Joan of Arc – The Queen for a brief moment

1. The medieval account

If one had to believe a certain medieval document, Joan of Arc become the “Queen of France” for a brief moment:

One day, the Maid asked the king to give her a present. This request was immediately approved. Jeanne asked for nothing less than the Kingdom of France. The King agreed upon certain hesitation. Jeanne accepted and made four secretaries of the king  write it down and the charter was given a solemn reading. The king was a bit stunned, and Jeanne, by showing him to the audience, stated: “This is the poorest knight of the realm!”. Almost at the same time, in the presence of the same notaries, she gave to Almighty God the kingdom of France she had received as a gift. Then, after a moment, obeying an order from God, she invests King Charles with the kingdom of France, and all that she did was written in a solemn act”.

 (Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Ayroles. “La vraie Jeanne d’Arc” vol. I – IV, 1890 – 1902, t. I, p. 57-58, based on “Collectarium Historiarum”, 1429, by the theologian Jean DuPuy in “Breviarium Historiale” published inPoitiers, 1479, by Jean Bouyer) (look for page 665)

On the other hand the Duke Jean d’Alençon (1) described, in 1456, the whole scene much simpler:

“Jeanne then made several requests to the king, and among other things that he should give his Kingdom to the King of Heaven, because after this donation the King of Heaven would do to him as he had done to his predecessors, and reinstate him in his rights”.

One can interpret these two accounts in various ways. On one hand, the account by the Duc d’Alencon is simpler, and simple accounts are often closer to truth. On the other hand, however, the account by the theologian duPuy is much earlier, in fact from the year 1429, that is, from the year in which this scene was to take place.

Theoretically then it could have been that it was duPuy who wrote the truth. But 27 years later it was decided not to give publicity to it, and hence d’Alencon’s account could have been toned down. In the end, it was the King, who, taking office, was solemnly crowned and anointed “with holy oil.” In this way he became “God’s anointed”. And the coronation and anointing was performed, through the hands of their hierarchy, by the Catholic Church which by its own theology had the “keys to heaven” and performed its duty by “the will of God”.

Neither the King of France nor the Catholic Church desired to have any other “intermediaries” acting between them and God. They could not therefore wish anyone else to fulfill this role, especially if one decided to create an opinion of Joan of Arc as a “poor and illiterate teenager”.

An account such as the one above could undermine the authority of both the King and the Church …

But this was in the 15th century. Later the same scene was described more vividly and at length. Below we present one such example.

2. The legend

In the year 1895, a French author, C. Bessonnet-Favre, published her book “La vérité sur Jeanne d’Arc: ses ennemis, ses auxiliaries, sa mission, d’après les chroniques du XV siècle”. There, on pages 189 and 190  ( ) she presented the same scene known to us from the two accounts quoted above. In her book however the story is longer. We find whole dialogues here made to fit the story from the two above accounts. We quote the entirety of pages 189 and 190 from her book:

Upon entering the Castle (in Chinon), we found la Trémoille (2) whom the King had invited to join their group.

The favorite dared not refuse and all four (3) entered a lower room where the King, on the counsel no doubt of his mother-in-law or his confidant, had met with four of his official secretaries, usually charged with the drafting of contracts of the Court.

“Kind Dauphin,” said Jeanne, “please give me a present. Give me, before these Gentlemen, the noble Kingdom of France.”

“I would like that very much, Jeanne my dear (“ma mie”)” (4), replied Charles VII with some embarrassment, because he feared a little taunting from la Trémoille and his cousin d’Alençon by seeming to go along with the strange whim that the remarkable girl had already exposed him to the previous evening.

“Oh! Have no fear,” she said smiling, “I’ll not misuse it. Write, gentlemen notaries, in due form the settlement that I have arranged for me, Jeanne la Pucelle, Charles of Valois of the Kingdom of France.”

Forthwith, the Charter was drawn up then recited aloud in the presence of the Duke of Alençon and of the astounded Trémoille.

”There he is,” Jeanne then said, pointing out by hand Charles VII, “There he is, Sirs,  the poorest knight of the Kingdom. But God forbid that I keep for me so beautiful a gift; I am only the agent of my Lord, The King of heaven and very willingly I leave the Kingdom in the hands of the All-Powerful, Very-High, King of Kings, and Master of Empires and Lord of Lords. Write, then, gentlemen notaries!”  Obediently, the four Royal Secretaries drafted,  as she dictated, the new clause.

When they had finished reading the draft, Jeanne knelt and prayed at length. Then standing and advancing towards the King: “In the name of the Very High God, on behalf of Lord King of heaven, my upright and sovereign Lord, of whom I am the humble messenger, I, Jeanne la Pucelle, I invest Charles of Valois, legitimate son of the late Charles VI by name, of the Kingdom of France, to take command as usufructuary (5) and good Sergeant of the King of Heaven, sole master, Lord and possessor of said Kingdom. Write here, gentlemen notaries, and append at the bottom of the deed, the legal signatures of the King, and of the gentlemen who are witnesses, before I sign it myself.”

When all these various formalities were completed, in due form, Jeanne arranged to deliver two of the copies of the deed, leaving the other two to the King. Then, while she squeezed them into her doublet, she said joyfully to Charles VII:

“Kind Dauphin, don’t worry about your Kingdom, you now hold so much as to not be unable to win back the entirety.”

This episode is one of the most solemn and less known, perhaps, of the so strange life of Joan of Arc.

It was for the destiny of France of paramount importance:

Immediately after leaving the King, Jeanne sent two letters: one to Lyon, the other to Bordeaux.

These two letters contained copies of the charter of settlement. They had to be delivered, at the risk of one’s life , personally: one to Gerson as the visible head of the monks of France and the other to the official delegate of the senior English barons.

This one waited at Bordeaux for the outcome of the first negotiations of la Pucelle.

As soon as he received the sealed envelope of the five mysterious crosses that were the distinctive sign of Jeanne and become aware of its contents, the mysterious Celtic military chief from Druidic England saddled his white Steed and rushed forward, naked sword in hand, along the road which led from Bordeaux to Chinon.

He rode at triple-gallop speed on his mount whose hooves sparked by hitting the pebbles of the paths.

He rushed at so great a speed,” say the old Chronicles of the time, “that, on his route, all seemed aglow and that one had truly said that his steed flew.”


1. Jean II Duke d’Alençon (2 March 1409 – 8 September 1476) was a comrade-in-arms of Jeanne d’Arc and was just slightly younger than her. One detail of his distinguished life is worth mentioning here in the connection of the present story:
Being only slightly over 15 years of age, he took part in the Battle of Verneuil on 17 August 1424 and was taken prisoner by the English. He was held by them at Le Crotoy and was released in 1429 having paid 200,000 saluts as a ransom. He had to sell most of his possessions to the English and his duchy was taken over by the English Regent John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford. When he was released from captivity, he was called “the poorest man in France”. It is therefore conceivable that Jeanne d’Arc “borrowed” the phrase and used it when referring to her King as the poorest knight of the realm, especially as the story of d’Alençon was then very fresh in the year 1429. Jeanne  had clear sympathy for d’Alençon, she liked to call him “le beau duc” or “gentil duc”. According to his own testimony during the Rehabilitation Trial, when he was leaving with Jeanne for war, Jeanne promised his wife: “Lady, do not be afraid! I will bring him back safe, as he is, or even in a better state” (“Dame, n’ayez pas peur ! Je vous le rendrai sauf, dans l’état où il est, ou même meilleur”). Jeanne, further, according to d’Alençon, kept her word and when a cannon was directed at him at Jargeau, she advised him to move or else he would be killed. He moved and the cannon killed someone else…

2. Georges de la Trémoille (c. 1382 – 6 May 1446), Grand Chamberlain of France under Charles VII, one of the King’s favourites at the French court. An ardent opponent of Jeanne d’Arc, he was seeking reconciliation between Charles VII and Philip The Good of Burgundy. In 1427 he engineered the expulsion of constable de Richemont from the French court. With fruitless peace negotiations with the Duke of Burgundy he delayed Jeanne’s march on Paris and might have been responsible for the lack of royal support for her at the later stage of the war. In the meantime constable de Richemont returned to the court and had Trémoille arrested. The King did not intervene.

3. “…all four entered a lower room…”. The “all four” were: The King, G. de la Tremoille, Jean Duc d’Alencon and Jeanne

4. “ma mie” – “my dear” or “my friend”. In the documents of the story of Jeanne there is only one in which this expression is found. It is the testimony of Jean de Novellemport, called “Jean de Metz”, during the Rehabilitation Trial. He was the one who referred to Jeanne in this way. Of course it is per se quite a common expression; there is nothing particular about it. Yet it seems that C. Bessonnet-Favre deliberately “borrowed” it from Jean de Metz and put it into the mouth of the King himself.

5. “usufructuary” (Latin: “usufructuarius”)in the French original the French term “usufruitier” was used. According to a dictionary, the root term “usufruct” (Lat. “usufructus”) is “the right of enjoying all the advantages derivable from the use of something that belongs to another, as far as is compatible with the substance of the thing not being destroyed or injured”.
Usufructuary” implies more rights than a more common term “user”. An usufructuary is a person who can use and enjoy the property just as if he himself was the owner of it. This is exactly how the rights of a King were understood, as somebody invested with his realm by God himself.

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