Monday, June 08, 2009

Men-at-arms and flags: the trial of Joan of Arc


One purpose of the trial of Joan of Arc in 1431 was to convict her of sorcery or heresy. I am not sure what the following questions were meant to prove but it seems likely that the court was trying to find some superstitious practices associated with banners that they could use against her. Joan sharply rebutted all of these questions, so it is hard to say that any such practices took place in her case. However, the ecclesiastical court must have got their ideas from someplace.

All the question that follow were put to Joan by court officers or judges.

Asked if, when her King set her to work and she had her standard made, the other men-at-arms did not have pennons made in the manner and following the example of her opinion, she replied: "It is well known that lords use their own arms." Item, she also said that some of her companions-at-arms did have pennons at their pleasure but others did not.

Asked of what material they had them made, whether this was of linen or of woolen cloth, she answered that it was of white satin, and on some there were fleurs-de-lys. And Joan only had two or three lances in her company, but her companions-in-arms sometimes had pennons made resembling hers and they did this only to distinguish their men from others.

Asked if the pennons were very often renewed, she replied: "I do not know. When the lances were broken, new ones were made."

Asked if she had sometimes said that the pennons made to resemble hers were more fortunate, she answered that sometimes she certainly did say to her men: "Drive boldly into the English," and she herself would go there.

Asked if she had told them to bear the pennons boldly and that they would have good fortune, she replied that she had indeed told them what happened and what would happen again.

Asked if she put, or had holy water put on the pennons when they were first taken up, she answered: "I do not know anything about that. And if was done, it was not by my command."

Asked if she did not see them sprinkled with holy water, she replied: "That is not part of your trial [i.e. this is irrelevant to the case -- SM] . If I had seen it done, I am not now advised [by her voices -- SM] to answer."

Asked if her companions-in-arms did not have the names "Jhesus Maria" written on their pennons, she answered: "By my faith, I do not know anything of this."

Asked if she went around an altar or a church with pieces of cloth to be made into pennons, or had others go around in a kind of procession, she replied no and that she had never seen it.

Asked what it was she wore at the back of her helmet when she was before the town of Jargeau, and if it was something round, she answered: "By my faith, there was nothing."

Taylor, ed. Joan of Arc: La Pucelle, pages 168-9.

Image: Joan's Standard (top) Pennon (left bottom) and Banner (right bottom) from the St. Joan Center.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Joan of Arc and military prudence

Another anonymous clerical writer uses arguments from her military performance, and of those following her, to support the miraculous nature of her victory (1429).

The following circumstances may be added in favor of our cause.

Firstly that the Council of the King and the men at arms could have been led to believe in the voice of this Pucelle in such a manner, and to obey her in such a way that, under her command and with one heart, they exposed themselves to the dangers of war, ignoring all fear of dishonor. What could have happened if, fighting under a young woman, they had been vanquished by such audacious enemies and they had been derided by all who heard of this?

Let us consider at the end the fact that this Pucelle and her military followers do not dismiss the path of human prudence; they act according to what is in them, so that it appears that they did not tempt God more than is necessary. From this it follows that this Pucelle is not obstinate in her adhesion to her leadership and also that she does not go beyond the instructions and inspirations that she attributes to God.

Taylor, ed. Joan of Arc: La Pucelle, pages 80-1.


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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Geoffroi de Charny to the courtesy phone!

So we can get him to comment on this slam by an anonymous clerical lawyer against Joan of Arc for claiming divine revelations. Aimed at Joan, there is plenty of sting left for other men-at-arms.

... if the mission of this young girl is prophetic, she should be a person with excellent saintliness and [have] a divine soul inside her; and it would seem indecent that such a person should transform themselves into a secular man-at-arms.

The writer is mainly talking about Joan dressing as a man, but I think old Geoffroy would take offense anyway; unless, of course, he too got distracted by the clothing. Readers of his Book of Chivalry will have to admit that this would be possible.

Taylor, ed. Joan of Arc: La Pucelle, page 117.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Jean d'Aulon's testimony: a story of Joan of Arc

Three years ago, Craig Taylor of the University of York published a book of translated sources on the life of Joan of Arc (Joan of Arc: La Pucelle). I am now reading that book for a variety of reasons -- I may try to teach from it the year after next.

Here is a story of Joan at the siege of Orleans of 1429, as told by one of her companions at her second trial (the "nullification trial" of 1456, which overturned the verdict of the first one in 1431). This is not exactly verbatim testimony, since it was summarized and turned into Latin by a court clerk, but I think those of you who are interested in accounts of medieval warfare will like this.

Aulon was the standard bearer of Joan [La Pucelle, or "the Maid"] and the fighting took place in front of a bulwark or "boulevard."

... the lords and the captains who were with her, seeing that they could not well gain it this day, considering how late it was and also that they were all very tired and worn out, agreed among them to sound the retreat for the army. This was done, and, at the sound of the trumpet call, each one retreated for the day. During this retreat, [Aulon] who had been carrying the standard of the Pucelle and still holding it upright in front of the boulevard was fatigued and worn-out, and gave the standard to one named Le Basque, who was with the Lord of Villars. And because [Aulon] knew Le Basque to be a brave man, and he feared that harm would come from the retreat, and that the fortress and the Boulevard would remain in the hands of the enemy, he had the idea that if the standard were pushed ahead, due to the great affection in which it was held by the soldiers, they could by this means win the boulevard. And then [Aulon] asked Le Basque if he would follow him when he entered and went to the foot of the boulevard; he said and swore he would this. And then [Aulon] entered the ditch and went up to the base of the side of the Boulevard, covering himself with a shield for fear of the stones, of discontent on the other side, believing that he would following step-by-step Boulevard, covering himself with a shield for fear the stones, and left his companion on the other side, believing that he would follow him step-by-step. but when the Pucelle saw her standard in the hand of Le Basque, because she believed that she had lost it, as [Aulon] who had been carrying it had gone into the trench, she came and took the standard by the end in such a way that he had to let it go, crying, "Ha! My standard! My standard!" And she shook the standard in such a way that the one who is testifying imagined that others might think that she was making a sign to the others by doing this. And then he who was speaking cried: "Ha, Basque! Is this what you promised me?" And then Le Basque tugged at the standard that he dragged it from the hand of the Pucellw, and after this, he went to [Aulon] and brought the standard. Because of these things, all those in the army of the Pucelle gathered together and rallied again, assailed this boulevard in such great fierceness that, a short time afterwards, the boulevard and the fortress were taken by them, and abandoned by the enemy, and the French entered the city of Orleans by the bridge
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