The Junior Classics
Part 2 out of 8
From fiord to sea,
Our ships ride free,
And down the wind with swelling sail
We scud before the gathering gale."
What a breezy, rollicking old saga it is! Can't you almost catch
the spray and sea-swell in its dashing measures, boys?
Now, turn to your atlases again and look for the large island of
Gotland off the southeastern coast of Sweden, in the midst of the
Baltic Sea. In the time of Olaf it was a thickly peopled and wealthy
district, and the principal town, Wisby, at the northern end, was
one of the busiest places in all Europe. To this attractive island
the boy viking sailed with all his ships, looking for rich booty,
but the Gotlanders met him with fair words and offered him so great
a "scatt," or tribute, that he agreed not to molest them, and rested
at the island, an unwelcome guest, through all the long winter.
Early in the spring he sailed eastward to the Gulf of Riga and spread
fear and terror along the coast of Finland. And the old saga tells
how the Finlanders "conjured up in the night, by their witchcraft,
a dreadful storm and bad weather; but the king ordered all the
anchors to be weighed and sail hoisted, and beat off all night to
the outside of the land. So the king's luck prevailed more than
the Finlander's witchcraft."
Then away "through the wild sea" to Denmark sailed the young pirate
king, and here he met a brother viking, one Thorkell the Tall. The
two chiefs struck up a sort of partnership; and coasting southward
along the western shores of Denmark, they won a sea-fight in the
Ringkiobing Fiord, among the "sand hills of Jutland." And so business
continued brisk with this curiously matched pirate firm--a giant
and a boy--until, under the cliffs of Kinlimma, in Friesland,
hasty word came to the boy viking that the English king, Ethelred
the Unready, was calling for the help of all sturdy fighters to
win back his heritage and crown from young King Cnut, or Canute
the Dane, whose father had seized the throne of England. Quick to
respond to an appeal that promised plenty of hard knocks, and the
possibility of unlimited booty, Olaf, the ever ready, hoisted his
blue and crimson sails and steered his war-ships over the sea to
help King Ethelred, the never ready. Up the Thames and straight
for London town he rowed.
"Hail to the serpent banner! Hail to Olaf the Brave!" said
King Ethelred, as the war-horns sounded a welcome; and on the low
shores of the Isle of Dogs, just below the old city, the keels of
the Norse war-ships grounded swiftly, and the boy viking and his
followers leaped ashore. "Thou dost come in right good time with
thy trusty dragon-ships, young king," said King Ethelred; "for the
Danish robbers are full well entrenched in London town and in my
father Edgar's castle."
And then he told Olaf how, "in the great trading place which
is called Southwark," the Danes had raised "a great work and dug
large ditches, and within had builded a bulwark of stone, timber,
and turf, where they had stationed a large army.
"And we would fain have taken this bulwark," added the king, "and
did in sooth bear down upon it with a great assault; but indeed we
could make naught of it."
"And why so?" asked the young viking.
"Because," said King Ethelred, "upon the bridge betwixt the castle
and Southwark have the ravaging Danes raised towers and parapets,
breast high, and thence they did cast down stones and weapons upon
us so that we could not prevail. And now, sea-king, what dost thou
counsel? How may we avenge ourselves of our enemies and win the
Impetuous as ever, and impatient of obstacles, the young viking
said: "How? why, pull thou down this bridge, king, and then may ye
have free river-way to thy castle."
"Break down great London Bridge, young hero?" cried the amazed king.
"How may that be? Have we a Duke Samson among us to do so great a
"Lay me thy ships alongside mine, king, close to this barricaded
bridge," said the valorous boy, "and I will vow to break it down,
or ye may call me caitiff and coward."
"Be it so," said Ethelred, the English king; and all the war-chiefs
echoed: "Be it so!" So Olaf and his trusty Rane made ready the
war-forces for the destruction of the bridge.
Old London Bridge was not what we should now call an imposing
structure, but our ancestors of nine centuries back esteemed it
quite a bridge. The chronicler says that it was "so broad that two
wagons could pass each other upon it," and "under the bridge were
piles driven into the bottom of the river."
So young Olaf and old Rane put their heads together, and decided
to wreck the bridge by a bold viking stroke. And this is how it is
told in the "Heimskringla," or Saga of King Olaf the Saint:
"King Olaf ordered great platforms of floating wood to be tied
together with hazel bands, and for this he took down old houses;
and with these, as a roof, he covered over his ships so widely that
it reached over the ships' sides. Under this screen he set pillars,
so high and stout that there both was room for swinging their
swords, and the roofs were strong enough to withstand the stones
cast down upon them."
"Now, out oars and pull for the bridge," young Olaf commanded; and
the roofed-over war-ships were rowed close up to London Bridge.
And as they came near the bridge, the chronicle says: "There were
cast upon them, by the Danes upon the bridge, so many stones and
missile weapons, such as arrows and spears, that neither helmet nor
shield could hold out against it; and the ships themselves were so
greatly damaged that many retreated out of it."
But the boy viking and his Norsemen were there for a purpose, and
were not to be driven back by stones or spears or arrows. Straight
ahead they rowed, "quite up under the bridge."
"Out cables, all, and lay them around the piles," the young sea-king
shouted; and the half-naked rowers, unshipping their oars, reached
out under the roofs and passed the stout cables twice around the
wooden supports of the bridge. The loose end was made fast at the
stern of each vessel, and then, turning and heading down stream,
King Olaf's twenty stout war-ships waited his word:
"Out oars!" he cried; "pull, war-birds! Pull all, as if ye were
Forward and backward swayed the stout Norse rowers; tighter and
tighter pulled the cables; fast down upon the straining war-ships
rained the Danish spears and stones; but the wooden piles under
the great bridge were loosened by the steady tug of the cables,
and soon with a sudden spurt the Norse war-ships darted down the
river, while the slackened cables towed astern the captured piles
of London Bridge. A great shout went up from the besiegers, and
"now," says the chronicle, "as the armed troops stood thick upon
the bridge, and there were likewise many heaps of stones and other
weapons upon it, the bridge gave way; and a great part of the men
upon it fell into the river, and all the others fled--some into
the castle, some into Southwark." And before King Ethelred, "the
Unready, "could pull his ships to the attack, young Olaf's fighting-men
had sprung ashore, and, storming the Southwark earthworks, carried
all before them, and the battle of London Bridge was won.
And the young Olaf's saga-man sang triumphantly:
"London Bridge is broken down--
Gold is won and bright renown.
Hildar shouting in the din!
Odin makes our Olaf win!"
And perhaps, who knows, this wrecking of London Bridge so many
hundred years ago by Olaf, the boy viking of fifteen, may have
been the origin of the old song-game dear to so many generations
"London Bridge is fallen down, fallen down, fallen down--
London Bridge is fallen down, my fair lady!"
So King Ethelred won back his kingdom, and the boy viking was honored
above all others. To him was given the chief command in perilous
expeditions against the Danes, and the whole defence of all the
coast of England. North and south along the coast he sailed with
all his warships, and the Danes and Englishmen long remembered the
dashing but dubious ways of this young sea-rover, who swept the
English coast and claimed his dues from friend and foe alike. For
those were days of insecurity for merchant and trader and farmer,
and no man's wealth or life was safe except as he paid ready tribute
to the fierce Norse allies of King Ethelred. But soon after this,
King Ethelred died, and young Olaf, thirsting for new adventures,
sailed away to the south and fought his way all along the French
coast as far as the mouth of the River Garonne. Many castles
he captured; many rival vikings subdued; much spoil he gathered;
until at last his dragon-ships lay moored under the walls of old
Bordeaux, waiting for fair winds to take him around to the Straits
of Gibraltar, and so on "to the land of Jerusalem."
One day, in the booty-filled "fore-hold" of his dragon-ship, the
young sea-king lay asleep; and suddenly, says the old record, "he
dreamed a wondrous dream."
"Olaf, great stem of kings, attend!" he heard a deep voice call;
and, looking up, the dreamer seemed to see before him "a great and
important man, but of a terrible appearance withal."
"If that thou art Olaf the Brave, as men do call thee," said the
vision, "turn thyself to nobler deeds than vikings' ravaging and
this wandering cruise. Turn back, turn back from thy purposeless
journey to the land of Jerusalem, where neither honor nor fame
awaits thee. Son of King Harald, return thee to thy heritage; for
thou shalt be king over all Norway."
Then the vision vanished and the young rover awoke to find himself
alone, save for the sleeping foot-boy across the cabin door-way.
So he quickly summoned old Rane, the helmsman, and told his dream.
"'Twas for thy awakening, king," said his stout old follower. "'Twas
the great Olaf, thine uncle, Olaf Tryggvesson the king, that didst
call thee. Win Norway, king, for the portent is that thou and thine
shall rule thy fatherland."
And the war-ships' prows were all turned northward again, as the
boy viking, following the promise of his dream, steered homeward
for Norway and a throne.
Now in Norway Earl Eric was dead. For thirteen years he had usurped
the throne that should have been filled by one of the great King
Olaf's line; and, at his death, his handsome young son, Earl Hakon
the Fair, ruled in his father's stead. And when young King Olaf
heard this news, he shouted for joy and cried to Rane:
"Now, home in haste, for Norway shall be either Hakon's heritage
"'Tis a fair match of youth 'gainst youth," said the trusty helmsman;
"and if but fair luck go with thee, Norway shall be thine!"
So from "a place called Furovald," somewhere between the mouths of
Humber and of Tees, on the English coast, King Olaf, with but two
stout war-ships and two hundred and twenty "well-armed and chosen
persons," shook out his purple sails to the North Sea blasts, and
steered straight for Norway.
As if in league against this bold young viking the storm winds came
rushing down from the mountains of Norway and the cold belt of the
Arctic Circle and caught the two war-ships tossing in a raging sea.
The storm burst upon them with terrific force, and the danger of
shipwreck was great. "But," says the old record, "as they had a
chosen company and the king's luck with them all went on well."
"Thou able chief!"
sings the faithful saga-man,
"With thy fearless crew
Thou meetest with skill and courage true
The wild sea's wrath
On thy ocean path.
Though waves mast-high were breaking round,
Thou findest the middle of Norway's ground,
With helm in hand
On Saelo's strand."
Now _Sael_ was Norse for "lucky" and Saelo's Island means the lucky
"I'll be a lucky king for landing thus upon the Lucky Isle," said
rash young Olaf, with the only attempt at a joke we find recorded
of him, as, with a mighty leap, he sprang ashore where the sliding
keel of his war-ship ploughed the shore of Saelo's Isle.
"True, 'tis a good omen, king," said old Rane the helmsman, following
But the soil of the "Lucky Isle" was largely clay, moist and
slippery, and as the eager young viking climbed the bank his right
foot slipped, and he would have fallen had not he struck his left
foot firmly in the clay and thus saved himself. But to slip at all
was a bad sign in those old, half-pagan, and superstitious times,
and he said, ruefully: "An omen; an omen, Rane! The king falls!"
"Nay,'tis the king's luck," says ready and wise old Rane. "Thou
didst not fall, king. See; thou didst but set fast foot in this
thy native soil of Norway."
"Thou art a rare diviner, Rane," laughed the young king, much
relieved, and then he added solemnly: "It may be so if God doth
will it so."
And now news comes that Earl Hakon, with a single war-ship, is
steering north from Sogne Fiord; and Olaf, pressing on, lays his two
ships on either side of a narrow strait, or channel, in Sandunga
Sound. Here he stripped his ships of all their war-gear, and stretched
a great cable deep in the water, across the narrow strait. Then he
wound the cable-ends around the capstans, ordered all his fighting-men
out of sight, and waited for his rival. Soon Earl Hakon's war-ship,
crowded with rowers and fighting-men, entered the strait. Seeing,
as he supposed, but two harmless merchant-vessels lying on either
side of the channel, the young earl bade his rowers pull between
the two. Suddenly there is a stir on the quiet merchant-vessels.
The capstan bars are manned; the sunken cable is drawn taut. Up
goes the stern of Earl Hakon's entrapped warship; down plunges her
prow into the waves, and the water pours into the doomed boat. A
loud shout is heard; the quiet merchant-vessels swarm with mail-clad
men, and the air is filled with a shower of stones, and spears,
and arrows. The surprise is complete. Tighter draws the cable; over
topples Earl Hakon's vessel, and he and all his men are among the
billows struggling for life. "So," says the record, "King Olaf took
Earl Hakon and all his men whom they could get hold of out of the
water and made them prisoners; but some were killed and some were
Into the "fore-hold" of the king's ship the captive earl was led a
prisoner, and there the young rivals for Norway's crown faced each
other. The two lads were of nearly the same age--between sixteen
and seventeen--and young Earl Hakon was considered the handsomest
youth in all Norway. His helmet was gone, his sword was lost, his
ring-steel suit was sadly disarranged, and his long hair, "fine
as silk," was "bound about his head with a gold ornament." Fully
expecting the fate of all captives in those cruel days--instant
death--the young earl nevertheless faced his boy conqueror proudly,
resolved to meet his fate like a man.
"They speak truth who say of the house of Eric that ye be handsome
men," said the king, studying his prisoner's face. "But now, earl,
even though thou be fair to look upon, thy luck hath failed thee
"Fortune changes," said the young earl. "We both be boys; and thou,
king, art perchance the shrewder youth. Yet, had we looked for such
a trick as thou hast played upon us, we had not thus been tripped
upon thy sunken cables. Better luck next time."
"Next time!" echoed the king; "dost thou not know, earl, that as
thou standest there, a prisoner, there may be no 'next time' for
The young captive understood full well the meaning of the words.
"Yes, king," he said; "it must be only as thou mayst determine.
Man can die but once. Speak on; I am ready!" But Olaf said: "What
wilt thou give me, earl, if at this time I do let thee go, whole
"'Tis not what I may give, but what thou mayst take, king," the
earl made answer. "I am thy prisoner; what wilt thou take to free
"Nothing," said the generous young viking, advancing nearer to his
handsome rival. "As thou didst say, we both be boys, and life is
all before us. Earl, I give thee thy life, do thou but take oath
before me to leave this my realm of Norway, to give up thy kingdom,
and never to do battle against me hereafter."
The conquered earl bent his fair young head.
"Thou art a generous chief, King Olaf," he said. "I take my life
as thou dost give it, and all shall be as thou wilt."
So Earl Hakon took the oath, and King Olaf righted his rival's
capsized war-ship, refitted it from his own stores of booty, and
thus the two lads parted; the young earl sailing off to his uncle,
King Canute, in England, and the boy viking hastening eastward to
Vigen, where lived his mother, the Queen Aasta, whom he had not
seen for full five years.
It is harvest-time in the year 1014. Without and within the long,
low house of Sigurd Syr, at Vigen, all is excitement; for word has
come that Olaf the sea-king has returned to his native land, and is
even now on his way to this his mother's house. Gay stuffs decorate
the dull walls of the great-room, clean straw covers the earth
floor, and upon the long, four-cornered tables is spread a mighty
feast of mead and ale and coarse but hearty food, such as the old
Norse heroes drew their strength and muscle from. At the door-way
stands the Queen Aasta with her maidens, while before the entrance,
with thirty "well-clothed men," waits young Olafs stepfather,
wise Sigurd Syr, gorgeous in a jewelled suit, a scarlet cloak, and
a glittering golden helmet. The watchers on the housetops hear a
distant shout, now another and nearer one, and soon, down the highway,
they catch the gleam of steel and the waving of many banners; and
now they can distinguish the stalwart forms of Olaf's chosen hundred
men, their shining coats of ring-mail, their foreign helmets, and
their crossleted shields flashing in the sun. In the very front
rides old Rane, the helmsman, bearing the great white banner blazoned
with the golden serpent, and, behind him, cased in golden armor,
his long brown hair flowing over his sturdy shoulders, rides the
boy viking, Olaf of Norway.
It was a brave home-coming; and as the stout young hero, leaping
from his horse, knelt to receive his mother's welcoming kiss, the
people shouted for joy, the banners waved, the war-horns played their
loudest; and thus, after five years of wandering, the boy comes
back in triumph to the home he left when but a wild and adventurous
little fellow of twelve.
The hero of nine great sea-fights, and of many smaller ones, before
he was seventeen, young Olaf Haraldson was a remarkable boy, even
in the days when all boys aimed to be battle-tried heroes. Toughened
in frame and fibre by his five years of sea-roving, he had become
strong and self-reliant, a man in action though but a boy in years.
"I am come," he said to his mother and his step-father, "to take
the heritage of my forefathers. But not from Danish nor from Swedish
kings will I supplicate that which is mine by right. I intend rather
to seek my patrimony with battle-axe and sword, and I will so lay
hand to the work that one of two things shall happen: Either I
shall bring all this kingdom of Norway under my rule, or I shall
fall here upon my inheritance in the land of my fathers."
These were bold words for a boy of seventeen. But they were not
idle boastings. Before a year had passed, young Olaf's pluck and
courage had won the day, and in harvest-time, in the year 1015,
being then but little more than eighteen years old, he was crowned
King of Norway in the Drontheim, or "Throne-home," of Nidaros, the
royal city, now called on your atlas the city of Drontheim. For
fifteen years King Olaf the Second ruled his realm of Norway.
The old record says that he was "a good and very gentle man"; but
history shows his goodness and gentleness to have been of a rough
and savage kind. The wild and stern experiences of his viking days
lived again even in his attempts to reform and benefit his land.
When he who had himself been a pirate tried to put down piracy, and
he who had been a wild young robber sought to force all Norway to
become Christian, he did these things in so fierce and cruel a way
that at last his subjects rebelled, and King Canute came over with
a great army to wrest the throne from him. On the bloody field of
Stiklestad, July 29, 1030, the stern king fell, says Sigvat, his
"beneath the blows
By his own thoughtless people given."
So King Canute conquered Norway; but after his death, Olaf's son,
Magnus the Good, regained his father's throne. The people, sorrowful
at their rebellion against King Olaf, forgot his stern and cruel
ways, and magnified all his good deeds so mightily that he was at
last declared a saint, and the shrine of Saint Olaf is still one
of the glories of the old cathedral in Drontheim. And, after King
Magnus died, his descendants ruled Norway for nearly four hundred
years; and thus was brought to pass the promise of the dream that,
in the "fore-hold" of the great dragon-ship, under the walls of
old Bordeaux, came so many years before to the daring and sturdy
young Olaf of Norway, the boy viking.
THE BOY-HEROES OF CRECY AND POITIERS
By Treadwell Walden
Almost every one has heard of the famous battles of Crecy and
Poitiers, which were so much alike in all that made them remarkable
that they are generally coupled together,--one always reminding us
of the other. Yet there is one point they had in common which has
not been especially remarked, but which ought to link them memorably
together in the imagination of young people.
These two great battles really took place ten years apart; for one
was fought in 1346 and the other in 1356. The battle-fields also
were wide apart; for Crecy was far in the north of France, near
the coast of the English Channel, and Poitiers away in the south,
deep in the interior, nearly three hundred miles from Crecy. But they
have drawn near to each other in the mind of students of history,
because in both cases the French largely outnumbered the English;
in both cases the English had gone so far into the country that
their retreat seemed to be cut off; in both cases there was a most
surprising and unexpected result, for the French were terribly
defeated; and in both cases this happened because they made the
same mistake: they trusted so much to their overwhelming numbers,
to their courage and their valor, that they forgot to be careful
about anything else, while the English made up for their small
numbers by prudence, discipline, and skill, without which courage
and valor are often of no avail.
It is quite exciting to read the description of these battles, with
their archery fights, the clashing together of furious knights,
the first brave advance and the final running away; but, after a
while, the battles at large seem to fade out in the greater interest
which surrounds the figures of two youngsters,--one hardly more
than fifteen, the other scarcely fourteen,--for one carried off
all the honors of the victory of Crecy, and the other redeemed
from total dishonor the defeat of Poitiers. Let us now take up
the romantic story of the English lad in the former battle, and of
the French lad in the latter.
When, in 1346, Edward III of England had determined upon an invasion
of France, he brought over his army in a fleet of nearly a thousand
sail. He had with him not only the larger portion of his great
nobles, but also his eldest son, Edward Plantagenet, the Prince
of Wales. He had good reasons for taking the boy. The prince was
expected to become the next King of England. His father evidently
thought him able to take a very important part in becoming also
the King of France. If all the accounts of him are true, he was a
remarkable youth; wonderfully strong and courageous, and wonderfully
discreet for his years.
There was only one road to success or fame in those days, and that
was the profession of arms. The ambition of every high-born young
fellow was to become a knight. Knighthood was something that both
king and nobles regarded as higher in some respects than even the
royalty or nobility to which they were born. No one could be admitted
into an order of the great brotherhood of knights, which extended
all over Europe and formed an independent society, unless he had
gone through severe discipline, and had performed some distinguished
deed of valor. Then he could wear the golden spurs; for knighthood
had its earliest origin in the distinction of fighting on horseback,
while ordinary soldiers fought on foot. Although knighthood changed
afterward, the word "chivalry" always expressed it, from _cheval_,
a horse. And in addition to valor, which was the result of physical
strength and courage, the knight was expected to be generous,
courteous, faithful, devout, truthful, high-souled, high-principled.
Hence the epithet, "chivalrous," which, even to-day, is so often
heard applied to men of especially fine spirit. "Honor" was the
great word which included all these qualities then, as it does in
some measure now.
I have only time to give you the standard, and cannot pause to tell
you how well or ill it was lived up to generally. But I would not
have taken this story in hand if chivalry had to be left out of
the account, for it was chivalry that made my two boys the heroes
As soon as King Edward landed at La Hague, he gave very clear
evidence of the serious work he had cut out for his son, and of
his confidence that the youngster would be equal to it. He publicly
pledged his boy, beforehand, to some great deed, and to a life of
valor and honor. In sight of the whole army, he went through the
form of making him a knight. Young Edward, clad in armor, kneeled
down before him on the wet sand, when the king touched his shoulder
with his sword, saying: "I dub thee knight. Be brave, bold, and
loyal!" You may imagine how proudly then the young fellow seized
lance and sword and shield, and sprang into his saddle at a leap,
and with what high resolve he rode on beside his mailed and gallant
father to deserve the name which that impressive ceremony had given
The army moved rapidly forward and northward toward Calais, conquering
everything on its way, till when in the neighborhood of Crecy, the
intelligence came that the French king, Philip, with an army of
one hundred and twenty thousand men and all the chivalry of France,
had come in between it and the sea. There was no retreat possible.
Edward had but thirty thousand to oppose this great host. They were
four to one. He was in a dangerous spot also; but after a time he
succeeded in getting away to a good position, and there he awaited
the onset. No one will doubt that he was anxious enough, and yet
what did he do? After arranging his troops in battle order, three
battalions deep, he sent young Edward to the very front of the
brilliant group of his finest barons to take the brunt of the terrible
charge that was now to come! It shows of what stern material the
king and the men of that time were made, for all his present love,
all his future hope, lay around that gallant boy. But he knew that
the value of the glory which might be earned was worth all the
risk. Besides, he was as much under chivalrous necessity to send
him, as the lad was under to go. That pledge to knighthood, on the
sea-shore, had not been either lightly taken or lightly given. If
chivalry was not equal to sacrifice, it was equal to nothing. There
was keen wisdom, too, in the act. The king could count all the
more on the enthusiasm, self-devotion and valor of the knights and
men-at-arms, in whose keeping he had placed so precious a charge.
That whole first battalion would be nerved to tenfold effort
because the prince was among them, for every one would be as deeply
concerned as the father in the boy's success.
Edward carried his feeling of devotion to his son's best interests
to such a chivalrous extent that he made it a point of duty to keep
out of the battle altogether.
He was nowhere to be seen. He went into a windmill on a height
nearby, and watched the fight through one of the narrow windows
in its upper story. He would not even put on his helmet. That was
the way the father stood by his son--by showing absolute confidence
in him, and denying himself all the glory that might come from a
great and important battle. And the young fellow was a thousandfold
nerved and strengthened by knowing that his father fully trusted
I need not give the details of the battle. It is sufficient to know
that the first line of the French chivalry charged with the utmost
fury. Among these was an ally of note, John, King of Bohemia, who
with his barons and knights was not behindhand in the deadly onset;
and yet this king was old and blind! His was chivalry in another
form! He would have his stroke in the battle, and he plunged into
it with his horse tied by its reins to one of his knights on either
side. A plume of three ostrich feathers waved from his helmet,
and the chroniclers say he laid about him well. After the battle,
he and his two companions were found dead, with their horses tied
But although the French were brave they were not wise. For not only
had they brought on the fight with headlong energy before they were
prepared, but they had allowed Edward to place himself so that the
afternoon sun, then near its setting, blazed full in their eyes
and faces. Edward's army fought in the shadow. The terrible English
bowmen sent their deadly cloth-yard arrows so thick and fast into
the dazzled and crowded ranks of fifteen thousand Genoese archers
and the intermingled men-at-arms, that the missiles filled the air
like snow. The Genoese were thrown into confusion, and this spread
throughout the whole French army. The French king, with some of
his dukes, flew foaming over the field in the rear, trying in vain
to get up in time to swell the onset upon the English front.
But the onset had proved bad enough as it was. The knights around
the young prince were frightened for his safety. One of them, Sir
Thomas of Norwich, was sent hack to Edward to ask him to come to
the assistance of the prince.
"Sir Thomas," said the king, "is my son dead or unhorsed, or so
wounded that he cannot help himself?"
"Not so, my lord, thank God; but he is fighting against great odds,
and is like to have need of your help."
"Sir Thomas," replied the king, "return to them who sent you, and
tell them from me not to send for me, whatever chance befall them,
so long as my son is alive, and tell them that I bid them let the
lad win his spurs; for I wish, if God so desire, that the day should
be his, and the honor thereof remain to him and to those to whom
I have given him in charge."
And there he stayed in the windmill till the battle was over. Soon
the cry of victory reached him as the French fled in the darkness,
leaving their dead strewn upon the field. Now the young prince
appeared covered with all the glory that his father had coveted
for him, bearing the ostrich plume which he had taken from the dead
King of Bohemia. The boy rode up with his visor raised,--his face
was as fair as a girl's, and glowed under a crown of golden hair.
He bore his trophy aloft, and when it was placed as a knightly
decoration above the crest of his helmet, he little thought that
the triple tuft was to wave for more than five hundred years, even
to this day, on England's front, for such it does, and that, next
to the crown, there shall be no badge so proudly known as the
three feathers which nod above the coronet of the Prince of Wales.
Edward Albert, son of King George V, now wears it because Edward,
the Prince of Wales, when still in his teens, won it at Crecy. We
will leave him there, and go on ten years.
Philip, the French king, had passed away about six years before,
and John, a wild character for such a trying time, had ascended
the throne. He was always plunging himself into difficulties, and
was often guilty of cruelty; and yet was of such a free, generous
nature, and had so many of the virtues of chivalry in that day,
that he was known as "John the Good." He was the extreme opposite
to the grave, prudent, sagacious Edward III, who was still alive
and well, and King of England.
Some time after the victory of Crecy, Calais had been taken, and then
both nations were glad to arrange a truce. Nine years of this had
gone by, when Edward thought it necessary to make another attempt
on France. As soon as might be, therefore, young Edward, his son,
now twenty-five, came over alone, landing at Bordeaux. He had,
meantime, gained great fame. He was now known as "the Black Prince,"
because he had a fancy for having his armor painted as black as
midnight, in order, they say, to give a greater brightness to his
fresh blond complexion and golden hair. Marshaling his little army
of 12,000 men, he set out into the interior of France. When he had
reached the neighborhood of Poitiers, he was astounded by the news
that King John was both after him and behind him, with a force of
60,000 men--five to one! Here was Crecy over again as to numbers,
but there was one thing made it worse; for, as Edward III not long
before had instituted the famous "Order of the Garter" which is
even now one of the foremost orders of knighthood in Europe, so
John, not to be behindhand, and in order to give a new chivalrous
impulse to his nobles, had just instituted the "Order of the Star."
He made five hundred knights of this new order, every one of whom
had vowed that he would never retreat, and would sooner be slain
than yield to an enemy.
The Black Prince thought it almost impossible to fight his way
through such a desperately determined host. So he offered to restore
all he had just conquered and to make another truce, if he might
pass by unmolested. But John would not consent. He must have Calais
back again, and the prince, with one hundred of his best knights,
into the bargain. "This will never do," thought the prince. "Better
try for another Crecy."
On the morning of September 19,1356, the battle began. John had
with him all four of his sons, Charles, Louis, John and Philip; the
eldest only nineteen, and the youngest fourteen. The three former
were put under good guardianship in different portions of the field;
but why the hair-brained monarch took the youngest boy with him
into the very front and thickest of the fight, it is hard to guess,
unless it was another imitation of Edward, and he had also good
reason to think that the lad was unusually well able to take care
of himself, having been trained at arms and pledged to knighthood.
But young "Sir Philip," as he was called, proved quite equal to
King John himself led the van, moving down through a defile, into
which, after a time, his whole army found themselves crowded.
Meantime, the Prince of Wales had planted his army just where he
would tempt John into that trap and had set his archers in good
position. These men were clad in green, like Robin Hood's men, and
carried bows seven feet long and so thick that few men of modern
days could bend them. A cloth-yard shaft from one of these would fly
with tremendous force. Edward had placed these archers in ambush,
behind green hedges, and crouching in the green of the vineyards.
Just as the French king, with all his new chivalry around him, dashed
down the narrow valley--the white standard of France on one side
of him, his keen-eyed little son on the other--and began to deploy
the whole advance battalion, preliminary to a grand charge--whiz!
whiz! whir! whir! from both sides came the arrows, as thick as hail
and as terrible as javelins, from the hidden archers. The astonished
Frenchmen fell back. That crowded still more those who were yet
wedged in the narrow space behind. Now came the English onset.
Then a panic. Then a rout. Then a general flight. Dukes, barons,
knights of all sorts fled with the rest; also Charles, Louis, John,
the three elder sons of the king. The king was in great danger of
being slain; but he did not move, and Philip stood fighting by his
side. The standard-bearer fell, and the white ensign lay in the
dust. Many a faithful knight was cut down, or swept away a prisoner.
But Philip flinched not.
The assailants--some of whom knew the king, while others were
wondering who he might be--pressed them fiercely on every side,
striking at them, but more anxious to take them captives than
to kill them, for they were worth a heavy ransom. The Englishmen
shouted all together, "Yield you! Yield you, else you die!" Little
Sir Philip had no yield in him, as long as his father held out. He
kept close to him, trying to ward off the blows which were aimed
at him, and warning him in time, as his quick eye caught a near
danger on either hand. Every instant he was heard calling out,
"Father, ware right! Father, ware left!" Suddenly a mounted knight
appeared, who hailed the king in French. It was a French knight,
who was fighting on the English side.
"Sir, sir!" he shouted, "I pray you yield!"
"To whom shall I yield me?" said John, "Where is my cousin, the
Prince of Wales?"
"Sir, yield you to me; I will bring you to him."
"Who are you?" said the king.
"Denis de Morbecque, a knight of Artois; I serve the King of England,
not being able to live in France, for I have lost all I possessed
"I yield me to you," said John, handing him his steel glove.
Then the whole crowd began to drag at him, each exclaiming: "I
took him!" Both the king and the prince were sadly hustled, until
two barons broke through the throng by dint of their horses, and
led the two to the tent of the Prince of Wales, "and made him a
present of the King of France!" says an old chronicler. "The prince
also bowed full low before the king, and received him as a king,
properly and discreetly, as he well knew how to do."
In the evening he entertained him and Philip at supper, "and would
not sit at the king's table for all the king's entreaty, but waited
as a serving man, bending the knee before him, and saying: 'Dear
sir, be pleased not to put on so bad a countenance, because it hath
not pleased God to consent this day to your wishes; for, assuredly,
my lord and father will show you all the honor and friendship he
shall be able, and he will come to terms with you so reasonably
that you shall remain good friends forever.'"
Nor did all this end in words, but it went on for years during all
the captivity of King John and Prince Philip,--first at Bordeaux and
afterward at the then new Windsor Castle, in England, where galas,
tournaments, hawking and hunting, and all sorts of entertainments
were devised for them. When King John was brought from Bordeaux
to England, where King Edward had prepared to meet him in great
state, the French king was mounted on a tall, cream-colored charger,
and young Philip rode by his side in great honor also, while the
Prince of Wales sat on a small black horse, like an humble attendant
on them both. The two royal fathers met midway in that London street,
the houses which lined the way were hung with rich tapestries, the
trades were out in companies of many colors, the people thronged
round the steelclad cavalcades as they came together, and they
filled the air with shouts--but what two figures now most fill
the eye when all that pageant has passed away? Not the father who
stood by his son with such chivalrous faith, nor the father whose
son stood by him with such chivalrous devotion, but the fair youth
who carries that tuft of feathers upon his helmet, with its motto,
"I serve," and the lad whom all have heard of as "Philip the Bold";
the boy-hero of Crecy doing chivalrous honor to the boy-hero of
THE NOBLE BURGHERS OF CALAIS
By Charlotte M. Yonge
Nowhere does the continent of Europe approach Great Britain so
closely as at the Straits of Dover, and when the English sovereigns
were full of the vain hope of obtaining the crown of France, or
at least of regaining the great possessions that their forefathers
had owned as French nobles, there was no spot so coveted by them
as the fortress of Calais, the possession of which gave an entrance
Thus it was that when, in 1346, Edward III had beaten Philippe VI
at the battle of Crecy, the first use he made of his victory was to
march upon Calais, and lay siege to it. The walls were exceedingly
strong and solid, mighty defenses of masonry, of huge thickness
and like rocks for solidity, guarded it, and the king knew that it
would be useless to attempt a direct assault. Indeed, during all
the middle ages, the modes of protecting fortifications were far
more efficient than the modes of attacking them. The walls could
be made enormously massive, the towers raised to a great height,
and the defenders so completely sheltered by battlements that they
could not easily be injured, and could take aim from the top of
their turrets, or from their loophole windows. The gates had absolute
little castles of their own, a moat flowed round the walls full of
water, and only capable of being crossed by a drawbridge, behind
which the portcullis, a grating armed beneath with spikes, was
always ready to drop from the archway of the gate and close up the
entrance. The only chance of taking a fortress by direct attack was
to fill up the moat with earth and faggots, and then raise ladders
against the walls; or else to drive engines against the defenses,
battering-rams which struck them with heavy beams, mangonels which
launched stones, sows whose arched wooden backs protected troops
of workmen who tried to undermine the wall, and moving towers
consisting of a succession of stages or shelves, filled with soldiers,
and with a bridge with iron hooks, capable of being launched from
the highest story to the top of the battlements. The besieged could
generally disconcert the battering-ram by hanging beds or mattresses
over the walls to receive the brunt of the blow, the sows could
be crushed with heavy stones, the towers burnt by well directed
flaming missiles, the ladders overthrown, and in general the besiegers
suffered a great deal more damage than they could inflict. Cannon
had indeed just been brought into use at the battle of Crecy, but
they only consisted of iron bars fastened together with hoops,
and were as yet of little use, and thus there seemed to be little
danger to a well guarded city from any enemy outside the walls.
King Edward arrived before the place with all his victorious army
early in August, his good knights and squires arrayed in glittering
steel armor, covered with surcoats richly embroidered with their
heraldic bearings; his stout men-at-arms, each of whom was attended
by three bold followers; and his archers, with their cross-bows to
shoot bolts, and long-bows to shoot arrows of a yard long, so that
it used to be said that each went into battle with three men's lives
under his girdle, namely the three arrows he kept there ready to
his hand. With the king was his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, who
had just won the golden spurs of knighthood so gallantly at Crecy
when only in his seventeenth year, and likewise the famous Hainault
knight, Sir Walter Mauny, and all that was noblest and bravest in
This whole glittering army, at their head the king's great
royal standard bearing the golden lilies of France quartered with
the lions of England, and each troop guided by the square banner,
swallow-tailed pennon or pointed pennoncel of their leader, came
marching to the gates of Calais, above which floated the blue
standard of France with its golden flowers, and with it the banner
of the governor, Sir Jean de Vienne. A herald, in a rich long robe
embroidered with the arms of England, rode up to the gate, a trumpet
sounding before him, and called upon Sir Jean de Vienne to give up
the place to Edward, King of England, and of France, as he claimed
to be. Sir Jean made answer that he held the town for Philippe,
King of France, and that he would defend it to the last; the herald
rode back again and the English began the siege of the city.
At first they only encamped, and the people of Calais must have
seen the whole plain covered with the white canvas tents, marshalled
round the ensigns of the leaders, and here and there a more gorgeous
one displaying the colors of the owner. Still there was no attack
upon the walls. The warriors were to be seen walking about in the
leathern suits they wore under their armor; or if a party was to
be seen with their coats of mail on, helmet on head, and lance in
hand, it was not against Calais that they came; they rode out into
the country, and by and by might be seen driving-back before them
herds of cattle and flocks of sheep or pigs that they had seized
and taken away from the poor peasants; and at night the sky would
show red lights where farms and homesteads had been set on fire.
After a time, in front of the tents, the English were to be seen
hard at work with beams and boards, setting up huts for themselves,
and thatching them over with straw or broom.
These wooden houses were all ranged in regular streets, and there
was a market-place in the midst, whither every Saturday came farmers
and butchers to sell corn and meat, and hay for the horses; and
the English merchants and Flemish weavers would come by sea and by
land to bring cloth, bread, weapons, and everything that could be
needed to be sold in this warlike market.
The governor, Sir Jean de Vienne, began to perceive that the king
did not mean to waste his men by making vain attacks on the strong
walls of Calais, but to shut up the entrance by land, and watch
the coast by sea so as to prevent any provisions from being taken
in, and so to starve him into surrendering. Sir Jean de Vienne,
however, hoped that before he should be entirely reduced by famine,
the King of France would be able to get together another army and
come to his relief, and at any rate he was determined to do his
duty, and hold out for his master to the last. But as food was
already beginning to grow scarce, he was obliged to turn out such
persons as could not fight and had no stores of their own, and so
one Wednesday morning he caused all the poor to be brought together,
men, women, and children, and sent them all out of the town, to
the number of 1,700. It was probably the truest mercy, for he had
no food to give them, and they could only have starved miserably
within the town, or have hindered him from saving it for his
sovereign; but to them it was dreadful to be driven out of house
and home, straight down upon the enemy, and they went along weeping
and wailing, till the English soldiers met them and asked why they
had come out. They answered that they had been put out because they
had nothing to eat, and their sorrowful famished looks gained pity
for them. King Edward sent orders that not only should they go
safely through his camp, but that they should all rest, and have
the first hearty dinner that they had eaten for many a day, and he
sent every one a small sum of money before they left the camp, so
that many of them went on their way praying aloud for the enemy
who had been so kind to them.
A great deal happened whilst King Edward kept watch in his wooden
town and the citizens of Calais guarded their walls. England was
invaded by King David II of Scotland, with a great army, arid the
good Queen Philippa, who was left to govern at home in the name of
her little son Lionel, assembled all the forces that were left at
home, and sent them to meet him. And one autumn day, a ship crossed
the Straits of Dover, and a messenger brought King Edward letters
from his queen to say that the Scots army had been entirely defeated
at Nevil's Cross, near Durham, and that their king was a prisoner,
but that he had been taken by a squire named John Copeland, who
would not give him up to her.
King Edward Sent letters to John Copeland to come to him at Calais,
and when the squire had made his journey, the king took him by the
hand saying, "Ha! welcome, my squire, who by his valor has captured
our adversary the King of Scotland."
Copeland, falling on one knee, replied, "If God, out of His great
kindness, has given me the King of Scotland, no one ought to be
jealous of it, for God can, when He pleases, send His grace to a
poor squire as well as to a great lord. Sir, do not take it amiss
if I did not surrender him to the orders of my lady queen, for I
hold my lands of you, and my oath is to you, not to her."
The king was not displeased with his squire's sturdiness, but made
him a knight, gave him a pension of 500_l._. a year, and desired him
to surrender his prisoner to the queen, as his own representative.
This was accordingly done, and King David was lodged in the Tower
of London. Soon after, three days before All Saints' Day, there
was a large and gay fleet to be seen crossing from the white cliffs
of Dover, and the king, his son, and his knights rode down to the
landing-place to welcome plump, fair-haired Queen Philippa, and all
her train of ladies, who had come in great numbers to visit their
husbands, fathers, or brothers in the wooden town. Then there was
a great court, and numerous feasts and dances, and the knights and
squires were constantly striving who could do the bravest deed of
prowess to please the ladies. The King of France had placed numerous
knights and men-at-arms in the neighboring towns and castles, and
there were constant fights whenever the English went out foraging,
and many bold deeds that were much admired were done. The great
point was to keep provisions out of the town, and there was much
fighting between the French who tried to bring in supplies, and the
English who intercepted them. Very little was brought in by land,
and Sir Jean de Vienne and his garrison would have been quite starved
but for two sailors of Abbeville, named Marant and Mestriel, who
knew the coast thoroughly, and often, in the dark autumn evenings,
would guide in a whole fleet of little boats, loaded with bread and
meat for the starving men within the city. They were often chased
by King Edward's vessels, and were sometimes very nearly taken,
but they always managed to escape, and thus they still enabled the
garrison to hold out.
So all the winter passed, Christmas was kept with brilliant feasting
and high merriment by the king and his queen in their wooden palace
outside, and with lean cheeks and scanty fare by the besieged
within. Lent was strictly observed perforce by the besieged, and
Easter brought a betrothal in the English camp; a very unwilling
one on the part of the bridegroom, the young Count of Flanders, who
loved the French much better than the English, and had only been
tormented into giving his consent by his unruly vassals because
they depended on the wool of English sheep for their cloth works.
So, though King Edward's daughter Isabel was a beautiful fair-haired
girl of fifteen, the young count would scarcely look at her; and
in the last week before the marriage-day, while her robes and her
jewels were being prepared, and her father and mother were arranging
the presents they should make to all their court on the wedding-day,
the bridegroom, when out hawking, gave his attendants the slip,
and galloped off to Paris, where he was welcomed by King Philippe.
This made Edward very wrathful, and more than ever determined to
take Calais. About Whitsuntide he completed a great wooden castle
upon the seashore, and placed in it numerous warlike engines, with
forty men-at-arms and 200 archers, who kept such a watch upon the
harbor that not even the two Abbeville sailors could enter it,
without having their boats crushed and sunk by the great stones
that the mangonels launched upon them. The townspeople began to feel
what hunger really was, but their spirits were kept up by the hope
that their king was at last collecting an army for their rescue.
And Philippe did collect all his forces, a great and noble army,
and came one night to the hill of Sangate, just behind the English
army, the knights' armor glancing and their pennons flying in the
moonlight, so as to be a beautiful sight to the hungry garrison who
could see the white tents pitched upon the hillside. Still there
were but two roads by which the French could reach their friends
in the town--one along the seacoast, the other by a marshy road
higher up the country, and there was but one bridge by which the
river could be crossed. The English king's fleet could prevent any
troops from passing along the coast road, the Earl of Derby guarded
the bridge, and there was a great tower, strongly fortified, close
upon Calais. There were a few skirmishes, but the French king,
finding it difficult to force his way to relieve the town, sent
a party of knights with a challenge to King Edward to come out of
his camp and do battle upon a fair field.
To this Edward made answer, that he had been nearly a year before
Calais, and had spent large sums of money on the siege, and that he
had nearly become master of the place, so that he had no intention
of coming out only to gratify his adversary, who must try some
other road if he could not make his way in by that before him.
Three days were spent in parleys, and then, without the slightest
effort to rescue the brave, patient men within the town, away went
King Philippe of France, with all his men, and the garrison saw the
host that had crowded the hill of Sangate melt away like a summer
August had come again, and they had suffered privation for a whole
year for the sake of the king who deserted them at their utmost
need. They were in so grievous a state of hunger and distress that
the hardiest could endure no more, for ever since Whitsuntide no
fresh provisions had reached them. The governor, therefore, went
to the battlements and made signs that he wished to hold a parley,
and the king appointed Lord Basset and Sir Walter Mauny to meet
him, and appoint the terms of surrender.
The governor owned that the garrison was reduced to the greatest
extremity of distress, and requested that the king would be contented
with obtaining the city and fortress, leaving the soldiers and
inhabitants to depart in peace.
But Sir Walter Mauny was forced to make answer that the king, his
lord, was so much enraged at the delay and expense that Calais
had cost him, that he would only consent to receive the whole on
unconditional terms, leaving him free to slay, or to ransom, or
make prisoners whomsoever he pleased, and he was known to consider
that there was a heavy reckoning to pay, both for the trouble the
siege had cost him and the damage the Calesians had previously done
to his ships.
The brave answer was: "These conditions are too hard for us. We are
but a small number of knights and squires, who have loyally served
our lord and master as you would have done, and have suffered much
ill and disquiet, but we will endure far more than any man has
done in such a post, before we consent that the smallest boy in the
town shall fare worse than ourselves. I therefore entreat you, for
pity's sake, to return to the king and beg him to have compassion,
for I have such an opinion of his gallantry that I think he will
alter his mind."
The king's mind seemed, however, sternly made up; and all that Sir
Walter Mauny and the barons of the council could obtain from him
was that he would pardon the garrison and townsmen on condition
that six of the chief citizens should present themselves to him,
coming forth with bare feet and heads, with halters round their
necks, carrying the keys of the town, and becoming absolutely his
own to punish for their obstinacy as he should think fit.
On hearing this reply, Sir Jean de Vienne begged Sir Walter Mauny
to wait till he could consult the citizens, and, repairing to the
market-place, he caused a great bell to be rung, at sound of which
all the inhabitants came together in the town-hall. When he told
them of these hard terms he could not refrain from weeping bitterly,
and wailing and lamentation arose all round him. Should all starve
together, or sacrifice their best and most honored after all
suffering in common so long?
Then a voice was heard; it was that of the richest burgher in the
town, Eustache de St. Pierre. "Messieurs, high and low," he said,
"it would be a sad pity to suffer so many people to die through hunger,
if it could be prevented; and to hinder it would be meritorious in
the eyes of our Saviour. I have such faith and trust in finding
grace before God, if I die to save my townsmen, that I name myself
as first of the six."
As the burgher ceased, his fellow-townsmen wept aloud, and many,
amid tears and groans, threw themselves at his feet in a transport
of grief and gratitude. Another citizen, very rich and respected,
rose up and said, "I will be second to my comrade, Eustache."
His name was Jean Daire. After him, Jacques Wissant, another very
rich man, offered himself as companion to these, who were both his
cousins; and his brother Pierre would not be left behind: and two
more, unnamed, made up this gallant band of men willing to offer
their lives for the rescue of their fellow-townsmen.
Sir Jean de Vienne mounted a little horse--for he had been wounded,
and was still lame--and came to the gate with them, followed by
all the people of the town, weeping and wailing, yet, for their own
sakes and their children's, not daring to prevent the sacrifice.
The gates were opened, the governor and the six passed out, and
the gates were again shut behind them. Sir Jean then rode up to
Sir Walter Mauny, and told him how these burghers had voluntarily
offered themselves, begging him to do all in his power to save
them; and Sir Walter promised with his whole heart to plead their
cause. De Vienne then went back into the town, full of heaviness
and anxiety; and the six citizens were led by Sir Walter to
the presence of the king, in his full court. They all knelt down,
and the foremost said: "Most gallant king, you see before you six
burghers of Calais, who have all been capital merchants, and who
bring you the keys of the castle and town. We yield ourselves to
your absolute will and pleasure, in order to save the remainder
of the inhabitants of Calais, who have suffered much distress and
misery. Condescend, therefore, out of your nobleness of mind, to
have pity on us."
Strong emotion was excited among all the barons and knights who
stood round, as they saw the resigned countenances, pale and thin
with patiently-endured hunger, of these venerable men, offering
themselves in the cause of their fellow-townsmen. Many tears of
pity were shed; but the king still showed himself implacable, and
commanded that they should he led away, and their heads stricken
off. Sir Walter Mauny interceded for them with all his might, even
telling the king that such an execution would tarnish his honor,
and that reprisals would be made on his own garrisons; and all
the nobles joined in entreating pardon for the citizens, but still
without effect; and the headsman had been actually sent for, when
Queen Philippa, her eyes streaming with tears, threw herself on
her knees amongst the captives, and said, "Ah, gentle sir, since
I have crossed the sea with much danger to see you, I have never
asked you one favor; now I beg as a boon to myself, for the sake
of the Son of the Blessed Mary, and for your love to me, that you
will be merciful to these men!"
For some time the king looked at her in silence; then he exclaimed:
"Dame, dame, would that you had been anywhere than here! You have
entreated in such a manner that I cannot refuse you; I therefore
give these men to you, to do as you please with."
Joyfully did Queen Philippa conduct the six citizens to her own
apartments, where she made them welcome, sent them new garments,
entertained them with a plentiful dinner, and dismissed them each
with a gift of six nobles. After this, Sir Walter Mauny entered the
city, and took possession of it; retaining Sir Jean de Vienne and
the other knights and squires till they should ransom themselves, and
sending out the old French inhabitants; for the king was resolved
to people the city entirely with English, in order to gain a
thoroughly strong hold of this first step in France.
The king and queen took up their abode in the city; and the houses
of Jean Daire were, it appears, granted to the queen--perhaps,
because she considered the man himself as her charge, and wished to
secure them for him--and her little daughter Margaret was, shortly
after, born in one of his houses. Eustache de St. Pierre was taken
into high favor, and was placed in charge of the new citizens whom
the king placed in the city.
Indeed, as this story is told by no chronicler but Froissart, some
have doubted of it, and thought the violent resentment thus imputed
to Edward III inconsistent with his general character; but it is
evident that the men of Calais had given him strong provocation by
attacks on his shipping--piracies which are not easily forgiven--and
that he considered that he had a right to make an example of them.
It is not unlikely that he might, after all, have intended to forgive
them, and have given the queen the grace of obtaining their pardon,
so as to excuse himself from the fulfillment of some over-hasty
threat. But, however this may have been, nothing can lessen the
glory of the six grave and patient men who went forth, by their own
free will to meet what might be a cruel and disgraceful death, in
order to obtain the safety of their fellow-townsmen.
THE STORY OF JOAN OF ARC, THE MAID WHO SAVED FRANCE
Over five hundred years ago, the children of Domremy, a little
village on the border of France, used to dance and sing beneath a
beautiful beech tree. They called it "The Fairy Tree." Among these
children was one named Jeanne, the daughter of an honest farmer,
Jacques d'Arc. Jeanne sang more than she danced, and though she
carried garlands like the other boys and girls, and hung them on the
boughs of the Fairies' Tree, she liked better to take the flowers
into the parish church and lay them on the altars of St. Margaret
and St. Catherine.
She was brought up by her parents (as she told the judges at her
trial) to be industrious, to sew and spin. She did not fear to
match herself at spinning and sewing, she said, against any woman
in Rouen. When very young, she sometimes went to the fields to watch
the cattle. As she grew older, she worked in the house; she did not
any longer watch sheep and cattle. But the times were dangerous, and
when there was an alarm of soldiers or robbers in the neighborhood,
she sometimes helped to drive the flock into a fortified island or
peninsula, for which her father was responsible, in the river near
her home. She learned her creed, she said, from her mother. Twenty
years after her death, her neighbors, who remembered her, described
her as she was when a child. Jean Morin said that she was a good
industrious girl, but that she would often be praying in church
when her father and mother did not know it. Jean Waterin, when he
was a boy, had seen Joan in the fields, "and when they were all
playing together, she would go apart and pray to God, as he thought,
and he and the others used to laugh at her. When she heard the
church bell ring, she would kneel down in the fields." All those
who had seen Joan told the same tale: she was always kind, simple,
industrious, pious and yet merry and fond of playing with the
In Joan's childhood France was under a mad king, Charles VI, and
was torn to pieces by two factions, the party of Burgundy and the
party of Armagnac. The English took advantage of these disputes,
and overran the land. The two parties of Burgundy and Armagnac
divided town from town and village from village. It was as in the
days of the Douglas Wars in Scotland, when the very children took
sides for Queen Mary and King James, and fought each other in the
streets. Domremy was for the Armagnacs--that is, against the English
and for the Dauphin, the son of the mad Charles VI. But at Maxey,
a village near Domremy, the people were all for Burgundy and the
English. The boys of Domremy would go out and fight the Maxey boys
with fists and sticks and stones. Joan did not remember having
taken part in those battles, but she had often seen her brothers
and the Domremy boys come home all bruised and bleeding.
When Joan was between twelve and thirteen (1424), so she swore,
_a Voice came to her from God for her guidance_, but when first it
came, she was in great fear. And it came, that Voice, about noonday,
in the summer season, she being in her father's garden. Joan had
not fasted the day before that, but was fasting when the Voice
came. The Voices at first only told her to be a good girl, and go
to church. The Voice later told her of the great sorrow there was
in France, and that one day she must go into France and help the
country. She had visions with the Voices; visions first of St.
Michael, and then of St. Catherine and St. Margaret. "I saw them
with my bodily eyes, as I see you," she said to her judges," and
when they departed from me I wept, and well I wished that they had
taken me with them."
What are we to think about these visions and these Voices which
were with Joan to her death?
In 1428 only a very few small towns in the east still held out for
the Dauphin, and these were surrounded on every side by enemies.
Meanwhile the Voices came more frequently, urging Joan to go into
France and help her country. She asked how she, a girl, who could
not ride or use sword and lance, could be of any help? At the same
time she was encouraged by one of the vague old prophecies which
were common in France. A legend ran that France was to be saved
by a Maiden from the Oak Wood, and there was an Oak Wood (_le bois
chenu_) near Domremy. Some such prophecy had an influence on Joan,
and probably helped people to believe in her. The Voices often
commanded her to go to Vaucouleurs, a neighboring town which was
loyal, and there meet Robert de Baudricourt, who was captain of the
French garrison. Now, Robert de Baudricourt was a gallant soldier,
but a plain practical man, very careful of his own interest, and
cunning enough to hold his own among his many enemies, English,
Burgundian, and Lorrainers.
Joan had a cousin who was married to one Durand Lassois, at Burey
en Vaux, a village near Vaucouleurs. This cousin invited Joan
to visit her for a week. At the end of that time she spoke to her
cousin's husband. There was an old saying, as we saw, that France
would be rescued by a Maid, and she, as she told Lassois, was that
Maid. Lassois listened, and, whatever he may have thought of her
chances, he led her to Robert de Baudricourt.
Joan came, in her simple red dress, and walked straight up to the
captain. She told him that the Dauphin must keep quiet, and risk
no battle, for, before the middle of Lent next year (1423), God
would send him help. She added that the kingdom belonged, not to
the Dauphin, but to her Master, who willed that the Dauphin should
be crowned, and she herself would lead him to Reims, to be anointed
with the holy oil.
"And who is your Master?" said Robert.
"The King of Heaven!"
Robert, very naturally, thought that Joan was crazed, and shrugged
his shoulders. He bluntly told Lassois to box her ears and take her
back to her father. So she had to go home; but here new troubles
awaited her. The enemy came down on Domremy and burned it; Joan and
her family fled to Neufchateau, where they stayed for a few days.
When Joan looked from her father's garden to the church, she saw
nothing but a heap of smoking ruins. These things only made her
feel more deeply the sorrows of her country. The time was drawing
near when she had prophesied that the Dauphin was to receive help
from heaven--namely, in the Lent of 1429. On that year the season
was held more than commonly sacred, for Good Friday and the
Annunciation fell on the same day. So, early in January, 1429, Joan
turned her back on Domremy, which she was never to see again. Her
cousin Lassois came and asked leave for Joan to visit him again;
so she said good-by to her father and mother, and to her friends.
She went to her cousin's house at Burey, and there she stayed for
six weeks, hearing bad news of the siege of Orleans by the English.
A squire named Jean de Nouillompont met Joan one day.
"Well, my lass," said he, "is our king to be driven from France,
and are we all to become English?"
"I have come here," said Joan, "to bid Robert de Baudricourt lead
me to the king, but he will not listen to me. And yet to the king
I must go, even if I walk my legs down to the knees; for none in all
the world--king, nor duke, nor the King of Scotland's daughter--can
save France, but myself only. Certainly, I would rather stay and
spin with my poor mother, for to fight is not my calling; but I
must go and I must fight, for so my Lord will have it."
"And who is your Lord?" said Jean de Nouillompont.
"He is God," said the Maiden.
On February 12, the story goes, she went to Robert de Baudricourt.
"You delay too long," she said. "On this very day, at Orleans, the
gentle Dauphin has lost a battle."
Now the people of Vaucouleurs brought clothes for Joan to wear on
her journey to the Dauphin. They were such clothes as men wear--doublet,
hose, surcoat, boots, and spurs--and Robert de Baudricourt gave
Joan a sword. Her reason was that she would have to be living alone
among men-at-arms for a ten days' journey and she thought it was
more modest to wear armor like the rest. Also, her favorite saint,
St. Margaret, had done this once when in danger. Besides, in all
the romances of chivalry, we find fair maidens fighting in arms
like men, or travelling dressed as pages.
On February 23, 1429, the gate of the little castle of Vaucouleurs,
"the Gate of France," which is still standing, was thrown open. Seven
travellers rode out, among them two squires, Jean de Nouillompont
and Bertrand de Poulengy, with their attendants, and Joan the Maid.
"Go, and let what will come of it come!" said Robert de Baudricourt.
He did not expect much to come of it. It was a long journey--they
were eleven days on the road--and a dangerous. But Joan laughed
at danger. "God will clear my path to the king, for to this end I
was born." Often they rode by night, stopping at monasteries when
they could, Sometimes they slept out under the sky. Though she was
young and beautiful, these two gentlemen never dreamed of paying
their court to her and making love, as they do in romances, for
they regarded her "as if she had been an angel." They were in awe
of her, they said long afterward, and all the knights who had seen
her said the same.
From Fierbois, Joan made some clerk write to the king that she was
coming to help him, and that she would know him among all his men.
Probably it was here that she wrote to beg her parents pardon, and
they forgave her, she says. Meanwhile, news reached the people then
besieged in Orleans that a marvellous Maiden was riding to their
rescue. On March 6, Joan arrived in Chinon where for two or three
days the king's advisers would not let him see her. At last they
yielded, and she went straight up to him, and when he denied that
he was the king, she told him that she knew well who he was.
"There is the king," said Charles, pointing to a richly dressed
"No, fair sire. You are he!"
Still, it was not easy to believe. Joan stayed at Chinon in the
house of a noble lady. The young Duc d'Alençon was on her side from
Great people came to see her and question her, but when she was
alone, she wept and prayed.
Joan was weary of being asked questions. One day she went to Charles
and said, "Gentle Dauphin, why do you delay to believe me? I tell
you that God has taken pity on you and your people, at the prayer
of St. Louis and St. Charlemagne. And I will tell you by your
leave, something which will show you that you should believe me."
Then she told him secretly something which, as he said, none could
know but God and himself.
But the king to whom Joan brought this wonderful message, the
king whom she loved so loyally, and for whom she died, spoiled all
her plans. He, with his political advisers, prevented her from
driving the English quite out of France. These favorites were lazy,
comfortable, cowardly, disbelieving; in their hearts they hated the
Maid, who put them to so much trouble. Charles, to tell the truth,
never really believed in her; he never quite trusted her; he never
led a charge by her side; and in the end, he shamefully deserted
her, and left the Maid to her doom.
Weeks had passed, and Joan had never yet seen a blow struck in war.
She used to exercise herself in horsemanship, and knightly sports
of tilting, and it is wonderful that a peasant-girl became, at once,
one of the best riders among the chivalry of France. The young Duc
d'Alençon and his wife were her friends from the first, when the
politicians and advisers were against her. It was now determined
that Joan should be taken to Poitiers, and examined before all the
learned men, bishops, doctors, and higher clergy who still were on
the side of France. There was good reason for this delay. It was
plain to all, friends and foes, that the wonderful Maid was not like
other men and women, with her Voices, her visions, her prophecies,
and her powers. All agreed that she had some strange help given
to her; but who gave it? This aid must come, people thought then,
either from heaven or hell--either from God and his saints, or
from the devil and his angels. Now, if any doubt could be thrown
on the source whence Joan's aid came, the English might argue (as
of course they did) that she was a witch and a heretic. If she was
a heretic and a witch, then her king was involved in her wickedness,
and so he might be legally shut out from his kingdom. It was
necessary, therefore, that Joan should be examined by learned men.
They must find out whether she had always been good, and a true
believer, and whether her Voices always agreed in everything with
the teachings of the Church. Otherwise her angels must be devils
in disguise. During three long weeks the learned men asked her
questions. They said it was wonderful how wisely this girl, who
"did not know A from B," replied to their puzzling inquiries. She
told the story of her visions, of the command laid upon her to
At last, after examining witnesses from Domremy, and the Queen of
Sicily and other great ladies to whom Joan was intrusted, the clergy
found nothing in her but "goodness, humility, frank maidenhood,
piety, honesty and simplicity." As for her wearing a man's dress,
the Archbishop of Embrim said to the king, "It is more becoming
to do these things in man's clothes, since they have to be done
The king therefore made up his mind at last. Jean and Pierre,
Joan's brothers, were to ride with her to Orleans; her old friends,
her first friends, Jean de Nouillompont and Bertrand de Poulengy,
had never left her. She was given a squire, a page, and a chaplain.
The king gave Joan armor and horses, and offered her a sword. But
her Voices told her that, behind the altar of St. Catherine de
Fierbois, where she heard mass on her way to Chinori, there was
an old sword, with five crosses on the blade, buried in the earth.
That sword she was to wear. A man whom Joan did not know, and had
never seen, was sent from Tours, and found the sword in the place
which she described. The sword was cleaned of rust, and the king
gave her two sheaths, one of velvet, one of cloth of gold, but
Joan had a leather sheath made for use in war. She also commanded
a banner to be made, with the Lilies of France on a white field.
When once it was settled that she was to lead an army to relieve
Orleans, she showed her faith by writing a letter addressed to the
King of England, Bedford, the Regent, and the English generals at
Orleans. If they did not yield to the Maid and the king, she will
come on them to their sorrow. "Duke of Bedford, the Maid prays
and entreats you not to work your own destruction!"
We may imagine how the English laughed and swore when they received
this letter. They threw the heralds of the Maid into prison,
and threatened to burn them as heretics. From the very first, the
English promised to burn Joan as a witch and a heretic.
At last the men-at-arms who were to accompany Joan were ready.
She was armed in white armor, but unhelmeted, a little axe in her
hand, riding a great black charger. She turned to the church, and
said, in her girlish voice, "You priests and churchmen, make prayers
and processions to God." Then she cried, "Forward, Forward!" and
on she rode at their head, a page carrying her banner. And so Joan
went to war.
She led, she says, ten or twelve thousand soldiers. This army
was to defend a great convoy of provisions of which the people of
Orleans stood in sore need. The people were not starving, but food
came in slowly, and in small quantities. The French general-in-chief
was the famous Dunois. On the English side was the brave Talbot,
who fought under arms for sixty years, and died fighting when he
was over eighty.
Looking _down_ the river Loire, Orleans lies on your right hand. It
had strong walls, towers on the wall, and a bridge of many arches
crossing to the left side of the river. At the further end of this
bridge were a fort and rampart called Les Tourelles, and this fort
had already been taken by the English, so that no French army could
cross the bridge to help Orleans. The rampart and the fort of Les
Tourelles were guarded by another strong work called Les Augustins.
All round the outside of the town, on the right bank, the English
had built strong redoubts, which they called _bastilles_, but on
the east, above the town, and on the Orleans bank of the Loire,
the English had only one bastille, St. Loup. Now, as Joan's army
mustered at Blois, south of Orleans, further down the river, she
might march on the _left_ side of the river, cross it by boats
above Orleans, and enter the town where the English were weakest
and had only one fort, St. Loup. Or she might march up the _right_
bank, and attack the English where they were strongest and had
many bastilles. The Voices bade the Maid act on the boldest plan,
and enter Orleans, where the English were strongest, on the right
bank of the river. The English would not move, said the Voices.
She was certain that they would not even sally out against her.
But Dunois in Orleans, and the generals with the Maid, thought this
plan very perilous. They, therefore, deceived her, caused her to
think that Orleans was on the _left_ bank of the Loire, and led
her thither. When she arrived, she saw that they had not played
her fair, that the river lay between her and the town, and the
strongest force of the enemy.
This girl of seventeen saw that, if a large convoy of provisions
was to be thrown into a besieged town, the worst way was to try
to ferry the supplies across a river under the enemy's fire. But
Dunois and the other generals had brought her to this pass, and
the Maid was sore ill-pleased. The wind was blowing in her teeth;
boats could not cross with the troops and provisions. There she sat
her horse and chafed till Dunois came out and crossed the Loire to
meet her. This is what he says about Joan and her conduct:
"I did not think, and the other generals did not think, that the
men-at-arms with the Maid were a strong enough force to bring the
provisions into the town. Above all, it was difficult to get boats
and ferry over the supplies, for both wind and stream were dead
against us. Then Joan spoke to me thus:
"'Are you the general?'
"'That am I, and glad of your coming.'
"'Is it you who gave counsel that I should come hither by that bank
of the stream, and not go straight where Talbot and the English
"'I myself, and others wiser than I, gave that advice, and we think
it the better way and the surer.'
"'In God's name, the counsel of our God is wiser and surer than
yours. You thought to deceive me, and you have deceived yourselves,
for I bring you a better rescue than ever shall come to soldier or
city--that is, the help of the King of Heaven, * * *'
"Then instantly, and as it were in one moment, the wind changed that
had been dead against us, and had hindered the boats from carrying
the provisions into Orleans, and the sails filled."
Dunois now wished Joan to cross by boat and enter the town, but
her army could not cross, so the army returned to Blois, to cross
by the bridge there, and come upon the Orleans bank, as Joan had
intended from the first. Then Joan crossed in the boat, holding in
her hand the lily standard. She and La Hire and Dunois rode into
Orleans, where the people crowded round her, blessing her, and
trying to kiss her hand. So they led her with great joy to the
Regnart Gate, and the house of Jacques Boucher, treasurer of the
Duke of Orleans, and there was she gladly received.
Next day, without leave from Joan, La Hire led a sally against the
English, fought bravely, but failed, and Joan wished once more to
bid the English go in peace. The English, of course, did not obey
her summons, and it is said that they answered with wicked words
which made her weep. For she wept readily, and blushed when she was
moved. In her anger she went to a rampart, and, crying aloud, bade
the English begone; but they repeated their insults, and threatened
yet again to burn her. Next day, Dunois went off to bring the
troops from Blois, and Joan rode round and inspected the English
position. They made no attempt to take her. On May 4 the army
returned from Blois. Joan rode out to meet them, priests marched
in procession, singing hymns, but the English never stirred. They
were expecting fresh troops under Fastolf. For some reason, probably
because they did not wish her to run risk, they did not tell Joan
when the next fight began. She had just lain down to sleep when
she leaped up with the noise, wakening her squire. "My Voices tell
me," she said, "that I must go against the English, but whether to
their forts or against Fastolf I know not."
In a moment she was in the street, the page handed to her the lily
flag from the upper window. Followed by her squire, D'Aulon, she
galloped to the Burgundy Gate. They met wounded men. "Never do I
see French blood but my hair stands up on my head," said Joan. She
rode out of the gate to the English fort of St. Loup, which the
Orleans men were attacking. Joan leaped into the fosse, under fire,
holding her banner, and cheering on her men. St. Loup was taken by
the French, in spite of a gallant defence.
The French generals now conceived a plan to make a feint, or
a sham attack, on the English forts where they were strongest, on
the Orleans side of the river. The English on the left side would
cross to help their countrymen, and then the French would take the
forts beyond the bridge. Thus they would have a free path across
the river, and would easily get supplies, and tire out the English.
They only told Joan of the first part of their plan, but she saw
that they were deceiving her. When the plan was explained, she
agreed to it; her one wish was to strike swiftly and strongly.
The French attacked the English fort of Les Augustins, beyond the
river, but suddenly they fled to their bridge of boats, while the
English sallied out, yelling their insults at Joan. She turned,
gathered a few men, and charged. The English ran before her like
sheep; she planted her banner again in the ditch. The French hurried
back to her; a great Englishman, who guarded the breach, was shot;
two French knights leaped in, the others followed, and the English
took refuge in the redoubt of Les Tourelles, their strong fort at
The Maid returned to Orleans, and, though it was a Friday, and
she always fasted on Fridays, she was so weary that she ate some
supper. A bit of bread, her page reports, was all that she usually
ate. Now the generals sent to Joan and said that enough had been
done. They had food, and could wait for another army from the king.
"You have been with your council," she said, "I have been with mine.
The wisdom of God is greater than yours. Rise early to-morrow, do
better than your best, keep close by me; for to-morrow have I much
to do, and more than ever yet I did, and to-morrow shall my blood
flow from a wound above my breast." Joan had already said at Chinon
that she would be wounded at Orleans.
The generals did not wish to attack the bridge-tower, but Joan paid
them no attention. They were glad enough to follow, lest she took
the fort without them. About half-past six in the morning the
fight began. The French and Scottish leaped into the fosse, they
set ladders against the walls, they reached the battlements, and
were struck down by English swords and axes. Cannon-balls and great
stones and arrows rained on them. "Fight on!" cried the Maid; "the
place is ours." At one o'clock she set a ladder against the wall
with her own hands, but was deeply wounded by an arrow, which
pierced clean through between neck and shoulder. Joan wept, but
seizing the arrow with her own hands she dragged it out. "Yet,"
says Dunois, "she did not withdraw from the battle, nor took any
medicine for the wound; and the onslaught lasted from morning till
eight at night, so that there was no hope of victory. I desired that
the army should go back to the town, but the Maid came to me and
bade me wait a little longer. Next she mounted her horse and rode
into a vineyard, and there prayed for the space of seven minutes
or eight. Then she returned, took her banner, and stood on the
brink of the fosse. The English trembled when they saw her, but our
men returned to the charge and met with no resistance. The English
fled or were slain, and we returned gladly into Orleans." The people
of Orleans had a great share in this victory. Seeing the English
hard pressed, they laid long beams across the broken arches of the
bridge, and charged by this perilous way. The triumph was even more
that of the citizens than of the army.
Next day the English drew up their men in line of battle. The French
went out to meet them, and would have begun the attack. Joan said
that God would not have them fight.
"If the English attack, we shall defeat them; we are to let them
go in peace if they will."
Mass was then said before the French army.
When the rite was done, Joan asked: "Do they face us, or have they
turned their backs?"
It was the English backs that the French saw, that day: Talbot's
men were in full retreat on Meun.
From that hour, May 8 is kept a holiday at Orleans in honor of Joan
the Maiden. Never was there such a deliverance. In a week the Maid
had driven a strong army, full of courage and well led, out of
forts like Les Tourelles. The Due d'Alencon visited it, and said
that with a few men-at-arms he would have felt certain of holding
it for a week against any strength, however great. But Joan not only
gave the French her spirit: her extraordinary courage in leading
a new charge after so terrible a wound, "six inches deep," says
D'Alencon, made the English think that they were fighting a force
not of this world.
HOW JOAN THE MAID TOOK LARGESS FROM THE ENGLISH
The Maid had shown her sign, as she promised; she had rescued
Orleans. Her next desire was to lead Charles to Reims, through
a country occupied by the English, and to have him anointed there
with the holy oil. Till this was done she could only regard him as
Dauphin--king, indeed, by blood, but not by consecration.
[Illustration: FIGHT ON CRIED THE MAID THE PLACE IS OURS _From the
painting by William Rainey_]
After all that Joan had accomplished, the king and his advisers
might have believed in her. She went to the castle of Loches, where
Charles was; he received her kindly, but still he did not seem eager
to go to Reims. It was a dangerous adventure, for which he and his
favorites had no taste. It seems that more learned men were asked
to give their opinion. Was it safe and wise to obey the Maid?
Councils were now held at Tours, and time was wasted as usual. As
usual, Joan was impatient. With Dunois, she went to see Charles at
the castle of Loches. Some nobles and clergy were with him; Joan
entered, knelt, and embraced his knees. "Noble Dauphin," she said,
"do not hold so many councils, and such weary ones, but come to
Reims and receive the crown."
Harcourt asked her if her Voices, or "counsel" (as she called it),
gave this advice. She blushed and said: "I know what you mean, and
will tell you gladly." The king asked her if she wished to speak
before so many people. Yes, she would speak. When they doubted her,
she prayed, "and then she heard a Voice saying to her:
"'_Fille de Dieu, va, va, je serai a ton aide, val!_'" [Footnote:
"Daughter of God, go on, go on, I will help thee; go!]
"And when she heard this Voice she was glad indeed, and wished
that she could always be as she was then; and as she spoke," says
Dunois, "she rejoiced strangely, lifting her eyes to heaven." And
she repeated: "I will last for only one year, or little more; use
me while you may."
Joan stirred the favorites and courtiers at last. They would go
to Reims, but could they leave behind them English garrisons in
Jargeau, where Suffolk commanded; in Meun, where Talbot was, and in
other strong places? Already, without Joan, the French had attacked
Jargeau, after the rescue of Orleans, and had failed. Joan agreed
to assail Jargeau. Her army was led by the "fair duke," D'Alençon.
Let us tell what followed in the words of the Duc d'Alençon:
"We were about six hundred lances, who wished to go against the
town of Jargeau, then held by the English. That night we slept in
a wood, and next day came Dunois and some other captains. When we
were all met we were about twelve hundred lances; and now arose
a dispute among the captains, some thinking that we should attack
the city, others not so, for they said that the English were very
strong, and had many men. Seeing this difference, Jeanne bade us
have no fear of any numbers, nor doubt about attacking the English,
because God was guiding us. She herself would rather be herding
sheep than fighting, if she were not certain that God was with us.
Thereon we rode to Jargeau, meaning to occupy the outlying houses,
and there pass the night; but the English knew of our approach,
and drove in our skirmishers. Seeing this, Jeanne took her banner
and went to the front, bidding our men be of good heart. And they
did so much that they held the suburbs of Jargeau that night.
* * * Next morning we got ready our artillery, and brought guns up
against the town. After some days a council was held, and I, with
others, was ill content with La Hire, who was said to have parleyed
with Lord Suffolk. La Hire was sent for, and came. Then it was
decided to storm the town, and the heralds cried, 'To the attack!'
and Jeanne said to me, 'Forward, gentle duke.' I thought it was
too early, but she said, 'Doubt not; the hour is come when God
pleases.' As the onslaught was given, Jeanne bade me leave the
place where I stood, 'or yonder gun' pointing to one on the walls,
'will slay you.' Then I withdrew, and a little later De Lude was
slain in that very place. And I feared greatly, considering the
prophecy of the Maid. Then we both went together to the onslaught;
and Suffolk cried for a parley, but no man marked him, and we
pressed on. Jeanne was climbing a ladder, banner in hand, when her
flag was struck by a stone, and she also was struck on her head, but
her light helmet saved her. She leaped up again, crying, 'Friends,
friends; on, on! Our Lord has condemned the English. They are
ours; be of good heart.' In that moment Jargeau was taken, and the
English fled to the bridges, we following, and more than eleven
hundred of them were slain."
Once Joan saw a man-at-arms strike down a prisoner. She leaped from
her horse, and laid the wounded Englishman's head on her breast,
consoling him, and bade a priest come and hear his confession. From
Jargeau the Maid rode back to Orleans, where the people could not
look on her enough, and made great festival.
The garrison of the English in Beaugency did not know whether to
hold out or to yield. Fastolf said that the English had lost heart,
and that Beaugency should be left to its fate, while the rest held
out in strong places and waited for re-enforcements, but Talbot
was for fighting. The English then rode to Meun, and cannonaded
the bridge-fort, which was held by the French. They hoped to take
the bridge, cross it, march to Beaugency, and relieve the besieged
there. But that very night Beaugency surrendered to the Maid! She
then bade her army march on the English, who were retreating to
Paris. But how was the Maid to find the English? "Ride forward,"
she cried, "and you shall have a sure guide." They had a guide,
and a strange one.
The English were marching toward Paris, near Pathay, when their
skirmishers came in with the news that the French were following.
Talbot lined the hedges with five hundred archers of his best, and
sent a galloper to bring thither the rest of his army. On came the
French, not seeing the English in ambush. In a few minutes they
would have been shot down and choked the pass with dying men and
horses. But now was the moment for the strange guide.
A stag was driven from cover by the French, and ran blindly among
the ambushed English bowmen. Not knowing that the French were
so near, and being archers from Robin Hood's country, who loved a
deer, they raised a shout, and probably many an arrow flew at the
stag. The French scouts heard the cry, saw the English and hurried
back with the news. "Forward!" cried the Maid; "if they were hung
to the clouds, we have them. Today the gentle king will gain such
a victory as never yet did he win."
The French dashed into the pass before Talbot had secured it.
Fastolf galloped up, but the English thought that he was in flight;
the captain of the advanced guard turned his horse about and made
off. Talbot was taken, Fastolf fled, "making more sorrow than ever
yet did man." The French won a great victory. They needed their
spurs, as the Maid had told them that they would, to follow their
flying foes. The English lost some 3,000 men. In the evening,
Talbot, as a prisoner, was presented to the Duc d'Alençon.
At last, with difficulty, Charles was brought to visit Reims and
consent to be crowned like his ancestors.
Seeing that he was never likely to move, Joan left the town where
he was and went off into the country. This retreat brought Charles
to his senses. The towns which he passed by yielded to him; Joan
went and summoned each. "Now she was with the king in the centre,
now with the rear guard, now with the van." The town of Troyes,
where there was an English garrison, did not wish to yield. There
was a council in the king's army; they said they could not take
"In two days it shall be yours, by force or by good-will," said
the Maid. "Six days will do," said the chancellor, "if you are sure
you speak truth."
Joan made ready for an attack. She was calling "Forward!" when the
town surrendered. Reims, after some doubts, yielded also, on July
16, and all the people welcomed the king. On July 17 the king was
crowned and anointed with the holy oil by that very Archbishop
of Reims who always opposed Joan. The Twelve Peers of France were
not all present--some were on the English side--but Joan stood by
Charles, her banner in her hand.
When the ceremony was ended, and the Dauphin Charles was a crowned
and anointed king, the Maid knelt weeping at his feet. "Gentle
king," she said, "now is accomplished the will of God, who desired
that you should come to Reims to be consecrated, and to prove
that you are the true king and the kingdom is yours." Then all the
knights wept for joy.
The king bade Joan choose her reward. Already horses, rich armor,
jewelled daggers, had been given to her. These, adding to the beauty
and glory of her aspect, had made men follow her more gladly, and
for that she valued them. She made gifts to noble ladies, and gave
much to the poor. She only wanted money to wage the war with, not
for herself. Her family was made noble; on their shield, between
two lilies, a sword upholds the crown. Her father was at Reims, and
saw her in her glory. What reward, then, was Joan to choose? She
chose nothing for herself, but that her native village of Domremy
should be free from taxes. This news her father carried home from
the splendid scene at Reims.
As they went from Reims after the coronation, Dunois and the archbishop
were riding by her rein. The people cheered and shouted with joy.
"They are a good people," said Joan. "Never saw I any more joyous
at the coming of their king. Ah, would that I might be so happy
when I end my days as to be buried here!" Said the archbishop:
"Jeanne, in what place do you hope to die?" Then she said: "Where
it pleases God; for I know not that hour, nor that place, more
than ye do. But would to God, my Maker, that now I might depart,
and lay down my arms, and help my father and mother, and keep
their sheep with my brothers and my sisters, who would rejoice to
What was to be done after the crowning of the king? Bedford,
the regent for the child Henry VI, expected to see Joan under the
walls of Paris. He was waiting for the troops which the Cardinal
of Winchester had collected in England. Bedford induced Winchester
to bring his men to France, but they had not arrived. The Duke of
Burgundy, the head of the great French party which opposed Charles,
had been invited by the Maid to Reims. Again she wrote to him:
"Make a firm, good peace with the King of France," she said; "forgive
each other with kind hearts"; "I pray and implore you, with joined
hands, fight not against France."
The Duke of Burgundy, far from listening to Joan's prayer, left
Paris and went to raise men for the English. Meanwhile, Charles
was going from town to town, and all received him gladly. But Joan
soon began to see that instead of marching west from Reims to Paris,
the army was being led southwest toward the Loire. There the king
would be safe among his dear castles, where he could live indoors,
and take his ease. Thus Bedford was able to throw 5,000 men of
Winchester's into Paris, and even dared to come out and hunt for
the French king. The French should have struck at Paris at once, as
Joan desired. The delays were excused because the Duke of Burgundy
had promised to surrender Paris in a fortnight. But this he did
merely to gain time. Joan knew this, and said there would be no
peace but at the lance-point.
The French and English armies kept watching each other, and there
were skirmishes near Senlis. On August 15, the Maid and d'Alençon
hoped for a battle. But the English had fortified their position
in the night. Come out they would not, so Joan rode up to their
fortification, standard in hand, struck the palisade and challenged
them to sally forth. She even offered to let them march out and
draw themselves up in line of battle. The Maid stayed on the field
all night and next day made a retreat, hoping to draw the English
out of their fort. But they were too wary and went back to Paris.
Now the fortnight was over, after which the Duke of Burgundy was
to surrender Paris, but he did nothing of the kind. The Maid was
weary of words. She called the Duc d'Alençon and said: "My fair
duke, array your men, for, by my staff, I would fain see Paris
more closely than I have seen it yet." On August 23, the Maid and
d'Alençon left the king at Compiègne and rode to St. Denis, where
were the tombs of the kings of France. "And when the king heard
that they were at St. Denis, he came, very sore against his will,
as far as Senlis, and it seems that his advisers were contrary to
the will of the Maid, of the Duc d'Alencon, and of their company."
The king was afraid to go near Paris, but Bedford was afraid to
stay in the town. He went to Rouen, the strongest English hold in
Normandy, leaving the Burgundian army and 2,000 English in Paris.
Every day, the Maid and d'Alençon rode from St. Denis to the gates
of Paris, to observe the best places for an attack. And still
Charles dallied and delayed, still the main army did not come up.
Thus the delay of the king gave the English time to make Paris
almost impregnable and to frighten the people who, had Charles
marched straight from Reims, would have yielded as Reims did.
D'Alençon kept going to Senlis urging Charles to come up with the
main army. He went on September 1--the king promised to start next
day. D'Alençon returned to the Maid, the king still loitered. At
last d'Alençon brought him to St. Denis on September 7, and there
was a skirmish that day.
In the book of Perceval de Cagny, who was with his lord, the Duc
d'Alençon, he says: "The assault was long and fierce, and it was
marvel to hear the noise of the cannons and culverins from the
walls, and to see the clouds of arrows. Few of those in the fosse
with the Maid were struck, though many others on horse and foot
were wounded with arrows and stone cannon-balls, but by God's grace
and the Maid's good fortune, there was none of them but could return
to camp unhelped. The assault lasted from noon till dusk--say eight
in the evening. After sunset, the Maid was struck by a crossbow
bolt in the thigh; and, after she was hurt, she cried but the louder
that all should attack, and that the place was taken. But as night
had now fallen and she was wounded, and the men-at-arms were weary
with the long attack, De Gaucourt and others came and found her,
and, against her will, brought her forth from the fosse. And so
ended that onslaught. But right sad she was to leave and said,
'By my bâton, the place would have been taken.' They put her on
horseback, and led her to her quarters, and all the rest of the
king's company who that day had come from St. Denis."
"Next day," says Cagny, "in spite of her wound, she was first in
the field. She went to d'Alençon and bade him sound the trumpet
for the charge. D'Alençon and the other captains were of the same
mind as the Maid, and Montmorency with sixty gentlemen and many
lances came in, though he had been on the English side before. So
they began to march on Paris, but the king sent messengers, and
compelled the Maid and the captains to return to St. Denis. Right
sorry were they, yet they must obey the king. When she saw that
they would go, she dedicated her armor, and hung it up before the
statue of Our Lady at St. Denis, and so right sadly went away in
company with the king. And thus were broken the will of the Maid
and the army of the king."
The courtiers had triumphed. They had thwarted the Maid, they had
made her promise to take Paris of no avail. They had destroyed the
confidence of men in the banner that had never gone back.
The king now went from one pleasant tower on the Loire to another,
taking the Maid with him. Meanwhile, the English took and plundered
some of the cities which had yielded to Charles, and they carried
off the Maid's armor from the chapel in St. Denis. Her Voices had
bidden her stay at St. Denis, but this she was not permitted to
do, and now she must hear daily how the loyal towns that she had
won were plundered by the English, and all her work seemed wasted.
The Duc d'Alençon offered to lead an army against the English in
Normandy, if the Maid might march with him, for the people had not
wholly lost faith, but the courtiers and the Archbishop of Reims,
who managed the king and the war, would not consent, nor would they
allow the Maid and the duke to even see each other.
Joan wanted to return to Paris, but the council sent her to take
La Charité and Saint-Pierre-le-Moustier from the English. This town
she attacked first. Her squire, a gentleman named d'Aulon, was with
her, and described what he saw. "When they had besieged the place
for some time, an assault was commanded, but for the great strength
of the forts and the numbers of the enemy the French were forced
to give way. At that hour I who speak was wounded by an arrow in
the heel, and could not stand or walk without crutches. But I saw
the Maid holding her ground with a handful of men, and, fearing ill
might come of it, I mounted a horse and rode to her, asking what
she was doing there alone, and why she did not retreat like the
others. She took the _salade_ from her head, and answered that
she was not alone, but had in her company fifty thousand of her
people; and that go she would not till she had taken that town,
"But, whatever she said, I saw that she had with her but four men
or five, as others also saw, wherefore I bade her retreat. Then she
commanded me to have fagots brought, and planks to bridge fosses.
And as she spoke to me, she cried in a loud voice, 'All of you, bring
fagots to fill the fosse.' And this was done, whereat I greatly
marvelled, and instantly that town was taken by assault with no
great resistance. And all that the Maid did seemed to me rather
deeds divine than natural, and it was impossible that so young
a maid should do such deeds without the will and guidance of Our
DEATH OF JOAN THE MAID
From there the Maid rode to attack La Charité. But, though the
towns helped her as well as they might with money and food, her
force was too small and was too ill provided with everything, for
the king did not send supplies. She abandoned the siege and departed
in great displeasure. The court now moved from place to place,
with Joan following in its train; for three weeks she stayed with
a lady who describes her as very devout and constantly in church.
Thinking her already a saint, people brought her things to touch.
"Touch them yourselves," she said; "your touch is as good as mine."
Winter was over and spring came on, but still the king did nothing.
The Maid could be idle no longer. Without a word to the king,
she rode to Lagny, "for there they had fought bravely against the
English." These men were Scots, under Sir Hugh Kennedy. In mid-April
she was at Melun. There "she heard her Voices almost every day,
and many a time they told her that she would presently be taken
prisoner." Her year was over. She prayed that she might die as soon
as she was taken, without the long sorrow of imprisonment. Then her
Voices told her to bear graciously whatever befell her, for so it
must be. But they told her not the hour of her captivity. "If she
had known the hour she would not then have gone to war. And often
she prayed them to tell her of that hour, but they did not answer."
These words are Joan's. She spoke them to her judges at Rouen.
The name of Joan was now such a terror to the English that men
deserted rather than face her in arms. At this time the truce with
Burgundy ended, and the duke openly set out to besiege the strong
town of Compiègne, held by De Flavy for France. Burgundy had
invested Compiègne, when Joan, with four hundred men, rode into
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