Joan of Arc's letter to Tours, prior to 19 January 1430




Joan of Arc's letter to Tours, prior to 19 January 1430


According to entries in the municipal registers of Tours, Joan of Arc had sent a letter to the city's government at some point prior to the date of the entry (19 January 1430), asking the city to provide money for the wedding of Heliote Poulnoir, daughter of the man who had painted Joan's battle flags.

The city deliberated the matter on February 7th, during which the assembled dignitaries decided that they would provide bread and wine for the wedding feast, but a further gift of money would be ruled out due to the city's tight finances.

These entries are included below; 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

[Entry for 19 January 1430]1

"The 19th day of January, [1430],n1 in the Tabliern2 of the aforesaid town, in the presence of Guyon Farineau, magistrate of Touraine, were assembled the honorable Jean Dupuy,n3 counselor of the Queen of Sicily;n4 the Elusn5 of the town, Master Léonnart Champenois, canon of the Church of Tours, appointed by the aforesaid Church; Masters Jean Chemier and Rigaut de Voillon, canons of the Church of Tours, on behalf of the Chapter of Tours; Masters Jean Deslandes, canon of Saint-Martin's; Pierre Briconnet, Olivier Duboillon, Etienne Gemier:
In order to deliberate the matter of a sealed letter sent by Joan the Maidenn6 to the four Elus of the town and the honorable Jean Dupuy, stating that they should give to Hauves Poulnoir,n7 painter, the sum of 100 écus for providing his daughter with clothing [i.e., her wedding dress], and that [the town] should take care of her.
It was decided that they will speak to the aforesaid Hauves and reply about this matter to the honorable Jean de Pontchier and Master Jean Lepicart, located at Bourgesn8 ...."


Note 1: Under the medieval calendar, the year began at Easter. So February "1429" (in the original) would be 1430.
Note 2: Office of Royal receipts.

Note 3: Jean Dupuy was the man in whose home Joan of Arc had stayed when she was at Tours in April 1429.
Note 4: The Queen of Sicily (Yolande d'Aragon) was Charles VII's mother-in-law.

Note 5: An Elu was an official charged with the assessment and collection of Royal taxes.



Note 6: The "maiden" or "virgin" ("pucelle") was her standard 'nickname', which she explained by saying that she had promised her saints to remain virgin "for as long as it pleases God". She was later canonized by the Church as a "Holy Maiden".
Note 7: This is the French rendering of Hamish Power, a Scottish painter living in France who made Joan's battle flags in April of 1429.


Note 8: These two were at the Royal Court in Bourges on behalf of Tours at that time.

[Entry for 7 February 1430]]2

"The seventh day of February, [1430],n9 at the Place of La Massequiere in the presence of Jean Godeau, lieutenant, etc, and Guyon Farineau, magistrate of Touraine, were assembled the Elus:n10 Master Pierre Léonnart, ecclesiastic judge of Tours for Mgr. the Archbishop; Master Jean Chemier, canon and archpriest of the Church of Tours, on behalf of the aforesaid Church; Master Jean Deslandes, called Bonamy, for the Chapter of Saint-Martin; Jean Debrion, Macé de la Bretonnière; Pierre Briconnet, Jean Vesantier, Guillaume de Montbazon, Jean Laillier, Colas de Montbazon, Jean Herviet, Jean Peslieu, Roulet Berthelot, Gillet Debrion, and others;
By whom it had been decided that the recently marriedn11 daughter of Hauves Poulnoir, painter; in honor of Joan the Maiden - who came into this kingdomn12 to the King concerning the war, telling him that she had been sent by the King of Heaven against the English, enemies of this kingdom; and who had written to the town that, for the marriage of the aforesaid young woman, the town should pay her the sum of a hundred écus - [they had decided] that nothing [i.e., no money; see the food listed below]n13 will be paid or given out because the city's funds need to be used for repairs to the town and not otherwise; but, for the love and honor of the aforesaid Maiden, the churchmen, bourgeois, and inhabitants will honor the aforesaid young woman [Heliote] at her nuptial benediction, which will be next Thursday; and they will have prayers said for her in the aforesaid town's name; and to give the aforesaid prayer in the presence of the leading citizens of this town, Michau Hardoin, notary of the aforesaid town, has been appointed. And bread and wine will be given to this young woman on the day of her aforesaid benediction: to wit, bread made from a sestiern14 of wheat, and four jalayesn15 of wine."



Note 9: See Note #1 above, concerning the medieval calendar.

Note 10: It's a comment on Joan of Arc's prestige that these officials, during a time of war, would take time to discuss the wedding of a minor personage simply because Joan had asked them to.





Note 11: Evidently a scribal error. Her wedding was on the 9th.


Note 12: A loose, and somewhat confused, reference to the fact that Joan's home village was on the Burgundian-dominated eastern edge of the kingdom - it was within the kingdom of France, but on the margins. A few 15th century documents further confuse the matter by shifting the description from "the borders of Lorraine" to "Lorraine" itself - a separate duchy that was a part of the Holy Roman Empire rather than France. Joan's village was in the Barrois (Duchy of Bar).
Note 13: As listed farther below after the spiritual benefit bestowed, the town did provide a reasonable amount of bread and wine.






Note 14: A sestier, as a measure of grain or other such goods, was equal to about 156 litres.
Note 15: A jalaye was equal to 1/32 of a tonneau, or a little over 14 litres.

[Excerpt from Tours' financial accounts]3

"To Colas de Montbazon, for himself and Hauves Poulnoir, painter, paid out by order of the Elus, given the 19th day of February [1430],n16 paid here with a receipt, the sum of four livres, ten sous Tournois which was owed them: to wit, to the aforesaid Colas, 40 sous-Tournois for four jalayes of white wine and clairet given on behalf of the aforesaid town, the ninth day of this month, to Heliote, daughter of the aforesaid Hauves, who was married on that day; and to the aforesaid Hauves, 50 sous-Tournois to be spent on bread for the wedding feast of his daughter; (given) for the honor of Joan the Maiden, who had recommended the aforesaid young woman to the town via her sealed lettern17 ... for this, four livres, ten sous Tournois."




Note 16:
See Note #1 above concerning the medieval calendar.





Note 17:
"Lettres clouses [closes]" - one or more (the plural is ambiguous for this word) private letters to be read by the specified recipients rather than read out in public.

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Translation and other content Copyright © 2005, Allen Williamson. All rights reserved.