Joan’s epic at Orleans begins on the evening of April 29.
As Joan made her way to Orleans from Blois with the royal army, she discovered that, without her knowledge, her Captains had decided to avoid the English positions by coming up the opposite side of the Loire River from the city. Joan was furious about this deception, for she had wished to go straight way and on their arrival to attack the English. John, Count of Dunois, Bastard of Orleans (“Bastard” being a perfectly acceptable title in medieval Christendom in order to appropriately delineate the various lines of heritage) and whose name would forever be linked in history to that of Joan of Arc’s, came out of Orleans to greet her. His first encounter was neither what he expected nor hoped for upon meeting his new boss. The following terse conversation ensued, as recounted in Dunois’ own words:
“Are you the Bastard?”
“Yes, I am, and I rejoice in your coming.”
“Are you the one who gave orders for me to come here, on this side of the river, so that I could not go directly to Talbot and the English?”
“I answered that I and others, including the wisest men around me, had given this advice, believing it best and safest; then Joan answered to me: “In God’s name, the counsel of Our Lord God is wiser and safer than yours. You thought that you could fool me, and instead you fooled yourself; I bring you better help than ever came to you from any soldier to any city; It is the help of the King of Heaven. This help comes not for love of me but from God Himself, who at the prayer of St. Louis and St. Charlemagne has had pity on the city of Orleans. He has not wanted the enemy to have both the body of the lord of Orleans and his city.” (Note: Dunois’ half brother Charles, Duke of Orleans, previously had been captured and was being held in an English prison.)
At that moment, Dunois was about to be fully swept away by the Maid, Joan of Arc, and would become among her most loyal devotees. For at that very moment, as Joan finished scolding him about his lack of faith in Our Lord, King of Heaven and Earth, the wind, which had been contrary to their need to get boats across the river, changed its course and became favorable. They previously had been unable to bring the boats to the city; suddenly they could sail with ease.
Dunois never got over this moment. It had a lasting impact on him. At Joan’s trial of rehabilitation some 25 years later, where the King of France and Joan’s mother set about to officially clear Joan’s name (and from which the Pope’s representative declared her a martyr, condemning the clergy of her inquisitional trial), the now-aged Dunois testified on her behalf:
“I believe that Joan was sent by God and that her deeds in the war were the fruit of divine inspiration rather than of human agency…And this is why: firstly, I was at Orleans, which was then besieged by the English, when a certain rumor went around according to which a young woman called The Maid had passed the town of Gien…as I was in charge of the city, being lieutenant general in the field I sent …for fuller information about this Maid.” (Dunois then tells the story of her arrival and the wind).
“That is the reason why I think Joan, and all her deeds in war and in battle, were rather God’s work than man’s; the sudden change in the wind…”
Well, Dunois eventually goes on to share many other reasons for believing Joan was sent by God. And others would tell of greater deeds still. Yes, there is no shortage of stories when it comes to Joan of Arc! We will hear more as she defeats the powerful English Army, captures Talbot and anoints a King! We will perhaps even tell of far greater marvels at her death.
But for now, on this day, April 29, let us simply stand for a moment with a war-wearied soldier, leading a city with no more hope, knowing that it is he and his army who stand as the last possible defense against the fall of the entire Kingdom of France. Let us stand by him as he takes a scolding for his lack of faith from his new leader, a seventeen-year-old young lady. Let us then continue to stand with him for a moment as he looks suddenly up and around. He, and we with him, sense that with Joan’s words something is already beginning to change. The wind has turned and this girls’ army may now move forward to its ultimate and glorious destiny. Let us forever stand with The Bastard and feel just a glimmer of hope resurrected in our hearts, the first glimmer of hope we have felt in months, if not years.
Let us now watch with Dunois in silent joy and awe as Joan of Arc crosses the river with that wind at her back. Joan is entering Orleans.
Tomorrow – Our Maid engages in her famous yelling match with the English Army and their leader, Sir William Glasdale… should the English prove to be uncooperative, it promises to get a little rough…
(Sources: Pernoud, “Joan of Arc, her Story” and “The Retrial of Joan of Arc.”)