Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

Joan of Arc Part 38


No proof or presimiption, however, to confirm the charges of sorcery could be deduced from her own examinations or from any other. So plain and can- did had been the general tenor of her answers, that, it being referred to the assessors whether or not she should be put to the rack, in hopes of extorting further revelations, only two were found to vote in favour of this atrocious proposal, and of these two one was the traitor-priest L'Oiseleur ! It is said that one of our countrymen present at the trial was so much struck with the evident good faith of her replies that he could not forbear exclaiming, "A worthy woman--if she were only English !"*

* "C'est une bonne femme--si elle etait Anglaisel"--Supplement aux Memoires, Collection, vol. viii. p. 294.

Her judges, however, heedless of her innocence, or perhaps only the more inflamed by it, drew up twelve articles of accusation upon the grounds of sorcery and heresy, which articles were eagerly confirmed by the University of Paris. On the 24th of May, 1431-- the very day on which Joan had been taken prisoner the year before--she was led to the churchyard before Saint Ouen, where two scaffolds had been raised ; on the one stood the Cardinal of Winchester, the Bishop of Beauvais, and several prelates; the other was designed for the Maid, and for a preacher named Erard. The preacher then began his sermon, which was filled with the most vehement invectives against herself; these she bore with perfect patience, but when he came to the words, ''Your King, that heretic and that schismatic," she could not forbear exclaiming aloud, " Speak of me, but do not speak of the King--he is a good Christian.....By my faith, sir, I can swear to you, as my life shall answer for it, that he is the noblest of all Christians, and not such as you say." The Bishop of Beauvais, much incensed, directed the guards to stop her voice, and the preacher proceeded. At his conclusion, a formula of abjuration was presented to Joan for her signature; It was necessary, in the first place, to explain to her what was the meaning of the word abjuration ; she then exclaimed that she had nothing to abjure, for that whatever she had done was at the command of God'; but she was eagerly pressed with [arguments and with entreaties to sign. At the same time the prelates pointed to the public hangman, who stood close by in his car, ready to bear her away to instant death if she refused. Thus iirged, Joan said at length, " I would rather sign than burn," and put her mark to the paper.* The object, however, was to sink her in public estimation ; and with that view, by another most imworthy artifice, a much fiiller and more expUcit confession of her errors was afterwards made public, instead of the one which had been read to her, and which she had really signed.

* Deposition, at the Trial of Revision, of Massieu, a priest and rural dean, who had stood by her side on the scaffold.--Qoicherat, 'Proces,' vol. i. p. 8.


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