« PreviousContinue »
party of the Regent Bedford and the Duke of Burgundy, had resolved to leave them, and acknowledge Charles VII. as King of France. He had passed out of Paris, and was come to join the army of the inspired Maid.
The joy of Jeanne was overpowering; she expressed her thankfulness in blessings and in tears. Alençon, like herself, was overjoyed at such an influential and unexpected ally; and the other young chiefs were eager to renew the assault. The Maid, though suffering much pain from her wound, begged to be placed on her horse as a leader of the contest. All were now ready for the start, and once more the cry was, “To Paris, to Paris !' no one doubting a triumphant close of the enterprise. But who shall speak the vexation of the chiefs, when the Duke de Bar and another Prince of the blood came in haste from the King to order Alençon and the Maid to turn back, and the men to return to St. Denis ?
The disappointment was felt by every man bearing arms; and Jeanne would not consent to give up the taking of Paris, when the city seemed within her grasp. There was an easy way, she thought, to get to it, by a bridge that led across the Seine in a direct line for Paris, and was not far from where the King had ordered the troops to be stationed at St. Denis. Alençon, Dunois, Montmorenci, and several of the most spirited young nobles, approved the plan, and declared their willingness to adopt it: they agreed that Paris should be taken for Charles in spite of himself. All was speedily arranged ; AN IGNOBLE KING.
the attack was to be renewed on the left bank of the Seine, and the next morning was the time appointed for it.
On that morning, September the roth, at an early hour, the Maid, with Alençon, and all the army, placed themselves in due order, and moved towards the Seine ; but the bridge no longer existed! The King had learnt their intention to win for him his capital ; and he caused the bridge to be destroyed during the night. “All comment,' says. Henri Martin, 'will fall short of the facts. There is not in modern history a crime comparable to that of Charles, -against God and against his country; and also nothing is comparable to the greatness of Jeanne d'Arc.'1
Nothing can be more just than these comments. The Maid, Alençon, Dunois, all who had any sense of honour or humanity, represented to Charles, that now to leave Paris in the possession of the Burgundians and the English, would be an act of the greatest cruelty to all those smaller cities, towns, and villages in the vicinity, which had submitted to him. The garrison of Paris would have but to issue forth to wreak their vengeance on their weaker neighbours, and ravage and devour on every side; and this was the case in no very long time after Charles' cruel desertion of those who had proved themselves loyal. The honest counsellors whom he so slighted, at the cost of their lives would have supported him in a brave and manly course of action; but their advice proved vain. La Trémoille, Gaucourt, De Retz, and the Archbishop of Rheims, those envious spirits, upheld their master in his selfish indolence, and persuaded him to return to the south, where his pleasant life, spent in doing nothing worthy of a King, would be undisturbed.
1 Henri Martin, vol. vi. p. 213.
They said that, when in Gien, Charles could treat with the Duke of Burgundy about the often-talked-of general peace; and intimated also, that, though from no want of courage, the Maid had failed in her enterprise before Paris, and had lost her prestige with the troops. This last assertion was untrue; for her devoted resolution to renew the siege at the time she was suffering from the agony of her wound, had rendered her the admiration of every man in the army.
Jeanne's painful sense of the King's indifference may be inferred from what followed. She expressed her feelings in a manner characteristic of her deep reverence for the mission which, as she believed, was confided to her by Providence. She believed that her continuing to act for the service of the King would no longer be acceptable. She therefore took her armour, and with the sword that she had wrested from the hand of the soldier who assailed her life, hung it up before the image of the Virgin Mary and the relics of St. Denis, the saint to whom both the church and the kingdom were dedicated. She then expressed a wish to remain at St. Denis, saying that her voices had directed her to do so. We are not told if she desired to remain with the nuns of that place. We should fancy not, for Jeanne's enthusiastic mind was of much too A DISGRACEFUL RETREAT.
active a nature to render her content with the devout indolence of a conventual life.
Jeanne's friends, more especially Alençon, represented to her in strong terms how much her country needed her services, and reminded her that she had always declared that the command of God was to drive the English out of the land; and though she had done much, that object was very far from being accomplished. She was at length prevailed with to join the King's retinue and go with him to the south; yet, though she complied, she reproached herself afterwards for having disobeyed her voices.
The return to the Loire commenced on the 13th of September. But all was
now changed. Of the fine army which, under the auspices of Jeanne, had conducted Charles to Rheims with
and success, there remained but a disorganized remnant. disappointed of a great enterprise, and turned away from the hope of gaining Paris, gave themselves up to insubordination, pillage, and desertion. De Cagni, who was with them, says that they marched on more like an army that was beaten than one worthy the name of soldiers.'1
1 Mémoirs de Pucelle; Mémoires de Richemont; Histoire de France; Barante.
Burgundy superior to Charles—Bedford goes to Paris—Alençon raises
an Army-requests Charles to let him have the Aid of the Maid —refused-La Trémoille obtains her Assistance for D'AlbretJeanne's Heroism before the Walls of Le Montier-her Danger -goes to the Siege of La Charité—the Expedition fails-Great Honours shown to the Maid at Bourges—her Exemplary Con. duct-the Impostor Catherine Spirit of Loyalty called up by Jeanne — Beaufort brings over to France the Child Henry — Burgundy's Policy - his Marriage with Isabella of Portugal Magnificent Welcome to her-Order of the Golden Fleece-the King at Sulli—Jeanne departs with D'Aulon and her Followers unknown to the King - Once more assumes Arms – takes the Ruffian Franquet—his Execution-goes to the Relief of Compiègne --Prediction made by herself in the Church—the Last Scenes of her Heroism-she is captured by the Burgundians.
N the 21st of September, Charles with his
retinue passed the Loire, and his disorderly
the Archbishop of Rheims entertained anew their scheme of an accommodation with Burgundy. But the Duke, who evidently felt his own superiority in power, ability, and politics, played with their overtures so adroitly, that, whilst making preparations to renew the war in the north, he made Charles believe he was about to visit Paris in order to forward a truce that would lead to a