Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 13

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

Delivered up to the Duke of Bur gundy, she was taken to Arras, and then to the donjonkeep of Crotoy, which has long been covered by the sands of the Somme. From this place of confinement she looked out upon the sea, and could sometimes descry the English downs - that hostile land into which she had hoped to carry war for the deliverance of the Duke of Orleans. Mass was daily performed here by a priest who was also a pris oner, and Jeanne prayed ardently; she asked, and it was given unto her.

Though confined in prison, she displayed her power all the same; as long as she lived, her prayers broke through the walls, and scattered the enemy.

On the very day that she had predicted, forewarned by the archangel, the siege of CompiSgne was raised - that is, on the Ist of November. The Duke of Burgundy had advanced as far as Noyon, as if to meet and expe rience the insulting reverse personally. He sustained another defeat shortly afterwards at Germigny (November 20). Saintrailles then offered him battle at Peronne, which he declined.

These humiliations undoubtedly confirmed the duke in his alliance with the English, and determined him to deliver up the Pucelle to them. But the mere threat of interrupting all commercial relations would have been enough.

Chivalrous as he believed himself to be, and the restorer of chivaly, the Count of Flanders was at bottom the servant of the manufacturers and the merchants. The manufacturing cities and the flaxspinning districts would not have allowed commerce to be long interrupted, or their works brought to a standstill, but would have burst forth into insurrection.

At the very moment the English had got possession of the Pucelle, and were free to proceed to her trial, their affairs were going on very badly. Far from retaking Louviers, they had lost Chateaugalliard. La Hire took it by escalade, and finding Barbazan a pris oner there, set that formidable captain at liberty. The towns voluntarily went over to Charles VII., the inhabi tants expelling the English: those of Melun, close as the town is to Paris, thrust the garrison out of the gates.

To put on the drag, if it were possi ble, while the affairs of England were thus going rapidly downhill, some great and powerful engine was neces sary, and Winchester had one at hand - the trial and the coronation. These two things were to be brought into play together, or rather, they were one and the same thing. To dishonor Charles "VII., to prove that he had been led to be crowned by a witch, was bestowing so much additional sanctity on the coronation of Henry VI. ; if the one were avowedly the anointed of the Devil, the other must be recognized as the anointed of God.

Henry made his entry into Paris on the 2nd of December. On the 21st of the preceding month, the University had been made to write to Cauchon, complaining of his delays, and be seeching the king to order the trial to be begun. Cauchon was in no haste; perhaps, thinking it hard to begin the work before the wage was assured, and it was not till a month afterwards that he procured from the chapter of Rouen authority to pro ceed in that diocese. On the instant (January 3, 1431), Winchester issued an ordinance, in which the king was made to say, " that on the requisition of the bishop of Beauvais, and ex horted thereto by his dear daughter, the University of Paris, he commanded her keepers to conduct the accused to the bishop." The word was chosen to show that the prisoner was not given up to the ecclesiastical judge, but only lent, '' to be taken back again if not convicted." The English ran no risk, she could not escape death; if fire failed, the sword remained.

Cauchon opened the proceedings at Rouen, on the 9th of January, 1431. He seated the vicar of the Inquisition near himself, and began by holding a sort of consultation with eight doc tors, licentiates or masters of arts of Rouen, and by laying before them the inquiries which he had instituted touching the Pucelle, but which, having been conducted by her ene mies, appeared insufficient to these legists of Rouen. In fact, they were so utterly insufficient, that the prose cution, which, on these worthless data, was about to have been commenced against her on the charge of magic , was instituted on the charge of heresy.

With the view of conciliating these recalcitrating Normans, and lessening their superstitious reverence for the forms of procedure, Cauchon nomi nated one of their number, Jean de la Fontaine, examining counsellor {con seiller examinateur). But he reserved the most active part, that of promoter of the prosecution (promoteur du proces), for a certain Estivet, one of his Beauvais canons by whom he was accompanied. He managed to con sume a month in these preparations ^ but the young king having been at length taken back to London (Febru ary 9), Winchester, tranquil on this head, applied himself earnestly to the business of the trial, and would trust no one to superintend it. He thought, and justly, that the master's eye is the best, and took up his residence at Rouen in order to watch Cauchon at work.

His first step was to make sure of the monk who represented the Inquisition. Cauchon, having assembled his assessors, Norman priests and doctors of Paris, in the house of a canon, sent for the Dominican, and called npon him to act as his coadju tor in the proceedings. The shave ling timidly replied, that " if his pow ers were*judged sufficient, he would act as his duty required." The bishop did not fail to declare that his powers were amply sufficient; on which the monk further objected, "that he was anxious not to act as yet, both from scruples of conscience and for legality of the trial," and begged the bishop to substitute some one in his place, until he should ascertain that his powers were really sufficient.

His objections were useless ; he was not allowed so to escape, and had to sit in judgment, whether he would or not. There was another motive, besides fear, which undoubtedly assisted in keeping him to his post - Winches ter assigned hiih twenty gold sous for his pains. Perhaps, the Mendicant monk had never seen such a quantity of gold in his life.

TRIAL OP THE PUCELLB.

On February 21, the Pucelle was brought before her judges. The bishop of Beauvais admonished her "with mildness and charity," pray ing her to answer truly to whatever she should be asked, without evasion or subterfuge, both to shorten her trial and ease her conscience. An swer. " I do not know what you mean to question me about, you might ask me things which I would not tell you." She consented to swear to speak the truth upon all matters, except those which related to her visions; "But, with respect to these," she said, " you shall cut oflF my head first." Never theless, she was induced to swear that she would answer all questions '' on points affecting faith."

She was again urged on the follow ing day, the 22d, and again on the 24th, but held firm. '' It is a common remark even in children's mouths," was her observation, " that people are often hung for idling the truth. At last, worn out, and for quietness' sake, she consented to swear " to tell what she knew upon her trial, but not all she knew."

Interrogated as to her age, name, and surname, she said that she was about nineteen years old. " In the place where I was born,* they called me Jehanette, aad in France Jehanne. . . ." But, with regard to her sur name (the Fucdle, the maid), it seems, that through some caprice of feminine modesty she could not bring herself to utter it, and that she eluded the direct answer by a chaste falsehood - " As to surname, I know nothing of it."

* Domremy in Champagne, on the frontiers of Burgundy would be distinguished in Joan's time from France Proper.

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