PART III The Prophecies
Joan of Arc: Truth & Consequences
Incredibly, she repeated this youthful whim again later, with better results, finally leaving her home and friends and mother and father, as it turns out forever, without even saying good-bye. From the git-go, we have to ask if God would require someone to strain if not break two of His Commandments in order to do His bidding. Never-the-less, destiny and her country were beckoning.
What followed was a series of miracles and unexplained historic reversals that aided the French in expelling the English after one hundred years of war. Wearing a man’s clothes, a sword at her side, she boldly rode to the un-crowned king to tell him his deepest fears and secrets, earning his confidence and then gathering up an army that would change the course of history. She seemed to be blessed with serendipity, even aided by the forces of nature, as she became a master military strategist, inspiring her country, leading her loyal army with a religious banner in her hands, learning to argue with generals, distribute misinformation, surprise the enemy, and take them against all odds.
An avowed virgin, she would call herself Jehanne the Maid, as she personally led the French to decimate the English and their French allies. She was instrumental in restoring their young king to his rightful place, in a matter of months, which eventually led to the re-establishment of the borders of France which would stand for the next 600 years. But the virgin was ultimately captured and tried for heresy among other things. Tried by the same church which, at the request of her beloved King, had previously investigated her and given her high praises and more controversially, the blessing to serve her country, and do so in a man’s clothes.
Offered by Burgundian mercenaries to the highest bidder, she had no hope of being saved, as the newly crowned King had limited resources and could not or would not ransom her. Her army, led by several generals who had spent their fortunes on their own ransoms, could not rescue her either, and after due process, she was purchased by the English Crown and under his orders her own church judged her as a heretic and burned her at the stake. Since that day there has been a serious controversy between historians about what happened, and why.
Significantly, during the Maid’s trial, she defended herself valiantly, but after months of tortuous inquisitions, she was eventually broken down physically and emotionally and confessed to having made up some of her stories about the angels and saints who spoke to her, and other fabrications she had told during her trial. Some who believe her to be a Saint, find reasonable excuses for her fabrications and confessions. Others perceive her as a religious lunatic who brought her demise upon herself.
No one has ever been able to explain how such an enigmatic young woman, seemingly gifted and yet supposedly steeped in superstition, if not deception, could have made so many clear prophecies that came true, and all the while her leadership to have been associated with so many victories which restored her country. How could a teen ager so rock her world, in any age? And in the process, Jehanne not only laid some astounding political eggs, but she scrambled up one of the biggest doctrinal quagmires in the Christian world.
It has been a half-millennium enigma, the epic glories and travesties of this phenomenal virgin, Jehanne la Pucelle, whom we know as Joan of Arc…
I The Template
I have learned to play the cynic, after years of facing the unforgiving realities of history, and acknowledging how often I have been disillusioned by my heroes. Still, I believe in truth and justice and role models; but most of the time we only see glimpses of these things and we are easily fooled by their counterfeits. And just as often we fail to recognize the real deal when it comes along; Case in point, my study of Joan of Arc.
Why am I reluctant to accept the novels and commentaries that reduce her to either a fairy tale or a bizarre curiosity of psychological warfare? I am totally infatuated, in love and in hate, obsessed, with mysteries that defy consensus… when there are so many curious pieces of the puzzle lying around.
It is the artist’s natural attraction to put the pieces together; sometimes to see how they fit to make large portions of the picture, when nobody else has been able to quite figure it out. And sometimes the image we discover was better left to mystery.
Joan was the real deal. That is still what I want to believe, but no one can prove it. But in my rationale, it would have been impossible for any person or powers or principalities to have contrived her success or the many paranormal circumstances and incidents which delivered her to the miraculous fruition of her goals. There are tantalizing explanations, also unproven, but still, they in no way wash away her uniqueness and unparalleled claims of Divine guidance. And these claims are supported by the facts of history, upon which no one can argue. Luckily she operated within the era of literacy and the printed word, and thus recorded history. On the basis of so-called “available evidence,” her accomplishments are even more irrefutable than those of Jesus.
“Joan of Arc” was a real person, with stunning claims and victories, who left her generation in a stupor of near worship or irrational dread, and none of the people in her lifetime ever suggested that she was a charlatan. The only argument at the time was which Cosmic force she was serving. And In the end, even many of her enemies agreed that she was a simple, admirable, Christian virgin. After being grilled during several lengthy inquisitions by her allies as well as her enemies, her virginity and motives were never in question. And her military successes were the stuff of Bible history; Directed by Heavenly voices, she established a line of kings, changed the map of Europe and even the strategies of warfare forever.
But most importantly, Jehanne claimed to have a direct line to Heaven, so to speak, and most of her prophecies literally came true. Most of the rest came true eventually, in more general terms. Some of her prophecies and accomplishments had far reaching consequences, as if ordained by a higher power. But with all her success, even this legendary warrior made some bad calls. And it was these “bad calls” which birthed the enigmas we still struggle with today.
I wrote a separate blog outlining all the various theories of her possible bloodlines and backgrounds, her controversial execution and her ill-fated copy-cats. But these things fall from importance when compared to Jehanne, the prophet of God; specifically, when Joan and her words are screened through church doctrine and compared to her Lord, Jesus Christ, and his Word and Testament. Her life and her methods, in many ways, became a perfect template for the follower Christ. When I study the aggregate of her words and actions and their results, I see in them the very character of God.
Like most prophets of the Old Testament, Jehanne was a predictable mixture of spiritual obedience and human willfulness. When we begin to look at her obedience to her “voices” and her faith and her personal power, in every way Jehanne of Domremy, whether 17 or 23 years of age, whether a bastard of the Queen or a farm girl, redhead or brunette, beautifully demonstrated to us HOW GOD, through personal piety, WORKS in our lives. And like King David, or Moses, even her mistakes are instructive, on how God will not work.
Establishing this impeccable record of spiritual behavior would have been tough for a fake or a witch to do… and even tough for a very smart manipulator of men and circumstances. Let me show you just how amazing this template was. And as I do, never forget this amazing template was laid down by someone who was then, and has since been called an arrogant, extremely lucky fanatic, or witch, whose main asset was the fortuitous timing she happened upon…
You can help me decide.
II A Simpleton or Enimatic Magnet
The enigmas around Jehanne are more bewildering than the miracles of her success, but they come hand in hand. We have to set aside one to focus on the other. The first of these enigmas were her mental faculties. Her illiteracy, youth and provincial intellect, undeniable ignorance if you will, were the brain trust for a powerful vision, guided as it appeared by Godly wisdom and purpose, which so efficiently beat the English and temporarily stabilized France. They are incongruous, unless we consider most of Christ’s disciples who were cut from the same cloth. God, if we accede with the Bible’s lessons for a moment, has always taken care to use “the foolish to confound the wise.” Jehanne said as much during her trial, when asked “Why you?”; “It pleased God to do so through a simple maiden, to humble the King’s enemies.” As for the weak and lowly, rising to worldwide prominence, Jehanne would be their Patron Saint.
Not only was she relatively ignorant, even dangerously foolhardy it would seem, but she was perceived at first as simple-minded by many of her associates; The English have besieged Orleans- go chase them away; the French soldiers are barbarous and profane - so require them Mass every day; The French army was followed by a trail of whores - so banish all the women; The Dauphin is a cowardly elite- then win his kingdom back for him and orchestrate his crowning…
And as simple as her solutions were, they usually worked, in record time. They not only worked, they had unforeseen immediate and positive consequences (but perhaps even greater negative consequences! ); She ended the six-month siege at Orleans in only three actual days of fighting, all the while arguing and struggling with her more experienced generals, disrupting their strategies, and challenging their concepts of chivalry. There was no doubt then or now that she was the catalyst of history. Everyone has heard of her, few outside of France have ever heard of her brothers in arms.
Yet in the beginning, she had to have been received as a small-town dreamer or worse, a delusional lunatic. Unexplainably, even with her “simple” way of seeing her country, her king and her faith, she became a sensation even before she had ever been brought before the Dauphin. The leading dukes and generals were anxious to meet and follow her, at the mere suggestion of her existence. What had prepared their minds for this national savior? Seemingly supernatural forces had prepared a way for her. Jehanne was an enigmatic star, a human magnet that attracted people and power before she even took the stage. She was truly enigmagnetic!
Psychics and poets had already tilled her bi-polar field of dreams.
French historians can answer to this phenomenon better than me, but here are a few elements that helped make Jehanne’s arrival the national sensation it became; There was Merlin the magician’s ancient “prophecy.” Jehanne was almost a perfect match for it. But more recently Marie, “la Gasque” of Avignon, a local psychic, had made her own predictions after recurring visions of French prostration and of multitudes of empty suits of armor; that a maid would come on the scene who would utilize that armor and bring freedom back to France.
Such was the anticipation, that a decade before the poet Alain Chartier composed Hope, a prosaic introduction to “this Lady Hope,” with a face smiling with joy, head erect, who would restore the kingdom. It was as if there was a screenplay under production… and news of the protagonist was leaking out. There were no franchises to market royalties to, but it appears there was a fertile political garden waiting for Jehanne.
There is also evidence of clerical high-jinks. Whoever Jehanne was or wasn’t, they seemed to have a propensity for identifying and recruiting motivational talent. There was almost an unspoken doctrine or tradition of rallying around a popular personality, who could distract the people from the corrupt upper class and motivate themselves as a popular movement. Later, when Jehanne was captured, they went right to work to find a replacement, as if it was just a formality. Regnault of Chartres, Archbishop of Rheims, seemed to be the talent scout for such military mascots. He had felt and seen the power of one little shepherdess at the recent Sacring of Charles VII. After accompanying her to the circumstances of her capture, and then condescendingly dismissing Jehanne as headstrong and full of pride and acting out of her own will, he was very quick to prop up the new national savior; “Neither more nor less than the Maid,” a shepherd boy named Guillaume, similarly inspired to lead the French struggle for liberty. (Poor Guillaume was quickly captured, paraded down the street at little King Henry’s coronation in Paris, and then stitched inside a leather bag and thrown into the Seine.)
And there was a more powerful and effective talent scout who may well have had a great deal to do with Jehanne’s rise to prominence. Yolande of Aragon, the mother of Rene, Duke of Bar, and King Charles’ mother-in-law, was known to have an impressive underground network of informants, many of them attractive women who used their womanly skills to get near to the most powerful men in France - and beyond. Her seamless role, all behind the scenes, is the most under-estimated in European history.
Outraged at the scandals and improprieties in the “House of Valois,” Yolande had personally wrenched Charles from his own mother’s clutches, defying her to take him back. When the national poet, Charles, Duke of of Orleans was captured and taken to England, she personally guaranteed that his whole library, another national treasure, was rescued and protected. It was her son, later a king himself, and his father-in-law the Duke of Lorraine who gave Jehanne an unexpected “grubstake” and turned the luck for her early on. Then Yolande would pressure Charles to meet Jehanne, as if she knew what would happen if they did. Then she would finance the French army under Jehanne’s command, when all the purses of the most powerful men in France were empty…
If it was a screenplay, Yolande was writing it.
The French people needed, pined for, for better or for worse, a sort of cheerleader, a rallying point, a person who captured their imagination and inspired them. Jehanne was the best fit for their national psyche that they have ever seen.
The Duke of Alencon, soon to become the Maid’s favorite general, one day abandoned his quail hunt when he caught wind of her, and made a beeline for the Dauphin Charles’ residence at Chinon. Yet supposedly he had never met her before. His wife’s uncle, the “bastard” (leave it to the French!) of Orleans, under siege in that city, sent envoys to meet and assess her before she ever arrived at the king-to-be’s gathering. We can only guess how the word travelled so fast, or so completely convinced these jaded warriors. All of the world watched in wonder as a powerful unseen hand led Jehanne to the Dauphin and to victory, and simultaneously led France to rally behind her.
Was it some kind of political orchestration? Was it the God of Abraham and Moses calling the children of Clovis to preserve their legacy as His people? Was she the “Maid of Lorraine,” as predicted by Merlin the Magician? Or was it more complicated and sinister, as her enemies suggested, even the manipulations of the Devil?
At first Dauphin Charles stalled her, and played hard to get, then chose to make a spectacle of their first meeting. He invited hundreds of the country’s elite and powerful to be there when they met. Powerful forces within France and within his family had insisted that he entertain her. Perhaps Charles just saw a way to save face and use the moment as a slice of harmless entertainment for his court. He was known to be impetuous, and devious, but surely he must have realized that he might be trapping himself.
And it seems everyone RSVP’d and they came from all around, lavishly dressed in their polished armor and finery. It was, by medieval standards a grand pageant, fit for Spielberg, designed for either an epic reception or the epitome of Court amusement. And all this was arranged spontaneously in a time when messages took days by horseback to arrive; Still, within days it was as if the whole of French nobility had been anticipating her arrival. But in the end only Jehanne seemed to know why they were all there, mystifying the guests and taking control of the crowd, and her beleaguered France, almost immediately.
The skeptical authors, proponents of the Joan of bizarre- mass hysteria- chance serendipity theories, such as Vita Sackville-West, don’t even try to explain these fortuitous alignments. They just shrug and call it the peculiarities of history; Coincidence. But when it comes to Jehanne’s prophecies, even they humbly bow to the mystery of the unknown… they are beyond mathematical probabilities and rational explanation.
These agnostic writers expectedly fall short of describing Jehanne’s prophetic utterances as functions of a Higher Power. The prophecies are like creation itself, you either give God the credit or you don’t. And for many writers, who are barely religious, giving God credit by default is their only out. They are accustomed to shrugging and saying that we can never know. They therefore can never bother themselves with the same arguments over Jehanne which Fifteenth Century France found itself embroiled in.
I have found most writers of “Joan of Arc” in one of two camps; She was either a Holy Messenger of God, a true Saint; or she was not some kind of saint, as that is obviously superstition, but more likely a nut, the greatest amalgamation of coincidences and unexplainable phenomena in the history of mankind, making her more than worthy as a subject. The two camps take to extremes, either seeing her as proof of God, or proof only of the bizarre. But this fragile podium makes the Saint fans fear and avoid the inconvenient questions around her short life, and the curiosity fans want to inflame them, to enlarge the sideshow. Each has an axe to grind, a world view which cannot tolerate the other.
But there was just one Jehanne. And her prophecies stand there omnipotent, while the authors argue, and pontificate, and hypothesize, and their books fall apart in moldy libraries and are tossed back to the dust from which they came. It was her prophecies, supposedly conveyed by “voices” that set her apart and won her instant authority then, and it is those same prophecies today which boggle our minds and challenge our imaginations.
I propose a third possibility, rarely argued, that Jehanne and her prophecies and her victories were no random concoction but a combination of Providential support for an agenda, partly inspired from above and partly written in the flesh. In other words, it is complicated, but no more compromised than the prophecies of Moses.
It is probably significant that when one tries to wrap their mind around Jehanne, they must eventually compare her to the Patriarchs of the Faith!
III Mind over Masters
Like a story out of the Bible, it all started with a prophetic dream. Not in Jehanne’s sleep, but in her father’s. Jacques Day (that’s right, NOT d ‘Arc!) dreamed that he saw his little Jeannette being taken away by soldiers. He of course interpreted this as a frightening omen, the only thing he could have conceived, that these soldiers in his dream meant her harm. He told her brothers, if this fate ever appeared to be imminent, not to allow it, in fact do him a service and drown her to prevent such a horror. He said if he had to, he would do it himself. We can only wonder if his nightmare somehow played a role in prompting Jehanne’s trajectory and subsequent actions, which fulfilled and completed his dream. All we know is that he would live to regret those words, and to understand that dream better, and in the end probably be confused by the whole bloody mess.
Meanwhile, Jehanne did not need dreams, as she was talking to angels in broad daylight. It seems Jehanne had wandering feet between chores, often off to a chapel or secluded spot, and known to frequent the church next door, to be lost in prayer… First it was Michael the Archangel, tall and beautiful, who approached her, who later sent Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret to instruct her. Both of these popular, ancient saints were virgins from very early church history, thinly documented, who had been martyred by ruthless rulers, rather than compromise their purity and faith. These two immortals double-teamed her imagination and established in her a life-pattern that would mirror their legends. At around age thirteen they began to secretly fill her head with her mission. This kind of claim is usually a red flag to theologians, but I will explain that later.
“… there lives a maid between Coussey and Vaucouleurs who, before the year is out, will have the king crowned.”
So told Jehanne to her friend Michel Lebuin on the eve of St. John’s Baptist Day. Before she ever left her home for that last time, a mere teenager, she told her friends and confidants that the popular old extra-Biblical prophecy of Merlin’s would soon be fulfilled; That France had been lost by a woman ( thought to be the former Queen, Isabeau of Bavaria ) and would be regained by a virgin from the borders of Lorraine; that the Dauphin Charles would be crowned king, and even more immediately, the siege at Orleans would be lifted. No matter that Jehanne was technically in Champagne. That could be fixed with a short trip. Most people thought she was a devout yet silly lass who needed better supervision from her elders. As time passed, she explained she had gotten the information from a host of angels… No one would have been blamed for dismissing her and her story. But she was not easily discouraged. When she met rejection, she just prayed and regrouped.
Jehanne made many more precise predictions that were to come true, some of which I will recount, but she also enjoyed a ride on something I like to call the “magic carpet of God.” Jehanne was able to have her way with the most powerful men in the land. And then events uncannily went her way. They not only went her way, they sucked everybody into her jet stream. Some would argue this was nothing less than the power of God. Or something!
In the midst of trying to obtain a horse and safe escort to Chinon, where the “Dauphin” (crown prince) Charles lived in royal ease and decay, in a fairly short time Jehanne managed to amass the support of several wanna-be knights, the Captain of Vaucouleurs, and even the Duke of Lorraine who was known to be collaborating with her enemies. His son in law, Rene, Duke of Bar, would soon shift the family loyalties and fight beside her. His mother, Yolande of Aragon, would exercise her influence in many ways on her behalf. But even before Jehanne left Lorraine, she was given clothes, horses, spurs, weapons and money, by men on both sides of this Civil War!
Jehanne was provided “safe conduct” as they called it, to Chinon. There awaited a castle, once again owned by, you guessed it, Yolande of Aragon. The Maid was escorted out of the city by de Baudricourt himself, and was bid adieu along with five armed guards, one an expert crossbowman, and a sixth man, in the beginning of a string of unexplained coincidences, a messenger of the Dauphin’s who happened to have been sent for her. This fortuitous rendezvous fell so nicely together, even though Robert de Baudricourt, the knight who was the Captain of Vaucouleurs, thought she was something of a joke, and just previously had threatened to throw her to his soldiers so they could feast upon her. But de Baudricourt, his own castle nearly under siege, soon changed his mind about Jehanne after her mysterious bedside joust with the Duke of Lorraine.
The ailing duke, known to have been allied with the Burgundians, had summoned her to his castle in Nancy, desiring prayer, even a healing, but Jehanne was brutally honest with him and offered little solace. It is curious that this duke would send for a young, relatively unknown and common-born farm girl, when she had done very little to establish herself as a spiritual minister of any kind. Still, when the meeting was over, she had obtained their support, money and even a horse as well as “safe conduct” from them. I believe that either the Duke or his son- in-law Rene, Duke of Bar may have used their influence to soften de Baudricourt, and even sent word to Charles about her. Somehow, unexplainably, De Baudricourt suddenly reversed himself. A brother in arms with Rene, he respectfully gave her his blessing after an obligatory, precautionary exorcism, then sent a messenger to the Dauphin himself, announcing her mission. The rude and blustery knight ended up giving Jehanne a sword and releasing two of his best men and sent her on her way. Not a bad turn of luck, in a matter of a few weeks, for a “simple-minded” teen.
They travelled on the backroads for eleven days to Chinon, fairly unmolested, even though Hollywood and Mark Twain could not resist making the journey more violent and entertaining. Crossing rivers, dodging enemy patrols, hiding during the days and riding at nights, all of these men were aware of her prophecies and her potential importance by the time they arrived, and later confessed they believed in them and her.
The leader of this party was Jean de Metz: “I had great confidence in the Maid’s sayings,” he once recounted, “and I was fired by her sayings and with love for her, divine as I believe…” Not yet a knight, it was de Metz who first listened to Jehanne and pledged his help. He may have played a part in convincing de Baudricourt to cooperate with “la Pucelle” and he stayed with her till many of those prophecies became realities.
What a start for a shepherd girl from a border town, and what a catastrophe for all if she was a nut-job. And this was what was presumed by the Court at Chinon. His lazy arm twisted by unseen influences, the reluctant Dauphin and his counselors came up with an entertaining and telltale test for the girl. Even if she was a fake or merely a sweet misguided patriot, they would have a bit of fun. Charles shed his finery and put another, a decoy prince, one most impressively clad, in his stead. Jehanne had never seen any of them. She would no doubt foolishly bow and beseech “the king,” a mere noble, while the Dauphin watched her humiliation, and then officially exposed her as a pitiful farce...
But if there was a farce, it was the other way around. When Jehanne arrived in Chinon, a profane Court soldier saw her as they entered and treated her like he would any attractive young woman of common birth; he cat –called and abused her verbally, invoking God’s name in his lustful proclamation. This was his last mistake. Jehanne was never one to take abuse, from anyone. “Alas, thou deniest Him and art so near thy death!” Legend has it that just a moment later, as she passed, he fell into the river and drowned. This kind of sharp judgment and hostile aura is difficult to reconcile with the Carpenter from Nazereth, who taught Jehanne to turn the other cheek, but I will not take the pulpit just yet.
“In God’s name, noble prince, it is you and no other.”
Perturbed by unnecessary delays, Jehanne walked into a grand room filled with three hundred knights and ladies… according to her recollection, illuminated by fifty torches, and quickly read the deception, searched the crowd of hundreds of faces, and without hesitating found the Dauphin skulking in the background and went to him, bowed and greeted him. Charles was not accustomed to his subjects not playing along with his games. “What if I am not the king?” He teased and lied and shooed her way, and pointed at the throne- “There is the King!” He had not yet had even a bit of fun. But the teen stood her ground, not phased in the slightest.
She gently corrected him, and insisted he was the one. She could not be deceived by the best and brightest of France. This alone was extraordinary, a kid from Domremy facing down a skeptical Dauphin and his court of worldly nobles. Without those voices, how did she know which man was the Dauphin?
Before they could even ponder this surprise, she began to tell the dubious Dauphin with all urgency, that she had been sent by God, and she wanted an army to break the siege at Orleans and then she wanted to see that he was properly crowned, according to French tradition, as the King of France. She proceeded to unload and tell him that she knew what he was afraid of, and that she knew his secret prayers and thoughts… and she proved this to his amazement. She reminded him that on the last All Saints Day he had requested three things from God. And she named them.
Jehanne unexplainably knew of his prayers, his deepest fears; that he was not of legitimate birth, as his own mother Queen Isabeau had inferred when she signed a treaty and gave his crown to the English. Jehanne not only told him, and proved to him how she knew of his fears and prayers, but assured him that he was indeed the right heir to the French throne, the son of the King. It was a message from God’s mouth to his hears. This may have been what Charles wanted to hear, but nobody before had convinced him of it. The party went from being a hilarious expose on a hapless youth to a revelation and a mandate from God above.
Not since David came to face Goliath had a common-born child turned the tide of history in such a short time, with a simple appeal to the king.
In pondering Jehanne’s possible supernatural knowledge, it is here where I should remind the reader of Jehanne’s rendezvous at Nancy with the Duke of Lorraine and his son-in-law Rene, Duke of Bar. These were well-connected men, and it is easy to imagine that Rene had gotten this kind of information about what was on his brother-in-law’s mind directly, if not from his mother, Yolande of Aragon, the Dauphin’s mentor and mother-in-law. Might these two have given Jehanne these and other words which would have made her presentation quite convincing? We cannot know from this one meeting recorded in history. But there were probably others which dodged the pens of French history..
Jehanne suddenly became the Dauphin’s mystic, and he wanted to know more. They met privately, and there she shared secrets, unknown to anyone else, that bonded their destinies. There has been great and wild speculation about these secrets, and the English later exhausted considerable effort to extract them during her trial at Rouen. But that was all a waste of time. According to Jehanne, they were words from God and meant only for his ears. She would take them to the burning stake, and they would be lost in her ashes. Believers and skeptics alike have never known for sure what the secret might have been. Whatever it was, depressed, lethargic Charles became buoyant and pro-active, even mildly ambitious. That may have been her first public miracle.
It should be noted, here at the very beginning of this amazing saga, were several traits of Christian character that cannot be faked. Assuming that the voices were for real, Jehanne had been entrusted with wisdom and knowledge beyond her years or her place in the world. And she proved to be quite trustworthy with this intelligence. And that took a level of obedience to her mission far beyond the character of most individuals, no matter their intelligence or religious faith. And as with the Christians thrown to the lions in Rome, it has always been argued that people will never agree to be tortured and killed for a mere lie. Jehanne had that kind of confidence and resolve. The truths she brought to the king that day she was willing to risk everything and even die for, if need be, and she later proved it. Her loyalty to God’s purpose was unshakable. Her fearlessness in the execution of her duty to God was super human. Her willingness to self-sacrifice was paramount. Of course to the non-believer, it was fanaticism and delusion. Godliness, and God-given wisdom, the Bible teaches, appears as foolishness to the world. And on the surface that is what we seem to see.
Once Jehanne had convinced the Dauphin of her cause and legitimacy, they began to prepare her for battle. She seemed to be more than ready for this next phase, and sent for an antique sword, her “voice” had instructed, lying at the Church of St. Catherine at Fierbois. They would find the worthy blade someplace near the altar.
All through Jehanne’s narrative, one gets the feeling that sometimes she might have been dead serious about those “voices,” and yet other times they might have been a convenient euphemism to avoid divulging too much, and at the same time buy her another layer of mystery and authority. Amazingly, symbolically, as this church had been built by the grandfather of Charlemagne, it was suggested that the sword might have been his. And now it would be hers.
Sure enough a sword was unearthed, a public relations windfall, with five crosses on it, and covered in rust. Its iron oxidation and hiding place seemed to preclude her ever having seen it. This sword and its recovery were immediately perceived as proof of her authenticity and heavenly gifts. She WAS the “Maid of Lorraine” spoken of in Merlin’s prophecy! Lovely, impractical scabbards of velvet and gold cloth were produced from different well-wishers from Tours, to provide her and it protection, after it was cleaned up and sharpened. But Jehanne chose to have her own made, from plain but suitable leather. This sword was not for show. She was expecting action.
“I shall last one year, hardly longer”
Jehanne knew and was heard saying she had limited time, less than a year, to do God’s bidding, and because of this there was an urgency to her mission. She told her men this and explained that because of her limited window, it was “necessary for them to toil mightily.” And she also knew that what she accomplished in France would not be reversed in a thousand years.
“I am writing to you for the third and last time. I shall not write anymore..”
Character is never challenged or tested better than on the battlefield. Author Sackville-West chastised Jehanne, because several times she seemed to have made terrible choices as a battle strategist. But Sackville-West was ignoring Jehanne’s higher calling. God rarely ever wiped out anybody before He first warned them profusely. And seemingly to her disadvantage, Jehanne always tried to send warnings to her enemies, killing all elements of surprise. Far from wanting a slaughter, she struggled to make God’s will, as she understood it, absolutely clear.
“Read, here is news”
Jehanne sent letters carried by messengers, shot by arrows, and even personally begged her adversaries to yield and leave France for their own good. She took ridiculous chances, ignoring their insolence and insults, and risking her own safety to approach their gates and publicly warn them. She seemed to have known precisely their fate. The English called back at her, calling her a camp follower, a cowgirl, or bitch, or worse. She had made at least four of these attempts at mercy towards her enemies before the blood was spilled at her first battle at Orleans. When it was, she cried uncontrollably over her slain men, and especially her fallen enemies, worried about their souls.
It sounds crazy, but this burden over lost souls, trumping her own political agendas, was an illustration of the Heart of Christ, and was the most Christ-like thing to do.
Also, Jehanne sometimes, if she could, refused to fight on Sunday, the Holy day for Christians. Staring them down across the battlefield, she let the English walk away one Sunday at Orleans rather than annihilate them, and because of that merciful gesture allowed them time to gather their strength. Sparing them because of the Sabbath meant she would have to face that powerful, reinforced army later at Patay. But Jehanne was a servant of God first, a soldier second. In her estimation she was no good as a soldier without the other. She knew that it was GOD WHO PROVIDED THE VICTORY. Provoked by priests who questioned her for Charles, demanding proof concerning her claims about being a soldier for God, she explained her simple strategy:
“In God’s name, the soldiers will give battle and God will give the victory.”
Here again, this kind of thinking is foolishness to the world. She had learned, just a couple of months since she left home, to choose to do things God’s way. Now God’s Law had equal footing with the urgings of her voices. The combination of the two gave us the most sterling examples of Christian behavior, in times of war, ever documented.
Jehanne was always accompanied by a priest who carried a cross before her procession, and who provided her Mass, sometimes a couple of times a day. Her huge banner became a signpost for any soldier who needed prayer, confession or wanted to observe the Sacraments. She used this convenience more than anybody. One overlooked factor in her success is this simple function, the encouragement to pray, to keep a godly outlook. Suddenly Jehanne not only had an army, but a legion of prayer warriors. And there was power in that.
Jehanne understood the power in both prayer and the Living Word. She actively called on both for her success. We have never seen anyone of credible status claim Divine instruction or power to the degree she did. For a Twenty-first Century Protestant like me, it seems impossible. But her methods and actions were impeccable, making her claims all the more irrefutable.
Whatever words she knew and shared with the Dauphin were of Eternal value as well, words worth dying for, fit only for God’s chosen few. And as we shall see, whether the hearers deserve it, in our estimation, or not. In this story, it was not only Jehanne who was that “David,” facing a Goliath, but she was the prophet called to anoint and instruct a flawed king, who would often disappoint. And Charles was that reluctant hero, with lackluster expectations and weak character, who would by Grand Design be used by God to restore the country. And Jehanne seemed to be comfortable with this. So this is my insurmountable (Protestant) enigma:
Why would God, who was soon to inspire the Protestant Reformation, not have let the English prevail? Half of France was already under English authority. The Dauphin’s cousin, the Duke of Burgundy was an English ally and able leader and was the Father of French Chivalry. Burgundy later demonstrated his own infatuation with Jehanne, even though his loyalties demanded him to broker her to the English. Why would God lead Jehanne to go against the grain of a two hundred year war which could have freed France from her corrupt royal family, and thus prevented France from extended injustices and wars in the future, and even more importantly, from fully partaking in the Reformation? If you are a Catholic, the answer is obvious. I’ll leave that question with you for now, and return to it later.
I must continue with the prophecies. We can never know all of them, only those recorded. What is amazing, truly amazing, is how well her words and behavior stand up to Biblical standards, and even our own standards of veracity and spirituality. Easily over 90% of her prophecies were accurate and completed. They were not hidden in allegory or vague abstraction. For instance, she knew and predicted she would be injured during the assaults on the English strongholds at Orleans, but that she would not be killed. This was the legend. But Michelet told the details, which become more problematic. Speaking to one of her captains, she instructed: "Come tomorrow at break of day and quit me not; I shall have much to do.... blood will go out of my body; I shall be wounded below my bosom." This is amazing, still it is quite inaccurate. Jehanne was wounded, but in the shoulder. Another curious bit of misinformation from her voices... and a red flag for theologians. We will ignore the red flags for now...In fact an English arrow struck into her little shoulder several inches deep. Pulled kicking and protesting away from the carnage, she pulled the arrow out herself and staunched the bleeding. After telling her exhausted generals to get a drink and eat, she went to pray in a nearby ditch and try to shake it off. While doing so, someone fought with her to carry her flag. In the tugging over it, dizzy and bleeding, she would not let go, probably needing it as a crutch. Still the wild waving of her banner inadvertently inspired the French watching for a sign from her. Seeing her standing again, violently shaking her beloved flag was all the encouragement they needed. They turned and launched one final and victorious assault!
Instead of prophecy, it seems Jehanne spoke freely and had a chronic sense of her mortality. When and if she was to ever perish, she would have just predicted it. Her personal priest, friar Pasquerel said she often told him "If I must die soon, tell the King our lord, from me, to found chapels for the offering up of prayers for the salvation of such as have died in defence of the Kingdom.." This muddies the clarity of other predictions she had later. She must have offered many possible outcomes to her brothers in arms, and eventually some came true.
But more curiously, the Maid knew of things and players not even on the playing board, whom she could not have known. After her historic conference with Dauphin Charles, and the subsequent interrogation by his priests, Jehanne made as part of her four pronged prophetic agenda a seemingly personal, humanitarian goal, to free the Duke of Orleans, another cousin of the Dauphin’s, held captive in England. As far as anyone knows, she had never met him and did not know him. This was a very ambitious goal and a problem way out of her sphere of influence. Had the Dauphin made this request? Why would she have elevated the Duke’s situation, not exactly a matter of national security or military strategy, to a matter of highest priority? But she did… and even that would come in time.
She had already predicted the liberations of the cities of Orleans and Paris and the Sacring ( crowning) of Charles VII. These were obvious, basic cornerstones to the restoration of France.
We have to wonder if there were not unseen factors that made the Duke and his captivity seem so important to this illiterate seventeen-year old, who could scarcely have even heard of him, much less have made his return a pivotal object of prophecy. Jehanne saw only two of these, her main goals, met in her lifetime. Even more intriguing, the not-forgotten Duke somehow, even while kept away in England without ransom, made possible the crafting of her “livery,” and had it emblazoned with the Orleans coat of arms. What was this strange, unexplainable devotion between them? Strange that the voices in her head would care so much for this Duke, and he for her. And even before this prophecy of his rescue had been made public, his half-brother, Jean Dunois, the “bastard” of Orleans, was poised to be one of her most loyal Captains.
It was the bastard of Orleans who was the first to report her miraculous flair. He had operated on his own volition and placed Jehanne in a less-than-strategic position when she arrived at Orleans, her first battle, probably for her protection. After she scolded him, she learned things were even worse than they appeared, that all of her men and the supplies arriving to relieve the City were on the wrong side of the river, and everything would be unnecessarily delayed for days. The well-meaning bastard had boats lined up to transport the supplies across, but they could not handle transporting her sizeable army. And the winds pinned the few boats Dunois had commandeered against the docks and would not even allow them to cross. He begged her to allow him to take her into the city via a rowboat, where an enthusiastic reception awaited her… the rest of the provisions and her army would come in time.
Jehanne was furious with all of these manmade delays and complications. She told Dunois, in so many words, he had no idea who or what he was messing with. He must not have understood who was the boss here; not him, not even her, but GOD. Dunois loved to recall this time of their first meeting, as it was capped when the wind suddenly kicked up, as if obeying her sheer force of will, from the opposite direction, and the relief boats were able to cross with them. The people inside the City would eat and drink that night! He never doubted her again.
Her personal friar, Jean Pasquerel, recounted later that Jehanne was seemingly in complete command of events as they happened, and seemed to always know what was coming next. But strict attention had to be paid to her vision of corporate righteousness.
After the battle to raise the siege at Orleans was in full swing, and they had enjoyed some small victories, she told Pasquerel to instruct her men to be thankful to God, and they should take some rest, as it was the eve of the Ascension of the Lord’s Day, and even take the next day to pray and have Mass. And she forbade any further activity of her army without first going to confession, and furthermore they were to evict all the prostitutes, as it was because of these sins that God allowed a war to be lost.
Then Jehanne mildly prophesied that within five days the siege would be raised and no more English would linger near the city. And Pasquerel did as she commanded, and all went as she said.
On that fifth day, she promised her scribe Jean d’ Aulon “In God’s name, we shall this day enter the town by the bridge.” Jehanne was shot, and many more Frenchmen fell, and this prediction of course would have required complete decimation of the English, which is exactly what happened, in spite of her injury. She had begged Glasdale the commander to abandon the siege, or live shortly to regret it. Legend has it that Glasdale scoffed at her and called her a ribald woman and a whore. Jehanne retorted that they were all about to depart swiftly, despite themselves, but Glasdale would not live to see it. Sure enough he and many others fell into the river and drowned while trying to cross a makeshift bridge after being taken hostage. Still, Jehanne was stricken with grief over the death of these enemies, which she had predicted, and who just moments before had taunted her.
Fulfilling her prophecies, the towns fell like dominoes, the English always retreating to wait for reinforcements. Finally the day came when the English could not escape, and a battle was inevitable, if Jehanne and her forces could just catch up with them. It promised to be a pivotal showdown. On every French mind was the last such battle, at Agincourt, where they were demolished and humiliated and died in the thousands. Her young Commander, d’ Alencon looked to her for the best wisdom from “her voices”… before they met the English at Patay.
“Have, all of you, good spurs.”
Jehanne told them flatly, all they would need were good spurs that day… to speed up their horses so as to catch and defeat the English in their desperate retreat. She said confidently that Charles would have his greatest victory on that day. And so it was. In a historic confusion of the enemy of Biblical proportions, the English position was inadvertently given away when a stag galloped into their ranks and the surprised Englishmen, who were hiding and waiting to ambush, could not help from a spontaneous uproar… Once spotted, they were surrounded and decimated.
The exchange was very one-sided… an estimated two thousand English lay dead after the rout, and with only a few French casualties.
“By my martin, I will lead the gentile King Charles and his company safely and he will be crowned at Rheims.”
Soon Charles was out of excuses, and it was time to go to Rheims, the traditional place of sacring, French coronation, where kings could receive their sacred honors and be crowned. But the Dauphin Charles was always a pill, lethargic, cynical, a prince of procrastination. He had no money to pay his army, and they followed not him but Jehanne. It was embarrassing. They had never seen such patriotism or success. Many Frenchmen had paid the ultimate price. He was ashamed to ask for more.
So Jehanne provided the ambition and courage enough for both of them. When they neared the French Holy city, Charles began to whine. He had no war machines, and the people within its walls might not receive him, what then? Jehanne had told him to approach the city with boldness, “Doubt not, for the burgesses of Rheims will come out to meet you” she predicted with confidence. Somehow she knew his kingdom was his for the taking. He acted like a child being brought to his first day of school. The Burgesses were there just as she predicted, like doting schoolmarms.
It was the Sacring of the king which was Jehanne’s number one goal, and she believed that this was the cornerstone to the restoration of France. And she was right; once Charles VII was crowned, the country came out of its coma.
V “Act and God will act”
Jehanne not only spoke prophecies, but she seemed to be blessed in her designs.
There was a yen and a yang so -to -speak to Jehanne’s methods. Naïve but effective; fighting hard, while giving God His every due, while asking for His blessing in battle, thanking Him afterwards, asking for direction, fearlessly obeying. The fighting and the worshipping were interdependent.
It was, as one witness wrote, “Like another Saint Catherine had come down to Earth.” Yet already the clerks at the University of Paris were drawing up indictments of her as a heretic, because they were offended; she could foresee the future and she dared to expect people to believe her. But the popular poets and a former Chancellor of the University released their own opinions, defending her. The brain trust of the Church was turned on itself, at its highest institution of learning.
Friar Pasquerel explained all the fuss simply to his young illiterate charge, who could not read either side of the controversy; “Never have been seen such things as you have been seen to do; in no book are to be read of deeds like them.”
Excepting of course, THE BIBLE.
Even in the heat of battle, Jehanne remained in touch with the Voices that first instructed her in Domremy. Otherwise we cannot explain her near omniscience. Even Yolande of Aragon could not help her now. After Charles had tentatively agreed to go to Rheims for his coronation, he made this concession on the condition that the cities along the way would be militarily subdued. For Jehanne this was a reasonable request, and that was all she needed to hear. She had God on her side, who could be against her? She already had a life-pattern of prayer and seeking God’s direction. God was going before her and preparing the way. When her men were not up to the task, even nature pitched-in to tip the scales.
Once at Orleans the wind had aided Jehanne, and later a tug-of-war with one of her well-meaning aides over her flag, then a collapsing bridge, and at Patay a wild stag led the French to their enemies. Wild reverses in French fortunes were won with minimum casualties. Yet the English were punished mercilessly. Again, multiple miracles seemed to provide Jehanne remarkable proofs of authenticity.
No other general came know and love Jehanne as well as the Duke of Alencon, who had rushed to meet her at the very beginning. When later she went and fetched him for war, she promised his wife, (remember, this is a seventeen year old ) “Madam, fear nothing, I will bring him back to you safe and well as he is now, or even better.” She managed to save his life at one point at Jargeau when she warned him to remove himself from a spot she somehow knew to be dangerous, where artillery was soon to take out some of her men. Right after this she was hit herself, by a stone projectile exploding on her helmet, which knocked her to the ground, but she kept her promise.
Knocked off of a siege ladder, Jehanne jumped up and yelled; “Friends, friends, up, our Lord has condemned the English, in this hour they are ours, be of good heart!” Every army should have such a fearless cheerleader. The French left over a thousand of their enemies dead on the field on that day.
There at the battle of Jargueau, Jehanne had shared her logic with the Duke of Alencon, explaining they should fear no multitude, and make no difficulty attacking the English, for God guided their business. In fact if she were not sure that God was directing this business, she would rather keep the sheep [back home] than expose herself to such perils. “Doubt not, the time is come when it pleases God… Act and God will act!”
One might imagine that such a woman as this, literally a man-killer with the courage of a lion, might well have been man-eater as well. The pressures and the strain and horrors of war are often known to break down the best of men, and women, their morals often becoming a casualty along with their innocence. Not so Jehanne.
All of the men who ever dealt with Jehanne spoke of a similar reverence for her. She was attractive, intelligent, athletic, tender-hearted, sometimes high strung and feisty, the kind of woman any knight would desire. They camped with her and fought with her and died for her. They saw her bleed on the battlefield, cry over the dead, prayed with her often at Mass, and watched her sleeping in her armor. They saw her in glory, and even saw her partly naked. But they never seemed to have seen her as … a woman.
This is most unexplainable. It is a kind of platonic blindness unknown in that period, when women were sought and used and misused like possessions, and primarily for sex. After all, we are talking about medieval FRANCE! Yet everyone was a gentleman and she, an angel. One of the witnesses explained thus:
“… sometimes they had the carnal desire for her, however never dared give way to it, and they believed that it was not possible to try it. And often, when talking among themselves, about the sin of the flesh and spoke words which might excite lust, when they saw her and drew nigh her they could no longer talk of such things and abruptly ceased their carnal transports.”
Marguerite la Touroulde had the opportunity to know Jehanne and her closest entourage. They stayed with her as a hostess for weeks. Jehanne kept many of the same men as bodyguards who first escorted her to Chinon, during the following campaigns. Touroulde was a bit of a gossip and was gifted at prying. And she had a unique perspective on this phenomenon… “They said that in the beginning they wanted to require her to lie with them carnally. But when the moment came to speak to her of this they were so much ashamed that they dared not speak of it to her nor say a word of it.” Touruolde added that Joan was “all innocent excepting in arms” and claimed she could ride and use a lance as well as the best of men at arms, who marveled at her abilities.
One of these trusted wanna-be knights, Bertrand de Poulengy, testified: “… every night she lay down with Jean de Metz and me, keeping upon her, her surcoat and hose, tied and tight. I was young then and yet I had neither desire nor carnal movement to touch woman, and I should not have dared to ask such a thing of Joan, because of the abundance of good which I saw in her.”
Even her “Beau Duc” the Duke of Alecnon confessed the daily struggle within… “Sometimes in the army I lay down to sleep with Joan and the soldiers, all in the straw together (he paints quite a picture, doesn’t he?) and sometimes, I saw Joan prepare for the night and sometimes I looked at her breasts which were beautiful, (ah, the French!) and yet, I never had carnal desire for her…”
Even her captors had begrudging admiration for her. Haimond de Macy, a Burgundian knight, testified many years after her execution that he had tried to take advantage of her. Stationed at Beaurevoir in service to John of Luxembourg, he saw and taunted Jehanne often, and apparently never missed an opportunity to humiliate her... “I tried several times, playfully, to touch her breasts, trying to put my hand on her chest, the which Joan wouldn’t suffer but repulsed me with all her strength. Joan was, indeed, of decent conduct both in speech and act.”
Wasn’t his mother proud.
Sure they were men, and men talk, and they fantasized about her… but these temptations never went any further. It would seem that Jehanne was too good for THAT, too noble, too special. Anecdotes from those days tell us of men who thought differently and met with swift demise, purely by fate of course. And we cannot doubt her purity, as her virginity was constantly challenged and proven for the satisfaction of three different inquisitions. NO VIRGIN HAS EVER BEEN SO WELL DOCUMENTED in all of history!
Marguerite la Touroulde, the gossip who slept with Jehanne for several weeks, and saw her in the bath and whatever, later testified that “… I neither saw in her nor perceived anything of any kind of ‘unquietness’…” In other words, Jehanne was seemingly unconcerned about her sexuality, and lacked even a hint of what we would call today as “horniness.” She was in Southern terms, “a lady.” If we are to believe it, this had to be the result of religious conviction… a virgin preserved for a holy mission, a special thing for sure, and a simultaneous miracle of mass suspension of male aggression, the likes of which have never been seen before or since.
True, it might have been a whole army in love with the same virgin, and willing to protect her like their own sister. But who better to judge her, and the plausibility of this kind of purity, than the men who daily followed her gladly into battle? And every mother’s son believed it was her purity, her virginity that gave her this special power of prophecy and military victory. Since they believed it, and it worked so well, we cannot question it from our positions six hundred years later. They liberated Orleans. They crowned Charles. They won dozens of battles, against the odds, and often with minimum losses. And through it all, Jehanne was kept as pure, at least sexually, as her Savior.
VII Foreordained Captivity
Here is where the fairy tale ends. Even worse, here is where the doctrinal issues and spiritual doubts start to unravel Jehanne’s wonderful magic carpet ride. We cannot pinpoint when it turned sour, but it was sometime right after the Sacring of Charles VII. Immediately after this she confessed to confidants the only thing she feared was treason. She wanted to go home and take up her simple life again.
Newly emboldened Charles VII would not hear of it. He still needed her. There was still a great deal to be done. But Jehanne knew instinctively that it would all be very different once he had been crowned. She could not have imagined how different. Her instincts to go home prove that she knew the party was over. But her sense of patriotism overruled. Young and impressionable, and proud of these greatest victories in French history, she gave in. She should have gone home.
From the moment when Charles was officially King, Jehanne had already sent the Duke of Burgundy a conciliatory letter. But so had Charles, and his terms were better. Charles would agree to a fifteen day truce, no strings attached. Jehanne’s approach was in her own forceful way; do or die. She invoked the name of God and begged the Duke to make up with Charles and forsake the English and give up his claims. She told him flatly that if he did not, it would be his last mistake, that they would never win any more battles and that she would bring God’s vengeance down on them and the English.
But things had changed. The King was ruling like a king. His army now obeyed him. And Jehanne, having become a bit over-confident was no longer waiting upon her voices for direction.
Here Jehanne put into writing two prophecies, in the name of God, that were way off, in fact opposite of what transpired. She made threats and predictions that would appear empty and grossly uninspired as events marched on. [ I have to interject, as awful as this sounds, the Bible has examples of God’s prophets in the Old Testament doing similar things. The most memorable was when Moses hit a rock with his staff instead of speak to it, to draw out water, and for this rebellion, he was never allowed to see the Promised Land.]
Fearing treachery, but still yielding to her unpredictable King, Jehanne apparently panicked and lost touch with her voices and began to act outside of the Holy Spirit. If Jehanne had any doubts about her future frustrations, it soon became obvious that Charles just wanted her to rattle cages, and hopefully force the Burgundians to yield without conflict. It was good cop- bad cop, and she did her job too well.
TWLEVE THOUSAND Frenchmen strong, Jehanne swaggered at the moat which protected Paris, and barked at the Parisians like a hound from hell… “Yield to us quickly, for Jesus sake, for if you yield not before night, we shall enter by force whether you will or no, and you will be put to death without mercy.”
Jehanne seemed to always know who or what could butter her bread. But Paris, which she attempted to “free,” was her great defeat, and this is significant because she admitted she had acted without any prompting from her voices. The Parisians defended their city as if Englishmen, as they were reluctant to give up their English associations, but it was Jehanne’s own king who burned her bridges across to Paris to end the conflict, as it complicated his negotiations with his cousin the Duke of Burgundy. Even without the King’s fickle blessings, Paris would still fulfill her expectations in a few more years, when the Duke of Burgundy switched his allegiance again.
Somewhere along the bloody way, the Maid of Lorraine had evolved into someone more similar in method to Mohammed. Do as I say, immediately, or die. There was a fine line between the prayerful, reluctant warrior, warning her enemies and grieving their deaths, and the jaded Attilla bombarding Paris. But she had crossed the line. She was misguided in her letter the Duke of Burgundy, and she was wrong there at the moat, and was proven to be speaking from her own frustrations, threatening death and destruction, and yet presumptuously claiming the mantle of Christ. Whatever Grace she had enjoyed before was withdrawn.
Then a Parisian defender shot her in the thigh. Her fair-weathered soldiers dragged her off the field, and with them hopes of victory and many of her objectives.
When she attacked Paris, it was really without the King’s blessings, as he was still locked in his fruitless negotiations with his cousin. She scoffed at him and his treaties as nonsense. She was right, but now she had to learn to practice another Christian virtue; obedience to the king. (Many popular generals have had to go through this) She was expected to step back and allow the two cousins to work things out, in excruciating, peaceful solutions which always require compromise and time-consuming negotiations. It was going to be a test of everyone’s patience.
They were in such a stand-off and the cowardly King blinked. He found it easier to stand up to Jehanne. After she was badly wounded, he saw his opportunity to neutralize her and sent his henchmen in the night to burn Jehanne’s bridges, ones she had built to facilitate her next attack. In her mind, she was still in the heat of the battle for the liberation of Paris and ultimate victory the next morning. Instead they were all called home.
The Maid knew that Charles was reluctant, but she and her army had always had to move on and fight in spite of his trepidation. They were all accustomed to doing what they thought was right… or at least what Jehanne wanted to do, given direction from those voices… She had felt it was obvious and inevitable, and wanted to take advantage of the gathered army, which was eager to follow her into the gates of Hell, or Paris, whichever came first. The voices were silent and thus had been left behind.
Jehanne was learning things about her God and her faith, about acting in obedience to His Will as opposed to acting out of human reason. And to her great peril she was learning after the fact. This always spells disaster for any believer.
For most young people, this kind of lesson has minor consequences. It is easy to run off and leave God. And thank goodness it is just as easy to search Him out. But Jehanne was leading a whole country. Even a single week of bad miscalculations or judgments had life-changing repercussions. Her mistakes turned out to be the signal for the end of her magic carpet ride.
Suddenly her letter to the Duke of Burgundy became evidence of several things which, with her precious King Charles’ treachery, would embolden the other side. Jehanne could be wrong. Jehanne could fail. Her letters had become empty threats; her barkings at the moat were a hollow bluff. God was not really on her side. Jehanne was not invulnerable. All of these combined mixed signals from Charles, Jehanne and her presumptuous letters all added up to the appearance of confusion and weakness.
Soon the Duke of Burgundy strengthened his bets with the English. His negotiations with Charles had just given him time to strengthen his hold on Paris, and now they had embarrassed Jehanne. And the Burgundians were no longer afraid of her. Even Charles did not back her anymore. Paris was safe.
The tides, at least temporarily had turned. Charles was obviously a fool and could be easily strung along to avoid conflict. The Burgundians began to seduce the unscrupulous little king and convince him to send his army home and to release his attack dog to her own devices. And they would take care of the rest.
Unfortunately, the implications concerning these false prophecies, so quickly revealed, were far more significant than a military general making a forgivable error. Jehanne depended mostly on her Faith and God’s power to maintain success. It was obvious, at least for the time being, that these elements were missing. But a true prophet of God cannot be wrong. Jehanne, out of youth and fear and maybe a little arrogance, had become a false prophet and the enemy had read her mail and knew it.
When Jehanne got through threatening her adversaries, she even began to write problem sects outside of France! One letter she dictated to her friar was sent to the cult known as the “Hussites” in Bohemia. She pronounced them heretics and accused them of destroying true religion and worship. Her solution? She would come herself if necessary to “remove their madness and foul superstition,” either taking away their heresy or their lives. Jehanne was on a tear. Little could she have known that others were also working on this spiritual sect. A special English force gathered specifically to put down the Hussites had been ironically diverted and re-enforced Paris during her historic defeat. It is safe to assume that they went on to do just that, after quelling her attacks. But she had presumed herself as the sword of the Lord and was taking on evil-doers everywhere, probably on the recommendation of her well-meaning priest. This kind of assumption of marshal authority was bound to create problems for all kingdoms and churches in Europe, if she had been allowed to continue her own private, Holy War. We can forgive her zeal because of her youth, but we can also understand why she had lost “IT.”
One of the last correct instructions Jehanne supposedly received from her saints Catherine and Margaret had to have been an emotional blow to an eighteen year old girl. She had fought bravely, effectively, super humanly for her country for a year, most of the time knowing that one year was all the time she would have. Then they appeared to her and told her she was soon to be apprehended. She was not to take it hard, and she was to keep the faith. Each day she went out into battle, with less and less support, knowing it might be her last. She told her men, right before her attempt to fend of the Burgundians at Compiegne: "My good friends and my dear children, I tell you of a surety, there is a man who has sold me; I am betrayed, and shall soon be given up to death. Pray to God for me I beseach you; For I shall no longer be able to serve my King or the noble realm of France."
Jehanne later told her inquisitors she had asked to know when this was to happen, as she would know not to go out on that day! Finally she was cornered and captured. Her time was up. Historians have never been particularly intrigued by the itineraries of Regnault Chartres, the Archbishop of Rheims, her probable betrayer, or of the man who captured her, John of Luxembourg. He was the Burgundian captain, who had recently been in conference with the Archbishiop. Luxembourg was in charge of the men who tore her off of her horse and ripped her flag out of her hands, after being almost abandoned in the field, the drawbridge to Compiegne raised, sealing her fate. If this turn of events was not suspicious enough, Luxembourg had been in conference with Charles VII just days before, making inroads for a truce and assuring promises to keep the peace. And nothing would shut down the French resistance better than capturing the Maid. Receiving no opposition, Luxembourg, in many ways took over custody of Jehanne for the rest of her natural life. It appears that Valois family interests had begun to supersede the civil war, French unity or sovereignty, as the two sides worked together to cage Jehanne.
The very Archbishop of Rheims, Regnault de Chartres, who accommodated Jehanne by a swift and seamless Sacring of Charles, had immediately gone into those clandestine peace talks with the Duke of Burgundy, which effectively had pulled the rug out from under the Maid, which ultimately made her threats null and void. And yet he was also one of those who advised her to engage in the area crawling with Burgundian patrols, led by Luxembourg. As soon as she was captured, Chartres sent out swift disclaimers, Jehanne was a fallen miscreant; “God had suffered that Joan the Maid be taken because she had puffed herself up with pride, and because of the rich garments which she had adopted, and because she had not done what God had commanded her, but had done her own will.”
How amazing, this archbishop, to suddenly know the spiritual or moral failures of someone of such personal power and ability, whose mission or soul he could never have known or understood, and to speak for God as to her fall from Grace. But he was spot on! Or did Chartres know a great deal about Jehanne that we could not imagine? Had he seen some private script? Was everything, from the manipulations of the Burgundians to her ultimate capture going according to some incredible plan? Was it God, or the Church running this show?
But it was Jehanne who had brought the leadership of France together! Right? In a few more years it would be official and forever. But Jehanne’s usefulness had come to its seemingly premature end. And the archbishop was ready with a shameless reversal and a condemning explanation.
Jehanne spent over six months incarcerated in various places in Burgundy, sometimes trying to escape, and ended up being kept in the top of a stone tower at John of Luxembourg’s castle, known as Beaurevoir, until her sale to the English could be completed. Bored and restless, she begged her voices to help her escape, but they insisted she would not be delivered until she had been brought before the King of England himself. But Jehanne had heard that the citizens of Compiegne were about to be ravaged, and decided she would try to jump from the tower and take her chances. If she lived, she would go to their aid.
Her voices forbid it. She argued for awhile and then went ahead anyway, anything to avoid being taken away by the English. Miraculously, Jehanne survived the fall, estimated to be at least fifty feet, but she was badly hurt and knocked unconscious. When she awoke, she was mortified to still find herself there, ALIVE and ashamed and depressed, she refused to eat. Later she said Saint Catherine instructed her to pray for forgiveness, and comforted her that Compiegne would be spared by St. Martin’s Day, and the people there would be safe, so she relaxed and once again began to take nourishment.
And in another spiritual enigma, when Jehanne suffered a concussion, it seems her voices were a little dizzy as well…
One wonders why the voices, who knew her passions, had not told her about the relief for Compiegne beforehand. And even more inconsistent is the idea that Saint Catherine would be misinformed, or not omniscient, as she told Jehanne a lie. Jehanne would never knowingly see the King of England, as far as we know from all the records. It is true that the King was just a child, and his Regent did make an appearance at the trial. If details are not important, and generalities acceptable, then the “Voices” were close enough. But if Jehanne’s rebellion against the voices had caused her grief, it only got worse.
By making so many extraordinary attempts to escape, Jehanne established herself as “a runner,” forcing her captors to utilize harsh chains and shackles to restrain her. That jump from the tower cost her many days of discomfort, dragging chains, tied to a timber in the secular prison in Rouen.
But the jump also proved that she was no longer obeying her voices, whoever they were. At Paris she acted without their guidance and failed. Now she had acted in disobedience to them. We have to wonder if her letter to the Duke of Burgundy, which seemed to expose her as a phony, had been written in what Christians call “the flesh.” Jehanne was too young and impetuous to realize she had stepped outside of God’s protective Grace, and become a free agent on her own, and was about to learn the hard way. This too, is the way God works.
Other than these threats in her letter to the Duke of Burgundy, I have only been able to ferret out a few possible “failed” prophesies made by Jehanne. Most of these were after her capture and where she was under interrogation and her life was being threatened daily, and she said things that she may have believed, but had not been spoken to her by any authority other than her own human desires. And some things were obviously just intentional nonsense to frustrate her enemies.
The one word from her voices that haunts me most is her assurance to the clerics at her trial that they had promised her that God would come to her aid… and later she claimed that they reassured her and promised she would somehow be rescued. The word they actually used was DELIVERED. What might that have meant?
By the time these statements had been made, she had been chained, half-starved, roughed up, and accused of terrible crimes repeatedly for weeks upon end. The interrogators were determined to break her spirit and get confessions out of her, to justify the end that was predetermined for her. I do not think it would be fair to compare the statements she made under these circumstances to the ones made when she was free and still on that “magic carpet ride” across France. She was hammered by six dozen of the most educated, powerful men in northern France, the brightest minds of the day from The University of Paris, the most desperate politicians trying to appease the angry English throne. And Jehanne was appropriately coy, belligerent, mentally combative, and sometimes she made things up to please them, or to drive them crazy. Determined not to ever tell them her deepest secrets, she played mind games with the Bishop and his henchmen. It was a mouse pulling the cat’s whisker. She was just nineteen years old. It was terrible judgment, albeit a show of monumental faith, but it was no shame for her to misspeak under such pressure.
And yet, we do not know, since we cannot imagine those voices or their intent, what exactly “aid” and “deliverance” might have meant. When it came to her decorum and how it has stood up over the centuries, they came through up until the very end. Still, being burned at the stake seems a flat contradiction to the promises she clung to.
Certainly history has placed Jehanne at the top of a short list of historic, valiant, noble defendants; denied counsel, representing herself, arguing her merits before a trial judged by her mortal enemies. It was never intended to be justice. The rotten King of France, the treacherous Burgundians, the vindictive clerics, by now we are accustomed to their unconscionable behavior… but Saints? One cannot help but feel that at the very least her voices not only lied to her, they gave her false comfort, or cruelly let her down. Everybody, even Celestial Spirits used and then lied to Jehanne. This is enough to make a person give up on the Universe!
Instead, I must backtrack, and find the real culprit, or change my belief system.
Click below to go to Part IV
Click below to go to Part IV