It was not until nearly twenty years after the death of Jeanne d'Arc that any attempt was made by those in authority to vindicate her memory or even to acknowledge the services she had rendered to the kingdom of France.
In 1450, however, after the occupation of Normandy and the submission of the town of Rouen, the idea appeared to have occurred to Charles VII. that to suffer the stigma of heresy and witchcraft to rest on the name of the Maid of Orleans, who had "led him to his anointing," was to throw a doubt upon his own orthodoxy, and to justify the taunt of his enemies that he had been the mere tool of "a lyme of the Fiend." On February 13th, 1450, therefore, he issued a Declaration empowering one of his Counselors, Guillaume Bouillé, to inquire into the conduct of the Trial undertaken against Jeanne by "our ancient enemies the English," who, "against reason, had cruelly put her to death," and to report the result of his investigations to the Council.
Bouillé was Rector of the University of Paris, Dean of the Theological Faculty, Dean of Noyon, a Member of the Great Council, and at one time Ambassador to Rome. It is very probable that he was the author of the first memorial issued in favor of Jeanne, throwing doubts upon the validity of the Rouen sentence-a memorial which, according to some, was prior to the Inquiry of 1450 with which we are now dealing.
It was to an able and competent person therefore, that Charles committed the Inquiry, which was held at Rouen on March 4th and 5th, less than three weeks after the issue of the Royal Mandate.
Seven witnesses were heard; namely, Toutmouillé, de la Pierre, Ladvenu, and Duval,-all Dominicans of Saint Jacques, Rouen; the Notary Manchon, the Usher Massieu, and Beaupere, one of the chief Examiners. But the Court took no further interest in the matter; and, although in the opinion of several legal authorities consulted by De Bouillé, the Process of Condemnation was held as null and void, the proceedings were carried no further: the Inquiry was forwarded to the King and Council, and the whole question once more fell into abeyance.
Two years later, the Cardinal-Bishop of Digne, Guillaume d'Estouteville, Legate in France for Pope Nicholas V. took up the Inquiry, at the formal request of Isabel d'Arc, mother of the Maid, who claimed, on Civil as well as on Ecclesiastical authority, the rehabilitation of her daughter, and the restoration of the family to the position they had lost by the imputation of heresy cast on them in the person of one of their number.
The failure of the former Inquiry was due, in great part, to the fear of arousing the hostility of the English, and also of meeting with opposition from the Ecclesiastical authorities, by bringing forward an action instituted by the Sovereign against proceedings which had received the unquestioned sanction of the Holy Office and the University of Paris, and which were also guaranteed by the protection of the English King. The expedient of shifting the entire responsibility on to the shoulders of the d'Arc family obviated these difficulties, and enabled the Case to be taken as a purely private one, an appeal against a judgment given on false premises. The reversal of this verdict could offend no one, as the action was brought against Defendants none of whom were living to meet the charge, and who could therefore be represented only by their titular legal successors. Their innocence in the whole matter made the case a perfectly harmless one a legal fiction which might satisfy many and could injure none.
The first act of the Cardinal d'Estouteville was to associate with himself the Prior of the Convent of the Jacobins at Paris, Jean Bréhal, Inquisitor of France; and, together, they proceeded to an Inquiry at Rouen in April, 1452, at which witnesses to the number of twenty-one, including some of those heard in 1450, their evidence. The Cardinal being obliged by his duties to leave Rouen, the Inquiry was left in the hands of Bréhal and of Philippe la Rose, the Treasurer of the Cathedral. There were still difficulties in the way. The Pope feared to wound English susceptibilities; and, in spite of the efforts of the Cardinal and of the petition presented to Rome by Isabel d'Arc and her two sons, the proceeding languished; and three more years passed without any definite step being taken.
In 1455, however, the Pope Nicholas V. died, and his successor Calixtus III. [Borgia], less timorous, acceded to the request of the d'Arc family, granting a Rescript authorizing the process of revision, and appointing as delegates for the Trial; the Archbishop of Reims (Jean Jouvenal des Ursins), the Bishop of Paris (Guillaume Chartier), and the Bishop of Coutances (Richard de Longueil), who afterwards associated with themselves the Inquisitor, Jean Bréhal.
The Case was solemnly opened on November 7th, 1455, in the Church of Notre Dame at Paris, when the mother and brothers of the Maid came before the Court to present their humble petition for a revision of her sentence, demanding only "the triumph of truth and justice." The Court heard the request with some emotion. When Isabel d'Arc threw herself at the feet of the Commissioners, showing the Papal Legit Rescript and weeping aloud, while her Advocate, Pierre Maugier, and his assistants prayed for justice for her and for the memory of her martyred daughter, so many of those present joined aloud in the petition, that at last, we are told, it seemed that one great cry for justice broke from the multitude.
The Commissioners formally received the petition, and appointed November 17th, ten days later, for its consideration, warning the Petitioners of the possible danger of a confirmation of the previous Trial, instead of the reversal they looked for, but promising careful consideration of the Case should they persist in their appeal.
On November 17th the Court met a second time at Notre Dame; the Papal Rescript was solemnly read, and the Advocate for the Petitioners brought his formal accusation against the Judges and Promoter of the late Trial none of whom, as has been said, were then alive-carefully excluding the Assessors concerned in the case, who, he said, were led to wrong conclusions by false deductions. At the close of the Advocate's address, the Archbishop of Reims and the Bishop of Paris declared themselves ready to act as Judges in the Appeal Case, in conjunction with the Inquisitor Bréhal, appointing the following December 12th for the inaugural sitting, and citing all those concerned in this Case to appear before them on that day.
The Trial opened on December 12th. The family of d'Arc were represented by the Procurator, Guillaume Prevosteau, who had formerly been appointed Promoter in the case instituted by Cardinal d'Estouteville: but the Plaintiffs alone were represented, no one appearing to answer for either of the accused Judges nor for the Promoter d'Estivet. The Case was adjourned until December 15th, in order that Advocates for the Defendants might be summoned to appear.
The Court met accordingly on the 15th December; but, in spite of mandates and citations placed on Church doors and other public places, no one was found to come forward as representatives of the accused ; and a further delay of five days was therefore granted. At the same time, the Commissioners formally constituted the Tribunal and appointed their Officers: Simon Chapitault as Promoter or Advocate-General, Ferrebouc and Lecomte as Registrars for the Court. The Registrars of the former Trial, being present, were asked if they wished in any way to defend the Process in which they had been concerned; but, on their replying in the negative, they were requested to lay before the Court any documents relating to the previous Trial which they might have in their possession. By this means the Commissioners were enabled to have before them the actual Minute of the Trial of 1431, written in Manchon's own hand and presented by him, and also to obtain his formal attestation of the authenticity of the Official Procés Verbal, upon which their further inquiries were to be based.
The "Preliminary Inquiry" made in 1452, by command of the Cardinal d'Estouteville and his delegates, was formally annexed, by request of the Promoter, to the official documents of the Trial of Rehabilitation ; but the earlier Inquiry of 1450, having been made under secular authority, was unfortunately treated as of no value, and not included in the authorized Case.
On December 18th the Promoter lodged his request on the part of the family of d'Arc, and prayed for a Judgment of Nullity on the previous sentence, on the ground that, both in form and substantiation, it was null and void, and that it should therefore be publicly and legally so declared.
On December 20th-the last day appointed for the appearance of any representatives of the accused only the Advocate for the family of Cauchon presented himself. He made a declaration to the effect that the heirs of the late Bishop had no desire to maintain the validity of a Trial with which they had no concern, and which took place either before they were born or when they were very little children; that Jeanne had been the victim of the hatred of the English, and that therefore the responsibility fell rather upon them ; finally they begged that the Rehabilitation of Jeanne might not be to their prejudice, invoking for themselves the benefits of the King's amnesty granted after the conquest of Normandy.
The Procurator having declared his willingness to agree, the heirs of Cauchon were put out of the question; and the other Defendants, not having appeared, were declared contumacious, and cited once more to appear on February 16th following. On the same day [Dec. 20th] the Promoter formulated his Accusation, and brought before the notice of the Court certain special points in the previous Trial which tended to vitiate the whole: 1st, the intervention of the hidden registrars and the alterations, additions, and omissions made in the Twelve Articles; 2nd, the suppression of the Preliminary Inquiry, and the obvious predisposition of the Judges ; 3rd, the incompetence of the Court, and the unfairness of the treatment received throughout by the Accused, culminating in an illegal sentence and an irregular execution.
The Promoter then asked that inquiries might be instituted into the life and conduct of the Maid, and as to the manner in which she had undertaken the reconquest of the country. Orders were accordingly given, that information should at once be taken at Domremy and Vaucouleurs, under the direction of Reginald de Chichery, Dean of Vaucouleurs, and of Wautrin Thierry, Canon of Toul.
While these inquiries were being made, a document containing 101 Articles was drawn up, (Of these 101 Articles, the first thirty-three form the basis of the succeeding inquiries made at Paris, Orleans, and Rouen.) setting forth the case of the Plaintiffs for the consideration of the still absent Defendants, and stating at great length the grounds, both in fact and reason, for the demand of a revision of sentence.
On the day fixed for the final citation of the Defendants Feb. 16th, 1456, the Court again assembled; and on this occasion the accused were represented by their legal successors: the Promoter of the Diocese of Beauvais, Bredouillé, as representative of the authority of the Bishop, Guillaume de Hellande; and Chaussetier, the Prior of the Convent of Evreux, as representing the Dominicans of Beauvais, to whose Order Jean Lemaitre, the other Judge of the Maid, belonged. Both of these disclaimed any responsibility for the former Trial, but submitted themselves to the mandate of the Court; and, no objection being offered to the 101 Articles, these were accepted by the Judges and the case was proceeded with.
The Inquiry of 1456 extended over several months. Thirty-four witnesses were heard, in January and February, at Domremy and Vaucouleurs; forty-one, in February and March, at Orleans; twenty at Paris, in April and May; nineteen at Rouen, in December and May; and on May 28th, at Lyons, the Vice-Inquisitor of the province received the deposition of Jean d'Aulon, whose evidence is specially important, as being that of the Steward of the Maid's household, and the most devoted of her followers.
After the close of these Inquiries and their formal reception as part of the Process, the Advocate of the d'Arc family petitioned the Judges to give their attention to certain Memorials drawn up on the Case by learned men, which documents he prayed might also be inserted among the formal proceedings of the Trial. The request being granted, Eight Memorials were presented and formally annexed to the Authentic Documents of the Process. The whole case was then admirably summed up, for the guidance of the Judges, in the 'Recollectio' of the Inquisitor, Jean Bréhal, and on this document the final Sentence of Rehabilitation was subsequently based.
On the 18th of June, Jean d'Arc and the Promoter, Chapitault in the name of the Plaintiffs, appeared at the Palace of the Bishop of Paris, and prayed that a day might be fixed for the conclusion of the Case. In answer to this request the following 1st of July was appointed for the purpose, and an announcement to that effect was ordered to be placed on all the doors of the Cathedral at Rouen.
On July 2nd the Pontifical Delegates met and appointed the following Wednesday, July 7th, for the pronouncement of the final Sentence; and on that day, at 8 a.m., the Court assembled in the Hall of the Archiepiscopal Palace, and the formal Sentence of Rehabilitation was solemnly read by the Archbishop of Reims. This was followed by a procession and sermon on the same day in the Place St. Ouen, and by a second sermon on the day following in the Old Market Place, where a Cross to perpetuate the memory of the martyrdom was then erected, "for the salvation of her soul." This Cross remained until the end of the following century, when it was replaced by a fountain, with a statue of the Maid under an arcade surmounted by a Cross; the fountain now standing was erected in 1756.
[The King's Rescript, being a Letter of Commission to Maître Guillaume Bouille, was granted by Charles VII., for an Inquiry into the case of Jeanne d'Arc.]
As to the feeling of the Judges and those who conducted the Trial of the said Jeanne, I neither assisted nor was I present at the Trial. I can say nothing, therefore, as to what I saw; but the common report was, that they persecuted her from desire of perverse vengeance, and of this they gave sign and appearance. For, before her death, the English proposed to lay siege to Louviers; soon, however, they changed their purpose, saying they would not besiege the said town until the Maid had been examined. What followed was evident proof of this; for, immediately after she was burnt, they went to besiege Louviers, considering that during her life they could have neither glory nor success in deeds of war.
The day when Jeanne was delivered up to be burned, I was in the prison during the morning with Brother Martin Ladvenu, whom the Bishop of Beauvais had sent to her to announce her approaching death, and to induce in her true contrition and penitence, and also to hear her in confession. This the said Ladvenu did most carefully and charitably; and when he announced to the poor woman the death she must die that day, as the Judge had ordained, and she heard of the hard and cruel death which was approaching, she began, in a sad and pitiful manner, as one distraught, tearing her hair, to cry out: "Alas! am I to be so horribly and cruelly treated? Alas! that my body, whole and entire, which has never been corrupted, should today be consumed and burned to ashes! Ah! I would far rather have my head cut off, seven times over, than be thus burned! Alas! had I been in the ecclesiastical prison, to which I submitted myself, and guarded by the Clergy instead of by my enemies, it would not have fallen out so unhappily for me. I appeal to God, the Great Judge, for the great evils and injustice done me!"
After these complaints, the aforesaid Bishop arrived, to whom she at once said: "Bishop, I die through you." And he began to explain to her, saying: "Ah! Jeanne, have patience; you die because you have not kept to what you promised us, and for having returned to your first evil-doing." And the poor Maid answered him: "Alas, if you had put me in the prisons of the Church Courts, and given me into the hands of competent and suitable ecclesiastical guardians, this would not have happened: for this I summon you before God."
This done, I went out, and heard no more.
On one occasion, I, with many others, admonished and besought Jeanne to submit to the Church. To which she replied that she would willingly submit to the Holy Father, requesting to be taken before him, and to be no more submitted to the judgment of her enemies. And when, at this time, I counseled her to submit to the Council of Bâle, Jeanne asked what a General Council was. I answered her, that it was an assembly of the whole Church Universal and of Christendom, and that in this Council there were some of her side as well as of the English side. Having heard and understood this, she began to cry : "Oh! if in that place there are any of our side, I am quite willing to give myself up and to submit to the Council of Bâle." And immediately, in great rage and indignation, the Bishop of Beauvais began to call out: "Hold your tongue, in the devil's name !" and told the Notary, he was to be careful to make no note of the submission she had made to the General Council of Bâle. On account of these things and many others, the English and their officers threatened me terribly, so that, had I not kept silence, they would have thrown me into the Seine.
After she had recanted and abjured, and had resumed the dress of a man, I and many others were present when Jeanne excused herself for having dressed again as a man, saying and affirming publicly, that the English had done or caused to be done to her great wrong and violence, when she was wearing a woman's dress; and, in truth, I saw her weeping, her face covered with tears, disfigured and outraged in such sort that I was full of pity and compassion.
When Jeanne was proclaimed an obstinate and relapsed heretic, she replied publicly before all who were present: "If you, my Lords of the Church, had placed and kept me in your prisons, perchance I should not have been in this way."
After the conclusion and end of this session and trial, the Lord Bishop of Beauvais said to the English who were waiting outside: "Farewell! be of good cheer: it is done." (The word is given in English in the text. Cauchon prided himself on his knowledge of this language.) Such difficult, subtle, and crafty questions were asked of and propounded to poor Jeanne, that the great clerics and learned people present would have found it hard to reply; and at [these questions] many of those present murmured.
I was there myself with the Bishop of Avranches, (Jean de Saint Avit, formerly Abbot of Saint-Denis, and, about 1390, Bishop of Avranches. In 1432, he was imprisoned at Rouen, on suspicion of complicity with the French, who wished to get possession of the town.) an aged and good ecclesiastic, who, like the others, had been requested and prayed to give his opinion on this Case. For this, the Bishop summoned me before him, and asked me what Saint Thomas said touching submission to the Church. I sent the decision of Saint Thomas in writing to the Bishop: "In doubtful things, touching the Faith, recourse should always be had to the Pope or a General Council." The good Bishop was of this opinion, and seemed to be far from content with the deliberations that had been made on this subject. His deliberation was not put into writing: it was left out, with bad intent.
After Jeanne had confessed and partaken of the Sacrament of the Altar, sentence was given against her, and she was declared heretic and excommunicate.
I saw and clearly perceived, because I was there all the time, helping at the whole deduction and conclusion of the Case, that the secular Judge did not condemn her, either to death or to burning; and although the lay and secular Judge had appeared and was present in the same place where she was last preached to and given over to the secular authority, she was, entirely without judgment or conclusion of the said Judge, delivered into the hands of the executioner, and burnt it being said to the executioner, simply and without other sentence: "Do thy duty."
Jeanne had, at the end, so great contrition and such beautiful penitence that it was a thing to be admired, saying such pitiful, devout, and Catholic words, that those who saw her in great numbers wept, and that the Cardinal of England and many other English were forced to weep and to feel compassion.
As I was near her at the end, the poor woman besought and humbly begged me to go into the Church near by and bring her the Cross, to hold it upright on high before her eyes until the moment of death, so that the Cross on which God was hanging might be in life continually before her eyes.
Being in the flames, she ceased not to call in a loud voice the Holy Name of Jesus, imploring and invoking without ceasing the aid of the Saints in Paradise; again, what is more, in giving up the ghost and bending her head, she uttered the Name of Jesus as a sign that she was fervent in the Faith of God, just as we read of Saint Ignatius and of many other Martyrs.
Immediately after the execution, the executioner came to me and to my companion, Brother Martin Ladvenu, stricken and moved with a marvelous repentance and terrible contrition, quite desperate and fearing never to obtain pardon and indulgence from God for what he had done to this holy woman. And the executioner said and affirmed that, notwithstanding the oil, the sulfur, and the charcoal which he had applied to the entrails and heart of the said Jeanne, in no way had he been able to burn them up, nor reduce to cinders either the entrails or the heart, at which he was much astonished, as a most evident miracle.
Many of those who appeared in the Court did so more from love of the English and the favor they bore them than on account of true zeal for justice and the Catholic Faith. In the extreme prejudice of Messire Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, there were, I assert, two proofs of ill-feeling: the first, when the Bishop, acting as Judge, commanded Jeanne to be kept in the secular prison and in the hands of her mortal enemies; and although he might easily have had her detained and guarded in an ecclesiastical prison, yet he allowed her, from the beginning of the trial to the end, to be tormented and cruelly treated in a secular prison. Moreover, at the first session or meeting, the Bishop aforesaid asked and required the opinion of all present, as to whether it was more suitable to detain her in the secular ward or in the prisons of the Church. It was decided as more correct that she be kept in ecclesiastical prisons rather than in the secular ; but this the Bishop said he would not do for fear of displeasing the English. The second proof was that on the day when the Bishop and several others declared her a heretic, relapsed, and returned to her evil deeds, because, in prison, she had resumed a man's dress, the Bishop, coming out of the prison, met the Earl of Warwick and a great many English with him, to whom he said, laughing, in a loud and clear voice: "Farewell! farewell! it is done; be of good cheer," or such-like words.
The Maid revealed to me that, after her abjuration and recantation, she was violently treated in the prison, molested, beaten, and ill-used ; and that an English lord had insulted her. She also said, publicly, that on this account she had resumed a man's dress; and, towards the end, she said to the Bishop of Beauvais: "Alas! I die through you, for had you given me over to be kept in the prisons of the Church, I should not have been here!"
When she had been finally preached to in the Old Market-Place and abandoned to the secular authority, although the secular Judges were seated on the platform, in no way was she condemned by any of these Judges; but, without being condemned, she was forced by two sergeants to come down from the platform and was taken by the said sergeants to the place where she was to be burned, and by them delivered into the hands of the executioner.
And in proof of this, a short time after, one called Georges Folenfant was apprehended on account of the Faith and for the crime of heresy, and was in the same way handed over to the secular justice. In this case, the Judges to wit, Messire Louis de Luxembourg, Archbishop of Rouen, and Brother Guillaume Duval, Deputy of the inquisitor of the Faith - sent me to the Bailly of Rouen to warn him that the said Georges should not be treated as was the Maid, who, without final sentence or definite judgment, had been burned in the fire.
The executioner, about four hours after the burning, said that he had never been so afraid in executing any criminal as in the burning of the Maid, and for many reasons : first, for her great fame and renown ; secondly, for the cruel manner of fastening her to the stake for the English had caused a high scaffold to be made of plaster, and, as the said executioner reported, he could not well or easily hasten matters nor reach her, at which he was much vexed and had great compassion for the cruel manner in which she was put to death.
I can testify to her great and admirable contrition, repentance, and continual confession, calling always on the Name of Jesus, and devoutly invoking the Saints in Paradise, as also Brother Ysambard had already deposed, who was with her to the end, and confirmed her in the way of salvation.