"Let me be taken before the Pope and I will answer all I ought to answer."
JOAN had a week's rest from persecution of her questioners while Cauchon and his secret Council of three or four picked men, assembled in his house morning and afternoon, to go over the records of the six days' public examination.
Cauchon was angry and dissatisfied. On not one point had they got satisfactory information from her. Though they had asked her repeatedly and directly, they did not yet know what sign she brought to Charles VII, by which he accepted her as a messenger from God. That was something they wanted to know badly.
Then they wanted to know by whose advice or orders she wore the male attire, which she so decidedly refused to change while in prison.
They wanted to know if she knew she was to be captured, and, if that was revealed to her, maybe it was revealed also when and how she would end.
They knew how they wanted to end her. They could give her to the flames in twenty-four hours—or less—and they intended her for the flames from the first.
But there were many things they wanted to know from her. The crowning of the King of France at Reims was a great blow to them—greater even than the loss of Orleans; because, though the English held his capital, Paris, yet the fact that he was regularly crowned at Reims, as all the Kings of France had been, gave him a standing all over Europe, and even with the Burgundians. The crowning of the young English king, Henry VI, at Paris as King of France, was a flank movement, a political strategy.
The crowning of Charles VII had a majestic regularity about it that the whole world must recognize.
If they could only vitiate it in some way! If they could show France and England and Rome that Beelzebub, not St. Michael, was the leading spirit of the anti-English reaction in France, and that Joan's mission was not from God but God's enemy—the English interests might be saved even yet.
Warwick's revengeful impatience for Joan's death was kept in check by his desire to get from her what he felt she must know (whether from God or the Devil), how it all would end.
She had told them that it was revealed to her that before seven years the English would lose every hold they had on France. She had predicted this at the same time that she told them she was going to deliver Orleans and crown her king.
She did both, and that made the prophecy about England's final defeat more interesting. With a brave countenance she faced the English still, and told them they had to go.
They were greatly in doubt that all this was God's work. Warwick nagged at Cauchon about it, and Cauchon, in desperation, determined, before they burnt her, 'to make her tell all she knew.
So they picked out points in her testimony, on which they would drive her to tell everything.
Then for nine days, morning and afternoon, Cauchon, two other reverend doctors from the Anglicized University of Paris, two witnesses, to make show of legality, and a recorder to take everything down in proper form and order, went to Joan's prison, and closing in on their prey—tired and lonely and abandoned—they coaxed, they threatened, they questioned and cross-questioned her; there was not a secret of the girl's life they did not wrench from her.
But their first and last question every day, asked in a variety of ways, so as to throw her off her guard, was:
"What was the sign that you brought your king?"
But they never got it from Joan. All the world knew twenty years later that it was the assurance that he was the legitimate son of Charles VI, and the rightful heir to the French throne. He had his doubts, known only to God and himself, and when this child came from far-off Domremy and told him of his doubts, and that he must put them away, for he was the rightful heir and would soon be the crowned king, he knew she was sent from God.
Then he had the Archbishop and a clerical council at Poitier's, examine Joan as to her piety and probity and her right to wear a man's dress and lead the army. And the council at Poitier's pronounced her a messenger from God.
Now, the English, nor their allies, knew none of this except by hearsay. They had no witnesses but Joan herself. She spoke freely of everything "concerning the trial," but the sign she brought the king was his secret, and she would not reveal it though they "cut her head off."
Indeed, if they had even guessed at it, what a mountain they would have made of it! If they knew that the French king had doubted his own legitimacy, they would have poisoned all Europe, and his subjects especially, against him. They would have rung all the changes on the horror of it, until Charles would be glad to hide his head in shame anywhere out of France. But they did not suspect it, and Joan kept the secret well, in spite of the great stress brought to bear upon her to tell it.
They spent the best part of two days questioning her about this sign, of which she, in her wearied, weakened state of body and mind, was beguiled into saying many things, which did not satisfy them or their curiosity, yet gave them pegs on which to hang new accusations.
"What was the sign you brought your king?" Every examination began thus.
"It was something beautiful, honorable and most credible; the best and richest in the world."
"Does this sign still last?
"It is well to know it; it will last a thousand years and more. My sign is with the king's treasures."
"Is it gold, silver, precious stones, or a crown?"
And they crowded close to her, with eager faces, in her narrow, ugly prison.
"I will tell you nothing more about it."
And then, as if she could not contain herself with thinking about it, she broke out:
"No man in the world can devise so rich a thing as this sign; but the sign that you need is that God may deliver me from your hands; that is the most sure sign He could send you. When I was in the trenches of Melun, it was told me by my Voices—that is to say by St. Catherine and St. Margaret--'Thou wilt be taken before St. John's Day; and so it must be; do not trouble thyself' about it; be resigned. God will help thee.' "
"Before this had not your Voices told you that you would be taken prisoner?"
"Yes, many times and nearly every day. And I asked of my Voices, that, when I should be taken I might die soon, without long suffering in prison; and they said to me: ‘Be resigned to all—thus it must be.’ Often I asked to know the hour but they never told me."
They wondered if she had any warning before being taken at Compiegne. She told them without any reserve:
"That day I did not know at all that I should be taken, and I had no command to go forth; but they always told me it was necessary for me to be taken prisoner.
If I had known the hour when I should be taken, I would not have gone forth of my own free will; I should always have obeyed their commands in the end, whatever might happen to me."
"They asked her did she not think her Saints deceived her, seeing she was now in prison and in danger of death. She answered like a theologian:
"I think, as it has pleased our Lord, that it is for my wellbeing that I was taken prisoner."
And again at another time in answer to a similar question:
"St. Catherine has told me that I shall have help. I do not know if this will be to be delivered from prison, or if, whilst I am being tried, some disturbance may happen by which I shall be delivered. The help will come to me, one way or another. My Voices have told me I shall be delivered, by a great victory; and they add: 'Be resigned; have no care for thy martyrdom; thou shalt come in the end to the Kingdom of Paradise.' They have told me this simply, absolutely and without fail. What is meant by my martyrdom is the pain and adversity that I suffer in prison; I do not know if I shall have still greater sufferings to bear; for that I refer me to God."
"Since your Voices told you that you would come in the end to Paradise, have you felt assured of being saved, and of not being damned in Hell?"
"I believe firmly what my Voices told me, that I shall be saved; I believe it as firmly as if I were already there."
"Do you believe that you cannot yet commit mortal sin?"
"I do not know; and in all things I wait on Our Lord."
"That is an answer of great weight."
"Yes, and one which I hold for a great treasure."
Then other things bothered them to know. In what lay the secret of her amazing success with that small, half-demoralized and hitherto cowed band of men called the French army? Was her sword specially blessed to be invincible? Did her banner bear magic spells from demon or angel? Was the charm in her armor, or her soldier's dress, or in the two rude rings she wore when they captured her, and which they promptly took from her. Unlike Sampson, there was no Delilah to worm the secrets for them. They must get them from herself and they started in once more to do so.
"Why did you throw yourself from the top of the tower at Beaurevoir?"
"I had heard that the people of Compiegne, all, to the age of seven years, were to be put to the sword; and I would rather have died than live after such a destruction of good people. That was one of the reasons. The other was, that I knew I was sold to the English; and I had rather die than be in the hands of the English. --- By the fall I was so injured I could not eat nor drink. But I was consoled by St. Catherine, who told me to confess and beg pardon of God; and without fail those at Compiegne would have relief before St. Martin's Day in the winter. Then I began to recover and to eat and was cured."
But surely she was a public sinner. They summed up for her several things she did. Her leap from Beaurevoir, her taking the Bishop's horse at Senlis, her attack on Paris on the Blessed Virgin's feast day, her allowing a prisoner of war to be put to death at one time and then asked, was she not in mortal sin?
She explained seriatim her justification in each case of those they named and then said: "I do not believe that I am in mortal sin; and if I have been it is for God to know it and for the priest in confession."
They asked her if she would submit to the judgment of the Church, her alleged sine against the faith, and the nature of her Voices.
By " the Church " they meant themselves—the little clique of Anglo-Burgundian clerics in Paris and Rouen, headed by Cauchon, who was a bishop driven from his own see of Beauvais by his own people because of his English politics; and who hoped to be made by English influence, Archbishop of Rouen. Joan, counseled as she was by the spirit of Truth, knew well enough how to distinguish between this body and the Church. They had refused to refer her case to Rome.
"Will you refer yourself to the decision of the Church?"
"I refer myself to God Who sent me, to Our Lady, and to all the saints in Paradise. And in my opinion it is all one, God and the Church; and one should make no difficulty about it. Why do you make a difficulty?"
"Will you submit your words and actions to the decision of the Church?"
"My words and deeds are all in God's hands; in all, I wait upon Him. I assure you I would say or do nothing against the Christian Faith; in case I have done or said anything which might be on 'my soul, and which the clergy could say was contrary to the Christian Faith, established by Our Lord, I would not maintain it, and would put it away.'
That was sensible and humble and anything but a bold contumacious answer, but they made contumacy out of it, in the summing up.
"There is a Church Triumphant in which are God and the Saints, the Angels and the souls of the saved. There is another Church, the Church Militant, in which are the Pope, the Vicar of God on earth, the Cardinals, Prelates of the Church, the clergy and all good Christians and Catholics; this Church, regularly assembled, cannot err, being ruled by the Holy Spirit. Will you refer yourself to this Church which we have thus just defined to you?"
"I came to the King of France from God, from the Blessed Virgin Mary, from all the Saints of Paradise, and the Church Victorious, and by their command. To this Church I submit all my good deeds, all I have done or will do. As to saying whether I will submit myself to the Church Militant, I will' now answer no more."
"Does it not seem to you that you are bound to reply more fully to our Lord the Pope, the Vicar of God?"
"Let me be taken before the Pope and I will answer before him all I ought to answer."
They did not like that and immediately switched off to her banner, trying to draw from her when or how the charms were put upon it that made it victorious.
But its whole history did not include any blessings or incantations more than any banner ever bore in battle.
"Why, then, was it placed alone of all the banners near the altar, in prominence and honor, at the crowning of the King?"
And her answer is revered to this day as a classic:
"It had shared the pain, it was only right that it should share the honor."
The appearances of the saints, their size and clothing and speech, and familiarity with her, were gone over at great length, Joan always reserving such items of information as she deemed unnecessary to tell.
"Do St. Catherine and St. Margaret hate the English?"
"They love what God loves; they hate what God hates."
"Does God hate the English?"
"Of the love or hate God may have for the English, or of what he will do for their souls, I know nothing; but I know quite well that they will be put out of France, except those who shall die here, and that God will send victory to the French against the English."
"Was God for the English when they were prospering in France?"
"I do not know if God hated the French; but I believe that He wished them to be defeated for their sins, if they were in sin."
"You have no need to confess, as you believe by the revelation of your Voices that you will be saved?"
"If I were in mortal sin I think St. Catherine and St. Margaret would abandon me at once; but one cannot cleanse one's conscience too much."
She was asked how she knew the saints and angels she saw and spoke to, were angels and not demons.
She told them very simply that she knew and believed them to be what they said they were, and the good results of their counsels confirmed her. The Voices came to her every day, even now, in her prison and the results of their visits are courage and peace and devotion to the will of God.
Her male attire was a sore point. They gave whole days to pumping her as to just why she put it on and just why she would not put it off. To both of which she gave them answer that by God's command she put it on, and only by His command would she put it off. It was in a way the insignia of her mission against the English. Besides while she was in prison she needed it for modesty and safety.
She had begged to be allowed to hear Mass, but her jailers protested that it would never do to insult God by hearing Mass in so unbecoming a dress. She begged a woman's dress then to hear Mass in, though she protested "this dress does not weigh upon my soul, and is not contrary to the laws of the Church."
Indeed the council of bishops at Poitiers had decided at the very beginning, that as Joan had a man's work to do it was proper she should wear man's dress for greater convenience.
Still harassed about it, she said finally:
"Give me a woman's dress to go and rejoin my mother; I will take it that I may get out of prison, because when I am outside I will consider as to what I should do. I desire ardently to hear Mass, and in the dress in which I am. It is not in my power to change it."
All this is but a small part of the questions and answers that filled nine days' close work between Joan and her judges; but it covers the main points, for much of it was repetition of former questions, and the same questions asked over again in different ways, trying to trip and bewilder Joan and make her contradict herself.
As it was, they made contradiction out of the many things she said about the " sign " to her king, though, knowing the truth now, the reader will discover that all the different allegories employed by her fit it equally and truly.
Joan always distinguished between the Burgundians and the English. The former were Frenchmen and must be brought back to their true allegiance. The English, however, must leave France.
"Do you mean 'to say that God and the Saints are for war and bloodshed?"
"God and the Saints are for peace among men. The Burgundians must make peace with their lawful sovereign. For the English there is no peace but to go home."
And none of the answers offended against Catholic theology though it was the hope of the questioners that she would sin against Faith, none of them proved or even quibbled about the fairies, or sorcery in any shape. Joan first and last, in plain language, disclaimed any connection between her Voices and the fairy tree of Domremy, and her discernment against superstition and witchery was decided and outspoken. Yet they saddled her with acknowledgments of witchcraft.
After the nine days' harrowing of the girl the records read:
"On the following Saturday, March 24, the prison of Jeanne, Maitre Jean Delafontaine, Commissioner for Us, the Bishop, and Brother Jean Lemaitre; assisted by J. Beaupere, N. Midi, P. Maurice, G. Feuillet, Thomas de Courcelles, Anguerrand de Champrond.
In presence of the above-mentioned, We caused to be read to Jeanne the Register, which contained the questions made to her and her answers. This reading was made in the presence of the said Jeanne, and in the French language, by G. Manchon, Register.
The reading of the Register being finished, she said :
"I believe certainly to have so spoken as it is written in the Register, and as has been read; I do not contradict on any point."
And now they were ready for the real trial. Hitherto they were just gathering, from the captive, the material for a formal charge.
Next day was Palm Sunday, and early in the morning Bishop Cauchon and his aids of the day before, presented themselves to Joan in her prison, telling her they were so moved by her great desire, often expressed, to hear Mass as to offer her that privilege if she would consent to put off her male attire and dress as became a woman of her birthplace.
They spent some time arguing with her about it, to all their urging she sadly but firmly asserted it was not in her power to change her dress yet, much as she wanted to hear Mass and especially on the next Sunday —Easter.
"I cannot change my dress," she said, " though indeed this dress or any dress is of little matter."
Again the Records read:
Of all the preceding, Master Jean d'Estivet, Promoter, hath asked that there be delivered to him a Public Instrument, in the presence of the Lords and Masters, Adam Hillet, William Brolbster, and Pierre Orient of the clergy of Rouen, London and Chalons respectively.
This was done on this Palm Sunday. The next morning, in Cauchon's house, the Promoter presented to the Bishop and his council the petition for the trial, and on Tuesday presented the text of the accusation against Joan. This accusation consisted of seventy articles made up mostly from the preconceived notions of Cauchon, but ostensibly from the testimony of Joan herself. With great formality, and in the presence of thirty-eight judges assembled in the great hall of Warwick's Castle, Thomas de Courcelles read the act of accusation to Joan, the seventy articles, one by one, pausing at the end of each for her answer or protest or agreement as the case might be.
The burden of these seventy articles of accusation against Joan and her replies, will be the subject of our next chapter.