It was nine o’clock: she was dressed in female attire, and placed on a cart.
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.
In reality, it was not to the interest of the English that she should resume her man’s dress, and so make null and void a retractation obtained with such difficulty. But at this moment, their rage no longer knew any bounds. Saintrailles had just made a bold attempt upon Rouen. It would have been a lucky hit to have swept off the judges from the judgment seat, and have carried Winchester and Bedford to Poitiers; the latter was, subsequently, all but taken on his return, between Rouen and Paris. As long as this accursed girl lived, who beyond a doubt continued in prison to practice her sorceries, there was no safety for the English; perish she must.
The assessors, who had notice instantly given them of her change of dress, found some hundred English in the court to obstruct their passage; who, thinking that if these doctors entered they might spoil all, threatened them with their axes and swords, and chased them out, calling them “traitors of Armagnacs.” Cauchon, introduced with much difficulty, assumed an air of gayety to pay his court to Warwick, and said with a laugh, “She is caught.”
On the Monday he returned, along with the Inquisitor and eight assessors, to question the Pucelle, and ask her why she had resumed that dress. She made no excuse, but, bravely facing the danger, said that the dress was fitter for her as long as she was guarded by men, and that faith had not been kept with her. Her saints, too, had told her “that it was great pity she had abjured to save her life.” Still, she did not refuse to resume woman’s dress. “Put me in a seemly and safe prison,” she said; “I will be good, and do whatever the Church shall wish.”
On leaving her the Bishop encountered Warwick and a crowd of English; and to show himself a good Englishman he said in their tongue, “Farewell, farewell.” This joyous adieu was about synonymous with “Good evening, good evening; all’s over.”
On the Tuesday, the judges got up at the Archbishop’s palace a court of assessors as they best might; some of them had assisted at the first sittings only, others at none; in fact, composed of men of all sorts, priests, legists, and even three physicians. The judges recapitulated to them what had taken place, and asked their opinion. This opinion, quite different from what was expected, was that the prisoner should be summoned, and her act of abjuration be read over to her. Whether this was in the power of the judges is doubtful. In the midst of the fury and swords of a raging soldiery, there was in reality no judge, and no possibility of judgment. Blood was the one thing wanted; and that of the judges was, perhaps, not far from flowing. They hastily drew up a summons, to be served the next morning at eight o’clock; she was not to appear, save to be burned.
Cauchon sent her a confessor in the morning, brother Martin l’Advenu, “to prepare her for her death, and persuade her to repentance. And when he apprised her of the death she was to die that day, she began to cry out grievously, to give way, and tear her hair: ‘Alas! am I to be treated so horribly and cruelly? must my body, pure as from birth, and which was never contaminated, be this day consumed and reduced to ashes? Ha! ha! I would rather be beheaded seven times over than be burned on this wise! Oh! I make my appeal to God, the great judge of the wrongs and grievances done me!'”
After this burst of grief, she recovered herself and confessed; she then asked to communicate. The brother was embarrassed; but, consulting the Bishop, the latter told him to administer the sacrament, “and whatever else she might ask.” Thus, at the very moment he condemned her as a relapsed heretic, and cut her off from the Church, he gave her all that the Church gives to her faithful. Perhaps a last sentiment of humanity awoke in the heart of the wicked judge; he considered it enough to burn the poor creature, without driving her to despair, and damning her. Besides, it was attempted to do it privately, and the eucharist was brought without stole and light. But the monk complained, and the Church of Rouen, duly warned, was delighted to show what it thought of the judgment pronounced by Cauchon; it sent along with the body of Christ numerous torches and a large escort of priests, who sang litanies, and, as they passed through the streets, told the kneeling people, “Pray for her.”
After partaking of the communion, which she received with abundance of tears, she perceived the Bishop, and addressed him with the words, “Bishop, I die through you.” And, again, “Had you put me in the prisons of the Church, and given me ghostly keepers, this would not have happened. And for this I summon you to answer before God.”
Then, seeing among the bystanders Pierre Morice, one of the preachers by whom she had been addressed, she said to him, “Ah, Master Pierre, where shall I be this evening?”
“Have you not good hope in the Lord?”
“Oh! yes; God to aid, I shall be in paradise.”
It was nine o’clock: she was dressed in female attire, and placed on a cart. On one side of her was brother Martin l’Advenu; the constable, Massieu, was on the other. The Augustine monk, Brother Isambart, who had already displayed much charity and courage, would not quit her.
Up to this moment the Pucelle had never despaired, with the exception, perhaps, of her temptation in the Passion Week. While saying, as she at times would say, “These English will kill me,” she in reality did not think so.
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