Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France


ON the morning of Sunday the 8th of May, the English departed, retreating towards Meung and Beaugency. In the afternoon of the same day, Messire Florent d'Illiers with his men-at-arms left the town and went straight to his captaincy of Châteaudun to defend it against the Godons who had a garrison at Marchenoir and were about to descend on Le Dunois. On the next day the other captains from La Beauce and Gâtinais returned to their towns and strongholds.[1119]

On the ninth of the same month, the combatants brought by the Sire de Rais, receiving neither pay nor entertainment, went off each man on his own account; and the Maid did not stay longer.[1120] After having taken part in the procession by which the townsfolk rendered thanks to God, she took her leave of those to whom she had come in the hour of distress and affliction and whom she now quitted in the hour of deliverance and rejoicing. They wept with joy and with gratitude and offered themselves to her for her to do[Pg i.319] with them and their goods whatever she would. And she thanked them kindly.[1121]

From Chinon the King caused to be sent to the inhabitants of the towns in his dominion and notably to those of La Rochelle and Narbonne, a letter written at three sittings, between the evening of the 9th of May and the morning of the 10th, as the tidings from Orléans were coming in. In this letter he announced the capture of the forts of Saint-Loup, Les Augustins and Les Tourelles and called upon the townsfolk to praise God and do honour to the great feats accomplished there, especially by the Maid, who "had always been present when these deeds were done."[1122] Thus did the royal power describe Jeanne's share in the victory. It was in no wise a captain's share; she held no command of any kind. But, sent by God, at least so it might be believed, her presence was a help and a consolation.

In company with a few nobles she went to Blois, stayed there two days,[1123] then went on to Tours, where the King was expected.[1124] When, on the Friday before Whitsunday, she entered the town, Charles, who had set out from Chinon, had not yet arrived. Banner in hand, she rode out to meet him and when she came[Pg i.320] to him, she took off her cap and bowed her head as far as she could over her horse. The King lifted his hood, bade her look up and kissed her. It is said that he felt glad to see her, but in reality we know not what he felt.[1125]

In this month of May, 1429, he received from Messire Jacques Gélu a treatise concerning the Maid, which he probably did not read, but which his confessor read for him. Messire Jacques Gélu, sometime Councillor to the Dauphin and now my Lord Archbishop of Embrun,[1126] had at first been afraid that the King's enemies had sent him this shepherdess to poison him, or that she was a witch possessed by demons. In the beginning he had advised her being carefully interrogated, not hastily repulsed, for appearances are deceptive and divine grace moves in a mysterious manner. Now, after having read the conclusions of the doctors of Poitiers, learnt the deliverance of Orléans, and heard the cry of the common folk, Messire Jacques Gélu no longer doubted the damsel's innocence and goodness. Seeing that the doctors were divided in their opinion of her, he drew up a brief treatise, which he sent to the King, with a very ample, a very humble, and a very worthy dedicatory epistle.

About that time, on the pavement of the cathedral of Reims a labyrinth had been traced with compass and with square.[1127] Pilgrims who were patient and[Pg i.321] painstaking followed all its winding ways. The Archbishop of Embrun's treatise is likewise a carefully planned scholastic labyrinth. Herein one advances only to retreat and retreats only to advance, but without entirely losing one's way provided one walks with sufficient patience and attention. Like all scholastics, Gélu begins by giving the reasons against his own opinion and it is not until he has followed his opponent at some length that he returns to his own argument. Into all the intricacies of his labyrinth it would take too long to follow him. But since those who were round the King consulted this theological treatise, since it was addressed to the King and since the King and his Council may have based on it their opinion of Jeanne and their conduct towards her, one is curious to know what, on so singular an occasion, they found taught and recommended therein.

Treating first of the Church's weal, Jacques Gélu holds that God raised up the Maid to confound the heretics, the number of whom, according to him, is by no means small. "To turn to confusion those who believe in God as if they believed not," he writes, "the Almighty, who hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was pleased to succour the King of France by the hand of a child of low estate." The Archbishop of Embrun discerns five reasons why the divine succour was granted to the King; to wit: the justice of his cause, the striking merits of his predecessors, the prayers of devout souls and the sighs of the oppressed, the injustice of the enemies of the kingdom and the insatiable cruelty of the English nation.

That God should have chosen a maid to destroy armies in no way surprises him. "He created insects, such as flies and fleas, with which to humble man's[Pg i.322] pride." So persistently do these tiny creatures worry and weary us that they prevent our studying or acting. However strong his self-control, a man may not rest in a room infested with fleas. By the hand of a young peasant, born of poor and lowly parents, subject to menial labour, ignorant and simple beyond saying, it hath pleased Him to strike down the proud, to humble them and make His Majesty manifest unto them by the deliverance of the perishing.

That to a virgin the Most High should have revealed His designs concerning the Kingdom of the Lilies cannot astonish us; on virgins He readily bestows the gift of prophecy. To the sibyls it pleased Him to reveal mysteries hidden from all the Gentiles. On the authority of Nicanor, of Euripides, of Chrysippus, of Nennius, of Apollodorus, of Eratosthenes, of Heraclides Ponticus, of Marcus Varro and of Lactantius, Messire Jacques Gélu teaches that the sibyls were ten in number: the Persian, the Libyan, the Delphian, the Cimmerian, the Erythrean, the Samian, the Cumæan, the Hellespontine, the Phrygian and the Tiburtine. They prophesied to the Gentiles the glorious incarnation of Our Lord, the resurrection of the dead and the consummation of the ages. This example appears to him worthy of consideration.

As for Jeanne, she is in herself unknowable. Aristotle teaches: there is nothing in the intellect which hath not first been in the senses, and the senses cannot penetrate beyond experience. But what the mind cannot grasp directly it may come to comprehend by a roundabout way. When we consider her works, as far as in our human weakness we can know, we say the Maid is of God. Albeit she hath adopted the profession of arms, she never counsels cruelty; she is merciful to her enemies when they throw themselves[Pg i.323] upon her mercy and she offers peace. Finally the Archbishop of Embrun believes that this Maid is an angel sent by God, the Lord of Hosts, for the saving of the people; not that she has the nature, but that she does the work of an angel.

Concerning the conduct to be followed in circumstances so marvellous, the doctor is of opinion that in war the King should act according to human wisdom. It is written: "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." In vain would an active mind have been bestowed on man were he not to make use of it in his undertakings. Long deliberation must precede prompt execution. It is not by a woman's desires or supplications that God's help is obtained. A prosperous issue is the fruit of action and of counsel.

But the inspiration of God must not be rejected. Wherefore the will of the Maid must be accomplished, even should that will appear doubtful and mistaken. If the words of the Maid are found to be stable, then the King must follow her and confide to her as to God the conduct of the enterprise to which she is committed. Should any doubt occur to the King, let him incline rather towards divine than towards human wisdom, for as there is no comparing the finite with the infinite so there is no comparing the wisdom of man with the wisdom of God. Wherefore we must believe that He who sent us this child is able to impart unto her a counsel superior to man's counsel. Then from this Aristotelian reasoning the Archbishop of Embrun draws the following two-headed conclusion: "On the one hand we give it to be understood that the wisdom of this world must be consulted in the ordering of battle, the use of engines, ladders and all other implements of war, the building of bridges, the sufficient despatch of supplies, the raising of funds,[Pg i.324] and in all matters without which no enterprise can succeed save by miracle.

"But when on the other hand divine wisdom is seen to be acting in some peculiar way, then human reason must be humble and withdraw. Then it is, we observe, that the counsel of the Maid must be asked for, sought after and adopted before all else. He who gives life gives wherewithal to support life. On his workers he bestows the instruments for their work. Wherefore let us hope in the Lord. He makes the King's cause his own. Those who support it he will inspire with the wisdom necessary to make it triumphant. God leaves no work imperfect."

The Archbishop concludes his treatise by commending the Maid to the King because she inspires holy thoughts and makes manifest the works of piety. "This counsel do we give the King that every day he do such things as are well pleasing in the sight of the Lord and that he confer with the Maid concerning them. When he shall have received her advice let him practise it piously and devoutly; then shall not the Lord withdraw His hand from Him but continue His loving kindness unto him."[1128]

The great doctor Gerson, former Chancellor of the University, was then ending his days at Lyon in the monastery of Les Célestins, of which his brother was prior. His life had been full of work and weariness.[1129][Pg i.325] In 1408 he was priest of Saint-Jean-en-Grève in Paris. In that year he delivered in his parish church the funeral oration of the Duke of Orléans, assassinated by order of the Duke of Burgundy; and he roused the passions of the mob to such a fury that he ran great danger of losing his life. At the Council of Constance, possessed by a so-called "merciful cruelty"[1130] which goaded him to send a heretic to the stake, he urged the condemnation of John Huss, regardless of the safe-conduct which the latter had received from the Emperor; for in common with all the fathers there assembled he held that according to natural law both divine and human, no promise should be kept if it were prejudicial to the Catholic Faith. With a like ardour he prosecuted in the Council the condemnation of the thesis of Jean Petit concerning the lawfulness of tyrannicide. In things temporal as well as spiritual he advocated uniform obedience and the respect of established authority. In one of his sermons he likens the kingdom of France to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, making the merchants and artisans the legs of the statue, "which are partly iron, partly clay, because of their labour and humility in serving and obeying...." Iron signifies labour, and clay humility. All the evil has arisen from the King and the great citizens being held in subjection by those of low estate.[1131]

Now, crushed by suffering and sorrow, he was teaching little children. "It is with them that reforms must begin," he said.[1132]

[Pg i.326]

The deliverance of the city of Orléans must have gladdened the heart of the old Orleanist partisan. The Dauphin's Councillors, eager to set the Maid to work, had told him of the deliberations at Poitiers, and asked him, as a good servant of the house of France, for his opinion concerning them. In reply he wrote a compendious treatise on the Maid.

In this work he is careful from the first to distinguish between matters of faith and matters of devotion. In questions of faith doubt is forbidden. With regard to questions of devotion the unbeliever, to use a colloquial expression, is not necessarily damned. Three conditions are necessary if a question is to be considered as one of devotion: first, it must be edifying; second, it must be probable and attested by popular report or the testimony of the faithful; third, it must touch on nothing contrary to faith. When these conditions are fulfilled, it is fitting neither persistently to condemn nor to approve, but rather to appeal to the church.

For example, the conception of the very holy Virgin, indulgences, relics, are matters of faith and not of devotion. A relic may be worshipped in one place or another, or in several places at once. Recently the Parlement of Paris disputed concerning the head of Saint Denys, worshipped at Saint-Denys in France and likewise in the cathedral at Paris. This is a matter of devotion.[1133]

Whence it may be concluded that it is lawful to consider the question of the Maid as a matter of devotion, especially when one reflects on her motives, which are the restitution of his kingdom to her King and the[Pg i.327] very righteous expulsion or destruction of her very stubborn enemies.

And if there be those who make various statements concerning her idle talk, her frivolity, her guile, now is the time to quote the saying of Cato: "Common report is not our judge." According to the words of the Apostle, it doth not become us to call in question the servant of God. Much better is it to abstain from judgment, as is permitted, or to submit doubtful points to ecclesiastical superiors. This is the principle followed in the canonisation of saints. The catalogue of the saints is not, strictly speaking, necessarily a matter of faith, but of pious devotion. Nevertheless, it is not to be highly censured by any manner of man.

To come to the present case, the following circumstances are to be noted: First, the royal council and the men-at-arms were induced to believe and to obey; and they faced the risk of being put to shame by defeat under the leadership of a girl. Second, the people rejoice, and their pious faith seems to tend to the glory of God and the confounding of his enemies. Third, the enemy, even his princes, are in hiding and stricken with many terrors. They give way to weakness like a woman with child; they are overthrown like the Egyptians in the song sung by Miriam, sister of Moses, to the sound of the timbrel in the midst of the women who went out with her with timbrels and with dances: "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea."[1134] And let us likewise sing the song of Miriam with the devotion which becometh our case.

Fourth, and in conclusion, this point is worthy of consideration: The Maid and her men-at-arms[Pg i.328] despise not the wisdom of men; they tempt not God. Wherefore it is plain that the Maid goes no further than what she interprets to be the instruction or inspiration received from God.

Many of the incidents of her life from childhood up have been collected in abundance and might be set forth; but these we shall not relate.

Here may be cited the examples of Deborah and of Saint Catherine who miraculously converted fifty doctors or rhetoricians, of Judith and of Judas Maccabeus. As is usually the case, there were many circumstances in their lives which were purely natural.

A first miracle is not always followed by the other miracles which men expect. Even if the Maid should be disappointed in her expectation and in ours (which God forbid) we ought not to conclude therefrom, that the first manifestation of her miraculous power proceeded from an evil spirit and not from heavenly grace; we should believe rather that our hopes have been disappointed because of our ingratitude and our blasphemy, or by some just and impenetrable judgment of God. We beseech him to turn away his anger from us and vouchsafe unto us his favour.

Herein we perceive lessons, first for the King and the Blood Royal, secondly for the King's forces and the kingdom; thirdly for the clergy and people; fourthly for the Maid. Of all these lessons the object is the same, to wit: a good life, consecrated to God, just towards others, sober, virtuous and temperate. With regard to the Maid's peculiar lesson, it is that God's grace revealed in her be employed not in caring for trifles, not in worldly advantage, nor in party hatred, nor in violent sedition,[Pg i.329] nor in avenging deeds done, nor in foolish self-glorification, but in meekness, prayer, and thanksgiving. And let every one contribute a liberal supply of temporal goods so that peace be established and justice once more administered, and that delivered out of the hands of our enemies, God being favourable unto us, we may serve him in holiness and righteousness.

At the conclusion of his treatise, Gerson briefly examines one point of canon law which had been neglected by the doctors of Poitiers. He establishes that the Maid is not forbidden to dress as a man.

Firstly. The ancient law forbade a woman to dress as a man, and a man as a woman. This restriction, as far as strict legality is concerned, ceases to be enforced by the new law.

Secondly. In its moral bearing this law remains binding. But in such a case it is merely a matter of decency.

Thirdly. From a legal and moral standpoint this law does not refuse masculine and military attire to the Maid, whom the King of Heaven appoints His standard-bearer, in order that she may trample underfoot the enemies of justice. In the operations of divine power the end justifies the means.

Fourthly. Examples may be quoted from history alike sacred and profane, notably Camilla and the Amazons.

Jean Gerson completed this treatise on Whit-Sunday, a week after the deliverance of Orléans. It was his last work. He died in the July of that year, 1429, in the sixty-fifth year of his age.[1135]

[Pg i.330]

The treatise is the political testament of the great university doctor in exile. The Maid's victory gladdened the last days of his life. With his dying voice he sings the Song of Miriam. But with his rejoicings over this happy event are mingled the sad presentiments of keen-sighted old age. While in the Maid he beholds a subject for the rejoicing and edification of the people, he is afraid that the hopes she inspires may soon be disappointed. And he warns those who now exalt her in the hour of triumph not to forsake her in the day of disaster.

His dry close reasoning does not fundamentally differ from the ampler, more flowery argument of Jacques Gélu. One and the other contain the same reasons, the same proofs; and in their conclusions both doctors agree with the judges of Poitiers.

For the Poitiers doctors, for the Archbishop of Embrun, for the ex-chancellor of the University, for all the theologians of the Armagnac party the Maid's case is not a matter of faith. How could it be so before the Pope and the Council had pronounced judgment concerning it? Men are free to believe in her or not to believe in her. But it is a subject of edification; and it behoves men to meditate upon it, not in a spirit of prejudice, persisting in doubt, but with an open mind and according to the Christian faith. Following the counsel of Gerson, kindly souls will believe that the Maid comes from God, just as they believe that the head of Saint Denys may be venerated by the faithful either in the Cathedral Church of Paris or in the abbey-church of Saint Denys in France. They will think less of literal than of spiritual truths and they will not sin by inquiring too closely.

In short neither the treatise of Jacques Gélu nor that of Jean Gerson brought much light to the King[Pg i.331] and his Council. Both treatises abounded in exhortations, but they all amounted to saying: "Be good, pious and strong, let your thoughts be humble and prudent," Concerning the most important point, the use to be made of Jeanne in the conduct of war, the Archbishop of Embrun wisely recommended: "Do what the Maid commands and prudence directs; for the rest give yourselves to works of piety and prayers of devotion." Such counsel was somewhat embarrassing to a captain like the Sire de Gaucourt and even to a man of worth like my Lord of Trèves. It appears that the clerks left the King perfect liberty of judgment and of action, and that in the end they advised him not to believe in the Maid, but to let the people and the men-at-arms believe in her.

During the ten days he spent at Tours the King kept Jeanne with him. Meanwhile the Council were deliberating as to their line of action.[1136] The royal treasury was empty. Charles could raise enough money to make gifts to the gentlemen of his household, but he had great difficulty in defraying the expenses of war.[1137] Pay was owing to the people of Orléans. They had received little and spent much. Their resources were exhausted and they demanded payment. In May and in June the King distributed among the captains, who had defended the town, sums amounting to forty-one thousand six hundred and thirty-one livres.[1138] He had gained his victory[Pg i.332] cheaply. The total cost of the defence of Orléans was one hundred and ten thousand livres. The townsfolk did the rest; they gave even their little silver spoons.[1139]

It would doubtless have been expedient to attempt to destroy that formidable army of Sir John Fastolf which had lately terrified the good folk of Orléans. But no one knew where to find it. It had disappeared somewhere between Orléans and Paris. It would have been necessary to go forth to seek it; that was impossible, and no one thought of doing such a thing. So scientific a manœuvre was never dreamed of in the warfare of those days. An expedition to Normandy was suggested; and the idea was so natural that the King was already imagined to be at Rouen.[1140] Finally it was decided to attempt the capture of the châteaux the English held on the Loire, both below and above Orléans, Jargeau, Meung, Beaugency.[1141] A useful undertaking and one which presented no very great difficulties, unless it involved an encounter with Sir John Fastolf's army, and whether it would or no it was impossible to tell.

Without further delay my Lord the Bastard marched on Jargeau with a few knights and some of Poton's soldiers of fortune; but the Loire was high and its waters filled the trenches. Being unprovided with siege train, they retreated after having inflicted some hurt on the English and slain the commander of the town.[1142]

[Pg i.333]

By the reasons of the captains the Maid set little store. She listened to her Voices alone, and they spoke to her words which were infinitely simple. Her one idea was to accomplish her mission. Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret and Saint Michael the Archangel, had sent her into France not to calculate the resources of the royal treasury, not to decree aids and taxes, not to treat with men-at-arms, with merchants and the conductors of convoys, not to draw up plans of campaign and negotiate truces, but to lead the Dauphin to his anointing. Wherefore it was to Reims that she wished to take him, not that she knew how to go there, but she believed that God would guide her. Delay, tardiness, deliberation saddened and irritated her. When with the King she urged him gently.

Many times she said to him: "I shall live a year, barely longer. During that year let as much as possible be done."[1143]

Then she enumerated the four charges which she must accomplish during that time. After having delivered Orléans she must drive the Godons out of France, lead the King to be crowned and anointed at Reims and rescue the Duke of Orléans from the hands of the English.[1144] One day she grew impatient and went to the King when he was in one of those closets of carved wainscot constructed in the great castle halls for intimate or family gatherings. She knocked at the door and entered almost immediately. There she found the King conversing with Maître Gérard Machet, his confessor, my Lord the Bastard, the Sire de Trèves and a favourite noble of his household, by name Messire Christophe d'Harcourt. She knelt[Pg i.334] embracing the King's knees (for she was conversant with the rules of courtesy), and said to him: "Fair Dauphin, do not so long and so frequently deliberate in council, but come straightway to Reims, there to receive your rightful anointing."[1145]

The King looked graciously upon her but answered nothing. The Lord d'Harcourt, having heard that the Maid held converse with angels and saints, was curious to know whether the idea of taking the King to Reims had really been suggested to her by her heavenly visitants. Describing them by the word she herself used, he asked: "Is it your Council who speak to you of such things?"

She replied: "Yes, in this matter I am urged forward." Straightway my Lord d'Harcourt responded: "Will you not here in the King's presence tell us the manner of your Council when they speak to you?"

At this request Jeanne blushed.

Willing to spare her constraint and embarrassment, the King said kindly: "Jeanne, does it please you to answer this question before these persons here present?"

But Jeanne addressing my Lord d'Harcourt said: "I understand what you desire to know and I will tell you willingly."

And straightway she gave the King to understand what agony she endured at not being understood and she told of her inward consolation: "Whenever I am sad because what I say by command of Messire is not readily believed, I go apart and to Messire I make known my complaint, saying that those to whom I speak are not willing to believe me. And[Pg i.335] when I have finished my prayer, straightway I hear a voice saying unto me: 'Daughter of God, go, I will be thy help.' And this voice fills me with so great a joy, that in this condition I would forever stay."[1146]

While she was repeating the words spoken by the Voice, Jeanne raised her eyes to heaven. The nobles present were struck by the divine expression on the maiden's face. But those eyes bathed in tears, that air of rapture, which filled my Lord the Bastard with amazement, was not an ecstasy, it was the imitation of an ecstasy.[1147] The scene was at once simple and artificial. It reveals the kindness of the King, who was incapable of wounding the child in any way, and the light-heartedness with which the nobles of the court believed or pretended to believe in the most wonderful marvels. It proves likewise that henceforth the little Saint's dignifying the project of the coronation with the authority of a divine revelation was favourably regarded by the Royal Council.

The Maid accompanied the King to Loches and stayed with him until after the 23rd of May.[1148]

The people believed in her. As she passed through the streets of Loches they threw themselves before her horse; they kissed the Saint's hands and feet. Maître Pierre de Versailles, a monk of Saint-Denys in France, one of her interrogators at Poitiers, seeing her receive these marks of veneration, rebuked her on theological grounds: "You do wrong," he said, "to suffer such things to which you are not entitled. Take heed: you are leading men into idolatry."[Pg i.336]

Then Jeanne, reflecting on the pride which might creep into her heart, said: "In truth I could not keep from it, were not Messire watching over me."[1149]

She was displeased to see certain old wives coming to salute her; that was a kind of adoration which alarmed her. But poor folk who came to her she never repulsed. She would not hurt them, but aided them as far as she could.[1150]

With marvellous rapidity the fame of her holiness had been spread abroad throughout the whole of France. Many pious persons were wearing medals of lead or some other metal, stamped with her portrait, according to the customary mode of honouring the memory of saints.[1151] Paintings or sculptured figures of her were placed in chapels. At mass the priest recited as a collect "the Maid's prayer for the realm of France:"

"O God, author of peace, who without bow or arrow dost destroy those enemies who hope in themselves,[1152] we beseech thee O Lord, to protect us in our adversity; and, as Thou hast delivered Thy people by the hand of a woman, to stretch out to Charles our King, Thy conquering arm, that our enemies, who make their boast in multitudes and glory in bows and arrows, may be overcome by him at this present, and vouchsafe that at the end of his days he with his people may appear gloriously before[Pg i.337] Thee who art the way, the truth and the life. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, etc."[1153]

In those days the saintly, both men and women, were consulted in all the difficulties of life. The more they were deemed simple and innocent the more counsel was asked of them. For if of themselves they knew nothing then all the surer was it that the voice of God was to be heard in their words. The Maid was believed to have no intelligence of her own, wherefore she was held capable of solving the most difficult questions with infallible wisdom. It was observed that knowing nought of the arts of war, she waged war better than captains, whence it was concluded that everything, which in her holy ignorance she undertook, she would worthily accomplish. Thus at Toulouse it occurred to a capitoul to consult her on a financial question. In that city the indignation of the townsfolk had been aroused because the guardians of the mint had been ordered to issue coins greatly inferior to those which had been previously in circulation. From April till June the capitouls had been endeavouring to get this order revoked. On the 2nd of June, the capitoul, Pierre Flamenc, proposed that the Maid should be written to concerning the evils resulting from the corruption of the coinage and that she should be asked to suggest a remedy. Pierre Flamenc made this proposal at the Capitole because he thought that a saint was a good counsellor in all matters, especially in anything which concerned the coinage, particularly when, like the Maid, she was the friend of the King.[1154]

[Pg i.338]

From Loches Jeanne sent a little gold ring to the Dame de Laval, who had doubtless asked for some object she had touched.[1155] Fifty-four years previously Jeanne Dame de Laval had married Sire Bertrand Du Guesclin whose memory the French venerated and who in the House of Orléans was known as the tenth of Les Preux. Dame Jeanne's renown, however, fell short of that of Tiphaine Raguenel, astrologer and fairy,[1156] who had been Sire Bertrand's first wife. Jeanne was a choleric person and a miser. Driven out of her domain of Laval by the English, she lived in retirement at Vitré with her daughter Anne. Thirteen years before, the latter had incurred her mother's displeasure by secretly marrying a landless younger son of a noble house. When Dame Jeanne discovered it she imprisoned her daughter in a dungeon and welcomed the younger son by shooting at him with a cross-bow. After which the two ladies dwelt together in peace.[1157]

From Loches the Maid went to Selles-en-Berry, a considerable town on the Cher. Here, shortly before had met the three estates of the kingdom; and here the troops were now gathering.[1158]

On Saturday, the 4th of June, she received a herald sent by the people of Orléans to bring her[Pg i.339] tidings of the English.[1159] As commander in war they recognised none but her.

Meanwhile, surrounded by monks, and side by side with men-at-arms, like a nun she lived apart, a saintly life. She ate and drank little.[1160] She communicated once a week and confessed frequently.[1161] During mass at the moment of elevation, at confession and when she received the body of Our Lord she used to weep many tears. Every evening, at the hour of vespers, she would retire into a church and have the bells rung for about half an hour to summon the mendicant friars who followed the army. Then she would begin to pray while the brethren sang an anthem in honour of the Virgin Mary.[1162]

While practising as far as she was able the austerities required by extreme piety, she appeared magnificently attired, like a lord, for indeed she held her lordship from God. She wore the dress of a knight, a small hat, doublet and hose to match, a fine cloak of silk and cloth of gold well lined and shoes laced on the outer side of the foot.[1163] Such attire in no wise scandalised even the most austere members of the Dauphin's party. They read in holy Scripture that Esther and Judith, inspired by the Lord, loaded themselves with ornaments; true it was for sexual reasons and in order for the salvation of Israel to attract Ahasuerus and Holophernes. Wherefore they[Pg i.340] held that when Jeanne decked herself with masculine adornments, in order to appear before the men-at-arms as an angel giving victory to the Christian King, far from yielding to the vanities of the world, she, like Esther and Judith, had nothing in her heart but the interest of the holy nation and the glory of God. The English and Burgundian clerks on the other hand converted into scandal what was a subject of edification, and maintained that she was a woman dissolute in dress and in manners.

For seven years now Saint Michael the Archangel and the Saints Catherine and Margaret, wearing rich and precious crowns, had been visiting and conversing with her. It was when the bells were ringing, at the hour of compline and of matins, that she could best hear their words.[1164] In those days bells of all kinds, large and small, metropolitan, parochial or conventual, sounded in peals, or, chiming harmoniously, in voices grave or gay, spoke to all men and of all things. Their song descended from the sky to mark the ecclesiastical and civic calendar. They called priests and people to church; they mourned for the dead and they praised God; they announced fairs and field work; they clashed portentous tidings through the sky, and in times of war they called to arms and sounded the alarm. Friendly to the husbandman they scattered the tempest, they warded off hail-storms and drove away pestilence. They put to flight those demons that, flying ceaselessly through the air, haunt the children of men; and to their blessed sound was attributed the power of calming violence.[1165] Saint Catharine, she[Pg i.341] who visited Jeanne every day, was the patron of bells and bell-ringers. Thus many bells bore her name. In the ringing of bells as in the rustling of leaves, Jeanne was wont to hear her Voices. She seldom heard them without seeing a light in the direction whence they came.[1166] Those Voices called her: "Jeanne, daughter of God!"[1167] Often the Archangel and the Saints appeared to her. When they came she did them reverence, bending her knee and bowing her head; she kissed their feet, knowing it to be a greater mark of respect than kissing the countenance. She was conscious of the fragrance and grateful warmth of their glorified bodies.[1168]

Saint Michael the Archangel did not come alone. There accompanied him angels so numerous and so tiny that they danced like sparks in the damsel's dazzled eyes. When the saints and the Archangel went away, she wept with grief because they had not taken her with them.[1169] In like manner an angel visited Judith in the camp of Holofernes.

One day Jeanne's equerry, Jean d'Aulon, asked her what her Council was, just as my Lord d'Harcourt had done. She replied that she had three councillors, one of whom was always with her. Another was constantly going and coming; the third was the one with whom the other two deliberated.

Sire d'Aulon, more curious than the King, besought and requested her to let him see this Council for once.[Pg i.342]

She replied: "Your virtues are not great enough and you are not worthy to behold it."[1170]

The good squire never asked again. If he had read the Bible he would have known that Elisha's servant did not see the angels beheld by the prophet (2 Kings VI, 16, 17).

And yet Jeanne imagined that her Council had appeared to the King and his court.

"My King," she said later, "my King and many besides saw and heard the Voices that came to me. The Count of Clermont and two or three others were with him."[1171]

She believed it was so. But in reality she never showed her Voices to anyone. Not even, despite what has been said to the contrary, to that Guy de Cailly who had been following her since Chécy.[1172]

With Brother Pasquerel Jeanne engaged in pious conversation. To him she often expressed the desire that the Church after her death should pray for her and for all the French slain in the war.

"If I were to depart from this world," she used to say to him, "I should like the King to build chantries, where prayers should be offered to Messire for the salvation of the souls of those who died in war or for the defence of the realm."[1173]

Such a wish was common to all devout souls. What Christian in those days did not hold the practice of saying masses for the dead to be good and salutary? Thus, in the matter of devotion, the Maid was in accord with Duke Charles of Orléans, who, in one of[Pg i.343] his complaints, recommends the saying and singing of masses for the souls of those who had suffered violent death in the service of the realm.[1174]

She said one day to the good brother: "There is succour that I am appointed to bring."

And Pasquerel, albeit he had studied the Bible, cried out in amazement: "Such a history as yours there hath never been before in the world. Nought like unto it can be read in any book."

Jeanne answered him even more boldly than the doctors at Poitiers: "Messire has a book in which no clerk, however perfect his learning, has ever read."[1175]

She had received her mission from God alone, and she read in a book sealed against all the doctors of the Church.

On the reverse of her standard, sprinkled by mendicants with holy water, she had had a dove painted, holding in its beak a scroll, whereon were written the words "in the name of the King of Heaven."[1176] These were the armorial bearings she had received from her Council. The emblem and the device seemed appropriate to her, since she proclaimed that God had sent her, and since at Orléans she had given the sign promised at Poitiers. The King, notwithstanding, changed this shield for arms representing a crown supported upon a sword between two flowers-de-luce and indicating clearly what was the aid that the Maid of God was bringing to the realm of France. It is said that she regretted having to abandon the arms communicated to her by divine revelation.[1177]

[Pg i.344]

She prophesied, and, as happens to all prophets, she did not always foretell what was to come to pass. It was the fate of the prophet Jonah himself. And doctors explain how the prophecies of true prophets cannot be all fulfilled.

She had said: "Before Saint John the Baptist's Day, in 1429, there shall not be one Englishman, howsoever strong and valiant, to be seen throughout France, either in battle or in the open field."[1178]

The nativity of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated on the 24th of June.


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