Regine Pernoud’s additions, or even my observations, have the same potential. That’s why, as Regine Pernoud insisted, we have a duty to treat story as story and fact as fact. Even if it messes up our own preferred mental “understanding”.And if we have not even preserved her name, one of the few things we can prove, what about the rest of the story?
Although Jehanne told the inquisitors at one of her trials that she “did not know A from B,” she never-the-less knew the letters constituting JEHANNE which she supposedly signed on a few of her letters. Some would say she lied about her ability to read. And others would add this calls into question her Saintly purity. Others would say that we have no proof she ever actually learned how to sign her name, and that is only part of the Joan myth. Yet most historians gladly show the signature, holding Joan up as an avid learner and amazingly talented woman.
Pernoud and others would have it both ways. Some go as far as insisting she was an ignorant peasant girl, incapable of knowing what she allegedly knew, or concocting her mission, or her wonderful, albeit short-lived success. She was merely a vessel of God's power and Will. But they would also have to admit that their Joan did not accurately represent her literacy to those in authority who inquired. But it was not lying. It was kind of like when President Bill Clinton, trying to avoid embarrassment related to his sexual indiscretions, danced around the definition of “is.”
A portrait of Joan from around the Seventeenth Century. She was usually depicted as a redhead until the Twentieth Century.
I promise, I love Jehanne as much as you do Joan. The big difference is Jehanne was a real person, and Joan a political fabrication for propaganda purposes. This may rile you now, But soon I will reverse that, because this same government which was able to steal Jehanne’s true story, and substitute it with the carefully constructed Joan of Arc, had stolen Jehanne’s intended triumph and her ultimate justice first.
It’s time to give Jehanne the justice she deserved.
Instead her army awoke to a Royal summons that required immediate retreat. Satisfied with his gains made against his first cousin and arch rival, King Charles quickly paid and dismissed the army, and tried to pacify Joan, his pesky attack dog. When this did not work, he began to try to hold her under any means possible, and sensing betrayal of her mission, she went and joined some veritable freebooters, followed closely behind by her most devoted soldiers. No one was more afraid of her power, or what she might do outside of his control, than the young king of France.
Suddenly Joan was in a personal war, at odds with the very man she had put into power. She would settle for nothing less than the liberation of France, and now that his half was secure, the king was happy to share the country with his cousin, the Duke of Burgundy, and return to his idyllic court. For a ruthless king, who had little respect for Jehanne or the Powers Above that sent her and established him, there was some messy business to attend to, to contain and silence her… and her devoted following, who were disturbing his pathetic attempts at international intrigue.
Nobody has ever made much of how little we know about these “brothers,” and even less about two other siblings who just disappear from history. Yet this family was ennobled, loved and respected, and lands and pensions were given and a coat of arms established after their patriotic deeds. But if it was even possible for Pierre du Lys, her most faithful brother to end up footloose and free, how on earth could Jehanne have met such a horrible end? When the smoke cleared, in an unexplainable injustice, her brother finds himself free, and Jehanne burns at the stake; incredibly, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men refuse to ever see Joan the Maid again.
Rene de Anjou (Duke of Lorraine), brother-in-law of the King, was bankrupted because of his captivity and subsequent ransom. And then there was Joan’s most trusted general, the Duke of Alencon, formerly captured and ransomed, and known afterwards as “the poorest man in France”.
This was the horrific social order in which Joan found herself, and the insidious trap she fell into, with no one willing to match the English offer for her lily white hide. So after many months she went to the highest bidder. History does not even offer who might have offered up a close second, or if the offer was ever made. We can only hope that her old cronies took up an offering, but in the end, after the enterprising Duke brokered her for an underling who actually made her capture, he was anxious to capitalize on this capture and show how all of his threats up until then had been real. This, the French father of chivalry! Or so the legend goes.
Apparently, in this version, whatever chivalry was, it did not include compassion, justice, or respect for Divine Will. Phillipe’s chivalrous intent did include the protection of elites, for profit, control through any means necessary, and the rules for engagement, among gentlemen, (and that may have been her greatest misfortune, being female). No matter what her character or accomplishments, Joan was sabotaged, betrayed and slaughtered by her own countrymen, starting with the King, who disregarded her and made her vulnerable.
"Philip the Good," son of "John the Fearless," son of "Philip the Bold." He and his clan have always been characterized as the villains in this tale. What if, like much else in this story, they were actually the opposite of public perceptions created by the writers of history ?
Well, not quite. Charles would have liked that as soon he had control of all France. And his cousin, Phillipe the Good, the champion of decent betrayal, ultimately betrayed the English, who had bankrupted themselves trying to hold on to France, and once again sold his allegiance to the highest bidder.
When the French once again had control of France, it took very little time to investigate the trials that led to Joan’s demise. Soon a trial of “Rehabilitation,” sponsored by the King and sanctioned by the Church proved that it had just been a sophisticated Anglo-barbecue. But this was done more for Charles VII than Joan, because he could not let the stories stand, the ones about his scandalous mother, and about Joan being a witch. Charles could not stand to have been restored to his rightful place by a witch and heretic. His reputation was at stake, and while they were at it, they could tidy up a few family genealogical hurdles.
You see,Charles needed Joan to be dead. And specifically, he needed her to be burned at the stake, a martyr in her proper place, who could not haunt him, or admonish him, or embarrass him. He also wanted to demonize the English, galvanize his own people, return his old champion to her former glory, and give the story his final twist. Most of all he needed to bury it once and for all. He needed that because there was plenty of scandal in the air to do otherwise.
If they were just ignorant peasants like the historians insist about Joan, then this would have been poetic justice. But once again, historians ignore the appearances of Jehanne in the flesh for years after the burning of Joan’s military career at Rouen, and the scandal and intrigue surrounding them. And who had been the advocates of Jehanne’s second coming? The brothers of course.
He barely tolerated a living, breathing Joan, and had no tolerance for one after the burning. If a cunning woman stepped forth, thinking that she could win fame and glory by impersonating Joan, she had a rude surprise… the King himself.
Instead of declaring her a fraud, Charles welcomed her with warm endearments, and reminded her of their secret. She spontaneously begged for mercy. This meeting has always been interpreted as the inevitable breakdown of an impostor. No explanations have ever been provided why the King entertained her in is home for days, then turned her loose, and showed neither a thumb up or down. As usual, he had to get his instructions from French political winds, which must not have been blowing while she resided with him.
Why would a king settle in such a way with a phony? Should she not have been executed or at least made to take down the coat of arms? Instead some kind of deal had been struck. Was it respect for her, or maybe her brothers, or else the men who claimed to be her brothers? What did they have on the King? Could it have been the SECRET? But he wiped out her followers and scared them into silence, and was finally satisfied with that, a sort of one sided treaty.
Once before, in Orleans, Claude had shown her fear of Charles. When he arrived at Paris, the same time she was being honored at a banquet, she hastily left town rather than face him. Pernoud saw it as the fear of an impostor, as if only the king could have discerned her real identity. I see it as the fear of an illegitimate little sister of the King, who knows she knows too much to ever be comfortable around His Excellency.
Charles’ mother, Isabeau of Bavaria, was the Queen lamented by the prophecy, who married off her daughter to the king of England to strengthen the Franco–English partnership and sold her country down the river with a treaty that divided the country and entrenched the English, even robbing her own son of his rightful throne. She might have thought this would finally end an endless war, and hoped this would save her son from retribution after his involvement in the death of “John the Fearless,” then Duke of Burgundy. But it was even more complicated than that.
The Dauphin Charles had been complicit in the treacherous murder of John the Fearless, (Duke of Burgundy) during so-called peace negotiations, as a fitting retribution for the savage murder of Louis de Orleans, his uncle if not his actual father. There had been so much speculation and some of it justified, which John’s son, Phillipe the Good, the new Duke of Burgundy knew and would no doubt use to blackmail Isabeau anyway he could. She would never know a moment’s peace. Having made so many mistakes, she did not hesitate to make one more. Isabeau was probably the most controversial iconoclast of her day, and now the party was over, and it was time to pay.
According to the myth keepers of body-piercing, it was Isabeau who not only had her nipples pierced, but who wore clothing that allowed her to display the jewels that hung from her piercings. No less than the Marquis de Sade wrote her life story and explained her indiscretions in detail, as a sort of patron saint of sex, in the early Nineteenth Century, in some kind of attempt to bring the Royal family down to his level. Many have since questioned the veracity of his writings, dismissing them as scandalous lies, but if nothing else, her iconoclastic behavior was what the French wanted to believe about her, as described by their legendary ex-con and sex fiend. Her low cut gowns, some down to the navel, her reputation for infidelity, her revolutionary ideas about appropriate display of the fruits of womanhood, and unmotherly ideas about raising her own children, made her an irresistible target.
Or were some of these children the products of less moral but more natural relationships? Later John the Fearless cast his vote for the latter, when he outright admitted to his complicity in the butchery of the king’s brother (and his cousin), claiming he was avenging the outrages committed by Louis against the Throne. This view of the Burgundian relatives, of seeing themselves as necessary protectors and avengers and even disciplinarians of a decadent crown and its court, playing sheriff in a ruling family's power struggle, and enforcing their vision of justice, sometimes in spite of the king, and often to purposely spite him, is an oft repeated pattern in this story...
If the rumors of Isabeau’s sexual promiscuity were true, then which of the children she bore were really Charles’? Might some of the dead and missing offspring be the unfortunate bastards of her dalliances? Although Regine Pernoud offers that illegitimacy was no big problem in those days, she produces only men as examples. And as usual, she ignores the double standards of the day. To be a man sired by an outside, yet distinguished sire was almost a guarantee of status and assumed virility. To be a female born without a name, or a father, to a loose woman, was an unfair but insurmountable stigma. This was some of the heritage Jehanne is thought to have shared with the king, albeit disproportionate.
But once again, since Villaret failed to provide his sources, and died before his controversial changes were published, she summarily dismisses his credibility and calls the changes in his history probable“mistakes.” He was just another in a long line of incompetant Frenchmen. She opts to believe a twenty year-long, twice published “mistake” that would have proven the theory we now argue, as if Villaret was some kind of bumbling fool and the publishers unaware of the implications. Pernoud sighs with relief, when she can scrape up any excuse to keep her Joan intact.
A famous depiction of Louis, the Duke d' Orleans revealing his secret lover to a confidant.
Meanwhile, regardless of pretenses, throughout her reign several of her known surviving children were farmed out to surrogates all over the country, with a myriad of excuses. One foster parent was the extortionist Phillipe the Good! But little Charles VII was taken by Yolande of Aragon, who defied Isabeau to ever have him again. As Dauphin he was never quite sure who his parents were or where his loyalties were due. And if he was the bastard offspring of Louis, at least he had the comfort of knowing he was not the child of a mad king.
This concern was at the very heart of the Dauphin's depression and lack of confidence. When Jehanne finally met him, she told him publicly she knew he had been praying privately about this very issue, and she knew that he doubted his right to claim his crown. She immediately went to the heart of his lethargy, addressed his legitimacy, as if she had knowledge of his true bloodlines, and assured him of his unquestionable eligibility to be king.
It could be a another coincidence, but the same woman, close enough to the Royal family to take and raise Charles until his maturity, Yolande of Aragon, was the mother of the man, whom Jehanne supposedly had never met, whose services she came and requested from the Duke of Lorraine, at the very beginning, the very turning point of her saga. I see a gaping hole you could drive a mac truck, loaded with possibilities, through, all of which suggest the secret nobody wants to know.
How could Jehanne have known, so accurately, what was troubling this poor, powerless prince? Except that she had grown up with the mystery herself!
It is true knowledge of this debilitating insecurity could have been information given to her by her angels, just like every miraculous fact she knew, which authenticated her during this phase of her life. But giving Jehanne the information was just half the battle, as she had to find a way to convince a cynical and unregenerate mind. If Jehanne could prove her own relationship to this bizarre and tragically dysfunctional family, as one of his mother's banished bastard children, how much more would he have embraced the concept... and reacted as wholeheartedly as he did. Otherwise, he might have tried to deny it, coming out of the mouth of a total stranger... It is lonely at the top, and a vibrant, well-spoken baby sister might have been just the ticket.
And this fresh vision and perspective also made him more comfortable with his half-brother, and childhood friend, Jean de Dunois, later known as the Bastard of Orleans, another of Louis d’ Orleans’ illegitimate offspring. These were the kinds of things, with intricate complexities, known only to immediate family. But there is still more.
"Oh hi John, here are those abdication papers you asked for... I'm so happy now to finally be working on your side, Burgundy is my favorite part of France, and by the way, my little baby, God rest his tiny soul, passed soon after his birth and too bad, for I had named him... after your son... I will just let you imagine why, but don't tell Louis, he was sure it was his..."
Charles VI is entertained by his court jester and his faithful Mistress, Odette de Champdivers, who was charitably provided by his loving wife, Isabeau.
The official story was that the child died. Here is where the theorists and the historians part ways. For sure, if there were multiple bastards coming out of the Queen's bedroom, convenient stories would have been contrived to mask these outrages. The historians like Regine Pernoud just resort back to official documents, and the case is easily swept under the rug.
Queen Isabeau was an iconoclast who made the most of her sorry lot. This is a tame illustration.
And here is where theorists imagine everything coming together to fill in the blanks of the Royal creation known as Joan d’ Arc. A secret so powerful so as to disarm Charles immediately and gain his unswerving (if only temporary) cooperation. Joan was the person so equipped, yet held in limbo for two decades, who could muster the courage to face and shame Charles, the passion to do what he would not, the incentive to do so, to re-establish their own Royal bloodline, and perhaps the mission from yes, God, who chose once again to use the foolish to confound the wise; To use a poor shepherdess to gather the lost sheep and inspire a social revolution; to recruit a pure woman, in fact a virgin to usher in the salvation of a lost people. It does sound familiar!
And all Jehanne had to do, according to this theory, was to disarm Charles with something so deep and true that he would accept and support her, and the theorists would offer it was her knowledge about little "stillborn Phillipe,”and all he implied, and the suggestion that she was that lost child. And if it was known by Charles that Phillipe was not born dead, but in fact a little Phyllis instead, and she had been sent via the Church to an allied family on the border of Champagne, then Charles would have been ecstatic… at first.
But their secret was too powerful to fully conceive, for either of them. Jehanne’s sisterhood would have immediately implied several earth-shaking things. In spite of the joy of their finally meeting, there was the devastating implications this news would have on Charles’ legitimacy, something he had spent a lifetime trying to prove. Jehanne and her illegitimacy would impact all the other siblings as well and their various bloodlines, now married to royalty all over Europe. And if there was this surprise, popping up like a mushroom, were there others, perhaps little seeds sewn all over France by Yolande of Aragon?
It would also have a demoralizing impact on the country, as their worst suspicions about their Queen were proven true. France would have to brew another four hundred years before anyone would successfully eke the mere externals of this story. It would have been a case where honesty was not the best policy. And that is when, theorists would suggest, that Charles demanded a promise from Jehanne, upon death, to never tell another soul.
But she did not have to.
Strange but true, (according to this theory) when Joan arrived to save Orleans from the siege, who was there to meet and fight alongside her?… but Jean Dunois, her other half brother, “Bastard of Orleans,” also half-brother to the king. It was Dunois who converted immediately, even raved about her apparent influence on the weather, when the winds shifted and allowed the relief boats to cross over to Orleans. It was his other half-brother, also named Charles, languishing in an English prison, who paid for her livery and armor, and who had the Orleans coat of arms proudly placed on it. This made her, officially, the Maid of Orleans. Everyone was so eager, cooperative, as if they had been poised for such a savior...
Jehanne's secret not only got the Dauphin's attention, and established her status immediately, but it gave him every incentive to cooperate with her, whatever she chose, and especially to put her in harm's way. And from that point all the kings men played their part. Some eventually embraced her and her vision, and those that went too far with it ended up vanquished or worse. Meanwhile the Duke of Burgundy had to be rooting for her, as the farther she went, the greater the Dauphin's discomfort.
And so the humble Maid became The Maid of Orleans. Frenchmen have always assumed this title was a reference to the great French city, and it was, but it was just as much an identification with the noble family who ruled it. She was their sister in arms, if not a sister by blood, and by all appearances, few could have told the difference. Decades later Jean Dunois still spoke of her with affection, and testified of her purity and authenticity. No wonder theorists have found this story so irresistible.
It is the story of the power of the bloodline, of commoners advancing to the top in spite of social disadvantage; about character trumping status. And perhaps about kindred finding each other in spite of the ravages of history.
That brings us back to the mysterious, cunningly convincing Claude de Armoises, who arrived on the scene around 1436, meeting with her sympathizers at Metz and other towns, testing the waters for receptiveness. Soon she was gallivanting around France, the rock star of Europe. Upon meeting King Charles VII about seven years after Joan’s supposed death, the story goes, as some would interpret it, she was humbled and begging for the King’s mercy at the very suggestion of their SECRET.
With Joan’s reported death,the King had to be relieved. With her alive, she was an uncontrollable threat to national security. If she was Joan, she would understand the secret, its implications, and her promises to him, from the very beginning. If she ever appeared to be inclined to turn on the king, she would have to die and die quickly. But could she be trusted? And if she was not really Joan, she would not be a threat and could serve some twisted purpose.
If Claude was an impostor, she was just a minor problem. If she was actually Jehanne, she was a huge threat on several fronts. Already her national popularity threatened to force the King to move once again into battle against the last English strongholds. She had stirred up the old alliance, led by trusted Captains like Alencon, and d'Rais. Charles was big on tabling proposed actions that required risk, and more importantly, those which challenged his feared cousin, the Duke of Burgundy.
And he was not likely to welcome Jehanne's return, no matter what she promised. And this Joan, or whoever she was, had an amazing story of escape from the English, a voyage to Rome, and fighting for the Pope! In other words, “I have friends in high places.” And no one ever proved otherwise (even later, when Claude was forced to "confess," the confession still included going to the Pope, for forgiveness of violence to her mother, and subsequently dressing like a man and fighting for the Pope!). The king's tail was caught in a crack, and he moved cautiously.
The king could not outright abuse Claude and throw her in prison. And if she had been a fake, he would have hesitated less, as he would have been justified. But if she was there after a recent stint with the Papal army, as she claimed, he dared not. Pope Eugenius could be returned to power and suddenly embarrass him if he had mishandled her. If she had, as she also claimed, been somehow salvaged by some of the Burgundians, ( and Charles knew better than to underestimate Phillipe) who now after her torture and interrogation might have known the secret as well, and who must have sent her to the Pope just as she had pleaded, then imprisoning her now would only make Charles the enemy and justify English occupation of his territory, and turn the people against him.
And what to do then with her two brothers, now national heroes? For four years they travelled all over France, enthusiastically establishing Claude as their long-lost sister, Jeanne Darc, now alive, with bells on, in front of many influential witnesses. To imprison her and her valiant brothers could incite a Civil War.
Victorian historian Anatole France suggested that this was all just a cheap plot by Charles VII to rehabilitate Joan, and legitimize his victories with her. But the thing had gotten out of hand, and she had to be discredited...
Charles was always a master at duplicity. He was civil, if not gracious, and all the while he was masterminding Claude’s fall from grace. After all he had sent her money during this mass hysteria, and his former generals were giving her horses and swords and wagons of wine. Later historians guessed he just fell into Claude’s charade like everyone else. .. But alas, all was not as it appeared.
Historians also have always shrugged at the quiet war which was swiftly ensued by the church authorities on Claude's entourage. Charles was just as good at using the church for vanquishing his enemies as the English were. Claude's followers and major sponsors were scattered, intimidated, killed or imprisoned. In 1440 Gilles de Rais was made an horrifying example. Joan's old favorite warhorse, the Duke of Alencon, now a big Claude enthusiast, suddenly found himself in trouble, arrested by his old buddy Jean Dunois (King's cousin/ brother), and accused of treason and imprisoned by 1440. Her husband Robert de Armoises, a knight, was bankrupted in 1435, and his property in Lorraine confiscated by RENE of ANJOU, (fresh out of captivity) before he disappeared altogether. Here we see the power in the blood. Charles called in his favors and his kinsmen did the dirty work, even against old friends.
This alone speaks to me, that either Caude was Jehanne, or part of an outrageous scheme by Joan's brothers to defraud the country and come out like bandits. But most writers, especially Anatole France could never give them the credit for such a bold, convincing deception. This was as successful a campaign which captured the adoration of France as any guided by Jehanne herself, and for twice as long a period of time!
Everyone considered a threat, but Claude and her "brothers," were killed or silenced.
Even the Pope, far away in Rome, seems to have suffered from this curse. Amazingly, Claude's claims to have served the Pope were timed perfectly, as she came on the scene a few months after Eugenius IV had suffered a revolt and was stoned and chased out of Rome, forced to wear a disguise to save his life. It would be arguable that his servants and army would have been furloughed or dispersed, at least temporarily at this point. A radical element was trying to overcome the Catholic Church, and Eugenius was in hiding. And things got worse for him. After Claude made her pubic claims, including her allegiance and service to the Church during this time of a schism, the heat was turned up on the Pope and by 1438 he was suspended and deposed for "heretical conduct." He was fighting for his office for five years, until finally returned to power in 1443.
It seems Jehanne's enemies, whoever they were, even went after her impostors... and those that followed them!
Claude du Lys aka Jehanne Darc and her brothers, French heroes or liars three, chose to duck out and be grateful for their lives. In due time, at the King’s pleasure, the dead “Joan” was“rehabilitated,” and sanctioned.
Claude de Armoises, alias Jehanne Darc, died defamed and a strange footnote in history.
The du Lys boys, Jehanne’s hapless brothers, were never punished outright for their involvement in what was officially treated as a fraud, yet they did little with their gains. They were given lands and titles and muddled through. Through it all they died noblemen, unmolested, although relatively average and insignificant. Was this leniency the gracious indulgence of a grateful king, or the price he paid to take the secret to his grave?
We will never know why her brothers and an adorable nut job who looked and acted uncannily like their sister either tried to perpetrate a ruse on the whole country, or they were actually celebrating the miraculous return of a French hero. We will never know why Charles VII could never really enjoy or celebrate, much less venerate Jehanne, the woman who handed him his kingdom, and yet protected the reputation of another woman, his mother, who traded his birthright after birthing him into a lifetime of scandal and shame.
Blood runs thick. Absolute power in the blood makes a hemorrhage. And this was all about power and blood. So much was spilt because of, and in spite of Joan. And still, we do not even know her name…
As I write this, editing it for the twentieth time, I offer yet another name, found on official documents by Sackville-West, author of SAINT JOAN OF ARC: d'Ay, which was the name writtten to describe Joan's father in the ACT OF ENNOBLEMENT. Sackville-West believed this would have been the way the locals in Lorraine would have actually pronounced it, and even written the name. He further offers that his children might have had a different accent, thus distorting the sound, and even leading others to misspelling it... But this flies in the face of Joan's testimony, when she said her father's name was Jaques Dart.
I wonder. Jehanne was tricky. Might Jehanne, realizing the terror she was about to face after her trial, and the terror these same people might be to her family... fibbed a little to throw them off track? She was known to do this very thing to protect her army with decoy letters that purposely gave disinformation...
Much later“historians” fixed the Joan we know today, establishing the “facts,” dismissing the rumors. The “rehabilitation” trial of Joan Darc proved to be a big hit, and served the king and the nation well, for centuries. It was easier in medieval times to perpetrate a sham, as few things were printed and fewer people read them. And those in power, the most educated, wrote down and preserved that which served them best. The Church, with the help of institutions of higher learning systematically destroyed any person or idea that threatened the status-quo. It is a wonder that the story of Joan of Arc has survived in any form.
But whatever survived was whitewashed by writers like Anatole France, Mark Twain and Regine Pernoud.
It is obvious that the king was inconsistent and aloof when dealing with her or her impostors. In fact he treated them about the same. And the relentless persecution of Joan and her impostors points to an undercurrent of official intolerance, and a hatred that went deeper than politics or war. Whereas many of her prestigious captains had been ransomed before, and great bloody battles had been fought for a hundred years, she could not buy a break, and little Jehanne of Domremy seemed to bring out the best and worst behavior on both sides. Otherwise gentlemen warriors became unmerciful butchers, clerics fell into every temptation of brutality, and kings were incited to jealous treachery by her popularity.
And yet, it was left to them to tell her story. And some people still endorse their version.
One of my concepts so far... Jehanne is gradually coming into focus.
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