My Lord, Jean, Count of Mortain and Porcien-en-Rhetélois: Your desire to preserve the memory of the Maid is praiseworthy. I was a twenty-three-year-old squire in the service of the Governor of Vaucouleurs when first I met Jeanne.It is my great honor to participate in this, your august work, for the honor and glory of God, France and The Maid! To this end I, Jean de Metz, do hereby solemnly swear to the truthfulness of my testimony.
Jean de Metz, Part I
THE STRUGGLE TO BEGIN
Spotting me in the castle courtyard Jeanne called out, as she hastened towards me.
"Two men brought messages!" With excitement, she thrust the documents into my hand.
I carefully examined the dark red seals on the rolls of parchment. One belonged to the Duke of Lorraine while the other was unfamiliar. I showed Jeanne the Duke's seal. As I broke the wax and unfolded the heavy parchment, she leaned over my arm to see the page.
"The Duke of Lorraine is commanding you to appear before him."
"For what purpose?"
"He gives no reason. Only that he wants to meet and speak with you. To insure that you come, he has granted you safe-conduct through his territory."
"His written assurance that you will not be molested by any of his solders or servants. If any of his men approach you, show them this, and they will let you pass unharmed."
Jeanne pointed to the unopened parchment.
"This seal is not known to me."
I broke it open. After studying the writing, I continued. "Monseigneur Henri De Ville-Sur-Illon, the Bishop of Toul, orders you to appear immediately at his court. If you fail to appear, you will be excommunicated."
"Excommunicated?" The word took a moment for its full force to take root in her mind. "Excommunicated! From Holy Mother Church? To be banished and denied the blessed comfort of the Church's Sacraments; to be shunned and banished by my people, like a miserable pagan! This is more than my soul can bear!"
The girl flushed as her entire body began to shudder uncontrollably. "It would be better for me that my heart be ripped from my breast or my life's breath be swept from my body than endure this terrible sanction!"
Unconcerned for her inflamed emotions, I said, "This is very serious, Jeanne. What have you done?"
Great pools welled up in her eyes. "Done? I have done nothing! Read! There must be more."
My eyes searched the document. "You are charged with Breach of Promise. A man from your village claims you promised to marry him but have broken your word."
"I gave my word to no man. Who is the author of this lie?"
"Simonin Épinal. Do you know this man?"
Indignant, Jeanne cried, "He's papa's friend!" Her anguished tears fell like a torrent. "Papa! Papa, how could you do this?"
"I don't understand. What does your papa have to do with...."
"Don't you remember? I told you how my parents tried to take me back home. This is Papa's way of stopping me. He thinks I will be forced to marry, and that will put an end to my mad imaginings. Oh, Angel! What will I say to the Lord Bishop? How can I defend myself? I am nothing! A lowly girl of fields and pastures…"
She turned toward the castle's little stone chapel and pressed her hands together. In desperation she prayed in rapid whispers over the noise of the milling crowd, eyes fixed on the chapel cross.
"Lord Jesus, King of Heaven and Earth: in honor of Your Holy Passion I call upon You. Please show me the way I must proceed that I may accomplish Your will in my life."
I witnessed a strange aspect in her face. Some transformation came over her that solidified into profound determination, frightening me by its very power.
"Yes, Lord. It is true that I am nothing, but You are everything." She went on whispering, oblivious to those about her. "My Voices will lead me. They will guide me in what I must say."
She turned resolutely on me, like the captain of a grand army, and ordered preparations for a journey. We were going to Toul.
As I went in search of my friend Bertrand, my thoughts wondered back to when I first spoke with this enigmatic wisp of a girl….
It was early in January, in the year of Our Lord 1429, when I found her sewing in front of Henri Le Royer's house, a good King's man of Vaucouleurs.
Jeanne at seventeen was a pleasant and likable maid. She stood five feet-two inches tall. Her shapely body was well proportioned and hardy. She had a large dark red birthmark that ran down behind her right ear ending at the nape of her short neck. Although not a stunning beauty I noticed her kind and joyful appearance. Yet what I remember most were those large beautiful and mildly protruding, blue eyes. Gentle, innocent, transfiguring…her luminous gaze instantly pierced my soul. Unnerved by this, I quickly averted my eyes. I wondered if her steady gaze could penetrate any human façade; in the coming days I found out the answer to my question was a profound yes.
At this time I was in the service of the Governor of Vaucouleurs. Being an arrogant young squire my curiosity drove me to search her out…the one they called Jeanne, the Maid. "Good morrow, maid! My name is Jean de Metz, but I am called Mortis."
She looked up. Her low sweet voice had an amiable, feminine lilt to it that was compelling. "Mortis! That's a very strange name. What does it mean?"
"It is my nickname, Angelus Mortis or Angel of Death."
"Why would people call you that!" She exclaimed.
"A title of honor. It describes my fierce abilities in battle."
Jeanne studied my face. "Your friends may call you Mortis, sir, but I will not. Angel suits you better."
"You don't know me very well, little one. I laughed. You could be wrong."
She flashed me a warm smile, then responded with serene confidence. "No, Angel. I'm not. What troubles you?"
Skeptical of her and her motives, I asked roughly. "Little one, what are you doing here? Will the King of France be driven from his kingdom and we become English?"
"I have come here to this loyal city to speak to Sir de Baudricourt that I might convince him to lead or send me to the Dauphin. Yet Robert cares nothing for me nor my words. Nevertheless, before mid-Lent, I must be with the Dauphin, even if I have to wear my legs down to my knees! For no one in the world, neither kings nor dukes, nor the daughter of the King of Scotland, nor any other can recover the Kingdom of France." Pensive for a moment and seemingly not taking much notice of her work, Jeanne's nimble fingers continued to guide the needle through the garment. "There is no help for the kingdom except from me."
I stared in disbelief, tapping the pommel of my sword. "The war road is a hard life to follow, my little one." I grinned playfully, "Are you suited?"
Jeanne banished my mirth as she fixed her gaze on me. "I would rather remain safe, spinning by my poor mother's side, than expose myself to such danger. I also know full well that this is not my proper place in life. Yet, I must go and obey because my Lord wills that I do so."
With a skeptical air I turned my head and cocked an eyebrow. "Who is your Lord?"
"He is the King of Heaven!"
I had no answer for that. Her penetrating gaze probed the depths of my soul and I could feel my smug smile fall from my face. I tried to reassert myself with a vain show of bravado. "Do your parents know about this, Jeanne?"
Jeanne easily dismissed my posturing. "Yes, they do and I shall tell you how I came to Vaucouleurs. Two or three times a week my Voices...."
"Voices? What do you mean by 'my Voices?' "
"My heavenly counsel that guide and help me. My Voices exhorted me to go to France. They kept urging me until I could no longer endure it. My Voices gave me permission to tell my parents about my mission but I could not. I knew my departure would only bring them great heartache. The other reason I did not speak to anyone about my divine mission was for fear of the Burgundians. They impose their tyranny in my area and I feared they would somehow prevent my going. So when I left, my parents believed I was going to my uncle's home just to help my aunt through her imminent delivery; which was true."
"Once I was at my Uncle Durand's home, I told him I had to go to Vaucouleurs to see the Governor. He asked me why, and I answered 'I wish to go to France, to have the Dauphin crowned.' He said nothing but looked at me strangely, just as you now did, so I reminded him, 'Is it not foretold that France would be crushed by a woman but be restored by a maid?' This convinced him and the next day he took me to see the Governor."
"As you may have heard, the Governor said to my uncle, 'Take her back to her father and box her ears.' My uncle did not obey. Instead we returned to his home where I helped deliver my aunt's baby. That one blessed and joyful event gave strength to my discouraged heart and fired my determination to go forward."
"Meanwhile the news of my encounter with Sir Robert traveled far and wide, until it reached my parents' ears. They came rushing to my uncle's home in an attempt to deter me from my mission. They nearly lost their minds when they failed and my father raised his hand as if to strike me but my uncle intervened. 'Listen to me, Jacques!' He said, 'Have you ever known Jeannette to lie? ...Then, if she says that God commands her to do this thing, then it must be so. If that be true, then who are we to stand in God's way.' "
"My parents left in tears without giving me a kiss or even saying good-by. I don't blame them even though their unspoken reproach broke my heart. But more importantly I was firm in my decision to obey God's command." As she continued to speak I saw a heavenly fire kindle in her eyes. "For even if I had had a hundred fathers and mothers and were a king's daughter, still would I go!"
Moved by her fervent determination, I went to my knee, placing my sword's hilt into her hands and promised, "With the King of Heaven's help, I shall conduct you safely to the King and serve you with my life."
At my declaration, tears of gratitude filled her eyes. "Thank you, but it is better if you do not kneel to me."
"When would you like to leave?"
Jeanne planted her strong arms firmly on her knees and leaned toward me. "Rather today than tomorrow and tomorrow than later."
"Do you have a horse for the journey?"
"Yes...." A cold blast of air suddenly came racing down the cobblestone street. In response Jeanne drew her cape tightly around her chest. "The people of the town bought me one."
The handling of her cape brought another question to mind. I asked her if she wanted to travel in the clothes she was wearing.
"I would rather be dressed as a man for my Voices commanded me to do so."
I approved of her practicality although I became embarrassed at the thought of her wearing such attire, for no decent woman would do such a thing. "Do you have such apparel?"
"No. Please get me some?"
With a discreet glance I measured her form for size. "I shall do it. My servant will bring them to you later this afternoon. Anything else?"
Jeanne removed her kerchief and touched her long black hair. "Yes, there is. I need my hair cut," An intense blush raced across her face, "in the fashion of a man-at-arms. It is important that I be considered only as another soldier."
I hid my amusement at her embarrassment. "I shall find someone who will cut your hair, Jeanne."
Walking back to the castle I considered the situation. "Jeanne must truly be convinced in what she is doing," I thought, "for I know of no woman who willingly cuts her hair... excepting those who give themselves to God."
Armed with the Duke's letter of safe-conduct, her Uncle Durand, my friend de Poulengy and I took Jeanne first to Toul.
The court was intended to impress and intimidate any and all who entered there in. The room itself was large with a high vaulted ceiling. All the walls were covered with brightly colored frescos. The vaulted ceiling was covered with Angels of all sizes. Their gowns were painted in different colors. I suppose to indicate the status they had in the hierarchy of heaven. On the side supporting walls were frescos of alternating stern faced angels and saints all pointing in the same direction - toward the Bishop's throne of judgment! Behind the seated Bishop was a huge imposing image of the Last Judgment, with a grim faced Christ was weighing souls on His scales of justice, sending the damned to their hideous fate in hell and the righteous to the glory of heaven.
Only the Bishop and his few court officials were granted the luxury of the heat found in the radiated warmth of near by braziers. The rest of us were force to endure the bone chilling cold that permeated the hall.
At the front door of the court of justice was an official who asked us our business. Jeanne handed him her summons and she was directed to proceed to the next official. We on the other hand were directed to the section for visitors. It was with much shoving and glaring down lesser-stationed individuals that we finally made our way to the very front of the visitors section, so that we could easily see the proceedings.
We did not have to wait too long, only a few hours, but then Jeanne and her accuser Monsieur Épinal were called before the conspicuous Bishop who was immersed in and encircled by yards of ermine lined royal purple brocade.
The Bishop silently moved his purple-gloved hand as a sign for the proceeding to begin. The young man with hat in hand stammered his charge that Jeanne had broken her word by refusing to marry him. He could say no more because he had no evidence to support his claim.
Jeanne bravely advanced to the Bishop and knelt before him. With her hands upon the Gospel and her eyes fixed on the Bishop, she made her declaration, "My Lord Bishop, I affirm to you upon my soul's salvation that I never promised to marry this man. The charge he has brought against me is a lie! I beg leave of you, my lord Bishop, that I may pose but one question to my accuser."
The Bishop glared at her for a moment - a very long moment - until he gave Jeanne a silent nod to proceed. She quickly turned to Monsieur Épinal and looking deeply into his eyes said, "I have but one question for you Monsieur. Did or did not my father, Jacques d'Arc, persuade you to bring this charge against me?" With her finger raised she pointed to the image of Christ as she added, "Remember, Monsieur, that you are bound by oath to speak the truth - for what you answer determines your souls fate."
The young man hesitated as he looked from Jeanne to the image of Christ and back. Great beads of perspiration dotted his brow as he struggled to find a way to answer. Finally the Bishop's booming voice shattered the silence of the court. "Answer the question or feel my wrath!"
Épinal's confidence crumbled and he fell to his knees trembling in fear. "Yes, my lord Bishop, he.., he put me up to it. Mercy, my Lord, please grant me mercy! Her father forced me into this. I did not want to do it but I owed him a favor and he called me to honor it. I, I had no choice. Please have mercy."
The Bishop quickly reached his decision. "I pronounce Jeanne innocent. She may go her way without hindrance." He turned making the sign of the cross over her. "My child, you have God's blessing. Go in peace." She boldly entered the Bishop's court to face her accuser.
Instead of going directly to the town of Nancy we made a slight detour in our journey and traveled to the celebrated shrine of Saint Nicolas du Port. Here Jeanne joyfully gave thanks to God for her vindication at Toul by attending several Masses.
Then with Bertrand and her uncle, she continued on to the town of Nancy for her audience with the Duke of Lorraine.
Due to my past dealings with the Duke, I did not go with them. So I did not find out what had happened until she returned to Vaucouleurs. "The Duke wanted me to cure him of his illness. So I told him I did not know how and that he could not expect a cure from God while he lived in sin with his mistress. I then demanded that he give me his son-in-law, Rene d' Anjou, and some men to go with me to the Dauphin. If he did that, I told him, I would pray that God would restore his health. He refused but he did give me four silver francs, which Jeanne eagerly showed me, and a black horse."
The next day de Baudricourt ordered me to accompany him and the town's priest to Jeanne's lodging. Unannounced, the governor burst into the poor man's dwelling and marched over to where Jeanne stood. "A while ago you spoke of a battle in which the King's army would be defeated. We have received news, and it occurred just as you foretold. How did you know this?" Not waiting for an answer he bellowed, "Never mind, we shall soon find out." With a curt wave of his hand he ordered, "Father, question her."
The priest meekly nodded to him before turning his attention to Jeanne. He began the exorcism by sprinkling holy water at her. "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen. I command you, begone from us if you are a thing of evil, or come to us if you are of God."
She slowly made her way toward the priest. Jeanne fell to her knees and reverently crossed herself then she bent low to kiss the hem of his cassock. There she remained until he lightly touched her head. Then turning to de Baudricourt he declared, "Sir, there is no evil in this girl. You may use her without fear."
"I shall consider your advice." With that the governor left as abruptly as he had entered.
I hurried after him. "Sir, I believe in her. You must send Jeanne to the Dauphin because without her, we shall lose what little we have left."
The governor glared over his shoulder. In the cold, still air a great cloud of steam had formed around his head as he snorted in annoyance, "You do, do you?!"
Days passed but still there was no decision. I talked the matter over with my friends, Bertrand de Poulengy and Richard, the Archer. They both eagerly agreed with me that we had to confront the 'bull-headed' de Baudricourt and persuade him to let Jeanne go to Chinon.
The governor was well into his favorite pastime of downing his 'cups' when we entered his private chambers. Mellowed by his grog he did not appear surprised by our unexpected visit. Instead, he cordially invited us to join him in a few good goblets of wine. But our reserved manner must have tipped him off. "You're here about that girl, aren't you?" His speech was slightly slurred from all that he had imbibed. "Do you really take her insane prattle seriously? By God she's driving me crazy! If I had to have a reason to drink she would definitely be at the top of my list." He followed this with a bellowing laugh that resounded throughout the room.
Bertrand stepped forward. Pressing his knuckles heavily upon the governor's table, he leaned close to de Baudricourt's face. "Yes -SIR- we do. And if it's not too much trouble - SIR- we need your permission to depart as well as a letter of introduction."
Enraged by Bertrand's impudence the governor's neck veins bulged. He blasted back; spraying Bertrand's face with his wine soaked words. "You foul piece of puke, if I weren't so damn drunk I'd stomp your hide into the floor."
A fresh gulp of wine helped to cool his ire as he ran the back of his hand across his mouth. "Don't get your 'cod' all tied up in knots. I was planning.., sooner or later, to tell you.... Ever since that little wench correctly predicted our latest defeat, I started to think.., that maybe, just maybe, she might have something. I knew this decision would be far too much for me so I sent word to the Dauphin. De Vienne, the Dauphin's messenger, just arrived with a letter. A letter, mind you, written in the Dauphin's own hand! That poor sniveling little coward MUST really be desperate because he actually WANTS to see the girl! So I will place the tender little wench into your determined yet motherly hands. Take her, if you want, to Chinon. I will even write that damned letter for you."
Greatly relieved by this turn of events, we joyfully agreed to share the governor's wine - toasting his health and the beginning of our new adventure.
Later that afternoon, after recovering my balance, I hurried to inform Jeanne of the good news. I found her with her hair already cut in the fashion of a knight.
She wore male clothing consisting of a white linen shirt and breeches, black hose that attached to a black woolen doublet by twelve long leather laces. The doublet, which ended at her mid-thigh, had a high collar, full sleeves that tapered down to fit tight at the cuff and narrow waist. Over her doublet she wore a heavy gray tunic and on her feet, high soft leather boots. At each heel were short, rusty spurs. On a nearby table was a soft, black woolen hat and draped over the back of a chair was a heavy, hooded cape.
"Jeanne, we may leave at any time."
She went to the window and looking out into the darkening sky. "Thank you, Jean. Can we be ready to leave by this evening?"
I gave her a smart military salute. "I shall see to it."
I thought I saw a glint of a tear in her eye. "So be it. God be with us now and remain with us... always."
I turned to leave when she suddenly bade me to stay. "Wait, Angel!," she added almost as though she was speaking to herself. "It was my love of God that gave me the strength to leave my village. I trust in Him completely, but I am worried about my family. I am sure there will be much harsh gossip about me that could hurt them. Angel, do me a favor and write a letter to my parents for me. "
I did as I was told and I wrote the letter as she directed me. I don't remember all that she said to her parents but I do remember that she begged their forgiveness for leaving home the way she did. She explained that she had no choice but to obey God's command, even though it rent her soul for the sorrow that she knew it caused then.
Oh, if only I had the skill to express the sorrow that I saw in her eyes as her words poured from her distraught heart. I knew then she was more worried about leaving her family and friends than she lead others to believe. She looked at her leaving as a command from the King of Heaven, but in reality she was much more unsettled about it than a casual on looker would think. But I knew better.
"I will make sure that a trusted friend of mine will deliver this letter for you, Jeanne." All she could do was nod her consent.
Jeanne chose Wednesday February 23rd to leave for Chinon and her destiny. The evening air was filled with a thick, bone-chilling fog that wrapped around us like the presence of an unwelcome ghost. Yet it was a blessing because it would help conceal us from the roving bands of enemy soldiers.
Richard, the Archer, Bertrand and I were semi-armed, with knee and thigh plate, breastplate and helmet. When Jeanne arrived, we were checking our horses' harnesses. Bertrand's two servants, Julian and Jean de Honecourt, were securing our supplies to the packhorse, but the animal's rebellion made their task difficult, as it bucked and reared under the weight. Also traveling with us was Colet De Vienne the Dauphin's messenger and his servant, Vincent.
Vincent was a young man in his late teens or early twenties. He was very proud of his long blond hair, which he wore pulled back and tied by a cord at the base of his head while the remainder dangled free down his back. Vincent had a muscular build, about my height, with a deep voice. A friendly enough fellow, he had a quick and ready wit and would regularly engage us in conversation. Yet, there was something about him that I did not like, something that made me feel uneasy in his presence. It is only now, as I write down my thoughts that I can say what it was.., he never looked anyone in the eye.
The governor emerged from the castle just as we were to mount our horses. He carried his old war sword over to Jeanne and hung it on her wide leather belt.
"I want all of you here to swear before God that you will guard this maid with your lives. Swear!" he growled, "that you will take her safely to Chinon."
With reassuring strength, the generations-old sixty-six feet high watchtower had stood its guard over the Gate of France. With a broad sweep of his arm, he roared his order for the Gate to be opened. The ancient wooden gears groaned as they moved. Gradually, the portcullis lifted, while the heavy wooden drawbridge lowered, falling into place with a loud and abrupt thud. The gatekeepers ran to the massive portals, pulling them wide by their large iron rings.
A shaft of brilliant, white, light suddenly broke through the clouds and filled the passageway. A hush fell on all who viewed it. The usually gruff and severe de Baudricourt was visibly moved by the occurrence. "Go, go and let come what may," he hoarsely whispered.
Over the enthusiastic cheers of the people a woman cried out, "Jeanne, are you not afraid?"
She turned to the woman and seeing who it was, flashed her a reassuring smile. "I fear nothing for God is with me!" Then Jeanne drew her sword and holding it as if it were a cross, she blessed our endeavor.