A Study of Jeanne d'Arc's Standard
By Jean-Claude COLRAT
"Les Compagnons d' Arms de Jeanne d' Arc"
There is historical proof that Jeanne d'Arc had three ensigns (an ensign is a national flag displayed with special insignia or a standard of a military unit.) Two were for military use: her Battle Standard, which was large in size and her Pennon which was small. The third was a religious banner made for the priests and men of the army to assemble around for morning and evening prayers.
The treasurer of Charles VII, Hémon Raguier, paid an artist to create Joan's Battle Standard and Pennon. It is noted in his accounts: "Hauves Poulnoir (Hamish Power), banner painter of Tours, is to create for The Maid, on 'baillé' (burlap) fabric a large standard and small pennon, at the cost of 25 livre tournois." For the third, Jeanne's Chaplain, Father Pasquerel, declares at Jeanne's trial of Nullification in 1456 that Jeanne asked him "to make a banner for the priests to gather around."
All three images that Jeanne used to symbolize her mission came directly from the New Testament. According to the interpretation of Jeanne's Rouen trial testimony, her Battle Standard depicted the final coming of Christ in judgement. The author of the Journal of the Siege of Orleans states that Jeanne's pennon had the image of the Annunciation painted on it. Father Pasquerel testified that the Crucifixion scene was painted on the banner.
Standards and Pennons
Before continuing, it is very important to explain the different military 'ensigns' that were used during the Middle Ages. [The author uses 'ensign' instead of "flag" because the word flag was not used in Jeanne's time as it was not invented yet.]
There were THREE ensigns of knighthood. Going from the least to the most important were:
These three 'ensigns' were carried as heraldic (coat of arms) symbols of the knight.
Towards the end of 14th century, the organization of the army changed. The knightly classifications of "bannerets" and "with pennon" disappear at the beginning of the 15th century and were replaced by 'Head of War' and 'Captain of the Company.' Yet both of these two heraldic classifications continued to be carried in each company:
A knight who commanded a company of mounted men-at-arms carried the large Standard.
The Pennon, also called the Little Standard, was much smaller in size and had only one tail. The Squire who commanded the company's foot soldiers carried it. When the knight fought on foot he also used the Pennon because it was easier for him to handle during the battle.
Both the Standard and the Pennon used the colors of the 'Captain of Company.' At this time the heraldic emblem or device was replaced with a more complex heraldic design (coat of arms) or the symbol of the 'party' for which the knight fought. These 'ensigns' were often designated as 'large' or 'small' standards. Some times the Captain would also use his own heraldic banner.
Jeanne Describes her Standard.
At her trial the Rouen judges asked Jeanne about her large standard.
Question: When you were at Orleans, you had an 'ensign' (this word is normally translated in English as standard). What color was it?
Answer: I had a standard whose field was sown with lilies. There was a figure of Christ holding the world and on each side of Him was an angel. It was made of a white fabric called "boucassin". Written above: Jhesus Maria, as it seems to me, and it was fringed in silk.
Question: Who prompted you to have painted on your standard angels with arms, feet, legs, and clothing?
Answer: I have already answered you.
Question: Did you have them painted as they came to see you?
Answer: No, I had them painted in the way they are painted in the churches.
Question: Did you ever see them in the manner they are painted?
Answer: I will tell you nothing more.
Question: Why did you not have painted the brightness that comes to you with the Angels and the Voices?
Answer: It was not commanded me.
Question: Were these names, Jhesus and Maria, written in top, below or on the side?
Answer: On the side, as it seems to me.
Question: Who had you make the painting on the standard?
Answer: I have told you enough that I did not do anything but by the command of God.
Question: Who carried your standard?
Answer: It was I who carried the aforementioned sign when I charged the enemy. I did so to avoid killing any one. I have never killed a man.
Question: What significance was there in the two angels and God's holding the world.
Answer: Saint Catherine and Saint Marguerite said to me that I should take and carry the Standard boldly on the part of the King of Heaven.
Question: Did the two angels that were painted on your standard represent Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel?
Answer: They were there only for the honor of Our Lord, Who was painted on the standard. I only had these two Angels represented to honor Our Lord, Who was there represented holding the world.
Question: Were the two Angels represented on your standard those who guard the world? Why were there not more of them, seeing that you had been commanded by God to take this standard?
Answer: The standard was commanded by Our Lord, by the Voices of Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, which said to me: 'Take the standard in the name of the King of Heaven'; and because they had said to me 'Take the standard in the name of the King of Heaven,' I had this figure of God and of two Angels done. I did all by their command.
Question: Did you have them painted as they had appeared to you?
Answer: I had them painted after the manner they are painted in the churches.
Question: Did you ask them if, by virtue of this standard, you would gain battles wherever you might find yourself, and always be victorious?
Answer: They told me to take it boldly, and that God would help me.
Question: Which gave most help, you to your standard, or your standard to you?
Answer: "The victory either to my standard or myself. It was all from Our Lord.
Question: The hope of being victorious was it founded in your standard or in yourself?
Answer: It was founded in Our Lord and nowhere else.
Question: If any one but you had borne this standard, would he have been as fortunate as you in bearing it?
Answer: I know nothing about it. I wait on Our Lord."
Question: If one of the people of your party had sent you his standard to carry, would you have had as much confidence in it as in that which had been sent to you by God? Even the standard of your King, if it had been sent to you, would you have had as much confidence in it as in your own?
Answer: I bore most willingly that which had been ordained for me by Our Lord; and, meanwhile, in all I waited upon Our Lord.
Contemporary Texts' Description of Jeanne's Standard.
Various testimonies have come down to us by people who saw the standard and by others who only heard something about it. Generally these descriptions are short. Because of this there is some confusion between the large and small standard.
Dunois says that it "was white, with the image of Our Lord holding a lily."
Father Pasquerel adds, "the image of Our Savior, sitting as a judge on the clouds of the sky, was painted on it. In addition there was also a painted angel, holding in its hands a lily, that the image of the Savior blessed."
In May 1429, the Clerk of Albi spoke about the standard: "her standard on which was painted Our Lady."
In a letter of July 9, 1429, the Italian merchant Antonio Morosini wrote "she carries also a white standard on which Our Triune Lord holds in one hand the world and the other is raised in blessing. On each side (of Christ) is an angel who presents Him a fleurs de lys, as the symbol of the kings of France."
In 1431 the Clerk of La Rochelle writes: "And made in Poitiers [in fact it was Tours - author's note] her standard had one shield of royal blue in which there was painted a white dove. The dove carried in its beak a small streamer on which was written: "De par le Roy du Ciel" "The King of Heaven commands it."
In the famous Journal of the Siege of Orleans, compiled around 1467, there is the following sentence: "And carried in front of her standard was the pennon, which was made from a similar white material. Painted on the pennon was an image of the Annunciation, the image of Our Lady with the angel before her presenting her a lily."
Later in 1438, Perceval de Cagny, the duke of Alençon chronicler wrote: "She had made a standard on which was painted the image of Our Lady. At Jargeau, the Maid took her standard on which was painted God in His Majesty and on the other side... (gap in text - author's note)... was painted the shield of France held by two angels"
In 1440, Eberhard Windecke a businessman from Mayençais wrote: "And the girl left with her banner which was made of white silk. Painted there was the image Our Lord God with His wounds, Who was seated on the rainbow. On each side (of Christ) was an angel who held a lily."
In 1445 the Dean of the Saint-Thiébaud church in Metz said: "noble banner painted about the Blessed Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary."
The Burgundian chronicler Enguerrand de Monstrelet wrote in about 1453, "her standard was painted with the representation of Our Creator."
The English chronicler Jean de Wavrin, Lord of Forestel, in about 1460 also made the same description of Jeanne's standard.
The city of Tournai, Flanders, (modern day Belgium) was in Joan's time loyal to the King of France. This city's 1455 chronicle states: "Standard of white satin, in which Jhesus Christ sitting on a rainbow, showing His wounds, and on each side (of Christ), an angel hold up to Him a fleurs de lys."
Lastly, the anonymous Latin poem which agrees with parts of the Trial of Nullification (1456) has Jeanne saying:
"I will carry a standard decorated with the image of the King of Heaven."
"The kingdom's fleurs de lys will flower around "
The poem Siege of Orleans (compiled around 1470) gives this description of The Maid's standard:
"A standard I want to have ---- Un étendard je veux avoir
"White without any another color ---- tout blanc sans nulle autre couleur
"Where inside will be a sun ---- Où dedans sera un soleil
"Glittering with zeal ---- Reluisant ainsi qu’en chaleur
"And in the middle, a great honor ---- Et ou milieu en grand honneur
"Written in gold letters will be ---- En lettres d’or écrit sera
"These two words of worthy value ---- Ces deux mots de digne valeur
"Which is to be Ave Maria. ---- Qui sont c’est Ave Maria.
"And above more notably ---- Et au dessus notablement
"Will a beautiful and comely ---- Portraitée bien et joliment
"Portrait of Majesty ---- Sera une majesté,
"Made great by His Authority ---- Faite de grande autorité
"At His two sides will sit ---- Aux deux côtés seront assis
"Two angels, each one holding ---- Deux anges, que chacun tiendra
"In one hand a fleur de lys ---- En leur main une fleur de lys
"The other the sun will support." ---- L’autre le soleil soutiendra."
Clement De Fauquembergue did the only really contemporary drawing of Jeanne on May 10th, 1420. His drawing was done in the margin of his text. It represents Jeanne holding her standard that ends in two long tails. The only inscription on it is "JHS".
The famous 15th century miniature shows a more complete description of the standard: In this miniature Jeanne is depicted in armor, holding her sword in her right hand and in her left hand she held her standard. The white, very long, (the image shows many folds - author's note) rectangular fabric that ends in two points, is attached to a black pole. God the Father is painted in a red tunic; His head is surrounded by a golden halo. His right hand is raised in blessing and He holds a blue sphere (the world) in his left hand. On either side is painted a kneeling angel. The left angel with hands joined in prayer is clearly dressed in a brown tunic, with blue wings and a golden halo. The other angel is similar but is dressed in a blue tunic, with red wings. The standards inscription "JHS Maria" is done in gold letters. The entire design is parallel to the end of the fabric that is attached to the pole; this also includes the three gold fleurs de lys.
The 15th century German tapestry represents Jeanne's arrival at Chinon. She holds a standard in her right hand. The fabric is entirely dark blue (this is obviously an error - author's note) ends in two tails. The figure of Jesus Christ wears a green tunic with a red cloak over it. A golden halo surrounds His head. Christ's right hand is raised in blessing and in His left hand He holds a gilded sphere with a small cross on top. (This sphere is not visible in the above image). The two angels who surround Him wear white tunics. They both have red wings and their hands are joined in prayer. The inscription "JHS Maria" is written in gold letters. Christ and the two angels, the inscription and the three gold fleurs de lys are all parallel to the end of the fabric that is attached to the pole.
This 15th century miniature shows Jeanne d' Arc riding a horse as the king receives her at Loches. This image is similar to the other depictions of Jeanne's standard as the fabric is white and ends in two tails. Jesus Christ wears a red tunic and has a golden halo around His head. His right hand is raised in blessing and in His left hand He holds a gilded sphere (the world) with a small cross on the top. An angel kneels on either side of Christ. One is dressed in a blue tunic with white wings. He has a golden halo around his head and carries, in his praying hands, a white fleur de lys. The other angel is similar but wears a beige tunic. This angel has two blue wings and a golden halo. The inscription of "JHS Maria" is written in gold letters. As with the other two images, this one shows all the figures, the inscription and the golden fleur de lys all parallel to the end of the fabric that is attached to the pole.
1° In his very beautiful work about Jeanne d' Arc's costumes and armor (published by Bookshop Ernest Leroux, Paris, 1929), Adrien Harmand proposes one of the first re-creation of Jeanne's standard that is on based solid documentary evidence (although it is not totally satisfactory - author's note).
Mr. Harmand proposes that Jeanne's standard had only one point or tail because he believes it would have been easier to control when in use and to roll the fabric up around the pole to store. The shape of the standard is thus a triangle traced in a semi-sinusoidal curve. The three sides would have been respectively: 7 feet (2.14 m), 5.42 feet (1.97 m) and 2.4 feet (62 cm). The overall length of the pole, including the 7 inch (18 cm) iron point was 8.2 feet (2.65)." (What precise details! - author's note)
The end of the standard's white fabric was covered entirely with fleurs de lys. The standard was bordered with a silk fringe. The fringe had an alternating gold and white segment pattern that was a little less than one inch wide (2.5cm).
Harmand places the words "Jhésus Maria" over the figures of Christ and the angels and close to the standard's pole. Our Lord Jesus Christ is depicted as the King of Heaven. He sits on the clouds between two angels with His wounds exposed. He carries the world in His left hand while His right hand is raised in blessing. Christ's head is surrounded by a crossed shaped halo. Each of the two angels offer Him a fleur de lys.
On the reverse side of the standard is painted two angels who are holding a blue shield. Harmand doesn’t believe the royal coat of arms was depicted in this shield. Instead he believes a white dove holding a ribbon with the words: "De par le Roy du Ciel" (The King of Heaven commands it) was painted below this shield.
In addition, Harmand believes the pennon that had an image of the Annunciation painted on it was partly burnt during Jeanne's entry into Orleans and from that time on it was not used. Mr. Harmand is certain that the pennon was not replaced.
2° The second interesting re-creation was done by Colonel de Liocourt, which is found in volume I of his two-volume work. The Mission of Jeanne d' Arc (published by Nouvelles éditions latines, Paris 1974). [All current re-creations are based on his work - author's note]
Liocourt specifies that Jeanne, as a military leader, commanded a mixed company of mounted and foot men-at-arms. It is for this reason that she had a large standard for the men-at-arms and a pennon for the archers. Liocourt also states that Jeanne's pennon was partially burned during her entry into Orleans. He is not sure if the damaged pennon was replaced.
Colonel de Liocourt believes the pole of the standard was a war lance that was about 15 feet in length (or about 5 m). This war lance was probably painted white and equipped with a polished iron point that was about one foot long (or 32 cm).
The standard was made from a white fabric, in the shape of an isosceles triangle. It had a pitchfork shaped tail consisting of the two points that were very close together and was fringed. The standard was about 11. 7 feet long (3.56 m) with the width being about two thirds of the length. The slit of the tail was an additional 3.8 feet (1.18 m). The fringe was a little less than an inch wide (2.7 cm) and bore the colors of Charles VII (red, white and green). Decorations on the front and back were different. The pole was made from the Alder tree.
Please note that the image of Christ and the two angels are placed very close to the end of the fabric that was attached to the pole. The image represents Christ coming in power and glory; thus He is sitting on a rainbow, to judge all mankind. Christ with His wounds exposed is wearing a red cloak. His right hand is raised in blessing while His left hand holds the world (a golden sphere). The image shows no support for His feet. Two floating angels flank Christ at each side. Each angel is dressed in a white tunic and both have red and white wings. They also carry in both of their hands a natural white lily that has three blossoms at the top of the stem. The words "Jhesus Maria" is written in gold Gothic lettering. Throughout the surface of the white banner golden fleurs de lys are placed precisely parallel to the end of the fabric that was attached to the pole.
The reverse side of the standard shows the same two angels holding a shield that is surmounted by a royal crown. The royal coat of arms of the King of France is displayed inside the shield. A broad white ribbon held in the dove's beak replaces the golden gothic lettering. Inside this ribbon are the words "De par le Roy du Ciel" (The King of Heaven commands it). Once again the white field of the standard is strewn with golden fleurs de lys that are placed precisely parallel to the edge of the fabric that was attached to the pole.
The Pennon had an identical pole that was only 5 feet (1.77 m) long. The width of the fabric was 2.6 feet (.80m), thus forming an isosceles triangle. The white fabric, the gold lettering and the fringe are identical to those of the standard.
On the front side of the pennon, very close to the pole, is the image of the Virgin Mary who is in prayer kneeling on a prie-Dieu covered in a white cloth. She is wearing a red tunic that is almost completely covered by a blue cloak. On her head she wears a white veil. Her face is turned toward the kneeling angel. The angel wears a white tunic and has red and white wings. The angel holds in his left hand a natural lily that has three flowers at the top of the stem.
3° During the "Jeanne's Standard" exposition held from 1990-1991 at the Manchon de Jeanne d'Arc's the Center Jeanne d' Arc created a standard that was based on Colonel Liocourt's work.
The exposition's caption read: "It is nearly an accepted fact that the front of Jeanne's standard had the Apocalypse figure of Christ, surrounded by the angels of justice (Saint Michael) and of mercy (Saint Gabriel).
"The angel of mercy, on the right side of Christ, holds a natural lily. The angel of justice, on Christ's left holds a sword. It would be more reasonable to put a sword in this angel's hand; (rather than another natural lily as is seen in the Liocourt standard - author's note) because the image of a sword corresponds better to the usual representation of the last Judgement.
"This standard has the correct gothic style gold lettering for the names 'Jhesus Maria.' Lastly, the fleurs de lys on a blue field are found only on the standard's tail, which symbolized the badge of the royal party. (Normally this part of the standard would be white. Author's note)
"On the reverse side of the standard and in the same proportions as Christ is the shield of France. The same two angels that appeared on the front now support the shield. In addition the gothic gold letters spell out "De par le Roy du Ciel" "The King of Haven commands it."
"It is also almost universally accepted that the image of the Annunciation was used as the pennon's design along with the phrase "De par le Roy du Ciel" "The King of Heaven commands it." The words "Jhesus Maria" was used only on the standard. According to the same document, the tail of the Pennon was also to be an azure blue, decorated with three fleurs de lys."
4° In 2002 the city of Orleans wanted to replace the old traditional Jeanne festival's standard with a new design. The deputy director of the Center Jeanne d' Arc, Mr. Olivier Bouzy, submitted a drawing based upon his research titled: Jeanne d’Arc, Myths and Realities (éditions L’Atelier de l’Archer, 1999)
According to Mr. Bouzy, there were three essential components of Jeanne's standard:
The background of the standard's tails had to be blue with golden fleurs de lys place on top.
The front and the back of the standard must be the same because the image painted on the front would have shown through the back of the fabric.
The standard did not use the phrase "The King of Heaven commands it" nor did it have the dove painted on it. These were used only on the pennon.
My Interpretation of Jeanne's standard
The Great Standard
I think the fabric of Jeanne's standard was entirely white. All the witnesses and Jeanne herself spoke only about the white color. There is nothing exceptional about the fact that the gold fleurs de lys were placed on a white area rather than blue. Why? Because all the regimental flags of the Kingdom of France in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, excluding the time in and around the French Revolution, as well as the period of the Restoration (1815-1830) had gold lilies on a white field. Moreover, in heraldic art (art of the blazon or Coat of Arms) and in vexillology (the science of the flags), gold and silver or white and yellow are, associated with the divine, for example the coat of arms of Jerusalem and the Papal States and now the Vatican's the flag.
The standard's silk fringe had an alternating pattern of yellow and white. It was almost one inch wide (2.5 cm). In French this type of fringe is called, "componée."
Because the fabric was only a single thickness, the decoration painted on the front showed through to the back. The standard makers overcame this problem by first applying the gold leaf for the lettering and the fleurs de lys to both sides after which then they painted the images only on one side. Actual sheets of thin gold were attached to the fabric by first applying a thin layer of a fatty substance onto the cloth after which the gold leaf was beaten into the fabric. In French this technique is called "appliquées et battues."
Painted on the broadest part of the standard, the part closest to the pole, was the Apocalyptic image of Christ Who was seated on a rainbow, with the wounds in His side, hands and feet exposed. He was shown wearing a light red tunic and a bright red cloak. His right hand held the world (a blue sphere) and His left hand was raised in blessing. Christ was surrounded in an iridescent golden 'mandorle.' [English 'the Aureole']
According to Jeanne's own testimony, "such as is painted in the churches," the usual representation of the Apocalyptic Christ, for her time, showed Him flanked by two angels. One is, the angel of justice, Saint Michael, who is armed with a sword, and the other is the angel of mercy, Saint Gabriel, who held a natural lily. Next to these figures and towards the tail of the standard, were written the names, "Jhésus Maria" in large gold letters. The white field of the standard's tail was covered with fleurs de lys. These fleurs de lys were painted parallel to the edge of the standard that was attached to the pole. The gold lettering and the fleurs de lys were painted thusly for aesthetic reasons because this part of the standard usually hung in a vertical position.
The standard was intended to be carried on horse-back, and was used as a rallying point for the troops. The pole was extremely long, the length of a war lance, or approximately 18 feet (5.50 m) in length.
The fabric was 11. 5 feet long (3.56 m) and approximately 2.6 feet (80 cm) width at the point where it was attached to the pole. This formed a triangular shape.
Depending on the importance of the owner, such as the King, the length of the tail could extend sometimes more than an additional 19.2 feet (6 m). Thus creating a standard that was 28.8 feet long!
Even on horse back, the man who held the Large Standard needed a great amount of strength and skill to be able to hold the deployed ensign. The rider who carried the standard was equipped with a special saddle called in French, "selle de bannière" or the "banner saddle." Often the larger standards were simply planted at the highest part of the ground where it was used as a rallying point.
We know from various testimonies that Jeanne often held her own standard while in combat. At her trial she stated the reason why, "to avoid killing anybody," adding that she "liked forty times more her standard than her sword".
But the question remains did she mean her large or small standard?
The Pennon also called the Small Standard.
According to the Orleans' Siege Journal, the heroine entered the city, on the evening of April 29, 1429. The crowd pressed itself against Jeanne and her horse so much that one of those who carried a torch approached so near her small standard (Pennon) that the fire caught on to it. Jeanne turned her horse and came to her pennon where she extinguished the flames. "The men-at-arms held the sight with great wonder!" According to the majority of historians, this short history explains how the pennon was destroyed.
For my part, I do not think so. Why? Because the pennon was an essential piece of equipment for any company commander as it was used to indicate the position of the captain (like the "Commanding Officer’s Flag" is used in modern armies.) Either, only a small part was burned and repaired or it was entirely remade. On foot and in the middle of a battle, Jeanne could not have handled the large standard. This leaves only the possibility that she used the Pennon, which she could carry.
The "small standard," (Pennon) was triangular in shape with only one point, and as its name indicates, was more modest in size than the large one, thus making it easier to handle by a combatant on foot, as Jeanne did most of the time. The length of the Pennon's fabric ranged between 4 to almost 5 feet long (1.30 to 1.50 m). The part of the fabric that was attached to the pole was approximately 2. 6 feet wide (80 cm). The Pennon's pole was undoubtedly shorter than the Standard's lance, and did not exceed 10 feet (3 m).
The author of the Journal of the Siege, who was an eyewitness, wrote: "was painted like an Annunciation, that is the image of Our Lady having in front of her an angel presenting her with a lily." It also was a small standard, about which Perceval de Cagny speaks of when he says The Maid, "made a standard on which was the image of Our Lady" and the Dean of Saint-Thibaud church in Metz mentioned: "the Blessed Virgin Mary."
The principal and constant rule reasons that if large and small standards were different, then the backgrounds and the gold lettering were identical. The angel painted on the pennon's white fabric represents the archangel Gabriel presenting a natural lily to the Virgin Mary. This scene was accompanied by the words written in gold letters "Jhesus Maria" finally gold fleurs de lys were placed on the remainder of the white fabric surface as it was with the standard. Like the standard, the pennon was bordered with a yellow and white componée silk fringe. Because the fabric was only a single thickness, the decoration was the same on the front and back. To overcome this problem the gold lettering was placed on both sides and in the same area of the pennon.
Because of several witnesses' testimony it is virtually certain that the same image on the pennon was seen on the front and the back. These witnesses said they saw a dove painted over an azure area holding in its beak a streamer with the inscription "De par le Roy du Ciel" (The King of Heaven commands it.) Because a dove is shown as part of the Annunciation image it is apparent that the dove represented God, The Holy Spirit. Thus it was the Holy Spirit Who is testifying that Jeanne's message came from God.
Thus the pennon with the image of the Annunciation and the standard with the image of the last Judgement formed a whole, which symbolized Jeanne's mission from the beginning to the end, the alpha and the omega.