In 1433, two years after the Maid's death, La Tremoille was assassinated. The King now turned to more energetic advisers, prominent among whom were Arthur de Richemont, Constable of France, and Dunois, the Bastard of Orleans, Joan's devoted friend. A peace with Burgundy was concluded at Arras in 1435, the year in which the Duke of Bedford died. Richemont entered Paris, followed shortly by the King, in 1436. A revolt broke out in Poitou, in 1440, but was successfully quelled. In 1444 a truce was made with England, and a regular army organized; but it was not till 1449 that the conquest of Normandy began. A force under Dunois was at the walls of Rouen in October of that year, and Charles made a solemn entry on November 10. In the description of the elaborate pageantry, which accompanied this event, there is no reference to the Maid. An amnesty was pro-claimed in favor of all who had been active during the English occupation. Charles then marched on Harfleur with Dunois and a large force. After the town surrendered on December 24, the King joined Agnes Sorel, who had been his mistress for several years, at Jumieges. She died soon after.
Then, after nearly nineteen years, Charles finally made a move to clear Joan's memory. On February 15, 1450, royal rescript was issued from Rouen to William Bouille, Doctor of Theology, Dean of the Cathedral of Noyon, and former Rector of the University of Paris, directing him to start an investigation of the Rouen trial. During the following month Bouille interviewed seven witnesses, namely, the friars Isambard de la Pierre, John Toutmouille, Martin Ladvenu, and William Duval, the notary Manchon, the bailiff Massieu, and Master John Beaupere, always hostile to Joan, who still thought she had been "very subtle, with a woman's subtlety." Bouille also composed a memoir, the first to be written (after Gerson's, written during Joan's life) of those included in the dossier of the rehabilitation. In its original form, this memoir states as its purpose, not only the glory of God, but also "the exaltation of the King of the French, that is, the House of France, which has never been reported to have favored heretics or to have adhered to them in any way."
There is no evidence that efforts were made at this time to secure the authorization of Pope Nicholas V for the revision of the trial. If such were made, the Pope was no doubt too susceptible to Anglo-Burgundian influence to respond, at least until the conclusion of a permanent peace between France and England.
It was to start negotiations for such a peace that William, Cardinal d'Estouteville, was sent to France as papal legate in the summer of 1451. This prelate, of a noble Norman house, was a relative of Charles VII; his brother had shared in the supposedly impossible feat of capturing Mont Saint Michel from the English in 1425. The Cardinal, who had lived for many years at Rome, was a patriotic Frenchman. Though he followed the scandalous fashion of his time in amassing numerous benefices, he was in many ways an admirable and energetic man, and the author of wise reforms at the University of Paris. In the spring of 1452 he went to Rouen (he was later to be its archbishop), where, either on his own initiative or in obedience to a papal or royal suggestion, "because of current rumors and many other things which have been daily reported, during the time of his legation, about the said process carried on against the said Joan," he enlisted the services of the Dominican John Brehal, Grand Inquisitor of France, and instituted canonical proceedings for the' revision.
Two Italian canonists, Theodore de Leliis and Paul Pontanus, had come with d'Estouteville from Rome. They were now furnished with the relevant documents, namely the Rouen record, Bouille's memoir, and the seven depositions made to him. Since, however, these depositions not having formed part of an ecclesiastical process, were without canonical standing, the Legate and the Inquisitor proceeded to take new ones at Rouen, on the basis of a questionnaire of twelve articles. Three of the five witnesses now heard, Manchon, de la Pierre, and Ladvenu had testified to Bouille in 1450.
After d'Estouteville had been summoned to Paris Brehal called twelve more witnesses, who were interrogated on a longer questionnaire, as were the five who had deposed shortly before. Of the new witnesses, only the bailiff Massieu had testified to Bouille; the others in eluded Taquel, recorder at Rouen for the Vice-Inquisitor Lemaitre, several assessors, and others who had special knowledge of the trial. The results of this investigation were submitted by Brehal to d'Estouteville in Paris. With their way prepared by a letter from the Legate to the King, the Inquisitor and Bouille then journeyed to the castle in Touraine where Charles was amusing himself Passing through Orleans, they were officially greeted by the city as vindicators of the Maid.
The King realized the necessity of securing papal authority as soon as possible for the further conduct of affair. At the Legate's advice, he directed Brehal to continue his work in the meantime by the consultation of still more theologians and canonists whose opinions would carry weight. He also provided funds for the expenses involved. For the guidance of those to be consulted, the Inquisitor drew up a resume known as the Summarium. This document, from which only very brief extracts were published by Quicherat, contains no legal arguments or criticisms of the trial, but summarizes the charges against Joan and such of her statements as are relevant to them. It is based on an admirably thorough and objective study of the Rouen record, and ends with the words: "These are the points concerning which it would seem that deliberations should be held at present."
In the autumn of 1452 d'Estouteville returned to Rome in obedience to a papal summons, accompanied, no doubt, by de Leliis and Pontanus. Before leaving France, the two canonists composed memoirs on the trial; each wrote another such memoir in Rome sometime later. Six more memoirs composed before the end of 1453 are extant, four of which were included in the official dossier of the rehabilitation. All are by French doctors. Of the whole collection of memoirs, Quicherat edited only two in full, though he gave brief extracts from the rest, except for one, which he may not have known.
The Pope's failure to act on the material submitted to him now held up the proceeding for two years. The vast problems created by the fall of Constantinople are sufficient to account for this. The sovereigns of Christendom reacted variously to the papal effort to organize a crusade against Turkish aggression, and the Pope probably hesitated lest Anglo-French relations be further complicated by a renewed discussion of the Rouen verdict under papal auspices.
Finally, Brehal adopted a suggestion which had been made by one of the memorialists, John de Montigny, Doctor of Canon Law at the University of Paris. It was that Joan's mother and two surviving brothers should petition the Holy See for the continuation of the process of revision by the appointment of a commission with authority to annul the verdict of 1431. Such a plea was, therefore, drawn up in the name of Joan's relatives, and taken to Rome, probably by Brehal, in 1454. By leaving Charles VII out of the picture and making the process a private one, Joan's friends had found a way to avoid the danger of political consequences. The plea, which attacks the trial on several counts, and calls for justice against the Rouen judges and the prosecutor d'Estivet, all now deceased, refers to Cauchon as bonne memoriae, "of good memory." Since this has been taken as implying approbation of the Bishop of Beauvais, it is well to point out that it is a purely formal phrase, used of any bishop who had died in communion with Rome, unless his acts had been juridically condemned.
Nicholas V died in March 1455, apparently without taking any steps in the affair. His successor, Calixtus III (Alphonsus Borgia) was elected in April, at the age of seventy-seven years. Of a firm and uncompromising character, he lost no time in responding favorably to the plea of Isabelle d'Arc and her sons. By a rescript dated June 11, 1455, he gave full powers to deal with and decide the matter to three well-chosen members of the French hierarchy: John Juvenal des Ursins, Archbishop of Rheims; William Chartier, Bishop of Paris; and Richard Oliver de Longueil, Bishop of Coutances. They were authorized to act either separately or together, and were bidden to add "an inquisitor" to their tribunal. Of course, they chose John Brehal.