SIEGE OF ORLÉANS (1428-1429)

Siege of Orléans (1428-29).
(Detail of image from manuscript Vigiles de Charles VII (c.1483) held by BNF).

Strategic Background Opening Campaign (1428-29) Strategic Map
Siege Map The Relief (1429) French 4-7 May Attacks
Loire Valley Campaign (1429) March to Reims (1429) Summary and Analysis
Today Bibliography Chronology

Strategic Background

In spite of his great victory at Agincourt (1415) and the Treaty of Troyes (1420), Henry V of England died in August 1422 with his dream of becoming king of France unrealized. Henry V's brother, John of Monmouth and the duke of Bedford, was left as regent of English-occupied France, charged with obtaining the elusive French crown for his nephew, the infant Henry VI (son of the late Henry V and his queen, Catherine de Valois). The English position was that, by the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, Henry VI should inherit the French crown upon the death of Charles VI of France, who died a few weeks after Henry V. However, the terms of the treaty forced upon a mentally deranged king were not accepted by a significant number -- very probably a majority -- of French. The Hundred Years' War was to continue and begin to enter the crucial final phase.

Duke Bedford, appreciated the serious challenge that remained to secure the French crown for the English king. He knew that much of what the England claimed in northern France was being occupied actually by the cooperation of the dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, neither of whom could be trusted should English military prowess falter. A particular obstruction to the English conquest was the challenging claim of Charles VII as king of France, who was supported by the surviving leaders of houses of Armagnac, Orléans, and Anjou.

Though they occupied Paris with the Burgundians, the English prefered to 'rule' from their 'capital' in Normandy -- Rouen. Much of the region immediately to the east of Paris and to the border of France was no-mans land to the east -- a region of continious raiding and towns suddenly changed hands. Even 'conquered' Normandy remained contested, as the English had to recapture towns and small fortresses. A de facto line, rougly along the Loire River, divided the regions of Anglo-Burgundian occupation from what Charles VII still held. Most of southern France remained loyal with the exception of the unique region of Guyenne. This region, long held by the duke-kings of England remained stagnant area in early part of the last phase of the Hundred Years' War. There were certainly much fighting, but it was mostly at the level of border raids between the western costal region, loyal to the English duke-king and the pro-Valois French regions to the east. The Lancasterian aggression placed its emphasis in Northern France, for it was here that it was most aided by the Burgundian alliance.

The military weakness of the royal forces inherited by Charles VII is evidenced in the Battles of Cravant (31 July 1423) and Verneuil (16 August 1424). Each delivered crushing blows to two French armies. Confirming the English military superiority in openfield battles. In particular the English battlefield prowess that relied on the longbow plus mounted men-at-arms tactical scheme, which had proved so effective since Crécy. At the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years' War, Charles V of France had sucessfully responded to the English advantage by forcing the English to engage in costly sieges, which in time proved to be prohibitively expensive. Extended siege warfare against a society with many prepared fortified towns and castles was beyond the capability of the English (or any army) at the time. Even with the addition of gunpowder artillery -- still in its development stages up to the early fifteenth century -- the English forces had to pay a heavy price to suceed in a siege against the better fortified French cities, as evidenced with Henry V's last great siege of Meaux (1422). While sieges were not prefered, they proved necessary to complete a conquest if the oponent did not come out and engage in the open field. Important fortified locations had to be controlled if one wanted to rule.

The limits of siege warfare, even with gunpowder artillery, can best be appreciated by the English unsuccessful attempts to take the uniquely situtatied Mont Saint Michel, on the western coat of Normandy. The English besieged this abby-city-fortress between 1423-1425. The story of its resistance spread wide. It was part of the background where in a young girl, on the far eastern edge of the dispited terroritores (in the valley of the Meuse), was to 'hear the instructons from St Michel' that she should go to the aid France.

Folowing their victories at the battles of Cravant and Verneuil, the English felt in position to go after Charles VII, which meant invading south of the Loire River. The city of Orléans was the obvious bridgehead for the grand offensive. (Though Bedford would rather have consolidated his claim to Anjou first.)


Opening of the Campaign (1428-29)

In 1428 the English advanced into the Loire Valley. Their objective was Orléans, one of the key strategic, fortified cities on the Loire River [others: being Angers, Tours, and Blois] and formidable bastions of the Valois cause. Orléans, in particular, was a bridghead south into the regions of Berry, of the Bourbonnais, and of Poitou, which were the vital substance in maintaining the 'king of Bourges'. If these were conquered, Charles VII would be left only with Languedoc and Dauphiné.

One year after being repulsed from siege of Montargis, the earl of Salisbury returned to France, landing in June at Calas with 6,000 English troops. Duke Bedford added another 4,000 from garrisons of Normandy, and this army proceeded to retake Chartres and four nearby towns by late August 1428. The English went on to take Janville and some minor towns enroute. Janville and one of the small towns, Puiset, had to be assaulted. Salisbury then drove on south to the Loire, where he captured easily Meung on 8 September. Beaugency was besieged 20-25 September, and forced to surrender 26 September. After securing these towns downstream of Orléans, Salisbury sent William de la Pole upstream to attacked Jargeau on 7 October. The town was taken in three days, and Chateauheuf (upstream 10 miles) also fell. La Pole joined Sailsbury at Olivet, a southern suburb of Orléans, on 12 October, 1428. Having to deploy some of their force as garrisons in the many captured towns, the English force before Orléans was estimated to have been about 4,000.

Initial Assault and Partial Investment.
The southern side of Orléans had a approx 400 yards wide river and a stone bridge of nineteen arches. The north end of the bridge entered Orléans via a gatehouse. The south end had a two-towered fortress gatehouse, called 'Les Tourelles'. A drawbridge connected Les Tourelles to the a barbican on the river's southern bank. This barbican [called a 'boulevard' in many accounts] was an enclosed compound, with earthwork, wood timber, and part masonry walls.

The English concentrated their initial attacks at the southern entrance to Orléans. They bombarded the barbican and Les Tourelles with siege artillery for two days, before attempting a direct assault. When the English began minning, the French defenders abandoned the barbican, and soon after Les Tourelles on 23 October 1429. The French withdrew partly across the stone bridge over the river, destroying one of the arches south of the 'bastille' [another towered gatehouse] on the Ile de St-Antoine, over which the bridge passed. The English occupied the barbican, repaired their own bombardment damage to Les Tourelles, and further fortified the convent of Les Augustins (just south of of the barbican). The English also appear to have destroyed one of the bridge arches just north of Les Tourelles [Some authors believe that this too was destroyed by the French when withdrawing].

On 24 October, the English commander, Salisbury, ascended one of the two towers to survey the French positions. A cannon ball from one of the French wall guns crashed through the window. Debris from the shot tore away half of the English commander's face. He died about a week later in the city of Meung.


Strategic Map

Siege Map

The earl of Suffolk assumed command. He withdrew forces from Orléans, leaving only Glasdale with a small garrison in Les Tourelles. Bedford sent lords Talbot and Scales with more reinforcements. They arrived on 1 Dec 1428. Suffolk was replaced in command by Talbot, and the the English troops were ordered back to their positions in front of Orléans. Talbot positioned the majority of the English to the north bank, and constructed a large siegework around the church of St. Laurent [Bastille de St-Laurent (west of the city)] which became his headquarters. Other siegeworks constructed were: Bastille de Ile de Charlemagne (an island in the river, south of St Laurent), and on the south bank, around the church of St. Prive [Bastille on Champ de St-Prive]. Glasdale occupied Les Tourelles and Les Augustins.

The English continued to construct a complex of strongoints in an attempt to surround the land approach to Orléans. However, the English managed to cover only the nortwest area with the Bastaille de la Croix Boissé, Bastille dez Douze Pierres, Bastille de Pressoir-ars, and Bastille de St-Pouair. The last three were given nicknames by the English: 'London', 'Rouen', and 'Paris'. These 'bastilles' were connected by a fosse and extended to the north, in an arc from St Laurent.

To the east of Orléans, Suffolk constructed a strongpoint at the church of St. Loup [Bastille de St-Loup], and another on the south bank of the Loire around the church of St. Jean Le Blanc [Bastille de St-Jean Le Blanc].

During the winter of 1428-29, the English were reinforced by approximately 1,500 Burgundians. It appears that they were used to cover the large gap in the siege besieging positions to the north and east of the city. A suspected siegework near the large forest to the northeast was never finished.
Orléans' Defenses and Preparations.
Anticipating the English siege, the people of Orléans further fortified their town, and burned the suburbs so as to deny the English food or any comfort. The garrison numbered only five hundred men, but many were experienced soldiers. The citizens formed thirty-four militia companies, and assigned crews to defend each of the thirty-four city wall towers. Orléans was well equipped with gunpowder artillery and, it appears as the events unfold, had better managed guns than was the case of the besiegers.

Jean de Orléans, known as 'the Bastard of Orléans' [though he did not yet hold the title as 'comte de Dunois', he will be referred to as 'Dunois' in this text], entered Orléans soon after Salisbury's death. Dunois was accompanied by six or seven hundred soldiers. Others followed, until gradually there were about seven thousand in Orléans. Dunois would be the war-leader for the defense of the city. However, he would be 'out-ranked' by some of the other nobleman who held important command positions in the make-shift, royal army of Charles VII at this time. While Dunois could direct specific operations in the city's defense, he had no authority in any grand strategy or employment of forces outside of the city.

By January 1429, Charles VII had assembled a relief force to go to Orléans. In February, this relief army deployed to Blois. This army was led by the traditional group of nobles, who decided to intercept a simple English resupply train from Paris. The outcome was to be known as 'the Day of the Herrings'. This disaster for the French is covered on another page, at The Battle of the Herrings.


The Relief (1429)

Following the disaster of 'the Day of the Herrings' in February, the situtation looked ominous for the city's survival. The English continued to strengthen their circumvallations. They evidently planned to reduce the town by famine. Four months had passed, and provisions in the town began to be scarce. In the town, the situtation became serious as some of the French nobility disgracefully abandoned the city. Charles VII appeared distant to the situtation, if not indolent. However, two fortunate developments altered the empending course of events.

First there was the defection of the Burgundians from the siege operations. In a strange twist, this occured due to the city, in despair, making an offer in February 1429 to be put under the protection of the duc de Bourgogne. This proposal was refused by the English regent, Bedford. This sparked a rift in the Anglo-Burgundian alliance, and Philippe de Bourgogne withdrew his contingents from the siege during March. The reverse was significant enough that some suspect that the offer was a ploy inspired by the French court. Whatever the origin of the offer, the net effect was to draw down even further the seriously undersized besieging force. The city of Orléans could not be entirely cut-off and supplies, and some reinforcements as well as more professional warriors did reach the city.

Almost concurrently, a more significant development occured at Chinon, where Charles VII (age 26) held court in early March. On 4 March, a girl of about 19 years, arrived in the city after a long journy under light escort from her home region at the distant eastern edge of the realm. She was Jeanne Darc, better known in history, and so addressed further in this text, as 'Jeanne d'Arc'. During her time she was called 'la Pucelle' ('the Maid'), or 'Jeannette'.

Jeanne's journey was evidence that the fate of Orléans had aroused feelings in other parts of France. She met with Charles, whom she addressed as 'my Dauphin' on 6 March. Her simple requst was to lead an army to the relief of Orléans. Her 'authority' and 'credentials' for such a mission were based upon 'voices' of saints who had been instructing her for some years. The real 'miracle' in her story is that she was seriously received by this cynical court. The court had been alerted of her arrival and there was already rumored public interest and sympathy to offset the significant suspicions of a witchcraft that surrounded such event in this era. Nevertheless, Jeanne passed examinations for virginity and for possible heresy. Soon after she was provided special armor and a mount, and sent to join a recently raised army at Blois.

Much of Jeanne's story is controversial, though documented as much as anyone's in history -- unless they wrote a daily diary. Her appearance on the scene definitely reflected a significant segiment of popular emotion in France in support of the Valois cause. She came from a village that had suffered many raids by bands of English and Burgundian 'grandes compagnies'. While the situtation caused fustration toward the French authorities, it created even stronger resentment toward the English. Although in the same general region there were villages that associated with the Burgundians, if not necessarily with the English.

Jeanne came upon the scene with strongly held religious beliefs. Reportedly as early as 1423, 'her voices' (no one else heard them) directed her to go forth and save France and its king, Charles VII. Militarily it is not important whether she heard the voices so much as she believed that she did. The next important aspects about her were her self-confidence, and ability to see the immedieate situation in simple terms that often cut through the cautious concerns of the experienced warriors who accompanied her. Her decisions were successful in many instanaces, and she was quickly supported where she errored -- at least in the summer operations of 1429.

The brief, dramatic story of Jeanne d'Arc that began when she departed from her home in the duchy of Bar focus around five journeys, or expeditions, that are summarized in a separate webpage: Les chevauchées de Jeanne d'Arc. A link to this is provided at the bottom of this page. This page concerns only her 'second' chevauchée of 1429, that was the relief of Orléans and evolved into the broader 'Loire Valley Campaign'.

By the time Jeanne's 'army' began its march to relieve Orléans, the besiegers were not in much better straits than the city. Some estimates had the English reduced to 5,000 or less due to losses and desertions. In the city, the French defenders were a mixture of mercenaries and adventurous noblemen motivated by individual interests, only a few considered themselves in the service of the king or held long term interests in the city.

On 28 April, Jeanne d'Arc accompanied the army that marched out of Blois and proceeded along the south bank of the Loire. She did not 'lead' this army, as she was not aware of its exact route, and discovered later that the avenue of march and the exact mission were not as she had thought. The army's route of march avoided English outposts and arrived upstream, or northeast, of Orléans. Jeanne was reportedly angered that the relief army was on the southern bank and not directly facing the main English force beseiging Orléans, which was on the northern bank. She was compelled to cross to the northern bank to meet Dunois at Chécy [Chezy], upstream and east of Orléans. It was apparant that Jeanne did not appreciate that the purpose of the 'upstream' location was to facilitae moving the supplies the army had escorted on the final leg by barges into the city of Orléans, downstream. Another problem for Jeanne was the fact that she could cross the Loire with only a few others to the northern bank. The 'relief' army she was with was actually only an 'escort' for her and the supplies. If the army were ever to enter Orléans as a 'relief' force it had to return to Blois and march up the northen bank. There were simply no fordable locations upstream of Blois. No doubt, the French commanders knew of this well beforehand. The safe convoy of supplies and the deliverance of 'the Maid' were the real mission at the moment.

The supplies were barged in during a diversionary attack (ordered by Dunois) against the only English fort east of the city. Jeanne spent the night of the 28th at Chécy, and entered Orléans, via the Burgundy Gate on the east, on the evening of 29 April 1429.

Jeanne d'Arc entering Orléans on 29 April 1429.
Painting by Scherrer (c.1870).


French 4-7 May Attacks

Once in the city of Orléans, Jeanne d'Arc spent the first few days appearing on the city's ramparts before the enemy positions, yelling out threats and enduring English insults. (The distances between the walls of the city and the English strongpoints suggest astounding vocal projection on the part of the participants.) On 30 April, she went to the rampart of the small, wooden fort that the French had constructed south of the 'bastille' on Ile de St-antoine, and just north of one of the destroyed arches to the bridge. [This fort is referred to in some accounts as 'Ile Belle-Croix', after the small island which supported the arch at that point.] From the ramparts, Jeanne held a shouting verbal exchange with the English captain, William Glasdale. With an escort, Jeanne approached the English siege position twice, to inquire about her two heralds whom the English held prisoners.

On 1 May, Dunois departed Orléans to retreive the Royal army from Blois. The following two days Jeanne rode about the city, mounting the ramparts to reconnoiter the English. On 3 May, she participated in the procession celebrating the 'Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross'.

Dunois and Gilles de Rais returned to Orléans along the north bank of the Loire on 4 May. They entered the city by either the Parisis gate or Burgundy gate. To allow for supplies they were escorting to get into the city, Dunois instigated what was to have been a mere diversionary attack against the isolate English 'bastille' at St. Loup, to the east of Orléans. What began as a skirmish evolved by mid-afternoon into a mini-battle between the St. Loup garrison and the French. Awakened from a mid-day sleep, Jeanne mounted her horse and exited the Burgundy gate. She was followed by large force of the town militia who joined in the fight. The English siege commander, Talbot, started to lead a force from his position, and were the English troops were concentrated, west of the city. Dunois countered Talbot's move by launching an attack from the city against the English 'bastille' of St. Pouair (Paris). Talbot was forced to divert his relief force to defend St. Pouair, leaving St. Loup to be overwhelmed by the French.

On 5 May, The English evacuated some of their 'bastilles' south of the Loire, to concentrate their strength at the complex at Les Tourelles (including the barbican and the fortified convent of Les Augustins), and to a lesser extent at the 'bastille' at St. Jean-le-Blanc.

French attacks on 6 May 1429. (1) First attack is, repulsed by English counterattack which, in turn, is repulsed by second French attack (2) led by mounted men-at-arms that drove the English back to the barbican/'boulevard'.

On 6 May, Jeanne accompanied a force of militia and men-at-arms out through the Burgundy gate and down to the banks of the Loire. They crossed the river in boats to Ile-aux-Toiles. Seeing the size of the French force approaching, the English garrison at St. Jean Le Blanc withdrew to Les Augustins. From Ile-aux-Toiles, the French constructed a ponton-bridge to reach the southern bank. As the English had already abandoned the St. Jean Le Blanc 'bastille', the first French infantry to cross immediatley turned west to assault the fortified convent of Les Augustins. As the infantry executed their piecemeal attack (a large number of the French were still crossing over Ile-aux-Toiles), the La Hire and Jeanne d'Arc assembled a small number of mounted men-at-arms to the west of the 'bastille' St. Jean Le Blanc.

At Les Augustins, the English had about 500 men, who repulsed the initial French attacks with arrows, crossbow bolts and canonballs. The French militia repeated several assualts throughout the afternoon. Their goal was to fill the ditched with faggots in an effort to set fire to the wooden outworks. The assault lost steam by late afternoon. Recognizing the weakening in the French efforts, the English launched a counter attack. La Hire, who had completed assembling a small host of mounted men-at-arms, countered by launching a French charge which threw the English back into their fortifications. The French infantry militia regained their agressivness with the arrival of some reinforcements that had crossed the river. A final French assault managed to break into the Augustins. All the time, Talbot was unable to send aid due to Dunois launching sorties against the Englsh 'bastille' at St. Laurent. Jeanne particiapted in the assault on Augustins and reportedly was 'wounded' in the foot by stepping on a chausse-trappe.

During the night of 6 May, Talbot withdrew the garrisons from the bastilles at St. Privie and Ile de Charlemagne, and concenrated his forces on the north bank. This left the English garrison on the south bank isolated in Les Tourelles and its adjacent barbican. The day ended with the French occupation of St Jean le Blanc and Les Augustins.

Besides Jeanne, Dunois, Alençon, La Hire, and Ponton de Xaintrailles the French mem-at-arms most mentioned in various accounts of this 'liberation of Orléans' are: the marechal de Rais, sieur de Gaucourt, sieur de Graville, Guillaume de Chaumont, sieur de Guitry, Raimon Arnaut, sieur de Coarraze [?]e Béarn, Denis de Chailly, Louis de Culen, Florent d'Illiers, Le Bourg de Masquaren, Thibaut de Termes, and Archambault de Villars. Also mentioned are some 'gunners' who were noted to play the roll of marksmen, or 'sharpshooters' using what had to be small guns -- usually called 'culverins'. From the range that these gunners 'picked-off' individuals it is doubtful if these were true handguns. However, they were certainly not crew-served bombardment pieces. One of the gunners was a Spaniard called Alfonso de Patada, mentioned taking part in the attacks of 4 and 7 March. Another was 'master' Jean de Montesiler from Lorraine, who was very active from the early days of the siege.

French attacks on 7 May 1429.

Jeanne spent the night of 6 May at Orléans. On the morning of 7 May, she crossed the river and joined the other commanders that had gathered to the east of Les Tourelles and its adjacent barbican [or 'boulevard']. The barbican was an imposing earth, wood, and stone walled enclosure. Part of the wall may have consisted of narrow masonry walled buildings [based upon a drawing of a much later date, and the top such structures could have served as ramparts]. This barbican was surrounded by a water-filled moat on all but its north side, which bordered the river. On the barbican's east side was a drawbridge leading over the moat. Another drawbridge was at the entrance to the north that led to Les Tourelles itself.

The French launched a probing attack around 0800. It was determined to fill the ditch with faggots. The militia was assigned the task. The task was completed about 1300 hours. Jeanne accompanied the army when it moved forward with scaling ladders. She was felled by an arrow as she attempted to climb one of the ladders. [Her second injury -- her first serious one.]

"Enter, ... for the city is yours!" Jeanne d'Arc calls out as her banner was carried to the wall of the barbican before Les Tourelles, So is recorded the climatic moment of the French attack against the English stronghold at the siege of Orléans. (Detail of twentieth-century watercolor illustration by William Rainey from Mary Macgregor's The Story of France.

Jeanne's wound (just below the shoulder and neck line) was painful and forced her to withdraw from the assault. As the day progressed, the French became discouraged in their efforts, and Dunois considered calling off the attack for the day. Jeanne persuaded him to delay doing so as she retired to pray privately. In the meantime, her standard was held by a soldier called 'Le Basque', who advanced to the moat before the barbican with the banner as Jeanne returned from her praying. The accounts are confusing whether Jeanne attempted to take her banner, or that others may have directed that the banner be waved in an effort to rally another attack. Whatever provoked the jesture, the appearance of Jeanne's banner advancing to the wall of the barbican incited a vigorous final response by the French, who successfully penetrated the barbican.

Concurrenlty, the French had floated a fired barge beneath the drawbridge between Les Tourelles and the barbican. The fire weakened the bridge so that it collapsed as the English commander and his last contingent of soldiers attempted to cross and retreat into the gatehouse. Meantime, militia from the city spanned the destroyed sections of the bridge between Les Tourelles and the city, and assaulted the gatehouse from the north. This attack resulted in seizure of Les Tourelles. Late in the evening of 7 March, Jeanne and many of the French warriors returned to Orléans by way of the Loire bridge.

The next morning, 8 May, the English came out from their remaining bastilles northwest of the city and formed up for battle. It is assumed that the English commander, Suffolk, positioned what longbowmen he had in usual English tactical position for the time. But the French forces, emerged from behind the city walls, did not oblige. Jeanne is reported to have counseled against an attack, and instead directed that a Sunday mass be conducted in the open. It should also be noted that several of her companions-in-arms had experienced first hand the feutility of advancing into another Crecy, etc. Fortunately there were not present some high nobles who would recklessly push aside prudence. The English were left with no option but to turn and to withdraw from Orléans. Some of the French proceeded to conduct minor attacks upon the English column retreating to Meung.

Jeanne d'Arc announces the delivery of Orléans to Charles VII [at Tours on 10 May or a second ceremony at the château de Loches on 13 May]. (Detail of image held by Centre d'Jeanne d'Arc, Orléans, France.)


Loire Valley Campaign (May-June 1429)

Charles VII left Chinon and met Jeanne at Tours on 10 May. The same day, Dunois, Ponton, and maréchal de Saint-Sévère attempted to take Jargeau. They gave up the siege after the 11th and joined Charles VII and Jeanne at Loches on 13 May. Plans were made to liberate the various English-held towns in the nearby Loire region. As the army was readied with a siege train, Jeanne visited Jean d'Alençon's family at Saint-Florent-lès-Saumur. She was hosted at various other places until returning to join the army at Orléans on 9 June. On the same day, the army departed on the 'Loire Valley Campaign'.

The royal army, probably 8,000 strong and under the command of duc d'Alençon, marched along the southern bank of Loire to besiege Jargeau, which was defended by an English garrison under Suffolk. On the 10th more forces came with Dunois and Florent d'Illiers from Châteaudun. As the French army came close to Jargeau they met and repelled a sortie by the English. Jeanne and her banner were in the midst of the battle. The first assaults and bombardment began 11 June. The French scaled Jargeau's walls on th 12th. During this action, Jeanne was struck in the head, a stone knocking her helmet off and her to the ground. She rose swiftly and cheered on the assault. Jargeau fell and Suffolk was taken prisoner by the end of the 12th.

The French army immediately marched back to Orléans (13 June), and moved down the Loire's south bank until opposite Meung on 14 June. In a night attack, the French merely secured a small guardhouse at the southern end of the bridge that crossed the river to Meung-sur-Loire.

On the 15th, the French proceeded down to the south bank to besiege Beaugency. Bombardment continued through to the 16th, and the town surrendered. The English garrison, commanded by William Gough, retreated into the castle. The terms of the surrender permitted the English soldiers to march out free in the morning of the 17th. Also on the 17th, the 'disgraced' constable de Richemont arrived with a force of Bretons he raised at his own expense. A few months earlier, Richemont had been dismissed from the court of Charles VII as a result of some court in-fighting. His enemies were still in power. While Alençon was leery of accepting Richemont's aid, Jeanne welcomed the constable, who had a good reputation as a warrior. There was also the awarness in the French ranks of the approach of an English relief army sent from Paris.

Bedford had raised an army of about 3,000 to 4,000 [many were militia formed from the French occupied region] under the command of John Fastolf [Falstaff] This force had reached Janville 13 June. Fastolf was joined by John Talbot, who came out from Meung with about 300 men (lances and archers) on 16 June. The two English commanders differed in their willingness to engage the French in direct battle. Fastolf did not feel confident of his troops; whereas, Talbot was eager for battle. Talbot and Fastolf proceeded to march to the relief of Beaugnecy, not aware that the town had been taken. Just a short distance northeast of Beaugnecy, the English and French forces came in sight of one another on 17 June. Both sides deployed to receive an attack by the other. Talbot's invitation to the French for a combat-of-arms between a few knights was ignoed. By nightfall, the English withdrew to Meung and learned of Beaugency's capture. The English leaders agreed to give up on the Loire Valley, and the next day headed north, towards Janville.

The French pursued, and the next encounter resulted in the Battle of Patay (18 June 1429), that is covered in its own webpage. This battle essentially completed the 'Loir Campaign' and Jeanne returned quickly to Orléans to press for her next important goal -- to have Charles VII formally crowned and anoited at Reims.


March to Reims (June-July 1429)

The success of the 'Loire Valley Campaign' cleared the path to launch the 'Expedition to the Coronation at Reims' -- a brief 'campaign' in itself -- and the end of Jeanne's military successes. The political impact of Reims was worth many battlefield victories in context of the objective -- the crown of France.

Jeanne had to argue for the scheme at the meeting of the king's council held at Châteauneuf-sur-Loire on 22 June. It was agreed that the march would begin at Gien. Charles VII arrived at Gien on 23 June. Jeanne d'Arc sent a letter, on 25 June, inviting duc de Bourgogne to the anointing at Reims. The army marched from Gien 27 June. This march is outlined as one of the five journeys, or expeditions, that are summarized in a separate webpage: Les chevauchées de Jeanne d'Arc. A link to this is provided at the bottom of this page.


Summary and Analysis

Most significant in a military assessment of the relief of Orléans and subsequent campaign in the Loire Valley was that the French initiative suprised the English both in timing and intensity. Had their been a new military commander with a reputation, or a gradual improvement French military methods, the English besiegers might otherwise had been alerted to take more extensive actions to counter the French initiatives. The English had been lulled into underestimating their opponents, and paid a price for it. But then, what were the chances of forseeing the impact of the Maid?

From the remarkable amount of documentation on Orléans (1429), only a little is of the caliber for definitative modern military analysis. As with most all contemporary accounts of this era, the force-size and casualty numbers are unreliable. In this particular story, there is considerable self-glorification on the part of individuals who testified at the rehibilitation trial. Still it remaines a remarkable event that could not be burried by a number of biased chronicles.

The dispariat array of forces defending Orléans were drawn together with the appearance of Jeanne d'Arc, and there developed a untiy of focus in their actions. There were no signs of a great religious conversion, though the era was ripe for popular acceptance of mysterious Divine intervention. For those warriors at the time who might not accept the Divine, they recognized a pragmatic military value in the sentiment and found it easy to go along with drama.

The 4 May attack appears to have evolved from a minor demonstration but fueld by group emotion that can be traced to the appearance and the excitement demonstrated by Jeanne. She did not appear to have specifically formulated the action, but joined in -- and certainly became a dominant 'leader' of the critical attack. This action reflects the circumstances that pertain to most all of the military actions related to the siege and the subsequent operations. Many of the French initiatives were unplanned and could not be anticipated by the English. The degree of the enthusastic involvement of the French militia was obviously inspired in part by Jeanne's appeal that raised the resolve for group action. It was a real cheerleading performance. For though she exposed herself to harm and endured wounds, she did not exchange blows or personally cause direct harm to an enemy warrior.

Contrary to so much popular military history, the battles of the Hundred Years' War were far from over with the successful conclusion to the relief of Orléans. The French were still yet to acquire the military structure -- including its financial underpinning -- and confident commanders. But the events of the summer of 1429 created the necessary collective spirit and exposed the new leaders. Importantly, the French went on to develop the gunpowder artillery so that reconquest (necessarily based upon sieges) became more effective than the orginal English 'conquest' (equally dependent upon siege warfare). Hundred Years War, la guerre de cent ans, siege of Orléans


Orléans and the Loire Valley Today

Orléans has long outgrown its fifteenth-century boundries and wars have destroyed the original structures. The city suffered extensive destruction from WWII Allied bombing. A very fine museum run by the Centre Jeanne d'Arc exists in the city's center. It is located in a rebuilt, half-timber house which replicates the home of Jacques Boucher, where Jeanne stayed.

On the southern bank of the Loire, is a small square (Quai Fort-des-Tourelles) where the Tourelles stood. This is about 150 meters to the east of the southern end of the present Pont George V. The photo above was taken in July 2000. The current bridge is in the background. The city celebrates it deliverance every May with a Festival.



Much of what is known about the 1428-29 siege of Orléans and the subsequent military operations has been obtained from the extensive amount of material on the story of Jeanne d'Arc. Further references on Jeanne d'Arc are linked from the webpage on Jeanne d'Arc sponsored by the Société de l'Oriflamme.
Existing assessments of the militarily aspects of Jeanne d'Arc's actions leave much to be desired. Some of the more significant ones not covered in the main bibliography on the Hundred Years' War are as follows:
  • Michel de Lombarès. 'Patay, 18 juin 1429', Revue de l'Histoire de l'Armée (RHA), 22 (1966), pp. 5-6.
  • General Carlier. 'Jeanne d'Arc', Revue de l'Histoire de l'Armée (RHA) ,1 (1953), pp. 7-20.
  • Marshal, Foch. For Joan of Arc, An Act of Homage from nine members of the French Academy, (MacMillan, NY, 1930), pp.1-14. [English version of an uncited French original.]
  • Kelly DeVries. 'A Woman as Leader of Men: Joan of Arc's Military Career', Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc, eds. Bonnie Wheeler and Charles T. Wood (NY, 1996), pp.3-18.
  • J.F.C. Fuller. 'Raising of the Siege of Orleans', chapter 17, Decisive Battles of the Western World, vol 1 (London, 1954), pp.477-97.




Opening of the Siege.
June, earl of Salisbury landed at Calais with large army.
July, Salisbury's army (reinforced) began campaign toward Loire Valley, capturing many towns near Orléans.
12 Oct, Salisbury began siege of Orléans.
23 Oct, English captured les Tourelles.
14 Oct, Salisbury wounded (died 27 October at Meung).
 1 Dec, Talbot and Scales arrived with more English reinforcements. Talbot replaced that Suffolk as commander.
12 Feb, Battle of the Herrings.
Late Feb - early Mar, city of Orléans appealed to the duc de Bourgogne for protection. Duke Bedford's refusal led to the withdrawl of Burgundian forces.
28 Apr, Jeanne and duc d'Alençon departed Blois with army and supply train.
29 Apr, Jeanne entered. Orléans.
30 Apr, Jeanne went to the ramparts and engaged in verbal exchanges with the English.
 1 May, Dunois departed to get the rest of the Royal army at Blois.
 2 May, Jeanne, continued to reconnoiter the English from the city's ramparts.
 3 May, Orléans celebrated the 'Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross' with a procession in the city.
 4 May, Dunois and Gilles de Rais returned to Orléans via the north bank of the Loire. The French attacked St. Loup to the east of Orléans. Jeanne and a large force rushed out to join in the fight. Jeanne reached St. Loup just after the garrison had been overwhelmed and watched the slaughter.
 5 May, Ascention Day, English evacuated all of their bastions on the south of the Loire, except two, where they concentrated their strength.
 6 May, Jeanne and French forces departed through the Burgundy gate, crossed the river. Finding St. Jean Le Blanc abandoned, the French assault and take Les Augustins.
 7 May, Jeanne was wounded by an arrow as she attempted to climb the ladder in an assault on the barbican to les Tourelles. Her banner was taken forth and the French launched a late, but inspired assault that took the boulevard. Concurrently, militia from the city crossed the destroyed sections in the bridge and assaulted les Tourelles from the north.
 8 May, English were allowed to withdraw from Orléans and retreat to Meung.
Post siege activities.
10-11 May, Dunois, Ponton and maréchal de Saint-Sévère unsuccessfully attacked Jargeau.
10 May, Jeanne met Charles VII at Tours.
13 May, Jeanne and Dunois go with Charles VII to Loches.
13 May - 21 May, Jeanne at Saint-Florent-lès-Saumur.
22 May, Jeanne met king at Loches.
24 May, Jeanne departed Loches.
29 May, Jeanne at Selles-en-Berry.
 6 Jun, Jeanne met Guy de Laval at Selles-en-Berry.
 7 Jun, Jeanne at Romorantin.
 9 Jun, Jeanne at Orléans. Army is regrouped and departed Orléans.
'The Loire Valley Campaign'.
11-12 Jun, Jargeau: attacked 11 Jun, taken 12 June.
14 Jun, Left Orléans.
15 Jun, Meung-sur-Loire: bridge guard station taken.
16 Jun, Beaugency: attacked and taken.
18 Jun, Battle of Patay.
19 Jun, Returned to Orléans.
22 Jun, Châteauneuf-sur-Loire, met king's council.
23 Jun, King returned to Gien.
24 Jun, Army departed for Gien.
25 Jun, At Gien. Letter inviting duc de Bourgogne to the anointing.
26 Jun, Gien. End of the 'Loire Valley Campaign'


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