Joan of Arc - Maid of Heaven

JOAN OF ARC The Warrior Maid

Chapter 25
In Prison Cells

It was fit that the savior of France should be a woman.
France herself is a woman. She has the fickleness of the
sex, but also its amiable gentleness, its facile and charming
pity, and the excellence of its first impulses.

Michelet. “Joan of Arc.

There were shouts of triumph and exultation as the Maid was led back over the causeway to Margny. The sun had long since set, and the dusk was dying down into darkness. All along the causeway the earth was stained with blood, and sown with broken swords, scraps of armour, and the dead of friend and foe united now in the peace of mortality. Jeanne was too great a prize for a mere archer to claim, so Jean de Luxembourg bought her immediately from the man, allowing him to retain her hucque of crimson cramoisie, her saddle cloth, and horse with caparisons. Then she was taken to his camp at Clairoix.

Thither came also the great Duke of Burgundy from his camp at Coudon, eager to see the girl who had almost uprooted the dominion of the English in France. Thither also assembled the English and Burgundians from the other camps in numbers, with cries and rejoicings over the taking of the Maid. Had a great victory been won the effect could not have been greater. It broke the spell. The Maid was human, like other women. So they were “as joyous as if they had taken five hundred prisoners, for they feared her more than all the French captains put together.”

Several times Philip of Burgundy had expressed a wish to see Jeanne the Maid, especially after receiving her letters summoning him to his rightful allegiance. Now as he found her sitting calmly in the quarters to which she had been committed, he could not forbear an exclamation of surprise at her youth and loveliness.

“So you are the Pucelle?” he cried.

“I am Jeanne the Maid, messire,” she answered, regarding him with grave earnestness. “And you, I doubt not, are that Burgundy who hath beguiled the gentle King with fair words and false promises?”

“I am Philip, Duke of Burgundy,” he replied haughtily. “What I have done hath been for our royal master, Henry, King of England and of France.”

“Ay! and for your country’s wreck and woe.”

“Those are bold words, Pucelle,” ejaculated the duke, flushing. “Have a care. Neither man nor witch may so speak to Burgundy.”

“My lord duke, if they be not true then most humbly do I entreat your pardon. If they be not true, why then do you besiege the good city of Compiègne, bringing suffering upon your own people? They are French, as you are.”

“The city was promised me,” he uttered angrily. “Charles the Dauphin gave it me. ’Twas in the truce. He broke his faith.”

“And how kept you yours?” asked the girl dauntlessly. “I think, my lord, that Paris once was promised Charles. How was that faith kept?”

But Philip, without reply, turned upon his heel angrily, and left the room. Forthwith he sent dispatches to the Regent, to the Dukes of Brittany and Savoy, to his city of St. Quentin, and to the town of Gand that all Christendom might know that the Witch of the Armagnacs was taken.

“By the pleasure of our Blessed Creator,” he wrote, “such grace has come to pass that she whom they call the Maid has been taken. The great news of this capture should be spread everywhere and brought to the knowledge of all, that they may see the error of those who could believe and lend themselves to the pretensions of such a woman. We write this in the hope of giving you joy, comfort, and consolation, and that you may thank God our Creator.”

Over France the tidings spread. From lip to lip it flew: the Maid was taken. Paris rejoiced, showing its delight by building bonfires and singing Te Deums in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. In the loyal cities and in the hearts of the peasantry there was mourning. At Tours the entire population appeared in the streets with bare feet, singing the Miserere in penance and affliction. Orléans and Blois made public prayers for her safety, and Reims had to be especially soothed by its Archbishop.

“She would not take counsel,” wrote Regnault de Chartres, Archbishop of Reims, who had always been an enemy to Jeanne, “but did everything according to her own will. But there has lately come to the King a young shepherd boy who says neither more nor less than Jeanne the Maid. He is commanded by God to go to the King, and defeat the English and Burgundians. He says that God suffered her to be taken because she was puffed up with pride, loved fine clothes, and preferred her own pleasure to any guidance.”

The archbishop’s letter silenced Reims and other cities. Silenced their outcries, that is, for they continued to send petitions to the King pleading that he would gather the money for her ransom, but he did nothing. Another Archbishop, Jacques Gélu, of Embrun, who had written Charles in favor of Jeanne after Orléans now addressed some bold words to the monarch on her behalf:

“For the recovery of this girl, and for the ransom of her life, I bid you spare neither means nor money, howsoever great the price, unless you would incur the indelible shame of most disgraceful ingratitude.”

But the King preferred the “indelible shame of disgraceful ingratitude,” for he made no effort of any sort for Jeanne’s ransom or rescue. He had been a poor discredited Dauphin, with doubts as to his own claims to the throne, contemplating flight into Scotland or Spain when Jeanne came to him at Chinon. She had resolved his doubts, restored the realm, and made him King with the sacred oil upon his brow, yet he preferred to keep his money for his pleasures than to give it for the maiden who had done so much for him. Charles the Seventh of France has been called Charles the Well-served, Charles the Victorious, and he is rightly so called; for it was always others who did his work for him, and won his victories; but Charles the Dastard is the best appellation that can be given him. The ingratitude of Princes is well known, but the heart sickens before such baseness as he showed toward the Maid of Orléans, and the mind revolts from the thought that human nature can sink to such depths.

But if Charles and the French were indifferent to the value of Jeanne others were not. The University of Paris upon receipt of the news of her capture sent at once to Burgundy, demanding that Jean de Luxembourg send forthwith “this Jeanne, violently suspected of many crimes touching heresy, to appear before the Council of Holy Inquisition.” A second letter followed this appeal, saying that it was “feared that the woman would be put out of their jurisdiction in some manner.” The University feared without cause, for no attempt was ever made to redeem the girl whose only crime was to have defended, with matchless heroism, her country and her King.

Back of the University stood the English, who were eager to get possession of her person, and were willing to pay even princely rewards for her delivery into their hands. They had their vengeance to gratify. They had always threatened to burn her if they caught her, and could she be condemned and executed as a sorceress Charles of Valois would be dishonoured through her who had crowned him, and it would appear that his cause was not the true one; that Henry of England was the true sovereign of France. Most Englishmen believed that Jeanne was really a witch, for at this time no man believed that she could accomplish her deeds without supernatural aid. Consequently, as the English did not wish to think that God was against them they pronounced her aid to be from the Evil One. So Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, was sent by Bedford to Jean de Luxembourg to negotiate the purchase of the Maid. He was an enemy of France; he had a personal grudge toward Jeanne because through her success in arms he had been expelled from his diocese, and was just the right sort of man to send for dickering in such a trade. Jean de Luxembourg was needy, and already in the pay of the English, but he did not wish to let his prize go until he had his money, so Jeanne was sent north to Beaulieu in the Vermandois, where he had a strong castle, until the arrangements were perfected for her sale.

D’Aulon, her squire, was sent with her, for during this period of imprisonment Jeanne was treated honourably, and allowed attendance. She was cheerful and hopeful at Beaulieu for a time, and one day D’Aulon said to her:

“That poor town of Compiègne, which you loved so dearly, will now be placed in the hands of the enemies of France.”

“It shall not be,” cried Jeanne in a flash of inspiration, “for no place which the King of Heaven has put in the hands of the gentle King Charles by my aid, shall be retaken by his enemies while he does his best to keep them.”

But, in spite of these brave words, the fate of the town hung heavy upon her spirit. Her guards told her tales of how the siege was progressing, and of the sufferings of the people. Jeanne chafed under inaction while her friends needed her, and watched eagerly for a chance whereby she might escape and go to their aid. She had not given her faith to any man, and was not on parole.

In one side of the chamber in which she was confined there was a window opening upon a dark corridor. Across were nailed some narrow planks, the space between them being sufficient for a very slender person to slip through. Jeanne resolved to risk an attempt.

Her guards were in an adjoining room, which also opened upon the dark corridor, but once past their room she believed that she might gain the grounds of the château and from thence reach the wooded country that lay beyond its immediate confines. The plan worked perfectly––to a certain point. She was slight enough to slip between the narrow planks, which she did, and found herself in the corridor, which was dark and musty from long disuse. There was a huge key in the lock of the door where the guards were, and this Jeanne turned as noiselessly as possible, then darted away through the dim passageway. Alas! the porter of the château, who had not the least business in that part of the castle, suddenly came out of another room opening upon the corridor, and confronted her. Without ado the maiden was marched back to her chamber, like a naughty child, and the guards were doubled.

“It did not please God that I should escape this time,” she said plaintively to D’Aulon when he came to attend her.

Jean de Luxembourg was alarmed when he heard of the attempt. She was too rich a prize to lose, so he sent her post haste to his stronghold of Beaurevoir, which was forty miles further north, beyond St. Quentin in the plain of Picardy, and was the residence of his wife, aunt, and step-daughter.

She was shut up here at the top of a tower sixty feet high, but notwithstanding this fact her condition was much alleviated, for the ladies of the household visited her daily, becoming greatly attached to her. These good women tried to get her to lay aside her masculine attire, for it troubled and shamed them to see her in the costume of a man. Jeanne explained courteously her reasons for wearing the garb when they brought a woman’s frock to her, and besought her to put it on.

“It is best to be so dressed while in the serious work of war,” she told them. “When among men it is more seemly to wear the garb of a soldier; but,” she added graciously, “were it time for me to change the fashion of my dress I would do it for you two ladies who have been so kind rather than for any one in France except my Queen.”

Many persons visited her while she was at this castle, but as Jean de Luxembourg, the master of the house, was himself in camp before Compiègne there was the disadvantage of constant news, and the girl’s anxiety became pitiable as the tidings from her “good friends” at Compiègne daily became more unfavourable.

D’Aulon was no longer with her, and for the first time Jeanne was entirely without a friend of the old life with her. There was no word that her King or her friends were doing anything for her, but only talk of the English and how they wished to buy her. Both visitors and guards told her of the besieged city and that their sufferings were driving the citizens to desperation. There was joy and thanksgiving in the castle upon the coming of the heralds with dispatches that seemed to be always to the advantage of the Burgundians. It preyed upon the maiden’s mind; she lost confidence and hope, becoming very despondent.

“When Compiègne is taken all persons beyond the age of seven years are to be put to the sword,” one of her visitors said one day.

“I would rather die than live after the destruction of such good people,” she said. “Also I would rather die than be in the hands of my enemies of England.” She paced the floor in great agitation after the visitor left her.

“How can God leave those good people of Compiègne, who have been and are so loyal to their King, to perish?” she cried.

And the thought came to her that she must escape, that she must go to the rescue of Compiègne. There were blows to be struck there that only she could strike. She must go to Compiègne. Jeanne was but a young girl. She could not realize that her allotted time was over. It is hard for one to accept the fact one is not needed; that everything can go on as usual without one, and Jeanne was very young. All at once the desperate expedient came to her to leap from the tower.

“Do not leap,” admonished her Voices. “Be patient. God will help you, and also Compiègne.”

“Then since God will aid the good people of Compiègne I desire to be with them,” said Jeanne.

“You must bear these things gladly,” St. Catherine told her. “Delivered you will not be until you have seen the King of England.”

“Verily,” cried the Maid like the child she was, “I have no wish to see him, and would rather die than be in English hands.”

“Do not leap,” came from St. Catherine again. “Be patient. All will be well.”

But Jeanne was wrought up to too great a pitch to heed. For the first time since her Saints had come to her she deliberately disobeyed their counsels. Going to the top of the tower she commended herself to God and Our Lady and leaped.

Some time later she was found at the foot of the tower where she had fallen. She was insensible, and lay so long unconscious that the Luxembourg ladies feared that she was dead. After a time she regained consciousness, but for three days could neither eat nor drink. The wonder is that she escaped destruction, but no bones were broken, and she was not even seriously injured.

“I have sinned,” confessed the girl humbly to her Saints when next they visited her. “I have sinned.” And of God she asked pardon for her impatience and disobedience. She was forgiven, and comforted.

“Fear naught,” Saint Catherine said consolingly. “They of Compiègne shall have succor before St. Martin’s Day.”

And now having obtained forgiveness for her sin Jeanne recovered and began to eat, and soon was well. As for Compiègne, it was delivered, as was foretold a fortnight before St. Martin’s Day. The men of the town worked bravely under De Flavy, and their courageous endurance enabled them to hold out until the twenty-fifth of October, when they were rescued by a concerted movement of Vendôme and Zaintrailles, and a sortie of the citizens. The enemy was forced to make a shameful retreat, being completely routed, abandoning their artillery and supplies. Many strong towns which adjoined Compiègne made submission to the King, but it was the loyalty and courage of Compiègne that really shattered the Anglo-Burgundian campaign of 1430.

Meantime Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, was travelling from Burgundy to Luxembourg, and thence to Bedford in the effort to complete the sale of the maiden. Jeanne’s price had been settled at ten thousand pounds in gold. It was the ransom of a prince, and Jeanne was a peasant maid, but the English had no doubt of her importance. There was delay in raising the money, but when at last Regent Bedford received a large sum from Normandy he set aside ten thousand pounds which he said “were to be devoted to the purchase of Jehanne la Pucelle, said to be a witch, and certainly a military personage, leader of the hosts of the Dauphin.” The Demoiselle de Luxembourg begged Jean, her nephew, not to sell the maiden to the English. He knew, and she knew what fate lay in store for the girl, and she besought him with tears not to take the blood money. But, pleading poverty, de Luxembourg would not listen, and the sale was made.

Jeanne now was removed to Arras, where Philip of Burgundy held his court, and here the money passed hands. Jean de Luxembourg received his ten thousand pounds, and Philip of Burgundy was rewarded with political favors. Jeanne was at last in the hands of the English, who immediately removed her to their strong fortress of Crotoy, a castle by the sea, and now that they had her they “rejoiced as greatly as if they had received all the wealth of Lombardy.”

But she was treated honourably here, like any prisoner of war. Once too some ladies of Abbeville, five leagues from Crotoy, came down the River Somme in a boat to see her. As were all women, they were much pleased with the gentle maiden, and wept when they took leave of her, kissing her affectionately, and wishing her all sorts of favours from Heaven. Jeanne thanked them warmly for their visit, and commended herself to their prayers. Another comfort was vouchsafed her here: a fellow prisoner, a priest in a dungeon of Crotoy, was allowed to visit her daily to say mass and to give her the holy communion. So that the month of her stay served to soothe and calm her mind, and give her fortitude for what was to come.

The University of Paris was becoming impatient for its prey. Its offer to see her to a speedy condemnation had not been accepted, and a sharp letter was sent to Pierre Cauchon saying that if he had been more diligent the “cause of the woman would already have been before the ecclesiastical court.” But it was not the fault of Cauchon, but of the English, who had hesitated about taking the Maid for trial to Paris. It was unquiet in the Ile de France, and all the northern country seemed turning again toward Charles; therefore there might be danger of Jeanne being captured by the French before Paris could be reached. Nor did they wish to take her to England. It was decided, in consequence, to hold the trial in Rouen in Normandy, where they were most strong, under the zealous Pierre Cauchon, and an officer of the Holy Inquisition to sit with him as co-judge.

So again Jeanne’s prison was changed. At the end of the year she was taken from Crotoy, and, travelling slowly along the coast, reached Rouen by way of Eu and Dieppe, as far away as possible from any risk of rescue. It was in the beginning of the year 1431 that she arrived at Rouen, and at once she was taken to the castle and lodged in its great tower. It was a gloomy edifice, and the room to which she was assigned was in the first story, up eight steps from the postern gate, where light and air struggled feebly through a narrow slit through the twelve foot wall.

The severities inflicted upon her here were terrible. For the first time she was heavily fettered; even at night her ankles were ironed and fastened to a chain which passed under her bed and was locked to a heavy beam at the foot. Hands, feet and throat were bound to a pillar, and she was kept in an iron cage, or huche. Also, because it was their policy to degrade her as well as to keep her, five rude English soldiers from the lowest class were given her for guards. Three of these were always to be in her room night and day, and two outside. The whole being sickens, and is filled with rage, and shame, and burning indignation at the cruelties that were inflicted upon this modest young girl. Where were La Hire, Dunois, Alençon, Boussac, Rais, and other captains that no sword was drawn for Jeanne?

Oh, shame to England that so used her! And ten times shame to France who deserted her and sold her! A blot upon England? Yes. And upon France that she had saved. A stain that can never be obliterated as long as the world stands. She was a woman in the age of chivalry, when women were supposed to be the objects of a kind of worship, every knight being sworn to succor and help them in need and trouble. And the “Chivalry of England shamefully used and destroyed her; the Chivalry of France deserted and sold her.”[27]

She was to be tried by the Church, yet she was placed in a military prison, instead of an ecclesiastical one guarded by women. There was but one solace; many times a day her Saints came to her whispering words of comfort and consolation.

“But I do not always understand,” said the maiden afterward before her judges, “because of the disturbance in the prison, and the noise made by the guards.”

And thus, in chains, in an iron cage, Jeanne D’Arc passed her nineteenth birthday.

[27] Andrew Lang.

RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS                          CONTINUE to CHAPTER 26 Warrior Maid

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