Joan of Arc

Orfeas Katsoulis | Oct 2, 2022

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Joan of Arc (Domrémy, January 6, 1412 - Rouen, May 30, 1431) was a French national heroine, venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church, also known as "the Maid of Orleans" (French for "la pucelle d'Orléans").

She recovered from France part of the territory that had fallen into the hands of the English during the Hundred Years' War and helped lift its fortunes by victoriously leading the French armies against the English. Captured by the Burgundians in front of Compiègne, Joan was sold to the English by John of Luxembourg, a vassal of the king of England. The latter put her on trial for heresy, at the end of which she was sentenced to be burned at the stake and burned alive on May 30, 1431. In 1456 Pope Calixtus III, at the end of a second inquiry, declared that trial null and void.

Beatified in 1909 by Pius X and canonized in 1920 by Benedict XV, Joan was proclaimed patron saint of France in 1922.

Joan was born in Burgundy, in Domrémy (now Domrémy-la-Pucelle), to Jacques d'Arc, in a peasant family from Lorraine, but belonging to the parish of Greux and the chateau of Vaucouleurs, subject to French sovereignty. Joan, according to accounts of the time, was a very pious and charitable young girl; despite her young age she visited and comforted the sick and it was not unusual for her to offer her own bed to the homeless to sleep on the floor herself, under the cover of the fireplace.

At the age of thirteen she began to hear "heavenly voices" often accompanied by a glow and visions of the archangel Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, as she would later claim. The first time these "voices" manifested themselves to her, according to her own account given during the heresy trial she underwent in Rouen in 1431, Joan was in the garden of her father's house; it was noon on a summer day: although surprised and frightened by that experience, Joan decided to consecrate herself entirely to God by taking a vow of chastity "for as long as it pleased God."

In the summer of 1428, because of the Hundred Years' War that pitted the kingdom of France against the kingdom of England and Burgundy, his family fled from the Meuse valley to Neufchâteau to escape the devastation wrought by the troops of Antoine de Vergy, a Burgundian captain. The year 1429 had just begun when the English were close to completely occupying Orléans, which had been besieged since October 1428: the city, on the northern side of the Loire, because of its geographical location and economic role, was of strategic value as a gateway to the southern regions; for Joan, who was to become an emblematic figure in the history of France, that was the moment - urged on by the "voices" she said she heard - to rush to the aid of Charles, Dauphin of France, in the war for the throne against the English and their Burgundian allies.

As Joan herself would declare under interrogation, at first she maintained the strictest secrecy about these supernatural apparitions, which at first spoke to her about her private life and only later would prompt her to leave home to lead the French army. However, her parents must have sensed something of the change that was taking place in the girl, perhaps even alerted by some confidences Joan herself had let slip, as a friend of hers from Domrémy would recall many years later, and they had decided to give her in marriage to a young man from Toul. Joan refused the marriage proposal, and her fiancé sued her before the episcopal tribunal; hearing both sides, the tribunal agreed with Joan, since the betrothal had taken place without her consent.

Having also overcome her parents' resistance, she was again given freedom of action and could devote herself to her mission. The first leg of her journey took her as far as Vaucouleurs where, with the support of her uncle Durand Laxart, she managed to meet the captain of the fortress, Robert de Baudricourt. The latter, at the first meeting, on May 13, 1428, taunted her by sending her home as a poor fool. Not at all demoralized by her failure, Joan went twice more to the captain of Vaucouleurs, and he, perhaps prompted by the consensus that Joan was able to gather among the people as well as among his men, changed his opinion about her, until he was convinced (not before subjecting her to a kind of exorcism by a local curate, Jean Fournier) of her good faith and entrusting her with an escort to accompany her before the sovereign, as the girl requested.

Joan's journey from Vaucouleurs to Chinon to meet with the "gentle Dauphin," to use her own words, in itself aroused no small amount of interest. Disentangling the always uncertain and blurred borders between French and Anglo-Bourgeois villages for eleven days, carrying with it the promise of supernatural aid that would be able to turn the fortunes of the war, now seemingly sealed, the meager dragnet represented the last hope for the party that still supported the "King of Bourges," as Charles VII was contemptuously called by his detractors. Jean d'Orléans sent two of his trusted men to Chinon, where the Maid had arrived after passing through Gien, to gather information, and the whole country awaited her exploits.

The encounter with the dolphin

Without even notifying her parents, Joan set out from Vaucouleurs on February 22, 1429, bound for Chinon, accompanied by a handful led by a royal courier, Colet de Vienne, and composed of Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy, men trusted by Robert de Baudricourt, each followed by his own servant, and Richard Larcher, also a soldier in the service of the captain of Vaucouleurs. The small troop traveled a not easy route between disputed territories, arriving at the castle of Chinon in early March. The fact that it was escorted by the men of a captain loyal to the Dauphin probably played no small part in its encounter with the latter.

Introducing herself to Charles, after two days of waiting, in the great hall of the castle, during an imposing assembly and in the presence of about three hundred nobles, Joan approached him without delay and knelt down, saying, "Most noble Mr. Dauphin." Charles, feigning astonishment, pointed to the Count of Clermont-who had dressed in royal robes just to test the peasant girl-saying, "This is the king." Joan continued undaunted to address Charles, claiming that "the King of France is the King of Heaven," and that she had been sent by God to bring succor to him and his realm. However, the Dauphin, still not trusting her completely, subjected her to an initial examination in matters of faith in Chinon itself, where the girl was heard by a number of distinguished clergymen, including the bishop of Castres, confessor to Charles himself.

Having learned the accounts of the clergymen, he then sent her to Poitiers. There Joan underwent a second, more thorough examination, which lasted for about three weeks: she was questioned by a group of theologians partly from the young University of Poitiers, which had been founded in 1422, as well as by the chancellor of France, and archbishop of Reims, Regnault de Chartres. Only when the young woman had passed this test did Charles, convinced, decide to entrust her with an intendant, Jean d'Aulon, as well as with the task of "accompanying" a military expedition-although not holding any official post-to the rescue of besieged and defended Orléans by Jean d'Orléans, thus placing the fate of France in his hands, in effect.

Joan therefore began the reformation of the army by dragging the French troops by her example and imposing a strict, almost monastic way of life: she had the prostitutes who followed the army removed, banned all violence or pillage, forbade soldiers to blaspheme; required them to go to confession and had the army gather around her banner in prayer twice a day at the call of her confessor, Jean Pasquerel. The first effect was to establish a relationship of mutual trust between the civilian population and its defenders, who, on the other hand, had the inveterate habit of turning from soldiers into brigands when they were not engaged in acts of war. Soldiers and captains, infected by the charisma of the young woman, supported by the population of Orléans, prepared for redemption.

The Siege of Orleans

Although she was not formally entrusted with any military position, Joan soon became a central figure in the French armies: dressed as a soldier, holding a sword and a white banner depicting God blessing the French cornflower and on either side the archangels Michael and Gabriel, now commonly known to all as Jeanne la Pucelle i.e. Joan the Maiden (as the "rumors" had called her) she gathered a large number of volunteers from all over the kingdom and led the enervated troops into battle against the English. The latter, on October 12, 1428, had come to lay siege to Orléans, the keystone of the Loire Valley in central France. Had the city fallen, the entire southern Loire would have been taken; Chinon itself, seat of Charles' court, was not far away.

Orléans was encircled by the British, who had captured, built or fortified eleven outposts around the city, from which they held the siege: le Tourelles (at the southern end of the bridge over the Loire), the bastie of Champ Saint-Privé, the fortifications of the Augustins, Saint-Jean-le-Blanc (on the southern bank of the Loire), the basties of Saint-Laurent, Croix-Boissée, Saint-Loup, the three known as "Londre," "Rouen," and "Paris" (on the northern bank of the Loire), and finally the bastie of Charlemagne (on the island of the same name).

Thus, river communications were blocked downstream from the city by three bastias (Saint-Laurent and Champ Saint-Privé, positioned almost opposite each other on the opposite banks of the Loire, at the height of Charlemagne Island, where the third prevented an otherwise easy river crossing); moreover, the building, in March 1429, of the bastion of Saint-Loup to the east of the city, on the right bank, so as to control the Roman road to Autun, heralded the desire to prevent all navigation on the Loire upstream as well.

The northern side of the bridge over the Loire ended in the fortress of Châtelet, still in French hands, and culminated in the center in the fortified island known as "Belle-Croix," from which the defenders were within range and voice of the enemy, barricaded in the Tourelles. Every attempt to break the stranglehold that was tightening around the city had failed. On February 12, 1429, after four months of siege, Jean d'Orléans had attempted a sortie that ended in defeat at the Battle of the Herrings; worse still, on the 18th of the same month, the Count of Clermont abandoned Orléans along with his troops, and so did other captains.

Defended by an increasingly thin garrison, exhausted by a shortage of provisions, the population persuaded Jean to let a delegation led by Jean Poton de Xaintrailles reach the duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, to demand an end to hostilities, even if it would have meant the city's handover to Burgundy without a shot in the arm. The duke, interested in the offer, submitted it to the English allies, who rejected it: Orléans was clearly too important for them to delegate its control to the Burgundians. On April 17 the delegation led by Xaintrailles was back. The only effect, which was also marginal, was that the Burgundian soldiers were recalled, a measure that was more symbolic than anything else since almost all of the besieging troops were English. The situation in the city remained critical.

The besieged, however, had managed to keep the Burgundy gate, on the eastern side of the city wall, free, and when Joan, having left Blois on April 27, arrived on the southern bank, riding a white steed and preceded by a long procession of priests chanting the Veni Creator, in front of the small village of Chécy on April 29, she found Jean d'Orléans waiting for her, who begged her to enter the city by that route while his men performed diversionary maneuvers; the relief army, prepared by the king with the help of the Gascon captain La Hire, and the provisions-necessary to feed the exhausted population-that the Maid brought to the town would instead wait to be ferried across the river as soon as the wind became favorable.

The meeting between the young commander and Jeanne was stormy; faced with the decision to wait for the wind to turn so that supplies and men could enter, Jeanne bitterly rebuked the man-of-war, claiming that it would be his job to lead her and the army directly into battle. Jean did not even have time to reply as almost immediately the wind changed direction and became favorable for transit over the Loire, allowing the entry by water of the supplies Joan had brought with her, while the army corps-about 6500 men.

That evening Jeanne, whose arrival had been feverishly awaited since early March, made her entrance into the city amidst a cheering crowd, up to her intended dwelling with the duke of Orléans' treasurer, Jacques Boucher. The following day, April 30, Joan, who on her way to Orléans had been unexpectedly joined by two of her brothers, John and Peter, who had joined the soldiers, went to Jean d'Orléans and was ordered to refrain from any warlike action until the arrival of the royal army. Shivering with impatience, she then went to the bastion of "Belle-Croix" so that she could address the Englishmen garrisoned in the Tourelles, intimating them to surrender. They responded by showering her with insults, shouting at her to go back and watch the cows, and threatening to burn her if they took her prisoner.

The next day Jean d'Orléans left to join the rest of the army, encamped at Blois. Here he found the army almost dispersed; Chancellor Regnault de Chartres, archbishop of Reims, who had always been hostile to the plans of the Maid and her claimed supernatural revelations, did not intend to proceed further. Jean threatened to arrest the captains if they did not march immediately, and he had to, on the other hand, plead with the archbishop to continue to the besieged city. Finally, on the morning of May 4, the army finally reached Orléans; waiting for it outside the walls were Jeanne and La Hire who, at the head of a handful of soldiers, protected its entry into the city.

In the meantime, Jeanne, who had remained in Orléans, had gone to inspect the enemy fortifications; the people followed her everywhere, outside the walls as well as in religious processions, so close was the bond that had been created in a short time between the girl and the people. After the army was safely within the walls, Jean d'Orléans, immediately after lunch, went to Joan bringing her the news that Captain John Fastolf was approaching with a large armed contingent. The girl, happy perhaps because for the first time a captain was making her aware of military plans, admonished him in a biting spirit to warn her as soon as Fastolf was near, otherwise she would have his head cut off: Jean welcomed the joke and agreed to the request.

That same evening Joan went to bed, but a short time later she came running down to her page's room and woke him up by reproaching him, "the blood of France is dripping and you do not warn me!"; so she hastily armed herself, mounted her horse, passed her banner through a window of the house and galloped toward the Burgundian gate. An attack on the bastia of Saint-Loup was in progress; the wounded French soldiers were falling back, but at the sight of him they regained their spirits and turned again to the assault. Finally Jean d'Orléans also arrived, also unaware of the maneuver, and the bastia was captured and set on fire. Many Englishmen disguised themselves as priests to try to escape. Joan understood, took them under her protection and prevented them from being harmed. At her first battle, Joan wept seeing how much death followed victory.

The next day, May 5, the feast of the Ascension, Joan wanted to make a final intimation to the English to abandon the siege if they did not want to suffer a defeat that would be remembered for centuries. However, since the besiegers were withholding, against the right of war, one of her heralds, she instructed an archer to wrap the letter around an arrow and shoot it into the English camp, accompanying the launch with the cry, "Read! It's news!" When the soldiers had read the missive, however, they replied only, "It is news of the whore of the Armagnacs!" Later, Jean d'Orléans, the captains, and Joan held a council of war to decide the next moves.

Not everyone, moreover, willingly accepted taking orders from the Maid, nor did they like her frank tone; the sire of Gamaches had blatantly made an act of surrendering his sword to Jean d'Orléans, who politely but firmly persuaded him to desist from his intentions and apologize to her. On May 6 the army left the walls through the Burgundy gate, the eastern side now being sufficiently secure after the taking of Saint-Loup; it crossed the Loire by a pontoon bridge, leaning against the island of Toiles, until it reached the southern shore. Here he found the fortification of Saint-Jean-le-Blanc abandoned; the British had rallied to that of the Augustins from which they enjoyed a favorable position. The French began to retreat but, when Joan and La Hire saw the enemy come out of their positions and strike the soldiers, they turned and counterattacked; shortly the whole army followed them: the English were overwhelmed and those who could took refuge in the Tourelles at the far end of the bridge.

In this battle Joan suffered her first wound, caused by a chausse-trape, a many-pronged iron with which the ground of the clash had been littered. In the evening the army encamped within sight of the Tourelles, and the citizens of Orléans throughout the night supplied it with provisions. The next day, May 7, at dawn, Joan listened to mass as usual, then armed herself and led the army to recapture the bridge and the Tourelles. The assault was violent; the French hit the bastions with artillery and attempted to scale them. In the melee, trying to lean a ladder against the wall, Joan was pierced by an arrow. The wound, deep, painful, between her neck and shoulder blade, forced the men to drag her away from the battle.

A soldier suggested that she apply a "spell" to stop the bleeding, but Joan refused, and was medicated with lard and olive oil. In the evening Jean d'Orléans was about to sound the retreat, as the sun was setting and the men were exhausted. Jean approached him and asked him to wait; that the soldiers rest, eat, and drink, but that no one should stray. She retired in prayer to a vineyard for a few minutes, and when she returned she saw her banner waving near the Tourelles, in the hand of a soldier to whom her attendant, Jean d'Aulon, had entrusted it without her knowledge. He rode up to the bridge and pulled it from his hands. The soldiers interpreted that gesture as a signal and launched into a furious assault.

Meanwhile, from the north bank of the bridge, the Orléans had thrown a gutter over a destroyed arch, and after a fully armed Rhodes knight had crossed it, the others followed and threw themselves into the attack. The British fled and some, such as the garrison commander, William Glasdale, fell into the Loire and drowned. The Tourelles had been taken and two hundred men taken prisoner. In the evening, Joan, wounded, tired, and moved, re-entered the city across the bridge. The people welcomed the army with "a great transport of joy and emotion," as Jean d'Orléans would later recall. The following day, May 8, 1429, the besieging army demolished its bastions, abandoning its prisoners, and prepared to give battle in the open field.

Joan, Jean d'Orléans, and the other captains also deployed their forces, and for an hour the two armies faced each other; eventually the English retreated, and Joan ordered the French not to pursue them, both because it was Sunday and because they were moving away of their own free will. Joan and the army, before returning within the walls, together with the people attended an open-air mass, still within sight of the enemy. The success was crucial to the fortunes of the war, as it prevented the Anglo-Bourgeois from occupying the entire southern part of the country and marching to the south loyal to Charles, re-established communications between the two banks of the Loire, and, in addition, initiated an advance in the Loire valley that culminated in the Battle of Patay.

The Loire countryside

Only two or three days after the liberation of Orléans, Joan and Jean d'Orléans set out to meet the Dauphin in Tours, following the royal army as far as Loches; indeed, although popular enthusiasm had been kindled in a single instant, as had the interest of rulers including Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg, the risk of it being extinguished with equal ease, leaving only the memory of the exploits to the poems of Christine de Pizan or Alain Chartier. The court was divided, and many nobles, tempted to reap personal profits from the unexpected victory, stalled or suggested war aims of secondary interest to the path Joan had traced, along the Loire valley to Reims. Jean d'Orléans, of long military experience, had to exert all his influence on the Dauphin before the latter finally decided to organize an expedition on Reims.

The command of the royal army, again assembled near Orléans, was given on June 9, 1429, to Duke John II d'Alençon, prince of blood, who was immediately joined by the companies of Jean d'Orléans and Florent d'Illiers of Châteaudun. The army, strong with 1,200 lances, or nearly 4,000 men, reached Jargeau on the 11th of the same month; here it was Jeanne again who resolved a council of war with impetuousness, urging them to attack without hesitation. When they arrived, the French were intent on encamping in the suburbs of the city but were almost overwhelmed by an English offensive; Joan led her own company to the counterattack and the army was able to quarter.

The following day, thanks to a diversion improvised by Jean d'Orléans, the unguarded walls were captured and so was the city itself. During the hostilities Jeanne, with standard in her fist, incited the men who gave the assault; she was again wounded, this time struck in the head by a heavy boulder; however, the Maid, having fallen to the ground, was immediately surprisingly able to rise again. On June 14 the French army, having just returned to Orléans, set out again on an offensive on Meung-sur-Loire.

In a lightning attack on June 15, the bridge over the Loire was taken and a garrison placed on it; the army then moved on, to encamp in front of Beaugency. The English retreated into the castle, trying to maintain at least control of the bridge, but were caught up in a heavy artillery assault. In fact, in the English camp the reinforcing army corps commanded by Sir John Fastolf, one of the most famous captains, was mainly expected, which had even shed the burden of supplies and was now proceeding at a forced march.

At about the same time, however, the French army also acquired a new, and in some ways uncomfortable, ally: constable Arthur of Richemont, on whom a ban from the Dauphin's lands over ancient disputes weighed heavily, leading his Bretons. Reactions within the army were mostly hostile to the constable; the Duc d'Alençon refused to cede command of the royal army to Richemont, who would have had the right to do so, as Constable of France, without even notifying the Dauphin (and possibly waiting for his decisions) but without even consulting with the other captains or, at the very least, with Jean d'Orléans, still a cousin of the sovereign.

Joan, on her own behalf, most attentive to the needs of the army and at the same time, in her candor, heedless of the grudges and infighting that divided the nobility, asked the Constable if he was ready to help them honestly; in other words, to offer his word and his sword to the Valois. Having received full assurance from Richemont, Joan did not hesitate, on her own initiative, to admit him into the army. Indeed from that moment the Constable gave proof of his loyalty to Charles; however, the acceptance into the ranks of the army of that disgraced man compromised not a little the trust accorded her. Someone probably pointed this out to her, but with simplicity Joan replied that she needed reinforcements.

This was certainly true. The castle of Beaugency, seeing the company of Bretons arrive, finally decided to capitulate. The English negotiated the surrender against a safe-conduct that allowed them to leave the town on the morning of June 17. With her own lightheartedness and willingness to pacify, and with the impetus of youth, Joan had exposed herself in favor of a disgraced man, jeopardizing her credit with the court. The French army set out again; at the vanguard, the companies of Jean d'Orléans and Jean Poton de Xaintrailles, followed by the main army corps, commanded by La Hire, a captain of fortune and brigand who had already participated in the siege of Orléans but by now had espoused body and soul to the cause of the Maid; at the rear, the lord of Graville and, this time, Joan herself.

On the evening of June 17, the army was barred by the British army, which was deployed in battle gear in an open field. Two English heralds were sent to issue the challenge to the royal army, positioned on top of a low hill. However, mindful of past defeats, the Duke of Alençon hesitated to accept the confrontation. It was Joan who, coming from the rear, gave the enemy an answer, inviting them to retreat to their quarters, given the late hour, and postponing the battle until the next day. That night, while an uncertain Duke of Alençon sought comfort from Joan, who reassured him both of victory and of the relative ease with which it would be achieved, the English army, under the orders of the Earl of Shrewsbury John Talbot, repositioned itself so that it could surprise the enemies at a narrow strait, through which the French would necessarily have to pass. However, things turned out differently.

On June 18, 1429, a deer crossed the English camp, encamped near Patay, and the soldiers, raising a high cry, set out in pursuit; the French scouts, who were a short distance away, were then able to point out the enemy's position quickly and accurately to the captains, who did not let the opportunity pass them by. The vanguard of the army, which was also joined by the companies of La Hire and Joan herself, suddenly attacked the camp, before the English had a chance to erect the usual barrier of pointed logs before them, which usually prevented the cavalry from overwhelming them and gave the archers a way to make carnage among the enemy's ranks. Without this protection, in the open field, the English vanguard was crushed by French heavy cavalry.

After this first fortuitous instance, an incredible chain of mistakes, misunderstandings and mistaken tactics also left the British army in utter confusion. At first, some contingents attempted to hurriedly rejoin the main army corps, led by Earl Talbot; but this led the captain of the vanguard to believe that they had been defeated, whereupon he himself, accompanied by the standard-bearer, made a disorderly escape, which was soon joined by the other companies placed in defense of the main army corps, leaving the bulk of the army exposed to French attacks without any more protection.

Upon arriving, Sir John Fastolf realized the danger and made the decision to retreat, instead of rescuing Talbot, at least saving his own army corps. For the British it was a defeat as complete as it was completely unexpected; in what would be remembered as the Battle of Patay they left over 2,000 men on the field, while on the French side there were only three dead and a few wounded. Echoes of the battle reached as far as Paris, in the belief that by now an attack on the city was imminent; on the opposing side Joan the Maid's fame grew enormously, at least as much as her importance in the French ranks.

The Battle of Patay was also a way for Joan to confront, once again, the harsh realities of war: if she used to pray for fallen soldiers on both sides, here, after a victory in the open field, she saw "her" soldiers indulge in every brutality (moreover, no longer restrained by the leadership of Jean d'Orléans, who had enforced the iron discipline imposed by the Maid in the army, but entrusted to the command of the Duke of Alençon). Faced with an English prisoner struck so violently that he collapsed to the ground, Jeanne dismounted from her horse and held him in her arms, consoling him and helping him to confess until death came.

The consecration of the King in Reims

After Patay many smaller towns and strongholds, starting with Janville, voluntarily surrendered to the French army. While the royal army returned, victorious, to Orleans, the sovereign lingered, however, at Sully-sur-Loire, probably to avoid an awkward encounter with Richemont. Joan, the Jean d'Orléans and the Duc d'Alençon rode quickly to the Dauphin, getting, despite their recent and resounding success, a cold reception. The contrast between the colors of the festive city, which had already seen her triumphant and was now acclaiming her, and the somber, glassy mood of the court, must have created a bitter dissonance in the soul of Jeanne, who, however, tirelessly, did not cease to reassure and exhort the "gentle Dauphin" to go to Reims.

In the following days, the Maid the Maid rode alongside the sovereign as far as Châteauneuf-sur-Loire, where council would be held on June 22 on how to continue the military campaign. Here took place, again, the confrontation between those who advised prudence and waiting or, in the boldest of hypotheses, the use of the army to consolidate the position they had achieved, and the majority of captains, less influential at court but who had experienced in the field the formidable potential they had at their disposal. The army was not only strong with 12,000 armed men, but also with their enthusiasm and loyalty, and, for the first time in a long time, it could also count on popular support, so that new volunteers were being added every day.

Finally, the Pulzella's insistence, impatient and dominated by the recurring thought of the Consecration, that the army march resolutely on Reims was granted. On June 29, 1429, near Gien, the "army of the Consecration," commanded at least nominally by the Dauphin himself, marched into the middle of Burgundian territory. On the way, the first town in enemy hands that the royal army encountered was Auxerre, which, when told to surrender, replied, by voice of the burghers, that it would only grant its obedience if Troyes, Châlons and Reims itself did so; the council of war decided to accept.

Preceded by a letter from Joan, the army then arrived before Troyes, the very place where the Dauphin had been ousted from succession to the throne. Troyes' large garrison of English and Burgundians refused to surrender and prepared for battle; moreover, food and supplies were beginning to run short in the French camp. The council of captains of war, meeting before the Dauphin, seemed inclined to halt the expedition or, at the very least, to reach Reims, leaving Troyes still in Anglo-Burgundian hands behind. Joan, at the limit of her patience, dared to knock at the doors of the council, being received skeptically; faced with the difficulties before her, she objected that the city would undoubtedly be taken, and when she asked to be granted only two or three days, she was granted them. Without putting time in the way, the Maid had the army arrayed in battle gear and, ominously, the artillery that laboriously advanced until it was within range of the walls, waving its banner in the wind.

The citizens were panicked, as was the garrison. The deployment of forces that Joan was preparing was impressive. In short order, messengers were sent to the French camp: Troyes surrendered and recognized Charles as its ruler. The English and Burgundian troops were allowed to leave the city with what they had and also with their prisoners, but Joan objected: she demanded that they be freed, and Charles paid their ransom. On July 10 Joan the Maid entered Troyes with her own company, and within a few hours Charles made his triumphal entry into the city: without a blow, the greatest obstacle standing between the army and Reims had fallen.

The "Army of Consecration," again under the impulse of the Maid, quickly resumed the road to Reims. It headed first for Châlons, where it was met by the city's bishop accompanied by a delegation of citizens who made an act of full obedience to Charles on July 14; then on to Sept-Saulx, where the inhabitants had forced the Anglo-Burgundian garrison to abandon the city. On the way, Joan had the joy of meeting some of the inhabitants of her native village, Domrémy, who had endured a difficult journey to attend the king's solemn consecration, as well as a multitude of people from the most diverse parts of France, and of re-embracing her father, reconciling with her parents for that secret departure to Vaucouleurs only a few months earlier. Meanwhile, on July 16, the Dauphin received in the castle of Sept-Saulx a delegation of burghers from Reims who offered the city's total obedience.

On the same day the army made its entry there and preparations were begun for the ceremony of the king's consecration. On July 17, 1429, after spending the night in prayer vigil, the Dauphin made his entrance into the Cathedral of Reims, amidst a jubilant crowd, together with the "hostages" of the Holy Ampulla, four knights charged with escorting the relic that had been used since the time of Clovis I to consecrate and crown the King of France; he then pronounced the prescribed oaths before the officiating officer, Archbishop Regnault de Chartres. On the one hand, six "ecclesiastical peers" attended; on the other, six "secular peers," members of the nobility-replacing the "peers of France," who were absent-including, representing his captive half-brother, Jean d'Orléans.

In front of all the other banners, however, a step away from the altar, the white one of the Maiden had been placed, and Joan herself watched the ceremony very close to the king; finally the sovereign, anointed with chrism, was clothed in the ritual vestments and received the crown, taking the name Charles VII. As the "lay peers" announced the consecration to the people and the celebration began in the streets of the city, Joan threw herself before Charles, hugging his knees, weeping, and exclaiming, "O gentle King, now God's will is fulfilled, who wanted me to lead you to Rheims to receive the Consecration, proving that you are the true king, and the one to whom the Kingdom of France must belong!"

After that day, which had represented the culmination of the feats in which Joan felt invested, the girl felt enveloped by an aura of despondency that would not leave her again until the day of her capture. After the joy of seeing "her" king anointed, after being reconciled with her parents who had opposed her departure and now looked at her in wonder and emotion, she felt that her task was over. Feeling the full weight of the mission she had taken on, she confided to Jean d'Orléans that she would gladly, by now, leave her arms to return to her father's house and that if she had to choose a place to die it would be among those peasants who had followed her, simple and enthusiastic.

Other military campaigns

After the Consecration, Charles VII stayed for three days in Rheims, surrounded by popular enthusiasm; finally, accompanied by the army, he resumed his journey when by then the echoes of that seemingly impossible feat had already spread across the country. He thus entered Soissons and Château-Thierry, while Laon, Provins, Compiègne and other towns made acts of obedience to the king. The royal army found the road paved before it. Joan rode along with Jean d'Orléans and La Hire, assigned to one of the "battle corps" of the royal army.

While success came to Joan's project, court envies and jealousies resurfaced. On the day of the Consecration itself, among the absences, that of Constable Richemont, who was supposed to symbolically hold the sword during the ceremony but who, still in disgrace, had had to relinquish the post to Sire d'Albret, stood out. Moreover, the rift was deepening between the nobles who supported Joan and would have liked to head for Saint-Denis and then regain Paris itself and those who, in the sudden rise of the sovereign, saw an opportunity to increase their personal power, especially if they were given the necessary time and if relations with Burgundy improved.

Among the latter, in addition to La Trémoïlle, the king's favorite and Richemont's bitter rival, were not a few members of the royal council; stalling, lingering, gaining power and influence were objectives diametrically opposed to those of the Maid, whose goal had always been only one, victory, and whose speed of action now hindered the plans of the faction closest to La Trémoïlle. In the meantime, the army, which left Crépy-en-Valois on August 15, 1429, faced the English army, deployed in battle formation near Montépilloy; this time, the English had carefully prepared the hedge of pegs that would prevent any frontal cavalry charge and were waiting for the French to open up; the latter could not get the enemy to move from his positions, despite the efforts of Joan, who tried in vain to engage him in battle, even to the point of striking the enemy palisade with her sword, to give other units a chance to intervene.

After an exhausting day in the wind and dust, the British retreated toward Paris. The French army returned to Crépy, then reached first Compiègne and, from there, Saint-Denis, the site of the royal burials. Here, by order of Charles VII, the disbandment of the "Army of Consecration" began, pending negotiations with Burgundy, which, beyond a fifteen-day truce, never landed on the "good stable peace" that Jeanne hoped for. The Jean d'Orléans and his company were dismissed and made to fall back on Blois.

The court's attitude toward the Maid had undoubtedly changed; at Saint-Denis Joan evidently had to feel the difference, and her "voices" advised her, under the circumstances, not to proceed further. This time, however, her words were received as those of one of many captains of war in the service of the crown; the aura of enthusiasm that surrounded her was diminishing, at least among the nobility. Next to Joan, for the time being, remained the Duke of Alençon and La Hire. The king and the court, in fact, instead of taking advantage of the propitious moment to march on Paris, had begun a series of negotiations with the duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, who had been entrusted by the English with the custody of the capital, renouncing the use of the military resources at their disposal.

On August 21, at Compiègne, a town defended by William of Flavy, the outlines of a longer truce began to take shape. Effectively, the British simply had no more financial resources to sustain the war. Nevertheless, the truce with the Anglo-Burgundian power seemed to disregard the weakness of the other side and was conducted, on the French side, in such a way as to ensure, in effect, a pause in hostilities without gaining significant advantages in return. Joan and the other captains, meanwhile, stationed themselves near the walls of Paris; the Duc d'Alençon maintained contact with the court, unaware of the ongoing negotiations, finally convincing Charles VII to reach Saint-Denis.

On September 8, 1429, the captains decided to storm Paris, and Joan agreed to the offensive, tired of constant postponements. Leaving the encampment of La Chapelle, halfway between Saint-Denis and Paris, the army stormed the SaintHonoré gate with artillery fire until the defenders of the walkway above it retreated inside; while D'Alençon commanded the troops to defend the artillery, Joan went with her company all the way under the city walls, which were surrounded by a first and second moat; the second moat was flooded, and here the Maid had to stop, measuring the depth of the water with her lance. Suddenly she was wounded by an arrow that went through her thigh, but she would not leave her position, ordering faggots and other material to be thrown in to fill the moat; she retreated to the shelter of the first moat until evening, when the retreat was commanded. The Duc d'Alençon caught up with her and had her forcibly dragged away as, defeated, the army retreated back to Camp de La Chapelle.

The following day, despite her wound, Joan prepared for a new assault, when she and the Duc d'Alençon were joined by two emissaries, the Duc de Bar and the Comte de Clermont, who ordered her by order of the king to stop the offensive and return to Saint-Denis. Joan obeyed. Probably reprimanded for that failure due to an initiative that was not even her own, but essentially decided by the captains acting in the king's name, Joan the Maid finally returned to the banks of the Loire, after solemnly laying on the altar of the church of Saint-Denis her armor.

On September 21, 1429, at Gien, the army "of the Consecration" was finally disbanded by the king. Joan, separated from the troops and the duke of Alençon, was reduced to inaction; entrusted to the Sire d'Albret, she was taken to Bourges, the guest of Marguerite de Tourolde, wife of an adviser to the sovereign, where she remained for three weeks. Charles VII finally ordered Joan to accompany an expedition against Perrinet Gressart, an Anglo-Burgundian commander; the expeditionary force, formally commanded by the Sire d'Albret, laid siege to Saint-Pierre-le-Moûtier. On November 4, the town was stormed but the army was repulsed several times; finally, the retreat was sounded.

Instead, Joan remained under the walls with only a few soldiers; when her attendant, Jean d'Aulon, asked her why she did not go back with the others, she replied that she had fifty thousand men around her, when in fact he saw only four or five. Having regained courage, the army turned again to attack, crossed the moat and took the city. The army then moved toward La Charité-sur-Loire and began in late November an exhausting siege that lasted for about four weeks, at the end of which it had to retreat, leaving even the best artillery pieces on the field. Joan returned to court, to the king, spending time mainly at Sully-sur-Loire after spending Christmas at Jargeau.

The dark winter spent by Joan first at Mehun-sur-Yèvre and then at Sully-sur-Loire, at court and with the king, was marked by inaction and a keen awareness that Burgundy was intensifying diplomatic and military relations with the English crown. Charles VII ennobled Joan and her family, giving her a heraldic coat of arms (two gold fleurs-de-lis on a blue field and a sword surmounted by a crown) and the privilege of transmitting the title of nobility through the female route as well but refusing, always, to accede to the girl's requests that she be allowed to take up arms again. Joan, already separated from the Duke of Alençon, was increasingly alone nevertheless returned to Orleans, where she found the "kind and faithful" Jean welcoming her at a banquet in her honor. On March 16, she finally sent a letter to the inhabitants of Rheims, who feared being surrounded by siege, in which she announced that she was ready to take up arms again.

Tired of enforced inactivity, Joan left the court of Charles VII between March and April 1430, again engaging in sporadic fighting with the Anglo-Burgundians. The Maid was at the head of contingents partly made up of volunteers and partly of mercenaries, including two hundred Piedmontese under the orders of Bartholomew Baretta; under her command was Arnaud Guillaume de Barbazan, a famous captain who had always been under the orders of Charles VII and who, having just been freed (at the hands of La Hire) from English captivity, had met Joan in February 1430. Passing through Melun, Joan finally reached Compiègne on May 6, 1430, defended by William of Flavy; the city was placed under siege by Anglo-Burgundian troops, and Joan began a series of striking sorties but with little success. At Montargis, Jean d'Orléans was reached by news of the new Burgundian offensive and set out to ask the king for the command of an army corps; he obtained it, but too late to bring relief to Joan under the walls of Compiègne.

On May 23, 1430, Joan attempted a surprise attack on the town of Margny, where she found stronger resistance than expected; after being repulsed three times, seeing more reinforcements coming at the enemy from nearby positions she commanded a retreat to the shelter of the walls of Compiègne. At one point the governor of the city, William of Flavy, gave orders to close the gates of the walls despite the fact that the last companies had not yet returned; an order that, according to some, would constitute proof of his treachery, since he had secretly agreed with the enemy to make possible the capture of the Maid.

According to other historians, however, although this possibility is possible it cannot be proved. In any case, as the army reentered the city, Joan, who was protecting its retreat, surrounded by now by only a few men of her company, was belted and yanked from her horse, having to surrender to Jean of Wamdonne fighting under the orders of John of Ligny, a vassal of the Duke of Burgundy but in the service of the King of England.

Taken prisoner together with her steward, Jean d'Aulon, and her brother Peter, Joan was first taken to the fortress of Clairoix, then, after a few days, to the castle of Beaulieu-les-Fontaines where she remained until July 10, and finally to the castle of Beaurevoir. Here, Joan was treated as a high-ranking prisoner and finally managed to win the sympathy of three ladies of the castle who, strangely enough, bore the same name as her: Jeanne de Béthune, Jean de Luxembourg's wife, her daughter by her first marriage Jeanne de Bar, and finally Jeanne de Luxembourg, aunt of the powerful vassal, who went so far as to threaten to disinherit him if the Maid was handed over to the English. Likewise, Joan would remember these three women fondly during her interrogations, placing them on a level of respect immediately below that due only to her own queen.

After Jeanne de Luxembourg's death, which occurred on September 18, 1430, however, Jeanne's worst fear came true; after four months of imprisonment in the castle of Beaurevoir, the bishop of Beauvais Peter Cauchon, in whose diocese the capture had taken place, presented himself to Jean de Luxemborg by pouring into his hands the rançon, the sum under which the Maid had been ransomed, on behalf of the king of England and, at the same time, claiming his right to judge her according to ecclesiastical law. The sum, ten thousand lire tornese, was enormous, comparable to that required for a prince of royal blood, and to collect it an increase in taxes had been decreed in Normandy, a province still in English hands.

The payment of a prisoner's ransom was intended to restore his freedom; in this case, however, Joan was sold to the English, to whom she was handed over on November 21, 1430, at Le Crotoy, as a prisoner of war, and transferred, between November and December, numerous times to different strongholds, perhaps for fear of a French coup aimed at freeing her. On December 23 of that year, six months after her capture under the walls of Compiègne, Joan finally arrived in Rouen.

After Joan's capture, Charles VII did not offer a ransom for the captive, nor did he take official steps to negotiate her release. According to some, Joan, by then having become all too popular, was abandoned to her fate. According to others, however, Charles VII secretly instructed first La Hire, who was captured in a military action, and then the Jean d'Orléans to free the captive during transfers from one stronghold to another, as evidenced by a number of documents attesting to two "secret undertakings" near Rouen, including one dated March 14, 1431, in which the Jean d'Orléans acknowledges the receipt of 3,000 lire tornese for a mission across the Seine. In fact, the Jean's expeditions took place in April and May, and in fact for two months traces of him are completely lost.

Joan had already tried to escape captivity both at Beaulieu-les-Fontaines, taking advantage of a distraction by the guards, and at Beaurevoir Castle, knotting sheets to lower herself through a window and then letting herself fall to the ground; the first attempt was foiled by a whisker; the second (caused by Joan's concern about a new Anglo-Bourgeois offensive, as well as, probably, by the inkling that she was about to be handed over to other hands) resulted in an injury, due to the fall, so severe that it left her stunned: when she was locked up again, for more than two days Joan could neither eat nor drink. The Maid, however, recovered from her bruises and injuries.

The University of Paris, which considered itself the repository of civil and ecclesiastical jurisprudence and which, deploying the best rhetorical weapons in favor of the English, had since the moment of her capture demanded her surrender, as the young woman would be "strongly suspected of numerous crimes in the odor of heresy," finally had her, at least formally, in custody: the prisoner was now locked up in the castle of Rouen, in English hands. Here detention was extremely harsh: Joan was locked up in a narrow cell in the castle, guarded on sight by five English soldiers, three inside the same cell, two outside, while a second patrol had been placed on the upper floor; the prisoner's feet were clamped in iron shackles and her hands were often tied; only to attend hearings were the shackles on her feet removed, which, however, at night were firmly fastened so that the girl could not leave her bed.

Difficulties in instructing the trial were not lacking: first, Joan was being held as a prisoner of war in a military prison and not in ecclesiastical prisons as with Inquisition trials; secondly, her capture had taken place on the fringes of the diocese ruled by Cauchon (moreover, the Inquisitor General of France, Jean Graverent, declared himself unavailable and the vicar of the Rouen Inquisition, Jean Lemaistre, refused to participate in the trial because of "the serenity of his own conscience" and because he did not consider himself competent that for the diocese of Rouen; it was necessary to write again to the Inquisitor General of France to get Lemaistre to bow out, on February 22, when the hearings had already begun; finally, Cauchon had sent three delegates, including the notary Nicolas Bailly, to Domrémy, Vaucouleurs and Toul to draw information about Joan, without them finding the slightest foothold to formulate any charge; it would have been only from Joan's answers to the interrogations that the judges, namely Peter Cauchon and Jean Lemaistre, and the forty-two assessors (chosen from among theologians and renowned ecclesiastics) would have put to her, that the Maid would have been judged, while the trial began without any clear and explicit charge against her.

Joan's trial formally began on January 3, 1431, by written deed Cauchon, having obtained jurisdiction over Rouen (then a vacant archiepiscopal see), began the proceedings by redefining the trial itself, begun at first "for witchcraft," into one "for heresy"; he finally conferred the office of "procurator," a sort of public accuser, on Jean d'Estivet, canon of Beauveais who had followed him to Rouen. The first hearing was held publicly on February 21, 1431, in the chapel of Rouen Castle. The imprisonment had not dampened Joan's spirit; from the very beginning of the hearings, asked to swear to any question, she demanded-and obtained-that her commitment be limited to matters concerning the faith. Moreover, when asked by Cauchon to recite the Lord's Prayer, she replied that she would certainly do so but only in confession, a subtle way of reminding him of his capacity as a clergyman.

Joan's interrogation took place in a convulsive manner, both because the defendant was interrupted continuously and because some English secretaries transcribed her words omitting anything favorable to her, something of which the notary Guillame Manchon complained and threatened to refrain from further attendance; from the following day Joan was thus heard in a room of the castle guarded by two English guards. During the second hearing, Joan was questioned in brief about her religious life, the apparitions, the "rumors," the events that had occurred at Vaucouleurs, and the assault on Paris on a day when a religious solemnity fell; to this the Maid answered that the assault took place at the initiative of the captains of war, while the "rumors" had advised her not to go beyond Saint-Denis.

A not insignificant question posed that day, although at first it passed almost unnoticed, was why the girl was wearing men's clothes; to the answer suggested to her by those same people who were questioning her (i.e., whether it had been the advice of Robert de Baudricourt, captain of Vaucouleurs), Joan, sensing the seriousness of such an assertion, replied, "I will not lay such a heavy responsibility on others!" On this occasion Cauchon, perhaps touched by the request to be heard in confession made by the prisoner the previous day, did not question her personally, merely asking her, once again, to take the oath. During the third public hearing Joan responded with a vivacity unexpected in a prisoner, going so far as to admonish her judge, Cauchon, for the salvation of her soul.

The transcript of the minutes also reveals an unexpected humorous streak that the girl possessed despite the trial; when asked if she had any revelation that she would be able to escape from prison, she replied, "And should I come and tell you?" Subsequent questioning, about Joan's childhood, her childhood games, and the Fairy Tree, around which children played, danced and wove garlands, brought nothing of relevance to the trial outcomes, nor did Joan fall into allegations that might make her suspected of witchcraft, as was perhaps the intent of her accusers. Of considerable relevance, however, was the presence among Nicolas Loiseleur's jury assessors of a priest who had pretended to be a prisoner and had listened to Joan in confession while, as reported under oath by Guillame Manchon, several witnesses listened covertly to the conversation, in open violation of ecclesiastical norms.

In the next three public hearings, the gap in perspective between the judges and Joan deepened; while the former harped with increasing tenacity on why Joan wore men's clothes, the girl seemed at ease talking about her "voices," which she indicated came from the archangel Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, a difference evident in the answer given about the brightness of the room where she had first met the Dauphin: "fifty flashlights, not counting the spiritual light!" And again, despite her imprisonment and the pressure of the trial, the girl did not give up ironic answers; to a judge who had asked her if the archangel Michael had hair, Joan replied, "For what reason should they have cut it off?"

The closed-door interviews

Beginning on March 10, 1431, all hearings of the trial were held behind closed doors in Joan's prison. The secrecy of the interrogations coincided with a more incisive inquisitorial procedure: the accused was asked whether she did not believe she had sinned by undertaking her journey against the advice of her parents; whether she was able to describe the appearance of angels; whether she had attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the tower of Beaurevoir Castle; what was the "sign" given to the Dauphin that would convince the latter to lend the girl faith; and whether she was certain that she would no longer fall into mortal sin, that is, whether she was sure she was in a state of Grace. Paradoxically, the more serious the accusations made against Joan, the more surprising the answers came.

Joan asserted, about disobedience to her parents, that "since it was God who had asked me, had I also had a hundred fathers and a hundred mothers, had I also been born the daughter of kings, I would still have left"; about the appearance of angels, she went far beyond what her accusers asked of her, asserting casually: "They often come among men without anyone seeing them; I myself have seen them many times among people"; about the alleged attempt to take her own life, she reiterated that her only intent was to escape; regarding the "sign" given to the Dauphin, Joan narrated that an angel had delivered to the Dauphin a crown of great value, a symbol of the divine will guiding his actions in order for Charles to regain the kingdom of France (depicted by the crown), a metaphorical representation entirely in line with the way of expression of the time, especially regarding what was deemed ineffable; regarding sin and whether she believed she was in a state of Grace, Joan replied, "I submit myself in everything to Our Lord," just as, a few days earlier, during the public audiences, she had answered: "If I am not, may God put me there; if I am, may God keep me there! ".

During the sixth and final interrogation, the inquisitors finally explained to Joan that there was a "triumphant Church" and a "militant Church"; the accused merely restated what she had already answered, "That God and the Church are one, seems clear to me. But you, why do you make so many quibbles?" The same contemporaries who had the opportunity to be present at the interrogations, especially the more erudite, as the physician Jean Tiphaine testified, noted the shrewdness and wisdom with which Joan responded; at the same time she defended the truthfulness of her "rumors," acknowledged the authority of the Church, and relied completely on God, just as a few days later, when asked if she felt she should submit to the Church, she would answer, "Yes, God served first."

On March 27 and 28 the seventy articles that made up the indictment formulated by Jean d'Estivet were read to the defendant. Many of the articles were patently false or at least unsupported by any testimony, least of all the defendant's answers; among them were that Jeanne allegedly blasphemed, carried a mandrake with her, bewitched her banner, sword, and ring by conferring magical virtues on them; consorted with fairies, worshipped evil spirits, held trade with two "spring counselors," had her own armor venerated, and formulated divinations. Others, such as the sixty-second article, might have been more insidious in that they saw in Joan a desire to make direct contact with the divine, without the mediation of the Church, yet they passed almost unnoticed. Paradoxically, Joan's use of wearing men's clothing turned out to be of increasing significance.

They clashed on the one hand with the formal and literal application of doctrine, which clung to that men's dress as a mark of infamy, and on the other with Joan's "mystical" vision, for whom the dress was a thing of nothing compared to the spiritual world. On March 31, Joan was again questioned in her prison and agreed to submit to the Church, as long as she was not asked to claim that the "voices" did not come from God; that she would obey it as long as God was "served first." Thus Easter, which that year fell on the first day of April, passed without Joan being able to hear Mass or take communion, despite her pleas.

The seventy articles in which the accusation against Joan the Maid consisted were condensed into twelve articles extracted from the formal act drafted by Jean d'Estivet; such was the normal inquisitorial procedure. These twelve articles, according to which Joan was considered "idolatrous," "invoker of devils," and "schismatic," were submitted to the assessors and sent to reputable theologians; some approved them without reservation but there were several dissenting voices: one of the assessors, Raoul le Sauvage, felt that the entire trial should be sent to the Pontiff; the bishop of Avranches replied that there was nothing impossible in what Joan asserted. Some clerics from Rouen or who had come there in fact considered Joan innocent or, at the very least, the trial illegitimate; among them was Jean Lohier, who considered the trial illegal in form and substance, in that the assessors were not free, the sittings were held behind closed doors, the subjects dealt with were too complex for a young girl, and above all that the real motive of the trial was political, in that through Joan it was intended to besmirch the name of Charles VII.

Because of these outspoken responses, which moreover revealed the political purpose of the trial, Lohier had to leave Rouen in great haste. On April 16, 1431, Joan was stricken with a severe illness accompanied by a violent fever, which caused fear for her life, but she recovered within a few days. Three physicians were sent to her, including Jean Tiphaine, personal physician to the Duchess of Bedford, who was able to report that Joan had felt ill after eating a fish sent to her by Cauchon, which aroused suspicion of attempted poisoning, which, moreover, was never proven. Two days later, however, Joan was able to uphold the "charitable admonition," which was followed by a second one on May 2, without Joan relenting on anything, although she acknowledged the Pontiff's authority. After all, more than once she had appealed to the Pope; an appeal that was always denied her despite the obvious contradiction, it being impossible to be a heretic and recognize papal authority at the same time.

On May 9, Joan, led into the keep of Rouen castle, was confronted by Cauchon, a number of assessors and Maugier Leparmentier, the executioner; threatened with torture, she denied nothing and refused to bend, though she confessed her fear. The court finally decided not to resort to torture, probably out of fear that the girl would be able to endure the ordeal and perhaps also not to risk putting an indelible stain on the trial. On May 23, the twelve articles against her were read to Joan, with several members of the court present. Joan replied that she confirmed everything she had said during the trial and would stand by it to the end.

The abjuration

On May 24, 1431, Joan was translated from her prison to the churchyard of Saint-Ouen, on the eastern edge of the city, where a platform had already been prepared for her, so that the population could see and hear her distinctly, and tribunes for the judges and assessors. Further down, the executioner waited in his chariot. In the presence of Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester and cardinal, the girl was admonished by the theologian Guillame Erard who, after a long sermon, asked Joan once again to abjure the crimes contained in the twelve articles of the indictment. Joan replied, "I submit myself to God and to Our Holy Father the Pope," an answer that must have been suggested to her by Jean de La Fontaine, who, even in his capacity as assessor, had evidently thought it proper to inform the accused of her rights. (In addition, Dominicans Isambart de la Pierre and Martin Ladvenu, experts in inquisitorial procedures, were with the girl.

As was the practice of the time, the appeal to the Pope was supposed to interrupt the inquisitorial procedure and lead to the defendant's translation before the Pontiff; however, despite the presence of a cardinal, Erard dismissed the matter by claiming that the Pontiff was too far away, continuing to admonish Joan three times; finally Cauchon took the floor and began to read the sentence, when he was interrupted by a cry from Joan: "I accept whatever the judges and the Church will want to sentence!"

Joan was then handed a declaration at the hands of the usher, Jean Massieu; although Massieu himself warned her of the danger she was in by signing it, the girl initialed the document with a cross. In fact, Joan, though illiterate, had learned to sign with her name, "Jehanne," as it appears in the letters that have come down to us, and indeed the Maid had declared during the trial that she used to put a cross on a letter sent to a war captain when she wanted to signify that he should not do what she had written to him; it is probable that such a sign had, in Joan's mind, the same meaning, all the more so because the girl drew it accompanying it with an enigmatic laugh.

The abjuration Joan had signed was no longer than eight lines, in which she pledged not to take up arms again, nor wear a man's dress, nor short hair, while a forty-four-line abjuration document in Latin was placed on record. The sentence passed, however, was harsh: Joan was sentenced to life imprisonment in church prisons, to "bread of sorrow" and "water of sadness." Nonetheless, the girl would be supervised by women, no longer constrained by irons day and night and free from the torment of constant interrogation; she was surprised, however, when Cauchon ordered her to be locked up in the same prison intended for prisoners of war that she had left in the morning.

This violation of ecclesiastical norms was in all likelihood intended by Cauchon himself for a specific purpose, to induce Joan to put on a man's habit again in order to defend herself against the soldiers' abuse. In fact, only the relapsed, that is, those who, having already abjured, fell into error, were destined to be burned at the stake. The English, however, persuaded that by this time Joan had gotten out of their hands, unfamiliar with the procedures of the Inquisition, erupted in a riot and stone-throwing at Cauchon himself. Back in prison, Joan became the object of even greater wrath from her jailers; the Dominican Martin Ladvenu reports that Joan told him of an attempt to rape her by an Englishman, who, failing to succeed, beat her fiercely.

On the morning of Sunday, May 27, Joan asked to stand up, and an English soldier took away her women's clothes and threw her men's clothes into her cell; despite the Maid's protests, she was not granted any more. At noon, Joan was forced to give in; Cauchon and the vice-inquisitor Lemaistre, together with some assessors, went to the prison the following day: Joan bravely claimed that she had taken back her men's dress of her own accord, since she was among men and not, as was her right, in an ecclesiastical prison, guarded by women, where she could hear mass.

Questioned again, she reiterated that she firmly believed that the voices that appeared to her were those of St. Catherine and St. Margaret, that she was sent by God, that she did not understand a single word of the act of abjuration, and added, "God sent me to tell by the mouths of St. Catherine and St. Margaret what a miserable betrayal I committed by agreeing to recant everything for fear of death; He made me realize that, wanting to save myself, I was about to damn my soul! " and again, "I would rather do penance at once and die than endure the suffering of this prison longer." On May 29 Cauchon convened the court for the last time to decide Joan's fate. Out of forty-two assessors, thirty-nine declared that it was necessary to read her formal abjuration again and offer her the "Word of God." Their power, however, was only advisory; Cauchon and Jean Lemaistre condemned Joan to the stake.

On May 30, 1431, two Dominican friars, Jean Toutmouillé and Martin Ladvenu, entered Joan's cell; the latter listened to her in confession and told her what fate had been decreed for her that day; in her last lamentation, the Maid, seeing Bishop Cauchon enter, exclaimed, "Bishop, I die for your sake." Later, when he had departed, Joan asked to receive the Eucharist. Martin Ladvenu did not know what to answer her, since it was not possible for a heretic to take communion, and asked Cauchon himself how he should behave; surprisingly, and in violation once again of every ecclesiastical norm, he answered to administer the sacrament to her.

Joan was led to the Old Market Square in Rouen and the ecclesiastical sentence was read. Thereafter, without the bailiff or his lieutenant taking custody of the prisoner, she was abandoned in the hands of the executioner, Geoffroy Thérage, and led to where the wood was already ready, before a large crowd gathered for the occasion. Dressed in a long white gown and escorted by about two hundred soldiers, she climbed up to the stake where she was chained, on top of a large amount of wood. In this way she was more likely to have lost consciousness from asphyxiation: she was to burn alive.

Joan, falling to her knees, invoked God, the Virgin, Archangel Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret; she asked and offered forgiveness to all. She asked for a cross, and an English soldier, pitying her, took two dry branches and tied them to form one, which the girl clutched to her breast; Isambart de La Pierre ran to fetch the church's astylar cross and placed it before her; finally, the soldiers clutched the executioner and ordered him, "Do what you must!" The fire rose swiftly, and Joan first asked for holy water, then, engulfed in flames, cried out in a loud voice, "Jesus!" She burned to death at the age of 19.

In 1449 Rouen capitulated before the French army, under the orders of Jean d'Orléans, after decades of English rule (during which time the population had fallen from 14,992 to 5,976). Sensing the vanguards of the royal army, the townspeople attempted to open the gate of St. Hilary to them, but were executed by the English garrison. However, the rebellion in the "second capital of the kingdom" was evidently imminent. The governor, Edmond de Somerset, obtained a safe-conduct for himself and his people, and a general amnesty for those who had collaborated with the English during the period of occupation; in return, he left both Rouen and other smaller towns such as Honfleur and, safe and sound, retreated to the vicinity of Caen.

When Charles VII entered the city he was greeted as a triumphant man, and shortly thereafter he ordered his adviser Guillame Bouillé an inquiry into the trial suffered by Joan eighteen years earlier. In the meantime, many things had changed or were changing: with the French victory at the Battle of Castillon in 1453, the Hundred Years' War came to an end, albeit without a peace treaty; the English retained control only of the port of Calais. The schism that troubled the Church had ceased with the abdication of the last antipope, Felix V; among the negotiators who came to persuade him to submit to the authority of the Church was Jean d'Orléans himself, by now the king's right-hand man on the battlefield, his adviser and representative in all relevant diplomatic matters

In 1452, the papal legate Guillaume d'Estouteville and the Inquisitor of France, Jean Bréhal, also opened ecclesiastical proceedings that led to a rescript signed by Pope Calixtus III authorizing a revision of the 1431 trial, which lasted from November 7, 1455, to July 7, 1456. After hearing one hundred and fifteen witnesses, the previous trial was declared null and void and Joan was, in retrospect, rehabilitated and found innocent.

Her former comrade-in-arms, Jean d'Orléans, by then count of Dunois, had a cross erected in memory of Joan in the woods of Saint-Germain, the "Croix-Pucelle," which can still be seen today. Four centuries later, in 1869, the Bishop of Orléans petitioned for the maiden's canonization. Pope Leo XIII, on January 27, 1894, proclaimed her venerable and began her process of beatification.

Joan was beatified on April 18, 1909, by Pope Pius X and proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XV on May 16, 1920, after she was granted intercessory power for prescribed miracles (healing of two nuns from incurable ulcers and a nun from chronic tubercular osteo-periostitis, as far as beatification is concerned, and the "instantaneous and perfect" healing of two other women, one suffering from a piercing disease of the sole of the foot, the other from "peritoneal and pulmonary tuberculosis and organic lesion of the mitral orifice," as far as canonization is concerned).

In 1922 Joan was declared patroness of France, telegraphy and radio. She is also venerated as patroness of martyrs and the religiously persecuted, the armed forces and police. Her liturgical memory is celebrated by the Catholic Church on May 30. Joan of Arc is referred to explicitly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as one of the finest demonstrations of a soul open to saving Grace. Today she is the most venerated French saint.

Openly calling herself "the Maiden," Joan declared that she wanted to serve God totally, body and soul; her virginity clearly symbolized the girl's purity, both from a physical and spiritual point of view. Had she been caught lying, she would have been removed immediately. Consequently, ascertaining the truthfulness of the statement gained importance especially about Joan's trustworthiness. Thus, twice she was subjected to the examination of matrons, at Poitiers in March 1429 (where she was examined by Jeanne de Preuilly, wife of Raoul de Gaucourt, governor of Orléans, and Jeanne de Mortemer, wife of Robert le Maçon) and at Rouen on January 13, 1431, on the orders of Bishop Cauchon, under the supervision of Anne of Burgundy herself, duchess of Bedford, being found a maiden.

Joan's habit of wearing men's clothing, dictated at first by the necessity of riding and wearing armor, was probably intended in jail to prevent evil-doers from raping her. During the trial the question of men's clothing was taken up several times and, according to Jean Massieu, during her imprisonment she resumed wearing women's clothes, but the English guards allegedly removed them from her by throwing the sack in which the men's clothing was in her cell.

Joan of Arc was executed at the stake on May 30, 1431, and the execution proceeded in a manner well described in the chronicles of the time. The condemned woman was killed directly by flames, in contrast to what usually happened to those condemned to death, who were suffocated by inhaling the red-hot fumes produced by burning wood and straw. In the end, only the ashes, heart and a few bone fragments remained of the Maiden's body. According to the testimony of Isambart de La Pierre, Joan's heart was not consumed in the burning, and no matter how much sulfur, oil or coal the executioner put into it, it did not hint at burning. The burning remains were then loaded onto a wagon and thrown into the Seine by order of the Earl of Warwick.

Although the meticulousness of the executioners and the strict regulations of the Burgundian and English authorities had made this highly unlikely, in 1867 a number of alleged relics of Joan of Arc were found in the Paris residence of an apothecary. These included a cat femur whose presence, according to those who claimed its authenticity, could be explained by the fact that one of these animals had allegedly been thrown into the bonfire in which the maiden burned. Recent analysis conducted by Philippe Charlier, however, has shown that the relics attributed to the saint are actually dated between the 6th and 3rd centuries B.C. and are fragments of an Egyptian mummy (the alleged burn marks are actually, according to Charlier, the product of an embalming process).

The strong impression that Joan's life aroused among her contemporaries and, later, the lack of knowledge of historical sources, gave rise to a "mythicization" of the character, reinterpreting her in very different and sometimes diametrically opposed ways, even in the political sphere.

The incredible and short life, passion, and dramatic death of Joan of Arc have been recounted countless times in essays, novels, biographies, and plays for the theater; film and opera have also dealt with this figure.


  1. Joan of Arc
  2. Giovanna d'Arco
  3. ^ a b c L'anno di nascita si evince sia dalle parole di Giovanna sia dall'escussione dei 115 testimoni del Processo in Nullità della condanna (con una sola eccezione) ed è quindi accettato come certo da quasi tutti gli storici. Cfr. Teresa Cremisi, Il processo di condanna di Giovanna d'Arco, SE, 2000, Milano, ISBN=88-7710-482-1, p. 217.
  4. ^ Per quanto riguarda il cognome, "Darc", occorre notare che all'epoca (inizio XV secolo) non era utilizzato l'apostrofo e pertanto lo stesso è stato traslitterato in "d'Arc". Inoltre, il cognome appare per la prima volta in un documento scritto dopo la morte della stessa Pulzella, con l'apertura del Processo in nullità a firma del Pontefice Callisto III nell'anno 1455: cfr. Pernoud-Clin, 1987, pp. 261-263
  5. ^ Nei testi dell'epoca la madre di Giovanna viene indicata come "Isabelle Romée" probabilmente a motivo di un pellegrinaggio ch'ella avrebbe compiuto; erano infatti detti romei i pellegrini che si recavano a Roma. Cfr. Pernoud-Clin, 1987, pp. 55, 261
  6. ^ Vaucouleurs era stata unita inseparabilmente alla corona nel 1365. Cfr. Michelet, 2000, p. 9
  7. ^ Altri traducono il termine "castità" con "verginità", sulla base sia delle differenti fonti che ci sono pervenute (alcune in latino, altre nel francese del XV secolo), sia della contestualizzazione delle espressioni nel momento della traduzione. Cfr. Pernoud, 1998, pp. 16, 17
  8. Une partie du duché de Bar, le Barrois mouvant, relevait du royaume de France pour le temporel et de l'évêché de Toul pour le spirituel.
  9. Les Anglais disposent du corps des Long Bow, Gallois ayant une maîtrise meurtrière de l'arc long (longbow). Toujours bien abrités des charges de cavalerie par des pieux disposés à l'avance, ces archers déciment sous une pluie de flèches la chevalerie française, dont les chevaux ne sont pas encore protégés. Ils vont ainsi devenir maîtres des batailles à terrain découvert malgré leur nette infériorité numérique. Mais après Orléans, Jeanne ayant obtenu des chefs militaires français — sur « sa grande insistance » — de poursuivre les troupes anglaises, le Corps des Long Bow est surpris faisant une pause à Patay et, inorganisés, quasiment tous ses archers sont massacrés par des charges de cavalerie[5][source insuffisante]. Le Corps ne sera pas reconstitué et sera totalement éliminé une décennie plus tard par l'apparition de l'artillerie nouvelle des frères Gaspard et Jean Bureau — notamment l'artillerie de campagne — aux batailles de Formigny et Castillon, avantages combinés qui mettront fin au conflit.
  10. Le duc de Bedford se fait donner le duché d'Anjou et le comté du Maine par un acte daté du 21 juin 1424 et confirmé à Rouen par le jeune Henri VI le 8 septembre 1430[20].
  11. Cette indifférence se constate alors dans tous les groupes sociaux[30], y compris au sein de la noblesse où seule la venue au monde des rois et princes illustres est correctement répertoriée grâce à l'établissement d'horoscopes[31].
  12. Moderne biografieën geven vaak 6 januari 1412 als haar geboortedatum, maar Jeanne zelf kon haar leeftijd slechts schatten. Dat geldt ook voor alle getuigen bij het rehabilitatieproces, hoewel verscheidene van dezen meters en peters van haar waren. De vaak genoemde datum 6 januari is op één enkele bron gebaseerd: een brief van Lord Perceval de Boulainvilliers op 21 juli 1429 (zie R. Pernoud, Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses, New York, 1966, p. 98: "Boulainvilliers tells of her birth in Domrémy, and it is he who gives us an exact date, which may be the true one, saying that she was born on the night of Epiphany, January 6"). Boulainvilliers was echter niet afkomstig uit Domrémy. De gebeurtenis was waarschijnlijk niet vastgelegd. Het gebruik van parochieregisters voor niet-adellijke geboortes begon pas verscheidene generaties later.
  13. Voor Karel en Lodewijk had het paar al twee dochters en twee zoons die kort na de geboorte of in hun eerste levensjaren overleden. Karel VI was de oudste overlevende zoon.
  14. "The Glorious Age of the Dukes of Burgundy". Burgundy Today. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
  15. Noël Coulet, Le temps des malheurs (1348-1440) tiré de Histoire de la France des origines à nos jours sous la direction de Georges Duby, Larousse, 2007, p 405
  16. Zie pagina over Hendrik II van Ville-sur -Illon, prins-bisschop van Toul.
  17. ^ This historiated initial may be an art forgery.[1]
  18. ^ Her birthday is sometimes given as 6 January. This is based on a letter by Perceval de Boulainvilliers [fr], a councillor of Charles VII, stating that Joan was born on the feast of the Epiphany,[12] but his letter is filled with literary tropes that make it questionable as a statement of fact.[13] There is no other evidence of her being born on Epiphany.[14]
  19. ^ Fauquembergue's doodle on the margin of a Parliament's register is the only known contemporary representation of Joan. It is an artist's impression depicting her with long hair and a dress rather than with her hair cut short and in armor.[36]
  20. ^ The woman in this saying is assumed to refer to Isabeau of Bavaria,[57] but this is uncertain.[58]

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