Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 35

CRUELTY OF HER ENEMIES

The captive heroine was first conducted to the quarters of John of Luxemburg, and transferred in succession to the prisons of Beaurevoir, Arras, and Le Crotoy, at the mouth of the Somme. She made two intrepid attempts at escape. Once she had broken a passage through the wall, but was arrested on her way, and still more closely confined. Another time she threw herself headlong from the summit of her prison tower, but was taken up senseless on the ground. She afterwards declared, in her examination, that her " Voices " had dissuaded her from this attempt, but had consoled her imder its failure.

The English were, however, impatient to hold the prisoner in their own hands; and, in the month of November, 1430, she was purchased from John of Luxemburg for a sum of ten thousand livres. Her cruel treatment in her new captivity is well described by M. de Barante ;--

"Joan was taken to Rouen, where were then the young . King Henry and all the chiefs of the English. She W8^ led into the great tower of the castle, an iron cage was made for her, and her feet were secured by a chain. Tlie English archers who guarded her treated her with gross oontamely, and more than once attempted violence upon her. Nor were they merely conmion sdkliers who showed themselves cruel and violent towards her. The Sire de Luxembourg, whose prisoner she had been, happening to pass through Rouen, went to see her in her prison, accompanied by the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Stafford.* "Joan,' said he, in jest, 'I am come to put you to ransom, but you will have to promise never again to bear arms against us.' ' Ah ! mon Dieu, you are laughing at me' said she; 'you have neither the will nor the power to ransom me. I know well that the English will cause me to die, thinking that afler my death they will win back ihe kingdom of France ; but even were they a hundred thousand Goddams more than they are they shall never have this kingdom.' Incensed at these words, the Earl of Stafford drew his dagger to strike her, but was prevented by the Earl of Warwick."

* Not Strafford, as written by M. de Barante.

The forebodings of the unhappy woman were but too true ; her doom was indeed sdready sealed. Had she been put to death as a prisoner of war, the act, however repugnant to every dictate of justice and humanity, would not have been without precedent or palliation, according to the manners of that age. Thus, as we have seen, the English captives at Jargeau had been deliberdtely put to the sword after their surrender, to avert some disputes as to their ransom. Thus, also, there is still extant a letter from an English admiial, Winnington, stating his detemunation to kill or drown the crews of one hundred merchantmen which he had taken, unless the council should deem it better to preserve their lives.2 Nay, Joan herself was charged, although imjustly, with having sanctioned this practice in the case of Franquet, a Butgundian freebooter, who fell into her hands, and was hanged shortly before her own captivity. But the conduct of Joan's enemies has not even the wretched excuse which such past inhumanities might supply. Their object was not only to wreak their vengeance upon the Maid for their former losses, but to discredit her in popular opinion, to brand her (we quote the very words of Bedford) as " a disciple and lymbe of the fiende that used false enchauntments and sorcerie,"3 to lower and taint the cause of Charles VII. by connecting it with such linhallowed means. They therefore renounced any lights of wax which they possessed over her as their prisoner, to claim those of sovereignty and jurisdiction as their subject, which she never had been, and resolved to try her before an ecclesiastical tribunal on the charge of witchcraft. They foxmd a fitting tool for their purpose in Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, who was wholly devoted to their interest, and who presented a petition for the trial, on the frivolous pretext that she had been made prisoner within his diocese. The University of Paris was so far misled by party views as to join in the same request. The Bishop himself was appointed the first judge ; the second was Jean Lemaitre, vicar- general of the Inquisition ; and the oflSce of public advocate or accuser devolved upon Estivet, a canon of Beauvais. The tribunal thus formed, and directed to hold its sittings at Eouen, was also attended by nearly one hundred doctors of theology, who had not, like the Bishop and vicar-general, votes in the decision, but who gave their counsel and assistance when required, under the title of assessors.

2 Fenn's 'Collection of Letters,' vol. i. p. 213. Dr. Lingard has pointed out this passage in his 'History of England.'
3 Rymer's 'Federa,' vol. x. p. 408.

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