She tells her English Judges they will lose France forever
ON Thursday, March 1, 1431, for the fifth time, Joan of Arc was brought out from her lonely prison to sit before Bishop Cauchon and fifty-eight assistant judges in a large hall in the Earl of Warwick's Castle of Rouen, and defend herself against charges of heresy and witchcraft. True, no special charge at all was so far formally made against her, but these public examinations were held so that out of them, out of her answers 'to questions of her judges, such evidence would be gleaned as could be put together for specific charges when the proper time and occasion required.
As on the four previous examinations, this fifth one began with the same persistent effort to make Joan swear unconditionally to answer all questions put to her, which she, first and last, guided, as we see now, by the Spirit of Light and Truth, firmly refused to do. She always maintained that there were some things she would not tell because she had no leave from her Heavenly Voices to do so.
In the exact words of 'the document still to be seen as it was recorded that day, nearly five hundred years ago:
"Thursday, March 1st, in the same place, the Bishop and fifty-eight assessors present.
"In their presence, we summoned and required Jeanne simply and absolutely to take her oath to speak the truth on that which should be asked her.
"I am ready," she replied, "as I have already declared 'to you, to speak the truth on all that I know touching this Case; but I know many things which do not touch on this Case, and of which there is no need to speak to you. I will speak willingly and in all truth on all which touches this Case."
"I We again summoned her and required her; and she replied:"
"What I know in truth touching 'this Case, I will tell willingly."
"And in this wise did she swear, her hands on the Holy Gospels. Then she said:
" ‘On what I know touching the Case, I will speak the truth willingly; I will tell you as much as I would to the Pope of Rome, if I were before him.’ "
Now in mentioning the Pope of Rome she unwittingly opened up a new vista for her tormentors.
Early in her career, when the fame of her revelations had received the approval of the ecclesiastical Court at Poitiers, the Count de Armagnac had sent a messenger, with a letter, to Joan, asking her to beg the light of the Holy Ghost, and tell the people which of three men claiming to be Pope was really the successor of Saint Peter, and entitled 'to the allegiance of the people. For the Church was in a storm at the time, owing to the intrigues of politicians, taking advantage of a vacancy in the See of Saint Peter, and fear and favor were brought 'to bear on either hand to interfere with the College of Cardinals, so that actually three men were publicly announced as Pope; Martin V in Rome, another in Valence, styled Clement VII, and a third calling himself Benedict XIV.
Now, when the Count de Armagnac sent his letter to Joan, asking her help in deciding which was the true Pope, she was more interested in driving the English out of France than in any other question. It was not her business to decide the Papal succession. Perhaps she should have said so. But she was not prepared for the question, and was getting ready for battle with the English. She was mounting her horse when the Count's
letter, was brought, and read to her, and she told her secretary to answer the Count and say that she could not tell anything about it now, but when she had leisure in Paris or elsewhere she would think about it and answer him with the help of God.
Joan rode off to her battle and probably thought little of either her letter or the Count's, but they fell into the hands of her enemies and were witnesses against her—proving her presumptuous for one thing, besides a few other equally sad and un-Catholic faults in her character. Joan's simple sincerity shone once more and put the quibblers at a disadvantage. The two letters were read to her and she was asked if they were correct. She readily acknowledged the letters and that in the main they were correct. She made some corrections in the phraseology of her own.
"What do you say of Our Lord the Pope? And whom do you believe to be the true Pope?"
Fifty-eight theologians and lawyers stood for the question, to one, confusedly ignorant young girl. But her inspired answer, magnificent in its utter innocence and simplicity, turned the tables on them.
"Whom do you believe to be the true Pope?" they asked again.
"Are there two?"
That was all she said in reply, and she said it gravely and with a look of surprise. The wise men felt they were answered. "Out of the mouth of babes comes forth wisdom " they remembered, and held their peace for a space.
But they recovered their wits. They must not let it go with her. Joan represented France. How bitterly to them she had stood for France during the past two years! They must let nothing go with her! They tried the question in another form:
"Had you any doubt about whom the Count should obey?"
"I did not know how to inform the Count. --- But as for myself, I hold and believe that we should obey Our Lord, the Pope, who is in Rome."
That was not satisfactory, so they put it in another shape:
"Did you say that on the matter of the three Sovereign Pontiffs, you would have counsel?"
"I never wrote or gave command to write in the matter of the three Sovereign Pontiffs."
They gave it up and probed her presumption in other matters. They read aloud the letter that Joan first sent to the English before Orleans in which she told them she was sent by God to drive them from France, and restore to his crown and throne the true King of
France, Charles VII; and threatened them if they did not take themselves off at once they would be hurt, and that she would raise around them so great a disturbance 'that for a thousand years there should be none so great.
She was asked if she recognized the letter and accepted responsibility for it. She said yes, and with some unimportant alterations it was correct. That nobody dictated it to her, but she showed it to some of her party before sending it. Then as if the memory of it and the splendid work that followed it were like a draught of strong fresh air, she stood up very straight and fine, while her glance swept the whole assemblage:
"Before seven years are passed the English will lose a greater wager than they have already done at Orleans; they will lose everything in France. The English will have in France a greater loss than they have ever had, and that by a great victory which God will send to the French."
Frenchmen most of them were, that were in front of her as judges, albeit Frenchmen bought by the English. But the room was full of Englishmen too, and there was great commotion among them to hear such bold prophecies.
"How do you know this?"
"I should know it well by revelation, which has been made to me, and that 'this will happen within seven years; and I am sore vexed that it is deferred so long. I know it by revelation, as clearly as I know that you are before me at this moment."
"When will this happen?"
"I know not the day nor the hour."
"In what year will it happen?"
"You will have no more from me about it. Never-the-less, I heartily wish it might be before St. John's Day."
"Did you not say that this would happen before Martinmas, in winter?"
" 'I said that before Martinmas many things would be seen, and that 'the English might perhaps be overthrown." (The English did retire from Compiegne before St. Martin's Day, November 11.)
"Through whom did you know that this would happen?"
"Through Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret."
There was something to think about. They had their own eye witness of the truth of so many of her prophecies that this promise of their complete downfall, made so calmly and earnestly right in their faces, was very disturbing.
They must know accurately more about the Voices that told her such things. They pressed her closely for exact information about how they, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, looked, and what they wore, and how they were adorned. To all of which Joan gave ready answer: that she spoke with them every day; that she knew them to be Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, because they told her they were; that she saw their faces and glorious crowns on their heads; she was not curious about the rest of their dress or their limbs or other members; they spoke well and in good language, and she heard them well.
"How do 'they speak if they have no members?"
"I refer me to God. That is God's affair, not mine. The voice is beautiful, sweet and low; it speaks in the French tongue."
"Does not Saint Margaret speak English?"
"Why should she speak English, when she is not on the English side?"
"On these crowned heads were there rings? —in the ears or elsewhere?"
Maybe her rings were the instruments of her sorcery, so they came to them in this round-about way—"Did the Saints wear rings?"
"I know nothing about it."
"Have you any rings yourself?"
This question reminded her, and turning to Bishop Cauchon she said: "You, have one of mine; give it back to me. The Burgundians have another of them. I pray you if you have my ring, show it to me."
"Who gave you the ring which the Burgundians have?"
"My father or my mother. I 'think the names I Jesus, Maria' are engraved on it. I do not know who had them written there; there is not, I should say, any stone in the ring; it was given to me at Domremy. It was my brother gave me the one you have. I charge you give it to me; if not to me, then to the Church. I never cured anyone with any of my rings."
She was pressed to say what promises her Voices made to her, for herself.
"They told me that my King would be reestablished in his Kingdom, whether his enemies willed it or no; they told me they would lead me to Paradise; I begged it of them indeed."
"Did they make you any other promise?"
"Yes, but that is not in the Case. In three months I will tell you the other promise."
"Did your Voices tell you that before three months you will be liberated from prison?"
"That is not in your Case. Nevertheless, I will answer. I do not know when I shall be delivered. But 'those who wish to send me out of the world may well go before me."
They pressed the question. Joan insisted it was not in the Case. They held a counsel, and the opinion of the judges there and then was that it did touch on the Case. She was urged to name the time of her deliverance. But she persisted she had no leave to do so. Besides the day was not named to her. She wished for delay that she might get leave to tell them.
"Did your Voices forbid you to tell the truth?"
"There are a number of things that do not touch on the Case. I know well that my King will regain the Kingdom of France. I know it as well as I know that you are before me, seated in judgment. I should die if this revelation did not comfort me every day."
They thought for a while and put heads 'together and took another tack:
"What have you done with your mandrake?"
"'I never have had one. I have heard there is one near our home but I have never seen it. I have heard it is a dangerous thing to keep. I do not know for what it is used."
[The mandrake was considered part of a sorcerer's out fit]
"Where is the mandrake of which you have heard?"
"I have heard that it is in the earth, near the tree of which I spoke before; but I do not know the place. Above this mandrake, there was, it is said, a large tree."
Then she was asked some trivial questions about St. Michael's appearance, and what he wore and had he a balance. She was grieved at the irreverence but answered the many foolish questions about St. Michael with dignity and calmness.
"I have great joy in seeing him for then it seems to me I cannot be in mortal sin. Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret were pleased, in turn, from time to time, to receive my confession. If I am in mortal sin, it is without my knowing it."
"When you confessed did you think you were in mortal sin?"
"I do not know that I am in mortal sin, and, if it please God, I will never so be, nor please God, have I ever done or ever will do deeds which charge my soul."
Their probing of her secret soul gave little ammunition for their batteries, and now they shift to get her King's secrets from her:
"What sign did you give your King that you came from God?"
"Go and ask it of him. I will tell you nothing of what concerns my King. Thereon I will not speak."
They continued to press her with many questions concerning the King, to none of which she vouchsafed answer until they came to:
"Has your King a real crown at Reims?
"I think my King took with joy the Crown he had at Reims; but another, much richer, would have been given him later. He took the first to hurry on his work, at the request of the people at Reims, to avoid too long a charge upon them of the King's soldiers. If he had waited he would have had a crown a thousand times richer. I have not seen it but I have heard that it is rich and valuable to a degree."
Many more questions about this mysterious crown was she pestered with until at last they were worn out even more than she was, though she was fasting and heavily chained, with the long hard day's work. The record for the day ends:
"We put an end to the interrogation and postponed the remainder to Saturday next, 8 o'clock in the morning, in the same place, summoning all the Assessors to be present."