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.
In the following paragraphs it will look like I’m dismantling piece by piece the second scenario of Joan of Arc’s campaign in Age of Empires 2. However this is a love letter more than anything. Age of Empires 2 is a fantastic video game to discover the Middle Ages. There is much to say about the scenarios and the in-game encyclopedia, but that’s only for the better when you really think of it.
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.
This, for one, is a wonderful text. It really helps us to connect with Joan’s story on an emotional level. However, it is filled with inaccuracies…
Though Joan’s brothers were given nobility titles after the victory of Orléans, she was never invested of any official military title. The “Commander of the Army of France” was the ‘connétable’ and that man, since 1425, was Arthur of Bretagne, count of Richemont. Connétables were chosen for life. Richemont himself had fallen into disgrace because of his political actions (he had drowned the king’s favorite courtier) but he still held on his title. Right under him were the ‘maréchaux’ and those titles had also already been handed out to other aristocrats.
Regarding Joan’s famous sword, it didn’t belong to Charlemagne… First off, the fleur-de-lis only became a symbol of the French royalty during the 12th century, once coat of arms were properly invented. It couldn’t have been Charlemagne’s emblem. Secondly, the sword was not miraculously found, dug up or given to Joan. It was merely an ex-voto that caught her eye when she went in pilgrimage to Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois on her way to Chinon.
Finally, when Joan arrived to Orléans the Burgundians had already lifted the siege. Poton de Xaintrailles, La Hire’s brother in arm, had risked a dangerous diplomatic move. He’d offered to open Orléans to the Duke of Burgundy if he could insure the safety of its inhabitants. Philip the Good wished for nothing less but it angered the Duke of Bedford, Regent of France. The two men were at odds since Anne of Burgundy had passed away. Sister to Philip the Good and Bedford’s former wife, she’d already saved the Anglo-Burgundian alliance in the past and her death left the alliance in tatters. Therefore, the English were left alone to besiege Orléans.
1.1. The Map: Orléans surrounded
In this scenario we find three French cities: Chinon and Blois, south of the Loire, controlled by the artificial intelligence, and Orléans, north of the Loire, which the player takes over as soon as he steps into it.
Orléans is threatened by four British fortresses, two north of the city, which produce long swordsmen, longbowmen and mangonels, plus two other, south of the city, which produce battering rams and knights.
Furthermore, the Burgundians are still in play, though it is historically inaccurate. They send up spearmen to attack Orléans along other units.
Since all those units will continuously attack the player, he will have to produce a vast variety of counter units to push back the AI efficiently. It will be tricky to balance an economy properly to that end, however, with a population capped at 75…
1.2. The Siege of Orléans
Historically speaking, Orléans was surrounded by English bastions, mainly west to the city. John Talbot, knight of the Order of the Garter, was commanding those fortified places himself. He’d been a real thorn in the shoe of the French since he landed on the Continent, back in 1427. The British also had a few bastions eastwards, but first and foremost they occupied the ‘Bastille des Tourelles’ that closed the Loire bridge. It forced the people of Orléans to destroy the bridge so that it couldn’t be crossed, contrarily to what the player can do in the Age of Empires 2 scenario.
For its defense, Orléans had no less than thirty towers along its walls and barricades also blocked the city access in the suburbs. Churches also could serve as fortified places. However, the people of Orléans struggle every day a bit more to ration their food and they urgently needed supplies to maintain their spirits up.
2.1. How the scenario plays out
The second scenario of Joan of Arc’s campaign has a few surprises but it plays in a quite straightforward fashion. It starts at Chinon with the Duke of Alençon greeting Joan. He moves towards her on his gorgeous steed: “I’m the Duke d’Alençon, my Lady. I will proudly ride with you to Orléans.”
From that point in the very southern corner of the map, Joan, Alençon and their troops ride to Blois where they will meet the king’s army. On their way they’ll fight out a little ambush if they don’t avoid it, but when they reach Blois, the player gets a full load of knights, crossbowmen and trade carts to provide Orléans in resources. Those trade carts must reach the city town center, not the market, for the resources to be collected by the player.
Exiting Blois, Joan can reach Orléans through the dirt path leading to the Loire bridge but that’ll force her into an early battle against Burgundian troops guarding the access. However, transport ships are waiting to help the player across the river and out of harm way. Whatever the choice taken by the player, Joan and the French army reach Orléans through one of its two southern gates.
Once into Orléans, the objective is quite simple: keep the city cathedral safe, maintain Joan of Arc alive and destroy one of the four English castles. Whenever the trade carts get to the city forum, the player gets resources and he can start to build his economy with the few villagers he finds in Orléans.
The easiest and quickest way to win the scenario, however, is to get to Castle Age as soon as the trade carts get to Orléans forum. Forget about the economy altogether. Cross back the river Loire with a few villagers and build a siege workshop at the back of the southern British fortress. As soon as you can create a few battering rams, break down the British walls, get inside their base and ram down their castles. The knights you get in Blois can also swoop in for extra damages: the castles don’t have the murder holes technology.
Now, if you want to play really tricky, though it requires a bit of skills, station your knights between the two southern British fortresses, wait for villagers to open the gates while passing through it to gather resources, rush into the enemy base and bring fire the old fashion way: through good old sword repetitive smacking.
2.2. How History played out
First things first: the Duke of Alençon has nothing to do in this scenario. He only comes up in Joan’s saga much later, notably during the siege of Paris. The real historical character who supervised the military operations on the French side was the bastard of Orléans, Jean Dunois. La Hire, who is introduced to the Age of Empires 2 player in the next scenario, was also of the party.
In summary, the French army commanded by the maréchal de Boussac, in company of La Hire, Joan of Arc and a convoy of supplies, journey from Blois to Orléans. In order to reach the besieged city, they decide to go around it from the east and cross the Loire River on transport ships. The bastard of Orléans waits firmly for the resupply and supervise the crossing.
When she meets Dunois, Joan is upset. She demands why they didn’t cross west of Orléans, where the English are the most heavily fortified, where John Talbot who commands the troops is located. Dunois is flabbergasted by Joan’s audacity. She dare answer that the advice she brings is better than his, for she’s sent by God. At that point, the wind was not favorable for a crossing. All of a sudden it changed and Dunois interpreted it as a miracle, when he talked about it years later during Joan’s second trial.
The maréchal de Boussac and the French army, however, turn back to Blois. Joan of Arc, La Hire and the resupply convoy cross the Loire. They briefly rest at Reuilly with Dunois then ride to Orléans. The English garrisoned in the bastille of Saint-Loup attempt to attack the convoy but last minute reinforcements from Orléans distract them from their purpose. Joan and the convoy arrive in Orléans untouched to the great relief of the population. One man get so close to Joan to better see her that he actually puts her sleeve on fire with his torch. The disaster is fortunately avoided.
Far to dictate the strategy, Joan is kept in the dark. Nothing is shared to her. The bastard of Orléans and the faithfull captains of Charles VII talk shop without her. When she awakes from a nap, Joan says she saw in a dream that French blood was spilled. She puts on her armor and gallops out of Orléans. She reaches the French troops attacking Saint-Loup and the place is taken.
The bastille of the Augustins is next to fall, then the French mount an attack against the Tourelles, which guards the bridge entry facing Orléans. All day long, the French troops can’t overcome the English defenders of the fortress. Nevertheless, thanks to Joan’s last galvanizing speech, they gather their last drops of courage and eventually conquer the place. The French army based in Blois has now a freeway to enter Orléans. John Talbot is forced to leave and empties the last English strongholds parked around the besieged city.
The liberation of the Loire can finally begin.
Outro: Joan of Arc’s Campaign, Second Scenario
Joan prophesied that she would be wounded at Orléans. At the height of the battle, an arbalest bolt knocked her from her horse. We could not believe our misfortune.
But as we carried Joan away from the carnage, the battle was won. Orléans was free.
When we entered the city, the entire population cheered us on from windows, rooftops, and city streets.
They fired artillery into the night sky and shouted aloud their nickname for Joan: ‘La Pucelle’—The Maid of Orléans.
Joan actually predicted her injury. As he travelled to Lyon for the sake of his master, the Duke of Brabant, the lord of Rotselaar gave news from Charles VII’s court. His letter, dated from April 22th, 1429, mentions that a young woman swore to liberate Orléans, but that she will be injured during the battle. The attack of the bastille des Tourelles happened two weeks after this letter was sent and Joan is indeed struck by a range weapon in the morning, right in the shoulder. Her prediction is also stated in other sources. To this day the historians remain fascinated.
Joan, once injured, cries. However, she refuses to be healed through witchcraft. She takes the arrow out of her shoulder herself, with nothing else than olive oil and a piece of cloth to ease her pain. She goes back to battle. As the evening drops, the day seems lost but she carries on. “Fear not, the place is ours!” she shouts as she sees her banner close to the fortress walls, pointing out to everybody where to strike. The French muster their morale, dive once more into the breach and eventually conquers the Tourelles in a last assault that will become unforgettable.
The night proceeds with careful celebrations as Talbot hasn’t left yet. However, no artillery fired into the night sky. Canons shot at the start of a siege. The bells rang, from all over the city. Gathered in churches, the people of Orléans and their defenders sang the Te Deum Laudamus that Joan had had the French army sing when they left Blois. It wasn’t Joan who was celebrated, but God.
Top 3 overlooked facts
The very last assault on the Tourelles gave place to great moments which are worth remembering.
The Loire Bridge had been partly destroyed. Seeing that the fight reached no conclusion, the people of Orléans decided to help out their allies. They threw planks across the long narrow bridge. The first one to come forth was a Knight Hospitaller, Nicolas de Giresme. His crossing was perceived as a miracle.
The English captains, however, were not so lucky… The drawbridge of the Tourelles collapses under their very feet and they all drown in the Loire. According to an Italian merchant relating the events of the siege, the drawbridge collapsed because of a demolition ship prepped on Joan of Arc’s orders, then moved forward at the most strategic moment!
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.
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