Nobility in the Authentic Knights Templar Tradition Historical Facts of Templar Nobility as Egalitarian Meritocracy

Ennoblement of Knights of the Order of Saint Louis (in 1693 AD), painting by François Marrot (1710 AD), in Versailles Palace

Ennoblement of Knights of the Order of Saint Louis (in 1693 AD), painting by François Marrot (1710 AD), in Versailles Palace

A (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgAs firmly established in the historical record, the Order of the Temple of Solomon as an institution fully participated in the medieval system and traditions of royalty and nobility, which are thus an integral part of authentic Templar culture and heritage. As a sovereign non-territorial Principality of statehood with a Prince Grand Master, the modern Order also possesses the legal capacity to grant legitimate Titles of Nobility, for earned merit in strategic positions of humanitarian service, when appropriate.

Despite popular misconceptions, in authentic Templarism nobility is not about mere “titles”, and Titles of Nobility are not about personal “status”, and strictly not for any self-aggrandizement. Rather, the Knights Templar regarded positions of nobility as solemn obligations, carrying a profound responsibility for representing and upholding the traditions, values and missions of the related historical institutions. Templars considered nobility – like knighthood itself – to be another form of a working system for organized service to humanity.

For the Knights Templar, although the feudal system was reliant upon the nobility system, the two were separate, and the institution of Chivalry itself was essentially opposed to feudalism. The Code of Chivalry of 1066 AD commanded to “perform… thy feudal duties, [only] if they be not contrary to the laws of God.” The 19th century French historian Emile Leon Gautier documented that the Knights always sought to contain “feudalism, so disastrous to the Church and to the Good.” As Gautier explained: “The Code of Chivalry tempered this rudeness,” serving to counterbalance the harshness of secular obligations with “the spirit of toleration”. [1]

The Knights Templar were also opposed to the elitism which was implicit in the feudal system. The Temple Rule of 1129 AD established that the Order is dedicated to “the love of Justice which constitutes its duties” (Rule 2), requiring Knights to “govern Justly” and “take your rights” only as “specifically established” by law (Rule 57). It declared that “no person shall be elevated” and the strong must “give thanks to God” for it and care for the weak (Rule 34), and that “God holds both the strong and the weak equal” (Rule 38). [2]

Nonetheless, when the Knights Templar fought against arbitrary abuses of power by royalty, imposing the Magna Carta Libertatum (“Great Charter of Liberties”) on the King in 1215 AD [3] [4] [5], they did so as noblemen, owning and representing the institution of nobility as characterized by their humanitarian and libertarian values. For this reason, history books called it the “Baron’s war”, referring to the Templars as “Barons”, although almost half of them were actually higher nobility including many Earls (Counts).

 

Meritocracy as the Authentic Principle of Nobility

 

'The End of the Song' by Edmund Leighton (1902 AD)

‘The End of the Song’ by Edmund Leighton (1902 AD)

I (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgIn the modern world of primarily democratic countries, the institution of nobility appears to be an anachronistic anomaly. Since a clear meaningful role of practical relevance is not readily identified, the function and value of the institution are overlooked, as its ancient principles have been mostly long forgotten.

In school “history” textbooks of modern times, nobility is commonly associated with the medieval feudal system centered around sovereign rights of land ownership. This partial aspect, taken out of context, lends to the assumption that the nature or goal of nobility is a justification to “rule over” people, but the historical reality is quite contrary to that misinterpretation.

Use of the term “Nobility” (from the Latin word ‘Nobilitas‘ meaning “notable”) originated in ancient Rome, describing members of the political governing class who earned their status of public office by their own merit, or who had an ancestor who had earned such status through his own merit.

Throughout history, membership in nobility was often earned by one’s substance and merit, enabling “common” people to become titled as nobility. Many Barons, Counts and higher nobles were titled by their Sovereign for extraordinary achievements, brave and effective military leadership, and other genuine accomplishments of benefit to society for the advancement of civilization. Even persisting into modern times, many people have been titled as Knights and Dames in nobility for notable contributions and advances in science, arts, exploration or scholarship of international importance.

From as early as the 6th century, Titles of Nobility were not only hereditary, but also resulted from holding a position of public office by appointment from a King. Indeed, the primary nobility titles originated from the titles of Crown Officers under the early French Kings (during the 6th – 8th centuries):

A “Count”, from the Latin ‘Comes’ meaning “companion”, was the governor of a city and the surrounding region, or a high official in the King’s entourage. A “Marquis” was the governor of a ‘March’ region at the boundaries of the kingdom needing special defenses. A “Duke”, from the Latin ‘Dux’ meaning “leader”, was the governor of a province, usually also a military leader. [6]

Experts on heraldic law and nobiliary history confirm that apart from the normal hereditary means, “one could also acquire nobility, and that was a… significant [practice] since the 16th century.” [7]

Nobility could be acquired “by office”, where “depending on the office, the holder of the office became noble either immediately or after a number of years… There were about 4000 offices conferring nobility of some kind in the 18th century. Nobility thus attained was called ‘noblesse de robe’ (for judicial offices)”, or ‘noblesse de cloche’ (for municipal offices).

Nobility could also be acquired “by letters” for merit, “that is, by Royal grant” in a Letters Patent. “The earliest examples date from the last third of the 13th century.” [8]

Cambridge University historians documented that a full 26% of Nobility Titles in France “had been acquired during the 18th century”. Of those acquired, 85% were obtained “by office”, and 15% were granted “by letters”. [9]

Supporting the concept that Titles of Nobility were largely based upon meritocracy, “one could lose nobility, by failing at one’s feudal duties (‘déchéance’) or practicing forbidden occupations (‘dérogeance’).” [10]

By customary law, hereditary titles of royalty and nobility could also be revoked, for any serious misconduct or embarrassment. Therefore, even a hereditary title must be held and maintained only through earned merit, in accordance with the underlying principle of meritocracy. Accordingly, the automatic passing of a hereditary title to heirs and successors is merely a traditional presumption that offspring of the younger generation have been raised, educated and trained by the elders, and thus have absorbed and follow the meritorious principles of royalty and nobility.

 

Nobility of the Original Knights Templar Order

 

T (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgThe 1st Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Hughes de Payens, was a Senior Vassal of Count Hugh de Champagnes, a noble patron of the Cistercian Order [11]. In 1116 AD, Count Hugh appointed and sponsored Hughes de Payens to establish the Templar Order. (Count Hugh himself joined the Knights Templar in 1125 AD.) [12] Robert de Crayon, the 2nd Grand Master, was a Senior Vassal of Count Fulk d’Anjou, the first major noble patron of the Templar Order. (Count Fulk himself joined the Templars in 1120 AD.) [13]

The 19th century historian Charles G. Addison noted that the first nine founding Knights of the Templar Order were all titled nobility or under noble patronage [14]. The first nine founding Knights of the Templar Order were: (1) Hughes de Payens (1st Grand Master), Senior Vassal of Count Hugh de Champagne, (2) Robert de Craon (2nd Grand Master), Senior Vassal of Count Fulk d’Anjou, (3) Andre de Montbard (5th Grand Master), (4) Lord Godfrey of Saint-Omer, (5) Payen de Mintdidier, (6) Archambaud de St. Agnan, (7) Geoffrey Bison, (8) Rossal, and (9) Gondamer. Medieval chroniclers reported that all nine founding Templars were titled nobility, as all were relatives of King Baldwin II either by blood or marriage.

In 1118 AD, King Baldwin II granted the Templars a headquarters in his palace, evidencing a relationship of Royal Patronage [15] [16], a fact which was confirmed by Vatican records [17]. The contemporary chronicler William of Tyre documented that in 1119 AD, King Baldwin II officially confirmed Royal Patronage of the Templars as a chivalric Order [18], and that fact was witnessed by other 12th century chroniclers [19]. William of Tyre also documented that the official Royal Patronage of King Baldwin II was again reconfirmed and formalized at the Council of Nablus in 1120 AD. [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25]

The contemporary chronicler Simon de St. Bertin, in his Annals ca. 1136 AD, referred to the early Crusaders (who were founders and later the Grand Mastery of the Templar Order) as “the Princes of God’s army” [26]. This general reference to “Princes” indicates that they were widely known to be titled nobility from Royal houses or under Royal patronage.

University historians confirm that for many decades “during the 1130’s and 1140’s” and thereafter, “all masters” of the Templar Grand Mastery “were leading political and military figures in the Kingdom of Jerusalem”, and “at least seven” of the Grand Masters “were appointed by direct secular intervention” of the Kings of Jerusalem. [27] This indicates that the Grand Mastery itself was deeply rooted in the contemporary system of royalty and nobility.

The 21st century British Barrister and Oxford scholar Dominic Selwood, historian for the London Daily Telegraph newspaper, confirmed that some Templars were high nobility from “prominent royal and aristocratic houses”, and “the majority” of Knights came from “second-tier noble families” [28].

Knighthood or damehood itself is inherently a status of nobility: University scholars define a category called “nobility of knightly origin” since the 14th century, which “requires that the first traceable ancestor be a knight.” [29] Experts on heraldic and nobiliary law note that “Chevaliers (Knights) were a subset of the nobility, which included… members of the Orders of knighthood of the King, but also members of families of ancient nobility, even untitled.” [30]

 

Royalty & Nobility as Multi-Generational Institutions

 

William Caxton showing the first specimen of his printing to King Edward IV at Almonry, Westminster, with children

William Caxton showing the first specimen of his printing to King Edward IV at Almonry, Westminster, with children

H (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgHistorically, royals and nobles generally possessed substantial wealth, both financially and in land and property ownership. This predominant situation was significantly enhanced by cumulative inheritance over many generations of noble bloodlines, during time periods when the legal framework of society protected and supported the accumulation of hereditary assets.

This characteristic of wealth was not for its own sake. First, the wealth of royalty and nobility was regularly and generously used for charity, sponsorship of education, science, arts and culture, and other forms of philanthropy. Second, the financial independence of noble families gave them the freedom to dedicate their lives to missions and causes of a higher purpose for the betterment of humanity.

Nobles were constantly striving to learn and master skills, write books of great importance to scholarship, research and preserve historical knowledge and artifacts, undertake the exploration of new worlds or new spheres of science, and many other worthy endeavors. Such beneficial activities for humanity were so deeply ingrained in the tradition of royalty and nobility, that this literally originated the phrases “noble pursuit” and “noble cause”.

Medieval Young Nobles Training with Horses

Medieval Young Nobles Training with Horses

As a result of having the financial independence to constantly pursue noble causes, develop knowledge, and preserve history, families of royalty and nobility were essentially “institutions” in their own right. Noble families typically possessed a castle, an extensive library, heirlooms including historical artifacts and works of fine art, and had an entourage and staff of many of the world’s top scholars, educators and experts.

Accordingly, growing up in a noble family was very much like attending an advanced private university and skills training academy throughout one’s life. Children of nobility were intensively schooled, from the earliest age of near infancy, in history, art, science, religion and military arts such as swordsmanship and horse riding. Noble children were literally raised to be governors, scholars, diplomats, priestly religious leaders and warriors, all rolled into one. This tradition led to the expression “Renaissance man”, meaning a person of multiple and diverse earned skills, which in combination literally contributes to and promotes the ‘Renaissance‘ (French meaning “rebirth”), or revitalization, of contemporary civilization.

Rennaissance Young Nobles Training in Fencing

Rennaissance Young Nobles Training in Fencing

For these reasons, nobility is often hereditary, not because of an unfounded “birthright” merely by chance of birth to the right parents, but rather based upon the assumption that growing up in a noble family would guarantee proper education and training, and would instill traditional cultural, spiritual and humanitarian values. Being raised in nobility was expected to reliably ensure that one would have all the knowledge, skills and traditions from all of one’s ancestors, collectively.

Just as nobles benefited from accumulated wealth, they also benefited from accumulated knowledge, by giving top priority to education and skills training. This knowledge was passed down through many generations. In this way, a “house of nobility” functions as an “institution” for preservation of history, culture, tradition and positive social values.

Considering that the institution of family (and family values) was especially strong during the relevant earlier periods of history, the intended guarantee that hereditary nobility would be backed by real merit was all the more meaningful and justified.

Therefore, even the “hereditary” aspect of nobility is ultimately based upon earned merit, by accomplishments through constant hard work and dedication, driven by a sense of higher purpose. Additionally, royalty and nobility also included the regular practice of awarding titled nobility to non-hereditary newcomers for their own demonstrated earned merit.

These realities prove that true nobility was never meant to be automatic “entitlement” of privilege. Instead, nobility was truly characterized and defined by upholding higher principles of “meritocracy”. Nobles were not noble by pretending to be better than other people. They became genuinely noble through intensive lifetime efforts, driven by moral, spiritual and traditional values, inspired by a sense of higher purpose, constantly working to better the world through their own merits of substance.

Queen Charlotte (1744-1818 AD) with children

Queen Charlotte (1744-1818 AD) with children

Over the past two centuries (ca. 1800-2000 AD), most nobility families throughout the world lost their accumulated wealth, primarily through inheritance taxes, political upheavals and the scourge of war. Thus, many modern nobles no longer have the benefit of being independently wealthy by inheritance. Just as all “commoners”, they are left with their own skills, talents, values and aspirations to achieve higher education and professional status, working hard to make their contributions to humanity.

In most cases they have been given a wealth of knowledge and motivation by their parents and grandparents, as well as the inspiration of their family history and ancestors. Many nobles succeed in rebuilding wealth through their merits and accomplishments. Networking circles of nobility are often engaged in diverse philanthropic activities, often as financial sponsors, figureheads and high profile volunteers. All of this is based upon authentic meritocracy.

 

Original “Divine Right” Subject to Higher Laws of God

 

King David Playing the Harp (1611 AD) Gerrit van Honthorst (1590-1656 AD)

King David Playing the Harp (1611 AD) Gerrit van Honthorst (1590-1656 AD)

M (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgModern textbooks commonly associate medieval royalty with the concept of “Divine Right of Kings”, which is typically described superficially from the limited perspective of Kings having supreme authority. However, the original concept was not so one-sided, instead greatly emphasizing the obligations of Kings to obey the Laws of God, making them subject to God’s punishment for any unjust or oppressive rule.

The principle of Divine Right was originally developed by the French jurist Jean Bodin (1530-1596 AD), based upon doctrines from Roman law. The primary essence of the concept was actually about the absolute necessity of national sovereignty, for the greater good, as required for the preservation of national identity, heritage and culture, and most of all for individual liberties. His scholarly legal analyses of the importance of sovereignty introduced the modern concept of the “State” and “nation-states” under international law.

The original theory held that the Divine Right of Kings could be opposed by passive resistance [31], that public office belonged to the state for the benefit of the commonwealth (literally meaning “shared well-being”) of the people, and that public officials have personal accountability for their actions [32]. It also emphasized that Kings are subject to divine law and natural law (the “laws of nature” including the spiritual laws of God), with the obligation to secure Justice and support religious worship in the State [33]. Full respect for individual liberties and freedom of private possessions were emphasized as mandatory foundations of an orderly State [34].

In that original theory, the only points about royal sovereign supremacy were limited only to being above political factions, and having independent secular authority above that of the Church. However, the Church was supposed to hold ecclesiastical authority over the King, to enforce human rights, justice and morality, by applying the Laws of God.

The Scottish textbooks on Divine Right were written in 1597-1598 AD by James VI of Scotland, before his accession to the British throne as King James I of England. His central concept was that a sovereign King is ordained by God “for his people, having received from the God a burden of government, whereof he must be countable.” [35]

Therefore, while a King was sovereign as the supreme law of the state, to answer to no man, God was the supreme sovereign over all Kings, and all Kings were required to answer to the Laws of God.

The Biblical scriptural basis for the Divine Right of Kings is found in the New Testament, in Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. … For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. … authority… is God’s minister to you for good. … he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:1-7.) [36]

It must be noted that this Biblical passage was written during a time when “authorities” followed religiously inspired principles of royalty and nobility, with official supremacy of the priesthood, and thus could be trusted to understand the obligations of the State to represent good against evil. The Apostles were not referring to the modern condition of purely secular and highly corrupt so-called “authorities”, who govern solely for the sake of power and control, violating all historical principles of human rights and international law, besieging the very principle of national sovereignty itself, and advancing agendas of evil by suppressing all that is good. Therefore, let this not be confused with blind adherence to modern secular authority, which appears to be unraveling the very fabric of civilization worldwide during our time.

In any case, this Biblical doctrine clearly establishes that authorities (presumed to be royalty) were historically and ecclesiastically charged with the strict obligation for their royalty to serve God as a ministry, dedicated to upholding Justice, and defending good against evil.

Saint Joan of Arc, a hereditary Templar as genealogical Countess of Anjou (of the royal line of founding Templar King Fulk d’Anjou of Jerusalem) [37], fought against imperialist British Kings to defend the principle of national sovereignty on a global scale. Underlying that strategic geopolitical mission of the Knights Templar, Saint Joan held strong and heartfelt opinions about the increasing misunderstanding and abuse of supposed “Divine Right” in the 15th century.

Letter by Joan of Arc (November 9, 1429 AD) to citizens of Riom

Letter by Joan of Arc (November 9, 1429 AD) to citizens of Riom

Joan of Arc famously expressed the Templar concept of limitations of Divine Right, as being subject to the higher Laws of God, in her Letter to the King of England in 1429 AD. In her inspired and noble words:

Render account to the King of Heaven of your royal blood. Return the keys of all the good cities which you have seized, to the Maid. She is sent by God to reclaim the royal blood… you have no rights in France from God, the King of Heaven… If you do not believe the news written of God and the Maid, then in whatever place we may find you, we will soon see who has the better right, God or you.” [38]

 

Suggested Topics Related to this Information

Click to learn about the Code of Chivalry & Templar Code guiding activities.

Click to learn about elevation to Knight or Dame in nobility in the 12th century Order.

 

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Academic Source References for this Topic

Full Public Evidence Proving All Facts – All facts in these materials are abundantly proven publicly, directly from primary sources of the historical record and authoritative scholarship, presented as verifiable academic source references, in hundreds of numbered footnotes, consisting of conclusive evidence provided for the world to see.

Color Coded Quotes Indicating Sources – Quotes directly from verifiable sources are color coded, for convenience of visual reference, as follows:  Brown quotes indicate historical sources; Blue quotes indicate scholarly sources; Purple quotes indicate Canon law sources; Red quotes indicate Royal sources.

[1] Emile Leon Gautier, La Chevalerie (1883), translated in: Henry Frith, Chivalry, George Routledge & Sons, London (1891), Chapter IV, Commandment VII.

[2] Henri de Curzon, La Règle du Temple, La Société de L’Histoire de France, Paris (1886), in Librairie Renouard, Rules 2, 34, 38, 57.

[3] T.F. Tout, “Fitzwalter, Robert” in Leslie Stephen, Dictionary of National Biography, London, Smith Elder & Co. (1889), p.226.

[4] Gabriel Ronay, The Tartar Khan’s Englishman, London, Cassel (1978), pp.38-40.

[5] Lord Judge Master of the Temple, The Greatest Knight, in The Inner Temple Yearbook: 2013-2014, Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, pp.14-15.

[6] François Velde, Nobility and Titles in France, Heraldica (1996), updated (2003), “History of Nobility: Titles of Nobility: Titles as Offices”.

[7] François Velde, Nobility and Titles in France, Heraldica (1996), updated (2003), Chapter “History of Nobility”, Sections “Acquisition of Nobility”, “Numbers”.

[8] François Velde, Nobility and Titles in France, Heraldica (1996), updated (2003), “History of Nobility: Acquisition of Nobility”.

[9] Guy Chaussinand-Nogaret, The French Nobility in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge University Press (1985).

[10] François Velde, Nobility and Titles in France, Heraldica (1996), updated (2003), “History of Nobility: Acquisition of Nobility”.

[11] Michael Lamy, Les Templiers: Ces Grand Seigneurs aux Blancs Manteaux, Auberon (1994), Bordeaux (1997), p.28.

[12] William of Tyre, Historia Rerum in Partibus Transmarinis Gestarum (ca. 1172 AD), XII, 7, Patrologia Latina, 201, 526-27, translated in: James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, Marquette University Press, Milwaukee (1962), pp.70-73.

[13] Malcolm Barber & Keith Bate, The Templars: Selected Sources, Manchester University Press (2002), p.6.

[14] Charles G. Addison, The History of the Knights Templar (1842), pp.4-5.

[15] Collier’s Encyclopedia, Thomson Gale (1985), 1985 Edition, Macmillan Library Reference (1990), “Knights Templars”.

[16] Charles G. Addison, The History of the Knights Templar (1842), pp.4-5, citing a Vatican document by the 13th century Pope Urban IV (Jacques Pantaleon, 1195-1264), the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, as “Pantaleon, Lib. iii. p. 82.”

[17] The Vatican, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1912), The Encyclopedia Press, New York (1913), Volume 14, “Templars, Knights”, p.493.

[18] William of Tyre, Historia Rerum in Partibus Transmarinis Gestarum (ca. 1172 AD), XII, 7, Patrologia Latina, 201, 526-27, translated in: James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, Marquette University Press, Milwaukee (1962), pp.70-73.

[19] Ernoul & Bernard, Chronique d’Ernoul et de Bernard le Tresorier (ca. 1188), Ed. L. de Mas Latrie, Paris (1871), Chapter 2, pp.7-8.

[20] Kingdom of Jerusalem, Council of Nablus: Concordat of Canons (1120 AD), established by Patriarch Warmund and Kind Baldwin II of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; Preserved in the Sidon Manuscript, Vatican Library, MS Vat. Lat. 1345: “Introduction to Canons”; Canon 20.

[21] Hans E. Mayer, The Concordat of Nablus, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Cambridge University Press, No. 33 (October 1982), pp.531-533, 541-542.

[22] Dominic Selwood, Quidem Autem Dubitaverunt:  The Saint, the Sinner, the Temple; Published in:  M. Balard (Editor), Autour de la Première Croisade, Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris (1996), pp.221-230.

[23] Dominic Selwood, Knights Templar III: Birth of the Order (2013), historian for Daily Telegraph of London, article.

[24] Malcolm Barber, The Trial of the Templars, Cambridge University Press (1978), p.5, p.8.

[25] Malcolm Barber & Keith Bate, The Templars: Selected Sources, Manchester University Press (2002), p.5.

[26] Simon de St. Bertin, Gesta Abbatum Sancti Bertini Sithensium (ca. 1136), Ed. O. Holder-Egger, in Monumenta Germanica Historica Scriptores, Vol.13, p.649.

[27] Malcolm Barber & Keith Bate, The Templars: Selected Sources, Manchester University Press (2002), p.5.

[28] Dominic Selwood, Knights Templar I: The Knights (2013), historian for Daily Telegraph of London, article.

[29] François Velde, Nobility and Titles in France, Heraldica (1996), updated (2003), “History of Nobility: Numbers”.

[30] François Velde, Nobility and Titles in France, Heraldica (1996), updated (2003), “History of Nobility: Titles of Nobility: Created Titles”.

[31] Elliott, Europe Divided: 1559-1598, Blackwell, Oxford (2000), p.224.

[32] R.B. Wernham, New Cambridge Modern History, Vol.III, Cambridge University Press (1971), p.502.

[33] R.B. Wernham, New Cambridge Modern History, Vol.III, Cambridge University Press (1971), p.490.

[34] R.B. Wernham, New Cambridge Modern History, Vol.III, Cambridge University Press (1971), p.506.

[35] King James I of England, Basilikon Doron (“Royal Gift”), Edinburgh (1599), reprinted London (1603); See: John Sommerville, Basilikon Doron, ‘Political Writings’ series, Cambridge University Press, pp.1-61.

[36] New Testament: Authorized King James Version (AKJV), Cambridge University Press (1990), Romans 13:1-7.

[37] Heinz Friederichs, Genealogisches Jahrbuch, academic journal of genealogy, Germany (ca.1971), pp.73-81.

[38] Joan of Arc, Letter to the King of England, 22 March 1429.