The Maid of France
THE LAST MORNING IN PRISON
Being The Story Of The Life And Death of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc)
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
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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