The official rehabilitation of Joan's character after her
WHILE the trial of Joan of Arc was going on at Rouen, her brother Jacques died in Domremy. When the news of 'the burning reached Domremy her father's heart broke and he died.
The whole people of France were brokenhearted for the loss of their champion, and for a time all energies seemed paralyzed. Fear and shame fell upon the English and the French both. For though Joan was burned as a heretic and idolatress and sorceress—no one believed she was any of these things; and those who were responsible for her death, Frenchmen or Englishmen, took refuge under the ten-year-old King of England's letters of protection to all who had a hand in her death.
Cauchon did not long need the protection of the English King. He died suddenly in the barber's chair not long after. His chief aid, in the whole tragedy, Nicholas Midi, had already died of leprosy.
After a spell of gloomy inactivity Joan's prayers for her beloved France were felt. The Kings base chief minister, La Tremoille, was deposed, and the brave Richemont took his place. The Count de Dunois (Bastard of Orleans), D'Aulon, D'Alencon, La Hire, gathered 'their forces before Paris and took it from the English; and in 1436 King Charles entered amid the great rejoicing of the people and took solemn possession of his capital as Joan had foretold.
Step by step he regained all his territory, until in 1449, all of Normandy had returned to his allegiance and the City of Rouen flew his flag over the towers of Warwick's old castle, where Joan's imprisonment was suffered, and in the old Market Square where the horror of her death still lingered.
Here it was brought home to Charles vividly that the stigma thrown on the Maid of Orleans was also a stigma on his crown, in a manner. He therefore issued a Declaration empowering the Rector of the University of Paris (now purged of most of its English taint), to enquire into the trial of Joan by "our ancient English enemies, who against reason had cruelly put her to death."
Three weeks later a Commission sat in Rouen, on March 4 and 5, 1450.
Seven witnesses were heard. Four Dominicans of Rouen, one of them her confessor; the usher of the court (the Bedford-Cauchon Court that condemned her) Massieu; the notary, Manchon; and Canon Beaupere, one of the chief examiners.
Toutmouille, one of the Dominicans, testified:
"Before her death the English proposed to lay siege to Louviers, but deemed it better to wait the result of the trial. Immediately after she was burnt they besieged Louviers, for they thought that while she was alive 'they could not have success in deeds of war."
That was to show the animus of the Trial and Execution. The other Dominicans testified to her true Catholicity and true Womanliness.
Manchon's testimony was longest and most valuable and bore most heavily on the French clerical tools of England, though at the time of the Trial he was obliged to act for both French and English, without any protest or show of sympathy with Joan. He told of how 'the chief officer of the Inquisition who had come on from Paris for the Trial, saw that " it proceeded rather from hatred and anger on account of the quarrel with the King of France," and so would not have anything to do
with it and because of his refusal he had to leave Rouen and even France, taking refuge in Rome. The Vice Inquisitor took his place on the Trial.
Massieu deposed among other things that for one word he let drop about the irregularity of the Trial, the Bishop of Beauvais told him "Be very careful or he should be made to drink more than was good for him," meaning he would be thrown into the Seine.
Beaupere, a Canon of Rouen, excused his ugly attitude towards Joan during the Trial by the great fear of the English, that shut many mouths who would have said a good word for Joan at the Trial.
The Commission sent all the evidence they collected with their unanimous verdict that the Process of Condemnation of the Maid of Orleans should be declared null and void.
Nothing further was heard from the King or Council, however, for two years. The University of Paris had enough pro-English influence within its walls to delay definite proceedings in the matter. Two years later, the Cardinal Bishop of Digne, who was Legate in France for Pope Nicholas V, took up the matter in answer 'to an appeal from Joan's mother, who claimed on civil grounds the restoration of her daughter's character and the family honor, which had been hurt by the imputation of heresy cast upon one of its members.
In consequence a second Commission of Inquiry was opened at Rouen, in April, 1452, at which twenty-one witnesses were examined. English influence again hindered any action on the mass of evidence which brought out the cruelty and illegality of the Trial in strong colors; and showed Joan's death to be a public political crime, not chargeable to the Church nor the proper ecclesiastical authorities, in any way.
There was nothing definite done for three more years. Then Pope Nicholas V died and the d'Arc family formally petitioned his successor, Calixtus III, to open the case again, which he did on November 7, 1455, in the Church of Notre Dame in Paris.
The Archbishop of Reims, the Bishop of Paris, the Bishop of Coutances and the chief officer of the Inquisition formed the Court. At the feet of this Court the mother of Joan threw herself, with the Papal Rescript in her hand, and tears running down her cheeks, as she implored justice for her murdered daughter's name. The chronicles of the time tell us the Court was moved to tears, and the whole people joined aloud in one great petition for "justice to Joan of Arc."
The judges took all the testimony and on December 12, the Trial was opened.
The advocate for the mother and brothers of Joan of Arc, brought his formal accusation against the Judge and Promoter of the Trial of the Maid of Orleans at Rouen. The assessors were not included in 'the accusation because they were, he said, led by false deductions into wrong conclusions, and could not be held responsible.
Thus the Bishop of Beauvais or his heirs, were the chief defendants.
As only the plaintiff's were represented, the Court adjourned to give the defendants an opportunity to put in their appeal, and citations to do so were nailed on the church doors and other public places.
On December 20th—the last day appointed for the appearance of any representative of the accused—only the advocate of 'the family of Cauchon presented himself.
He made declaration that the heirs of the late Bishop Cauchon had no desire to maintain the validity of a Trial with which they had no concern, that Joan had been the victim of the hatred of the English, and that therefore the responsibility fell rather upon the English who had urged on Cauchon and begged finally that the Rehabilitation
of Joan might not be to their prejudice as they had accepted the amnesty of the King of France when he retook Rouen.
The Court decided readily that Cauchon's heirs were not to be held responsible in any way. No other defendants appearing, the Promoter formulated his accusation in proper form, pronouncing the Court that tried Joan incompetent, the methods of its procedure unfair, its sentence illegal and its execution irregular. Then to settle the Maid's character and the character of her mission to reconquer the country from its old-time enemies, a special inquiry was ordered to be made at Domremy, Vaucouleurs and elsewhere, into the life and conduct of the Maid.
Everybody was questioned who knew the Maid at any time.
The Registrars of the illegal trial laid their properly attested books before the Court with attestation of their authenticity, and their disclaimers of any sympathy with the judges whose records they were obliged to make at the time.
On the 7th of June, 1456, at 8 o'clock in the morning, the Pontifical Delegates met in the Archiepiscopal Palace at Rouen and the formal sentence of the restoration of Joan's character was solemnly read by the Archbishop of Reims.
The document is a noble one, beginning as was usual in those days: "In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen."
The providence of the Eternal majesty, the Savior, Christ, Lord God and man, hath instituted for the rule of His Church Militant, the Blessed Peter and his Apostolic successors. He hath made them His principal representatives, and charged them, by the light of Truth, which He hath manifested to them, to teach men justice, protecting the good, relieving the oppressed in the whole universe, and, by a reasonable judgment, bringing back into the right road those who have turned therefrom.
Invested with this Apostolic Authority, for the matter in question, we, Jean of Rheims, William of Paris, and Richard of Coutances, by the grace of God Archbishops and Bishop, and Jean Brehal, of the Order of St. Dominic, Professor of Sacred Theology, one of the two Inquisitors of the Heretical Evil for the Realm of France, all four judges specially delegated by our most holy Lord the Pope actually reigning:
Having seen the Solemn Process brought before us, by virtue of the Apostolic mandate addressed to us, and by us respectfully accepted.
In the case concerning the honest woman, widow Isabelle d'Arc, mother, Pierre and Jean d'Arc, brothers german, natural and legal, of the deceased Jeanne d'Arc, of good memory, commonly called the Maid:
The said case brought in their name; Against the Sub-Inquisitor of the Heretical Evil for the Diocese of Beauvais, the Promoter of the officiality of the said Diocese of Beauvais, and also the Reverend Father in Christ and Lord William de Hellende, Bishop of Beauvais, and against all others and each in particular who might be thought to be therein interested, all together respectively Defendants, as well conjointly as separately:
Having seen, in the first place, the peremptory citation and the execution of this citation made against the said Defendants, at the request not only of the said Plaintiffs but of the Promoter of our office, appointed by us, sworn and created; to the end that the said Defendants might see the carrying out of the said Rescript, hear the conclusions against them, and answer themselves; and to proceed, in one word, according to right;
Having seen the request of the said Plaintiffs, their deeds, reasons, and conclusions set down in writing under the form of Articles, putting forward a declaration of
nullity, of Iniquity, and of cozenage against a certain Process in a pretended Trial for the Faith, formerly done and executed in this city against the above named woman, now deceased, by the late Lord Pierre Cauchon, then Bishop of Beauvais, Jean Lemaitre, then Vice Inquisitor of the said Dloces6 of Beauvais, and Jean d'Estivet, Promoter, or having at least acted in this capacity;
The said request putting forward and inferring further the breaking down and annulling of the Process in question and of all which followed it, to the justification of the said Deceased, and to all other ends therein enumerated:
Having seen, read, re-read and examined the original books, instruments, means, acts, notes and protocols of the said Process, shown and sent to us, in virtue of the compulsory letters, by the Registrars and others whose signatures and writings have been, as a preliminary, acknowledged in our presence:
Having studied at length all these documents, not only with the said Registrars and other officials appointed in the said Process, but also with those of the Councillors who were called to the same Process, those, at least, whom we have been able to bring before us:
Having ourselves collated and compared the final text with the Minute itself of the said Process:
Having considered also the Preparatory Enquiries—first, those which were conducted by the Most Reverend Father in Christ, the Lord Guillaume, Cardinal Priest, under the title of Saint-Martin-Les-Monets, then Legate of the Holy Apostolic See in the Kingdom of France, assisted by the Inquisitor, after the examination which had been made by the said Cardinal Legate of the books and instruments then presented:
Having afterwards considered the Preparatory Enquiry conducted at the beginning of the actual Process by us or our Commissaries:
Having considered also divers treatises which had come from the Prelates, Doctors, and men of learning, the most celebrated and the most authorized, who, after having studied at length the books and instruments of the said Process, have separated from these books and instruments the doubtful points which they would have to elucidate in their said treatises composed afterwards and brought to light, whether by the order of the Most Reverend Father aforesaid or by us:
Having considered the Articles and Interrogations to be submitted to the witnesses, presented to us, in the name of the Plaintiffs and of our Promoter, and after many citations admitted in proof by us:
Having considered the depositions and attestations of the witnesses heard on the subject of the said Articles and Interrogations on the life of the said Deceased in the place of her birth—on her departure; on her examination before – several Prelates, Doctors, and others having knowledge thereof, in presence notably of the Most Reverend Father Reginald, then Archbishop of Reims and Metropolitan of the said Bishopric of Beauvais; an examination made at Poitiers, and elsewhere, on several occasions; on the marvelous deliverance of the City of Orleans; on the journey to the City of Reims and the Coronation of the King; and the divers circumstances of the Trial, the qualifications, the judges, 'the manner of proceeding:
In the first place we say and, because justice requires it, we declare that the Articles beginning with the words "a woman," which are found inserted in the pretended Process and Instrument of the pretended sentences, lodged against the said Deceased, ought to have been, have been and are, extracted from the Process and the said pretended Confessions of the said Deceased, with corruption, cozenage, calumny,
fraud and malice:
We declare, that on certain points the truth of her Confessions has been passed over in silence; that on other points, her confessions have been falsely translated—a double unfaithfulness, by which, had it been prevented, the mind of the Doctors consulted and the judges might have been led to a different opinion:
We declare, that in these Articles there have been added without right many aggravating circumstances, which are not in the aforesaid Confessions, and many circumstances both relevant and justifying have been passed over in silence:
We declare, that even the form of certain words has been altered, in such manner as to change the substance:
For the which, the same Articles, as falsely, calumniously and deceitfully extracted, and as contrary even to the confessions of the Accused, we break, annihilate and annul; and after they shall have been detached from the Process we ordain, by this present judgment, that they be torn up:
In the second place, after having examined with great care the other parts of the same said Process—particularly the two sentences which the Process contained, designated by the Judges as "Lapse" and "Relapse"—
and after having also for a long time weighed the qualifications of the Judges and of all those under whom and in whose keeping the said Jeanne was detained:
We say, pronounce, decree and declare, the said Processes and Sentences full of cozenage, iniquity, inconsequences, and manifest errors, in fact as well as in law:
We say that they have been, are, and shall be—as well as the aforesaid Abjuration, their execution and all that followed—null, nonexistent, without value or effect.
Nevertheless in so far as is necessary, and as reason cloth command us, we break them, annihilate them, annul them, and declare them void of effect:
And we declare that the said Jeanne and her relatives, Plaintiffs in the Actual Process, have not on account of the said trial, contracted nor incurred any mark or stigma of infamy:
We declare them quit and purged of all the consequences of these same Processes:
We declare them, in so far as is necessary, entirely purged thereof by this present:
We ordain that the execution and solemn publication of our present Sentence shall take place immediately in this City in two different places, to wit:
To-day in the Square of St. Ouen, after a General Procession and a public sermon. To-morrow, at the old Market Place, in the same place where the said Jeanne was suffocated by a cruel and horrible fire, also with a General Preaching and with the placing of a handsome Cross for the perpetual memory of the Deceased and for her salvation and that of other deceased persons:
We declare that we reserve 'to ourselves [the power] later on to execute, publish, and for the honor of her memory to signify with acclaim, our said sentence in the cities and other well-known places of the Kingdom whenever we shall find it well so to do, under the reserves, finally, of all the other formalities which may yet remain to be done.
[All of which was duly attested as follows:]
This present Sentence hath been brought out, read, and promulgated by the Lords Judges, in presence of the Reverend Father in Christ the Lord Bishop of Demetriuide, of Hector de Coquerel, Nicholas du Bois, Alain Olivier, Jean du Bee, Jean de Gout's, Guillaime Roussel, Laurent Surreau, Canons; of Martin Ladvenu, Jean Roussel, and Thomas de Fanouilleres.
Maitre Simon Chapitault, Promoter; Jean d'Arc and Prevosteau for the other Plaintiffs.
Done at Rouen in the Archiepiscopal Palace, in the year of our Lord 1456, the 7th day of the month of June.
This was done, the whole population of Rouen and adjacent towns doing all in their power to add to the solemnity of the two days' reversal of the dreadful scenes of the two days, twenty-five years before. The cross they erected in the place of her martyrdom became a place of pilgrimage, and around its foot the youth of France were 'taught the glories of old France, the shameful century of her fall into English hands, and her splendid and speedy rescue from English domination by the Maid sent by Heaven and aided by St. Michael the Archangel and St. Catherine and St. Margaret.
This Cross after a hundred years was replaced by a fountain around a beautiful statue of Joan of Arc surmounted by a cross. This was again replaced in 1756, by the magnificent fountain that at present marks the spot whence Joan's pure soul ascended to Heaven.
We know now what Joan in her last sad days did not know, that her career was understood and appreciated by the Church of France, and while a schismatic
bishop and a few subsidized clerical tools were sending her to a disgraced and disgraceful death, she was being prayed for affectionately by bishops and priests all over France.
That Joan was recognized by the clergy and people of France as a holy woman as well as a patriot, there is ample evidence. Notably are a Collect, a Secret prayer and a Post Communion used in the Masses of the day. The Collect is as follows:
"0 Almighty and Eternal God, who through Thy holy and ineffable clemency, and by the wonderful strength of. Thy arm, bast raised up a young virgin for the glory and welfare of France, for the expulsion, confusion and ruin of our enemies; and who bast permitted, in the fulfillment of the mission which Thou bast confided to her, that she should fall into the hands of those enemies; grant to our prayers that through the intercession of the ever blessed Virgin Mary, and of all of the Saints, we may behold her escape in safety from their power, that she may continue to execute Thy formal commands."
The secret prayer in the Mass reads:
"0 Father of virtues and Almighty God, may Thy holy benediction descend on this oblation; may it excite Thy miraculous power; and through the
intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints, may it preserve and deliver the Maid now confined in the prison of our enemies and may it enable her 'to perform effectively the work which Thou hast ordained."
The Post Communion reads:
" 0 Almighty God, hearken to the prayers of Thy people, and through 'the sacraments which we have received and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints, break the chains of the Maid who, while performing the deeds enjoined by Thee has been shut up in the prison of our enemies. Through Thy divine compassion and mercy grant that she may accomplish in safety the mission which Thou hast entrusted to her."
No better status could be given any human being than such a personal commemoration in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, even though circumscribed as to place and time.
It is a curious coincidence that the great Shakespeare, who did not at all understand or properly characterize Joan of Arc, should put the prophetic words into the mouth of Charles VII: "Joan, the Maid, shall be France's Saint."