Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 11

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

It is dubious. This Jason's, or Gideon's fleece (as the Church soon bap tized it,) was, after all, the golden fleece, reminding one of the gilded waves, of the streaming yellow tresses which VanDyck, Philippe's great painter, flings amorously round the shoulders of his saints. All saw in the new order the triumph of the fair, young, flourishing beauty of the north, over the sombre beauties of the south. It seemed as the Flemish prince, to console the Flemish dames, addressed this device of double meaning, "Autre n'auray" to them.

Under these forms of chivalry, awk wardly imitated from romances, the history of Flanders at this period is nevertheless one fiery, joyous, brutal, bacchanalian revel. Under color of tournays, feats of arms, and feasts of the Bound Table, there is one wild whirl of light and common gallantries, low intrigues, and interminable junket ings. The true device of the epoch is that presumptuously taken by the sire de Ternant at the lists of Arras : - " Que fate de mes dSsirs asaouvis' sance, et jamais d^autre Men." (Let my desires be satisfied, I wish no other good.)

The suprising part of all this is, that amidst these mad festivals and this ruinous magnificence, the affairs of the Count of Flanders seemed to go on all the better. The more he gave, lost, and squandered, the more flowed into him. He fattened and was en riched by the general ruin. In Hol land alone he met with any obstacle ; but without much trouble he acquired the positions commanding the Somme and the Mouse - Namur and Peronne. Besides the latter town, the English placed in his hands BaraurSeine, Auxerre, Meaux, the approaches to Paris, and lastly, Paris itself.

Advantage after advantage. Fortune piled her favors upon him, without leaving him time to draw breath between her gifts. She threw into the power of one of his vassals the Pucelle, that precious gage for which the English would have given any sum. And, at this very moment, his situation became complicated by another of Fortune's favors, for the duchy of Bra bant devolved to him; but he could not take possession of it without securing the friendship of the English.

The death of the Duke of Brabant, who had talked of marrying again, and of raising up heirs to himself, happened just in the nick of time for the Duke of Burgundy. He had ac quired almost all the provinces which bound Brabant - Flanders, Hainault, Holland, Namur, and Luxembourg, and only lacked the central province, that is, rich Louvain, with the key to the whole, Brussels. Here was a strong temptation: so, passing over the rights of his aunt, from whom, however, he derived his own, he also sacrificed the rights of his wards, and his own honor and probity as a guar dian, and seized Brabant. Therefore, to finish matters with Holland and Luxembourg, and to repulse the Lid geois who had just laid siege to Namur, he was necessitated to remain on good terms with the English; in other words, to deliver up the Pucelle. Philippelei?on (good) was a good man, according to the vulgar idea of goodness, tender of heart, especially to women, a good son, a good father, and with tears at will. He wept over the slain at Azincourt ; but Lis league with the English cost more lives than Azincourt. He shed torrents of tears at his father's death; and then, to avenge him, torrents of blood. Sen sibility and sensuality oflen go to gether; but sensuality and concupi scence are not the less cruel when aroused. Let the desired object draw back; let concupiscence see her fly and conceal herself from its pursuit, then it turns to blind rage. . . . Woe to whatever opposes itl . . . The school of Rubens, in its Pagan bac chanalia, rejoices in bringing together tigers and satyrs, " lust hard by hate." He who held the Pucelle in his hands, John of Ligny, the Duke 9f Burgundy's vassal, found himself pre cisely in the same situation as .his suzerain ; like him, it w^s his hour of cupidity, of extreme temptation.

He belonged to the glorious house of Luxembourg, and to be of kin to the emperor Henry VII., and to king John of Bohemia, was an honor well worth preserving unsullied; but John of Ligny was poor, the youngest son of a youngest son. He had contrived to get his aunt, the rich countess of Ligny and of SaintPol, to name him her sole heir, and this legacy, which lay exceedingly open to question, was about to be disputed by his eldest brother. In dread of this, John be came the docile and trembling servant of the Duke of Burgundy, of the Eng lish, and of every one. The English pressed him to deliver up his prisoner to^ them ; and, indeed, they could easily have seized her in the tower of Beaulieu, in Picardy, where they had placed her. But, if he gave her up to them, he would ruin himself with the Duke of Burgundy, his suzerain, and the judge in the question of his inheri tance, who, consequently, could ruin him by a single word. So he sent her, provisorily, to his castle of Beaure voir, which lay within the territory of the empire.

The English, wild with hate and humiliation, urged and threatened. So grealTwas their rage against the Pu celle, that they burned a woman alive for speaking well of her. If the Pu celle herself were not tried, con demned, and burned as a sorceress - if her victories were not set down as due to the devil, they would remain in the eyes of the people miracles, God's own works. The inference would be, that God was against the English, that they had been rightfully and loyally defeated, and that their cause was the deviPs. According to the notions of the time, there was no medium. A conclusion like this, intol erable to English pride, was infinitely more so to a government of bishops, like that of England, and to the cardi nal, its head.

Matters were in a desperate state when Winchester took them in hand. Gloucester being reduced to a cipher in England, and Bedford in France, he found himself uncontrolled. He had fancied that on bringing the young king to Calais (April 23d), all would flock to him: not an Englishman budged. He tried to pique their honor by fulminating an ordinance " against those who fear the enchant ments of the Pucelle : " it had not the slightest eflfect. The king remained at Calais, like a stranded vessel. Win chester became eminently ridiculouFit After the crusade for the recovery of the Holy Land had dwindled down in his hands to a crusade against Bohe mia, he had cut down the latter to a crusade against Paris. This bellicose prelate, who had flattered himself that he should officiate as a conqueror in NotreDame, and crown his charge there, found all the roads blocked up. Holding Compidgne, the enemy barred the route through Picardy, and holding Louviers, that through Normandy. Meanwhile the war dragged slowly on, his money wasted away, and the crusade dissolved in smoke. Appa rently the Devil had to do with the matter; for the cardinal could only get out of the scrape by bringing the deceiver to his trial; by burning him in the person of the Pucelle.

He felt that he must have her, must force her out of the hands of the Bur gnndians. She had been made prisoner May 23d; by the 26th a message is dispatched from Rouen, in the name of the vicar of the Inquisition, sum moning the Duke of Burgundy and John of Ligny to deliver up this woman, suspected of sorcery. The Inquisition had not much power in France ; its vicar was a poor and very timorous monk, a Dominican, ^nd^ un doubtedly, like all the other liendi cants, favorable to the Pucelle.' But he was here, at Rouen, overawed by the allpowerful cardinal, who held the sword to his breast ; and who had just appointed captain of Rouen a man of action, and a man devoted to himself, the earl of Warwick, Henry's tutor. Warwick held two posts, assuredly widely different from one another, but both of great trust ; the tutelage of the king, and the care of the king's enemy ; the education of the one, the superintendence of the trial of the other.

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