France is free—Joan a prisoner of the English King.
JOAN of ARC fell into the hands of her enemies on May 24, 1430. It was just a year since she sent her first message to the English from the Gate of Orleans, begging them, in God's name, to take themselves out of France, to their own country, or they would come to great hurt. They had answered that message with jeers, and promised, when they caught her, they would burn her alive.
During that year she had taken from them their gains of a hundred years. At the head of a much smaller army than theirs she had driven them out of one town after another, up and down the banks of the Loire, and in the broad valleys of the Seine, between Orleans and Reims; and from Reims westward and north, their many garrisoned gates were open to her almost at her simple word and to the handful of French soldiers that followed her, and the allegiance of the towns made secure to Charles.
Through very fear of her white banner in the vanguard of the approaching French, the English soldiers had deserted in such numbers that it became impossible to follow them up. The traditional fear of the French at the sight of an English soldier, was changed to a state of panic among the English soldiers at the mere sight of the white figure on horseback in the van of a few French troopers.
The whole face of France, nay, the heart and soul of France as well, were newly risen to a strong, proud national life, in which England would nevermore have part.
Paris and Rouen and a few other towns, which they still held, she warned them would soon be taken from them likewise, and not an Englishman left in all France, where the English had ruled and ruined for three generations.
There was no accounting for this extraordinary change, as sudden as it was thorough, except by the presence of this inspired and inspiring girl, who claimed to be sent from God to do just this work. "For this was I born."
But now they had this warrior maid, this light and life of the French army in their own bands, under lock and key.
She was theirs to do as they liked with.
And thereupon rose up a great ado. What should they do with her?
De Luxemburg, who had pulled her off her horse, carried her in triumph to his quarters in the camp, the whole Anglo-Burgundian army following at his heels roaring for joy.
She was the center of a mad whirl of men anxious to get sight of her who had been the nightmare of their dreams for the past year. And humble, gentle Joan looked at them more in pity than in fear, for they were largely Frenchmen who had sold themselves to the service of the conqueror, but whom she knew would make good French subjects yet.
The Duke of Burgundy hastened to see the distinguished captive. He gazed dazedly at her for some time as if trying to pierce the secret of her great power. To his sneers and taunts and insolent questions she answered with a simple dignity and truth, common to brave hearts, and which the soldier-courtier could never emulate. When he asked was she not afraid of his vengeance, she told him calmly that nothing could happen to her but by the will of God, to which she bowed joyfully. All the more joyfully because she was assured that no matter what befell her now, the complete freedom of France was the matter of a
few years at longest, and that no power on earth could help the English to hold France now. Her people would rise again to great prosperity.
In turn she bade him tremble for himself unless he returned to his lawful allegiance and became a good Frenchman.
All of which was lost for the time on Burgundy. He liked to think the English would soon lose their hold on France, but he thought himself a better man than Charles VII, to hold the reins and govern France in place of the English.
Burgundy and Luxemburg sent joyous dispatches, hither and thither, telling of the capture of the Maid of Orleans. The Duke of Bedford seemed crazy with joy when he heard it in Paris. He immediately sent word to Burgundy that the captive was the property of the King of England, in whose pay Luxemburg was. She was prisoner of war to Henry VI. "I must have 'the ransom of a prince for her," said Luxemburg.
By the military usage of the time ten thousand livres of gold—over sixty thousand francs —was the ransom price for a prince of the blood royal. If offered for Joan it could not be refused.
After three or four days Luxemburg removed Joan to a safer place in his strong castle
at Beaulieu, while he went on with the siege of Compiegne.
D'Aulon who was captured with the Maid was allowed to remain with her at Beaulieu.
D'Aulon told afterwards at the trial, that when 'they found themselves thus removed from sight and news of Compiegne, he said to Joan:
"That poor town of Compiegne, which you have loved so dearly, will now be placed in the hands of the enemies of France."
"It shall not be, "answered Joan, "for no places 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."
All through June and July Joan was kept at Beaulieu while her friends and her enemies were deciding what to do about her.
The Archbishop of Embrun wrote to Charles VII:
"For the recovery of this girl and for the ransom of her life, I bid you -spare neither means nor money, unless you would incur the indelible shame of most disgraceful ingratitude."
But Charles did not, probably could not, do anything to rescue her. He bowed to the will of God, too, likely thinking one so miraculous could help herself out of this difficulty as she had helped him and the army out of worse, often.
Besides he was not an autocrat, and the same power that prevented him marching straight to Paris the day after his coronation, and taking it as the Maid urged him to do, prevented him now offering any ransom for his hitherto invincible commander-in-chief.
She was a prisoner of war and as such was safe for the present even in the hands of the enemy.
In Reims, Troyes, and many other cities that had known her inspired presence, the people gathered for public prayers for her restoration, and patriotic priests went among the people to collect money for her ransom. But the People had been brought to such poverty by the long cruel wars, there had been for so long a time no national government and no coinage of money, that there wag little money among the people to collect.
Two months passed and no ransom was offered from any quarter, or, if offered, was not accepted.
The Duke of Bedford and his advisers were not certain what to do. As a political prisoner
they dare not do away with her violently. Even if the French King did not resent it, the very act would make her a hero more than ever and would fire the French heart to even greater deeds of valor than her living presence inspired. No! She must be brought down from her high esteem in the minds of the French people.
Bedford got the Vicar General of the Inquisition to demand Joan from Burgundy to be tried as a heretic.
The University of Paris, too, was induced to ask for her trial as an offender against the Church.
Both the University of Paris and the officers of the Inquisition in France were overruled by the English. For fifty years the Duke of Bedford and the King of England had named the heads of both institutions.
But Burgundy hesitated to give her up.
Meanwhile Joan one day saw her door left open and the key left in the lock. She walked out unhesitatingly, turned the key in the lock, locking in her jailer, and fled. But she was seen and brought back.
The effect of this was her removal to Beaurevoir, to a strong castle with a tower sixty feet high. Her confinement here was comparatively pleasant. She had the friendly
companionship of de Luxemburg's good old aunt, his wife and daughter. She heard Mass every day, confessed and received Holy Communion and recovered her health and strength, and, for a time, her peace of mind. But here she was told one day that Compiegne was still in a state of siege, and was likely to be captured, and, if captured, every man, woman and child would be put to death, in revenge for so long and so stubborn a resistance.
It was an exaggerated report but it fired Joan's heart with a desire to help her countrymen, and she, who had heard unmoved the slanders and threats of the English against herself, personally, could not bear to think of so good a people so slaughtered. In her agony, and, as she told afterwards, at the trial, against the advice of her heavenly councilors, she tried to escape from the tower. She was found bruised and unconscious, at the foot of the tower and for three days was like one dead. But to the astonishment of her jailers she was not seriously hurt. She would rather have died, she said, than hear of the massacre of her people; and would rather have died than fallen into the hands of the English.
At her trial, later, when she was questioned about this incident and if she did not think it wrong to wish to die, she denied the attempt
was made with any such wish. Her hope was to escape. But her heavenly guides told her afterwards she must confess and ask God's pardon for that, and that she must be content to stay as she was, until she would see the little King of England—" and indeed I have no wish to see him," she pathetically added.
Her recovery was aided very much by the news that Compiegne was saved to 'the French. The skill of its captain, de Flavy, and the fine courage and endurance of its poor people were rewarded.
The Duke of Burgundy and de Luxemburg had to take their forces off. The consequent expense and losses made them more than ever willing to sell Joan to the English, for they needed the money.
Joan grew fond of the good, kindly French women at Beaurevoir, Jean de Luxemburg's wife and daughter and his old aunt who, according to Joan's testimony, "begged Jean de Luxemburg not to hand me over to the English." These ladies treated Joan with every kindness -possible, but to their entreaties to her to abandon 'the male costume in which she was captured, she always replied, "it is not yet time." Her dress as a soldier, was a symbol of her mission, and not in her enemies sight would she renounce either.
She said afterwards in her trial:
"I would have changed my fashion of dress, if it had been within my duty, at the request of these ladies, rather 'than for any soul in France, except my Queen."
Five months of suffering and anxiety passed over Joan in prison while her enemies were making up their minds how to compass her death under semblance of legal execution. She was no rebel. To put her to death for opposing English supremacy would only make a hero of her, and fire the French to complete her work of clearing out the enemy. No, her memory must be made execrable. And they conceived 'the plan of convicting her by an ecclesiastical court, of crimes against the faith.
That would save England from execration and cover Joan's name and that of Charles VII, as her accomplice, with the most dreaded kind of infamy.
A ready tool for this wicked scheme was found in Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais. When Joan and the King took Beauvais in the memorable days after the coronation, the Bishop refused to change his allegiance from the English to the French King, and preferred to fly to Paris to the Duke of Bedford's protection.
Bedford now sent this Cauchon to the Burgundian camp to claim Joan in the name of the English King, Henry VI. He paid the 10,000 livres gold demanded for her, though Bedford could have really taken her without the ransom seeing that Luxemburg was in his pay and thus of his own side in the war. Cauchon not only was the medium of transfer of the heroine to the English, but he claimed the right to 'try her on the ground that she was captured in his diocese.
Cauchon brought his victim to Rouen. It was the heart of the English power. It was the residence of the Regent Bedford. Its inhabitants had almost forgotten they were French, so long were they in English power. It was a strongly garrisoned town. So to Rouen Joan was brought just after Christmas, and flung into prison strongly chained and with two Englishmen, John Gray and William Talbot, to stay in her cell night and day for guard.
As a suspected heretic she was to be allowed no Mass, no confession, no sacraments, no friendly face, no woman near her day or night to give her help or sympathy.
Yet even her jailers testify she never lost her gentle dignity, never cried nor complained.
She was but a few days in irons when the shameless de Luxemburg came to her prison
with two English Earls, Warwick and Stafford, with a proposal to set her free if she would promise not to fight the English army any more.
"You but mock me," she answered. " I know that you have neither the power nor the will to set me free. I know that the English are going to kill me, for they 'think that when I am dead they can get the Kingdom of France. It is not so. Though there were a hundred thousand of them they will never get it."
It is told that Lord Stafford got so furious at her quiet defiance, he drew his dagger and would have struck her but for Warwick. Warwick saved her life another time when some English soldiers of Rouen proposed to sew her up in a bag and drown her to be sure of her death. Warwick quieted them with a promise that they should see her die, and soon, to be sure enough of it.
Meanwhile, Cauchon, as chief prosecutor, was preparing for the trial of Joan. In his desire to compass her ruin he and his aids blindly piled illegality upon illegality.
In the first place they claimed her as a prisoner of the church. As such she should have
been in an ecclesiastical prison, unchained and courteously treated and with access to the sacraments and with women about her.
This she repeatedly begged for but without effect.
Her jailers would tell her if she would give her promise not to try to escape she would not be chained, hands and feet. But her courage and her adherence to the cause for which she suffered forbade her giving her word of honor in that way. She held it her right to try to escape and she would not say that she would not if she could.
On January 3d, 1431, Henry VI, officially handed Joan over to the "Ecclesiastical" court gathered together by the traitorous Bishop of Beauvais. Henry's document provided;
"It is our intention to repossess ourselves of her, if she be not convicted of High Treason 'to God."
She was now, as it were in the hands of the church. But the Earl of Warwick was her jailer. It was in his castle at Rouen she was imprisoned. She should be in a churchman's guard. As a minor she should have had counsel, and she asked for it but Cauchon would not even answer her, and, " for fear of the English" nobody interfered for her.
The trial was appointed to be held in the castle, though it was pointed out to Cauchon that it should be held in open court to secure fairness on both sides. Cauchon paid no attention to that either.
There was a great trouble at the very beginning of the preliminaries of the trial.
Cauchon had picked his jury. There were fully fifty distinguished lawyers and clerics picked from here and there because of their known antagonism to the French Cause, Frenchmen—French priests they were, but in their sympathies and interests, English.
The recorders were two decent men, Manchon and Colles, secretly friendly to the Maid, and luckily honest men, who recorded only what was said and done, and so were in constant trouble with Cauchon who found fault with their records.
Doctors of the University, Abbots of Normandy, Canons of Rouen, were among the assessors who were to find the Maid guilty of treason to the Faith, but they were all chosen because of their political bias to the English, and afraid of their lives to say a word that Warwick or Bedford would not like. Besides, they probably had not the grace of God to see that Joan was inspired by heaven for the rescue of her country. Content with
English domination, because it promised personal advantage to themselves, these interested guardians of the faith, saw nothing holy or heavenly in the Maid, and their hearts were hardened and their eyes blinded to any claim for pity or justice on her part.
When Joan found that the court to try her was made up of churchmen in the interests of the English, she begged that an equal number of priests of the French party be added. Of course there was no heed to her request. Nor did she expect there would be, but she was a brave girl and would not knowingly fail to assert her right, useless though she knew it to be.
She also pleaded for counsel, as she was so young and inexperienced in law and theology. But no, she must do the best she could alone, and further, no friend of her cause was to be called as a witness. She was to be sole witness for defense and prosecution.
When Cauchon was ready to go on with the trial Jean de Lohier, representing the Inquisition was to be one of the chief judges. Lohier came to Rouen from Paris and carefully examined beforehand the process. He said promptly and bravely that:
"In his view Jeanne could not be proceeded against in matters of faith except on evidence proving that there was a ' fama', popular report, against her; the production of such
information was legally necessary."
Lohier asked for three days to consider the documents, and then declared that the mode of trial was not valid. The manner of trial was not valid: first, because it was held in a castle where men were not at liberty to give their full and free opinions; secondly, because the honor of the King of France was impeached; he was a party in the suit and yet was not represented; thirdly, the accusation had not been given to the Maid that she might prepare her answer, neither had she counsel to answer for her, and she was a simple girl to be tried in matters of deep faith.
To the Chief Registrar, Manchon, Lohier said:
"It seems to me there is more hate than desire of justice in this action; and for this reason I will not stay here, for I do not wish to be in it."
And he left Rouen and Paris and went to Rome for safety.
Cauchon decided to go on without him.
Another of the judges, Nicoles de Houppeville, said the whole procedure was invalid since the accused had been tried for the same cause a year before by the Superior Court of the Archbishop of Reims and acquitted.
Cauchon replied that the Archbishop of Reims made a mistake that time at Poitiers, and had not since recognized the Maid as orthodox, and he put De Houppeville in prison for his objecting.
In the getting together of the evidence Cauchon employed a spy, Pere Loyseleur, to go to Joan's cell, and introducing himself as a sympathizing fellow-countryman from Lorraine, drew her out and tried to get confession from her of deceit in the matter of the Voices, while Cauchon had his ear to a place so formed as to catch every whisper. They got nothing for their pains, for Joan had nothing to tell of deceit on her part or her Voices.
On January 13 all the evidence was examined by the "Board, " and such as was useful fixed up for use and other parts rejected. By January 19, there was a plausible array of accusations put together in a "Preliminary Instruction ", a sort of cut-and-dried affair, in which the Maid was made 'to confess all that Cauchon wanted. The whole Process was a jumble of illegalities and hypocrisies and foul insinuations and attempts to trap Joan.
Gross however as the injustice was, there were certain barriers within which even Cauchon and his accomplices had to work their wicked wills.
As there were fearless Canonists like Lohier, who, as members of a great International Bar, were independent of any king or court, so the notaries being apostolic and imperial officers, were in no way amenable to Cauchon or his crew. We have luckily their faithful records of the trial - one of the most appalling dramas in all history.