Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

Joan's Captivity And Martyrdom

Joan, who was meantime busy drilling and disciplining her army, finally prevailed upon the king to allow her to seize certain cities, and even to march on to Paris. There, had she been loyally seconded, the Maid would have taken the city by assault; but as she was wounded in the first engagement, the generals, taking advantage of her helplessness, sounded a retreat and withdrew, just when victory was within their grasp!

In obedience to a vow, Joan now hung her armor above the altar at St. Denis, and reluctantly followed the king to Bourges, where another period of idleness was imposed upon her restive spirit. Still, as soon as she was allowed to fight again, she did so with her usual bravery and success, gaining more cities, taking prisoners, and winning battles. But all this time she was sorely, depressed, for her voices kept warning her that she would fall into the hands of the enemy "before midsummer."

In spite of this premonition of evil, Joan continued her work bravely, spending all her leisure time in prayer and in works of charity. Then, hearing that a small city (Compigne), which had surrendered to the king, was sorely beset by Burgundians, she hastened thither to succor the inhabitants (1430). While here, she was separated from the bulk of her troops one day, during a sortie, and the soldiers, intent only upon their own safety, actually closed the city gates almost in her face. Although Joan vainly tried to cut her way through the foe, so as to reach another gate or town, she was soon torn down from her horse by the long coat which she wore over her armor, and thus was made captive.

The soldier who took her sold her immediately to the Burgundians, from whose custody she once made a mad attempt to escape. In doing this Joan fell to the bottom of a sixty-foot tower, where she was picked up stunned, but otherwise unharmed. But she was thrust back into prison and closely guarded, until her captors, in sore need of money, arranged to sell her to the English, into whose keeping she passed after six months of close detention.

The English, having secured Joan at last, were determined to destroy her influence in France, by proving that she was inspired by Satan and not by God, as she always claimed. To compass this base purpose they collected at Rouen a large jury of men, all pledged to find her guilty, and began one of the most iniquitous trials in history.

Although she was pitted against no less than sixty-three learned and unscrupulous judges, each and all of whom brought their knowledge and skill to bear so as to convict Joan of impiety, immorality, and witchcraft, this trial, which lasted many weeks, resulted in proving Joan absolutely innocent of all the serious charges brought against her. Besides, her replies to the questions make clear the purity and unselfishness of her character, her trust in God, and her charity toward all men,—virtuous traits which she showed during the whole of her short life.

The worst charge proved against her was that she had worn men's garments, and had persistently refused to lay them aside! Still, she now consented to do so, provided she were put in another prison and guarded by women only. The judges, thereupon, read a brief paper, stating that she would submit to the Church, and bade her—since she could neither read nor write—sign it with a cross. . Joan complied, little suspecting that instead of the paper read aloud in her presence, these wicked judges had substituted another, in which she acknowledged that she was false and bad in every way. This document duly signed, Joan put on women's garments, only to be led back to the self-same prison, where she was constantly guarded by brutal men!

One day, when she was in bed, these rough keepers took away her woman's clothes, and laid the old male apparel within her reach. Having no choice save to don these garments, or to appear unclothed before her jailers, Joan naturally put on men's clothes. She had no sooner done so, however, than the cruel Bishop of Beauvais—who had been her main persecutor—appeared in her prison, telling her that, as she had failed to keep her promise, she would now be tried again. But the second trial proved even more of a mockery than the first, and poor Joan was condemned to be burned at the stake, as a heretic and witch.

The courage which the Maid of Orleans had shown all through her career now forsook her for a brief space of time, and she loudly wailed: "Ah! I had rather be be headed seven times than burned. I appeal to God against all these great wrongs they do me!"

Joan's Martyrdom


But, condemned to immediate death, Joan, clad in a long white garment, was chained to a stake erected on the public square of Rouen, where all the people eagerly assembled to see "the witch" burned and to taunt and torment her to the very end.

One priest, however, taking pity on her, brought a cross from a neighboring church, mounted the pyre with her, and left her only when the flames began to rise and she unselfishly bade him think of his own safety. Her last words were full of faith in God and of pity for France, and never once did she utter one word of blame against the king whom she had served so loyally, but who throughout her long captivity and trial made no attempt either to ransom or to rescue her.

Even when the flames rose around her, Joan still insisted that her "voices" came from God, and called upon her favorite saints, Michael, Catherine, and Margaret, to help her. An English soldier, who had vowed to help burn "the witch," threw a fagot of wood on the flames, just as Joan loudly cried, "Jesus! Mary!" before her spirit fled. This soldier, startled and awestruck, declared ever after that he had seen a dove rise up from the pyre and wing its way to heaven, adding that he knew this dove was the pure spirit of the martyred maid!

Most of the spectators left the scene of torture with the conviction that Joan was a martyr, and even the English governor exclaimed in awestruck tones: "We are all lost, for we have burned a saint!"

By order of the judges, Joan's ashes were immediately cast into the Seine, but the spot where she was burned is now marked by a monument in her honor, as are many other noted places in France. The English soon found that Joan the martyr could do them even more harm than Joan at the head of an army, for, as she had predicted at the stake, they were finally driven out of France. At the end of the war they retained nothing but the city of Calais, after having been masters of most of the kingdom.

More than twenty years after Joan's death, Charles VII, seeing it would be to his advantage to have Joan's memory cleared, had her tried over again, and freed from all former disgrace. Ever since then the Maid of Orleans has been honored in France as a heroine and saint, although, strange to relate, her name did not figure as such on the calendar until 1909.

Above the door of the humble house where Joan was born can still be seen a small statue of the Maid in armor, and whenever troops file past, every soldier gravely salutes the brave girl who rescued France from the enemy, and who died a martyr at nineteen years of age!

The story of Joan is a favorite theme for playwrights, historians, poets, painters, and sculptors; and many literary and artistic masterpieces commemorate her life and death. In the Pantheon in Paris, for instance, there are a series of beautiful frescoes, which give a wonderful idea of the achievements of the untutored peasant girl of Domremy, who, by singleness of purpose and implicit obedience to her mysterious voices, accomplished what all the French generals and armies could not compass,—the ejection of the English from France, thus really ending the terrible Hundred Years' War.