Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 16


To determine the doubts of his council and his own, Charles resolved, before he took any decision, to conduct the Maid before the University and Parliament of Poitiers. There, accordingly, Joan underwent a long and learned cross-examination from several doctors of theology. Nothing could make her swerve from her purpose, or vary in her sstatements. " I know neither A nor B," she said, " but I am commanded by my Voices, on behalf of the King of Heaven, to raise the siege of Orleans, and to crown the Dauphin at Eheims." " And pray what language do your Voices speak?" asked one of the doctors, Father Seguin from Limoges, and in a strong Limousin accent. "Better than yours," she answered quickly. It is to be observed, that she never claimed--while the people were so ready to ascribe to her--any gift of prophecy or miracle beyond her mission. When the doctors asked her for a sign, she replied, that it was not at Poitiers but at Orleans that she was appointed to give a sign, and that her only sign should be to lead brave men to battle.

The general result of these examinations was, however, highly favourable to the Maid ; and some friars, who had been despatched for that piu-pose to Vaucouleurs, brought back no less satisfactory re- ports of her early life. Nor did the theological tribunal disdain a prophecy current among the people, and ascribed to Merlin; it purported that the realm of France should be rescued by a maiden. Even in the remote village of Domremy some vague report of this prediction had been heard: it was appealed to by Joan herself at Vaucouleurs; and was, no doubt, one of the causes to kindle her ardent imagination. But on referring to the very words of the Latin prophecy, they were considered as of striking application to her especial case. The promised heroine was to come E NEMORE CANUTO-- and the name of the forest around Domremy was Bois Chenu ; she was to ride triumphant over ARCI TEENTES--and this word seemed to denote the English, always renowned in the middle ages for their superior skill as bowmen.

There was another examination on which great stress was laid by the people, and probably by tlic doctors also ; it being the common belief in that age that the devil could form no compact with a person if^hoUy undefiled. But the Queen of Sicily, mother of Charleses consort, and other chief ladies of the Court, having expressed their satisfaction on this point, the doctors no longer hesitated to give their answers to the King. They did not, indeed, as Hume supposes, " pronoimce the mission of Joan undoubted and supernatural ;" on the contrary, they avoided any express opinion on that subject: but they declared that they had observed nothing in her but what became a true Christian and Catholic ; and that the King, considering the distress of his good city of Orleans, might accept her services without sin.

Orders were forthwith given for her state and equipment. She received a suit of knight's armour, but refused any other sword but one marked with five crosses, and lying, as she said, amidst other arms in the church-vault of St. Catherine at Fierbois.* A messenger was sent accordingly, and the sword-- an old neglected weapon--was found in the very spot she had described. Immediately the rumour spread abroad--so ready were now the people to believe in her supernatural powers--that she had never been at Fierbois, and that a Divine inspiration had revealed to her the instrument of coming victory. A banner for herself to bear had been made under her direction, or rather as she declared under the direction of her " Voices :" it was white, bestrewn with the fleurs-de-lis of France, and bearing the figure of the Saviour in his glory, with the inscription Jhesus Maria. A brave and tried knight, Jean, Sire d'Aulon, was appointed her esquire ; and a good old friar, Father Pasquerel, her confessor; she had two heralds and two pages. Nearly all these persons afterwards appeared as witnesses in the second trial.

* The village of Fierbois still remains, and may be seen from the highroad between Paris and Bayonne ; but the present church of St, Catherine dates no higher than the reign of Francis I.--Guide Pittoresque de France, vol. i., Dept. Indre et Loire, p. 15.


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