Jehanne la Pucelle

A mini-biography

(Joan the Maid, commonly called Joan of Arc in English)

Compiled from many sources by Steven R. Kanehl

Part 4


May 1429 continued

Thursday, the 5th (Ascension Day) – Jehanne decrees that there is to be no fighting in honor of the holiday to celebrate Christ’s ascension into heaven. Jehanne sends the English one last message, delivered by an arrow. The message says, "You Englishmen, who have no right in this Kingdom of France, the King of Heaven sends you word and warning, by me Jehanne the Maid, to abandon your forts and depart to your own country, or I will raise such a war-cry against you as shall be remembered forever. And this I write you for the third and last time, nor shall I write further. I would send you my letter more decently, but you detain my heralds. For you have kept my herald Guyenne. Send him to me, and I will send you some of your men who were taken at Saint-Loup, for not all were killed."

The arrow is shot, and the archer shouts, "Read it, here is news." The English read the letter and reply, "Here’s news from the whore of the Armagnacs (a major party of the French). Jehanne begins to sigh and weep abundant tears, calling the King of Heaven to her aid. Later she is comforted, she says, because she says she has received news from her Lord. I believe she wept not because she was insulted, but because the English had rejected God’s will. And she wept because now she is confronted with the horror of the deadly business of war; a war that will take many more lives than her first battle did the day before, and had already left her in great anguish.

Friday, the 6th – Jehanne goes to confession and hears Mass. She gets ready for battle. She sees Raoul de Gaucourt, the governor of Orleans, who forbids her to make a sortie that day. The captains had decided not to attack. Jehanne was of the opinion that the soldiers should make a sortie with the men of the city and attack the Bastille of the Augustians. Many soldiers support her. Jehanne prevails and the attack begins. They attack the Bastille of Saint Jean de Blanc (southeast of Orleans and across the river). They cross the river via a bridge of boats linked to an island in the river. The French find the fort deserted (the English had apparently consolidated their forces at Augustins due south of Orleans). Then French decide to retreat when La Hire and Jehanne arrive on horseback. The English attempt an attack on the rear of the French troops. La Hire and Jehanne, who are guarding the French rear, charge the English with lances. The French, upon seeing their leaders charge the English, ignore the retreat and also charge them.

They end up capturing both Bastilles of Augustins and Saint Jean de Blanc. Suddenly, the noose of the siege of Orleans is now tightening around the English throats. Jehanne is wounded by stepping on a spiked ball and is noticed limping. At supper that evening, the captains tell her that they will not attack tomorrow, as they believe they have too few troops. They will wait for more reinforcements. Jehanne retorts, "You have been with your council, and I have been with mine. Believe me, my council will hold good and will be accomplished; yours will come to naught. She then turns to Pasquerel sitting next to her, "Get up early tomorrow morning, even earlier then you did today, and do the best you can. You must stay near me all the time, for tomorrow I have much to do, more than I ever had yet, and the blood will flow from my body above my breast."


Saturday, the 7th – Jehanne awakens early. Someone brings in a sea trout into the Boucher house. Jacques says, "Jehanne, let us eat this fish before you go out." Jehanne replies, "In God’s name, we will not eat it until supper when we have recrossed the bridge (held by the English) and have brought a godon (slang for the English, since they were frequently heard to utter "God damn") who will eat his share. She confesses and hears Mass. Jehanne and the soldiers attempt to leave Orleans, but are blocked at the Porte de Bourgogne by sieur de Gaucourt. He attempts to keep the soldiers from attacking. But Jehanne prevails and the attack against the Tourelles (the English’s strongest fort) is undertaken.

The attack starts at about 7 a.m. It is a valiant struggle with the French repeatedly attempting to scale the walls of the Tourelles, only to be thrown back time after time. The sound and smell of gunpowder weapons fills the air. Just before noon, Jehanne is putting a scaling ladder up against the wall, when an arrow (or possibly a crossbow bolt) pierces her armor above her left breast. Pasquerel testifies it penetrates through her body and out of her back. The Bastard testifies it penetrates her flesh six inches. Both may be right, given the sharp angle of being shot from a high wall, since the arrow is shot almost directly above Jehanne. Jehanne is frightened by the pain and blood and she weeps. The English see her wounded and are close to descending the walls themselves in an attempt to capture her.

The sieur de Gamaches (the one that had days earlier furled his banner in a disagreement and called Jehanne "a little saucebox"), rides to the rescue with his axe. He puts Jehanne on his horse and adds a generous apology. Jehanne is led away. The English think she is mortally wounded. Once at a safe distance, Jehanne pulls the arrow out with her own hands. Some soldiers, seeing her wounded, come up, wanting to recite charms to cure her. Jehanne rejects this, saying she would rather die than do anything she believed to be contrary to God’s will (the reciting of charms is not part of the Christian faith).

They attend to her wound and stop the flow of blood. The wound is dressed with olive oil and lard. Jehanne rests for no more than a few hours. She then confesses her sins with tears and rejoins the battle late in the afternoon. No progress has been made. It is soon near 8 p.m. The Bastard has decided to give the order to retreat, but before the trumpet is sounded, Jehanne goes to him and begs for more time. She tells the soldiers to rest, eat and drink for a short while. Jehanne mounts a horse, and leaving her banner behind, goes off to a nearby vineyard, where she prays for 15 minutes. She returns. The battle is about to continue. There is conflicting stories about what happens next. Jean d’Aulon is about to lead forces against the fort. He enlists Archambault de Villars, known as valiant man, to carry Jehanne’s standard to lead the charge. Jehanne sees her standard flying and immediately runs to it. She attempts to get the standard from de Villars. Some say that in the struggle to hold the banner, the troops interpret this as a signal to attack. (Jehanne had apparently earlier told the troops that when they see the banner pointing toward the fort, this is the signal that they will be victorious). Another report says that Jehanne did hold the banner on the parapet of the deep ditch guarding the fort. The English tremble at the site, supposing that Jehanne was dead. Both reports may be true, that they struggle for the banner, but the Jehanne ends up holding it. In any event, the French find renewed courage and strength (some credit Jehanne’s practical advice in giving them a short rest as being tactically decisive). They storm the fort and this time are successful in mounting the walls.

Meanwhile, the French attack from the Orleans’ side as well. The bridge had been cut off, but the French make a walkway with gutterpipe and nailing boards to the end of it to reach across the gap. This works and they coming pouring it from the rear as well. The English are appalled and panic. Some testify that they see the Archangel Michael and another angel riding on horseback in mid-air to aid the French (skeptics attribute this to the troops crossing on the gutterpipe makeshift bridge, as though walking on thin air, however, they were not riding horses). The English rush to escape via the other bridge. A fireboat has been moored and lit under this bridge (apparently at Jehanne’s instructions). Jehanne knows the bridge is about to explode and from the top of the fort (she has scaled the walls), she calls out to the English commander one last time to obey God’s will, "Glassdale, Glassdale, surrender, surrender to the King of Heaven! You called me a harlot, but I have great pity on your soul and the souls of your men." Glassdale and his 500 men do not stop. The bridge explodes and all plunge into the river beneath them. In their heavy armor, they all drown. Jehanne weeps for the souls of the English. The Tourelles is now in flames. They cross the bridge, as prophesied by Jehanne, back into Orleans. The church bells ring out and the priest and people unite in singing Te Deum laudamus, giving thanks to God, to their valiant defenders, and especially to Jehanne. Jehanne returns to her lodgings to have her wound tended and eats roast beef soaked in wine (there is no further mention of the sea trout given to her earlier that morning).


Sunday, the 8th – Early at dawn, the English withdraw from their remaining fortifications and line up outside of Orleans in battle formation. Jehanne awakens. She arms herself with only a light coat of mail, due to her wound. (It would take two weeks for her wound to be healed; though she said she was not prevented from riding). The French line up opposite the English. Jehanne forbids an attack, as it is Sunday, but says they can defend themselves if the English attack first. They should have no fear. The French chafe at this command, but obey her. The troops face each other for an hour with no movement on either side. Jehanne calls for a portable altar composed a table and a block of marble to be brought to the open field. In the presence of her enemies, two masses are said. The English turn their backs and start their retreat to Meung. Jehanne says, "In God’s name, they go. Let them depart, and we go to give thanks to God. We shall not follow them farther, for it is Sunday. Seek not to harm them. It suffices me that they go." The French return to Orleans, where they all render humble thanks to Our Lord and they all visit the churches with great devotion. There is a thanksgiving procession throughout the city (a procession that has continued on May 8th to this very day, with the exception of about 10 years during the French revolution. France has made May 8th a national holiday in honor of Jehanne’s memory).


Monday, May 9th – Jehanne and the Bastard leave Orleans to meet with Charles.


Tuesday, the 10th – Jehanne and the Bastard go to Tours to meet with Charles. She takes her banner in her hand and rides to meet the king. The young girl bows as deeply as she could before him and the king promptly makes her rise (or sit upright on her horse). From the joy he expresses, one thought that he might have hugged (some translate the word "kissed") her.

Friday, the 13th – They meet at Loches. Charles hesitates what to do next. He meets with his advisors, Christopher d’Harcourt, Gerard Machet (the bishop of Castre) and Robert Le Macon (chancellor of France), as well as the Bastard. Jehanne knocks at the door of their chamber. As soon as she enters, she falls to her knees and embraces Charles’ legs, saying, "Noble Dauphin, hold no more so many and such long councils, but come as quickly as you can to Reims to take the crown."

They are hesitant to ask Jehanne what her voices say, for fear of annoying her. Jehanne senses this and comes forward of her own accord. "In God’s name, I know what you are thinking and what you would like to know about the voice I have heard, as concerns your coronation, and I will tell you." Jehanne starts to blush, but continues. "I entered into prayer after my usual manner. When I complained (to God) that no one would believe what I said, the voice replied, ‘Daughter of God, go, go, go! I shall be with you to help you. Go!’ And when I hear that voice I feel a great joy. Indeed, I would that I might ever be in that state." And when Jehanne told the message of her voices, she exalts in a wondrous fashion, raising her eyes toward heaven.

They decide to go to Reims for the coronation, but must first capture additional towns held by the English. Charles decides to obtain additional troops. He worries about money, as he is poor. The troops tell Charles they will go anywhere without pay, as long as Jehanne will lead them.

Sometime later that month, Jehanne tells Jean d’Aulon. "My counselors are three. There is one who remains with me always, another comes and goes and visits me often, and the third is he with whom the other two take counsel." I have no doubt she means the Holy Spirit is the counselor that remains with her always, that the angels of God are the ones that visit her often, and that God is the third with whom the other two take counsel.


Between May 13 and 24 - Jehanne goes to Saint-Florent-les-Saumur. She meets with the Duke of Alencon, his wife and his mother.

Tuesday the 24 – Jehanne leaves Loches


Sunday, the 29 – Jehanne is at Selles-en-Berry.

June 1429

Monday the 6th – Jehanne has been in Selles-en-Berry this week. She meets Guy de Laval. She departs for Romorantin.

Tuesday the 7th – Jehanne is in Romorantin.


Thursday the 9th – Jehanne is at Orleans. The army regroups. They have 600 knights and 2,000 men in total. Jean D’Alencon is appointed lieutenant general of the armies. La Hire is also with them.


Friday, the 10th – Jehanne and the army go to Sandillon. The Bastard of Orleans and the captain of Chateaudun join them, adding another 2,000 men. They spend the night in a wood.


Saturday the 11th – There is a debate among the captains about whether to attack Fastolf, who had left Paris several days earlier with reinforcements, or to attack Jargeau itself. Jehanne tells the captains "Fear not, however many they may be! Neither consider difficulties. God guides our work. Were I not certain that God guides this work, I would rather keep sheep than expose myself to such perils." Jehanne and the army attack the outskirts of Jargeau. The English troops are commanded by the Earl of Suffolk. The English launch a counterattack to meet them. At first the English appear to stop the French. But then Jehanne seizes her standard and launches herself into the fray, and the troops, following her lead, carry the outskirts of the town. The English withdraw into the castle in the center of the city.

Sunday the 12th – Jehanne says "Forward, gentle duke, to the assault!" D’Alencon is hesitant to attack. Jehanne replies, "Have no doubt, the hour that pleases God is at hand. We must work when God wills it. Act and God will act. Are you afraid, gentle duke? Do you know that I promised your wife to bring you back safe and sound?" Jehanne tells the English, "Surrender this place to the King of Heaven and to the gentle King Charles, and you can go, otherwise you will be massacred." The English refuse. The attack is made. The French open fire with their gunpowder weapons. The English fire back, but they have fewer weapons. One French blast brings down one of the town’s larger towers.

During the battle, Jehanne tells D’Alencon to move from his place on the battlefield, because, if he did not, that machine (and she points to a gunpowder cannon poised on the city’s rampart) would kill him. He immediately withdraws. A very short time later the weapon strikes Monseigneur de Lude, who had moved to the very spot D’Alencon had vacated. The duke is struck with much awe in Jehanne, and after this event he marvels greatly at anything she says.

Suffolk tries to obtain a two-week truce with La Hire in the middle of the battle. D’Alencon and the other captains are irritated with La Hire for considering this request and he is stopped before the negotiations go anywhere. Jehanne answers that the English must leave within the hour, taking only their horses and clothes on their backs or otherwise they will be taken by assault. The battle continues.

The French reach the walls. The battle is engaged for some three or four hours before the French begin to make progress in scaling the walls. Jehanne is on a ladder, holding her standard in her hands, when the standard is struck with a large stone, which rebounds onto her head. The stone breaks on her helmet. Jehanne is knocked to the ground, but immediately bounces up and shouts, "Friends, friends, up! up! Our Lord has condemned the English. At this hour they are ours. Have courage!" The town is taken almost immediately. Suffolk apparently surrenders to a squire named Guillaume Regnault, after first knighting him, so that according to chivalry, he is taken by a knight. Another contemporary chronicler, de la Rochelle, says that Suffolk would surrender only to "the bravest woman in the world." The English suffer many casualties. Some French soldiers, without Jehanne’s knowledge or permission, execute some English prisoners.

Monday the 13th – Jehanne and D’Alencon ride back to Orleans. Jehanne receives a red cloak and a green tunic as a present from the captive Duke of Orleans; red and green being the colors of his house. She attends vesper services held by Friar Robert Braignard.