26.2.10

Joan crosses the Loire.

The English knew Jehanne was coming. The siege around Orléans was tightening. Joan had warned the English, told them who she was, and what she was going to do in no uncertain terms, if they did not pack up and leave France. Jehanne wrote to the English this letter dated 22 March 1429

+ Jesus, Mary

King of England, and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself Regent of the Kingdom of France; you, William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk; John, Lord of Talbot; and you, Thomas, Lord Scales, who call yourselves Bedford's lieutenants, do right by the King of Heaven. Hand over to the Maiden, who is sent here by God the King of Heaven, the keys to all the towns which you have taken and violated in France. She has come here in the name of God to support the Royal family. She is quite prepared to make peace, if you are willing to do right, so long as you give up France and make amends for occupying it. And you, archers, soldiers both noble and otherwise,who are around the town of Orléans, in God's name go back to your own lands. And if you will not do so, await word of the Maiden, who will go to see you soon to your very great misfortune. King of England, if you do not do so, I am a commander, and wherever I come across your troops in France, I shall make them go, whether willingly or unwillingly; and if they will not obey, I will have them wiped out. I am sent here by God the King of Heaven - an eye for an eye - to drive you entirely out of France. And if they are willing to obey, I shall have mercy on them. And do not think otherwise, for you will never hold the kingdom of France from God the King of Heaven, the Son of Saint Mary; King Charles, the true heir, will hold it, for God the King of Heaven wills it; and this has been revealed by the Maiden to him, who shall enter Paris with a fine contingent of troops. If you do not believe the tidings sent by God and the Maiden, wherever we find you we will strike against you, and will cause such a great clash of arms there that not for a thousand years has France seen one as great, if you do not do right. And firmly believe that the King of Heaven will send greater force to the Maiden than you would be able to bring against her and her good men-at-arms in all of your assaults. And in the fighting we shall see who has the better right [whether God of Heaven or you]. Duke of Bedford, the Maiden asks and requests that you will not cause your own downfall. If you will do right, you could yet come in her company to where the French will do the noblest deed which has ever been done for Christianity. And reply if you wish to make peace in the city of Orléans; and if you do not do so, you will shortly contemplate your great misfortunes."
Written this Tuesday [in] Holy Week."
en francais ici...

Though it was signed Jehanne it is doubtful that she could at this time write.

Jeanne met her army at Blois. It was there that she met with Dunois, (the brother of the Duc de Orléans) and Captain La Hire, (the hedgehog). They had travelled form Orleans where they had planned to capture provisions from the English to provide food for the army. That action had resulted in the disastrous Battle of the Herrings, the immediate effect of which was to lower French morale. Dunois and La Hire proposed that 4, or 500 men should accompany a convoy of provisions to the city. French morale started to pick up presumably due to the presence of Jeanne.

On 10 March the English had erected yet another fortification for the siege, the Bastille de Saint-Loup. It was designed to prevent the passage of supplies from reaching the besieged city of Orléans and as such it was farther away for the walls of the city. In it's prescribed duty it was a failure for it not only did not add to the siege but it also did not prevent communications between the relief and the city's defenders.

The English continued to build siege works and by 20 March a work was established Boulevard de la Grange-de-Cuiveret. In all a total of 10 fortifications were erected.(1)

"...A flurry of English building activity now suggested that the besiegers knew an attempt would soon be made to relieve the city, though they were uncertain which direction it would take. On 9 April they erected the Boulevard de la Pressoir-Ars, followed by the Bastille Saint Pouair on the 15th and the Bastille de Saint-Jean-le-Blanc on the 20th. On 24 April the French garrison received 40 reinforcements led by Bourc the Bastard de Mascaran, followed three days later by 60 troops from the nearby town of Beaune la-Rolande en Beauce. On 28 April a famous captain, Florent d'Illiers the brother of La Hire, supposedly arrived with no less than 400 men from Châteaudun though this number is probably exaggerated. Then, early on the 29th, the same day that Jehanne would arrive, 50 infantrymen appeared from the Gâtinais area north-east of Orléans..." .

The legend of the crossing of the Loire...

Jeanne's own march from Blois to Orléans has been clouded in pious legend. She and the supply column left Blois on 26th April, preceded by a large number of priests who sang the Veni Creator Spiritus but who returned to Blois two nights later. The precise route is unknown but must have been the same as that used by the others who had travelled between Blois and Orléans since the siege began. Jeanne and her companions reached the Loire at a ford or ferry near Checy. Why this was unguarded by the English is unknown. Perhaps it lacked sufficient boats to be considered important, or perhaps it was held by French troops from Orléans.

Written sources then mention a 'miraculous' change in wind direction and a sudden rise in the river's water level which enabled the supply convoy to cross the Loire with ease. Reading between the lines this suggests that boats or barges from Orléans were able to sail upriver, perhaps avoiding interference from the Boulevard Saint-Loup by going south of the Ile Saint-Loup through a shallow channel, then arriving at Checy, where they helped take the troops and the supplies to the north bank. Whether some or all of the escort then returned to Blois , or took up position south of Orléans to keep an eye on the English is again unclear. What is known is that Jeanne entered Orléans around 8 o'clock in the evening of 29 April 1429 with some 200 men-at-arms accompanied by Dunois and other captains.(2)

Jhesu+Marie,
Brantigny

(1) There is only one tower left from the siege, the New Tower, Currently it is part of a private residence.(2) From the Osprey campaign series, "Orléans 1429: France turns the tide" (Campaign)David Nicolle, illustrated by Graham Turner

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