Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Chapter 22


ON March 18 was finished the taking of testimony for the inquest or informatio præparatoria. All the testimony was then read over to Joan, and with one or two trifling exceptions she acknowledged it. The court had next to decide if it was sufficient to bring her to trial, or, in the phraseology of the English law, to justify the finding of an indictment. A digest of it was prepared by Estivet, the prosecuting attorney, which corresponded somewhat to the indictment itself. In the first place, this digest was to be approved by the court as showing sufficient cause for trying Joan, and after such approval it was to serve as a basis for her further examination. While Estivet was engaged in this work, some of the assessors looked up precedents and authorities and tried to make themselves familiar with what we should call the law of the case, as distinguished from its facts. On March 26 Estivet read to the court his digest or articles, which were pronounced sufficient by Cauchon and Lemaître, apparently without taking the opinion of the assessors. The bishop directed that Joan should be brought before him, on the following day, to answer the charges. It is time to consider what effect her testimony had already produced on those who had heard it.

At the beginning of the trial all these men were prejudiced against Joan, and had little doubt of her guilt. With many, probably with most of them, the prejudice rested upon what they had heard, the stories about her which circulated among the Anglo-Burgundians. With some of the hearers, like Cauchon, this natural and unavoidable prejudice was joined to the bitterest partisan hatred. Some of the assessors had believed Joan guilty, but had cared little whether she were guilty or not; others had not only believed her guilty, but had wished her conviction even more than they thought it just.

The fairer-minded assessors were in great perplexity. Joan's bearing had pleased them, and many of the charges against her had been disproved; yet in her conduct there was much to rouse suspicion: her presumptuous confidence in her voices, her obstinacy in wearing men's clothes, above all, her hesitation in submitting herself to the church. Some of these men honestly doubted whether Joan were a witch or the messenger of God, and wished to find out the truth.

Unfortunately, there were obstacles to the discovery of the truth beside the intrinsic difficulty of the case. The court sat in order to condemn Joan to death, as all its members well knew, reminded from time to time by the growing impatience of the English soldiers and by the exhibition of Cauchon's fixed purpose. It was nearly as much as a man's life was worth to express a doubt of Joan's guilt or of the validity of the proceedings. Those who did so generally left Rouen at once. Under the circumstances, a doubting and timid priest dared not openly withstand Cauchon, but, in the deliberations of the court, generally voted for delay at every stage of the proceedings, meanwhile trying to induce Joan to confess her guilt or promise obedience, in the hope that she might be let off with imprisonment rather than be put to death.

Joan's partisan enemies, also, had changed their attitude during her examination. At first, they had been so sure of their case that they were ready to give her a fair trial, intending to get both conclusive proof of guilt and, at last, a full confession of it. Instead of confessing guilt, she had practically disproved some of the charges against her, had left the truth of others in doubt, and had confessed nothing, except the leap from the tower at Beaurevoir. Cauchon had not been able even to bribe her to change her dress. He and his supporters had come to realize that many of their colleagues were beginning to pity her, and they devoted themselves not only to proving Joan guilty, but to making her appear guilty by fair means or foul.

The two strongest reasons for believing Joan to be a witch were her dress and her insubordination; wrong in themselves, these things also made it unlikely that she was visited by saintly counselors. So important was it to convince the doubters of her obduracy, that at this time Cauchon probably did not wish her to yield on either of these points, while he tried to make her obstinacy odious to the assessors. On Palm Sunday, March 25, with three or four men upon whom he could rely, he went to Joan's cell and asked her if she would put on women's clothes provided she were allowed to hear mass in them. The great importance which he attached to the matter and the high price which he offered for her consent strengthened Joan's suspicions, as he probably wished; and she refused, asking to hear mass dressed as she was, and saying that her clothes did not burden her conscience. The prosecuting attorney, Estivet, thereupon took a note of her contumacy.

At this stage of the proceedings, Joan's submission to the church would have been very embarrassing to Cauchon, for it would certainly have caused delay, beside strengthening the friendliness felt for her by some of the assessors. Several of these were trying to induce her to submit, and Cauchon thought it best to make her most generous offers; but he worded them so as to rouse her suspicions and caused her to be privately warned by Loiseleur or some other spy that, if she submitted to the church, she would find that she had submitted to himself. Very probably Joan perceived this without Loiseleur's help.

On Tuesday in Holy Week, March 27, Joan was brought from her cell to a chamber of the castle where were assembled the bishop, the vice-inquisitor, and about forty assessors. Before reading the articles of indictment, Estivet addressed the court, praying that Joan be compelled to answer on oath the several articles to the best of her knowledge and belief, and that, if she refused to swear, she be considered in default and excommunicated accordingly. Should she fail to answer any of the counts after swearing to do so, he asked that they be taken as proved against her.

The court took this request under advisement, and Cauchon called upon the assessors, one after another, to deliver their opinions. The first who spoke, a canon of Rouen, eagerly voted to proceed as Estivet had asked. Another canon, who spoke next, suggested that the indictmerit should first be read, and his opinion was supported by the two canons who followed him. Thereafter nearly as many opinions were expressed as there were assessors, but only seven or eight of those voting were ready to grant the prosecutor's request, while many of them declared that Joan ought to have time for considering her answer, in case she wished it.

Cauchon accepted the vote with as good a grace as he could assume, and bade Joan answer as to those matters of which she had knowledge, offering her a reasonable delay, if she desired delay in answering any particular article. He then made her a little address, saying that the court intended to proceed with all kindness and gentleness, seeking not to punish her body, but to bring her back into the way of truth and salvation. He told her that she might choose one or more of the persons present to act as her counsel, and he offered, if she so desired, to make the choice himself.

No doubt this speech had its effect upon the timid assessors, who wished to believe that Cauchon was acting with reasonable fairness, but there was no one whom Joan dared to trust. "For what you say about my well-being and our Christian faith," she said, "I thank you and all the present company. For your offer of counsel, I thank you, too, but I have no intention of leaving the counsel of our Lord. As to the oath which you wish me to take, I am ready to swear to tell the truth about all which concerns this trial of yours."

Courcelles, a learned delegate of the University of Paris, then stood up, and, after a short opening, in which he exhausted upon Joan the vocabulary of abuse, began to read the indictment. It was a portentous instrument, in seventy articles or counts, the reading of which, with Joan's comments, took the rest of that day and the whole of the next. The first three counts were introductory, the last five a rhetorical peroration with conclusions of law; the remaining sixty-two accused her of heresy, witchcraft, idolatry or blasphemy in connection with nearly every event of her life. Four concerned the use of charms in her childhood, six the wearing of men's clothes, three her political and military conduct, five her correspondence with the count of Armagnac, five her arms and banner, three her leap at Beaurevoir, twelve or more her visions and voices; only one specifically charged her refusal to submit to the church. Other counts concerned her life at Neufchbteau and Vaucouleurs, her relations with her early suitor and with Baudricourt, her boastfulness, presumptuousness, and love of riches.

Nearly every one of these counts was followed by excerpts from Joan's testimony, as if to support the charge therein contained. Not uncommonly, however, the testimony cited was a formal denial. Thus the seventh count charged Joan with carrying about the herb mandragora in reliance upon its efficacy, while the testimony cited to sustain the count consisted simply of her assertion that she had never carried mandragora, had not even see it, did not know what it was good for, and did not believe in it. So the forty-seventh count, which charged her with blasphemous swearing, was supported by three several denials that she had ever done anything of the sort. Only once was any testimony cited except her own. The fifty-sixth count rested upon the statement of Catherine of La Rochelle made to the ecclesiastical authorities of Paris. Somehow or other that foolish woman had found her way to the capital, perhaps with the intention of carrying out her favorite plan of converting the duke of Burgundy. Being taken in hand by the English authorities, she had vented her spite against Joan by telling a story about two Councilors of the Fountain, said to be in Joan's service, and by a warning that Joan, unless well watched, would escape from prison with the Devil's help. Possibly the whole affair was planned by La Trémoille; at any rate, the Parisian authorities were so well satisfied with Catherine that they let her go back to Charles. Joan answered this farrago by saying that she did not know what a Councilor of the Fountain might be, though she thought that the saints had once spoken to her at the fountain near Domremy; on her oath she did not wish to be taken out of prison by the Devil.

As Estivet read the counts one by one, Joan was called on to answer them severally. Many times she simply referred her judges to what she had said already; sometimes, exasperated or wearied by their misunderstandings, she told them that she left the whole matter to God. Though she had usually been cautious in her answers, even at the beginning of the proceedings, yet occasionally she had been very frank, perhaps hoping that some of her judges meant to treat her fairly. She remembered that she had formerly been able to win over hostile or indifferent hearers, and she may have hoped to do so again; there had been a time when she had hoped that even the English generals would heed her. As she came to understand fully that Cauchon and those who controlled her trial intended by all means to convict her, she suspected. a trap in every question, and was unwilling to do anything they asked of her. Generally, she was right in refusing, but her conduct furnished an excuse to those assessors who dared not declare her innocent, and yet did not wish unjustly to declare her guilty. To the charge that she would not put off men's clothes, even to receive the Eucharist, a matter concerning which she had long hesitated, she now said definitely that she would not change her dress to receive the sacrament, or for any other purpose. The next count, the fifteenth, charged her with pretending that to obey her judges in this matter would displease God. Joan answered that she would rather die than renounce what she had done by the commandment of our Lord, and that as yet she could not change her dress, or even fix a time for changing it. By his persistent demands, Cauchon had brought her to believe that her dress, instead of being a matter of expediency, as she had once considered it, was a divinely ordered part of her mission. If the judges would not let her hear mass, she added, it was in our Lord's power to cause her to hear it in spite of them, when it pleased Him.

Notwithstanding the number of the counts, their ambiguity and want of arrangement, and the rapidity with which she was forced to reply to them, Joan showed great keenness and discrimination in her answers. They charged her with asserting that she was sent by God for violence and bloodshed. "First I asked them to make peace," said Joan, "and in case they would not make peace, I was ready to fight." When they reported that she had said, "All that I have done is by the counsel of our Lord," she corrected them, "All the good that I have done." The fifty-first count charged her with boasting that Gabriel had come to her with a million of angels. Joan replied that she did not remember having mentioned the number. "Contrary to the commands of God and the saints," so ran the fifty-third count, "the said Joan presumptuously and proudly undertook the government of men, by constituting herself the chief and leader of an army sometimes numbering sixteen thousand men, in which were princes, barons, and many other nobles, all of whom she caused to serve under her, as under a commander-in-chief.""If I was commander-in-chief," said Joan, "it was to beat the English."

Even in answering the indictment, Joan spoke once or twice with her old frankness, perhaps in the faint hope that some of her judges might yet be persuaded of the truth. The fiftieth count charged her with calling her voices to her help and consulting them about her answers. "I will call them to my help as long as I live," said Joan. "How do you pray to them?" asked Cauchon. "I beg our Lord and our Lady to send me counsel and comfort, and they send it to me.""By what words do you pray to them?" insisted the judge. "Dearest God, for the honor of your holy passion, I pray you, if you love me, tell me how I ought to answer these priests. As for my dress, I know well the command I had to put it on, but I do not know how I ought to take it off. Therefore please you teach me. Then they come to me soon.""Through my voices I often hear news of you," she added. "What do they say of me?" asked the astonished and curious bishop, not quite easy in his mind. "I will tell you when we are alone together," said Joan. "To-day they have come to me three times," she went on with the same frankness. "Were they in your chamber?" asked Cauchon. "I have told you about that," Joan answered, half amused and half irritated at the bare materialism of the questions; "at any rate, I heard them well. St. Catherine and St. Margaret told me how I should answer about this dress of mine." On that occasion, as on many others, probably they had told her to answer boldly.

In reply to the sixty-first count, which charged her with refusing to submit her deeds to the church militant, Joan had said that she wished to render to the church all possible honor and reverence, but that she must submit her deeds to our Lord, who had made her do them. Being further pressed, she had asked three days' delay, until Saturday. On Saturday, being Easter Eve, Cauchon visited her in prison with eight or nine of his trustiest assessors. Joan had taken counsel of her voices and had made up her mind what to say. Cauchon asked her if she would submit to the church all she had done, both good and bad, including the crimes with which she was charged. She answered that she would leave all to the church militant, provided that it did not bid her do that which was impossible. "What do you consider impossible?" asked the bishop. "It is impossible that I should declare that what I have done and said, and what I have testified to at this trial about my visions and revelations, has not been done and said by God's orders," said Joan; "and these things I will not deny on any ac- count; and that which God has commanded me and shall command me to do, I will not renounce for any man living, and it is impossible for me to deny God's orders. In case the church shall wish to make me do anything contrary to the commandment God has given me, I will not do it on any account."

The answer showed an obstinacy so satisfactory that Cauchon thought he might press her even farther, for the satisfaction of the doubting assessors. Suppose that the church militant should say that her revelations were either mere delusions, or else the wiles of the Devil, would she submit them to the church, he craftily asked. Joan replied that she would submit her deeds to our Lord, whose commandment she would always obey. That which she had testified about in the trial had happened to her by God's appointment, and whatever she had declared in the trial that she had done by his commandment she could not deny. In case the church militant should command her to deny it, she would not allow any man in the world, but only our Lord, to forbid her to do his good commands. Did she not think that she was subject to the church on earth, that is to say, the pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and other prelates, insisted Cauchon, wishing to clinch the matter. "Yes, our Lord being first served," said Joan. The answer was not altogether what Cauchon had expected, and, changing the form of the question, he asked if it was by the command of her voices that she refused to submit to the church militant on earth. Joan replied that her answers did not come out of her own head, but were made by the command of her voices, and these did not command her to disobey the church, our Lord being first served. Cauchon dropped the matter and left the prison. Joan passed her Easter without mass or communion.

The articles of indictment prepared by Estivet, comprehensive as they were, did not satisfy the court. On some of the counts it was impossible for a self-respecting man to find Joan guilty. During several days in Easter week, Cauchon and some picked assessors labored to reduce the unwieldy indictment to a series of findings not too outrageously unfair. Apart from his exordium and peroration, as has been said, Estivet had framed sixty-two articles. More than twenty-five of these were now passed over altogether, and several others in large part; what remained was condensed into twelve articles, of which the first was both an introduction and a synopsis. The other eleven severally dealt with the sign given to Charles, Joan's belief in her saintly visitors, her prophecies, dress, and manner of signing her letters, her relations with Baudricourt and the king, her leap at Beaurevoir, her assurance of salvation, her statement that her voices favored the French, her veneration of the voices, and her refusal to submit to the church. Her belief in charms, her Councilors of the Fountain, her suitor, her armor, ring and banner, her assertion that St. Michael had hair, her fighting on feast days, her correspondence with the count of Armagnac and her love of riches, all this and much more disappeared.

In their form, these twelve new articles differed altogether from Estivet's seventy. They were not framed as an indictment, but resembled what is called technically a special verdict; that is to say, a bare statement of facts upon which the court might base its decision concerning the guilt or innocence of the accused. The twelve articles were free from vituperation, and stated nothing which had not some support from Joan's testimony, but they were skillfully prepared to give the most unfavorable impression consistent with literal truth. Though these articles were never approved by the great body of assessors, they were ever afterwards taken as a correct abstract of Joan's life, acts, and confessions.


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