Of all the medieval motifs to choose from, why is the Fleur-de-lys so popular? Why don’t we see Papal staffs or English lions on fence posts, organisation logos and flags everywhere?
Side question: Where does it actually come from? It’s often listed as the coronation of Clovis in the 6th century, but some sources (not very trustworthy ones mind you) claim that the symbol dates back older than that.
Welcome to our class of Heraldry 101, young Padawan. I’m glad you made it on time. Today, we’ll discuss why the kings of France preferred a flower over, say, some powerful predator like the lion or the bear. I mean, isn’t it weird? And even weirded when you think that Charles VI chose winged deer as his emblem instead of… I don’t know… winged wolves, or dragons?
In order to get to the bottom of this mystery, we need to consider a few things.
Why the well would I bring up such pointless trivia?
The fact is that the whole Clovis legend you mention is mentioned in Raoul de Presles’ translation of Augustine’s City of Godand that is because medieval translators didn’t only translated what they read, they also augmented their translations with new prologues, running commentaries and full-on exegeses. Don’t ask me why they did it, we’d be here for another hour at least. The fact is that they indulged themselves with such fancy rhetoric.
Raoul de Prelses translated the City of God for Charles V of France, therefore he wrote the latter a letter justifying his scholarly work and placed it at the beginning of it. Raoul de Prelses went on to talk about many things but first he had to remind how great, wise and noble Charles V of France actually was. Therefore he reminded the legend tying Clovis to the fleur-de-lys. Do you remember how Constantine converted to Christianism? Hold on to your seat because we’ve got some major flashback incoming.
According to the legend, Clovis was about to face a Saracen king who cut his way through Germany (not Spain) and was now threatening France. It was on this very battle that the battle-cries of “Monjoye” and “Saint-Denis” were shouted for the first time—just like La Hire would then shout them at Montargis, in 1427.
On the eve of battle, Clovis had a dream.He dreamt of three fleur-de-lys. The next day, he wiped what was then his emblem, three crescents (this version of the legend makes Clovis a Saracen himself!—in other versions of the tale, his emblem was made of three toads*), and replaced it with three fleur-de-lys. He then marched on to victory.
Raoul de Presles exposed as an obvious evidence that the legend was true that the Abbey of “Joie-en-Val”, which was allegedly founded after the battle—and is better known as the Abbey of Saint-Denis—still carried three fleur-de-lys on its escutcheon by his own lifetime. Let’s reckon that Raoul de Presles was very creative with archeological and heraldic materials but that he didn’t just made up the legend either. Suger, abbot of Saint-Denis, French official and chronicler, first came up with the idea in the 12th century. It was strongly passed on through the 13th century with the production of stained glasses and sculptures. Raoul de Presles merely revived the legend when he translated Augustine’s City of God, by the early 1370s, because around those very years, Charles V of France was changing the royal French coat of arms from “Azure semy-de-lys or” to “Azure, three fleurs-de-lys or”. As such, Charles V of France wished to symbolically tighten the knot between the French monarchy and the Holy Trinity, placing the kingdom of France under the direct protection of God—and himself, the king, as His direct representative on Earth.
* Michel Pastoureau (“Une fleur pour le roi. Jalons pour une histoire médiévale de la fleur de lis”, in Une histoire symbolique du Moyen Âge occidental. Paris: Seuil, 2004, p.110-124) quotes the manuscript Paris, BnF, fr. 22912, f. 3v and writes “crapaulx” (toads) instead of “croissans” (crescents) but this is a paleographic mistake. However, I didn’t have the time to cross-reference this finding with the latest edition of the BnF, fr. 22912 (Olivier Bertrand (ed.), La Cité de Dieu de saint Augustin traduite par Raoul de Presle (1371-1375), livres I à III, édition du manuscrit BnF fr. 22912. Paris: Honoré Champion, 2013).
** The semy-de-lys didn’t vanish, though. However, only the “three fleur-de-lys” came to symbolise the French king as a person and individual once Charles V of France was done with it, whereas the “semy-de-lys” became more of a general emblem related to the royalty.
2. When and How Did It All Start?
If it didn’t start with Clovis? When did the big fashion for fleur-de-lys emblems actually begin? Was it with Charlemagne? Was it with Hugues Capet? None of the above! The first died in 814 and the second in 996. As stated before—we live and die by our mantra, each and every one of us—coat of arms only came into fashion by the 12th century. It is only then that fleur-de-lys emblems started to sprout all over Europe.
The fleur-de-lys had many thing going for it to promote its success. First, its abstract representation was pretty. It matters. Second, it was a flower named in the Holy Bible. In the Song of Songs no less! “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. | As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” (Song 2:1-2) Those verses were picked up in the Middle Age to further the devotion to the Virgin Mary. The lily became Mary’s flower. She was depicted either surrounded by lilies or holding a lily into her hand on several French coins and ecclesiastic seals during the 12th century.
When the time came for the kings of France to choose their own symbol, they liked the idea of placing their realm under the protection of the Virgin Mary. Since the lily was her flower, they would be crowned while carrying great blue coats covered with golden lilies (instead of stars, that other regal figures fancied). That way, as a symbolic gesture, they placed themselves under the protection of the queen of Heaven, the mother of God, Mary. The symbolism was quite long in the making*. It took a few kings to be properly picked up but by 1211, a royal French figure is for the first time depicted on a seal with a shield that displays a “semy-de-lys”.
By then, however, the fleur-de-lys was a proper heraldic emblem, only second in popularity to the lion, the eagle, or a few geometric figures. It was often encountered in various places such as the northern Low Countries, the Rhine valley, the duchy of Brabant, the county of Artois, the duchy of Tuscany, many regions in France, etc. On seals, it ranks among the most used symbols in Normandy, Flanders, Zeeland and Switzerland. It was imprinted on the emblem of peasant families, urban communities (such as guilds) and cities. The city of Lille, in France, bears the lily on its coat of arms because it makes up for a great pun. In Latin, the lily is called lilium, it resembled “Lille” enough to draw a visual parallel.
* Though it was long in the making, the symbolism also lasted very long. In the basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which is a 19th century construction, we find a gorgeous mosaic of Louis XIII begging Mary to give him a son and secure the future of his realm. The prayer was heard and a son was born. He grew up to become Louis XIV. The Virgin Mary so appears, on several mosaics of the basilica, to have granted her special protection to the kingdom of France through the ages. Isn’t it amazing? How long symbols can survive?
3. The Fleur-de-Lys, Joan of Arc and the Medici
By the 15th century, the king of France started to share his emblematic fleur-de-lys to people, families and communities that supported him through hard times. I’ve already touched on it in my post about Joan of Arc’s origins but I don’t mind to cover the topic again. It’ll give me the opportunity to pile a few more details on the stack for you insatiable history geeks.
Some people have believed, because Joan of Arc was granted the right to carry a fleur-de-lys on her own coat of arms, that Charles VII secretly acknowledged her as his secret royal sister. What a prank! By the 15th century, French kings had already begun a long-lasting political strategy that we could tag as the hostile public takeover of power symbols. Just like they claimed that only them and no other could have inherited their aristocratic title “by the Grace of God”, they wished to monopolize the fleur-de-lys as their own symbol. The fleur-de-lys, despite its wide and ancient popularity, belonged to them, represented them, and was for them to “offer” to their most precious allies.
French kings would grant people the right to bear the fleur-de-lys on their coat of arms as a symbolic gesture of binding friendship.Joan of Arc wasn’t the only one to “receive” the fleur-de-lys from Charles VII. John Stewart of Darnley, Constable of the Scottish Army in France, was also granted the fleur-de-lys on his personal coat of arms, back in 1426, three years prior to Joan’s epic. Two cities at least, Tournay (1426-1427) and Saint-Maixant (1440) were also awarded fleur-de-lys for their valiant resistance against the “English”. Louis XI, who succeeded Charles VII, might have hated his father, but he understood the political finesse behind gifting the fleur-de-lys. He awarded it himself to the Medici family in 1465 for their precious aid.
The fact that two daughters of the Medici family later became queen of France certainly furthered the popularity of the fleur-de-lys. If you happen to visit the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, you will end up in a room which walls are covered with fleur-de-lys.
Conclusion: Charles VI, the Winged Deer and the Fleur-de-Lys
I started with the mystery of Charles VI’s winged deer. I haven’t forgotten about it. Truth is that the deer, just like the fleur-de-lys, carried a religious meaning. The deer had been interpreted by scholars and theologians as a “red beast” (meaning, a good beast) and as a symbol of Christ—for various reasons that would be too long to enumerate here. The lion, too, was a symbol of Christ, though it is a predator. On the contrary, wolves, bears or boars had become devilish avatars.
To conclude on that note, the popularity of the fleur-de-lys was boosted by its perception as a religious and then regal emblem. It quickly became a popular emblem on coat of arms from the very start, but its political (and spiritual) appropriation by the kings of France only made it more visible, meaningful and desirable.
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.
DidJoan of Arc actually fight and lead an army in the battle of Orleans, or was she propped up as a figurehead?
So I’ve always wondered this since I learned about Joan of Arc in grade school. IIRC, she was an illiterate girl whose only real education was in Catholicism. After apparently hearing the voice of God telling her that she’s destined to lead France to victory, she convinced then-prince Charles to give her an army to take back Orleans, and that she would install him as king. And of course, she succeeded in both endeavors.
Here’s my question: in lieu her limited education and experience, did she actually fight in and lead an army/devise tactics for the battle to retake Orleans? Or was she simply “given credit” for political, troop morale, and enemy intimidation purposes?
The idea of Joan fighting is not debated. Many written sources relayed the fact that she was properly armed on the battlefield and participated in the war effort. She got hit by arrows twice, at Orléans (in the shoulder) and at Paris (in the leg). She was fighting alright!
Now, what about her commanding the troops? Kelly DeVries wrote a biography on Joan of Arc to argue that she was in fact “A Military Leader” (1999). However he gives Joan too much credit in my opinion. He states that Joan’s rashness inspired other military leaders of her time when I actually observed in the 15th century chronicles that everything Joan “did”, the other captains serving Charles VII were already doing it long before she came to the scene (attacking the enemy by surprise, being relentless, etc.). What mostly held them back was the politics behind the war.
Many written sources relayed the fact that she was properly armed on the battlefield and participated in the war effort. She got hit by arrows twice, at Orléans (in the shoulder) and at Paris (in the leg).
Philippe Contamine, the most expert French historian about the 15th century, already observed that the English were poorly organized at Orléans. Their forces were too widely spread around the town. It was “easy” to take down one fort after the other. When Joan arrived, the most skilled of Charles VII’s captains were already at Orléans: La Hire, Poton de Xaintrailles, the Chabanne brothers, the bastard of Orléans… Those people knew how to fight and they had no duke nor prince to overrule them. They could “play ugly” and they didn’t care for the glory or the etiquette. The battle of Patay is an obvious example of that. La Hire and Xaintrailles rushed the enemy as soon as they spotted them, taking them by surprise and routing them out. A few months ago, at the battle of the Herrings, they’d been asked to wait for the arrival of the duke of Bourbon, who wished to claim the glory of the battle. It led to a gory defeat as the English mustered the time to organize their defending position and make themselves impervious to swift and heavy cavalry charges (a French specialty).
Nevertheless, Joan certainly wished to act as a commander. She was quite bossy, and sassy too. She was never given any proper command title, but she certainly became a leading figure in the French army. Though she mostly became some kind of celebrity–people loved and/or hated her, she was on every lips—she also acted as a proper commander. At Compiègne, when she was captured, she was actually insuring the retreat of “her” troops by staying behind. According to the chivalric art of war, a leader was always supposed to be on the front line, the closest to the enemy. Joan of Arc was also the most relentless “leader” at the siege of Paris. She was determined to take the city (which was defended by Burgundian soldiers—she hated the Burgundians). The duke of Alençon actually had to go and fetch her to take her away from the battle when everybody knew the day was lost.
There was a glass-ceiling that she never could break. She never was a formal military leader. Moreover her military “career” was far too short for her to prove herself as an autonomous leader.
The school of war was done on the battlefield at the beginning of the 15th century. We suspect some of Charles VII’s captains of not being able to write or read. Yet they could certainly fight and come up with crazy and daring tactics. Many of Charles VII’s captains were actually “self-taught” (meaning they were schooled by masters on the battlefield through practice and didn’t go to an academy of any kind) and were appointed/elected to their position by their peers since the military institutions of that time fell into total anarchy between 1418 and 1441. Some of them even had pretty obscure origins, pretty much like Joan of Arc.
In conclusion there was a glass-ceiling that she never could break. She never was a formal military leader. Moreover her military “career” was far too short for her to prove herself as an autonomous leader. She didn’t have any military company of her own (any proper “captain” had his own band of brothers-in-arms). She always tagged along or she was placed, here and there, as a mascot–which infuriated her. La Hire, Xaintrailles and others actually tried to replace her once she was dead with a random shepherd they found on some field or something. It led to an utter disaster of a battle that, to my knowledge, was only recorded by a Burgundian chronicler (but a reliable one). The endeavor was never repeated. However, Joan of Arc showed promises and at that time women could lead armies. Princesses, Queens or Duchesses actually commanded their troops in some cases when their husbands were away (or dead). Little is known about them actually fighting, though, but they certainly knew how to rule and strategize. The key at that time for any ruler was to surround themselves with shrewd and capable advisors and to listen to them, then only to take decisions and boss people around—well, that’s what I believe at least—but also what people at that time thought of good government!
La Hire, Xaintrailles and others actually tried to replace her once she was dead with a random shepherd they found on some field or something.
For further readings, don’t hesitate to ask, but most of the scholarly work on Joan of Arc was written in French. A good place to start though is the forever great Pernoud, Régine & Clin, Marie-Véronique. Joan of Arc: Her Story. trans. Jeremy Duquesnay Adams. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999.
Welcome to our class of Heraldry 101, young Padawan. I’m glad you made it on time. Today, we’ll discuss why the kings of France preferred a flower over, say, some powerful predator like the lion or the bear. I mean, isn’t it weird? And even weirded when you think that Charles VI chose winged deer as his emblem instead of… I don’t know… winged wolves, or dragons?
People took Joan of Arc seriously because they believed in magic and miracles. She was only human though, but that’s what makes her story even more fascinating.
Joan of Arc Hero-General in Age of Empires 2
In a former post I briefly discussed about how Age of Empires 2 wrongly gave Joan of Arc the title of “Commander of the Army of France”. That function actually lied with the “Connétable” (which was the proper title of such a high office) who was chosen for life by the king—once he’d obtained his title, it couldn’t be taken away from him. Back in 1429, the French Connétable was Arthur de Richemont, who has an entry on my blog regarding his background.
First, I would like to pinpoint where that historical mistake came from. Then I would like to say a few more words about Richemont’s relationship with Joan of Arc as the actual commander-in-chief or the French army.
Joe Staten, creative director for Microsoft who helped to design the first Age of Empires game stated that his “real passion was history. [He] read a lot of historical fiction and so when Age came around […] it was this perfect melding of the kinds of games that [he] liked to play: real-time strategy games with this history that [he] loved.”
There we have it: the Age of Empires series doesn’t draw from history books but from historical novels. Building on that fact it becomes quite easy to find out the novel that inspired the Joan of Arc campaign in Age of Empires 2. We just have to look at the most influential of them all: the Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain, first published in 1896. As a matter of fact, that very novel contains a chapter titled “She Is Made General-In-Chief.” It isn’t too long so I’ll simply paste it here for you to read.
Mark Twain Creates Joan of Arc General
It was indeed a great day, and a stirring thing to see.
She had won! It was a mistake of Tremouille and her other ill-wishers to let her hold court those nights.
The commission of priests sent to Lorraine ostensibly to inquire into Joan’s character—in fact to weary her with delays and wear out her purpose and make her give it up—arrived back and reported her character perfect. Our affairs were in full career now, you see.
Dead France woke suddenly to life, wherever the great news travelled. Whereas before, the spiritless and cowed people hung their heads and slunk away if one mentioned war to them, now they came clamoring to be enlisted under the banner of the Maid of Vaucouleurs, and the roaring of war-songs and the thundering of the drums filled all the air.
The verdict made a prodigious stir. Dead France woke suddenly to life, wherever the great news travelled. Whereas before, the spiritless and cowed people hung their heads and slunk away if one mentioned war to them, now they came clamoring to be enlisted under the banner of the Maid of Vaucouleurs, and the roaring of war-songs and the thundering of the drums filled all the air. I remembered now what she had said, that time there in our village when I proved by facts and statistics that France’s case was hopeless, and nothing could ever rouse the people from their lethargy:
“They will hear the drums—and they will answer, they will march!”
It has been said that misfortunes never come one at a time, but in a body. In our case it was the same with good luck. Having got a start, it came flooding in, tide after tide. Our next wave of it was of this sort. There had been grave doubts among the priests as to whether the Church ought to permit a female soldier to dress like a man. But now came a verdict on that head. Two of the greatest scholars and theologians of the time—one of whom had been Chancellor of the University of Paris—rendered it. They decided that since Joan “must do the work of a man and a soldier, it is just and legitimate that her apparel should conform to the situation.”
Two of the greatest scholars and theologians of the time—one of whom had been Chancellor of the University of Paris—rendered it. They decided that since Joan “must do the work of a man and a soldier, it is just and legitimate that her apparel should conform to the situation.”
It was a great point gained, the Church’s authority to dress as a man. Oh, yes, wave on wave the good luck came sweeping in. Never mind about the smaller waves, let us come to the largest one of all, the wave that swept us small fry quite off our feet and almost drowned us with joy. The day of the great verdict, couriers had been despatched to the King with it, and the next morning bright and early the clear notes of a bugle came floating to us on the crisp air, and we pricked up our ears and began to count them. One—two—three; pause; one—two; pause; one—two—three, again—and out we skipped and went flying; for that formula was used only when the King’s herald-at-arms would deliver a proclamation to the people. As we hurried along, people came racing out of every street and house and alley, men, women, and children, all flushed, excited, and throwing lacking articles of clothing on as they ran; still those clear notes pealed out, and still the rush of people increased till the whole town was abroad and streaming along the principal street. At last we reached the square, which was now packed with citizens, and there, high on the pedestal of the great cross, we saw the herald in his brilliant costume, with his servitors about him. The next moment he began his delivery in the powerful voice proper to his office:
“Know all men, and take heed therefore, that the most high, the most illustrious Charles, by the grace of God King of France, hath been pleased to confer upon his well-beloved servant Joan of Arc, called the Maid, the title, emoluments, authorities, and dignity of General-in-Chief of the Armies of France—”
“The most illustrious Charles, by the grace of God King of France, hath been pleased to confer upon his well-beloved servant Joan of Arc, called the Maid, the title, emoluments, authorities, and dignity of General-in-Chief of the Armies of France.”
Here a thousand caps flew in the air, and the multitude burst into a hurricane of cheers that raged and raged till it seemed as if it would never come to an end; but at last it did; then the herald went on and finished:
—“and hath appointed to be her lieutenant and chief of staff a prince of his royal house, his grace the Duke of Alençon!”
That was the end, and the hurricane began again, and was split up into innumerable strips by the blowers of it and wafted through all the lanes and streets of the town.
General of the Armies of France, with a prince of the blood for subordinate! Yesterday she was nothing—to-day she was this. Yesterday she was not even a sergeant, not even a corporal, not even a private—to-day, with one step, she was at the top. Yesterday she was less than nobody to the newest recruit—to-day her command was law to La Hire, Saintrailles, the Bastard of Orleans, and all those others, veterans of old renown, illustrious masters of the trade of war. These were the thoughts I was thinking; I was trying to realize this strange and wonderful thing that had happened, you see.
Yesterday she was not even a sergeant, not even a corporal, not even a private—to-day, with one step, she was at the top. Yesterday she was less than nobody to the newest recruit—to-day her command was law to La Hire.
My mind went travelling back, and presently lighted upon a picture—a picture which was still so new and fresh in my memory that it seemed a matter of only yesterday—and indeed its date was no further back than the first days of January. This is what it was. A peasant-girl in a far-off village, her seventeenth year not yet quite completed, and herself and her village as unknown as if they had been on the other side of the globe. She had picked up a friendless wanderer somewhere and brought it home—a small gray kitten in a forlorn and starving condition—and had fed it and comforted it and got its confidence and made it believe in her, and now it was curled up in her lap asleep, and she was knitting a coarse stocking and thinking—dreaming—about what, one may never know. And now—the kitten had hardly had time to become a cat, and yet already the girl is General of the Armies of France, with a prince of the blood to give orders to, and out of her village obscurity her name has climbed up like the sun and is visible from all corners of the land! It made me dizzy to think of these things, they were so out of the common order, and seemed so impossible.
3 Historical Mistakes In Twain’s Narrative
Unfortunately Mark Twain wasn’t writing a history book but a historical novel. To be good or great novels abide to a set of dramatic rules. Everything seems “bigger than life” though at the same time “oddly probable” in a novel.
In order to make his novel more enticing or catchy, Mark Twain tweaked a few facts here and there. Nothing much… but just enough to mix the historical truth with pure fiction and sell a few lies as facts.
There Were No Statistics in the Middle Ages
Twain really wants to make us understand how crazy Joan’s mission was. How impossible it was deemed to achieve. How incredible it was when it was. That’s what makes her story worthy of being told. Joan’s story is worth to be remembered because she did the impossible. She was a simple peasant girl who lead the French army to an impossible victory against the English. That’s the pitch.
Therefore Joan is not only confronted to a fixed social order but also to cold hard reason. It’s being shown in the novel through the anachronistic use of statistics. There were to statistics in the Middle Age. The mathematical optimisation of the public order was not yet a thing. The mathematical language in itself had not even been constructed yet! However, “numbers don’t lie”. We live today with the deluded notion that numbers reflect the truth and reality itself (as if the production of those statistical numbers wasn’t a problem in and of itself).
Twain uses that familiarity he expects from the reader with the everyday use of statistics to make Joan’s tale “bigger than life” and even more incredible than it actually is. The anachronism of that literary stratagem doesn’t even pose a problem.
Joan of Arc Never Was General in Chief
Remember the pitch. Joan’s story is worth to be remembered because she did the impossible. She was a simple peasant girl who lead the French army to an impossible victory against the English. We already have the “bigger than life” element sorted out: her quest defeated all the statistics that could be thrown at her. Now comes the “oddly probable” moment.
How come that she led the French army to victory? Simple. She was made General in Chief. Twain is starting to pile up lies here. He’s building a proper house of cards. But here comes the wind.
Short story short, the duke of Alençon had been captured into battle a few months prior to the siege of Orléans. He’d been invited by the duke of Burgundy to join the English alliance but he refused. His grandfather had died at Crécy and his father, most heroically, at Agincourt. His lands had been taken away from him by the English. He was left penniless with nothing to go on but his good name and sense of honour. Therefore if politely but firmly declined the offer.
First order of business: Joan was never created General in Chief. Not only did that title not existed at the time, but also Joan wasn’t given any official commanding title of any kind. It was merely agreed that she could accompany the army. Nothing more, although she quickly rose as a moral and religious exemplary figure and natural leader. She made the French army ring the Te Deum on their departure from Blois to Orléans.
What’s funny is that Twain resorts again to anachronism here, by referencing to modern military grades and titles of command. He talks of “privates” when there was no such thing back then. It could be construed as a literary adaptation, a way to make the subject clearer to the reader. However, it mostly induces a fake sense of the medieval reality…
Moreover, any basic knowledge of medieval armies at the time makes this “oddly probable” moment another “bigger than life” ingredient of narration. So big, this one, in fact, that we need to resort to a suspension of disbelief to make the rest of the novel any enjoyable. We clearly left the realm of facts for the country of fictions.
The Duke of Alençon Never Was Joan’s Lieutenant
Since Twain started to pile lies up, why not top it with a cherry and make it a nice cake with frosting and everything? The duke of Alençon is made Joan’s lieutenant. She has a really bloody prince under her command! What’s up with that?
Short story short, the duke of Alençon had been captured into battle a few months prior to the siege of Orléans. He’d been invited by the duke of Burgundy to join the English alliance but he refused. His grandfather had died at Crécy and his father, most heroically, at Agincourt. His lands had been taken away from him by the English. He was left penniless with nothing to go on but his good name and sense of honour. Therefore if politely but firmly declined the offer.
At that point he was released and could rejoin his wife who, to make things less complicated, was the step-sister of the king of England. You know. Family’s a bitch. Nevertheless he couldn’t fight the English nor the Burgundians anymore as long as he hadn’t settle his ransom. It was not yet the case when Joan left for Orléans. That’s why he didn’t contributed to the city being liberated. He couldn’t have. He was bond by the code of chivalry. The man of the hour at Orléans was the Bastard of Orléans. And he certainly took no order from Joan! He kept her in the dark regarding most of the strategic decisions and meetings which drove her mad.
Joan’s story is worth to be remembered because she did the impossible. She was a simple peasant girl who lead the French army to an impossible victory against the English. That’s the pitch.
You’d understand though that for a novelist trying to sell a narrative pitch, those kind of facts would be deemed negligible and wouldn’t make out for a “great story”. They had to be tweaked if not properly erased and presented differently.
The Proof that Age of Empires 2 Was Based on Twain’s Novel
We have already stated that Joe Staten, creative director for the Age of Empires series, got his inspiration from historical novels. Mark Twain wrote a historical novel about Joan of Arc. We only have to connect the dots now.
As a matter of fact there is no mention of any statistics in Age of Empires 2 within Joan of Arc’s narrative. We can therefore rule that lumpy anachronism out. There is no connection there.
The most obvious evidence that AoE2 told the story of Joan of Arc after Twain’s novel lies with the duke of Alençon. Indeed, he greets the player as he/she starts the second scenario: The Maid of Orléans. Not only is it a historical inacurracy. It’s the very embellishment that Twain drew out to make Joan’s story “bigger than life”.
This is hard evidence if there is any. The fact that AoE2 also gives Joan the title of general could contribute to build our case here but there is much more to say regading the Twain-AoE2 romance about the portrayal of La Hire [blogpost on that topic underway].
The Real “General” of the French Army: Arthur de Richemont
Richemont appears in Age of Empires 2 when the players reaches the last scenario in Joan’s story. He’s to lead the French army at the battle of Castillon alongside other heroes among which La Hire who either survived his own death or crawled out of his grave. La Hire dies in 1443 and the battle of Castillon takes place in 1453. I let you work the numbers out. Remember! “Numbers don’t lie.”
The Medieval French Army … In Theory
The French Army went under a lot of development during the Hundred Years’ War. It took quite a bit of time for it but waging war became the business of professionals, a small group of people who devoted their whole life to the art of war. Noblemen were slowly being pushed out of the business for their religious worship of proper etiquette led to utter military disasters. The feudal pyramid of old was crumbling from within. Noblemen were more and more focused on administrative matters and less and less prone to the actual exercice of war. This tendency does NOT constitute an absolute however. The Burgundian alliance was renowned for its traditionnalism. The duke of Burgundy found many capable military leaders within his nobility. Just as the French army grew out of the Feudal System, the Burgundian army maintained everything it could from it: the titles of old, the etiquette, the chivalrous ranking system, etc.
The French army had a constable at its head and two marshalls (maréchaux) to fill in for him. They represented the king himself and anyone challenging their authority was also challenging the king. Once appointed they couldn’t be replaced until their death.
The shift for the French army started with Charles V (1338-1380). This king properly turned the tables on the English and his son would have put an end to the Hundred Years’ War if he hadn’t gone mad. The French army was put under the ‘managment’ of its constable (connétable): Bertrand Du Guesclin. It followed strict rules: no open engagement on any battlefield, a war of attrition, sneak and surgical attacks, a solid regulation of the men-at-arms roaming the country. The great dukes and princes were pushed out of the leadership of the war but the king feared no real opposition for he heavily relied upon his brothers (the duke of Berry and the duke of Burgundy) and they followed his leadership closely, going as far as copying the royal administration within their own estates to manage it.
At this point the French army had a constable at its head and two marshalls (maréchaux) to fill in for him. They represented the king himself and anyone challenging their authority was also challenging the king. Once appointed they couldn’t be replaced until their death. Now what happened is that Charles VI couldn’t maintain this neat system intact. He delved into demencia, his uncles took control of the government and the dukes and princes started to fight each other for power. The royal army was dried out of money and the king’s authority came to naught. When Charles VII eventually took over his father, the French army was in a state of utter anarchy. The soldiers were not being paid and resorted to plunder and unregulated attacks on the king’s enemy to make a living. They were often high in debt and roamed the country in search of lucrative ventures. Captains were appointed by their own men and the military military mistruted the mighty dukes and princes for they usually knew better how to take or to defend a city.
Charles VII had a weak character and was easily manipulated. He favoured close friends a bit too much and he let the people he liked rule in his stead. First there was Pierre de Giac, then there was Camus de Beaulieu. Richemont had both of them killed.
Richemont Falls Into Disgrace
Richemont was a highborn son of the House of Britanny. Though he was not the firstborn son of his father, he eventually became Duke of Britanny at the end of his life. Since his mother married Henry IV of England, he also had close ties to the House of Lancaster. However, he was raised by the duke of Burgundy and had even closer ties to the Burgundian nobility. He even became himself a Burgundian lord when he married a Burgundian princess. Nevertheless he refused to enter the Anglo-Burgundian alliance and reached for Charles VII through the Queen of Sicily, Yolande of Aragon. She made him constable and from 1425 onwards he became the official “General in Chief” of the French army.
Charles VII had a weak character and was easily manipulated. He favoured close friends a bit too much and he let the people he liked rule in his stead. First there was Pierre de Giac, then there was Camus de Beaulieu. Richemont had both of them killed then he appointed Georges de La Trémoille to watch over the king and gain his favours. However, La Trémoille was far richer than Giac or Beaulieu and, most of all, shrewd as hell. His ambition led him to challenge his former patron and create a faction within Charles VII’s council against Richemont.
Despite a few splendid military successes, like the liberation of Montargis (1427), Richemont had to go into exile and avoid the king’s court altogether. His brother, Duke of Britanny, had joined again the Anglo-Burgundian alliance and Richemont’s name was utterly ternished by such a diplomatic failure. The English could push forward against a disorganized French army and they eventually reached Orléans. La Trémoille reigned supreme and unchallenged. That’s when Joan of Arc showed up at Chinon.
La Trémoille was far richer than Giac or Beaulieu and, most of all, shrewd as hell. His ambition led him to challenge his former patron and create a faction within Charles VII’s council against Richemont.
As Joan convinced the king to take action, Richemont was still in exile. He was even formerly forbidden by the king to join with the French army on the battlefield. However, the captains that were defending Orléans were kind of his good men. The Bastard of Orléans, La Hire, Poton de Xaintrailles, such leaders had formerly found a strong political ally in Richemont when it came to liberate Montargis back in 1427. Richemont had even took out of his own pocket to insure their military services. Moreover they had no love for the high and mighty lords that haunted the king’s court.
They had had their reservation against Richemont, of course. He was a high born himself and they knew through experience that such people used to look down on them. At Montargis they had bluntly told him to stay behind and leave them deal with the enemy (which they did most successfully! routing John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, himself!). Nevertheless Richemont had recognized their proper value when no one else had and it sure meant something.
Joan of Arc Meets Arthur de Richemont
Let’s rewind this story for a minute.
To make complicated matters quite simple, Arthur’s mother married Henry IV of England when Arthur’s dad, who had been duke of Britanny, died. Do you remember? However, as Henry V rose to the throne, Arthur’s mother was deemed… a nuisance. Therefore she was put on trial for sorcery. She never had to fear for her life though, this trial was more of a way to put her aside politically and make room for the new king. Nevertheless, I think we need to keep that piece of background history in mind when we come to the moment Arthur de Richemont met Joan of Arc.
Now, let’s jump to this blogpost conclusion.
Orléans was free! The Maid had achieved her miracle. However, the Loire still had to be cleansed from English rule. At that very moment, the duke of Alençon had finally paid the last chunk of his ransom and could ride back into battle to honour the memory of his ancestors. The king appointed him as his “lieutenant-général”, meaning he was now put in charge of the French army. Jargeau, Meung, Beaugency: those powerful cities were to fall back under French rule!
Jargeau fell. Then Meung. Joan the Maid, the duke of Alençon and La Hire were heading towards Beaugency but the English were gathering more troops to fight them off. The troops were tired. A victory seemed uncertain at this point. Were the French heading to a new Vae Victis?
Sensing a change in the winds, Richemont decided to turn up with his personal army. La Trémoille got enraged. The French army led by Alençon was under a great commotion. Joan had been convinced that Richemont had to be defeated. She turned to the captains of the army, the Bastard of Orléans, La Hire, Poton de Xaintrailles. Their reaction was as rash as it can be: “If you go against the constable, you’ll find someone to talk to! We’d rather serve under the command of Richemont and fight alongside his men than to fight alongside all the maids of the realm!” Joan wisened up fast and convinced Alençon that fighting Richemont was a bad idea. La Trémoille could enrage all he wanted, Richemont reached the French army and both parties met in the most joyfull manner.
Richemont eventually met the Maid of Lorraine and spoke with her. His words were recorded for the posterity. He said: “Joan, I’m being told you want to fight against me… I don’t know if you are sent by the devil or by God. If you’re sent by God, I don’t fear you. If you’re sent by the devil, I fear you even less.” Then he asked Joan to plead for him to the king to reinstate him in his charge before they went on and took back Beugeancy together whilst Richemont’s reinforcements helped to defend Meung that was under a heavy counterattack.
I’ll surely write more on those historical events when I ever write my walkthrough + historical commentary of Joan’s third scenario in Age of Empires 2: “The Cleansing of the Loire”.
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
late. Yet again, it’s still Tuesday somewhere!
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?
think that conspiracy theories would be limited to our contemporary era, did
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.
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?
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).
about your wife, my liege? Isn’t she also born from the mad king?”
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
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.
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*.
thought Game of Thrones was full of
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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 …
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
some case, is more meaningful than any formulated opinion…
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
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.
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.
Disclaimer: This blogpost is nothing but free mindless rambling. Don’t mind it.
This blogpost also contains spoilers. Be warned.
Tarantino gets all riled up when he reads history books. Why? I’m gonna tell
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
The Gates of Heaven
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
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.
likes it R-rated.
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.
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!
…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.
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.
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.
(3 books) by William Napier, which is historical fantasy, overall a
great read but would like to have more of an overview and historically
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.
Möhring, Hannes. Saladin: The Sultan and His Times, 1138-1193. Translated by David S. Bachrach. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2009.
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.
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 theRegesta 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.
6. El Cid
Clarke, Henry Butler. The Cid Campeador and the Waning of the Crescent in the West. New York: AMS, 1978.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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
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.
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…
The Siege of Orléans
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
How History played out
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
La méthode la plusfacile 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
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
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
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
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
Talbotest contraint de plier
bagages et il évacue les forteresses campées autour de la ville assiégée.
La libération de la
Loire peut enfin commencer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
The Map of France
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.