troyes, were named to replace them.

The lay Peers of the realm took hold of the throne and lifted it and Charles high off the platform, so that all could see him. At the sight of the newly crowned King thunderous, joyful acclaim rose up from those present. After the throne was put down, all the Peers came forward to pay their King homage.

It was done! Charles was now truly King of France! The thunderous sound of seventy trumpets echoed with a thrilling reverberation off the cathedral's magnificent vaulted ceiling. Then the cheers of the jubilant throng rose up expressing their deepest emotions. "Good News! Good News! Noel, noel, noel! Long live the King! Good News! Noel!"

With great passion and tears Jeanne went to her knees and embraced the King's ankles. "Noble King, now is completed the pleasure of God, Who desired me to raise the siege of Orleans, and to lead you to this city of Reims to receive your holy coronation, thus He shows you to be the true King, him to whom the throne of France rightly belongs."

The King signaled d'Alençon to raise Jeanne to her feet so that he and the Archbishop could process out of the cathedral. The five bishops followed close behind them. The procession left to the tumultuous cheers of the people, "Noel, good news, noel! Long live the King!" Jeanne's body shook with her overwhelming emotion. She was so blinded by her own tears that D'Alençon had to hold her arm as he gently guided her down the few steps of the sanctuary. Behind them came Saint-Sever, Mortain, Gilles de Rais, La Hire and the rest of the captains. Jeanne's personal staff and I brought up the rear.

The five-hour ceremony was now over! It had lasted from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon! Exhausted and elated at the same time, I mopped the perspiration from my brow and waited to join Jeanne in the vestibule. She remained behind in the cathedral, to let the King receive the acclaim of the crowd alone. Charles mounted his splendid white charger to ride through the streets where he would receive the awesome and rapturous applause of the people. Taken up with the homage being paid him, the King had no thoughts of Jeanne!