In this part of our discussion about the mysteries of the life of Joan of Arc we will study the issues which are often the reason for repeated pointed controversies, as they often become a grandstand from which strong charges of defamation of her memory are made.
So be warned in advance that the reading of this text will not be to every person’s taste, especially to one who has a very “orthodox” approach.
Here we will look at even small details. However, even those who are “orthodox” – those who endure here with us to the end – will find that this text should be read. They will have the opportunity to look for how to respond to statements often made on the private life of Joan of Arc.
To make the whole thing easy, we will start from the supposedly “heaviest cannon”, which is aimed at the “orthodox” image of the French heroine.
The „heaviest cannon” however soon proves to be nothing more than a „paper tiger” as, with the exception of the mere assumption of her lesbianism, nothing else hides behind it.
The assumption about Joan’s homosexuality is based on such memories of her as derived from the testimony of her page named Louis de Coutes and preserved in the record of the rehabilitation trial. And it is an important testimony because he was a man who was with Joan almost always for a few months:
„In Tours I became her page; with me also was one called Raymond. From that time I remained with her, and was always with her as her page, at Blois, as well as at Orleans, and until she reached the walls of Paris.”
And this is what Louis de Coutes testified in the matter of interest to us:
„That year that Jeanne came to Chinon I was fourteen or fifteen years old. I was a page to Sieur de Gaucourt, Captain of the Castle. Jeanne arrived at Chinon in the company of two gentlemen, who conducted her to the King; there was given her for residence the Tower of Coudray, at Chinon. I resided and lived with her all the time that she stayed there, passing all the time with her, except at night, when she always had women with her. I remember well that while she was living at Coudray persons of great estate came many days to visit her there.”
“Jeanne crossed the river with them (with soldiers of the King) and I accompanied her: then she re-entered Orleans, and went back to sleep at her lodging with some women, as she was in the habit of doing: for every night, as far as possible, she had a woman to sleep by her, and when she could not find one in war, or in camp, she slept fully dressed.”
The second section leaves no doubt that when a woman accompanied her, Joan was sleeping undressed. And it seems to pour “fuel to the fire” of the imagination of supporters of the thesis of the “lesbian” Joan. Of course, a possible answer is that a company of women at night, especially in a war, which involved primarily men, was a kind of protection, not only against any attempt of molestation, but actually even against possible rumours of immorality of a woman living among men. And it would be even more essential in the case of a woman believed to be a “holy virgin”.
We realise that every argument needs a starting point. We understand, therefore, that the thesis of the homosexual Joan has its starting point in the testimony by Louis de Coutes. But where have the protagonists of this thesis arrived from that “starting point”? Is there any, even the feeblest, evidence to support their claim? We did not find such evidence. Nay, the existing records even seem to contradict the assumptions of these protagonists. In another episode of this series there is already an opinion quoted, according to which Joan was very fond of a “company of armed men and nobles.” One might reasonably ask whether these are the preferences of a gay woman.
It seems, therefore, that for these protagonists that “starting point” is and remains just a point of making no progress at all. It does not seem to stop them in proclaiming Joan as a “famous Lesbian” in their publications.
The customs of that time can sometimes surprise us today. Another custom used by Joan can give us a comparative example. During her campaign along the Loire River, shortly after the liberation of Orleans, Joan unexpectedly met with the Constable of France named Arthur de Richemont. The “Chronique d’ Arthur de Richemont” written in the years 1462 to 1466 by his former soldier tells us about their first meeting. According to the chronicle Joan greeted the constable by kneeling in front of him and embracing his legs with her arms:
„La Pucelle descendit á pié et monseigneur aussi et vint la dicte Pucelle embracer mon dit seigneur par les jambes.” (La Chronique d’Arthur de Richemont).
How should we comment on the fact if we wanted to “reinterpret” it in the spirit of sexuality? No matter how bold our interpretations of the fact were, certainly they would not look too “lesbian”… But such are the pitfalls of this kind of re-interpretation…
The lack of any specific evidence seems then to contradict any homosexual inclinations on the part of Joan of Arc. And not just the lack of evidence. The notion of Joan’s homosexuality is even contradicted by the other rumour, which we will now present:
…or just the opposite: “enceinte en sainte”?
We were initially going to write about a different aspect of Joan’s life, when we received some photographs of the building visible in this picture. The photos were posted to us by a French Researcher of the story of Joan of Arc. We asked the Researcher which building it was. He replied that it was the building where, on the first floor, Joan of Arc had given birth to her baby. So I asked him:
„But I wonder how Jeanne could have “given birth” to anyone? She was in the army, no-one would have noticed her pregnant? How would she fit into her armour?”
To which he replied laconically:
“At the beginning, in Vaucouleurs, she looks like a young man (un page)
But during the campaign, she is described like a woman with beautiful breasts and without menses. And she must find a new armour! She must leave the one offered by the king and use the one of a prisoner.”
This made me think. On one hand the facts mentioned in his email were known to me already before, but I have never connected them in this way. Probably because I have never seriously thought about pregnancy of Joan of Arc. Indeed, there was something “virile” about her. We have already mentioned it elsewhere in this series. But the fact that during the campaign she had nice breasts does not mean that she did not have them before…
And as for the absence of menstruation, it is caused by various factors, not only by pregnancy:
“Women who train hard, participate in strenuous sports, menstruation may cease to appear. Likewise, it may be the case when we use our psychological strength excessively or in the event of heavy or prolonged stress. Most women probably noticed that when you get stressed, have a lot of classes, work, education (e.g. during sessions, final high-school exams) their menstruation might be delayed. If this stress is very strong and will be prolonged, menstruation may cease.” (translated from:
We must admit that Joan, with her efforts and stresses caused by participation in the war, fits such a “scenario” perfectly.
Yes, it’s true that on Sept. 13, 1429, after a failed assault on Paris, she left her armour in the Abbey of Saint Denis as a votive offering. But in general, this fact has been interpreted as an expression of her disappointment over the King’s prohibition of further efforts to take Paris and his apparent decision to abandon, at least for some time, the campaign against the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, in favour of diplomacy.
The fact remains that a break in hostilities followed for a while. Theoretically it was then that Joan could have given birth to her child. Although we feel more inclined to conclude that reasons of diplomacy would have played a far more important role for King Charles VII’s decision than a possible pregnancy of Joan of Arc.
Joan herself stated her reason for leaving her armour in Saint Denis differently. She was questioned about it during her trial in Rouen in the morning on March 17, 1430/31:
„Asked which arms she offered at Saint Denis, she answers that she offered her suit of white armour („un blanc harnois”, in Latin: „album harnesium suum”) as becomes a soldier, with a sword she had won before Paris.
Asked why she made that offering, she answers that she did so in devotion and as it is the custom of soldiers when they have been wounded. Having been wounded before Paris, she offered them at Saint Denis, because that is the war-cry of France” („le cri de France”).
http://archive.org/stream/procsdecondamn02joanuoft#page/102/mode/2up (p. 103)
We are not concerned now about whether Joan was telling the truth about reasons for her decision (it was happening to her to use untruth under pressure), but rather about the fact that her declaration suggests that in Saint Denis she left the whole of her armour. She would not have to do that if her only concern was to hide the visible signs of pregnancy under her armour. In such a case, it would have been enough to change only the cuirass, and not the whole armour … The more so as it was an expensive armour paid for by Charles VII.
As for the fact that Joan looked like a young man (“un page”), it is enough to look at our facial reconstruction of Joan to find out what exactly could create the impression of masculinity in her appearance. On the left, with the long hair, her face looks like a face of a woman. But with her hair cut she suddenly looks like a young man, a page. Besides, even without the “en face” image it seems obvious: if you look at the profile of Jeanne des Armoises and subtract some of her age you will see that her facial traits were quite virile as well.
let’s move on. It will be necessary for this purpose to examine the photographs of two sculptures here, the latter being modelled on the first:
The first one however is merely a copy of yet another one. At the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (perhaps in 1502) where the Tourelles of Orleans once stood, which were taken by the troops of Joan in early May 1429, a kind of memorial was erected, a group of sculptures depicting the Pietà flanked on both sides by the kneeling characters of King Charles VII (left) and Joan of Arc (right). We do not know which of the illustrations shown below is closer to how the monument actually looked.
Everything here attracts our attention, of course, but first of all it is her hands and belly. Please look at the hands first: on the first sculpture they are simply huge and definitely over-scaled. Yes, there is an opinion that Joan had large hands, which could be the result of either a continuous training in field work or exercise in the use of weapons. We doubt, however, that the size of these hands was like that. Please take a look at the photograph of parchment on which there is Joan of Arc, also with large hands, yet in different, more realistic proportions.
Now please look at the enlarged abdomen. It is larger on the first sculpture, the other one does not show it. This enlarged belly undoubtedly suggests that Joan of Arc was pregnant. But is this suggestion not false? The appearance of these sculptures alone shows that they are imperfect. Is this enlarged abdomen not simply an error in the art, given that in general the whole silhouette form seems to be deprived of the right proportions? We are not concerned about the appearance of the face, which is very different on each sculpture and which suggests that the later artist did not care about it at all. We will also skip the hands here, which the later sculptor ignored totally, apparently believing that the over-scaled hands had nothing to do with the historical truth. Let us even ignore the strange appearance of Joan, which in no way suggests that it depicts a person capable of armed struggle. If anything, it looks as if this “Joan” was our contemporary Western nerd-like teenager wasting her entire time watching TV. The real Joan, the one without the quotation marks, is described by chroniclers as a woman with strong limbs, not fatty limbs …
Is then the belly bulge simply the result of imperfection of the contractor’s sculpting ability?
We admit that initially we had such an impression. Let us recall the face of the supposed Joan from the sculpture of “Saint Maurice “in Orleans, dating back to the fifteenth century. We have already presented it several times; we are presenting it here once again (see below). At best, it looks like a mask, not a face. Let us pay attention to its eyes: it is not eyes, it is their caricature!
Let us try to recollect, if we were ever able to see any person who, having looked down with his /her upper eyelids partially-closed, looked as if he/she had eyes of a frog? Such protrusions are not found in nature. Apparently the author did not look at the face of Joan in the preparation of sketches for his sculpture. And Joan herself had not left us any mention of the fact that she posed for any sculptor. But what draws our attention to a greater degree is the fact that the sculptor had not quite mastered the art of using his tools. This is a wooden sculpture, which is made with chisel and files. While the author does not seem to have had any issues dealing with a convex roundness, concave curves on the other hand posed a real problem for him. Because it is the rough trims in the timber where the eyelids touch the eyebrows that this dissonance appears…
Now let’s look at those bellies in the presented sculptures. They are made of stone. The tools, with which they were made, were different but the level of difficulty of their creation was not any lesser. In fact, armours covering chests and abdomens (or “cuirasses”) look like on the last sculpture: they are straight at the bottom, without any bulging and curves underneath. It is much easier to sculpt such a cuirass. Thus, the lack of skill in creation of the sculpture would have to show in the simpler form of it, not in the more difficult one (like in the case of these unfortunate eyelids on the sculpture in Orleans …).
And yet the first of the authors opted for the harder option, which proves that this bulge of the armour is not a coincidence and that it was done deliberately, just as if the author wanted to declare to all concerned:
“Look at her everybody: she was pregnant!!!”
Another detail completely untrue in this sculpture (and its copies) is the extremely long hair. It would be unlikely that a knight in full armour would have wanted to create himself a problem with long hair. Such hair would have rubbed against the back of the steel elements of armour, constantly catching on something: whether the sharp edges of the armour or porous (rough, uneven) steel surface. The knight would have therefore felt constant pain, as if someone was pulling his hair out. Joan’s hair on the presented statues is so incredibly long that she would have constantly sat on her hair, which would have got caught between her pelvis and the saddle. Practically, she even would not have been able to turn her head in any direction without a strong and annoying pain. Our befriended Researcher believes that the sculpture represents the true image of Joan, different from the later idealization which started to appear in the following centuries, and the fact that it is based on the sculpture from around the year 1502 he considers to be the confirmation of his view, since around the year 1502, there could have still been people alive who remembered Joan.
In his reasoning, however, there is a problem: he assumes that the long hair is probably a mistake. On our part we do not think it’s a mistake. How could it be a mistake, if it was supposedly a real, non-idealized image based on the recollections of people who remembered Joan?
In 1502 wearing armour was as common as in the previous century, and these difficulties and discomfort of having long hair while wearing armour was all too well known and conceivable. Our question is: why would the sculptor, supposedly taking care of the correct and non-idealized presentation of a person, decide on lying with the only “word” in his work?
In our opinion, he was not lying at all; he was just creating as he wanted. The long hair would serve to highlight that this person was a woman in armour.
It is a fact that artists were often leaving some detail in their works that would intentionally transmit some information for posterity. Thus, in the work of the first sculptor, despite his vast freedom and even carelessness of artistic interpretation of Joan, there are three details he wished to emphasize:
1. that Jeanne was in fact a woman but she took part in the war (long hair and overly accentuated female shape, which is not normally recognizable when it is covered with armour);
2. that she was trained in the art of war (large hands!), and:
3. that she was pregnant and had descendants
From the comparison of these works, we see that the first of the two artists was absolutely convinced of the thesis of Joan’s pregnancy (and therefore probably of her child). And to illustrate it he chose NOT to provide her with a larger armour of a very considerable size for her body – because then observers could still have some doubts as to the reasons for such a large armour – just by creating a completely unnatural shape of the cuirass as if it “fitted” the swollen shape of the body.
It is clear that the sculptor’s own interpretation itself does not constitute any proof of the historical truth (besides the engravings shown above and depicting the whole monument do not seem to show a pregnant Joan). The latter sculptor who created his work for the cathedral in Toul in 1890, most apparently did not share the view of his predecessor in this regard, therefore he made a sort of “adjustment”…
And the sculptor “No. 3” who is none other than our friend, the Researcher himself, ignored in his modern plaster replica of the same statue the original size of the over-scaled hands. But he faithfully preserved the swollen abdomen, as if it was the most important element for him here …
We do not have any chronicle saying that Joan of Arc ever had a baby. We take it into account that such a chronicle could have existed but that perhaps it was later destroyed, perhaps even intentionally. We believe, however, that someone as well-known as Joan having a baby would not have gone unnoticed by a number of historians.
And yet these two sculptors had no doubt. Where did they draw their knowledge from – or rather, I think: where did they draw their confidence from? Apparently, some rumour had reached them; we do not know how widespread.
We can only base our views on conjecture – as usual on such occasions. Perhaps their conclusions were based on certain, specific interpretations of the facts recorded in the documents of the era – like the interpretation offered to us by the Researcher from France?
Those interpretations are supplemented by interpretations of other details. In Part 4 of our series we have already quoted a document called the “letter” by Perceval de Boulainvilliers “:
“She has such incredible strength and resistance to fatigue in wearing armour that she can withstand it for six days and nights without removing even one piece of armour.”
Even if the above statement were true, it could not be taken literally. How could a human being attend to his physiological needs “without removing even one piece of armour” and namely “for six days and nights”? However, it could have indeed been so that Joan wore her armour for a very long time. According to proponents of the thesis of her pregnancy it was the result of her effort to conceal it…
However, even the “letter” by Perceval does not maintain that Jeanne was doing so all the time, but only that she “could” do it, suggesting that it was rather a sporadic incident. Question: would the sporadic occurrence of wearing armour have been able to conceal a pregnancy?
In any case, from the testimony of Joan’s page, Louis de Coutes (de Contes?), we conclude that the constant wearing of armour would not have been possible for her:
“During the trip from Blois to Orleans Jeanne was all bruised, because during the night of departure from Blois she slept in full armour.”
De Coutes did not state that Jeanne was spending six days and nights in full armour, he mentioned only that one night.
Another fact speaks against the idea that Joan was concealing her pregnancy under her armour. Joan had the status of a feudal knight. Feudal knights were not putting their armour on themselves – their armour was put on them by their squires. Which meant that each and every time Joan was armed it would be an opportunity for a thorough look at her pregnancy and by several people at a time! At this point, once again, Louis de Coutes comes to our rescue when he recalls the well-known episode from the battle of Orleans:
“(…) Shortly afterwards, there she was, coming down from her chamber; ‘Ha! Bloodthirsty boy’ she said to me, ‘you did not tell me that the blood of France was being shed!’ (‘Ha! Sanglant garcon, vous ne me dyriez pas que le sanc de France feust repandu!’). And she ordered me to go to look for her horse. At the same time she was being armed by the lady of the house and her daughter. When I returned with her horse I found her already armed: she told me to go and seek her banner, which had been left in her chamber: I passed it to her through the window.”
As it can be clearly seen in the case of Joan, not only pages and squires were involved in putting armour on a knight. The “lady of the house and her daughter” were the family of the treasurer of Orleans Jacques Boucher. It was in his house that Joan was staying during her many visits to the city. To be precise, it was this “lady of the house and her daughter” who often slept with Joan in her room, and were thus among those women who we mentioned in the introduction, a company which Joan required during nights. Thus, they also would have to have seen the pregnant Joan of Arc, and many times!
We know, moreover, that Joan liked to dress up. Later it was often held against her during the trial in Rouen and even a few examples were listed of what she used to wear. Even Charles, the Duke of Orléans sent a detailed instruction from his captivity in England regarding her two garments: a crimson one and a green one. So she did not walk around constantly in armour and cuirass…
The case of a certain altar
Another work of art, this time a painting, is a triptych dating back to the XV century.
There is no shortage of controversy regarding the interpretation of this triptych, nay, of almost every element of it! Perhaps someday we will use another opportunity to illustrate the controversy in all its detail. Here we will focus on what relates to the topics of this part of our discussion.
In the central part of the painting we see Joan of Arc standing next to a man in a characteristic “knight” hairstyle. Some interpreters, including the German author, Walter Schott (his 28-page expert report we received from the abovementioned Researcher from France), believe that this man is King Charles VII. And other authors (among them the French researcher himself) see in the character nobody other than Prince Rene d’Anjou who, according to them, was the father of Joan’s child.
At Joan’s feet we see the growing flower of lily. Even the lily is differently interpreted. For some, the idea is that it signals the time of year – Orleans was liberated in early May – for others it is a symbol of new life – the one that Joan bore in her womb.
Jeanne is not dressed in armour but in a leather jacket. Walter Schott sees this as confirmation of the wound which Joan received during the storming of the Tourelles of Orleans. Having been wounded by an arrow from a crossbow between her neck and shoulder, she could not wear armour for some time as it would cause too much discomfort.
Joan has two swords, one in a scabbard hanging from the belt on the left side while she is holding the other one in her hand, having it supported on her left shoulder. The right hand is in a rather odd gesture, with the thumb supported by a belt. Is it because after having been wounded it was good to immobilise the hand in order not to cause pain in the arm? There is a problem with this interpretation, because Joan was wounded in the left shoulder and not in the right one. And it is the left shoulder which supports her sword here…
This gesture with the right arm is often interpreted as an intentional loosening the belt to loosen the abdominal pressure during pregnancy. Indeed, the attentive look at the imperfect copy of the painting reveals that Joan’s belly is actually clearly rounded… The question is, of course, whether this rounding is indeed a pregnancy. There are some researchers who seem to have no doubt.
Rumours sneak into the literature
As early as in the fifteenth century, William Caxton, author, translator, and the first English printer (1421-1491) wrote of “a virgin, who rode like a man and was a brave captain” (“this mayde who rode lyke a man and was a vaulyant captayn”). He wrote about her trial in Rouen:
“And then she said that she was pregnant, which postponed her judgment for a while, but eventually it turned out that she was not pregnant, and then she was burned in Rouen.” (“and then she sayd that she was with chylde, wher by she was respited a whyle; but in conclusyon it was founde that she was not with chylde, and then she was brent in Roen”) („Fructus Temporun” or „The cronycles of Englonde with the Fruyte of times”, 1480).
Around 1590, which is one hundred and ten years later, Shakespeare wrote his play “Henry VI.” There Joan is presented as a person whom Charles VII married after the victory at Orleans and declared her holy. Captured and sentenced to death by burning, she renounces her father and insists that she is pregnant, while still being a virgin.
Shakespeare’s work is not a historical chronicle and it presents the campaigns in France in a way which is completely arbitrary and totally inconsistent with the facts. It’s just a fairy tale, but written in a beautiful language. But the thesis of Jeanne’s pregnancy appearing in it is no longer new.
Speaking of pregnancy, there is no way to go around the question:
“Where is the child and who was it? Who was the father? “
1. Jean II, the Duke of Lorraine (born in 1425)
2. Rene (born in 1426)
3. Louis d’Anjou (born on 16 October 1427)
4. Nicolas (born on 2 November 1428)
5. Yolande de Bar (born on 2 November 1428)
6. Marguerite (born on 23 March 1429 OR on 23 March 1430)
7. Charles (born in 1431)
8. Isabelle (born in ?)
9. Louise (born in 1436)
10. Anne (born in 1437)
11. Jean, „Batard d’Anjou”
12. Jeanne Blanche
The last three children were illegitimate.
As we can see, we have a problem with three of the children, given their dates of birth.
So it seemingly looks like this: Yolande and Nicolas were both born on 2 November 1428. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabelle,_Duchess_of_Lorraine
23 March 1429 would be TODAY described as 23 March 1428 (difference of calendars based on Easter). What was THEN 23 March 1429 would now be 23 March 1430. Which means that between the birth of Yolande (and Nicolas) and Marguerite there would have been almost 13.5 months’difference. So basically all of the three could easily be born by Isabelle Duchess of Lorraine (wife of Rene d’Anjou).
Beginning of the year (Easter Sunday):
1427 – 20 April
1428 – 4 April
1429 – 27 March
1430 – 16 April
1431 – 1 April
1432 – 20 April
( http://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/easter/easter_text2b.htm )
If the date of birth of Marguerite d’Anjou was “23 March, 1429 OR 23 March, 1430″, then, in practical terms, there are not two but THREE options when it comes to the years based on various calendars. It becomes even more evident when presented in a graphic form:
On the left there are years given according to our calendar, on the right next to them the corresponding years according to the old calendar, with Easter as the start of the calendar year. Every given year is marked in a different colour to make it more evident when it started and when it ended. Easter is a moveable feast, falling always either in March or in April. These two months are marked with two different colours in the top row. November has been coloured yellow and indicates the month in which Yolande and Nicolas were supposedly born. In March of the year 1429 – 1430 (according to both calendars) the possible birthdays of Marguerite d’Anjou are marked with a cross. (1.)
If indeed Yolande and Nicolas were born on 2nd of November, 1428, then Marguerite could not have been born in the spring of the following year, if she were to be a daughter of Isabelle, the Duchess of Lorraine . Only the date “23 March 1430” (which in our calendar is the year 1431) would be likely.
Okay, but if Marguerite had been born in the year 1429 according to OUR calendar? Then someone else would have been her mother. Not necessarily Joan of Arc however. Even most certainly not! Because in March, for almost three weeks, she was being examined by theologians at Poitiers, and on that occasion she underwent a physical test of virginity. If she appeared there in the last stages of pregnancy, it would have been immediately noticed… And a short time later, she organised a military expedition to Orléans. And earlier in Chinon and Nancy, she practiced riding and the use of weapons and, according to one chronicle, which we have already mentioned on another occasion, she took part in the competition of a tournament…
But let’s go further: let us assume for a moment that Marguerite had indeed been born in the following year, and that her mother was NOT the Duchess of Lorraine… In this case, at least theoretically, Joan’s motherhood is not excluded. We know exactly where Joan was at that time and what she did:
From January to March of the year 1430 (1429 according to the old calculation) Joan was staying at the royal court. From there she sent some of her letters (for example, two letters to the citizens of Reims). She left the court in Sully on March 29 to join the army fighting at Lagny. It is theoretically possible that if she gave birth to a child on March 23, then 6 days later she could go into battle again.
However, it seems to us extremely unlikely that no one was able to see Joan’s pregnancy. Let us remember that while the rumour about her pregnancy had indeed its origins already in the fifteenth century, but not until many years after her death. So although we do not exclude it completely, it seems to us extremely unlikely.
Who was more important, “Joan’s brother”, “the King’s cousin” or “the King’s brother?”
There remain a lot more puzzles to solve when it comes to personal issues and personal motives for Joan’s actions. One such issue is the issue of her desire to liberate Charles, the Duke of Orleans, the son of Louis I of Orléans, from English captivity. It was discussed elsewhere, on 12 March 1431, in the afternoon, when Joan was already tried in Rouen:
“When asked how she would have liberated the Duke of Orleans, she said she would have taken a sufficient number of English prisoners in France to exchange them for him, if she had not taken enough of them in France, she would have crossed the sea to find him in England by force.
Asked if Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret told her unconditionally and absolutely, that she would capture enough of the English to regain the Duke of Orleans, who is in England, or that otherwise she would cross the sea to find him, she said yes, and that she told her King to let her deal with the English lords, who were then prisoners. Further stated that if she had continued for three years without any obstacles, she would have liberated the said Duke. To do so, she would need less than three years and more than a year.”(page 81-82 )
The question remains why that prisoner interested her to the extent that she would be prepared to take the war toEngland, in order to find him.
In Englandat that time, there were several important French aristocrats imprisoned. Here they are:
Charles d’Orleans (released in 1440)
Jean d’Orleans (released in 1444)
Jean de Bourbon, the Duke de Bourbon – Auvergne – Forez (died later in London in 1434)
Charles d’Artois (released in 1438)
Was Joan’s reason, as a purely political motivation, the reason of state, given the high profile of Charles d’Orleans as the cousin of King Charles VII (their fathers were brothers from the House of Orleans : the Duke Louis I of Orleans, and his elder brother, King Charles VI)?
If so, it is puzzling that the same Charles VII did not wish the presence of Charles d’Orleans in Franceand seemed to have been happy with the fact that his cousin was imprisoned in England. In the end, it was not Charles VII, who obtained the release of the cousin of the king of Francefrom the English but his rival, Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. Charles VII made absolutely no contribution to the ransom collected by various aristocrats for the release of Charles which the English demanded.
If, however, it was a “family” -related reason, when we assume that Joan was the daughter of Queen Isabelle of Bavaria (von Wittelsbach) and of Duke Louis I of Orléans, then in turn one wonders why Joan did not insist on a simultaneous release of Charles’ younger brother, Jean? If Charles of Orleans were her half-brother (same father, different mother), then Jean would have been her half-brother in exactly the same way as Charles.
The truth, which can be determined from the facts, is somehow in the middle of both of these possible reasons for Joan’s actions.
There is also, of course, yet another possibility of a political kind: had Joan thought that Charles VII had been born out of wedlock, as suggested by his mother, Isabelle of Bavaria? Was he, too, the son of Louis I of Orléans, like Charles?
If so, which of the two Charleses had the precedence to the throne of France? Charles VII was younger; he was born on 22 February 1403. Charles of Orleans was older by more than 8 years; he was born on 24 November, 1394…
La femme fatale?
In the history of Joan of Arc there are three known trials. In two of them, Joan was involved personally. The third took place without her participation, namely the rehabilitation trial of 1455 – 1456. Two trials were political and inquisitorial in nature, namely the condemnation trial of 1430-1431 and the rehabilitation trial.
But here we are focusing on a civil lawsuit which probably took place in the summer of 1428 and which was centred around a charge of breach of promise of marriage. Let us look at the information about the whole episode which is preserved in the record of the condemnation trial of 1430-1431 and of the rehabilitation trial of 1455 – 1456.
„ARTICLE VIII (of accusation), 27 March 1431 (1430 according to the old calendar):
“Towards her twentieth year, Jeanne, on her own accord and without the permission of her father and her mother went to Neufchateau in Lorraine and was there for a while in the service of a woman, the owner of the inn, named La Rousse, where lived women of ill repute, and where ordinary soldiers used to stay in great numbers. While staying at this inn Jeanne sometimes stayed with those bad women, sometimes taking sheep to the field or leading horses to water in the meadows and pastures. It was there that she learned to ride horses and use weapons.
To this article, the eighth, Joan replies that she answered some other time, and that she refers to that answer. However, she denies the rest.”
From the record of the trial under the date of February 22, we see that she stated that she could not vouch for her age, and that in her youth she learned spinning and that in this respect she would not fear competition from any woman from Rouen. And further on:
“In addition, she confessed that for fear of the Burgundians, she left her father’s house and went to Neufchâteau, Lorraine, to a certain woman named La Rousse, where she remained for about fifteen days. She also added that while she was in the house of her father, she attended to familiar tasks at home, and she was not going to the fields with sheep and other animals. She was asked if she confessed her sins, once a year, she answered yes, and to her own priest. And when the priest was prevented, she confessed to another priest, with his permission. Sometimes also, two or three times may be, she confessed to mendicant Friars, but it was in the said town of Neufchâteau. And she said she received the sacrament of the Eucharist at Easter”.
And on 24 February she confirmed that she was not taking animals to the fields.
“When she was in the service with these women, Jeanne indicted a young man before the Officials in Toul (” devant l’official de Toul “), for breach of promise; repeatedly travelled to Toul for this purpose and spent in this way almost everything she owned. The young man refused to marry her, because he knew that she was associated with these bad women. He died during the trial. Then Jeanne, as she could not stay there any longer, quitted the service of this woman.
In the case of this article, the ninth, on the trial regarding marriage Jeanne says that she answered elsewhere, and that she refers to this answer. However, she denies the rest.”
This “some other time” means the interrogation on 12 March. The record for the date of March 12 is the following:
“When asked who had encouraged her to sue the man from Toul in the matter of marriage, she replies:
“I did not sue him; just opposite, he sued me, and then I swore to tell the truth before the judge. And besides, I promised nothing to this man ‘.
From the first time she heard her voices, she devoted herself to virginity for as long as it should please God, and at that time she was about thirteen years old. The voices told her that she should win her case in Toul.”
http://archive.org/stream/procsdecondamn02joanuoft#page/126/mode/2up (p. 127)
And now some later testimonies. For example, Gerard Guillemette said after years during the rehabilitation trial:
“When Jeanne left her father’s house, I saw her in front of my father’s house with her uncle, Durand Laxart. “Adieu,” she said to my father, “I’m going to Vaucouleurs.” I heard later that she went to France. I was in Neufchateau with Jeanne and her parents. I saw her always with them, except that for three or four days, she helped, under their supervision, the hostess of the house where they were staying, an honest woman called La Rousse. I know that they have remained in Neufchateau for only four or five days. When the soldiers left, Jeanne returned to Domremy, together with her parents. ”
And, in turn, Messire Etienne de Sionne, priest of the parish in Neufchateau said:
“I have heard from many people that Jeannette, when she came to Neufchateau, lived there with a respectable woman called La Rousse, and that she always remained in the company of her father and of the other inhabitants of Domremy who fled there.”
We will not be devoting too much space to the question of which version is closer to the truth. Prosecutors of Joan wasted no opportunity to interpret the facts of her life in the way most detrimental to her. On the other hand during her rehabilitation trial no chance was wasted to make things look in the best possible way for her.
In the testimony of Gerard Guillemette we see some inaccuracy. Guillemette gives the impression that Jeanne’s departure for Vaucouleurs was before her trip to Neufchateau or more or less in the same period of time. His testimony is at least partially contradicting the testimony of Joan when he states that he “knows” that the family d’Arc remained in Neufchateau for only “four or five days,” when she herself admitted that the time was three times longer and did NOT mention her parents even once, while Guillemette insisted that her parents had not lost sight of her at all.
It seems to us that both Guillemette and Father de Sionne tried to use their testimonies to erase any unfavourable impression left by Joan’s interrogation in Rouen. Were they speaking the truth? Or were they testifying as they were told?
However it were, we have personally reached different conclusions to those of Joan’s judges and her later defenders. Known to us are examples of her energy and militancy. We know that not just once, but at least a few times, she left her family home. She herself admitted that when “going to France” she left without the knowledge and consent of her parents, and that it was only after some time that she wrote to them and they forgave her. We also know that she was intellectually and physically well developed; we remember those “well-developed limbs.”
Having been about twenty, Joan was already an independent woman, and it was only a matter of time before she left home. Personally we do not believe that her accusers’ suggestions, that she could have had anything to do with “women of ill repute”, were justified. Rather, we are inclined to believe that her physique would have prevented any gadabout from trying to approach her with indecent intentions, because he could have got a good thrashing from her. We are keeping in mind in this context the facts reported elsewhere that at least two men got their faces boxed with some strong “hooks” by her for having touched her breasts with their hands…
It was entirely conceivable in those circumstances that, even if her parents were in Neufchateau at the same time, she was so independent that she did not allow them any constant surveillance of herself and that she was moving freely around the area alone.
Her own testimony in Rouen that she “obeyed her parents in everything except for the departure” we are considering, especially in light of her other testimonies and her bold reactions and responses she was giving, as an attempt to ensure her safety in the court of the Inquisition, in which it was simply safer to speak in such a way.
The prosecutors from Rouen linked Joan’s stay in Neufchateau with the trial in Toul. If the trip to Neufchateau took place in June 1428, then the trial in Toul could have taken place around July of the same year. Andre Cherpillod thinks:
“Jeanne went to Toul from Neufchateau, covering the 108 km distance, so she probably rode on horseback through the area disturbed by bands of robbers. She defended herself in court and won the case: the young man was dismissed. Was Jeanne alone on this occasion? It is not known, but there is no indication that she was accompanied by her parents.” („Jeanne La Pucelle: La fabrication d’un mythe”, vol. 2, p. 265)
There is also a belief that this young man was not from Toul but from Domremy and the promise of marriage was made by the father of Joan. However, we have no evidence to support this. The minutes of the trial of Rouen also say clearly that the young man “died during the trial.” However Joan herself did not correct the information about his death… She also did not correct the information that this young man was indeed from Toul.
Personally, we think that the whole rumour about the “promise made by her father” is a pure falsehood. It is true that at that time many marriages were arranged by parents. But here the fame does not fit any logic. If the marriage was arranged by the parents, why does one refer only to her father? Is it not because in 1456 Jacques d’Arc had been dead for almost twenty years, while Jeanne’s mother was still alive, so it was better to blame everything on the absent, because “the absent are wrong”? The property of the d’Arc family in Domremy was rather a property owned by the family of Joan’s mother, so her mother would have had a “say” at home as well.
Furthermore: WHEN was the promise supposedly made? Was it shortly before the case in Toul or much earlier? If it were before, then why did the marriage not follow immediately? After all, while one had to be at least 20 to defend one’s self as an adult in court, it was permitted to enter into marriage before that age.
If the promise were to have been made at a time when Joan reached adulthood, then it would have been made on behalf of an adult and in such a case the promise would not have been worth anything, especially if Jacques d’Arc managed to come to know the rebellious nature of his wayward daughter… And in this case, the young man from Toul would have to sue Joan’s father instead of her.
Let’s try to imagine which impact the whole episode could have had on Joan: first her “escape” from home, then living in foreign places, and then on top of it all a lawsuit for matrimonial reasons, eventually the death of the young man, no matter whether it was suicide or simply a death from other causes, but either during or shortly after the trial, which would have ultimately made an impression of death “after all this.”
Records cited here are not in agreement with each other. Sometimes, it even seems, they are contradictory. They are quoted here to give the reader the opportunity to familiarise himself/herself with all the records related to this matter as they exist in the minutes of the two inquisitorial trials. In this way, the Readers will be able to form his/her own opinion about them. This is all the more important here that the minutes of the trial in Toul are not available to us, at least temporarily…
One thing is however certain to us: that the young man from Toul (or even from Domremy) was a man known to Joan. It is unlikely that someone unknown to her sued her hoping that as a result of the intrigue she would marry him. Most obviously the two knew each other from somewhere, and were seeing each other on various occasions. It is therefore imaginable that the man consciously or unconsciously misinterpreted Joan’s words spoken in their conversations. We would give a lot to know today which words they were and what the atmosphere was when they were uttered.
We move here, out of necessity, in an area of conjecture and probabilities, and not of fully proven facts. These assumptions will be discussed in a separate section, in which we will be dealing with religion and its impact on Joan of Arc.
Regarding the trial in the summer of 1428, we can add that one author, Andre Cherpillod, argued that the record of the trial is not lost, that it survived, and that it is in the archives of the Catholic Diocese of Saint-Die in Lorraine in France. According to him it is not accessible to the public („Jeanne La Pucelle: La fabrication d’un mythe”, vol. 2, p. 265).
This episode from the life of Joan itself could become a pretty good canvas for a good film script. One could be already thinking about a proper cast of actors…
An adult lady from a castle
Sometimes, it is supposed that Jeanne’s trial in Toul could have taken place even earlier than in 1428, namely either in 1426 or 1427. These assumptions are based on Jeanne’s statement that she ran away for fear of the Burgundians, and that they entered Domremy in the years 1426 and 1427. But it is also imaginable that her statement might not have been true.
Anyway, if she was on trial, she had to be at least 20 years of age. The judges of Rouen, besides, pointed out that Joan left her parents’ home being “about 20 years”. And in such a case it would be an “escape” by an adult person, not by a child. Certainly, as long as the child lives with her parents, so long too, completely independently of her age, parents would try to guide and “rule” their child as before. And the child’s escape would inevitably leave anger and bitterness behind.
However, it is well to remember in this context that Joan as an adult was fully entitled to move out of her parents’ house at any time and no court of law could force her to return. She was born, as we have once pointed out, not in 1412, but somewhere between 1405 and 1408.
While away from home, after her “escape”, Joan, however, was appearing at her parents’ home in Domremy. And what a home it was! And it does not matter now whether it was in 1426, 1427 or 1428. Because already, since 1420, the family had not lived on the farm, of which the only remnant, historically questionable, is the so-called “Joan’s house” or “maison natale”. We know, and specifically from the preserved leasehold agreement, that Joan’s parents leased, together with the family of a man named Jean Biget, a country castle (“maison forte”) from the family of de Bourlemont (this name appears in medieval documents also as “de Bauffremont”). The family de Bourlemont had a number of castles in the area. The one in Domremy was one of them.
Its meagre remains were only recently identified. It was once believed, wrongly, as it turned out, that what is sometimes called “Chateau de l’Isle” was a kind of fortification on an “island” on the river Maas (Meuse). Meanwhile, when Joan made her testimony in Rouen on 24 February, the castle has been clearly defined as “the castle called the Island” („un château nommé l’Isle”; in Latin: „unum castrum, quod nominatur Insula”).
Let’s take a moment to look at this fragment of Jeanne’s testimony from 24 February 1430 (1431 according to our calendar):
„Asked whether she took the animals to the fields, she said that she had answered elsewhere, and that since she had grown up and was understanding, she did not guard animals, but helped to take them to the meadows and to a castle that is named, The Island, for fear of the soldiers , but does not remember whether, in her early years, she guarded them or not.”
The definition of “maison forte” distinguishes it as a “fortified house” (“domus fortis”) from a typical castle (“castrum”, “castellum”, “château”), but in such a way that it is a “miniature” of a castle, serving mostly less prominent, provincial aristocracy, and mainly for residential purposes. http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maison_forte. Therefore it is not surprising that the “maison forte” is often commonly referred to as just “château”, as shown for example in information on Wikipedia, and even as a “palais”!
This “maison forte” in Domremy, by the way, was discovered by no-one other than by the Researcher known to us, and to whom we referred many times here already. About how it looked, you can see here
We shall return to the topic of the castle some other time.
To Be Continued
1. As can be seen, especially on the accompanying graph, due to the mobile nature of Easter, various years are unequal in length. Among the years shown here, the years 1427, 1428 and 1430 were shorter and some dates of the year did not exist. The year 1427 began on 20 April and lasted only until 3 April. There was therefore no date between 4 April and 19 April in it. While the years 1429 and 1431 were longer and some dates were repeated twice. The year 1429 started on 27 March, according to the old calendar, and ended on 15 April of the following “year”. This means that the days from 27 March to 15 April appeared twice.
It’s still a small problem compared to the one which appeared in 1752 in England, where the Julian calendar was replaced by the Gregorian calendar. Because it was necessary to correct the Julian calendar timing error, it was decided that after September 2, 1752 the next day would be September 14. This led to riots in London, because people believed that the king had stolen 11 days of their lives, and in this way cut their lives short …