Joan of Arc's 'Letter to the English', March 22, 1429

 

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Joan of Arc's Letter to the People of Riom; November 9, 1429
 

This is the letter dictated to the people of Riom on November 9, 1429, asking for supplies in preparation for the siege of La-Charité-sur-Loire. Lord Charles d'Albret, Royal lieutenant over Joan's army, sent a similar letter to Riom on the same day. As with any military campaign during the Hundred Years War, it was necessary for leaders to plead with each individual city and aristocratic family to drum up support, which was rarely forthcoming.
The address reads: "To my dear and good friends, the men of the Church, bourgeois, and inhabitants of the town of Riom" ("A mes chers et bons amis, les gens d'eglise, bourgeois et habitans de la ville de Rion").
Although someone else recorded the letter from her dictation, the signature "Jehanne" ("Joan" in medieval French) which appears at the bottom is believed to have been her own, after someone evidently began teaching her how to sign it. Her signature also appears on two later letters, gradually improving from one to the next.
The donations she asked for in this letter were promised by Riom, but didn't arrive in time. Better results were obtained from the town of Clermont-Ferrand in response to similar letters sent two days earlier.

An English translation is on the left; notes and commentary on the right. A transcription of the original language is also available.

 

English Translation Notes and Commentary
Dear and good friends, you well know how the town of Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier was taken by assault,n1 and with God's help I intend to clear out the other places which are against the King.n2 But because so much gunpowder, projectiles, and other war materials had been expended before this town, and because myself and the lords who are at this town are so poorly suppliedn3 for laying siege to La Charité,n4 where we will be going shortly, I pray you, upon whatever love you have for the well-being and honor of the King and also all the others here, that you will immediately send and donate for the siege gunpowder, saltpeter, sulfur, projectiles, arbalestesn5 and other materials of war. And do well enough in this matter that the [siege] will not be prolonged for lack of gunpowder and other war materials, and that no one can say you were negligent or unwilling. Dear and good friends, may Our Lord protect you. Written at Moulinsn6 the ninth day of November.
[signed] Jehanne [Joan]n7

Note 1:
The town of St-Pierre-le-Moutier had been taken on November 4th by an army under Joan and Lord Charles d'Albret.

Note 2:
Meaning along the Loire. The east bank of the river was held by enemy garrisons at several towns, among them La-Charité-sur-Loire and Cosne.

Note 3:
The Royal government was frequently lacking in funds, and did not provide enough money or supplies for the siege of La Charité.

Note 4:
La-Charité-sur-Loire is located between St-Pierre-le-Moutier and Cosne.

Note 5:
The term used in the original language indicates a large, fixed-position crossbow catapult.

Note 6:
Moulins is southeast of St-Pierre-le-Moutier.

Note 7:
Written as a signature in a different hand than the body text of the letter, by someone who was clearly just learning to write: the leading 'J' is shaped like a '7' and the letters are shaky.


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