Anno Domini 1429
Sunday the 19th was spent camped at Patay, where the army ate lunch
before moving out.4
Some of the victorious troops would have
to part company with the group, however, as court politics
made an unwelcome intrusion.
The rest of the Royal army returned to Orléans, where the troops were greeted with great celebration, the commanders joining the citizens in giving thanks in the churches.9 The city prepared for the expected arrival of Charles himself by having the "streets hung with bunting up to the heavens" in the memorable phrase from one account,10 and men streamed into the city "from all quarters" to serve in the army.11 But Charles didn't arrive,12 and his Court, as soon became apparent, had developed a bad case of cold feet about the prospect of further campaigns into enemy territory.
Now followed the torturous process of inducing the Royal council to give the order to move the army forward, frequently a matter of some difficulty. In order to urge prompt action and allay any concerns about the undertaking, Joan met with her monarch, evidently at St-Benoit-sur-Loire, an event remembered vividly by the Royal official Simon Charles: "the King had compassion for her because of the burden she carried, and told her she should rest. And then Joan told the King, while weeping, that he shouldn't have any doubts, and that he would gain his entire kingdom, and that he would soon be crowned."13 Although a Royal visit to Orléans was not on the agenda, she convinced him to meet with his commanders at Chateauneuf-sur-Loire on the 22nd before he returned to Sully.14
Decisions were made, and things now got underway: the army moved out from Orléans on Friday the 24th, "early morning".15 In one of her memorable phrases, Joan of Arc told Alençon: "Have trumpets sounded and mount your horse. It's time to go meet the noble King Charles to put him on his way to his anointing at Rheims."16
It was a forty mile journey to Gien, covered in one day.17
Charles himself was there to greet them with "great joy"18
in this city on the edge of friendly territory, the
jumping-off point for the coronation march.
At Gien, the troops received their pay, such as it was: Jean Chartier says that even the men-at-arms received no more than "two to three francs"23 (less than what Joan had been given by the Duke of Lorraine for telling him he was "behaving sinfully"); but Cagny says that the troops were willing to serve regardless, declaring that they would go "anywhere she wished to go".24 The Royal court lacked the means to keep them directly supplied with food as well, which would have consequences as the army moved into enemy territory.
The court took its time embarking on the latter course. After
waiting three days for the army to be given marching orders, Joan
and a number of the commanders left early and camped "about four
leagues" (around 12 miles) to the east on the
route to Auxerre.25
Once the prostitutes were left behind, things were underway. The author of "The Journal..." paints a lively picture of the army as it set off: the troops, he says, were all "gallant, bold, valiant and of great courage", as they ventured into a region in which "the towns, fortresses, bridges and passages were garrisoned by the English and Burgundians". It lists no fewer than 21 commanders, while leaving out many for the sake of brevity; and claims that the total number of troops amounted to 12,000. These included minor landholders who lacked the means to provide adequate equipment for themselves and their company, but came anyway as archers and "coustillers" [lightly-armored soldiers equipped with swords or spears] mounted on "little horses", eager to serve in an army with Joan in charge.30
The army was on the move, and nervous reports of its progress appear in some of the Anglo-Burgundian documents. On July 1st a Burgundian commander named Philbert de Moulant, in charge of a contingent of troops at Nogent-sur-Seine, sent a letter off to the leaders of Rheims reporting that the Royal army had been sighted "at Montargis". He assured them that Auxerre and the other towns of the region were not concerned about either "the Armagnacs nor the Maiden" but promised to aid the Burgundians in Rheims if they, quote, "had any trouble with her."31 His bravado would prove to be unwarranted.
The army decided to take a detour to Auxerre,32
which would otherwise be a possible menace to their rear. Earlier,
she'd had to sneak into this town to hear Mass; now,
she was at the head of an army.
The modern military ration - culinary delights
made from "mystery meat" and chemical preservatives -
had no counterpart in the Hundred Years War,mn1
nor would such fare have
been accepted, even in the field, by the "professional"
troops of the era (i.e., aristocrats and well-paid mercenaries) who
generally expected to enjoy a more robust diet.
Jean Gerson complained about
noble soldiers who insisted on having portable ovens hauled along with them so they
could eat "little pies" baked fresh on campaign,45
referring to the rich meat pastries typical of the era. The reader can well imagine the agony produced by an unhappy meal
of raw beans picked from the fields.
The situation produced a far worse problem: with genuine hunger setting in, the troops inevitably began to steal food from nearby farms despite Joan's prohibition against such pillaging. Simon Beaucroix recalled an incident at one point in the campaigns, probably at Troyes, in which a Scottish soldier informed her that the piece of meat she had just eaten was from a calf which someone (presumably himself) had stolen. She was so angry, says Beaucroix, that she tried to slap the Scot for it.46
With a precarious situation developing, Charles called a meeting of his lords and asked them to decide whether the siege should be abandoned. They were in favor of withdrawing the army; but then an aged member of the council named Robert le Maçon suggested that since they had known from the beginning that they didn't have the material resources for such a campaign, and it had therefore been faith in Joan's advice that had prompted the undertaking in the first place, it would be reasonable to consult her before making any decision.47 She told the group that if Charles chose to stay in front of the city, it would be his within two or three days, "...either willingly or by force or by courage, and treasonous Burgundy will be amazed."48
The saint then mounted her warhorse, "a baton in her hand", and
organized the soldiers to bring bundles of sticks,
"doors, tables, window frames" and other items to fill in the moat, build
siegeworks, and set up the cannons;
she did this work, in the words of
Jean Chartier, "as could have been done by a commander who had
been nourished all his life in war."49
The city leaders of Troyes
came to a similar conclusion as they looked out over the preparations
the following morning: with an assault imminent, and Joan actually
giving the order to begin, the city's leading citizens came out to
The city's Bishop also came as part of the delegation representing
the garrison and townsmen. The agreement that was settled upon allowed
the Anglo-Burgundian troops to leave with their belongings and
prisoners; the citizens were to be granted a general pardon from
Charles. The town, for its part, agreed to provide supplies
to feed the hungry besiegers.55
The victorious army entered Troyes around nine in the morning, with Joan arranging ranks of archers all along the road to serve as a welcome for Charles and his lords.57 Another small picture of her emerges from the events on this day: she took part in the baptism of one of the babies for whom she would be asked to serve as godmother. She would later say that she usually named the boys "Charles" after her king, and the girls "Jehanne" (following a common practice of naming babies after one of the godparents).58
With the surrender of Troyes, an easy path was opened to Rheims.
The army left Châlons on the 15th and headed for Rheims.62
The fulfillment of Joan's mission was now not far off.
Others had a different view of the changed fortunes of war. Word
of the impending coronation brought new contingents of troops to
Joan's army, led by the Lord of Commercy
and Lord René d'Anjou.68
The latter was a figure of great importance who, like so many other important
figures in this era, boasted a thoroughly tangled political and familial situation,
with lands, claims and relatives spread haphazardly across central Europe.
He had been forced by his uncle the Duke of Bar and father-in-law
the Duke of Lorraine to pledge loyalty to the English
for his duchy of Anjou in northwestern France, but would shortly
reject that agreement and ally himself with his brother-in-law
He would insist on leading the Royal army, being both a Duke
and a claimant to the Kingdom of Sicily. He was twenty-one.
And sometimes poignant moments are enacted upon the largest of
The holy vial of anointing oil - "la saincte ampoule" in medieval French - was solemnly escorted on horseback by four of the commanders appointed to the task: Lords Saint-Sévère, Culan, Rais, and Graville. These accompanied Abbot Jean Canard as he carried the relic into the cathedral.71
Tradition required twelve specific secular and ecclesiastic dignitaries to attend the coronation, but with France divided between warring factions some changes had to be made.mn2 The Duke of Alençon took the place of the Duke of Burgundy, and a clergyman took the place of Cauchon.72 Guy XIV de Laval (the young man whose letter was previously cited) was elevated to the rank of Count and joined the Counts of Vendôme and Clermont as stand-ins for three of the other missing lords.73
The ceremony lasted from nine in the morning until two in the
Over the centuries this scene has been the subject of numerous paintings, freezing the moment in time. But the participants would only pause briefly before moving on to the next campaign: the submission of the Ile-de-France followed by an attempt to retake Paris.