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)
CHAPTER 25

THE LAST MORNING IN PRISON

THE abjuration having been made, whatever the form of abjuration may have been, Cauchon read the sentence on the sinner. Jeanne was once more told that she had erred in the forgery of lying revelations, in playing the diviner, in blaspheming God and His Saints, and the rest of the document. But now that she had abjured, she was released from excommunication. To work out her penitence the Church assigned to her lifelong prison," bread of sadness, water of affliction." With less than the humility to be expected of a penitent, the Maid treated Loiselleur, the spy, who said, " You have done a good day's work, please God, and saved your soul." Not answering him, she cried," Here some of you church folk! Take me to your prisons, and out of the hands of the English!"

Not even at that hour could she repress her " calm unwavering deep disdain " of the learned Doctors. But she did not even yet know them." Take her back whence you brought her," said Cauchon.

The ecclesiastical hermitage in which she should cleanse her sins by penitence was to be the old loathsome cell, where, in irons, and in the company of the merry men of John Gray and William Talbot, she might devote herself to the contrite life. By the rule of the Inquisition, women prisoners were to be kept apart from men, and watched by women. With equal cruelty, hypocrisy, and perfidy, Cauchon broke the rules of the Inquisition, and replaced the Maid in the den of unspeakable moral torment.

He had never meant to do anything else. England had from the first stipulated that she must recover her victim, if acquitted. Thus, from first Jx>_ last, the trial was one organised hypocrisy on the part of the French judges. Cauchon threw over the rules of his Church, and made Jeanne a present to her political enemies. Quicherat attempts to palliate the supreme iniquity : here his desire to be impartial has led him into a strange partiality.

If anything especially moved Jeanne to whatsoever abjuration she made, after the prospect of instant fiery torment and death, it was the enforced society, by day and night, of the men of merry England. This I take to have been the most cruel part of her long martyrdom, and now she must consort with them without the protection of her accustomed attire. The story ran that Warwick was not yet content, and bullied the French clerics. One of them said, "Do not disturb yourself, my Lord, we shall soon have her again." The men-at-arms mocked at the Maid unreproved.

In the afternoon, Courcelles, Loiselleur, Midi, and de la Pierre, with others, went to the cell, and spoke to Jeanne of the great pity and mercy of the churchmen. She was told that she must wear woman's dress ; and this was brought to her. She put it on, and allowed her military crop of hair to be adjusted in feminine fashion.

The Duchess of Bedford, when she and Anna Bavon declared Jeanne to be a maiden, gave orders that Gray, Talbot, and the rest should not offer her violence. It was the Duchess who now sent to her Jean Simon, a tailor, with the dress. In putting it on, he took her by the breast, to her great anger ; she struck the wretch.

We do not know, happily we never shall know, all that passed in that cell between May 24, the day of the abjuration, and May 27, Trinity Sunday. We do know that at night she lay, her legs in irons, with couples fastened to a chain, and attached by a lock to a great beam of wood. There she lay from May 24 to May 27. On that day came tidings to the scribes and Doctors that Jeanne had relapsed, and was again wearing man's costume.

The shavelings trooped to the castle in their robes ; but, as they stood in the court, a hundred of En glancTs^ merry -men assailed them with injurious and libellous observations. They learned that they were "traitor Armagnacs and false counsellors," and they were glad to escape from the courtyard. Manchon was there, and was so alarmed that, when summoned to the castle on Monday, he would not go till a retainer of Warwick acted as his protector. A clerk named Marguerie asked why Jeanne returned to man's dress? whereon an English soldier threatened the priest with his spear, and caused him grievous terror.

It was necessary, however, to admit Cauchon and his acolytes on Monday. They found Jeanne in her old attire, and asked her why she had relapsed. According to the official report, she replied that she preferred her old costume, and she did not understand that she had sworn never to wear it again. " It was more con- venient to wear men's dress among men, and the promise that she should receive the sacrament and be released from the irons had been broken."

"I would rather die than remain in irons. If you will release me, and let me go to Mass and lie in gentle prison, I will be good, and do what the Church desires."

"will be good!" she returned to the innocence of a child sub- mitting to a mother, and spoke as a child.

This is the official version.

De la Pierre testifies that she publicly averred that " the English did her wrong and violence while she wore woman's dress " ; and her face, " wet with tears, disfigured and outraged," moved the compassion of the Dominican. Ladvenu added a tale too horrible for quotation concerning an English lord, and swore that the Maid told it openly.

Manchon does not go so far ; he says that Jeanne merely com- plained that " her guards wished to make attempts " upon her person, as the reason why she changed her dress.

She resisted till noonday, and then, being constrained to rise, did as she must. They would not return her woman's dress, despite her entreaties. Massieu swore that Jeanne told him this on May 29, in answer to his questions, after dinner, when Warwick and Estivet had left him alone with her. This appears the most probable version : in any case the English had deliberately left the forbidden dress in her way.

The official record says that she told her gaolers, apparently, that her Voices had come to her and counselled her. At what moment this occurred we do not know. The details of her "relapse " we can never know, and gladly avert our eyes from the cruelty wrought in that dark place of the earth. There is, we shall see, good evidence against the loathsome story told by Ladvenu.

It was enough for them that by means in any case infamous they had recaptured her, " relapsed." On May 29, Cauchon gathered his bandits, the " Reverend Fathers in Christ/'--the cruel and the cowardly,--Courcelles and Loiselleur, Ladvenu and Isambart de la Pierre, all the sort of them, in the chapel of his house, the palace of the Archbishop of Rouen. They all agreed, de la Pierre and all, that Jeanne must be handed over to the secular arm, that is, after the confession of her sins had been read to her. This condition, we have seen, was never fulfilled. The best of them were dastards ; but a poor monk, with death as the alternative, must obey the will of his superiors. We, who are not monks, and have not been tempted as they were, may censure them at pleasure.

The Maid was cited to appear at the Old Market, on May 30. The Church must hand her over to secular justice, begging that it might not injure her in life or limb ! If she showed signs of sincere penitence, she was to be allowed to receive the sacrament of confession so long denied to her.

With the pronouncement of the sentence, the official record, signed by Boisguillaume, Manchon, and Taquel, closes. But there is a document about her last confessions, done after her death, on June 7, not thus attested, yet given by Cauchon as official, and as part of the record of the trial. Manchon was not present at the alleged interview of certain priests with Jeanne, in prison, on the morning of May 30, the day of the martyrdom. He therefore hardened his heart ; and though Cauchon tried to force him to sign the document done on June 7, he refused. No notary signed this ambiguous record.

Cauchon was anxious to prove that Jeanne again abjured. One form of his proof is that she, in fact, received the sacrament, and the inference is that she satisfied these men. The document is informal ; but it is part of the history, or, if any one pleases, the legend of Cauchon. It was accepted as evidence by de Leliis, one of the judges who rehabilitated the Maid. He held it as proof that Jeanne, "after taking the sacrament, persisted, and till her death continued to aver, that she really had the visions and Voices." It was impossible that in this she could have lied. But as to whether the spirits were good or bad, says de Leliis, she left it to the judgment of the churchmen.

Remembering, then, the nature of the record of June 7, unsigned by Manchon or any notary, and remembering that the witnesses were Cauchon's cowering creatures, we follow their stories. The odious Loiselleur and Maurice, Professor of Theology, went alone, early in the morning, into the cell. They asked the Maid to tell them the truth about the Angel and Crown. Loiselleur heard Jeanne say that she was the angel, and announced the crown to her King. All this is plain from her own allegorical narrative as told to her judges. The Angel, she then said, entered by the door, and bowed down before the King. Angels do not thus salute mortal princes ! (See Appendix C, on The King's Secret.) There was no other angel in the room : the crown was the promise of the coronation. As to the visions of multitudes of angels, Jeanne said that they actually appeared to her, u be they good or bad spirits, they really appeared to me." Maurice added that "she had heard the Voices, most frequently at the hour of Complines, when the bells ring, and also in the morning, when the bells ring." (It is not said that she had her visions of Saints chiefly at these hours ; and, as we know, she heard the Voices even during the scene at St. Ouen.) The hosts of angels " appeared to her in the aspect of minute things." Maurice told her " that the spirits were clearly bad, as they had promised her release, and she had been deceived." Jeanne answered that " it was true that she had been deceived." Loiselleur added that Jeanne, while conscious that she had been deceived, referred the question, " were the spirits good or evil ? " to the clerks ; but she would no longer put her faith in them. This is vague, and is not attested by Maurice. Perhaps, if she spoke thus, while not denying that the spirits were good, she merely meant that she no longer hoped for release.

Ladvenu, with the news of her approaching death by fire, and Toutmouill6, another Dominican, now entered the cell. Tout- mouill6, on June 7, 143 1, corroborated the evidence already given, but, in 1450, said nothing of it. He then dilated on the horror with which Jeanne received the news of her death by fire. " She cried piteously, tore her hair, and exclaimed, ' Alas, will they treat me so horribly and cruelly, and burn my body that never was corrupted, and consume it to ashes this day ! Ah, ah, rather would I be seven times beheaded than thus burned ! Ah, had I been in a prison of the Church, to which I submitted, and been guarded by churchfolk, and not by my enemies and adversaries, this would never have befallen me ! Oh, I appeal before God, the great Judge, against these wrongs that they do me ! ' And here she complained of the oppressions and violences done her by her gaolers and others admitted to see her. She turned to Cauchon, who had entered, and spoke out boldly, " Bishop, through you I die . . . wherefore I appeal you before God."

If this terrible evidence be true, at least Jeanne could still talk of her uncorrupted virginal body. Toutmouille' attested that (in 1 431) when he said that she now saw how her Voices had deceived her in promising her deliverance, she answered, " Truly, I well see that they have deceived me." It was before Cauchon entered, says Toutmouille^ that, asked if her spirits were not evil, she answered, "I know not. I trust myself therein to my Mother, the Church," or "to you, who are churchmen." But Camus, who entered with Cauchon, obviously exaggerates, going far beyond Toutmouille, who, we see, did his best to give his recollection of her very words. Camus says that Jeanne persisted that she had seen the appearances and heard the Voices ; but, " since she had not been released, she believed that they were not good Voices or things." As Mr. Lowell writes, " The anxiety of Le Camus to please Cauchon evidently led him into exaggeration, if not into downright falsehood." Le Camus also makes Jeanne say to Ladvenu, when he ministered to her the sacrament, that Christ alone could liberate her; and being asked if she still believed in her Voices, " I believe in God only, and wish no more to believe in the Voices, since they have so deceived me." Ladvenu himself, on June 7, told much the same story ; but does not say that she so spoke when receiving the sacrament. He makes her opinion that the spirits were evil dependent on the belief of the churchmen around her. They say so. Manifestly unless she had conciliated them in terms like these, they would not have let her receive the sacrament. But, if Ladvenu's later evidence is to be credited, at the stake she returned to her faith in her Saints, and proclaimed it loudly.

Thomas Courcelles, on June 7, gave very brief and cautious evidence. He says that Cauchon asked Jeanne if her Voices had not promised her deliverance. She said " ' Yes,' and added, as it seems to me, ' I see well that I have been deceived.' " Then, says Courcelles, the bishop told Jeanne that she must perceive that the Voices were evil, and came not from God. But there Courcelles stopped ; he did not add that the Maid acquiesced. This caution of Courcelles is notable; he was in no way dependent on Cauchon, and his evidence is much the least favourable to that prelate. Loiselleur says that she left the goodness or badness of the Voices and visions " to the clerks " ; she asserted their reality, but would no longer trust them. Loiselleur told her that she ought to make this confession publicly, at the stake, and ask pardon of the people for deceiving them. Jeanne replied that she would do so, and asked her confessor to remind her of it. No witness attests her confession, and prayer for forgiveness of her deceit, at the stake.

Quicherat writes, probably with justice, that the document of June 7 is not a mere forgery through and through. Courcelles, who edited the Proces, is cited, and he would not have allowed his deposi- tion to stand, if he did not make it. " In face of death, the poor girl maintained, more firmly than ever, the actuality of the appearances ; but, subdued before her judges by the hope of obtaining from them the sacrament, beset by their arguments, and unable herself to reconcile the hope of deliverance that the Voices had given with the inevitable death before her, she admitted, for a moment, that her sublime instinct might have deceived her." Jeanne, of course, said and thought nothing about " her sublime instinct " !

I confess that, in my opinion, she had misunderstood the words of the Voices, " Bear thy affliction lightly, thence shalt thou come into the Kingdom of Paradise." Her normal self was not always on the level of her mysterious monitions. For a moment that normal self, not understanding, and cruelly disappointed in that she was not released, wavered, to what exact extent the evidence of Courcelles leaves doubtful. He could not say that Jeanne had confessed the Voices to be evil ; and the nobility of her nature shines forth when, in her moment of shaken faith, she puts her whole confidence in the divine Master of whom she was the loyal servant.

Meanwhile it is impossible, as Quicherat observes, to under- stand why--as the document of June 7 professes to contain the last formal interrogatory, that of May 30--a record so essentially important to the prosecutors was not made at once, and inserted, in the Proces, on the day of the event. Why was a notary, Manchon, summoned to attest the facts by his signature, when he had not been present ?

The document is not fit to go to a jury, and the whole conduct of this affair is suspicious; to Quicherat it offered " an insoluble problem." Yet the document, the weakest point in the case of the prosecution, was not the subject of questions at the Rehabilitation of 1450-1456. About the scene of the morning of May 30 no questions were asked, though de Leliis accepted the record. Perhaps its informality, for Manchon had explained why he refused to sign an examination "conducted by certain men as private persons," was thought reason sufficient for neglecting it. The document is not likely to be allowed to stand between the Maid and canonisation, if on other grounds the Saints are to be honoured by the insertion of her pure and glorious name in their roll-call.

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