Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Life of Joan of Arc
By Anatole France


ON the evening, after the burning, the executioner, as was his wont, went whining and begging to the monastery of the preaching friars. The creature complained that he had found it very difficult to make an end of Jeanne. According to a legend invented afterwards, he told the monks that he feared damnation for having burned a saint.[985] Had he actually spoken thus in the house of the Vice-Inquisitor he would have been straightway cast into the lowest dungeon, there to await a trial for heresy, which would have probably resulted in his being sentenced to suffer the death he had inflicted on her whom he had called a saint. And what could have led him to suppose that the woman condemned by good Father Lemaistre and my Lord of Beauvais was not a bad woman? The truth is that in the presence of these friars he arrogated to himself merit for having executed a witch and taken pains therein, wherefore he came to ask for his pot of wine. One of the monks, who happened to be a friar preacher, Brother Pierre Bosquier, forgot himself so far as to say that it was wrong to have condemned the[Pg ii.344] Maid. These words, albeit they were heard by only a few persons, were carried to the Inquisitor General. When he was summoned to answer for them, Brother Pierre Bosquier declared very humbly that his words were altogether wrong and tainted with heresy, and that indeed he had only uttered them when he was full of wine. On his knees and with clasped hands he entreated Holy Mother Church, his judges and the most redoubtable lords to pardon him. Having regard to his repentance and in consideration of his cloth and of his having spoken in a state of intoxication, my Lord of Beauvais and the Vice-Inquisitor showed indulgence to Brother Pierre Bosquier. By a sentence pronounced on the 8th of August, 1431, they condemned him to be imprisoned in the house of the friars preachers and fed on bread and water until Easter.[986]

On the 12th of June the judges and counsellors, who had sat in judgment on Jeanne, received letters of indemnity from the Great Council. What was the object of these letters? Was it in case the holders of them should be proceeded against by the French? But in that event the letters would have done them more harm than good.[987]

The Lord Chancellor of England sent to the Emperor, to the Kings and to the princes of Christendom, letters in Latin; to the prelates, dukes, counts, lords, and all the towns of France, letters in French.[988] Herein he made known unto them that King Henry and his Counsellors had had sore pity on the Maid, and that if they had caused her death it was through[Pg ii.345] their zeal for the faith and their solicitude Christian folk.[989]

In like tenor did the University of Paris write to the Holy Father, the Emperor and the College of Cardinals.[990]

On the 4th of July, the day of Saint-Martin-le-Bouillant, Master Jean Graverent, Prior of the Jacobins, Inquisitor of the Faith, preached at Saint-Martin-des-Champs. In his sermon he related the deeds of Jeanne, and told how for her errors and shortcomings she had been delivered to the secular judges and burned alive.

Then he added: "There were four, three of whom have been taken, to wit, this Maid, Pierronne, and her companion. One, Catherine de la Rochelle, still remaineth with the Armagnacs. Friar Richard, the Franciscan, who attracted so great a multitude of folk when he preached in Paris at the Innocents and elsewhere, directed these women; he was their spiritual father."[991]

With Pierronne burned in Paris, her companion eating the bread of bitterness and drinking the water of affliction in the prison of the Church, and Jeanne burned at Rouen, the royal company of béguines was now almost entirely annihilated. There only remained to the King the holy dame of La Rochelle, who had escaped from the hands of the Paris Official; but her indiscreet talk had rendered her troublesome.[992][Pg ii.346] While his penitents were being discredited, good Friar Richard himself had fallen on evil days. The Vicars in the diocese of Poitiers and the Inquisitor of the Faith had forbidden him to preach. The great orator, who had converted so many Christian folk, could no longer thunder against gaming-tables and dice, against women's finery, and mandrakes arrayed in magnificent attire. No longer could he declare the coming of Antichrist nor prepare souls for the terrible trials which were to herald the imminent end of the world. He was ordered to lie under arrest in the Franciscan monastery at Poitiers. And doubtless it was with no great docility that he submitted to the sentence of his superiors; for on Friday, the 23rd of March, 1431, we find the Ordinary and the Inquisitor, asking aid in the execution of the sentence from the Parliament of Poitiers, which did not refuse it. Why did Holy Church exercise such severity towards a preacher endowed with so wondrous a power of moving sinful souls? We may at any rate suspect the reason. For some time the English and Burgundian clergy had been accusing him of apostasy and magic. Now, owing to the unity of the Church in general and to that of the Gallican Church in particular, owing also to the authority of that bright sun of Christendom, the University of Paris, when a clerk was suspected of error and heresy by the doctors of the English and Burgundian party he came to be looked at askance by the clergy who were loyal to King Charles. Especially was this so when in a matter touching the Catholic faith, the University had pronounced against him and in favour of the English. It is quite likely that the clerks of Poitiers had been prejudiced against Friar Richard by Pierronne's conviction and even by the Maid's trial.[Pg ii.347] The good brother, who persisted in preaching the end of the world, was strongly suspected of dealing in the black art. Wherefore, realising the fate which was threatening him, he fled, and was never heard of again.[993]

None the less, however, did the counsellors of King Charles continue to employ the devout in the army. At the time of the disappearance of Friar Richard and his penitents, they were making use of a young shepherd whom my Lord the Archbishop, Duke of Reims and Chancellor of the kingdom, had proclaimed to be Jeanne's miraculous successor. And it was in the following circumstance that the shepherd was permitted to display his power.

The war continued. Twenty days after Jeanne's death the English in great force marched to recapture the town of Louviers. They had delayed till then, not, as some have stated, because they despaired of succeeding in anything as long as the Maid lived, but because they needed time to collect money and engines for the siege.[994] In the July and August of this same year, at Senlis and at Beauvais, my Lord of Reims, Chancellor of France and the Maréchal de Boussac, were upholding the French cause. And we may be sure that my Lord of Reims was upholding it with no little vigour since at the same time he was defending the benefices which were so dear to him.[995][Pg ii.348] A Maid had reconquered them, now he intended a lad to hold them. With this object he employed the little shepherd, Guillaume, from the Lozère Mountains, who, like Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Catherine of Sienna, had received stigmata. A party of French surprised the Regent at Mantes and were on the point of taking him prisoner. The alarm was given to the army besieging Louviers; and two or three companies of men-at-arms were despatched. They hastened to Mantes, where they learnt that the Regent had succeeded in reaching Paris. Thereupon, having been reinforced by troops from Gournay and certain other English garrisons, being some two thousand strong and commanded by the Earls of Warwick, Arundel, Salisbury, and Suffolk, and by Lord Talbot and Sir Thomas Kiriel, the English made bold to march upon Beauvais. The French, informed of their approach, left the town at daybreak, and marched out to meet them in the direction of Savignies. King Charles's men, numbering between eight hundred and one thousand combatants, were commanded by the Maréchal de Boussac, the Captains La Hire, Poton, and others.[996]

The shepherd Guillaume, whom they believed to be sent of God, was at their head, riding side-saddle and displaying the miraculous wounds in his hands, his feet, and his left side.[997]

When they were about two and a half miles from the town, just when they least expected it, a shower of arrows came down upon them. The English, informed by their scouts of the French approach, had lain in wait for them in a hollow of the road. Now[Pg ii.349] they attacked them closely both in the van and in the rear. Each side fought valiantly. A considerable number were slain, which was not the case in most of the battles of those days, when few but the fugitives were killed. But the French, feeling themselves surrounded, were seized with panic, and thus brought about their own destruction. Most of them, with the Maréchal de Boussac and Captain La Hire, fled to the town of Beauvais. Captain Poton and the shepherd, Guillaume, remained in the hands of the English, who returned to Rouen in triumph.[998]

Poton made sure of being ransomed in the usual manner. But the little shepherd could not hope for such a fate; he was suspected of heresy and magic; he had deceived Christian folk and accepted from them idolatrous veneration. The signs of our Saviour's passion that he bore upon him helped him not a whit; on the contrary the wounds, by the French held to have been divinely imprinted, to the English seemed the marks of the devil.

Guillaume, like the Maid, had been taken in the diocese of Beauvais. The Lord Bishop of this town, Messire Pierre Cauchon, who had claimed the right to try Jeanne, made a similar claim for Guillaume; and the shepherd was granted what the Maid had been refused, he was cast into an ecclesiastical prison.[999] He would seem to have been less difficult to guard than Jeanne and also less important. But the English had recently learnt what was involved in a trial by the Inquisition; they now knew how lengthy and how punctilious it was. Moreover, they did not see how it would profit them if this shepherd were con[Pg ii.350]victed of heresy. If the French had set their hope of success in war[1000] in Guillaume as they had done in Jeanne, then that hope was but short-lived. To put the Armagnacs to shame by proving that their shepherd lad came from the devil, that game was not worth the candle. The youth was taken to Rouen and thence to Paris.[1001]

He had been a prisoner for four months when King Henry VI, who was nine years old, came to Paris to be crowned in the church of Notre Dame with the two crowns of France and England. With high pomp and great rejoicing he made his entrance into the city on Sunday, the 16th of December. Along the route of the procession, in the Rue du Ponceau-Saint-Denys, had been constructed a fountain adorned with three sirens; and from their midst rose a tall lily stalk, from the buds and blossoms of which flowed streams of wine and milk. Folk flocked to drink of the fountain; and around its basin men disguised as savages entertained them with games and sham fights.

From the Porte Saint-Denys to the Hôtel Saint-Paul in the Marais, the child King rode beneath a great azure canopy, embroidered with flowers-de-luce in gold, borne first by the four aldermen hooded and clothed in purple, then by the corporations, drapers, grocers, money-changers, goldsmiths and hosiers. Before him went twenty-five heralds and twenty-five trumpeters; followed by nine handsome men and nine beautiful ladies, wearing magnificent armour and bearing great shields, representing the nine preux and the nine preuses, also by a number of knights and squires. In this brilliant[Pg ii.351] procession appeared the little shepherd Guillaume; he no longer stretched out his arms to show the wounds of the passion, for he was strongly bound.[1002]

After the ceremony he was conducted back to prison, whence he was taken later to be sewn in a sack and thrown into the Seine.[1003] Even the French admitted that Guillaume was but a simpleton and that his mission was not of God.[1004]

In 1433, the Constable, with the assistance of the Queen of Sicily, caused the capture and planned the assassination of La Trémouille. It was the custom of the nobles of that day to appoint counsellors for King Charles and afterwards to kill them. However, the sword which was to have caused the death of La Trémouille, owing to his corpulence, failed to inflict a mortal wound. His life was saved, but his influence was dead. King Charles tolerated the Constable as he had tolerated the Sire de la Trémouille.[1005]

The latter left behind him the reputation of having been grasping and indifferent to the welfare of the kingdom. Perhaps his greatest fault was that he governed in a time of war and pillage, when friends and foes alike were devouring the realm. He was charged with the destruction of the Maid, of whom he was said to have been jealous. This accusation proceeds from the House of Alençon, with whom the Lord Chamberlain was not popular.[1006] On the contrary, it must be admitted, that after the Lord Chan[Pg ii.352]cellor, La Trémouille was the boldest in employing the Maid, and if later she did thwart his plans there is nothing to prove that it was his intention to have her destroyed by the English. She destroyed herself and was consumed by her own zeal.

Rightly or wrongly, the Lord Chamberlain was held to be a bad man; and, although his successor in the King's favour, the Duc de Richemont, was avaricious, hard, violent, incredibly stupid, surly, malicious, always beaten and always discontented, the exchange appeared to be no loss. The Constable came in a fortunate hour, when the Duke of Burgundy was making peace with the King of France.

In the words of a Carthusian friar, the English who had entered the kingdom by the hole made in Duke John's head on the Bridge of Montereau, only retained their hold on the kingdom by the hand of Duke Philip. They were but few in number, and if the giant were to withdraw his hand a breath of wind would suffice to blow them away. The Regent died of sorrow and wrath, beholding the fulfilment of the horoscope of King Henry VI: "Exeter shall lose what Monmouth hath won."[1007]

On the 13th of April, 1436, the Count of Richemont entered Paris. The nursing mother of Burgundian clerks and Cabochien doctors, the University herself, had helped to mediate peace.[1008]

Now, one month after Paris had returned to her allegiance to King Charles, there appeared in Lorraine a certain damsel. She was about twenty-five[Pg ii.353] years old. Hitherto she had been called Claude; but she now made herself known to divers lords of the town of Metz as being Jeanne the Maid.[1009]

At this time, Jeanne's father and eldest brother were dead.[1010] Isabelle Romée was alive. Her two youngest sons were in the service of the King of France, who had raised them to the rank of nobility and given them the name of Du Lys. Jean, the eldest, called Petit-Jean,[1011] had been appointed Bailie of Vermandois, then Captain of Chartres. About this year, 1436, he was provost and captain of Vaucouleurs.[1012]

The youngest, Pierre, or Pierrelot, who had fallen into the hands of the Burgundians before Compiègne at the same time as Jeanne, had just been liberated from the prison of the Bastard of Vergy.[1013]

Both brothers believed that their sister had been burned at Rouen. But when they were told that she was living and wished to see them, they appointed a meeting at La-Grange-aux-Ormes, a village in the meadows of the Sablon, between the Seille and the[Pg ii.354] Moselle, about two and a half miles south of Metz. They reached this place on the 20th of May. There they saw her and recognised her immediately to be their sister; and she recognised them to be her brothers.[1014]

She was accompanied by certain lords of Metz, among whom was a man right noble, Messire Nicole Lowe, who was chamberlain to Charles VII.[1015] By divers tokens these nobles recognised her to be the Maid Jeanne who had taken King Charles to be crowned at Reims. These tokens were certain signs on the skin.[1016] Now there was a prophecy concerning Jeanne which stated her to have a little red mark beneath the ear.[1017] But this prophecy was invented after the events to which it referred. Consequently we may believe the Maid to have been thus marked. Was this the token by which the nobles of Metz recognised her?

We do not know by what means she claimed to have escaped death; but there is reason to think[1018] that she attributed her deliverance to her holiness. Did she say that an angel had saved her from the fire? It might be read in books how in the ancient amphitheatres lions licked the bare feet of virgins,[Pg ii.355] how boiling oil was as soothing as balm to the bodies of holy martyrs; and how according to many of the old stories nothing short of the sword could take the life of God's maidens. These ancient histories rested on a sure foundation. But if such tales had been related of the fifteenth century they might have appeared less credible. And this damsel does not seem to have employed them to adorn her adventure. She was probably content to say that another woman had been burned in her place.

According to a confession she made afterwards, she came from Rome, where, accoutred in harness of war, she had fought valiantly in the service of Pope Eugenius. She may even have told the Lorrainers of the feats of prowess she had there accomplished.

Now Jeanne had prophesied (at least so it was believed) that she would die in battle against the infidel and that her mantle would fall upon a maid of Rome. But such a saying, if it were known to these nobles of Metz, would be more likely to denounce this so-called Jeanne as an imposture than witness to the truth of her mission.[1019] However this might be, they believed what this woman told them.

Perhaps, like many a noble of the republic,[1020] they were more inclined to King Charles than to the Duke of Burgundy. And we may be sure that, chivalrous knights as they were, they esteemed chivalry wherever they found it; wherefore, because of her valour they admired the Maid; and they made her good cheer.

[Pg ii.356]

Messire Nicole Lowe gave her a charger and a pair of hose. The charger was worth thirty francs—a sum wellnigh royal—for of the two horses which at Soissons and at Senlis the King gave the Maid Jeanne, one was worth thirty-eight livres ten sous, and the other thirty-seven livres ten sous.[1021] Not more than sixteen francs had been paid for the horse with which she had been provided at Vaucouleurs.[1022]

Nicole Grognot, governor of the town,[1023] offered a sword to the sister of the Du Lys brothers; Aubert Boullay presented her with a hood.[1024]

She rode her horse with the same skill which seven years earlier, if we may believe some rather mythical stories, had filled with wonder the old Duke of Lorraine.[1025] And she spoke certain words to Messire Nicole Lowe which confirmed him in his belief that she was indeed that same Maid Jeanne who had fared forth into France. She had the ready tongue of a prophetess, and spoke in symbols and parables, revealing nought of her intent.

Her power would not come to her before Saint John the Baptist's Day, she said. Now this was the very time which the Maid, after the Battle of Patay, in 1429, had fixed for the extermination of the English in France.[1026]

[Pg ii.357]

This prophecy had not been fulfilled and consequently had not been mentioned again. Jeanne, if she ever uttered it, and it is quite possible that she did, must have been the first to forget it. Moreover, Saint John's Day was a term commonly cited in leases, fairs, contracts, hirings, etc., and it is quite conceivable that the calendar of a prophetess may have been the same as that of a labourer.

The day after their arrival at La Grange-aux-Ormes, Monday, the 21st of May, the Du Lys brothers took her, whom they held to be their sister, to that town of Vaucouleurs[1027] whither Isabelle Romée's daughter had gone to see Sire Robert de Baudricourt. In this town, in the year 1436, there were still living many persons of different conditions, such as the Leroyer couple and the Seigneur Aubert d'Ourches,[1028] who had seen Jeanne in February, 1429.

After a week at Vaucouleurs she went to Marville, a small town between Corny and Pont-á-Mousson. There she spent Whitsuntide and abode for three weeks in the house of one Jean Quenat.[1029] On her departure she was visited by sundry inhabitants of Metz, who gave her jewels, recognising her to[Pg ii.358] be the Maid of France.[1030] Jeanne, it will be remembered, had been seen by divers knights of Metz at the time of King Charles's coronation at Reims. At Marville, Geoffroy Desch, following the example of Nicole Lowe, presented the so-called Jeanne with a horse. Geoffroy Desch belonged to one of the most influential families of the Republic of Metz. He was related to Jean Desch, municipal secretary in 1429.[1031]

From Marville, she went on a pilgrimage to Notre Dame de Liance, called Lienche by the Picards and known later as Notre Dame de Liesse. At Liance was worshipped a black image of the Virgin, which, according to tradition, had been brought by the crusaders from the Holy Land. The chapel containing this image was situated between Laon and Reims. It was said, by the priests who officiated there, to be one of the halting places on the route of the coronation procession, where the kings and their retinues were accustomed to stop on their return from Reims; but this is very likely not to be true. Whether it were such a halting place or no, there is no doubt that the folk of Metz displayed a particular devotion to Our Lady of Liance; and it seemed fitting that Jeanne, who had escaped from an English prison, should go and give thanks for her marvellous deliverance to the Black Virgin of Picardy.[1032]

[Pg ii.359]

Thence she went on her way to Arlon, to Elisabeth of Gorlitz, Duchess of Luxembourg, an aunt by marriage of the Duke of Burgundy.[1033] She was an old woman, who had been twice a widow. By extortion and oppression she had made herself detested by her vassals. By this princess Jeanne was well received. There was nothing strange in that. Persons living holy lives and working miracles were much sought after by princes and nobles who desired to discover secrets or to obtain the fulfilment of some wish. And the Duchess of Luxembourg might well believe this damsel to be the Maid Jeanne herself, since the brothers Du Lys, the nobles of Metz and the folk of Vaucouleurs were of that opinion.

For the generality of men, Jeanne's life and death were surrounded by marvels and mysteries. Many had from the first doubted her having perished by the hand of the executioner. Certain were curiously reticent on this point; they said: "the English had her publicly burnt at Rouen, or some other woman like her."[1034] Others confessed that they did not know what had become of her.[1035]

Thus, when throughout Germany and France the[Pg ii.360] rumour spread that the Maid was alive and had been seen near Metz, the tidings were variously received. Some believed them, others did not. An ardent dispute, which arose between two citizens of Arles, gives some idea of the emotion aroused by such tidings. One maintained that the Maid was still alive; the other asserted that she was dead; each one wagered that what he said was true. This was no light wager, for it was made and registered in the presence of a notary, on the 27th of June, 1436, only five weeks after the interview at La Grange-aux-Ormes.[1036]

Meanwhile, in the beginning of August, the Maid's eldest brother, Jean du Lys, called Petit-Jean, had gone to Orléans to announce that his sister was alive. As a reward for these good tidings, he received for himself and his followers ten pints of wine, twelve hens, two goslings, and two leverets.[1037]

The birds had been purchased by two magistrates; the name of one, Pierre Baratin, is to be found in the account books of the fortress, in 1429,[1038] at the time of the expedition to Jargeau; the other was an old man of sixty-six, a burgess passing rich, Aignan de Saint-Mesmin.[1039]

Messengers were passing to and fro between the town of Duke Charles and the town of the Duchess of Luxembourg. On the 9th of August a letter from Arlon reached Orléans. About the middle of the month a pursuivant arrived at Arlon. He was called[Pg ii.361] Cœur-de-Lis, in honour of the heraldic symbol of the city of Orléans, which was a lily-bud, a kind of trefoil. The magistrates of Orléans had sent him to Jeanne with a letter, the contents of which are unknown. Jeanne gave him a letter for the King, in which she probably requested an audience. He took it straight to Loches, where King Charles was negotiating the betrothal of his daughter Yolande to Prince Amedée of Savoie.[1040]

After forty-one days' journey the pursuivant returned to the magistrates, who had despatched him on the 2nd of September. The messenger complained of a great thirst, wherefore the magistrates, according to their wont, had him served in the chamber of the town-hall with bread, wine, pears, and green walnuts. This repast cost the town two sous four deniers of Paris, while the pursuivant's travelling expenses amounted to six livres which were paid in the following month. The town varlet who provided the walnuts was that same Jacquet Leprestre who had served during the siege. Another letter from the Maid had been received by the magistrates on the 25th of August.[1041]

Jean du Lys proceeded just as if his miracle-working sister had in very deed been restored to him. He went to the King, to whom he announced the wonderful tidings. Charles cannot have entirely disbelieved them since he ordered Jean du Lys to be given a gratuity of one hundred francs. Whereupon Jean promptly demanded these hundred francs from the King's treasurer, who gave him twenty. The[Pg ii.362] coffers of the victorious King were not full even then.

Having returned to Orléans, Jean appeared before the town-council. He gave the magistrates to wit that he had only eight francs, a sum by no means sufficient to enable him and four retainers to return to Lorraine. The magistrates gave him twelve francs.[1042]

Every year until then the anniversary of the Maid had been celebrated in the church of Saint-Sanxon[1043] on the eve of Corpus Christi and on the previous day. In 1435, eight ecclesiastics of the four mendicant orders sang a mass for the repose of Jeanne's soul. In this year, 1436, the magistrates had four candles burnt, weighing together nine and a half pounds, and pendent therefrom the Maid's escutcheon, a silver shield bearing the crown of France. But when they heard the Maid was alive they cancelled the arrangements for a funeral service in her memory.[1044]

While these things were occurring in France, Jeanne was still with the Duchess of Luxembourg. There she met the young Count Ulrich of Wurtemberg, who refused to leave her. He had a handsome cuirasse made for her and took her to Cologne. She still called herself the Maid of France sent by God.[1045]

Since the 24th of June, Saint John the Baptist's[Pg ii.363] Day, her power had returned to her. Count Ulrich, recognising her supernatural gifts, entreated her to employ them on behalf of himself and his friends. Being very contentious, he had become seriously involved in the schism which was then rending asunder the diocese of Trèves. Two prelates were contending for the see; one, Udalric of Manderscheit, appointed by the chapter, the other Raban of Helmstat, Bishop of Speyer, appointed by the Pope.[1046] Udalric took the field with a small force and twice besieged and bombarded the town of which he called himself the true shepherd. These proceedings brought the greater part of the diocese on to his side.[1047] But although aged and infirm, Raban too had weapons; they were spiritual but powerful: he pronounced an interdict against all such as should espouse the cause of his rival.

Count Ulrich of Wurtemberg, who was among the most zealous of Udalric's supporters, questioned the Maid of God concerning him.[1048] Similar cases had been submitted to the first Jeanne when she was in France. She had been asked, for example, which of the three popes, Benedict, Martin, or Clement, was the true father of the faithful, and without immediately pronouncing on the subject she had promised to designate the Pope to whom obedience[Pg ii.364] was due, after she had reached Paris and rested there.[1049] The second Jeanne replied with even more assurance; she declared that she knew who was the true archbishop and boasted that she would enthrone him.

According to her, it was Udalric of Manderscheit, he whom the Chapter had appointed. But when Udalric was summoned before the Council of Bâle, he was declared an usurper; and the fathers did what it was by no means their unvarying rule to do,—they confirmed the nomination of the Pope.

Unfortunately the Maid's intervention in this dispute attracted the attention of the Inquisitor General of the city of Cologne, Heinrich Kalt Eysen, an illustrious professor of theology. He inquired into the rumours which were being circulated in the city touching the young prince's protégée; and he learnt that she wore unseemly apparel, danced with men, ate and drank more than she ought, and practised magic. He was informed notably that in a certain assembly the Maid tore a table-cloth and straightway restored it to its original condition, and that having broken a glass against the wall she with marvellous skill put all its pieces together again. Such deeds caused Kalt Eysen to suspect her strongly of heresy and witchcraft. He summoned her before his tribunal; she refused to appear. This disobedience displeased the Inquisitor General, and he sent to fetch the defaulter. But the young Count of Wurtemberg hid his Maid in his house, and afterwards contrived to get her secretly out of the town. Thus she escaped the fate of her whom she was willing only partially to imitate. As he could do nothing else, the Inquisitor excommunicated her.[1050] She took[Pg ii.365] refuge at Arlon with her protectress, the Duchess of Luxembourg. There she met Robert des Armoises, Lord of Tichemont. She may have seen him before, in the spring, at Marville, where he usually resided. This nobleman was probably the son of Lord Richard, Governor of the Duchy of Bar in 1416. Nothing is known of him, save that he surrendered this territory to the foreigner without the Duke of Bar's consent, and then beheld it confiscated and granted to the Lord of Apremont on condition that he should conquer it.

It was not extraordinary that Lord Robert should be at Arlon, seeing that his château of Tichemont was near this town. He was poor, albeit of noble birth.[1051]

The so-called Maid married him,[1052] apparently with the approval of the Duchess of Luxembourg. According to the opinion of the Holy Inquisitor of Cologne, this marriage was contracted merely to protect the woman against the interdict and to save her from the sword of the Church.[1053]

Soon after her marriage she went to live at Metz in[Pg ii.366] her husband's house, opposite the church of Sainte-Ségolène, over the Sainte-Barbe Gate. Henceforth she was Jeanne du Lys, the Maid of France, the Lady of Tichemont. By these names she is described in a contract dated the 7th of November, 1436, by which Robert des Armoises and his wife, authorised by him, sell to Collard de Failly, squire, dwelling at Marville, and to Poinsette, his wife, one quarter of the lordship of Haraucourt. At the request of their dear friends, Messire Robert and Dame Jeanne, Jean de Thoneletil, Lord of Villette, and Saubelet de Dun, Provost of Marville, as well as the vendors, put their seals to the contract to testify to its validity.[1054]

In her dwelling, opposite the Sainte-Ségolène Church, la Dame des Armoises gave birth to two children.[1055] Somewhere in Languedoc[1056] there was an honest squire who, when he heard of these births, seriously doubted whether Jeanne the Maid and la Dame des Armoises could be one and the same person. This was Jean d'Aulon, who had once been Jeanne's steward. From information he had received from women who knew, he did not believe her to be the kind of woman likely to have children.[1057]

According to Brother Jean Nider, doctor in theology of the University of Vienne, this fruitful union turned out badly. A priest, and, as he says, a priest who might more appropriately be called a pander, seduced this witch with words of love and carried her off. But Brother Jean Nider adds that the priest[Pg ii.367] secretly took la Dame des Armoises to Metz and there lived with her as his concubine.[1058] Now it is proved that her own home was in that very town; hence we may conclude that this friar preacher does not know what he is talking about.[1059]

The fact of the matter is that she did not remain longer than two years in the shadow of Sainte-Ségolène.

Although she had married, it was by no means her intention to forswear prophesying and chivalry. During her trial Jeanne had been asked by the examiner: "Jeanne, was it not revealed to you that if you lost your virginity your good fortune would cease and your Voices desert you?" She denied that such things had been revealed to her. And when he insisted, asking her whether she believed that if she were married her Voices would still come to her, she answered like a good Christian: "I know not, and I appeal to God."[1060] Jeanne des Armoises likewise held that good fortune had not forsaken her on account of her marriage. Moreover, in those days of prophecy there were both widows and married women who, like Judith of Bethulia, acted by divine inspiration. Such had been Dame Catherine de la Rochelle, although perhaps after all she had not done anything so very great.[1061]

In the summer of 1439, la Dame des Armoises went to Orléans. The magistrates offered her wine and meat as a token of gladness and devotion. On the first of August they gave her a dinner and presented[Pg ii.368] her with two hundred and ten livres of Paris as an acknowledgment of the service she had rendered to the town during the siege. These are the very terms in which this expenditure is entered in the account books of that city.[1062]

If the folk of Orléans did actually take her for the real Maid, Jeanne, then it must have been more on account of the evidence of the Du Lys brothers, than on that of their own eyes. For, when one comes to think of it, they had seen her but very seldom. During that week in May, she had only appeared before them armed and on horseback. Afterwards in June, 1429, and January, 1430, she had merely passed through the town. True it was she had been offered wine and the magistrates had sat at table with her;[1063] but that was nine years ago. And the lapse of nine years works many a change in a woman's face. They had seen her last as a young girl, now they found her a woman and the mother of two children. Moreover they were guided by the opinion of her kinsfolk. Their attitude provokes some astonishment, however, when one thinks of the conversation at the banquet, and of the awkward and inconsistent remarks the dame must have uttered. If they were not then undeceived, these burgesses must have been passing simple and strongly prejudiced in favour of their guest.

And who can say that they were not? Who can say that, after having given credence to the tidings brought by Jean du Lys, the townsfolk did not begin to discover the imposture? That the belief in the[Pg ii.369] survival of Jeanne was by no means general in the city, during the visit of la Dame des Armoises, is proved by the entries in the municipal accounts of sums expended on the funeral services, which we have already mentioned. Supposing we abstract the years 1437 and 1438, the anniversary service had at any rate been held in 1439, two days before Corpus-Christi, and only about three months before the banquet on the 1st of August.[1064] Thus these grateful burgesses of Orléans were at one and the same time entertaining their benefactress at banquets and saying masses in memory of her death.

La Dame des Armoises only spent a fortnight with them. She left the city towards the end of July. Her departure would seem to have been hasty and sudden. She was invited to a supper, at which she was to have been presented with eight pints of wine, but when the wine was served she had gone, and the banquet had to be held without her.[1065] Jean Quillier and Thévanon of Bourges were present. This Thévanon may have been that Thévenin Villedart, with whom Jeanne's brothers dwelt during the siege.[1066] In Jean Quillier we recognise the young draper who, in June, 1429, had furnished fine Brussels cloth of purple, wherewith to make a gown for the Maid.[1067]

La Dame des Armoises had gone to Tours, where she gave herself out to be the true Jeanne. She gave the Bailie of Touraine a letter for the King; and the Bailie undertook to see that it was delivered to the Prince, who was then at Orléans, having arrived[Pg ii.370] there but shortly after Jeanne's departure. The Bailie of Touraine in 1439 was none other than that Guillaume Bellier who ten years before as lieutenant of Chinon had received the Maid into his house and committed her to the care of his devout wife.[1068]

To the messenger, who bore this letter, Guillaume Bellier also gave a note for the King written by himself, and "touching the deeds of la Dame des Armoises."[1069] We know nothing of its purport.[1070]

Shortly afterwards the Dame went off into Poitou. There she placed herself at the service of Seigneur Gille de Rais, Marshal of France.[1071] He it was who in his early youth had conducted the Maid to Orléans, had been with her throughout the coronation campaign, had fought at her side before the walls of Paris. During Jeanne's captivity he had occupied Louviers and pushed on boldly to Rouen. Now throughout the length and breadth of his vast domains he was kidnapping children, mingling magic with debauchery, and offering to demons the blood and the limbs of his countless victims. His monstrous doings spread terror round his castles of Tiffauges and Machecoul, and already the hand of the Church was upon him.

According to the Holy Inquisitor of Cologne, la Dame des Armoises practised magic; but it was not as an invoker of demons that the Maréchal de Rais employed her; he placed her in authority over the[Pg ii.371] men-at-arms,[1072] in somewhat the same position as Jeanne had occupied at Lagny and Compiègne. Did she do great prowess? We do not know. At any rate she did not hold her office long; and after her it was bestowed on a Gascon squire, one Jean de Siquemville.[1073] In the spring of 1440 she was near Paris.[1074]

For nearly two years and a half the great town had been loyal to King Charles. He had entered the city, but had failed to restore it to prosperity. Deserted houses were everywhere falling into ruins; wolves penetrated into the suburbs and devoured little children.[1075] The townsfolk, who had so recently been Burgundian, could not all forget how the Maid in company with Friar Richard and the Armagnacs had attacked the city on the day of the Nativity of Our Lady. There were many, doubtless, who bore her ill will and believed she had been burned for her sins; but her name no longer excited universal reprobation as in 1429. Certain even among her former enemies regarded her as a martyr to the cause of her liege lord.[1076] Even in Rouen such an opinion was not unknown, and it was much more likely to be held in the city of Paris which had lately turned French. At the rumour that Jeanne was not dead, that she had been recognised by the people of Orléans and was coming to Paris, the lower orders in the city grew excited and disturbances were threatening.

Under Charles of Valois in 1440, the spirit of the University was just the same as it had been under[Pg ii.372] Henry of Lancaster in 1431. It honoured and respected the King of France, the guardian of its privileges and the defender of the liberties of the Gallican Church. The illustrious masters felt no remorse at having demanded and obtained the chastisement of the rebel and heretic, Jeanne the Maid. Whosoever persists in error is a heretic; whosoever essays and fails to overthrow the powers that be is a rebel. It was God's will that in 1440 Charles of Valois should possess the city of Paris; it had not been God's will in 1429; wherefore the Maid had striven against God. With equal bitterness would the University, in 1440, have proceeded against a Maid of the English.

The magistrates who had returned to their Paris homes from their long dreary exile at Poitiers sat in the Parlement side by side with the converted Burgundians.[1077] In the days of adversity these faithful servants of King Charles had set the Maid to work, but now in 1440 it was none of their business to maintain publicly the truth of her mission and the purity of her faith. Burned by the English, that was all very well. But a trial conducted by a bishop and a vice-inquisitor with the concurrence of the University is not an English trial; it is a trial at once essentially Gallican and essentially Catholic. Jeanne's name was forever branded throughout Christendom. That ecclesiastical sentence could be reversed by the Pope alone. But the Pope had no intention of doing this. He was too much afraid of displeasing the King of Catholic England; and moreover were he once to admit that an inquisitor of the faith had pronounced a wrong sentence he would undermine all human authority. The French[Pg ii.373] clerks submit and are silent. In the assemblies of the clergy no one dares to utter Jeanne's name.

Fortunately for them neither the doctors and masters of the University nor the sometime members of the Parlement of Poitiers share the popular delusion touching la Dame des Armoises. They have no doubt that the Maid was burned at Rouen. And they fear lest this woman, who gives herself out to be the deliverer of Orléans, may arouse a tumult by her entrance into the city. Wherefore the Parlement and the University send out men-at-arms to meet her. She is arrested and brought to the Palais.[1078]

She was examined, tried and sentenced to be publicly exhibited. In the Palais de Justice, leading up from the court called the Cour-de-Mai, there was a marble slab on which malefactors were exhibited. La Dame des Armoises was put up there and shown to the people whom she had deceived. The usual sermon was preached at her and she was forced to confess publicly.[1079]

She declared that she was not the Maid, that she was married to a knight and had two sons. She told how one day, in her mother's presence, she heard a woman speak slightingly of her; whereupon she proceeded to attack the slanderer, and, when her mother restrained her, she turned her blows against her parent. Had she not been in a passion she would never have struck her mother. Notwithstanding this provocation, here was a special case and one reserved for the papal jurisdiction. Whosoever had raised his hand against his father or his mother, as likewise against a priest or a clerk, must go and ask[Pg ii.374] forgiveness of the Holy Father, to whom alone belonged the power of convicting or acquitting the sinner. This was what she had done. "I went to Rome," she said, "attired in man's apparel. I engaged as a soldier in the war of the Holy Father Eugenius, and in this war I twice committed homicide."

When had she journeyed to Rome? Probably before the exile of Pope Eugenius to Florence, about the year 1433, when the condottieri of the Duke of Milan were advancing to the gates of the Eternal City.[1080]

We do not find either the University, or the Ordinary, or the Grand Inquisitor demanding the trial of this woman, who was suspected of witchcraft and of homicide, and who was attired in unseemly garments. She was not prosecuted as a heretic, doubtless because she was not obstinate, and obstinacy alone constitutes heresy.

Henceforth she attracted no further attention. It is believed, but on no very trustworthy evidence, that she ended by returning to Metz, to her husband, le Chevalier des Armoises, and that she lived quietly and respectably to a good old age, dwelling in the house over the door of which were her armorial bearings, or rather those of Jeanne the Maid, the sword, the crown and the Lilies.[1081]

The success of this fraud had endured four years. After all it is not so very surprising. In every age[Pg ii.375] people have been loath to believe in the final end of existences which have touched their imagination; they will not admit that great personalities can be struck down by death like ordinary folk; such an end to a noble career is repugnant to them. Impostors, like la Dame des Armoises, never fail to find some who will believe in them. And the Dame appeared at a time which was singularly favourable to such a delusion; intellects had been dulled by long suffering; communication between one district and another was rendered impossible or difficult, and what was happening in one place was unknown quite near at hand; in the minds of men there reigned dimness, ignorance, confusion.

But even then folk would not have been imposed upon so long by this pseudo-Jeanne had it not been for the support given her by the Du Lys brothers. Were they her dupes or her accomplices? Dull-witted as they may have been, it seems hardly credible that the adventuress could have imposed upon them. Admitting that she very closely resembled La Romée's daughter, the woman from La Grange-aux-Ormes cannot possibly for any length of time have deceived two men who knew Jeanne intimately, having been brought up with her and come with her into France.

If they were not imposed upon, then how can we account for their conduct? They had lost much when they lost their sister. When he arrived at La Grange-aux-Ormes, Pierre du Lys had just quitted a Burgundian prison; his ransom had been paid with his wife's dowry, and he was then absolutely destitute.[1082] Jean, Bailie of Vermandois, afterwards Governor of Chartres and about 1436 Bailie of Vau[Pg ii.376]couleurs, was hardly more prosperous.[1083] Such circumstances explained much. And yet it is unlikely that they of themselves alone and unsupported would have played a game so difficult, so risky, and so dangerous. From the little we know of their lives we should conclude that they were both too simple, too naïf, too placid, to carry on such an intrigue.

We are tempted to believe that they were urged on by some higher and greater power. Who knows? Perhaps by certain indiscreet persons in the service of the King of France. The condemnation and death of Jeanne was a serious attack upon the prestige of Charles VII. May he not have had in his household or among his counsellors certain subjects who were rashly jealous enough to invent this appearance, in order to spread abroad the belief that Jeanne the Maid had not died the death of a witch, but that by virtue of her innocence and her holiness she had escaped the flames? If this were so, then we may regard the imposture of the pseudo-Jeanne, invented at a time when it seemed impossible ever to obtain a papal revision of the trial of 1431, as an attempt, surreptitious and fraudulent and speedily abandoned, to bring about her rehabilitation.

Such a hypothesis would explain why the Du Lys brothers were not punished or even disgraced, when they had put themselves in the wrong, had deceived King and people and committed the crime of high treason. Jean continued provost of Vaucouleurs for many a long year, and then, when relieved of his office, received a sum of money in lieu of it. Pierre, as well as his mother, La Romée, was living at Orléans. In 1443 he received from Duke Charles, who had returned to France three years before, the grant[Pg ii.377] of an island in the Loire, l'Île-aux-Bœufs,[1084] which was fair grazing land. Nevertheless, he remained poor, and was constantly receiving help from the Duke and the townsfolk of Orléans.[1085]


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