T HE warm days of June brought many triumphs to the Maid. Her plan was always to strike at the vital spot of the enemy, and she was always successful. The young Duke d'Alençon had joined her and together they fought in the thick of the battle. Before the walls of the town of Jargeau, the Pucelle shouted, "On, on, my friends. The Lord has given the English into our hands. Within this hour they shall be ours!" And in an instant the town was taken; the English fled to the bridges toward safety; over a thousand men were slain in the pursuit.
The Taking of Jargeau
Two days later, Joan conquered a town called Meun, and another called Beaugency.
The next battle was in the open field at Pathay. The French were not at all willing to enter upon this battle. Heretofore they had always met with defeat when fighting in an open field but the Pucelle would hear of no delay.
In God's name, we must fight them; if they were hanging from the clouds we could still have them. This will be the most splendid victory ever gained for our King."
It was true; the English fled before the determined advance of the French and again the victory was theirs. The English lost many men in the fierce fray, and one of their wounded was struck so brutally that Joan's tender heart was touched at the sight and she leaped from her horse to help him. She raised the poor man's head to ease the pain as he lay dying. The Maid's heart was as full of sorrow for the English wounded as for her own loyal followers.
Everyone was astonished by the Maid's prudence and foresight in everything that concerned military matters. Joan was found to be the equal of any captain taught by twenty years' experience, and yet she had never been on a battlefield. She seemed indeed aided and inspired by God.
Immediately after the victory at Pathay, Joan lent increased energy to her plans of marching upon Rheims, and there to bring the Dauphin to be crowned as rightful King. But surrounded as he was by jealous advisers who were planning only for their own personal interests, Prince Charles hesitated, delayed, and put it off from day to day.
Finally, Joan could wait no longer. Advancing with her boyish stride, she knocked at the door of the Council-Chamber. Upon entering, she knelt before Charles and said, "Noble Prince, why do you hesitate so long? Come at once to Rheims and receive your worthy crown."
"Is this the command of your Voices?" asked one of the councillors.
"Yes; they strongly insist on it," replied Joan.
The Dauphin then promised that he would go to Rheims as soon as he was certain that the road was free from danger.
"I pity you because of the sufferings and hardships you have endured," said he, and suggested that Joan take a vacation and rest. But Joan was impatient and felt greatly vexed by his hesitation. She wisely desired to profit by her victories and by the disorder of the enemy.
At length, on the 29th of June, the army set out for Rheims. It was a glorious procession. Priests preceded the army carrying huge crosses and chanting hymns. The soldiers, because of their love and admiration for their beautiful young leader, also carried bright banners similar to hers, which looked like a swarm of white butterflies.
The March upon Rheims
They marched for five days and arrived at the town of Troyes, which was strongly held by the hostile Burgundians. The French could not determine whether to attack Troyes or to retreat. They decided to consult Joan.
"Shall I be believed if I speak?" asked the Maid impatiently, knowing that they often doubted her word.
"If you have anything profitable and reasonable to tell us, you will be trusted," said Prince Charles kindly.
"Gentle Dauphin, if you will wait for two days, Troyes shall be yours," said Joan with earnest voice and mien.
All that night Joan labored and toiled, and by morning she had organized her men and given her commands. As the faintly glimmering light of daybreak appeared over the camp, Joan's clear, sweet voice was heard even within the gates of the town, as she cried, "To the Assault!"
That was all; when the people of Troyes heard her voice, they immediately opened the gates and expressed their submission to King Charles.
Joan led on the army, never carrying a sword or causing bloodshed herself, but always holding her banner aloft. At Chalons, at Tournai, the keys of the towns were at once presented to her. Her fame was indeed widespread.
On the 16th of July, 1429, Joan rode with the Dauphin triumphantly into Rheims; and the following day, in the bright light of the summer morning, the coronation of the Dauphin took place. It was a remarkable sight to witness, the beautiful and resplendent, yet most solemn, ceremony. First, all in armor, and with banners held high, the Marshal and the Admiral with great company, rode to meet the Abbot, who carried the vessel containing the sacred oil.
They rode into the great Cathedral and alighted at the entrance to the choir. The Archbishop of Rheims administered the Coronation Oath; he crowned and anointed the King, while the people stood and gazed upon the scene rejoicing. The trumpets sounded loud and clear. And the Maid stood beside the King, her banner in her hand, with bright eyes and flushed cheeks, a fair sight to behold.
The Coronation at Rheims
When the Dauphin had been crowned and consecrated, the Maid knelt and embraced his knees, weeping for joy, and saying these words, "Gentle King, now is accomplished the Will of God, Who decreed that I should raise the siege of Orleans, and bring you to this city of Rheims to receive your solemn consecration, thereby showing that you are the true King, and that to you must belong the kingdom of France."
As the people gazed upon the fair young girl, they thought that she surely was a messenger from God.
Thus the difficult task of Joan of Arc, as laid upon her by her beautiful Voices and her Heavenly Visions, was finally accomplished.
At this time, Joan's father, Jacques d'Arc, came to Rheims to see for himself the truth of the reports of the fame and glory of his little daughter. There he saw her with his own eyes, in the company of princes, dukes, and nobles, and, greater still, a friend to the newly crowned King.
Charles VII gave Jacques d'Arc a gift of money in appreciation of the wonderful work of Joan, and the kindly old man was overjoyed at the honor bestowed upon him and the high position of his little daughter.