Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The Story of the Maid of Orleans
Charles VII (the Victorious) [1422-1461]

The unhappy, mad old King lay dead. The new King was proclaimed. To all the winds of heaven the French heralds cried, "May God have mercy and pity on the soul of King Charles VI, and grant long life to Henry our sovereign lord, King by the grace of God of France and England."

John Duke of Bedford came to France to rule for the baby King. But there were two Kings in France. For though the Burgundians and the English had proclaimed Henry, the Orleanists had proclaimed the Dauphin. "Long life to Charles VII," they cried, "by the grace of God King of France." He made Bourges his capital, and so the English called him scornfully "King of Bourges."

It was little wonder that many of the French should prefer for a King one of their own nation. Yet Charles VII was no hero. He was now nineteen, but he was idle and frivolous, caring more for pleasure than for the troubles and dangers of a throne.

Careless and indolent though he was, the people fought for him. But at first they had no success, and it seemed as if France was fated to have an English King.

The English were besieging Orleans and the people were so hard pressed that they were ready to yield. Charles was thinking of running away to Scotland or to Spain, when a great change came over his fortunes.

Far away from the sounds of war in a little village called Domremy there lived a young girl called Joan d'Arc. The wars which had made France a desert had never reached this village, but soldiers came from time to time who told the sad story of loss and ruin. Men and boys left the village to go to fight. Some never returned. Others returned wounded and disheartened. They all told the same tale of towns in ruins, of desolate country, of lost battlefields red with the blood of Frenchmen.

As Joan listened her heart beat fast, tears rose to her eyes. She longed to do something to save her country and her King. But she was only a weak girl of seventeen. She could neither read nor write. What could she do but pray? So she prayed very earnestly to God and His saints that they would help her beloved country.

Joan thought and prayed so much that at length it seemed to her that she heard voices whisper to her. "Joan," they said, "go and deliver the King of France and give him back his kingdom. Put on the courage and armor of a man and lead the armies to victory."

So Joan cut off her long hair, dressed herself in armor, and mounting upon a war horse she set out upon the long and dangerous journey half across France to Chinon, where the Dauphin was. It was a terrible journey for a young girl to venture upon; for the whole country was full of rough soldiers and robbers, but Joan was not afraid.

She reached Chinon in safety and after much trouble was allowed to see the Dauphin. Among all his courtiers she knew him at once, although to prove her he tried to hide himself among them.

Joan went straight to him and knelt. "I am not the King," he said; "there he is," he added, pointing to one of his attendants.

"Nay," replied Joan, "it is you and no other. Gentle Dauphin, why will you not believe me? I tell you God has pity on you and your kingdom and your people. Give me soldiers and I will raise the siege of Orleans and lead you to Reims to be crowned. For it is God's good pleasure that the English be chased from the land and the kingdom be yours."

Neither the Dauphin nor his court would at first believe Joan. But she was so earnest and so gentle, and yet so ready with an answer for every doubter, that at length she won the faith of all who listened to her. So Joan was given a company of soldiers. She chose for her standard a flag of white silk sewn with golden fleur de lis. Upon one side was Jesus blessing the fleur de lis, upon the other the Virgin Mother and the words "Jesus Maria."

Thus clad in shining armor, with her white flag carried before her, Joan set out for Orleans.

As soon as she arrived she put fresh courage into the hearts of the defenders. She was a simple peasant girl who knew nothing of war, yet the rough soldiers gladly followed her. They ceased to drink and swear in her presence. They looked up to her as to one divine and were ready to die for her. They knew she would win. And she did.

Ten day s after Joan reached Orleans the English broke up their camp and marched away. They said she was a witch. They could not fight against witches.

But Joan was no witch. She was a simple, earnest woman filled with splendid purpose and splendid faith.

When it became known that Orleans was relieved there was rejoicing from one end of France to the other. Wherever men were true to their King, solemn services were held in the churches, the people lit bonfires, and poets sang mocking songs about the English.

Ever since Joan has been known as the Maid of Orleans. Yet in the midst of all this excitement Charles remained idle and hopeless. Joan went to him and he received her with great honor. But it was in vain that she tried to pour into him something of her own grand purpose. She begged him to come to Reims to be crowded. He remained cold and indifferent. The way was long, he said, and beset by enemies; he had no money either for the journey or for the grand ceremony.

"'Gentle Dauphin," she said, kneeling before him, "do not hold such long counsel. Come to Reims with all speed and take your crown."

Meanwhile Joan returned to fight. She took several towns and won a battle. Everywhere the people rejoiced. They ran to kiss her hands or touch her armor as she passed. They knelt to kiss the footprints of her horse's hoofs.

At length Charles set out for Reims. It was a triumphal progress. Town after town opened their gates to him as he passed. For the love of the Maid they laid down their arms and greeted him as King. As he rode through the streets of Reims the people thronged around him, cheering and sobbing aloud for joy.

In the great Cathedral the crown was placed upon his head, he was anointed with the holy oil, and once more proclaimed King of France. Beside the altar stood Joan, her great eyes shining with holy joy, her white standard in her hand. "It has been through the strife," she said looking at it lovingly, "it is right that it should have the honor."