Joan of Arc in Vaucouleurs: the beginning of a great adventure

Chapel and porte de FranceChapel and porte de France | ©BRUNNER Emmanuel / CC-BY-SA

Joan of Arc in Vaucouleurs

A kid with her torn dress

May 13th 1428. Hundred Years War. We were in Vaucouleurs, a French garrison in the heart of a land allied with Burgundians and English.

In the castle, Robert, lord de Baudricourt, governor of Vaucouleurs, had a very particular visit… from a young girl, about 16, coming from Domrémy with her cousin, Durant Laxart.

She rushed in the castle’s biggest room with ″a poor red dress, all patched up″, with a pale and skinny face, but with bright blue eyes.

Her voices told her to go in Vaucouleurs, in the only French garrison next to her home.

She had to go to Chinon, to talk to the dauphin of her mission, she needed men and horses!

Hey, did you recognize her? She was Joan of Arc!

Well... God send me!

A chat began between them. Joan said:

- ″Tell the dauphin he has to wait before waging war to his enemies. Because my Lord will send him help after the next Lent. The dauphin will become a king, despite the war and the enemies. And I will crown him in Reims.″

- ″Your Lord? Who is he?″ asked Baudricourt.

- ″God″, answered Joan.

This answer let Robert completely flabbergasted.

He quickly looked at this girl, here, standing in front of him, so calm and determined.

She knew what she wanted… But he sent Joan back home, yelling she was crazy!

Joan champed at the bit!

But Joan was pretty stubborn! She came back a second time to see Baudricourt, in vain.

So she settled in Vaucouleurs, at the Le Royer’s house. Catherine Le Royer said they spinned the wool together to fill the time…

But Joan lost her patience, she wanted to go for her mission.

She found supports among Baudricourt’s soldiers: Bertrand de Poulengy and Jean de Metz.

But the English besieged Vaucouleurs!

So, Robert thought again about this young girl, and what she said about enemies...

Robert, let me go!

Joan could not resist more: she went to Baudricourt, for the third time.

Come, on Robert! She needed men to escort her in Chinon!!

She said she already lost time, that the dauphin had lost a battle near Orléans. She had to go NOW! But Robert didn’t believe her…

Yeah, but 10 days later, a messenger told him France lost the battle of Herrings, in Orléans…

OK, OK, this damned girl was right. Robert gave her a sword and a troop.

Vaucouleurs’ people loved her, so they bought her a horse and men clothes. And before she left, she cut her hairs pudding-bowl!

Joan exorcised in Vaucouleurs!

But before her going, Robert still thought Joan was a suspect person.

So he asked the priest of Vaucouleurs, Jean Fournier, to exorcise the girl! Maybe the Devil sent her…

The priest arrived and did so: ″If you’re an evil thing, back from me. If you’re a good thing, come closer.″

Joan quietly knelt next to the priest, but she was not happy. She said: ″You did a bad thing. You knew that I wasn’t possessed.″

Finally reassured, Robert let her go, shouting his famous: ″Go, girl of God, and come what may!″

The departure took place in the evening of February 23th 1429.

6 men went with her and made the oath to ″lead her to the king″ in Vaucouleurs castle’s vastest room.

A French bastion

The first mention of a stronghold in Vaucouleurs dates back to the 11th century: in 1026, Etienne de Vaux raised a first castle.

Abandoned to dangerous crooks, it was destroyed twice by dukes of Lorraine and re-raised in 1069 by Geoffroy le Vieil, lord of Vaucouleurs.

And in 1335, Vaucouleurs was annexed by the French kingdom, after an exchange with the king.

So Vaucouleurs became a royal city, the king’s direct fief! He had a garrison with soldiers here.

A captain like our Robert de Baudricourt, during the Hundred Years War, a ″brave and clever soldier″.

Around, all the cities were English. Except Vaucouleurs, who resisted.

In fact, in 1428, the king of France only had 4 strongholds, at the north of river Loire: Orléans, the Mont-Saint-Michel, Tournay and Vaucouleurs!

The castle’s remains

We can see the upper part of the gate of France (restored in the 17th c.): the gate where Joan left the city with her troop!

Hey, look: this big and old lime tree probably dates back to Joan’s time!

We also can see the crypt of the old castle’s chapel: the chapel’s cleric, Jean Le Fumeux, saw the Maid everyday here, during her sojourn.

She attended the Mass on mornings and stayed for hours in front of the statue of Notre-Dame-des-Voûtes...