Monday, May 30, 2011

Jeanne D'Arc Martyred

‘It is true, that this policy was not uniformly observed. The story of the celebrated Jeanne d'Arc, called the Maid of Orleans, preserves the memory of such a custom, which was in that case turned to the prejudice of the poor woman who observed it.
It is well known, that this unfortunate female fell into the hands of the English, after having, by her courage and enthusiasm, manifested on many important occasions, revived the drooping courage of the French, and inspired them with the hope of once more freeing their country.  The English vulgar regarded her as a sorceress – the French as an inspired heroine; while the wise on both sides considered here as neither the one or the other, but a tool used by the celebrated Dunois, to play the part which he assigned her.  The Duke of Bedford, when the ill-starred Jeanne fell into his hands, took away her life, in order to stigmatize her memory with Sorcery, and to destroy the reputation she had acquired among the French. The mean recurrence to such a charge against such a person had no more success than it deserved, although Jeanne was condemned, both by the Parliament of Bourdeaux and the University of Paris.  Her indictment accused her of having frequented an ancient oak-tree, and a fountain arising under it, called the Fated or Fairy Oak of Bourlemont. Here she was stated to have repaired, during the hours of divine service, dancing. skipping, and making gestures, around the tree and fountain, and hanging on the branches, chaplets, and garlands of flowers, gathered for the purpose, reviving, doubtless, the obsolete idolatry which in ancient times had been rendered on the same spot to the Genius Loci. The charmed sword and blessed banner, which she had represented as signs of her celestial mission, were, in this hostile charge against her, described as enchanted implements, designed by the fiends and fairies whom she worshipped, to accomplish her temporary success. The death of the innocent, high-minded, and perhaps amiable enthusiast was not, we are sorry to say, a sacrifice to a superstitious fear of witchcraft, but a cruel instance of wicked policy, mingled with national jealousy and hatred.’

The text above comes form Letter VII of Scott’s “Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft”.  On June 30, 1431, Joan of Arc was executed.  The Folio “Book of Days” provides this entry from the official contemporary account of Joan’s final minutes:

‘After the sentence was read, the bishop, the Inquisitor, and many of the judges went away, leaving Jeanne upon the scaffold.
Then the Bailli of Rouen, an Englishman, who was there, without any legal formality and without reading any sentence against her, ordered that she should be taken to the place where she was to be burned.
When Jeanne heard this order given, she began to weep and lament in a way that all the people present were themselves moved to tears.
The said Bailli immediately ordered that the fire should be lighted, which was done.
And she was there burned and martyred tragically, an act of unparalleled cruelty.
And many, both noble and peasant, murmered greatly against the English.’

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