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Routiers et mercenaires pendant la guerre de Cent ans

Routier Perrinet Gressart: Joan of Arc’s Penultimate Enemy

Kelly DeVries

Texte intégral

  • 1 Christine de Pisan, ed. Kennedy & Varty 1977, 48.
  • 2 Included in a letter found in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 1, 489-493.
  • 3 DeVries 1996a.

1Even my English friends have to admit, however reluctantly, that Joan of Arc played a significant role in the Hundred Years War. Was she the saintly hero portrayed by contemporary and later French writers: “Oh, all you blind people”, asks Christine de Pisan in her Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc (written in 1430), before she goes on to ask, “can you not detect God’s hand in this? If you cannot you are truly stupid for how else could the Maid who strikes you all down dead have been sent to us? And you do not have sufficient strength! Do you want to fight against God1? Or, was she the demonic heretic as described by contemporary English sources: the inciter of “perjuries and pernicious rebellions, false and superstitious beliefs” are among the numerous charges made by John, the duke of Bedford, following her execution2? At the very least, she was responsible for re-enthusing a French army mired in the memories of recent, and not so recent, defeats. An argument can be made – for I have made it – that she was responsible for much more: for encouraging a French population, and not just the military, that God was on her side in their war against the English; for helping erode, or further erode, Burgundian confidence in an alliance with England which they felt could not alone sustain their holdings in France – and that a continued alliance with them would ultimately detrimental to their political, military, and, especially, economic interests, culminating in an abandonment of that alliance less than five years after Joan was burned; for changing strategy and tactics so that the greater population advantage of the French would be better utilized in warfare; and, in fact, for “turning the tide” of the Hundred Years War so that, although it would take another 24 years after her death to complete, after Joan of Arc’s accomplishments victory was inevitable3.

  • 4 DeVries 2005.

2History has continued to treat Joan well, both as a military leader and as a religious icon. This culminated in her sainthood in 1920, making her not just the only military leader of the Hundred Years War who was made a saint, but also the only Catholic saint “martyred” by the Catholic Church – I put quotation marks around “martyr” as Joan was never officially called a martyr in her sanctification, despite the fact that almost all statues of Joan inside French Catholic churches have the flames of this martyrdom surrounding her4.

  • 5 See, for example, Pernoud & Clin, transl. and ed. Adams 1998, which highlights all of Joan’s comp (...)
  • 6 For the most egregious example of this see Winwar 1948. A corrective to this connection is DeVrie (...)

3But, how has history treated those who fought with and against “the Maid”? Some have concluded, rather simply, that the reputations of Joan’s companions were made, and those of her enemies were broken5. This is not only simplistic, but wrong. While it is accurate to note that the careers of some of Joan’s companions flourished after her death; the Bastard of Orléans, soon to be Lord Dunois; Poton de Xantrailles; La Hire – and Arthur de Richemont’s reputation was restored by his attachment to her, Gilles de Rais’ companionship was his own propaganda, to the point of paying to have his role enhanced in the annual presentation of La mystère du siège d’Orléans, and then playing himself in several of the early productions. By the time of his trial in 1440 as the most prolific pedophiliac murderer in history, even this propagandistic attachment to Joan had dissolved, leaving the far too frequent “Saint and Devil’ comparison as a largely contrived and largely false modern construct6.

  • 7 Fastolf returned to England shortly after Patay. He tried to regain his reputation in 1435 by off (...)
  • 8 The best biography of John Talbot is Pollard 1983.

4The same can be said of Joan’s enemies. The reputation of some were broken: for example, John Fastolf, as he was the single English military leader to escape from the battle of Patay was called a coward by contemporaries – which is often seen as the reason why his star, which had flown so high after his victory at the battle of Rouvray or “the Herrings” in 1429, fell so quickly later that year7. That is especially surprisingly, as those captured in the battle, Sir John Talbot and Sir Thomas Scales, and at Jargeau a few days earlier, William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk, all saw their careers continue after their experiences fighting Joan – Talbot’s, in fact, until the final battle of the Hundred Years War, Castillon in 1453, where he was slain in the English defeat8.

5As for Perrinet Gressart, Joan’s penultimate enemy, who lost Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier to her in November 1429 but held out successfully against her siege of La Charité the following month, his historical reputation neither suffered – which admittedly would have been difficult, considering he had defeated her – nor was it enhanced by his victory. What might be said, instead, is that Gressart’s role in the Hundred Years War, which was far longer and more detailed than what happened in 1429, was overshadowed by his association with Joan of Arc.

  • 9 Margolis 1990 which was up-to-date when published badly needs a revision as more than 40 biograph (...)

6Joan’s single year of military service has produced several volumes of historical analysis – more biographies have been written on Joan than on any other medieval person9 – but Gressart has produced substantially less, despite playing a significant role in the Hundred Years War for more than 30 years. I have found only two books written on him in the last century: Andre Bossuat’s excellent Perrinet Gressart et François de Surienne: Agents de l’Angleterre, published in 1936, and Jacques Faugeras’ far shorter and far less scholarly Perrinet Gressart: Redoutable “routier” au service des Anglais et des Bourguignons, published in 1997.

7I have benefitted greatly from Bossuat’s book, although I differ from several of his conclusions, especially on his description of Perrinet Gressart as an “agent” of the English, which is admittedly less emphatic in the text than the subtitle. Bossuat’s pieces justicatives are especially beneficial, with a catalogue of Gressart’s letters – he was quite prolific, although no doubt the maréchal of Burgundy, to whom most of these letters were written, may have thought of him as a pest, one who whined constantly about the lack of pay he constantly felt he was owed by the dukes of Burgundy. That this is only a catalogue of Gressart’s letters, though, with about 10% of the letters edited, substantiates my point: why have all of Gressart’s letters not yet been edited, especially as Bossuat’s summary of them, within his text and footnotes, suggest an importance to the general historiography of the Hundred Years War far beyond his specific role in it? And, what surely follows, why has more about Gressart’s specific role in the Hundred Years War not have been written?

  • 10 Jean de Waurin, ed. Dupont 1858-1863, t. 1, 264 (translation mine).

8My point is simple: Perrinet Gressart is a far more important historical figure than historians – especially those who write on Joan of Arc, and I include myself among them – have suggested. He was an effective military leader, or perhaps better described as a “warlord”, with Jean de Waurin, who claimed a personal relationship, writing as an obituary: “Perrinet, such as he was, fought a strong war against King Charles, more than any other of his status. For he was smart, wise, and a great leader, such that he was able to command all kinds of soldiers”10.

  • 11 See, for example, the number of fine articles in France, ed. 2008, few of which describe anyone s (...)

9He was also undoubtedly a routier, although not perhaps as others have been so defined11. He profited extensively from his warfare, was loyally followed by his troops – most of whom seem to have only fought for him, and to whom he seems to have been very generous – and certainly terrorized the inhabitants of those lands he attacked, principally Nevers and Berry.

10He fought initially as a subject of the duke of Burgundy, John the Fearless, for a couple of years and then Philip the Good. This relationship made him an ally of the English, although far from being the “agent” Bossuat called him. Gressart was only ever an agent for himself. He did not always obey the dukes, especially when he felt he was owed money by him. When this occurred he would frequently use the English alliance to his advantage – in fact, it seems, he was especially adept at that, working the very seams of a weakening alliance, even as it must have weakened the alliance further. His attachment to the English would be largely abandoned after they were forced to withdraw from the Loire region in 1429 and was entirely abandoned once the Anglo-Burgundian alliance was broken in 1435.

11Yet, in 1435 he did not immediately join the Burgundians in embracing Charles VII and the Armagnac French, although he would do so once his ownership of the lands he held was confirmed and a new title, “Royal Captain” was given him by the king. For most of his career he was strongly anti-Armagnac, exhibiting this militarily – although their efforts against him remained mostly diplomatic, only frequently military, which judging from Joan of Arc’s lack of success was probably the correct strategy. Diplomacy had little more success, though, it should be noted.

12These diplomatic efforts revolve around Gressart’s occupation of a very significant town on the Loire River, La Charité. Judging from the number of times La Charité is mentioned in truce negotiations between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs from 1422 to 1435, the town was deemed an extremely important site by both sides, although its relative absence from Hundred Years War sources before Gressart’s occupation makes one wonder if its value was more in it being held by a routier whose loyalty could not always be counted on than in any other assessment. Perrinet Gressart held La Charité from early in 1423 to June 1425 and from October 1425 until his death sometime between 27 June and 15 September 1438.

  • 12 Gressart is listed among a number of men providing “aucun ayde” in Kervyn de Lettenhove, ed. 1873 (...)
  • 13 Bossuat 1936, 3. Bossuat convincingly dismisses the argument that Gressart was a “noble homme” or (...)
  • 14 Bossuat 1936, 4-5.

13Gressart’s name first appears in the written sources in 1417 when he is listed among other prominent military leaders at the Burgundian siege of Neufchâtel-sur-Aisne12. Little is known about life before this time. He was probably from Picardy, without nobility, Bossuat recording that he might have been the son of a mason, butcher or farmer13. Why he did not follow his father’s occupation, entering military service instead, is not known, although rising from the lower classes by means of military skill as he did was not unknown in the fifteenth-century Hundred Years War, with not only Joan of Arc, but La Hire and Jean Bureau as examples. It can perhaps be determined, as Bossuat does, that Gressart was at other important Burgundian military actions prior to 1417, i.e. the siege of Vellaxon in 1409 – quite a stretch in my estimation – or devastating the Niverais and l’Auxerrois and the capture of Dompierre-sur-Nièvre in 1417 – much more likely14.

  • 15 Soultrait, ed. 1873, c. 88; Bossuat 1936, 5-6.

14He is mentioned again in 1417 participating in the capture of Louis de Bourbon, brother of the countess of Nevers, Bonne de Artois, with whom he seems to have formed a relationship, as he would communicate with her and use her as a liaison in several negotiations over the next few years until her death in 142515. That he had this friendship and also could readily gain admittance to the presence of Philip the Good certainly indicates an easy dismissal of class bias in the face of superior military skills and accomplishments – a military characteristic unique it seems to France and Burgundy in the fifteenth century, and one that warrants more comparative research.

  • 16 Bossuat 1936, 7-8.
  • 17 Ibid., 9-11, gives a range of numbers at different times throughout the rest of the book.
  • 18 Ibid., 11-14.

15Although missing from the historical record in 1418, Gressart again appears in the Nivernais in 1419 (he probably never left), ravaging there and in Berry, an activity and in places that he would continue until 143516. By that time, if not earlier, he was clearly in charge of a company of men, although how numerous and why they were tied to him is unknown – the few later sources that give numbers vacillate between 30 and 25017. He was also surely in the service of the duke of Burgundy and in this role attended to the defense of Lyons and the Charolais in 142118.

  • 19 Ibid., 15.
  • 20 Ibid., 16-17, although evidence of this comes only from a document from the Parlement de Paris da (...)
  • 21 On the battle of Cravant see Smith & DeVries 2005, 91-94. The main narrative sources for this bat (...)
  • 22 Bossuat 1936, 20.

16Burgundian forces captured La Charité in 1422, after only a three-day siege19; whether Gressart was there is unknown. He was definitely not present when the Armagnacs regained the town later that year – he was at a nearby castle of Passy with a clearly insufficient force of 20 men-at-arms and 10 archers to do anything about it20. Instead, on 30 July 1423 he was with Philip the Good and the main Burgundian army at the battle of Cravant, where once again he gave valiant service to the duke: his troops captured the count of Ventadour21. Perhaps this is why when La Charité was retaken by the Burgundians in 1423, together with the English, Philip made Gressart captain of the town22. It was a decision that determined Gressart’s future, but one that the Burgundian duke would regret on numerous occasions.

  • 23 Flamare, ed. 1913-1925 : t. 1, 208, P. J. no. V; Bossuat 1936, 18-19.

17It was also about this time that Perrinet Gressart became a routier, at least according to modern historical definition, although it is uncertain whether either he or Philip the Good recognized it at the time. And he became an able negotiator, unsatisfied with his payment and asking for more: Gressart refused a payment of 300 livres from the duke as too low for recent services rendered and Philip responded with a payment of 500 livres, which Gressart seems to have accepted23. (Only the compte record is extant; thus there is no rationale for Philip giving into Gressart’s request.) Other large payments were received in ensuing months, and it is during this time that his number of soldiers increased as well. No doubt the two are connected.

  • 24 A report of the archaeological excavations since 1975, which have centered around the priory, can (...)
  • 25 Bossuat 1936, 27.

18La Charité was the center of Gressart’s power. Although not a large town, extant walls have shown it to have been a very fortified town. Around the town were tall thick walls with several large towers placed along the walls. A further, interior wall separated a large Cluniac priory from the rest of the town. Where exactly Gressart was headquartered in the town is not known, although he and his army may have been north of the interior wall, in a fortified region that even today is an open plain capable of housing quite a large force. But, without further archaeological excavations, that is merely conjecture24. What can be ascertained from the remaining walls and towers is how strong La Charité’s fortifications were. Ironically Charles V had strengthened the walls in 1365, after the town had been sacked by another powerful and successful English routier, Robert Knolles, in 136325. and these were further strengthened by Gressart early in his occupation – for which the Burgundians paid, of course.

  • 26 Ibid., 37-38.
  • 27 Ibid., 27-31.

19It was from within these walls that Perrinet Gressart conducted his numerous military operations, which would lead ultimately to the capture of Varzy, Marcigny, Montargis and Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier among numerous other sites26. His main routier activity, though, was not in the sieges of fortified sites, but in the ravaging of unprotected towns and countryside, primarily in Nevers and Berry, reaping those profits as well as collecting his pay from Burgundy27.

20That pay stopped in 1426. From this, the first very serious insubordination of Gressart against the Burgundians resulted. And from this came the first occasion of Gressart using the English part of the Anglo-Burgundian alliance to his advantage against the duke of Burgundy.

  • 28 The Treaty is printed in Plancher, ed. 1773-1781, t. 4, no. 37, and discussed in Bossuat 1936, 47 (...)
  • 29 Bossuat 1936, 49.
  • 30 Gressart’s demand can be found in a letter he wrote to Philip the Good: Flamare, ed. 1913-1925, t (...)

21The context was the Treaty of Chambéry, made between the Burgundians and Armagnacs in 1424. Among the provisions agreed to by the Burgundians was the transfer of La Charité to the Armagnacs28. It has been speculated that this part of the treaty was insisted on by Armagnac general Arthur de Richemont and councillor Georges de la Trémoille, both of whom had lands which had been terrorized by Gressart29. But Gressart refused to abide by the treaty or to surrender La Charité, despite the duke of Burgundy’s insistence that he do so. Consequently, the Burgundians stopped paying him. He responded by again ravaging Nevers and Berry, adding the sacking of Sancerre. He claimed in a letter that he was forced to do this in order to feed his troops, although it is not difficult to question the truthfulness of such a complaint. Gressart’s claim of 7 June 1426 was that the duke by then owed him 14 000 écus – although Philip clearly questioned whether he owed anything to Gressart30.

  • 31 Bossuat 1936, 64-70 and Fresne de Beaucourt 1881, t. 2, 372-375.

22So Gressart did something that in modern American slang might be termed as “gutsy” or “ballsy”. On 30 December Georges de la Trémoille, Armagnac councillor to Charles, the French dauphin, promised “safe-conduct” and accompanied by the Burgundian maréchal across Nevers, was kidnapped by Gressart’s troops and taken to La Charité. Not surprisingly, a ransom of 14 000 écus was demanded. Also not surprisingly, Philip was incensed. But he was in Zeeland, fighting the battle of Brouwershaven, and could do nothing, and three months later, having promised to pay the ransom, La Trémoille was freed31.

23Against this obvious treason, what could Philip the Good have done? Gressart manipulated the situation perfectly, not only in the kidnapping of La Trémoille, but in shortly afterwards slyly declaring La Charité not held for the Burgundians, but for the English. The English, who were naturally against the Treaty of Chambéry, quickly assented. This put Philip in an obvious bind. If he pushed against Gressart, his alliance with the English would be clearly threatened, as the English had designs on a conquest of the Loire region. Nor was the legality of Gressart’s declaration in question as the English had been paying him to defend La Charité for them – as well as the Burgundians – for several years, pay that the Burgundians knew about and had approved of. Gressart was simply saying openly what everyone knew was being practiced. Burgundy might not pay Gressart to protect La Charité anymore, but the English would.

  • 32 On the revolt of Jacqueline of Bavaria and the battle of Brouwershaven, see Smith & DeVries 2005, (...)
  • 33 Bossuat 1936, 71-72.

24On the other hand, what good was a Burgundian-Armagnac truce if it was so easily broken? Of course, Hundred Years War treaties had been made and broken many times before, although never by such an act of a Burgundian military subordinate. Philip had to try and repair the situation, quickly, but at the very time he was engaged in warfare with another rebel, Jacqueline of Bavaria, duchess of Brabant and countess of Holland – the reason for the battle of Brouwershaven32. Gressart was offered the towns of Rosemont and Druy, the 5 000 écus to be paid in eight installments by the Nivernais; in turn, Gressart was to abandon La Charité to the Cluniac priory and leave the town. Initially Gressart refused the offer, but after the town of Châtel-Gérard was added to the offer and the installments reduced to a single payment, on 3 January 1427, he accepted it33.

  • 34 This can be found in a letter from Gressart to the maréchal of Burgundy in Flamare, ed. 1913-1925 (...)

25Whether Gressart ever actually left La Charité, however, is doubtful. At this point, the duke of Bedford intervened, asking that La Charité be surrendered to the duke of Burgundy instead of the priory, and to Charles I, count of Nevers, the latter of whom could not claim it unless he turned from the Armagnacs to the Burgundians34. As La Charité was now in the hands of the Burgundians, Philip the Good could give it to whomever he wanted, and that appears to have been the man who had started all of this chaos with his gutsy kidnapping of La Trémoille, Perrinet Gressart.

  • 35 Letter from Gressart to the chancellor, the lord of Villarnoul, and the lord of Champalement, and (...)

26So, at the end of it all, Gressart had made out like, a routier. He not only had the 14 000 écus ransom, but he had 5 000 more from the Burgundians, plus three more Nivernais towns. The English were also indebted to him. And, if he ever had to leave La Charité, he was back by the middle of 142735. Important, too, is that Philip the Good had saved face, at least sufficient for him. (The following year, the English would attack Orléans and other Loire towns, with the Burgundians, although not taking an active part in this campaign, certainly supporting the attacks.)

  • 36 Jean Aulon, in Duparc, ed. 1977-1989, t. 1, 484. See also Pernoud, trad. Hyams 1964, 143, and Bos (...)

27Of course, the Armagnacs, and especially Georges de la Trémoille, were outraged by Philip’s response to his kidnapping and ransom. This may have been why in October 1429, Joan of Arc, the wound she had received to her leg outside of Paris having healed, was sent against Gressart, first to Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier and then to La Charité. There is no evidence to substantiate that La Trémoille was the man who made this decision, but he has been accused of such by many historians, including myself. The only reason ever given in the sources for Joan’s assignment was that provided by Joan’s squire, Jean d’Aulon, at her nullification trial in 1452-1456: “that it was very necessary to recover the town of La Charité, which was held by the enemy, but that it was important first to capture the town of Saint-Pierre-le Moutier, which was also held by the enemy”36.

  • 37 The chronicles which had provided many details of Joan’s life, the Journal d’un siège d’Orléans a (...)

28If it was La Trémoille’s decision, though, he seems not to have provided enough men or materiel to carry it out, nor was a very experienced general put in charge, Charles II d’Albret, with Joan, having little leadership experience. (There had always been more experienced generals with her previously in 1429.) Unfortunately, the sources of Joan’s life at this point are not numerous37. In her trial she says little about the campaign against Perrinet Gressart, while only two of the witnesses at her nullification trial were present at the engagements – and they only speak about the victory at Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier and not the defeat at La Charité.

  • 38 Jean Aulon, ed. Duparc 1977-1989, t. 1, 484, and Jaladon de la Barre 1868, 25-26.
  • 39 Liocourt 1974-1976, t. 2, 249, and Jaladon de la Barre 1868, 18-19.
  • 40 Jean Aulon, ed. Duparc 1977-1989, t. 1, 484. In comparison to the Armagnac army, which does not s (...)

29What can be determined is that this army departed from Bourges late in October, the exact date unknown. With her was a force, its numbers not known, with only Aulon’s phrase “a certain number of men”, as evidence, words that J.-L. Jaladon de la Barre concludes, “does not imply the idea of a very important army”38. Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier, Gressart’s most southern town, was attacked first. Why it was chosen is not known, although it could have been simply because of it lay far south and away from the Loire River and La Charité, which might have made it difficult for Gressart to come to the town’s relief. It was well fortified, surrounded by a wall, with a deep moat, six flanking towers, and three fortified gates, all of which had been augmented and repaired in 142139. Yet, Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier was not a large town, although its still extant Romanesque Church dedicated to St. Peter, which stood in the center of the town, and a nearby Benedictine monastery dedicated to the same saint show that it was quite prosperous. It also had a fairly large garrison of Gressart’s troops, according to the nullification trial testimony of Aulon40.

  • 41 See DeVries 1996b.

30Considering her success earlier in the year, Joan no doubt believed Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier would be easy to conquer; but it proved not to be so. There were few weaknesses in the walls, and the French were undermanned and underarmed, especially in the gunpowder weapons which Joan had become so accustomed to using in her attacks of these types of fortified sites41. By 4 November, it had still not fallen. Finally, Aulon testifies, Joan refused d’Albret’s call to retreat and led a head-on attack of the walls:

  • 42 Jean Aulon, ed. Duparc 1977-1989, t. 1, 484-485. See also DeVries 1999, 159-162; Pernoud & Clin 1 (...)

“And after the Maid and her soldiers had besieged [Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier] for some time, an order was given to attack the town. And thus an attack was made, and those who were there before the town tried to take it, but, because of the large number of soldiers in the town, and their great strength, and also the marvellous resistance which those inside gave, the French were compelled and forced to retreat. And at that time, [d’Albret], who had been wounded by an arrow in his heel, such that he could not stand or walk without crutches, saw that the Maid and a very small number of her men and others had been left behind. And sure that harm would come to her, he mounted a horse and rode towards her, demanding to know why she had not retreated with the others. She, after taking her helmet from her head, responded to him that she was not alone, that she had in her company fifty thousand soldiers, and that she was not going to leave until she had taken the town. At that time, whatever she may have said, she did not have more than four or five men, as he knew for certain, and so do many others who also saw her. For which reason, he had said frankly that she should leave from there and retire to the rear with the rest. And then she said to him to get bundles of sticks and hurdles to make a bridge across the moat of the town so that it might be easier to make an approach. And when she said this she shouted in a loud voice: “Everyone, to the faggots and hurdles to make a bridge!”[across the moat] which was soon after done and put into place. That such a thing was done was very astonishing, because afterwards the village was taken by assault, without finding there very much resistance”42.

31Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier had been captured, but it would be only a Pyrrhic victory, forcing the Armagnac force to use up many of the resources it needed for further campaigning. Arrows, bolts, gunpowder, and cannonballs, which they had brought with them from Bourges, were now gone. Nor was much more forthcoming from Charles VII’s court, even though this army’s next goal was La Charité, Gressart’s headquarters and the town which had been included in so many previous negotiations with the Burgundians. Desperate, both Albret and Joan sent letters to nearby towns pleading for supplies and men. Joan’s signed letter to the town of Riom (dated 9 November 1429) still survives:

  • 43 This letter can be found in the Arch. mun. de Riom, AA 33. It is edited in Quicherat, ed. 1841-18 (...)

“Dear and good friends, you know well how the city of Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier was taken by assault, and with the help of God, I have the intention of emptying the other places which are hostile to the king. But, because of the great quantities of gunpowder, arrows, and other equipment of war were expended before the said town, and because the lords who are in this town and I are so poorly provided to besiege La Charité, where we are going presently, I beseech you, that as you love the good and honor of the king and also those others here, that you would instantly send help for this siege, of gunpowder, saltpeter, sulphur, arrows, heavy crossbows, and other equipment of war. And do this so that, for lack of the said powder and other equipment of war, the situation will not be prolonged, and that you will not be said to be neglectful or rejecting. Dear and good friends, may Our Lord watch over you. Written at Moulins on the ninth day of November.
Jehanne”43.

  • 44 As can be seen in his own letter to the citizens of Riom, a transcription of which can be found i (...)

32Charles d’Albret’s letters said essentially the same44.

  • 45 On the gunpowder weapons sent to the siege of La Charité see Liocourt 1974-1976, t. 2, 250-251; B (...)
  • 46 Gilles le Bouvier, Chroniques du roi Charles VII, quoted in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 4, 49. S (...)
  • 47 See Jean Chartier, Chronique de Charles VII, quoted in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 4, 91; Percev (...)

33These letters brought some response, including gunpowder weapons from Orléans, and money from there and Bourges – but nothing from the royal court45. Ultimately, these supplies proved insufficient to bring the surrender of La Charité. The winter of December 1429 was “very harsh,” Gilles le Bouvier, the Herald of Berry, remembered two decades later46. which further discouraged the Armagnac soldiers. Even having Joan with them – which had enthused the most despairing of armies at Orléans – could not make her troops less fatigued or warmer, nor raise their spirits enough to make them forget these discomforts. The siege limped on for almost a month. The Armagnacs fought hard, firing their “bombards, cannons, and other artillery” from “three or four places” across the river, but the walls were not harmed. Gressart offered little resistance; this too must have disparaged the besiegers. Those inside the town were clearly more comfortable than those outside47.

  • 48 Perceval de Cagny, quoted in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 4, 31. See also Foulques de Villaret 18 (...)
  • 49 Joan of Arc, Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 1, 109. See also Foulques de Villaret 1893, 111, and Bo (...)

34So, the Armagnacs raised their siege and limped back to the north; they were so dispirited that they left much of their artillery behind. It was Joan of Arc’s first loss, but it was not her fault. Perceval de Cagny placed the blame no doubt where it should go: “because the king had not paid to send victuals or money to maintain the army there, they decided to lift the siege and departed in great displeasure”48. Despite this, Joan would be taunted by the failure at her trial. Asked about the defeat at La Charité, “why had she not entered the town of La Charité, after she had a commandment from God to do so,” Joan was characteristically confident in her response: “Who said to you that I had a commandment from God to do so?” She would later admit “that she wished to go into France, but that the men of arms told her that it was better to go first against the town of La Charité”49.

35Lost in this account – and this is the only way it is recounted – are the defensive decisions of Perrinet Gressart. The Maid was already overshadowing him. Yet, this was his victory. He had lost Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier, but he had defended his headquarters, the town that had meant so much to him for so long, La Charité. It was not an active defense, but it needed not be. The quality of a premodern military leader was to know when his opponents had already defeated themselves.

  • 50 Bossuat 1936, 127-218.
  • 51 From a compte of Jean de Troncey, receveur of Nevers, in Flamare, ed. 1913-1925, t. 2, 139; Bossu (...)

36For the next five years little changed. Gressart continued to fight for the Burgundians and was paid by them and the English to defend La Charité and the region. His troops also continued to ravage Nevers and Berry50. They faced little opposition. La Charité was not further threatened. His success did not go unnoticed. In 1434, Philip the Good named Gressart lord of Mont-Josserand and captain of Nevers – they were titles he had probably held for a while at that time51.

  • 52 On the Congress of Arras see Dickinson 1955 and Clauzel, Giry-Deloison & Leduc 1999
  • 53 Bossuat 1936, 223-24, referencing an unedited document, Arch. dép. Côte-d’Or, B 11918.
  • 54 Charles’ nomination document is in Flamare, ed. 1913-1925, t. 2, 159; Bossuat 1936, 228-229.

37In February 1435, as mentioned, Gressart initially did not side with Philip and the Burgundians in breaking the alliance with England at the Congress of Arras52. His reluctance is understandable. He had found it greatly to his benefit to get paid by both of the allies in the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. Why would he want to give that up? As late as 27 February 1435 he was still referring to Henry VI as king of France53. But by 22 November this had changed. His ownership of his lands recognized, he made peace with Charles VII. As a result, Gressart was named Royal Captain of La Charité, an ironic gift to the man who had defended the city so ardently against Charles VII’s army just six years previously. With this position came 22 000 saluts d’or in a lump sum and 400 livres per year salary54.

  • 55 Bossuat 1936, 229-235.
  • 56 Ibid., 235-238.

38It would be Gressart’s last official title. In essence he went into retirement. For the last two years of his life he settled into a comfortable existence, arranging the marriages of several of his relatives, many with large dowries55. He died sometime between 27 June and 15 September 1438. His wealth at the time was “officially” estimated at 100 000 livres. It is a figure Bossuat thinks is too low56. I agree with him. When did Gressart ever do anything “official”?

  • 57 See DeVries 1999, 158, although I have come to question this assertion.

39Joan of Arc was unique; it is likely that no woman will ever do what she did as a military leader in the year spanning 1429-1430 and in the months following her capture until her death 30 May 1431 on a Rouen pyre sited just behind the modern Roman Catholic church built to honor her sainthood. She deserves every word written about her. Lost in her shadow is Perrinet Gressart. He had been a squire, Burgundian captain of La Charité and its dependencies, Burgundian captain of Nevers, lord of Mont-Josserand, and French Royal captain of La Charité. He was also a routier, paid at times by the Burgundians and the English, at times by French, and on one occasion, under duress by Georges de la Trémoille, councillor of then-Armagnac dauphin and later-King Charles VII. For most of his life he was despised by all of them. Perhaps this is why he was never ennobled – although there is a persistent rumor in historical literature that he had made himself a noble in 1417, complete with a coat-of-arms displaying a fess with three cinquefoils, for which there is no solid evidence57. Indeed, Gressart may have remained the son of a mason, butcher, or farmer. But one who was also a damned fine routier. And very, very wealthy!

Notes

1 Christine de Pisan, ed. Kennedy & Varty 1977, 48.

2 Included in a letter found in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 1, 489-493.

3 DeVries 1996a.

4 DeVries 2005.

5 See, for example, Pernoud & Clin, transl. and ed. Adams 1998, which highlights all of Joan’s companions in appendices.

6 For the most egregious example of this see Winwar 1948. A corrective to this connection is DeVries, K (forthcoming), “The Life and Crimes of Gilles de Rais: Companion of Joan of Arc”.

7 Fastolf returned to England shortly after Patay. He tried to regain his reputation in 1435 by offering a plan for England during the conference at Arras (see Brill 1970 and Vale 1973), but failed. Only in 1442, after a tribunal before the Order of the Garter, of which he was a member, was Fastolf cleared of cowardice at Patay. A short biography of his life is: Harriss 2004.

8 The best biography of John Talbot is Pollard 1983.

9 Margolis 1990 which was up-to-date when published badly needs a revision as more than 40 biographies and at least 3 translations of Joan of Arc’s trial have appeared since 1990.

10 Jean de Waurin, ed. Dupont 1858-1863, t. 1, 264 (translation mine).

11 See, for example, the number of fine articles in France, ed. 2008, few of which describe anyone similar to Gressart.

12 Gressart is listed among a number of men providing “aucun ayde” in Kervyn de Lettenhove, ed. 1873, 131; Bossuat 1936, 4.

13 Bossuat 1936, 3. Bossuat convincingly dismisses the argument that Gressart was a “noble homme” or that he was the son of a noble.

14 Bossuat 1936, 4-5.

15 Soultrait, ed. 1873, c. 88; Bossuat 1936, 5-6.

16 Bossuat 1936, 7-8.

17 Ibid., 9-11, gives a range of numbers at different times throughout the rest of the book.

18 Ibid., 11-14.

19 Ibid., 15.

20 Ibid., 16-17, although evidence of this comes only from a document from the Parlement de Paris dated to 22 June 1443.

21 On the battle of Cravant see Smith & DeVries 2005, 91-94. The main narrative sources for this battle are Monstrelet, Waurin, and Le livre des trahisons.

22 Bossuat 1936, 20.

23 Flamare, ed. 1913-1925 : t. 1, 208, P. J. no. V; Bossuat 1936, 18-19.

24 A report of the archaeological excavations since 1975, which have centered around the priory, can be found at Barnoud 2010.

25 Bossuat 1936, 27.

26 Ibid., 37-38.

27 Ibid., 27-31.

28 The Treaty is printed in Plancher, ed. 1773-1781, t. 4, no. 37, and discussed in Bossuat 1936, 47-52, and Fresne de Beaucourt 1881, t. 2, 357-361.

29 Bossuat 1936, 49.

30 Gressart’s demand can be found in a letter he wrote to Philip the Good: Flamare, ed. 1913-1925, t. 1, 294. See also Bossuat 1936, 62.

31 Bossuat 1936, 64-70 and Fresne de Beaucourt 1881, t. 2, 372-375.

32 On the revolt of Jacqueline of Bavaria and the battle of Brouwershaven, see Smith & DeVries 2005, 94-98.

33 Bossuat 1936, 71-72.

34 This can be found in a letter from Gressart to the maréchal of Burgundy in Flamare, ed. 1913-1925, t. 1, 276; Bossuat 1936, 72-74.

35 Letter from Gressart to the chancellor, the lord of Villarnoul, and the lord of Champalement, and other members of the Council of the duke of Burgundy in Flamare, ed. 1913-1925, t. 1, 389; Bossuat 1936, 90-101.

36 Jean Aulon, in Duparc, ed. 1977-1989, t. 1, 484. See also Pernoud, trad. Hyams 1964, 143, and Bossuat 1936, 111-112.

37 The chronicles which had provided many details of Joan’s life, the Journal d’un siège d’Orléans and the Chronique de la Pucelle, have, without explanation, ended, while the authors of others, such as Perceval de Cagny, were away from her and evidently did not care to record much of what happened during her Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier and La Charité campaigns.

38 Jean Aulon, ed. Duparc 1977-1989, t. 1, 484, and Jaladon de la Barre 1868, 25-26.

39 Liocourt 1974-1976, t. 2, 249, and Jaladon de la Barre 1868, 18-19.

40 Jean Aulon, ed. Duparc 1977-1989, t. 1, 484. In comparison to the Armagnac army, which does not seem to have been very large at all, the number of soldiers in Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier may have appeared to be “a large number” to Jean d’Aulon, and thus he can perhaps be excused for exaggerating the opposing numbers.

41 See DeVries 1996b.

42 Jean Aulon, ed. Duparc 1977-1989, t. 1, 484-485. See also DeVries 1999, 159-162; Pernoud & Clin 1998, 80-81; Pernoud 1964, 143-144; Foulques de Villaret 1893, 109; Bossuat 1936, 115; Jaladon de la Barre 1868, 28-30; and Calemard 1929, 436-437.

43 This letter can be found in the Arch. mun. de Riom, AA 33. It is edited in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 5, 147-148, and Pernoud and Clin 1998, 257. I have used my own translation. See also Calemard 1929; Bossuat 1936, 115-116; and Jaladon de la Barre 1868, 35-36.

44 As can be seen in his own letter to the citizens of Riom, a transcription of which can be found in Calemard 1929, 438-440.

45 On the gunpowder weapons sent to the siege of La Charité see Liocourt 1974-1976, t. 2, 250-251; Bossuat 1936, 116-117; and Foulques de Villaret 1893, 159-165. In Foulques de Villaret is a transcription of the gunpowder weapons inventory. On the money sent by the inhabitants of Orléans and Bourges see Foulques de Villaret 1893, 111.

46 Gilles le Bouvier, Chroniques du roi Charles VII, quoted in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 4, 49. See also Pernoud & Clin 1998, 81; Pernoud 1964, 145; Liocourt 1974-1976, t. 2, 251; and Foulques de Villaret 1893, 111.

47 See Jean Chartier, Chronique de Charles VII, quoted in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 4, 91; Perceval de Cagny, Chronique des ducs d’Alençon, quoted in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 4, 31; and Gilles le Bouvier, quoted in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 4, 49. (The quotes are from Chartier and Cagny respectively.) See also DeVries 1999, 162-165; Pernoud & Clin 1998, 81; Pernoud 1964, 145; Liocourt 1974-1976, t. 2, 252; and Bossuat 1936, 118.

48 Perceval de Cagny, quoted in Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 4, 31. See also Foulques de Villaret 1893, 111, and Jaladon de la Barre 1868, 40.

49 Joan of Arc, Quicherat, ed. 1841-1849, t. 1, 109. See also Foulques de Villaret 1893, 111, and Bossuat 1936, 118.

50 Bossuat 1936, 127-218.

51 From a compte of Jean de Troncey, receveur of Nevers, in Flamare, ed. 1913-1925, t. 2, 139; Bossuat 1936, 218.

52 On the Congress of Arras see Dickinson 1955 and Clauzel, Giry-Deloison & Leduc 1999

53 Bossuat 1936, 223-24, referencing an unedited document, Arch. dép. Côte-d’Or, B 11918.

54 Charles’ nomination document is in Flamare, ed. 1913-1925, t. 2, 159; Bossuat 1936, 228-229.

55 Bossuat 1936, 229-235.

56 Ibid., 235-238.

57 See DeVries 1999, 158, although I have come to question this assertion.

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