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)

Jeanne d'Arc, during her nineteen years of life, was a cause of contention among her own countrymen, and her memory divides them to the present day. In her life she was of course detested as a witch and heretic by the French of the Burgundian faction. After her death, her memory was distasteful to all writers who disbelieved in her supernormal faculties, and in her inspiration. She had no business to possess faculties for which science could not account, and which common sense could not accept.

Today, the quarrel over her character and career is especially bitter. If the Church canonises her, the Church is said, by the "Anticlericals," to "confiscate" her, and to stultify itself. Her courage and her goodness of heart are denied by no man, but, as a set-off against the praises of the "clericals," and even of historians far from orthodox, her genius is denied, or is minimised; she is represented as a martyr, a heroine, a puzzle-pated hallucinated lass, a perplexed wanderer in a realm of dreams; the unconscious tool of fraudulent priests, herself once doubtfully honest, apt to tell great palpable myths to her own glorification, never a leader in war, but only a kind of mascotte, a "little saint," and a beguine--in breeches!

It has appeared to me that all these inconsistent views of the Maid, and several charges against her best friends, are mainly based on erroneous readings of the copious evidence concerning her; on mistakes in the translating of the very bad Latin of the documents, and, generally, are distorted by a false historical perspective, if not an unconscious hostility, into the grounds of which we need not inquire. I have therefore written this book in the hope that grave errors, as I deem them, may be corrected; and also because, as far as I am aware, no British author has yet attempted to write a critical biography of the Maid. Of course, there no longer remains, in England, a shadow of prejudice against the stainless heroine and martyr. It has pleased the Chanoine Dunand, however, in his long biography of La Vraie Jeanne d'Arc, and in his learned but prolix series of Etudes Critiques, to speak of "the English," and the "Franco- English" schools of History. Masters and disciples in these schools, it appears, are apt to defend the regularity and the legality of her trial in 1431, and to deny to her the possession of "heroic" virtues.

The English masters of history who do this thing are not named by the Chanoine Dunand. It is, indeed, easy to show that, in the age of the Maid, and later, England had practically no historian, no contemporary chronicler. When Fabyan, Holinshed, and Polydore Virgil, a century later, wrote concerning Jeanne d'Arc, they drew their information, not from our archives (which are mute, save for one allusion to Jeanne), nor from English chroniclers contemporary with the Maid (for there is but a page of Caxton, written fifty years after date), not from the Proces of the Trial of Condemnation and the Trial of Rehabilitation, but from the French chroniclers of the Burgundian party, such as Monstrelet ; and from later antipathetic French historians, like du Haillan. The Elizabethan historians were, of course, full of hostile national prejudice, they neglected the French chroniclers of her own party--if these were accessible to them-- and the result was the perplexity, the chaotic uncertainty about the Maid, which is so conspicuous in the dubiously Shakespearean play, Henry VI, Part I, and is confessed in the remarks of the jocular Thomas Fuller, as late as 1642.

But, in the middle of the eighteenth century, David Hume, in the spirit of the Scottish chroniclers who were contemporaries of the Maid, fully recognised the nobility of her character, and the iniquity of her condemnation. Though Hume was no Englishman, his History was widely read in England, and from his day onwards, perhaps Dr. Lingard, a Catholic, has been alone in taking an unworthy view of Jeanne d'Arc.

In 1790 appeared the books of Francois de L'Averdy on the manuscript records of the two trials. Henceforth the facts were accessible, and Jeanne d'Arc inspired both Coleridge and Southey with poems in her honour ; to be sure the inspiration did not result in anything worthy of her greatness. From that period it would be difficult to find any English historian who has applauded the regularity, or palliated the illegalities, of her condemnation, or who, save Lingard, has failed to recognise her heroism. But authors of general histories of England can give but limited space to the glorious Maid who emancipated France; and while America has a critical and valuable Life of Joan of Arc,--that by Mr. Francis Lowell,--England has none that is critical and complete, and informed by documents brought to light since the time when Jules Quicherat published the five volumes entitled Proces de Jeanne d'Arc (1840-1850). We have, indeed, the short but good monograph of Miss Tuckey, and a book by Lord Ronald Leveson-Gower, with a recent translation of the Proces, while brief stories of the life of the Maid for children are common, and excite the enthusiasm and the pity of little boys and girls. But a work based on a study of all the documents, and equipped with full references, has been still to seek.

I have therefore tried to fill this empty place in our bookshelves, and to depict, however feebly, this glory of her sex, "a Star of ancient France."

There is no Englishman alive who, from obsolete national prejudice, would try to diminish her greatness, or to palliate the shameful iniquity of his ancestors in all their relations with her. But a Scot is especially devoid of temptation to defend Cauchon, Warwick, Bedford, and the rest of "our old enemies of England." The Scots did not buy or sell, or try, or condemn, or persecute, or burn, or--most shameful of all--bear witness against and desert the Maid. The Scots stood for her always with pen as with sword.

The historical evidence for the career of the Maid is rich, multifarious, -and of many degrees of comparative excellence. In the front stands the official record of her trial at Rouen in 1431. On each day of her trial, the clerks of the Court took down in French her replies to the questions of the judges and assessors. The French version was, later, officially rendered into Latin, with all the other proceedings : and certain posthumous documents were added. The whole book is official, the work of her enemies. How far it is fair and honest is a question to be discussed in the text. At all events we have here a version of what Jeanne herself told her judges, as to her own life, and as to future events. Next we have letters dictated by her, and letters written about her, during her active career, from April 1429 to May 1430. These are of varying value: the News Letters of the age, French, Italian, and German, answer to the letters of Foreign Correspondents in our newspaper press. Some are full of false gossip.

As to the politics of the period we have diplomatic documents, treaties, memoirs, and despatches. We also possess notes in the contemporary account books of various towns, and the jottings of contemporary diarists, well or ill informed, as the case may be.

The historical chronicles concerning the Maid date from 1430 to 1470: some are by friendly French, some by hostile Burgundian hands. Their evidence needs to be studied critically, with an eye on the probable sources of information of each chronicler. The mystery play, Mistere du Siege d'Orleans, is a late poetical chronicle {circ. 1470?). A few facts may be gleaned from works even later than 1470, when the writer's sources of information are mentioned and seem to be good.

Finally we have the records of the Trial of Rehabilitation (1450-1456), with the sworn evidence of more than a hundred and forty eye-witnesses, who knew the Maid at various periods from her infancy to her martyrdom. In judging their depositions, we must make careful allowance for errors of bias, for illusions of memory, and for the natural desire of persons who took part in her trial to shield themselves, and to throw blame on her judges and their assessors who were by that time dead, or for any reason were not able to speak for themselves.

The main defect of the Trial of Rehabilitation is the singular fact that only two witnesses testified to any event in the life of the Maid between the failure at Paris, in September 1429, and her capture in May 1430. No questions on this period were put, for example, to her confessor, Pasquerel, and her equerry, d'Aulon, an omission which cannot be defended, even if it was caused by a desire to spare the feelings of the King, Charles VII. His conduct, and his diplomacy, from his Coronation to the capture of the Maid, must for him have been full of tormenting memories. I have also suggested in the text, that as the Maid, like any other leader, certainly assured her men of success, "fight on, you will have them!" on occasions when they were not successful, the inquirers in 1450-1456 may have shrunk from asking "Did Jeanne utter these promises as the predictions of her Saints?" We have only her own denial. The evidence of the cloud of witnesses in 1450-1456 is commonly disparaged by the scientific spirit. Even Quicherat wrote : "The depositions of the witnesses have the air, for the most part, of having undergone numerous retrenchments," of having been "cut," as we say, or garbled. Quicherat gives no proof of this; and none is visible to me. On certain important points, such as "What did Jeanne do at Paris, La Charite, Lagny, Melun, and Compiegne?" no questions were asked, though her judges in 1431 had accused her of several misdeeds at these places.

Nothing was asked as to her leap from the tower (or her attempt to let herself down from a window of the tower) at Beaurevoir. These omissions are a great blot on the Trial of Rehabilitation, but that the judges cut and garbled the replies to questions actually put is a mere baseless assertion.1

1 See Dunand, La Socitte" de V Histoire de France, Jules Quicherat, et Jeanne d'Arc, pp. 157-168, 1908, and Quicherat, Apercus Nouveaux, 1850.

Quicherat had said, "The judges at the Rehabilitation were probity itself." Yet he also says that they seem to have garbled "the majority of the depositions!" M. Anatole France is specially severe on the Trial of Rehabilitation, though he freely quotes the depositions. In the first place, the witnesses merely answered the questions put to them "in the course of ecclesiastical justice." Certainly we now should put many other questions. Secondly, "the majority of the witnesses are excessively simple and lacking in discernment." They were men and women of their own time, not savants of our time--that is undeniable! Again, Pasquerel misplaces the sequence of certain events, it is true, but so does M. Anatole France on several occasions, as we shall try to show.

The deposition of Dunois "must have been mishandled by the translator and the scribes," as when he speaks of "the strong force of the enemy." But Bedford, the English commander-in-chief, also says that the English at Orleans were numerous, before the men began to desert. Their numbers were reduced by desertions, but if Dunois overestimated them, how often, in the South African war, did our leaders make the same mistake as to the enemy! The other sins of Dunois are either no sins at all, or are easily pardonable, and the burden of them need not be thrown on translator or scribe.

As to the witnesses who had been assessors, scribes, or officers of the Court in 1431, "all these ink-pots of the Church who had fashioned the documents for the death of the Maid, showed as much zeal in destroying it," in 1450-1456. Let that be granted; it does not follow that the evidence, for example, of Manchon is false. The witnesses say that they were terrorised by Cauchon and the English, and perhaps nobody doubts that they did go in fear. Poor clerks and officials, it is part of the injustice of the trial of 1431 that they were threatened and bullied. "They denounced the cruel iniquity which they had themselves put in good and proper form." The form, in fact, is not so good and proper: one document the scribes refused to sign, and unsigned it remains.

Probably few penmen, even now, would have the courage to throw up their duties and their livelihood, and incur a fair chance of being cast into dungeons, or into the river, because they disliked their work. The scribes did their task: they were not heroes. Had they been heroes, we should not have had their evidence.

"A pair of lamentable monks, Brother Martin Ladvenu and Brother Isambart de la Pierre, wept bitterly while they told of the pious death of the poor Maid whom they had declared heretic, then relapsed, and had burned alive."

There is no evidence that the two monks wept while they gave their testimony; at the last, they did not--unconditionally--declare Jeanne heretic; to burn her or to save her they had no more power than I who write. That power was in the hands of Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais. At the same time I regard with suspicion several parts of the evidence of these two lamentable monks, and "the ink-pots of the Church'

"The captains said that Jeanne was expert in placing guns, when they knew that it was untrue."

One captain, d'Alencon, swore to her skill in artillery, and M. Anatole France knows that this witness deliberately perjured himself. Less omniscient, I know not how he knows; or what his acquaintance with medieval artillery may be; but I suspect, from examination of a contemporary breech-loading field-piece, that any one with a good eye and a little practice could do what was needed. Many women are good shots.

"The effort was made to prove that Jeanne was destitute of intelligence, to show that the Holy Spirit was more manifest in her." M. Anatole France himself does not credit the Maid with much intelligence {esprit), but many of the witnesses did." The examiners led the witnesses to keep repeating that the Maid was simple, very simple." He himself gives the same opinion: often.

Many said that she was chaste. Does any mortal deny it? Some of her companions vowed that she did not excite their passions. Is that, considering their deep reverence and regard for the Maid, a thing incredible? Naturally her enemies were not affected in the same way.

"Sometimes the clerks content themselves with saying that one witness deposed like the preceding witness." Nothing was more usual in the records of secular trials one hundred and forty years later, as in the trial of the accomplices of Bothwell in Darnley's murder. 2

2 Cf. Anatole France, Vie de Jeanne d'Arc, vol. i. pp. xx -xxx. , vol. ii. pp. 445- 452.

It is proper to notice these objections to the evidence of 1450-1456. We shall use it with the warning that, in twenty-five years, human memories are apt to be fallacious; that the bias of the witnesses was favourable to the Maid ; and that some witnesses had to excuse their own share in the trial of 1431, and to exhibit the judges, mainly Cauchon and the accuser, in the most unfavourable light. But we shall not accuse the captains of deliberate perjury, out of our own will and fantasy.

Mr. Frederick Myers, when studying the Maid in the light of psychical research, 3 spoke of the records of the Trial of Rehabilitation as practically worthless. The events were too "remote" for evidence given twenty-five years later to be trustworthy. I venture to think that he rated the powers of memory too low, when he thought that, in a quarter of a century, all witnesses would necessarily err as to the most impressive experience of their lives, their acquaintance with Jeanne d'Arc. The psychical researcher feels bound to take it for granted that strange affairs will be unconsciously exaggerated by memory, after twenty-five years. There are, in fact, two tendencies; one man exaggerates, another begins to doubt, when the first freshness of his impression has been worn off, and he minimises. But every reader of the Trial of Rehabilitation must see that the witnesses, in 1450-1456, are usually sparing in marvels, except Pasquerel and Dunois. We hear from them of no miracles attributed to Jeanne, though Dunois obviously regarded the fortunate change of the wind on

3 Human Personality. Cf. Index, Jeanne d'Arc.

the Loire on April 28, 1429, as verging on miracle. Pasquerel exaggerated its effects; and also said that, on May 6, Jeanne named the day and the place of her arrow-wound. Very possibly his memory deceived him. But witnesses say nothing of the clairvoyance about Rouvray fight, or about the sword at Fierbois ; about the Maid's knowledge of the King's secret they could not, of course, say anything definite. They never mention her saintly visitors. The only hagiographic marvels are negligible; and are connected with the martyrdom. The contemporary tales (1429) about marvels at the time of the birth of Jeanne, are not repeated by the witnesses from Domremy: about these marvels no questions were asked.

Every writer on Jeanne d'Arc must gratefully acknowledge his obligations to the great palaeographers and men of research into the fruits of whose labours he enters. Among these are especially to be honoured M. Jules Quicherat, M. Simeon Luce, M. Lefevre-Pontalis, M. Pierre Champion, Father Ayroles, S.J., M. Albert Sorel, M. Boucher de Molandon, M. de Beaucourt, M. Jadart, M. Jarry, M. Vallet de Viriville, M. Tuetey, M. de Beaurepaire, M. P. Lanery d'Arc, and the Due de la Tremollle (in his published work on his family archives). I have also read several biographies of the Maid, such as those by Father Ayroles, S.J., M. Wallon, M. Sepet, M. Anatole France (whose notes constitute an excellent bibliography), the Chanoine Dunand, and Mr. F. C. Lowell (1896). On certain questions, for example as to whether Jeanne visited Vaucouleurs twice ; as to the date of her departure from Vaucouleurs to Chinon ; as to whether she passed the night of April 28, 1429, at Reuilly ; as to the alleged resistance of the French leaders to her attack on the Tourelles, on May 7, I differ from Mr. Lowell, but not with perfect confidence, the evidence being confused. I am apt, also, to prefer to his view of the supernormal in Jeanne's career, the opinions of Quicherat.

For permission to reproduce three charts in Mr. Lowell's book I have to thank his publishers, Messrs. Houghton and Mifflin. I have added to the chart of Orleans the names of some of the English forts.

In this book the narrative is given continuously, without footnotes. Full references to authorities, and critical dissertations, are relegated to notes at the end of the work. When I quote any speech or other matter, between inverted commas, I cite my text literally; translating as closely as I am able to do. Attempts to "give the general sense" are apt to end in giving the wrong sense.

The references, as to volume and page, have been verified by myself, in all cases at least twice, often much more frequently; and again, by Miss E. M. Thompson (except in four or five cases, for which books were not accessible to her). She has also been kind enough to make transcripts of certain documents in our own State papers, and to read the proof sheets. But I wish to bear the blame of any errors in citation, or other mistakes and misapprehensions, for even an aide so meticulously accurate as Miss Thompson may fail to keep straight an author whose eyes were never of the best.

Finally my thanks are due to Madame Duclaux, who kindly procured for me some modern books which I had sought in vain ; though there are others which proved to be introuvables.

For permission to reproduce the two miniatures of the Maid, we are indebted to the kindness and courtesy of Monsieur Andre Girodie, secretary of the Notes d'Art et d'Archeologie (27 Rue d'Ulm, Paris). These miniatures appear to myself, speaking under correction, to be works not later than the middle of the fifteenth century. Though the Maid never sat for her portrait, the miniatures may be based on memories of her face. The oval and the features are long and fine; the hair is dark, as it really was; and the armour is such as she really wore. These little pictures are less remote from the original than the dinanderie of the Cluny Museum, a statuette representing her mounted; it is a clumsy work, which some regard as an effigy of St. Maurice, dated about 1480-1500. I incline to regard it as a popular image of Jeanne, but it is valueless as a likeness.


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