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Joan of Arc

The Battle of Patay

Relief of Orleans

Joan Sees the Dauphin Crowned

Summary

After some delay following Orleans, Joan managed to convince the Dauphin to travel to Reims for his coronation ceremony. One major contingent of English troops, at Patay, remained to be dealt with before Charles could march unimpeded to Reims.

On June 18, 1429, French and English forces met at the Battle of Patay. Joan promised that it would be the Dauphin's greatest victory yet. In fact, unlike Orleans, the English had a very poor position to defend at Patay. La Hire's contingent was able to attack the deadly English longbow archers before they were in position. As a result, England lost 500 of its best archers and really had no hope in the battle. Seeing La Hire's attack on the valuable archers, a group of English soldiers made a quick counterattack, but to no avail: the English were forced to flee the field or be destroyed. Without cover from their archers, and with all of the English leaders long gone on their galloping horses, the English footmen were systematically mowed down and massacred by the French army. Ultimately, about 2,000 English troops died at Patay, while only a handful of Frenchmen lost their lives.

Thus the French completely routed the English for the first time in years. And coming so soon after Orleans, the English embarrassment at Patay was another impressive victory for Joan. Joan ordered the Duke of Alencon to ride through Orleans announcing that she would be taking the king to Reims soon for his coronation. The people of Patay now decorated the city in the Dauphin's honor, as they expected the Dauphin to make a triumphal visit to the city. And they celebrated even when Charles failed to make his appearance: the Dauphin, indecisive as always, was holding another meeting on whether or not to go to Reims. Furthermore, he worried as to whether he should endanger his wife by bringing her to the coronation ceremony. Ultimately, he left her behind in safety.

Commentary

After the Siege of Orleans, and especially after the Battle of Patay, Joan had acquired a tremendous amount of honor, power, and fame. Moreover, the previously skeptical Dauphin became increasingly grateful to her, and was more and more willing to grant whatever she asked. She was dangerous because she was so popular with the masses of soldiers, and the Dauphin's jealous court realized that she was growing so powerful because of her support within the population that no one could control her. While the Dauphin knew that going to Reims would be difficult, he increasingly tended to do what Joan said and believed that she would be able to protect him. The Battle of Patay helped clear the Dauphin's path to his coronation in Reims. When the English fled, they left behind many valuable supplies greatly enjoyed by the French army and even the surrounding French townspeople who looted the English supplies. Joan and the Duke of Alencon, increasingly at her side now, questioned the captured English commander of the longbow archers.

The location of the English near Patay was discovered when a stag ran through their hidden camp. It caused such a noisy commotion that nearby French scouts easily pinpointed the English location, giving the French the benefit of a surprise attack. One of the things the Hundred Years' War proved was the decisive impact of good archers in battle. The English longbowmen were famous for their deadly accuracy, and their presence always greatly helped the English. When La Hire decimated the English archers at Patay, this alone was almost enough to ensure French victory. Indeed, at Patay more than at Orleans, it was mostly the leadership of commanders like La Hire, and not that of Joan herself, that won the day; Joan seemed to serve as a good luck charm, but she was not the one responsible for the French army's clever tactics. Nonetheless, Joan started to unrealistically take full credit for the victories in the letters she dictated at this time, and by this point the French eagerly believed her claims.

Joan arrived late to the battle of Patay, and was shocked by the gruesome scene there. The French troops were essentially butchering the fleeing English, and Joan did her best to console several English soldiers as they died, praying with them and receiving their confessions. This shows how compassionate Joan could be, how little zest she had for battle in itself.

After the battle, Joan traveled to Charles's camp and continued to encourage him to come to Reims for his coronation ceremony. Charles told Joan to stop worrying so much about him. Playing her protective, motherly role, Joan would not listen, and assured him that she would soon see him crowned. Charles, initially exuberant about Joan's successes, was starting to realize the difficulty she presented: since she was so beloved by the public, in fact more beloved than he, Charles feared that the "Maid of Orleans" might increase her power to do whatever she wanted without fear of reproach. Furthermore, Joan was creating such a positive image for the French army that she was inspiring thousands to enlist. The French army had grown to 12,000, and Charles was unable to pay all these soldiers' salaries. The last thing he wanted was thousands of disgruntled soldiers upset at him and fiercely loyal to Joan. The jealousy and distrust of Joan shown by Charles's counselors was now beginning to impact him. Joan was clearly becoming too popular for her own good. However, giving the large size of the army and its fanatical loyalty to Joan, Charles could not sensibly resist going to Reims, for to do so would have greatly outraged the army–and to incur an army's wrath is never good politics.

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