She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Virgin Warrior: The Life and Death of Joan of Arc, and reported the following:
On page 99, Joan of Arc began an assault on Paris, only a few months after her military successes in the Loire Valley and the king’s coronation. Paris proved a turning point in Joan’s short career. Without insurrection from within, the city could not be taken. Yet Joan had so convinced herself that she was the invincible Maid that she was blinded to reality. The heavy casualties on the French side did not deter Joan from continuing the attack until the king ordered a halt to the fighting.Learn more about The Virgin Warrior at the Yale University Press website.
The author of the Journal of the Bourgeois of Paris described Joan as “[a] creature in the form of a woman who was with them and whom they called the Maid, [but] what it was God alone knows.” Although a hostile source, the Bourgeois captured what many had been saying in 1429. Chroniclers throughout Europe marveled at the spectacle of a woman leading an army of men and winning.
Joan’s character had evolved after each victory. Her unofficial motto ‘go boldly!’ exemplified her willfulness, pride, and belligerence. Even as the Bourgeois questioned ‘what it was,’ modern writers have often distorted the historical Joan of Arc to fit a personal, saintly, or sentimental model. The Virgin Warrior attempts to see beyond the legends that have grown up around Joan to understand how she viewed herself, how others within her party saw her, and why she inspired such fear among the English that their leaders faced desertions and problems funding the war.
Joan had help from the beginning at the highest levels. I argue that the king’s mother-in-law brought Joan to the notice of the court. After Joan passed muster, she was trained in warfare and prophecies were adapted to fit her mission. But as she came to see herself as a knight with a role transcending gender and dynastic politics, Joan sowed the seeds of her downfall. After the failure at Paris, she increasingly relied on her own beliefs about what was good for ‘France,’ becoming a liability to a court that sought a political rather than a military solution. Captured in May 1430, she was sold to the English and executed a year later. Joan played a part in her capture and execution by never realizing the limits that had been placed on her from the start as the Virgin Warrior.
P. 99, Chapter 6: “The King and the Maid”
The assault on Paris was doomed to failure, not only or even mainly because of Charles’s reluctance to fight. Joan probably assumed that, like so many towns had before, Paris would embrace Charles, willingly or after a show of force. But Paris was heavily fortified with 30-foot high walls and two moats surrounding the city. The one closest to the walls was filled with water, while the outer moat was dry, more like a trench. The Bastille was stocked with arms and gunpowder, and cannon and large crossbows atop it made defense of the city relatively easy. The captain of Paris and the Bastille had prepared his men for the assault, stockpiling weapons and supplies to hold them through the winter if necessary. Joan and Alençon sent out scouts each day after their arrival, which led to numerous skirmishes around the gates of the city. She frequently rode to the walls trying to assess the best means of attack. Finally, Alençon was dispatched to bring Charles to Paris. The king eventually arrived at Saint-Denis on Wednesday, September 7.
The anonymous author of the Journal of the Bourgeois of Paris, whose notes cover the years from 1405 to 1449, was a churchman affiliated with the cathedral of Notre-Dame or the University of Paris rather than a merchant. His descriptions of living conditions in Paris, including harvest failures, omens, and the cost and quality of wine, offer a vivid inside look at the city before and during the brief siege. The Parisians had learned to fend for themselves, viewing the dukes of Burgundy, whom the Bourgeois characterizes as neglectful to a fault, as only slightly better that then despised Armagnacs and English. According to him, the king’s faction does “nothing day or night but lay waste all his father’s land with fire and sword and the English on the other side do as much harm as Saracens.” Because of his distrust of all sides, his year-by-year accounts are especially valuable. He relates that earlier the duke of Alençon had sent letters to the city’s leaders, hoping to divide the people and instigate a popular uprising. Exaggerating the size of the French army at 12,000 men, the Bourgeois exclaims that they were “so full of foolish belief that on the word of [a] creature in the form of a woman who was with them and whom they called the Maid, what it was God only knows, that the day of the Nativity of Our Lady they formed the resolution to attack Paris.” The feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, one of only three birthdays celebrated in the liturgical year – the others being those of Jesus and John the Baptist – was an important holy day. On September 8, between eleven and twelve in the morning, the large French army arrived at the moats
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