THE SOURCES OF INFORMATION
JULES QUICHERAT, as part of his great edition of the trial and rehabilitation of St. Joan, published in 1847 no less than forty-three extracts dealing with Joan at considerable length, besides seven shorter references, from chroniclers and historians of the fifteenth century. These French, Burgundian, and foreign chroniclers are of varying degrees of importance and trustworthiness; but the interesting thing is, that if none of them had ever written, we would still know a great deal about the Maid of Orleans. Indeed, for the purposes of this book, we would know very nearly as much as we do now. For we would still have abundant information of a sort more direct than the chroniclers can give us, consisting of Joan's own utterances and of the sworn testimony of men land women who knew her. It is contained in the records of the Rouen trial (or, more exactly, trials) of 1431, and of the rehabilitation, which may be said to have started with a royal investigation in 1450, was formally taken over by the Church in 1455, and was completed in 1456. The character of these documents is of such uniquely absorbing interest, and acquaintance with them is so necessary for my subject, that they need to be discussed in some detail.
For much of our knowledge concerning the recording of the Rouen trial and the persons involved we depend on testimony given at the rehabilitation. Whenever this seems to be questionable, the fact will be duly noted.
There were three greffiers or recorders at the Rouen trial. William Manchon, priest and notary of the local ecclesiastical court, was constrained by English orders to act as recorder. When Bishop Cauchon bade him choose a collaborator, he suggested his friend William Colles, called Boisguillaume, another local priest and notary, who was duly appointed. Both testified at the rehabilitation, and though Manchon's testimony has in certain details been questioned, the probity and competence of both men are above suspicion. They entered into their functions on February 13, 1431, and were present at all the sessions during which Joan was questioned, though not at certain preliminary meetings of the court. The third greffier, Nicholas Taquel or Taquet, also a priest and notary, played a very minor role as recorder for the Vice-Inquisitor John Lemaitre, Dominican friar, who, greatly against his inclination, was forced to join Cauchon as judge, and who began to function as such on March 13, after Joan had been questioned six times publicly and three times privately. Taquel stated at the rehabilitation that he had written nothing at the trial. However, he added his signature to those of Manchon and Boisguillaume at the end of the official account of the Rouen proceedings in testimony of having collated this with the original register.
How was this original register composed? At each session of the interrogatories, Manchon and Boisguillaume took notes, which were afterwards discussed, abridged, and put into final form at afternoon meetings in Bishop Cauchon's apartments, in the presence of several "assessors."(Men who "sit by" to assist or advise the judge.) These meetings were often stormy, since, besides the official notaries, there were English clerks hidden in the room where Joan was being questioned, who reported her answers in a highly arbitrary way; but efforts to make the notaries accept the versions of these irresponsible individuals were stubbornly resisted.
From the notes of Boisguillaume and his own, Manchon compiled a minuta in Gallico or "French minute" (though it included Latin accounts of several deliberations). This precious minute in Manchon's handwriting was given by him to the judges at the rehabilitation and afterwards disappeared, but has been shown by Jules Quicherat (For authors and titles of works referred to in this book see the bibliographical note.) to have survived, though only in part, in the so called d'Urfé Manuscript. It must have been copied into the original register of the Rouen trial, which has been lost.
Some years after Joan's execution, probably not before 1435, Thomas de Courcelles, master of arts, bachelor of theology, distinguished Latinist and a leader among the assessors at Rouen, was ordered by Cauchon to prepare an official account of the proceedings, that they might be vindicated in the eyes of Christendom. Courcelles seems to have been more notable for brilliance than for frankness. Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, afterwards Pope Pius II, praised his modesty at the Council of Basle, saying that he "always looked at the ground and seemed a man who wished to hide himself." He certainly was such a man in more senses than one. For a comparison of the French minute of Joan's trial with the final Latin version shows that Courcelles omitted, in the latter, accounts of certain deliberations in which he had taken part, including one in which he had voted to submit Joan to torture. He feared, it is reasonable to infer, that the record of these matters might some day prove personally embarrassing. Questioned at the rehabilitation, moreover, he suffered from numerous lapses of memory, minimized his activities at the trial, and expressly denied having deliberated concerning the proposed torture of Joan.
It was this self-effacing gentleman, then, who, assisted by Manchon, drew up the official account of the proceedings at Rouen. He did so by translating the interrogatories into Latin, and by arranging all the accounts of the deliberations, with other relevant documents, in an orderly manner. Five copies of this account were made, three of them by Manchon himself. One of the five was ceremonially mutilated at the close of the rehabilitation process; another, probably sent to Rome, is lost. The remaining three, however, are still preserved in Paris. They are attested on each leaf by Boisguillaume, and at the end (but before certain appendices) by all three notaries. Each bears the seals of Bishop Cauchon and of the Vice-Inquisitor Lemaitre. There are several later copies of these authentic manuscripts.
Original redactions of the documents compiled at the rehabilitation have also survived. They include, besides a large number of summations, patents, and so forth, of merely technical interest, two essential elements. In the first place, there are the sworn depositions of one hundred and seventeen persons (one hundred-twenty, if the witnesses heard only at the royal investigation be counted), nearly all of whom had known Joan personally. Abundant testimony was thus given as to her childhood, the early part of her military career, and the conduct of the Rouen trial, though there is, perhaps for political reasons, almost complete silence concerning the months preceding her capture at Compiegne, and those that passed during her captivity until the trial began at Rouen.
The second essential element in the rehabilitation documents consists of the briefs or memoirs prepared by theologians and canonists. They deal exhaustively with the legality of the trial and the charges against Joan, but add no additional data to our knowledge of her life, since they are based on the records of the trial and the depositions just mentioned. For this reason they have been much neglected by historians, and Quicherat did not think them sufficiently interesting to be edited in toto. They are, nevertheless, of prime importance for the subject of this book. Certain other similar memoirs, though prepared for the occasion, were not included in the dossier.
The notaries for the rehabilitation process were Denis Le Comte and Francis Ferrebouc. Since, however, depositions of witnesses were taken at Domremy, Vaucouleurs, Orleans, and elsewhere, as well as at Paris and Rouen, the notaries had to delegate a considerable portion of their duties to local substitutes. Le Comte and Ferrebouc are accused by Quicherat of great slovenliness in regard to names, dates, and so forth, and are said to have made the usual attestations "with their eyes closed." There is some-thing in the charge, no doubt, but it must be remembered that Quicherat, for reasons to be discussed later, developed an extremely hypercritical attitude toward the rehabilitation process as a whole. At any rate, its notaries showed less competence than did Manchon and Boisguillaume, and there was no guiding hand in charge of their compilation comparable to that of Master de Courcelles.
A portion of a preliminary redaction of the enormous rehabilitation dossier has survived in the d'Urfe Manuscript, which also contains, as will be remembered, part of the "French minute" made at Rouen. The final redaction was made in triplicate, with considerable modifications in plan and style, and a long preface by the notaries.
The copy on which Quicherat based his text includes, besides the depositions of witnesses, nine theological memoirs, drawn up for the tribunal at the rehabilitation, or accepted by it. The most important is the masterly summing up called the Recollectio, by the Inquisitor John Brehal, who, together with the archbishop of Rheims, the Bishop of Paris, and the Bishop of Coutances, made up the tribunal, which was constituted in 1455. The Recollectio utilizes not only the other theological memoirs, but also the evidence of witnesses. (For excerpts from Brehal's Recollectio see Appendix A.)
Another copy of the dossier, presented to the library of Notre Dame of Paris by Bishop Chartier, one of the judges, includes one memoir only, that of the famous Chancellor Gerson, written during Joan's lifetime. In Quicherat's day the third original transcript was supposed to have been lost, but it has been conclusively identified by Pierre Champion among the manuscripts of the British Museum. It includes five memoirs besides the Recollectio.
Thus all three official copies of the rehabilitation dossier are now known to have survived. There are many derivative copies, one of which has a special interest be-cause of a colored miniature of the Maid, not drawn from life of course, but noteworthy as among the earliest at-tempts to portray her. (See frontispiece.)
How far is it possible to determine the trustworthiness of these two great records, that of the condemnation and that of the rehabilitation?
As to the former, it must be remembered that the reports of the interrogatories were necessarily abridged. There was no system of stenographic reporting, at least none comparable to modern ones. The sessions of questioning normally lasted several hours, but the reading aloud of the longest report of a day's session would take much less than half an hour. Joan's first historian, more-over, the man at whose command the account of her trial was put into final form was, though ostensibly her impartial judge, in reality her mortal enemy: Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais. And Courcelles, whose skill is chiefly responsible for the actual drawing up of the record, was Cauchon's compliant creature. This does not mean that extensive falsifications were practised; the notaries showed considerable courage in assuring the accuracy of the record; and Cauchon himself was too clever not to desire every appearance of truth and legality in the account which he prepared for the Pope, the Emperor, and the King of England. It means, however, in the first place, that where Joan's replies are remarkable for vigorous piety and sturdy common sense, as they so often are, we can be sure of their authenticity, for Cauchon would never have allowed inaccuracy in a direction favorable to Joan. It means, moreover, that one may not unreason-ably look for possible unfairness or even misrepresentation. Pierre Champion, second in importance to Quicherat as editor of the Rouen records, maintains that careful comparison of the French minute with the final Latin version justifies this suspicion. "We can even see," he says, "how those who put the French text into Latin have some-times made it more specific, modified it, and even falsified it in a sense unfavorable to the accused."
The record may reasonably be suspected of such falsification chiefly in regard to two events of the trial, namely, the "Abjuration" of May 24, 1431, and the so-called Posthumous Information, which professes to de-scribe an interview in Joan's prison, on the morning of her execution, May 30, between Joan, her two judges (Cauchon and the Vice-Inquisitor Lemaitre), and several assessors. These matters, which will be discussed in their places, have been the subject of extensive controversy, involving especially the general character of the rehabilitation testimony, which has a good deal to say about them. This testimony was given in 1452, 1455, and 1456, except for that of a few witnesses, given at the royal investigation of 1450. In so far as it relates to the trial at Rouen, it came from men who, willingly or not, had played a part in the condemnation of Joan, and who now found themselves called upon to describe, before authorities of diametrically opposite temper, the roles they had played at Rouen. Naturally they did so, as far as possible, in a manner favorable to themselves. Courcelles, as we have seen, actually lied when he denied having voted to submit Joan to torture.
In such ways there was no doubt something less than complete frankness, and there may have been on the other hand, exaggeration in the statements regarding the violence and highhandedness of Bishop Cauchon, who was dead in 1456, as was the Vice-Inquisitor Lemaitre. Yet the testimony was given under oath, and there is no evidence of coercion. Those who had nothing to say in regard to questions asked them, or professed to forget what had happened, could apparently take such stands with impunity. Nor was it any part of the court's function to punish those involved in the Rouen trial, beyond condemning their conduct, since the king had declared an amnesty toward all who had been living in Normandy during the English occupation. So that, while evidence given at the rehabilitation need not all be accepted as indisputably true, it deserves careful consideration and ought not to be lightly rejected. When it conflicts with the official record of the trial it has at least an equal claim to be believed. Unsupported statements as to its worthlessness, because of alleged political pressure, are particularly unconvincing when made by writers who accept as gospel truth every word of the Rouen records, so thoroughly dominated by Cauchon. It may be added that there is no biographer of Joan, however critical of the rehabilitation testimony, who does not draw freely from this indispensable source.