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The method adopted in order to furnish the following account, has, in some instances, led to the discovery of facts of which no trace whatsoever is to be found in the details of modern historians, or the existence of which but ill accorded with their narrations; this having more particularly been the case as regards the siege of Orleans, which certainly ranks as an era in the history of France, as well as of England, of sufficient consequence to render it an object worthy of the most minute investigation; and the more so, as there was no paucity of materials to work upon, in the progress of such inquiry. Independent of all the accounts furnished by the chroniclers respecting this siege, recourse might be had to the depositions made by several witnesses during the process instituted for the justification of Jeanne d'Arc; in short, the ancient history of the Pucelle, and the journal of Tripaut, evidently corrected and arranged by ocular witnesses, abound in the most curious and interesting recitals.
It must nevertheless be allowed, that if the mine was stored with riches, the labour of extracting the ore was attended by numerous difficulties. The witnesses and the
recorders of such journals, answering or writing for contemporaries or fellow citizens, paid little attention to the elucidating those periods and localities of which we now stand in need, in order to comprehend clearly their several statements. Independent of this, the manuscripts of such journals underwent, prior to publication, many alterations, either owing to the effects of time, or resulting from the negligence, as well as the ignorance, of the original editors. For example, that chronicle which, for its perspicuity and the impartial statements it contains, merits the most attention, although, perhaps, prolix from its scrupulous exactitude, nevertheless, to all appearance, frequently presents a confusion in the dates: in that work, for instance, the business of an entire week is twice recorded; or, to speak more comprehensively, seven days contain the business transacted in the course of fourteen ; added to which, the days, either of the week or the month, are constantly misplaced, &c. The statements, however, which are subjoined, will furnish a much better idea of the difficulty experienced by modern historians, which has not, perhaps, unfrequently prompted them to imitate the Abbé Vertot, by writing the siege themselves. In combining all the details with the geographical charts, the topographical descriptions, together with the
her with the voyages and various chronologies, we have been obliged to compose: first, a chart of the fortifications of the city, and of the besiegers : secondly, a complete calendar from the commencement of October, 1428, that is to say, from the march of the English army towards Orleans, until the end of the month of May 1430; at which period the capture of
Jeanne d'Arc took place: and, thirdly, to examine, with the greatest exactitude, all these accounts, comparing them at the same time with the plan and the calendar. Notwithstanding this, if the scrutiny proved extremely long and tedious, we were amply compensated by the result of the labour bestowed; for, with the exception of some circumstances of little or no interest, almost every thing that has been handed down to us relating to the siege of Orleans, and the exploits of Jeanne d'Arc, is found to be completely developed.
Another source of embarrassment and error to the modern historian, has been, that the year during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries commenced at Easter, and consequently was incessantly varying, since that festival is never found to occur twice upon the same days. In consequence, if the strictest attention is not paid to this circumstance, how can it be accounted for that the ratification of a particular treaty in the month of October, 1416, should be anterior to the death of a prince which took place on the fifth of April in that year; or that a battle fought on the twentieth or the twenty-first of March should be the identical conflict recorded by one chronicler as occurring on the twentieth of March 1420, and by another on the twenty-first of March 1421. There are very few writers who have not been led into error by such variations in the calendar, and this the more easily, because those writers who preceded them were very faulty in their statements on the score of chronology.
By the following table extracted from L'Art de Vérifer les Dates (The Art of Verifying Dates), edit. of 1750
and 1770, will be found the first days of the several years during which the events took place, forming the subject matter of our volume.
If the examination of the Paschal Calendar is indispensably requisite, that also of the festivals of the saints is of great utility in discovering the dates of events, because the old writers frequently contented themselves, (a practice still in use among artisans and labouring men on the continent in particular,) with indicating these same festivals; to which circumstance we have likewise paid attention in the progress of our researches.