Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France


IGNACE THOMAS MARTIN was by calling a husbandman. A native of Gallardon in Eure-et-Loir, he dwelt there with his wife and four children in the beginning of the nineteenth century. Those who knew him tell us that he was of average height, with brown straight hair, a calm glance, a thin countenance and an air of quiet and assurance. A pencil portrait, which his son, M. le Docteur Martin, has kindly sent me, gives a more exact idea of the visionary. The portrait, which is in profile, presents a forehead curiously high and straight, a long narrow head, round eyes, broad nostrils, a compressed mouth, a protruding chin, hollow cheeks and an air of austerity. He is dressed as a bourgeois, with a collar and white cravat.

According to the evidence of his brother, a man both physically and mentally sound, his was the gentlest of natures; he never sought to attract attention; in his regular piety there was nothing ecstatic. Both the mayor and the priest of Gallardon confirmed this description. They agreed in representing him to have been a good simple creature, with an intellect well-balanced although not very active.

In 1816 he was thirty-three. On January 15 in this year he was alone in his field, over which he was spreading manure, when in his ear he heard a voice which had[Pg ii.414] not been preceded by footsteps. Then he turned his head in the direction of the voice and saw a figure which alarmed him. In comparison with human size it was but slight; its countenance, which was very thin, dazzled by its unnatural whiteness. It was wearing a high hat and a frock-coat of a light colour, with laced shoes.

It said in a kindly tone: "You must go to the King; you must warn him that his person is in danger, that wicked people are seeking to overthrow his Government."

It added further recommendations to Louis XVIII touching the necessity of having an efficient police, of keeping holy the Sabbath, of ordering public prayers and of suppressing the disorders of the Carnival. If such measures be neglected, it said, "France will fall into yet greater misfortunes." All this was doubtless nothing more or less than what M. La Perruque, Priest of Gallardon, had a hundred times repeated from the pulpit on Sunday.

Martin replied:

"Since you know so much about it, why don't you perform your errand yourself? Why do you appeal to a poor man like me who knows not how to express himself?"

Then the unknown replied to Martin:

"It is not I who will go, but you; do as I command you."

As soon as he had uttered these words, his feet rose from the ground, his body bent, and with this double movement he vanished.

From this time onwards, Martin was haunted by the mysterious being. One day, having gone down into his cellar, he found him there. On another occasion, during vespers, he saw him in church, near the holy water stoup, in a devout attitude. When the service was over, the unknown accompanied Martin on his way home and again commanded him to go and see the King. The farmer told his relatives who were with him, but neither of them had seen or heard anything.

Tormented by these apparitions, Martin communicated[Pg ii.415] them to his priest, M. La Perruque. He, being certain of the good faith of his parishioner and deeming that the case ought to be submitted to the diocesan authority, sent the visionary to the Bishop of Versailles. The Bishop was then M. Louis Charrier de la Roche, a priest who in the days of the Revolution had taken the oath to the Republic. He resolved to subject Martin to a thorough examination; and from the first he told him to ask the unknown what was his name, and who it was who sent him.

But when the messenger in the light-coloured frock-coat appeared again, he declared that his name must remain unknown.

"I come," he added, "from him who has sent me, and he who has sent me is above me."

He may have wished to conceal his name; but at least he did not conceal his views; the vexation he displayed on the escape of La Valette[1168] proved that in politics he was an ultra Royalist of the most violent type.

Meanwhile the Comte de Bréteuil, Prefect of Eure-et-Loir, had been told of the visionary at the same time as the Bishop. He also questioned Martin. He expected to find him a nervous, agitated person; but when he found him tranquil, speaking simply, but with logical sequence and precision, he was very astonished.

Like M. l'Abbé La Perruque he deemed the matter sufficiently important to bring before the higher authorities. Accordingly he sent Martin, under the escort of a lieutenant of gendarmerie, to the Ministre de la Police Générale.

Having reached Paris on March 8, Martin lodged with the gendarme at the Hôtel de Calais, in the Rue Montmartre. They occupied a double-bedded room. One morning, when Martin was in bed, he beheld an apparition and told Lieutenant André, who could see nothing, although it was broad daylight. Indeed, Martin's visita[Pg ii.416]tions became so frequent that they ceased to cause him either surprise or concern. It was only to the abrupt disappearance of the unknown that he could never grow accustomed. The voice continued to give the same command. One day it told him that if it were not obeyed France would not know peace until 1840.

In 1816 the Ministre de la Police Générale was the Comte Decazes who was afterwards created a duke. He was in the King's confidence. But he knew that the extreme Royalists were hatching plots against his royal master. Decazes wished to see the good man from Gallardon, suspecting doubtless, that he was but a tool in the hands of the Extremists. Martin was brought to the Minister, who questioned him and at once perceived that the poor creature was in no way dangerous. He spoke to him as he would to a madman, endeavouring to regard the subject of his mania as if it were real, and so he said:

"Don't be agitated; the man who has been troubling you is arrested; you will have nothing more to fear from him."

But these words did not produce the desired effect. Three or four hours after this interview, Martin again beheld the unknown, who, after speaking to him in his usual manner, said: "When you were told that I had been arrested, you were told a lie; he who said so has no power over me."

On Sunday, March 10, the unknown returned; and on that day he disclosed the matter concerning which the Bishop of Versailles had inquired, and which he had said at first he would never reveal.

"I am," he declared, "the Archangel Raphaël, an angel of great renown in the presence of God, and I have received power to afflict France with all manner of suffering."

Three days later, Martin was shut up in Charenton on the certificate of Doctor Pinel, who stated him to be suffering from intermittent mania with alienation of mind.

He was treated in the kindest manner and was even per[Pg ii.417]mitted to enjoy some appearance of liberty. Pinel himself originated the humane treatment of the insane. Martin in the asylum was not forsaken by the blessed Raphaël. On Friday, the 15th, as the peasant was tying his shoe laces, the Archangel in his frock-coat of a light colour, spoke to him these words:

"Have faith in God. If France persists in her incredulity, the misfortunes I have predicted will happen. Moreover, if they doubt the truth of your visions, they have but to cause you to be examined by doctors in theology."

These words Martin repeated to M. Legros; Director of the Royal Institution of Charenton, and asked him what a doctor in theology was. He did not know the meaning of the term. In the same manner, when he was at Gallardon he had asked the priest, M. La Perruque, the meaning of certain expressions the voice had used. For example, he did not understand the wild frenzy of France [le délvie de la France] nor the evils to which she would fall a victim [elle serait en proie]. But there is nothing that need puzzle us in such ignorance, if it really existed. Martin may well have remembered the words he did not understand and which he afterwards attributed to his Archangel still without understanding them.

The visions recurred at brief intervals. On Sunday, March 31, the Archangel appeared to him in the garden, took his hand, which he pressed affectionately, opened his coat and displayed a bosom of so dazzling a whiteness that Martin could not bear to gaze on it. Then he took off his hat.

"Behold my forehead," he said, "and give heed that it beareth not the mark of the beast whereby the fallen angels were sealed."

Louis XVIII expressed a desire to see Martin and to question him. The King, like his favourite Minister, believed the visionary to be a tool in the hands of the extreme party.

On Tuesday, April 2, Martin was taken to the Tuileries[Pg ii.418] and brought into the King's closet, where was also M. Decazes. As soon as the King saw the farmer, he said to him: "Martin, I salute you."

Then he signed to his Minister to withdraw. Thereupon Martin, according to his own telling, repeated to the King all that the Archangel had revealed to him, and disclosed to Louis XVIII sundry secret matters concerning the years he had spent in exile; finally he made known to him certain plots which had been formed against his person. Then the King, profoundly agitated and in tears, raised his hands and his eyes to heaven and said to Martin:

"Martin, these are things which must never be known save to you and to me."

The visionary promised him absolute secrecy.

Such was the interview of April 2, according to the account given of it by Martin, who then, under the influence of M. La Perruque's sermons, was an infatuated Royalist. It would be interesting to know more of this priest whose inspiration is obvious throughout the whole story. Louis XVIII agreed with M. Decazes that the man was quite harmless; and he was sent back to his plough.

Later, the agents of one of those false dauphins so numerous under the Restoration, got hold of Martin and made use of him in their own interest. After Louis XVIII's death, under the influence of these adventurers, the poor man, reconstituting the story of his interview with the late King, introduced into it other revelations he claimed to have received and completely changed the whole character of the incident. In this second version the passionate Royalist of 1816 was transformed into an accusing prophet, who came to the King's own palace to denounce him as a usurper and a regicide, forbidding him in God's name to be crowned at Reims.

Such ramblings I cannot relate at length. They are to be found fully detailed in the book of M. Paul Marin. The author of this work would have done well to indicate that these follies were suggested to the unhappy man by the[Pg ii.419] partisans of Naundorf, who was passing himself off as the Duke of Normandy, who had escaped from the Temple.

Thomas Ignace Martin died at Chartres in 1834. It is alleged, but it has never been proved, that he was poisoned.[1169]


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