The subject of Joan's Narrow Hips


I had the opportunity to interview with Mme Regine Pernoud in 1984. I brought up the subject of Joan's being a hermaphrodite.

What is a hermaphrodite?

A 'Hermaphrodite' is a person biologically between female and male, sometimes with genital and /or reproductive body parts of both sexes; a person who is born with both male and female genitals although one set is almost always incompletely developed; when a person is born with the genital or reproductive organs of both sexes. It is a rare condition.

Most modern scholars don't believe in God, therefore they cannot accept Joan at face value but have to go in search of some exotic reason to explain her life away. They then come up with these hair-brained theories as the following:

In 1984 a scholar, in his chauvinistic thinking, could not accept the fact that Joan could do the things a man could, (and do them better than most men) that is, have physical endurance and military skill, unless she was a hermaphrodite.

Contained within Joan's TWO trials there is only ONE mention of Joan's menstrual cycle. This testimony comes from Joan's Squire, Jean d' Aulon. In his sworn written statement that was sent to the Trial of Nullification officials, d'Aulon relates that he overheard some women say that they never saw Joan menstruate. It is this testimony that the 'scholar' cites as 'proof' for his conclusion.

Professor Pernoud downplayed the importance and accuracy of d'Aulon's statement for two reasons:

1) It was SECOND HAND information and

2) His statement was never substantiated by any other testimony given at the Trial of Nullification.

For sake of argument let us concede that Joan DID NOT menstruate. What does this REALLY PROVE? I contend nothing.

The fact that a woman does not menstruate dose NOT 'prove' that she is a hermaphrodite. A 'normal' woman can be "amenorrheic " for several reasons.

  1. Infertility
  2. Poor nutrition and or starvation; as shown by the women who survived the Nazi concentration camps
  3. Very strict fasting
  4. Exercise done by athletes

Joan was examined physically three times during her life, twice by matrons from the Dauphin's court and once while she was a prisoner of the English. This last exam was done by the matrons of the Duchess of Bedford. In all three exams she was found to be a true woman and a virgin. It is obvious that had ANY physical abnormalities been noted by the English matrons that this evidence would have been used against Joan during her Rouen trial. But this was NOT the case.

In her trial at Rouen, Joan states that she began to hear her 'voices' at the age of 13. This is approximately the age for the onset of puberty. A psychologist wrote an article in which he expressed the view that Joan's lack of a menstrual cycle showed her to be mentally ill or neurotic because she was unable to accept her changing body and that she was becoming a woman.

PLEASE, give me a break!

I was a Psychiatric Nurse, and I worked with the mentally ill for seven years. A woman would have to be profoundly mentally ill to affect her menstrual cycle. This degree of mental illness would spill over into other areas of her life. After a time her mental illness would affect her relationships with those around her and they would begin to 'see' her abnormal behavior. Joan was NEVER accused or thought of as being mentally unbalanced by any of her contemporaries.

I have no problem believing Joan was athletic and she did fast for spiritual reasons and both these could easily have affected her menstrual period. But other than to these chauvinistic thinkers what difference does this point really make? Simply put - NONE!

Yet the debate continues!

Near the end of November 2003 there was a discussion on the SMU's Joan of Arc Forum about whether there was any 'proof' that Joan was actually a hermaphrodite. The people who were 'FOR' this idea felt that it was is a clinical 'sign' that a person was a hermaphrodite if she had narrow hips.

This is a totally nonsensical idea when you look at professional models like "Twiggy." I never hard any one say that she was a hermaphrodite

Some felt there was and they sited Marie-Véronique CLIN's essay, JOAN OF ARC AND HER DOCTORS. This essay in its entirety can be found in the book: FRESH VERDICTS ON JOAN OF ARC Edited by Bonnie Wheeler and Charles T. Wood. Garland Publishing, Inc of New York and London published this book in 1996.

Mme. Pernoud specifically told me in my 1984 interview "the people in Joan's time were as worldly wise as we are now. They therefore could easily distinguish abnormal genitalia as we can today." " - states:

True hermaphroditism is a rare condition and makes up less than 10% of all intersex cases. More than 400 cases have been reported worldwide.

The presence of both testicular and ovarian tissue within one individual gives rise to varying degrees of ambisexual development.

The most common presenting symptom is abnormal appearing external genitalia.

Although some cases of true hermaphroditism are diagnosed in the newborn period, only 20% are diagnosed prior to age 5 years.

Most people with true hermaphroditism are given a male sex assignment at birth but develop breasts at puberty or later.

In the New England Journal of Medicine, 01/14/98 edition we find a article titled "True Hermaphroditism" [Intersex]. This article states, Hermaphroditism is a rare, complex, congenital condition known as undescended sub-sized ovotestes i.e. "gonadal mosaicism." This condition is found in approximately 1-in-25, 000 births.

In comparison the number of 'Down Syndrome' births that occur per year is 1 in 700 births. (Down syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality causing mental retardation and multiple organ defects. The information about 'Down Syndrome' comes from Ferri's Clinical Advisor, 2000 edition published by Mosby.)

Mr. Robert G. Worth wrote a short rebuttal to this idea. Here is what he has to say. (I used this article with his written permission.)

Joan's Narrow Hips


Mr. Robert G. Wirth of Minnesota


I have read no evidence to support the statement that Jeanne had narrow hips. That said, I haven't seen everything, and some of what I have read I don't understand fully.

I went looking through Pernoud's book "The Retrial of Joan of Arc"(naturally in the English translation), and on pp. 202-203 there are testimonies about the examinations for virginity, ordered by the Duchess of Bedford. The best testimony is from Guillaume de la Chambre, a physician, who examined Jeanne. He also examined her during her illness in April ("Retrial," pp. 186-188) accompanied by Jean Tiphaine, the Duchess of Bedford's physician.

Neither section of Pernoud has either man remarking about Jeanne's hips being narrow. Just to be sure that Pernoud might have condensed their remarks, I went to Quicherat (Tome III, pp. 46-53) and didn't find anything more.

Here is the English from Pernoud's "Retrial," p.203:

"I have heard that Joan was examined to discover whether she was a virgin or not, and that she was found to be one. And I know, in so far, as one can know by the art of medicine, that she was a virgin and intact. For I saw her almost naked when I examined her at a time when she was ill. I felt her loins, and her flesh was very firm, so far as I could see by the look of it."

However, Steve Richey says in his new book that Guillaume de la Chambre reported that Jeanne "...was 'stricta,' that is, narrow in the hips." For his authority he cites Marie-Veronique Clin, "Joan of Arc and her Doctors," in "Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc," p.299. Clin says the same thing in substantially the same words:

" he palpated her lower abdomen, he found that she was stricta, that is, narrow in the hips."

Interestingly enough, though, CLIN's source is *not* Quicherat, but "Dictionnaire biographique des medecins en France au moyen age," by Ernest Wickersheimer, Paris, 1979, V. I, p.21. I would like to see that book for myself.

The passage in question is in Quicherat (Tome III, p. 50), but I have no way of knowing whether it is the passage Wickersheimer read, or if he did, read and translated accurately. Here it is:

[De la Chambre] "...deponit quod audivit tunc dici (1) quod ipsa Johanna fuerat visita an esset virgo vel non, et talis fuit inventa; et scit ipse loquens, prout percipere potuit secundum artem medicinae, quod erat incorrupta et virgo, quia eam vidit quasi nudam, cum (2) visitaret eam de quadam infirmate; et eam palpavit in renibus, et erat multum stricta, quantum percipere potuit ex aspectu."

Here is my rough translation:

[De la Chambre] "...deposes that he heard then ... (1) ... that the said Jeanne was visited [to see] whether she be virgin or no, and so was found; and he who is speaking knows, as far as he could see, according to the art of medicine, that [she] was incorrupt and virgin, because he saw her practically nude with (2) [the occasions he was] visiting her in this infirmity; and her palpated her in the region of the kidneys, and she was much ... (3) ... as much as he was able to perceive from looking."


(1): I don't know the meaning of "dici" but it *doesn't* mean "I said," because that's "dixi." Note

(2): "cum" usually means "with" but can mean "at the same time as."

(3): here we come to the heart (pun intended) of the matter. My Latin dictionary says that "stricta" is the feminine form of the passive past participle of "stringo," and for that word the dictionary gives a number of meanings, the first of which is "to draw tight together, to bind, to tie."

There's no way *I* can get "loins" or "lower abdomen" out of "in renibus"; "renes" means "kidneys," and the Latin word still survives in English medical terminology as "renal," as in "renal failure." The whole clause "et eam palpavit in renibus, et erat multum stricta," could well mean "he palpated her around the kidneys and she was 'bound up,'" i.e., her urethras were constricted or blocked, thus the pain. One medical book I looked at said that prolonged lying down, or too little water, or too little urination, can cause kidney stones.

Theory #1

I think it possible, even likely, that Jeanne was under all three conditions: she was chained, she might not have been given enough water by her jailers (thirst is a terrible torment and weakness) and she was prevented from normal frequency of elimination by her modesty and maybe by the layout of the cell (that is, was there a latrine in it; some evidence says not). I might add that both the kidneys and the stomach are higher than most people think, and no way in the "lower abdomen."

Theory #2

She claimed that she might have gotten sick from the carp (Pernoud, "Retrial," p.187). Could it be that a fish gone bad could affect both the stomach and the kidneys?

[Mr. Wirth ends his article by saying: VF]

"You have to remember that when it comes to me and Latin, I'm living proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, as the old saying is. That is, I admit my Latin is inadequate to this task. We need an expert Latinist, preferably one who's a medical doctor also."