Random Quote #57 topic: voltaire-dict, Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire, 1694-1778


It is meet that the reader should be acquainted with the true history of
Joan of Arc surnamed "the Maid." The details of her adventure are very
little known and may give readers pleasure; here they are.

Paul Jove says that the courage of the French was stimulated by this
girl, and takes good care not to believe her inspired. Neither Robert,
Gaguin, Paul Emile, Polydore Vergile, Genebrard, Philip of Bergamo,
Papyre Masson, nor even Mariana, say that she was sent by God; and even
though Mariana the Jesuit had said it, that would not deceive me.

Mezerai relates "that the prince of the celestial militia appeared to
her." I am sorry for Mezerai, and I ask pardon of the prince of the
celestial militia.

Most of our historians, who copy each other, suppose that the Maid
uttered prophecies, and that her prophecies were accomplished. She is
made to say that "she will drive the English out of the kingdom," and
they were still there five years after her death. She is said to have
written a long letter to the King of England, and assuredly she could
neither read nor write; such an education was not given to an inn
servant in the Barois; and the information laid against her states that
she could not sign her name.

But, it is said, she found a rusted sword, the blade of which was
engraved with five golden _fleurs-de-lis_; and this sword was hidden in
the church of Sainte Catherine de Fierbois at Tours. There, certainly is
a great miracle!

Poor Joan of Arc having been captured by the English, despite her
prophecies and her miracles, maintained first of all in her
cross-examination that St. Catherine and St. Marguerite had honoured her
with many revelations. I am astonished that she never said anything of
her talks with the prince of the celestial militia. These two saints
apparently liked talking better than St. Michael. Her judges thought her
a sorceress, she thought herself inspired.

One great proof that Charles VII.'s captains made use of the marvellous
in order to encourage the soldiers, in the deplorable state to which
France was reduced, is that Saintrailles had his shepherd, as the Comte
de Dunois had his shepherdess. The shepherd made prophecies on one side,
while the shepherdess made them on the other.

But unfortunately the Comte de Dunois' prophetess was captured at the
siege of Compiegne by a bastard of Vendome, and Saintrailles' prophet
was captured by Talbot. The gallant Talbot was far from having the
shepherd burned. This Talbot was one of those true Englishmen who scorn
superstition, and who have not the fanaticism for punishing fanatics.

This, it seems to me, is what the historians should have observed, and
what they have neglected.

The Maid was taken to Jean de Luxembourg, Comte de Ligny. She was shut
up in the fortress of Beaulieu, then in that of Beaurevoir, and from
there in that of Crotoy in Picardy.

First of all Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, who was of the King of
England's party against his own legitimate king, claims the Maid as a
sorceress arrested on the limits of his diocese. He wishes to judge her
as a sorceress. He supported the right he claimed by a downright lie.
Joan had been captured on the territory of the bishopric of Noyon: and
neither the Bishop of Beauvais, nor the Bishop of Noyon assuredly had
the right of condemning anybody, and still less of committing to death a
subject of the Duke of Lorraine, and a warrior in the pay of the King of

There was at that time (who would believe it?) a vicar-general of the
Inquisition in France, by name Brother Martin.[8] It was one of the most
horrible effects of the total subversion of that unfortunate country.
Brother Martin claimed the prisoner as smelling of heresy (_odorantem
haeresim_). He called upon the Duke of Burgundy and the Comte de Ligny,
"by the right of his office, and of the authority given to him by the
Holy See, to deliver Joan to the Holy Inquisition."

The Sorbonne hastened to support Brother Martin, and wrote to the Duke
of Burgundy and to Jean de Luxembourg--"You have used your noble power
to apprehend this woman who calls herself the Maid, by means of whom the
honour of God has been immeasurably offended, the faith exceedingly
hurt, and the Church too greatly dishonoured; for by reason of her,
idolatry, errors, bad doctrine, and other inestimable evils have ensued
in this kingdom ... but what this woman has done would be of small
account, if did not ensue what is meet for satisfying the offence
perpetrated by her against our gentle Creator and His faith, and the
Holy Church with her other innumerable misdeeds ... and it would be
intolerable offence against the divine majesty if it happened that this
woman were freed."[9]

Finally, the Maid was awarded to Jean Cauchon whom people called the
unworthy bishop, the unworthy Frenchman, and the unworthy man. Jean de
Luxembourg sold the Maid to Cauchon and the English for ten thousand
livres, and the Duke of Bedford paid them. The Sorbonne, the bishop and
Brother Martin, then presented a new petition to this Duke of Bedford,
regent of France, "in honour of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for
that the said Joan may be briefly put into the hands of the Church."
Joan was led to Rouen. The archbishopric was vacant at that time, and
the chapter permitted the Bishop of Beauvais to _work_ in the town.
(_Besogner_ is the term which was used.) He chose as assessors nine
doctors of the Sorbonne with thirty-five other assistants, abbots or
monks. The vicar of the Inquisition, Martin, presided with Cauchon; and
as he was only a vicar, he had but second place.

Joan underwent fourteen examinations; they are singular. She said that
she saw St. Catherine and St. Marguerite at Poitiers. Doctor Beaupere
asks her how she recognized the saints. She answers that it was by their
way of bowing. Beaupere asks her if they are great chatterboxes. "Go
look on the register," she says. Beaupere asks her if, when she saw St.
Michael, he was naked. She answers: "Do you think our Lord had nothing
to clothe him with?"

The curious will carefully observe here that Joan had long been directed
with other religious women of the populace by a rogue named Richard,[10]
who performed miracles, and who taught these girls to perform them. One
day he gave communion three times in succession to Joan, in honour of
the Trinity. It was then the custom in matters of importance and in
times of great peril. The knights had three masses said, and
communicated three times when they went to seek fortune or to fight in a
duel. It is what has been observed on the part of the Chevalier Bayard.

The workers of miracles, Joan's companions, who were submissive to
Richard, were named Pierrone and Catherine. Pierrone affirmed that she
had seen that God appeared to her in human form as a friend to a friend.
God was "clad in a long white robe, etc."

Up to the present the ridiculous; here now is the horrible.

One of Joan's judges, doctor of theology and priest, by name Nicholas
_the Bird-Catcher_, comes to confess her in prison. He abuses the
sacrament to the point of hiding behind a piece of serge two priests who
transcribed Joan of Arc's confession. Thus did the judges use sacrilege
in order to be murderers. And an unfortunate idiot, who had had enough
courage to render very great services to the king and the country, was
condemned to be burned by forty-four French priests who immolated her
for the English faction.

It is sufficiently well-known how someone had the cunning and meanness
to put a man's suit beside her to tempt her to wear this suit again, and
with what absurd barbarism this transgression was claimed as a pretext
for condemning her to the flames, as if in a warrior girl it was a crime
worthy of the fire, to put on breeches instead of a skirt. All this
wrings the heart, and makes common sense shudder. One cannot conceive
how we dare, after the countless horrors of which we have been guilty,
call any nation by the name of barbarian.

Most of our historians, lovers of the so-called embellishments of
history rather than of truth, say that Joan went fearlessly to the
torture; but as the chronicles of the times bear witness, and as the
historian Villaret admits, she received her sentence with cries and
tears; a weakness pardonable in her sex, and perhaps in ours, and very
compatible with the courage which this girl had displayed amid the
dangers of war; for one can be fearless in battle, and sensitive on the

I must add that many persons have believed without any examination that
the Maid of Orleans was not burned at Rouen at all, although we have the
official report of her execution. They have been deceived by the account
we still have of an adventuress who took the name of the "Maid,"
deceived Joan of Arc's brothers, and under cover of this imposture,
married in Lorraine a nobleman of the house of Armoise. There were two
other rogues who also passed themselves off as the "Maid of Orleans."
All three claimed that Joan was not burned at all, and that another
woman had been substituted for her. Such stories can be admitted only by
those who want to be deceived.


[8] Beuchot says: There was at that time in France an
Inquisitor-General, named Brother Jean or Jacques le Graverend. His
vice-inquisitor or vicar, who took part in Joan's trial, was not called
Brother Martin, but Brother Jean Magistri or the Master.

[9] This is a translation of the Latin of the Sorbonne, made long after.

[10] Beuchot says that Berriat Saint-Prix, in his "Jeanne d'Arc,"
proves, page 341 _et seq._, that the imputations against Brother Richard
are groundless, and that he could exercise no influence at the trial.


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