Monday, 18 February 2013

A Talbot!

They could not have been more different either physically or in temperament. John Talbot the first Earl of Shrewsbury was aristocratic and rich, brutal, audacious - the English Achilles. She was young- only 19- slight, unconnected, devout and of peasant stock.  Yet fate brought them together.

2012 is the 600th anniversary of the birth of St Joan of Arc the saviour of France. Talbot is the man from whom she wrestled control of France. He had local connections. Through marriage Talbot acquired Alverton Lodge later to be named Alton Towers. He acquired his ferocious reputation initially in the Glyndwr rebellion in Wales, but it was in France that his reputation was sealed. The height of English power in France during the Hundred Years War was reached on the campaigns of Henry V most notably at Agincourt in 1415, but after his death English power began to fade. Doing his best to hold back the French advance was John Talbot- a considerable thorn in the side of the French.

The unlikely coming together occurred after 1429 when the young shepherdess appeared. Everything was against her, her class, her gender, and her youth. Convinced at the age of 13 that she was an agent of God and shortly after her 19th birthday she began her mission to drive the English from France. She convinced the heir to the French throne, the Dauphin, of her mission and set off with images of Christ to the fore to relieve the city of Orleans. Later Joan led the French to victory at the Battle of Patay at which Talbot was captured. Joan was later burned as a heretic at Rouen was and Talbot after a ransom returned and was killed in 1453 the year the war ended.. He is buried in the parish church of Whitchurch. Joan was canonised in 1920.

 Reading University has developed a database from muster rolls of medieval soldiers who fought in France. Several Corleys/ Cauleys/Cawleys from Cheshire- my ancestral home- served as “valettus” or archers. The Cheshire archers were amongst the renowned warriors of the time. It’s thrilling to think that an ancestor fought at Agincourt or saw Talbot or Henry V or indeed Joan.