Siege of Orleans

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Joan of Arc with her Scots Guards  



The friendship between France and Scotland was well known; indeed there had long been an alliance between them more popularly known as the Auld Alliance. This friendship was forged because the two countries were at war with England though for different reasons. Charles V was the first king to employ Scotsmen in his bodyguard, but it is principally with Charles VII that the alliance was properly employed by the creation of the first elements of Scot Guards who were maintained by tradition in the King’s Household until the 18th century and again under the Restoration.

In 1420, a contingent of 6,000 Scotsmen had disembarked at La Rochelle to assist the Dauphin. John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, the son of the Duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, commanded this contingent. John Stewart was made Constable of France in 1423, after his victory at Baugé (1421). He was killed at Verneuil in 1424. He should not be confused with a homonym, John Stuart of Darnley (see below).

At the beginning of the siege, in October 1428, Orleans sheltered a strong Scottish contingent appointed by the king, since the accounts of the Treasurer for War, master Raguier, noted the presence of companies commanded by three Scottish knights: William Hamilton, Thomas Houston, John Wischard – alias Oulchard –, and five squires: Thomas Blair, Henry Galoys (Galloway), Edward Lennox, David Melvill and Alexander Norwill.

8th February 1429: important reinforcements led by William d'Albret arrived, with a strong contingent of 1,000 Scots commanded by the brothers John Stewart of Darnley and William Stewart of Castemilk. Alas, a few days later there occurred the disaster of Rouvray-Saint-Denis, in the open country of Beauce.

9th February 1429: an English supply convoy was sent from Paris towards Orleans under the protection of John Fastolf. A messenger from the Orleans garrison informed Charles de Bourbon, Count of Clermont, who commanded French troops in the region. It was decided that French troops should be assembled to intercept the convoy. The principle commander, Charles de Bourbon ordered that the French captains leaving Orleans should not take independent action without his support. The Bastard of Orleans, Xaintrailles and La Hire, but especially John Stuart, impatient to cross swords, did not wait and hurled themselves on the "goddamns". Behind the improvised defences of wagons and barrels full of fish, the English bowmen awaited the enemy. Demoralized, Charles de Bourbon retreated and resumed his responsibility in the lamentable check of this battle.

Once more, the impetuous attack of the cavalry cut deeply into the Franco-Scottish Army. The outcome of this fatal day, left among scattered fish on the battlefield, the bodies of 250 soldiers of the French army, including the Stuart brothers. 12th February 1429 is remembered in history under the name of 'Battle of the Herrings'.

Nevertheless the renown of the Scottish bowmen was such that they were charged with protecting the relief column from Blois to Orleans accompanied by Joan of Arc, and under the command of Patrick Ogilvy of Auchterhouse, Sheriff of Angus, who held the title of Constable of the Scottish Army in France.

There is a plaque in memory of two William Douglases in the nave of Orléans Cathedral Sainte-Crois, Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig and William Douglas of Kinross, who had helped Joan of Arc, and were buried there.


Sources for this article include:
  • St. Joan of Arc And The Scots Connection

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    Last modified: Tuesday, 01 February 2022