[The following passages are from Frances Gies’ excellent book, Joan of Arc: The Legend and the Reality, 1981.]
Henry [VI, the boy king of England] wrote to [his French ally, Philip] the duke of Burgundy announcing that Joan had been burned “for the benefit of the faith and the extirpation of pestilent error,” an accurate summary of the court’s finding. But just as on the French side the idea that Joan was a saint began to take hold, on the English the idea that she was a witch flourished. When the duke of Bedford [the brother of Henry V and regent until Henry VI came of age] attributed English defeats to Joan’s “false enchantments and sorcery” he was voicing an accusation that the judges had dropped. In their judgment, she had been a dupe of the devil, not his partner. The idea that Joan was a witch persisted only in England. The Burgundian writers in the generation after her death merely treated her mission with skepticism.
On the political-military plane, Bedford sought to follow up Joan’s execution by a maneuver that would counter the effect of the coronation of Charles at Reims. Reims unfortunately remained in French hands, so to anoint young Henry VI Bedford was forced to make do with Paris. Even this project presented a military obstacle, Louviers, a small town on the Rouen-Paris road that La Hire had taken by surprise attack two years earlier. Several rehabilitation witnesses said that the English feared to move on Louviers while Joan lived. A siege operation was now pressed, and in October the town fell.
At last, early in December, nine-year-old Henry VI was able to ride into Paris, where he was given a ceremonious welcome, the guilds and the aldermen taking turns in holding a blue canopy starred with golden fleur-de-lis over his head. . . .
On Sunday, December 16, Henry was crowned at Notre-Dame, and a banquet was held at the palace on the Île de la Cité. Despite a large turnout—the notables were jostled by “cobblers, mustard sellers, packers, winestall keepers, stonemasons’ lads”—the Bourgeois [a contemporary account, ostensibly written by a citizen of Paris, but more likely by a cleric of Burgundian sympathy connected with Notre-Dame cathedral] gave a sour report: the food, cooked the previous Thursday (an English custom, he thought), was unspeakable. “Many a time the marriages of children of Paris citizens have done more for the guilds, goldsmiths, goldbeaters, all the luxury trades, than the king’s consecration did.” The boy king was whisked out of Paris the day after Christmas, without having granted any of the traditional pardons and releases from taxation.
As public relations, Bedford’s coronation ceremony was a fiasco. “No one in secret or in public was heard to praise [the king].” Hardly was it over when the English cause suffered a stunning setback. The use of Paris for the coronation had been possible only through the passive cooperation of the duke of Burgundy. But Philip had no more assisted in Henry’s consecration than he had in that of Charles. Now he coolly gave his allies notice of a preliminary agreement he had made with Charles. “The war for the pursuance of which you have not aided or supported me as you should” had become too expensive to continue, he wrote Bedford. Henry VI’s great-uncle, Cardinal Henry Beaufort, made a last-minute attempt to reconcile the two dukes. When it failed, he proposed that England join in the Burgundian truce with the French, but Henry VI’s chancellor, Louis of Luxembourg, vetoed the idea.
That spring (1432) the English suffered fresh setbacks around Paris. Chartres was taken by ruse, and an English force trying to recover Lagny was driven off by Dunois [Joan’s comrade and co-commander from the glory days of Orleans and the Loire campaign, Count Jean Dunois].
Rouen [the administrative centre of English power] itself was momentarily seized by a boldly raiding Armagnac band, but was quickly retaken when reinforcements for the attackers failed to arrive and the citizens rallied to the English. The leaders of the raid were ransomed, but 114 common soldiers were beheaded in the Old Market where Joan had died ten months before.
In November 1432 Anne of Burgundy, who had for years kept peace between her husband Bedford and her brother Philip, died, severing a dynastic link that had fortified and formalized the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. Shortly after, Philip reopened full negotiations with Charles at Arras. Unable to prevent the talks, the English were now forced to join them, but could accomplish nothing except to delay the inevitable. Charles offered to allow Henry VI to retain Normandy and Aquitaine as fiefs of the French crown, a come-down Henry and his councillors were not ready to accept. In fact, so far was Bedford, mortally ill in his palace in Rouen, from appreciating the ebb of English power that his counter offer was a mirror image of Charles’s: Charles could keep the provinces he held by paying homage to Henry VI as king of France.
The negotiations dragged on interminably until on September 9, 1435, the English delegation left Arras, and on September 29 the French and Burgundians concluded a treaty. By its terms, Philip recognized Charles as king of France. In return, Philip was allowed to keep all the territorial concessions the English had made to him, except for Champagne and Brie. The fortified “towns of the Somme,” to the north, guarding Philip’s Flemish territories and threatening Paris, remained in his hands but could be redeemed by the king for 400,000 crowns. During Charles’s lifetime, Philip was exempted from paying homage for his French fiefs. Finally, Charles solemnly denied complicity in the murder of Philip’s father at Montereau and promised to punish the guilty parties, have masses said for the soul of the victim, and erect a monument to him.
Charles has been criticized by modern historians as yielding too much to Burgundian demands in the treaty of Arras, but the great purpose of all his diplomacy toward the duke of Burgundy was finally accomplished, and the English were permanently deprived of the ally on whom their French enterprise depended.
News of the treaty was greeted in London with appropriate fury. Merchants from Bruges (in Philip’s Flanders) were seized and their goods confiscated. Philip’s ambassadors were arrested and narrowly escaped death, and in October Parliament was instructed to provide money for an army to punish Burgundian treachery. The gesture was futile.
During the following winter, the English were driven out of their remaining footholds of the Île de France, and in February Richemont blockaded Paris, whose sentiments were changing in tune with those of its Burgundian protector. The English garrison, deprived of Burgundian aid and isolated in the now hostile city, took refuge in the Bastille. In April a nearly bloodless insurrection permitted French troops led by Dunois and Richemont to effect an entry into the city. The English garrison was allowed to withdraw on payment of “a large sum” for safe conduct, and to the accompaniment of the jeers of the Parisians. According to the Bourgeois, Richemont issued a proclamation thanking the citizens “for having so peaceably returned the chief city of his realm” to the king, and saying that if any man had wronged Charles, he was forgiven; he also forbade his men, on penalty of hanging, to quarter themselves in any Parisian’s house without his consent, or “to insult or in any way annoy or rob anyone” except Englishmen. “The Parisians loved them so for this that before the day was over, not a man in Paris but would have risked his body and goods to destroy the English,” said the Bourgeois. “. . . Whatever evil he had done against the king, nobody was killed for it.”
Whatever popular credulity was willing to attribute to Joan, the significance of her intervention on the political and military scene grew increasingly clear. With Paris in his hands and Burgundy neutralized, Charles unmistakably had the upper hand in his kingdom. The English, confined to their twenty-year-old possession of Normandy and their three-hundred-year-old province of Aquitaine, no longer posed a threat to his lands or crown; and in fact, on the contrary, his own power threatened even these last English enclaves. The very delay that intervened pointed up the historic change that had now taken place in the government of France as it had earlier in that of England. Charles concentrated on improving his administration, refilling his treasury (with the aid of the moneyman of Bourges, Jacques Coeur), and rebuilding his now thoroughly professional and national army. Whether by divine purpose or not, Joan had been guided by a sure instinct in focusing her enterprise on the person of the king. Monarchy was the path of the future for centuries to come.
The transition from feudal to monarchic power was evident most significantly in the military field. Joan’s epic is filled with evidence of the rise of the new money-based royal military power amid the disappearance of the old anarchic feudal fighting class. As the army became professionalized, knights disappeared not so much out of it as into it, blending with plebeian “men-at-arms” [knights in everything but social rank] who wore the same armour, rode the same horses, and received (by 1440) the same pay. Great nobles—dukes, counts, earls—continued to maintain their own military forces, but though they could hire captains, archers, and men-at-arms, the new artillery arm was beyond any but a king’s means.
Thus the artillery, whose military value Joan had appreciated, became, because of its cost, an element of significance in the social-political evolution. The pioneering artillery force of Charles VII was strengthened and improved under the direction of the Bureau brothers (like Joan non-noble in origin), until it became an effective arm in the field as well as in siege operations. When the Hundred Years War entered its final phase in 1449, it took on for the first time the character of a French invasion of English territory. The walled towns and castles of Normandy fell with astonishing rapidity to the Bureau brothers’ bombardments, and the English field army was destroyed at the battle of Formigny (April 15, 1450).
Charles at once turned his attention to Aquitaine (Gascony-Guienne) in southwest France, English since Henry of Anjou married Eleanor of Aquitaine and became king of England in 1154. Where the Normans had welcomed the French as liberators, the Gascons resisted them as conquerors, but the result was the same, climaxed by the last battle of the war, at Castillon (July 17, 1453), where Joan’s old antagonist Talbot [a daring and agressive English warrior noble who fought against Joan at Orleans and the Battle of Patay] was found among the piles of English dead.
In accordance with Joan’s prediction, the English had been “driven out of France.” For another hundred years they retained Calais, which Charles refrained from attacking out of consideration for the duke of Burgundy, whose Flemish wool-producing towns wanted it left in English hands.
Click HERE to reach
the associated topic for this webpage.
For more topics click HERE.