En route to the coronation news arrived that Châlons had surrendered and the town of Troyes had changed its allegiance. On 17th July 1429 Charles VII was finally crowned as king of France[i] in Rheims cathedral. Jean, along with Alençon and others, was responsible for carrying the royal insignia, while Joan stood by Charles’ side, dressed in her armour and carrying her standard.
With the Loire region mostly back under royal control, and following the battle of Montépilloy in August which ended in a standoff, Joan and the king’s captains turned their attention on Paris, garrisoned by both the English and the Burgundians., the French assault on 8th September was a failure[ii]. Some of the common soldiers were disillusioned with Joan who had promised them success. Further attempts on the city were forbidden by Charles who had been unnerved by the Maid’s first failure.
|Joan at the stake|
During 1429 Jean was made Chamberlain of the Dauphin-Regent, and the Duke of Orléans’ lieutenant general. In 1430 Périgord, Ferté-Vineuil, Romorantin and Gien were added to the list of his lordships. At some point Jean was also given the lordships of Château-Renault, Fréteval, Bouteville and Vouvant.
The successes attributed to the Maid did not suit the king’s favourite Trémoille who worked to undermine the French people’s inspiration. He cannot have been displeased when, in May 1430, the Maid was captured by the Burgundians[iii] during an abortive attack on Compiègne. Following a trial by the English she was executed in January 1431 without Charles VII raising a finger to help her. Jean and La Hire apparently tried, unsuccessfully, to rescue Joan.
Jean was in command of the expedition that captured Chartres in March 1432; Jean took soldiers into the town hidden in wagons. In August Jean co-commanded the troops that forced the English Regent, Bedford[iv], to abandon his four-month siege of Lagny, the English leaving behind their artillery[v]. This was part of a number of attacks on English positions focussing on Rouen, Chartres and Maine as well as Lagny. The English were now thinking in terms of a peace treaty, parliament voted to ‘ordain and advise’ Bedford and Gloucester to seek terms;
‘It is not suitable or fitting….for a Christian prince to refuse peace offered with suitable conditions, nor the resulting treaty….and also considering the burden of the war, and how grievous and heavy it is to this land; and therefore how beneficial peace would be for it.’[vi]
It was to be some yet before the adversaries could be brought to terms.
1433 saw the removal of Georges de la Trémoille as the king’s favourite; Charles VII did not intervene . He had frequently interfered in the conduct of the war to cut down potential rivals to his position[vii], including Richemont. Jean was made Great Chamberlain to the King in Trémoille’s place, while the king’s brother-in-law, Charles of Anjou replaced the former favourite at the king’s side. Jean was also made a permanent member of the king’s council.
In 1434 the capture of Poton de Xaintrailles by the English saw him exchanged for John Talbot, one of England’s premier commanders. Talbot’s return to the battlefield resulted in a number of instant English successes.
A Truce Between Sworn Enemies
The Treaty of Arras[viii] in 1435 reconciled Charles VII and Philip the Good, who thereby jeopardised his relationship with the English for the dubious advantages of allying with the untrustworthy king of France. The death of the English Regent Bedford in September 1435 was a further blow to the English.
A further problem came in April 1436 when Paris fell to Jean and Arthur de Richemont without a shot being fired. Jean cut off the communications link between Paris and Normandy. A number of the Burgundian captains defected to the French who were closing in for the kill. The English garrisons retired to the Bastille but surrendered without making a stand despite the fortress being well-stocked to withstand a siege.
|Hue de Lannoy|
In the autumn of 1436 Hue de Lannoy, one of the Duke of Burgundy’s counsellors, wrote to his master about the prospects for peace in France. He referred to the position of Charles of Orléans;
‘If the king of France were to place difficulties in the way of a general peace, the bastard of Orléans and several captains who are close friends of my lord of Orléans….could well persuade the king to change his mind in favour of [my lord of Orléans], thus facilitating the peace.’[ix]
The fight between the Burgundian and Armagnac factions ceased to be relevant after this time as Charles promised to do penance for the murder of John the Fearless.
In 1439, as a reward for his loyalty, Jean’s half-brother Charles made him the Count of Dunois[x]. He was also given the lordships of Marchenoir, Beaugency, and Cléry. In 1439 Dunois married again in the cathedral in Orléans; his new bride was Marie d'Harcourt, Lady of Parthenay, Secondigny, Vouvant, Mervant, Matefalon and Duretal. Marie was the daughter of Jacques II d'Harcourt, Baron of Montgomery, and Marguerite de Melun[xi], countess of Tancarville.
The following year Dunois was persuaded to participate in the Praguerie in 1440 against Charles VII. The main instigators were the Duke of Bourbon who three years before had attempted a similar rising, and had been forced to ask pardon of the king and the duke of Alençon. The revolt was supported by the fifteen year old dauphin Louis who was already champing at the bit.
|John, Duke of Brittany|
Hoping to rid the king of his current favourites and with a desire for more involvement in decision making[xii], Bourbon and his bastard brother, John, were joined by the former favourite la Trémoille, John VI, duke of Brittany who allied himself with the English, Alençon, the count of Vendôme, and a number of mercenary captains. They planned to make the Dauphin Louis Regent for his father.
An attempt to capture the person of the king failed and prompt action by Charles VII’s men put the insurrection down. Louis was forced to beg forgiveness from his father. The Bishop of Beauvais wrote to the king;
‘What comfort has this been to us, your poor sheep, who are here in the frontier? This is not the way we want you to awake – pursuing my very redoubted lord your son and others of your blood who did what they did, it seems, from a desire to have a voice in your council.’[xiii]
Dunois’ involvement in the affair was not held against him; the king needed his captains to prosecute the war against the English….and the Burgundians
|Chateau de Conches|
In August 1440 the English decided to besiege Harfleur; with the revolt over Charles VII sent an army under Richemont and La Hire to break the siege. Despite the best efforts of the French the town surrendered to the English in October.
The showpiece of 1441 was the siege of Pontoise. The English siege faced an army of around 5,000 with the majority of the senior French captains present. But Charles had decided to hamstring his commanders, by giving orders not to give battle unless the numbers were overwhelming; in Paris the wits proclaimed;
‘Whenever the French find themselves in a superiority of three to one they immediately retreat.’[xiv]
These retreats gave the English an unlooked for advantage as the French avoided combat at all costs. Pontoise finally fell in September a month after the fall of Conches which Dunois retook the following August. 500 soldiers of the garrison were slaughtered and the remainder were ransomed including their commander John, Baron Clinton.
The Hundred Years War – Alfred Burne, Folio Society 2005
The Real Falstaff – Stephen Cooper, Pen and Sword Military 2010
Joan of Arc – Kelly DeVries, the History Press 2011
The Reign of Henry VI – RA Griffiths, Sutton Publishing Ltd 1998
The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997
Louis XII – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books Ltd 1974
Joan of Arc – Edward Lucie-Smith, Classic Penguin 2000
John Talbot and the War in France – AJ Pollard, Pen and Sword Military 2005
Philip the Good – Richard Vaughan, Boydell Press 2014
[i] Henry VI was crowned king of France at Notre-Dame, in Paris, on 16 December 1431. All French kings were crowned at Rheims in the cathedral there
[ii] Paris was not to fall to the French until 1436
[v] A relief expedition sent in August was of little use to the English commander
[vi] The Real Falstaff - Cooper
[vii] Trémoille had ensured that troops for the attack on Paris arrived too late to be of use and forcing the siege to be aborted, In September 1432 La Trémoille paid for Rodrigo de Villandrando and his routiers to hold Les Ponts-de-Cé against the assaults of Jean de Bueil, presumably afraid that de Bueil would receive the king’s favour if he took the bridge.
[ix] Philip the Good - Vaughan
[x] The title by which he is best known
[xii] Not to mention issues of grants of money to the king making him independent of the parlement
[xiii] Louis XI - Kendall
[xiv] The Hundred Years War - Burne