Story of Joan of Arc - Andrew Lang

The Second Trial of the Maid

The rich and the strong had not paid a franc, or drawn a sword to ransom or to rescue Joan. The poor had prayed for her, and the written prayers which they used may still be seen. Probably the others would have been glad to let Joan's memory perish, but to do this was not convenient. If Joan had been a witch, a heretic, an impostor, an apostate, as was declared in her condemnation, then the King had won his battles by the help of a heretic and a witch. Twenty years after Joan's martyrdom, when the King had recovered Normandy and Rouen, he thought it time to take care of his own character, and to inquire into the charges on which she was found guilty. It is fair to say that he could not do this properly till he was master of Rouen, the place at which she was tried. Some of the people concerned were asked questions, such as the good clerk, Manchon, and Beaupère, one of the Judges. He was a man of some sense; he did not think that Joan was a witch, but that she was a fanciful girl, who thought that she saw Saints and heard Voices, when she neither saw nor heard anything. Many mad people hear Voices which are also mad; Joan's Voices were perfectly sane and wise, and told her things that she could not have known of herself.

Not much came of this examination, but, two years later, Joan's mother and brothers prayed for a new trial to clear the character of the family. It is the most extraordinary thing that, up to this year, 1452, Joan's brothers and cousins seem to have been living on the best terms, with the woman who pretended to be Joan, and said that she had not been burned, but had escaped. This was a jolly kind of woman, fond of eating and drinking and playing tennis. Why Joan's brothers and cousins continued to be friendly with her, after the King found her out, because she did not know his secret, is the greatest of puzzles, for she was a detected impostor, and no money could be got from the connection with her. Another very amazing thing is that, in 1436, an aunt of the Duke of Burgundy, Madame de Luxembourg, entertained the impostor, while the whole town of Orleans welcomed her, and made her presents, and ceased holding a religious service on the day of Joan's death, for here, they said, she was, quite well and merry! Moreover the town's books of accounts, at Orleans, show that they paid a pension to Joan's mother as "Mother of the Maid," till 1452, when they say "Mother of the late  Maid." For now, as Joan's family were trying to have her character cleared, they admitted that she was  dead, burned to death in 1431, as, of course, she really was. There are not many things more curious than this story of the False Maid.

However, at last Joan's family gave up the impostor, and, five years later, she was imprisoned, and let out again, and that is the last we hear of her. The new Trial lingered on, was begun, and put off, and begun again in 1455. Cauchon was dead by this time; nothing could be done to him. Scores of witnesses came and told the stories given at the beginning of this book, showing how Joan was the best and most religious of girls, and very kind to people even more poor than herself, and very industrious in knitting and sewing and helping her mother. Every one who was still alive, that had known her in the wars, came, like d'Alençon, and Dunois, and d'Aulon, and her confessor: and many others came, and told about Joan in the wars, how brave she was and modest, and the stories of what she had suffered in prison, and about the unfairness of her trial, were repeated.

The end was that the Court of Inquiry declared her trial to have been full of unlawfulness and cruelty, and they abolished the sentence against her, and took off all the shameful reproaches, and ordered a beautiful cross to be erected to her memory in the place where she was burned to death.

So here ends the story of the Life and Death of Joan the Maid.