Short Reads

Did Medieval Towns Have Gardens and Yards?

What Asinus Teaches

  1. Definition of a Medieval Town
  2. Its Various Types of Neighbourhood
  3. Its Yards and Gardens

Wild Reddit Question Appeared!

>>> Link to the original post!

What would the yards between buildings in a Medieval European city be used for/occupied by? [image included for reference]

I stumbled into the excellent Layers of London website and was exploring a map of London from about 1270-1300. We can confine my question to that time and place if that helps. I also looked at some old maps of other cities in the 13th century like Paris, and while they’re a bit tricky to interpret, I think they have the same quality I found.

Here is a screenshot of a closeup look at some neighborhoods. The darker brown is keyed as “houses and other buildings forming a built-up front-age,” the white negative space is road, and the slight off-white occupying the space in between “blocks” of houses is keyed as “yards and gardens in the urban area.” That’s the part I’m curious about.

What’s so confusing to me is that it seems to occupy such a vast amount of space relative to actual buildings. When I read about medieval urban spaces, I’m told that it’s incredibly cramped and jam-packed with buildings. Watching/reading guides for drawing medieval cities for something like D&D show the only negative space to be the major roads between buildings.

Who owns/has permission to use the “yard” between everyone’s buildings? Does your business extend out into the open? Are there agreements between neighbors about how that space can be used? Is it more of a communal thing that is privately shared by every resident of that “block”?

Gardens in the Middle Ages. Illuminated Medieval Manuscript. Illumination.
Urban Garden – Wien, ONB, Cod. 2617, f. 53r

My Answer

What Defines a Medieval Town?

Our post-industrial conception of urban and rural areas is very black and white. The city and the countryside seems like two opposites in our modern worldview. However, green areas constituted the best part of most cities before the 18th century and medieval towns, especially, were tightly connected to their surrounding countryside or contado. Though international trade was a real thing, globalization hadn’t taken over local commerce. Cabbages were not imported from another country because you fancied them, they were found in your own very region if not in your own backyard.

Medievalists are often at odds when it comes to define what a medieval town was. Was it the walls? Was is the bourgeoisie (a class of priviledged town-dwellers)? Was it the population number? The medieval town is nothing like an ancient Greek or Roman city. It’s messy.

It grew organically around a few landmarks: a church, an abbey, a castle, a mill or all of those things! Privileges were first acquired by the end of the 11th century. Walls rose from the ground around the 12th century. Town really started to be clustered by the 14th century when the Black Death pushed many countrymen to cut their losses in the countryside and take their chances in the big cities.

However the city didn’t only include one single species of inhabitants. Beyond the social human diversity you’d also find cattle: cows and pigs for the most part. The first were popular for their milk, the latter litteraly cleansed the streets and also made up for tasty meat. Nevertheless, roaming pigs became a daily pest. It happened that a young French king died in Paris when his horse fell unexpectedly upon a pig. In Amiens, the town had to ban pigs from within the city walls several times during the 14th and 15th century. Really, medieval towns looked a lot like rural areas.

Aristocrats, Religious Congregations and Burghers

Gardens in the Middle Ages. Illuminated Medieval Manuscript. Illumination.
Royal Garden – London, BL, Egerton MS 3781, f. 1r

As I’ve already stated in a former post, medieval cities held several seats of power. In Paris or London, the king had his castle (the Bastille or the Tower); the powerful aristocrats had their mansions; the archbishop had both his cathedral and his palace; many priests had their own church and parish; religious orders were scattered all over town in their convents; the burghers had a towncentre, several indoor and outdoor market places; craftmen were regrouped into streets… Each of those members of society had their own rights and privileges, they had their own assembly, they answered to different political players. Not only was the town an actual maze of narrow streets, it was also a labyrinth of a political chess! Keeping everybody in check proved to be very difficult. Urban revolts were quite common during the 14th and 15th century, to the point that Richard II of England and future Henry IV came close to death when the good people of London stormed the Tower. Philip the Good, a few decades later, found himself trapped within Bruges and barely made it with his life.

This social diversity called for a greater architectural diversity. Lords and prelates often held actual lands within city walls. Behind the strong façades of their buildings–mansions, convents, churches–they’d entertain vast gardens or actual fields and pastures. Some of those well kept areas have been turned today into public parcs, big or smalls. Burghers who belonged to the upper-middle class also enjoyed their own private gardens. Yards were more common than we could expect.

Recreative Gardens, Urban Agriculture and Medicinal Horticulture

Gardens in the Middle Ages. Illuminated Medieval Manuscript. Illumination.Gardens in the Middle Ages. Illuminated Medieval Manuscript. Illumination.
Allegorical Gardens – London, BL, Harley MS 4425, f. 12v VS PAris, BnF, fr. 143, f. 198v

People of the Middle Ages enjoyed having a garden as much as we do today, if not even more. They had no TV nor printing press to distract them. Spending some time in the yard after a long day of work was quite the release. Friars were invited to have a gentle stroll in their gardens instead of napping after dinner. The rose already obsessed many people for its unique scent and beautiful shape.

Cities had often been placed next to rivers and marshes. When those marshes were dried up it became the perfect spot for in-walls agricultural fields. It wasn’t enough to help a city go through a siege, but it could help in times of generalized famine. Religious congregations were quick to capitalize on such parcels whilst aristocrats rather paid for the services of professional gardeners (they had lands in the countryside and didn’t bother to grow crops within city walls).

After the Black Death struck, it was also advised by many authors to maintain a medicinal garden. It’d be the jewel of a few hospitals and convents. Really, gardens were everywhere though parcels were divided and turned into construction areas to make room for more houses when rural exodus peaked. A few neighbourhoods were always quite densely populated though and in those cases gardens were more often replaced by courtyards.

Lyon, which is a very ancient city dating back from the Roman Empire, has many what we call “traboules”: secret shortcuts within neighbourhoods only known by the locals that formed over time because of the very high density of buildings. These are more than narrow alleyways. They go up and down buildings, connect various streets together and made Lyon a proper nightmare to manage and control for the authorities. However, the case of Lyon is quite unique. Most medieval cities, since they were not former Roman colonies, had gardens, alleyways and courtyards, in-walls fields and pastures or private parcs.

Urban Gardens in the Middle Ages. Illuminated Medieval Manuscript. Illumination.
Urban Gardening – Paris, Arsenal, 5196, f. 357v

References

  • C. Rawcliffe, “‘Delectable Sightes and Fragrant Smelles’: Gardens and Health in Late Medieval and Early Modern England”, in Garden History, 36 (2008), 3-21.
  • E. Gesbert, “Les jardins au Moyen Âge : du XIe au début du XIVe siècle”, in Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, 46/184 (2003), 381-408.
Gardening in the Middle Ages. Illuminated Medieval Manuscript. Illumination. Garderner. Gardening. Strawberry. Third Estate.
Gardening in the Middle Ages – Paris, BnF, nal 3134, f. 32v
Short Reads

How Do Historians Evaluate the Thruth of a Claim?

>>> Original comment on AskHistorians

Historians don’t state facts randomly. They don’t fabricate them either. They follow what we call the Historical Method, or Quellenkritik, or Critique historique.

What’s the Purpose of the Historical Method?

Human societies leave written or non-written documents. For the sake of this argument I will only focus on written documents, especially since non-written documents are more often related to archaeological or art history studies than historical studies. Those scientific disciplines are deeply connected and they feed off each other but they each present specific methods related to their fields of inquiry. The written document is the specificity of the historian. Therefore I’ll mostly focus on that.

The 17th century saw the rise and triumph of centralized states in Europe. Those states heavily relied on an administrative workforce to control, regulate and expand their authority. If the verbal agreement was still paramount in the 15th century, it wasn’t the case anymore. However, a greater number of “paper pushers” meant that you needed to ascertain the validity of written documents. How could you be sure that a royal or papal letter was legitimate? You had to know how the documents were made and what they displayed. It became even more crucial when kings and princes pushed territorial claims as casi bellorum to legitimize going to war with their neighbors. Louis XIV, for example, became an expert at that game.

In the meantime, Jesuits were poking anywhere they could. They were highly educated, quite erudite, and they loved to prove people wrong—which partially contributed to their downfall. A group of them, the Bollandists, settled in the Low Countries and specialized in proving that hagiographies (the biographies of saints) were full of nonsense and historical inaccuracies. It threatened the livelihood of several religious congregation which relied on popular pilgrimage. Who would worship a relic that contained the bones of a made-up saint?

Dom Mabillon rose to the challenge, on the matter of old Merovingian charters, and came up with a method to prove or disprove the validity of a document. He fathered diplomatic, the study and science of authentic documents. Do you wonder how Sherlock Holmes solved A Scandal in Bohemia? Well, he showed quite the diplomatic prowess in the very first chapter when he identified the origin of the paper upon which a letter was sent to him. We know Sherlock Holmes only solved murders through hard science: Sir Conan Doyle obviously thought of diplomatic as one of them.

The scene is actually a very good imaginary depiction of what a diplomatic examination should go for.


The note was undated, and without either signature or address.

“There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter to eight o’clock,” it said, “a gentleman who desires to consult you upon a matter of the very deepest moment. Your recent services to one of the royal houses of Europe have shown that you are one who may safely be trusted with matters which are of an importance which can hardly be exaggerated. This account of you we have from all quarters received. Be in your chamber then at that hour, and do not take it amiss if your visitor wear a mask.”

“This is indeed a mystery,” I remarked. “What do you imagine that it means?”

“I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. But the note itself. What do you deduce from it?

I carefully examined the writing, and the paper upon which it was written.

“The man who wrote it was presumably well to do,” I remarked, endeavouring to imitate my companion’s processes. “Such paper could not be bought under half a crown a packet. It is peculiarly strong and stiff.

“Peculiar—that is the very word,” said Holmes. “It is not an English paper at all. Hold it up to the light.

I did so, and saw a large E with a small g, a P, and a large G with a small t woven into the texture of the paper.

“What do you make of that?” asked Holmes.

“The name of the maker, no doubt; or his monogram, rather.”

“Not at all. The G with the small t stands for ‘Gesellschaft,’ which is the German for ‘Company.’ It is a customary contraction like our ‘Co.’ P**, of course, stands for ‘Papier.’ Now for the** Eg**.** Let us glance at our Continental Gazetteer.” He took down a heavy brown volume from his shelves. “Eglow, Eglonitz—here we are, Egria. It is in a German-speaking country—in Bohemia**, not far from Carlsbad**. ‘Remarkable as being the scene of the death of Wallenstein, and for its numerous glass factories and paper mills.’ Ha, ha, my boy, what do you make of that?” His eyes sparkled, and he sent up a great blue triumphant cloud from his cigarette.

The paper was made in Bohemia,” I said.

“Precisely. And the man who wrote the note is a German. Do you note the peculiar construction of the sentence—‘This account of you we have from all quarters received.’ A Frenchman or Russian could not have written that. It is the German who is so uncourteous to his verbs. It only remains, therefore, to discover what is wanted by this German who writes upon Bohemian paper, and prefers wearing a mask to showing his face. And here he comes, if I am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts.”


The first thing you look for in a document is the date, the signature and the place it was made if there is any indication of it. Most medieval charters were already very specific on such things and mentioned who ordered the document, who wrote it, who signed it, to whom it was addressed, where it’d been written, etc. Sherlock had no such luck: no date, no signature and no address were displayed on the Bohemian letter.

That’s why he looked at the material aspect of the document: the paper. Merovingians documents were often written on papyrus (that’s why many of them didn’t survive the passing of time). Late medieval charter was commonly written on parchments. Early modern documents are often written on paper. There are several kinds of papyri, parchment and paper. Those many and various types have been recorded by historians since Mabillon. Brichet has given an extensive directory on watermarks, for example. That’s what Sherlock goes for once he’s observed the letter was written on paper. Paper very often displayed a watermark before the industrial era. It showed its place of origin, which workshop had crafted it. I personally observed watermarks in a 15th century manuscript and it greatly helped me to date when it was made thanks to Brichet’s directory.

Last but not least, Sherlock delves into a bit of philology. His observations are a bit blunt but they illustrate what to go for once you’ve dealt with the material aspect of a document: look closely at grammatical structures, lexicography and syntax. That’s how Lorenzo Valla proved, back in the 16th century, that the pope’s territorial claim to central Italy was based on a fake document! Once you know how Cicero wrote, for example, you can spot whether he’s the author of a Latin text or not.

There is one thing Sherlock left out, however, and that is paleography: the study of the written word. What are their shapes? We do not write today as people used to write. There are regional and historical trends. I could open a digitized manuscript online and determine whether it dates from the 15th or the 14th century or if it was made in Italy or Germany only by looking at its scripta. I do have Derolez’s directory about gothic scripts at home.

So this is the purpose of the historical method: to ascertain through empirical observations whether a document is true or false.

The Heuristic Process

So let’s say you have a document, any kind of written document. Nice! What do you do first to ascertain its authenticity? Well, you don’t directly look for clues. No. You build a database. You try to find as many documents as you can relate to the very document you have at hand. That’s what Mabillon did. He went all over Europe to find more and more medieval charters to help him come up with his method. How do you know if a Merovingian charter is authentic or not? You first have to look at hundreds of them, very closely.

Today you could go on Google and type what you’re looking for but, believe it or not, most of the time it won’t help you if you’re searching for a very specific historical subject. Google is specifically designed for commercial purposes. Websites that comply to SEO tactics will get better chance to appear on the first page. It’s not a neutral search engine. You have to know about other databases too. Or you can go old school: dive into a bibliography about the topic that sparked your interest. A bibliography is basically a book that only contains book titles and gosh is it useful!

You can find bibliographies at the end of monographs or scientific articles too. Historians are especially fond of them. We have rules on how to write them, with Latin abbreviations and everything. A good history book has pretty much as many pages of notes and bibliography as it has of ‘content’. Every single fact stated MUST be based on a document of some kind: either another peer’s research or a primary source.

The aim of the heuristic process is to know as much as you can about the chain of information. Someone claims something: where did he get it? What’s the very base of his claim? Is it grounded on an authentic primary source? Sometimes you’ll find contradicting information and that’s when things get really interesting.

The External Examination of Documents

A document always rely on a specific material. Is it paper? Parchment? Stone? Something else entirely? What is it made of? As we’ve seen with the Bohemian letter, the material aspect of a document can tell us a lot about it.

The external examination of a document doesn’t stop there. How was the document made? Which process did it go through? Scientific contributions, for example, are not only written and published, they’re also read and validated by other scholars before being published. Then, they can be discussed through reviews. Reading book reviews are a lot of fun sometimes: if you’re lucky that’s where academics go very ugly and personal on each other. It doesn’t help you a lot in your research, sure, but it’s quite entertaining. It’s like a Twitter brawl but with style.

The material aspect and the writing process of a document are very important to ascertain its value. Those famous Lincoln’s quotes of yours, where can you find them? Are they written on a letter written by Lincoln himself? Who wrote them down? When? How? And why? I could claim Gandalf said the Force is strong with Bilbo Baggins but I couldn’t come up with a single line in the Hobbit to back up my claim unless I forge my own edition of it, for example. I’m not saying that Lincoln’s quotes are false. I’m just saying: where do you find them? What’s the original document that contains them? Is that original document an authentic or fake document? Those questions need to be answered before moving forward on any interpretation about Lincoln’s presidency and political ideology.

The Internal Examination of Documents

Once we’ve seen what a document’s made of and how it was made, we can start to look at what it contains. Now that we know what ink was used to write on that 13th century parchment, what do we read?

The internal written structure of a document is often predetermined by its pragmatic goal. Why was the document written? Is it an executive letter from a government official? Is it a judicial record? Is it a personal journal? Is an article in a newspaper? Those various forms of written documents each show a very different use of language. A poem could be full of very valuable historical information, but it’s also designed to sound pretty or to be thought-provoking, for example. In the Late Middle Ages, verses were considered to be only fit for fiction on the basis that the truth couldn’t be conveyed if the language had to abide to too many rhetoric rules. Did it rhyme? It couldn’t be historically accurate, clerics thought. We know today that prose chronicles also show a lot of literary prowess and expertise that tarnish or embellish the truth. That’s why we can’t only rely on Froissart’s to understand what happened during the first half of the Hundred Years’ War. We have to look at official records, accounting documents, pieces of legislation, judicial archives, etc. Archive documents tend to be closer to facts than narrative sources because they’re less concerned with literary reception and social praise. A few medieval chroniclers understood it pretty well and actually copied official records within their narratives to give it more weight and legitimacy.

Let’s get back to that Lincoln’s quotes. Let’s say they were found in actual 19th century documents. Do the letters in which we find them match Lincoln’s literary style or lack thereof? I stated that it was quite easy to identify Cicero once you knew his style, the same goes for every author. If you push it even a bit farther, you could conclude a thing or two about an author’s psychology. The act of writing implies making choices. What choices did your author do? Why? If he was writing freely his choices and his psychology will appear even more clearly than if he were writing from a pre-established form. Knowing about an author’s psychology can help us ascertain if he’s being truthful or not.

We can also learn a lot someone’s intellectual background only by reading his writing closely. There is an actual field of study dedicated to account for every explicit or implicit quotes in Latin medieval chronicles. When he edited De rebus circa regni Siciliae curiam gestis, Eduardo D’Angelo (2014) established the exact proportion of quotes from Pagan and early Christian authors within the text. We know that the author of De rebus Siciliae actually read Cicero’s Pro Sestio, for example, or Virgil’s Aeneid. These kinds of observations can help us to date a document when everything else fails. Monstrelet talks about Froissart’s chronicle: he obviously wrote later than him. It’s like spotting a Starbucks cup on a popular fantasy TV show. It’s evidence.

Why Do History Change Over Time?

It’s very simple: the more we study a subject, the more we know about it. When historians first wrote about the Crusades in the 19th century, there was a lot they didn’t know about it because there were still tons of documents to uncover. We have miles and miles of unclassified archives. I mean metric tons of paper, parchment and whatnot that contain God knows what. We still have a LOT to discover.

When Huizinga wrote about the “Fall of the Middle Ages” he didn’t take many sources into account. He built his view of the 14th and 15th centuries solely on narrative sources. Vale has shown how the results of his compulsive monograph were biased because of that. Now add non-written documents to your analysis and it’s another story altogether that you have to write!

The main difference between the historian and the conspiracy theorist is that the historian will not only show you one compelling proof: he will show you ALL the evidence he found, acknowledge what he didn’t take into account (and why) and discuss everything said evidence for what they’re worth. A conspiracy theory flashes forward from one argument to another to build its case. The historian takes his time and his book might be Bible heavy instead of ten-minute YouTube short.

Someone is making wild claims? Slow him down. Stop him every. Step. Of. The. Way. “Where did you get your information? Is that source reliable? Why do you trust it? Etc. Etc.” And don’t let any fancy rhetoric fool you. Hard evidence is hard.

Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
Manuscript Illuminations, Short Reads

How to Identify the Knights of the Round Table in Medieval Manuscripts

  • Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.
  • Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.

Many wonder if King Arthur was even real. I will not answer to that question. What really matters today, on this 2020 International Heraldry Day, is that Arthurian aristocrat “fanboys” from the late 15th century actually came up with coats of arms for each and every knight of the Round Table.

If you believe that fanfictions are a by-product of contemporary literature only, you don’t know the first thing about medieval literature. Medieval literature is at its core a strong tradition of fanfiction writing. Moreover, you may believe that people have waited the rise of Marvel and DC comics to dress as their favourite superhero, but the late medieval nobility certainly knew a thing or two about cosplaying.

Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.

Medieval tournaments and jousts were often planned out as full on re-enactments of old Arthurian tales. By the end of the 15th century, an extensive set of rules was laid out on the manner to stage “Errant Knights”, a very specific type of tournament which required every participant to impersonate a knight of the Round Table.

Part of the fun was to dress in an old fashion way with an out-dated military equipment, but most importantly, to wield the coat of arm of a knight of the Round Table. Those coats of arms weren’t chosen freely by the participants but appointed by the heralds who coordinated the event.

Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.

Furthermore, every knight was to be followed by a company of servants among whom a herald. The latter also had to wear clothes displaying the Arthurian coat of arms of his master*. That way, if the participants couldn’t tell who another knight was embodying from his coat of arms, the herald could tell him. Added bonus: the participants could even be followed by a couple of ladies!**

This is all fine and dandy, you might think, wondering why I’m obsessing on such trivialities. What really fascinates me though is that Arthurian knights—if they ever existed—didn’t have coats of arms***. Best case scenario, they accomplished their heroic deeds during the first half of the 6th century. However, coats of arms only came into fashion by the 12th century. By that time, mounted knights were so heavily equipped that it was impossible to recognize them from their face as it was totally covered. Therefore, they came up with a new method to identify themselves on the battlefield and let everyone know their name (and wealth), namely, coats of arms. Soon after, bishops, guilds and other members of the medieval society created their own coats of arms. Though the fervour for heraldry (the study of coats of arms) slowly waned since then, it gave birth to commercial logos; the Porsche emblem is nothing but a coat of arms and most football/soccer jerseys also display one, for example.

Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.

Historically speaking, it is impossible that the Knights of the Round Table ever owned a coat of arm. The sole fact that they gathered around a Round Table is already a 12th century invention! Maybe they carried a seal ring like the Romans did. Who knows? Nevertheless, it means that at some point during the 15th century, someone felt the need to give a coat of arms to every single knight of the Round Table. Not only that, but whoever that person was, his work was met with a huge success and soon enough every educated herald in France knew what colours Arthur, Lancelot and Perceval were expected to display on a battlefield.

The fictitious coats of arms of the Knights of the Round Table are still preserved today in several medieval manuscripts. Many of them can be perused online. Here’s a shortlist of four of them (beware that the knight’s name is always written above his coat of arms and sometimes several pages before it, never right under it; red captions are titles, not legends):

Lille, Municipal Library, MS 329

Paris, Arsenal Library, MS 4976

Paris, Arsenal Library, MS 5024

Paris, BnF, fr. 1437

Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.

Those four manuscripts are heraldic treatises. Such books usually displayed actual coats of arms and served as iconographic resources or lavish memorabilia for heralds. The sumptuous Armorial of the Golden Fleece, which is a fantastic specimen of the genre, not only display coat of arms but also knights and noblemen in full attire.

Another fun fact about heraldry and medieval manuscripts is that when actual mighty noble figures were depicted in miniatures, they would be shown with their coat of arms. This mostly concerned illuminated chronicles. As such, kings and queens of England, Scotland and France are easily identifiable in what must be the most broadcasted and advertised copy of Froissart’s Chronicle.

Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.

All of this brings us to Jacques d’Armagnac, duke of Nemours. To say that this man loved books would be an understatement. He personally supervised the making of several luxurious manuscripts and devoted money to the upkeep of three personal libraries. When he was tried and sentenced to death, his judges, who all belonged to the high end of the French nobility, divided his gilded manuscripts among themselves.

Jacques d’Armagnac possessed religious and encyclopaedic manuscripts—that was a given—several manuscripts containing historical narratives and chronicles, but also manuscripts recounting the epic tales of the Knights of the Round Table. And you better believe Jacques d’Armagnac had something to do with the creation of fictitious Arthurian coats of arms. The miniatures in his Arthurian manuscripts, portraying the Knights of the Round Table fighting on horseback and on foot, provide detailed heraldic characteristics as to identify them. If you were to compare the coat of arms of a knight depicted in those manuscripts, you would be able to find out his name in the aforementioned Arthurian heraldic treatises!

Heraldry. Héraldique. Knights of the Round Table. Chevaliers de la Table Ronde. Illumination. Enluminure. Medieval manuscript. Manuscrit médiéval.

Just… How cool is that?!

Once I discovered that I geeked out so hard that I couldn’t help myself and wrote this very blogpost. Medieval manuscripts have yet so many secrets to uncover!


* A herald always wore the colour of his master, as seen on this frontispiece depicting Jean Lefèvre de Saint-Rémy, also known as Toison d’Or, chief herald to Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, and the Order of the Golden Fleece.

** More on the “Errant Knights” in Maurice Keen, Chivalry. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984, p. 204.

*** Neither did Alexander the Great. Nevertheless, medieval illuminators gave him one since he was depicted as a medieval knight.

Short Reads

The Devil’s Ten Commandments

Fresh and dynamic rewrite of my #1 blogpost

Asinus Docet

In manuscripts of old lie forgotten truths. Men, beasts and angels alike have turned away from such ancient knowledge.

It was formerly believed that our world was but a mere reflection of another world, a better world, a divine world. “My kingdom is not of this world,” said Christ to his disciples (John, 18:36). What did it mean? Medieval scholars pierced the mystery, they thought.

Everything we see, touch and feel on Earth would only be the bodily reflection of a pure and divine concept. Once you understand that worldly facts and earthly beings are symbols to decipher, then everything is open to interpretation. The divine truth hides everywhere.

Only the highest scholars and theologians could delve into the exercise of unearthing the word of God beneath the “mirror” that is our world. Nonetheless they tracked God down to the darkest corner of creation. By the 13th century, even pagan…

View original post 712 more words

Short Reads

Joan of Arc’s Charisma

Wild Reddit Question Appears!

Why did anyone take Joan of Arc seriously?

She was a teenage girl saying she had a holy vision, not of noble heritage. How did she end up leading an army? Why was she taken seriously?

>>> Original post on Ask Historians

My Answer

I feel that there is a lot to unpack in this question. I’ll do my best to untangle the many webs intertwined here and weave them as clearly as I can in a nice little pattern 🙂

The Question of Joan’s Heritage

You mention that “[Joan was] not of noble heritage.” You’re perfectly right! She was a proper nobody. Now, believe it or not but it posed troubles to many pseudo-historians and conspiracy theorists. They couldn’t believe that Joan, having achieved what she achieved, wasn’t somehow of noble blood. They even came up with the crazy theory that Joan was of royal blood! I’ve already pinpointed the fallacies at the basis of that theory and I invite you to read it if you find the time 😉 It’s basically a Shakespearian fiction turned into a historical phony hypothesis. The fact is that Joan didn’t accomplish so much on her own for that matter. A lot of people were talking about her and granted her magical powers still. Most chroniclers of the time had an opinion on her or at least wrote about her.Joan and the French military hierarchy

Nevertheless, Joan faced a wall when she first met the men she’d fought alongside with. They wouldn’t believe in her. They wouldn’t listen to her. She was so relentless though that she carved herself a place among them. I wrote about it a little time ago. The fact that Joan actively searched to engage into battles and showed the greatest courage on the battlefield turned her into an inspiring figure. Also, it helped that she was always quick with a sharp reply. Some people in power, mostly Georges de La Trémoille, thought she’d make a nice figurehead. They didn’t actually believe in her. However, a few high ranked military leaders of the French army, such as Dunois (Bastard of Orléans) and the duke of Alençon, would years later report on Joan’s miracles at Orléans, on her second trial*.

*Joan was condemned as a heretic on her trial at Rouen. Many years later, her mother called to the king and the Church to undo this trial and clean her daughter’s name. That’s when many people who met Joan and fought alongside her witnessed in her favour.

Who Took Joan of Arc Seriously?

The better question is who took Joan seriously? Which brings me to an anecdote I’ve never reported in my various contributions up to this point. On September 3rd, 1430, two women had been arrested and were executed in Paris in front of the cathedral. They believed that Joan of Arc was good. One of them was called Piéronne and originated from Britanny. She declared that God himself had appeared to her, dressed with a red mantel over a white gown, which was considered as blasphemous (for God’s clothing was a white mantel over a red gown–he had fashion sense!)*.

At the meantime, when Joan died, a few captains that fought with her at Orléans tried to replace her with a random shepherd. Those two anecdotes go a long way in telling us how seriously she was taken and by whom. She contributed to a long standing superstitious culture in a world in which people believed in miracles and named miracles even the silliest things–even an unexpected colour for bread. Rational thinking was not the paradigm that most people followed. Sophie Page writes: “Since both magicians and saints claimed to possess supernatural powers, it was necessary for the ecclesiastical authorities to distinguish between the categories of magic and miracle**.”

* Colette Beaune (ed.), Journal d’un bourgeois de Paris. Paris: Livre de Poche, 1990, p. 281-282.

** Sophie Page, Magic in Medieval Manuscripts. London: British Library, 2017, p. 16.

A Too Short of an Introduction to Medieval Magic

When Joan arrived at Chinon and met the king she was then sent to Poitiers to meet theologians who were charged to assess the holiness of her visions. As it happens Augustine had written about visions in his De Genesi ad litteram (book XII). He described three types of visions: the best were spiritual and touched the soul, some were carried by dreams, the last belonged to the physical realm. The people who judged Joan at Rouen determined that her visions belonged to the third and least noble kind. They took a very long time asking Joan how the Archangel Michael was dressed and tried to pinpoint inconsistencies in her narrative. “Was he naked when he came to you?” they asked. “Do you think he’d have nothing to wear?” she answered as if they were stupid. It was common in female saint biographies that they’d be tempted by the devil at some point in their journey. He would appear to them in the flesh and try to lay with them. Having sex with a demon was certainly a “physical” and devilish vision.

“In the medieval universe, angelic mediators carried prayers to God. Demons sought to divert the souls of men and women from heaven*.” Augustine wrote that angels existed for every living things, hence the concept of guardian angels developed in the Late Middle Ages. However, “theologians were naturally dubious of the human ability to distinguish between angelic and demonic spirits, as it was well known that demons could assume fairer forms to deceive mankind*.” This led to the writings of many more texts on visions, the meeting of angels and the conjuring of demons. A whole literature flourished on the subject. All Joan had to do was to convince people she had vision and that those visions were sent by God. She certainly had visions and she never denied them. Moreover, it belonged to the realm of the possible in those times to the less pragmatic of minds had no trouble to join in on the narrative. Once Orléans was delivered only a few days after she entered the city, Joan gained enough charisma that people believed in her.

Max Weber argued in his essay on authority and domination** that in times of great disorder and general unrest, people would easily turn to a charismatic figure to lead them. Someone who came from nothing. Someone who had no title nor experience but someone who actually showed up and led them to victory. This charismatic leader finds his/her authority rooted in his/her success. He/she has to safeguared his/her people. As soon as the charismatic leader faces a defeat or couldn’t translate his authority into another form of domination (feudal or bureaucratic, for example), he/she’s discarded. This pattern doesn’t only apply to Joan. Throughout history many figures became charismatic leaders according to that definition. Oliver Cromwell was one of them in my opinion. I find it particularily striking that he also hated that people took the name of the Lord in vain and that he promoted, as well as Joan, a very strict and religious discipline within the military. Joan is known for having chased allegded prostitutes with a sword. She broke her sword on the back of one of them and, according to Jean Chartier, a French chronicler and Valois partisan, that’s when she lost it. That’s the moment the magic stopped working and she went from incredible victories to repetitive defeats.

People took her seriously because they believed in magic and miracles. She was only human though, but that’s what makes her story even more fascinating.

* S. Page, Ibidem, p. 75, 78.

** Max Weber, La domination. Paris: La Découverte, 2013. Translated into French by Isabelle Kalinowski.

Short Reads

John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury (1387-1453)

Wild Reddit Question Appears!

John Talbot became the most feared of the English captains. La Hire himself would run away.

I wasn’t aware of this. I always imagined that the Poitiers-level casualties was the reason the Battle of Castillon doomed the English war effort, but did the death of Talbot play a significant part too?

>>> Original comment on AskHistorians

My Answer

Map. A.J. Pollard, The Theatre of War in Northern France (1427-1450). John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
A.J. Pollard, The Theatre of War in Northern France (1427-1450)

In Short: Who’s John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury?

John Talbot was a relentless captain. So relentless in fact that he would find reasons to fight even in times of peace. Once, he came back to England for a few years and he started a judicial quarrel that almost led to an open conflict. The Duke of Bedford was wise enough to summon him in France, on the frontline, where he brought havoc to his enemies. Talbot was very gifted in starting and managing feuds.

This man was to the French people, a very scorge and a daily terror, […] in so much that women in Fraunce to feare their yonge children would cry ‘The Talbot Cometh! The Talbot Cometh!’

Talbot learned the art of war in Ireland where the chivalric code didn’t exist. He grew very attached to it later on–though he had a very technical, heartless and cold take on it–but he first learned his ways through skirmish and guerilla warfare. He was an utmost expert at night attacks, raids and decisive “coups de force”. He was very cruel too: he burnt down churches with people in it, he executed men-at-arms when they didn’t respect a surrender treaty and gave up the fortress too late, he basically scorched the earth in Normandy when the peasants revolted in 1435-1436. I personnally found several occurences of French or Burgundians troop litteraly TURNING BACK when they learned it was John Talbot they were going to face. He was that fearsome.

John Talbot became the most feared of the English captains. He was cruel, crafty and relentless. A terror to the French. Edward Hall wrote an epitaph that Grimgor Ironhide would envy: “This man was to the French people, a very scorge and a daily terror, in so much that his person was fearful and terrible to his adversaries present, so his name and frame was spiteful and dreadful to the common people absent, in so much that women in Fraunce to feare their yonge children would cry ‘The Talbot Cometh! The Talbot Cometh!’

Yet Shakespeare depicted him as a most chivalrous knight in Henry V.

At the time of the battle of Castillon (1453), Charles VII had already recovered most of France from the English. Normandy had been taken back. The Burgundians had fallen back in line. Several military campaigns in southern France meant the English were basically holding onto pretty much nothing concrete. Only Calais would remain the unpenetrable English fortress on French soil for the centuries to come (it still belonged to the British crown when Henry VIII was king!). The Duke of Bedford had passed away. Henry VI of England never grew up to have the military charisma nor the natural authority his father wielded. This sweet and pious king aspired to peace and he married a French princess after all, whilst a English princess was married to the Duke of Burgundy. John Talbot, really, was the last living and kicking remnant of the Hundred Years’ War. Most of his foes were dead or had retired. He was facing a younger generation now.

No one can state as fact that John Talbot’s death led to the end of the Hundred Years’ War. It was only diplomatically ended in 1475! However, no one had the energy nor the shoulders to pick up his mantle and continue the old fight. His death, really, is symptomatic of how times changed. It was certainly a symbolic victory for the French who had to dread no longer the “English Achilles”.

One Story To Remember Him By

Ridiculously Chivalrous John Talbot. Ridiculously Photogenic Guy. Medieval Meme.
Ridiculously Chivalrous John Talbot

Forced to retreat at Orléans, Talbot was met unexpectedly by La Hire and his friends at Patay (1430). Talbot’s troops had covered as much as 100 miles in two days to defend the Loire valley. La Hire and company fell upon the English army before they could organize a defensive line. Talbot was ultimately captured by the archers of Poton de Xaintrailles–La Hire’s best friend and brother-in-arms.

Talbot was put to ransom, but to a ridiculously high amount. Talbot, in fact, came very close to bankruptcy while he was held prisonner from 1429 to 1433. Charles VII of France even acquired Talbot’s as a prisoner of note, exercising his regal priviledges. It was customary that the king could demand any famed knight who was put to ransom by a vassal of his in exchange of a fixed fee. As it turns out, Charles VII later exchanged Talbot for Poton de Xaintrailles! The latter had indeed been captured by Talbot’s father-in-law, the powerful earl of Warwick.

Once released, Talbot couldn’t let it stand. He took it to the Order of the Garter and blamed John Fastolf of cowardice. At Patay, the latter reportedly fled the battlefield and brought great dishonor to his knightly title. Talbot argued so passionately that Falstolf was stripped of his Garter until the early 1440’s. Facing financial ruin rendered him especially callous and mercy wouldn’t be his strongsuit in later installments of the Hundred Years’ War…

Click on this link to read one more story about Talbot. Or this one, if you want to know the role he played at Orléans.

More about Talbot:

  • A.J. Pollard, John Talbot and the War in France: 1427-1453. London & New Jersey: RHS and Humanities Press Inc., 1983.

Fun Fact About Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey' Movie Revival In The Works — Original Cast ...

Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode), who marries Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) by the end of the unforgettable Downton Abbey TV series, is a descendant of John Talbot, 1st earl of Shrewsbury!

Needless is to say, when I heard he was a Talbot, I geeked out. Moreover, just the thought that Michelle Dockery portrayed a Talbot lady makes me squeak like a teenage girl. I mean… look at those eyes if they don’t breathe fire!!! Mary Josephine Talbot. What a nice ring to it!

Can’t wait to see her in a spin-off series stretching from the 40s to the 60s.

Short Reads

Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince (1330-1376)

Wild Reddit Question Appears!

Why is the Edward the Black Prince so famous?

Since I watched a Knight’s Tale, I was curious about the Black Prince, I learnt that he was never king, so why is he famous? I know he’s called the Black Prince because of his black armour. Is he famous because he was a skilled knight or what?

>>> Original post on AskHistorians

My Answer

In Short: Who’s Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince?

Edward of Woodstock only became known as the “Black Prince” by the sixteenth century. No one called him as such during his lifetime. The origin of his pseudonym remains clouded in mystery. I would argue he became worthy of the name when he dressed in black to mourn his opponent, John the Blind, dead at Crécy (1346). Nevertheless, the “Black Prince” appellation has become a common name for him in history books and therefore it sticks. It’s certainly more convenient than searching for Edward, the one who was heir to the throne of England but never made it to kingship because he died not too long before his father.

Joke aside, the answer is really quite simple. The Black Prince achieved great military deeds and dazzled many people with his lavish court in southern France–he was prince of Aquitaine. At age 16 he “won his spurs” leading the English vanguard at the Battle of Crécy (1346). Ten years later he vanquished the French at Poitiers and even managed to capture their king, John the Good! He would still insure a great military victory at Najera (1367) against a Franco-Trastamaran coalition. The man was a military prodigy.

Being prince of Wales, duke of Cornwall and earl of Cheshire, he introduced the welsh longbowmen into the English army. The havoc they brought to their enemies at Crécy, Poitiers and Najera was unheard of at the time. Moreover, the Black Prince showed all the expected virtues of a great knight. He contributed to found the Order of the Garter with his father, which is to this day the oldest knightly order in existence–quite a feat!

It is also worth reminding that he married for love!

Most of all, however, the Black Prince was a great hero in Froissart’s chronicles and he’s pictured as a legendary ancestor to Henry V in Shakespeare’s plays.

Look back into your mighty ancestors:
Go, my dread lord, to your great-grandsire’s tomb,
From whom you claim; invoke his warlike spirit,
And your great-uncle’s, Edward the Black Prince,
Who on the French ground play’d a tragedy,
Making defeat on the full power of France,
While his most mighty father on a hill
Stood smiling to behold his lion’s whelp
Forage in blood of French nobility.

[Henry V, I, ii]

Charles VI piles on the trope a bit later in the same play, warning his men about Henry V:

He is bred out of that bloody strain
That haunted us in our familiar paths:
Witness our too much memorable shame
When Cressy battle fatally was struck,
And all our princes captiv’d by the hand
Of that black name, Edward, Black Prince of Wales;
While that his mountain sire, on mountain standing,
Up in the air, crown’d with the golden sun,
Saw his heroical seed, and smiled to see him,
Mangle the work of nature and deface
The patterns that by God and by French fathers
Had twenty years been made.

[Henry V, II, iv]

The French* didn’t have the Black Prince at heart, though. Louis of Anjou commissionned a set of Apocalpse tapestries in 1373 which depicts Edward of Woodstock as a follower of his demonic father. Neat.

Most of what we see on TV or in videogames today is heavily drawn from historical fictions or historical plays: Shakespeare, Walter Scott, Mark Twain, Alexandre Dumas… I doubt screenwriters in general spend much time reading actual history books. By any standard, the Black Prince should be remembered for his great victories at least. It is the kind of historical trivia that sticks to the collective memory. However, he also became a mysterious and legendary figure in Shakespeare’s plays and that was passed on to later novelists and screenwriters, which magnified his standing as a chivalric icon.

* The French, here, are the people who belonged to the Valois party during the Hundred Years’ War. Edward of Woodstock spoke French and was, by any contemporary standard, a French aristocrat himself.

One Story To Remember Him By

Medieval Meme. Good Guy Greg. Good Knight Black Prince
Good Knight Black Prince

The battle of Poitiers (1356) saw the Black Prince and his 6,000 men (3,000 men-at-arms, 2,000 archers and 1,000 mounted infantry) oppose a French army 10,000 men strong, led by King John II himself, his heir, who would later become Charles V of France, and the full force of the royal army: the Constable and both Marshals* were there.

The French army charged the Black Prince’s troops on three occasions. Each wave was defeated when a fourth almost brought Edward of Woodstock to his knees. His men were exhausted from the battle, his archers almost out of arrows and, this time, King John himself was leading the charge with his elite reserve and many rallied soldiers. In a desperate counterattack, the Black Prince moved forward and pushed towards the French, leaving his defensive position. He sent the Captal de Buch to circle around toward the French rear with 160 mounted men, hoping to break the French’s formation. He won his risky gamble. The French were routed out of the battlefield and King John was captured!

The same night, Edward of Woodstock waited on King John’s table himself. Sensing there might be tension, he kneeled in front of the king and handed him his rosary. He told King John his father, Edward III of England, would treat him right and be his friend, for they had much in common. This show of humility moved the many ransomed French knights who witnessed the scene and it gave much credit to the Black Prince.

* The Constable was the highest ranking officier of the French army. Two Marshals were appointed to be his lieutenants. Those positions were given to highly skilled military captains instead of close relatives to the king.

Map. Shelley Reid, Battle of Poitiers (1356), in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology (2010), 3:135
Shelley Reid, Battle of Poitiers (1356)

More on Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince:

  • Barber, Richard W., Edward, Prince of Wales and Aquitaine: A Biography of the Black Prince. London: Allen Lane, 1978.
  • Green, David, Edward the Black Prince: Power in Medieval Europe. Harlow, U.K. and New York: Longman, 2007.
Paris, BnF, français 5054. Martial d'Auvergne. Vigiles de la mort de Charles VII. Jeanne d'Arc. Charles VII. Joan of Arc. Troyes. Illuminated manuscript.
Short Reads

A Cold Case of Counterfeit History: Joan of Arc, the Secret Royal Princess.

AskHistorians: Tuesday Trivia #2

This week again I was invited by the AskHistorians subreddit to contribute to their Tuesday Trivia event and this week’s theme was ROYALTY!

In 1440, the queen of Hungary and one of her ladies-in-waiting stole the Hungarian crown—the actual, physical crown—to save the throne for her son. Helene Kottanner broke into the vault, snatched the crown, and escaped across the frozen Danube with a sled. Let’s talk about ROYALTY!

I proudly answered the call of duty and found it as another occasion to talk about my favourite non-Disney princess: Joan of Arc.

My Personal Contribution

Again, I’m late. Yet again, it’s still Tuesday somewhere!

Last time I talked about Joan of Arc. This week’s theme is royalty. There’d be no reason for me to talk again about her, right?

Hahaha. Buckle up, girls and boys. We’re about to dive into counterfeit history. When historians don’t find authentic documents to prove their hypotheses, what do they do? The honest ones acknowledge their ignorance. There’s nothing glamour about it. That’s why the others fabricate the documents they need to prove their point—when they even bother to fabricate them…

The Truth about Joan. Was Joan of Arc a Royal Bastard Princess?

Paris, BnF, français 5054. Martial d'Auvergne. Vigiles de la mort de Charles VII. Jeanne d'Arc. Charles VII. Joan of Arc. Troyes. Illuminated manuscript.
Joan of Arc and Charles VII are given the keys of the city of Troyes – Paris, BnF, fr. 5054, f. 62r

You didn’t think that conspiracy theories would be limited to our contemporary era, did you.

You know how to square the circle: the Earth is flat, climate change is a lie, vaccines don’t work and the illuminati rule the world. If you go back and forth from one to another long enough, it all starts to make sense, but that’s only when you start to seriously question your mental sanity.

The problem is that conspiracy theorists are also trying to colonize the past with the most heretic holy trinity: the holocaust never happened, medieval Europe only had white people and Michael Jackson never died. He’s chilling on some Pacific Island with his buddy Elvis. Someone could swear his sister saw a picture or something, you know, tangible proof.

Among the many conspiracy theories about history the one I’ll tackle down here states that Joan of Arc was actually Charles VII’s sister.

Charles VII of France, an Alleged Bastard Himself?

Philippe Contamine, who knows more than anyone about the 15th century, medieval France, briefly addressed the rumors according to which Charles VII of France was a bastard himself, in his latest biography of the French king (published in 2017; not to brag, but I own a dedicated copy).

See, his father had lost his mind and couldn’t recognize his friends from his enemies. That’s why some people suggested that the queen couldn’t have conceived a child with him. Charles VII couldn’t be Charles VI’s legitimate son! According to Pope Pie II, the king of England advanced that very theory himself to end up seducing the duke of Burgundy. It’d served his political purpose a great deal. He wished to inherit the kingdom of France through his wife, something the Valois dynasty opposed fiercely since the start of the Hundred Years’ War.

Illuminated manuscript. Jean Froissart. Charles VI.
Charles VI, falling to paraonoia, attacks his own guards during a military expedition. (Paris, BnF, fr. 2646, f. 153v.)

“But, what about your wife, my liege? Isn’t she also born from the mad king?”

“Nonsense! He was still sane of mind when he conceived her.”

As a matter of fact, Catherine of France, Henry V of England’s wife, was born on October 27, 1401, a year and a half before Charles VII, and Charles VI (it is heavily documented) lost his mind in the year 1392 during a military expedition where he attacked his own men. Meaning, according to Henry V’s logic, that his dear wife was also an illegitimate child, but hell with the details, right?

Upon closer inspection, accusing the queen of adultery served no real political purpose to the Anglo-Burgundian alliance since she was on their side and that her signature is what made the Treaty of Troyes (1420) valid because of the dementia of her husband. The Treaty of Troyes acknowledged Henry V of England as sole heir to Charles VI of France. Fun fact, Henry V died of dysentery a few months ahead of Charles VI. He never was crowned king of France and he only left behind him a one-year-old child and a wife who quickly consoled herself with a handsome knight.

One question remains: who would have been Charles VII’s father, if it weren’t Charles VI? Well, who else but Louis of Orléans, Charles VI’s brother! After all, the duke of Orléans almost killed the king by burning him alive with a torch, then he attempted to rape the duchess of Burgundy—which explains why John the Fearless hated his guts*.

Illuminated manuscript. Jean Froissart. Charles VI.
Charles VI of France, desguised as a ‘savage man’, is almost burned to death by his own brother and saved in extremis by the duchess of Berry, who covers him with her mantle. (Paris, BnF, fr. 2646, f. 176r.)

Total. Legend.

And you thought Game of Thrones was full of suspense!

*This latter allegation is solely reported by Thomas Basin (d. 1491) in his biography of Charles VII.

Who really was Joan of Arc’s Father? A Shakespearian Tale

A 19th-century pseudo-historian, Pierre Cazet, bragged that he discovered the truth behind Joan’s true social status. How come a young maid from the countryside was ever received by the king? Saint Louis himself, the holiest French king of all, met his subjects regularly in the open air to render justice, according to Jean of Joinville (d. 1317). Therefore it should be totally inconceivable that Charles VII would ever meet an intriguing would-be prophetess that had such a notoriety that the duke of Lorraine personally invited her over and that the bastard of Orléans, while she was in Gien, sent people to meet and inquire about her and her journey to Chinon.

She had to be a secret Disney princess!

Actually, it all comes from a play written by Shakespeare. I mean, this could only be the stuff of great literature. How could a poor and deficient mind come up with such a brilliant twist? Henry VI, act 5, scene 4. A shepherd, Joan’s father, comes up to her as she’s tied at the stake. Since she left, he’s been searching for her everywhere.

Ah, Joan! this kills thy father’s heart outright.

Have I sought every country far an near,

And, now it is my chance to find thee out,

Must I behold thy timeless cruel death?

Ah, Joan! sweet daughter Joan, I’ll die with thee.

Joan, however, doesn’t break into tears. She gets all riled up!

Descrepit miser! base ignoble wretch!

I am descended of a gentler blood:

Thou art no father nor no friend of mine.

Then she turns to the men who’ve put her at the stakes.

Let me tell you whom you have condemn’d:

Not me begotten of a shepherd swain,

But issu’d from the progeny of kings;

Virtuous and holy; chosen from above,

By inspiration of celestial grace,

To work exceeding miracles on earth.

Henry VI. Part 1. Joan of Arc. Royal Shakespeare Company.
Henry VI, part 1. A play by William Shakespeare featuring Joan of Arc.

The brilliant literary idea of a royal Joan (I mean, what a twist!*) then inseminated the rotten minds of ill-informed money-grabbing pseudo-historians, who pandered ‘sensational’ books only to fill their purse. Hence Joan was Charles VII’s secret sister. However, who was her father then do you ask? No other than Louis ‘the Legend’ of Orléans.

Joan stated at her trial that she was nineteen, meaning she was born in 1412. How could that be a problem? On November 23, 1407, Louis of Orléans was assassinated in the streets of Paris by John the Fearless (GoT quality, I tell you!). Therefore, Joan lied. She must have been twenty-four and was actually born in 1407.

Oh. And by the way, her mother was Queen Isabeau herself. Why not? It’s not like she gave birth to a child on November 10, 1407. Wait? Is my math right? Do I remember anything from my biology class? It must be right. Right?

More audacious conspiracy theorists, whom websites I won’t link here to deny them the pride of free views to their counter, have now passed the idea that Joan was Queen Isabeau’s daughter. They see as a better fit than her actual mother, Isabelle Romée, was the descendant of Charlemagne. Also, they don’t need any document to prove it to you. You should trust them on their words for it. Jacques d’Arc, who, according to them, is not even Joan’s biological father, is also of noble birth too. Cherry. On. Top.

This is all a bunch of undocumented nonsense.

*Shakespeare was depicting Joan of Arc as an utterly crazy woman. This was not a twist but a foregone conclusion. Upon meeting death, she shows her true ugly colors.

Joan’s Coat of Arms: the Ultimate Evidence?

Joan of Arc's coat of arms.
Joan of Arc’s coat of arms.

Before the battle of Patay and right after the liberation of Orléans, Charles VII granted a coat of arms to Joan of Arc. On a blue background stands a sword under a crown, flanked by two heraldic lilies. Joan’s judge at her trial at Rouen blamed her for arrogance. Who was she to dare display the ‘fleur-de-lis’, the official emblem of the French crown?

According to our dear conspiracy theorists, Joan’s coat of arms was a clever acknowledgment of her true origin. An acknowledgment so clever, in fact, that Charles VII publicly recognized Joan as his sister but in a way that no one could uncover it. A secret hiding in plain sight!

I … can’t … even.

Heraldry seems only obscure to us because we don’t understand its language. We look at coat of arms the same way Napoleon looked at the pyramid. He knew they meant something. He knew they were the stuff of legends. But he had yet no solid archeological knowledge of their history and meaning.

It so happened that Charles VII granted to other people the right to display the fleur-de-lis on their coat of arms. He especially granted it to the city of Tournai, which so far up north, deep into Burgundian territory, remained unyieldingly loyal to his cause. The fleur-de-lis was a royal honor, a symbolic and powerful mark of recognition for exceptional services and also a way to tie people to the royal house.

What about the crown? Well, what about it? Joan kept saying she was only serving one lord, the Lord. That crown is probably God’s own crown, for Christ’s sake (that is my personal hypothesis). All in all, the coat of arms translates into: “I fight under God’s command for the good of France.” How could that ever be conceived as a secret acknowledgement of common parenthood?

Final Words

Joan of Arc was not Charles VII’s secret sister (and he was not Louis of Orléans’s bastard) but her story is only more beautiful because of it. I understand that some limited minds would only grant great deeds to people of noble breed, I do, but they’re utterly wrong. She was a commoner from the country side with nothing to her name but her faith, her sass and her cold-blooded bravery.

I know Joan of Arc didn’t actually change the course of history. The victory of Orléans was almost a given when we take everything into account beyond her legend. Plus, it took more than a decade to finally boot the English out of France after she passed. However, she stood high and tall on a crucial turning crossroad in medieval history. It all looked gloom then she suddenly shined bright in the middle of the dark. She shocked her contemporaries like a comet burning the sky.

Personally, I find it very comforting that any young woman could achieve such a thing. However, fair warning, anyone tries to imprison and sentence Greta Thunberg to death, I might personally lead the commando to rescue her.

Map. The Carolingian Empire in 843.
Short Reads

HRE vs. France: Political Structures, Emperors & Kings

Wild Reddit Question Appears!

How were the Holy Roman Empire and Middle Ages France different in term of political structure? What led to those differences?

I always hear about HRE being a loose confederation of minor kingdoms (for lack of a better word). But wasn’t middle age France much the same? Strong dukes often controlling the king? How did the HRE and medieval France differ and how where they same? Why did the HRE becomes a looser confederation of minor kingdoms than France?

~ posted by u/daimposter on the r/AskHistorians subreddit.

My Answer

The political structure of the Holy Roman Empire (HRE) and the Kingdom of France both derive from the political structure of the Carolingian Empire. So let’s have a quick look at that first 😉

A Very Short History of the ‘Origins’

Our contemporary society recognizes three forms of power: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. The Carolingian Empire only had two: the temporal and the spiritual (the executive, legislative and judicial powers were all bundled up together). The emperor ruled over both. Charlemagne and his son, Louis the Pious, had a total control over the lords and the Church. They could grant lands, titles, bishoprics or revoke them as they see fit.

On the one hand, Charlemagne only had one heir: Louis the Pious. On the other hand, Louis had to split his Empire, according to the Frankish customs, between his three sons. He also didn’t have the charismatic aura of his father, who went from conquest to conquest, and he was left with an Empire practically impossible to rule. It all concluded in Louis’ three sons (Charles, Lothair and Louis/Ludwig) splitting the Empire into three parts. Lothair’s share was ultimately absorbed into his brother’s realms and from that point onward, West Francia and East Francia evolved into very different countries.

In the meantime, the Church which had greatly benefited from the leadership and protection of Charlemagne, Louis the Pious and their predecessors gradually became an independent political body. The Church had obeyed and served the Carolingian emperors, but it had grown so much that it was now able to confront their heirs and come up with its own political agenda. The spiritual power was free from the temporal power by the end of the 9th century and the pope became a major political player by the end of the 10th century.

The Implementation of the Feudal System in West Francia

It is often written that Charles the Bald, who inherited and ruled West Francia, gave birth to the Feudal System with the Capitulary of Coulaines (available online on the marvelous MGH website). Though the direct effects of the capitulary were not as dramatic as historians used to say, it nonetheless recognized that lands given by the King to his vassals could be inherited by their progeny. It meant that not before long every region of the realm had its own local blue-blood dynasty. Therefore the Capitulary of Coulaines was a substantial stepping stone for the implementation of the Feudal System (reminder: the word ‘feudal’ comes from the Latin word ‘feudum’ which is a type of ‘beneficium’ (a gift from a king or prince to a faithful ally) that implies the gifting of a piece of land). By the 10th century, it became obvious that the aristocrats held the real power over most of the land, ensuring it by the building of motte-and-bailey castles and by getting the Church on their side through charity. Founding and donating to monasteries became a regular political play for powerful laymen although it greatly benefited to the rise of the Benedictine Order and the network of the Cluny monasteries more than anything. Nevertheless, anyone inheriting a fief still had to pay a ‘homage’ (Latin, homagium; German, huld) to the king and formally recognize his temporal authority. It was a very significant ceremony that reminded everyone their role and the proper hierarchy within the structure of society.

The Capet Dynasty

The progressive loss of a central and strong seat of power rendered the Carolingian dynasty of West Francia unable to enforce the peace in the realm and to properly protect the northern coasts from new invaders: the infamous Vikings. It became clear to the magnates that they were better off without a king. However, they had to maintain some kind of puppet on the throne to prevent the Carolingian kings of East Francia to march on Paris and conquer the kingdom whole. Several attempts had already been made in the past to reunite the West and the East Francia. While invoking the old Frankish principle of elective monarchy, the great vassals of the realm put a new dynasty on the throne: the powerless House of Capet.

The Capet, however, followed a clever strategy. They would always make sure that two kings were simultaneously elected and anointed, the rex coronatus and the rex designates, so that matters of succession were always settled from the start and there was never any leeway for another dynasty to rise on the throne. Moreover, the Capet gradually extended their personal demesne so that they could eventually compete with their vassals and enforce their law. At the very start of the 14th century, Philip IV the Fair even instituted the ‘États Généraux’, a general assembly of the people gathering representatives of the three orders, to counter the meddling of the pope over the spiritual matters in their realm. It also served him to kill the Order of the Knights Templar and confiscate all their possessions. The kings of France therefore became strong political figures, capable of handling both the temporal and the spiritual power of their realm. They were feared and respected by their vassals and treated on an equal footing by the emperor of the HRE and the pope.

The Plantagenet Problem… and the Valois Solution

The Capet, however, were far from all powerful. Remember those Vikings I mentioned above? They had carved a duchy for themselves, the duchy of Normandy, and no one dared to oppose the duke of Normandy. The guy minted his own money. He was so powerful and relentless, in fact, that he conquered a kingdom. I’m talking of William the Conqueror and the 1066 conquest of England, of course. Eventually, all his possessions were inherited by the Plantagenet dynasty, who also inherited the duchy of Aquitaine through clever matrimonial alliances. At some point, the Plantagenet ‘empire’ included half the kingdom of France! And the Capet kings were totally powerless against such a mighty force, until King John of England rose to the throne, faced revolts at home, bad luck abroad, was dragged into signing the Magna Carta (1215) and saw most of his French possessions confiscated and redistributed by the king.

Nevertheless, the king of France retained a vassal who was a king and everywhere he went he was faced with fierce resistance from the great dukes of the realm. The royal demesne was slowly expanding but the Parliament (the highest court of Justice in the land) had to relentlessly keep on fighting against its dismemberment by the king himself, who often wished to grant a land or two to any of his courtier or captain who provided him a great service. Eventually, after many political intrigues, the king of England said, “Enough!” and claimed the throne for himself when the Valois succeeded to the Capet.

What is really interesting is that at that point, the idea of electing a new king crossed no one’s mind. The quarrel was a quarrel of succession. The realm was an inheritance. It was traditionally passed down from one generation to the other. Since the straight line of male successors was extinct, the only question to answer was to know if a woman could inherit and pass down a kingdom or not. The long game Capet strategy had worked like magic!

Eventually, the Valois stood strong on the principle that the kingdom itself could only pass through male hands and could never be inherited or transmitted by a woman. The Hundred Years’ War came close to an end when Charles VI and Richard II became best buddies, but their terrible fate precipitated the start of new conflicts. Henry VI of England legally and effectively became the king of France but he had a strong opponent, who held on and kept the fight alive mostly despite himself, Charles VII. The latter ultimately passed on heavy taxation reforms and instituted the first permanent non-feudal but professional royal army. He won the war. His son, Louis XI, killed the dreams and ambitions of the great vassals with that very army. No one could contest the king’s authority anymore, but his own Parliament.

The Holy Roman Elective Empire

Whereas the Capet managed to turn the kingdom of France into a hereditary monarchy, which would become the most powerful centralized state of Europe, Germany remained a conglomerate of semi-autonomous states. Maybe it is worth being reminded that Charlemagne, who was crowned emperor, only took on the title to challenge the authority of the emperor of Constantinople, especially on spiritual matters. First and foremost, Charlemagne was and stayed the king of the Franks. He never had the centralized administration capable of holding an empire together. He only became a powerful imperial figure through his military charisma but the institutions of the old Roman Empire had since long collapsed and what was left of them couldn’t carry the political weight needed for an actual empire anymore.

Louis the German, Charlemagne’s grandson and Charles the Bald’s brother was not able to keep the dream alive. His dynasty was very short-lived and the imperial title quickly fell out of use. The political crises of the 9th and 10th centuries, the expansion of Christianity and the Magyar and Viking violent immigration waves prompted a ‘strong man’ to take charge and restore the imperial charge around the same time that the Capet were elected on the throne of France. This man was Otto I ‘the Great’ and he was the actual founder of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’. However, unlike the Capet, the Ottonian didn’t implement a hereditary system of succession. Too many people were fighting for the honor to wear the imperial crown. Otto III, Otto I’s grandson, was already faced with an ‘anti-king’, elected by his political rivals! The Staufer tried to make the imperial title a hereditary one. Frederick I ‘Barbarossa’ had his son elected to the imperial throne at the same time as him, which made him his uncontested father’s successor but it remained an absolute exception and the general rule was that stuck through the centuries was that the emperor was elected. It was also interpreted as a direct intervention of God in political matters and it helped to keep unworthy heirs away from the throne.

The HRE around 962

The emperors had little to go with, however, when their authority was challenged. They didn’t have access to an “imperial army” or to an “imperial administration” to help them out. The very idea that the HRE could ever become a centralized state actually scared all its neighbors and many attempts were made to prevent it from happening, though Germans hated foreign political meddling more than anything.

Several cities were placed under the direct rule of the emperor, but it was more of a way for those cities to manage themselves. Therefore the emperor could only rely on his personal demesne and diplomatic wits to assert his authority. However, contrarily to the French situation, it was not like an Imperial demesne could grow like the French royal demesne since a new dynasty could be put on the imperial throne every time an emperor would die. That’s why emperors ended up mostly benefiting of their title to boost up their personal demesne, instead of sacrificing their own resources to pass on any imperial reforms.

The Cezaropapism Crisis

The temporal power of the Holy Roman emperors was very limited and the feudal system was slowly implemented in Germany, although it developed its own specificities. In 1037, Conrad passed the Constitutio de feudis and extended the benefit of hereditary possessions of fief to the lesser lords. The 11th century also saw the emergence of the ministeriales, a group of unfree knights and vassals promoted by the imperial clergy that had no matching concordance in France, where all vassals were free men with hereditary rights and claims.

Bishops and abbots selected able men of unfree status and enfeoffed them with resources to enable them to serve as knights or administrators. The Salians also began employing ministeriales to administer royal domains and garrison the new castles built in the 1060s. The ministeriales gradually acquired other privileges, embraced an aristocratic ethos, and eventually converted their relationship based on servitude into one of more conventional vassalage to fuse with other lesser nobles as knights and barons by about 1300.

It would be wrong to interpret the ministeriales as the potential staff required to create a centralized monarchy. They were indeed used to verse more intensive management of royal domains, notably in Saxony.

Source: Peter H. Wilson, Heart of Europe: A History of the Roman Empire (2016).

The HRE around 1050

Meanwhile, the pope had become a real political player. The rise of the Benedictine and various religious orders resulted in many reforms within the papacy. The pope was no longer elected by the most powerful Roman families, for a start. Monks also got elected as pope, and popes that were formerly monks loved to live by strict rules. The papal chancery also became a proper administrative center of power: every king or prince soon flocked towards the pope or sent emissaries at least to see their privileges and titles granted and renewed. It is with a papal banner that William the Conqueror battled at Hastings.

It had to happen that the emperor, faced against rebellious vassals, turned to the pope for help and that the pope asked for something in return. In particular, the pope didn’t like that the emperor could still appoint bishops personally and it was interpreted as a violation of the Church. Henry IV (HRE) and Gregory VII (papacy) couldn’t see eye to eye on that matter. This led to the Investiture Dispute that the emperors ultimately lost. What was left of his temporal and spiritual power? Not much…

The Rise of the Hapsburg Dynasty

The imperial electoral college remained undefined until the 13th century. Eventually, three ecclesiastical electors came on top of the others: the archbishops of Mainz, Trier and Cologne. As for the secular electors, they were settled by Emperor Rudolf who chose his four sons-in-law: the count Palatine, the margrave of Brandenburg, the duke of Saxony and the king of Bohemia. In 1356, Charles IV, from the Luxemburg dynasty, who had a great personal relationship with the papacy, fixed those electoral votes with the Golden Bull.

Thanks to a very thorough matrimonial strategy, the Hapsburg dynasty managed to lock on to several of the electoral secular fiefs. It also gave birth to some of the most inbred rulers of Europe, but by the election of Maximilian I to the throne in 1486, the Hapsburg maintained a firm grasp over the imperial title.

Nevertheless they were never able to create a centralized state like the Capet and the Valois did and the HRE never had a regular and professional army of its own. Charles V himself, who owned the kingdom of Spain, the former Burgundian dominions and all of the Hapsburg lands, proved unable to face the rise of the Protestant Reform whereas it was murderously quashed in France.

The dominions of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain and Bohemia, etc.

In Conclusion…

I hope this short overview has helped to figure out how different the HRE and the kingdom of France were in regards of their political structure. The principle of a hereditary monarchy helped the French kings a great deal to progressively implement a centralized state. Meanwhile, the elective imperial title and lack of proper imperial institutions made the German emperors often powerless to shape Germany into according to their political views. That is why the HRE is often described as a ‘loose confederation of minor kingdoms’ that share a same common Germanic culture, whereas medieval France is a properly united kingdom despite the impulse of autonomy expressed by the great dukes of the realm.

La Hire. Peter Strauss. Joan of Arc. 1999
Short Reads

How Joan of Arc Died

AskHistorians: Tuesday Trivia!

The AskHistorians Subreddit invited me to pitch in on their latest Tuesday Trivia event. This week theme was FIRE.

Fire in the hole! …and in the house, castle courtyard, barn loft, cave, wiping out entire cities. What are some of the major flame-related disasters in your era? How did people fight fires?

I could just not pass on such an honor and I did my best to come up with a good story to share.

My Personal Contribution

If you know me you guess by then what I decided to talk about. Again. Joan of Arc.

This is the story of how she died and how she burned.

The Relapse

Illuminated Manuscript. Dante. Divine Comedy. Forest of Suicide. Bodleian Library. Holkham Misc. 48.
Oxford, Bodleian Library, Holkham Misc. MS 48, f. 19r – Dante visits the Forest of Suicide.

Joan’s judges had found her guilty on twelve accounts. Chief among them was the charge that her visions were nothing but superstitious delusions that proceeded from evil and diabolical spirits. Joan was also found guilty of attempted suicide because she jumped from the tower of the Beaurevoir castle when she tried to escape from her Burgundian ward, Jean de Luxembourg (a tale that I already briefly mentioned in a former post).

I will be lazy for a minute and briefly remind that suicide was deemed as a very serious crime in the 15th century, France. If you committed suicide, your belongings were confiscated—meaning you could leave no inheritance to your relatives—and your body would have to suffer a degrading sentence. We have actually found pardon letters addressed to people who committed suicide, blaming their death on insanity or something else, meaning they were eventually not responsible of their own demise.

Neat.

On a less judicial and more spiritual level, let me quote Benjamin Zweig on that one (and be a doll, check out his thesis on the Images of Suicide in Medieval Art):

As the German nun and mystic Hildegard of Bingen tells us, suicide is unforgivable because it is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But, then, what makes suicide blasphemous? Because, she and other medieval theologians might respond, suicide denies the possibility of God’s forgiveness. By flinging one’s own body into death, one doubts God’s mercy. When one denies God’s grace, one repudiates God’s very essence—that is, the Holy Spirit. To kill oneself is to proclaim one’s disbelief in God. But unlike blasphemous words, for which one can plead mercy, suicide cannot be undone. One cannot repent after death.

I’ll just conclude in reminding that in his touring of the circles of Hell, Dante visits the Forest of Suicide. It should serve as a final proof that attempted suicide was a good reason to find anyone guilty of something immoral. Of course, Joan tried to escape, and ultimately to live, but it didn’t bother her judges. She jumped and it was constructed as a guilty charge against her.

The fact that Joan sided against the Burgundians also played against her. It was seen as a transgression against God’s commandment to “love thy neighbor”. No one bothered to mention her quarrel against the English, which indicates the political ties of her judges and who might have really been pissed at her. She’d sent a letter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. I bet that letter was very ill received. She also met him, and Monstrelet records it. He reports that he was there himself, but that he forgot what the Duke said to the Maid. How convenient… Let’s not forget that he later offered his chronicles to Philip the Good.

Last, but not least, Joan’s unwillingness to answer her judges on certain matters—like her personal exchanges with Charles VII—were constructed as a rebellion against the church. She was therefore charged as schismatic.

On May 24, 1431, Joan was put in front of a stake and her charges were read to her. Everything was ready for her to burn alive and be done with like Jean Hus and many others before her. However, before the end of the sentencing, Joan finally cracked under the pressure, pleaded guilty and asked for a pardon, which was granted to her. She was brought back to her cell and probably raped by her English wards.

Among the twelve charges, Joan had also been found guilty of wearing men’s clothes. It was deemed as blasphemous. Therefore when she was seen wearing them again after her “confession”, maybe as a way to repel her wards, she was deemed relapse. It meant that the church couldn’t do anything for her anymore. Her soul was beyond saving. She had to burn at the stake…

Burning at the Stake

Paris, BnF, français 5054. Martial d'Auvergne. Vigiles de la mort de Charles VII. Joan of Arc. Jeanne d'Arc. Rouen. Illuminated manuscript.
Joan of Arc being burned as a heretic at Rouen – Paris, BnF, fr. 5054, f. 71r

It was a Wednesday. Joan was brought out of her cell for the very last time on May 30, 1431, at the sweet age of nineteen.

We think indeed that she was born in 1412, which is why her biography and dictionary written by Philippe Contamine, Xavier Hélary and Olivier Bouzy was published in 2012, six hundred years after she was born.

Martin Ladvenu, who heard Joan’s last confession and escorted her to the stake, reported that until the bitter end, she maintained that her visions were sent to her by God and that she didn’t believe that she’d been fooled by any evil spirit.

By ten o’clock in the morning, Joan was already where she would die, on a scaffold where everyone could see her. The good people of Rouen didn’t dare to move to help her. They were still under the shock of the 1418-1419 siege that cost them so many lives. However, we can guess that they didn’t really like what they saw. One very sarcastic Norman chronicler, Pierre Cochon—not to be mistaken with Pierre Cauchon, Joan’s chief judge—stopped his chronicle at the very moment Joan entered Rouen. He never mentioned her in his work. Yet he was a close friend to several of the clerks who attended her trials and who, for the most part, pleaded heavily in favor of Joan on her second trial.

Silence, in some case, is more meaningful than any formulated opinion…

Clément de Fauquembergue, clerks for the Parliament in Paris, wrote that Joan wore a miter which displayed four words: “Heretic. Relapse. Apostate. Idolatrous.” There was also a board that described Joan as the wickedest witch of the West.

The executioner put the stake on fire and Joan burned alive. However, the fire was extinguished halfway to show that under her men’s clothes she was indeed a woman. Eventually, her ashes were spilled in the Seine to make sure no one could turn any of her remnant into a relic.

How She Was Replaced

La Hire. Peter Strauss. Joan of Arc. 1999
La Hire (Peter Strauss) cries as he arrives to late to save Joan of Arc. | Joan of Arc (TV Mini-Series), 1999

The 1999 telefilm that cast Neil Patrick Harris as Charles VII shows how La Hire and Jean de Metz arrived too late to save Joan at Rouen. They see the flames from beyond the city walls. They know she is dead… However, historically, the French captains and the French court remained quite indifferent to Joan’s passing.

La Hire was otherwise busy at the time. Earlier that year he’d taken the city of Louviers in a successful commando mission that freed the most skilled and wisest French captain of the time, a man so dangerous that the English had always refused to discuss any ransom and kept his location secret, Arnaud-Guilhem de Barbazan, the man who singlehandedly defended Melun nine months in 1420 against Henry V and all of his army.

The English were in the business to retake Louviers and La Hire swooped back in the city in April to manage its defense. As he sneaked out of town to fetch for reinforcements at La Ferté he was captured, taken to Dourdan and released in exchange for several hostages. He still had yet to pay for his ransom and La Hire therefore went to Chinon to ask the king for help. Charles VII, who couldn’t pull out money the way his grandfather did to help out Du Guesclin, allowed La Hire to write to the good cities of France to raise money for his ransom. We know that La Hire wrote at least to Lyon and Tours.

In the end, he was nowhere near Rouen when Joan died and not the least concerned with her passing. Jean de Metz? We don’t know where he was at the time…

On August 12, 1431, La Hire had forgotten Joan of Arc altogether. According to the chronicler Jean Lefèvre de Saint-Rémy, La Hire and several captains put a young shepherd at the front of their army to lead them to victory but the poor boy didn’t have Joan’s nerves. He was captured, brought back to Rouen and probably thrown in the Seine to drown. No one bothered with a “proper trial” on that one.

More about Joan: