Joan of Arc's Letter to the citizens of Rheims (August 5, 1429)

 

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Joan of Arc's Letter to the citizens of Rheims (August 5, 1429)
 

This is a letter sent to the citizens of Rheims on August 5, 1429, while she was near the town of Provins with the army during its march to Paris. The letter refers to a new truce with the Duke of Burgundy which she was none too pleased with, being aware (no doubt) of the Duke's famous talent for duplicity. The previous month she had sent a letter proposing that a permanent peace with Burgundy be established; but the fifteen-day truce which was settled upon would merely allow the Duke to stall for time. The Royal court accepted the plan anyway, with the result that the English and Burgundians were able to further prepare their forces.

On the reverse side the letter is addressed "To the loyal French, bourgeois, [and] inhabitants of the city of Rheims" ["Aux loiaulx franczois bourgeois habitans de la cite de Rains"].

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

 

English TranslationNotes and Commentary

My dear and good friends, the obedient and loyaln1 Frenchmen of the city of Rheims, Joan the Maidenn2 lets you know of her tidings, and asks and requestsn3 that you should have no concerns about the good cause she is carrying on for the Royal family.n4 And I promise and guarantee you that I will never abandon you so long as I live. And it's true that the King has made a truce with the Duke of Burgundy lasting fifteen days, by which he [Burgundy] must turn over the city of Paris peaceably at the end of fifteen days.n5 However, do not be surprised if I don't enter it [Paris] so quickly. I am not at all content with truces made like this, and I don't know if I will uphold them; but if I do uphold them it will only be in order to protect the honor of the King; also, they [the Burgundians] will not cheat the Royal family,n6 for I will maintain and keep the King's army together so as to be ready at the end of these fifteen days if they don't make peace.n7 For this reason, my very dear and perfect friends, I pray that you do not worry yourselves so long as I live, but I ask that you keep good watch and defend the King's city; and let me know if there are any traitors who wish to do you harm, and as soon as I can I will remove them; and let me know your news. I commend you to God, may He protect you.
Written this Friday the fifthn8 day of August near Provins,n9 while encamped in the fields on the road to Paris.
Note 1:
"Bons et loiaulx", a standard phrase meaning faithful to one's lord.

Note 2:
"The Maiden" or "Virgin" ("la Pucelle") was her chosen nickname, explaining that she had promised her saints to maintain her virginity "as long as it pleases God". Like most female saints, she would be canonized as a "Holy Maiden".

Note 3:
"Vous prie et vous requiert" - a standard phrase in that era.

Note 4:
"Sang roial" - the standard term for the Royal family (those of the Royal bloodline).

Note 5:
This truce was concluded with Burgundian diplomats, led by David de Brimeu, who had arrived the day of the coronation and took part in subsequent negotiations with representatives of the Royal Court. Joan and the commanders were not included. The terms of this settlement promised that the Duke of Burgundy would transfer Paris to Charles VII at the end of the brief truce. Much has been written about the apparent credulity which inspired the Royal Court to accept this dubious promise.

Note 6:
This is one of her more blunt statements concerning her opinion of these circumstances.

Note 7:
There were good reasons to keep the army together: only two days after this letter was sent, Burgundy's ally, the Duke of Bedford, would send a challenge to the Royal army to meet at some nearby place for a pitched battle.

Note 8:
The Roman numeral "V", although Count Conrad de Maleissye had an alternate interpretation of it as a '6'.

Note 9:
The army had stopped at the town of Provins from August 2nd - 5th before moving onward.

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Translation Copyright 2004, Allen Williamson. All rights reserved.