By Right Noble Chevalier Alan Blackstone, KGL.KCSt.JA. Great Chamberlain

Whether singing or listening to the ladies only verse in the Anthem of the Order, have you ever wondered why Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans (La Pucelle) should feature and what had she to do with the Order of the Fleur de Lys? Well the answer was to some degree given by our Sovereign Grand Commander in an article which appeared in the 2010 Newsletter in which he wrote “It was from the 2nd Contingent (of Scottish Mercenaries) who went over between 1419 and 1420 that the Order was formed. This Contingent had fought alongside Joan of Arc, Rene and Gilles de Rais* at the siege of Orleans.” So while the above briefly explains the reference to the Maid in our Anthem it leads us to the next question, why and how did Rene and his troops become involved with her in the first place? However before dealing with that question let us consider the story of Joan of Arc.

The traditional story of Joan of Arc is one of an illiterate peasant girl, who at the age of thirteen heard the voices of the Archangel Michael and Saints Catherine and Margaret bidding her to rescue France from English domination. At seventeen she gained an audience with the Dauphin, Charles de Ponthieu and was eventually allowed to lead the army assembled for the relief of Orleans (although the actual commander was in fact John, Duke of Alencon) clad in a suit of white armour and flying her own standard “on which was painted the image of Our Saviour seated in judgement in the clouds of the sky and there was an angel painted holding in his hand a fleur de lys which the image was blessing.” She entered Orleans in 1429, raised the siege by forcing the English to retreat and subsequently took the Dauphin to be crowned Charles VII at Reims, the traditional venue for French coronations. In 1430 she attempted to relieve Compiègne where she fell from her horse and was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English by John of Luxembourg for 10,000 livres. King Charles VII made no attempt to negotiate her release. Put on trial by French theologians sympathetic to the English for heresy and sorcery, she was found guilty and burned at the stake in Rouen in May 1431. Twenty years later a new trial ordered by Charles VII cleared her name. She was canonised in 1920. Intriguingly, at the Battle of Compiègne the English were under the command of John Montgomery and John Stewart, knights of the king’s household.

Recently it has been claimed that there is historical evidence to challenge the traditional account and that Joan of Arc has been confused with Jehanne, the illegitimate daughter of Queen Isabeau of France and Louis, duc d’Orleans, brother of the king. However other revisionist historians, whilst accepting the traditional story of Joan as saviour of France, maintain that her rise to prominence and access to the Dauphin was due to the patronage of Yolande of Aragon, mother of our Rene of Anjou. This contention has been supported by a number of academics including the noted French historian Jehanne d’Orliac who assigned a major role to the Angevins and especially to Yolande in fostering the career of the Maid. Other claims have been made that in addition to being Joan’s political patron and mentor, Yolande also financed her army in 1429. If this is so then we can begin to see why Rene and his Scottish mercenaries fought alongside Joan.

But why I hear you ask would Yolande wish to further Joan’s career? Well there are at least a couple of good reasons for this being so. First of all it would appear the Duchy of Anjou was or certainly felt threatened after the Battle of Agincourt when the English held a good deal of territory in northern France and Yolande was concerned if not stopped they would eventually take Anjou and Main, her domains. Secondly she was well aware of the prophecy that France, ruined by a woman (a reference to Queen Isabeau of France and Bavaria) would be restored by a virgin from the marches (border region) of Lorraine, would carry arms and would free the kingdom of France from its enemies and Joan appeared to be that virgin.

In order to embark on her task of saving France Joan had to seek the support of the Dauphin and Yolande was instrumental in that process. Prior to being given access to the Dauphin Joan was made to undertake physical and theological examinations to ascertain if she really was a virgin, theologically sound and able to handle the responsibilities her quest required. A select number of ladies carried out the physical examination, all of whom were members of Yolande’s household and it was Yolande herself who oversaw this examination and later reported the findings to the Dauphin. This was confirmed by Joan’s steward Jean d’ Aulon who reported “ Yolande said and related to the Dauphin that she and her ladies found with certainty that Joan was a true and entire maid in whom appeared no corruption or violence. I was present when the lady made her report.” Joan was subsequently examined theologically over a period of three weeks by a number of masters from the University of Paris.

To those of you wondering how Rene’s mother could have such an influence on the future king of France let me further explain. It was Yolande who actively supported the Dauphin to become the eventual King of France, even fighting against his parents who sought to prevent his claim to the throne. In 1413 Yolande removed Charles from his parent’s court and protected him in her own castles in the Loire Valley where, as the Dauphin, he received Joan of Arc. Her dedication to protecting Charles is borne out in her refusing an edict from Queen Isabeau to return the Dauphin to the French Court when she reputedly replied “We have not nurtured and cherished this one for you to make him die like his brothers (his four older brothers having died childless) or go mad like his father, or become English like you. I keep him for my own. Come take him if you dare.” Yolande later arranged the marriage of her daughter to the Dauphin and so she was not only his surrogate mother but also his mother in law.

Let us now go back to Rene and the Scottish mercenaries’ role in all of this. Rene was at the court of Lorraine in Nancy in 1428 when Joan visited and asked the Duke for his assistance also requesting that Rene (the Dukes son in law) accompany her to the court of the Dauphin. Apparently the Duke did give her some form of assistance but Rene did not accompany her at that time. Nevertheless he and his troops did assist Joan at the relief of the siege of Orleans following which she accompanied the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation which Rene also attended, He was one of the Maid’s captains at the siege of Paris where it is claimed Joan was shot in the leg by a crossbowman and “later under the cover of darkness the injured Joan was retrieved from the moat into which she had fallen…..and it was Rene´ who picked her up and carried her from the battlefield to the safety of his own quarters.” It was Rene with the Count of Clermont who was sent by the king to inform Joan that the siege of Paris was withdrawn.

From the foregoing I have hopefully answered the questions I raised at the beginning of this article and it can now be understood why Joan of Arc figures in our Anthem. In addition to Rene and his Scottish mercenaries, the forerunners of our Order, assisting her in battles she was also furthered in her quest through the emotional, financial and diplomatic support of René’s mother, Yolande of Aragon.

* Gilles de Rais was later Marshal of France and the inspiration of the fairy tail Bluebeard.