Jeanne d'Arc, Maid of Orleans, Deliverer of France Being the Story of Her Life, Her Achievements, and Her Death, as Attested on Oath and Set Forth in the Original Documents
The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.
Reputed Portrait of
From the original, formerly in the Church of St. Maurice, Orleans.
(MUSÉE DU TROCADÉRO, PARIS.)
MAID OF ORLEANS
DELIVERER OF FRANCE
Being the Story of her Life, her Achievements, and her Death, as attested on Oath and Set forth in the Original Documents
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The following Document concerning the story of thelife and death of Jeanne d’Arc, Maid of Orleans, isprobably the only known instance in which a completebiographical record, of historical importance, has beenelicited by evidence taken on oath. These depositionscover the childhood of the Maid; the series of hermilitary exploits as Commander-in-Chief of the armiesof France; her capture, imprisonment, and death at thestake in the market-place of Rouen.
The official Latin text of the Trial and Rehabilitationof Jeanne d’Arc, rescued from oblivion amongthe archives of France, and published in the forties byQuicherat, has been faithfully, and now for the first time,rendered into English. This account, given by numerouscontemporary witnesses, of an episode which profoundlyaffected the history of Europe and determined thedestinies of England and France must appeal to thegeneral reader no less than to the student.
By the order of Pope Calixtus in 1455, the Trialof Jeanne d’Arc at Rouen, which had taken placetwenty-four years before, was reconsidered by a greatcourt of lawyers and churchmen, and the condemnationof Jeanne was solemnly annulled and declared wickedand unjust. By this re-trial posterity has been allowedto see the whole life of the village maiden of Domremy,as she was known first to her kinsfolk and her neighbours,and afterwards to warriors, nobles and churchmenwho followed her extraordinary career. Theevidence so given is unique in its minute and faith-worthynarration of a great and noble life; as indeedthat life is itself unique in all human history. Afterall that can be done by the rationalising process, themystery remains of an untutored and unlettered girlof eighteen years old, not only imposing her will uponcaptains and courtiers, but showing a skill and judgmentworthy, as General Dragomiroff says, of the greatestcommanders, indeed of Napoleon himself. While wemust give due weight and consideration to the age inwhich this marvel showed itself on the stage of history,an age of portents and prophecies, of thaumaturgists andsaints, yet when all allowance is made there remains thissane, strong, solid girl leaving her humble home, and inviiitwo short months accomplishing more than Cæsar orAlexander accomplished in so much time, and at an agewhen even Alexander had as yet achieved nothing.
The story is best given by the witnesses, and onlyindications or, so to speak, sign-posts are needed topoint out the way. Before the work of Jeanne can beeven vaguely apprehended something must be knownof how France stood at her coming. A century of misfortuneand sorrow, broken only by a parenthesis ofcomparative prosperity from 1380 to 1407, had lefther an easy prey to the hereditary enemy. Tornasunder by factions which distracted Church and Statealike, she was in no condition of health and courageto recover from the shock of the crushing disaster ofAgincourt. For although the English were unable atthe moment to follow up the victory they had gained,and Henry V. returned to England the bearer of barrenglory, still the breathing time was not put to goodaccount by the French, whose domestic jars made combinednational action impossible. At Henry’s secondcoming, regular resistance was hardly offered. Hisfleets and armies held the Channel and the ports andfortresses on both sides. The King of France wasinsane. His wife, Isabel of Bavaria, came to termswith the English King, and by the treaty of Troyes(1420) the Crown of France was to pass away fromthe Dauphin, whom his wretched mother would fainbastardise, to the issue of Henry and the PrincessCatherine, the ready instrument of her mother’s purpose.When Henry V. died the son born of this unhallowedmarriage was declared King of France and Englandunder the title of Henry VI. The poor child wasless than a year old. His able and resolute uncle John,ixDuke of Bedford, ruled France as Regent, and carriedthe arms of England in triumph against all who daredto dispute his nephew’s title. The Dauphin fled to thesouth, and abandoned to Bedford all territory north ofthe Loire. Paris was occupied and held by the English.The braver members of the Parliament and the Universityjoined the Dauphin at Poitiers, but the accommodatingand timid members did homage to Bedford andduly attorned to Henry VI. as to their lawful King.Orleans alone remained, of the strong places of France,in the hands of the patriot party. If Orleans fell,all organised opposition to Bedford would melt away.
As Orleans was the key of the military, so was Rheimsthe key of the political, situation. Rheims was the oldcity where for many centuries the Kings of France hadbeen crowned and consecrated. Such a ceremony broughtwith it in an especial manner the sacrosanct divinitywhich in the middle ages hedged a King.
It is noteworthy that Jeanne’s mission, as now definedand traced by French scholars, was the double one ofrescuing beleaguered Orleans and crowning the Dauphinat Rheims.
Orleans had withstood a stubborn siege of manymonths, but its fate seemed sealed. The Dauphin hadalmost given up the struggle. He had made futile appealsfor help to the King of Scotland, whose infant daughterwas betrothed to young Louis, afterwards the terribleLouis XI. To Naples also he made appeals, but nosuccour or hope came, and in despair he shut himselfup at Chinon, giving up the cause of France as lostunless aid came from on high. Jeanne came as themessenger of glad tidings, and announced herself as onesent by God to aid France in her extreme need.
xShe came from Lorraine, out of which no good thingcould come, as proverbs taught; for Lorraine had everbeen branded as false to God and false to man. Ambiguousin its relations to France and to the Empire, ithad, like most borderlands, the unstableness of characterwhich comes of social and political insecurity. Jeanne’snative town of Domremy was one of a cluster of hamletson the verge of France, in the smiling valley throughwhich a winding river made its way. Her father andmother were in a very humble station, having a littlepatch of land with rights of commonage on the villagepastures, and were, from the evidence of their neighbours,frugal, hard-working, and “well thought of.”
Jeanne herself was in no way marked out from hergirl friends by any special accomplishments or ambition.She prided herself solely on her domestic usefulness andher skill in household work. She was intensely pious,but in no way introspective or morbid. God and Hisangels and saints were as real to her, more real indeed,than the men and women of her native village. Thethoughts of sacred things subdued her soul to anunconsciousness of self, which marks her off even fromsuch beautiful spiritual natures as Teresa and Bridgetof Sweden and Catherine of Sienna, whose habit ofmind was less simple and less humble than hers. Sheseems to have grieved long and deeply on the misfortunesof France, which was to her the only countryclaiming her allegiance. For, although geographicallyin Lorraine, Domremy was part of the French Kingdom,and its people were devotedly on the side ofthe Dauphin and the national party. The Duke ofBurgundy, who had sided with the English, had onlyone adherent in Domremy, and he was treated, afterxithe manner of good-natured peasants, with a certainhumorous toleration by the patriots of the village.
Growing up in this atmosphere, Jeanne, who was bornon the feast of the Epiphany 1412, heard in her earliergirlhood of the sad state of her country torn asunder byfaction and treason, and presenting a very broken frontto the redoubtable armies of England, which had in thecourse of a century carried the banner of St. Georgeover all the lands from Calais to Cadiz without oncemeeting an enemy strong enough to look them in theface on a pitched field of battle.
Agincourt, and the carnage after Agincourt, revived inFrench minds the humiliation of Poitiers and the horrorsof Limoges, so that dread and hatred of the Englishwere the burden of every household story. Nor mustwe forget that in Europe then, as in Asia and Africanow, news spread apace, and unlettered folk got to knowin some strange way the doings of camps and courts.
Old prophecies too were on every lip. That weirdunrest which Shakespeare shadows forth in Peter ofPomfret and his sayings, shaking the throne of RichardII. by their very vagueness, was nowhere felt moreintensely than in Lorraine, with its blending of oldCeltic myths, German romances, and tales of Provençalminstrelsy in all hearts and memories.
Sublime above all these loomed the Church and itstremendous message. And so, from current history andfable and folk-lore, Jeanne’s imagination was fed, whileher soul was ready to receive any mandate which theLord of all things might deign to signify. She wasthirteen years old when the first message came to her.The Archangel Michael, as she states, appeared, and shewas struck with great fear; but afterwards she longedxiifor his coming and his words. He admonished her tobe pure and holy and religious, and she determined tobe so. Later on St. Catherine (the Virgin) and St.Margaret appeared to her, and told her that the Lordordered her to go into France and relieve Orleans. Inher examination she tells these things with greatparticularity, meeting all questions as to age, size,voice, dress, language, and surroundings of the angels,with a simple directness which carries conviction of herabsolute truthfulness.
Her doubts and misgivings as to her own unfitnessshe put aside as impertinences, when assured of herdivine mission. No shadow of spiritual inflation oregotism is to be seen in all these things. Rather sheheld by the belief that her very unworthiness in theworld’s eye was the cause of her being chosen as asimple instrument in the hands of the Lord.
Her uncle led her to Vaucouleurs in 1428; Robert deBaudricourt, whom she believed she was told to see,declined to give ear to her stories; but Jean de Metz,whose evidence is of absorbing interest, tells us how hewas overcome and won over to her by her compellingearnestness and faith. She came to Chinon with asmall escort, and she and her guard had to travel mostlyby night to avoid the Burgundians. “At Chinon,” saysJean de Metz, “she had to submit to long inquiries.”
The Dauphin was naturally loath to take a step sofull of peril, and indeed so fraught with the danger ofridiculous failure, without grave, anxious, and searchinginvestigation. He wished Jeanne to appear at Poitiersbefore the prelates and lawyers of Parliament. AtPoitiers she was subjected to the closest examination,and in the end convinced the lawyers and churchmenxiiiof her good faith and the reality of her visions andvoices. The Archbishop of Rheims, following “Gamalielin the Council of the Jews,” advised the Dauphin notto spurn the proffered help; and Charles, who hadbeen already impressed by the “revelations,” took theArchbishop’s advice, and placed his forces and hisfortune in her hands, trusting to divine help andsuccour. The armies of France were in marked contrastto those of England. French nobles had quasi-regalpower in their dominions, and only fitfully followed theroyal arms. In England, from the Conquest, the Kingwas supreme lord of all, and every one owed direct andimmediate allegiance to him. The English armies,unlike the French feudal array, were made up ofpeasants and artisans and adventurous