But this was an era which I knew nothing about. I set myself on an unexpectedly frustrating search, which after a dozen books and probably as many websites, has provoked more questions than answers. Like Mark Twain, who became a lifelong slave to her story, I began to see her as the most extraordinary person in history. I knew very little about her before, but even now I do not know how I should portray her… but I am more than ready to write about her!
Meanwhile I pray for guidance from above to find the wisdom to either do her justice, or leave her mysteries to her ashes long since deposited in the river.
Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, aka "Jean Francois Alden," the author of Recollections of Joan of Arc, and the supposed translator of the so-called "ancient manuscripts found in the French archives," fell into the irresistible trap of compounding the myth of Joan, since the truth of Joan seemed so vague and unworthy. In the process Twain manufactured his proudest achievement, and the most masterful, seductive, endearing lie, salted with truths, ever passed off and beloved hence as history.
Twain's Joan is a shameless cross between Wonder Woman and Snow White, complete with dancing fairies and furry creatures at her dinner table. Not that his novel was not diligently researched, as even Mark Twain understood the technique of establishing what we call suspension of disbelief, and he accomplished this magnificent fiction with layers to spare of plausible deniability. But his result was the final replacement of Jehanne Darc with her more commercial manifestation; a genuine article traded in for a better story. Disney would have been thrilled to have created such an attractive, epic myth. But Twain was not that proud of it. He could only be proud if readers bought-in to it...
In fact in the beginning, Clemens would not even use his pen-name, for fear of rejection. His audience was accustomed to his tongue-in-cheek humor and American style irreverence, but they had never seen this side of him, a literary genius worshipping a goddess springing out of his own mind. He hid behind so many layers of attribution as to suggest he knew it was the greatest gamble of his own remarkable career.
Mark Twain, (Clemens' alias) claimed it was a novel created about Joan's life-long friend, Louis de Conte (fictitious), from the translation by Jean Francois Alden (fictitious), who supposedly had found a rare personal account of Joan in the French National archives (fict....?). And inevitably, after readers sleuthed his deceptive gauntlet, and out of complete trust for Twain and the printed word, even more books were written relying on these spurious accounts of Joan as history.
After five hundred years, it proved to be a safe gamble to take a beloved European legend and shuck the truth for the greater good, and top off his own success with hers. It was an irresistible combination.
Even today, the Internet fan clubs for Joan warmly tout this book as reliable. No one dares challenge MARK TWAIN, who did not have the courage at first to put his pseudonym on this elaborate fable, which was sold as light reading, a serial in a magazine. When it became the celebrated "last word" on Joan, he came out of his bunker. And went straight to the bank. Plenty of historians and book reviewers have scolded him since, but the damage was done.
Historians realized Twain had forever buried Joan's humble pan bread beneath a rich layer of chocolate Twain icing. And true admirers of his works would never accept this book as anything but as shockingly sentimental rubbish. The American public ate it right up.
Twain's controversial novel was something of a hit in my own family. I remember my grandmother and uncle always speaking of the book, as one of their favorites, and even my mother often quoting the most popular quotation of Joan's from Recollections; "God helps those who help themselves." And then I had read scathing reviews of this book while in college but never bothered to actually read it. Usually when a writer picks on the likes of Mark Twain, his motives are merely resentment and jealousy.
I have found however that they were going easy on this American literary giant, perhaps out of fear of public backlash. This gave me a heads-up on the literary battle over Joan, and I knew I was going to have to wade through a lot of chocolate icing to find the Joan I would try to paint. Someday.
My sincere study of Joan of Arc drew me through a literary haunted house, where I found a different ghost of Joan in every room, with several names and possible life paths. There was the tragic, innocent, miraculous Joan; the shepherdess turned prophet and military genius, martyred by her furious enemies, and then there was the phantom, mysterious Joan; considered by some a witch with unprecedented powers, yet perhaps so cunning as to have somehow escaped the English, fought for the Pope in Italy, and then naively returned to an unjust inquisition and humiliation by her own government. There was, with Twain's help, the legendary Joan, so pure and wonderful, with so powerful a hold on the French psyche as to blind all reason and doubt, credited with so many fantastic things that she should sit next to Christ on his throne in Heaven...
Whichever was true, it was one of these Joans who miraculously brought about the unification of her country, the crowning of her young king and the beginning of the end of the Hundred Years War. It is not an overstatement to give Jehanne credit for saving France as a sovereign nation.
But probably because of that secret which won the king’s fascination and faith, she was cleverly betrayed by this same jealous and undeserving ingrate after her mission was largely accomplished. ( Now having experienced King Charles' treachery for myself, over and over in each book, I am haunted by my grandmother's pet peave... "there is nothing I despise more than an ingrate!" ) Charles VII used and then disposed of her, first by sabotaging her efforts, then ultimately dispersing her (his) army… until she was finally caught outnumbered, literally stopped in her retreat at Compiegne by a deviously raised drawbridge. Things could not have served him better had he orchestrated them himself.
But as with any great personality since Jesus, the general public, and writers in particular, could never agree upon the rest of the story. Who was she really? What did she look like? Was she actually burned at the stake? Was she the product of some kind of grand illusion? Why did so many important people hate her, or embrace her, or indulge her, or betray her? And it seemed like her adversaries were often the ones who embraced her, while some of her cohorts could not help but betray her. And what about all the appearances later by supposed impostors who stepped forward claiming to be Jehanne Darc ( her real name, maybe)?
And lastly, how do intelligent people dispense with the theorists much later who found uncanny explanations about who Joan was; explanations which may have answered the age-old question; What in the hell was the secret!
If anyone would know, it would have been the prolific French medievalist Regine Pernoud, who wrote over fifty books, and several about Joan. She spent her life shaping Joan's history as we know it. Still, she never found the secret. But as I will try to be fair in demonstrating, she never really scratched the surface on the incredible story of little Jeanette of Domremy. Like Twain, Pernoud was more interested in preserving the Joan of the Ages, the iconic life of the simple small town girl turned national savior. And most evidence and unavoidable theories that led to the uncovering of the secret were a revolting can of French worms gorging in Royal rot. Pernoud it appears made a promise to herself to never go there.
A pre-conceived notion, now a proven fact. Hoorah for original sources! Other writers have fallen into this same temptation. But the simplicity of this deduction was staggering, and suddenly I saw through everything. If her mind worked this way consistently, then her own writings had to be full of shallow conclusions, convenient opinions, and not history.
When a letter of this magnitude was passed through many hands, over weeks and months and years, in fact centuries by the time Quicherat put the magnifying glass to it, any number of individuals with black hair might have donated the telltale hair. All it took was hair loss and enough warmth to heat the seal. Body heat would suffice to soften most sealing wax. The hair could have been anyone’s, especially the carrier’s, who spent perhaps hours if not days with it next to his body. There is no proof that the letter with the black hair was not resealed, even a few times as it was passed from place to place.
It could just as easily been a marker for a Burgundian general who resent it with his own "seal with a hair," to show it was authentic... we just cannot be completely sure. Or make any deductions. Too many variables.
I am the first to respect her work, and believe that most of the time her writings were and still are the most authoritative on Joan… but now I know to inspect everything through another lens… my own.
How old was Joan?
But after exploring the obvious confusion surrounding her age, instant vigor is given to these tasty conspiracy scenarios. Adding these critical five years allow for the theories... for her to allegedly be born to the scandal-ridden Queen Isabeau of Bavaria, and transported to her adopted parents in Domremy, where she was secretly trained up knowing her royal standing, cultivated ties with nobles and kinsmen in the area, and inadvertently prepared for her mission.
The theorists hold that Joan was a genetic throwback to greatness, but had been taken somewhere where she would be safe, out of the public eye, and perhaps someday a better situation would make her able to emerge and live with dignity, the way many bastards were able to do in those days. Of course the whole thing is a huge stretch, until you read further, and understand what kind of life and times these were. Without the theorists and their theories, all we have are the same impossible Joans that have driven writers like Pernoud and Mark Twain crazy for centuries. And everything in their power was done to stabilize her myth and defend the sanctioned birth date, except prove it.
But a childhood friend does not forget how old she is, or how old her best friend was…or at least the age difference between them, something they would acknowledge all of their lives… at least for seventeen years, or five years longer, whenever Joan left. And Hauviette even detailed the difference, confessing she had no idea who Joan's godparents were, (important people in those days) as these individuals had been selected long before she was born and had faded from the scene by the time she would remember such things.
Of course, if the theories are true about her Royal origins, Hauviette would never have been told, as the godparents would have been nobles, and this would blow the whole scheme. It is also a matter of record that Jehanne and Hauviette shared their first Holy Communion together, which really adds to the mystery. This common experience was the basis of their friendship. Yet Hauviette insisted that Jehanne was much older than her. The only explanation for this is that one of them went through catechism at an unorthodox time. And since it would be quite unlikely for Hauviette to be allowed to go through this process four years early, it only stands to reason that Jehanne went through catechism four years late. And that anomaly points to Jehanne being somewhat held back in her social and religious development.
I suppose this was possible.
In fact very few people would have known Joan’s actual age outside of her immediate family. Jehanne did not know, for certain. And her family, if they had been part of the secret scheme to save little Joan and the Queen’s reputation, would have been sworn to deception and secrecy. Only another child, a regular companion, would have figured it out, day after day, as they started out seemingly the same age, according to the grownups, but then one day Jeanette is suddenly going through puberty when they are supposedly just eight or so… and suddenly they are strangely wide apart, and yet still the closest of friends. Perhaps even Joan suspected and said so. But in a backwater village everyone kept to their own business, and few would have thought much about it. The general public would have been told the company line, which served to preserve Joan way past the age of reason, and eligibility for marriage; The community would have been told the “necessary” truth, by family members who had their own agenda, and perhaps promises to keep, even contracts to fulfill. IF the theories are to hold water.
Joan later testified at her trial that when she ran away from home to see the king, she avoided any good-byes to Hauviette, her childhood companion. She actually passed her on the road and looked past, avoiding eye contact. I interpret this to mean that they had been so close, and since they might never see each other again, it would have been too painful to face her. Most writers agree with this impression. Jehanne was also probably worried that Hauviette was too young to be trusted with a secret that impacted the whole Kingdom! But they had been village intimates for all of Hauviette's life, and the pain of the distrust or discourtesy was hard for both of them. Hauviette was very attached and dependant on Jeannette, and quite hurt that she would leave without telling her about it, or bidding adieu.
If Joan was only seventeen at the time, as became the sanctioned fact, this would have left Hauviette just entering puberty, and just recently having gone through catechism. This marked difference would have been the defining premise of their relationship. And there is a world of difference between that, and being the same age or older. Enough difference to have modified what actually transpired, as it would have been very useful to have made Hauviette a travelling companion if she had been old enough. I propose that it was the age difference that made it unavoidably awkward and hurtful, and why Hauviette's memory might have been the most accurate of all.
Of all the witnesses, outside of the immediate family, her testimony should have carried the most weight. Since few people knew her exact age, it was not really such an overwhelmingly one-sided case. It was Hauviette's innocent memory up against Joan's mother and brother, who stood to gain a great deal by finally clearing Joan of witchcraft and heresy, and needed the government to help them achieve that. And that need may have caused them to fudge the facts to please the King's agenda.
At the trial of rehabilitation, Joan's mother and brother agreed to be the plaintiffs, and cooperated right down the line, after decades of minor feuds and what had been judged as fraudulent claims. It was as if they all agreed to make nice… and knowing the financial situation, money might well have been their motive for the ultimate whitewash, which served the king’s interests.The truth was dangerous, messy and could only diminish all of them. People often take the easy way out to achieve closure, especialy if there is personal gain promised at the end.
And what about all the neglected questions, even MYSTERIES of her life?
Had Pernoud an inkling that this alternate story would ever gain traction, she had an obligation to ask several important questions, but she skimmed over them instead.
1) The "Isle," the old fortress that had become the community refuge; Jacques Tarc (as Joan herself referred to her father) held the keys to this safe-zone and veritable fortress. The Isle was a fortified chateau on an island in the river between France and the Holy Roman Empire, a veritable no-man's-land. In times of threat by Burgundian troops, the Tarcs not infrequently moved their herds and their neighbors inside the compound; how had he arranged such a beneficial refuge?
True Tarc was the local appointed tax-collector, which speaks well of his character, but he lived very humbly and supposedly had no money, and certainly had little influence that might win this crucial protection during Joan's upbringing. The Isle was large enough to enclose and protect both the villagers and Tarc's herds. But any Burgundian raiding party could have easily taken advantage of them all gathered together, unless there was more than the physical castle protecting them. Jacques obviously had friends or relatives in high places. It is quite possible that Jacques Tarc was in league somehow with the Burgundians, and needed only to occupy these agreed upon safe-zones during hostilities...
This is where the theorists can dance in ecstasy, as this kind of subtle protection was just the kind that would be afforded someone with royal connections. Cousins, the Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy may have been pitting their armies against each other, but they usually kept their immediate families, especially children out of the fray, as they worked out their boundaries in a bloody, real life chess game.
Also intriguing was the common refuge across the river in Lorraine at Neufchateau, where the Darcs and their animals found sanctuary at the home of a woman named La Rousse. Whenever the Burgundians were on the warpath, the family seemed to have an escape hatch, if the Isle was insufficient. They were not helpless serfs left to the ravages of civil war. Even so, Jehanne felt the grief and injustice of the rapacious soldiers, and grew to despise the sporadic occupiers.
In this time in history, the Burgundians were more or less in control of most of Champagne, and most of northern France. Jacques d' Arc may have had family history from the town of Arc, not far away, which was also Burgundian. His crafty survival may have meant he had connections to the powers in Burgundy. If this is true, Joan's talk of restoring the Dauphin to his crown would have been the source of the long debated struggle between them. Add to this a possible contract between him and Queen Isabeau (now allied with the Burgundians), concerning "Joan," who now was throwing herself into the fray, and all of the contentious family dynamics we have heard in her legend and seen depicted in books and movies makes perfect sense.
2) The turning point: When Jehanne finally made headway in her quest to see the Dauphin Charles, was when she visited a dying man, Charles the Duke of Lorraine, who, according to the story, sought her spiritual gifts in hopes that he might be healed by her. Just six years before, the duke had made a pilgrimage to Dijon to personally pledge his allegiance to the Duke of Burgundy and Henry V, then claiming the kingdoms of England and France. The Duke could not have been considered a trusted ally, but as a Burgundian sympathizer, he might have been an associate of Jehanne's father. And he was a known adulterer, and a man of influence and privilege. Summoned to his bedside, Joan went to him, yet she rebuked him for his infamy, told him to go back to the wife of his youth, and did not offer any hope of his recovery. It would have been consistent with her behavior at that time to tell him that her goals were to liberate all of French soil and see the Dauphin crowned as rightful King of France. We are talking the height of adding insult to injury! Still, incredibly, something pivotal happened at that meeting. Against all logic, this bedside scolding became the meeting which turned the tide of French history.
Jehanne explained that healing was not her mission, but did suggest that he lend his son (actually son-in-law) Rene to provide her safe conduct to see Robert de Baudricourt, the Captain of Vaucouleurs. We cannot know what else was in the request, but witnesses later testified that he gave her money as well as "safe conduct" to Vaucouleurs. She had already seen Baudricourt twice before, and only received insults. But once she made connection with the old Duke, and made an unaccountably positive impression, she not only got her diplomatic passport but funding and some kind of endorsement, which set things into motion.
For all of this to have made sense, the old Duke had to have secretly withdrawn his support of the Burgundians, or was a kind of double-agent. This may have happened upon the strategic marriage of his daughter...
The old Duke's son-in-law was none other than Rene d' Anjou, the Duke of Bar, an artist and idealist who later was to join Jehanne at the Coronation in Rheims, and fight alongside her through her major campaigns. His mother, Yolande of Aragon, would be the financier of Joan's army. Here was a family divided, a young loyalist, soon to inherit the Duke's estate, and an old patriarch fading fast, and trying to repair his legacy. How could an unknown shepherdess so capture two very different men caught in opposite sides of a civil war? Could not her easy access and familiarity, cold-blooded objectivity, and shear fearlessness with the desperate Duke suggest more than a first time introduction? Even some kind of deeper relationship? And she was charming Rene by soliciting his personal escort, while sassing a dying old man and asking for his endorsement. And she got it! And much, much more!
Many years later Rene, himself an artist, commissioned a triptych to be painted where some believe he used Jehanne as the model, (from memory) for Saint Catherine, one of Jehanne's voices. We will never know for sure, but she too is a redhead. And she is in no way a contradiction to the other contemporary depictions of Joan...
What was the background for this near familial relationship and her use of it? It cannot be coincidence, once I tell you that Rene was also the brother-in-law to her beloved Dauphin Charles, as well as the son of the most powerful woman in France, Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily, the surrogate mother of the Dauphin Charles during his sorry childhood, and now the Dauphin's mother-in-law. Yolande was almost the de-facto protector of the children born to the King, always behind the scene working things out. She would have been very close, as much as she could stand to Isabeau, and would have been called upon to arrange delicate matters of State. She had arranged her son Rene's marriage which in effect neutralized the old Duke of Lorraine.
Or, it is all just an amazing coincidence of history... And theories can be very fragile things...
So, little Jeannette of Domremy sure had GREAT luck making cold calls! Somehow this supposedly illiterate shepherdess, only seventeen, got an invitation to waltz right into the bed chambers of the most powerful family in the region, all while Baudricourt, the local Loyalist warlord, taunted and ignored her. Who was she, really? More than a small-town shepherdess. Or at least one with an incredible nose for power, and tremendous fortitude, powers of persuasion and disarming charm. And just seventeen years old...
If she was not some kind of Royal secret, nobody could question that she enjoyed God's favor in the earliest stages of this absurd mission. Jehanne seems to have been able to have her way, and win most of her battles from then on.
Robert de Baudricourt had always been credited for sending Jehanne to the Dauphin, and the rendezvous with the Duke of Lorraine treated as an aside. But no writer has ever offered a theory about what, other than the stress of invisible political pressures, changed Baudricourt's mind. But it is obvious that somebody changed their minds, especially the Duke of Lorraine. What might that letter of "safe conduct' contained? Robert Baudricourt seems to have done an about-face after its arrival. Somehow Joan persuaded men on different sides of the civil war to help her. Whe she left Vaucouleurs, she had a new horse, a sword from Baudricourt, new clothes, an escort of brave knights, and money in her pocket. Her visit to Vaucouleurs turned out to be the most profitable trip she had ever made up until that day...
3) Jehanne the Spellbinder: Joan was a looker, from what her companions testified. But in spite of Joan's basic female attractiveness, the men around her were awed and neutralized by her. Her very first escorts openly admitted later of volunteering to take her to see the Dauphin, with no more noble agenda than sleeping with her. This was actually testimony made at her rehabilitation many years after the fact, when these men were old and misty-eyed. They were, strangely PROUD that they had not gained their objectives, but that she had.
Her scribe Jean d' Aulon explained what was often testified:
“Although she was a young woman, beautiful and well-formed, and when helping to arm her or otherwise, I have often seen her breasts, and although sometimes when I was dressing her wounds I have seen her legs quite bare, and I have gone close to her many times, and I was strong, young and vigorous in those days, never, despite any sight or contact I had with the maid, was my body moved to any carnal desire for her."
Even Joan's most humble appraiser, V. Sackville West, the devoted researcher, who earnestly argued and believed Joan was coarse and plain, if not downright homely, admitted Perceval de Boulainvilliers wrote in Latin a colloquialism that might have been a kind of begrudging compliment... to the effect that she was passably good-looking. The key word being elegantiae, which could suggest stylish, elegant, even fetching... And what he never seemed to realize was this might have been a deliberate understatement, a facetious comment known by all to grossly minimize her charm. Yes, Joan was "passable."
A lazy, cynical King, hardened men of war, young patriots from every corner of France, would not have followed an ugly or common girl into the jaws of death. No, she was as d'Aulon, a long time friend and admirer admitted, years later, when lying would have been pointless, she was beautiful. Well formed. and yet they all swore that she was above any thing naughty... and when they were around her, so were they!
This is amazing testimony. And although it speaks to her inner qualities, her virginity and her basic righteousness, it is rare for one person's righteousness to rub off on a whole army! I have to submit there was more to the story. Sure she was a good kid, and they loved and protected her like a sister. But maybe they had a hint, the way that commoners often do, a special sense of things, about whose sister she might be. There was something very special about her. I am saying they were partly respectful because of what she was, and partly afraid because of who she was... or might be.
If these testimonies are true, then she may have been the first woman in history to pull this off. It is possible that a preponderance of the soldiers were devout Christians and afraid of God... But there may have been human connections almost as intimidating... This just makes more sense in Fifteenth Century France...
4) Who were the Darcs? Or as some have found in the records, Tarcs, or Darts, and why the change, to remove her further from her real name, to d' Arc? When she had already been cleansed through the Royal filter and given a name, Du Lys? The LILY of France! It looks like more of the revisionist same shell game that the French have been arguing over for centuries.
IF the Darcs, or Tarcs or whatever, who apparently could not spell their name, left such a muddled trail in church records, that in itself would have been forgivable. They would have merely joined the rest of the common folk in the same condition. But if they were operating under an alias, or playing games with the authorities, out of some motive to hide Joan, or at least her origins, then that unique situation would have led to a lifestyle of intrigue and secrecy, which might explain why the family later proved themselves quite adept at bargaining for favors from the government, nobles and whole cities in the aftermath.
The miraculous Joan legend would assume that Jacques was given a dream to prepare him for his daughter’s destiny. But his reaction is that of an unenlightened, resentful, and apparently helpless patriarch. Was Jacques Darc really afraid, or perhaps jealous, even indignant, knowing all along what might come, in time? Whatever his fears, Joan’s brothers were up to the task, and all that it implied. After their exploits, the humble house of Darc became the House of du Lys. When Jehanne was supposedly dead, and a national hero, they became famous while capitalizing on just being“Joan’s brothers.”
If there had been some kind of adoption or conspiracy in darker days, this might actually shed light on their miraculous survival, swift adaptation to noble status, and their cunning use of it. It also suggests the possible origins of one or both of the brothers as well. Whatever the case, they seem to have been immune, no matter what mischief they became embroiled in.
5) How did Jehanne pick out the Dauphin from the crowd when she first met him, even though he set up decoys and disguised himself? Jehanne had never been in the presence of the uncrowned king, and there was no People magazine in those days, not even close likenesses on coins. Joan had only heard descriptions of Charles VII. She came into a room full of knights and nobles, some of whom were no doubt his age and description, and went straight to the Dauphin, without hesitation. When he lied to her trying to confuse her and prove she was a fake, she insisted on his identity.
Her uncanny ability to pick him out of a large crowd of strangers was taken as proof of her authenticity, and the possible Divinity of her mission. Outside of her voices showing her celestial flashcards of his face, in possible disguises, which might have been the case, Jehanne did the impossible. Unless ... she already "knew" his face.
The theorists would interject here that if their conspiracy story is true, Joan had been looking at a similar face in the mirror for over two decades, only prettier. And possibly one or both of her brothers might well have been "lost" children of Isabeau of Bavaria as well, and these family resemblances would have been close enough to have given her a basic instinct about his looks. She knew he was a few years older than herself. She knew he would look like her with a little more bulk and beard. She knew to just look into his eyes... and see that unexplainable, undeniable kinship. But somehow, she knew. And, not surprisingly, he knew it too. Once again the bastard theory is the most believable explanation for one of her extraordinary achievements.
When it comes to the discrepancies in the record concerning Joan's age or proposed resurrection, Pernoud completely depended on stupidity to explain them, as she understood people in those times were foolish and naive and uneducated and easily deluded. It is my experience however, in studying history that people have not changed that much. Technologies and fashions have, but the wisdom of the Greek, Jewish and Roman philosophers impress me as if written yesterday. The large body of material available about Joan suggests just the opposite is true. If anything, our culture is the lazy-minded, "A.D.D." bastion of urban legend.
The idea that dozens of Joan’s admirers and acquaintances, along with her brothers, recognized and celebrated her return, after her supposed execution, over a period of many months, as they toured in numerous cities in France, seems to beg the question, how could this kind of thing be a hoax? And more importantly, why the harsh accusations and rejections of the same woman later? Could hundreds and even thousands of people been so foolish, and the church and the king been the only ones who discerned her fraud? Regine Pernoud merely shrugs and says the impostor Claude de Armoises went where the people were most likely to wish Joan to still be alive. It was mass delusion.
Yet, this is also where there were the most people qualified to laugh at her farce and throw her out on her behind, as a total faker. But they never did.
I hate to make this observation, but as I look at the Joan of documented history, with all its complexity and contradictions, I begin to think it was just too much for shallow thinkers, what we call "pigeon holers." Some people, especially idol worshippers, hate messy and mysterious. They would rather assume the worst about a whole cloud of witnesses than cope with the implications of dark intrigue.
So writers six hundred years later contradict a multitude who were there as just mentally incompetent. Over and over, we see this kind of condescension, as Claude de Armoises and those closest to Joan were hounded and destroyed, all because they and their knowledge did not fit the script being sanctioned by King Charles VII. And that persecution continues.
Followers of the legend would only presume that God just got even. But only the child’s story teller would not see the struggle for power going on right underneath the surface. Murders and assassinations and unexplainable disappearances were common, and they were often just business as usual for the ruthless elites who dominated France. As corrupt as King Charles was, it is hard not to pull for his lifelong antagonist, Phillipe the Duke of Burgundy. The Duke’s father had killed the King’s uncle (or father) for his sexual indiscretions. The king had killed the killer during a phony peace-talk turned deathtrap. These folks should be in the illustration in the encyclopedia for Family Feud. When the Duke of Burgundy, who knew his lusty Aunt Isabeau well, purchased Joan, he was suddenly in an amazing position. Especially if he knew THE SECRET.
Even Joan admitted during her trial that John of Luxembourg (Lord Count of Ligny), the man whose army had defeated Joan's at Compiegne, and who had custody of her for months after her capture, came to her during her captivity at Rouen and said he intended to buy her back. Jeanne de Bethune, Luxembourg's wife and others had begged him to protect her, but he had bowed to political pressure and his loyalty to Phillipe the Good to sell her. There is no way John of Luxembourg would have acted on his own, or proposed this buy-back without backing from his fellow Burgundians, and especially Phillipe. But Joan by this point was distrustful of everyone and spitting mad and refused to believe him or discuss it, and only insulted him and his entourage.
If her testimony was accurate, and I believe it was, it proves that there was a possible movement afoot to snatch her out of the flames. And six years later, when Claude de Armoises came with her brothers and addressed the lords of Metz, claiming to be Joan, the counselor of Phillipe the Good, Sir Pierre Louve, was so excited and pleased he gave her a horse. Other nobles gave her various armor and weaponry as well. But more importantly, she was accompanied by none other than Elizabeth, "Lady of Luxembourg," John of Luxembourg's daughter, who travelled with her to Arlon, where she married Robert de Armoises.
Jehanne had spent almost half a year during her capture in one castle or another belonging to John of Luxembourg. His wife and aunt had begged on her behalf. He had promised Joan during the trials in Rouen that he was there to redeem her. His daughter and counselor embraced Claude de Armoises like an old friend years later. All this makes it easy to believe that something was done to reach a political settlement concerning Jehanne, and in the process execute one of the greatest hoaxes in human history.
It has since been revealed during the trial of rehabilitation that most of the clerics were not thrilled by the proceedings, refused to attend, or outright protested, often begging to send Joan to Rome instead. In the end, the Bishop of Bouvais could not even gather a quorum to make routine decisions. He bullied, threatened and jailed the various clerics that stood up to him, and in the end, was acting almost solely on his own authority. It is easy to imagine that men of conscience conspired to spoil his efforts.
If the Burgundians had decided to try to save her, they might easily have bribed the same French mercenaries that were acting as henchmen for the King of England. The question is how. But switching "criminals" would have been easier than it sounds, since the trial had been private and very few people had ever seen her.
So the alternate story goes,Joan was somehow sent to be questioned by the Pope himself, and ended up joining his army. This would have been the intelligent thing to do. If it was done, some ruse had to effectively satisfy the English, who wanted a dead Joan to end the scare she had established among their army; and it had to protect her not only from the English, but from the French king, whom Phillipe knew to be a back-stabbing thug.
The Duke was never going to get Joan’s cooperation, as she was still on the warpath. What if the Duke took it upon himself to meddle a little bit and preserve Joan, and give everybody, except for King Charles that is, what they wanted? It is known that the Duke and his associates got into passionate, knock-down drag -outs with Jehanne during her captivity in Burgundy. She wanted to go to trial and do what she was told by her voices... even be a martyr. If it happened at all, they would have to save Jehanne without her help.
Of all the possible secret saviors, the Duke might have wanted to save Jehanne, for the influential Burgundian women who had grown fond of her, or just to stoke the fires of the SECRET. Sending her to the Pope would insure that Rome knew what a bunch of reprobates Charles and his side of the family were. This was far more useful than letting the English burn her.
Add to this mix one Gilles d' Rais, patron of the arts and showman extraordinaire. After the execution, d' Rais built and operated the most costly and extravagant pageant depicting Joan's life ever performed. He might be called the first Buffalo Bill. A dreamer and schemer, and an expert illusionist, it is easy for me to imagine the Duke of Burgundy calling upon this old foe, and his chivalric duty. it would take his kind of expertise to help pull off the hoax, which depended completely on scientific, precise slight-of-hand, as only someone like d' Rais might be capable. An expert at disguise and illusion, with assistance from fellow clerics and countrymen, might have found a way to save Jehanne, and still give the crowd its spectacle. And there are clues to how this might have been done.
And this could explain why d' Rais was so horribly accused and unjustly burned himself later. It was English loyalists who framed and murdered him, and perhaps not just for endorsing Claude d' Armoises, but for providing her escape in the first place!
After the public burning of Jehanne in Rouen, the already mortified executioner tried and tried to burn her heart and entrails, which refused to burn, and he finally scooped it all up and dumped her remains in the river. It was as if her body parts were not real, or were somehow indestructible. He also said he had seen doves flying up into the sky as she was extinguished. The whole Christian world was ready to believe this and other miracles which accompanied her death. Many of the English and their French allies, especially those who witnessed the burning, said that they had killed an innocent... It was either a miracle of God or an amazing display of showmanship.
At this point we have to recognise that somebody was fooled without a shadow of doubt. One or the other was the greatest hoax ever executed on France. Was it the crazed, bloodthirsty crowd at Rouen, hundreds of commoners who had rarely or never seen Jehanne before, who were caught up in the moment, really just minutes of awful carnage, held back by 800 soldiers, yes 800! And allowed to witness a public execution that had been planned and staged for months?
Or was it the friends, family and admirers of Jehanne, who had seen and fought with her, over many months, and several cities, both before the burning and afterwards? Yes we know there was a hoax. All we have to do is figure out which one it was.
I hate the appearance of picking on Pernoud, the Dean of things Joan. But the perceptions she cast in the stone of Joan’s legend will shape the Joan we know forever. Where she has knowingly, willfully ignored the possible truth, or the lead that there is more to the story, I must protest. I am not afraid to face the fire underneath. I will not let her rationalize away the story of the century then… and even now.
Once I saw the ulterior motives that governed Pernoud’s books, no matter how well intentioned, I ran the whole story back through my new screen. Regine Pernoud had closed the case on Joan of Arc, but she had gotten a lot of help. There were many instances of inconsistencies in the myth of Joan which never made sense. Authors for centuries have been glossing over them. Her whole mission had been supposedly based on a popular saying, attributed to the infamous Merlin, an outright sorcerer who lived almost 800 years before; In effect, that France had been lost by an evil woman (the Queen, Isabeau of Bavaria), and would be won again by a virgin from Lorraine, a border state nestled adjacent to the Holy Roman Empire. The details of this so-called prophecy were sketchy, like most old wives's tales, but some said the virgin would come from the oak forests of Lorraine, others the marshes of Lorraine.
Joan was even quoted by her friends in Vaucouleurs as having identified herself with this prophecy, once explaining, "Have you not heard it said that it has been prophesied that France shall be lost by a woman and restored by a virgin from the Lorraine marshes?" Other witnesses made similar statements. She had been known to bring it up in her own village. Recognizing the popularity of the idea, and yet not knowing the timing or source of the so-called prophecy, it is hard to say how the two were related. Had Joan revived the rumor to suit her purposes?
But Joan admittedly took advantage of this common superstition. It was there and people wanted to believe it. She was proof, regardless of what she said. Joan would have been Joan, and done what she did, regardless, but there is no doubt that this "prophecy" helped pave the way for skeptics, like the king, who may have been able to resist Joan, but were unable to resist a popular legend being manifested, especially one that promised him his crown.
And I cannot resist speculating that Joan, savvy as she was, went to find Robert Baudricourt at Vaucouleurs and the Duke of Lorraine expressly so she would have a fresh association from there. It was good for politics and it was better for the "prophecy." When she finally got all of her ducks in a row, she left after weeks of beating the paths of the oaks and marshes of Lorraine.
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