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.
Fun Fact

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.

La Hire. Peter Strauss. Joan of Arc. 1999
Fun Fact

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:

Varia

What Should Be Tarantino’s Next And Last Movie?

Disclaimer: This blogpost is nothing but free mindless rambling. Don’t mind it.

This blogpost also contains spoilers. Be warned.


I bet Tarantino gets all riled up when he reads history books. Why? I’m gonna tell you why.

Have you seen Inglourious Bastards, Django Unchained and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood or did you live under a rock for the past few years? Well, if you’ve seen those movies, you’d understand that Tarantino is not a big fan of how History actually played out and that he’s got a lot to say about it.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

I walked into the theater not knowing who Sharon Tate was and how she died. If I did, I would have been clinging at the edge of my seat like my father did next to me, dreading every scene where we see her living carefree and having a good time. Mindhunter, season 2, should have put me on the right track, though. Alarm bells would then have ringed in my head. Instead, I just witnessed Margot Robbie living the ultimate bourgeois life and I was like… ‘Uh, yeah. She’s rich! We get it! Can we go back to Leonardo now?’ I couldn’t for the life of me understand why Roman Polansky, Sharon Tate’s husband, was Rick Dalton’s neighbor—Rick Dalton being the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Let me brush out the story for you in case you didn’t see the movie.

The Synopsis

Rick Dalton was a big time Western actor who’s now reaching the end of his rope. His best bud, personal chauffeur and stunt double, Cliff Booth, drives him everywhere. As Rick Dalton tries to make the most out of his roles as a ‘heavy’ despite strong addiction issues towards alcohol and tobacco that turns him into a living mess, Cliff Booth remembers the time he fought off Bruce Lee and lets young girls entice him into borderline hitchhiking drives. Meanwhile Sharon Tate goes to the movies and enjoys watching herself in The Wrecking Crew being a goof and a bad ass.

Cliff Booth eventually drives a teenage girl back at Spahn Ranch, where Rick Dalton used to shoot his prime-time TV show Bounty Law. Of course, Cliff Booth knows the place. He also knows the owner. That’s why he feels there’s something fishy when he witnesses lots of teenagers, mostly young girls, squatting the place and living an obviously shady lifestyle. It all ends up with Cliff Booth knocking someone’s teeth out and driving away.

Six months later, Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth come back from Italy where Rick starred in spaghetti westerns, made some money and met his new wife, Francesca Capucci. They plan for one last night out together. Rick doesn’t have the money to support his friend anymore and he has to let him go. They go to the restaurant. They come back home. Cliff goes walking his dog, a gorgeous pit bull, and he smokes an LSD cigarette he bought six months ago to the hippie girl he drove to Spahn Ranch. On the other hand, Rick mixes himself some margarita. He’s far from over his alcoholism. That’s when four ‘hippies’ from Spahn Ranch drive up to his house in a noisy old car. They intend to get into the Polansky residence and kill everyone they find up there, but Rick gets on the porch and starts to yell at them. He orders them to drive away and smoke pot someplace else. We see that they have weapons but they do drive away. Rick then goes to relax on his swimming pool, listening to music with a head set on.

Cliff comes back from his walk and the LSD starts to work its magic on his brain. He gets into the living room and prepares food for his beautiful big dog. All of a sudden, three of the four hippies who’d driven up to Rick’s house barge into the living room. Cliff finds himself surrounded. He laughs it off as the LSD keeps messing up with his brain, then he summons his dog to kill two of the three hippies. It all turns into a very gory scene. One of the wannabe murderers ends up in the pool and scares Rick to death, who retrieves a flame thrower from his shed and crisps her to death.

It is all very enjoyable.

The Historical Significance of the Movie

Right after I was the movie, I walked my father back to the tramway station. That’s when he revealed to me that Sharon Tate had been actually killed by indoctrinated hippies led by the infamous Charlie Manson.

Charlie Manson! The serial killer at the head of the Manson Family that we see being interviewed by the FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench in Mindhunter? Wait. Wait-wait-wait!

Before I continue, can I address Rick’s awesome flamethrower for a minute?

Inglourious Bastards: Killing Nazis Is Always Fun!

At the beginning of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood we have a short summary of Rick Dalton’s cinematic career. Among other things he’s depicted handling a flamethrower in a movie where he kills Nazi officers from up a ledge. Who cannot be reminded, watching that scene, of the ending of Inglourious Basterds, when Brad Pitt (who plays Cliff Booth in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and was Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds) rained bullets on Nazis from box seats in a burning movie theater? It all weaves together very well. It also starts to redeem Leonardo DiCaprio within Tarantino’s own cinematographic universe.

When a Villain is Not the Villain

Remember Django Unchained? Leonardo played the despicable Calvin Candie in that movie, a true villain at heart.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood shows strong meta-cinematographic language. In the opening scenes Al Pacino, who’s cast as a movie producer, tells Rick/Leonardo that when people see him on screen, they don’t see the role he plays, but they still remember him as the hero of Bounty Law.

It’s a bit like when we say ‘Hey! That’s Frodo!’ when watching Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

Anyway, that dialogue is basically Tarantino telling us, the spectators, that since we see Leonardo DiCaprio on screen in one of his movies, we could think that he plays a villain again. But, no! This time around, he’s not a villain. As Rick/Leonardo tells it to Al Pacino, he was asked to play the ‘heavy’, the bad guy, but he’s a good guy himself and we quickly pick up on this despite his high-functioning alcoholism.

It is all ‘justified’ when we see Rick on set for his next Western movie whilst Cliff drives his hippie hitchhiker back to Spahn Ranch. Rick portrays a villain and he plays it very, very well! Ian McShane would be very proud of DiCaprio’s Swearagen look-alike. At least I got some closure from the open ending of Deadwood and I hope Timothy Oliphant did too.

I got sidetracked there for a second, but yes, people, Leonardo is a good guy in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and even if he was a most convincing villain in Django Unchained, he was only so convincing because he’s a damn fine actor! Do you get it? Leonardo/Rick is a good guy now, and so is Brad/Cliff, but you knew that already. You love him since Inglourious Basterds.

The same thing kind of happened to Christoph Waltz. He was a villain in Inglourious Basterds. He became a hero in Django Unchained. However, the meta-text around that villain-hero shift was maybe not as sophisticated as what we witness in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. By the way, did you know that Leonardo DiCaprio was supposed to play the villain in Inglourious Basterds? Yeah, so there are some good reasons for Tarantino to pause the story and tell us that DiCaprio is only a ‘pretense’ villain.

I hope I haven’t lost you there. Anyway, let’s proceed.

The Chekhov’s Gun of Justice

Rick had a role where he killed Nazis with a flamethrower. It reminds us of Inglourious Basterds. It is also some strong foreshadowing! It means that divine justice, again, is going to be served, and it is indeed when Rick flames down one of the Manson Family members who broke into his house to kill him instead of attacking the Polansky residence. Also, by the time we see him pull out the flame thrower from his shed, we’ve totally forgotten about it and that, people, is a great take on Chekhov’s gun. It was especially effective on me as an unaware spectator. I didn’t know Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson Family. I didn’t know why she was in that movie as Rick’s neighbor. I was just enjoying DiCaprio play his role like a motherf*cking wizard. I believed every single scene he played, every single one of his spits.

The Typical American Hero

American tomb. Omaha Beach.
Tomb of an American Soldier at the Omaha Beach Memorial Cemetary, 15/08/2010 (c) Stéphane Bloch

We’ve now dealt with the superficial layer of meta-cinematographic language within Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: forget about Calvin Candie, Rick/Leonardo is not an actual villain. Now, let’s dig deeper and see why and how he’s an actual American hero in its purest form.

Rick biggest acting job ‘back in the old days’ was to star in Bounty Law as a bounty hunter. Welcome to the Tarantino Cinematic Universe, who else was a bounty hunter? Django! So, not only is Tarantino telling us that Rick/Leonardo shouldn’t be mistaken for his role in Django Unchained as Calvin Candie, he also tells us that Rick is Django.

Now, who was Django do you ask? He was a slave-owner killer, pretty much like Cliff/Brad/Aldo was a Nazi killer in Inglourious Basterds—in case I should I remind you that Nazi enslaved millions of people to boost their military industry when they didn’t send them straight to death camps (you really must watch La Vita È Bella in addition to the Schindler’s List in case you didn’t know).

Also, have you seen The Longest Day? That’s kind of a big deal here. Let’s forget for a minute that John ‘The Duke’ Wayne had poor political views, as Trumbo reminds us, and let’s track back to his Western movie roles as John Ford’s favorite lead actor.

John Wayne was cast in The Longest Day as Lt. Col. Benjamin H. Vandervoort, CO, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. As such he had the duty to pep talk and prep the troops for D-Day. Ha! That good old D-Day… Did you know that The Longest Day, the movie, was actually drafted from a book of the same name, written by the non-historian-Irish-journalist-married-to-an-American-novelist Cornelius Ryan? When he wrote The Longest Day, Cornelius Ryan built the D-Day into a three-act storyline which cast the American soldiers as trueborn freedom fighters. This take on the D-Day was basically written out to become an all-star movie and John Wayne just had to star in it. He’d been the typical cowboy American hero for years at that point and he couldn’t miss out on the morphing of the typical American hero from cowboy, to private. The cowboy had conquered and tamed the Wild West and brought civilization to a savage land. The private was to pursue the cowboy’s work by taking the Frontier a tad further and ensuring that all the people on Earth were enjoying the bliss of democracy, law and freedom. The cowboy faced the barren lands and built a perfect country from the ground up. The private now faced the wicked who threatened what the cowboy built. John Wayne, who’d been the cowboy, was now the officer telling the private how to carry on a long legacy of heroism.

Despite the fact that he has to play the ‘heavy’, Rick/Leonardo ticks all the boxes of the typical American hero. From within the Tarantino Cinematic Universe (since we’ve stated that it was actually a thing), Rick/Leonardo is a bounty hunter and that equates him to Django, the ultimate Tarantino freedom fighter. However, Tarantino is also weaving threads that link his movie to the overall history of cinema. Rick/Leonardo is portrayed as a Golden Age Western actor, pretty much like John Wayne, even though he delves into starring into Spaghetti Westerns (and hates it). Therefore Rick/Leonardo is both the American hero who brings civilization and who safeguards freedom. He is a pioneer (therefore that is no coincidence that he actually settled in Hollywood) and a gatekeeper (which is why his house is next to the Polansky’s residence gate).

The Gates of Heaven

It brings me to my next point. In Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Sharon Tate played by the delightful Margot Robbie stands as the allegory of freedom. Her house on the top of the Hollywood hills is basically the biblical ‘City on a Hill’. Everywhere she goes, she’s carefree. She does whatever she wants. She doesn’t even pay to enter the theater. It actually means that even money has no grasp on her. Her lifestyle embodies the idea of freedom. When they kill the member of the Manson Family, Rick and Cliff don’t only symbolically avenge Sharon Tate on screen, they also avenge the very idea of freedom.

What do we do to Nazis and slave owners? We kill them. And we make it fun!

In case you didn’t notice, freedom is kind of a big deal to Tarantino. Also, he’s the one who ties it to the Middle Ages in Django Unchained. So, let’s talk about that too.

Django Unchained: Freedom is a Medieval Dream

The Middle Ages saw the birth of an amazing literature that influenced Western culture, I would argue, to a far bigger extent than mythological stories inherited from the Romans and the Greeks. I will try not to go full geek on you, because I could just as easily pitch in the Lord of the Rings in this blog post with the literature masterpiece I’m about to mention, but among the great works of literature that the Middle Ages gave us, there is the Nibelungenlied. It includes a magic ring that makes you invisible. Do you catch my drift? It is also the story that Dr. King Schultz narrates to Django around their campfire when he learns that Django’s wife is called Broomhilda.

Broomhilda was a princess. She was a daughter of Wotan, god of all gods.

Anyway, her father is really mad at her. She disobeys him in some way. So he puts her on top of the mountain.

It’s a German legend, there’s always going to be a mountain in there somewhere.

And he puts a fire-breathing dragon there to guard the mountain. And he surrounds her in a circle of hellfire. And there, Broomhilda shall remain … unless a hero arises brave enough to save her.

As a matter of fact, he does. A fella named Siegfried. He scales the mountain, because he’s not afraid of it. He slays the dragon, because he’s not afraid of him. And he walks through hellfire … because Broomhilda’s worth it.

Tarantino takes quite a few liberties from the original story. It is not totally innocent also that the Niebelungenlied became a famous Wagner opera but I’ve already piled up enough Godwin points in this blogpost that I don’t need to stray on that. All that really matters is that Tarantino directly sets up Django Freeman as a modern Siegfried through the parallel of their respective love interests.

So.

Tarantino likes it R-rated.

He likes heroes that battle against true-life villains (Nazis, slave owners, Manson family members) and right wrongs by providing an alternative ending to upsetting historical events.

Tarantino also somehow traces the quest for freedom back to medieval legends.

Why, then, wouldn’t he go medieval on our eyes for his last movie?

He could, I don’t know, avenge Joan of Arc and have La Hire and Poton de Xaintrailles free her from her prison, killing everyone on their path, evil English and treacherous French alike.

I mean, if he needs a historical consultant, he can always call me!

It’d be better than any Star Trek movie, that’s for sure…

Q&A

Summer Readings on AoE2 Heroes

Book suggestions for Barbarossa/Attila/El Cid?

I love reading about history, …

…and especially about great historical figures, I believe the spark was lit by AoEII especially, since I love both that period and the game (which I still play). I have read the following books and would love to hear suggestions on nicely written books on Barbarossa, Attila, or El Cid, since the AoC are the best campaigns in my opinion.

The books I have read thusfar if someone is interested to read themselves:

  • Joan of Arc by Helen Castor. Bit drier than the other ones, but still a nice read.
  • Saladin by John Man, very nicely written book on how Saladins life played out.
  • God’s Wolf by Jeremy Lee about Reynald de Chatillon (Saladins nemesis which can be found in campaigns 2 and 3 if I am not mistaken). Tells the story of the second crusade from a Western perspective, great read.
  • Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world by Jack Weatherford. Out of all these books the best in my opinion, with not only focussing on Genghis’ life and conquest but also about Mongol life in general including laws, food, customs etc.
  • Attila (3 books) by William Napier, which is historical fantasy, overall a great read but would like to have more of an overview and historically sound read.

Thanks in advance if someone has any suggestions!

[Question from u/xGalen on the AoE2 Subreddit]

The hype is real

My answer

Hi there!

Here are the books I can recommend about our AoE2 heroes. (Thank you u/nimanoe for tagging me in.) Those books are all referenced in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology (2010) so they are quite up to date and provide very solid information. There should be little trouble to find freely available book reviews written about them on JStor, to help you get a summary and a sense of their content 🙂 I will limit myself to one book per historical character, but don’t hesitate to ask for more books if what I suggest doesn’t meet your tastes or expectations! In case you couldn’t find them in retail, don’t hesitate to browse WorldCat to find the library closest to you that has it!

You might think some of those books are ‘old’ because they date back from the 70’s of the 80’s. Don’t worry, History is a slower science than let’s say Physics or Chemistry. 70’s or 80’s monographies can still remain very authoritative secondary sources. You should generally take books from the 19th century with a grain of salt, though… They’re often easily available on Google Books or Archive.org, and they generally offer a very solid fact-driven narrative, but the analysis they bring about the past is most of the time lacking if not totally outdated. Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology hadn’t made their way quite yet within the study of History. Also, the writing of History has shifted post WW2 from the study of “great men” to the study of the economical long-term patterns, the history of cultural representations, and more broadly the study of the masses and/or the minorities (gender studies comes to mind).

AGE OF KINGS

1. William Wallace

  • Fisher, Andrew. William Wallace. Edinburgh: John Donald, 1986.

2. Joan of Arc

  • DeVries, Kelly. Joan of Arc: A Military Leader. Stroud, U.K.: Sutton, 1999.

/!\ /!\ /!\ Actually, I have that last book at home and I don’t really like the positions taken by the author for several reasons, including over-simplification. Therefore I would go for something ‘safer’ and maybe even more entertaining: Pernoud, Régine & Clin, Marie-Véronique. Joan of Arc: Her Story. trans. Jeremy Duquesnay Adams. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999.

The Joan of Arc campaign weekend is coming to the AoEII:DE Beta early August! Prepare yourselves for exciting news!

3. Saladin

  • Möhring, Hannes. Saladin: The Sultan and His Times, 1138-1193. Translated by David S. Bachrach. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2009.

This book was originally written in German if I’m not mistaken. German historians are just pure nerds. It might be a bit dry to read, I don’t know, but this book is a very safe bet!

4. Genghis Khan

  • Ratchnevsky, Paul. Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy. Translated and edited by Thomas N. Haining. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.

5. Barbarossa

The Oxford Encyclopedia only suggests German monographies about Barbarossa. I’ll write them down since I know many AoE2 players are from Germany 🙂

  • Eickhoff, Ekkehard. Friedrich Barbarossa im Orient: Kreuzzug und Tod Friedrichs I. Tübingen, Germany: Wasmuth, 1977.
  • Opll, Ferdinand. Friedrich Barbarossa. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenshcaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1994.

Now, what I do to find scholarly books easily in any medieval matter is that I browse the Regesta Imperii and if you type in what you search correctly, you’ll just find wonders:

  • Freed, John Beckman. Frederick Barbarossa: the prince and the myth. New Haven, 2016. (This book is from 2016, so it’s normal that it wouldn’t be referenced in the 2010 Oxford Encyclopedia.)

Don’t hesitate to try the Regesta Imperii yourself to find many other titles: books, articles, etc. Then head to JStor to find book reviews, the article themselves sometimes, when they’re not free to download from their author’s Academia page.

THE CONQUERORS

6. El Cid

  • Clarke, Henry Butler. The Cid Campeador and the Waning of the Crescent in the West. New York: AMS, 1978.

7. Attila

  • Thompson, E. A. The Huns. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

If you’d like shorter books with still a great scholarly value, you should turn yourself towards ‘collections’ of vulgarized books published by authoritative institutions. There is the “Que Sais-Je ?” collection in French, for example. The “C.H. Beck” in German. Finally, the “Very Short Introductions” from the Oxford University Press are a great read.

Enjoy your summer! 🙂

The purpose to read is to argue. Wololooo!
Age of Empires 2 (1999). Joan of Arc's Campaign. Scenario 2: The Maid of Orléans
In-Depth

'The Maid of Orléans' – Walkthrough & Commentary

This blog post also available in French!

I fell in love with Joan of Arc thanks to Age of Empires 2. I never healed from it. As Ovid says: “Quod nullis amor est sanabilis herbis.” There is no remedy to love.

Tower. Beaurevoir. Joan of Arc. John of Luxembourg.
Tower of Beaurevoir © Stéphane Bloch, 19/07/2013

Once I started to study History at the university, I met Joan again. I discovered her through new lenses. I read the papers and scholarly books written about her. I read the original sources from the 15th century. Her voice sounded clear to me when I read her trial. I saw her proud gait whilst perusing medieval chronicles. Then I visited Picardy and many places she went. I walked near the tower she jumped from when she tried to escape the English.

In the following paragraphs it will look like I’m dismantling piece by piece the second scenario of Joan of Arc’s campaign in Age of Empires 2. However this is a love letter more than anything. Age of Empires 2 is a fantastic video game to discover the Middle Ages. There is much to say about the scenarios and the in-game encyclopedia, but that’s only for the better when you really think of it.

Tower. Beaurevoir. Joan of Arc. John of Luxembourg.
Tower of Beaurevoir, from afar © Stéphane Bloch, 19/07/2013

Intro: Joan of Arc’s Campaign, Second Scenario

March 26, Chinon

It is one thing for a band of dispirited soldiers to put their trust in a teenage girl. It is entirely another for that girl to be given command of the army of an entire nation.

We were filled with pride when we heard the Dauphin’s heralds pronounce Joan the Maid as Commander of the Army of France.

So that she may look like a general, the Dauphin presented Joan with a great warhorse and a suit of white armor.

Joan instructed me to look for an ancient sword buried beneath the altar of a local church.   

I was skeptical, but not only did the men unearth a rusted blade, but we found that the sword belonged to Charlemagne, grandfather of France. I shall not doubt her word again. Still visible on the hilt was the fleur-de-lis.

Joan adopted the fleur-de-lis as her symbol and had it blazoned upon her battle standard. Wherever Joan goes, the standard goes also. It goes with us to Orléans.    

The City of Orléans is one of the finest in France, but it is under siege by our enemies, England and Burgundy, and is about to fall.   

This war has dragged on for one hundred years with precious few French victories. The people of Orléans need a savior. They are to get Joan of Arc.

Illuminated Manuscript. Brussels, KBR, ms. 9392. Christine de Pisan. Loyset Liedet. Jean Miélot. Pentesilea. Queen of the Amazons. Women in Armours.
Pentesilea, Queen of the Amazons, leading the charge – Bruxelles, KBR, ms. 9392, f. 18v

Commentary

This, for one, is a wonderful text. It really helps us to connect with Joan’s story on an emotional level. However, it is filled with inaccuracies…

Though Joan’s brothers were given nobility titles after the victory of Orléans, she was never invested of any official military title. The “Commander of the Army of France” was the ‘connétable’ and that man, since 1425, was Arthur of Bretagne, count of Richemont. Connétables were chosen for life. Richemont himself had fallen into disgrace because of his political actions (he had drowned the king’s favorite courtier) but he still held on his title. Right under him were the ‘maréchaux’ and those titles had also already been handed out to other aristocrats.

Regarding Joan’s famous sword, it didn’t belong to Charlemagne… First off, the fleur-de-lis only became a symbol of the French royalty during the 12th century, once coat of arms were properly invented. It couldn’t have been Charlemagne’s emblem. Secondly, the sword was not miraculously found, dug up or given to Joan. It was merely an ex-voto that caught her eye when she went in pilgrimage to Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois on her way to Chinon.

Finally, when Joan arrived to Orléans the Burgundians had already lifted the siege. Poton de Xaintrailles, La Hire’s brother in arm, had risked a dangerous diplomatic move. He’d offered to open Orléans to the Duke of Burgundy if he could insure the safety of its inhabitants. Philip the Good wished for nothing less but it angered the Duke of Bedford, Regent of France. The two men were at odds since Anne of Burgundy had passed away. Sister to Philip the Good and Bedford’s former wife, she’d already saved the Anglo-Burgundian alliance in the past and her death left the alliance in tatters. Therefore, the English were left alone to besiege Orléans.

1.1. The Map: Orléans surrounded

Age of Empires 2 (1999). Joan of Arc's Campaign. Scenario 2: The Maid of Orléans
Age of Empires 2 (1999). Joan of Arc’s Campaign. Scenario 2: The Maid of Orléans

In this scenario we find three French cities: Chinon and Blois, south of the Loire, controlled by the artificial intelligence, and Orléans, north of the Loire, which the player takes over as soon as he steps into it.

Orléans is threatened by four British fortresses, two north of the city, which produce long swordsmen, longbowmen and mangonels, plus two other, south of the city, which produce battering rams and knights.

Furthermore, the Burgundians are still in play, though it is historically inaccurate. They send up spearmen to attack Orléans along other units.

Since all those units will continuously attack the player, he will have to produce a vast variety of counter units to push back the AI efficiently. It will be tricky to balance an economy properly to that end, however, with a population capped at 75…

1.2. The Siege of Orléans

Map. Orléans. 1428, 1429. Joan of Arc. Jollois. Harttweig
Plan de la ville et du siège d’Orléans en 1428. Jollois restituit ; Harttweig sculpsit

Historically speaking, Orléans was surrounded by English bastions, mainly west to the city. John Talbot, knight of the Order of the Garter, was commanding those fortified places himself. He’d been a real thorn in the shoe of the French since he landed on the Continent, back in 1427. The British also had a few bastions eastwards, but first and foremost they occupied the ‘Bastille des Tourelles’ that closed the Loire bridge. It forced the people of Orléans to destroy the bridge so that it couldn’t be crossed, contrarily to what the player can do in the Age of Empires 2 scenario.

For its defense, Orléans had no less than thirty towers along its walls and barricades also blocked the city access in the suburbs. Churches also could serve as fortified places. However, the people of Orléans struggle every day a bit more to ration their food and they urgently needed supplies to maintain their spirits up.

2.1. How the scenario plays out

The second scenario of Joan of Arc’s campaign has a few surprises but it plays in a quite straightforward fashion. It starts at Chinon with the Duke of Alençon greeting Joan. He moves towards her on his gorgeous steed: “I’m the Duke d’Alençon, my Lady. I will proudly ride with you to Orléans.”

From that point in the very southern corner of the map, Joan, Alençon and their troops ride to Blois where they will meet the king’s army. On their way they’ll fight out a little ambush if they don’t avoid it, but when they reach Blois, the player gets a full load of knights, crossbowmen and trade carts to provide Orléans in resources. Those trade carts must reach the city town center, not the market, for the resources to be collected by the player.

Map. Orléans. 1429. Bridge. Loire. Jollois.
Plan de l’ancien Pont d’Orléans et de ses abords avec ses bastilles et boulevards, le fort des Tournelles et la bastille des Augustins. Jollois restituit

Exiting Blois, Joan can reach Orléans through the dirt path leading to the Loire bridge but that’ll force her into an early battle against Burgundian troops guarding the access. However, transport ships are waiting to help the player across the river and out of harm way. Whatever the choice taken by the player, Joan and the French army reach Orléans through one of its two southern gates.

Once into Orléans, the objective is quite simple: keep the city cathedral safe, maintain Joan of Arc alive and destroy one of the four English castles. Whenever the trade carts get to the city forum, the player gets resources and he can start to build his economy with the few villagers he finds in Orléans.

Rooftop view of the Cathedral of Orléans

The easiest and quickest way to win the scenario, however, is to get to Castle Age as soon as the trade carts get to Orléans forum. Forget about the economy altogether. Cross back the river Loire with a few villagers and build a siege workshop at the back of the southern British fortress. As soon as you can create a few battering rams, break down the British walls, get inside their base and ram down their castles. The knights you get in Blois can also swoop in for extra damages: the castles don’t have the murder holes technology.

Now, if you want to play really tricky, though it requires a bit of skills, station your knights between the two southern British fortresses, wait for villagers to open the gates while passing through it to gather resources, rush into the enemy base and bring fire the old fashion way: through good old sword repetitive smacking.

2.2. How History played out

Map. Orléans. 1429. Joan of Arc. Boucher de Molandon. Eugène Moreau.
“Orléans, la Loire et ses îles lors du siège de 1429. Première expédition de Jeanne d’Arc : ravitaillement d’Orléans”

First things first: the Duke of Alençon has nothing to do in this scenario. He only comes up in Joan’s saga much later, notably during the siege of Paris. The real historical character who supervised the military operations on the French side was the bastard of Orléans, Jean Dunois. La Hire, who is introduced to the Age of Empires 2 player in the next scenario, was also of the party.

In summary, the French army commanded by the maréchal de Boussac, in company of La Hire, Joan of Arc and a convoy of supplies, journey from Blois to Orléans. In order to reach the besieged city, they decide to go around it from the east and cross the Loire River on transport ships. The bastard of Orléans waits firmly for the resupply and supervise the crossing.

Dunois (the bastard of Orléans) and St John the Evangelist, witnessing the Last Judgement ~ London, BL, Yale Thompson MS 3, f. 32v.

When she meets Dunois, Joan is upset. She demands why they didn’t cross west of Orléans, where the English are the most heavily fortified, where John Talbot who commands the troops is located. Dunois is flabbergasted by Joan’s audacity. She dare answer that the advice she brings is better than his, for she’s sent by God. At that point, the wind was not favorable for a crossing. All of a sudden it changed and Dunois interpreted it as a miracle, when he talked about it years later during Joan’s second trial.

The maréchal de Boussac and the French army, however, turn back to Blois. Joan of Arc, La Hire and the resupply convoy cross the Loire. They briefly rest at Reuilly with Dunois then ride to Orléans. The English garrisoned in the bastille of Saint-Loup attempt to attack the convoy but last minute reinforcements from Orléans distract them from their purpose. Joan and the convoy arrive in Orléans untouched to the great relief of the population. One man get so close to Joan to better see her that he actually puts her sleeve on fire with his torch. The disaster is fortunately avoided.

Far to dictate the strategy, Joan is kept in the dark. Nothing is shared to her. The bastard of Orléans and the faithfull captains of Charles VII talk shop without her. When she awakes from a nap, Joan says she saw in a dream that French blood was spilled. She puts on her armor and gallops out of Orléans. She reaches the French troops attacking Saint-Loup and the place is taken.

The bastille of the Augustins is next to fall, then the French mount an attack against the Tourelles, which guards the bridge entry facing Orléans. All day long, the French troops can’t overcome the English defenders of the fortress. Nevertheless, thanks to Joan’s last galvanizing speech, they gather their last drops of courage and eventually conquer the place. The French army based in Blois has now a freeway to enter Orléans. John Talbot is forced to leave and empties the last English strongholds parked around the besieged city.

The liberation of the Loire can finally begin.

Outro: Joan of Arc’s Campaign, Second Scenario

Joan prophesied that she would be wounded at Orléans. At the height of the battle, an arbalest bolt knocked her from her horse. We could not believe our misfortune.

But as we carried Joan away from the carnage, the battle was won. Orléans was free.

When we entered the city, the entire population cheered us on from windows, rooftops, and city streets.

They fired artillery into the night sky and shouted aloud their nickname for Joan: ‘La Pucelle’—The Maid of Orléans.

Commentary

Joan actually predicted her injury. As he travelled to Lyon for the sake of his master, the Duke of Brabant, the lord of Rotselaar gave news from Charles VII’s court. His letter, dated from April 22th, 1429, mentions that a young woman swore to liberate Orléans, but that she will be injured during the battle. The attack of the bastille des Tourelles happened two weeks after this letter was sent and Joan is indeed struck by a range weapon in the morning, right in the shoulder. Her prediction is also stated in other sources. To this day the historians remain fascinated.

Joan, once injured, cries. However, she refuses to be healed through witchcraft. She takes the arrow out of her shoulder herself, with nothing else than olive oil and a piece of cloth to ease her pain. She goes back to battle. As the evening drops, the day seems lost but she carries on. “Fear not, the place is ours!” she shouts as she sees her banner close to the fortress walls, pointing out to everybody where to strike. The French muster their morale, dive once more into the breach and eventually conquers the Tourelles in a last assault that will become unforgettable.

The night proceeds with careful celebrations as Talbot hasn’t left yet. However, no artillery fired into the night sky. Canons shot at the start of a siege. The bells rang, from all over the city. Gathered in churches, the people of Orléans and their defenders sang the Te Deum Laudamus that Joan had had the French army sing when they left Blois. It wasn’t Joan who was celebrated, but God.

Close your eyes, picture the cathedral of Orléans and transport yourself back to 1429. Your own mind remains the best time travelling machine.

Top 3 overlooked facts

The very last assault on the Tourelles gave place to great moments which are worth remembering.

The Loire Bridge had been partly destroyed. Seeing that the fight reached no conclusion, the people of Orléans decided to help out their allies. They threw planks across the long narrow bridge. The first one to come forth was a Knight Hospitaller, Nicolas de Giresme. His crossing was perceived as a miracle.

The English captains, however, were not so lucky… The drawbridge of the Tourelles collapses under their very feet and they all drown in the Loire. According to an Italian merchant relating the events of the siege, the drawbridge collapsed because of a demolition ship prepped on Joan of Arc’s orders, then moved forward at the most strategic moment!

Silent and deadly.

Finally, as the English withdrawn from their strongholds, a war prisoner, the bastard of Bar, managed to escape his jailers in a way nothing short of fabulous. He gets the personal priest and confessor of John Talbot to carry him to Orléans! Not only does he come back to reinforce his friends, but he also hands them a very valuable informant.

Historians still debate today on Joan’s real impact over the commandment of the French army. It is rather excluded that she ever held any official title or ordered the troops herself, even if the most daring historians have argued that he left a “legacy”. She feared no danger, she was pro-active on the battlefield, she never backed down from a fight. In that, however, she was La Hire’s perfect pupil, minus the wisdom and experience. Nevertheless, without her, it is undisputable that the Tourelles wouldn’t have been conquered the day they were and the siege of Orléans could have dragged on more.

The English were already in a pickle. Their alliance with the Burgundians was in tatters and the earl of Salisbury, their military genius, was dead during the first days of the siege of Orléans. The town, meanwhile, was defended by the best and bravest, the cream of the French army. La Hire, Poton de Xaintrailles, their brothers and their friends were all there. They had no pompous title but they counted among the most professional soldiers in France at the time.

Joan of Arc only put more oil on a fire the fire and the tide was already turning against the English. Yet it takes nothing away from her bravery, her valor and her charm, that History consecrated forever.

More About Joan:

In-Depth

"La Pucelle d'Orléans" – Soluce et commentaire

Do you wish to read this blog post in English?

Age of Empires 2 m’a fait tombé amoureux de Jeanne d’Arc. Il s’agit d’un amour dont je n’ai jamais guéri. Comme le dit Ovide : « Quod nullis amor est sanabilis herbis ». Il n’existe aucun remède à l’amour.

Tower. Beaurevoir. Joan of Arc. John of Luxembourg.
Tower of Beaurevoir © Stéphane Bloch, 19/07/2013

Une fois entré à l’université, j’ai redécouvert Jeanne d’Arc à la lumière de mes études. Elle m’apparaissait désormais au travers des recherches historiques et des sources d’époque. J’ai entendu sa voix en lisant son procès. J’ai perçu sa fière allure à la lecture des chroniques. Ensuite j’ai visité la Picardie et j’ai découvert des endroits où elle s’était rendue. J’ai marché au pied de la tour, à Beaurevoir, dont elle aurait sauté pour tenter de se sauver des Anglais.

Dans les paragraphes qui suivent, je vais démonter pièce par pièce le scénario du siège d’Orléans dans Age of Empires 2. Néanmoins, il s’agit bien d’une lettre d’amour. Age of Empires 2 est un jeu fantastique pour découvrir le Moyen Âge et s’intéresser à son histoire. Il y a beaucoup à redire sur les scénarios et l’encyclopédie du jeu, mais ce n’est que pour le mieux.

Tower. Beaurevoir. Joan of Arc. John of Luxembourg.
Tower of Beaurevoir, from afar © Stéphane Bloch, 19/07/2013

Intro

26 mars, Chinon

Remettre toute sa confiance en une jeune fille, pour une bande de soldats abattus, ce n’est pas rien. Mais pour cette jeune fille, se retrouver à la tête de l’armée de toute une nation, c’est bien autre chose.

Nous étions gonflés d’orgueil quand nous avons entendu les hérauts du Dauphin déclarer Jeanne la Pucelle, Chef de l’Armée de France.

Pour que Jeanne ait l’allure d’un général, le Dauphin lui a offert un cheval de bataille et une armure blanche.

Jeanne m’a chargé d’aller chercher une ancienne épée sous l’autel d’une église.

J’étais sceptique et pourtant non seulement les hommes ont déterré un fer rouillé mais nous avons découvert que cette épée avait appartenu à Charlemagne, le père de la France. Je ne douterai plus jamais de ses paroles. La fleur de lys se voyait encore sur la poignée.

Jeanne a adopté la fleur de lys comme symbole, qu’elle a fait représenter sur son étendard de bataille. Partout où Jeanne allait, son étendard la suivait. Et il nous a accompagné jusqu’à Orléans.

La ville d’Orléans est l’une des plus belles villes de France mais elle est assiégée par nos ennemis, l’Angleterre et la Bourgogne et elle est sur le point de succomber.

Cette guerre dure depuis cent ans avec de rares victoires françaises. Le peuple d’Orléans a besoin d’un sauveur. Ils auront Jeanne d’Arc.

Illuminated Manuscript. Brussels, KBR, ms. 9392. Christine de Pisan. Loyset Liedet. Jean Miélot. Pentesilea. Queen of the Amazons. Women in Armours.
Pentesilea, Queen of the Amazons, leading the charge – Bruxelles, KBR, ms. 9392, f. 18v

Commentaire

Ce texte est magnifique et il nous investit de façon très émotionnelle dans les aventures de Jeanne. Toutefois, il est parsemé d’erreurs…

Si les frères de Jeanne d’Arc ont été anoblis après la victoire d’Orléans, elle-même ne reçut jamais le moindre titre officiel au sein de l’armée du roi. Le « chef de l’armée de France » était le connétable, et ce titre appartenait en 1429 à Arthur de Bretagne, comte de Richemont. Il s’agissait d’un titre détenu à vie, et si le connétable de Richemont était en disgrâce en raison de ses partis-pris et de ses actions politiques, il disposait toujours de son titre. En dessous du connétable se trouvaient les maréchaux, et ces fonctions étaient également occupées.

La célèbre épée de Jeanne d’Arc, déjà célèbre de son vivant, n’avait pas appartenu à Charlemagne. Ici, les auteurs du scénario commettent plusieurs erreurs. Tout d’abord, il eut été impossible qu’une épée ayant appartenu à Charlemagne fût ornée d’une fleur de lys. Le principe des armoiries ne vit le jour qu’au XIIe siècle. Ce n’est pas avant cette époque que les rois de France adoptèrent la fleur de lys comme emblème. Ensuite, l’épée fut tout simplement prise à l’église de Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois, où Jeanne se rendit en pèlerinage et prière avant d’atteindre Chinon. Plusieurs épées y avaient été laissées en ex-voto et l’une d’entre elle attira certainement l’intérêt de Jeanne, mais il ne faut pas croire que l’épée fut trouvée par miracle.

Enfin, quand Jeanne arriva à Orléans, les Bourguignons n’assiégeaient plus la ville. Suite à une manœuvre diplomatique aussi rusée que risquée, Poton de Xaintrailles, le frère d’armes de La Hire, offrit d’ouvrir les portes de la ville au duc de Bourgogne si ce dernier acceptait d’en assurer la protection. Rien n’aurait fait plus plaisir à Philippe le Bon, mais cette éventualité fâcha le duc de Bedford, régent de France. Les deux hommes n’étaient plus en très bons termes depuis le décès d’Anne de Bourgogne, épouse de Bedford et sœur de Philippe le Bon. Ce dernier décida donc de lever le siège et de laisser les Anglais seuls devant Orléans…

1.1. La carte du jeu

Age of Empires 2 (1999). Joan of Arc's Campaign. Scenario 2: The Maid of Orléans
Age of Empires 2 (1999). Joan of Arc’s Campaign. Scenario 2: The Maid of Orléans

Telle qu’est présentée la carte du second scénario de Jeanne d’Arc, on trouve tout d’abord trois villes françaises : Chinon et Blois, au sud de la Loire, contrôlées par l’intelligence artificielle, et Orléans, au nord de la Loire, dont le joueur prend le contrôle dès qu’il y parvient.

Orléans est menacée par quatre forteresses britanniques. Les deux forteresses au nord produisent des fantassins à épée longue, d’autres fantassins à arc longs et des mangonneaux, tandis que les deux forteresses au sud produisent des béliers et des chevaliers.

Enfin, les Bourguignons participent encore au siège, même si cela constitue une erreur historique. Ils menacent notamment Orléans avec leurs piquiers et d’autres types d’unités.

Compte tenu que ces unités viendront assaillir le joueur continuellement, il devra se parer d’unités de plusieurs types pour contrer l’intelligence artificielle de façon efficace. Or, avec une population maximale bloquée à 75 unités, cela pourra s’avérer difficile à accomplir tout en maintenant une économie stable et bien équilibrée…

En outre, le joueur peut rencontrer quelques dangers sur la route, entre Chinon et Blois, notamment, mais surtout à l’entrée du pont de la Loire, où une troupe bourguignonne importante l’attend au pied d’une vilaine tour.

1.2. Orléans encerclée

Map. Orléans. 1428, 1429. Joan of Arc. Jollois. Harttweig
Plan de la ville et du siège d’Orléans en 1428. Jollois restituit ; Harttweig sculpsit

Comme nous l’avons déjà précisé, les Bourguignons n’étaient plus présents au siège d’Orléans quand Jeanne d’Arc vint au secours de la ville. En revanche, Orléans était encerclée par un véritable chapelet de forteresses et de bastilles occupées par les Anglais. Sur la rive droite, à l’Ouest d’Orléans, les bastilles étaient d’ailleurs gouvernées par Jean Talbot en personne, un chevalier de l’ordre de la Jarretière qui donnait bien du fil à retordre aux Français depuis son arrivée sur le continent. Les Anglais disposaient encore d’une ou l’autre bastille à l’est, mais ils bloquaient principalement le pont de la Loire en occupant la bastille des Tourelles, directement au sud d’Orléans. Pour cette raison, les habitants de la ville avaient saboté le fameux pont et il était en vérité infranchissable, ce qui n’est pas reflété dans le scénario d’Age of Empires 2.

Pour se défendre, Orléans disposait de puissantes murailles, garnies d’une trentaine de tours. Les faubourgs de la ville, de surcroît, avaient été bardés de barricades pour entraver l’accès à la ville aux Anglais. Les églises pouvaient également servir de lieux fortifiés. Toutefois, Orléans se trouvait peu à peu asphyxiée et le besoin de ravitaillement se faisait chaque jour plus urgent.

2.1. Les étapes du scénario

Le second scénario de la campagne de Jeanne d’Arc nous réserve quelques petites surprises, mais il se joue de façon assez linéaire. Le duc d’Alençon rencontre Jeanne dès les premières secondes de la partie et s’avance vers elle, sur son magnifique destrier. « Je suis le duc d’Alençon, Madame. Je serais fier de vous accompagner jusqu’à Orléans. »

De là, Jeanne, Alençon et la petite troupe quitte Chinon, dans le coin inférieur de la carte, pour se rendre à Blois, au Nord-Ouest. Une petite embuscade attend le joueur sur la route, mais quand il parvient à Blois, le joueur obtient un grand nombre de chevaliers et plusieurs charrettes de ravitaillements, qu’il doit escorter jusqu’au Forum d’Orléans, au Nord de la Loire.

Map. Orléans. 1429. Bridge. Loire. Jollois.
Plan de l’ancien Pont d’Orléans et de ses abords avec ses bastilles et boulevards, le fort des Tournelles et la bastille des Augustins. Jollois restituit

En sortant de Blois, le joueur peut suivre le chemin de terre, mais il tombera alors sur une troupe bourguignonne, et passer le pont de la Loire relèvera d’un véritable défi. S’il explore les berges du fleuve, en revanche, le joueur pourra trouver quelques embarcations qui lui permettront de franchir l’eau sans être ennuyé, et de parvenir indemne à Orléans.

Dès que le joueur entre dans Orléans par le Sud (s’il a traversé le pont) ou le Sud-Ouest (s’il a emprunté les embarcations), il prend possession de la ville et sa mission principale devient d’en défendre la cathédrale des assauts britanniques et bourguignons. Afin de gagner la partie, il doit abattre au moins un château anglais, maintenir la cathédrale debout et s’assurer que Jeanne reste en vie.

Cathédrale d’Orléans, vue depuis les toits de la ville.

La méthode la plus facile consiste à passer à l’Âge des Châteaux sitôt que les charrettes de ravitaillement parviennent au Forum d’Orléans. Ensuite, il suffit de repasser la Loire avec quelques villageois et de construire un Atelier de Siège à proximité de la forteresse anglaise la plus au Sud de la carte. Quelques béliers suffisent pour percer une faille dans les remparts et démolir le château qui s’y cache et terminer le scénario endéans les quinze minutes, montre en main. Il n’est pas même nécessaire d’amener les chevaliers trouvé à Blois jusqu’à Orléans, ils peuvent s’engouffrer dans la forteresse anglaise dès qu’une brèche est faite et aider à détruire le château ennemi, qui ne dispose pas de la technologie « meurtrières » pour se défendre.

2.2. La véritable histoire

Map. Orléans. 1429. Joan of Arc. Boucher de Molandon. Eugène Moreau.
“Orléans, la Loire et ses îles lors du siège de 1429. Première expédition de Jeanne d’Arc : ravitaillement d’Orléans”

Tout d’abord, le Duc d’Alençon n’a rien à faire dans ce scénario. Il n’intervient que plus tard dans la saga de Jeanne d’Arc, notamment au siège de Paris. Le véritable personnage historique ayant supervisé les opérations militaires du côté français, lors du siège d’Orléans, était Jean Dunois, le bâtard d’Orléans. Il y avait également La Hire, que le joueur d’Age of Empires 2 ne rencontre qu’à la mission suivante.

En résumé, l’armée française dirigée par le maréchal de Boussac, en compagnie La Hire, Jeanne d’Arc et un convoi de ravitaillements, voyagent depuis Blois jusqu’à Orléans. Afin d’atteindre la ville assiégée, ils décident de la contourner par l’est et de traverser la Loire à l’aide de navires de transports. Le bâtard d’Orléans attend le convoi de pied ferme pour superviser la traversée.

Dunois (le bâtard d’Orléans) et saint Jean l’apôtre observant le Jugement Dernier ~ London, BL, Yale Thompson MS 3, f. 32v.

Quand elle rencontre Jean Dunois, Jeanne d’Arc est énervée. Elle demande pourquoi ils ne franchissent pas la Loire à l’Ouest, où les Anglais se sont le plus lourdement fortifiés, là où se trouve leur commandant Jean Talbot. Jean Dunois est épaté par l’audace de la jeune femme. Elle lui rétorque que le conseil de Dieu, qu’elle reçoit, est certainement meilleur que le sien. Jusque-là, le vent empêchait la traversée du fleuve. Quand Jeanne finit de parler, il tourna. Des années plus tard, le bâtard d’Orléans interprétera ce moment comme un « droit miracle ».

Le maréchal de Boussac et l’armée française, toutefois, tournent les talons et retournent à Blois. Jeanne d’Arc, La Hire et les ravitaillements franchissent la Loire. Ils se reposent brièvement avec Jean Dunois à Reuilly, puis font route vers Orléans. Les Anglais en garnison à la bastille de Saint-Loup tentent une sortie pour attaquer le convoi, mais sont distraits par des troupes qui jaillissent en renfort d’Orléans. Jeanne et les ravitaillements arrivent intacts dans la ville, pour le plus grand bonheur des habitants. L’un d’entre eux s’approchent si près de Jeanne pour l’observer qu’il met feu à sa manche avec une torche, mais la catastrophe est écartée.

Loin de diriger les opérations, Jeanne est maintenue dans le noir. Rien ne lui est communiqué, le bâtard d’Orléans et les capitaines fidèles à la cause des Valois discutent de stratégie sans elle. Quand elle se réveille d’une sieste, elle dit avoir rêvé que le sang français était versé. Elle se pare de son armure et galope à tout rompre hors d’Orléans. Elle rejoint en vitesse les troupes françaises qui assaillent la bastille de Saint-Loup, et celle-ci est prise.

La bastille des Augustins tombe ensuite, puis la prochaine bastille attaquée est celle des Tourelles, de l’autre côté du pont de la Loire. Pendant toute la journée, les troupes françaises ne parviennent pas à s’emparer de la place. Néanmoins, grâce aux ultimes encouragements de Jeanne, les Français reprennent courage et conquièrent la bastille. La voie est libre pour l’armée française de venir depuis Blois sans entrave jusqu’à Orléans. Jean Talbot est contraint de plier bagages et il évacue les forteresses campées autour de la ville assiégée.

La libération de la Loire peut enfin commencer.

Outro

Jeanne a prédit qu’elle serait blessée à Orléans. Au point culminant de la bataille, un carreau d’arbalète l’a frappée, la faisant tomber de son cheval. Nous ne pouvions croire à notre malchance.

Mais tandis que nous transportions Jeanne à l’écart du carnage, nous avions remporté la bataille. Orléans était libérée.

Quand nous sommes entrés dans la ville, la population tout entière nous acclamait des fenêtres, sur les toits et dans les rues.

Ils ont tiré des coups de canon dans la nuit et crié à tue-tête le surnom de Jeanne : ‘La Pucelle’ – La Pucelle d’Orléans.

Commentaire

Jeanne d’Arc a bel et bien bien prédit sa blessure. Tandis qu’il est en voyage à Lyon pour son seigneur, le duc de Brabant, le sire de Rotselaar donne des nouvelles de la cour de Charles VII. Sa lettre, datée du 22 avril 1429, mentionne qu’une jeune femme a promis de libérer Orléans, mais qu’elle serait blessée durant les combats. L’attaque de la bastille des Tourelles se joue deux semaines après l’envoi de cette lettre, et durant l’assaut, Jeanne est en effet frappée au matin d’un projectile dans l’épaule. Sa prédiction est relatée par d’autres sources. Les historiens en sont encore étonnés aujourd’hui.

Jeanne, blessée, pleure. Mais elle refuse d’être soignée à l’aide de « sortilèges ». Elle retire elle-même la flèche de son épaule, n’ayant rien d’autre pour soulager sa peine qu’un bout de tissu et de de l’huile d’olive. Elle retourne aussitôt au combat. Au soir, la journée semble perdue, mais elle insiste. « Ne craignez pas, la place est nôtre ! » s’écrie Jeanne quand elle voit son étendard près des murs de la bastille, et indique que c’est là qu’il faut attaquer. Les Français reprennent courage et conquièrent enfin les Tourelles, dans un ultime assaut qui gravera toutes les mémoires.

Le soir se prête aux célébrations, mais il n’y a pas de coups de canons tirés dans la nuit. Le canon était tiré pour marquer le début officiel d’un siège. Les cloches de la ville, en revanche, sonnèrent toutes de concert. Recueillis dans les églises, les habitants d’Orléans et leurs défenseurs chantèrent le Te Deum Laudamus, que Jeanne avait fait chanter à l’armée française au départ de Blois. Ce n’était pas Jeanne, mais Dieu, que l’on remerciait pour la victoire.

Fermez les yeux et imaginez vous à Orléans, au soir de la victoire, par la magie intemporelle de la musique et des chants grégoriens.

 Trois anecdotes truculentes du siège

L’ultime assaut de la bastille des Tourelles donna lieu à de grands moments, qui méritent d’être remémorés.

Le pont de la Loire avait été détruit, mais voyant que le combat s’éternise, les habitants d’Orléans décident de venir en aide à leurs alliés. Ils jettent des planches en bois au travers du pont. Le premier à oser s’avancer sur ces constructions de fortune est un chevalier de l’ordre de l’Hôpital de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem, Nicolas de Giresme. Alors qu’il franchit le pont sans que la planche ne cède sous lui, on crie au miracle.

Les capitaines anglais dans la bastille des Tourelles, en revanche, voient le pont levis s’écrouler sous eux et se noient dans la Loire. D’après un marchand italien, cela tient d’un navire de démolition, préparé par Jeanne d’Arc, et avancé sous le pont au moment le plus fatidique.

Enfin, alors que les Anglais évacuent leurs bastilles, un prisonnier de guerre, le bâtard de Bar, parvient à s’échapper de la façon la plus originale du monde. Il se fait porter par le prêtre-confesseur de Jean Talbot en personne jusqu’à Orléans ! Non seulement vient-il renforcer ses amis, mais il leur apporte un informateur de rêve.

Les historiens débattent encore aujourd’hui pour déterminer l’impact réel de Jeanne sur le commandement de l’armée française. S’il est désormais exclu qu’elle ait dirigé elle-même les troupes, les plus audacieux prétendent qu’elle a laissé derrière elle un « héritage ». Elle allait au-devant du danger et ne reculait devant rien. En cela, toutefois, elle était une parfaite élève de La Hire, la sagesse et l’expérience en moins. Pourtant, sans elle, il est indéniable que les Tourelles n’auraient pas été conquises et que le siège d’Orléans aurait pu s’enliser davantage.

Les Anglais étaient en mauvaise posture. Leur alliance avec les Bourguignons fondait comme neige au soleil et le comte de Salisbury, leur génie militaire, était mort aux premières heures du siège d’Orléans. La ville, en revanche, était défendue par les capitaines d’armées les plus retords et les plus braves de l’armée française. La Hire, Poton de Xaintrailles, leurs frères et leurs amis, ils étaient tous là. Ils n’avaient aucun titre pompeux, mais ils étaient de véritables professionnels de la guerre.

Jeanne d’Arc ne jeta jamais que de l’huile sur le feu, alors que les braises étaient encore chaudes et que le vent avait déjà commencé à tourner. Cela ne retire néanmoins rien à son courage, à sa vaillance et à son charme, consacrés à jamais par l’histoire.

Q&A

Joan of Arc in AoE2: Quick Words

What follows is my reaction to an AskHistorian Reddit thread that states the following:

All of us here, questioner and answerer, are inspired by portrayals of history in popular media, like games, film and tv. The recent release of the HBO Chernobyl mini-series is a great example – we had a sudden rush of interest in the history of the disaster. […] This week, we will look at the Age of Empires game series, from the first to the third and all of their expansions, which cover the ancient world, the medieval era and the ‘age of discovery’ period, and are set in various locations across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Foreword

I, for once, cannot shy away from that one. I’ve started a Twitch channel for the sole purpose to provide historical commentaries on Age of Empires—even though not very succesfully audience wise. Here is a highlight I saved from a former stream where I go on reading the in-game encyclopedia on the « Knights » entry and ramble about it. At first I went on to play Joan of Arc’s campaign and provided commentaries as I advanced in the scenario. That’s on YouTube now, even though I couldn’t make it into a series, along with a few short clips about Vikings [#1, #2, #3, #4, #5]. My latest and probably cleanest video edit is probably the short historical analysis I did on the Battle of Crécy, whilst comparing the longbowmen to the genoese crossbowmen units from Age of Empires 2. It’s only me working on it though, with my poor video edit skills, my full time night job and my social life to juggle altogether #CaptatioBenevolentia. It all started with a top facts on Joan of Arc I wrote on the AoEZone website (and also on Reddit, adding some corrections), in their kinda dead history forum. I’d love to finish a clean and well cut video edit on Joan of Arc’s campaign and provide something better than what Spirit of the Law is producing out of Wikipedia. I mean, I read the chronicles, the trials, the most recent books on the topic. So there it is, my short historical overview of the first scenario of Joan of Arc’s campaign (I won’t have the time to write about them all in one single go, maybe I’ll post one scenario a day since this is going on all week).

Here’s The Viper playthrouhg of Joan’s first AoE2 scenario. Respec’ to the Master. However… just watch that awful map for a second…

The Map of France

Now, the map that we see when we start the campaign is just plain awful, as I’ve complained several times. It basically shows the borders of France today, along with the borders of Switzerland (that becomes Burgundy!?), Belgium and the Netherlands. On that one, I’m sorry, but we can only give an F to Microsoft. One very pretty map that displays the border of France during the time of Joan of Arc is the one drawn by Auguste Longnon in the 19th century. I actually challenged u/Brother_Judas to provide his fresh take on it and he’s at it! It’s going to be beautiful. I can already tell.

I mean… just look how beautifully detailed Longnon’s map is!

An Unlikely Messiah

From the Journal of Guy Josselyne

“February 19, Army Camp near Vaucouleurs”    

“This morning I awoke to visions of fire and steel. These nightmares come more often now that I have seen my beloved France eaten away in years of war.”

“I wandered through camp ignoring the new snowfall, but observing the wounds and weariness of every soldier under my command, observing the desperation in their eyes.”    

“It was then that I first saw the girl. She told us that her name was Joan. She told us she was but a peasant, who did not know how to ride or fight. She told us that she intended to rescue France. The darkness lifted from the men’s souls. ” 

“Her voice rang with conviction, and we drank in her every word. I may have lost my faith, but Joan has not lost hers, and that is enough for me.”    

“Joan has asked our ragged band of soldiers to take her to Chinon, where the rightful ruler of France, the Dauphin, hides from his foes.”    

“The war-torn land between is infested with enemy marauders, and we will lose many men.  Death is by now an old companion, but for Joan, we will face it again.”

Paris, BnF, français 5054. Martial d'Auvergne. Vigiles de la mort de Charles VII. Joan of Arc. Jeanne d'Arc. Chinon. Vaucouleurs. Illuminated manuscript.
Joan of Arc goes to Chinon to meet Charles VII – Paris, BnF, fr. 5054, f. 55v

“As Joan’s footsteps echoed down the marbled hall of the château, the fat and whispering dukes did naught but stare.”

“The Dauphin himself seemed afraid as she kissed his feet. ‘My gentle Dauphin,’ she demanded, ‘why does England claim what is ours? Why are you not crowned King of France as is your right?'”    

“The courtiers began to murmur. The chamberlain whispered lies into the Dauphin’s ear.”    

“But the Dauphin pushed the chamberlain away and rose to meet Joan’s gaze.”    

“She stands only to the shoulder of the shortest man, but all of us must look up to speak to her.”    

“I know not what silent conversation passed between the Dauphin and his would-be savior, but it was obvious that his majesty was in the same thrall as we.”    

Ideology versus reality

What we see in the scenario introduction is nothing short of a build up to depict Joan as a national hero. Well… The young girl was certainly pretty religious, but she had no idea of what a “nation” was in regard of our current understanding of the concept. She saw that the king had not been anointed in Reims, as was the tradition dating back from the Carolingian kings, and she maybe thought of it as the supernatural cause at the source of the wars that were afflicting the French people. I say “wars” because the Hundred Years War was in fact not one single big conflict between two nations, but the many push backs from the French nobility (including the king of England, who was a French nobleman) against the raising authority of their king through the slow building of an actual administrative state, which eventually lead, long term, to the administrative monarchy that ruled Louis XIV. Among the many concerns of the French nobility was the ability to raise their own troops. The king managed to deny them that right when he finally introduced the “Compagnies d’Ordonnances”, the first permanent and professional army in Europe since the Roman times. It brought the end of the Feudal system as we know it, where the suzerain called on his vassals. From then on, the king could rely on a constant military support, but it needed massive tax reforms and he really struggled to pass them on. Many of the noblemen that fought alongside Joan of Arc to “liberate France”, such as the Duke of Alençon, actually turned against Charles VII when the Companies d’Ordonnances were instated. That historical episode was called “the Praguerie” and it happened before the final battle of Castillon, which is portrayed as the final chapter of Joan’s campaing in AoE2.

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

Basic nitpicking

  • Basically, everything was much more complicated than what AoE2 makes us believe. Also, Joan’s travel from Vaucouleurs to Chinon was not a commando mission. Jean de Metz didn’t like that Joan would stop in every church to attend mass, because he wanted to be discreet about their journey (they also travelled a lot at night), but they didn’t have to force their way through a Burgundian settlement as the scenario suggests.
  • About the scenario introduction, yet again: Paris is misspelled “Pairs”. Also, the game map fused the Seine and the Loire together into one single river.
  • As we start the game, we witness a battle where the French are literally crushed and overpowered by an English army. The problem that the French faced however was not that they didn’t have enough military to counter the English. At that time (from 1410 to 1440), they were poorly organized and divided between opposing factions that couldn’t play well together. The Duke of Burgundy refused to attend the battle of Agincourt, the Duke of Bourbon only sought his own personal glory, the Count of Richemont showed poor political skills when he drowned the king’s favorite courtier, etc. The French army was more than able to push back the English forces, as Charles V demonstrated during his rule with his attrition strategy. It just lacked a proper hierarchy up until the Compagnies d’Ordonnances were put into play.
  • Oh, and by the way, Joan could ride a horse! She wore a red dress when she arrived in Vaucouleurs and was given men’s clothes to go on her journey at the request of Jean de Metz. He stated so himself during Joan’s second trial. #JustRanting
  • Now, it is true that Joan called Charles VII “mon gentil Dauphin” (meaning “my noble Dauphin”). However, Charles VII was already king! He was not the heir to the throne, but the dude on the throne. He only hadn’t been anointed yet. Henry VI of England, who claimed to be Henry II of France and who was Charles VII’s nephew, hadn’t been anointed either. He would nonetheless be anointed in Paris in 1431, as a political answer to Charles VII 1429 ceremony in Reims. So France had two kings just as Christendom, around those very years, had two popes. The question was only who could actually wield the power since both Charles VII and Henry II had very strong legal claims to the crown. Meanwhile, Charles VII and Henry II held different parts of the royal demesne and they offered different political “programs” so to speak. Allied to the Burgundians, the Lancastrian pretenders maintained more traditional and conservative views, whereas the Valois mustered for a better centralization of the unruly state.
Henry VI of England being crowned as Henry II of France by the Cardinal of Winchester… in Paris (1431) ~ Paris, BnF, fr. 5054, f. 76

Needless is to say that Joan of Arc’s AoE2 campaign is what actually gave me my love for History. This campaign is emotionally very important to me and I can’t stress enough how much I love it. Even though I could tear down every single thing from the campaign, from the scenario intros and outros to the gameplay, I freaking love it and would recommend anyone to play it. The only reason I made my master thesis on La Hire is because of that freaking campaign.

By the way, spoiler alert… La Hire was dead in 1453 when the Battle of Castillon took place. So when I replayed that last scenario I actually shed a tear as I found him virtually still alive and kicking, thirsting for blood. He died in 1443 during a military campaign the king lead in the Southern part of France. He was dearly missed by Charles VII himself, as Monstrelet writes in his chronicle. Just as much as Bertrand Du Guesclin and Arnauld-Guilhelm de Barbazan before him, Étienne de Vignolles, La Hire, was nothing short of a hero. He became the Jack of Heart in the traditional French card game.

The blood on La Hire’s sword is almost dry.

Top 7 Facts of Joan of Arc’s Journey to Chinon

7. Joan was very religious. Her quest was more of a spiritual one than a patriotic one. The idea of a “French nation” as we define it today was quite foreign to her.

6. Joan asked to stop in many churches to attend mass. Jean de Metz proved quite reluctant since he prefered to travel unnoticed by Burgundians forces.

5. When she left Vaucouleurs, Joan was dressed as a man (because men’s clothes were more fit for travel) and riding a horse. She was not the average “sheperd girl” but she came from a well off family.

4. Before leaving Vaucouleurs, Joan was invited by the Duke of Lorraine, Charles II, to meet him. He was feeling ill and wondered if she could cure him. She only told him to stop cheating on his wife and asked for his ten years old son-in-law to be, René d’Anjou, who belonged to the highest nobility, to escort her to Chinon. Her request was declined.

3. As she left her native village of Domrémy, Joan lied to her parents. She told them she was going to help her cousin to deliver her child but she then asked her cousin’s husband to lead her to Vaucouleurs. That “white lie” would later cost her dearly during her trial in Rouen…

2. As Jean de Metz slept next to Joan several times on their way to Chinon, he never felt any desire for her. He had too much esteem for her as he would later testify on Joan’s second trial, held by Charles VII to clear her name of heresy.

1. Once she’d arrived in Chinon, Joan was then examined in Poitiers by theologians regarding the validity of her spiritual claims. Prior to that Yolande of Aragon also insured she was still a virgin and that is why she was later called the “Pucelle” (french word meaning virgin).

See Joan’s itinirary (picture it without the modern day highways ^^): click here.