Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Chapter 25

THE REHABILITATION

THE life of Joan was complete at her death, and her story loses something of its symmetry by including an account of her second trial. As that trial, however, and the events that led up to it really help to explain her life and character, their history should be added.

In Normandy the auto-da-fé was never a popular sport, as it was for centuries in Spain. Some of those who heard Midi's sermon would not stay in the market-place after the fire was lighted. Those who remained were strangely moved. The sight of Joan's death made not a few priests believe her to be a martyr. Alépée, a canon of Rouen, who had shown her no special favor, was heard to say, as she burned before his eyes, "Would that my soul were in the same place as the soul of that woman." With the pay which he had received for his services at the trial, the notary Manchon bought a missal in memory of Joan, so that he might pray for her. A secretary of Henry VI., so it was said, going home after the execution, declared that Joan had died a good Christian, and that her soul was in the hand of God. The chancellor, Louis, bishop of Thérouanne, John of Luxemburg's brother, was reported to have shed tears; men. said that even Cauchon had wept. That very afternoon, about four o'clock, the executioner went to the Domin- ican monastery and sought out Ladvenu and La Pierre, fearing God's wrath for what he had done. In his dis- tress he bewailed that he had not been able to do his work properly, and that Joan had suffered a crueller death than others whom he had burned; and he told the already excited monks that he had not been able to consume her heart, though he had freely used both sulphur and charcoal. Other stories about the execution, some true, some exaggerated, some quite legendary, began to fill men's minds with wonder and awe. An English soldier, so one of these stories ran, had conceived such hatred of Joan that he swore with his own hands to throw a fagot into the fire. He did so, and at the moment of her death heard her call on Jesus and saw a white dove in the midst of the flames; thereupon he had staggered into a tavern proclaiming that Joan was a holy woman. The impression thus made by Joan's death was lasting. It was currently reported in Rouen that all who had been guilty of it died wretchedly,--Midi, a leper; Estivet, in a brothel. The fact that this report was not altogether true does not make it less noteworthy. Throughout the loyal provinces, also, Joan's name was a household word, kept constantly in remembrance by the tales of those who had served with her in arms, and by the yearly celebration of the deliverance of Orleans.

Meantime, though the war dragged on, the situation of France and England was changed. Two years after Joan's death, in June, 1433, as La Trémoille slept at Chinon, some partisans of the constable Richemont and of the king's young brother-in-law, Charles of Maine, entered the castle by stealth, burst into the favorite's chamber and dragged him from his bed, wounding him severely in the struggle. When the king first heard the noise he was considerably frightened, but the queen speedily coaxed him into good humor. If the grim con- stable himself had been there, probably he would have served La Trémoille as he had served his predecessors Le Camus and Giac. Unfortunately, milder counsels prevailed. La Trémoille was put to ransom, and lived for some years to plot against the government, though he never regained the king's favor. He died in 1446.

The party which succeeded to the control of the king sincerely wished for peace with Burgundy and was ready to give almost anything to secure it. Philip was not unwilling. He had become tired of the English alliance, and his sister, Bedford's wife, who had labored hard to unite the two dukes, was now dead. At Arras, in 1435, the treaty was settled,--in some of its conditions a hard one for Charles, but effectually securing to him the French crown. By renouncing the crown at once, Henry VI. might have kept several French provinces, but Bedford died just a week before the treaty of Arras was signed, and in him the boy king lost his only able and faithful adviser. After Bedford's death the English government fell into a disorder like that of Charles VII.'s administration in the first years of his reign. As the French soldiers learned discipline, as French financial management improved, and French administration became more honest and efficient, the English soldiers turned brigands, English taxation became more oppressive, and English administration inefficient and corrupt. In 1435 St. Denis was taken, in 1436 Paris went over to Charles, and only the turbulence of the French nobility and the real affection for English rule felt by the men of Bordeaux put off Charles's final triumph for twenty years. In 1444 the English were forced to sign a truce; this enabled the husbandmen to cultivate what once had been fertile fields, but which in many parts of France were become literally a tangled wilderness.

During the first years that followed Joan's death, it is not easy to trace precisely the fortunes of her family. Her father soon died. At some time her brother John was made provost of Vaucouleurs. Her brother Peter, who had been taken prisoner with her at Compiègne, found it hard to raise the money needed for his ransom. He was released on parole, however, and married a girl from Domremy, whose dowry was spent in getting her husband's release. James, or Jacquemin, who had not followed his sister to the war, continued to live in Domremy, and there for some years lived Joan's mother, Isabel.

In May, 1436, five years after Joan's execution, there appeared in the neighborhood of Metz, about fifty miles from Domremy, a young woman who gave herself out to be Joan. Her story stirred the curiosity of the people of Metz; many went out to see her and gave her presents, including a horse which she managed cleverly. Joan's brothers, John and Peter, soon arrived, and publicly recognized the impostor as their sister. It is not easy to explain their conduct. The age was credulous, and the brothers were not remarkably intelligent; when the story of their sister's return was first told them, they may not have realized its absurdity, but may honestly have expected to find her. At the first sight, their recognition may have been honest, but they could not have been long deceived. Perhaps they were ashamed to confess their blunder, and it seems probable that they expected to gain by it. To Joan of Arc alive, the king and the city of Orleans owed an immense debt of gratitude, in the payment of which her brothers might well hope to share.

Whatever was the motive of their conduct, they stayed with the woman in the neighborhood of Metz for some time. She did not want cleverness; she evaded inconvenient questions by oracular speech, and, though she promised to accomplish great things, she announced that power was not to be given her until midsummer. She sent letters to Charles VII. and to Orleans, and finally dispatched John to the king, probably in quest of money. Charles would promise money only for John's journey, and did not pay even that; whereupon the young man appealed to the city of Orleans, and was given twelve pounds. The pursuivants of the city made several journeys to Metz, carrying letters back and forth, but Orleans continued to celebrate a requiem mass on the anniversary of Joan's death.

The adventuress, whose real name seems to have been Claude, was restless. Before John's return from Orleans she entered the duchy of Luxemburg, and was well received by the duchess. Cutting loose from her pretended relatives or deserted by them, she captivated Ulrich, count of Würtemberg, and went with him to Cologne, probably as his mistress. Her wild blood made her fancy to play at soldiering; Ulrich gave her a fine suit of armor, and she announced that she would enthrone one of the rival claimants of the archbishopric of Treves. She danced and drank with the men at arms, and declared that she had the miraculous power of making whole, in a moment, torn clothes and broken bottles. Her antics aroused the Inquisition, but by the help of Count Ulrich she got away from Cologne, though she did not escape excommunication. Before long she was again in Luxemburg, where the count seems to have left her, and where, before the end of 1436, she married a knight, Robert of Armoises. With him she went to live in his town house at Metz.

Claude could not long abide in a life of sober respectability. Two or three years after her marriage she left her husband and wandered to Orleans, where she was received with hesitating respect. The city did not disavow her; on the contrary, the council sent her presents of meat and wine, and even gave her two hundred and ten pounds "for the good she had done the town during the siege." It is tolerably clear, however, that her story got no enthusiastic acceptance.

During the summer of 1439 she moved uneasily up and down the Loire, trying to make good her claims. The king and his council would not acknowledge her, though, according to one story, she gained admission to Charles's presence. Finding herself discredited, she again took to arms, and in the company of a few soldiers carried on a marauding warfare in the province of Maine. The next year, with a band of freebooters whose professed object was the relief of Harfleur, she approached Paris, creating some excitement by her pretensions. At length the authorities decided to put an end to the strange delusion. By order of the Parliament and of the University of Paris Claude was seized, brought to the city, and exhibited on the stone near the court-house where cheats were exposed. Her true story was rehearsed to the people by the crier, with embellishments which may well have been apocryphal. After this exposure she was let go her way, in utter contempt, and was almost instantly forgotten. Those whom. she had deluded and those who had pretended to believe in her had no wish to perpetuate her memory. Nearly twenty years later René of Anjou pardoned her out of the prison into which some obscure quarrel had cast her.

The truce made in 1444 lasted five years. In 1449 the English government was weak, on the verge of civil war at home, unable to control its mercenary captains, and too proud to give up the English possessions in northern France for the sake of keeping the country about Bordeaux, which had been held for two centuries and a half and whose people really desired English rule. The French were strong, united, well organized, refreshed for the battle. The English gave the provocation which the French desired. War broke out, and. Normandy was lost to the English as fast as the French troops could march through it. In October, 1449, Charles entered Rouen, and by 1450 he had conquered all northern France except Calais.

In February, 1450, while he was still near Rouen, Charles issued a commission to William Bouillé, a doctor in theology, to make inquiry concerning the trial of Joan. 1 Her condemnation as a witch had been intended to injure Charles in the opinion of all Europe, and to some extent the intention had been accomplished. Now that he had the official record of the trial in his hands, and many of the men who had taken part in it under his control, Charles meant to reverse the judgment which had declared him to have gained his throne by the help of sorcery. 2 Some regard for Joan's reputation may well have joined these political motives.

Without delay Bouillé took at Rouen the depositions of the Dominicans La Pierre and Ladvenu, of the notary Manchon and of several others who had seen Joan just before her death. He had no jurisdiction, however, except that of a commissioner to take evidence, and his labors lasted but a few days. Afterwards he prepared a memoir or opinion favorable to Joan, for the use of the judges in her new trial when that new trial should be granted by the pope.

For some time nothing more could be done. Joan had been tried before an ecclesiastical court, and without the pope's orders its proceedings could not be reviewed. Her condemnation had been a political act, offensive to the French, and to reverse her sentence would be a political act offensive to England. The pope, Nicholas V., did not wish to offend the English, and his relations with Charles were not altogether pleasant.

About two years later, the French cardinal Estouteville, then the papal legate, together with the inquisitor Bréhal, issued another commission to take evidence, and under its authority more than twenty witnesses were examined at Rouen. The object of Estouteville's mission to Charles was to secure for the pope an increase of authority over the French clergy, and the legate may have been willing to humor the king in the matter of Joan, especially as the perpetuation of the testimony of a few witnesses in no way committed the pope. Estouteville's negotiations with Charles were not altogether successful, and no further legal steps in Joan's case were taken for about three years more.

The pride of France was too deeply engaged to let the matter drop. The French inquisitor, Bréhal, was altogether under the influence of the court; and perhaps because he was bidden, perhaps, also, because he was really convinced of Joan's innocence, he submitted the minutes of the first trial, together with the evidence taken in 1450 and 1452, to distinguished experts in matters ecclesiastical. Like experts who are nowadays engaged by a party to a suit, these men knew what opinion was expected of them, and they made a report favorable to Joan, doubtless with reasonable sincerity. Elaborate written opinions were thus rendered, some by well-known French churchmen, others by officials of the Roman court, and these were used, apparently, to influence the pope and his councilors.

With Nicholas V. neither the opinion of experts nor the personal appeals of Bréhal, made in more than one visit to act offensive to England. The pope, Nicholas V., did not wish to offend the English, and his relations with Charles were not altogether pleasant.

About two years later, the French cardinal Estouteville, then the papal legate, together with the inquisitor Bréhal, issued another commission to take evidence, and under its authority more than twenty witnesses were examined at Rouen. The object of Estouteville's mission to Charles was to secure for the pope an increase of authority over the French clergy, and the legate may have been willing to humor the king in the matter of Joan, especially as the perpetuation of the testimony of a few witnesses in no way committed the pope. Estouteville's negotiations with Charles were not altogether successful, and no further legal steps in Joan's case were taken for about three years more.

The pride of France was too deeply engaged to let the matter drop. The French inquisitor, Bréhal, was altogether under the influence of the court; and perhaps because he was bidden, perhaps, also, because he was really convinced of Joan's innocence, he submitted the minutes of the first trial, together with the evidence taken in 1450 and 1452, to distinguished experts in matters ecclesiastical. Like experts who are nowadays engaged by a party to a suit, these men knew what opinion was expected of them, and they made a report favorable to Joan, doubtless with reasonable sincerity. Elaborate written opinions were thus rendered, some by well-known French churchmen, others by officials of the Roman court, and these were used, apparently, to influence the pope and his councilors.

With Nicholas V. neither the opinion of experts nor the personal appeals of Bréhal, made in more than one visit to Rome, were of any avail. Early in 1455 Nicholas died and was succeeded by a Spaniard, the first of the Borgias, Calixtus III. The new pope was ready to act, but before his bull was issued those in charge of the case thought best to change the form of the petition for a new trial. For five years it had been urged in the name of Charles, but in order to make the proceedings less offensive to the English, or for some other reason, a new petition was brought in the name of Joan's mother, Isabel, and of her two brothers, Peter and John. Begun in this way, the new trial would seem more like an act of private justice, less like political revenge. The bull of Pope Ca- lixtus, issued June 11, 1455, directed John Juvénal des Ursins, archbishop of Rheims, William Chartier, bishop of Paris, and Richard Olivier, bishop of Coutances, with a representative of the Inquisition, to reopen Joan's case, and to make therein a just decision which they should cause to be observed. All the judges were strong supporters of Charles and of the French monarchy, and it is doing them no injustice to say that their decision was predetermined like that of Cauchon.

On November 7 of the same year, the court held its first sitting in the cathedral of Paris. Isabel appeared with her sons, some of her other kinsfolk, and some of the men of Orleans, in which city she had been living for fifteen years. Helped by the learned counsel who advised her, she told the story of her daughter's wrongs, weeping bitterly amidst the shouts and cries of the excited multitude. So great was the tumult that the judges and parties at length withdrew into the sacristy. There, doubtless for the sake of keeping an appearance of impartiality in the official report of their proceedings, the judges told Isabel that it was not easy to grant what she asked, inasmuch as there was grave presumption of her daughter's guilt. They promised, however, to examine the matter carefully.

Ten days later, the court held another public session in the cathedral. In the presence of an enormous crowd, one of Isabel's counsel opened the case with a panegyric on Joan and a fierce attack upon Cauchon and his colleagues. In Orleans, in Rheims, even in Rouen, no panegyric would have been needed, but the men of Paris had never seen Joan. They remembered only the terror of the day when she attacked the gate of St. Honoré, and the more recent pillorying of her wretched counterfeit. Doubtless these public sessions were intended to influence their opinion.

To tell in detail the story of Joan's second trial would be needlessly wearisome. Many witnesses were examined at Domremy and Vaucouleurs, in Orleans and Rouen. Among them were notable men: princes of the blood, such as Alençon, -- Joan's " fair duke," -- and the Bastard of Orleans, now count of Dunois; old soldiers like Gaucourt and Thibaud of Armagnac; royal councilors like Simon Charles; there were substantial burghers and burghers' wives from Orleans, among them Charlotte Boucher, now a mother, who as a child shared Joan's bed. At Domremy there testified the neighbors of Joan's childhood and the girls of her own age; at Vaucouleurs her uncle Laxart, Catherine le Royer, with whom she spent her weeks of waiting, and her first companions in arms, John of Metz and Bertrand of Poulengy. Aulon her squire, Coutes her page, Pasquerel her confessor, told what they had heard and seen. In Rouen were examined the notaries who took down her words, the sergeant who served her with process, the physicians who attended her, the common people who went to see her in her dungeon out of curiosity. Courcelles testified, who had voted to put her to the torture, and so did the wretch who would have stretched her on the rack. Considerably more than one hundred depositions were taken at this time, in addition to those which had been taken under the commissions of Bouillé and Estouteville.

As was to be expected under the circumstances, the testimony was favorable to Joan. It seems to have been given willingly. Two or three of those who took part in the first trial refused, without evil consequence, to condemn its proceedings or to take part in Joan's eulogy. The witnesses were all asked the same questions, and therefore their answers were sometimes mechanical and stereotyped. Very many of these answers, however, were made with much fullness and freedom, and even in the abridged report often illustrate the character of the witnesses as well as give information about Joan. The substance of the depositions is to be found in the preceding chapters, but there are one or two peculiarities of the testimony which should be noticed here.

In this mass of nearly one hundred and fifty deposi- tions, including those taken by Bouillé and Estouteville, the apparent freshness of the witnesses' recollections is noteworthy, and especially the tenacity with which phrases used by Joan stuck in the memory. The record of the testimony was made in Latin, but these phrases were often left in their original French. Seldom do they have any trace of the personality of the witness, almost always they are full of the personality of Joan, as exhib- ited in the language taken down from her own lips and found in the minutes of her trial. Even when the wit- nesses' recollection of her words is translated into Latin, her quaint terseness can often be recognized.

Most of the deponents, in closing their testimony, formally declared that they believed Joan had been a pious Catholic and a good girl. To this formal declaration some added an opinion plainly individual. The rude soldier Macy, who had practiced his horse - play on her at Beaurevoir, ended his testimony with the words, "I believe she is in paradise." "I do not doubt that she died a Catholic," said her confessor Ladvenu; "indeed, I wish my soul were now where I believe Joan's soul to be." "In my opinion she was a very good Christian," said her squire Aulon; "and she must have been inspired, for she loved all that a good Christian ought to love, and especially she loved well any right valiant fellow whom she knew to be of chaste life." "I believe that she was led by the spirit of God, and that there was in her a virtue divine, not human," said a lawyer who had seen her at Orleans. "It was a great consolation to converse with her," said Beauharnais, a burgher of the city. The rest of 1455 and the first six months of 1456 were spent in taking testimony, in framing articles, in citing the heirs of Cauchon to appear before the tribunal, and in making and hearing lengthy arguments. On July 7, at about eight o'clock in the morning, in the great hall of the archbishop's palace at Rouen, the judges pronounced sentence, as follows: "We declare and, in accordance with the requirements of justice, we decree that the articles set forth in the case submitted to us and in the sentence pronounced against the said deceased, were corruptly, deceitfully, calumniously, fraudulently, and maliciously put together from the confession of the said deceased, by suppressing truth and expressing falsehood in matters of substance material to the determination of the case. Many aggravating circumstances not contained in the proceedings and in the confession were improperly inserted, while some alleviating circumstances therein were passed over, and the language thereof was substantially altered. Wherefore we avoid and annul the said articles as false, as calumniously and fraudulently prepared, and as inconsistent with the confession of the accused, and we adjudge that the said articles, which we have caused to be taken from the files, be here formally destroyed.

"We decide, pronounce, decree, and declare that the said proceedings and sentence, containing fraud, calumny, injustice, inconsistency, and manifest error in law and fact, together with the said abjuration, execution, and all matters thereafter following, have been, are, and shall be null, invalid, and void. Wherefore, as is reasonable and needful, we avoid and annul the same, and pronounce them to be of none effect, declaring that the said Joan, together with her kinsfolk and all plaintiffs in this suit, has received no mark or stain of infamy by reason of the foregoing, but is and shall be harmless and cleared from the foregoing, and so far as is needful we hereby absolutely clear her.

"We order that execution or solemn notification of this our sentence shall be made forthwith in this city, in two places; to wit, to-day in the place of St. Ouen, by a public procession and a public sermon, and to-morrow in the Old Market, the place in which the said Joan was cruelly and horribly burned to death, by a solemn discourse, and by the erection of a decent cross to keep her in everlasting remembrance, and to provoke prayers for her salvation and that of other departed souls. The further execution and notification of our said sentence, with the solemn proclamation thereof in the cities and principal places of the realm, and other things to be done, if any there be, we reserve for our disposal hereafter as may seem to us fitting."

A fortnight later, upon further order of the court, there was a procession at Orleans also, attended by two of the judges. As has been said already, the people of Orleans had waited for no judicial decree to celebrate every year the deliverance of their city by Joan the Maid.

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