Contents 
Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France How the Franks Came to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath The Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives The Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis UX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of the Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V. Charles VI. Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Captivity and Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI. Louis XI.'s Reign Achievements of Louis XI. Charles VIII. The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII. Francis I. Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I. End of Francis I.'s Reign The Reign of Henry II. A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX. An Effeminate King The Battle of Courtras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV. Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV. The Minority of Louis XIII. Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII. End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV.

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber




Joan to the Rescue

The new reigns of Charles VII. (the heir of the demented Charles VI.) and of Henry VI. (the infant successor of bluff "King Hal") began unhappily for poor France, hesitating which of these monarchs to obey. On the one hand, Frenchmen naturally preferred a French king; but, on the other, they were told that if Queen Isabella was ready to deprive the Dauphin of the crown, it could only be because she knew that this youth was not really a son of the late king, and that he therefore had no right to the throne.

The English, being already masters of northern France, now proposed to complete their conquest, and for that purpose laid siege to Orleans. But Orleans was strongly fortified by great walls all around it, and the inhabitants, loyal to the French crown, were grimly determined to hold out as long as they could. Still, their position was one of great danger, and they soon realized that unless they received help, the English would become masters of the city in spite of all its brave resistance.

[Illustration] from The Story of Old France by Helene Guerber

The French king, whose scanty troops had been routed by the English whenever they came into contact, had neither the men nor the money so sorely needed to relieve Orleans. It was just then, when the skies seemed darkest, that a heroine arose to save the country and drive away the English.

This heroine is Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc), one of the most unselfish and picturesque persons that adorn the pages of history. Her short life is so romantic, and has been so often a theme of inspiration for painters and writers of all kinds, that you must have a clear idea of her, of her deeds, and of her surroundings.

Joan of Arc was born in 1412, in a peasant cottage—which is still standing—at Domremy on the boundary of the provinces of Champagne and Lorraine. Like most country children in France, this little girl ran about barefoot, tending the cows and sheep, while twirling her distaff, for her mother taught her to spin, and later on showed her also how to weave and embroider. While teaching these useful arts to her children, the good mother often related Bible stories, and tales of saints and martyrs, until it seemed to Joan as if she knew all these good people very well. The village folk, also, often told their children fairy tales, and there was one big oak tree, near Joan's home, known for miles around as the 'fairies' tree, because the elves were supposed to dance beneath its shade on Midsummer's Eve.

Joan's village, like many other places in France, was a bone of contention between the Burgundians and Armagnacs. Once, at least, the little girl had to flee with her parents, finding on her return home that the enemy had done great damage to their humble possessions. When Joan was about thirteen years of age, she was favored by a first vision: as she was working in the garden, she suddenly saw a bright light and heard a sweet voice bidding her be good and go often to church. Joan did not tell of this vision till long afterwards, but she obeyed the voice, and was so good and pious that visions came to her more and more frequently. In time, she became sufficiently accustomed to them to glance in the direction of the light, where she saw or imagined she saw—radiant forms. These, she perceived, were angels, and St. Michael, St. Margaret, and St. Catherine, in particular, often came thereafter and spoke gently to her.

Joan's vision

JOAN'S VISION.


The "voices," as Joan herself always called her visions, told her of the sufferings of the poor people in France, and informed her that she was chosen by God to deliver Orleans, and to lead the Dauphin to Rheims to be crowned. But Joan could not believe that she—a poor peasant girl—would ever be able to accomplish what all the king's soldiers had failed to do, so she hesitated a long time, and it was not till she was about eighteen that she finally obeyed the directions she had received, and prepared to fulfill her mission.

Her parents and the village priest thought Joan crazy when she first spoke of her voices, and of the work she was called upon to perform. Her father roughly declared he would rather drown her than allow her to associate with soldiers. Joan, however, insisted she had no choice but to obey her heavenly guides. Seeing that she could expect no help from her own immediate family, she finally persuaded an uncle to take her to the neighboring castle of Vaucouleurs, where, as the voices had stated, she would find an escort to lead her to the king.

The lord of Vaucouleurs at first grimly remarked that Joan ought to be slapped and sent home, but after a time, seeing that the villagers near him believed in her mission, he too began to think that God might  have sent her. Besides, a prediction had been made that "France would be lost by a Woman and saved by a Maid," and as it was well known that Isabella was a wicked woman, and that the ruin of France was mainly due to her sins, people everywhere longed for the coming of the promised Maid. A message was therefore dispatched to the king, and having obtained his permission to send Joan on to him, the lord of Vaucouleurs gladly supplied an escort to take her to court.

As this little troop had to pass through a wide stretch of country occupied by the enemy, Joan cut off her long hair, donned men's clothes and armor, and, bestriding the horse which the poor people had purchased for her use, she rode off with eight men. Traveling by night, camping in forests by day, avoiding towns and villages, and fording five rivers, Joan and her escort, after eleven days' journey, reached the castle on the Loire (Chinon) where the king was then staying.

The little troop rested at one of the inns in the small town, until the king sent for Joan. Part of the room where they first met still stands, and a monument has been erected in the town in Joan's honor.