Trial and Execution

Bedford remained active throughout the winter with the limited forces at his disposal. On 30 January 1431 he shepherded into Paris a convoy of ‘at least’ fifty-six boats and twelve barges, all laden with much-needed victuals. His feat was much applauded in the city because it was accomplished both against the current and in the teeth of raging winds and three weeks of heavy rain which had swollen the Seine beyond recognition; unlike several previous convoys, he had also evaded every Armagnac ambush set along the route from Rouen. By March, when the weather had eased and his first reinforcements had arrived from England, he was out in the field again, recapturing several strongholds on the Marne around Lagny, but failing to take Lagny itself.1

Despite Bedford’s heroic efforts, Armagnac raids from their fortress-bases surrounding Paris constantly disrupted the supply chain, causing prices to soar and an exodus of poor from the city: twelve hundred adults were said to have left in a single day in April. The insecurity meant it was not practical to bring the young king, with his huge entourage, into his French capital, causing administrative problems because all the major institutions of state were based in Paris, but the king and the great council remained at Rouen. Officials such as the chancellor, Louis de Luxembourg, whose presence was required in both places, were obliged to spend much of their time on the road, shuttling between Rouen and Paris.2

Another consequence of the insecurity in and around Paris was that the trial of Jehanne d’Arc, which the university had wanted to stage in the capital, also had to be relocated to Rouen. The duke of Burgundy, hard pressed for money, had finally agreed to sell the Pucelle, and the estates-general of Normandy set aside 10,000l.t. (£583,333) out of a tax of 120,000l.t. (£7m) granted in August 1430 ‘to purchase Jehanne la Pucelle, who is said to be a witch, a “war person” leading the armies of the dauphin’.3

It is worth considering what might have happened to Jehanne had Burgundy not handed her over to the English. Would he have succumbed to the demands of Cauchon and the university and put her on trial for heresy? Would he have ransomed her to the Armagnacs if the sum offered was high enough? Would he have kept her as a potential bargaining tool for his future negotiations with Charles VII? Or would he have left her to rot as a prisoner at Beaurevoir? In the event his decision to take the money and pass the problem on to his allies proved to be astute.

The same options were available to the English. Obviously they would not have wished to ransom her so that she could return to the field against them, but there was no reason why they could not have simply sent her into perpetual imprisonment in England: after all, the dukes of Bourbon and Orléans, who had both been captured more than fifteen years earlier at Agincourt, were still incarcerated in English prisons without hope of ransom. As she was a prisoner of war who had never taken the oath of allegiance to Henry V or VI, there was no requirement to try Jehanne in a civil court.

Why, then, allow her to be tried before an ecclesiastical tribunal? To modern eyes it seems a convenient way of getting the church to do the state’s dirty work. In fact in the medieval mind there was no great distinction between heresy and political subversion,especially during this particular period, when radicalism in religion and politics walked hand in hand. In England the Lollards had been closely associated with plots and rebellion against the monarchy for a generation and in Bohemia the Hussites were actually at war against their Catholic Emperor, who had launched five successive crusades against them between 1420 and 1431. Ironically, as we have seen, the Pucelle also wanted to lead a crusade against the Hussites and dictated a letter challenging them to return to the faith or face her sword.4 Cardinal Beaufort, who had attempted to lead the crusade of 1429, had attacked heretics for undermining ‘not only the faith but all political rule and governance, stirring the people to rebellion and disobedience to their lords and governors’. Jehanne’s trial for heresy was neither an isolated nor an unusual event: in both England and Burgundy the church was actively prosecuting large numbers of suspected heretics during this very period. In the Norwich diocese alone sixty men and women were tried in 1428 and three were burned at the stake; in Lille twenty suspected heretics were arrested in 1429 and 1430, of whom at least eight were burned.5

Cauchon’s motives for trying the Pucelle for heresy have been rightly questioned but also much maligned. As both a bishop and a royal councillor, he had a duty to uphold the authority of church and state. Jehanne’s flagrant defiance of the church’s teachings on a woman’s dress and conduct, and her insistence that these had been determined by divine revelation, made redundant the church’s role as the sole conduit between God and mankind. And as her messianic ability to inspire the populace to resist and overthrow their Anglo-Burgundian masters had demonstrated, she also posed a serious threat to secular authority. For Cauchon and the theologians of the University of Paris she did indeed fulfil prophecy, but it was the words of Christ himself: ‘False prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.’6

There was a risk, of course, that the heresy trial might find Jehanne innocent – which is why, when the great council issued its letter in Henry VI’s name authorising Cauchon to proceed, they informed him that ‘it is our intention to retake and regain possession of this [Jehanne] if it comes to pass that she is not convicted or found guilty of the said crimes, or those of them concerning or touching our faith’.7

The chance that the Pucelle might be found guilty, however, was a risk worth taking. If she was convicted of heresy, then her claim to have been sent by God was discredited and her victories in the field could be ascribed to the work of the devil. More importantly, her conviction would taint Charles VII by association: ‘I’m talking to you,’ one of her interrogators would say to her, ‘and I tell you that your king is a heretic and a schismatic.’8 Jehanne’s public condemnation would undermine the validity of Charles’s consecration as king and pave the way for the coronation of Henry with the blessing and authority of the church.

Jehanne arrived in Rouen under an English military escort on 23 December 1430 and was committed to Rouen castle, where she was to be held in a room, chained and guarded by three English esquires and half a dozen soldiers. Strictly speaking, since she was being tried by the church she should have been held in the archbishop’s prison, or under house arrest in a convent, where she would have been guarded by women. Imprisoning her in Rouen castle was not in itself evidence that her trial was politically motivated, as later commentators have suggested, but a practical recognition that she was too valuable a prisoner to be held in any of the ordinary prisons, ecclesiastical or civil, where she might escape or be rescued. The castle was the most secure place in Rouen, but it was not neutral ground. It was also the seat of Norman government and Henry VI and his court were in residence at the time. In terms of public perception, therefore, the decision to hold her and try her within the castle precincts was ill conceived, since it indelibly associated her trial with the English regime and raised justifiable doubts about its impartiality.

Those witnesses who were involved in the proceedings, and then had to give evidence twenty-five years later at the nullification process, made extravagant efforts to vindicate themselves and blame ‘the English’ for manipulating and running the trial. Yet of the 131 judges, assessors and other clergy involved in the process only eight were English and of those eight only two attended more than three of the fifteen or more sessions. The rest, including Cauchon, were Burgundian partisans, two-thirds of them graduates of the University of Paris.9

All the due forms of a trial for heresy were observed. The chief inquisitor of France, who was detained at a trial elsewhere, appointed a Dominican friar, Jehan le Maistre, to represent him and join Cauchon as the second judge. An investigator was sent to Domrémy to question Jehanne’s family, friends and neighbours; his evidence was used as a basis for many of the questions asked in the ensuing interrogations but it was not cited directly to prove or disprove the charges, as such testimony was in other contemporary heresy trials. Detailed records were kept of the entire process, including the interrogations, so that the inquisitors could demonstrate that they had acted fairly and that Jehanne had convicted herself out of her own mouth. She had no advocate to defend her but this was not exceptional for the times and she apparently refused assistance when it was offered on 27 March. When the possibility of torturing her was proposed, as was commonplace, twelve assessors were consulted but they decided against by a majority of nine to three.10

Between 21 February and 3 March 1431 she was questioned in six ‘public’ sessions in the castle chapel: the audience was entirely composed of theologians and canon lawyers who were there in an advisory capacity. A further nine interrogations were carried out privately in her cell between 10 and 17 March, with up to eleven people present, all, except her guard on the last occasion, being interrogators or notaries. There is no discernible difference in tone or subject matter between the public and private sessions, though there is no way of knowing what was omitted from the official record as this was not a verbatim account of the proceedings.

Guillaume Manchon, one of the notaries who produced a French transcript of the trial and later collaborated on its translation into Latin, would claim at the nullification process that other notaries had not recorded Jehanne’s answers in full, leaving out anything that exonerated her; that she was spied on by Cauchon and the earl of Warwick when she was making confession; and that her confessor had revealed all she had told him to her interrogators. His claims may well have been true, but clearly he was also desperate to avoid censure or punishment for his own role in the original trial. He had to be ‘forced’ to hand over his notarial records in 1456 and insisted that he had participated against his will and out of fear of the English regime. There is a somewhat hollow ring to his protestation that ‘he knew and firmly believed that, if he had been on the side of the English, he would not have treated [Jehanne] in this way, and he would not have put her on trial in this way’. He even claimed he had spent his wages for the trial on a missal ‘in order to remember her and to pray to God for her’.11

Despite all the fallibilities of the evidence at both trials, what emerges indisputably and triumphantly is the Pucelle’s absolute faith in the divine origin of her mission and her utter conviction that her voices were real. Honest and artless, stubborn and direct to the point of rudeness, this nineteen-year-old illiterate village girl held her own against some of Europe’s most eminent professors of theology and canon law, but in her refusal to accept their opinions and deny her own, she set herself in defiance of the church. In the eyes of the law she was therefore guilty of heresy and schism. And just like the hundreds of Protestant and Catholic martyrs who found their faith in conflict with the prevailing orthodoxy, she was required either to admit publicly that she was wrong or suffer the ultimate penalty of being burned at the stake.

On 24 May she was taken to the cemetery of the abbey of Saint-Ouen in Rouen and placed on a public scaffold. The site was chosen not for its intimidating associations with death but because it was a large, open space where crowds too big to meet within a church regularly gathered to hear sermons, especially those by visiting friars. A sermon was preached at Jehanne, exhorting her to reject her errors and return to the unity of the church. She was offered the chance to abjure three times and refused but, when Cauchon began to read out her sentence, her courage gave way. In the presence of a vast crowd which had gathered to witness these events, she repeated after Cauchon the renunciation of her ‘crimes and errors’

in falsely pretending to have had revelations and apparitions from God, His angels, Saint Katherine and Saint Margaret; in leading others astray; in believing madly and too lightly; in making superstitious divinations; in blaspheming God and His saints; in contravening divine law, holy scripture and canon law; in wearing a dissolute, shameful and immodest outfit, against natural decency, and hair cut in a circle in a masculine fashion, against all decency of womankind; also in bearing arms most presumptuously; in cruelly desiring the shedding of human blood; in saying that I did all these things at the command of God, His angels and the saints named before, and that I acted properly in these matters and did not err; in despising God and His sacraments, encouraging insurrections and practising idolatry by adorating12 and invoking evil spirits. I also confess that I have been schismatic and that I have strayed from the faith in many ways.13

By making Jehanne personally deliver this comprehensive public rejection of all that she had believed, said and done (and much that she had not), the trial achieved its purpose to discredit her and her king. Her punishment was to be committed to perpetual solitary confinement and ordered to adopt women’s clothing. Two days later she changed her mind, saying that promises that she should be allowed to go to mass and be freed from her chains had not been kept and she would rather die than endure the pain of imprisonment any longer. She admitted that her voices had spoken to her again–‘the fatal reply’ someone noted in the margin of the record – resumed her male clothing and insisted that her renunciation was not genuine but had been entirely motivated by fear of the fire. Her voices had told her that she had damned herself eternally merely to save her life.14

This was the worst possible outcome both for Jehanne herself and for the English. Her public renunciation had enumerated and advertised her ‘errors’ to a broader, popular audience and now, as she was a relapsed heretic, there was no alternative but to burn her. There could be no more effective way to draw attention to her belief in the righteousness of her mission than her willingness to die for it. And on 30 May 1431 that was what she did. She was taken to the Old Market, the traditional place of public execution in Rouen. Cauchon gave a final sermon and pronounced her sentence before handing her over to the secular authorities. Geoffroi Thérage,15 the royal executioner, then dragged her to the stake, placed on her head a mitre emblazoned with the words ‘heretic, relapse, apostate, idolater’ and lit the fire. A sympathetic Englishman had made her a small cross of wood which she placed at her breast and a Norman cleric, who had served as an usher at the trial, took the parish cross from the church of Saint-Sauveur and held it aloft so that she could see it as she was consumed by the flames. Several times she called out ‘Jesus!’ and it was his name that she invoked with her last breath.16

After she was dead Thérage raked back the fire to expose her naked body ‘to take away any doubts from people’s minds’ that she was a woman. When the watching crowds had stared long enough he rebuilt the fire so that her body was reduced to ashes, which were then thrown in the Seine to prevent them becoming objects of veneration. For it was already clear from the reaction of some of the crowd that they believed ‘that she was martyred, and for her true lord’. Even Thérage, it was later claimed, had said that ‘he greatly feared to be damned for he had burned a holy woman’–though not so much that it persuaded him to give up his gruesome occupation. At least two witnesses at the nullification process claimed that Thérage had told them that he had been unable to destroy Jehanne’s heart, which, in the manner of saintly relics, had resisted his best efforts to burn it, using oil, sulphur and charcoal, and had remained intact. Thérage himself was conveniently unable to verify this as he had died many years previously.17

The public burning did not prevent the circulation of rumours that Jehanne had escaped the fire. In 1436 a woman calling herself ‘Jeanne du Lys’ appeared at Metz and was ‘recognised’ as the Pucelle by Jehanne’s brothers; showered with gifts, she made her way to Cologne and then in 1439 to Orléans, where she was fêted by the townsmen and presented with money ‘for the good which she did the town during the siege’. She was brought to Paris on the orders of the university and parlement and there exposed as Claude des Armoises, the wife of a knight of Lorraine; her only similarity to Jehanne was that she claimed to have dressed as a man and fought as a hired soldier in the papal army. She disappeared from view in 1440 after her exposure, but another impostor, Jeanne de Sermaize, spent three months in prison at Saumur until she was pardoned by René d’Anjou in 1457.18

It was just this sort of story that the authorities in Rouen had sought to stamp out. On 28 June letters were addressed in Henry VI’s name to the pope, cardinals and Emperor Sigismund, as well as to other kings, princes and dukes outside France, giving the official version of the career, trial, recantation, relapse and sentence of the ‘false witch’. The letters suggested that such a detailed account was necessary because popular report had carried tales of Jehanne’s deeds throughout ‘almost the whole world’, but there can be little doubt that the great council was also using the opportunity subtly to denigrate Charles VII. There was no reference to the political aspects or context of Jehanne’s role, simply a vague description of her having boasted that she had been sent by God, worn men’s clothing, borne weapons of war and taken part in battles where men were slaughtered. What was emphasised repeatedly was that Jehanne’s behaviour had offended the Christian faith and that she had been tried and sentenced by an ecclesiastical court. Any secular power which dared to challenge her conviction therefore laid itself open to the charge of defying the church.19

Similar letters, copied to the nobility and the major towns of France, were written to the French bishops with a request that the material be used in public sermons for the benefit of the populace ‘who have been deceived and abused for a long time by the works of this woman’. One of these sermons was given in Paris at the beginning of July by no less a person than Jean Graverent, the chief inquisitor of France, who had delegated his powers during Jehanne’s trial. Unlike the more measured tone of the circular letters, it was an emotionally charged and occasionally vicious tissue of lies and half-truths. He accused Jehanne of dressing ‘as a man’ from the age of fourteen: ‘after that her father and mother would have liked to kill her if they could have done so without guilt, and . . . she had therefore left them, in the devil’s company, and had ever since been a murderer of Christian people, full of blood and fire, till at last she was burned.’ Her saints, he declared, were devils who had deluded her and led her to her death.20

What is particularly interesting about Graverent’s sermon is that he denounced not only Jehanne but also three other women, Pieronne the Breton, her unnamed companion and Catherine de la Rochelle. All four, Graverent claimed, had been manipulated by Brother Richard, the Franciscan friar who had been expelled from Paris in May 1429 for his subversive preaching, which had attracted vast crowds and led to public bonfires of the items he denounced as vanities. He had persuaded many Parisians to wear a tin medallion bearing the name of Jesus as a symbol of repentance, only for them to cast if off again (and resume their cards and dice) when they learned that he had joined Jehanne and the Armagnacs and was persuading Burgundian towns to renounce their allegiance. By drawing their attention to how easily Brother Richard had deceived them, Graverent forcibly reminded the Parisians that they should trust the church’s judgement and not allow other false prophets to exploit their credulity.21

The story of the Pucelle seems to us so extraordinary and iconic that we tend to forget that, to contemporaries, she was by no means unique. As Graverent pointed out, she was just one of four women linked to Brother Richard who had come to the attention of the authorities. Pieronne the Breton and her companion were both penitent followers of Brother Richard; they had been with him and Jehanne at Sully-sur-Loire and were captured at Corbeil in the spring of 1430. The companion was released after interrogation but Pieronne had stoutly defended Jehanne, saying that ‘what she did was well done and was God’s will’. She too was tried for heresy: like Jehanne, she had received communion from Brother Richard more than once in a day, which was in breach of canon law. More importantly, she insisted that God had appeared to her repeatedly in human form, dressed in a long white robe over a red tunic, and talked to her ‘as one friend does to another’. She refused to recant and was also burned at the stake as a heretic, just a few months before Jehanne, on 3 September 1430 in Paris.22

Catherine de la Rochelle was arrested in Paris in December 1430 and actually gave evidence against Jehanne, telling her interrogators that the Pucelle ‘would escape from her prison with the devil’s aid if she were not well guarded’. The two women had met under Brother Richard’s aegis at Jargeau and Montfaucon but had soon fallen out. Like Jehanne, Catherine believed she had a divinely appointed mission, revealed to her in visions by a white lady dressed in cloth of gold. The lady told her that Charles VII would give her heralds and trumpeters to accompany her on a journey through the major towns of France, proclaiming that anyone who had hidden gold, silver or treasure should bring it to them immediately: if they refused or kept it hidden, Catherine would discover its whereabouts by means of divine revelation. In this way, Catherine claimed, she would raise the money to pay for Jehanne’s men-at-arms.

With an irony that was not lost on the judges at her trial, Jehanne, who had never thought to prove that her own revelations were real, insisted on putting her rival visionary’s claims to the test, spending two nights watching over her as she slept, but failing to see the white lady with her own eyes. Brother Richard had been keen to set Catherine to work but Jehanne was scornfully dismissive, telling them both, and Charles VII as well, that her own saints had informed her that Catherine’s visions were ‘all nothing’ and ‘just madness’. Catherine, she said, should return to her husband, do her housework and look after her children, which is presumably exactly what she did do when she abjured and was released in June 1431, shortly after Jehanne’s execution.23

There was an additional irony in that Brother Richard was also in prison during the Pucelle’s trial, but not in the English kingdom of France. Despite his advocacy of the then dauphin during the coronation campaign and his closeness to the queen, Marie d’Anjou, on 23 March 1431 the parlement of Poitiers granted the request of the bishop of Poitiers and the inquisitor for orders to place him under house arrest in the local Franciscan convent and to prohibit him from preaching anywhere within their jurisdiction. The arresting officers were authorised to seize him, ‘even if he was in a sacred place’, and he was duly taken on the very day Charles VII made his formal entry into Poitiers. The imminent arrival of their king had clearly frightened the authorities into removing Brother Richard from the scene for fear that his powerful oratory might be unleashed publicly on behalf of the Pucelle and, worse still, that he might appeal personally to Charles to save her. Such an embarrassment could not be countenanced.24

The sad truth was that the Pucelle had served her purpose and the Armagnacs had washed their hands of her. The church authorities were the first to distance themselves. Regnault de Chartres had never really approved of her because she championed the view that ‘peace would not be found except at the end of a lance’; he had already written to his bishops informing them that God had allowed Jehanne to be captured ‘because she had puffed herself up with pride and because of the rich garments which she had adopted, and because she had not done what God had commanded her, but had done her own will’.25

Charles made no such excuses but he did nothing whatsoever to assist his champion. He could have offered a huge ransom to obtain her release: he did not. He could have ordered Regnault de Chartres, as archbishop of Reims, to exercise his superior authority over Pierre Cauchon so that the trial could be transferred to Armagnac jurisdiction: he did not. He could have appealed on Jehanne’s behalf to the new pope, Eugenius IV, elected on 3 March 1431, eleven days after the death of Martin V: he did not. Charles had always known that there would be risks in associating himself with someone as unorthodox as Jehanne. He would not, and could not, help her now because to do so would implicate him as the harbourer and supporter of a heretic. It would also draw attention to the fact that ‘the most Christian king of France’ owed his coronation not to God but to a woman accused, and later convicted, of being in league with the devil. For these reasons he maintained a discreet distance from the proceedings in Rouen and never once, in the twenty years following her capture, commented on the Pucelle and her fate.26

In any case, as Regnault de Chartres callously remarked when Jehanne was first captured, the Armagnacs had already found her successor, a young shepherd boy from the Auvergne ‘who talks just as well as Jehanne ever did’. Guillaume le Berger, as he was popularly known, ‘caused people to idolise him’ because, like Saint Francis, he bore the stigmata, bloody marks on his hands, feet and side which reproduced the five wounds Christ received on the cross. This literally marked him out as a holy man and he too claimed that he had been sent by God. Unlike Jehanne, who rode astride her horse like a man, the shepherd rode side-saddle, like a woman, and, as both friend and foe alleged, was either insane or a simpleton.27

There seems little doubt that the Armagnacs deliberately set out ‘to exalt his reputation, just as, and in the same way that, they had previously done with Jehanne the Pucelle’. It was therefore something of a triumph for the English when he was captured before his career could properly begin. In August 1431 an Armagnac force from Beauvais was lured out of the town and ambushed in what would appear to have been a joint operation by the earls of Warwick and Arundel. Guillaume le Berger was one of those taken prisoner, together with an altogether more significant figure, Poton de Xaintrailles. For Warwick this was an especially lucky chance, since his own son-in-law, John Talbot, was Xaintrailles’s prisoner, enabling negotiations for an exchange of the two men to begin.28

The execution of the Pucelle seems to have changed the fortunes of the English, for Xaintrailles was not the only feared Armagnac captain to lose his liberty this summer. In the very week that Jehanne was burned, ‘the worst, cruellest, most pitiless’ of them all, La Hire, was captured and committed to the castle of Dourdon, close to La-Charité-sur-Loire. A few weeks later, on 2 July, the sire de Barbazan, whom La Hire had rescued from his long incarceration at Château Gaillard the previous year, was killed in a battle against Burgundian forces at Bulgnéville, twenty miles south-west of the Pucelle’s home village of Domrémy. René d’Anjou, Charles VII’s brother-in-law and confidant, was taken prisoner in the same battle, temporarily ending his struggle to assert himself as duke of Bar by right of his wife.29

The capture of La Hire deprived Louviers of its captain and may have been connected with the siege which began at the end of May. Louviers was a fortified town just eighteen miles south of Rouen, on the south bank of the Seine. It had been in Armagnac hands since December 1429 and, as we have seen, the garrison had plagued English shipping, preventing convoys of supplies getting upriver to Paris. The siege therefore began with an ingenious attempt to lure the Armagnacs out from behind their walls so that they could be ambushed. Two ships fully laden with wheat were dispatched from Rouen without a military escort or an enemy safe-conduct, but the garrison did not fall for the ruse and so a full-scale siege was implemented.30

The estates-general of Normandy, meeting in June 1431, allocated a third of its 150,000l.t. (£8.75m) tax-grant for the recovery of Louviers, with an extra 20,000l.t. (£1.17m) to pay the wages of the four hundred men-at-arms and twelve hundred archers from the duchy in the army there. Men had been withdrawn from garrisons all over Normandy for the siege, including a quarter of those stationed at Honfleur; they had the gratification of taking their revenge for the fact that, some months earlier, La Hire had led a raid from Louviers and burned the suburbs of their town.31

So many men were committed to the siege that providing provender for all their horses in the immediate locality became a major problem. Some of the archers and valets were therefore employed to take the horses further afield to graze. Their captains later complained that the treasury, adhering to its usual strictly literal interpretation of ‘being at the siege’, refused to pay their wages, even though the reason for their absence was marked on the musters.32

It would take five months to force Louviers to surrender and the English captain, Thomas Beaufort, died there three weeks before it did so, but on 25 October 1431 the garrison was allowed to leave with full honours and Louviers once more became English. Not that this prevented the soldiers from looting the town or the authorities from razing the walls, a measure designed both as a punishment for the citizens’ treachery, which had allowed La Hire to seize it in the first place, and to prevent it becoming an Armagnac fortress again.33

The recapture of Louviers opened up the route to Paris, making it possible for Henry VI to pay his first visit to the capital of his French kingdom. Just as his landing in France nineteen months earlier had been carefully timed to take place on Saint George’s Day, so his arrival in Paris was choreographed for maximum effect. He arrived with his entourage to pay the customary royal visit to the abbey of Saint-Denis, where his mother’s ancestors lay buried, on 30 November 1431, which was Saint Andrew’s Day, the patron saint of the Burgundians. Two days later, on the Sunday which was the first day in Advent, he made his ceremonial entry into Paris. He was escorted into the city by Simon Morhier, the provost, and a group of aldermen who carried a blue canopy, spangled with the fleurs-de-lis of France, over his head. All the government officials came to greet him, wearing their colourful red and blue robes of state, led by Philippe de Morvilliers, the first president of the parlement.34

Every ceremonial entry to a town was accompanied by extravagant pageantry designed to impress the king with the loyalty of his subjects and persuade him to look favourably upon them. Often there was an overtly political message behind the visual displays but in this instance it was curiously lacking. Perhaps in deference to the king’s age, the citizens who organised and paid for the proceedings chose entertainment, rather than propaganda, as the theme. The king’s procession was therefore led by the Nine Worthies,35 the greatest warriors the world had ever known, and their female counterparts, though it also included the unfortunate Guillaume le Berger, bound with rope ‘like a thief’, who would disappear at the end of the day, supposedly having been thrown into the Seine to drown. At various points along the way the king was treated to tableaux and plays which included mermaids, wild men and a stag hunt, as well as a representation of the arms of Paris (a ship containing three people symbolising the church, university and citizens), the martyrdom of Saint Denis and the usual biblical scenes.

The only overtly political tableau was staged in front of the Châtelet, the seat of the provost of Paris. It was not paid for out of municipal funds, suggesting that it had been arranged and sponsored by Simon Morhier, possibly acting on behalf of the great council, of which he was a leading member. The scene was a physical representation of the Treaty of Troyes: a boy about Henry’s age, clothed in fleurs-de-lis and wearing two crowns on his head, supported on one side by the duke of Burgundy and count of Nevers, and on the other by the duke of Bedford and the earls of Warwick and Salisbury, each presenting him with a shield bearing the respective coats-of-arms of France and England.36

On 16 December 1431, the third Sunday in Advent and ten days after his tenth birthday, Henry VI achieved the ambition for which his father had fought and died. He was crowned and consecrated king of France.37

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