They wanted Joan’s confession that would dishonor the French. Religeous advantages, too, would have been a nice bonus.
Continuing Joan of Arc’s Trial and Execution,
our selection from History of France by Jules Michelet published in 1847. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Joan of Arc’s Trial and Execution.
They visited her in her chamber, and represented to her that she would be in great danger if she did not reconsider, and follow the advice of the Church. “It seems to me, indeed,” she said, “seeing my sickness, that I am in great danger of death. If so, God’s will be done; I should like to confess, receive my Savior, and be laid in holy ground.”
“If you desire the sacraments of the Church, you must do as good Catholics do, and submit yourself to it.” She made no reply. But, on the judge’s repeating his words, she said: “If the body die in prison, I hope that you will lay it in holy ground; if you do not, I appeal to our Lord.”
Already, in the course of these examinations, she had expressed one of her last wishes. Question: “You say that you wear a man’s dress by God’s command, and yet, in case you die, you want a woman’s shift?” Answer: “All I want is to have a long one.” This touching answer was ample proof that, in this extremity, she was much less occupied with care about life than with the fears of modesty.
The doctors preached to their patient for a long time; and he who had taken on himself the especial care of exhorting her, Master Nicolas Midy, a scholastic of Paris, closed the scene by saying bitterly to her, “If you don’t obey the Church, you will be abandoned for a Saracen.”
“I am a good Christian,” she replied meekly; “I was properly baptized, and will die like a good Christian.”
The slowness of these proceedings drove the English wild with impatience. Winchester had hoped to bring the trial to an end before the campaign; to have forced a confession from the prisoner, and have dishonored King Charles. This blow struck, he would recover Louviers, secure Normandy and the Seine, and then repair to Basel to begin another war — a theological war — to sit there as arbiter of Christendom, and make and unmake popes. At the very moment he had these high designs in view, he was compelled to cool his heels, waiting upon what it might please this girl to say.
The unlucky Cauchon happened at this precise juncture to have offended the chapter of Rouen, from which he was soliciting a decision against the Pucelle; he had allowed himself to be addressed beforehand as “My lord the Archbishop.” Winchester determined to disregard the delays of these Normans, and to refer at once to the great theological tribunal, the University of Paris.
While waiting for the answer, new attempts were made to overcome the resistance of the accused; and both stratagem and terror were brought into play. In the course of a second admonition, May 2d, the preacher, Master Chetillon, proposed to her to submit the question of the truth of her visions to persons of her own party. She did not give in to the snare. “As to this,” she said, “I depend on my Judge, the King of heaven and earth.” She did not say this time, as before, “On God and the Pope.”
“Well, the Church will give you up, and you will be in danger of fire, both soul and body. You will not do what we tell you until you suffer body and soul.”
They did not stop at vague threats. On the third admonition, which took place in her chamber, May 11th, the executioner was sent for, and she was told that the torture was ready. But the maneuver failed. On the contrary, it was found that she had resumed all, and more than all, her courage. Raised up after temptation, she seemed to have mounted a step nearer the source of grace. “The angel Gabriel,” she said, “has appeared to strengthen me; it was he — my saints have assured me so. God has been ever my master in what I have done; the devil has never had power over me. Though you should tear off my limbs and pluck my soul from my body, I would say nothing else.” The spirit was so visibly manifested in her that her last adversary, the preacher Chetillon, was touched, and became her defender, declaring that a trial so conducted seemed to him null. Cauchon, beside himself with rage, compelled him to silence.
The reply of the University arrived at last. The decision to which it came on the twelve articles was that this girl was wholly the devil’s; was impious in regard to her parents; thirsted for Christian blood, etc. This was the opinion given by the faculty of theology. That of law was more moderate, declaring her to be deserving of punishment, but with two reservations: (1) In case she persisted in her nonsubmission; (2) if she were in her right senses.
At the same time the university wrote to the Pope, to the cardinals, and to the King of England, lauding the Bishop of Beauvais and setting forth, “there seemed to it to have been great gravity observed, and a holy and just way of proceeding, which ought to be most satisfactory to all.”
Armed with this response, some of the assessors were for burning her without further delay; which would have been sufficient satisfaction for the doctors, whose authority she rejected, but not for the English, who required a retraction that should defame King Charles. They had recourse to a new admonition and a new preacher, Master Pierre Morice, which was attended by no better result. It was in vain that he dwelt upon the authority of the University of Paris, “which is the light of all science.”
“Though I should see the executioner and the fire there,” she exclaimed, “though I were in the fire, I could only say what I have said.”
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