Three days after Joan's capture, May 26, 1430, the Vicar General of the Inquisition in France wrote to the Duke of Burgundy. He asked that Joan be given to the Inquisition so they could examine her for idolatry, heresy, and other matters concerning the faith, but the Duke refused. The University of Paris then wrote to the Duke expressing their fears that Joan might escape through the payment of a ransom by King Charles.
Indeed, that was exactly what the Duke was waiting for, a ransom offer of a very sizable amount from King Charles to free the Maid. To the Duke, monetary considerations far outweighed matters of religion. Besides, the aunt of the Count de Luxembourg threatened to disinherit him if he sold Joan to the English. The Duke of Burgundy wanted his cut of that transaction too. Therefore, he did not press his good friend and lieutenant, the Count of Luxembourg, into giving Joan over to the Church authorities. As the months passed, there was much hard bargaining and maneuvering between the English, Burgundians and the Church, over who would ultimately gain control of Joan.
In all this time, what did King Charles do for his well-beloved Maid? NOTHING! The Archbishop of Embrun, Jacques Gelu, was a supporter of Joan. He wrote a treatise about her at the beginning of her career, in which he urged the King to follow her guidance. Upon her capture he wrote a letter to Charles, and begged him to do everything possible to win her freedom. He stated: "To recover this girl and to pay her ransom, I bid you spare neither means nor money, nor any price however great, unless you would incur the indelible shame of a most culpable ingratitude."
Yet, according to the historical records, Joan was completely abandoned in her time of need by the King she had loved and served so well! Charles could have done many things to help her, such as raising an army of rescue, paying her ransom, threatening to treat his English and Burgundian prisoners in the same way as the English treated Joan. Failing that, he could have ordered the Archbishop of Reims, Bishop Cauchon's superior, to have Joan examined by churchmen from all three parties. Lastly, Charles could have appealed to the Pope, but he did not. Why? Perhaps because, Joan had pleaded the Constable's case before him. Perhaps, Charles saw in Joan's capture a sign of God's displeasure with her. Nonetheless, whatever his reason for his inaction, he was and is guilty of despicable ingratitude.
It is very possible that King Charles' opinion followed closely the one expressed by the Archbishop of Reims when he wrote to his diocese: "It was entirely her own fault because she would not take advice, but did her own pleasure."
In a second letter the Archbishop wrote, "There came before the King a young shepherd, a keeper of sheep in the mountains of Gevaudan, in the bishopric of Mande. He said neither more nor less than the Maid had, and that he was ordered by God to set forth with the King's army and without fail the English and the Burgundians would be discomfited."
It would seem that this shepherd boy named Guillaume had been tending his flocks when God favored him with revelations concerning the King and the Kingdom of France. As he prayed, he heard a voice, which he obeyed and with the help of the town's people of Mande came to Charles' court. The boy was physically frail and like Saint Francis he too had the stigmata as his hands, feet and side were wounded and bled for all to see.
In his third letter the Archbishop stated, "God had allowed the English to take Joan because she had grown proud, because of the bright raiment that she wore and because she had not done what God had ordered her to do, but had done her own will and desire."
Guillaume was hailed as the new deliverer and was given a horse and taken to the army. He accomplished nothing and was finally taken by the English who sewed him into a sack and threw him into the Seine to drown.
As for the people and the common soldiers whom Joan loved so well, they were filled with disbelief, sorrow, anger, and consternation about her capture and subsequent trial. As an act of supplication to God they held public processions, in which the people walked barefoot! They offered Masses and held public prayers calling upon God to bring about Joan's release; but God had other plans for Joan.
Just as Joan's Voices had promised, the siege of Compiegne was lifted. While she was a prisoner of the Count of Luxembourg, the citizens of Compiegne in unison with the French army, simultaneously attacked the besiegers and forced them to withdraw, never to be threatened again.
In March of 1431 La Hire captured the town of Louviers, which was eighteen miles south of Rouen. This action gave rise to the belief that he had meant to rescue Joan from prison. Unfortunately this never materialized. The English, still terrified by Joan, did not try to dislodge him until after her death. La Hire lost Louviers to the English but in the coming years he did win several victories over them.
In December of this same year, Philip the Duke of Burgundy, signed another truce with King Charles that was to last for six years. At the same time Bedford, the English Regent, had the child-king, Henry VI, crowned King of France. Bedford wanted the ceremony to take place at Reims but this was impossible because the town remained loyal to King Charles. So on December 2, 1431 Henry VI was smuggled into Paris where he was crowned in the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Sunday the sixteenth of December.
It was a disaster right from the start with Philip refusing to attend. After the ceremony, Bedford invited the members of the Paris Parliament and University to come to a banquet. As these men processed to the hall, the people of Paris went among them tripping them up and stealing their money. This was not the only humiliation they had to endure, because when they arrived at the hall they found it already filled with the working class people. The politicians and theologians had to struggle and push to get a place at the tables. The food served was terrible because it had been prepared three days in advance and had spoiled!
In 1432, the Constable Richemont, the man for whom Joan had pleaded, tried to have the Duke de la Tremoille assassinated. The Duke was stabbed as he slept and it was only the thickness of his own fat that saved his life! He was then tied up and taken to his nephew's castle and there held for ransom. La Tremoille recovered from his wound but he never recovered his place of importance at the side of Charles. This vacancy was quickly filled by the Constable Richemont.
In 1435 the Pope called a General Peace Conference and summoned all the warring parties to attend. The conference was held in the northern French city of Arras. All the parties attended; the English, the Burgundians and the French. The English delegation was so arrogant that even The Papal legates were offended by their behavior. The Papal representatives reprimanded the English delegation, who became so angry that they left the conference. This allowed the French and Burgundians to enter into an alliance on September 20, 1435.
Once established at court, the Constable renewed the military campaign to regain the Kingdom for Charles and by April 13, 1436, Paris once again belonged to the King. A mob of Parisians chased the English sympathizers out of the city. Among them was Bishop Cauchon. This fulfilled Joan's prophecy that within seven years the English would lose a greater prize than they had at Orleans. Joan's brother, Peter, had been held by the Burgundians for six years and was finally released in this year. On October 20, 1438, Father Jean D' Estivet, the promoter at Joan's trial, was found drowned in the open sewer outside of Rouen.
Even though the executioner of Rouen drew aside the faggots so that all those present could see that Joan was indeed being burnt, the French people refused to believe that she was actually dead. (If you think this is unbelievable, look at all the Elvis Presley sightings that occur today!) There were several chronicles written at the time which stated that Joan had "escaped the fire and that they burned another woman like her." This belief was exploited by more than one woman. The most famous of these was known as Claude des Armoises. She must have looked very much like Joan because she was able to fool the Countess of Luxembourg and many others around the town of Metz where she lived. Claude finally married Robert des Armoises and had two children by him.
The people of Orleans, hearing about Claude, sent Joan's brother, John, to Metz to check out the story. This false Joan met John and gave him a letter for the city of Orleans and for the King. John delivered the letters but no further inquiries were made about her. In 1439, after the death of her husband, Claude traveled to Orleans and was warmly received by them. She lived there at the city's expense for many months. She left Orleans suddenly on September 3, perhaps because King Charles was coming to the city and she did not want to meet with him. She was finally exposed as a fraud in 1440 by the University of Paris and was never heard from again.
A few more interesting events occurred in 1440. Father Nicolas Midi, who played a prominent role in Joan's trial of Condemnation, died of leprosy, which he contracted in 1434. One of Joan's comrades, Gilles de Rais, nicknamed 'Blue Beard,' was arrested and tried by the inquisition, for sorcery, rape and murder of numerous children of both sexes. Found guilty, the court sentenced him to be hung and his body burned. (a punishment rarely applied to the nobility.) Before the judgment was carried out he profoundly repented of all his heinous crimes. His execution took place at the Old Market Place of Rouen! Joan's mother, Isabelle Romée, ill at the time, arrived in Orleans in July and was nursed back to health at the town's expense. For the rest of her life the city loved and cared for her, paying her a monthly pension of forty-eight sous until her death. It is a tradition that Joan's father died in Domremy two years after his daughter's death from a broken heart. King Charles made Jean de Metz a knight in 1441. He lived out the remainder of his life quietly in Vaucouleurs and died there at the age of sixty-seven.
Bishop Pierre Cauchon died suddenly, December 18, 1442, while he was being shaved. He was carried in state to the cathedral at Lisieux (yes, the same town as Saint Thérèse of the Little Flower) and was buried in a magnificent tomb near the main altar. Nicolas Loiseleur, the court's spy and close friend of Cauchon, died suddenly in the town of Bâle also in 1442.
The French finally captured the city of Rouen on October 29, 1449. A few months later King Charles started the process to clear his name from the shame of being helped by a witch and heretic and ordered his counselor to look into the matter of Joan's trial. After interviewing Brothers Toutmouille, Ladvenu and Duval as well as Fathers Manchon, Massieu and Beaupere the counselor realized that Joan's trial was politically motivated by the English. Since the English were clever enough to use the Church to condemn her, only the Church could clear her.
King Charles approached Pope Nicolas V, on this matter. At the same time the Moslem Ottoman Empire was threatening Europe. The Pope wanted help from Charles in raising an army to defend against this threat. He therefore sent a Frenchman as his delegate to help Charles with his problem.
The Papal legate contacted the Inquisitor-General of France and together they studied Joan's trial records. They interviewed the same seven churchmen as before plus ten others after which they came up with a questionnaire of twenty-seven questions. These questions became the bases for the trial of Nullification.
The Papal legate's and the Inquisitor's findings were against the English and this may have been the reason why the Pope did not act on the case. He did not want to antagonize the English because he hoped to enlist their help against the Moslems. Because of this setback the King's advisors decided to change tactics and had Joan's family bring the suit before the Pope. So two months after the election of Pope Calixtus III, Isabelle Romée and her two sons appealed for justice concerning Joan's case. The Pope authorized the investigation and appointed the judges.
The process to right the wrongs done to Joan was begun on November 7, 1455. Isabelle Romée, who was now somewhere between sixty and seventy years old, her two sons and a group of friends from Orleans, came to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Tearfully and filled with emotion, Isabelle approached the Pope's representative judges and began to recite her request for justice for her daughter.
"I had a daughter born in lawful wedlock who grew up amid the fields and pastures. I had her baptized and confirmed and brought her up in the fear of God. I taught her respect for the traditions of the Church as much as I was able to do given her age and the simplicity of her condition. I succeeded so well that she spent much of her time in church and after having gone to confession she received the sacrament of the Eucharist every month. Because the people suffered so much, she had a great compassion for them in her heart and despite her youth she would fast and pray for them with great devotion and fervor. She never thought, spoke or did anything against the faith. Certain enemies had her arraigned in a religious trial. Despite her disclaimers and appeals, both tacit and expressed, and without any help given to her defense, she was put through a perfidious, violent, iniquitous and sinful trial. The judges condemned her falsely, damnably and criminally, and put her to death in a cruel manner by fire. For the damnation of their souls and in notorious, infamous and irreparable loss to me, Isabelle, and mine... I demand that her name be restored."
Joan's mother, overcome with grief, had to be escorted to the sacristy of the cathedral and thus began Joan's Trial of Nullification. The court took testimony in the cities of Paris, Rouen and Orleans as well as the towns of Domremy and Vaucouleurs. A total of one hundred and fifty witnesses came forward to tell the court of their memories of Joan. Finally on July 7, 1456, the court rendered its official decision.
"In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen!"
"In the case concerning the honest woman, widow Isabelle d'Arc, mother, Pierre and Jean d'Arc, brothers, against the late Lord Pierre Cauchon then Bishop of Beauvais, Jean Lemaitre, then Vice-Inquisitor and Jean d'Estivet, the promoter of the criminal proceedings against the late Jeanne d'Arc, of good memory, commonly called the Maid." (Isn't it interesting that the only Churchmen mentioned were all dead.)
"In consideration of the information and juridical consultations...in consideration of the facts, in consideration of the defamatory articles... We, with Apostolic authority as the Papal representative judges and having God only before our eyes, say, pronounce, decree and declare that the said trial and sentence of condemnation were tainted with corruption, cozenage, calumny, fraud, malice iniquity and manifest errors of fact as well as in law, including the abjuration, execution and all their consequences. We declare that Joan the Maid's trial and condemnation have been and are null, invalid, worthless, without value or effect. We break them, annihilate them, annul them, and declare them void of effect. We declare that Joan did not incur any mark of infamy. We also declare her as far as necessary, entirely purged of such."
This decree was read in the great hall of the Archiepiscopal palace of Rouen, in the cemetery of Saint Ouen and finally in the Old Market Place where Joan was burnt to death. Over the site of her execution a cross was placed, "In perpetual memory of the deceased and for her salvation and that of other deceased persons for whom prayers may be here offered up."
The Nullification of Joan of Arc's first trial was celebrated in many towns throughout France, not the least among them was Orleans. On July 27, 1456, the town of Orleans celebrated the verdict by giving a large banquet presided over by the Papal legate and the Inquisitor-General. It may well be that Joan's mother and brothers were also present at the festive meal. Tradition has it that Isabelle Romée died two years later in a little village near Orleans, on November 28, 1458.
I highly recommend for your reading, Régine Pernoud's two books, Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses, and The Rehabilitation of Joan of Arc. Both these books bring Joan alive, through her own words and the memories of those who knew her.