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Chapter 6

THE MAID IN THE TRENCHES OF MELUN--LE SEIGNEUR DE L'OURS--THE CHILD OF LAGNY


In Easter week, Jeanne, at the head of a band of mercenaries, is before the walls of Melun.[1943] She arrives just in time to fight. The truces have expired.[1944] Is it possible that the town which was subject to King Charles[1945] can have refused to admit the Maid with her company when she came to it so generously? Apparently it was so. Was Jeanne able to communicate with the Carmelites of Melun? Probably. What misfortune befell her at the gates of the town? Did she suffer ill treatment at the hands of a Burgundian band? We know not. But when she was in the trenches she heard Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret saying unto her: "Thou wilt be taken before Saint John's Day."

[Footnote 1943: Trial, vol. i, pp. 115, 253, April 17-23. Perceval de Cagny, p. 173. Chronique des cordeliers, fol. 502 recto. P. Champion, Guillaume de Flavy, p. 158, note 2.]

[Footnote 1944: Monstrelet, vol. iv, p. 363 (April 16).]

[Footnote 1945: Jean Chartier, Chronique, vol. i, p. 125. Monstrelet, vol. iv, p. 378. Chastellain, vol. ii, p. 28. Melun certainly belonged to the French on the 23rd of April, 1430.]

And she entreated them: "When I am taken, let me die immediately without suffering long." And the Voices repeated that she would be taken and thus it must be.

And they added gently: "Be not troubled, be resigned. God will help thee."[1946]

[Footnote 1946: Trial, vol. i, pp. 114-116. G. Leroy, Histoire de Melun, Melun, 1887, in 8vo, ch. xvi ... x ... [Transcriber's Note: ellipses in original] Jeanne d'Arc à Melun, mi-avril, 1430, Melun, 1896, 32 pp.]

Saint John's Day was the 24th of June, in less than ten weeks. Many a time after that, Jeanne asked her saints at what hour she would be taken; but they did not tell her; and thus doubting she ceased to follow her own ideas and consulted the captains.[1947]

[Footnote 1947: Trial, vol. i, p. 147.]

On her way from Melun to Lagny-sur-Marne, in the month of May, she had to pass Corbeil. It was probably then, and in her company, that the two devout women from Lower Brittany, Pierronne and her younger sister in the spirit, were taken at Corbeil by the English.[1948]

[Footnote 1948: Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris, p. 259.]

For eight months the town of Lagny had been subject to King Charles and governed by Messire Ambroise de Loré, who was energetically waging war against the English of Paris and elsewhere.[1949] For the nonce Messire Ambroise de Loré was absent; but his lieutenant, Messire Jean Foucault, commanded the garrison. Shortly after Jeanne's coming to this town, tidings were brought that a company of between three and four hundred men of Picardy and of Champagne, fighting for the Duke of Burgundy, after having ranged through l'Île de France, were now on their way back to Picardy with much booty. Their captain was a valiant man-at-arms, one Franquet d'Arras.[1950] The French determined to cut off their retreat. Under the command of Messire Jean Foucault, Messire Geoffroy de Saint-Bellin, Lord Hugh Kennedy, a Scotchman, and Captain Baretta, they sallied forth from the town.[1951]

[Footnote 1949: Chronique de la Pucelle, pp. 334, 335. Jean Chartier, Chronique, vol. i, pp. 110, 111. F.A. Denis, Le séjour de Jeanne d'Arc à Lagny, Lagny, 1894, in 8vo, pp. 3 et seq.]

[Footnote 1950: Monstrelet, vol. iv, p. 384. Jean Chartier, Chronique, vol. i, pp. 120, 121. Perceval de Cagny, p. 173.]

[Footnote 1951: Jean Chartier, loc. cit. Martial d'Auvergne, Vigiles, vol. i, p. 117. P. Champion, Guillaume de Flavy, p. 38, note.]

The Maid went with them. They encountered the Burgundians near Lagny, but failed to surprise them. Messire Franquet's archers had had time to take up their position with their backs to a hedge, in the English manner. King Charles's men barely outnumbered the enemy. A certain clerk of that time, a Frenchman, writes of the engagement. His innate ingeniousness was invincible. With candid common sense he states that this very slight numerical superiority rendered the enterprise very arduous and difficult for his party.[1952] And the battle was strong indeed. The Burgundians were mightily afraid of the Maid because they believed her to be a witch and in command of armies of devils; notwithstanding, they fought right valiantly. Twice the French were repulsed; but they returned to the attack, and finally the Burgundians were all slain or taken.[1953]

[Footnote 1952: Jean Chartier, Chronique, vol. i, p. 121.]

[Footnote 1953: Monstrelet, vol. iv, p. 384.]

The conquerers returned to Lagny, loaded with booty and taking with them their prisoners, among whom was Messire Franquet d'Arras. Of noble birth and the lord of a manor, he was entitled to expect that he would be held to ransom, according to custom. Both Jean de Troissy, Bailie of Senlis,[1954] and the Maid demanded him from the soldier who was his captor. It was to the Maid that he was finally delivered.[1955] Did she obtain him in return for money? Probably, for soldiers were not accustomed to give up noble and profitable prisoners for nothing. Nevertheless, the Maid, when questioned on this subject, replied, that being neither mistress nor steward of France, it was not for her to give out money. We must suppose, therefore, that some one paid for her. However that may be, Captain Franquet d'Arras was given up to her, and she endeavoured to exchange him for a prisoner in the hands of the English. The man whom she thus desired to deliver was a Parisian who was called Le Seigneur de l'Ours.[1956]

[Footnote 1954: H. Jadart, Jeanne d'Arc à Reims, p. 61.]

[Footnote 1955: Trial, vol. i, p. 158.]

[Footnote 1956: Ibid., pp. 158, 159.]

He was not of gentle birth and his arms were the sign of his hostelry. It was the custom in those days to give the title of Seigneur to the masters of the great Paris inns. Thus Colin, who kept the inn at the Temple Gate, was known as Seigneur du Boisseau. The hôtel de l'Ours stood in the Rue Saint-Antoine, near the Gate properly called La Porte Baudoyer, but commonly known as Porte Baudet, Baudet possessing the double advantage over Baudoyer of being shorter and more comprehensible.[1957] It was an ancient and famous inn, equal in renown to the most famous, to the inn of L'Arbre Sec, in the street of that name, to the Fleur de Lis near the Pont Neuf, to the Epée in the Rue Saint-Denis, and to the Chapeau Fétu of the Rue Croix-du-Tirouer. As early as King Charles V's reign the inn was much frequented. Before huge fires the spits were turning all day long, and there were hot bread, fresh herrings, and wine of Auxerre in plenty. But since then the plunderings of men-at-arms had laid waste the countryside, and travellers no longer ventured forth for fear of being robbed and slain. Knights and pilgrims had ceased coming into the town. Only wolves came by night and devoured little children in the streets. There were no fagots in the grate, no dough in the kneading-trough. Armagnacs and Burgundians had drunk all the wine, laid waste all the vineyards, and nought was left in the cellar save a poor piquette of apples and of plums.[1958]

[Footnote 1957: Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris, pp. 71, 72. Sauval, Antiquités de Paris, vol. i, p. 104. A. Longnon, Paris pendant la domination anglaise, p. 118. H. Legrand, Paris en 1380, Paris, 1868, in 4to, p. 65.]

[Footnote 1958: Piquette, a sour wine or cider, made from the residue of grapes or apples. A kind of second brewing (W.S.). Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris, pp. 150, 154, 156, 187. Francisque-Michel and Edouard Fournier, Histoire des hôtelleries, cabarets, hôtels garnis, Paris, 1851 (2 vols. in 8vo), vol. ii, p. 5.]

The Seigneur de l'Ours, whom the Maid demanded, was called Jaquet Guillaume.[1959] Although Jeanne, like other folk, called him Seigneur, it is not certain that he personally directed his inn, nor even that the inn was open through these years of disaster and desolation. The only ascertainable fact is that he was the proprietor of the house with the sign of the Bear (l'Ours). He held it by right of his wife Jeannette, and had come into possession of it in the following manner.

[Footnote 1959: A. Longnon, Paris pendant la domination anglaise, p. 117.]

Fourteen years before, when King Henry with his knighthood had not yet landed in France, the host of the Bear Inn had been the King's sergeant-at-arms, one Jean Roche, a man of wealth and fair fame. He was a devoted follower of the Duke of Burgundy, and that was what ruined him. Paris was then occupied by the Armagnacs. In the year 1416, in order to turn them out of the city, Jean Roche concerted with divers burgesses. The plot was to be carried out on Easter Day, which that year fell on the 29th of April. But the Armagnacs discovered it. They threw the conspirators into prison and brought them to trial. On the first Saturday in May the Seigneur de l'Ours was carried to the market place in a tumbrel with Durand de Brie, a dyer, master of the sixty cross-bowmen of Paris, and Jean Perquin, pin-maker and brasier. All three were beheaded, and the body of the Seigneur de l'Ours was hanged at Montfaucon where it remained until the entrance of the Burgundians. Six weeks after their coming, in July, 1418, his body was taken down from gibbet and buried in consecrated ground.[1960]

[Footnote 1960: Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris, pp. 71, 72. A. Longnon, Paris pendant la domination anglaise, p. 118, note 1.]

Now the widow of Jean Roche had a daughter by a first marriage. Her name was Jeannette; she took for her first husband a certain Bernard le Breton; for her second, Jaquet Guillaume, who was not rich. He owed money to Maître Jean Fleury, a clerk at law and the King's secretary. His wife's affairs were not more prosperous; her father's goods had been confiscated and she had been obliged to redeem a part of her maternal inheritance. In 1424, the couple were short of money, and they sold a house, concealing the fact that it was mortgaged. Being charged by the purchaser, they were thrown into prison, where they aggravated their offence by suborning two witnesses, one a priest, the other a chambermaid. Fortunately for them, they procured a pardon.[1961]

[Footnote 1961: A. Longnon, Paris pendant la domination anglaise, pp. 119-123.]

The Jaquet Guillaume couple, therefore, were in a sorry plight. There remained to them, however, the inheritance of Jean Roche, the inn near the Place Baudet, at the sign of the Bear, the title of which Jaquet Guillaume bore. This second Seigneur de l'Ours was to be as strongly Armagnac as the other had been Burgundian, and was to pay the same price for his opinions.

Six years had passed since his release from prison, when, in the March of 1430, there was plotted by the Carmelites of Melun and certain burgesses of Paris that conspiracy which we mentioned on the occasion of Jeanne's departure for l'Île de France. It was not the first plot into which the Carmelites had entered; they had plotted that rising which had been on the point of breaking out on the Day of the Nativity, when the Maid was leading the attack near La Porte Saint-Honoré; but never before had so many burgesses and so many notables entered into a conspiracy. A clerk of the Treasury, Maître Jean de la Chapelle, two magistrates of the Châtelet, Maître Renaud Savin and Maître Pierre Morant, a very wealthy man, named Jean de Calais, burgesses, merchants, artisans, more than one hundred and fifty persons, held the threads of this vast web, and among them, Jaquet Guillaume, Seigneur de l'Ours.

The Carmelites of Melun directed the whole. Clad as artisans, they went from King to burgesses, from burgesses to King; they kept up the communications between those within and those without, and regulated all the details of the enterprise. One of them asked the conspirators for a written undertaking to bring the King's men into the city. Such a demand looks as if the majority of the conspirators were in the pay of the Royal Council.

In exchange for this undertaking these monks brought acts of oblivion signed by the King. For the people of Paris to be induced to receive the Prince, whom they still called Dauphin, they must needs be assured of a full and complete amnesty. For more than ten years, while the English and Burgundians had been holding the town, no one had felt altogether free from the reproach of their lawful sovereign and the men of his party. And all the more desirous were they for Charles of Valois to forget the past when they recalled the cruel vengeance taken by the Armagnacs after the suppression of the Butchers.

One of the conspirators, Jaquet Perdriel, advocated the sounding of a trumpet and the reading of the acts of oblivion on Sunday at the Porte Baudet.

"I have no doubt," he said, "but that we shall be joined by the craftsmen, who, in great numbers will flock to hear the reading."

He intended leading them to the Saint Antoine Gate and opening it to the King's men who were lying in ambush close by.

Some eighty or a hundred Scotchmen, dressed as Englishmen, wearing the Saint Andrew's cross, were then to enter the town, bringing in fish and cattle.

"They will enter boldly by the Saint-Denys Gate," said Perdriel, "and take possession of it. Whereupon the King's men will enter in force by the Porte Saint Antoine."

The plan was deemed good, except that it was considered better for the King's men to come in by the Saint-Denys Gate.

On Sunday, the 12th of March, the second Sunday in Lent, Maître Jean de la Chapelle invited the magistrate Renaud Savin to come to the tavern of La Pomme de Pin and meet divers other conspirators in order to arrive at an understanding touching what was best to be done. They decided that on a certain day, under pretext of going to see his vines at Chapelle-Saint-Denys, Jean de Calais should join the King's men outside the walls, make himself known to them by unfurling a white standard and bring them into the town. It was further determined that Maître Morant and a goodly company of citizens with him, should hold themselves in readiness in the taverns of the Rue Saint-Denys to support the French when they came in. In one of the taverns of this street must have been the Seigneur de l'Ours, who, dwelling near by, had undertaken to bring together divers folk of the neighbourhood.

The conspirators were acting in perfect agreement. All they now awaited was to be informed of the day chosen by the Royal Council; and they believed the attempt was to be made on the following Sunday. But on the 21st of March Brother Pierre d'Allée, Prior of the Carmelites of Melun, was taken by the English. Put to the torture, he confessed the plot and named his accomplices. On the information he gave, more than one hundred and fifty persons were arrested and tried. On the 8th of April, the Eve of Palm Sunday, seven of the most important were taken to the market-place on a tumbrel. They were: Jean de la Chapelle, clerk of the Treasury; Renaud Savin and Pierre Morant, magistrates at the Châtelet; Guillaume Perdriau; Jean le François, called Baudrin; Jean le Rigueur, baker, and Jaquet Guillaume, Seigneur de l'Ours. All seven were beheaded by the executioner, who afterwards quartered the bodies of Jean de la Chapelle and of Baudrin.

Jaquet Perdriel was merely deprived of his possessions. Jean de Calais soon procured a pardon. Jeannette, the wife of Jaquet Guillaume, was banished from the kingdom and her goods confiscated.[1962]

[Footnote 1962: Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris, pp. 251, 253. Falconbridge, in A. Longnon, Paris pendant la domination anglaise, p. 302, note 1. Sauval, Antiquités de Paris, vol. iii, p. 536. Vallet de Viriville, Histoire de Charles VII, vol. ii, p. 140. Morosini, vol. iii, pp. 274 et seq.]

How can the Maid have known the Seigneur de l'Ours? Possibly the Carmelites of Melun had recommended him to her, and perhaps it was on their advice that she demanded his surrender. She may have seen him in the September of 1429, at Saint-Denys or before the walls of Paris, and he may have then undertaken to work for the Dauphin and his party. Why were attempts made at Lagny to save this man alone of the one hundred and fifty Parisians arrested on the information of Brother Pierre d'Allée? Rather than Renaud Savin and Pierre Morant, magistrates at the Châtelet, rather than Jean de la Chapelle, clerk of the Treasury, why choose the meanest of the band? And how could they look to exchange a man accused of treachery for a prisoner of war? All this seems to us mysterious and inexplicable.

In the early days of May, Jeanne did not know what had become of Jaquet Guillaume. When she heard that he had been tried and put to death she was sore grieved and vexed. None the less, she looked upon Franquet as a captive held to ransom. But the Bailie of Senlis, who for some unknown reason was determined on the captain's ruin, took advantage of the Maid's vexation at Jaquet Guillaume's execution, and persuaded her to give up her prisoner.

He represented to her that this man had committed many a murder, many a theft, that he was a traitor, and that consequently he ought to be brought to trial.

"You will be neglecting to execute justice," he said, "if you set this Franquet free."

These reasons decided her, or rather she yielded to the Bailie's entreaty.

"Since the man I wished to have is dead," she said, "do with Franquet as justice shall require you."[1963]

[Footnote 1963: Trial, vol. i, pp. 158, 159.]

Thus she surrendered her prisoner. Was she right or wrong? Before deciding we must ask whether it were possible for her to do otherwise than she did. She was the Maid of God, the angel of the Lord of Hosts, that is clear. But the leaders of war, the captains, paid no great heed to what she said. As for the Bailie, he was the King's man, of noble birth and passing powerful.

Assisted by the judges of Lagny, he himself conducted the trial. The accused confessed that he was a murderer, a thief, and a traitor. We must believe him; and yet we cannot forbear a doubt as to whether he really was, any more than the majority of Armagnac or Burgundian men-at-arms, any more than a Damoiseau de Commercy or a Guillaume de Flavy, for example. He was condemned to death.

Jeanne consented that he should die, if he had deserved death, and seeing that he had confessed his crimes[1964] he was beheaded.

[Footnote 1964: Ibid., p. 159.]

When they heard of the scandalous treatment of Messire Franquet, the Burgundians were loud in their sorrow and indignation.[1965] It would seem that in this matter the Bailie of Senlis and the judges of Lagny did not act according to custom. We, however, are not sufficiently acquainted with the circumstances to form an opinion. There may have been some reason, of which we are ignorant, why the King of France should have demanded this prisoner. He had a right to do so on condition that he paid the Maid the amount of the ransom. A soldier of those days, well informed in all things touching honour in war, was the author of Le Jouvencel. In his chivalrous romances he writes approvingly of the wise Amydas, King of Amydoine, who, learning that one of his enemies, the Sire de Morcellet, has been taken in battle and held to ransom, cries out that he is the vilest of traitors, ransoms him with good coins of the realm, and hands him over to the provost of the town and the officers of his council that they may execute justice upon him.[1966] Such was the royal prerogative.

[Footnote 1965: Ibid., p. 254. Monstrelet, vol. iv, p. 385. E. Richer, Histoire manuscrite de la Pucelle, book i, folio 82.]

[Footnote 1966: Le Jouvencel, vol. ii, pp. 210, 211.]

Whether it was that camp life was hardening her, or whether, like all mystics, she was subject to violent changes of mood, Jeanne showed at Lagny none of that gentleness she had displayed on the evening of Patay. The virgin who once had no other arm in battle than her standard, now wielded a sword found there, at Lagny, a Burgundian sword and a trusty. Those who regarded her as an angel of the Lord, good Brother Pasquerel, for example, might justify her by saying that the Archangel Saint Michael, the standard-bearer of celestial hosts, bore a flaming sword. And indeed Jeanne remained a saint.

While she was at Lagny, folk came and told her that a child had died at birth, unbaptized.[1967] Having entered into the mother at the time of her conception, the devil held the soul of this child, who, for lack of water, had died the enemy of its Creator. The greatest anxiety was felt concerning the fate of this soul. Some thought it was in limbo, banished forever from God's sight, but the more general and better founded opinion was that it was seething in hell; for has not Saint Augustine demonstrated that souls, little as well as great, are damned because of original sin. And how could it be otherwise, seeing that Eve's fall had effaced the divine likeness in this child? He was destined to eternal death. And to think that with a few drops of water this death might have been avoided! So terrible a disaster afflicted not only the poor creature's kinsfolk, but likewise the neighbours and all good Christians in the town of Lagny. The body was carried to the Church of Saint-Pierre and placed before the image of Our Lady, which had been highly venerated ever since the plague of 1128. It was called Notre-Dame-des-Ardents because it cured burns, and when there were no burns to be cured it was called Notre-Dame-des-Aidants, or rather Des Aidances, that is, Our Lady the Helper, because she granted succour to those in dire necessity.[1968]

[Footnote 1967: Trial, vol. i, p. 105.]

[Footnote 1968: A. Denis, Jeanne d'Arc à Lagny, Lagny, 1896, in 8vo, pp. 4 et seq. J.A. Lepaire, Jeanne d'Arc à Lagny, Lagny, 1880, in 8vo, 38 pages.]

The maidens of the town knelt before her, the little body in their midst, beseeching her to intercede with her divine Son so that this little child might have his share in the Redemption brought by our Saviour.[1969] In such cases the Holy Virgin did not always deny her powerful intervention. Here it may not be inappropriate to relate a miracle she had worked thirty-seven years before.

[Footnote 1969: Trial, vol. i, p. 105.]

At Paris, in 1393, a sinful creature, finding herself with child, concealed her pregnancy, and, when her time was come, was without aid delivered. Then, having stuffed linen into the throat of the girl she had brought forth, she went and threw her on to the dust-heap outside La Porte Saint-Martin-des-Champs. But a dog scented the body, and scratching away the other refuse, discovered it. A devout woman, who happened to be passing by, took this poor little lifeless creature, and, followed by more than four hundred people, bore it to the Church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, there placed it on the altar of Our Lady, and kneeling down with the multitude of folk and the monks of the Abbey, with all her heart prayed the Holy Virgin not to suffer this innocent babe to be condemned eternally. The child stirred a little, opened her eyes, loosened the linen, which gagged her, and cried aloud. A priest baptized her on the altar of Our Lady, and gave her the name of Marie. A nurse was found, and she was fed from the breast. She lived three hours, then died and was carried to consecrated ground.[1970]

[Footnote 1970: Religieux de Saint-Denis, vol. ii, p. 82. Jean Juvénal des Ursins, in Coll. Michaud et Poujoulat, p. 395, col. 2.]

In those days resurrections of unbaptized children were frequent. That saintly Abbess, Colette of Corbie, who, when Jeanne was at Lagny, dwelt at Moulins with the reformed Sisters of Saint Clare, had brought back to life two of these poor creatures: a girl, who received the name of Colette at the font and afterwards became nun, then abbess at Pont-à-Mousson; a boy, who was said to have been two days buried and whom the servant of the poor declared to be one of the elect. He died at six months, thus fulfilling the prophecy made by the saint.[1971]

[Footnote 1971: Acta Sanctorum, 6th of March, pp. 381 and 617. Abbé Bizouard, Histoire de Sainte Colette, pp. 35, 37. Abbé Douillet, Sainte Colette, sa vie, ses oeuvres, 1884, pp. 150-154.]

With this kind of miracle Jeanne was doubtless acquainted. About twenty-five miles from Domremy, in the duchy of Lorraine, near Lunéville, was the sanctuary of Notre-Dame-des-Aviots, of which she had probably heard. Notre-Dame-des-Aviots, or Our Lady of those brought back to life, was famed for restoring life to unbaptized children. By means of her intervention they lived again long enough to be made Christians.[1972]

[Footnote 1972: Le Curé de Saint-Sulpice, Notre-Dame de France, Paris, in 8vo, vol. vi, 1860, p. 57.]

In the duchy of Luxembourg, near Montmédy, on the hill of Avioth,[1973] multitudes of pilgrims worshipped an image of Our Lady brought there by angels. On this hill a church had been built for her, with slim pillars and elaborate stonework in trefoils, roses and light foliage. This statue worked all manner of miracles. At its feet were placed children born dead; they were restored to life and straightway baptized.[1974]

[Footnote 1973: For the etymology of Avioth see C. Bonnabelle, Petite étude sur Avioth et son église, in Annuaire de la Meuse, 1883, in 18mo, p. 14.]

[Footnote 1974: Le Curé de Saint-Sulpice, loc. cit., vol. v, pp. 107 et seq. Bonnabelle, loc. cit., pp. 13 et seq. Jacquemain, Notre-Dame d'Avioth et son église monumentale, Sedan, 1876, in 8vo.]

The folk, gathered in the Church of Saint-Pierre de Lagny, around the statue of Notre-Dame-des-Aidances, hoped for a like grace. The damsels of the town prayed round the child's lifeless body. The Maid was asked to come and join them in praying to Our Lord and Our Lady. She went to the church, and knelt down with the maidens and prayed. The child was black, "as black as my coat," said Jeanne. When the Maid and the damsels had prayed, it yawned three times and its colour came back. It was baptized and straightway it died; it was buried in consecrated ground. Throughout the town this resurrection was said to be the work of the Maid. According to the tales in circulation, during the three days since its birth the child had given no sign of life;[1975] but the gossips of Lagny had doubtless extended the period of its comatose condition, like those good wives who of a single egg laid by the husband of one of them, made a hundred before the day was out.

[Footnote 1975: Trial, vol. i, pp. 105, 106.]


Anatole France