Did Joan Survive as "Claude des Armoises"?
One of the theories popular with revisionists is
the notion that Joan escaped execution and continued her exploits as
a noblewoman named Claude des Armoises. A particularly unusual version
of this was popularized in the ineffably surreal book "Operation
Shepherdess", which combines a great many revisionist theories
all in one package.
While there are many variations on the theme, the basic theory
is ultimately derived from the fact that - as with many other famous figures throughout
history - a series of "Joan impostors" who all physically resembled
the real Joan (but, curiously, bore different names) began appearing some
years after her death, and were each exposed as frauds in turn.
Claude des Armoises was the most famous of these (Jehanne de
Sermaize being another example of a successful impostor); but Claude
herself admitted her imposture in 1440, both to Charles VII and publicly at
Paris. Revisionists have carefully ignored the latter point while focusing on Claude
as if she had been the only such impostor, which they use as an excuse to claim that
she therefore must have been the genuine article. In some cases,
revisionists will even claim that Jules Quicherat himself - who laid the
foundation of so much of current Johannic studies - allegedly supported
the theory, although Quicherat's series specifically refers to Claude
as "the fake Joan of Arc" ("la fausse Jeanne d'Arc"), which
rather clearly indicates his actual views on the matter.
While the various arguments which these authors use are legion -
and not always terribly consistent - let's examine a few of the more prominent
- Joan's alleged survival is typically "proven" by manipulating
the eyewitness accounts of her death until these accounts are made
to say precisely the opposite of the actual text; or, alternately,
these authors mistranslate certain words
so that it can be claimed that Joan's appearance or presence was in
obscured from the eyewitnesses as she went to her death. These eyewitnesses
actually said, repeatedly, that they did in fact see her die,
in some cases speaking with her after she was tied to the stake.
As for the notion that her appearance
was obscured: this is based on various muddled interpretations of
the original language: words such as "embronché" (which occurs in a
secondhand account) are interpreted
based on their modern, rather than 15th century, definition, and then
used as the basis for elaborate theories claiming that no one could
have seen Joan's face and therefore could not have determined whether
it was she who was killed. Alternately, some authors have invented the notion that Joan was surrounded
by wood bundles - despite the clear statements to the contrary in
the eyewitness accounts - therefore, so the theory goes, no one could
tell whether it was her within the circle of wood. This is a case of
rejecting evidence in favor of fiction, while additionally ignoring the fact that
since some of the eyewitnesses spoke with her - and would therefore
have been able to recognize her voice - the issue of "visual identification"
is not the only relevant factor in the first place.
- Her alleged escape is usually supposed to have been
achieved with the help of the English themselves (!) via a "secret
passage" which conveniently connected her cell to the outside. Archaeological
studies have never found any such tunnel, but these authors, undaunted,
have recourse to manipulating the text again: the Latin phrase
"in quodam loco secreto" ("in a certain hidden place") in the Rehabilitation testimony is
interpreted to refer to the necessary underground passage, although
no such implication is ever made - the witnesses said that
Bedford had hidden in this place on one occasion when Joan
was being examined in her cell. No mention is ever made of a tunnel,
much less the rest. As for the idea that Joan was sprung from
prison by her captors themselves -
Bedford, Warwick, etc, as well as her judge, Pierre Cauchon - this
is inevitably justified by inventing the usual conspiracy theory.
The motives and nature of this conspiracy vary from author to author,
but the important point is that all variations are fictional.
- As for the alleged reappearance of Joan which is used as the ultimate
basis for all the above speculation: revisionists will triumphantly point out that Claude des Armoises, as with Jehanne de Sermaize,
briefly succeeded in fooling some of Joan's acquaintances - but only
those, it should be noted, who had not
personally witnessed her death and were therefore susceptible to
accepting the possibility of her survival. Revisionists will especially point to two of
these acquaintances as significant: Joan's brothers Jean and Pierre;
but anyone who has lost a
loved one without the closure of seeing the body will
recognize the desperate hope that
could well lead these two men to accept an impostor who physically resembled
their sister. Additionally, it could be noted that since her brothers had last seen
her when she was still a teenager, an adult impostor who showed up
over half a decade later would have a still easier time convincing people
that she was an older Joan returning after a long absence. Revisionists
will erroneously add even Joan's mother Isabelle
to the list of those who were fooled, but this is mere speculation:
there is no evidence that Isabelle ever saw Claude, since Isabelle's
presence at Orleans cannot be established earlier than 1440, by
which point Claude was no longer in the city and in fact had
been revealed as a fraud. As a final
comment on this issue, it should be noted that since Jehanne de Sermaize
had also convinced some of those who had known the real Joan, Claude
was not even unique in this respect. Evidently, we are asked to believe
that Joan had not only escaped execution, but also multiplied.
- There are a set of military campaigns which Claude is
supposed to have taken part in - located all over the map, from
Poitou to Italy - and this is
cited as further evidence that Claude was the genuine article returned
to continue her mission. Evidently the mission had changed somewhat.
As a final note, let's take a brief look at the details by which Claude herself admitted that she was a
fraud. According to Pierre Sala, she had made the mistake of meeting
with Charles VII, who promptly asked her to reveal the "secret" that
had been between himself and the real Joan, at which point Claude
admitted her charade and begged for mercy. She additionally - according to
the author of the "Journal d'un Bourgeois de Paris" - admitted the
same before a public audience at Paris.
All of the above should suffice as a few examples of the evidence
showing the theory - in its numerous forms - to be baseless.