Nancy of Arc and the Bastard of Orleans

Nancy Pelosi as Joan of Arc, the Democrats as the Dauphin, and Obama as Dunois.

What Kieran twittered. Welcome to civilization!

Michael´s complimentary comparison of the splendid Nancy Pelosi to Joan of Arc can be taken further.

The French kingdom in 1428 had abysmal morale. The Dauphin doubted, with some reason, whether he was really the legitimate heir to the throne: his mother, Isabella of Bavaria, was promiscuous while his father was busy being mad, and they both disowned him, a gift to English propaganda. The defeat of the French cavalry at Agincourt in 1415 by a much smaller force of English archers and dismounted knights and men-at-arms also encouraged a puzzled defeatism. The mass cavalry charge had for centuries been the key to feudal warfare, so what else was there? It took years to train archers to English standards. Maybe the godons really were unbeatable. So for Democrats, read the French élite in 1420.

It was Joan´s crazy or inspired conviction that temporarily put some backbone into the Dauphin. It also, and more permanently, won over Jean de Dunois, the Bastard of Orléans. Dunois turned out to be brilliant and innovative general: he adopted the Maoist tactic of isolating English garrisons in a hostile countryside, and took up the new technology of artillery. He systematically and definitively cleared the English out of Normandy and Guienne, then celebrated by extending his working castle of Châteaudun on the Loir (no e) with a comfortable and indefensible manor house – creating the model for the lovely fairy-tale Renaissance châteaux of the Loire.

The moral is that victory is as infectious as defeat, especially when the numbers are on your side. The Republican campaign against the health care reform will presumably fizzle as it has so little basis in fact or law. The quaking Democratic troops in Congress have discovered that revenge is sweet; and Barack Obama has also rediscovered his steel. Who knows where it will end? How about a repeat on climate change?

For the curious, Dunois´ story is a fine illustration of the chaotic nature of history. His father´s wife, the Italian princess Valentina Visconti, decided to retrieve the baby boy into her house and brought him up with his three legitimate half-brothers. This generous act paid off against the odds: one brother was killed and the other two – one was the noted poet Charles of Orléans – were captured by the English and kept for decades in comfortable captivity as high-value hostages. So the outsider Dunois became by default the male head of this powerful family and a key player in French politics. He just happened to be very talented. Obama´s triumph also owes a little to luck – especially stupid enemies.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web