Siege of Orleans, September 1428 to May 1429

Siege of Orleans, September 1428 to May 1429

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Siege of Orleans, September 1428 to May 1429

One of the pivotal events of the Hundred Years War. Orleans was held by supporters of the dauphin, and the English, led by Thomas Montagu, 4th earl of Salisbury, and then by William de la Pole, 4th earl of Suffolk, besieged the city for eight months, before the defenders were relieved by the French, led by Joan of Arc.

Battle of Baugé

The Battle of Baugé, fought between the English and a Franco-Scots army on 22 March 1421 at Baugé, France, east of Angers, was a major defeat for the English in the Hundred Years' War. The English army was led by the king's brother Thomas, Duke of Clarence, while the Franco-Scots were led by both John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, and Gilbert Motier de La Fayette, the Marshal of France. English strength was 4,000 men, although only 1,500 deployed, against 5,000 French and Scots.


The field of battle was an almost featureless, flat plain. The French army, numbering between 3,000 and 4,000, confronted the much smaller English force who had set up defensive positions by drawing up the supply wagons into a makeshift fortification. [2] : 61 The entire defensive formation was then further protected by the placement of sharpened spikes all around to prevent the French cavalry from charging, a tactic which had been employed, with great success, at the Battle of Agincourt. The French attack began with a bombardment using gunpowder artillery, a relatively new weapon for the time and one whose proper usage was not well understood although it was damaging to the wagons and caused English casualties. [2] : 61–62

The 400-strong Scottish infantry, contrary to the orders of the Count of Clermont (Pernoud states that "Clermont sent message after message forbidding any attack") went on the attack against the English formation. This, according to deVries, forced the premature cessation of the artillery bombardment out of fear of striking their own forces. The Scots were not well protected by armour and great damage was visited upon them by the English archers and crossbowmen who were shooting from behind the protection of their wagon fort. [2] : 62

French cavalry went in support of the Scottish infantry but were stopped by the archers and stakes. At this point, the English, seeing that the remaining French infantry forces were slow to join the Scots in the attack (Pernoud quotes the Journal du siege d'Orléans to the effect that the remaining French forces "came on in a cowardly fashion, and did not join up with the constable and the other foot soldiers"), decided themselves to go on a counterattack. They struck the rear and flanks of the disorganized French/Scottish forces and put them to flight. [2] : 62

The convoy reformed and continued on to supply the besieging English soldiers. The morale effect of the battle affected both sides.

There are two places called Rouvray in the region in question. In his biography of Sir John Fastolf, Stephen Cooper gives reasons why the battle probably took place near Rouvray-Sainte-Croix, rather than Rouvray-Saint-Denis. Pernoud states that the combined French/Scottish forces lost about 400 men, including Stewart, the leader of the Scots. Among the wounded was Jean de Dunois, known also as the Bastard of Orléans, who barely escaped with his life and who would later play a crucial role, along with Joan of Arc, in the lifting of the siege of Orléans and the French Loire campaign which followed.

While it is generally felt today that the Battle of the Herrings was lost by the French because of the failure to continue the artillery bombardment to its full effect, such was not the view at the time, at least in the besieged city of Orléans. Within the city walls, as can be seen from the passage in the Journal du siege, the Count of Clermont was generally blamed for the disaster, being considered a coward and held in disdain. Soon thereafter, Clermont, together with the wounded Count Dunois, left Orléans together with about 2000 soldiers. [2] : 62 Morale within the city and among its leaders was at a low point, so much so that consideration was given to surrendering the city.

The Battle of the Herrings was the most significant military action during the siege of Orléans from its inception in October 1428 until the appearance on the scene, in May of the following year, of Joan of Arc. Even so, it was, to all appearances, a rather minor engagement and, were it not for the context in which it occurred, would most likely have been relegated to the merest of footnotes in military history or even forgotten altogether.

But not only was it part of one of the most famous siege actions in history, the story also gained currency that it played a pivotal role in convincing Robert de Baudricourt in Vaucouleurs, to accede to Joan's demand for support and safe conduct to Chinon. For it was on the very day (12 February 1429) of the battle that Joan met with de Baudricourt for the final time. According to the story, recounted in several places (for example, in Sackville-West), Joan gave out the information that "the Dauphin's arms had that day suffered a great reverse near Orléans". When, several days later, news of the military setback near Rouvray did in fact reach Vaucouleurs, de Baudricourt, according to the story, relented and agreed to sponsor her journey to the Dauphin in Chinon. Joan finally left Vaucouleurs for Chinon on 23 February 1429.

Polish fantasy writer, Andrzej Sapkowski described the battle in his novel, Lux perpetua. The novel is part of the Hussite Trilogy, which takes place in 15th century Silesia, during the Hussite Wars. The short description of the battle is not connected with the main plot. Sir John Fastolf is shown as a comical figure who wins the battle thanks to rumours he may have heard about the Bohemian heretics and their commander, Jan Žižka (whose name he pronounces as "Sheeshka"). Fastolf, feeling hopeless in the face of the enemy, forms his wagons into a wagenburg and surprisingly wins.

The Battle of the Herrings also appears as a vignette in Robert Nye's novel, Falstaff, told through the eyes of the English commander himself.

Siege of Orleans, September 1428 to May 1429 - History

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Siege of Orléans (1429) - It's said about The Hundred Years' War that England won most of the battles, but France ultimately won the war. After devastating defeats at Crécy, Poitiers and especially Agincourt, France could have easily collapsed under the strain of those losses. However, at Orléans, it began to turn things around. Actually, credit for France's salvation is largely given to one person not a man, but a woman. Joan of Arc. England's strategy for victory relied on capturing Orléans, and it very nearly did. Had it done so, it might well have won the war. Orléans was the northernmost town still loyal to the French crown. Everything north of it was under English (or her allies) control. And it was situated on the Loire River which would make campaigning into the heart of France much easier. The siege began in October 1428. England tried to make quick work of Orléans by bombarding it with artillery. However, French reinforcements arrived just in time to repel the assault. They then managed to destroy the bridge spanning the Loire, thus disrupting England's supply line. So the English changed tactics and tried to starve the city into submission. This meant a much longer siege. The French tried to break it in February 1429, but were beaten at the Battle of the Herrings. The defeat destroyed French morale. At this point they were all but resigned to the loss of Orléans and perhaps the war too.

According to the Chronique de la Pucelle (Chronicle of the Maid), one of the sources of The Hundred Years' War, on the very day of the Battle of the Herrings, a young peasant girl in Vaucoleurs named Joan (Jeanne d'Arc in French) was trying to convince Robert de Baudricourt, a captain in the French army, that she was divinely appointed to deliver the Dauphin Charles from the English army. After several failed attempts, and perhaps because Baudricourt came to the realization that there was nothing left to lose, he relented and dispatched her to the Dauphin under armed escort. After some persuasion, the Dauphin provided her with armour, a banner, a page and heralds, and added her to a force of five hundred soldiers that left for Orléans at the end of April 1429. They approached from the South and came up with a plan to enter the city. While 300 of the soldiers attacked the English fort (the French fort Tourelles which was occupied by the English) guarding the river, the other 200 (including Joan) equipped with relief supplies approached the landing outside the city. Ships from Orléans sailed out and picked them up. According to the chronicle, one of Joan's miracles was performed there. The winds which brought the ships out, suddenly shifted and allowed them to return to the city under cover of darkness. Joan disembarked from one of the ships with her banner raised and the people rejoiced. They had been resupplied with fresh provisions and their spirits were immediately lifted.

The plan was to send a relief force from Blois to Orléans and when it arrived, the army guarding the city would break out and crush the English siege. While they waited, Joan sent messengers to the English warning them to withdraw, but they were dismissed as being "emissaries of a witch." They also conducted makeshift repairs on the bridge at night so as to allow the English to be attacked from both sides. When the relief force arrived, the French still did not have enough troops to beat the entire army, so they concentrated their attack on the Tourelles guarding the Loire. They captured it on May 7th. At that point, the English lifted the siege because without control of the Tourelles, they could guard neither the bridge nor the river and the French could resupply the city at will. While the Siege of Orléans ended in heavy losses for the English and a failure to capture the city, they merely considered it a setback and were far from beaten at that point. The war would drag on for another 24 years, but they were never able to penetrate into the heart of French territory after that and eventually had to abandon their plans of conquering France.


Orléans is located in the northern bend of the Loire, which crosses from east to west. Orléans belongs to the vallée de la Loire sector between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire, which was in 2000 inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The capital of Orléanais, 120 kilometres southwest of Paris, is bordered to the north by the Beauce region, more specifically the Orléans Forest (French: forêt d'Orléans) and Orléans-la-Source neighbourhood, and the Sologne region to the south.

Five bridges in the city cross the Loire River: Pont de l'Europe, Pont du Maréchal Joffre (also called Pont Neuf), Pont George-V (also called Pont Royal, carrying the commune tramway), Pont René-Thinat and Pont de Vierzon (rail bridge).

To the north of the Loire (rive droite) is to be found a small hill (102 m (335 ft) at the pont Georges-V, 110 m (360 ft) at the Place du Martroi) which gently rises to 125 m (410 ft) at la Croix Fleury, at the limits of Fleury-les-Aubrais. Conversely, the south (on the rive gauche) has a gentle depression to about 95 m (312 ft) above sea level (at Saint-Marceau) between the Loire and the Loiret, designated a "zone inondable" (flood-risk zone).

At the end of the 1960s, the Orléans-la-Source neighbourhood was created, 12 kilometres (7 mi)to the south of the original commune and separated from it by the Val d'Orléans and the Loiret River (whose source is in the Parc Floral de la Source). This quarter's altitude varies from about 100 to 110 m (330 to 360 ft).

The Loire and navigation Edit

In Orléans, the Loire is separated by a submerged dike known as the dhuis into the Grande Loire to the north, no longer navigable, and the Petite Loire to the south. This dike is just one part of a vast system of construction that previously allowed the Loire to remain navigable to this point.

The Loire was formerly an important navigation and trading route. With the increase in size of ocean-going ships, large ships can now navigate the estuary only up to about Nantes.

Boats on the river were traditionally flat-bottomed boats, with large but foldable masts so the sails could gather wind from above the river banks, but the masts could be lowered in order to allow the boats to pass under bridges. These vessels are known as "gabarre", "futreau", and so on, and may be viewed by tourists near pont Royal.

The river's irregular flow strongly limits traffic on it, in particular at its ascent, though this can be overcome by boats being given a tow.

An Inexplosible-type paddle steamer owned by the mairie was put in place in August 2007, facing Place de la Loire and containing a bar.

Every two years, the Festival de Loire recalls the role played by the river in the commune's history.

On the river's north bank, near the town centre, is the Canal d'Orléans, which connects to the Canal du Loing and the Canal de Briare at Buges near Montargis. The canal is no longer used along its whole length. Its route within Orléans runs parallel to the river, separated from it by a wall or muret, with a promenade along the top. Its last pound was transformed into an outdoor swimming pool in the 1960s, then filled in. It was reopened in 2007 for the "fêtes de Loire." There are plans to revive use of the canal for recreation and install a pleasure-boat port there.

Prehistory and Roman Empire Edit

Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the tribe of the Carnutes where the Druids held their annual assembly. The Carnutes were massacred and the city was destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC. [6] In the late 3rd century AD, Roman Emperor Aurelian rebuilt the city and renamed it civitas Aurelianorum ("city of Aurelian") after himself. [7] The name later evolved into Orléans. [8]

In 442 Flavius Aetius, the Roman commander in Gaul, requested Goar, head of the Iranian tribe of Alans in the region to come to Orleans and control the rebellious natives and the Visigoths. Accompanying the Vandals, the Alans crossed the Loire in 408. One of their groups, under Goar, joined the Roman forces of Flavius Aetius to fight Attila when he invaded Gaul in 451, taking part in the Battle of Châlons under their king Sangiban. Goar established his capital in Orléans. His successors later took possession of the estates in the region between Orléans and Paris. Installed in Orléans and along the Loire, they were unruly (killing the town's senators when they felt they had been paid too slowly or too little) and resented by the local inhabitants. Many inhabitants around the present city have names bearing witness to the Alan presence – Allaines. Also many places in the region bear names of Alan origin. [9]

Early Middle Ages Edit

In the Merovingian era, the city was capital of the Kingdom of Orléans following Clovis I's division of the kingdom, then under the Capetians it became the capital of a county then duchy held in appanage by the house of Valois-Orléans. The Valois-Orléans family later acceded to the throne of France via Louis XII, then Francis I. In 1108, Louis VI of France became one of the few French monarchs to be crowned outside of Reims when he was crowned in Orléans cathedral by Daimbert, Archbishop of Sens.

High Middle Ages Edit

The city was always a strategic point on the Loire, for it was sited at the river's most northerly point, and thus its closest point to Paris. There were few bridges over the dangerous river Loire, but Orléans had one of them, and so became – with Rouen and Paris – one of medieval France's three richest cities.

On the south bank the "châtelet des Tourelles" protected access to the bridge. This was the site of the battle on 8 May 1429 which allowed Joan of Arc to enter and lift the siege of the Plantagenets during the Hundred Years' War, with the help of the royal generals Dunois and Florent d'Illiers. The city's inhabitants have continued to remain faithful and grateful to her to this day, calling her "la pucelle d'Orléans" (the maid of Orléans), offering her a middle-class house in the city, and contributing to her ransom when she was taken prisoner.

1453 to 1699 Edit

Once the Hundred Years' War was over, the city recovered its former prosperity. The bridge brought in tolls and taxes, as did the merchants passing through the city. King Louis XI also greatly contributed to its prosperity, revitalising agriculture in the surrounding area (particularly the exceptionally fertile land around Beauce) and relaunching saffron farming at Pithiviers. Later, during the Renaissance, the city benefited from its becoming fashionable for rich châtelains to travel along the Loire valley (a fashion begun by the king himself, whose royal domains included the nearby châteaus at Chambord, Amboise, Blois, and Chenonceau).

The University of Orléans also contributed to the city's prestige. Specializing in law, it was highly regarded throughout Europe. John Calvin was received and accommodated there (and wrote part of his reforming theses during his stay), and in return Henry VIII of England (who had drawn on Calvin's work in his separation from Rome) offered to fund a scholarship at the university. Many other Protestants were sheltered by the city. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known by his pseudonym Molière, also studied law at the University, but was expelled for attending a carnival contrary to university rules.

From 13 December 1560 to 31 January 1561, the French States-General after the death of Francis II of France, the eldest son of Catherine de Médicis and Henry II. He died in the Hôtel Groslot in Orléans, with his queen Mary at his side.

The cathedral was rebuilt several times. The present structure had its first stone laid by Henry IV, and work on it took a century. It thus is a mix of late Renaissance and early Louis XIV styles, and one of the last cathedrals to be built in France.

1700–1900 Edit

When France colonised America, the territory it conquered was immense, including the whole Mississippi River (whose first European name was the River Colbert), from its mouth to its source at the borders of Canada. Its capital was named la Nouvelle-Orléans in honour of Louis XV's regent, the duke of Orléans, and was settled with French inhabitants against the threat from British troops to the north-east.

The Dukes of Orléans hardly ever visited their city since, as brothers or cousins of the king, they took such a major role in court life that they could hardly ever leave. The duchy of Orléans was the largest of the French duchies, starting at Arpajon, continuing to Chartres, Vendôme, Blois, Vierzon, and Montargis. The duke's son bore the title duke of Chartres. Inheritances from great families and marriage alliances allowed them to accumulate huge wealth, and one of them, Philippe Égalité, is sometimes said to have been the richest man in the world at the time. His son, King Louis-Philippe I, inherited the Penthièvre and Condé family fortunes.

1852 saw the creation of the Compagnies ferroviaires Paris-Orléans and its famous gare d'Orsay in Paris. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the city again became strategically important thanks to its geographical position, and was occupied by the Prussians on 13 October that year. The armée de la Loire was formed under the orders of General d'Aurelle de Paladines and based itself not far from Orléans at Beauce.

1900 to present Edit

During the Second World War, the German army made the Orléans Fleury-les-Aubrais railway station one of their central logistical rail hubs. The Pont Georges V was renamed "pont des Tourelles". [10] A transit camp for deportees was built at Beaune-la-Rolande. During the war, the American Air Force heavily bombed the city and the train station, causing much damage. The city was one of the first to be rebuilt after the war: the reconstruction plan and city improvement initiated by Jean Kérisel and Jean Royer was adopted as early as 1943, and work began as early as the start of 1945. This reconstruction in part identically reproduced what had been lost, such as Royale and its arcades, but also used innovative prefabrication techniques, such as îlot 4 under the direction of the architect Pol Abraham. [11]

The big city of former times is today an average-sized city of 250,000 inhabitants. It is still using its strategically central position less than an hour from the French capital to attract businesses interested in reducing transport costs.

Heraldry Edit

According to Victor Adolphe Malte-Brun in La France Illustrée, 1882, Orléans's arms are "gules, three caillous in cœurs de lys argent, and on a chief azure, three fleurs de lys Or." Charle Grandmaison, in the Dictionnaire Héraldique of 1861, states that it is "Or, with three hearts in gules", without the chief of France. Sometimes, in faulty designs, we find it described "gules, three fleurs de lys argent, and on a chief azure three fleurs de lys Or." [12]

The design shown left shows 3 "cœurs de lys" (heart of a lily), seen from above. This "cœurs de lys" is therefore not a true lily, which would have 6 tepals, but a hypothetical aerial view of a symbolic lily. It has probably also been stylised more and more in heraldry, as in the heart in a pack of cards. Certain authors solve the problem by calling this symbol a "tiercefeuille", defined as a stemless clover leaf, with one leaf at the top and two below, thus making this coat of arms "gules, with three reversed tiercefeuilles in argent, etc".

Motto Edit

"Hoc vernant lilia corde" (granted by Louis XII, then duke of Orléans), meaning "It is by this heart that lilies flourish" or "This heart makes lilies flourish", referring to the fleur de lys, symbol of the French royal family.

Public transport Edit

TAO manages buses and tram lines in Orléans. The first tram line was inaugurated November 20, 2000 and the second line on June 30, 2012. The network contains 29.3km of rail and transported 77,000 passengers in 2014. [15]

Roads and highway Edit

Orléans is an autoroute intersection : the A10 (linking Paris to Bordeaux) links to the commune outskirts, and A71 (whose bridge over the Loire is outside the commune limits) begins here, heading for the Mediterranean via Clermont-Ferrand (where it becomes the A75).

Railway Edit

Orléans is served by two main railway stations: the central Gare d'Orléans and the Gare des Aubrais-Orléans, in the northern suburbs. Most long-distance trains call only at the Les Aubrais-Orléans station, which offers connections to Paris, Lille, Tours, Brive-la-Gaillarde, Nevers, and several regional destinations.

Orléans is the birthplace of:

    (born 1982), French writer (born 1977), football player (born 1995), basketball player (1877–1965), geographer
  • Maxence Boitez (Ridsa) (born 1990), singer (1797–1849), anatomist (1790–1857), classical pianist and composer (born 1967), football player (born 1975), actress, not born in Orléans, but grew up there (1948–2020), linguist (1509–1546), scholar and printer (1948–2020), historian (1878–1968), cyclist (1844–1904), neurologist (1550–1613), physician (1876–1932), sculptor (1607–1646), Jesuitmissionary (1797–1873), orientalist (1857–1934), historian (1570–1632), Renaissance architect (1834–1903), writer and musicologist (born 1992), football player (born 1947), composer (1873–1914), poet and essayist (1722–1794), physician (born 1989), basketball player (born 1982), basketball player (born 1993), football player (1904–1944), jurist and politician (born 1954), composer

Historical and secular landmarks Edit

  • The Gallo-Roman town-wall on the north side of the cathedral (4th century AD) and along the rue de la Tour-Neuve
  • The Hôtel Groslot, built between 1550 and 1555 for Jacques Groslot, "bailli d'Orléans" by Jacques Ier Androuet du Cerceau. King François II of France died there in 1560. Kings Charles IX, Henri III of France and Henri IV of France stayed there. The "Hôtel" was restored in 1850. The building became the town Hall of Orléans in 1790 (weddings are still celebrated inside).
  • The hôtel de la Vieille Intendance (early 15th century) (otherwise named hôtel Brachet, formerly "The King's house"), real gothic-renaissance style château made of bricks. [16] Nowadays housing the Administrative Court of Orléans. One can admire its frontage from the entrance in the rue de la Bretonnerie. Yet, the building – which sheltered the highest figures of the kingtom passing by the city, and maybe some kings themselves (Henri IV, Louis XIII, Louis XIV of France) – can easily be observed from its gardens, opened to the public (entrance rue d'Alsace-Lorraine).
  • The hôtel de la Motte-Sanguin (18th century) and its gardens, manor built at the behest of Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans (1747–1793), cousin of the King Louis XVI. He was surnamed "Philippe Égalité" / "equality" referring to his support to the 1789 revolutionaries. Nicknamed "the richest man on earth" he voted in favour of the death penalty against his own cousin the king Louis XVI. This is a classic style princely residence (and even royal, since Philippe Égalité's heir accessed the throne of France under the name of Louis-Philippe Ier). It's part of a public park opened to the public (via the Solférino street).
  • The school of artillery, next to the Hôtel de la Motte-Sanguin which it is often confused with, formerly housing a military school, it was built in the 19th century near the Loire river. [17]
  • Remains of the University of Orléans (a 15th-century building housing the thesis room), founded in 1306 by pope Clement V, in which, among many other great historical figures, the Protestant John Calvin studied and taught. The University was so famous that it attracted students from all over Europe, particularly Germany. The city of Orléans is one of the cradles of Protestantism.
  • The House of Louis XI (end of the 15th century), on Saint-Aignan square. Built at the behest of the king, who particularly revered Saint Aignan. [18]
  • The House of Joan of Arc, where she stayed during the siege of Orléans (this is actually an approximate reconstitution, the original building being bombed in 1940 during the Battle of France)
  • Place du Martroi, heart of the city, with the equestrian statue of Joan of Arc at its center, made by Denis Foyatier. This statue was damaged during the Second World War, then repaired by Paul Belmondo, father of the famous 1950s to 1980s French actor.
  • Duke of Orléans' Chancellerie (XVIIIe), located next to the Place du Matroi, also bombed during the Second world war, only the frontage resisted.
  • The Bannier gate-house, discovered in 1986 under the statue of Joan of Arc (Place du Martroi). It was built in the 14th century. It can be seen through a window in the subterranean car-park under the square, or visited under certain conditions.
  • The rue de Bourgogne and surrounding streets, Orléans' main street since the Antiquity, it's the former Roman decumanus, crossing the city from east to west. Joan of Arc entered the city in 1429 by the "Bourgogne" gatehouse situated at its Easter end. Until today it is still giving access to the "Prefecture", where the "Prefet" (officer who represents the French State in the Region) lives, many pubs, night clubs, restaurants and shops such as the "Galeries Lafayette". It is more than a mile long. One can admire many medieval houses on its sides.
  • The Tour Blanche / White Tower, it is one of the only medieval defensive towers remaining in the city (still in use at the time of the siege of Orléans). It nowadays houses city's archaeological department.
  • The Docks, (Port of Orléans) once the most important inland port of France (18th century). While boats could not sail on the river Seine because of the windings, they could sail to Orléans on the Loire river with the wind in their back. Then the merchandise was brought to Paris by roadways. Wine, and sugar from the colonies, were shipped to Orléans where they were stored and refined. Vinegar is still a city' speciality due to the lapsing of wine stocks during the shipment. One can admire the old pavement of the docks (18th and 19th centuries) on the north bank of the river in the city and on the island in the middle, that was used to channel the water
  • The Hôpital Madeleine (former hospital), built by King Louis XIV (18th century) and his successors (notably an important part of the 18th century).
  • Saint-Charles chapel, located within the grounds of the Madeleine Hospital, it was built in 1713 by Jacques V Gabriel, one of Louis XIV architects.
  • The Hôtel Cabu, otherwise named house of Diane de Poitiers, built at the behest of Philippe Cabu, barrister, in 1547, famous architect Jacques Ier Androuet du Cerceau providing the plans.
  • The Hôtel Hatte, 16th century. Today's Charles-Péguy Center.
  • The Hôtel Toutin, 16th century
  • The Hôtel Pommeret d'Orléans, 16th century
  • The Hôtel Ducerceau, 16th century
  • The maison de la coquille, 16th century
  • The Hôtel des Créneaux, former city hall, flanked by its bell tower (15th century). It nowadays houses the city's school of music. This is a magnificent piece of late gothic secular architecture (15th century) that reminds the famous and much more recent Parisian city hall.
  • The House of Jean Dalibert, 16th century
  • The Study of Jacques Bouchet (16th century), which can be admired from the public square "Jacques Bouchet"
  • The mansions, rue d'Escure (17th and 18th centuries)
  • The "Préfecture" : former Benedictine monastery, built in 1670 and housing the "Préfecture du Loiret" since 1800.
  • The Pont de l'Europe, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is an inclined bow-string ark bridge particularly original.
  • The Pont Royal / George V Royal bridge, the oldest bridge of the city. Built between 1751 and 1760, at the request of Daniel-Charles Trudaine, administrator and civil engineer. It was renamed in honour of King George V after the World War II out of respect of Britain's role in the war.
  • The Pont des Tourelles, built in 1140 and demolished in 1760, was the first stone-made bridge of Orléans. When the river Loire is low, one can see remains of it in the water
  • The Palais épiscopal d'Orléans, former Bishop's Palace. It was built between 1635 and 1641. Napoléon stayed there. It is nowadays housing the international center for research, part of University of Orléans.
  • The courthouse (18th to 20th centuries)
  • The "salle de l'Institut", located on the "place Sainte Croix", is a small concert hall which can be converted into a ballroom. Its acoustics are remarkable.
  • Mansions, rue de la Bretonnerie. This street concentrates many particular mansions, of all styles and ages (15th to 20th centuries). High society members, politicians, barristers, doctors. continue to live there.
  • Mansions, rue d'Alsace-Lorraine, 19th century bourgeoisie style houses.
  • Statue La Baigneuse by Paul Belmondo, aside the rue Royale (1955).
  • Statue of Calvin, by Daniel Leclercq, facing the Calvinist temple (2009). [19]
  • The FRAC Centre building named "Les turbulences", an advanced piece of architecture covered with L.E.Ds.
  • Memorial Museum to the Children of Vel d'Hiv at the Centre d'étude et de recherche sur les camps d'internement du Loiret (Study and Research Centre on the Internment Camps in Loiret), commemorating over 4,000 Jewish children who were concentrated at the Vélodrome d´Hiver cycling arena in Paris in July 1942, after which they were interned at either Pithiviers or Beaune-la-Rolande, and eventually deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp. [20]

• Many historical houses and mansions (hundreds) can still be admired in the city center which is one of the largest in France due to the great importance of the city until the 20th century. The historical center dating back to the 15th century extends far beyond the limits of the pedestrian sector that has been extensively restored in the past few years. In fact it corresponds to the portion of the modern city which is enclosed by the Boulevards. Many historical monuments remain in the non-pedestrian sectors of the city (for example, at rue Notre-Dame-de-Recouvrance, at rue des Carmes, at rue de la Bretonnerie, at Square Saint-Aignan).

Museums Edit

Parks Edit

Media Edit

Music Edit

  • Annual week-long classical music festival Semaines musicales internationales d'Orléans, founded in 1968. [23]

Sport Edit

Orléans has a basketball team: Orléans Loiret Basket which is in the French first division. The club won the "Coupe de France" of basketball, its first major trophy, in the season 2009 – 2010.

Orléans also has a football club, the US Orléans, which plays in Ligue 2.

Joan of Arc’s Early Life

Born around 1412, Jeanne d𠆚rc (or in English, Joan of Arc) was the daughter of a tenant farmer, Jacques d𠆚rc, from the village of Domrémy, in northeastern France. She was not taught to read or write, but her pious mother, Isabelle Romພ, instilled in her a deep love for the Catholic Church and its teachings. At the time, France had long been torn apart by a bitter conflict with England (later known as the Hundred Years’ War), in which England had gained the upper hand. A peace treaty in 1420 disinherited the French crown prince, Charles of Valois, amid accusations of his illegitimacy, and King Henry V was made ruler of both England and France. His son, Henry VI, succeeded him in 1422. Along with its French allies (led by Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy), England occupied much of northern France, and many in Joan’s village, Domrémy, were forced to abandon their homes under threat of invasion.

Did you know? In a private audience at his castle at Chinon, Joan of Arc won the future Charles VII over by supposedly revealing information that only a messenger from God could know the details of this conversation are unknown.

At the age of 13, Joan began to hear voices, which she determined had been sent by God to give her a mission of overwhelming importance: to save France by expelling its enemies, and to install Charles as its rightful king. As part of this divine mission, Joan took a vow of chastity. At the age of 16, after her father attempted to arrange a marriage for her, she successfully convinced a local court that she should not be forced to accept the match.


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• Lavishly illustrated account of the great war between England and France and the fierce battle at Orléans

The year is 1428, and the war between England and France has been raging for nearly one hundred years. The English control territory to the north of the Loire, but have no control of regions beyond the river. During the summer, the Duke of Bedford decides to eliminate his enemy and besieges Orléans. From October 1428 to May 1429, fierce fighting continues around the town.

The situation seems to be lost for the besieged, until the arrival of a young peasant girl named Joan. The exploits of the Maid of Orléans, considered France's national heroine, lead to the making of her legend. She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days, although she was later bunt at the stake for heresy at only nineteen years old.

Inspired by her, the French rekindle their taste for victory and go from one success to another, until the decisive battle at Patay.

This is an detailed, animated and richly illustrated book which enables the reader to relive these moments of great endeavour.

The Siege of Orléans (1428–1429)

The Siege of Orléans (1428–1429) marked a turning point in the Hundred Years’ War between France and England. This was Jeanne d’Arc’s first major military victory and the first major French success to follow the crushing defeat at Agincourt in 1415. The outset of this siege marked the pinnacle of English power during the later stages of the war.

The city held strategic and symbolic significance to both sides of the conflict. The consensus among contemporaries was that the English regent, John Plantagenet, would succeed in realizing Henry V’s dream of conquering all of France if Orléans fell. For half a year the English appeared to be winning, but the siege collapsed nine days after Jeanne’s arrival.

View of Orleans restored in 1428-1429 by M.Juste Lisch, architect of the Government

Date: 1428 – 1429
Location: Orleans, France
Outcome: French victory-Decisive battle

Principal Combatants.
English Leadership: Thomas de Montacute, William de la Pole, duke of Suffol
English Strength: 5000 men
English Casualties: nearly a thousand killed, and 600 prisoners.
French Leadership: Jeanne d’Arc
French Strength: Town population of about 5,000 people
French Casualties: ?. 200 French prisoners were found in the complex and released.

Table of Contents

Background - Hundred Years' War

The siege of Orléans occurred during the Hundred Years’ War, contested between the ruling houses of France and England for supremacy over France. The conflict had begun in 1337 when England’s Edward III decided to press his claim to the French throne, a claim based in part on ancient inheritance from William the Conqueror and augmented by inheritance from strategic marriages.

Following a decisive victory at Agincourt in 1415, the English gained the upper hand in the conflict, occupying much of northern France. Under the Treaty of Troyes of 1420, England’s Henry V became regent of France. By this treaty, Henry married Catherine, the daughter of the current French king, Charles VI, and would then succeed to the French throne upon Charles’s death. The dauphin Charles, the son of Charles VI and presumptive heir prior to the treaty, was then disinherited.


Orléans is located on the Loire River in north-central France. During the time of this siege it was the northernmost city that remained loyal to the French crown. The English and their allies the Burgundians controlled the rest of northern France, including Paris. Orléans’s position on a major river made it the last obstacle to a campaign into central France. England already controlled France’s southwestern coast.

Armagnac party

As the capital of the duchy of Orléans, this city held symbolic significance in early fifteenth century politics. The dukes of Orléans were at the head of a political faction known as the Armagnacs who rejected the Treaty of Troyes and supported the claims of France’s uncrowned king Charles VII. This faction had been active for two generations. As a result, the duke of Orléans was one of the very few combatants from Agincourt who remained a prisoner of the English fourteen years after the battle.

Under the customs of chivalry, a city that surrendered to an invading army without a struggle was entitled to lenient treatment from its new ruler. A city that resisted could expect a harsh occupation. Mass executions were not unknown in this type of situation. By late medieval reasoning, the city of Orléans had escalated the conflict and forced the use of violence upon the English, so a conquering lord would be just in exacting vengeance upon its citizens. The city’s association with the Armagnac party made it unlikely to be spared if it fell.

State of the conflict

After the brief fallout over Hainaut in 1425-26, English and Burgundian arms renewed their alliance and offensive on the Dauphin’s France in 1427. The Orléanais region southwest of Paris was of key importance, not only for controlling the Loire river, but also to smoothly connect the English area of operations in the west and the Burgundian area of operations in the east. French arms had been largely ineffective before the Anglo-Burgundian onslaught until the siege of Montargis in late 1427, when Étienne de Vignolles 1 and John of Orléans, Count of Dunois 2 managed to successfully force the siege to be lifted. The relief of Montargis, the first effective French action in years, emboldened sporadic uprisings in the thinly-garrisoned English-occupied region of Maine to the west, threatening to undo recent English gains.

However, the French failed to capitalize on the aftermath of Montargis, in large part because the French court was embroiled in an internal power struggle between the constable Arthur de Richemont and the chamberlain Georges de la Trémoille, a new favorite of the Dauphin Charles. John of Dunois, La Hire and Poton de Xaintrailles were partisans of La Trémoille, while Charles de Bourbon 3 the marshal Jean de Brosse 4 and John Stewart of Darnley, 5 were lined up with the constable. The inner French conflict had reached such a point that their partisans were fighting each other in the open field by mid-1428.

The English availed themselves of French paralysis to raise fresh reinforcements in England in early 1428, raising a new force of 2,700 men, 6 brought over by Thomas Montacute. 7 These were bolstered by new levies raised in Normandy and Paris, and joined by auxiliaries from Burgundy and vassal domains in Picardie and Champagne, to a total strength possibly as great as 10,000. At the council of war in the Spring of 1428, the English regent John Duke of Bedford determined the direction of English arms would be towards the west, to stomp out the fires in the Maine and lay siege to Angers. The city of Orléans was not originally on the menu – indeed, Bedford had secured a private deal with Dunois, whose attentions were focused on the Richemont-La Trémoille conflict, then raging violently in the Berri. As Charles, Duke of Orléans was at the time in English captivity, it would have been contrary to the customs of knightly war to seize the possessions of a prisoner. Bedford agreed to leave Orléans alone, but, for some reason, changed his mind shortly after the arrival of English reinforcements under Salisbury in July 1428. In a memorandum written in later years, Bedford expressed that the siege of Orléans “was taken in hand, God knoweth by what advice”, suggesting it was probably Salisbury’s idea, not his.

Salisbury's approach

Between July and October, the Earl of Salisbury swept through the countryside southwest of Paris – recovering Nogent-le-Roi, Rambouillet and the area around Chartres. Then, rather than continuing southwest to Angers, Salisbury turned abruptly southeast towards Orléans instead. Pressing towards the Loire, Salisbury seized Le Puiset and Janville 8 in August. From there, rather than descending directly on Orléans from the north, Salisbury skipped over the city to seize the countryside west of it. He reached the Loire river at Meung-sur-Loire, which he promptly seized. 9 He pressed a little downriver, in the direction of Blois, to take the bridge and castle of Beaugency. Salisbury crossed the Loire at the point, and turned up to approach Orléans from the south. Salisbury arrived at Olivet, just one mile south of Orléans, on October 7.

In the meantime, an English detachment, under John de La Pole, had been sent to seize the regions upriver, east of Orléans: Jargeau fell on October 5, Châteauneuf-sur-Loire immediately after, while further upriver, the Burgundians took Sully-sur-Loire. Orléans was cut off and surrounded. Manning the defenses of Orléans, John of Dunois had watched the tightening English noose and took care to prepare the city for siege. Dunois correctly anticipated that the English would aim for the bridge, nearly ¼ mile 10 long, that led from the south shore of the Loire into the center of the city of Orléans on the north shore. The bridge passed over the riverine island of St. Antoine, an optimal location for Salisbury to position English cannon within range of Orléans city center.

At the southern end of the bridge was a turreted gatehouse, Les Tourelles, which stood in the river, connected by a drawbridge to the southern bank. Dunois rapidly erected a large earthwork bulwark 11 on the south shore itself, which he packed with the bulk of his troops, thus creating a large fortified complex to protect the bridge. Just across from the Boulevart was an Augustinian friary, which could be used as a flanking firing position on any approach to the bridge, although it seems Dunois decided not to make use of it. On his orders, the southern suburbs of Orléans were evacuated and all structures leveled to prevent giving the English cover.

Early stages of the siege

Assault on the Tourelles

The siege of Orléans formally began on 12 October 1428, and initiated with an artillery bombardment that began on October 17. The English assaulted the Boulevart on October 21, but the assaulters were held back by French missile fire, rope nets, scalding oil, hot coals and quicklime. The English decided against a new frontal attack, and set about mining the bulwark. The French countermined, fired the pit props and fell back to the Tourelles on October 23. But the Tourelles itself was taken by storm the next day, October 24. The departing French blew up some of the bridge arches to prevent a direct pursuit.

With the fall of the Tourelles, Orléans seemed doomed. But the timely arrival of the Marshal de Boussac with sizeable French reinforcements prevented the English from repairing and crossing the bridge and seizing Orléans right then. The English suffered another setback two days later, when the Earl of Salisbury was struck in the face by debris kicked up in cannon fire while supervising the installation of the Tourelles. English operations were suspended while Salisbury was carried off to Meung to recover, but after lingering for about a week, he died of his injuries.

The investment

The lull in English operations following Salisbury’s injury and death gave the citizens of Orléans time to knock out the remaining arches of the bridge on their end, disabling the possibility of a quick repair and direct assault. The new siege commander appointed by Bedford in mid-November, William de la Pole 12 resolved on surrounding the city and starving it into submission. He did not have enough men to invest the city with continuous trenchlines, so he set up a series of outworks, (bastides). Over the next few months, seven strongholds were set up on the north bank, and four on the south bank, with the small riverine isle of Charlemagne 13 commanding the bridges connecting the two banks.

The establishment of the outworks was not without difficulty – the French garrison sallied out repeatedly to harass the builders, and systematically destroyed other buildings 14 in the suburbs to prevent them serving as shelter for the English during the winter months. By the Spring of 1429, the English outworks covered only the south and west of the city, with the northeast basically left open. 15 Sizeable contingents of French men-at-arms could push aside the patrols and move in and out of the city, but the entry of any lighter-escorted provisions and supplies was firmly blocked, there and further afield.

On the south bank, the English center was the bridge complex. 16 Guarding the approach to the bridge from the east was the bastille of St. Jean-le-Blanc, while to the west of the bridge complex was the bastille of Champ de St. Privé. St. Privé also guarded the bridge to the island of Charlemagne 17 On the north bank of the Loire river, on the other side of Charlemagne bridge, was the bastille of St. Laurent, the largest English bulwark and the nerve center of English operations. Above that were a series of smaller outworks, in order: the bastille de la Croiz Boisse, the bastille des Douze Pierres, 18 the bastille de Pressoir Aps 19 and, just north of the city, the bastille de St. Pouair, 20 all on top of the main roads. Then came the great northeastern gap, although its back was mostly covered by thick forest of the Bois d’Orléans. Finally, some 2 km east of the city, on the north bank, there was the isolated bastille of St. Loup.

Orléans’s position seemed gloomy. Although the French still held isolated citadels like Montargis to the northeast and Gien upriver, any relief would have to come from Blois, to the southwest, exactly where the English had concentrated their forces. Provisions convoys had to follow dangerous circuitous routes swinging around to reach the city from the northeast. Few made it through, and the city soon began to feel the pinch. Should Orléans fall, it would effectively make the recovery of the northern half of France all but impossible, and prove fatal to the Dauphin Charles’s bid for the crown. When the French Estates met at Chinon in September 1428, they pressed the Dauphin to make peace with Philip III of Burgundy “at any price”.

British Lose Ground at the Battle of New Orleans

Pakenham’s plan was quickly unraveling. His men had bravely stood their ground amid the chaos of the American deluge, but a unit carrying ladders and wood fascines needed to scale Line Jackson was lagging behind. Pakenham took it upon himself to lead the outfit to the front, but in the meantime, his main formation was cut to ribbons by rifle and cannon fire. When some of the redcoats began to flee, one of Pakenham’s subordinates unwisely tried to wheel the 93rd Highlanders Regiment to their aid. American troops quickly took aim and unleashed a maelstrom of fire that felled more than half the unit, including its leader. Around that same time, Pakenham and his entourage were laced by a blast of grapeshot. The British commander perished minutes later.

With the majority of their officers out of commission, the British attack descended into bedlam. A few valiant troops tried to climb the parapets by hand, only to withdraw when they found they had no support. Pakenham’s secondary assault on Jackson’s battery across the river had met with more success, but it was too little too late. By the time the British seized the American artillery position, they could see the day was already lost. At Line Jackson, the British were retreating in droves, leaving behind a carpet of crumpled bodies. American Major Howell Tatum later said the enemy casualties were “truly distressing…some had their heads shot off, some their legs, some their arms. Some were laughing, some crying…there was every variety of sight and sound.”

Hundred Years’ War: Joan of Arc and the Siege of Orléans

In the marketplace within the gray walls of Rouen, Normandy, on May 30, 1431, in the shadows of the cathedral and guild shops, a harsh spectacle held the attention of the populace. A 19-year-old peasant girl was to be burned at the stake. A sign declared her ‘Jehanne, called la Pucelle, liar, pernicious, seducer of the people, diviner, superstitious, blasphemer of God, presumptuous, misbelieving the faith of Jesus Christ, braggart, idolater, cruel, dissolute, invoker of devils, apostate, schismatic and heretic.’

To many in the crowd, however, she was the innocent would-be rescuer of France from a century of English invaders. Unwittingly, the English were bestowing upon her a martyrdom that would haunt them for the rest of their numbered days on French soil. However surprisingly successful her gallant but brief career in war had been, Joan would be far more dangerous to England after her death, transforming a century-long clash of avaricious and vacillating feuding lords into a holy war for national liberation.

The Hundred Years’ War raged amid what was arguably the worst century in the history of Western civilization. In France, crop failures, civil wars, invasion, horrendous epidemics and marauding mercenary armies turned to banditry reduced the population by two-thirds.

The war began in earnest in 1346, when Edward III, King of England, invaded Brittany and marched on Paris. At Crécy, his army of 10,000 utterly routed twice their number of Frenchmen as English longbowmen annihilated squadrons of heavily armed French knights.

In 1348 the bubonic plague, the Black Death, devastated Western Europe, killing millions within 24 hours of infection. In England, a third of the population perished. The plague ravaged crowded, polluted castles and towns more than it did isolated villages. The Roman Catholic Church decreed that anyone confronted with persons sneezing or coughing, symptoms of the disease, should bless them and quickly decide to either flee or stay to assist. The best of the clergy stayed — and many died. While papal decree condemned the idea that the source of the illness was Jews poisoning well water, common folk killed them anyway, as well as blaming other scapegoats — witches, heretics and, if one was French, ‘les goddams Anglais’ (a nickname referring to the English tendency to use profanity more readily than did the French).

Heavily taxed in order to pay the English ransom for their king and lords captured at Poitiers in 1356, the already oppressed French peasantry erupted into a revolt, known as the Jacquerie. The rebels torched castles, churches and towns. Meanwhile, unpaid foreign soldiers of fortune spread their own waves of terror as they pillaged the land. Because they slaughtered farmers’ cattle, the English soldiers earned another nickname — ‘boeuf-manges,’ or ‘beef-eaters.’

In 1378, the struggle wracked the church with rival claimants to the papacy at Avignon and Rome, the former backed by France and the latter by England. Religious and political authority alike were in confusion.

By 1415, England’s young King Henry V had demanded the crown of France and then had offered to settle for less, an offer few trusted. Henry V then invaded France, in violation of a previously signed treaty, and seized the port of Harfleur. His army reduced by disease, he retreated toward Calais. Attacked en route by the French at Agincourt, Henry’s archers again annihilated the French knights, inflicting 7,000 casualties to England’s 500. The English occupied all northwestern France, from the Atlantic to the Loire River, including Paris. When Henry V visited one of his prisoners, the Duke of Orléans, in the Tower of London, he told him, ‘You deserve to lose.’ The Frenchman agreed, as did a great many of his countrymen. Continued defeat and economic deterioration had left France in a state of passive denial that bordered upon political and military despair.

The most powerful duchy in France at the time was that of Burgundy, occupying most of the eastern region. When the dauphin, son of the mentally ill King Charles VI, had met with John of Burgundy to plan an alliance against the English, the dauphin rashly accused the Burgundian of treason because of his earlier inaction against the invaders. One of the dauphin’s entourage then stabbed and killed the duke. That treacherous act only drove the Burgundians to ally with England. The dauphin, a brooding, irresolute man like his father, was reluctant to act any further his attempt at diplomacy had failed, and his military strategy was threatened by the new enemy alliance. Besides, he was afraid of horses. France was reduced to the area south of the Loire, then called Armagnac.

On August 31, 1422, Henry V died of dysentery — depriving the English of their most charismatic leader of the war — and John, the Duke of Bedford, became regent for the 7-month-old King Henry VI. On October 22, Charles VI also died. None of his relatives appeared at his funeral, but the Duke of Bedford did. No sooner was the king’s tomb closed than Bedford proclaimed his infant ward ‘Henry, by the Grace of God, King of England and of France.’

Although the dauphin made a counterclaim to the French throne, he was paralyzed by his unwillingness to assert real leadership and his jealousy of any noble who did. Soon all France north of the Loire River was controlled by the English or Burgundians except for a few holdouts: Mont St. Michel, Tornai, Vaucouleurs in Lorraine, and Orléans.

What remained of France was saved by the Loire River. The English could not cross it without first reducing all French strongholds on its low, sandy shores. By autumn of 1428, the siege of the Loire citadel of Orléans had begun. The English fortified the southern access to the city’s bridge, ignoring the need to complete their siege lines on the northern side of the river around the walled town.

Of all nations, France was first to give rise to a popular image apart from the king. In the 1300s, folk literature and ballads spoke of Mre France — Mother France, beloved, merciful and long-suffering. But that was hardly preparation for the extraordinary resurgence in morale that would be set in motion by a teenage girl.

Lorraine, watered by the Meuse flowing to the Rhine in northeastern France, remained loyal to the dauphin though separated from his sovereignty by some 200 miles of Burgundian territory. The garrison at Vaucouleurs defended the region. The Burgundians, preoccupied in the southwest, had left Lorraine relatively undisturbed by war. Its Ardennes hills and forest were of minor value, but they provided an advantage to its defenders. In the village of Domrémy, in Lorraine, lived the d’Arc family, who owned a farm and sheep pasture, but they were not serfs to the local lord, Robert de Baudricourt. Their home boasted a glass window. There were five children, two boys and three girls. One of the girls, Jeanette — known in English as Joan — was born on January 6, 1412.

At the age of 13, this illiterate shepherdess and ‘excellent seamstress’ first heard the voices that would address her throughout her life. Usually they were preceded, she said, by a great light. She claimed they were the voices of Saints Margaret and Catherine, queens of France, and Archangel Michael, commander of the heavenly host. They convinced her to swear to remain a virgin ‘as long as it shall please God.’ When Joan was about 17, the voices told her to leave Domrémy without her father’s knowledge and rescue Orléans. They promised nothing more.

In many respects, though, she seemed a rather ordinary girl — the tomboy next door, the always-adoring younger sister one had to defend, the neighborhood girl never unfriendly but preoccupied, whose glance one sought to catch. She was called by the French la Pucelle — literally, the virgin. The English would call her ‘the Maid’ on rare occasions when they spoke of her courteously. The title ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ would not be used in reference to her until the 16th century. Her call to ‘Follow me,’ even when headed into certain danger, would be heeded willingly by men who would not have followed a grizzled veteran on such occasions.

Approaching her uncle, an ex-sergeant named Durand Laxhart, as her voices directed her, she told him that he should bring her to the commander of Vaucouleurs, de Baudricourt. She must have expected that her uncle, whose war stories she had heard, would aid her. How much she explained to him is unclear, but she was taken to de Baudricourt and told him of the voices she had not dared to mention to her parents. She asked for horses and an escort to go across Burgundian territory to aid the dauphin, whom she wished to see crowned king of France. Although she told de Baudricourt that her voices had assured her that he would aid her, the flabbergasted commander at first told Joan to go home. She did so, narrowly escaping an unsuccessful Burgundian raid on the walled town. When she returned to Vaucouleurs toward the end of Lent in 1429, de Baudricourt changed his mind and granted her wish. Perhaps he reasoned that the rewards would be great if she was somehow successful, but her loss would be of small concern.

Dressed in male attire — because, as she would explain, she feared rape — the Maid, accompanied by a knight, his squire and her two brothers, crossed Burgundy. Traveling on horseback only at night, in 11 days they arrived at Chinon, the dauphin’s residence, in February 1429. The dauphin had already received a letter dictated by Joan. Questioned, she replied, ‘Have you not heard that France would be lost by a woman and restored by a virgin from the Lorraine borderlands?’ The woman who had lost France was generally considered to be Isabeau of Bavaria, the dauphin’s mother, whose discouraging lack of faith in France and the men of her family, and whose readiness to accept English demands, had made her quite unpopular.

The dauphin refused to see Joan immediately, but had her quizzed for almost a month by officials and churchmen. Impatient and eager to get to Orléans, she gave terse, practical and intelligent answers — albeit in uneducated fashion. Once she was accepted by her interviewers, she was sent to the dauphin, who, changing clothes with one of his officials and hiding in a crowd, waited to see if the Maid would be aware of the trick. She immediately walked directly to him, respectful but annoyed at such games.

Perceval de Boulainvilliers, a knight who would be in Joan’s company, described her: ‘This maid has a certain elegance. She has a virile bearing, speaks little, shows an admirable prudence in all her words. She has a pretty woman’s voice, eats little, drinks very little wine. She enjoys riding a horse and takes pleasure in fine arms, greatly likes the company of noble fighting men, detests numerous assemblies and meetings, readily sheds copious tears, has a cheerful face. She bears the weight and burden of armor incredibly well to such a point that she has remained fully armed during six days and nights.’

The testimony of well over 600 people who knew her would be recorded in court. Not even in the trial, which was rigged illegally by her prosecutors, would any witness speak a word against her. Yet we have no description of her facial features, nor do we know the color of her hair.

Outfitted in a suit of white enameled armor specially made for her, and carrying a banner of white and blue with two angels and the single word ‘Jesus,’ she proceeded with a gathering army from Chinon to Tours, to Blois and then to Orléans. On the way, she ordered the clergy at Saint Catherine’s Church in Ferbois to dig under the stone floor near the altar to find a sword. She had never visited the town, but a sword was produced, somewhat rusty, its origins a mystery. She would never use it in battle, but carried it nevertheless.

La Pucelle startled many witnesses by using the flat of the sword to beat a prostitute following the army, one of a host of such professionals driven out of the camp. Even the most puritanical chaplain would not have dared to take the same actions. Furthermore, she forbade swearing. To the astonishment of their officers, soldiers accepted her strictures with little complaint. If she was sent by the saints, it was natural that she would make such demands, the soldiers reasoned, hoping against all cynicism that she was genuine. If she could not save Orléans, the English would cross the Loire and, in all probability, conquer France.

The key to the siege was the wood-and-stone bridge over the Loire between the town and the towers, Les Tourelles, on the south shore. For four hours on Thursday, October 21, 1428, the English had attacked a rampart of earth and stakes guarding the approach to Les Tourelles, losing 240 men. Townswomen hauled buckets of boiling water, fat, lime and ashes to the defenders, who then poured them down on the English scaling ladders. On October 23, the French abandoned the rampart, which had been undermined by English tunneling. The next day, the English took Les Tourelles, undefended and ruined by cannon shot. Thomas Montague, Earl of Salisbury, inspected the site and was mortally injured by a French cannon on October 24. He was succeeded as commander by the Earl of Suffolk, who in turn was replaced in December by the more aggressive John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.

Talbot arrived with 300 reinforcements and heavier cannons. He based his army west of the city. The French also received reinforcements led by John Dunois, comte de Longueville (the ‘Bastard of Orléans,’ son of the imprisoned duke) and the Gascon mercenary Etienne de Vignoles, better known as La Hire.

On Christmas Day 1428, a truce was honored from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. The English requested that the French musicians in Orléans play for them, and they did. Supplies in the town were dwindling — on January 3, 1429, a covey of 154 pigs and 400 sheep entered Orléans through the eastern gate, evidence of the laxity of English patrols. The French sortied against the English camp at St. Laurent on an isle near the town on January 15, but the alerted foe threw them back into the river’s shallow waters.

On February 12, a crucial fight occurred. The English, with 1,500 men, including French allies from Picardy and Normandy, and a convoy of 300 carts loaded with barrels of salted herring for Lent, were attacked by a sortie in strength from Orléans. Having been warned, the English circled their carts into a defensive laager. The French and their Scottish mercenaries, surprised by that maneuver, could not agree upon their next move. Their orders were to fight on horseback and not dismount, thus ensuring a quick withdrawal to Orléans. Sir John Stewart, the Constable of Scotland, disobeying that command, ordering 400 men to attack the wagon ring on foot. The French stayed on their mounts at a distance, uncooperative, at which point the English, led by Sir John Fastolf, charged out of their defensive circle and sent the Scots reeling in retreat until 60 to 80 mounted men from the French main body, led by the Count of Clermont, charged the scattered English. In the process of aiding the Scots, Clermont was unhorsed, hit in the foot by an arrow and narrowly escaped being killed or captured before two of his archers placed him on another mount. Sir John Stewart was killed.

The Battle of the Herrings, as it came to be called, was the last sortie the French would make until Joan’s arrival. Even as the siege tightened, however, a break for the French emerged on the political front. The town council of Orléans had appealed to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, to aid his fellow Frenchmen diplomatically. In response, Philip asked Bedford to remove the English forces before Orléans and leave it a neutralized city under Burgundian control, adding that he would be ‘very angered to have beaten the bushes that others take the bird.’ Bedford refused. The Burgundian troops in his command thereupon left the siege.

The first formal news of the Maid’s arrival among the English was a letter from her to their commander, asking them to leave Orléans and France. In it she was titled the French chef de guerre. This was undoubtedly a clerk’s entry. Joan was illiterate and not the French chief of staff, although she did have a ‘battle,’ as it was called in the era — a battalion of several hundred men. The English ignored the letter, but they were alerted to the approach of the new French force.

The only free access to Orléans was by its eastern Burgundy Gate. The English camp of St. Loup was on the western side of the town. The English held the towers on the south shore of the Loire, and the French the gates of Orléans at its other end. The wooden bridge itself was a no man’s land in easy range of missiles from either side.

The French were wary of reinforcing the town. A major effort required a fleet of riverboats and rafts poled or sailing against the strong current of the river in spring flood. The winds were weak and against the river armada, but Joan, as always, remained positive and eager to proceed. Abruptly, the winds became stronger and changed direction, speeding the boats upstream past English archers and cannoneers, few of whom fired a shot. The contrary wind shortened the range, weakened the impact and handicapped the accuracy of arrows. The cannons of the era were inaccurate against a moving target.

To distract the English, a sortie was made from Orléans against St. Loup, with heavy casualties on both sides. The river fleet passed St. Loup and disembarked most of its passengers and cargo on the south shore as the Maid landed on the north, entering Orléans unopposed by its eastern gate.

It was April 29, 1429, and Orléans held a celebration and a parade. At 8 p.m., Dunois and many nobles who had met the relief expedition outside the walls entered the Burgundy Gate amid torches, banners and a cavalcade of armored men surrounding la Pucelle in her white armor.

Joan soon discovered that the Orléanists, while happy to see her, were reluctant to launch a major attack against their besiegers. The day following her arrival, she and the English commander shouted to one another from opposite ends of the bridge. Talbot declared her a whore and the French captains pimps, warning that if he captured the ‘cowgirl,’ she would be burned at the stake.

On Sunday, May 1, a truce was observed. Dunois, the Bastard of Orléans, sortied and brought back reinforcements from Blois. The English offered no opposition, knowing that they would soon be reinforced by freebooters led by Sir John Fastolf. Although the Frenchmen were alarmed at that information, the Maid was elated, saying jokingly that if they failed to tell her when Fastolf was near, she would chop off the head of the Bastard of Orléans.

Joan had been napping when she suddenly arose and announced that her ‘counsel’ told her to attack immediately. But she didn’t know whether the assault was supposed to be against the English defenses or against Fastolf’s approaching column. She galloped out the eastern gate and joined a French assault that was already in progress westward against St. Loup.

The French were taking many casualties, and Joan was saddened at the sight of the wounded stumbling back to the town. She raced on as the French cheered and rallied, storming St. Loup. The nearby English bastions, alarmed by the size and fury of the French attack, made no move to intervene. All English defenders within St. Loup were killed, whereas the French lost only two men.

The aftermath was revealing. The Maid burst into tears at the sight of the English dead. When an English prisoner was struck with a sword by one of his guards, she held the captive’s head as he died. She declared that all the French should thank God for victory and confess their sins, or she would leave them. All prostitutes were to leave the army. The next day, the Feast of the Ascension, she would make no war. Within five days, she announced, the English would withdraw — then she sent her foes her third and last decree.

The note was wrapped about an arrow shot across the bridge into Les Tourelles. It included a request that her herald, seized by the English, should be exchanged for a prisoner of the French. The English reply was shouted insults against the ‘Armagnac whore.’ Joan wept, as she often did when involved in angry confrontations.

Joan asked that the gate toward Les Augustins — the English-held, fortified monastery on the south shore — be opened for a sortie, but the captain in charge of it refused, fearing an English attack through the open gate. La Pucelle demanded the doors be unlocked, and many soldiers and civilians agreed with her. The captain finally relented. Since the English had built a barrier spanning the bridge’s width, the Maid led a sortie across a shallow inlet of the Loire to the island of Aux Toiles southeast of the town’s walls. From there, using two boats as a floating bridge, the French landed on the south shore and attacked and seized the fort of St. Jean le Blanc, whose English defenders fled to the larger and stronger Les Augustins, near Les Tourelles. There, resistance was so formidable that the weary French withdrew. St. Jean le Blanc was subsequently abandoned by both sides.

Arriving by boat with La Hire and other mounted knights, Joan quickly saw that the English in Les Augustins were about to sortie against the retiring French. Lowering her lance, she led a charge that rallied the French, who now pressed hard upon the English as they attempted to re-enter Les Augustins by an open gate. Fighting their way into the fortress, the French pushed on until their banners replaced England’s on its walls, and the English fell back to Les Tourelles. All night, the civilians in Orléans brought food and supplies across the river.

The French captains told the Maid that they should not attack immediately, but inform the dauphin of their progress thus far and then await his decision. She scorned their advice, knowing that her soldiers were eager and the dauphin habitually indecisive. She ordered an early sortie, stating that her ‘counsel’ had warned her that she would be wounded that day above her breast.

From morning to night on May 6, the French assaulted Les Tourelles, held by the English commander Talbot. Soon after joining the attack, Joan was struck in the shoulder by an arrow, just as she had predicted, and wept as she was carried from the field while English archers jubilantly shouted, ‘The witch is dead!’ Angrily refusing magic amulets offered by men-at-arms, she had her wound — which turned out to be no more than a flesh wound, the arrow having barely penetrated her armor — treated with olive oil and lard. She confessed to her priest in a highly emotional state.

Since it was late in the day and the troops were exhausted, Dunois was about to call off the attack when Joan returned from Orléans on horseback. She had removed herself for some 10 minutes to pray, then returned, carrying her banner. The English, who had just sortied outside the walls of Les Tourelles, rushed back inside, shaken by the unexpected French resurgence.

Although he expected a French retreat amid the confusion and lack of prompt communications in the battle, a French knight, Jean d’Aulon, courageously resolved to advance against the next English sortie on May 7. Joan’s standard-bearer, exhausted, had handed her banner to a soldier known as le Basque. D’Aulon asked le Basque to join him. Together, they went into the moat and struggled to climb out of it to the timber walkway of the bridge. Joan demanded that le Basque give her back the banner — she gripped the end of the cloth, but le Basque, at d’Aulon’s insistence, refused to part with it. Instead, he raised it. The French men-at-arms, seeing the banner advancing to the edge of the bridge, rushed to it and stormed the bridge, Joan climbing the first scaling ladder raised. Four hundred to five hundred English attempted to flee Les Tourelles, but the bridge, meanwhile, had been set afire and it collapsed. Most of the English were killed or drowned. The French who had hoped to take their foes captive for ransom were shocked and dismayed. The Maid wept and shrieked at the English deaths.

On the following day, Talbot lifted the siege and the French re-entered Orléans by the bridge gate. That day, all the English south of the Loire were captured or killed. The next day, a Sunday, as the town celebrated a Te Deum of thanksgiving, the English forces north of the river demolished their camps and withdrew. Joan’s men were ready to attack the retreating column, but she forbade it, saying that on a Sunday they should fight only in self-defense. The column was harassed the next day, and cannons and other weapons were seized.

The dauphin sent news of the victory to all French towns friendly to him, scarcely mentioning the Maid. Bedford wrote the king, explaining that the English had lost ‘by the hand of God as it seems,’ because of la Pucelle, ‘a fiend with enchantments and sorcery.’ Clearly, the leaders on both sides used Joan for their own purposes.

The Maid’s victory at Orléans had a snowball effect as volunteers gathered to the fleur-de-lis banners. Marching onward, the French took Jargeau on June 20, 1429, killing 1,200 English after their offer to parley went unheard amid the melee. The town of Meung surrendered. At Beaugency, the English retreated under an agreement of safe conduct.

The Constable Arthur de Richemont, a Breton on the outs with King Charles, brought his 1,000-man battle to join Joan’s army. Other French had refused him alliance and even threatened him, considering him self-serving. ‘Joan, I have been told you want to fight me,’ Richemont said to her. ‘I do not know if you are from God or not. If you are from God I fear nothing from you, for God knows my goodwill. If you are the Devil, I fear you even less.’ She replied, ‘Ah, handsome constable, you are not come for my sake but because you are come you will be welcome.’

The English, under Talbot, were approaching Meung, joined by Fastolf’s 1,000 mercenaries. On June 18, the opposing armies formed up in a pageant of arms. The French nobility asked Joan what to do. ‘Have all good spurs,’ she answered. Uncertain, her listeners asked if she meant they should flee. ‘Rather the opposite,’ she answered, predicting an English rout. Charging with a force of 6,000, including 1,000 mounted knights, the French inflicted 4,000 casualties on their foes.

At Patay, the French pursued an English convoy. At a narrow pass through hedges and woods, the English set up an ambush of 500 archers and awaited their own rear guard. French scouts unwittingly flushed a stag from the forest, which raced through the English lines, prompting shouts that the scouts overheard and alerting them to the English ambush. As the English rear guard retreated on the run, the main English force, with Fastolf riding ahead to summon the vanguard to their aid, wrongly presumed there had been a rout and panicked as the French charged pell-mell. By the time Joan arrived, the English had lost some 2,000 men, the French only three. Talbot was unhorsed and captured, but Fastolf had escaped.

Joan returned to Orléans to urge that Dauphin Charles be crowned at Reims, the traditional scene for such ceremonies. The town was in Burgundian hands. With a cavalcade of nobles and infantry, the dauphin journeyed to Reims. En route, they approached Troyes, held by a Burgundian garrison of 600. Letters sent to the town promised that all would be forgiven if the dauphin was welcomed. The town sent a friar to sprinkle the Maid with holy water. ‘Approach boldly, I shall not fly away,’ she told him. With her army on the edge of starvation from campaigning in the ravaged countryside, she commenced a siege, assuring her men that within three days they would take the town ‘by love or by force or by courage.’ Upon seeing the French ready for an assault at dawn, the town yielded.

At Reims, Joan had no artillery or siege equipment, but advised, ‘advance boldly and fear nothing.’ The city yielded without a fight, and on July 16, 1429, the dauphin was officially crowned Charles VII, king of France. Joan knelt before the king and said that she had accomplished what God had ordered of her. The only favor she asked was that her village of Domrémy be exempt from taxes. Visited by her brothers, she told them she was homesick. She wished to return home ‘and serve my father and mother by keeping sheep with my sister and brothers who will rejoice so greatly to see me again.’

The king allowed the Burgundians a two-week truce prior to further negotiations, the Burgundians agreeing to yield in Paris. Their agreement was insincere, however, as they were stalling for time to reinforce Paris with a newly landed force from England. Joan was shut out of the negotiations. The French monarch was thinking only in diplomatic terms and ignoring the military situation.

Joan no longer heard her voices, but she decided to attack Paris nonetheless. With a force of 12,000, she led an assault on the Porte Ste.-Honoré on September 8, but was hit in the leg by a crossbow bolt. Her standard-bearer, hit in the foot, opened his helmet visor to remove the arrow and was shot between the eyes. The wounded Maid was carried away by her comrades in arms, still insisting that the attack continue.

The king undermined Joan’s efforts. He withdrew from Paris to Glen, and on September 21 disbanded his army. Joan resumed campaigning in early 1430, though her force was reduced to little more than her own battle. She was aware that she was losing her grip on events. At Chinon, she remarked that her voices had warned her, ‘I shall last a year, hardly longer.’ A siege of Charité-sur-Loire ended in impasse — Joan’s audacity was no longer compensation enough for her inadequate forces.

Later, during her trial, Joan claimed that upon the moat in a successful assault at Melun, her saints had warned her that she would be captured before St. John’s Day, the summer solstice.

Philip the Good of Burgundy, who had taken on much of the burden of fighting for the English, dispatched his vassal, John of Luxembourg, to seize the town of Compiègne. On May 13, 1430, however, Joan moved first and entered Compiègne by surprise. In the early morning of May 23, she sallied against the Burgundians outside the town. Unaware that an English unit had moved between the town and her attacking force, she pressed on. The French within the town closed its gates, keeping out both friend and foe. Joan, fighting wildly, was pulled from the saddle by a Burgundian soldier. Her brother, Pierre, was also captured, and some 400 of her men were killed. The Burgundians sold the Maid to the English for 10,000 gold coins.

Tried as a heretic and witch in a procedure flagrantly violating the legal process of the era, she was offered women’s clothes in prison and then raped. Thereafter, male attire was the only clothing allowed her. Her male attire was then taken as ‘proof’ that she refused a church command that she dress as a woman, and in spite of the weakness of all other evidence against her, she was burned at the stake by the English at Rouen on May 30, 1431. Of the 42 lawyers at her trial, 39 had asked for leniency and an appeal to a higher church court not under the thumb of the English. Of scores of witnesses who claimed to know her personally, not one maligned her — and those witnesses were chosen by the prosecution, the Maid being denied a defense council.

Was la Pucelle neurologically handicapped, part of a royal plot, a fantasist, crazy, a saint or a con artist? Her trial revealed her to be uncommonly bright, forthright, courageous, without bitterness, yet aware that she had been abandoned by the king whom she had saved. Nevertheless, she had saved her nation, with an innate charisma matching that of England’s King Henry V. And in 1920, Joan of Arc was recognized as saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Every year on May 8 at Orléans, a pageant re-enacts Joan’s entry into the city, today a prosperous and attractive blend of old and new architecture. On the plaza her memory is commemorated in the statue known to American troops stationed there after World War II as ‘Joanie on the Pony.’

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Since October 7, 1428, the city of Orléans was besieged by English (and initially also Burgundian ) troops. However, they had not succeeded in closing the ring around the city completely. From the northeast and east it was still possible to get to Orléans in some places. However, larger food transports, which would have been necessary to supply the big city, were hardly possible. On February 12, 1429 an attempt to stop an English supply convoy that was supposed to bring mainly salted herrings to the besiegers had failed. Since this " Herring Day" the situation of the city seemed more and more hopeless (see: Battle of the Herring ).

On April 29, 1429, Joan of Arc arrived from Chinon , accompanied by her brothers Jean and Pierre and a few other men in Orléans. At first, Joan of Arc found little recognition among the French commanders stationed in Orléans who refused to listen to a woman. Their efforts to persuade the English to withdraw peacefully from Orléans with embassies were dismissed as ridiculous. When this came about, Joan of Arc earned the mockery of the English, who also captured the heralds , although this was contrary to the then martial law.

Then there were attacks on the English fortresses. The first attack started unplanned, as a small skirmish . The French knight Étienne de Vignolles , who was called La Hire ("the angry") because of his outbursts of anger , and Jeanne d'Arc were involved. Jeanne d'Arc did not fight in the front row because, unlike the knights, she was not a trained fighter and also of a rather graceful figure but apparently she took part in the fighting (contrary to the claims of some books of saints).

On May 4th, the only English bastion, Saint-Loup, on the east side of the city, was taken by the French this was the first French success in several months. After a one-day break on Ascension Day , fighting resumed on May 6, with the result that the English withdrew to the fortress of Les Tourelles , abandoning the other fortresses south of the Loire. The next day, May 7th, the French also managed to storm the Tourelles . Jeanne d'Arc was wounded by an arrow. When the English withdrew from the fortress, the burning bridge collapsed under the English commander Glasdale. Unable to get rid of his armor, he drowned in the Loire. The siege was now lifted in the east and south of the city. On May 8th, a Sunday, the two armies stood ready to fight for about an hour However, neither side started the fight - be it for tactical or religious reasons (on Sunday it was actually not allowed to fight). Finally the English army retreated the siege of Orléans was over.

Watch the video: Joan Of Arc at the battle of Orleans - 1429 by Emerson (August 2022).