Battle of Formigny

Although the French king, Charles VII, did little to save the life of Jeanne d’Arc, he used the succeeding years to strengthen his position in France. In 1444, Charles and the then king of England, Henry VI signed the Treaty of Tours, which guaranteed a temporary truce between the two countries, the marriage of Margaret of Anjou to Henry, and the transfer of the province of Maine to Charles. As happened to so many of the truces of the Hundred Years War, it did not offer the prospect of a permanent settlement. Margaret was only a distant relation to the French throne and she was impoverished therefore coming without a dowry. When Henry attempted to renege on the transfer of territory, Charles threatened by collecting a large army and by 1448 Henry acquiesced.

03f Battle of Formigny 15 April 1450
Département: Calvados
Region: Basse-Normandie
Country: France

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour” [This battlefield is not included in Fields of War.]

Summary: Hostilities recommenced in June 1449 with the reorganized French Army taking advantage of the weakened English by capturing major cities in Normandy including Rouen, Harfleur, Honfleur and Lisieux. Their next objective was Caen.

The English gathered a small army of about 3,000 men under the command of Sir Thomas Kyriell and left Portsmouth for Cherbourg landing there on 15 March 1450. Kyriell marched south to capture Valognes as the 5,000-man French Army, under Charles I de Bourbon, Comte de Clermont, marched towards Carentan. Kyriell circled around Carentan, refusing to offer battle, and was heading for Bayeux when he entered the village of Formigny on 14 April. The main French force under Charles followed from Carentan towards Bayeux along the later famous National Road 13 as a smaller, but French force of 1,200 fully mounted men under Arthur de Richemont was approaching from St-Lô.

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Jeanne d’Arc Birthplace, Domrémy-la-Pucelle

We complete our story of Jeanne d’Arc by ending at the beginning; in the remote villages of Lorraine where Jeanne was born, received her religious visions, and from which she left for the court of Charles VII.

03e Jeanne d’Arc Birthplace, Domrémy-la-Pucelle
Département: Vosges
Region: Lorraine
Country: France

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour” [This battlefield is not included in Fields of War.]

Summary:  Domrémy dates from Celtic times, but the small village is noted as the birthplace of Jeanne d’Arc. In Jeanne’s youth the area was subject to conflicting forces as it lies between the lands of the Duke of Burgundy, a vassal of the king of England, and those of the Duke of Lorraine, a vassal to the emperor of Germany. Yet it remained loyal to the future Charles VII. As a youth, Jeanne tended livestock in pastures and wandered in forests atop the hills lining the Meuse River valley. During those lonely hours, she developed her strong religious beliefs and convictions that she was ordained to liberate France from English occupying forces.

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Capture of Jeanne d’Arc

After the elimination of the English threat to the Loire valley, Jeanne pressured the Dauphin to seek his rightful throne as king of France. Two months later, amidst great pageantry, she stood beside the new king at his coronation as Charles VII in Reims Cathedral, the traditional location for crowning kings of France.

Compiegne, one of the earliest royal cities in France, retains numerous large buildings that date from the 15th century or earlier. The city provides an opportunity to view original structures dating from this period.

03b Capture of Jeanne d’Arc at Compiègne: 18 June 1430
Département: Oise
Region: Picardy
Country: France

A French Battlefields “Virtual Battlefield Tour” [This battlefield is not included in Fields of War.]

Summary: In March 1430, Jeanne left the court to help with the defense of Compiegne against attack by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, an English ally. On 23 May she led a sortie against the besiegers. Jeanne became trapped and taken prisoner by the men of Count Jean II of Luxembourg when the gates closed during her force’s retreat.

Charles made no attempt to rescue his heroine, mainly due to court intrigue against her by those jealous of her increasing influence. In November, she was sold by Jean to the English, as was the custom of the time for important captives.

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Jeanne d’Arc, Maid of Orléans

No historical figure has had as dramatic an impact in as short a time as a seventeen-year-old peasant girl from the small Lorraine village of Domrémy-la-Pucelle. No one has come from more obscure beginnings or has remained more controversial. As France’s youngest and most revered hero and as patron saint of the country, homage to her is found throughout the land. Few towns or villages do not have a rue or place ‘Jeanne d’Arc’. For a person of whom no formal portrait exists, her image is the most reproduced in France. Few personalities from this period have had their every move and utterance as well documented, translated, or analyzed.

We started our series of Virtual Battlefield Tours with those of the Hundred Years War in celebration of the 600th anniversary of Jeanne’s birth in 1412 – the exact date is not known. Jeanne d’Arc appeared at the court of as yet uncrowned Charles VII at Chinon begging for an opportunity to defend France from English invaders. She was determined to eliminate the English from French soil and to have the Dauphin, Charles, crowned as king of France. To her, it was a holy quest; the result of divine guidance. Her military aggressiveness revitalized French forces and leadership. Despite her untimely capture and execution, her inspiration eventually led to a French military and political victory twenty-two years later.

Our signature volume, ‘Fields of War: Fifty Key Battlefields in France and Belgium’, only includes one Jeanne d’Arc battlefield, the lifting of the Siege of Orléans. Blogs, however, offer the opportunity to present additional material. Thus, we have already posted a Virtual Battlefield Tour of the Battle of Patay, where French forces including Jeanne routed the English survivors from the Siege of Orléans. Several other Jeanne locations will follow shortly. We hope that you will find them of interest.