The squabble between the French and English over the throne of France called The Hundred Years War had rumbled on and off since 1337 but came to a head in 1415 when Henry V invaded Normandy.
De Vignolles had been born in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in 1390 and although he wasn’t a noble, he joined the forces of Charles VII and quickly made a name for himself as an extremely capable military leader. In 1421 he fought at the Battle of Baugé and after leading skirmishing raids across northern France, he played a major role in relieving the siege of Montargis.
He earned himself the nickname of ‘La Hire’ and there are varying explanations of its meaning. Wikipedia says that it may have come from the English ‘Hire-God’ which in turn stems from the Latin ‘Ira Dei’ meaning the Wrath of God. A more likely derivation is that it came from the French for ‘hedgehog’ because de Vignolles was renowned for his bad-tempered and prickly disposition. (I’m assuming this must be old French since ‘hedgehog’ is now both ‘hérisson‘ and masculine)
Be that as it may, De Vignolles was one of only a few military men who believed in Joan of Arc and he fought alongside her at Orleans and Potay, and it was probably her influence that led him to pray before battle, albeit in his own bellicose way. On the way to battle, a priest gave him absolution for his sins and he then fell to his knees and prayed:
God, I pray Thee that today Thou wilt do for La Hire that which Thou wouldst have La Hire do for Thee, if he were God and Thou wert La Hire.
His military career spanned more than twenty years. In 1430, he captured the English held fortification of Chateau-Gaillard and was made Captain General of Normandy in 1438. His last two major battles came in 1440 at Pontoise and in 1442 in capturing La Reole. De Vignolles died at Montauban of an unknown illness in January 1443.
As already mentioned, de Vignolles became a byword for a bad-tempered disposition so it seems odd that he should be the inspiration for the Jack of Hearts in French playing cards. Perhaps it commemorates his faith in Joan of Arc.