DEATH OF JOAN THE MAID
From there the Maid rode to attack La Charité. But, though the
towns helped her as well as they might with money and food, her
force was too small and was too ill provided with everything, for
the king did not send supplies. She abandoned the siege and departed
in great displeasure. The court now moved from place to place,
with Joan following in its train; for three weeks she stayed with
a lady who describes her as very devout and constantly in church.
Thinking her already a saint, people brought her things to touch.
"Touch them yourselves," she said; "your touch is as good as mine."
Winter was over and spring came on, but still the king did nothing.
The Maid could be idle no longer. Without a word to the king,
she rode to Lagny, "for there they had fought bravely against the
English." These men were Scots, under Sir Hugh Kennedy. In mid-April
she was at Melun. There "she heard her Voices almost every day,
and many a time they told her that she would presently be taken
prisoner." Her year was over. She prayed that she might die as soon
as she was taken, without the long sorrow of imprisonment. Then her
Voices told her to bear graciously whatever befell her, for so it
must be. But they told her not the hour of her captivity. "If she
had known the hour she would not then have gone to war. And often
she prayed them to tell her of that hour, but they did not answer."
These words are Joan's. She spoke them to her judges at Rouen.
The name of Joan was now such a terror to the English that men
deserted rather than face her in arms. At this time the truce with
Burgundy ended, and the duke openly set out to besiege the strong
town of Compiègne, held by De Flavy for France. Burgundy had
invested Compiègne, when Joan, with four hundred men, rode into
the town secretly at dawn. That day Joan led a sally against the
Burgundians. Her Voices told her nothing, good or bad, she says.
The Burgundians were encamped at Margny and at Clairoix, the English
at Venette, villages on a plain near the walls. Joan crossed the
bridge on a gray charger, in a surcoat of crimson silk, rode through
the redoubt beyond the bridge, and attacked the Burgundians. De
Flavy in the town was to prevent the English from attacking her in
the rear. He had boats on the river to secure Joan's retreat, if
Joan swept through Margny driving the Burgundians before her; the
garrison of Clairoix came to their help; the battle was doubtful.
Meanwhile the English came up; they could not have reached
the Burgundians, to aid them, but some of the Maid's men, seeing
the English standards, fled. The English followed them under the
walls of Compiègne; the gate of the redoubt was closed to prevent
the English from entering with the runaways. Like Hector under
Troy, the Maid was shut out from the town which she came to save.
Joan was with her own foremost line when the rear fled. They told
her of her danger; she heeded not. Her men seized her bridle and
turned her horse's head about. The English held the entrance from
the causeway; Joan and a few men were driven into a corner of the
outer wall. A rush was made at Joan. "Yield! yield to me!" each
"I have given my faith to Another," she said, "and I will keep my
Her enemies confess that on this day Joan did great feats of arms,
covering the rear of her force when they had to fly. Some French
historians hold that the gates were closed, by treason, that the
Maid might be taken.
The Maid, as a prisoner, was led to Margny, where the Burgundian
and English captains rejoiced over her. They had her at last, the
girl who had driven them from fort and field. Not a French lance
was raised to rescue her; not a sou did the king send to ransom
Within two days of her capture, the Vicar-General of the Inquisition
in France claimed her as a heretic and a witch. The English knights
let the doctors of the University of Paris judge and burn the girl
whom they seldom dared to face in war. She was the enemy of the
English, and the English believed in witchcraft. Joan was now kept
in a high tower and was allowed to walk on the leads. She knew
she was sold to England, she had heard that the people of Compiègne
were to be massacred. She would rather die than fall into English
hands, but she hoped to escape and relieve Compiègne. She therefore
prayed for counsel to her Saints; might she leap from the top of
the tower? Would they not bear her up in their hands? St. Catherine
bade her not to leap; God would help her and the people of Compiègne.
Then, for the first time, as far as we know, the Maid wilfully
disobeyed her Voices. She leaped from the tower. They found her,
not wounded, not a limb broken, but stunned. She knew not what
had happened; they told her she had leaped down For three days she
could not eat, "yet was she comforted by St. Catherine, who bade
her confess and seek pardon of God, and told her that, without
fail, they of Compiègne should be relieved before Martinmas." This
prophecy was fulfilled. Joan was more troubled about Compiègne than
about her own coming doom.
She was now locked up in an iron cage at Rouen. The person who
conducted the trial was her deadly enemy, the Bishop of Beauvais,
Cauchon, whom she and her men had turned out of his bishopric.
Next, Joan was kept in strong irons day and night, always guarded
by five English soldiers. Weakened by long captivity and ill usage,
she, an untaught girl, was questioned repeatedly for three months
by the most cunning and learned doctors of law of the Paris
University. Often many spoke at once, to perplex her mind. But
Joan always showed a wisdom which confounded them, and which is at
least as extraordinary as her skill in war. She would never swear
an oath to answer all their questions. About herself, and all
matters bearing on her own conduct, she would answer. About the
king, and the secrets of the king, she would not answer. If they
forced her to reply about these things, she frankly said, she would
not tell them the truth. The whole object of the trial was to prove
that she dealt with powers of evil, and that her king had been
crowned and aided by the devil. Her examiners, therefore, attacked
her day by day, in public and in her dungeon, with questions about
these visions which she held sacred and could only speak of with
a blush among her friends. She maintained that she certainly did
see and hear her Saints, and that they came to her by the will of
God. This was called blasphemy and witchcraft.
Most was made of her refusal to wear woman's dress. For this she
seems to have had two reasons: first, that to give up her old dress
would have been to acknowledge that her mission was ended; next,
for reasons of modesty, she being alone in prison among ruffianly
men. She would wear woman's dress if they would let her take the
Holy Communion, but this they refused. To these points she was
constant: she would not deny her visions; she would not say one word
against her king, "the noblest Christian in the world" she called
him, who had deserted her. She would not wear woman's dress in
prison. They took her to the torture-chamber, and threatened her
with torture. Finally, they put her up in public, opposite a pile
of wood ready for burning, where she was solemnly preached to for
the last time. All through her trial, her Voices bade her answer
boldly, in three months she would give her last answer, in three
months "she would be free with great victory, and come into the
Kingdom of Paradise."
At last, in fear of the fire and the stake before her, and on promise
of being taken to a kindlier prison among women, and released from
chains, she promised to renounce her visions, and submit to Cauchon
and her other enemies. Some little note on paper she now signed
with a cross, and repeated a short form of words. By some trick
this signature was changed for a long document, in which she was
made to confess all her visions false.
Cauchon had triumphed. The blame of heresy and witchcraft was cast
on Joan, and on her king as an accomplice. But the English were
not satisfied; they made an uproar, they threatened Cauchon, for
Joan's life was to be spared. She was to be in prison all her days,
on bread and water, but while she lived they dared scarcely stir
against the French. They were soon satisfied.
Joan's prison was not changed. There soon came news that she had
put on man's dress again. The judges went to her. She told them
(they say) that she put on this dress of her own free will. In
confession, later, she told her priest that she had been refused
any other dress, and had been brutally treated both by the soldiers
and by an English lord.
In any case, the promises made to her had been broken. The judge
asked her if her Voices had been with her again.
"What did they say?"
"God told me by the Voices of the great sorrow of my treason, when
I abjured to save my life."
"Do you believe the Voices came from St. Margaret and St. Catherine?"
"Yes, and that they are from God."
She added that she had never meant to deny this, had not understood
that she had denied it.
All was over now; she was a "relapsed heretic."
Enough. They burned Joan the Maid. She did not suffer long. Her
eyes were fixed on a cross which a priest, Martin l'Advenu, held
up before her. She maintained, he says, to her dying moment, the
truth of her Voices. With a great cry of JESUS! she gave up her
life. Even the English wept, even a secretary of the English king
said that they had burned a Saint.
Twenty years after her death Charles VII, in his own interest,
induced the Pope to try the case of Joan over again. They collected
the evidence of most of the living people who had known her, the
Domremy peasants, from Dunois, d'Alençon, d'Aulon, from Isambart
and l'Advenu, they learned how nobly she died, and how she never
made one complaint, but forgave all her enemies freely. All these
old Latin documents were collected, edited, and printed, in 1849,
by Monsieur Jules Quicherat, a long and noble labor.