The Life of Joan of Arc - Anatole France - ebook

THERE is no authentic picture of Jeanne. From her we know that at Arras she saw in the hands of a Scotsman a picture in which she was represented on her knees presenting a letter to her King. From her we know also that she never caused to be made either image or painting of herself, and that she was not aware of the existence of any such image or painting. The portrait painted by the Scotsman, which was doubtless very small, is unfortunately lost and no copy of it is known. The slight pen-and-ink figure, drawn on a register of May 10, 1429, by a clerk of the Parlement of Paris, who had never seen the Maid, must be regarded as the mere scribbling of a scribe who was incapable of even designing a good initial letter. I shall not attempt to reconstruct the iconography of the Maid. The bronze equestrian statue in the Cluny Museum produces a grotesque effect that one is tempted to believe deliberate, if one may ascribe such an intention to an old sculptor. It dates from the reign of Charles VIII. It is a Saint George or a Saint Maurice, which, at a time doubtless quite recent, was taken to represent the Maid. Between the legs of the miserable jade, on which the figure is mounted, was engraved the inscription: La pucelle dorlians, a description which would not have been employed in the fifteenth century. About 1875, the Cluny Museum exhibited another statuette, slightly larger, in painted wood, which was also believed to be fifteenth century, and to represent Jeanne d'Arc. It was relegated to the store-room, when it turned out to be a bad seventeenth-century Saint Maurice from a church at Montargis. Any saint in armour is frequently described as a Jeanne d'Arc. This is what happened to a small fifteenth-century head wearing a helmet, found buried in the ground at Orléans, broken off from a statue and still bearing traces of painting: a work in good style and with a charming expression. I have not patience to relate how many initial letters of antiphonaries and sixteenth-, seventeenth- and even eighteenth-century miniatures have been touched up or repainted and passed off as true and ancient representations of Jeanne. Many of them I have had the opportunity of seeing. On the other hand, if they were not so well known, it would give me pleasure to recall certain manuscripts of the fifteenth century, which, like Le Champion des Dames and Les Vigiles de Charles VII, contain miniatures in which the Maid is portrayed according to the fancy of the illuminator. Such pictures are interesting because they reveal her as she was imagined by those who lived during her lifetime or shortly afterwards. It is not their merit that appeals to us; they possess none; and in no way do they suggest Jean Foucquet...

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Anatole France


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Copyright © 2016 by Anatole France

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FROM NEUFCHÂTEAU TO VAUCOULEURS THE clear waters of the Meuse flow freely between banks covered with rows of poplar trees and low bushes of alder and willow. Now they wind in sudden bends, now in gradual curves, for ever breaking up into narrow streams, and then the threads of greenish waters gather together again, or here and there are suddenly lost to sight underground. In the summer the river is a lazy stream, barely bending in its course the reeds which grow upon its shallow bed; and from the bank one may watch its lapping waters kept back by clumps of rushes scarcely covering a little sand and moss. But in the season of heavy rains, swollen by sudden torrents, deeper and more rapid, as it rushes along, it leaves behind it on the banks a kind of dew, which rises in pools of clear water on a level with the grass of the valley.

This valley, two or three miles broad, stretches unbroken between low hills, softly undulating, crowned with oaks, maples, and birches. Although strewn with wild-flowers in the spring, it looks severe, grave, and sometimes even sad. The green grass imparts to it a monotony like that of stagnant water. Even on fine days one is conscious of a hard, cold climate. The sky seems more genial than the earth. It beams upon it with a tearful smile; it constitutes all the movement, the grace, the exquisite charm of this delicate tranquil landscape. Then when winter comes the sky merges with the earth in a kind of chaos. Fogs come down thick and clinging. The white light mists, which in summer veil the bottom of the valley, give place to thick clouds and dark moving mountains, but slowly scattered by a red, cold sun. Wanderers ranging the uplands in the early morning might dream with the mystics in their ecstasy that they are walking on clouds.

Thus, after having passed on the left the wooded plateau, from the height of which the château of Bourlémont dominates the valley of the Saonelle, and on the right Coussey with its old church, the winding river flows between le Bois Chesnu on the west and the hill of Julien on the east. Then on it goes, passing the adjacent villages of Domremy and Greux on the west bank and separating Greux from Maxey-sur-Meuse. Among other hamlets nestling in the hollows of the hills or rising on the high ground, it passes Burey-la-Côte, Maxey-sur-Vaise, and Burey-en-Vaux, and flows on to water the beautiful meadows of Vaucouleurs.

In this little village of Domremy, situated at least seven and a half miles further down the river than Neufchâteau and twelve and a half above Vaucouleurs, there was born, about the year 1410 or 1412, a girl who was destined to live a remarkable life. She was born poor. Her father, Jacques or Jacquot d’Arc, a native of the village of Ceffonds in Champagne, was a small farmer and himself drove his horses at the plough. His neighbours, men and women alike, held him to be a good Christian and an industrious workman. His wife came from Vouthon, a village nearly four miles northwest of Domremy, beyond the woods of Greux. Her name being Isabelle or Zabillet, she received at some time, exactly when is uncertain, the surname of Romée. That name was given to those who had been to Rome or on some other important pilgrimage; and it is possible that Isabelle may have acquired her name of Romée by assuming the pilgrim’s shell and staff. One of her brothers was a parish priest, another a tiler; she had a nephew who was a carpenter. She had already borne her husband three children: Jacques or Jacquemin, Catherine, and Jean.

Jacques d’Arc’s house was on the verge of the precincts of the parish church, dedicated to Saint Remi, the apostle of Gaul. There was only the graveyard to cross when the child was carried to the font. It is said that in those days and in that country the form of exorcism pronounced by the priest during the baptismal ceremony was much longer for girls than for boys. We do not know whether Messire Jean Minet, the parish priest, pronounced it over the child in all its literal fulness, but we notice the custom as one of the numerous signs of the Church’s invincible mistrust of woman.

According to the custom then prevailing the child had several godfathers and godmothers. The men-gossips were Jean Morel, of Greux, husbandman; Jean Barrey, of Neufchâteau; Jean Le Langart or Lingui, and Jean Rainguesson; the women, Jeannette, wife of Thévenin le Royer, called Roze, of Domremy; Béatrix, wife of Estellin, husbandman in the same village; Edite, wife of Jean Barrey; Jeanne, wife of Aubrit, called Jannet and described as Maire Aubrit when he was appointed secretary to the lords of Bourlémont; Jeannette, wife of Thiesselin de Vittel, a scholar of Neufchâteau. She was the most learned of all, for she had heard stories read out of books. Among the godmothers there are mentioned also the wife of Nicolas d’Arc, Jacques’ brother, and two obscure Christians, one called Agnes, the other Sibylle. Here, as in every group of good Catholics, we have a number of Jeans, Jeannes, and Jeannettes. St. John the Baptist was a saint of high repute; his festival, kept on the 24th of June, was a red-letter day in the calendar, both civil and religious; it marked the customary date for leases, hirings, and contracts of all kinds. In the opinion of certain ecclesiastics, especially of the mendicant orders, St. John the Evangelist, whose head had rested on the Saviour’s breast and who was to return to earth when the ages should have run their course, was the greatest saint in Paradise. Wherefore, in honour of the Precursor of the Saviour or of his best beloved disciple, when babes were baptised the name Jean or Jeanne was frequently preferred to all others. To render these holy names more in keeping with the helplessness of childhood and the humble destiny awaiting most of us, they were given the diminutive forms of Jeannot and Jeannette. On the banks of the Meuse the peasants had a particular liking for these diminutives at once unpretentious and affectionate: Jacquot, Pierrollot, Zabillet, Mengette, Guillemette.After the wife of the scholar, Thiesselin, the child was named Jeannette. That was the name by which she was known in the village. Later, in France, she was called Jeanne.

She was brought up in her father’s house, in Jacques’ poor dwelling. In the front there were two windows admitting but a scanty light. The stone roof forming one side of a gable on the garden side sloped almost to the ground. Close by the door, as was usual in that country, were the dung-heap, a pile of firewood, and the farm tools covered with rust and mud. But the humble enclosure, which served as orchard and kitchen-garden, in the spring bloomed in a wealth of pink and white flowers.

These good Christians had one more child, the youngest, Pierre, who was called Pierrelot.

Fed on light wine and brown bread, hardened by a hard life, Jeanne grew up in an unfruitful land, among people who were rough and sober. She lived in perfect liberty. Among hard-working peasants the children are left to themselves. Isabelle’s daughter seems to have got on well with the village children.

A little neighbour, Hauviette, three or four years younger than she, was her daily companion. They liked to sleep together in the same bed. Mengette, whose parents lived close by, used to come and spin at Jacques d’Arc’s house. She helped Jeanne with her household duties. Taking her distaff with her, Jeanne used often to go and pass the evening at Saint-Amance, at the house of a husbandman Jacquier, who had a young daughter. Boys and girls grew up as a matter of course side by side. Being neighbours, Jeanne and Simonin Musnier’s son were brought up together. When Musnier’s son was still a child he fell ill, and Jeanne nursed him.

In those days it was not unprecedented for village maidens to know their letters. A few years earlier Maître Jean Gerson had counselled his sisters, peasants of Champagne, to learn to read, and had promised, if they succeeded, to give them edifying books. Albeit the niece of a parish priest, Jeanne did not learn her horn-book, thus resembling most of the village children, but not all, for at Maxey there was a school attended by boys from Domremy.

From her mother she learnt the Paternoster, Ave Maria, and the credo. She heard a few beautiful stories of the saints. That was her whole education. On holy days, in the nave of the church, beneath the pulpit, while the men stood round the wall, she, in the manner of the peasant women, squatted on her toes, listening to the priest’s sermon.

As soon as she was old enough she laboured in the fields, weeding, digging, and, like the Lorraine maidens of to-day, doing the work of a man.

The river meadows were the chief source of wealth to the dwellers on the banks of the Meuse. When the hay harvest was over, according to his share of the arable land, each villager in Domremy had the right to turn so many head of cattle into the meadows of the village. Each family took its turn at watching the flocks and herds in the meadows. Jacques d’Arc, who had a little grazing land of his own, turned out his oxen and his horses with the others. When his turn came to watch them, he delegated the task to his daughter Jeanne, who went off into the meadow, distaff in hand.

But she would rather do housework or sew or spin. She was pious. She swore neither by God nor his saints; and to assert the truth of anything she was content to say: “There’s no mistake.”When the bells rang for the Angelus, she crossed herself and knelt. On Saturday, the Holy Virgin’s day, she climbed the hill overgrown with grass, vines, and fruit-trees, with the village of Greux nestling at its foot, and gained the wooded plateau, whence she could see on the east the green valley and the blue hills. On the brow of the hill, barely two and a half miles from the village, in a shaded dale full of murmuring sounds, from beneath beeches, ash-trees, and oaks gush forth the clear waters of the Saint-Thiébault spring, which cure fevers and heal wounds. Above the spring rises the chapel of Notre-Dame de Bermont. In fine weather it is pervaded by the scent of fields and woods, and winter wraps this high ground in a mantle of sadness and silence. In those days, clothed in a royal cloak and wearing a crown, with her divine child in her arms, Notre-Dame de Bermont received the prayers and the offerings of young men and maidens. She worked miracles. Jeanne used to visit her with her sister Catherine and the boys and girls of the neighbourhood, or quite alone. And as often as she could she lit a candle in honour of the heavenly lady.

A mile and a quarter west of Domremy was a hill covered with a dense wood, which few dared enter for fear of boars and wolves. Wolves were the terror of the countryside. The village mayors gave rewards for every head of a wolf or wolf-cub brought them. This wood, which Jeanne could see from her threshold, was the Bois Chesnu, the wood of oaks, or possibly the hoary [chenu] wood, the old forest. We shall see later how this Bois Chesnu was the subject of a prophecy of Merlin the Magician.

At the foot of the hill, towards the village, was a spring on the margin of which gooseberry bushes intertwined their branches of greyish green. It was called the Gooseberry Spring or the Blackthorn Spring. If, as was thought by a graduate of the University of Paris, Jeanne described it as La Fontaine-aux-Bonnes-Fées-Notre-Seigneur, it must have been because the village people called it by that name. By making use of such a term it would seem as if those rustic souls were trying to Christianise the nymphs of the woods and waters, in whom certain teachers discerned the demons which the heathen once worshipped as goddesses. It was quite true. Goddesses as much feared and venerated as the Parcæ had come to be called Fates, and to them had been attributed power over the destinies of men. But, fallen long since from their powerful and high estate, these village fairies had grown as simple as the people among whom they lived. They were invited to baptisms, and a place at table was laid for them in the room next the mother’s. At these festivals they ate alone and came and went without any one’s knowing; people avoided spying upon their movements for fear of displeasing them. It is the custom of divine personages to go and come in secret. They gave gifts to new-born infants. Some were very kind, but most of them, without being malicious, appeared irritable, capricious, jealous; and if they were offended even unintentionally, they cast evil spells. Sometimes they betrayed their feminine nature by unaccountable likes and dislikes. More than one found a lover in a knight or a churl; but generally such loves came to a bad end. And, when all is said, gentle or terrible, they remained the Fates, they were always the Destinies.

Near by, on the border of the wood, was an ancient beech, overhanging the highroad to Neufchâteau and casting a grateful shade. The beech was venerated almost as piously as had been those trees which were held sacred in the days before apostolic missionaries evangelised Gaul. No hand dared touch its branches, which swept the ground. “Even the lilies are not more beautiful,”said a rustic. Like the spring the tree had many names. It was called l’Arbre-des-Dames, l’Arbre-aux-Loges-les-Dames, l’Arbre-des-Fées, l’Arbre-Charmine-Fée-de-Bourlémont, le Beau-Mai.

Every one at Domremy knew that fairies existed and that they had been seen under l’Arbre-aux-Loges-les-Dames. In the old days, when Berthe was spinning, a lord of Bourlémont, called Pierre Granier, became a fairy’s knight, and kept his tryst with her at eve under the beech-tree. A romance told of their loves. One of Jeanne’s godmothers, who was a scholar at Neufchâteau, had heard this story, which closely resembled that tale of Melusina so well known in Lorraine. But a doubt remained as to whether fairies still frequented the beech-tree. Some believed they did, others thought they did not. Béatrix, another of Jeanne’s godmothers, used to say: “I have heard tell that fairies came to the tree in the old days. But for their sins they come there no longer.”

This simple-minded woman meant that the fairies were the enemies of God and that the priest had driven them away. Jean Morel, Jeanne’s godfather, believed the same.

Indeed on Ascension Eve, on Rogation days and Ember days, crosses were carried through the fields and the priest went to l’Arbre-des-Fées and chanted the Gospel of St. John. He chanted it also at the Gooseberry Spring and at the other springs in the parish. For the exorcising of evil spirits there was nothing like the Gospel of St. John.

My Lord Aubert d’Ourches held that there had been no fairies at Domremy for twenty or thirty years. On the other hand there were those in the village who believed that Christians still held converse with them and that Thursday was the trysting day.

Yet another of Jeanne’s godmothers, the wife of the mayor Aubrit, had with her own eyes seen fairies under the tree. She had told her goddaughter. And Aubrit’s wife was known to be no witch or soothsayer but a good woman and a circumspect.

In all this Jeanne suspected witchcraft. For her own part she had never met the fairies under the tree. But she would not have said that she had not seen fairies elsewhere. Fairies are not like angels; they do not always appear what they really are.

Every year, on the fourth Sunday in Lent,—called by the Church “Lætare Sunday,” because during the mass of the day was chanted the passage beginning Lætare Jerusalem,—the peasants of Bar held a rustic festival. This was their well-dressing when they went together to drink from some spring and to dance on the grass. The peasants of Greux kept their festival at the Chapel of Notre-Dame de Bermont; those of Domremy at the Gooseberry Spring and at l’Arbre-des-Fées. They used to recall the days when the lord and lady of Bourlémont themselves led the young people of the village. But Jeanne was still a babe in arms when Pierre de Bourlémont, lord of Domremy and Greux, died childless, leaving his lands to his niece Jeanne de Joinville, who lived at Nancy, having married the chamberlain of the Duke of Lorraine.

At the well-dressing the young men and maidens of Domremy went to the old beech-tree together. After they had hung it with garlands of flowers, they spread a cloth on the grass and supped off nuts, hard-boiled eggs, and little rolls of a curious form, which the housewives had kneaded on purpose. Then they drank from the Gooseberry Spring, danced in a ring, and returned to their own homes at nightfall.

Jeanne, like all the other damsels of the countryside, took her part in the well-dressing. Although she came from the quarter of Domremy nearest Greux, she kept her feast, not at Notre-Dame de Bermont, but at the Gooseberry Spring and l’Arbre-des-Fées.

In her early childhood she danced round the tree with her companions. She wove garlands for the image of Notre-Dame de Domremy, whose chapel crowned a neighbouring hill. The maidens were wont to hang garlands on the branches of l’Arbre-des-Fées. Jeanne, like the others, bewreathed the tree’s branches; and, like the others, sometimes she left her wreaths behind and sometimes she carried them away. No one knew what became of them; and it seems their disappearance was such as to cause wise and learned persons to wonder. One thing, however, is sure: that the sick who drank from the spring were healed and straightway walked beneath the tree.

To hail the coming of spring they made a figure of May, a mannikin of flowers and foliage.

Close by l’Arbre-des-Dames, beneath a hazel-tree, there was a mandrake. He promised wealth to whomsoever should dare by night, and according to the prescribed rites, to tear him from the ground, not fearing to hear him cry or to see blood flow from his little human body and his forked feet.

The tree, the spring, and the mandrake caused the inhabitants of Domremy to be suspected of holding converse with evil spirits. A learned doctor said plainly that the country was famous for the number of persons who practised witchcraft.

When quite a little girl, Jeanne journeyed several times to Sermaize in Champagne, where dwelt certain of her kinsfolk. The village priest, Messire Henri de Vouthon, was her uncle on her mother’sside. She had a cousin there, Perrinet de Vouthon, by calling a tiler, and his son Henri.

Full thirty-seven and a half miles of forest and heath lie between Domremy and Sermaize. Jeanne, we may believe, travelled on horseback, riding behind her brother on the little mare which worked on the farm.

At each visit the child spent several days at her cousin Perrinet’s house.

With regard to feudal overlordship the village of Domremy was divided into two distinct parts. The southern part, with the château on the Meuse and some thirty homesteads, belonged to the lords of Bourlémont and was in the domain of the castellany of Grondrecourt, held in fief from the crown of France. It was a part of Lorraine and of Bar. The northern half of the village, in which the monastery was situated, was subject to the provost of Montéclaire and Andelot and was in the bailiwick of Chaumont in Champagne. It was sometimes called Domremy de Greux because it seemed to form a part of the village of Greux adjoining it on the highroad in the direction of Vaucouleurs. The serfs of Bourlémont were separated from the king’s men by a brook, close by towards the west, flowing from a threefold source and hence called, so it is said, the Brook of the Three Springs. Modestly the stream flowed beneath a flat stone in front of the church, and then rushed down a rapid incline into the Meuse, opposite Jacques d’Arc’s house, which it passed on the left, leaving it in the land of Champagne and of France. So far we may be fairly certain; but we must beware of knowing more than was known in that day. In 1429 King Charles’ council was uncertain as to whether Jacques d’Arc was a freeman or a serf. And Jacques d’Arc himself doubtless was no better informed. On both banks of the brook, the men of Lorraine and Champagne were alike peasants leading a life of toil and hardship. Although they were subject to different masters they formed none the less one community closely united, one single rural family. They shared interests, necessities, feelings—everything. Threatened by the same dangers, they had the same anxieties.

Lying at the extreme south of the castellany of Vaucouleurs, the village of Domremy was between Bar and Champagne on the east, and Lorraine on the west. They were terrible neighbours,always warring against each other, those dukes of Lorraine and Bar, that Count of Vaudémont, that Damoiseau of Commercy, those Lord Bishops of Metz, Toul, and Verdun. But theirs were the quarrels of princes. The villagers observed them just as the frog in the old fable looked on at the bulls fighting in the meadow. Pale and trembling, poor Jacques saw himself trodden underfoot by these fierce warriors. At a time when the whole of Christendom was given up to pillage, the men-at-arms of the Lorraine Marches were renowned as the greatest plunderers in the world. Unfortunately for the labourers of the castellany of Vaucouleurs, close to this domain, towards the north, there lived Robert de Saarbruck, Damoiseau of Commercy, who, subsisting on plunder, was especially given to the Lorraine custom of marauding. He was of the same way of thinking as that English king who said that warfare without burnings was no good, any more than chitterlings without mustard. One day, when he was besieging a little stronghold in which the peasants had taken refuge, the Damoiseau set fire to the crops of the neighbourhood and let them burn all night long, so that he might see more clearly how to place his men.

In 1419 this baron was making war on the brothers Didier and Durand of Saint-Dié. It matters not for what reason. For this war as for every war the villagers had to pay. As the men-at-arms were fighting throughout the whole castellany of Vaucouleurs, the inhabitants of Domremy began to devise means of safety, and in this wise. At Domremy there was a castle built in the meadow at the angle of an island formed by two arms of the river, one of which, the eastern arm, has long since been filled up. Belonging to this castle was a chapel of Our Lady, a courtyard provided with means of defence, and a large garden surrounded by a moat wide and deep. This castle, once the dwelling of the Lords of Bourlémont, was commonly called the Fortress of the Island. The last of the lords having died without children, his property had been inherited by his niece Jeanne de Joinville. But soon after Jeanne d’Arc’s birth she married a Lorraine baron, Henri d’Ogiviller, with whom she went to reside at the castle of Ogiviller and at the ducal court of Nancy. Since her departure the fortress of the island had remained uninhabited. The village folk decided to rent it and to put their tools and their cattle therein out of reach of the plunderers. The renting was put up to auction. A certain Jean Biget of Domremy and Jacques d’Arc, Jeanne’s father, being the highest bidders, and having furnished sufficient security, a lease was drawn up between them and the representatives of Dame d’Ogiviller. The fortress, the garden, the courtyard, as well as the meadows belonging to the domain, were let to Jean Biget and Jacques d’Arc for a term of nine years beginning on St. John the Baptist’s Day, 1419, and in consideration of a yearly rent of fourteen livres tournois and threeimaux of wheat. Besides the two tenants in chief there were five sub-tenants, of whom the first mentioned was Jacquemin, the eldest of Jacques d’Arc’s sons.

The precaution proved to be useful. In that very year, 1419, Robert de Saarbruck and his company met the men of the brothers Didier and Durand at the village of Maxey, the thatched roofs of which were to be seen opposite Greux, on the other bank of the Meuse, along the foot of wooded hills. The two sides here engaged in a battle, in which the victorious Damoiseau took thirty-five prisoners, whom he afterwards liberated after having exacted a high ransom, as was his wont. Among these prisoners was the Squire Thiesselin de Vittel, whose wife had held Jacques d’Arc’s second daughter over the baptismal font. From one of the hills of her village, Jeanne, who was then seven or a little older, could see the battle in which her godmother’s husband was taken prisoner.

Meanwhile matters grew worse and worse in the kingdom of France. This was well known at Domremy, situated as it was on the highroad, and hearing the news brought by wayfarers. Thus it was that the villagers heard of the murder of Duke John of Burgundy on the Bridge at Montereau, when the Dauphin’s Councillors made him pay the price of the blood he had shed in the Rue Barbette. These Councillors, however, struck a bad bargain; for the murder on the Bridge brought their young Prince very low. There followed the war between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians. From this war the English, the obstinate enemies of the kingdom, who for two hundred years had held Guyenne and carried on a prosperous trade there, sucked no small advantage. But Guyenne was far away, and perhaps no one at Domremy knew that it had once been a part of the domain of the kings of France. On the other hand every one was aware that during the recent trouble the English had recrossed the sea and had been welcomed by my Lord Philip, son of the late Duke John. They occupied Normandy, Maine, Picardy, l’Île-de-France, and Paris the great city. Now in France the English were bitterly hated and greatly feared on account of their reputation for cruelty. Not that they were really more wicked than other nations. In Normandy, their king, Henry, had caused women and property to be respected in all places under his dominion. But war is in itself cruel, and whosoever wages war in a country is rightly hated by the people of that country. The English were accused of treachery, and not always wrongly accused, for good faith is rare among men. They were ridiculed in various ways. Playing upon their name in Latin and in French, they were called angels. Now if they were angels they were assuredly bad angels. They denied God, and their favorite oath Goddam was so often on their lips that they were called Godons. They were devils. They were said to be coués, that is, to have tails behind. There was mourning in many a French household when Queen Ysabeau delivered the kingdom of France to the coués,making of the noble French lilies a litter for the leopard. Since then, only a few days apart, King Henry V of Lancaster and King Charles VI of Valois, the victorious king and the mad king, had departed to present themselves before God, the Judge of the good and the evil, the just and the unjust, the weak and the powerful. The castellany of Vaucouleurs was French. Dwelling there were clerks and nobles who pitied that later Joash, torn from his enemies in childhood, an orphan spoiled of his heritage, in whom centred the hope of the kingdom. But how can we imagine that poor husbandmen had leisure to ponder on these things? How can we really believe that the peasants of Domremy were loyal to the Dauphin Charles, their lawful lord, while the Lorrainers of Maxey, following their Duke, were on the side of the Burgundians?

Only the river divided Maxey on the right bank from Domremy. The Domremy and Greux children went there to school. There were quarrels between them; the little Burgundians of Maxey fought pitched battles with the little Armagnacs of Domremy. More than once Joan, at the Bridge end in the evening, saw the lads of her village returning covered with blood. It is quite possible that, passionate as she was, she may have gravely espoused these quarrels and conceived therefrom a bitter hatred of the Burgundians. Nevertheless, we must beware of finding an indication of public opinion in these boyish games played by the sons of villeins. For centuries the brats of these two parishes were to fight and to insult each other. Insults and stones fly whenever and wherever children gather in bands, and those of one village meet those of another. The peasants of Domremy, Greux, and Maxey, we may be sure, vexed themselves little about the affairs of dukes and kings. They had learnt to be as much afraid of the captains of their own side as of the captains of the opposite party, and not to draw any distinction between the men-at-arms who were their friends and those who were their enemies.

In 1429 the English occupied the bailiwick of Chaumont and garrisoned several fortresses in Bassigny. Messire Robert, Lord of Baudricourt and Blaise, son of the late Messire Liébault de Baudricourt, was then captain of Vaucouleurs and bailie of Chaumont for the Dauphin Charles. He might be reckoned a great plunderer, even in Lorraine. In the spring of this year, 1420, the Duke of Burgundy having sent an embassy to the Lord Bishop of Verdun, as the ambassadors were returning they were taken prisoners by Sire Robert in league with the Damoiseau of Commercy. To avenge this offence the Duke of Burgundy declared war on the Captain of Vaucouleurs, and the castellany was ravaged by bands of English and Burgundians.

In 1423 the Duke of Lorraine was waging war with a terrible man, one Étienne de Vignolles, a Gascon soldier of fortune already famous under the dreaded name of La Hire, which he was to leave after his death to the knave of hearts in those packs of cards marked by the greasy fingers of many a mercenary. La Hire was nominally on the side of the Dauphin Charles, but in reality he only made war on his own account. At this time he was ravaging Bar west and south, burning churches and laying waste villages.

While he was occupying Sermaize, the church of which was fortified, Jean, Count of Salm, who was governing the Duchy of Bar for the Duke of Lorraine, laid siege to it with two hundred horse. Collot Turlaut, who two years before had married Mengette, daughter of Jean de Vouthon and Jeanne’s cousin-german, was killed there by a bomb fired from a Lorraine mortar.

Jacques d’Arc was then the elder (doyen) of the community. Many duties fell to the lot of the village elder, especially in troubled times. It was for him to summon the mayor and the aldermen to the council meetings, to cry the decrees, to command the watch day and night, to guard the prisoners. It was for him also to collect taxes, rents, and feudal dues, an ungrateful office in a ruined country.

Under pretence of safeguarding and protecting them, Robert de Saarbruck, Damoiseau of Commercy, who for the moment was Armagnac, was plundering and ransoming the villages belonging to Bar, on the left bank of the Meuse. On the 7th of October, 1423, Jacques d’Arc, as elder, signed below the mayor and sheriff the act by which the Squire extorted from these poor people the annual payment of two gros from each complete household and one from each widow’s household, a tax which amounted to no less than two hundred and twenty golden crowns, which the elder was charged to collect before the winter feast of Saint-Martin.

The following year was bad for the Dauphin Charles, for the French and Scottish horsemen of his party met with the worst possible treatment at Verneuil. This year the Damoiseau of Commercy turned Burgundian and was none the better or the worse for it. Captain La Hire was still fighting in Bar, but now it was against the young son of Madame Yolande, the Dauphin Charles’s brother-in-law, René d’Anjou, who had lately come of age and was now invested with the Duchy of Bar. At the point of the lance Captain La Hire was demanding certain sums of money that the Cardinal Duke of Bar owed him.

At the same time Robert, Sire de Baudricourt, was fighting with Jean de Vergy, lord of Saint-Dizier, Seneschal of Burgundy. It was a fine war. On both sides the combatants laid hands on bread, wine, money, silver-plate, clothes, cattle big and little, and what could not be carried off was burnt. Men, women, and children were put to ransom. In most of the villages of Bassigny agriculture was suspended, nearly all the mills were destroyed.

Ten, twenty, thirty bands of Burgundians were ravaging the castellany of Vaucouleurs, laying it waste with fire and sword. The peasants hid their horses by day, and by night got up to take them to graze. At Domremy life was one perpetual alarm. All day and all night there was a watchman stationed on the square tower of the monastery. Every villager, and, if the prevailing custom were observed, even the priest, took his turn as watchman, peering for the glint of lances through the dust and sunlight down the white ribbon of the road, searching the horrid depths of the wood, and by night trembling to see the villages on the horizon bursting into flame. At the approach of men-at-arms the watchman would ring a noisy peal of those bells, which in turn celebrated births, mourned for the dead, summoned the people to prayer, dispelled storms of thunder and lightning, and warned of danger. Half clothed the awakened villagers would rush to stable, to cattle-shed, and pell-mell drive their flocks and herds to the castle between the two arms of the River Meuse.

One day in the summer of 1425, there fell upon the villages of Greux and Domremy a certain chief of these marauding bands, who was murdering and plundering throughout the land, by name Henri d’Orly, known as Henri de Savoie. This time the island fortress was of no use to the villagers. Lord Henri took all the cattle from the two villages and drove them fifteen or twenty leaguesaway to his château of Doulevant. He had also captured much furniture and other property; and the quantity of it was so great that he could not store it all in one place; wherefore he had part of it carried to Dommartin-le-Franc, a neighbouring village, where there was a château with so large a court in front that the place was called Dommartin-la-Cour. The peasants cruelly despoiled were dying of hunger. Happily for them, at the news of this pillage, Dame d’Ogiviller sent to the Count of Vaudémont in his château of Joinville, complaining to him, as her kinsman, of the wrong done her, since she was lady of Greux and Domremy. The château of Doulevant was under the immediate suzerainty of the Count of Vaudémont. As soon as he received his kinswoman’s message he sent a man-at-arms with seven or eight soldiers to recapture the cattle. This man-at-arms, by name Barthélemy de Clefmont, barely twenty years of age, was well skilled in deeds of war. He found the stolen beasts in the château of Dommartin-le-Franc, took them and drove them to Joinville. On the way he was pursued and attacked by Lord d’Orly’s men and stood in great danger of death. But so valiantly did he defend himself that he arrived safe and sound at Joinville, bringing the cattle, which the Count of Vaudémont caused to be driven back to the pastures of Greux and Domremy.

Unexpected good fortune! With tears the husbandman welcomed his restored flocks and herds. But was he not likely to lose them for ever on the morrow?

At that time Jeanne was thirteen or fourteen. War everywhere around her, even in the children’s play; the husband of one of her godmothers taken and ransomed by men-at-arms; the husband of her cousin-german Mengette killed by a mortar; her native land overrun by marauders, burnt, pillaged, laid waste, all the cattle carried off; nights of terror, dreams of horror,—such were the surroundings of her childhood.



NOW, WHEN SHE WAS ABOUT thirteen, it befell one summer day, at noon, that while she was in her father’s garden she heard a voice that filled her with a great fear. It came from the right, from towards the church, and at the same time in the same direction there appeared a light. The voice said: “I come from God to help thee to live a good and holy life.Be good, Jeannette, and God will aid thee.”

It is well known that fasting conduces to the seeing of visions. Jeanne was accustomed to fast. Had she abstained from food that morning and if so when had she last partaken of it? We cannot say.

On another day the voice spoke again and repeated, “Jeannette, be good.”

The child did not know whence the voice came. But the third time, as she listened, she knew it was an angel’s voice and she even recognised the angel to be St. Michael. She could not be mistaken, for she knew him well. He was the patron saint of the duchy of Bar. She sometimes saw him on the pillar of church or chapel, in the guise of a handsome knight, with a crown on his helmet, wearing a coat of mail, bearing a shield, and transfixing the devil with his lance. Sometimes he was represented holding the scales in which he weighed souls, for he was provost of heaven and warden of paradise; at once the leader of the heavenly hosts and the angel of judgment. He loved high lands. That is why in Lorraine a chapel had been dedicated to him on Mount Sombar, north of the town of Toul. In very remote times he had appeared to the Bishop of Avranches and commanded him to build a church on Mount Tombe, in such a place as he should find a bull hidden by thieves; and the site of the building was to include the whole area overtrodden by the bull. The Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel-au-Péril-de-la-Mer was erected in obedience to this command.

About the time when the child was having these visions, the defenders of Mont-Saint-Michel discomfited the English who were attacking the fortress by land and sea. The French attributed this victory to the all-powerful intercession of the archangel. And why should he not have favoured the French who worshipped him with peculiar devoutness? Since my Lord St. Denys had permitted his abbey to be taken by the English, my Lord St. Michael, who carefully guarded his, was in a fair way to become the true patron saint of the kingdom. In the year 1419 the Dauphin Charles had had escutcheons painted, representing St. Michael fully armed, holding a naked sword and in the act of slaying a serpent. The maid of Domremy, however, knew but little of the miracles worked by my Lord St. Michael in Normandy. She recognised the angel by his weapons, his courtesy, and the noble words that fell from his lips.

One day he said to her: “Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret will come to thee. Act according to their advice; for they are appointed to guide thee and counsel thee in all thou hast to do, and thou mayest believe what they shall say unto thee.” And these things came to pass as the Lord had ordained.

This promise filled her with great joy, for she loved them both. Madame Sainte Marguerite was highly honoured in the kingdom of France, where she was a great benefactress. She helped women in labour, and protected the peasant at work in the fields. She was the patron saint of flax-spinners, of procurers of wet-nurses, of vellum-dressers, and of bleachers of wool. Her precious relics in a reliquary, carried on a mule’s back, were paraded by ecclesiastics through towns and villages. Plenteous alms were showered upon the exhibitors in return for permission to touch the relics. Many times had Jeanne seen Madame Sainte Marguerite at church, painted life-size, a holy-water sprinkler in her hand, her foot on a dragon’s head. She was acquainted with her history as it was related in those days, somewhat on the lines of the following narrative.

The blessed Margaret was born at Antioch. Her father, Theodosius, was a priest of the Gentiles. She was put out to nurse and secretly baptised. One day when she was in her fifteenth year, as she was watching the flock belonging to her nurse, the governor Olibrius saw her, and, struck by her great beauty, conceived a great passion for her. Wherefore he said to his servants: “Go, bring me that girl, in order that if she be free I may marry her, or if she be a slave I may take her into my service.”

And when she was brought he inquired of her her country, her name, and her religion. She replied that she was called Margaret and that she was a Christian.

And Olibrius said unto her: “How comes it that so noble and beautiful a girl as you can worship Jesus the Crucified?”

And because she replied that Jesus Christ was alive for ever, the governor in wrath had her thrown into prison.

The next day he summoned her to appear before him and said: “Unhappy girl, have pity on your own beauty and for your own sake worship our gods. If you persist in your blindness I will have your body rent in pieces.”

And Margaret made answer: “Jesus suffered death for me, and I would fain die for him.”

Then the governor commanded her to be hung from the wooden horse, to be beaten with rods, and her flesh to be torn with iron claws. And the blood flowed from the virgin’s body as from a pure spring of fresh water.

Those who stood by wept, and the governor covered his face with his cloak that he might not see the blood. And he commanded to unloose her and take her back to prison.

There she was tempted by the Spirit, and she prayed the Lord to reveal to her the enemy whom she had to withstand. Thereupon a huge dragon, appearing before her, rushed forward to devour her, but she made the sign of the cross and he disappeared. Then, in order to seduce her, the devil assumed the form of a man. He came to her gently, took her hands in his and said: “Margaret, what you have done sufficeth.” But she seized him by the hair, threw him to the ground, placed her right foot upon his head and cried: “Tremble, proud enemy, thou liest beneath a woman’s foot.”

The next day, in the presence of the assembled people, she was brought before the judge, who commanded her to sacrifice to idols. And when she refused he had her body burned with flaming pine-wood, but she seemed to suffer no pain. And fearing lest, amazed at this miracle, all the people should be converted, Olibrius commanded that the blessed Margaret should be beheaded. She spoke unto the executioner and said: “Brother, take your axe and strike me.” With one blow he struck off her head. Her soul took flight to heaven in the form of a dove.

This story had been told in songs and mysteries. It was so well known that the name of the governor, jestingly vilified and fallen into ridicule, was in common parlance bestowed on braggarts and blusterers. A fool who posed as a wicked person was called an olibrius.

Madame Sainte Catherine, whose coming the angel had announced to Jeanne at the same time as that of Madame Sainte Marguerite, was the protectress of young girls and especially of servants and spinsters.

Orators and philosophers too had chosen as their patron saint the virgin who had confounded the fifty doctors and triumphed over the magi of the east. In the Meuse valley rhymed prayers like the following were addressed to her:

Ave, très sainte Catherine,

Vierge pucelle nette et fine.

This fine lady was no stranger to Jeanne; she had her church at Maxey, on the opposite bank of the river; and her name was borne by Isabelle Romée’s eldest daughter.

Jeanne certainly did not know the story of Saint Catherine as it was known to illustrious clerks; as, for example, about this time it was committed to writing by Messire Jean Miélot, the secretary of the Duke of Burgundy. Jean Miélot told how the virgin of Alexandria controverted the subtle arguments of Homer, the syllogisms of Aristotle, the very learned reasonings of the famous physicians Æsculapius and Galen, practised the seven liberal arts, and disputed according to the rules of dialectics. Jacques d’Arc’s daughter had heard nothing of all that; she knew Saint Catherine from stories out of some history written in the vulgar tongue, in verse or in prose, so many of which were in circulation at that time.

Catherine, daughter of King Costus and Queen Sabinella, as she grew in years, became proficient in the arts, and a skilful embroiderer in silk. While her body was resplendent with beauty, her soul was clouded by the darkness of idolatry. Many barons of the empire sought her in marriage; she scorned them and said: “Find me a husband wise, handsome, noble, and rich.” Now in her sleep she had a vision. Holding the Child Jesus in her arms, the Virgin Mary appeared unto her and said: “Catherine, will you take him for your husband? And you, my sweet son, will you have this virgin for your bride?”

The Child Jesus made answer: “Mother, I will not have her; bid her depart from you, for she is a worshipper of idols. But if she will be baptised I will consent to put the nuptial ring on her finger.”

Desiring to marry the King of Heaven, Catherine went to ask for baptism at the hands of the hermit Ananias, who lived in Armenia on Mount Negra. A few days afterwards, when she was praying in her room, she saw Jesus Christ appear in the midst of a numerous choir of angels and of saints. He drew near unto her and placed his ring upon her finger. Then only did Catherine know that her bridal was a spiritual bridal.

In those days Maxentius was Emperor of the Romans. He commanded the people of Alexandria to offer great sacrifices to the idols. Catherine, as she was at prayer in her oratory, heard the chanting of the priests and the bellowing of the victims. Straightway she went to the public square, and beholding Maxentius at the gate of the temple, she said unto him: “How comes it that thou art so foolish as to command this people to offer incense to idols? Thou admirest this temple built by the hands of thy workmen. Thou admirest these ornaments which are but dust blown away by the wind. Thou shouldest rather admire the sky, and the earth, and the sea, and all that is therein. Thou shouldest rather admire the ornaments of the heavens: the sun, the moon, and the stars, and those circling planets, which from the beginning of the world move from the west and return to the east and never grow weary. And when thou hast observed all these things, ask and learn who is their Creator. It is our God, the Lord of Hosts, and the God of gods.”

“Woman,” replied the emperor, “leave us to finish our sacrifice; afterwards we will make answer unto thee.”

And he commanded Catherine to be taken into the palace and strictly guarded, because he marvelled at the great wisdom and the wonderful beauty of this virgin. He summoned fifty doctors well versed in the knowledge of the Egyptians and the liberal arts; and, when they were gathered together, he said unto them: “A maiden of subtle mind maintains that our gods are but demons. I could have forced her to sacrifice or have made her pay the penalty of her disobedience; I judged it better that she should be confounded by the power of your reasoning. If you triumph over her, you will return to your homes laden with honours.”

And the wise men made answer: “Let her be brought, that her rashness may be made manifest, that she may confess that never until now has she met men of wisdom.”

And when she learned that she was to dispute with wise men, Catherine feared lest she should not worthily defend the gospel of Jesus Christ. But an angel appeared to her and said: “I am the Archangel Saint Michael, sent by God to make known unto thee that from this strife thou shalt come forth victorious and worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ, the hope and crown of those who strive for him.”

And the virgin disputed with the doctors. When they maintained that it was impossible for God to become man, and be acquainted with grief, Catherine showed how the birth and passion of Jesus Christ had been announced by the Gentiles themselves, and prophesied by Plato and the Sibyl.

The doctors had nothing to oppose to arguments so convincing. Therefore the chief among them said to the emperor: “Thou knowest that up till now no one has disputed with us without being straightway confounded. But this maid, through whom the Spirit of God speaks, fills us with wonder, and we know nothing nor dare we say anything against Christ. And we boldly confess that if thou hast no stronger arguments to bring forth in favour of the gods, whom hitherto we have worshipped, we will all of us embrace the Christian religion.”

On hearing these words, the tyrant was so transported with wrath that he had the fifty doctors burned in the middle of the town. But as a sign that they suffered for the truth, neither their garments nor the hairs of their heads were touched by the fire.

Afterwards Maxentius said unto Catherine: “O virgin, issue of a noble line, and worthy of the imperial purple, take counsel with thy youth, and sacrifice to our gods. If thou dost consent, thou shalt take rank in my palace after the empress, and thy image, placed in the middle of the town, shall be worshipped by all the people like that of a goddess.”

But Catherine answered: “Speak not of such things. The very thought of them is sin. Jesus Christ hath chosen me for his bride. He is my love, my glory, and all my delight.”

Finding it impossible to flatter her with soft words, the tyrant hoped to reduce her to obedience through fear; therefore he threatened her with death.

Catherine’s courage did not waver. “Jesus Christ,” she said, “offered himself to his Father as a sacrifice for me; it is my great joy to offer myself as an agreeable sacrifice to the glory of his name.”

Straightway Maxentius commanded that she should be scourged with rods, and then cast into a dark dungeon and left there without food. Thereupon, at the call of urgent affairs, Maxentius set out for a distant province.

Now the empress, who was a heathen, had a vision, in which Saint Catherine appeared to her surrounded by a marvellous light. Angels clad in white were with her, and their faces could not be looked upon by reason of the brightness that proceeded from them. And Catherine told the empress to draw near. Taking a crown from the hand of one of the angels who attended her, she placed it upon the head of the empress, saying: “Behold a crown sent down to thee from heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, my God, and my Lord.”

The heart of the empress was troubled by this wonderful dream. Wherefore, attended by Porphyrius, a knight who was commander-in-chief of the army, in the early hours of night she repaired to the prison in which Catherine was confined. Here in her cell a dove brought her heavenly food, and angels dressed the virgin’s wounds. The empress and Porphyrius found the dungeon bathed in a light so bright that it filled them with a great fear, and they fell prostrate on the ground. But there straightway filled the dungeon an odour marvellously sweet, which comforted them and gave them courage.

“Arise,” said Catherine, “and be not afraid, for Jesus Christ calleth you.”

They arose, and beheld Catherine in the midst of a choir of angels. The saint took from the hands of one among them a crown, very beautiful and shining like gold, and she put it upon the empress’s head. This crown was the sign of martyrdom. For indeed the names of this queen and of the knight Porphyrius were already written in the book of eternal rewards.

On his return Maxentius commanded Catherine to be brought before him, and said unto her: “Choose between two things: to sacrifice and live, or to die in torment.”

Catherine made answer: “It is my desire to offer to Jesus Christ my flesh and my blood. He is my lover, my shepherd, and my husband.”

Then the provost of the city of Alexandria, whose name was Chursates, commanded to be made four wheels furnished with very sharp iron spikes, in order that upon these wheels the blessed Catherine should die a miserable and a cruel death. But an angel broke the machine, and with such violence that the parts of it flying asunder killed a great number of the Gentiles. And the empress, who beheld these things from the top of her tower, came down and reproached the emperor for his cruelty. Full of wrath, Maxentius commanded the empress to sacrifice; and when she refused, he commanded her breasts to be torn out and her head to be cut off. And while she was being taken to the torturer, Catherine exhorted her, saying: “Go, rejoice, queen beloved of God, for to-day thou shalt exchange for a perishable kingdom an everlasting empire, and a mortal husband for an immortal lover.”

And the empress was taken to suffer death outside the walls. Porphyrius carried away the body and had it buried reverently as that of a servant of Jesus Christ. Wherefore Maxentius had Porphyrius put to death, and his body cast to the dogs. Then, summoning Catherine before him, he said unto her: “Since, by thy magic arts thou hast caused the empress to perish, now if thou repent thou shalt be first in my palace. To-day, therefore, sacrifice to the gods, or thy head shall be struck off.”

She made answer: “Do as thou hast resolved that I may take my place in the band of maidens who are around the Lamb of God.”

The emperor sentenced her to be beheaded. And when they had led her outside the city of Alexandria, to the place of death, she raised her eyes to heaven and said: “Jesus, hope and salvation of the faithful, glory and beauty of virgins, I pray thee to listen and to answer the prayer of whomsoever, in memory of my martyrdom, shall invoke me in death or in peril whatsoever.”

And a voice from heaven made answer: “Come, my beloved bride; the gate of heaven is open to thee. And to those who shall invoke me through thy intercession, I promise help from on high.” From the riven neck of the virgin flowed forth milk instead of blood.

Thus Madame Sainte Catherine passed from this world to celestial happiness, on the twenty-fifth day of the month of November, which was a Friday.

My Lord Saint Michael, the Archangel, did not forget his promise. The ladies Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret came as he had said. On their very first visit the young peasant maid vowed to them to preserve her virginity as long as it should please God. If there were any meaning in such a promise, Jeanne, however old she may then have been, could not have been quite a child. And it seems probable that the angel and the saints appeared to her first when she was on the threshold of womanhood, that is, if she ever became a woman.

The saints soon entered into familiar relations with her.