General View of the Trial
IF we consider the length of this trial and the number of persons officially connected, one way or another, with the conduct of it, and the lofty station of many of these, it is one of the very important causes in history. If we consider the motives which impelled the tribunal; that is to say, the series of brilliant victories which practically caused the expulsion of the English, victories due to the marvelous leadership of a peasant maiden, this becomes one of the greatest historical trials. But if we take into consideration the malice and skill of the accusers, from judge to usher, and the wisdom, prudence, superhuman courage and ability of the simple, peasant, warrior girl, we have a case entirely unique.
The trial was, practically, presided over, or directed, by the Earl of Warwick for the English boy-king, who was present in the castle. He was sure of the sentence, which he desired, and never failed to keep it in view. Cardinal Beaufort, granduncle of the king, who appeared but little, but did appear at the most solemn moment, and who ordered Joan's ashes to be thrown into the Seine, cannot be shown not to have been the chief ecclesiastical official in the matter.
The illustrious University of Paris was the watchdog, or rather perhaps the bulldog. It was really this decadent body that conducted the trial and passed sentence.
It was a disgusting, wearisome trial; even the reading of it makes the headache. A general view may help to clear the foggy atmosphere. A preliminary meeting was held by Cauchon on January 9th. From January 13th to February 20th, some eight meetings were held to form the tribunal and prepare the process, or charges. The examination of Joan began on February 21st, and continued to the 27th; and from the 1st to the 25th of March, with a few days' interruption. Sometimes the sessions were held both morning and evening, the poor, weary, ill-treated prisoner defending herself against perfidious, envenomed questioners, who having failed to find testimony against anything in her life, now endeavored to wring her condemnation from her words. She protested she would answer only what concerns the Process, and nothing against her king, even if her head is to be cut off. The poor child saw much more in the king of France than he personally was worth, and she was right.
The questions regarded chiefly her revelations, her use of male attire, and her predictions. Of these last she made some new ones, most distressing for the court. She demanded most earnestly, nay most piteously, the offices and Sacraments of the Church, to which they
would prove her unfaithful. And with truly diabolical art they sought to confuse her as to the meaning of "the Church." But she remained ever on solid ground—a far surer-theologian than the "venerable and discreet persons" who examined.
There were actually seventy heads of accusation, drawn up by Estivet. These were read to her by Courcelles on the 27th and 28th of March. A supplement was added on Holy Saturday, the 31st. An abridgment of the seventy heads, called the XII Articles, was prepared for distribution and consultation, especially with the University of Paris. These, when read in a private session, were found to be incorrect; but no change was made. Joan never heard them. Here her words were changed literally and in sense, and her explanations were omitted. They were sent to Paris on April 14th, with doctors who were to expand them orally. After a month the University approved of them, condemning Joan's revelations as "either pernicious impostures, or works of Belial, Satan, and Behemoth." So on with the rest; Joan was declared guilty of blasphemy, heresy, suspicion of idolatry; she was a traitor, and seditious, deceitful and cruel, scandalous, capable of impiety towards her parents—not a vile word is missing. The gentlemen of the University congratulated congratulated the boy-king on his good work in this trial, and they recommended to his
royal favors the doctors who brought the precious Articles to them from Rouen. Finally they offer their services for any further good work of this kind.
Their letter to Cauchon is much more contemptible. He would be illustrious forever by this great battle against the poor Maid, who was, evidently, very important in their eyes; and in his lordship's fame would share the three "most famous doctors, our students," who had borne the weighty Articles from Rouen to Paris.
Joan sickened over it all. In the first days of April she was in danger of death. The English wished to throw her alive into the fire; but it was wiser to wait and cure her for it. From the 5th of April to the 2nd of May, there is nothing in the Process, but a caritative, administered in prison—that is, a threat of death unless she abjured her alleged errors; which means that she was invited to deny the known truth, and what was to her the word and work of God. The caritative was made stronger on May 2nd near the great hall. On the 9th an attempt was made to terrify Joan by the exhibition of the instruments. Lohier, a famous canonist, passing through Rouen, was drawn into the case. He pointed out some illegalities -and fled. Canon Houppeville was thrown into prison, and was in danger of death. Canon Fontaine escaped. De la Pierre, a Dominican, making clear an answer of Joan in order to show her
orthodoxy, was threatened with death. The theological doctors of Normandy were consulted. Many of these referred the matter back to Cauchon's tribunal, as being quite competent. Most of them made concessions. Some condemned the Process, and referred it to Rome —for instance, the Bishop of Avranches. These favorable opinions Cauchon forbade his officials to read. On the 19th of May, the decisions of the University of Paris were applauded in a numerous assembly; and a new caritative was given to Joan. It was decided that, if she did not retract, there was room for a declaration of heresy. The caritative failed on Joan, and the end soon followed.
During this interminable trial there were twenty-seven sessions of the court. The judge, self-appointed, was the Anglo-Burgundian Bishop Cauebon. His assistant judge was Lemaitre, the Vice-Inquisitor of France, a Dominican Friar, who entered into the Process against his will, but served throughout because appointed by his superior, who was thus responsible, although he took care to remain at a distance. The trial, then, was not the work of the French Inquisition, nor did it follow the procedure of the Inquisition. Fontaine was to take Cauchon's place when the latter was not present. With these there were in all one hundred and thirteen assessors, or consultors, who, while called upon for counsel, had no decisive vote, that is to say, the judge regarded the advice, or did not, as he pleased;
generally, he was sure of it. These assessors never sat all together at any one time. Sixty-four was the largest number ever present; thirty-one sat only once; more than eighty were the progeny, henchmen, representatives of the University of Paris. The most assiduous of all was Nicolas Midi, ex-rector of the University, afterwards stricken with leprosy.
The officials appointed, at the trial of Rehabilitation of Joan, to examine this proces verbal, or evidence—let us retain the word—chiefly the evidence, more or less fairly written, of Joan herself, branded it as illegal, unfair, and mutilated, giving the reason, that there was no liberty. The notaries testify to the violence done them. Manchon, for instance, declares that he was often reproached by Cauchon and the assessors, who wished him to write according to their ideas, forbidding him to write what they disapproved of. Manchon insists on his own honesty, however; although he admits he could not always resist the powerful pressure brought to bear on him. The XII Articles were not a correct summary of the evidence, as he pointed out; yet no correction was made in this ominous document, which was sent to Paris, and was fatal to Joan. Colles (Boisguillaume), his fellow-notary, says that Estivet was constantly accusing the notaries of not writing what they were told. Several witnesses at the Rehabilitation testified to the unfairness of the trial, affirming
that it was conducted in a spirit of hatred and injustice, to please the English, who were determined to burn Joan. Some there were, however, who would not say that the Process was unfaithful; while others said-that the notaries wrote honestly, as, de facto, they appear to have done substantially, with some grievous faults. De la Pierre, while testifying to the notaries' fidelity, admits that Joan's appeal to a General Council of the Church was not written, because it was forbidden by Cauchon. Manchon, whatever his weakness, is, of all, most worthy of pardon. He was the chief recorder of the trial, and has given us substantially the glorious figure of the Maid. Hence it was that he felt the weight of English hostility.
The formula of abjuration in the Process contains fifty lines; but that read to Joan, which she is said to have signed, contained only seven or eight. The session of the 28th of May, which was triumphantly supposed to have proved her relapse, would, if truthfully written, only prove the shamelessness of her judges. Such defects, illegalities, falsifications, run all through the proces verbal; and give reason to hesitate before accepting its statements, particularly in points in which the judges were most desirous to obtain Joan's condemnation. Lefevre testified that he was not summoned to the trial after the sermon in the cemetery of St. Ouen; yet the Process asserts that he took part in the condemnation of Joan on May 29th.
There were sessions of the court, numerous and important, held without the presence of Joan, the accused. The account of the proceedings, as given in the Process, is short and suspicious looking; we have only too many reasons to think that it was curtailed and arranged by Cauchon to suit his own purposes. Lemaitre came to the court only on the 14th of March; yet on the 12th he is put down as having been already present at many sessions. Ladvenu, whose prior he was, says he often went with him to the trial; but in the minutes it is said that Ladvenu was at only three or four sessions. In the proses verbal there is no admission of tumult, cross questions, violent reproof of persons who showed fairness or favor. The answers of Joan are often written without the questions, which elicited them. Yet the pure and noble figure of Joan emerges radiant from the obscure and confused scene, notwithstanding injustice and condemnation. Many witnesses said she seemed inspired. She herself affirmed (for instance, in the sessions of March 31st) that she had answered nothing save with the counsel of her Voices, who used to speak to her even in the courtroom. She often asked for a delay to answer, that she might have the help of her heavenly friends. They spoke to her daily and nightly, often several times.