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Joan of Arc

Paris Attacked

Joan Sees the Dauphin Crowned

Battle at Compiegne

Summary

While Charles VII wanted to hurry south from Reims to safety, Joan felt it was crucial that the French take the opportunity to recapture English- controlled Paris. Around August 26, 1429, Joan and the Duke of Alencon began organizing an attack on Paris, and hurried ahead without the indecisive Charles to prepare for the attack. On September 7, Charles arrived on the outskirts of Paris. The next day the French assault on Paris began. Joan ran right up on the Paris earthworks, demanding that the Parisians surrender to their rightful king. Even after being shot in the thigh with a crossbow bolt, she continued calling her troops forward. The attack came close to succeeding, but in the end a retreat was necessary. The first day of the attack went very well, and during the fight it often seemed that the French were very close to overrunning the walls. At this rate, it looked as if Paris might be taken in a matter of days or weeks.

The day after the attack on Paris, Joan and the Duke of Alencon wanted to continue fighting and attack again. Joan even claimed that her "voices" were telling her to continue attacking. Charles, ever cautious and lacking money to pay the troops, took the near-victory as a defeat and ordered a retreat from Paris. Joan and Alencon were slow to obey orders, but the rest of the commanders withdrew their disheartened forces rapidly. The attack on Paris, which had seemed so promising, had stalled out. The army returned to Gien, and on September 22, Charles had the French army disbanded and sent most of the military commanders home. Charles, whose coffers were running low, could not afford to pay the troops. Of all the military commanders, only Joan remained with the king, always encouraging him to be kind and generous to the poor.

In October of 1429, Joan led a small force to take control of the town of Saint- Pierre-le-Moutier. She then engineered a siege of Le Charite-sur-Loire that went poorly. After a month, her troops ran out of supplies and they had to give up. Joan would never again have a military victory.

Commentary

Paris had nearly 100,000 inhabitants, and was then the largest city in Europe. But the number of men comprising both the English-Burgundian force and the French force was dramatically smaller. Thus whoever won the support of the Parisians would also win the battle. Charles hoped that Joan's charisma would encourage the people's revolt against the English; when it became clear that this was not to be, Charles quickly gave up. He did not want a long, drawn-out siege of Paris.

Many prostitutes followed the French army hoping for work when the army stopped marching and made camp. This upset Joan greatly, who often attempted to chase the prostitutes away. Before the siege of Paris, she rode after one and smacked her with the flat of her sword. The sword, which had been found in the Church of Saint Catherine of Fierbois and was considered magical and lucky, shattered. The destruction of the sword upset everyone, who considered it to be a bad omen, and negative feelings about the Paris campaign in general were beginning to increase. Charles, who was especially superstitious, took the sword-breaking incident to mean that the attack on Paris was doomed. Regardless of whether the sword was magical or not, this expectation became a self-fulfilling prophecy, since French soldiers were now more willing to flee in battle, figuring France had lost its luck anyway. Ironically, Joan's victories had a similar effect: the French troops were starting to think they would always win, regardless of how hard they fought, and became complacent. Thus, Joan's reputation came to be her undoing. Even though the French made a strong showing during the attack on Paris, the fact that it wasn't an instantaneous rout, as the French soldiers had become accustomed to, led them to interpret a near-victory as a defeat.

Even before the attack on Paris, Charles had wanted to turn back. He was afraid to be so far away from the regions solidly under his control. However, the English position in the area made it difficult to turn back, so he continued the march to join the main force Paris, though ordering a retreat very quickly once he got there. In the attack on Paris, Joan was still famous for always winning. Charles's forces hoped that her very presence would cause a pro-Charles revolt in Paris. Certainly, Joan's presence was a major morale boost for Charles's army and a cause for concern among the English defending Paris. Joan always encouraged her troops masterfully, and even when she was shot in the thigh at Paris she continued to call her forces forward.

After the battle of Paris, Charles increasingly hoped a peace could be negotiated with Burgundy, removing the need for expensive battles. He even found a clairvoyant who prophesied that Burgundy and France would make peace. Joan, however, assured Charles that the peace would come only after further warfare. Indeed, her previous letters to him, demanding his surrender, had met with no success. The Duke of Burgundy, who considered Charles to be responsible for the death of his forefathers, would not easily negotiate a peace with France.

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