I am Lady Jeanne de Luxembourg, the wife of the Counte de Luxembourg, who is the lieutenant of the Duke of Burgundy. I want to extend my thanks to you, Count Mortain and Porcienp-en-Retélois, for asking me to send you my memories of The Maid. I write this deposition in the hope that it will right the great wrong done to Jeanne, at the hands of my husband.
Jeanne de Luxembourg
CAPTIVE OF BEAUREVOIR
I first met Jeanne at the castle of Beaurevoir where my aunt, Dame Jeanne de Beaurevoir, and I lived. The guards kept her in a locked room on the top floor of the west tower, the highest point in the castle. It was a stark, cold and damp place, crudely furnished with a small wooden table, two small rustic wooden stools and a bed. The bed, if you would call it that, was a hay-filled mattress on top of a hard wooden pallet. A narrow staircase went from the room up to the tower's battlements. A heavy oak door, six inches thick barred the entrance. It was latched from the outside with two iron bolts. In the center of the room was a large standing grate filled with fire wood which provided heat and light to her cell. She was kept in what I considered squalid conditions. Yet in all the time she was prisoner there, I never heard her complain, not once.
We first came to see Jeanne out of curiosity. We wanted to see the girl soldier who had worked all those wonders and whose name alone terrified the English and shook us Burgundians. We entered her cell on the second evening after her arrival, escorted by two heavily armed guards. We each wore a large gold crucifix as protection against what we believed to be her witching powers. For before we met Jeanne, we believed all the stories of her awesome evil powers!
Tightly clutching the crucifix that hung from her neck, my aunt entered Jeanne's cell. Very frightened and nervous I followed close behind. We were surprised to find that the Maid was a young woman with normal features. After an instant of hesitation, in which we stared at her, my aunt began the introductions. Nervously she glanced down at the figure of Christ as she pointed to herself. "I am Dame Jeanne de Beaurevoir, aunt to the Count." Then pointing to me, she added, "This is the wife of the Count, Jeanne de Luxembourg."
During the introduction, I was faint and uneasy, not knowing whether to go or stay. I too, nervously held my crucifix closely pressing the figure of Christ to my breast. "My husband told us you were here. I wanted to see the famous Maid from Lorraine for myself."
Jeanne smiled and tried her best to put us at ease. "I am afraid there is little I can offer you in the way of hospitality, but please come, sit down on my bed and make yourselves comfortable."
As we sat down, we became aware of Jeanne's charm and ease of manner that reassured us greatly. Dame Jeanne turned to the guards and said with a backward wave of her hand, "You two may go."
"But my Lady! The Count has given us strict instructions not to leave you alone with her. She is very dangerous!"
Dame Jeanne waved them away again with a vigorous backward flick of her hand. "This girl is certainly not dangerous! A blind man could see that! You two may go and close the door behind you when you leave."
"But my Lady...!" The head guard tried one last time to make her see his point of view. She only shook her head "no" as she raised her hand for silence. Then pointing to the door, Dame Jeanne silently motioned again for them to leave. The captain of the guard reluctantly bowed to my aunt's wishes. "My men and I will be just outside this door if you need us, my Lady."
I stared at the door as he slowly closed it. What a terrible sound it made when its heavy wood banged against the stone frame, like a thunderclap. The frightful noise made me jump a little. I experienced the alarming feeling of being trapped and began to breathe more rapidly. Then came the squeal and squeak of the old iron bolts, first one and then the other, as the guard clamped them into place. I was overwhelmed by the sense of separation, isolation, and abandonment! How Jeanne calmly endured all this baffled me and for a long time afterward, whenever I hear a door close in the castle, I instantly remember Jeanne in that awful place.
"You are certainly not what we expected!" my aunt began. "You are but a girl. Did you really lead all those men into battle?"
Jeanne sat on her small, crude stool as she smiled broadly at us. "Yes."
Captivated by Jeanne's simplicity, she asked in a hushed tone, "How were you able to do it all?"
Jeanne relaxed her posture. I suppose the memories of her past life filled her mind because she seemed to look right past us. "I did nothing except by the commandment of God. It was God who accomplished His will through me, a simple maid."
"Why should God choose you, from all other people?"
Jeanne looked intently at my aunt. Perhaps she was trying to read her heart. "It pleased Him to do so."
I am sorry to admit it now but I was not yet won over by her demeanor. I spoke harshly, "It is hard for me to believe that anything good can come from Lorraine!"
She turned and looked at me with such deep-felt hurt. I instantly realized how cruel my words had been and a hot flush raced across my face. Dame Jeanne wisely tried to smooth over my harshness. "I apologize for my niece's words, Maid, but it is true that Lorraine has a very poor reputation."
Jeanne had every right to respond angrily, but she did not. "You would not say so, Ladies, if you were ever to travel through its beautiful countryside and came to know my people."
"I am so sorry for my words, Jeanne. Please forgive me." Jeanne in her kindness forgave me. Her smile was so warm and sympathetic that I could not help but smile in return.
As the months passed, we would visit Jeanne almost every day. With the passage of time our conversations became very open. So honest in fact that I believe I learned the secret, if you would call it that, of Jeanne's greatness. It flowed from her profound faith in God. Yes, this sounds trite to my worldly ears but nonetheless it is true.
From her own lips I heard one of her earliest memories. It occurred when she was no more than three or four years old. A wandering Franciscan monk came late one evening to her father's door asking for some food and shelter. At first her father said "no" but her mother prevailed and the monk was directed to sit by the fire. As he waited for his meal, he saw Jeanne playing quietly near the hearth. He smiled and beckoned her to sit by his side and he began to tell her about how wonderful God and Heaven were.
"He was unique," Jeanne went on to say, "in that, unlike many other priests he did not try to scare me by talking about the horrors of hell. Instead he described just how loving and merciful Our Dear Lord is to all those who love Him with a humble and sincere heart.
"I marveled at his heavenly optimism as he spoke about all the wonderful things that awaited me there. He told me how much Jesus loved me, beyond my ability to fully comprehend, and that God, the Father was my true Father. He told me that Jesus and The Father would always be with me to love and protect me.
"My brief encounter with this holy monk left me with a profound understanding about the true nature of our Lord and God. From that time on, I never doubted or questioned His existence or His love.
"From that moment on I tried to repay the kindness of Jesus by taking flowers to my church and the shrine of His mother, Our Lady of Bermont. I would always seek to repay love for love. I wanted to tell Jesus about everything that happened to me. If I received a gift, I would bring it to Him. If I got in trouble with someone in my family, I would tell Him about that too. I would always seek His advice.
"I grew to love prayer. I would pray for any one who was sick or injured. I even prayed for the animals in my father's fields. When I grew older, I would wander off to be with God. My family and friends thought me strange and would mock and make fun of me, all that is, except my mother. I was greatly embarrassed by this and would blush at their teasing. Even so I remained steadfast to my desire to always be faithful to God no matter what it cost me."
I learned that Jeanne did not question God. She told us that what ever happened was all part of God's plan for her life. Her love for Christ was real and would remain so to the end of her days. Jeanne's faith was in God and not in man.
"My Father worried about me because I would speak about God and Jesus so much. The one thing that I feared the most was my father's temper. He felt that his children and wife should obey him in all matters and would not tolerate any disobedience. When I would drop hints about dedicating my life to God, it angered him greatly. 'A woman's place is within the home. Marriage and children are the primary duty for all women,' he would say. He would even recite a Bible verse to prove his point. From this I learned that the holy words of the Bible could be used to prove his own point.
"My father was a very good man, but stress and anger controlled him often. He feared greatly for his family and it was this fear that set him on what he felt was his mission to insure that I and all his children were married as soon as possible. He was so gruff most of the time that I could not speak with him very often. He believed it was my duty to obey him in all things and would often repeat the words, 'Obey your father and your mother for this is right.' Only my mother understood me and I felt very close to her. She was the kindest woman in Domremy. If my mother took my side, it would bring about a great argument between my parents. This was the main reason why I left Domremy without telling anyone even though I knew the great pain and anger that my action would cause. I also knew that my father would make every attempt to stop me if he knew I was planning to leave. The one thought foremost in my mind was that I had to accomplish God's will. So I left without a word - not even to my very best friend, Hauviette. I left my home in sadness and yet I was filled with anticipation. I was setting out to save my people and all the people of France."
We made sure she had enough good food to eat and enough wine and clean water to drink. When the weather began to turn cold, we gave her warm clothes to wear. With the passage of time, we heard more and more rumors that Jeanne was to be sold to the English. The thought that my husband would even consider such a thing upset me greatly! At this news the Dame and I became very anxious for Jeanne's safety. We thought, if only she wore a dress and promised not to make war again, we could keep her safe from the English. So with that intention in mind we brought her a modest dress and laid it on her bed. "Here Jeanne, take this dress and put it on."
Jeanne hesitated. Then gliding her finger tips over the fabric she turned to us with a sad smile and shook her head. "Ladies, I cannot."
"Why not, Jeanne?" I picked the dress up as I continued to plead with her. "If you don't like this, we will give you cloth so that you can make your own. But please, put on a woman's dress."
Jeanne was puzzled by our motives. "Ladies, you never pressed me before, why now? Why is it so urgent for me to put on a dress?"
I reached out and took hold of her hand. "My husband is negotiating with the English to sell you to them." Distress instantaneously filled Jeanne's face. She promptly pulled away and staggered to the wall, her face in her hands. "If you were to put on the dress of a woman and promise never again to fight against us or the English. Maybe, I could persuade him not to sell you, to them." I said this hesitantly because I did not want to promise her more than what I could deliver.
A violent shiver physically shook Jeanne's body. "No, I can't do it. I do not have God's permission. It is not yet time."
"When will it be time, Jeanne?"
She answered in a determined yet pleading voice, "When I am no longer a prisoner!"
"Jeanne, we are trying to help you!"
Her eyes filled with tears. I could sense the great conflict that was raging within her spirit. "Oh, ladies, if I could change my dress, I would do it for you sooner than for any lady in France, save my Queen." Jeanne fell to her knees beseeching us. "But please don't let me be given over to the English!"
"We will try, Jeanne, we promise." In the days that followed we saw Jeanne become moody and tense. She would pace the floor endlessly, or she went up to the battlements there to stare out over the fields for hours on end. Once the guards heard about the negotiations to sell her to the English, they decided to torment her with it. They would harass her by telling her she 'was as good as sold'! They even informed her that once the English had captured Compiegne, they were going to kill all the inhabitants down to and including seven-year-old children!
I saw daily the fierce battle Jeanne fought with despair and it must have been the hardest battle she ever faced. I stood by helplessly, willing but unable to console her. Oh, I did my best by trying to downplay the guards' words. It helped only a little because she would go back to fretting.
Then it happened; that which I most dreaded! Awakened in the middle of the night by sounds of alarm, I heard that Jeanne had escaped. Dressed only in my nightgown, I jumped from my warm bed and ran over to the window. Shivering with cold, I leaned out over my windowsill in an attempt to catch a glimpse of her. I was hoping that she had been successful, but there in the moonlight, I saw her motionless body sprawled on the rocky ground below and I knew she had jumped from the battlement. Immediately, I thought she was dead and cried, "Oh God, have mercy on her!"
Two minutes later, as I continued to stare in horror, our soldiers came running over to where she was lying. I heard one of them say, "She's dead!" My heart cracked into a thousand pieces and tears flowed freely down my face. Another soldier observed her apparent lifeless body and reported, "No, she isn't. Look there, she is breathing. Yes, she is breathing! Pick the witch up and bring her back to her cell."
Hurriedly I dressed and ran to Jeanne's cell. Breathless, I commanded the guards to fetch my personal physician and to tell Dame Jeanne what had happened. The physician and Dame Jeanne appeared fifteen to twenty minutes later. They found me sitting by Jeanne's side holding her hand as I gently stroked her hair.
Upon examination, the doctor could find no signs of any broken bones or any other injury. It was a miracle! A fall from that height, at least sixty feet, and still she lived! Not only did she live but also, she sustained no permanent physical injury! I firmly believe it was the providential hand of God that protected her. She did have a concussion though and was unconscious for several hours after being carried back to the cell. I kept my vigil by her side as I waited for her to regain consciousness. I spent the darkest part of the night wiping her face with a damp cloth and saying my prayers, my aunt seated next to me. "I knew I should have told Jeanne the news sooner. All this would have been avoided."
"What do you mean, Dame Jeanne?"
"I asked your husband to have compassion and spare Jeanne's life but he paid no attention to me. He paid no heed, that is, until I started talking about the one and only thing he cares most about - money. He's been greedily eyeing my estates for many years now, drooling over them, eagerly awaiting my death, so that he might possess them, and add them to his other extensive holdings."
"Yes, I know, how does this affect Jeanne?"
"I told him that if he sold Jeanne to the English, I would disinherit him on the spot and all his planning and conniving would go to waste! With that sword hanging over his head, he will not dare sell Jeanne to anyone." She smiled a knowing smile and gently patted my hand. "As long as I live, so will Jeanne."
We kept watch at Jeanne's bedside waiting for her to regain consciousness. After five hours she began to stir. "You gave us quite a scare, Jeanne! But you are safe. So just rest now and regain your strength."
Jeanne tearfully cried out in delirium, "I am sorry for what I have done. I was afraid!"
"Yes, little one, yes. I understand. Hush now. All is forgiven. The main thing is that you are alive."
"My Voices told me that I have sinned greatly against God and His law. I must ask God's forgiveness. Please, Ladies, get a priest for me, so that he may hear my confession."
"Yes, Jeanne, yes, I will send for my priest right away. Please, just lie there quietly and rest. We will get you the priest, I promise." My confessor arrived within the hour, and Jeanne made a tearful confession to him. What amazed me most was that by the time she had finished her prayers, she had regained her former, cheerful, fighting spirit. Although she was still unable to take any food for the next two or three days, she finally did make a full recovery.
A few days after her attempted escape, Jeanne spoke of her frightening spiritual encounter. "During the time just before I jumped, my emotions were spiraling down, almost to the point of despair. My mind was filled with tormenting thoughts. 'Where are your friends, now? Have they not forgotten you; abandoned you? Have they not left you to the enemy? It is so easy for you to free yourself from this lonely prison; from this pain. Jump! Jump!' "
"For weeks before I jumped, Saint Catherine almost daily told me that I must not jump and God would aid the people of Compiegne. I said to Saint Catherine that since God was going to help the people of Compiegne, I wanted to be there. Saint Catherine answered me, 'Without fail, you must accept all and do not falter.' Then she added, 'You will not be released until you have seen the King of England.' I told her, 'Truly, I do not want to see him and I would rather die than fall into the hands of the English.' "
Placing her face in her hands, she tried to hide the shame of her disobedience from me. "I was so upset by the prospect of being in English hands that I could not hold myself from it. Even though my Voices continued to forbid me to jump I stepped onto the ledge. I commended myself to God and Our Lady then I jumped. I had no wish to kill myself, but I jumped in hopes of escaping and going to the aid of many good people in need."
Immediately I informed her, "Jeanne, I have very good news for you. Dame Jeanne, for love of you, has made an arrangement with my husband concerning your captivity." Jeanne looked curiously at me but said nothing. "So long as she lives, you will not be sold to the English, because if my husband, the Count, sells you before Dame Jeanne's death, she will disinherit him on the spot! Is that not wonderful news, Jeanne?" She did not answer me but only nodded her head in silent agreement. Her reserved reaction surprised me! Did she know that the reprieve won by my aunt's arrangement would only be temporary?
Within a few short weeks of Jeanne's jump, my aunt died suddenly. That left my husband free to sell Jeanne to whomever he wished. I went to my knees before him begging for her life. I wept a torrent of tears, pleading with him not to sell Jeanne to the English. My words and my tears had no effect. Greed had turned his heart to stone. My cries for mercy went unheeded and all my attempts to save her were in vain.
When word was brought to me that Jeanne was dead, I was devastated and a part of me died that day. I prayed and continue to pray for the repose of her soul. Daily I beg God's forgiveness for what we did to that precious child of God. May it please Our Dear Lord that someday I will see her again in paradise.