Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Biography Part 19

By Jules Michelet
The Maid of Orleans

At the same time, the University wrote to the pope, to the cardinals, and to the king of England, landing the bishop of Beauvais, and setting forth, " that there seemed to it to have been great gravity observed, and a holy and just way of proceeding, which ought to be most satisfactory to all."

Armed with this response, some of the assessors were for burning her without further delay; which would have been sufficient satisfaction for the doctors, whose authority she re jected, but not for the English who required a retraction that should defame king Charles. They had recourse to a new admonition and a new preacher, master Pierre Morice, which was attended by no better result. It was in vain that he dwelt upon the authority of the University of Paris, "which is the light of all science." - " Though I should see the executioner and the fire there," she exclaimed, " though I were in the fire, I could only say what I have said."

It was by this time the 23d of May, the day after Pentecost; Winchester could remain no longer at Rouen, and it behooved to make an end of the business. Therefore, it was resolved to get up a great and terrible public scene, which should either terrify the recusant into submission, or, at the least, blind the people. Loyseleur, Chatillon, and Morice, were sent to visit her the evening before, to prom ise her that if she would submit and quit her man's dress, she should be delivered out of the hands of the English, and placed in those of the Church.

This fearful farce was enacted in the cemetery of Saint-Ouen, behind the beautifully severe monastic church so called ; and which had by that day assumed its present appearance. On a scaffolding raised for the purpose sat cardinal Winchester, the two judges, and thirty-three assessors, of whom many had their scribes seated at their feet. On another scaf fold, in the midst of huisaiera and tortures, was Jeanne, in male attire, and also notaries to take down her confessions, and a preacher to admonish her ; and, at its foot, among the crowd, was remarked a strange auditor, the executioner upon his cart. ready to bear her as soon as she should be adjudged his.

The preacher on this day, a famous doctor, Guillaume Erard, conceived himself bound, on so fine an opportu nity, to give the reins to his elo quence ; and by his zeal he spoiled all. "0, noble house of France," he ex claimed, " which wast ever wont to be protectress of the faith, how hast thou been abused to ally thyself with a heretic and schismatic. . . ." So far the accused had listened patiently, but when the preacher, turning towards her, said to her, raising his finger, " It is to thee, Jehanne, that I address my self, and I tell thee that thy king is a heretic and schismatic," the admirable girl, forgetting all her danger, burst forth with, " On my faith, sir, with all due respect, I undertake to tell you, and to swear, on pain of my life, that he is the noblest Christian of all Chris tians, the sincerest lover of the faith and of the Church, and not what you call him." - "Silence her," called out Cauchon.

Thus all these efforts, pains, and expense, had been thrown away. The accused adhered to what she had said. All they could obtain from her, was her consent to submit herself to the pope. Cauchon replied, " The pope is too far off." He then began to read the sentence of condemnation, which had been drawn up beforehand, and in which, among other things, it was specified : " And furthermore, you have obstinately persisted in refus ing to submit yourself to the Holy Father and to the Council," &c. Meanwhile, Loyseleur and Erard con jured her to have pity on herself; on which the bishop, catching at a shadow of hope, discontinued his reading. This drove the English mad ; and one of Winchester's secretaries told Cau chon it was clear that he favored the girl - a charge repeated by the cardi nal's chaplain. " Thou art a liar," ex claimed the bishop. " And thou," was the retort, " art a traitor to the king." These grave personages seemed to be on the point of going to cuffs on the judgment-seat.

Erard, not discouraged, threatened, prayed. One while he said, " Jehanne, we pity you so. . . . ! " and another, " Abjure, or be burnt ! " All present evinced an interest in the matter, down even to a worthy catchpole (hulssier), who, touched with com passion, besought her to give way, as suring her that she should be taken out of the hands of the English and placed in those of the Church. "Well, then," she said, " I will sign." On this, Cauchon, turning to the cardinal, re spectfully inquired what was to be done next. "Admit her to do pen ance," replied the ecclesiastical prince.

Winchester's secretary drew out of his sleeve a brief revocation, only six lines long, (that which was given to the world took up six pages,) and put a pen in her hand, but she could not sign. She smiled, and drew a circle : the secretary took her hand, and guided it to make a cross.

The sentence of grace was a most severe one : - " Jehanne, we con demn you, out of our grace and mod eration, to pass the rest of your days in prison, on the bread of grief and water of anguish, and so to mourn your sins."

She was admitted by the ecclesiastical judge to do penance, no doubt, nowhere save in the prisons of the church. The ecclesiastic prison, however severe it might be, would at the least withdraw her from the hands of the English, place her under shelter from their insults, save her honor. Judge of her surprise and despair when the bishop coldly said : " Take her back whence you brought her."

Nothing was done ; deceived on this wise, she could not fail to retract her retractation. Yet, though she had abided by it, the English, in their fury, would not have allowed her so to escape. They had come to Saint Ouen in the hope of at last burning the sorceress, had waited panting and breathless to this end ; and now they were to be dismissed on this fashion, paid with a slip of parchment, a signa ture, a grimace. ... At the very moment the bishop discontinued read ing the sentence of condemnation, stones flew upon the scaffolding with out any respect for the cardinal. . . . The doctors were in peril of their lives as they came down from their seats into the public place ; swords were in all directions pointed at their throats. The more moderate among the English confined themselves to insulting language : " Priests, you are not earning the king's money." The doctors, making off in all haste, said tremblingly: "Do not be un easy, we shall soon have her again."

And it was not the soldiery alone, not the English mobj always so fero cious, which displayed this thirst for blood. The better born, the great, the lords, were no less sanguinary. The king's man, his tutor, the earl of War wick, said like the soldiers: "The king's business goes on badly: the girl will not be burnt."

According to English notions, War wick was the mirror of worthiness, the accomplished Englishman, the per fect genUeman. Brave and devout, like his master, Henry V., and the zealous champion of the established Church, he had performed the pilgrim age to the Holy Land, as well as many other chivalrous expeditions, not fail ing to give tournays on his route: one of the most brilliant and cele brated of which took place at the gates of Calais, where he defied the whole chivalry of France. This tournay was long remembered; and the bravery and magnificence of this Warwick served not a little to prepare the way for the famous Warwick, the Amgr. maker.

With all his chivalry, Warwick was not the less savagely eager for the death of a woman, and one who was, too, a prisoner of war. The best, and the most looked-up-to of the English, was as little deterred by honorable scruples as the rest of his countrymen from putting to death on the award of priests, and by fire, her who had humbled them by the sword.

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