Jeanne d’Arc: Relieving the Siege of Orleans

In late April 1429, after she was equipped with a suit of armour provided by the citizens of Tours and had her pennant made by the Scotsman Hamish Power also in Tours, Jeanne set out with the armies of the dauphin and the key commanding officers or “captains.”

Her presence in the armies of France as a commander in chief but without prior experience must have been ambiguous. She was part mascot, part cheerleader, part talisman but quickly becoming an unorthodox but effective military leader – according to two military historians who have examined her military record. (Joan of Arc as a Military Commander, by John Egan and Joan of Arc: A Military Appreciation, by Stephen Richey.) She managed to win the support of the “captains’ and the affection from some, notably the famous “La Hire.” She was also an inspiration and a catalyst for the soldiers, attracting numerous recruits to the French cause. She led the soldiers  into battle at ultimate personal risk. Indeed she was wounded in her first battle at Orleans and captured on the front line later at Compiegne.

The battle at Orleans was complicated and difficult. It has been described and analysed in various places including the web site SIEGE OF ORLÉANS (1428-1429) and THE LOIRE VALLEY CAMPAIGN (1429).

The English had been laying siege to the town (of some 30,000 citizens) since 1428 with some 5,500 English and Burgundian soldiers. They had built protective towers and fortifications around the town and were trying to starve it into submission and capture it by force. The French forces approached the end of April and Joan and her army entered on April 29, 1429 – about 10 weeks after she had left Vaucouleurs.  The French armies, with Joan at the forefront, then fought the English and by May 8 they had been vanquished and retreated. 

 Orleans, 1429

Orleans: Map of Military Situation, April 29, 1429 

 Jeanne d’Arc at the Battle of Orleans

 Battle of Orleans

 Jeanne Enters Orleans  

“The disparate array of forces defending Orléans was drawn together with the appearance of Jeanne d’Arc, and there developed a unity of focus in their actions. There were no signs of a great religious conversion, though the era was ripe for popular acceptance of mysterious Divine intervention. For those warriors at the time who might not accept the Divine, they recognized a pragmatic military value in the sentiment and found it easy to go along with drama.

The 4 May attack appears to have evolved from a minor demonstration but fueled by group emotion that can be traced to the appearance and the excitement demonstrated by Jeanne. She did not appear to have specifically formulated the action, but joined in — and certainly became a dominant ‘leader’ of the critical attack. This action reflects the circumstances that pertain to most all of the military actions related to the siege and the subsequent operations. Many of the French initiatives were unplanned and could not be anticipated by the English. The degree of the enthusiastic involvement of the French militia was obviously inspired in part by Jeanne’s appeal that raised the resolve for group action. It was a real cheerleading performance. For though she exposed herself to harm and endured wounds, she did not exchange blows or personally cause direct harm to an enemy warrior. ”  (http://xenophongroup.com/montjoie/orleans.htm#map2) 

There is little left of the 1429 city of Orleans that Joan would have known. The Choir of the Cathedral and the reconstructed house where she stayed in the city is almost all that one can find of the old city. The walls have gone and very little if any housing of the era remains. This is due to various epochs of modernization and also probably to the destruction of the US-German fighting and shelling in WW II.

 War Damage, 1944, Orleans, facing the Cathedral of Saint-Croix

War DamageMore Damage

 The (Reconstructed) House where Joan of Arc stayed in Orleans, May 1429. One of the few remaining buildings of her era.

Tapestry of Jeanne d’Arc, Saint-Croix Cathedral, Orleans

Saint-Croix Cathedral, Orleans

 

Traditional Boats on the Loire at Orleans

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