It was on or about the 20th of April 1429 that Joan of Arc left Poitiers and proceeded to Tours. The King had now appointed a military establishment to accompany her; and her two younger brothers, John and Peter, had joined her. The faithful John de Metz and Bertrand de Poulangy were also at her side. The King had selected as her esquire John d’Aulon; besides this she was followed by two noble pages, Louis de Contes and Raimond. There were also some men-at-arms and a couple of heralds. A priest accompanied the little band, Brother John Pasquerel, who was also Joan’s almoner. The King had furthermore made Joan a gift of a complete suit of armour, and the royal purse had armed her retainers.
During her stay at Poitiers Joan prepared her standard, on which were emblazoned the lilies of France, in gold on a white ground. On one side of the standard was a painting representing the Almighty seated in the heavens, in one hand bearing a globe, flanked by two kneeling angels, each holding a fleur-de-lis. Besides this standard, which Joan greatly prized, she had had a smaller banner made, with the Annunciation painted on it. This standard was triangular in form; and, in addition to those mentioned, she had a banneret on which was represented the Crucifixion. These three flags or pennons were all symbolic of the Maid’s mission: the large one was to be used on the field of battle and for general command; the smaller, to rally, in case of need, her followers around her; and probably she herself bore one of the smaller pennons. The names ‘Jesu’ and ‘Maria’ were inscribed in large golden letters on all the flags.
The national royal standard of France till this period had been a dark blue, and it is not unlikely that the awe and veneration which these white flags of the Maid, with their sacred pictures on them, was the reason of the later French kings adopting the white ground as their characteristic colour on military banners.
Joan never made use of her sword, and bore one of the smaller banners into the fight. She declared she would never use her sword, although she attached a deep importance to it.
‘My banner,’ she declared, ‘I love forty times as much as my sword!’
And yet the sword which she obtained from the altar at Fierbois was in her eyes a sacred weapon.
THE DELIVERY OF ORLEANS.
It will be now necessary to go back in our story to the commencement of the siege by the English of the town of Orleans, in order to understand the work which Joan of Arc had promised to accomplish. Orleans was the place of the utmost importance; not merely as being the second city in France, but as forming the ‘tete du pont’ for the passage of the river Loire. The French knew that were it to fall into the hands of the English the whole of France would soon become subject to the enemy.