Joan of Arc : her story /
Régine Pernoud, Marie Véronique Clin ; translated and revised by Jeremy duQuesnay Adams ; edited by Bonnie Wheeler.
1st ed.
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1998.
xxii, 304 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm.
More Details
uniform title
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1998.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [286]-294) and index.
A Look Inside
First Chapter

Chapter One


The city of Orléans, the bridge between northern and southern France, was sorely besieged by a large English force from October 12, 1428, to the following May. Its ruler, Duke Charles of Orleans (see Part II, Section 31), had been a prisoner in England since the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The city's defense was commanded by his half-brother John, the Bastard of Orléans (later to be count of Dunois, II, 16). Over those seven months, reinforcements came sporadically to the aid of both the besieged French and the besieging English. Inconclusive skirmishing failed to mask the steady tipping of the balance in favor of the English. By March 1429, Orléans seemed ready to fall at the next serious push.

Then, in early March, came the rumor that a maid from the kingdom's eastern frontier had ridden to meet the Dauphin Charles (II, I), promising to restore his kingdom to him by saving Orléans and by working other wonders. Joan of Arc enters the historical record; her story begins.

"They say that a maid passed by the city of Gien, a maid who presented herself to the noble dauphin to raise the siege of Orleans and to lead the dauphin to Reims so that he might be anointed." This "they say" in February 1429 is the first appearance in the historical record of the woman we now call Joan of Arc.

    These lines were written by one of the principal characters in the opening scenes of Joan's drama, the man best situated to be informed about it: John the Bastard, better known by his later title, the count of Dunois. His testimony from Joan's nullification trial continues: "Since I was the guardian of the city of Orléans, being lieutenant-general once the war began, I sent to the king's court the sire de Villars, who was seneschal of Beaucaire, and Jamet du Tillet, who later was bailiff of the Vermandois, for fuller information concerning this maiden."

    On the fate of Orléans hung that of the entire kingdom. Orléans was the key to the south of France. It was the key to Bourges, the stronghold of the dauphin Charles, known contemptuously to his opponents as "the king of Bourges." It was the key to Auxerre, where Burgundian troops were stationed, ready to take up arms in what might well be the final move to checkmate the dauphin. Past Bourges ran the road to Guyenne, where the English were at home, where they did not need to behave like conquerors, since Guyenne was the core of the fief of Aquitaine, the legacy of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and so had belonged to the kings of England, her descendants, for more than 300 years.

    The Bastard of Orléans was defending the city of his half brother, Charles, duke of Orléans (II, 31), who was at that time being held as a prisoner somewhere beyond the English Channel. The Bastard was recovering with difficulty from the wound he had received in the ill-fated attack against an English convoy bringing reinforcements to the besiegers--the shaft of an arbalest hit him in the foot almost at the beginning of the attack; two archers were barely able to free him and put him back on his horse, after which the engagement proved disastrous for the French. Several of his most effective companions remained on the battlefield--Louis de Rochcchouart, Guillame d'Albret, and the valiant Scotsman John Stuart of Darnley, who was responsible for the rout, because he began the attack without waiting for the arrival of French rearguard cavalry reinforcements. This move against the handful of men escorting the English relief convoy collapsed in total confusion. The English enemy taunted the French for this "Day of the Herrings" (see III, 7)--the convoy consisted mostly of herring pickled in brine destined for the English army in that Lenten season. In Orleans, the defenders' morale sank further. The count of Clermont's reputation had already been compromised by his delay in arriving on the field of the Battle of the Herrings on the pivotal twelfth of February 1429; he left Orléans leading his troops in serious disorder. Several captains imitated him, including, despite his constant readiness for battle, Étienne de Vignolles, better known as "La Hire" (II, 22).

    The fate of Orléans now seemed sealed. The Bastard, powerless to reverse it, recalled the fine days of the siege of Montargis two years earlier. With the same La Hire, he had swiftly dislodged the English, who, under the command of their captain, Salisbury (II, 38), had begun to surround the city. On September 5, 1427, Salisbury and his men were forced to abandon the field. Desiring vengeance, the same captain had come one year later to besiege Orléans, where he installed in orderly sequence, before each of the city's gates, like so many bolts, his fortified bastides--temporary fortifications, usually of wooden construction, connected with earthworks, set up to block a defensive structure, such as a tower or gateway. They could be as small as blockhouses or grow to have turrets and gates of their own. Some of the larger bastides could house sizable garrisons of troops.

    Distrust of the defender of Orléans increased. The inhabitants had gone so far as to send an embassy to the duke of Burgundy (II, 3), asking him to spare the city since its lord was a prisoner. This appeal to what survived of chivalric sentiments was their last hope; in the age of chivalry, one would never have besieged a castle or a city whose "natural lord" was a prisoner. This popular appeal to the enemy was yet one further humiliation for John the Bastard, who substituted for his brother as defender.

    At this critical juncture in February 1429, John the Bastard had leisure to reflect upon his situation. Immobilized by his wound, he found himself in an encircled city, with all but one of its exits closed up. The inhabitants' immediate concern was food. Relating the events of those days, the Journal of the Siege of Orléans records hardly anything other than the arrival of fresh provisions: One day, that was "seven horses loaded with herring and other foodstuffs"; two days later, nine horses came, also loaded with foodstuffs, entering by the Burgundy Gate at the east end of the city--the only gate that the English besiegers had not cut off. Everyone remembered stories of the siege of Rouen ten years before, during which inhabitants had been reduced to eating horses, dogs, cats, and rats before finally opening the city's gates to the victors.

    The siege strategy at Orleans was the same as it had been for Rouen. The English applied it slowly and methodically since they knew that their most powerful allies--famine and discouragement--were to be found inside the city.

    Shortly after his arrival at the head of the English forces, Salisbury, an experienced man of war, attacked the "Tourelles," those fortifications that defended the approach to the bridge on the left bank of the Loire River. Those two towers allowed whoever held them to close off the southern end of the imposing, nineteen-arch stone bridge that rested on one of the midpoint islands of the river. The city of Orléans was itself a bridge across which the two Frances, the north and the south, communicated.

    The people of Orléans were subject to offensive action from July 1428, when the English occupied the small villages of the Beauce one after the other, including Angerville, Toury, Janville, Artenay, and Patay. Once Olivet was taken by one of Salisbury's companions, John de la Pole (II, 41)--known to the French army as La Poule (III, 4)--on October 7, the people of Orléans acted on their acceptance of the inevitable. They began to destroy their own buildings on the left bank of the Loire: the Portereau, along with the church and convent of the Augustinians. Such self-destruction had become practically routine. Since the disaster of Agincourt in 1415 the population of Orléans had been living in a state of alert. The financial registers of the city and its fortress testify to the way that this condition had become a part of daily life: the dispatching of messengers (that is, spies--often women); the coming and going of horsemen who surveyed the movements of mercenary troops, especially toward Étampes and Sully-sur-Loire; the strengthening of the watch on the city's walls; the purchasing of arbalest shafts and defensive artillery (paid for by a rise in taxes). Worse was yet to come. The old remembered that it had been necessary in 1359 to destroy the venerable church of Saint-Aignan, site of an early skirmish between French and English troops. This ancient collegial church had its roots in the region's Christianity. All newly installed bishops of Orleans visited it to venerate the relics of their great predecessor, St. Aignan, who in earlier times had defended the city against the attacks of Attila the Hun. The basilica was rebuilt in 1376 only on the orders of the wise King Charles V, well after the Peace of Brétigny, which ended the first phase of the Hundred Years War.

    Public memory remained equally sensitive to attacks and alerts, sometimes caused by bands of mercenary troops, sometimes by the raids of English captains. Based in the surrounding territory, they fell like eagles on their prey: on Olivet, on the abbey of Saint-Bénoît-sur-Loire, or on Orléans itself, as on the day of the "Great Fear" in 1418, when all were certain that the siege would soon commence, for the English were then attacking both Rouen and Paris.

    The English defeat at Montargis in 1427--"the first moment of happiness that came my way," the dauphin Charles had cried from his refuge at Bourges--gave Orléans some fleeting hope. Yet it soon became necessary to destroy the suburbs once again, to accommodate refugees within the city, and to make other preparations for siege. At the very moment that the English attacked the Tourelles, they destroyed the twelve water mills that the city used to make its flour. Very quickly, inside Orléans itself, people organized the eleven horse-powered mills that replenished the city's food supply.

    Hostilities recommenced on October 17, 1428. One of the three bombards that the English had just installed at Saint-Jean-le-Blanc, near the Augustinian convent that had earlier been abandoned, caused some damage in the city and killed "a woman named Belle near the postern gate of Chesneau." Five days later, the watchtower bell sounded the alarm once more. The citizens of Orléans destroyed one of the arches of the bridge and fortified the islet of Belle-Croix, on which the bridge rested. They would no longer defend the fort of the Tourelles, to which they set fire. The siege progressed with English bastides methodically set up on the principal highways: the bastide named Saint-Laurent near the route to Blois; those that the English called "London" and "Paris" on the routes to Châteaudun and Paris. Another bastide, "Rouen," served as a connection between those two. The bastide of Saint-Loup blocked the way to Gien at its crossroads with the route to Pithiviers--but on that side, to the east, the blockade would never become complete, despite the invaders' best efforts.

    Such was the situation that the Bastard of Orleans discovered on October 25, 1428, when he arrived at his half brother's city. He quickly undertook new strategic arrangements. He had some of the churches and buildings outside of the ramparts destroyed--Saint-Loup, Saint-Euverte, Saint-Gervais, Saint-Marc--and had artillery installed at key points. Some reinforcements came his way with the arrival of Louis de Culant, at the head of 200 fighting men, and Charles de Bourbon, count of Clermont (II, 11), on January 30. The Scotsman John Stuart came on February 8, but the disastrous "Day of the Herrings," on February 12, put an end to his hopes. The citizens of Orléans sent a delegation to the duke of Burgundy. Poton de Xaintrailles (II, 44) and Pierre d'Orgui proposed to Duke Philip the Good (II, 3) that he take the city under his command on the condition of guaranteeing its neutrality--a humiliating development for the Bastard but understandable on the part of the inhabitants, who felt themselves abandoned; they were, after all, making an appeal to a representative of the royal house of France, the cousin of their natural protector, the duke of Orléans.

    The negotiations failed. The duke of Burgundy would have been delighted to acquire Orléans without striking a blow, but his ally Bedford, the English regent (II, 9), opposed such an acquisition vehemently: "I would be mighty angry to cut down the bushes so that someone else could get the little birds from the branches!" At least, the duke reestablished contact with some of his men fighting alongside the English besiegers. How much difference did this Burgundian garrison make, or what relief might its departure produce? It may have amounted to little more than a few men-at-arms enlisted among the troops paid by English captains.

    The fate of Orléans would surely be settled in a few days, perhaps a few hours, since a decisive offensive could be launched at any minute.

    Under these circumstances, increasingly urgent reports of an unexpected rescue sent from heaven and conveyed by an unknown girl said to be called "Joan the Maid" were particularly attractive: Only divine intervention, people said, could save the city. The people of Orleans would later come to explain the feeling that seized them once the rumor about the Maid began to circulate. As the Journal of the Siege of Orleans remarks: "It was said ... that she had been sent by God to raise the siege of the city. The inhabitants found themselves so hard-pressed by necessity due to the enemies who besieged them that they did not know whom to beg for remedy, if not God Himself."

    This report did not comfort the Bastard, an experienced warrior. Even the arrival of two contingents of reinforcement, one French and the other Scottish, had not brought him relief. He testified later that he remained skeptical of this purportedly heaven-sent relief until months later, when he actually met Joan the Maid. But, because he was a pious man, he sent two trustworthy companions to check on this unusual rumor. Since the king was at Chinon, the Bastard sent Archambaut de Villars and Jamet du Tillet there, where they were also likely to find Raoul de Gaucourt (II, 18), governor of Orléans, who had gone to Chinon to inform the dauphin of the city's desperate condition. The Bastard's two envoys soon returned to Orléans to report. The Bastard testified about that conversation in Joan's nullification trial:

They returned from the king's presence, reporting publicly to me, in the presence of all the people in Orléans who yearned to learn the troth concerning this maiden's arrival, that they had seen the aforesaid maid arrive at the king's court in the city of Chinon themselves. They said that the king himself had not wished to receive her; it was deemed appropriate that this maid wait two days before she should be permitted to come into the king's presence, even though she had said again and again that she came to raise the siege of Orléans and to lead the noble dauphin to Reims, so that he could be anointed king, demanding constantly that she be given men, horses, and arms.

Jeanne la Pucelle, whom we call Joan of Arc (for a discussion of her name, see III, 1), here makes her entry into history.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1999-01-04:
Joan of Arc means many things to many people: the incarnation of French patriotism, a Fascist mascot for anti-Semitism, the symbol of working-class resistance, the ultimate proto-feminist, the political prisoner, the innocent woman persecuted for heresy. In order to separate legend from fact, her uses from herself, Pernoud and Clin have ingeniously turned the mystifying question "Who is Joan of Arc?" into the more manageable "What is [her] historical record?" Joan's history was brief: a year of fighting, a year of imprisonment. In 1429, inspired by holy "voices," she traveled to the failing dauphin Charles (later King Charles VII) and declared that she would free the city of Orleans from his English enemies and lead him to his coronation. Shortly after fulfilling both prophesies, she was captured by the English, who tried her for heresy and burned her at the stake. In 1455, 24 years after her death, a new trial concluded that the English inquisition was improperly conducted and nullified its decision. Throughout their descriptions of these events, the authors draw upon copious letters and trial transcripts to present a vivid portrait of the young woman whose intelligence, courage, determination and unshakable faith astonished all of Europe. A brief introduction and a section of profiles of the major players make this thorough book accessible to the general reader. Though the writing is sometimes dry, Pernoud and Clin do an admirable job of bringing clarity to their complicated subject. This is the first English translation of a book published in 1986 in France. 12 illustrations, 8 maps. (Feb.)
Appeared in Library Journal on 1999-02-01:
This important and useful book is part biography and part reference work. On one level, it is the first English translation of a best-selling French biography now considered the standard in the field. Nontraditional in design, it traces the appearance of Joan as a documented historical character rather than adhering to a standard chronological sequence. Informing the narrative is a novel interpretation of Joan as a political prisoner. Moving beyond the narrative, the American translator (history, Southern Methodist Univ.) has added a series of appendixes containing valuable contextual material : maps, an annotated bibliography, a chronology and itinerary of Joan's life, a series of letters to which she affixed her signature, and three historical review sections. These materials discuss key historical events, provide biographical information on Joan's contemporaries, and discuss Joan's afterlife in history, literature, folklore, art, and iconography. Since Joan of Arc continues to fascinate modern audiences, this work should be of interest to general readers and scholars alike.‘Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, December 1998
Publishers Weekly, January 1999
Booklist, February 1999
Library Journal, February 1999
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Table of Contents
Forewordp. xi
Prefacep. xv
Acknowledgmentsp. xxiii
Preludep. 1
The Drama
Her Story Beginsp. 9
Joan Meets Her Dauphinp. 15
Joan and the Victory at Orleansp. 33
Her Dauphin Anointed King at Reimsp. 53
Intrigue, Frustration, and Capturep. 69
Joan the Prisonerp. 89
Joan's Trial and Execution at Rouenp. 103
The Verdict of Rouen Nullifiedp. 139
Joan as Memoryp. 159
The Cast of Principal Characters (In Three Alphabetical Lists)
The Three Noble Princes
Charles VII, King of Francep. 167
Henry VI, King of England (and of France?)p. 168
Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundyp. 170
Their Subjects
John, Duke of Alenconp. 172
Rene the Good, Duke of Anjoup. 173
John IV, Count of Armagnacp. 174
Robert de Baudricourtp. 174
Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchesterp. 175
John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedfordp. 176
Jacques Boucherp. 177
Charles I, Duke of Bourbonp. 177
Jean de Brossep. 177
Regnault of Chartres, Archbishop of Reimsp. 178
Guillaume Desjardinsp. 178
Bertrand Du Guesclinp. 179
John, Count of Dunois, Bastard of Orleansp. 180
Robert de Flocquesp. 181
Raoul de Gaucourtp. 183
Jacques Gelup. 183
Jean le Charlier de Gersonp. 184
Perrinet Gressartp. 185
"La Hire," Etienne de Vignollesp. 187
Isabeau of Bavaria, Queen of Francep. 188
Isabelle of Portugal, Duchess of Burgundyp. 189
Georges de La Tremoillep. 190
Charles II (or I) the Bold, Duke of Lorrainep. 191
Joan of Luxembourgp. 191
John of Luxembourgp. 191
Louis of Luxembourgp. 192
Jean de Metzp. 193
Charles, Duke of Orleansp. 193
Christine de Pisanp. 197
Bertrand de Poulengyp. 197
Gilles de Laval, Baron de Raisp. 198
Friar Richardp. 198
Arthur de Richemontp. 198
Catherine de la Rochellep. 200
Thomas de Montacute, Earl of Salisburyp. 200
Thomas de Scalesp. 201
John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsburyp. 202
William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolkp. 203
Lionel, Bastard of Wandommep. 205
Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwickp. 205
Poton de Xaintraillesp. 206
Her Judges at Rouen
Jean Alespeep. 207
William of Alnwickp. 207
Jean Beauperep. 207
Boisguillaumep. 208
Pierre Cauchonp. 208
Thomas de Courcellesp. 210
Guillaume Erardp. 211
Jean d'Estivetp. 212
Jean Graverentp. 212
William Haitonp. 213
Robert Jolivetp. 213
Guillaume de La Chambrep. 213
Martin Ladvenup. 213
Jean de La Fontainep. 213
Jean Lemaitrep. 214
Nicolas Loiseleurp. 214
Jean de Maillyp. 215
Guillaume Manchonp. 215
Jean Massieup. 215
Pierre Mauricep. 216
Nicolas Midyp. 216
Pierre Migetp. 216
Jean de Rinelp. 216
Raoul Rousselp. 217
Nicolas de Venderesp. 217
Issues and Images
Joan's Namep. 220
Joan's Familyp. 221
Joan as Royal Bastardp. 222
The Language of Joan of Arc and Her Contemporariesp. 222
Joan's Armorp. 224
Joan's Swordsp. 225
Orleans at the Time of the Siegep. 226
The Siege of Orleansp. 228
The Tax Exemption for the Inhabitants of Domremy and Greuxp. 230
Joan's Capture at Compiegnep. 231
The Abjuration Cedulap. 233
Joan Impostersp. 233
Trial Transcripts: The "Book of Poitiers" and the Date of the Latin Edition of the Condemnation Trial Transcriptp. 235
Joan of Arc in Theater and Operap. 237
Toward an Iconography of Joan of Arcp. 240
Joan of Arc in Folklore: The Orleans Festivalsp. 243
Beatification and Canonizationp. 245
Select Filmographyp. 245
The Letters of Joan of Arcp. 247
Chronology and Itineraryp. 265
Maps and Plansp. 275
France around 1430p. 275
Vaucouleursp. 276
The Route from Vaucouleurs to Chinonp. 277
Orleans during the Siegep. 278
From the Coronation to the Defeat at Parisp. 280
Compiegne at the Time of Joan's Capturep. 281
Joan's Itinerary as Prisonerp. 282
The Castle of Bouvreuil at Rouenp. 283
Topical Bibliographyp. 284
Bibliographyp. 286
Indexp. 295
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem