Military unrest between France and England

Inquisition / Jeanne D’ Arc (Joan of Arc)

1412 was the time of civil war and military unrest between France and England. And 1412 was the year Jeanne d’ Arc was born. When she was 17 she commanded a battle against the English domination and made efforts to unite France in the Hundred Years War, but her fate at the age 19 put her on a trial for heresy and witchcraft by a church court. She had an Inquisition from the church and was burned at stake.

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During the 15th century France and England, the personality of Jeanne or Maid of Orleans had an exceptional impact upon the political as well as the military situation wherein she turned the war in to the favor of Charles VII and this she accomplished as just a peasant girl. What her trial and conviction represents is the unacceptability of the medieval era of the deviation from the role of the women and opinions and belief on spirituality brief history of her life and trial

The situation in France at that time was such that it had not witnessed a crowned king

Joan of Arc was accredited in 1920 as a saint of the catholic church and she remained after her death a french national heroine. During her time the nothern area of the France was under the dominion of the English who had joined hands earlier with the Burgundians in the Hundered Years War.

The situation in France at that time was such that it had not witnessed a crowned king from the time when Charles VI died in the year 1422. Charles VI did left Dauphin Charles as an heir, but the crown was passed to Henry VI of England who was an infant at that time. This passing over of the crown was due to an accord signed by the King of France Charles VI and King of England Henry V according to the terms of which Catherine, the daughter of Charles VI would marry Henry V and after the death of Charles VI the crown of France would pass on to that of the offspring of the two which would then eventually bring unity between the two dominions. The accord, Treaty of Troyes, was signed in an effort to bring an end to the bloodshed and the Hundred Years of War that had taken many lives. The most prominent and lesson learning of which took place at the Battle of Agincourt. This treaty in effect rejected the true right of the prince Dauphin to become a king and also the right of succession that was passed on to the crown prince of England, Henry VI that in fact angered and infuriated the French nobles as well as the French masses.

This was the situation in France and England when we see Jeanne come in to the picture. She in fact claimed that he heard the voices of Archangel St. Michael, St. Margaret and St. Catherine who have come to her so that she could find a way to free France from English domination and help Dauphin win back his rightful crown. This set the beginning of her spirituality that directed her to get herself in the Dauphin forces dressed like a man so that no one could recognize her as a girl. At that time the church did not permit admission of girls in army. Once recruited in the army, she traveled to Chinon where she met Dauphin Charles and told him her sole task. However, this was not easy for her as she was questioned by the authorities of the church and after approving her plan to free Orleans from the siege of English, the church gave her a go ahead.

She was then set with weapons and shield in addition to a white flag that has fleur-de-lis written on it. Jeanne’s faithfulness, poise as well as great fervor she motivated the French army and with this fervor and spirited army she forced the English in the year 1429 to lift the siege of Orleans. Another winning battle was fought with the English after which she convinced Dauphin to regain Reims where he was crowned as the King of France. After this accomplishment, Jeanne tried to convince the King to march on Paris and take it back from the Burgundian army. However, at this time, the King was not very convinced and was reluctant in battling over Paris. However, Jeanne did an effort to try winning back Paris, but her attack was not victorious and she had to retreat and abandon the attack. Then, she led an attack to free the town of Compiegne in the year 1430, but the Burgundian army captured her. In siege, she made two attempts to escape but failed. The Burgundian then sold he to the Bishop of Beauvias, Pierre Cauchon. The Bishop of Beauvias was an English ally. In England, she was put on charges for heresy and sorcery. Jeanne was trailed at the Inquisition of church court on the 21st February 1431 in Rouen. The main charges on her were her false claim of spirituality and that she heard voices and communicated with God. These claims were taken as defiance to church and its authority. Another major offense was of dressing like a male and her third offense was her attempt of suicide. For cross-dressing, she was compelled to give word for never to dress like a man. However, instead of being put in to a church prison that ought to be guarded by church guards, she was put in to normal prison guarded by English soldiers. This was against the normal standards of the court. This noncompliance led Jeanne also to relapse on her words that she would not dress like a man. This act was considered as breaking of the promise and was conjectured a sin against the church. Jeanne evaded the torture cell as the judges decided against it and subsequent to the consultation from the University of Paris; she was sentenced and was put on a death row. However, in her last effort to save her life, she signed a contract where she retracted on her claims that she hears the voices, but just after two days she again relapsed on her agreement. Then in the year 1432, she was executed by being put at stake at Rouen. Her half burned body was shown to the masses so that everyone would know that she was a woman in fact, not a saint otherwise. Then she was burned and her remains were cast off in to the River Seine.

Twenty-four years after her decree, the court ruling was nullified in the year 1456 in a second trail ordered by Pope Callixtus III in response to a petition filed by her family. And nearly five hundred years after her death, the Roman Catholic Church canonized Jeanne as a saint in the year 1920.

The Trial of Joan of Arc in the light of veracity, evidences and proofs

Jeanne was sold to the English for ten thousand livres. The task was assigned to Pierre and he had a history of performing such tasks before too as is clear from the letter of Duke John of Burgundy that authorized Pierre to suborn the church authorities at the Council of Constance so that a ruling in which the Duke was at task of a murder could be turned in to his favor. In fact, historians point out that the trial of inquisition was in fact a murder mask. There were huge payments made for the trial and big rewards for the jury in case Jeanne was convicted. The appendix at the end shows the financials of the trial.

The trial was in itself revenge rather than an attempt to serve the justice. Participants, clergymen and other have later endorsed that the motive of the trial was revenge, fear and biasness. From the testimony of Guillaume Manchon, the chief notary at the trial, we come to know that many participants in the trial were against the very move to convict Jeanne. He wrote:

was compelled to serve as notary in this matter, and I did so against my will, because I would not have dared to oppose an order given by the lords of the Royal Council. And the English conducted this trial, and by their expense. I believe however that the Bishop of Beauvais [the pro-English Pierre Cauchon] was not forced to prosecute Joan, nor was the Promoter [Jean d’Estivet]; on the contrary they did it voluntarily. Concerning the assessors and other advisors, I believe they would not have dared to put up any opposition, and there wasn’t a single one who was not afraid.” Another clergy Richard de Grouchet who was the Canon of Church of Le Saussaye and was an evaluator in Jeanne’s trial testified that in his view half of the participants in the trial were voluntary who were biased from the very beginning while the other half were forced to participate and were fearful of disobeying the powerful church. These involuntary participants were “coerced and unwilling, and many fearful; certain of these fled, not wishing to take part in the trial.”

Another reason for such a before trial decision was the fear of the English from the living Jeanne as the priest Jean Riquier of Heudicourt testifies:

heard Master Pierre Maurice and Master Nicolas Loiseleur, and others who I don’t remember, say that the English feared her to such a degree that they didn’t dare – she being still alive – to lay siege to the town of Louviers until she was dead, and that it was necessary to please them, that a case against her must quickly be made, and a pretext for her execution would be devised.”

Isambart de la Pierre was a Dominican Friar at the Saint Jacques convent in Rouen. He testified that “immediately, in great anger and indignation, the Bishop of Beauvais began to shout: ‘Be quiet, in the Devil’s name!’ And told the notary that he should be certain to never write down the submission she had made to the General Council of Basle. As a result of these things and several others, the English and their officers threatened me horribly that if I did not keep my mouth shut they would throw me in the Seine” and he held the opinion that the English take legal action against Jeanne merely “out of hatred and bitterness, and they sought nothing but her death.”

Another evaluator at the trial, Nicolas de Houppeville testified that in his views the “judges and assessors were for the most part willing; and as for the others I believe that many were afraid… Moreover, I heard that threats were made by the Earl of Warwick against Friar Isambart de la Pierre of the Order of Preaching Friars [Dominicans], who took part in the trial, saying that he would be drowned unless he kept quiet, for the reason that he had guided Joan with words, then she repeated them to the notaries. I believe I heard of this from Friar Jean LeMaitre of the Dominican Order, at that time Vice-Inquisitor. One day at the beginning of the trial I was summoned but didn’t come since I was detained by other matters; and upon arriving on the second day I wasn’t allowed in, but instead was barred by the Lord Bishop of Beauvais; and because I had previously said, while conferring with Master Michel [sic: should be “Guillaume”] Colles that it was dangerous to undertake this trial for a number of reasons, statements which were relayed to the Bishop; for which reason the Bishop had me thrown into the Royal prison at Rouen, from which I was freed at the request of the Lord Abbot of Fecamp. And I heard that it was decided, upon the advice of certain people whom the Bishop had summoned for this purpose, that I would be exiled to England or somewhere else outside the city of Rouen, but the Abbot and certain of my friends intervened. I know for certain that the Vice-Inquisitor was in great fear, and many times I saw him looking troubled during the trial” and marks the trial as an “intentional and studied persecution” instead of being a just trial.

These are just a few dispositions that were recorded in the second trial after her death that lead to the nullification of the first conviction. It is rather evident from these testimonies that the jury at that time was decided, even before hearing the case, that Jeanne ought to be convicted and executed for her crimes that included heresy, cross-dressing and sorcery.

With respect to cross-dressing it was rather evident at that time too that there are exceptions given at the time of need in pure Christian belief too as in Summa Theologica it is given:

Nevertheless, this [cross-dressing] may at times be done without sin due to some necessity, either for the purpose of concealing oneself from enemies, or due to a lack of any other clothing, or on account of some other thing of this sort”

In another theological work it is given:

Men and women should not wear each other’s clothes except in necessity. A man should never put on feminine dress or woman use male attire… Unless a man’s life or a woman’s chastity is in danger; in such an hour a man may change his dress for a woman’s or a woman for a man’s.”

Here again, it is quite evident that the issue of male dressing was nothing but a biased and political move to convict Jeanne. Jeanne dressed out of necessity not out of her wish to wear a man’s clothes.

In a biographical record it is given that the trial of Jeanne comprised of a progression of tribunal that started from the 21st of February and continued without a halt till March of the year 1431. More often than not, an Inquisitorial court would listen to witness’s deposition in opposition to the indicted, however, in Jeanne’s trial there was no witness and no testimony that was called to speak and provide proof against Jeanne. It seems that Jeanne has to perform two tasks in the court, one of the accused and the other of the witness of herself. Throughout the court’s hearing, every attempt was made in the court to provoke her and to excite her in to saying anything that can be turned as a proof against her “resolved” crimes. This is confirmed by the disposition of the assessors in the trial after her death where many present at the first trial confirmed their doubts and injustice that led to the execution of Jeanne d’ Arc. The testimonies and the transcripts that are available in the record provide heavy proof in this matter and for the sanctity and veracity of Jeanne.

Even from the religious motives, we see that all the arguments that were put forward to indict Jeanne were pre-planned and there was no room for Jeanne to justify herself, except to accept that she was guilty. The authority of the tribunal was misused and manipulated as standards of a tribunal demands that the courts of heresy may be supervised by the presence of non-devotee adjudicators and the standards also permitted the accused to plea before the Pope, however, she was denied both. In the testimony of an eyewitness in the second trial of Jeanne, it was stated in the disposition that Jeanne asked for the hearing to be conducted by the non-partisan jury, but she was denied that; she asked for appeal before the Pope, and she was denied that too.

She was accused of witchcraft by asserting that her banner of white stating fleur-de-lis was powered by magic and that she used to pour wax on small children’s heads. However, these sorcery and witchcraft accusations were dropped along with another acquisition that she acquiesced with Papacy’s as well as the Council of Basle’s authority.

The final transcript of accusations thus contained only two charges, one of heresy and the other of cross-dressing. She succumbed to the court that she would not wear man’s clothes in future but as the history records she relapsed on her promise. This she did on purpose of evading the greedy eyes of the guards who intended to rape her. Hence, she resumed to her clothing standards, which was later proved to be another sin in the inquisition trial. This was a trap set for her and she fell in to it. This relapse proved to be the final nail in the coffin of Jeanne d’ Arc as in indicated by Cauchon remarks:

Farewell, be of good cheer, it is done!.”

At her death stake, she was heard of calling “Jesus.” All through her trial, she has been reported to stick to her claims in public, except where she was threatened with torture or threatened with other torturous faith. However, her confidence and her poise all thorough her trial was enough to see that Jeanne did not apprehend her death till the ending when she was burned alive. Her attempt of suicide, in my opinion was an attempt to escape the English, not to escape life. The attempt of suicide was in fact a sought after brave and respected death. At such a minor age one could not expect any person to act as she did and one could not even expect any person to hear a minor to lead an army and to get convinced of the plan that she laid forth in front of the Catholic Church in France. It was indeed her greatness and he veracity that compelled everyone to follow her plans and then lead to a second trial out of the conscience of those, many in numbers in fact, who thought that Jeanne was wrongly convicted and executed.

Works Cited

Avalon Project available at

Bingen, St. Hildegard von; Scivias; Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (translators); Paulist Press, New York, 1990 cited at

Guenee, Bernard (1991) Between Church and State; The Lives of Four French Prelates in the Late Middle Ages, transl. By Arthur Goldhammer, University of Chicago, Chicago/London.

Heath, Ian (1982) Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1; The Hundred Years War, the Wars of the Roses and the Burgundian Wars, 1300-1487, Wargamers Research Group, UK.

Joan of Arc, A Brief Biography,

Juvenal des Ursins, Jean (1836) Histoire de Charles VI, ed. J.A.C. Buchon, Paris.

Keen, Maurice, editor (1999) Medieval Warfare, A History, Oxford University Press.

McGill, Patrick and Armand Pacou (1993) Jeanne La Pucelle and the Siege of Orleans, Parts 1 and 2, Freezywater, UK.

Quicherat, Jules, ed.; Proces de la Condamnation et de Rehabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc, dite la Pucelle, cited at

Sackville-West, Victoria (1936) Saint Joan of Arc, Doubleday, London.

St. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, cited at


Jeanne D’ Arc

Jeanne with the banner of fleur-de-lis

In this report I would use the name Jeanne for Jeanne d’ Arc or Joan of Arc. For this report I have also investigated the citing of the Avlon Project on the Trial of Jeanne d’ Arc. However, I have read it for guidance in to how to formulate my report and on what lines. Therefore, I have not included any citing from the project. The project is available online at

Keen, Maurice, editor (1999) Medieval Warfare, A History, Oxford University Press. A detailed history of the Hundred Years War is provided with the insight in to the then situation, time and the inventions. McGill, Patrick and Armand Pacou (1993) Jeanne La Pucelle and the Siege of Orleans, Parts 1 and 2, Freezywater, UK. McGill and Pacou provides many illustrations on the Hundred Years War as provided by the participant of the Hundred Years War who served the army at the time of Jeanne.

Juvenal des Ursins, Jean (1836) Histoire de Charles VI, ed. J.A.C. Buchon, Paris.

This was the beginning of her spiritual journey that eventually earned her the credit of a saint

Guenee, Bernard (1991) Between Church and State; The Lives of Four French Prelates in the Late Middle Ages, transl. By Arthur Goldhammer, University of Chicago, Chicago/London.

Here she was also joined by her brothers

Heath, Ian (1982) Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1; The Hundred Years War, the Wars of the Roses and the Burgundian Wars, 1300-1487, Wargamers Research Group, UK.

This victory was celebrated on 9th May 1429 and the French named her as the Maid of Orleans.

King Charles VII was crowned on 17th July, 1429

Her second attempt was in fact a suicide as she tried to jump from a 20m tall tower

Jeanne claimed that she did not kill anyone in her whole life, except in battles where she had to fulfill her duty and follow the standard of being a solider.

In the torture cell when she was shown the torture instruments she agreed that she would accept anything under this torture, but threatened that she would relapse afterwards.

Jeanne did not receive a Christian burial.

Sackville-West, Victoria (1936) Saint Joan of Arc, Doubleday, London.

Heath, 1982. The letter was dated 26 the July 1415

Quicherat, Jules, ed.; Proces de la Condamnation et de Rehabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc, dite la Pucelle, cited at

Quicherat, Vol II, Pg. 356, cited at

Quicherat, Vol III, Pg. 189, cited at

Quicherat, Vol II, Pg. 4, cited at

Quicherat, Vol II, Pg. 302, cited at

Quicherat, Vol II, Pg. 325, cited at

Quicherat, Vol II, Pg. 328, cited at

St. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, cited at

Bingen, St. Hildegard von; Scivias; Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (translators); Paulist Press, New York, 1990 cited at

Joan of Arc, A Brief Biography,

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