Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

The Maid of France
Being The Story Of The Life And Death of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc)


THE successes of the Maid have been freely attributed to the influence of alleged prophecies by Bede and Merlin, invented or contaminated by priests of her party.

Concerning the Merlin prophecies we have said enough. We have shown that obscure sayings attributed to Merlin and reported by Geoffrey of Monmouth (circ. 1 145), about a healing Virgin from the Nemus Canutum, were connected, in public opinion, with the Bois Chesnu of Domremy. The said Virgin was expected to come from the Bois Chesnu^ therefore "from the marches of Loraine.'' This Virgin, in the prophecy of Marie d' Avignon, under Charles VI, was to restore France by arms (after it had been ruined by a woman, the wife of the insane King, people said). 1 We have shown that this saying was current in the valley of the Meuse, and was known to the peasantry before Jeanne announced her mission ; so it was not composed in her interest by a cunning clerk. It may or may not have encouraged her; she certainly used it to persuade Katherine Royer.

Of all these facts the proofs have been given. But the prophecy attributed to Bede is another affair. We must not, like M. Anatole France, identify the Bede with the Merlin prediction.2 "Bede" says not a word of the Bois Chesnu.

1 Prods, vol. iii. pp. 83, 84.
2 France, vol. i. p. 204, note 1, in which the Bede prophecy in Morosini, vol. iv. p. 324, is identified with the Merlin prediction.

The saying of Merlin (which, of course, really applied to Britain, not to France) had won its way into folklore. The Bede prediction was in Latin, and it was composed after Jeanne raised her standard. The so-called Bede prophecy is not in Bede's works. It is a chronogram, "a commemorative phrase, or saying, in prose or verse.'' By selecting such letters in a chronogram as are Roman numerals, such as i, I, v, V, 1, L, etc., and adding them up, their total gives the year-date of the event commemorated. The chronogram is a memoria technica of a date. The chronogram of the date of the murder of Jean sans Peur is Tolle, tolle, crucifige eum si vis. "Away with him, crucify him if you will!" To get the date the chronogram is written thus :

ToLLe, toLLe, CrVCIflge eVM si Vis.

Adding together the Roman numerals, M (a thousand) and so on, we get 1419. The four L's give 200, the two C's give 200, + M that is 1400; the three V's make 15, the four l's make 4, result 1419. There are several such chronograms, each a memoria technica of a date, in the Chronique de St. Michel1

These chronograms do not pretend to be prophetic. But the alleged Bede prophecy of the Maid was given out as prophetic. Only the first line of the three lines is a chronogram.

We first hear of it in an Italian letter of July 9, 1429, written from Bruges to Venice.2 The writer says3 that at Paris . . . many prophecies have been found which make mention of this young lady" (the Maid), "among which is one of Bede in Alex(andro)." The chronogram is given, it sums up to 1429.4

1 Prods, vol. iv. pp. 313, 314.
2 Morosini, vol. iii. p. 89.
3 Ibid., vol. iii. p. 127.
4 Ibid., vol. iii. p. 127. " People interpret it in various ways."

On any remarkable occurrence the learned looked up their collections of oracles, such rubbish as Onomacritus is said to have preserved and interpolated in ancient Athens.

There is no work of Bede "In Alexandre)? But Bede, as M. Lefevre-Pontalis shows, was confused with Merlin ; the Christian historian (672-735) with the heathen Celtic seer of Arthur's Court. Now Geoffrey of Monmouth dedicated his popular tract on the prophecies of Merlin to Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln (i 1 23-1 148), in the words "Ad Alexandrum" The dedication " Ad Alexandrum" was mistaken for the title " In Alexandro" in a book called " Alexander." Bede and Merlin were rolled into one, and prophecies of Merlin were attributed to Bede in a non-existent book of Bede "In Alexandra?

Christine de Pisan, an ancient religious lady, quotes Bede with Merlin in a poem on the Maid, written on July 31, 1429, when Charles VII was expected at the gates of Paris.1

Much earlier, Creton, the French chronicler of the death of our Richard II, shows that the confusion of Merlin with Bede was already made in England.2 The so-called Bede's prophecy is given, variously, by the Italian letter-writer of July 9, 1429; by Jean Brehal, Grand Inquisitor;3 by Bower, the Scottish chronicler,4 and by others. The first line of the three yields the date 1429. The two other lines read, "The young French cocks will make preparations for new wars, in Taurus ; behold wars break out, a Maid carries flags." In his opinion given at the Trial of Rehabilitation of Jeanne, Brehal remarks that "some say" (on dit) that Bede foretold the Maid in this chronogram. Brehal does not think much of this, and is more impressed by the Merlin prophecy, which, he says, is good folklore.5 He interprets a form of the version given in Geoffrey of Monmouth ; he leaves out the words about London, for which he had no use.6

1 Prods ', vol. v. p. 12.
2 Creton (Webb), pp. 168, 169, 371. Buchon, p. 412.
3 Prods, vol. iii. pp. 334-349 ; cf. 338-339.
4 Ibid., vol. iv. p. 481.
5 Ibid,, vol. iii. pp. 338, 340.
6 Ibid., vol. iii. pp. 341, 342.

He also gives, and comments on, a long prophecy attributed to "Engelida, daughter of the King of Hungary." This was certainly composed after July 17, 1429, and before the failure at Paris. The Maid, we learn, has a soft voice, a little red birth-mark behind the ear, and collum modicum, which Brehal understands as "a short neck."

He says that many may think this prophecy rather less than authentic ! Still, we should try to take prophecies in a favourable sense.

The conclusion seems to be (1) that Jeanne and the people of her district knew a folklore prophecy,--Merlin filtered through Marie dAvignon, and localised at the Bois Chesnu y--and that the learned knew the saying in a literary shape in Geoffrey of Monmouth.

(2) A mere chronogram, a new jeu d'esprit on the events of 1429, was in Paris by July in that year attributed to Bede (through the old confusion of Bede with Merlin), and was circu- lated to encourage the French party by the evidence of a statement of facts,--which does not predict victory. Paris was the source of this sham prophecy, which may be due to the ingenuity of a Carmelite attached to his rightful King.

(3) The prophecy of Engelida is a fabrication of between July 17 and September 8, 1429. But Jeanne had relieved Orleans in May 1-8, and I fail to see that " without these pious frauds " (the chronogram and Engelida) " the marvels of the Maid would not have been accomplished." x

In May 1-8, Engelida had not vaticinated ; and if any one thinks that Saint Loup, Les Augustins, the Tourelles, and Jargeau were stormed on the strength of a chronogram (saying that " a girl carries flags "), a chronogram certainly written after the Maid raised her victorious standard, I envy his gift of faith, though I wish it were devoted to doctrines more plausible.

(I have rested on the learning of M. Lefevre-Pontalis, in Morosini, vol. iv. annexe xvi., drawing my own conclusions.)

1 Anatole France, vol. i. p. 207.


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