Joan-of-Arc-art - 8/2/99
"Joan of Arc (1412 to 1430): Girl power in the 15th century" by Jan van Seist.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
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Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Joan of Arc (1412 to 1430): Girl power in the 15th century
By Jan van Seist
Back in the dim dark days of the late 14th century (around about the half-way mark of the Hundred Years War) Henry V, King of England and John the Double-Dealing Treacherous Swine, Duke of Burgundy decided to gang up on Charles VI, King of France. The dynamic duo proved too much for the aged king and he was forced to sue for peace. Like the war, the case didnÕt go his way. Henry took Bordeaux, Champagne and Catherine (the dotardÕs daughter), the Duke of Burgundy (1) gained contr™le of his own appellation and poor old Charles was left with a France that was definitely not premier grand cru(2).
The allies threw a big party to celebrate the end of the Fifty Years War and, just to make absolutely certain that the war was over, they made Charles declare CatherineÕs first-born son his heir. This united the crowns of England and France and thoroughly miffed the French kingÕs eldest son (another Charles). Charles junior immediately declared himself the Dolphin of France (3) and gathered to himself the Friends of the French Earth. However, his Save the Dauphin campaign was no match for the allied armies and it was only the timely deaths of both Henry V and Charles VI that saved Charles from complete annihilation. It was at this point, with France at its lowest ebb, that Joan came to the rescue.
* * *
In many respects, Joan of Arc was your average 15th century teenager. Her boring formative years were spent in the boring village of Do Remi (4) in boring Lorraine (5). Her boring father was a boring farmer who no doubt planned a long and, you guessed it, boring life for her as a farmerÕs wife. Unlike your average teenager though, Joan was able to escape from a fate worse than middle age (which, incidentally, she also avoided), thanks to two small eccentricities: one, she preferred chainmail to lace and two, she had direct access to God via her special friend, St. Binker (6).
The commander of the local garrison, Sir Robert de Baudricourt, was a loyal, if not particularly active, Dolphinista. Like most of Charles' commanders, Sir RobertÕs successful defence of the utterly insignificant fort with which he was entrusted was due entirely to his cunning stratagem of keeping very very quiet and avoiding the English like the plague. He was not impressed at all when Joan stormed into his office and told him that it was her divine duty to drive the English into the sea. However, when he finally realised that all she wanted from him was an old suit of armour and a free ticket to the dolphinarium, he was happy to oblige and forwarded her to Charles.
The Dolphin was also somewhat surprised by her arrival and (once he had finally worked out that she was serious and not just a rather odd form of strip-a-gram) asked her what she wanted. Joan promptly informed him that St. Binker had told her to liberate Orleans, crown him Charles VII and expel the English from France. When he stopped laughing, Charles, never one to look a gift saint in the mouth, presented her with a marshalÕs baton (7) and sent her off to renew Orleans.
The Delphinium forces had been pretending to lay siege to Orleans for several months by this stage (8). When the commander, Dunois, was informed that a young girl with the social graces of a puritan fishwife had arrived with orders to risk his entire army in a suicidal attack on a well-fortified castle, he ventured the opinion that his lord and masterÕs rather tenuous grip on reality had loosened substantially. However, like the trueborn gentleman he wasnÕt, the Bastard of Orleans hid his chagrin and listened to the lady with grace, courtesy and more than a little condescension. To his immense surprise she (or rather, St. Binker) had some damn good ideas.
At this point, it is worth remembering that every single officer in all three contending armies came from a cavalry background. They had some skill at wastefully expending infantry soldiers but none whatsoever in the employment of field artillery. As far as your average 15th century kuh-niggett was concerned, cannons were big things that went boom and frightened horses. However, St BinkerÕs background was somewhat different (to put it mildly) and the good saint ordered Dunois to:
- Change the infantryÕs war cry, (9)
- Use the artillery to destroy the enemy defences,
- Throw faggots across the moat (10), and
- Use the infantry to storm the castle.
Dunois thought these ideas rather odd but as none of his own had worked and as Joan (quite rightly) refused to alter St. BinkerÕs divine instructions, he reluctantly decided to give them a go. It was at this point that the war turned. The commandant of Orleans watched in fascinated horror as his walls fell down, the surly and incompetent French infantry metamorphosed into a bunch of bloodthirsty nationalists and his own forces cracked. The garrison, stunned by the novelty of a genuine assault, surrendered en masse and the commandant was forced to yield his sword to a psychopathic teenager with an unnerving and thoroughly unladylike fondness for small axes.
Joan returned to Charles' court to inform him of his first victory and order him off to Rheims to be crowned(11). The less than enthusiastic Dolphin objected on the grounds that the whole of Champagne was in enemy hands but St. Binker insisted, so off he went and, after a few adventures along the way, Joan managed to get Charles upgraded to King at the Rheims registry office.
I am sorry to say that Joan's achievements did not endear her to her noble sisters. The ladies of the French court tended to the opinion that dressing up in armour and disembowelling the English, while admittedly very worthy, was something best left to the gentlemen(12). Furthermore, the uplifting and highly personal moral advice, that Joan (at St. Binker's command) distributed freely and publicly to the ladies she met - irrespective of age or social status – was, regrettably, not always well received by the recipients.
Even more outraged by JoanÕs behaviour were the regents of the "rightful" King of France. As soon as he heard the corks popping in Rheims, the Duke of Bedford grabbed the nearest Archbishop and made him crown the lad, King Henry VI (England) and II part I (France) at Paris cathedral. Alas, it was too little too late. In the coronation stakes it's always been first come best crowned (especially when king number two can still count his age on his fingers(13)).
Meanwhile, Joan and CharlesÕ run of success continued and town after town fell to their forces until, on one fatal day, St. Binker ordered an attack on Paris. Shortly before the attack, Joan was horrified to discover that she was not the only "lady" with Bohemian tendencies hanging around the camp. Joan may have been a Hussite but she had no time for hussies. She personally removed the baggages from the baggage train and, in the process, broke her sword on a hard-arsed whore. Now, this wasnÕt any old sword. This was Joan's lucky sword: the one God had left lying behind an altar for her special use. Joan was forced to lead the assault armed only with her favourite little hatchet, Groin splitter, and when the attack failed her superstitious royal comrade was not slow to apportion blame.
Things went from bad to worse. A depressed Joan attempted to butcher a nearby Burgundian encampment to cheer herself up. The mercenary scum, who knew a valuable prisoner when they saw one, captured her at great risk to life, limb and other bits and sold her to the Earl of Warwick.
The Earl (one of the more charming chaps in English history) was faced with a dilemma. Should he string Joan up from the nearest tree or should he drag her name through the mud first and then string her up. He eventually decided on the latter approach and handed her over to his friends in the Inquisition. Charles VII briefly considered trying to rescue her. However, when his councillors eloquently compared the advantages of being reunited with Joan and her rather bossy saint (minus her lucky sword and unbeaten record) with the disadvantages of having an offended church on the opposition side, he decided that he had better things to do.
A lot of mean and nasty things have been written about the Inquisition over the years and it is only fair to point out that in this case they played it by the book. The inquisitors asked Joan for an explanation of her behaviour and she told them all about St. Binker. They asked if she could prove this and she pointed out that just like the legendary St. Snophalophagous (14) he was visible only to her. This presented a few difficulties for the inquisitors but once it became clear that Joan was patently guilty of giving direct commands from God a higher priority than those of his bishops they handed her over to the Earl of Warwick who tossed her on the braai.
FranceÕs most famous briquette did not die in vain. By introducing the French to the joys of rabid nationalism and field artillery she had levelled the playing fields(15). When the allies unallied in 1430 (16), the English forces collapsed, and the Hundred Years War ended in complete victory for the French (HUZZAH!). Charles VII was the undisputed king of all the bits of France that the Burgundians hadnÕt pinched and Henry VI but no longer IIa was left holding the English rose (red in his case, white for his cousins). With the war over, Charles made the conveniently dead Joan a national hero and everyone lived happily ever after.
1 JohnÕs son Philip (sometimes referred to as "the Good" by those who didnÕt have to deal with him). John had been murdered the preceding year by the good folk of Armagnac who had surprised him plotting with Charles VI's eldest son Charles. Although nominally loyal to the King of France, the Armagnacs approved of the recent changes in French geography, as they felt that the loss of the wine regions would introduce a nobler spirit to the French people.
2 More motley crue to be brutally honest. A very ordinaire kingdom.
3 He believed, with some justification, that he was the most noble, elegant and highly endangered royal personage in France. One out of three ainÕt bad for a prince.
4 An appalling little town where Viennese nuns roamed the streets forcing stray children to sing cheerful ditties about warm woollen mittens and brown paper packages.
5 Contrary to the opinion of the ladies of the harem of the court of his Cetaceousness, Joan was not an Alsatian bitch.
6 For more information on this rather unusual saint see The Lives of the Saints by A. A. Milne.
7 Rouge, I believe. Specially jazzed up in deference to her sex.
8 Dunois' views on strategy at this time were similar to Sir Robert's.
9 from: "fight valiantly but donÕt hurt the noblemen because the boss wants their ransoms" to: "kill the English scum and #$ at % the consequences".
10 This step seems a little queer but given the success of the attack we can only assume that the saint knew what he was doing.
11 Joan had been told that you couldnÕt have a coronation without champagne and, not being familiar with court functions, she had made an endearing and entirely typical mistake.
11 For some reason, JoanÕs attempt to prove her femininity by challenging the royal court to a knitting contest only made things worse.
12 Or, in the less than intellectual HenryÕs case, have his age counted for him on his fingers.
13 The patron saint of the large yellow phoenix that dwells in the street of the sesame sellers.
14 Among other things.
15 Enabling Philip the Extra Sneaky, Duke of Burgundy to retain his earlier winnings and to grab a few extra bits from the English.
Copyright 1998 by Dr. Ian van Tets
University of Cape Town,
Republic of South Africa
Permission granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -editor.