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demn. They had sent a messenger to Domremy to glean some parti-
culars of their victim's early life, but as these were most favourable,
they were of course suppressed. A priest named L'Oiseleur, who basely
lent himself to their purposes, had access to her prison, and repre-
sented himself to Joan as her countryman from Lorraine, and as a
sufferer from his adherence to the cause of Charles. Under the seal
of confession, he won from her several disclosures, which he returned
by giving her false counsel. It was even said that the Bishop of
Beauvais and the Earl of Warwick were hidden close by, to listen
to all that transpired.

The letters-patent by which Joan was given into the power of the
Bishop of Beauvais accuse ' the woman who calls herself La Pucelle
of having relinquished the clothing of her sex, and appeared in man's
attire, a thing contrary to the divine law, and abominable in the
sight of God ; of having slain many men ; and, as it is said, of
having given the people to understand, for the purpose of deceiving
and seducing them to evil deeds, that she was sent by God, and had
a knowledge of his divine secrets ; together with teaching many
other scandalous doctrines, most perilous to the holy Catholic faith.'

It was on the 2ist of February 1431 that Joan was brought for the
first time before her judges, although she underwent as many as
fifteen examinations. The hall of judgment was the castle chapel at
Rouen, and thither the heroine was led, loaded with chains, though
dressed in her military attire. Not permitted an advocate or defender,
she was only supported by the courage of conscious innocence ;
but never was her self-possession more remarkable than on this
agonising occasion. There was a shrewdness, too, and simple
good sense displayed in her answers, which contrasted strongly with
the subtle dealings of those about her. Her answers more than
once abashed the learned doctors, when they had framed a question,
hoping it would lead to some unguarded rejoinder that might convict
her of heresy or magic. Thus, when they inquired if she knew
herself to be in the grace of God, she said : ' It is a great matter
to reply to such a question.' ' Yes,' interrupted one of the assessors
(the doctors who were present to give their advice if needed), named
Jean Fabry 'yes, it is so great a matter that the prisoner is not
bound by law to answer it.'

' You had better be silent,' exclaimed the bishop in a fury of
passion ; and he repeated the question.

' If I am not in the grace of God,' replied Joan, ' I pray God it may
be vouchsafed to me ; if I am, I pray God that I may be preserved
in it.'

When asked if the saints of her visions hated the English, she


answered : ' They love whatever God loves, and hate whatever he
hates.' Almost any other answer would have been construed as
blasphemy. And when the Bishop of Beauvais, still trying to entrap
her, proceeded: 'Does God, then, hate the English?' she still
replied with discretion, saying : ' Whether God loves or hates the
English, I do not know ; but I know that all those who do not die
in battle shall be driven away from this realm by the king of France.'
When questioned about her standard, she said : ' I carried it instead
of a lance, to avoid slaying any one ; I have killed nobody. I only
said : " Rush in among the English," and I rushed among them the
first myself. The voices,' she continued, in answer to further inter-
rogations ' the voices told me to take it without fear, and that God
would help me.' And when they asked her if her hope of victory
was founded on the banner or herself, she said : ' It was founded on
God, and on nought besides.'

With regard to assuming man's attire, she replied that she
had worn it in obedience to the command of God. It is really
astonishing to reflect on the subtle wiles which it was thought
necessary to use against this poor defenceless girL But while the
English may blush at the share they had in the cruel transaction,
it is but just to ourselves to remember that the relentless bishop, her
judge, Estivet the advocate, her fierce accuser, and the perfidious
L'Oiseleur, were all the countrymen of the ill-fated maid !

But while there is so much distinctness and precision evident in
her answers to these trying questions, it is most remarkable that she
was unable to give other than a confused and vague account of those
actual events in which she had borne so important a part. Thus,
when examined in reference to her first interview with the king,
she for some time refused to answer at all, saying that her ' voices '
had forbidden her to do so ; and when at last she was prevailed on
to speak, she talked only in a mysterious and incoherent manner of
a vision which Charles had seen, and of an angel who had brought
a crown to him from heaven. Afterwards, she seemed to confound
this imaginary crown with the ceremony of the coronation at Rheims.
In fact, the whole scene was one which, before more humane and
enlightened judges, would have convinced them that hers was that
peculiar condition of mind found often enough even at the present
time : morbid on one particular point to such an extent, that the
diseased imagination overthrows judgment and memory, and has
the power to render every other element of the mind subservient to
its own extraordinary fantasies.

Notwithstanding all their machinations, Joan's enemies found it
difficult, with even the show of a trial, to convict her of sorcery. The
infamous L'Oiseleur and another were for putting her on the rack,
with the hope of extracting some positive confession from her ; but
many of the assessors had been deeply touched with the bearing of
the maid, and none were found to second this atrocious proposal.


It is said even that one of our countrymen, who was present at the
trial, was so struck with the evident sincerity of her demeanour,
that he could not refrain from crying out : ' A worthy woman, if
she were but English!' Her judges drew up twelve articles of
accusation on the grounds of sorcery and heresy, which the univer-
sity of Paris, so eager to condemn her, gladly confirmed. On the
24th of May 1431, the anniversary of the day on which the maid
had been taken prisoner the year before, she was led to the ceme-
tery of St Ouen, where two platforms were erected. On the one
stood the Cardinal of Winchester, the Bishop of Beauvais, and
several other prelates. Joan was conducted to the second platform,
where a preacher, named Erard, launched out the most vehement
invectives ; to which she listened with gentle patience, until he
began to accuse the king in his sweeping condemnation ; then she
interrupted him warmly, saying : ' Speak of me, but do not speak of
the king. He is a good Christian, and not such as you say ; I can
swear to you he is the noblest of all Christians, and one who the
most loves the church and the faith.' But here she was silenced by
the angry Bishop of Beauvais. By the side of Erard, on this plat-
form, stood the officers to guard her, L'Oiseleur, her betrayer, and
another priest who had acted as her confessor.

When the sermon was finished, the preacher read to Joan a form
of abjuration, of which she asked an explanation, saying she had
nothing to abjure, for that all she had done was at the command of
God. At this they told her she must submit to the church, and then
using threats, they pointed to the public executioner, telling her that
instant death was the only alternative. Poor Joan ! Braver hearts
than thine have failed at such a trial. Even 'starry Galileo,' a
martyr, like thee, to ignorance and superstition, who might have
been cheered by the light of science, and upheld by the might of
truth, even he quailed at the approach of torture and death. Is
there wonder or scorn because the defenceless woman, the half-
demented Joan, trembled also, and put her mark to the paper,
saying: 'I would rather sign than burn?' But even yet further was
she to be cheated ; for, instead of the paper which had been read
to her and which, scarcely comprehending, she had yet been
induced only by these extreme measures to subscribe one was
substituted and read to the people, containing a far more explicit
confession, in which she was made to own the falsehood of all her

The English were angry she had not been burned, and pelted her
with stones, to shew their fury. The few friends she had were glad
her life was spared on any terms. This, however, was well known
to be but for a time ; for, on hearing some rumour of Joan being
ill in prison, and that some friendly hand had administered poison to
her to save her further suffering, the Earl of Warwick had shewn
the greatest indignation, saying : ' The king would not for the world


she should die a natural death ; he had bought her so dearly, that
she must be burned ;' desiring them 'to cure her quickly.' What a
picture of the barbarism and cruelty of the age !

After the scene of the recantation we have above described, the
Bishop of Beauvais proceeded to pass the sentence of the tribunal,
of course prepared beforehand. He said, ' that as, by the grace of
God, she had recanted her errors, and come back to the bosom of
the church, and publicly abjured her heresies, according to the form
of the church, the ban of excommunication was removed, provided
always she was willing to observe all that was prescribed to her.
But,' he added, ' as she had sinned against God and the holy Catholic
Church, though "by grace and moderation" her life was spared, she
must pass the rest of it in prison, with the bread of grief and the
water of anguish for her food.'

Joan hoped that, after this sentence, she should be placed in some
prison within the jurisdiction of the church ; possibly she might
have thought of a convent ; at all events, she called eagerly to her
guards to lead her back to prison, ' out of the hands of the English ;'
but she was conducted to her former dungeon, the great tower of

As we have before hinted, it was not designed that her life should
be much longer spared. By some show of apparent lenity, there is
no doubt her enemies only took time to weave more completely their
meshes about her ; and, while completing her destruction, palliate
their own guilt. ' One of the instructions she received was to resume
the dress of her sex, and to let her hair grow long ; her tresses
having been somewhat cropped for the convenience of her military
attire. All this she readily promised. But in a few days they
placed, on purpose, though apparently by accident, her warlike
apparel in her chamber. Seeing that, true to her word, she did not
attempt to resume it, one of her guards, in unchaining her from her
bed for the purpose of her rising, snatched away the female clothing
which lay near, and throwing the military garments upon the bed,
desired her to get up.

' Sir,' she said meekly, 'you know this is forbidden me ; I will not
wear this coat.' But her remonstrances were unavailing, though the
debate lasted till noon. Forced then to rise, she was obliged to
take the only clothing at her command. A messenger was instantly
sent to the Earl of Warwick to apprise him of the success of the
scheme. Warwick immediately communicated with the bishop, who,
accompanied by the assessors, hastened to the prison. One of them,
named Andre" Marguerie, had the charity to exclaim that it would be
only fair to ask her why she had resumed male attire ; but he was,
in consequence, so ill-used by the mob that he had to run for his

There was now no appeal ; for, according to the ecclesiastical
law, it was the relapse into heresy, punishable with death. Into this


they had entrapped her. Joan's enemies would not listen to her
explanations ; and it would appear that, stung into dignity by her
accumulated wrongs, the maid spoke now even with more deter-
mination than on her trial. She reproached herself with weakness
in having signed the abjuration, and declared that she would now in
no way yield to her judges, except in adopting the dress of her sex,
which she was quite ready to do.

It was early in the morning of the 3oth of May that her confessor,
L'Advenu, one of the few who had shewn some compassion for her
fate, entered her cell to prepare her for death. The decree had
gone forth she was to be burned that day at the market-place of
Rouen. On first hearing this dreadful sentence, her fortitude forsook
her : she tore her hair in anguish, and uttered the most piteous
complaints against so cruel a death. But by degrees she recovered
calmness and fortitude, and received the holy sacrament from the
hands of L'Advenu. At nine o'clock in the morning, she mounted
the fatal car, arrayed for this last occasion in female attire, and
accompanied by the priest, Martin L'Advenu, and some other
persons, among whom was one who had incurred the anger of her
judges by having spoken in favour of the unhappy girl. No less a
body than 800 English armed men accompanied her to the place of
execution. As she passed on, the wretched L'Oiseleur, touched at
this moment with remorse, threw himself in her way to seek pardon
for his perfidy; but he was dragged from the car by the brutal
soldiery, and ordered by the Earl of Warwick to quit the town if he
wished to preserve his life. As she rode on, her prayers were so
devout, and she recommended her soul to the Almighty in such
touching accents, that several of the spectators were moved to tears ;
and some of the assessors had not the heart to follow her to the last.
'O Rouen ! Rouen !' she exclaimed as she came near the market-
place, ' is it here, indeed, that I must die ! '

At the spot where now rises a statue to her memory, she found
the wood ready piled, and her implacable enemies, the Bishop of
Beauvais and the Cardinal of Winchester, with other prelates,
awaiting their victim. A sermon was read, during which time she
shed tears, and asking for a cross, an English soldier made one by
breaking his staff asunder. She kissed it, and clasped it to her
breast, and afterwards she was furnished with one from a neigh-
bouring church. After the sermon, the preacher addressed her,
saying : ' Joan, depart in peace ; the church delivers you to the
secular authorities.'

She now knelt down in fervent prayer, commending herself to
the Holy Trinity and all the blessed saints, naming especially her
protectresses, St Catharine and St Margaret. She then asked
pardon for all her offences, declared that she forgave all those who
had injured her, and concluded by entreating the prayers of the
spectators. She spoke distinctly, and her words and resignation to


the will of God drew tears and sobs from many who had come
prepared to revile her. It was said that many of the clergy were so
overcome at the sight that they were obliged to leave the platform
on which they were ranged.

But the brutal soldiers, eager to feast their sight with the victim's
agonies, murmured at delay, exclaiming to L'Advenu : ' How now,
priest, do you mean to make us dine here?' Although she was
walking between the officers, accompanied by the good L'Advenu,
to the stake, the impatient soldiers seized her violently to drag her
thither. The pile was made secure with masonry, and after the
ill-fated maid was bound to the stake, they placed a mitre upon
her head, on which were inscribed in large letters the words
fold was placed a sort of scroll, enumerating the crimes of which
she was accused. To the end she maintained that she had acted
in obedience to the commands of God; and her last word was
'Jesus.' As the flames spread, she desired L'Advenu, who had
remained to comfort her, to withdraw out of danger, but to hold
the crucifix aloft, that her last look might rest on the sign of the
Redeemer. And this he did, continuing to pray with her in a
loud voice. Such was the end of the heroic martyred Joan of Arc !

Scarcely, however, was the frightful tragedy concluded, before
there was a movement of pity among the spectators. Some began
to think they had committed a crime in burning a saint ; others
wished their own persons had been burned in the place of hers. Yet,
notwithstanding these demonstrations of feeling, further indignities
were heaped on her remains. The blackened corpse was shewn
to the people, to convince them of her identity ; then a second time
the fire was kindled, and her body, reduced to ashes, was thrown
into the Seine.

Thus perished, after a year's captivity, all that was mortal of this
heroic girl. But her memory still dwells among us, not only to
form the poet's inspiration, but to teach a stern lesson of those dark
days when an ignorant superstition usurped the place of judgment.
In happier times, her heroism and devotion would have won admira-
tion even from her foes, and her hallucination under the circum-
stances, proceeding as it did from zeal in a righteous cause, has
something in it almost worthy of respect.

The affairs of the English in France, far from being advanced by
this execution, went every day more and more to decay : the great
abilities of the Duke of Bedford, as regent, were unable to resist the
strong inclination which had seized the French to return under the
obedience of their rightful sovereign, and which that act of cruelty
was ill fitted to remove. Besides losing one town and province
after another, the English sustained a serious blow in the with-
drawal of the Duke of Burgundy from their interests. Having only
served them to satisfy a temporary pique against Charles, he now



relented in his animosity ; and having received certain concessions,
at the expense of the English claims, he gave in his adhesion to the
French crown. This, with some subsequent movements, turned the
balance so effectually against the English, that in a few years they
were, with trifling exceptions, stripped of all their French possessions.
Although Charles was thus successful in the restoration of the French
monarchy, and in after-years favourably distinguished himself, it is
hard to forgive the apathy with which he endured the captivity and
death of the Maid of Orleans, without whose energetic measures he
most likely would have lost all title to king of France. His death,
which happened in 1461, was almost as terrible as that of Joan.
He died from voluntary starvation, induced from a dread of being
poisoned by his own son, that monster afterwards known as Louis XI.
In 1456, as an act of justice to her memory, an ecclesiastical court,
headed by the Archbishop of Rheims, revised the case of Joan of
Arc, and finding the allegations against her false, pronounced her
lo have been entirely innocent a poor compensation, it will be
admitted, for the torments and indignity of a cruel death* Posterity
has further done justice to the memory of the heroic Pucelle in
numerous poems and dramas : a recollection of her person and
deeds has also been preserved in France by different statues, one
of the most beautiful being that executed by a daughter of Louis-
Philippe, king of the French, in which she is represented in her suit
of armour, and in that modesty of attitude which befitted her
simplicity of character. Upon the pedestal of the statue erected
to her memory in Rouen, on the spot of her unjust execution, was
affixed an inscription in acknowledgment of her services to the
state, which may be thus translated :


* Few facts in history seem better authenticated than the death of ' the Maid ' at Rouen
in 1431, and yet grave doubts have been raised on the point. There was a popular belief
at the time that some one had been executed in the place of Joan; and many pretended
Maids appeared, who, however, were punished as impostors. But a Father Vignier, in the
I7th century, found among the archives of Metz a paper purporting to be written at the
time, and giving an account of the arrival at Metz, on the 2oth May 1436, of the Maid Jeanne,
who was at once recognised by her two brothers, and was subsequently married to a Sieur
de Hermoise. Vignier afterwards found in the family muniment-chest of a M. des Armoise,
in Lorraine, a contract of marriage between ' Robert des Armoise, Knight, with Jeanne
D'Arcy, surnamed the Maid of Orleans." In addition to this, there was found, in 1740,
among the archives of the Maison de Ville of Orleans, under the dates 1435, 1436, a record
of certain payments to a messenger bringing letters from Jeanne the Maid, and also to her
brother John du Lils or Lys. (De Lys was the name by which the family of Dare was
ennobled.) A subsequent entry, ist August 1439, records a gift on the part of the council
of the city for services rendered by her at the siege. M. Delepierre, who has discussed the
subject in his Doute historiquc (privately printed, 1855), adduces various other facts tending
to the same conclusion. Chamber?! Encyclopedia.




fMONG the many females in humble life who have been
exemplary for their extraordinary perseverance under
difficulties, their ingenious industry, and their self-
sacrificing benevolence, a poor woman who lived in an
obscure situation in Liverpool is deserving of being
placed in the foremost rank. This heroine in humble life whom
we shall describe under the name of Catherine or Kitty, by which
she was usually known to her friends was born in a populous village
in Lancashire about the year 1786. Her parents, who were in poor
circumstances, happened to become favourably known to an infirm
and venerable lady, who kindly took Catherine home to stay with
her as a humble companion and servant. By this humane lady she
was taught to read, and trained not only to early habits of neatness
and order, but to the knowledge as well as the practice of Christian
dispositions and duties.

Although this lady had only a moderate income, she spent not a
little on the poor, whom she likewise encouraged with her advice in


cases of difficulty, and cheered with her presence in distress. When
she became too feeble to walk to the houses of her neighbours, she
was occasionally carried out in a sedan-chair, her little servant
walking by her side. Catherine afterwards used to describe these
expeditions to her friends : ' The old lady would say to me :
" Catherine, I am going out ;" and then she would be carried out in
her sedan. She was too lame to walk, and could not easily get int
a coach. I used to take a little basket and go by her side. We
would soon stop at a cellar, into which she sent me to see how the
poor woman was ; and when I had come out again, she would say :
" How does she look? Is there any fire in the grate ? Is there any
coal in the house?" Then she would send me for anything that was
wanted. And when we had come home, she would say : " Go, put
your feet upon the fender, and dry them, and tell me what you think
of what you have seen." Then she would say : " Catherine, poverty
will probably be your portion ; but you have one talent which you
may use for the good of others. You may sometimes read half an
hour to a poor sick neighbour. You may read a chapter of the Bible
to her when she could not read it herself ; or you may run errands
for those who have no one else to go for them. Promise me, then,
my child, that you will try to do what you can for others, and I
hope we may meet in another world." Ah ! there were few like my
dear mistress.'

This lady having died, her household was broken up, and Catherine
returned to her family. She could not, however, be kept at home ;
and as no suitable place in domestic service could be obtained for
her, she was sent with her brother to work at a cotton-mill in a
village at some distance. This was in the year 1798, when she was
only twelve years of age. That a child so youthful should have been
despatched to such a scene of labour may excite surprise, but only
in those who are in the habit of considering all factory systems as
injurious, if not tyrannical. Many may be bad enough, but those
conducted in country districts, and under good management, are, on
the whole, not unfavourable to health or morals. The mill to which
our young heroine and her brother were committed was one of the
better regulated class. The hours were not long, and were precisely
fixed. All had their appointed duty, which if they attended to, no

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 4 of 58)