12

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES

 

THE commission now formed under direct papal authority held its first solemn hearing in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on the morning of November 7, 1455. Longueil being absent till the following June on a diplomatic mission to Burgundy, des Ursins, Chartier, and Brehal were seated at the gates of the choir. Up the long nave came Joan's mother, clothed in mourning, and bearing in her hand the papal rescript. She was accompanied by her two sons, a group of citizens of Orleans, and many others. Groaning and weeping, she fell on her knees before the papal commissioners to voice her plea. Several learned clerics spoke in her support. Soon the sympathetic murmurs of the crowd became so disturbing that the judges led Isabelle to the sacristy, where, after formally accepting the papal mandate, they warned her of the difficulties involved in the process, which she declared herself resolved to face with confidence in the justice of her cause.

After fulfilling several necessary legal formalities in Paris, the judges ordered all interested parties to appear before them in Rouen in December. The Bishop of Beauvais and his prosecutor, besides the Vice-Inquisitor of that diocese, were especially summoned to defend the actions of their predecessors, Cauchon, d'Estivet, and Lemaitre. Proxies were appointed to represent Isabelle d'Arc and r sons, who were excused from going to Rouen. Served with the summonses, the Bishop and his prosecutor merely replied that they had no interest in the proceedings, while the Dominican prior at Beauvais declared that he knew of no inquisitorial officer in that diocese. Apparently there had never been such an officer, since, as the judges, of course, knew from the record, Lemaitre belonged in Rouen, and had been specially authorized by his superior to act with Cauchon. Indeed the only person to respond to the summons at this time was a representative of Cauchon's heirs, who protested that they had no intention of defending the Rouen trial; but, anxious lest their interests should suffer in consequence of the new process, appealed to the amnesty granted by Charles VII after his conquest of Normandy.

Ten witnesses, all of whom had deposed in 1452, were again heard at Rouen. On December 20, Simon Chapitault, promoter of the cause, summarized the defects of the Rouen trial in a speech before the judges. He urged that further investigations be made, and asked especially that an inquiry into Joan's life and morals be conducted in the region of her origin. The court then adjourned for the required Christmas recess, which was spent in Paris.

Four witnesses were heard there in January. They included Tiphaine and Delachambre, two medical doctors who had attended Joan at Rouen, and who gave interesting data on other matters concerning the trial. The other two were John de Mailly, Bishop of Noyon, and Thomas de Courcelles. These wholehearted abettors of Cauchon testified reluctantly, and, in Courcelles' case, far from frankly. (See page 4.)

The inquiry in Joan's native region began late in January. A similar inquiry had, as the law required, been held by Cauchon in 1431, but as its results were entirely favorable to the Maid, had been omitted from the record after having been read to a few assessors. In 1456, thirty-four witnesses were interviewed at Domremy, Vaucouleurs, and Toul, on the basis of a questionnaire of twelve articles. A summary of their invaluable testimony has been given in the third chapter.

When the sessions at Rouen were resumed on February 16, the Beauvais prosecutor, one Master Reginald Bredouille, finally roused by repeated summonses, appeared, and was invited to contest the one hundred one articles that had been drawn up against the trial. He denied, as indeed his function required, the cogency of the allegations, and, for vindication of the trial, simply referred to the Rouen record. He added that neither he nor his bishop intended to intervene further in the matter, but willingly left everything in the judges' hands. The Dominican prior of Evreux appeared on the same day, complained of the embarrassment caused to his brethren of Beauvais by the summonses, and protested that no inquisitor or vice-inquisitor had resided in their priory for many years. (We have seen that Lemaitre be-longed in Rouen.) In spite of these protestations, the commissioners, careful to observe every possible legal requirement, decided to continue the sending of summonses to the parties concerned, and finally declared them contumacious."

Des Ursins, accompanied by William Bouille (the royal commissioner in 1450, now officially associated with the tribunal) and by a representative of Brehal, then started an inquiry at Orleans, where a long and important deposition was made by Count de Dunois, who was followed by a large number of townsfolk.

Chartier and. Brehal, in Paris, were for some months occupied by other urgent duties. Early in April they heard once more the four witnesses who had deposed in January. Among others heard were Joan's page, Louis de Contes, and Gobert Tlaibault, her squire. After des Ursin's return to Paris, the Duke of Alencon and twelve others were heard, including John Pasquerel, Joan's chaplain, who made a written statement. Among four witnesses heard soon afterward at Rouen was the Dominican Seguin de Seguin, who gave highly important testimony on the questioning of the Maid at Poitiers in 1429. (See Chapter 3.)

The final testimony to be received was a long statement, the only one which appears in the record in its original French, made at Lyons and duly attested, by John d'Aulon, who had been specially entrusted with Joan's welfare by the King, and was her steward and constant companion during most of her military career. Like the Maid's other fellows in arms, d'Aulon bore eloquent testimony to her purity as well as to her military genius.

Thus ended the series of one-hundred-fourteen witnesses (not counting the six who testified in 1450 or 1452 only) called to tell what they knew of Joan's life and especially of her trial. The zeal, thoroughness, and meticulous regard for legal correctness which the papal commissioners had shown in the execution of their huge task are evident from this account, though I have omitted to mention many meetings of a purely formal character. While there is perhaps to avoid emphasizing her King's neglect an almost complete absence of testimony concerning the last months of the Maid's career as a soldier, and of those during which she was a prisoner, we should remember that the commissioners' sole aim was to review Joan's trial, not to supply material for her future biographers.

 

It hardly needs to be said that the judges thoroughly studied and discussed the theological memoirs which had been drawn up for them, besides the one composed by the Chancellor Gerson in Joan's lifetime. In fact they caused two more memoirs to be written in the spring of 1456. Early in June, the period during which any of the testimony received could be contested was declared to have expired, and the whole vast mass of documentation was formally recognized as the official material of the process. Yet it seemed advisable to the commissioners, before pronouncing judgment, to have a complete, exhaustive, and entirely official recapitulation of the defects which had been urged against the Rouen trial, as of the opinions expressed by the memorialists. No one could be so well equipped for this task, both because of his personal qualifications and of his position on their own papal tribunal, as John Brehal. He set to work at once, and the result was the Recollectio.