8

THE FINAL DELIBERATION

 

ON May 29 a large number of assessors met by O Cauchon's order in the archiepiscopal chapel. What happened at this last consultation is of special interest, since it casts further light on the abjuration, the accuracy of Courcelles' editing, the methods of Cauchon, and the attitude of Quicherat toward the trial.

The Bishop related at some length to the assembly his verification, on the previous day, of Joan's "relapse," and caused to be read by a notary a summary of the Maid's declarations on that occasion; i.e., the interview on May 28, dealt with in the preceding chapter. We have already seen how significantly the earlier French minute differs from Courcelles' Latin version in its account of the inter-view. There is a no less significant difference in the two accounts of the deliberation on May 29. For the minute (here in Latin, no doubt because the discussions were in that language) states that after the "schedule" of Joan's remarks had been read, there was also read the schedule of abjuration a fact which Courcelles preferred to omit in his final version.

The Bishop then called for the opinions of the assessors present. The first to speak thought Joan a heretic, to be handed over to secular justice, with the usual and purely conventional plea for mercy. Next was the Abbot of Fecamp, a leader at the trial, and in no sense partial to the accused. He thought Joan relapsed, advised that the word of God be set forth to her, and added a most important opinion. "Let," he said, according to the minute, "the schedule recently read [schedula nuper lecta] be also read, that is, explained." "Nuper" is a strange word, even in medieval Latin, for "just now," for which one would expect modo or proxime; but if the Abbot meant that the document just read to them should be read to her, he must at any rate have been thinking of the long formula of abjuration, which, as we know from the minute, was part of what had just been read, and which, as the evidence in the previous chapter shows, Joan had never seen or heard. It is much more likely that the Abbot meant: "The document recently read to her should be read and expounded to her again." (Courcelles, though he had failed to mention the abjuration being read at the meeting, would thus be reporting the Abbot's meaning correctly as: "ut schedula nuper lecta legatur iterum corm ipsa.")

 

That being done, the Abbot added, she should be condemned. In other words, he voted, to salve his conscience, for Joan's execution, only on condition of being made certain, as he was then far from being that she, thoroughly understanding the formula of abjuration, had canonically abjured and afterwards relapsed. Of the forty assessors who voted after the Abbot, thirty-eight adhered to his vote (most of them merely stating their agreement, though a few added that they also considered Joan a re-lapsed heretic). One assessor vaguely referred to "the theologians" as to what should be done, and only one omitted all reference to the Abbot's vote, thus placing himself with the assessor who had spoken first. In other words an overwhelming majority of the assessors thirty-nine out of forty-two were unwilling, hostile, or subservient as they were, that final sentence should be pronounced on Joan till they were sure that she had really understood and signed the formula which had been read to them. In spite of this, Cauchon ignored the vote. The last thing he wanted to do was to confront Joan with the long formula.

Quicherat recognized the importance of this. "The wish of such a large majority," he writes in his Apercus nouveaux, "constituted a duty for the Bishop of Beauvais"; and he concludes that Cauchon "went to see Joan a few hours before her death, and certainly spoke to her about her retraction; for only a remonstrance on those grounds could have brought forth the words reported in the posthumous information." Now this information forms an appendix to the trial, and is, as we shall see later (Chapter 15), a very questionable document indeed. Moreover, we find therein no, mention of Cauchon's reminding Joan of her abjuration. This is indeed mentioned in the later testimony of Brother John Toutmouille; but nowhere is there any reference to Cauchon's reading and expounding the long formula to her, as he had been urged to do. And indeed Quicherat, having assumed, in his characteristic effort to give Cauchon's methods the benefit of every doubt, that the Bishop did do as the assessors advised, seems conscious of the weakness of his position. "Why," he asks, as well he may, "was such an important formality not included in the judgment, since its issue was favorable to partisan hatred, for the accused persisted in her re-lapse; and since its omission could be charged against the Bishop of Beauvais as an infraction of the council's wishes? Why, moreover, denature it by putting it in the suspicious form of a superadded and unattested document?" (i.e., the posthumous information). His only answer is that since this point, "certainly the weakest of the Rouen trial . . . was not brought up at the rehabilitation, it is "impossible to condemn the Bishop of Beauvais on a point as to which the judges of his memory have by implication absolved him."

 

Here the distinguished editor unfortunately brought to the support of his gratuitous assumption an argument erroneous in fact. For the point was brought up at the re-habilitation, at least three times. One of many articles drawn up by the advocates at the later process against the Rouen trial reads in part as follows: "That she [Joan] did not understand the aforesaid schedule [the formula of abjuration], is sufficiently evident from the last deliberation in the trial, that of the Abbot of Fecamp and others, a majority, there as consultors, who all said that she should be questioned as to her understanding of it. Nevertheless, nothing of the sort was done." The Promoter of the Cause at the rehabilitation makes, in his "requisition," essentially the same charge. Finally, Brehal, one of the judges on the rehabilitation tribunal, and official summarizer of the whole process in his Recollectio, remarks concerning the alleged relapse, that "the aforesaid bishop, not acquiescing in the decision and advice of the sounder portion of the assistants called together by him on the case, swiftly and precipitously proceeded to the definitive sentence."

Quicherat, who paid little attention to the Recollectio of which he published only brief extracts, may well have missed this passage, but he should have remembered the other two, which are printed in his own edition.