Monday, 16 October 2017

The Bastard of Orléans III

Charles VII
Death of the Maid

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.

Fighting On

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

English Resurgence

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
[iv] Grieving after the death of his wife Anne, sister of Philip the Good
[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
[xi] Daughter of Guillaime de Melun one of Charles VI’s advisers
[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

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Bastard of Orléans II

Xaintrailles and La Hire
Fighting the English

In 1421 Jean was made a knight and took as his arms the arms of the house of Orléans with the bend sinister. On 24th November Jean was given the Lordship of Vaubonais-Dauphine by Charles de Ponthieu. The following year Jean married his first wife, Marie Louvet. Marie was the daughter of Jean Louvet[i], Lord of Eygallières, chairman of the parlement of Provence and one of the king’s ministers.

In 1421 Jean was created Viscount of Saint-Sauveur[ii], baron of Parthenay and Lord of Valbonnais. The following year Fallavier[iii] was added to his domains and then Longueville[iv]. Jean was forced into exile for a year when his father-in-law and his family were banished by the king.

Chateau de Beaugency
Jean took up with La Hire and Poton de Xaintrailles in confronting the English when the opportunities arose. La Hire was known for both his swearing and praying and his relationship with his god was very personal;

‘Lord God, I pray you to do for La Hire what La Hire would do for you if God was a captain and La Hire was God.’[v]

This small force managed to make the English occupation uncomfortable, even re-capturing Le Mans for a short time. Jean fought for his master when the Dauphin won the battle at Baugé on 22nd March 1421 and when he was defeated at Cravant in 1423. Jean was also involved in the defence of Blois. In 1422 Jean purchased (or was given) the château de Beaugency.

The Fight Goes On

Battle of Meaux
On 31st August 1422 Henry V died from dysentery contracted at the siege of Meaux. His brother Bedford was to be regent for Henry’s baby son Henry VI[vi]. Less than two months later, on 21st October 1422, Charles VI died and the English immediately proclaimed Henry VI king of France as agreed at Troyes. The Dauphin seemed unable to act on his own initiative and his favourite Georges de la Trêmoille and the Archbishop of Rheims, Renauld de Chartres, were unable to press him into action.

The next few years saw Jean on the road, fighting against the English. As a reward for his efforts in March 1424 Charles VII made Jean Count of Mortain[vii]; five months later Jean was present at the French defeat at Verneuil[viii] on 17th August 1424. In December 1424 the County of Gien was also made over to him. In 1425 Jean was one of those who helped defend Mont St. Michel[ix]. The following year Jean was appointed Captain of Mont-St-Michel. Jean’s wife Marie died in 1426.

On 5th September 1427, in tandem with La Hire and a force of sixteen hundred men, Jean was to successfully come to the aid of Montargis under siege from the English led by the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Suffolk. La Hire and Jean fell on the English forces and captured Suffolk’s brother[x] and most of the English cannon; a success Charles VII called;

‘Le commencement et cause de nostre Bonheur[xi].’[xii]

Jean’s fame for his prowess and his inspiring and unconventional attack on the besieging forces started at Montargis after which he was made a Lieutenant General. In 1428 the county of Porcien was Jean’s domains.

Battle of Rouvray
In the summer of 1428 Jean was placed in charge of the defence of his half-brother’s capital of Orléans, now under siege from the English[xiii]. The units commanded by Jean and his fellow captains were often very small. In October 1428 treasury documents show Jean being paid;

‘To Monseigneur the Bastard of Orléans, 12 men-at-arms and 2 archers etc, one hundred and four livres tournois[xiv].’[xv]

Jean seemed rather lacklustre in defence, but led an attack on the English in December 1428 and another sortie in January. Jean was wounded, barely escaping with his life according to the siege journal, at the French defeat at the Battle of Rouvray[xvi] in February 1429.

The siege was well under way when the appearance of the woman who was to become known as Joan of Arc made her appearance at court, being held at Chinon. With her claims of heavenly intercession Joan was to inspire Charles VII to defend his inheritance. Jean declared that he heard;
Joan of Arc

‘Rumours from the town of Gien….that a certain young woman, commonly called the Maid, asserted that she was going to the noble dauphin to raise the siege of Orléans and to lead the dauphin to Rheims.’[xvii]

Joan was able to persuade Charles to allow her to accompany the army that was to lift the siege. Once there Joan was able to inspire the defence, although she was displeased that upon her arrival she was taken into the town rather than directed towards the fighting. Joan took issue with Jean because he was not prepared to take up arms.

On 1st May Jean departed Orléans for Blois to confer with Charles I, Duke of Bourbon, and to collect troops to add to the town’s defences, intending to return by 4th May. Joan spent the time reconnoitring and endearing herself to the townspeople. Seven days later the fighting[xviii] was over and the English were retreating; Joan’s determination had won the day.

Carry On Winning

Battle of Jargeau
Joan, Jean and the other French leaders joined the dauphin at the chateau[xix] of Loches. They hoped to persuade Charles to allow them more troops to harry the English along the Loire valley. Charles agreed to send Jean, the duke of Alençon and other of his captains with Joan to recover Meung, Beaugency and Jargeau.

On 11th June Joan attacked the English at Jargeau; five days later at the battle of Meung Joan, along with Jean, Poton de Xaintrailles, Alençon and Gilles de Rais, fought the English over control of the strategically placed bridge over the Loire at Meung. They took the bridge;

‘By frontal assault, hardly causing a moment’s pause.’[xx]

Battle of Patay
Their victory was to impede English supply and communication lines throughout the region. On the 16-7th the French once again fought the English at the battle of Beaugency. Burgundian chronicler Jean de Waurin wrote;

‘The French were alerted of their [the English] approach, with around 6,000 soldiers, of which the leaders were Joan the Maid, the duke of Alençon, the Bastard of Orléans, the Marshall of La Fayette, La Hire, Ponton and other captains. They ordered their soldiers into battle formation on top of a small hill.’[xxi]

On the following day Joan’s army fought again at the battle of Patay, another victory for the French when the English fled the field for the safety of Paris. The army returned to Orléans the following day and finally met with the court at Gien on 24th June where Joan was able to persuade the dauphin to go to Rheims.


The Real Bluebeard – Jean Benedetti, Sutton Publishing 2003

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] One of Charles VII’s favourites and an instigator of the murder of John the Fearless in 1419
[ii] There are a number of villages named Saint-Sauveur in France and it is not possible to identify which one is referred to, although it may be the village in Isère, not far from Valbonnais
[iii] Possibly St-Quentin Fallavier in Isère
[iv] Again it is not possible to identify which particular Longueville is referred to
[v] Orléans 1429 - Nicolle
[vi] Who inherited his grandfather’s insanity
[vii] Held for one year only after which it transferred back to the royal domain
[viii] Where the French army was bolstered by the addition of 4,000 Scottish soldiers
[ix] Which was never taken by the English during the war
[x] Probably John de la Pole who died in 1429 while still a prisoner of the French
[xi] ‘The beginning and the cause of our happiness’
[xii] The Hundred Years War - Burne
[xiii] The enemy commanders were Suffolk, Salisbury and Talbot
[xiv] In 2015 the relative:  historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £64,310.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £637,100.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,987,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £35,250,000.00
[xv] Orléans 1429 - Nicolle
[xvii] Joan of Arc - DeVries
[xix] One of the dauphin’s favourite residences
[xx] The Real Bluebeard - Benedetti
[xxi] Joan of Arc - DeVries