Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
JOAN'S BROTHER Jacques died in Domremy during the Great Trial at Rouen.
This was according to the prophecy which Joan made that day in the
pastures the time that she said the rest of us would go to the great
When her poor old father heard of the martyrdom it broke his heart, and
The mother was granted a pension by the city of Orleans, and upon this
she lived out her days, which were many. Twenty-four years after her
illustrious child's death she traveled all the way to Paris in the
winter-time and was present at the opening of the discussion in the
Cathedral of Notre Dame which was the first step in the Rehabilitation.
Paris was crowded with people, from all about France, who came to get
sight of the venerable dame, and it was a touching spectacle when she
moved through these reverent wet-eyed multitudes on her way to the grand
honors awaiting her at the cathedral. With her were Jean and Pierre, no
longer the light-hearted youths who marched with us from Vaucouleurs, but
war-torn veterans with hair beginning to show frost.
After the martyrdom Noel and I went back to Domremy, but presently when
the Constable Richemont superseded La Tremouille as the King's chief
adviser and began the completion of Joan's great work, we put on our
harness and returned to the field and fought for the King all through the
wars and skirmishes until France was freed of the English. It was what
Joan would have desired of us; and, dead or alive, her desire was law for
us. All the survivors of the personal staff were faithful to her memory
and fought for the King to the end. Mainly we were well scattered, but
when Paris fell we happened to be together. It was a great day and a
joyous; but it was a sad one at the same time, because Joan was not there
to march into the captured capital with us.
Noel and I remained always together, and I was by his side when death
claimed him. It was in the last great battle of the war. In that battle
fell also Joan's sturdy old enemy Talbot. He was eighty-five years old,
and had spent his whole life in battle. A fine old lion he was, with his
flowing white mane and his tameless spirit; yes, and his indestructible
energy as well; for he fought as knightly and vigorous a fight that day
as the best man there.
La Hire survived the martyrdom thirteen years; and always fighting, of
course, for that was all he enjoyed in life. I did not see him in all
that time, for we were far apart, but one was always hearing of him.
The Bastard of Orleans and D'Alencon and D'Aulon lived to see France
free, and to testify with Jean and Pierre d'Arc and Pasquerel and me at
the Rehabilitation. But they are all at rest now, these many years. I
alone am left of those who fought at the side of Joan of Arc in the great
She said I would live until those wars were forgotten--a prophecy which
failed. If I should live a thousand years it would still fail. For
whatsoever had touch with Joan of Arc, that thing is immortal.
Members of Joan's family married, and they have left descendants. Their
descendants are of the nobility, but their family name and blood bring
them honors which no other nobles receive or may hope for. You have seen
how everybody along the way uncovered when those children came yesterday
to pay their duty to me. It was not because they are noble, it is because
they are grandchildren of the brothers of Joan of Arc.
Now as to the Rehabilitation. Joan crowned the King at Rheims. For reward
he allowed her to be hunted to her death without making one effort to
save her. During the next twenty-three years he remained indifferent to
her memory; indifferent to the fact that her good name was under a
damning blot put there by the priest because of the deeds which she had
done in saving him and his scepter; indifferent to the fact that France
was ashamed, and longed to have the Deliverer's fair fame restored.
Indifferent all that time. Then he suddenly changed and was anxious to
have justice for poor Joan himself. Why? Had he become grateful at last?
Had remorse attacked his hard heart? No, he had a better reason--a better
one for his sort of man. This better reason was that, now that the
English had been finally expelled from the country, they were beginning
to call attention to the fact that this King had gotten his crown by the
hands of a person proven by the priests to have been in league with Satan
and burned for it by them as a sorceress--therefore, of what value or
authority was such a Kingship as that? Of no value at all; no nation
could afford to allow such a king to remain on the throne.
It was high time to stir now, and the King did it. That is how Charles
VII. came to be smitten with anxiety to have justice done the memory of
He appealed to the Pope, and the Pope appointed a great commission of
churchmen to examine into the facts of Joan's life and award judgment.
The Commission sat at Paris, at Domremy, at Rouen, at Orleans, and at
several other places, and continued its work during several months. It
examined the records of Joan's trials, it examined the Bastard of
Orleans, and the Duke d'Alencon, and D'Aulon, and Pasquerel, and
Courcelles, and Isambard de la Pierre, and Manchon, and me, and many
others whose names I have made familiar to you; also they examined more
than a hundred witnesses whose names are less familiar to you--the
friends of Joan in Domremy, Vaucouleurs, Orleans, and other places, and a
number of judges and other people who had assisted at the Rouen trials,
the abjuration, and the martyrdom. And out of this exhaustive examination
Joan's character and history came spotless and perfect, and this verdict
was placed upon record, to remain forever.
I was present upon most of these occasions, and saw again many faces
which I have not seen for a quarter of a century; among them some
well-beloved faces--those of our generals and that of Catherine Boucher
(married, alas!), and also among them certain other faces that filled me
with bitterness--those of Beaupere and Courcelles and a number of their
fellow-fiends. I saw Haumette and Little Mengette--edging along toward
fifty now, and mothers of many children. I saw Noel's father, and the
parents of the Paladin and the Sunflower.
It was beautiful to hear the Duke d'Alencon praise Joan's splendid
capacities as a general, and to hear the Bastard indorse these praises
with his eloquent tongue and then go on and tell how sweet and good Joan
was, and how full of pluck and fire and impetuosity, and mischief, and
mirthfulness, and tenderness, and compassion, and everything that was
pure and fine and noble and lovely. He made her live again before me, and
wrung my heart.
I have finished my story of Joan of Arc that wonderful child, that
sublime personality, that spirit which in one regard has had no peer and
will have none--this: its purity from all alloy of self-seeking,
self-interest, personal ambition. In it no trace of these motives can be
found, search as you may, and this cannot be said of any other person
whose name appears in profane history.
With Joan of Arc love of country was more than a sentiment--it was a
passion. She was the Genius of Patriotism--she was Patriotism embodied,
concreted, made flesh, and palpable to the touch and visible to the eye.
Love, Mercy, Charity, Fortitude, War, Peace, Poetry, Music--these may be
symbolized as any shall prefer: by figures of either sex and of any age;
but a slender girl in her first young bloom, with the martyr's crown upon
her head, and in her hand the sword that severed her country's
bonds--shall not this, and no other, stand for PATRIOTISM through all the
ages until time shall end?
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