The English do not know it, but they have only two more days before their siege over Orleans is broken. With that backbreaking, their hopes of claiming the royal crown of France for Henry VI, boy king of England, will go with it. The surge of activity starting tomorrow and through May 7 will shape the course of history for Europe and, indeed, Western Civilization as whole forever. The ramifications of a dual monarchy based in England versus the firm reinforcement of the single French Crown in her traditional role as the “Eldest Daughter” of Christendom and of the Church are enormous either way.
At this point in history, almost 1,000 years have gone by since the late 5th century when the first Catholic king of the Franks, Clovis, was baptized and received the anointing of holy chrism oil by the Church in Rheims. Clovis established the true faith over the heretical claims of the Arians by his military victories. The anointing of every French King after that transferred to them that heritage for the defense of Europe, the defense of the Faith, and the defense of the Church who proclaimed it. Yes, just who was to be anointed in Rheims, Henry VI of England or Charles VII of France, would have huge ramifications regarding both ancient tradition and the future of our Western world we have inherited today. The single person in the middle of this whole affair is a young seventeen-year-old peasant girl who is now the military leader for the demoralized Charles VII and his nearly defeated army. She is facing what seems to be insuperable odds against an unbeatable foe.
However, on this day, May 5, we have another feast day, the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. Joan, being raised in the chivalrous spirit of medieval Christendom, refused to engage in battle on a holy day. However, in an attempt to avoiding more bloodshed, she spent this day dictating a final ultimatum to her English foes. That ultimatum was shot over English lines by arrow and read as follows:
“You, O English, who have no right to this kingdom of France, the King of Heaven orders and commands you through me, Joan the Maid, to leave your fortresses and return to your country, and if you do not do so I shall make an uproar that will be perpetually remembered. Behold what I write you for the third and final time; I shall write you no further.”
Joan the Maid
(Pernoud, “Joan of Arc: Her Story,” p. 44)
She offered the following post-script with a touch of wit and perhaps even a little bravado in light of yesterday’s great victory at Saint-Loup:
“I have sent you my letters honestly, but you have detained my messengers, for you have kept my herald named Guyenne with you. Please send him back to me, and I will send you some of your men who were taken in the fortress of Saint-Loup, for they are not all dead.” (Ibid. p. 44)
Well, shall the English take this note seriously and leave? Will they counsel over this new development and see the light? I am afraid I have dire news on that front. These messages seemed to put the English in the foulest of moods. No, they did not intend to leave. In fact, they responded with:
“Here’s news from the whore of the Armagnacs!” (Ibid p. 45)
To this, Joan began to sigh and weep, calling on the King of Heaven to help her. There was no respect on the part of the English for Joan of Arc.
And did I tell you? I think I forgot. The English were planning something of their own after all. Lord John Talbot, the respected and feared commander of the English forces in the region, was sending Captain John Fastolf with a large number of reinforcements to Orleans. They are just days away. Time is critical. We certainly have no time now for Dunois’ “caution.”
Upon hearing of these approaching English reinforcements, Joan was, ironically, elated! Her steward relates:
“At these words, the Maid seemed to me full of joy, and she said to my lord of Dunois these words or others like them: “Bastard, O Bastard, in God’s name, I order you, as soon as you know of Fastolf’s coming, to let me know it, for if he should pass by without my knowing it, I promise you that I will have your head cut off!” The lord of Dunois answered that she should have no doubts on that score, for he would indeed let her know.” (Ibid, p. 43)
Joan was, as we might say today, “a tough cookie” despite her age and gender, particularly in medieval France. Over the next two days, the English will find out just how tough she is.
Tomorrow – the Bastille of the Augustinians is taken! Joan and her forces are now directly facing the final knot strangling the city of Orleans, that being the Bastille of Les Tourelles, where Joan’s most famous victory, one of the most famous victories in all the history of Christendom, will take place on May 7.
Soon the world will be shouting, “Vive La Pucelle!” “Long live the Maid!”