Siege of Orléans


The siege of Orleans (1428) and its subsequent liberation by French troops, with Joan of Arc in their ranks (1429), marked a turning point in the Hundred Years” War. The liberation of Orleans was the first major success of French troops since their defeat at Agincourt in 1415. The English siege of Orléans, strategically and morally important to the supporters of the dauphin Charles, who considered him the rightful king of France, was lifted soon after the arrival there of Joan of Arc, a peasant who led French troops, who lifted the siege from the city within a short time. Contemporaries believed that with the fall of Orleans and the coronation of Henry VI, son of King Henry V of England, the independence of France as a nation would be over.

The main source of information on the siege of Orléans is the Diary of the Siege of Orléans. According to the historian Felix Guyon (1913), its author was the future secretary to King Charles VII Guillaume Cousinot de Montreuil, a direct witness to the events, who included excerpts from it in his Chronicle of the Virgin. F. Kontamine, like other historians of the second half of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, is not so categorical in determining authorship, he notes that the author of the Diary…, an anonymous Orleanian, reports valuable information, but his competence as a military man is questionable (he may have been a cleric. The original notes, made, as modern French scholars believe, during the siege, have not survived. They were copied in the 1460s at the request of the city authorities and were included in the final version of the Diary…, which took shape after the process of the rehabilitation of Joan of Arc. The materials of the Diary… were used by Berry”s heraldmistress Gilles de Bouvier and Jean Chartier in their writings. There are no contemporary English sources for this period of the Hundred Years” War. About the Siege of Orleans wrote J. Jollois (1827) and R. Boucher de Molandon (Rémi Boucher de Molandon, “Joan of Arc”s First Military Campaign” (1874) and “Joan of Arc”s Victory over the English Army” (1892)), as well as Louis Jarry (Louis Jarry, “An Account of the Siege of Orleans by the English Army” (1892)). As military historian Alfred Byrne notes, Bouchet de Molandon and Jarry conducted a thorough analysis of the composition of the English troops besieging the city. The beginning of the siege is best described, according to Byrne, by A. de Villard in “The Campaign of the English against Orleans…” (1893). English historians have no such thorough works on the siege of Orleans. Bouchet de Molandon noted that the lack of English chronicle accounts of the siege “leaves much untold”. Information about the episode known as the “Battle of the Herring” can be found in the Chronicle of the Virgin, Diary of a Parisian Citizen, and The Very Important Book. F. Kontamine also turned to such medieval literary works as Geste des nobles François and Le Jouvence to analyze military aspects. In addition to the narrative, researchers also have access to documentary sources: accounts of the fortress of Orleans and accounts of the French and English armies during the siege.

The conflict between the English and French royal houses, known in historiography as the Hundred Years” War, developed rapidly in favor of the English after the heavy defeat of the French forces in 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt. Soon after that battle, the English occupied much of northern France, and under the terms of the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, King Henry V of England was proclaimed regent to the French throne. Under the treaty, Henry V married the daughter of the French king Charles VI and became king of France upon his death. The dauphin Charles, son of Charles VI, was deprived of rights to the French throne.

Nevertheless, the resistance of the French could not be broken, the hopes associated with the victories at Cravan, Verneuil, and Agincourt were not justified, and English power was fragile in the occupied territories. New taxes were introduced (sales, hearth, and road taxes) and the tax on liquor was increased. In spite of all the measures taken by the English administration, it was not possible to stop the plundering and robbery of mercenaries and deserters. As a result, the discontent of the population of the lands occupied by the British only increased. There was also unease in Paris itself, as soon proved by the conspiracy opened in the city in favor of King Charles. The English were finally sorely tried by the defeat at Montargis in 1427. To end the war as quickly as possible, the regent, the Duke of Bedford, planned to occupy the as yet unoccupied parts of Mens and Anjou. The English parliament (which allocated money for the conduct of hostilities in France very sparingly) agreed to this and in early 1428 approved new taxes, insisting, however, that instead of the defeated Earl of Warwick at Montargis, Thomas Salisbury, renowned for his victories in France, took command.

Orleans in the Hundred Years” War

The city of Orleans is located 120 km south-west of Paris. It was founded on the site of the Celtic settlement of Priceboom (or Genaboom), in the XIV century the city”s boundaries included the settlement of Avenum. Orleans was the original part of the royal domain and later became the capital of the Duchy of Orleans, which in 1345 was transferred by Philip VI to the apanage of his son Philip. On the latter”s death in 1375, the city was part of the royal domain until 1392, when it was separated again as an appanage for King Charles VI”s brother, Louis, who took the title of Duke of Orleans. However, the inhabitants of the city managed to insist that the city be given a charter of liberties, under which they were allowed to elect 12 attorneys to decide intra-city affairs.

The king”s brother managed to win over the townspeople (“the townspeople recognized him”) to his side by inviting proxies in 1393 to the christening of his newborn son. They accepted the invitation, and taking with them, as the account book of Orleans reports, “several geese, as well as asparagus tied in bundles”, they visited the duke. Thus Orleans finally recognized the authority of its new suzerain over itself. After Louis” assassination on November 23, 1407, the city passed to his son Charles. In 1415 he took part in the battle of Agincourt and was taken prisoner by the English.

During the Hundred Years” War, a disturbing time for the city came in 1358, when after King John the Good lost the battle of Poitiers, English cavalry entourage began to appear around the city. The military action in this part of France was led by the English commander Robert Knowles. In 1359, Orleans was threatened by the army of the Black Prince. The English were unable to surprise the garrison and while preparing to defend the city, they destroyed the suburbs, destroying among other things the churches of Saint-Evert, Saint-Aignan and Saint-Pierre-Hansantel. Thus the English were deprived of the opportunity to position themselves here for a siege. Their army passed by and the city was saved.

In the future, the attempts of the English to seize the city for a long time were successfully countered by Duke Charles of Orleans, who managed to acquire a lot of influential acquaintances even in captivity due to his resourcefulness and diplomacy. When necessary, bribery was also used: the Orleanians constantly supplied their suzerain with money, and this money was used to “present” English nobles with the sole purpose of inducing them to comply with one of the laws of chivalry, which prohibited attacking lands that were left without a suzerain. It is known that even at the last moment before the siege began, Charles managed to meet the Earl of Salisbury and make him promise not to attack the city, offering a huge sum of 6,000 gold ecus for non-interference at the time.

Orleans was the last stronghold of royal power in Northern France, controlled by the English and their Burgundian allies. The city, situated on an important waterway of the country, the Loire River, was the last obstacle for the English to completely conquer the lands of Northern France and move into the heart of the French territories, because from Orléans opened a direct route to Bourges, the capital of Charles VII, and Poitiers, another, the last stronghold of French resistance. Further south the French no longer had strong fortresses and in the event of an English victory at Orléans, King Charles would be left with only one province, the Dauphiné. Under these circumstances, Charles”s position would be hopeless.

The Dukes of Orleans led the French aristocratic house of Armagnacs, who refused to recognize the peace treaty of 1420 and considered the dauphin Charles VII the rightful king of France. This further embittered the English, making the siege more fierce.

The system of defensive structures

From 1380, after the expedition of the Duke of Buckingham, active preparation of the city for a future siege began. Account books of Orleans during this period show expenditures for the strengthening of city walls and towers, palisades and dams, repair of the castle bridge, manufacture of gunpowder, purchase of lead, arrows for crossbows, installation of cannons and bombardments. Bread supplies for the garrison and city residents were not forgotten either. A room above the hall of attorneys was allocated for the storage of arrows and gunpowder. The towers were guarded, and the members of the local university had to be forced by a special royal decree to participate in it and pay the city”s defense taxes.

Orleans at the beginning of the XV century was a powerful fortress, built in the form of an irregular quadrangle on the same scheme as most Roman fortresses. According to various calculations, the area of the settlement was from 25 to 37 hectares. The city was surrounded by a wall of 2590 m in length which had five gates:

All the gates were protected by descending grates.

Orleans walls were topped by 37 towers, which reached a height of 6-10 m, the New Tower, separated from the citadel proper by an additional moat, rose to 28 meters. The scheme of the Orleans fortifications (numbering from southeast to northwest) is as follows:

In 1401 Charles VI also ordered the re-equipment of the towers and walls of the city, taking into account the future location of the artillery on them. The re-equipment of the fortifications lasted until 1416. In 1412, all the gates were equipped with descending steel grates, whereas the earth fortifications (boulevards), some 3.3 m high and covered with wood, were also built. In 1416 18 bombardments (of which 6 were large-caliber) were purchased. In 1419 artillery was placed on all the main towers and a ballista was placed on the bridge, above the Parisi gate. To further protect the militiamen who served on the walls, 130 wooden shields were placed between the battlements.

The Loire was crossed by a 400-meter bridge with 19 spans of various lengths, the first span could be raised on chains. The fifth span rested at its base on a double islet, the upstream part of which was called the Isle of St. Antoine and the downstream part the Isle of Fishermen. On the island was a bastide, one of whose towers adjoined almost closely the chapel on St. Antoine Island, the other adjoined the leprosarium building on Fisherman”s Island.

Between the eleventh and twelfth aisles was a bronze cross called the Belle Croix. Fortifications were erected here. On the eighteenth span of the bridge was the Tourelles (more often referred to in the chronicles of the time as “Tourelles” or “Tournels”) – a fortress consisting of two large – round and rectangular, and two small towers connected by an arched vault, the base of the Tourelles partly went into the water. On both sides of the fortress were protected by boulevards – a system of outer forts, which was supposed to prevent the placement of enemy artillery at a distance of a shot from the city citadel.

Not content with mere military preparations, on August 6, 1428, the Orleanians performed a prayer service to the city”s patron saints, St. Evert and St. Enian, during which a procession was made around the city walls, and the same procedure was repeated on October 6.

Defense tactics

To deny the English the opportunity to encircle the city and obtain material for the construction of siege machines and fortifications, the Orleansians ravaged the suburbs, which actually did some good: the Diary of the Siege of Orleans records that in the cold winter of 1428-1429 the English soldiers were forced to use poles from vineyards extracted from neighboring villages for firewood.

The defense tactics consisted in constantly disturbing the enemy by firing from the city walls – the same “Diary…” tells about it in great detail. In particular, “Maitre Jean and his couleur” distinguished himself among the cannon-fireers, who with his apt fire repeatedly confused the enemy ranks and managed to bring down some of the roof and walls of the Turkel fortress on the heads of the English.

For firing from the city walls, Orleans had both “old machines” driven by muscle power and new artillery power for the time. From the scanty notes in the chronicles of the time, we know that there were at least three cuières in the city (the exact number remains unknown). One stood on the tower of Eschiffre-Saint-Paul, another on one of the towers at the Régnard gate, and finally the third on the tower of Châtelet. Cuières could throw 10 stones weighing up to 80 kg per hour at a distance of about 180 m, and it required eight servants to reload. Apparently, there were heavier and clumsier trebuchetes throwing 140 kilograms of stone per hour at a distance of 220 meters. To reload a trebuchet, according to Renaud Befeuillette”s calculations, about 60 servants were needed.

The city”s artillery had the greatest power, and during the entire siege the artillery was replenished without stopping. It is estimated that at the beginning of the siege the city had 75 guns of all calibers, by the end of the siege their number increased to 105.

For example, on the orders of the Bastard of Orleans during the siege, the local bellmaker Nodin Bouchard made a giant bombard, nicknamed “Long”, which threw 100-kilogram stone balls at a distance of 700 tuazes (about 1,400 m). Another giant bombard “The Dog” weighing 463 livres (about 230 kg) was cast by master Jean Duisi. The Shepherdess, Montargis, and Giffard bombardments were installed near Cheneau”s sinking, constantly bombarding the Tourelles. Finally, the giant bombardment used in the capture of Tourelles weighed about 1,200 livres (about 600 kg): it required a team of 22 horses to move it.

Bombards were grouped mainly at the south wall and struck the Tourelles and English forts over the bridge, while small cannons were moved by horse-drawn carriages and used during sorties.

The garrison of Orleans was served by 12 “chief gunners”, who were paid from the city treasury, under which there were numerous servants of the cannoners and riflemen of lower rank. For example, the famous coulevriner Jean de Montclerc (or Jean Lorraine) commanded a detachment of 15 soldiers and 30 riflemen.

On February 21, 1429, copper basins filled to the brim with water were dug into the ground in several places near the walls as a protection against sappers. The fluctuations of the water level allowed us to judge whether the enemy was undermining the wall in order to plant a gunpowder mine. The precautions proved to be in vain, however, because after the first digs in the assault on Tourelles and the surrounding forts the British did not return to this tactic.

Constant sorties and skirmishes were to wear out the British and force them to retreat. “The Diary… “has preserved many details of these almost daily local skirmishes, going so far as to say that on one occasion the advancing French received as booty “two silver bowls, a dress lined with marten fur, many battle axes, guisarms, On another occasion, when the French captured a barge bound for the English positions, they found nine barrels of wine, a pork carcass and a game, both of which were immediately consumed.

According to the customs of those days, the besiegers and the besiegers exchanged gifts from time to time: thus, the chronicles record that a dish “full of figs, grapes and dates” was sent to the city by William de la Pol, in exchange for which the Bastard of Orleans sent a piece of black velour.

Twice the constant skirmishes were interrupted by jousting tournaments, watched with equal interest by both sides. In the first of the two skirmishes, the French won the first and the other ended in a draw; in the second, the English did not dare to leave their fortifications.

For the Christmas holidays, at the request of the English, hostilities were halted, and an orchestra that came out of the fortress, joined by English musicians, played all day long to the equal pleasure of both sides.

Food supply

Even before the siege began, the city purchased bread and wine, as the account books show. From the beginning to the end of the siege, the city depended heavily on supplies from outside. “The Diary of the Siege of Orleans repeatedly mentions deliveries of cattle, “big fat pigs,” the arrival of “horses laden with salted fish,” etc., through the only Burgundian gates left open. Despite their best efforts, the English did not succeed in permanently severing the city”s communications with the outside world, and some of the wagons supplied by the merchants were intercepted and “sent to the English camp.

In the city, the usual trade in food was uninterrupted. Although the chronicles of the time contain hints of “want” between the arrival of the wagons, Orleans was not in danger of starvation. “The Diary of a Parisian citizen” contains information that “in Orleans there was such need that if anyone could find bread for lunch for three blancs, he considered himself lucky” – that is, the price of bread increased against the usual by 30 times, although modern researchers deny the validity of this document.

A centralized distribution was probably practiced for soldiers of mercenary detachments – bills for March 25, 1429, drawn up by the city notary Jean Le Cayy have survived; the captain received an agreed number of measures of bread and wine. (See box)

The number of both French and English troops is estimated by researchers in different ways. Régine Pernoux, using Buchet de Molandon”s calculations, believes that by the end of the siege the English army had about seven thousand men, a number that includes soldiers from the garrisons left in the towns along the Loire. Ferdinand Lot counts about three and a half thousand English men. According to Lot, the garrison of Orleans was seven hundred men, according to other estimates (J. Cordier) two thousand, R. Pernoux two hundred at the beginning of the siege. The city militia numbered three thousand men. At the end of April, a detachment of 650 men joined the army of defenders. With Jeanne, three thousand more entered the city on April 29.

English Army

By the time the siege began, the English forces were largely composed of French and foreign mercenaries, but the core of the force was still English units. The entire army was staffed entirely on a volunteer basis. In contrast to the French army, in the English army the top commanders were composed mainly of men of ignorant origin. Only the Earl of Salisbury and the Duke of Suffolk came from the highest aristocratic ranks. Many of the middle-ranking commanders were squires or of lower birth. The army was manned on an efficient but somewhat obsolete contractual basis, whereby commanders were given precise instructions on the size and composition of their units, the salaries, and the length of service of their soldiers when they were contracted. The English army consisted mainly of riflemen and lancer squads.

The English army had an increased number of riflemen compared to previous years, staffed mainly by archers and a small number of crossbowmen. Many archers had horses and traveled on horseback, but always dismounted for combat. As in the French army, the elite of the English were squads of heavily armed horsemen, often fighting on foot. The ratio of archers to lancers was 3:1 in favor of archers. A knight traditionally received a higher salary than a foot soldier of less noble origin, although the number of knights in the army was markedly reduced compared to previous years. Warriors were either in the personal retinues of large feudal lords, or in military campaigns under the command of captains (soldiers of these campaigns received regular pay for service, this term in France was usually 6 months) or in the garrisons of cities. In especially dangerous situations, a temporary recruitment of veteran soldiers was announced, or the collection of the so-called arierban was proclaimed – a general recruitment to the army, which existed since the days of early medieval France. The Normans and French made up a large percentage of this army.

According to the treaty signed by Salisbury on March 24, 1428, at Westminster, he was supposed to recruit for his own detachment 6 Banneret knights, 34 knights, 559 lancers and 1800 archers with the right to replace up to 200 lancers with archers in the ratio of 1 to 3, provided that the expenditure of the treasury would not be increased.

As surviving documents show, Salisbury”s army, which arrived in Paris at the end of June 1428, included 1 bannert, 8 knights, 440 lancers, and 2,250 archers, a total of 2,700 men.

In June, Salisbury”s army was joined, as the king”s letters show, by 400 lancers and 1,200 archers, half of whom were Englishmen, paid by Normandy in “aid” to the English king, the other half by Normans forced to submit to feudal law, which obliged a vassal to send a certain number of armed men for service, limited to the time dictated by customary law (the so-called chevauchée). The Norman captains were Guy le Boutellier, Amont Belknap, Jean Bourg, Jean Barton, Thomas Giffard, and Jean de Saint-Yon. The English part of this detachment included Thomas Rampton, who had 21 foot soldiers and 62 archers under his command. In February part of this detachment was sent to Corbeil to escort the Regent (13 lathkeepers and 31 archers), later this part of the detachment was engaged in delivery of food, John Forda commanded it, and later – William Leek. Also in the “Norman” detachment was Lancelot de Lisle, a knight who had 40 lancers and 120 archers under his command. Finally, the same detachment included William Glasdale”s and William Molen”s warriors, who garrisoned Tourelles during the siege.

Richard Waller, who arrived at Orleans in November, brought with him 25 lancers and 80 riflemen. Finally, the detachments of Fastolf, Suffolk and Talbot included 400 lancers, the nucleus of the English army.

Roland Standish, a knight who joined the English army in November of that year, as his personal treaty with the English crown shows, brought with him a knight, 29 lances and 30 riflemen.

The English also had strong artillery, though inferior in number and size to that of the French. The chronicles of the time speak of the accurate firing of the English cannoneers, which caused considerable damage to the areas of the city immediately adjacent to the walls; in particular, there is a special mention of a huge cannon called the “Air Bridge”, It was in Porttero “near the dyke of Saint-Jean-les-Blanc and the davilion of Favières and Portterio” near the New Tower, which could fire stone cannonballs weighing about 57 kg and was particularly troublesome for the city”s defenders.

The commander of the English artillery was John Parker de Chestant, his deputy – Philibert de Molain (or de Molain), who had under his command a detachment of 18 soldiers and 54 gunners (as it is supposed, under these names in the documents of the time is believed the gun staff of lower ranks).

William Appleby, Esquire, was in charge of supplying gunpowder and nukes, and had a soldier and 17 mounted riflemen at his disposal.

In addition, the army had 10 sappers and 70-80 workers: carpenters, masons, bow and arrow makers, whose pay was equal to that of the archers. According to a receipt issued by the English treasury in January 1430, William Glasdale (“Glasidas”) was in charge of the bomb squad and was responsible for the guard service.

In addition, the army had about 780 pages and several heralds as military servants.

Experts differ greatly in their estimates of the size of Salisbury”s army. Their estimates range from 2,500-4,000 soldiers to 6,000 Britons and 4,000 allies.

The lancer warriors wore full armor. Under the armor they usually wore chainmail, under which aketon was worn to soften blows with cold weapons. The head of a lancer was protected by a batsinet or capellina helmet. The hands and feet of the warrior were also protected by metal plates. In combat, the lath rider used a long wooden spear, sword, or other weapon.

The defensive armament of the warrior consisted of dense purpuen, batsinet, gwizarmes, battle hammers and axes were also used as personal weapons. Archers preferred long bows due to the fact that this type of weapon was far superior to the crossbow in speed of fire. Nevertheless, crossbows were also used by English warriors.

French Army

Since the defeat at Agincourt, the French army had been in a deplorable state. During the siege the question of paying soldiers” wages, which were often replaced by payment in kind, was acute. As a result of the many defeats and disasters, the only combat-ready units left were the garrisons of the large cities loyal to the House of Armagnac, the city militias, and foreign mercenary units. Many mercenaries and foreigners, notably Lombard and Scottish warriors, fought in the French army.

The French government by that time had abandoned the contract system of manning the troops, similar to that which had existed in England. Instead, the army was based on squads of semi-independent commanders who were reluctant to obey orders from the high command. Since the defeat at Agincourt, the percentage of men of noble birth among high and middle-ranking commanders declined sharply.

The consumption of arrows was enormous: for example, on May 7, 1429, the Bastard of Orleans paid 500 Tours livres for 14,000 arrows for crossbows “fitted with tips and plumage. The city”s militiamen were armed mainly with staffed weapons.

The mercenary”s pay was 4 livres a month for a lancer and 8-9 for a gunner.

Garrison of Orleans

In the midsummer of 1428 King Charles VII appointed Jean, a bastard of Orleans, as his viceroy in all the lands subordinate to Charles of Orleans, who immediately took charge of further strengthening the defense and preparing the city for a future siege.

The city of Orleans at the time was very jealous of one of its privileges – exemption from the soldier”s fast, but when the inevitability of the siege became clear, the city authorities decided to hire at their own expense additional squads of mercenaries ready to defend the cause of the French king.

The heralds were dispatched in different directions, and the Orleansans responded to the call by Archambault de Villar, captain of Montargis, who in 1427 had proved himself an able and active leader; Guillaume de Chaumont, Señor de Vitry; the Boisse Pierre de la Chapelle; Guillaume-Arno de Coarraz of Beirne, Don Mathias of Aragon, Jean Poton de Centraille – whose bands formed the core of the city garrison. It was their duty to constantly alarm the English with sorties, while the city militia was charged with protection, guard duty, and the repair of ruined sections of walls and buildings. In addition, there were about 5,000 men (about a quarter of the city”s inhabitants) under Raoul de Gocourt, who acted as the city”s captain and bailiwick, who constituted the local militia. Alfred Byrne gives the following figures: the garrison of the city – about 2,400 people, militia units recruited from the citizens – 3,000 people.

In addition, the neighboring towns of Blois, Châteaudin, Tours, Angers, Montargis, Bourges, Vierzon, Moulins, La Rochelle, Montpellier and Albi sent their troops to help Orleans. The number of these troops is not known exactly, but according to contemporary estimates it was about 3,000 men – well-trained, organized and disciplined – together with them the total number of mercenaries was up to 5,500.

The militia was formed on a territorial basis: the city was divided into eight quarters, each of them was headed by a “quartermaster” who reported directly to the city captain. The headmen had ten “tens” (dizaniers) under their command, the same directly commanded the “chiefs of streets” (chefs de rues). The duties of the latter included, at the sound of the bugle, summoning the citizens obliged to military service who were directly subordinated to them. As a rule, they were artisans or merchants.

On the walls, the gathered militiamen were distributed among the six “chiefs of guards”, according to the number of sectors into which the defense was divided. There were 1200 men (200 for each “chief of guard”) permanently on guard duty on the walls, and one sixth of them had to be replaced every day.

The women and teenagers of Orleans, who, with few exceptions, did not take part in hostilities, were charged with the duty of providing the defenders of the fortress with food, arrows, stones and “everything necessary for defense”.

The composition of the garrison was constantly changing – through the only remaining open Burgundian gate mercenary detachments regularly departed to attack the enemy or take part in hostilities in other areas, and returned to the city. Numerous accounts of such movements are preserved in the Diary of the Siege of Orleans.

For March-May 1429, there are quite meticulous calculations by the royal treasurer, Emon Ragier:


Total at the end of March 1429 – 508 lancers and 395 riflemen

ON APRIL 27, 1429.

The total as of April 27, 1429, is 340 lancers and 303 arrows.


The total for April-May 1429 was 339 lancers and 543 riflemen.

The total for the spring of 1429 was 1,187 lancers and 1,241 riflemen.

Arrival of the British Army

On July 1, 1428, the English army of the Earl of Salisbury landed at Calais and arrived in Paris at the end of the month. Opinions among the English as to where to send the troops were divided. Some were in favor of a final conquest of the counties of Maine and Anjou, the ancient possessions of the Plantagenets. Plans were made to besiege and capture the fortress of Angers (this is evident from several surviving contracts of English captains). But the capture of Angers would not have changed the balance of power of the opposing forces, nor would it have broken Charles VII”s resistance. A crushing blow to the latter would have been the loss of Orléans, which controlled the Loire valley, and the opening of a route to the capital of the Dauphin, Bourges. Salisbury was one of those who believed that the capture of Orléans was a priority for the English. After weeks of deliberation, the supporters of the Orléans campaign succeeded in convincing the regent, the Duke of Bedford, as well.

The problem was that Orléans was part of the domain of the English captive Duke Charles of Orléans, and it was considered unworthy of a knight to take possession of a captive. The regent of France, the Duke of Bedford, was against the march on Orleans, but was forced to yield to the other commanders. Already after the defeat, in a letter to Henry VI, he claimed that the decision to besiege had been taken by “no one knows whose advice”. On July 17, 1427, the Bastard of Orleans and the Earl of Suffolk, representing the English regent, and a representative of Burgundy signed a treaty in London that guaranteed the inviolability of the duchy. But Bedford did not ratify the trilateral treaty.

As a preparation for the campaign of 1428 forced financial “aid” was taken from subordinate Normandy – so, with the consent of the local States-General, the English king was allocated first 60 thousand livres, then another 180 thousand. Additional tribute was also imposed on the cities of Osser, Sens, Troyes, Melun, and one of the collectors was Bishop Pierre Cochon of Boves. To these apparently insufficient funds for warfare were added the military tithe levied on the clergy, part of the tax levy in England itself and the revenue from the royal estates. Still, the decisive blow required the English to strain all their strength, as evidenced by the fact that the French regent Bedford himself had to pawn some of his gold and silver crockery to moneylenders.

In August 1428, the Earl of Salisbury”s army left Paris. On the way, the Burgundians and Picardians – all of whom the chroniclers of the time referred to as “traitors of the French” – joined the English troops. The total number of troops on their way to Orleans had thus grown to 10,000 men. Salisbury initially marched in the direction of Anjou, retaking the four towns previously captured by the Dauphin”s supporters, he took Chartres in the second half of August, and then turned southeast to Joinville. After occupying Jeanville, Salisbury established a kind of base in that city for storing food during a future siege. The English then took Jargeau (from Orleans upstream of the Loire) and Beaugency and Meun (downstream). In this way they secured control of the river routes in the Orleans area.

Beginning of the siege

Orleans was besieged by the English troops of the Earl of Thomas Salisbury on October 12, 1428. The English camp positioned itself between the village of Olivet and the barbican of Portoro, pushing the French back from the right bank of the Loire as a result of their first victory. Up to the end of the siege the English headquarters and the greater part of the army occupied the so-called “Mount Saint-Laurent”, a 1,200-meter ridge, which dominated over the entire right bank and was therefore an ideal defensive position. The general headquarters of the British army was located in Meun. The town had been preparing for a siege for several years, and through the efforts of its inhabitants had become an impregnable fortress. Shortly before the arrival of the English, by decision of the town”s magistrate, the inhabitants of Orleans destroyed the monastery and church of the Augustinian order, as well as the houses in the suburb of Portoro that could serve as a shelter for the enemy.

On October 21, the British stormed the rampart of Tourelles. The first attack after a fierce battle was repulsed: the attackers lost 240 soldiers, while the defenders of the fortress killed 200 soldiers. After that, the British abandoned the frontal attack and decided to mine the French rampart covering Tourelle. This action was successful: the defenders retreated to the Tourelles, but the fierce artillery fire made the defense of the fortification pointless. On the night of October 23 to 24 the French left Tourelles and blew up the last span of the bridge. William Glasdale (called “Glasidas” in the French chronicles) became commandant of the fortress.

Shortly after the capture of Tourelles, the Earl of Salisbury was mortally wounded in the face by shrapnel from an artillery shell and died a week later. From the point of view of contemporaries, Salisbury”s death was a legitimate punishment for violating the laws of war – indeed, the increasing resistance of the French led their adversaries to depart more and more from the customs of the day concerning warfare. In particular, Thomas Salisbury was blamed for the perjury he committed against Charles of Orleans and the sacking of Notre Dame, which shocked the French. Modern historians explain these sacrilegious actions by the standards of the time by a lack of funds for warfare, while the church of Notre Dame, the center of pilgrimage to the revered shrines, was exceptionally wealthy. The death of Salisbury, who died not in battle, by a ridiculous accident, was perceived by the French, as chronicles report, as a divine warning to the English, a directive to withdraw the city to them.

Salisbury”s death was kept secret to prevent the English from becoming dejected and to boost the morale of the besieged. A month after the siege began, Duke William de la Paul took command of the English forces until its end.

On October 24, the British began siege operations, building a bastion on the ruins of St. Augustine”s Convent, destroyed by the defenders. At this time it was decided to abandon the plan of a frontal attack, since the city was heavily fortified and taking it by storm seemed problematic. Instead, the plan of the British command was to break the tenacity of the garrison through constant shelling and starvation.

On October 30, the commander of the defense, the Bastard of Orleans, returned to the city, and with him came with his detachments La Guire, the Marshal of France Saint-Severe, the Lombard Theold de Walperge, and the seneschal of Bourbonne Jacques de Chabannes.

In the first month of the siege, the English surrounded the city with numerous wooden fortifications. However, the small numbers of the English did not allow them to completely blockade the city, so the defenders had communication with the outside world through the Burgundian Gate, which remained open, receiving supplies and reinforcements from outside.

The ineffective blockade continued until mid-November. Meanwhile, the defenders of the city began the systematic ravaging of all suburbs, including churches, to deprive the British of the opportunity to set up winter quarters there. By November 8, 13 churches and many other suburban structures had been burned. These actions took place until December 29.

On October 8, the English sent builders to the north bank of the Loire to build siege fortifications around besieged Orleans. These fortifications were small forts defended by a small garrison. Attempts by the French to prevent the siege works of the enemy were unsuccessful. On December 1, troops under the command of Lord John Talbot arrived to help the besiegers. On December 7, another unsuccessful Orleans counterattack was launched against the English stronghold of St. Croix. On December 23, the French first introduced a newly cast powerful bombardment firing 12-pound stone cannonballs at Tourelles. Jean Lorraine, a gunner specially sent by King Charles VII to assist the besiegers, proved so skilled in his craft that his name entered the annals of the city. As a reward for his service, the council of attorneys decided to reward him with a large sum of 140 livres for those times.

By December 29, the garrison of Orleans had destroyed the remaining six churches in the suburbs. In January of the following year, the English made several attempts to attack the western fortifications of Orleans. On January 2, a large wagon train with food arrived in Orleans. During the siege, armed detachments often smuggled food and weapons into the city unimpeded, but ordinary citizens could not venture beyond the fortress walls without risking their lives. In view of this, gardens and orchards within the city, where some of the minimum food needed for the defenders of Orleans was produced, played an important role.

On January 6, the British erected “of fascines, sand, and wood” fortifications on Charlemagne Island and Fort Saint-Privet on the south bank of the Loire, thereby providing communications between the Tourelles and Saint-Laurent forts. During the first weeks of January, the British also erected fortifications north of the city walls. Reinforcements arrived in the city, including detachments of Scottish allies, but all attempts to counter the English were unsuccessful. For their part, English attacks were also unsuccessful.

The Appearance of Joan of Arc

The first record of Joan of Arc appears in the Diary of the Siege of Orleans on February 8. The 17-year-old peasant girl, who firmly believed in her messianic role in the liberation of France, appeared at Vauclair, demanding that the city”s captain, Robert de Baudricourt, take her to Bourges to negotiate with the king. Her success was aided in no small measure by the rumors circulating in France that France would be saved by a girl at a critical moment.

On February 11, French spies reported to Orleans that a caravan carrying barrels of herring was headed for the English camp. The ensuing battle of February 12, 1429 near the town of Rouvray, where the French and their Scottish allies launched an unsuccessful attack on the cart, went down in history as the Battle of the Herring (the English were carrying large quantities of fish for the army because it was Lent). In all likelihood, the cause of the defeat was delay on the part of the French, who waited for the Count of Clermont”s troops to arrive, which allowed their opponents to line up the Wagenburg and prepare to defend themselves. Inconsistency in the actions of the various detachments played a role, the captains of which are not willing to obey the supreme command. The defeat had grave consequences for the defenders of the city: the morale of soldiers fell, and many commanders and their troops left the city.

The unknown author of the Chronicle of the Virgin recorded a legendary account that Jeanne was able to predict this defeat by threatening Baudricourt that it might be “even worse” in the future, and this was the decisive argument that broke his resistance. Anyway, Baudricourt gave her two noblemen to accompany her, with whom Jeanne went to the king in Chinon.

On February 17, Jeanne and her escorts managed to reach the royal residence. After the theologians questioned Jeanne in Poitiers, the dauphin Charles decided to send Jeanne along with an army to Orleans. Leading French commanders Etienne de Vignol, nicknamed La Guire, Pauton de Centrail, and the Bastard of Orleans, who had repulsed the English attacks at Orleans with his last breath, were to go under her command. The Prince of Alanson became her chief of staff. For Jeanne one of the Tourist armourers made “a white armour at the cost of a hundred Turks livres” and she also received a banner. She then made her way to Blois, the designated assembly point for the army. The news that the army was led by a messenger of God caused an extraordinary morale boom in the army. The hopeless leaders and soldiers, weary of endless defeats, became enthusiastic and regained their courage. Meanwhile, the situation at Orleans was desperate, even though the English were unable to completely encircle the city and their guns could not penetrate the city”s thick walls.

In Orleans, at the same time, despondency reigned. On February 18, the Count of Clermont, along with two thousand soldiers, left the city to meet the king in Chinon. The Count promised the inhabitants, dissatisfied with his departure, that he would order reinforcements and food to be sent to them at a later date. The promised help never arrived, so the Orléans decided to send Pauton de Saintrail to the Duke of Burgundy, wishing to entrust the city to him and Jean of Luxembourg, as the Duke of Orléans was in captivity. However, the Duke of Bedford did not accept the offer.

On February 27, flooding on the river threatened the siege system. To save them, the British had to work all day and all night. The defenders of the city, meanwhile, continued shelling the Tourelles, which resulted in the collapse of one of the walls.

By this time, French morale was at an all-time high thanks to Jeanne”s arrival, and several commanders who had previously refused to join the ranks of the city”s defenders joined Joan of Arc”s army. While troops were gathering in Blois, another reinforcement of 100 soldiers arrived in the city, but this could not fundamentally change the situation: On March 10, the British erected Fort Saint-Loup to the east of the city, blocking the important road to Orléans, which carried much of the city”s reinforcements and supplies. Despite this, the fort was built at a considerable distance from the city walls, and its garrison could only indirectly influence the siege. On March 20, the British built another siege fortification. The intensification of siege works indicated that the British command was aware of the preparations for a major offensive to liberate the city. On April 2, a serious battle broke out with the use of artillery near Fort St. Laurent. Meanwhile, the French were repairing destroyed fortifications.

On March 22, Jeanne arrived in Blois. Here the French were gathering troops for the liberation of Orléans. General command was given to Marshal Jean de Brosse. Detachments from de Ré, Admiral Culan, La Guerre, Centrail, and Ambroise de Lauré came to the city. In all, researchers estimate about 4,000 men, who were tasked with bringing food to Orleans and trying to lift the siege. From Blois, Jeanne sent a letter dictated by her back in Poitiers. It was addressed to the Duke of Bedford, the commander-in-chief of the English army in France. Joan suggested that the English surrender all their conquered cities to God”s messenger (she) and offer peace so that they would leave France and make restitution. It was a last-ditch effort to persuade the enemy to make peace and thus avoid further bloodshed. The English detained one of the heralds who delivered the letter, which was contrary to the custom of warfare at the time, and sent another with a message that threatened to burn the “witch of Armagnac” as soon as it fell into their hands. On March 27, Easter Day, a truce was concluded between the besiegers and the besieged.

On April 17, Pauton de Centrail, who had been sent earlier to the Duke of Burgundy, returned to the city. Philip the Good readily undertook to plead the cause of the Orleanians with his brother-in-law, especially since Bedford had married his sister shortly before. The regent refused, saying that he was not setting snares in the bushes for others to catch birds in. The nineteenth-century historian Henri Martin wrote that Bedford apparently did not trust the duplicitous Duke of Burgundy too much. Philip the Good, quite annoyed, ordered his men to leave the English camp. Along with them left the other provinces that were subject to his authority – Picardy and Champagne.

On April 26, Joan of Arc marched out of the city at the head of her troops. The route of her troops is not known exactly. On April 28, Joan of Arc and a detachment of soldiers arrived at the southern outskirts of Orleans. It is known that Joan entered the city with 200 soldiers around 8 pm on April 29, accompanied by Bastard of Orleans and other prominent French commanders. The evening time was chosen to avoid the crush, yet this precaution led to nothing. The unknown author of the Diary…, who had described events dispassionately and dryly, this time departed from his custom to recount it in an almost poetic style:

Attempted Negotiations

The defenders of the city greeted the incoming troops with great enthusiasm and joy. The very next day, La Guire led another sortie by the defenders. Meanwhile, Jeanne, having left the city, made her way to the ruined bridge across the Loire and began to persuade the commander of Tours, Sir William Glasdale, to lift the siege on the city. As her confessor Jean Pasquerel recalled at her rehabilitation, “There was an outcry in the English camp: Tidings from the Armagnac whore have arrived!” Glasdale showered her with taunts and curses, while she could not refrain from tears, mindful of how much blood would have to be shed as a result. “She said to me: naughty boy,” her squire Jean d”Olonne later recalled. – Do you not wish to say that now precious French blood will have to be spilled?”

Jeanne also sent heralds to the English, demanding the release of the envoy sent earlier to the English camp. If he refused, the Bastard of Orleans threatened to kill all English prisoners in Orleans, including prominent English lords for whom the defenders could receive a generous ransom. The English yielded to the threats, and the prisoner was released. Along with him was conveyed an unequivocal warning “that they would burn and roast her, call her a slut and advise her to return to her cows. Jeanne, undaunted, said they were lying. After this she returned to the city.

Over the next week there was heated debate between Jeanne and Bastard of Orleans, who commanded the defense of the city, over the best tactics to lift the siege from the city. On May 1, Jeanne instructed the commanders to pay the soldiers their wages, which, among other things, arrived with the convoy. Accompanied by her companions, Joan rode through the streets of the city, encouraging and reassuring the citizens and defenders of Orleans. Bastard reasonably believed that there were not enough forces to successfully lift the siege on the city, so he left for Blois on the same day, leaving La Guire as commandant of the city. No fighting took place on May 2, and Jeanne rode around the city, inspecting the enemy”s siege fortifications. The next day religious ceremonies took place in the city, and reinforcements arrived in Orleans. On May 4, Bastard led the army back to Orleans.

First attack. Taking St. Loup

The same day saw the first serious clash between the city”s defenders and the English. In the morning, the Bastard of Orleans and La Guerre led an attack on the English bastion of Saint-Loup. The well-defended fort was defended by 300-400 English soldiers. Jeanne, who learned of this a little later, joined the attackers. The French had 1,500 soldiers in the battle. The English commander, John Talbot, was notified of the situation. He attempted to thwart the French and organize a diversion on the north side from Fort Paris, but this action was foiled in time by a retaliatory sortie by the French. The fort was captured, 140 Englishmen were killed and 40 taken prisoner. Upon learning of this, Talbot called off the attack and ordered a retreat.

The remnants of Saint-Loup”s garrison managed to hide in a nearby church and had already prepared to slaughter the clerics there to save themselves by changing into their dress, when the French burst in and succeeded in preventing this. On Jeanne”s orders, all the captured Englishmen were spared their lives (out of respect for the church) and transported as prisoners to Orleans.

The first success encouraged the French warriors. Bastard disapproved of plans for a general assault immediately after the capture of Saint-Loup, since the slightest defeat could, in his opinion, destroy the still fragile morale of the defenders. The capture of Saint-Loup set the stage for unimpeded contact between the city and the French forces south of the Loire, which had remained there since the arrival of the Bastard of Orleans. The captured fort was destroyed and burned. Jeanne then wrote again on May 5 to the English commanders, asking them to lift the siege on the city. The letter was attached to an arrow fired by a gunner near the destroyed bridge. In it, she promised freedom to the English prisoners captured in the recent battle of Saint-Loup in exchange for another of her envoys held in English captivity. The English responded by scolding her.

During the next day, Jeanne fervently persuaded the more experienced and cautious commanders to launch another decisive attack. Her plan was to organize a combined force of soldiers and townspeople to attack Fort St. Augustine. On the same day, French troops marched out of the city and toward the small English fort of Saint-Jean-les-Blains. Having crossed the river, the French entered the south bank, but the English abandoned the poorly defended Saint-Jean-les-Blanc without resistance and retreated to Fort St. Augustin and Tourelles.

Despite initial successes, the French were still in a critical situation. Word reached the defenders of Orléans that Sir John Fastolf, at the head of a large army, had left Paris to help the besiegers (in fact, Fastolf could not leave Paris before the end of the next month). Moreover, there was no unanimity among the French high command: all along there had been disputes between the resolute Joan of Arc, supported by soldiers and common people, and the more cautious Bastard, supported by the governor of Orleans, Raoul de Gocourt.

Taking Fort St. Augustine

On the morning of May 6, the townspeople and soldiers gathered at the eastern gate, determined to fight the English. Raoul de Gaucourt tried to stop the unauthorized raid, but on Joan of Arc”s orders he was forced to let the Orleansmen through, whom he himself led into the attack. Bastard and other high commanders, hoping to regain control of the troops, also joined the attackers. A new offensive began. Having crossed the Loire, the French attacked the English Fort St. Augustine opposite Tourelles. The battle raged from morning until evening, but in the end the French captured the fort and freed numerous captives. The defenders of the fort were killed and the fort itself was burned to the ground – as one would expect, in this way Jeanne tried to prevent the looting that had begun. She was also wounded in the leg by one of the iron spikes scattered around the fort as protection against enemy cavalry. The English fled to the rampart that covered Tourelles, and the few garrison of Fort Saint-Privet, before abandoning it, set fire to the wooden fortifications, retreating to the bastide of Saint-Laurent.

Meanwhile, the Bastard of Orleans, attacking the latter, prevented the English from coming to the aid of the defenders of St. Augustine”s Bastion. The English garrison at Tourelles was isolated. Bastard wanted to allow the men to rest, but Jeanne insisted on continuing the attack. Meanwhile, the English took no action to reinforce their garrison at Tourelles.

Assault of the Turret

On May 7, Jeanne awoke early in the morning. After confessing and attending morning mass, she went out to meet the army and awakened the soldiers. The townspeople were enthusiastic about the upcoming battle and gave great assistance to the troops. On the other hand, her actions caused displeasure on the part of the French command. On the morning of May 7, Jeanne launched an attack on the fortified gates of the main English fortification, the fortress of Tourelles. The impressive fortifications of Tourelles were defended by 700-800 English soldiers, according to Monstrelle, “the flower of the English nobility. Tourelles had powerful artillery. The barbican was walled and surrounded by a moat. The French sent burning barges to destroy the bridge linking the barbican to Tourelles. The battle was incredibly fierce, the British fought back desperately, and there were huge casualties on both sides. In the middle of the assault, Jeanne was wounded in the shoulder by an arrow. The English cheered up, especially since by about that time the French had still not made any progress, but the reappearance of Joan of Arc under her banner on the battlefield instilled courage in the French warriors, and soon the English could not stand it and fled to Tourelles. Meanwhile, the French launched a burning barge down the river, destroying the bases of the wooden bridge on which the British were retreating, thus killing many retreating enemy soldiers. Among them was Tourelles commandant William Glasdale (“Glasidas”), who drowned in the river under the weight of his armor.

Bastard, doubting the favorable outcome of the assault on the fortress, wanted to postpone the attack, but Jeanne persuaded him to continue the battle. The townspeople repaired the bridge, thereby creating the possibility of a two-pronged attack. About 3 thousand people went to storm the fortifications of Tourelles, during the battle on the English side about a thousand were killed (both of the garrison itself and other detachments who tried to help), 600 were taken prisoner, 200 French prisoners who were in the fortress were released. The assault was successful, and in the evening Tourelles was taken. All of its defenders were killed or captured.

Completing the siege

The next day the English, led by the Duke of Suffolk and John Talbot, emerged from the remaining forts and stood in front of the enemy”s fortifications. Noticing this, the French also lined up for battle. The troops stood idle for about an hour. Despite the over-zealousness of some commanders, Jeanne did not allow the attack, since Sunday, in her opinion, was not the right day for a battle. The English, never daring to attack, abandoned the battlefield and withdrew north, according to French chronicles, “in full fighting order. The siege was lifted and the French did not pursue the English. The townspeople and soldiers, seeing the retreat of the enemy, plundered and razed the emptied English fortifications to the ground. Here, too, a mass of thanksgiving was celebrated at the city walls.

The lifting of the siege of Orleans was marked by another curious episode mentioned in the chronicles of the time – the bastard de Bar, captured by the English during a raid, shackled and held in one of the bastides in the care of John Talbot”s personal confessor, was forced to follow the English when the English army left. But in view of the fact that the shackles prevented him from going, he and his guide fell so far behind that he lost sight of the rearguard, whereupon, threatening the Augustinian with death, he forced himself on his back and carried him to Orleans.

The first major victory greatly encouraged the French, and their army was immediately replenished with numerous volunteers. In a short time, the French liberated the Loire valley, defeating the English garrisons in the towns of Jargeau, Menges and Beaugency. On June 18, the French took by surprise and defeated the British vanguard, which was marching to the aid of its own. This led to the defeat of the English at the Battle of Pathe, where John Talbot, the commander-in-chief of the English forces, was captured.

After clearing the Loire valley of the enemy, the French moved to Reims to crown their king Charles VII, and then, after the death of Jeanne, defeated and repulsed Paris, held by the English. Thus, the capture of Orléans was a turning point in a long and bloody war that almost ended in disaster for the French. The party of Charles VII actively used for propaganda purposes the fact that good luck began to accompany the French army from the moment of the appearance in its ranks of Joan of Arc. The king”s advisors Perceval de Boulevilliers and Alain Chartier sent letters to foreign monarchs in the summer of 1429 describing Jeanne”s appearance and her military successes. The authors of the letters spoke of a mystical connection between the king and Joan of Arc, sent by God to save France.

Some modern scholars note that the lifting of the siege is not at all the merit of Joan of Arc. G. Corrigan points out that the British set themselves a deliberately impossible task. The army was supplied with food and money irregularly. During the siege, the Duke of Burgundy, their ally, due to disagreements with the regent withdrew his men from Orleans. Finally, the Duke of Bedford needed troops elsewhere. According to A. Byrne, the fortress would have been taken if not for the accidental death of Salisbury. According to the military historian, Salisbury, who made extensive use of artillery and minesweepers, intended to take Orleans by storm and, given the fact that the defenders of the city were “completely demoralized,” would probably have succeeded. Salisbury, however, was succeeded by the indecisive Suffolk, who withdrew to winter quarters, ending the first phase of the siege, which had begun so successfully for the English. Nevertheless, the French believed that it was Jeanne who liberated Orléans, and the subsequent successes of the French forces were also credited to her.

The siege of Orléans was a difficult financial situation for the English side. Already by March 1429 this prolonged military campaign had consumed all the funds allocated for this purpose, and on March 3, the royal council on behalf of the minor Henry VI was forced by his authority to introduce a new extraordinary “loan” from “men of all ranks who receive their income from French or Norman lands”. They were obliged to sacrifice a quarter of their annual income to continue the siege. Those who evaded the payment were ordered to be charged double the amount.

By mid-April the prolonged siege, if we believe the calculations made by Molandon, had consumed 360,000 livres of Tours, which in all likelihood predetermined the refusal of Bedford to the Duke of Burgundy – it should be repaid at least in part. The expenses during the siege, including salaries to mercenaries, payments to the captains of detachments, the purchase of weapons, equipment, food, forage, etc., cost the British crown an astronomical sum of 440,000 livres for those times. The improbability of this number can be assessed, knowing that, according to the laws of the time, the capture of an enemy king or commander-in-chief of an army was subject to a ransom of only 10,000.

May 8 Holiday

According to the Chronicle of the Establishment of the Feast of May 8, the tradition arose of its own accord. The initiative belonged to the bishop of the city, who in turn acted in accord with the Bastard of Orleans and his council. On the orders of the bishop, a procession was organized “to the glory of God and St. Aignan and Evert, patrons of the city,” led by Jeanne on her horse in full armor, followed by the clergy, soldiers and townspeople with candles in their hands. The next day, the bishop celebrated the mass, the relics of St. Enian and St. Evert were carried around the city, and Joan and the soldiers of the king”s army took communion.

There is a legend connected with this first celebration, as if the English, who had not yet had time to withdraw from the city, saw “two men in priestly garb” near its walls, that is, both patron saints, who prevented them from coming close to the city walls.

In 1430, May 8 became an official holiday of the city and, with few interruptions, was celebrated throughout the following years until the present day. It was during the initial existence of the holiday that the basic ritual that has remained unchanged to this day was formed.

All the costs of the traditional procession were borne by the city treasury – there are references to contributions of “eight deniers of Parisian coinage” made by townspeople for this purpose.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, on the evening of May 7, heralds announced the beginning of the celebration by ringing bells. Throughout the city at the crossroads of the main streets and at places of battles, wooden scaffolding was erected.

In 1435, during the celebration of the Liberation Day of the City, the Mystery of the Siege of Orleans, based on the events of 1428-1429, was first performed. One of Jeanne”s comrades-in-arms, Gilles de Ré, Señor de Laval, who paid for the production out of his own pocket, took part in the Mystery.

The day of May 8 was marked by a solemn procession attended by the secular and ecclesiastical authorities of the city. Twelve attorneys of the city carried three-pound candles bearing the city emblem. They were followed by singers from the city”s cathedrals, canons, and boys from the church choirs.

During the process of Jeanne”s rehabilitation (1456), Cardinal d”Etoutville granted indulgences to all the participants in the solemn procession for a year and a hundred days. The city council used its own funds to hire a preacher, bell ringers, paid for the gifts for Mass and new clothes for the boys in the church choirs, as well as a young standard-bearer who was to carry a specially made copy of Jeanne”s banner. The feast concluded with a grand dinner attended by the city”s eschewers and preacher. At the end of the fifteenth century, the procession was also joined by a standard-bearer, elected from among the townspeople.

Ceremonies were not held during the religious wars, but resumed immediately after their end in a largely unchanged form, but now the May 8 celebration did not end with a feast in the town hall because of “hard times.”

In 1725, the procession included the Youth or the Adolescent (Puceau is masculine from “Maiden” – Pucelle – the nickname by which Joan went down in history). The young man was chosen by the mayor and the eschewers, and was supposed to carry Jeanne”s banner. This character was dressed in a costume from the time of Henry III – red and gold (in accordance with the heraldic colors of the Orleans flag) and a bright red cap with two white feathers.

In 1786, another character was added to the Young Man – the Humble Woman (Rosière) – that is, a young girl who had been rewarded for her virtue. The Duke and Duchess of Orleans decided to celebrate the wedding of “a poor virtuous girl, born within the city walls, who would receive a dowry of 1,200 livres, with half of the sum provided by their highnesses”.

A new hiatus in the celebration of May 8 came in 1793, the year of the French Revolution. The celebration resumed during the Consulate years at the initiative of the mayor of Grignon-Désormeau, who in 1802 sought the consent of the First Consul Bonaparte to restore the monument to Jeanne, and of the Bishop of Orleans, who petitioned for the resumption of religious ceremonies. The consent was obtained, and in 1803 the traditional processions resumed.

In 1817, the new mayor of the city, Count de Rocheplat, decided to restore the feast according to the ritual of the eighteenth century. Once again, the Youth participated in the procession, and a cross was erected on the site of the ruined Tourelles.

King Louis-Philippe decided to declare May 8 a national holiday, in other words, to give it a secular form. During his reign, it became traditional to parade the bust of Joan through places where battles had once been fought, with National Guard soldiers and city officials taking part in the procession.

In 1848, the feast again took on its traditional form. In 1855, a new tradition emerged – the passing of the banner from the mayor to the bishop of the city. It is believed that this is related to the beginning of the movement for the canonization of Jeanne.

In 1912, a young woman appears in the procession for the first time, portraying Jeanne on horseback, dressed in fifteenth-century armor. The name of the first performer of the role has been preserved – it was the 17-year-old Jeanne Bureau.

In 1920, the religious and secular festivals merged, so that the city simultaneously hosts both a regular church procession and a theatrical performance.


  1. Осада Орлеана
  2. Siege of Orléans
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