Count Mortain, my name is Aimond de Macy. I am a knight in the service of the Count of Luxembourg. Although we were on opposing sides of the recently concluded conflict, you an Armagnac and I a Burgundian, we do share one thing in common – our high regard for Jeanne, the Maid.
Aimond de Macy
HER WAY OF SORROWS
I first met Jeanne during her imprisonment in the castle of Beaurevoir, where she was held for four months.
As captain in charge of her jailers, I had many opportunities to interact with her. To my shame, I must admit that on two different occasions I placed my hand on her breast as lustful thoughts raced through my mind.
The first time I did this, Jeanne's amazing blue eyes flashed like lightning as her sharp slap stung my face. With her finger shaking in my face, she sternly warned me never again to lay a hand on her or I would surely regret the act.
A few weeks later, having stupidly forgotten her warning, I once again reached for her breast! Her reaction to my second intrusion evoked an even greater response because she used her formable combat skills against me.
With one swift move, she grabbed my hand and twisted it so quickly, that the next thing I knew I was at her feet flat on my back! She would not release her hold until I swore, on my knightly honor, never again to do such a thing to her or any other woman.
Lord Count, I swear before God and His Saints, that after this incident, I never again took any liberties against her even though I continued to be sorely tempted.
So how was it that I did not give way to my base desires? The only answer I can offer to Your Excellency is that I feared and respected her more than any other woman I have ever met!
In mid-November, after Jeanne had been sold to the English, my Lord, the Count, ordered my men and I, to conduct her to Rouen. In addition to my squad, the Duke of Burgundy had sent a large contingent of his own soldiers.
I remember very well how Lady Jeanne, the wife of the Count, was crying uncontrollably as the Maid was marched out of the castle. The Lady Jeanne was so upset at the Maid's parting that she could not speak, but only embraced the prisoner, now friend, for a long time. That is until the English captain grew impatient and violently pulled them apart.
He then ordering her bond hand and foot in strong chains. Once hoisted into the saddle, she was further tied to her horse. They were taking no chances with their prized possession.
We traveled by way of the towns of Crevecoeur and Cambrai. We arrived late at night at the fort of Arras, thirty-five miles away. Jeanne stayed there about a week. The commander of the fortress, Lord John Pressy, asked her several times to wear a dress, but Jeanne refused. Here also a Scot in the service of Lord Pressy came to see her. He carried with him a painting that depicted Jeanne in full armor kneeling and presenting a letter to her King. I did not see any resemblance in the painted figure to Jeanne and I told him so.
As we headed toward the English Channel, we spent one night at the castle of Lucheux. I was kindly shown to one of their guest accommodations, but poor Jeanne, was thrown into a dark, airless cellar, where she was chained to the wall like a dog.
The next day we traveled by way of Doullens and Bernaville. The streets and roads of the towns and villages that we passed were always filled with people. They were curious to see her and would offer her good wishes and prayers. Many of them believed she was sent from God.
We stopped for the night at the small town of Saint Riquire. Not far from this 'fly speck', only about a mile or less away, was an even smaller hamlet called Drugy. Here the English found a farmhouse that had a strong storage room in which Jeanne would spend the night.
Jeanne was secured on the ground floor of a small tower. What a bleak, horrid place! It was about twenty-five to thirty feet in diameter: a dark, cold cell with only two small windows to let in the air. It had a high vaulted ceiling some twelve feet above the floor. How I hated to leave her in places like that, but what could I do?
Before she left in the morning, the churchmen and principal citizens of Saint Riquire came out to visit with her. They were kind to her, because they saw clearly that she was innocent and that the English treated her cruelly. The guards did not like this one bit! So with brutality and curses they drove the visitors away.
Jeanne's guards took her the long way around Abbeville. They did this to avoid any possibility of a rescue by the sympathetic town's people! Thus we did not reach the port of Le Crotoy until late afternoon. There on the rocky coast of Picardy she was taken to the castle that overlooked the English Channel. This castle has four wide and tall towers; two facing the Channel and two facing inland. Jeanne was kept in the top level of the far right tower facing the Channel. For many weeks to come she would be confined in this cold, windy and dismal tower.
The sun was two hands breath above the sea when she first entered her cell. It took her a moment to survey her new surroundings. There was something carved into the sandstone that caught her eye; a sight surprising and familiar all at the very same moment. She rushed over to the crude carving.
To me it was nothing more than a coat of arms of some previous occupant. But to Jeanne it was a voice from her past. Lightly tracing its outline, she heaved a great sigh. I could barely make out what she was saying.
"Oh how you suffered."
I watched in fascination how she attended to every line and curve of the symbol.
"Captain! What is written here?"
It was like she had forgotten that she was the prisoner. I went to her assistance. There, clumsily scratched below the coat of arms were the words: I, Jean, duke of Alençon made this.
She went to her knees and placed her cheek upon his name.
"Where are you now, my good duke? Are you safely home with your family - your loving wife and devoted mother? Do you ever think of me, my tower of strength? Oh how you suffered here, my good friend."
I left her to her memories.
I would come visit Jeanne every day and regularly smiled at her appreciation of the endless rolling sea. She would say, "How great God is to create such a mighty wonder as this!" She told me how she would stand for hours by her window watching in fascination as the waves came in upon the shore and retreated back into the great expanse of water. I pointed toward the Channel and informed her that she was only some twenty-three miles from England. In all seriousness, she replied, "That is not too far for them to return home."
I always treated her with respect - not like those English dogs who only came to torment and ridicule her. I brought her extra food, or I made sure she had clean water to drink, and so with these little acts of kindness I won her trust. She became accustomed to my visits and would invite me to stay and talk with her.
"Tell me about yourself, Jeanne. What were you like as a child?"
"Well, Captain, my childhood was like any other. My father was a proud, stern man who never coddled any of his children. Yet, I loved him. My family's life was a hard one. I couldn't remember a time when my fingers were not busy with the distaff or needle, or when my bare feet did not walk over the stony, winding paths of my little village."
"The soil of my father's garden was sweet and soft. I loved the feel of it through my fingers and beneath my toes. The branches of the great oak, which arched high over the garden, lent me shade as I tended my chores. In its boughs wild birds made their homes and how I loved to hear the strains of the melodies they sang to God's greatness."
"One of my tasks, with the others working in the open fields, was to care for my father's garden. Sometimes someone would pity me, saying, 'How sad it is that you had to work alone with no one to lighten your load.' But I only smiled at them. They did not know my secret. My loneliness was not a curse but a great blessing, because in my silent aloneness I was united to Him."
"Out of all the villagers, I was the only one who took note of Perrin, the church bell-ringer, when he did not perform his duties properly. His face would turn ashen whenever he saw me coming, knowing full well that I had come only to nag him. With finger wagging in his face, I told him he would do well if he were more punctual in fulfilling his responsibility."
"I treasured the sound of the tolling bell more than anything that I possessed, for in them I heard the joy of heaven reverberate. The blessed bells would echo throughout the village and would then re-echo within me until it seemed I became a part of them. If I listened very carefully, I could hear the sound linger sweetly in the air long after. I held this joy selfishly to my heart and that is why I would run after Perrin to scold him. I went so far as to encourage him with honey cakes and bags of finely-carded wool."
Her stories enchanted me and touched my heart too, as this one does.
"My closest friend in the world, Hauviette, would, in whispers tell me how the other children thought me strange, and she would ask me why that was so. I had no answer. Oh, I am sure the adults could not pick me out from the other children, because I was industrious with my tasks, and in most things I was like the rest. But somehow the other children knew I was different, and they would tease me, not knowing the hurt they inflicted on my heart, but I would never tell."
"No, instead I would go alone to my own secret place, the shrine of Our Lady of Bermont. Countless times I would go there with a lighted taper as a prayer from my heart, to ponder the still, lone statue of the Madonna and Child. 'Dear Lady' I whispered, 'is your silent aloneness like mine? No, you are not really alone, are you? You could never be alone because you hold your little Son, our Lord Jesus, in your arms and in your heart. Help me, most blessed mother, to always love and hold Him in my heart too.' "
"I turned to the image of Jesus who held a little bird in his hand. 'My Lord and King, Jesus, my most cherished wish is that I might be like that little bird and find my place in Your service.' Soothed and consoled by my prayer I smiled because I knew in my heart that He understood."
Or this other story she told me.
"I remember when I was a little girl, seven or eight years old. I asked my father to explain what was happening around us. He was sitting at the kitchen table when I placed my small hand into his."
"'Papa, what are Godons?'
"His gaze turned to me, and he gently patted my face. 'Where did you hear such a thing?'
"'Why, from you, papa. You use the word all the time.'
"He smiled down at me. 'So I do, so I do.'
"'What are Godons, papa?'
"'Not what, but who, are Godons, Jehannette. It is the name we gave to the English invaders.'
"'Why do you call them that, papa?'
"He turned his pensive gaze to the fire. 'Because they are constantly calling on God to damn their souls to hell.'
"Filled with horror I quickly crossed myself. 'Why would they do such a horrible thing?'
" 'I don't know, my little one. It only proves how hard-hearted and cruel they are.'
"As I pressed my ear into his chest I whispered, 'I shall pray that God will have mercy on their souls and forgive their thoughtless words.'
"'You do that, Jehannette.'
"'Papa, who or what are Brigandines?'
"'You certainly are filled with questions tonight.'
"'Please, papa! Tell me so I shall understand.'
"'Brigandines are soldiers that come mostly from foreign lands, sometimes from different parts of our kingdom. When great lords go to war, they invite soldiers to come and fight for them, using large sums of money to entice them.'
"'What great lords would do such a thing, papa?'
"'They all do. The English, the Burgundians and even our poor, mad King. Once these lords are done fighting, they stop paying. This leaves the soldiers without any money or food to live on. They turn their skills to attacking defenseless villagers and peasants. They raid and plunder all who can't fight back.' His face was frozen in distress.
"At the age of twelve, our relatives had to flee for their lives. They found their way to our door and we made room for them in our home. I slept at the hearth, while my cousins slept in my bed. They told of the terrible state of the land. How once-prosperous farms were plundered and burned. How people tried to rebuild their homes, only to be crushed repeatedly by the Brigandines. Those not killed, either fled from the area or - God have mercy on their souls - they killed themselves, because they could not grow their crops. Whole districts, once abundant were turned into wildernesses. Even the great city of Paris was not spared. At night, it was said, packs of wolves would wander the streets devouring the dead and dying."
"Yes, Jeanne, I heard those terrible stories when I was a young boy. It is a very sad world we occupy."
A priest name Father Nicolas was also a prisoner there, and Jeanne was allowed to attend his Masses. Once I overheard him speaking with one of his friends. He praised Jeanne highly, saying she was a good Christian and very devout! He knew this to be true, because he had heard Jeanne's confession and was greatly impressed by her piety.
There too Jeanne had a pleasant visit with a group of women from Abbeville. They told Jeanne that she was a special soul inspired by God and they praised her for her faith and calm submission to God's Will. The ladies prayed that Jesus would send His abundant blessings upon her, and that He would send His angels to protect her. Jeanne thanked them warmly for coming and asked for their continuing prayers. As she kissed them good-by she prayed that God would send His blessing on them. These sympathetic women, fearing for Jeanne's uncertain future, cried as they left her cell.
On Thursday, December 21st, under a heavy guard, Jeanne was taken from the castle and placed onto a boat that would take her the mile and a half across the river Somme. The English were taking no chances about her escaping, because they had a large flotilla close by. Jeanne was confined for the night at the castle of Saint Valery, which is on the opposite shore across from Crotoy.
Once she got to the other side, a garrison of fifteen hundred English soldiers took charge and conducted Jeanne the rest of the way to Rouen. It must have been a terrible journey. She endured the bitter cold days in those heavy chains. At night she slept in cold, damp and filthy cells. She journeyed to the castles of Eu, Arques la Bataille and Bosc-le-Hard.
Finally, by sunset of the fourth day, we reached the outskirts of Rouen.
As the sun descended slowly below the horizon, we rode down the steep hill that led to the castle of Philip Augustus. We crossed the drawbridge and entered the courtyard where Jeanne was pulled from her horse. She was shoved into her prison tower and there delivered over to the taunting jailers.
I heard that a constant procession of officially approved visitors came to her cell to satisfy their own morbid curiosity. They would make fun of her and cursed her to her face. Near the end of her trial, I along with my Lord de Luxembourg and the English Earls of Warwick and Stafford visited Jeanne in her cell. The Count tried to tempt her with an offer of freedom. He began his cruel jest with these words, "Jeanne, I have come to ransom you, if you will promise never again to bear arms against us."
Jeanne's temper rose when she realized that the point of his game was the denial of her mission. "In God's name, Count, you mock me! Ransom? How you jest. You have neither the desire nor the power to do so!"
The Count tried to convince her of his sincerity, by saying, "I assure you, I do, Jeanne."
"No, you have not!" She strongly protested.
He continued his cruel game as he pointed to the Earls of Warwick and Stafford. "If you don't believe me, then ask these fine gentlemen if my words aren't true."
Jeanne defiantly pointed her finger at her enemies. "I know well that these English will put me to death, because they think that after I'm dead, they will win the Kingdom of France. But even if there were hundred thousand more Godons than there are now, still they will never have the Kingdom!"
Jeanne's words so infuriated the Earl of Stafford that he drew his dagger against her. His sharp blade's point was inches from her when the Earl of Warwick and my Lord, the Count, grabbed hold of him. While they struggled to drag him away, the crazed Earl screamed, "The damn little slut! Let me kill the foul whoring witch and have done with it!"
I left soon after, but not before I gave her a gentle touch of my hand and a compassionate look. That was the last time I saw Jeanne alive.
What a brave, impudent little soul she was. I am glad I meet her. She is one woman, no matter how long I shall live, I will never forget! All I can do is pray that someday my soul will be where I believe hers now reside, in God's loving embrace.