Third Public Examination of Joan of Arc – The Prophecies of Merlin

On Saturday February 24th, 1431, there opened in Rouen before a church tribunal chaired by Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais. It was a “trial in matters of faith” and one which that would lead Joan of Arc the stake on 30 May of the same year.

As we remember Joan was the fifteen year old divine “mad woman” who inspired the French to repel English invaders. She was captured during the siege of Compiègne in 1430. Her subsequent trial for heresy was the documented fully. Of no other trial in the 15th Century do we have a record as accurate and detailed. It is considered one of the most significant and moving trials ever conducted in human history.

In their presence We did require the forenamed Jeanne to swear to speak the truth simply and absolutely on the questions to be addressed to her, without adding any restriction to her oath. We did three times thus admonish her. She answered: “Give me leave to speak. By my faith! you may well ask me such things as I will not tell you. Perhaps on many of the things you may ask me I shall not tell you truly, especially on those that touch on my revelations; for you may constrain me to say things that I have sworn not to say; then I should be perjured, which you ought not to wish.”

[Addressing the Bishop:] “I tell you, take good heed of what you say, you, who are my Judge ; you take a great responsibility in thus charging me. I should say that it is enough to have sworn twice.”

“Will you swear, simply and absolutely?”

“You may surely do without this. I have sworn enough already twice. All the clergy of Rouen and Paris cannot condemn me if it be not law. Of my coming into France I will speak the truth willingly; but I will not say all: the space of eight days would not suffice.”

“Take the advice of the Assessors, whether you should swear or not.”

“Of my coming I will willingly speak truth, but not of the rest; speak no more of it to me.”

“You render yourself liable to suspicion in not being willing to swear to speak the truth absolutely.”

“Speak to me no more of it. Pass on.”

“We again require you to swear, precisely and absolutely.”

“I will say willingly what I know, and yet not all. I am come in God’s name; I have nothing to do here; let me be sent back to God, whence I came.”

“Again we summon and require you to swear, under pain of going forth charged with that which is imputed to you.”

“Pass on.”

“A last time we require you to swear, and urgently admonish you to speak the truth on all that concerns your trial; you expose yourself to a great peril by such a refusal.”

“I am ready to speak truth on what I know touching the trial.”

And in this manner was she sworn.

Then, by Our order, she was questioned by Maître Jean Beaupère, a well-known Doctor, as follows:

“How long is it since you have had food and drink?”

[This fasting suggests an attempt by the questioner to prove that her visions had a more or less physical cause in a weak bodily state resulting from abstinence. Her usual food consisted of a little bread dipped in wine and water, and as she is reported to have had when at home but one meal a day.]


“Since yesterday afternoon.”

“How long is it since you heard your Voices?”

“I heard them yesterday and today.”

“At what hour yesterday did you hear them?”

“Yesterday I heard them three times,-once in the morning, once at Vespers, and again when the Ave Maria rang in the evening. I have even heard them oftener than that.”

“What were you doing yesterday morning when the Voice came to you?”

“I was asleep: the Voice awoke me.”

“Was it by touching you on the arm?”

“It awoke me without touching me.”

“Was it in your room?”

“Not so far as I know, but in the Castle.”

“Did you thank it? and did you go on your knees?”

“I did thank it. I was sitting on the bed; I joined my hands; I implored its help. The Voice said to me: ‘Answer boldly.’ I asked advice as to how I should answer, begging it to entreat for this the counsel of the Lord. The Voice said to me: ‘Answer boldly; God will help thee.’ Before I had prayed it to give me counsel, it said to me several words I could not readily understand. After I was awake, it said to me : ‘Answer boldly.’ ”

[Addressing herself to Us, the said Bishop:] “You say you are my judge. Take care what you are doing; for in truth I am sent by God, and you place yourself in great danger.”

Maître Beaupère, continuing, said: “Has this Voice sometimes varied in its counsel?”

“I have never found it give two contrary opinions. . . . This night again I heard it say: ‘Answer boldly.’”

“Has your Voice forbidden you to say everything on what you are asked?”

“I will not answer you about that. I have revelations touching the King that I will not tell you.”

“Has it forbidden you to tell those revelations?”

“I have not been advised about these things. Give me a delay of fifteen days, and I will answer you. If my Voice has forbidden me, what would you say about it? Believe me, it is not men who have forbidden me. To-day I will not answer: I do not know if I ought, or not; it has not been revealed to me. But as firmly as I believe in the Christian Faith and that God has redeemed us from the pains of Hell, that Voice had come to me from God and by His Command.”

“The Voice that you say appears to you, does it come directly from an Angel, or directly from God; or does it come from one of the Saints?”

“The Voice comes to me from God; and I do not tell you all I know about it: I have far greater fear of doing wrong in saying to you things that would displease it, than I have of answering you. As to this question, I beg you to grant me delay.”

“Is it displeasing to God to speak the truth?”

“My Voices have entrusted to me certain things to tell to the King, not to you. This very night they told me many things for the welfare of my King, which I would he might know at once, even if I should drink no wine until Easter: the King would be the more joyful at his dinner!”

“Can you not so deal with your Voices that they will convey this news to your King?”

“I know not if the Voice would obey, and if it be God’s Will. If it please God, He will know how to reveal it to the King, and I shall be well content.”

“Why does not this Voice speak any more to your King, as it did when you were in his presence?”

“I do not know if it be the Will of God. Without the grace of God I should not know how to do anything.”

“Has your counsel revealed to you that you will escape from prison?”

“I have nothing to tell you about that.”

“This night, did your Voice give you counsel and advice as to what you should answer?”

“If it did give me advice and counsel thereon, I did not understand.”

“The last two occasions on which you have heard this Voice, did a light come with it ?”

“The light comes at the same time as the Voice.”

“Besides the Voice, do you see anything?”

“I will not tell you all; I have not leave; my oath does not touch on that. My Voice is good and to be honored. I am not bound to answer you about it. I request that the points on which I do not now answer may be given me in writing.”

“The Voice from whom you ask counsel, has it a face and eyes?”

“You shall not know yet. There is a saying among children, that ‘Sometimes one is hanged for speaking the truth.’”

“Do you know if you are in the grace of God?”

“If I am not, may God place me there; if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest in all the world if I knew that I were not in the grace of God. But if I were in a state of sin, do you think the Voice would come to me? I would that everyone could hear the Voice as I hear it. I think I was about thirteen when it came to me for the first time.”

“In your youth, did you play in the fields with the other children?”

“I certainly went sometimes, I do not know at what age.”

“Do the Domremy people side with the Burgundians or with the opposite party?”

“I knew only one Burgundian at Domremy: I should have been quite willing for them to cut off his head – always had it pleased God.”

“The Maxey people, were they Burgundians, or opposed to the Burgundians?”

“They were Burgundians. As soon as I knew that my Voices were for the King of France, I loved the Burgundians no more. The Burgundians will have war unless they do what they ought; I know it by my Voice. The English were already in France when my Voices began to come to me. I do not remember being with the children of Domremy when they went to fight against those of Maxey for the French side : but I certainly saw the Domremy children who had fought with those of Maxey coming back many times, wounded and bleeding.”

Shrine of Joan of Arc in Notre-Dame de Reims

“Had you in your youth any intention of fighting the Burgundians?”

“I had a great will and desire that my King should have his own Kingdom.”

“When you had to come into France, did you wish to be a man?”

” I have answered this elsewhere.”

“Did you not take the animals to the fields?”

“I have already answered this also. When I was bigger and had come to years of discretion, I did not look after them generally; but I helped to take them to the meadows and to a Castle called the Island, for fear of the soldiers. I do not remember if I led them in my childhood or not.”

“What have you to say about a certain tree which is near to your village ?”

“Not far from Domremy there is a tree that they call ‘The Ladies’ Tree ‘-others call it ‘The Fairies’ Tree’; near by, there is a spring where people sick of the fever come to drink, as I have heard, and to seek water to restore their health. I have seen them myself come thus; but I do not know if they were healed. I have heard that the sick, once cured, come to this tree to walk about. It is a beautiful tree, a beech, from which comes the ‘beau may.’ It belongs to the Seigneur Pierre de Bourlement, Knight. I have sometimes been to play with the young girls, to make garlands for Our Lady of Domremy. Often I have heard the old folk – they are not of my lineage – say that the fairies haunt this tree. I have also heard one of my Godmothers, named Jeanne, wife of the Marie Aubery of Domremy, say that she has seen fairies there; whether it be true, I do not know. As for me, I never saw them that I know of. If I saw them anywhere else, I do not know. I have seen the young girls putting garlands on the branches of this tree, and I myself have sometimes put them there with my companions; sometimes we took these garlands away, sometimes we left them. Ever since I knew that it was necessary for me to come into France, I have given myself up as little as possible to these games and distractions. Since I was grown up, I do not remember to have danced there. I may have danced there formerly, with the other children. I have sung there more than danced. There is also a wood called the Oak-wood, which can be seen from my father’s door; it is not more than half-a-league away. I do not know, and have never heard if the fairies appear there; but my brother told me that it is said in the neighborhood: ‘Jeannette received her mission at the Fairies’ Tree.’ It is not the case; and I told him the contrary. When I came before the King, several people asked me if there were not in my country a wood, called the Oak-wood, because there were prophecies which said that from the neighborhood of this wood would come a maid who should do marvelous things. I put no faith in that.”

[Merlin had foretold the coming of a maiden out of an oak-wood from Lorraine; and a paper containing a prophecy to this effect had been sent, at the beginning of Joan’s career, to the English Commander, the Earl of Suffolk. There was also an old prophecy (quoted by Joan herself to Catherine Leroyer) that France, which had been “lost by a woman, should be saved by a Maid.” The conduct of Isabeau of Bavaria, wife of Charles VI, might certainly be said to have fulfilled the first half of this prophecy; and a tradition in the eastern counties that “deliverance should come from a maid of the Marches of Lorraine” must have directed many hopes to the mission of the Maiden from Domremy, though she herself does not seem to have known of the last prediction until sometime later. The oak-wood covers the hills above Domremy to this day.]

“Would you like to have a woman’s dress?”

“Give me one, and I will take it and begone; otherwise, no. I am content with what I have, since it pleases God that I wear it.”

This done, We stayed the interrogation, and put off the remainder to Tuesday next, on which day We have convoked all the Assessors, at the same place and hour.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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