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 9

Cover for Andrew Lang's The Maid of France Cover Page for Andrew Lang's The Maid of France
THE NEW ST. CATHERINE AT POITIERS

At Chinon much time was wasted. It was, no doubt, desirable that a set of learned divines should look into Jeanne's case. She claimed to be inspired ; she was credited, however vaguely, with exhibitions of supernormal faculties, or, as they would have said, with power to see things far remote--if the tale of her clairvoyance of the battle of the Herrings had reached men's ears-- with power to behold the future--if they had heard of her prediction that the man who insulted her should be drowned.

These were perilous accomplishments. As late as 1616, Jonka Dyneis was burned in the Orkneys for no greater offence. Her husband being at sea in a fishing boat, and in peril six miles from their home, " she was found and seen standing at her own house wall, in a trance, that same hour he was in danger, and, being trapped, she could not give answer, but stood as bereft of senses ; and when she was asked why she was so moved, she answered, " If our boat be not lost, she is in great hazard." So Jonka Dyneis was burned at a stake for a mere moment of telepathy. But in 1616, and much later, telepathy was condemned as a " phairie control " in Scotland. The learned of the King's party must test Jeanne, and find out whether her " controls " were not fairies. Either she was inspired by God, or she was a limb of the Devil ; only the wisest clerks could decide, if even they could. To be mixed up with a witch or a possessed woman would harm the Dauphin's character much more than complicity in a mere normal murder on the bridge of Montereau.

Jeanne was therefore sent to Poitiers, the chief University town, and home of the Bar in the shrunken realm of the Dauphin. If we may believe a chronicle, written by Cousinot, secretary of the King, or another Cousinot, chancellor of the Due d'Orleans, she knew not whither they were leading her. " To Poitiers ? In God's name I know I shall have trouble enough; but let us be going." She went to the house of Jean Rabuteau, the lay Advocate General ; she was still clad, no doubt sumptuously, as a page. Jeanne would rather have faced the hottest fire at the closest quarters than be cross-examined by learned old lawyers and divines, whom she regarded as the most tedious and futile of mankind. For people in religion, for working priests, she had a sacred regard. For the Doctors and their silly "celestial science," she had a hearty contempt. They were to be her bane.

Absolutely convinced of the authenticity of her mission, seeing, as she said, her Saints " with her bodily eyes as clearly as she saw" the dull doctors, she fretted over the waste of her one invaluable year. With a company of men-at-arms, however small, she would relieve Orleans. That was as plain to her as the sun in heaven. One thing, meanwhile, she could do, when not being cross-examined; she prayed daily and nightly in a little chapel attached to Rabuteau's house, which then, or later, was known as the Hotel de la Rose. According to a venerabilis et scientificus viry King's Advocate and Doctor of Laws, she "answered her interrogators as well as any good clerk could do, and they believed she had a divine mission." If so, they were much too scientific to give this as their mature opinion in writing. Like the rest of the Dauphin's subjects, they were miserably needy; but their poverty did not induce them to accept Jeanne with headlong enthusiasm.

Brother Seguin, Professor of Theology, was sent by the Archbishop of Reims--the President of the Examining Commission-- to interrogate the Maid, with a number of other University professors, who owe their shadowy immortality to this circumstance alone. (It seems that there were two men named Seguin on the board ; one a Carmelite, the other a Dominican.) Professor Jean Lombart asked her what made her come to the King? She answered haughtily {magno modo)--for she was weary of them-- that" a Voice came to her while she was herding her flock, and told her that God had great pity on the people of France, and that she must needs go into France. That she thereon wept," but at last went to Baudricourt, and so to Chinon. A Voice was mentioned, of visions nothing was said. Professor Aymeri said, " If God wishes to deliver France, He does not need men-at-arms." Jeanne knew that the English were not the kind of devils who go out merely under stress of prayer and fasting; she said, "In God's name the men-at-arms will fight, and God will give the victory." " Wherewith Professor Aymeri was content."

Professor Seguin then asked, "What language does the Voice speak?" Uniformly courteous as she was, the absurdity of the professorial query broke down her politeness. What language save French could she understand? "The Voice speaks a better language than yours," for he was a Limousin, and their patois was a common subject of ridicule.

"Do you believe in God?"
"More firmly than you do!"

"God does not wish us to believe in you without better evidence. We cannot advise the King to entrust you with men-at- arms on your mere assertion, and risk their lives, unless you tell us more than this." He wanted an instant miracle by way of corroboration.

"In God's name, I did not come to Poitiers to work miracles! Take me to Orleans, and I will show you the signs of my sending; give me few men or many, and I go." She then ventured on four predictions. She would, first, summon the English, and then, if they were recalcitrant, would drive them from their siege. Next, the Dauphin would be crowned at Reims. Third, Paris would come into his allegiance. Lastly, the Due d'OrMans would return from England. Seguin had seen, by 1456, but Jeanne only foresaw the fulfilment of the third and fourth predictions.

A young man of the sword, Thibault, meeting Jeanne at Rabuteau's house, was more kindly received than the theologians. "She struck me on the shoulder saying that she wished she had many men of as good will as I." Thibault heard some professors ask their old questions. She replied that she would raise the siege and crown the King, and dictated a letter summoning the English to depart. A letter of this kind is dated March 22, but is not the brief note of three lines dictated to Maitre Pierre de Versailles. "I know not A from B," she said to Versailles, in Thibault's presence, " Have you paper and ink?" Erault then wrote down her summons to the English. Some of the Doctors, at least Erault, had heard Marie d'Avignon prophesy, and Erault is said to have firmly believed that Jeanne was the Maid who should bear arms, according to that prediction of Marie d'Avignon to Charles VI. Machet, the King's confessor and old tutor, also said, Thibault reports, that he had seen in writing that a Maid was to come who should aid the King of France.

The Doctors asked Jeanne why she, like foreigners at the time, spoke of the King as "the Dauphin." She replied that she would call him by no other title till he was consecrated at Reims. When dining with d'Alencon, Jeanne told the sympathetic duke that " she had been much questioned, but she knew and could do more than she had confided to the inquirers." The King, however, sent her again to Poitiers for a fresh examination. To the widow of Regnier de Boullegny she said, in the autumn of 1429, that she had told the Doctors, "There is more in the books of the Lord than in yours." The Doctors could not deny this : as inspiration never ceased, as the wind blew where it listed, a layman or a woman might, by God's grace, know more than they did of what, in the old Greek phrase, "is written in the books of Zeus."

The danger that Jeanne might come to hold that she knew more than the Church knew, and things contrary to the decisions of the Church, was alway hanging over her. She had the most unwavering certainty that her personal experiences were divinely sent. She saw and touched the appearances; she knew that the Saints breathed the fragrant odour of sanctity; she heard from their lips the words of the will of God. These were matters of fact, not of faith. To her the Doctors were pedants, their heavenly science was foolishness, as all science is that thinks it knows everything. Herein lay her peril.

The Doctors easily persuaded themselves that there was no harm in the male costume of the Maid. Holy women had worn it, in cases of necessity. Jeanne's maidenhood was vouched for later, at Tours, by a jury of illustrious ladies, including the Queen of Sicily, mother-in-law of the Dauphin.

Emissaries were sent to Domremy to inquire into her previous history. Who they were we know not ; that they were mendicant friars is a mere conjecture. The evidence for it is the error of a modern historian.

They may have brought back the story that the cocks crowed on Twelfth Night, when Jeanne was born; and that birds fed from her lap, and wolves did not harm her flocks; while enemies spared the gear in general : all these things may be true, but none of them is miraculous. If they heard of her vision of the battle of the Herrings, it did not find its way into any extant contemporary account.

As far as the evidence goes, Jeanne was not formally examined before the whole Board of Doctors. Thibault says that two of them visited her at the house of Rabuteau. Other witnesses, four, speak of visits of small parties of the learned; one occurred while d'Alencon was present ; another while Gobert Thibault, the man-at-arms whom she clapped on the shoulder, was present.

We hear of nothing more formal than these visits of small parties. Had there been several days of examination by the whole Commission, Seguin is likely to have mentioned it. At Rouen, before her judges, Jeanne often appealed to the" Book of Poitiers," as if it had been a formal record of her replies, especially as to her three Saints, in that place. Of this book nothing is known ; it was not cited in the Trial of Rehabilitation (1450- 1456). As far as our evidence from Poitiers goes, she said nothing in detail, to the Commission there, about her visions. She had been rather more communicative to her good friends, Jean de Novelonpont and Bertrand de Poulengy, who were with her at Poitiers.

It is certain that Jeanne never advertised herself, never nourished legends by saying a word about her experiences beyond what was strictly necessary. At her trial, she said that her two lady Saints were " crowned with fair crowns, richly and preciously. Concerning this, I have leave from God to speak. If you doubt me, send to Poitiers, where I was examined before." Perhaps she revealed these additional facts in her second examination at Poitiers, of which d'Alencon speaks.

If she did, the secret was well kept, and it in no way added to the confidence felt by her examiners at Poitiers. Their report was to this effect. The King, in the circumstances of his poor people, should not reject the Maid, nor ought he lightly to believe in her. But, in accordance with Holy Scripture he ought to make trial of her in two ways, that is, first by human wisdom, examining into her life, character, and intentions; and, secondly, by devout prayer, asking a sign of some divine deed or ground of hope, by which he may judge whether she is come by the will of God. The case of Gideon's fleece is quoted.

The Maid's character has been studied ; inquiry has been made into her past life, her birth, her intentions ; for six weeks she has been examined by clerks, churchmen, men of the sword, matrons, and widows. Nothing has been found in her but honesty, simplicity, humility, maidenhood, and devotion. Of her birth various marvels are reported (the cocks crowing !). As for the sign demanded, she says she will give it before Orleans, for so God commands her.

The King, then, ought not to prevent her from going to Orleans to show the sign of heavenly succour. She may go with the army, under honourable superintendence.

This permission is devoid of fanatical enthusiasm; but when the Doctors praise the humility of the Maid, they show good nature! Copies of the verdict of the examiners were distributed everywhere, to clear the Government from charges of credulity; it was issued, apparently, about April 17-20.

Jeanne was now accepted, and was sent to Tours, while arms were prepared for her, and a Household was appointed to attend on her.

Here we may cast a backward glance of wonder at the many faceted character of the Maid. The most notable features are her perfect faith in her mission and in her revelations, and her constant tenacity of purpose. Rebuffs and ridicule could not shake her for a moment, though her normal common sense was in perfect agreement with the general opinion. An ignorant girl, who could not ride or fight, her mission, if deprived of its inspiration, was ridiculous. Nobody knew it better than she ; but often she met her heavenly visitors, courteous, encouraging, consoling. She wept when they departed, she kissed the ground where they had stood ; she desired that they should take her with them. She was sane, yet she had these ineffable experiences. In them, and in her faith in them, was her strength. When withdrawn from company she was much in prayer. " To pray, we do not say with the lips, but to pray with the whole sincerity of the heart, is to win an inexhaustible source of moral strength. This we say simply from the point of view of the man of science (le naturaliste) who only concerns himself with the effects of a fact, and only considers truths of observation and experience.''

So writes M. Simeon Luce merely as an historian, who declines to go beyond his chosen province, and will not discuss matters of metaphysics and religion.

In faith and prayer, ignorant of mystical practices and methods of provoking hallucinations, Jeanne did her work. But she was no pale ecstatic ; no man is reported to have seen her in other than the full force of her normal waking consciousness. We have noted her gay disdain of the learned Doctors; her otherwise undeviating distinction of manners ; her frankness; her skill in horsemanship. Her ways were those of a clean honest public schoolboy. While in so much she represents the swift glad courage of France, in her manner, as when she slapped Thibault on the shoulder and replied to Seguin, she was like an English boy, and her dress made that aspect of her nature more conspicuous. In her was as much of chivalry as of sanctity. Gay and gaily glad, whether in armour or in rich colours and gold embroidered doublets; now riding like a young knight, now leading in the deadly breach, Jeanne was not the beguine, or pious prude, of her latest French biographer! Nowhere among visionaries is there another like the Maid; "her brothers of Paradise" never had such another sister among the Saints on earth.

There is reason to surmise that the qualified acceptance of Jeanne by the Doctors at Poitiers was announced to a gathering of the adherents of the Dauphin. According to the Chronique de la Pucelle, it was later than her first interview with her Dauphin that Jeanne revealed to him, "in the presence of a few of his Privy Councillors and his confessor (Machet), something known only to God and himself." The Councillors and confessor had to take an oath that they would not reveal this secret. After this (by a confusion of the sequence of events) she was examined at Poitiers. In the Appendix on "The King's Secret " these points are examined. On the whole it seems that the secret, with Jeanne's knowledge of it, was imparted to the Archbishop of Reims, after which the clergy at Poitiers gave their permission to employ her at Orleans. It was impossible for them to allude, publicly, to the sign given in her knowledge of the secret.

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