Letters by Jeanne d'Arc
Table of Contents
Jeanne never learned to read or write, except her own signature. According to modern handwriting experts who studied the signatures on her letters, Jeanne was left-handed. She is thought to have been illiterate, obtaining no former schooling except what she learned from her mother, Isabelle. She often dictated her letters to her page Louis de Contes and her priest, Father Jean Pasquerel. Her dictated letters show tremendous passion, devotion and compassion, even for the enemies of France. When it came to signing her name, her signature evolved from a simple “X” to her first name, Jehanne.
Except for one elementary line drawing rendered while she was alive, these signatures are the closest tangible things we have of Jeanne d’Arc herself. They are believed to be the only surviving elements from her own hand. All three of these letters exist in their original forms and have been archived. Other direct personal relics have not survived through the ages.
Single black hair
The interesting point about it is that a single black hair had been pressed into the wax of the seal by a finger. The custom whereby the writer of a letter plucked a hair from his head and pressed it into his seal was frequent at the time; it was an additional guarantee of the authenticity of the document; so it may be taken as reasonably certain that the hair came from Jeanne’s head, witch gives additional confirmation to the tradition that she was ´black and swart` Sadly, the single black hair and the wax seal have since been lost, even though the letter itself is still intact in the archives.
1429 (22 March) -To the English
King of England, and you duke of Bedford, who call yourself regent of the kingdom of France; you, William Pole, count of Suffolk; John Talbot, and you Thomas Lord Scales, who call yourselves lieutenants of the said duke of Bedford, make satisfaction to the King of Heaven; surrender to the Maid who is sent here by God, the King of Heaven, the keys of all the good towns which you have taken and violated in France. She is come here by God’s will to reclaim the blood royal. She is very ready to make peace, if you are willing to grant her satisfaction by abandoning France and paying for what you have held. And you, archers, men-at-war, gentlemen and others, who are before the town of Orléans, go away into your own country, in God’s name. And if you do not do so, expect tidings from the maid, who will come to see you shortly, to your very great harm. King of England, if you do not do so, I am a chieftain of war, and in whatever place I meet your people in France, I shall make them leave, and in whether they will it or not. And if they will not obey, I will have them all put to death. I am sent here by God, the King of Heaven, body for body, to drive you out of all France. And if they wish to obey, I will show them mercy. And be not of another opinion, for you will not hold the kingdom of France from God, the King of Heaven, son of Saint Mary; for the king Charles, the true heir, will hold it, as is revealed to him by the Maid, he will enter Paris with a good company. If you do not believe these tidings from God and the Maid, in whatever place we find you, we shall strike therein and make so great a tumult that none so great has been in France for a thousand years, if you do not yield to right. Know well that the King of Heaven will send greater strength to the Maid and her good men-at-arms that you in all your assaults can overwhelm; and by the blows it will be seen who has greater favor with the God of Heaven. You, duke of Bedford, the maid prays and requests that you do not bring destruction upon yourself. If you will grant her right, you may still join her company, where the French will do the fairest deed ever done for Christianity. Answer if you wish to make peace in the town of Orléans; and if you do not, you will be reminded shortly to your very great harm.
Written this Tuesday of Holy Week
1429 (25 June) - To the townsmen of Tournai
Announcing her victories
+ Jesus + Mary +
Noble loyal Frenchmen of the town of Tournai, the Maiden informs you of the tidings from here: that in eight days she has driven the English out of all the places they held on the River Loire, by assault and otherwise, where there were many killed and captured; and she has defeated them in battle. And know that the Earl of Suffolk, La Pole his brother, Lord Talbot, Lord Scales, and my lord John Fastolf and many knights and commanders have been captured and the Earl of Suffolk’s brothern and Glasdalen are dead. Stand fast loyal Frenchmen, I pray you. And [crossed-out word] I pray and request you to be ready to come to the anointing of the noble king Charles at Rheims, where we will be soon. And come to us when you learn that we are approaching. I commend you to God; may God watch over you and grant you grace so that you can maintain the good cause of the Kingdom of France.
Written at Gien the 25th day of June.
1429 (July 4) - To the people of Troyes
+ Jesus + Mary +
Very dear and good friends – if you don’t mind – lords, bourgeois, and inhabitants of the town of Troyes, Jeanne the Virgin sends word and makes known to you, in the name of the King of Heaven, her rightful and sovereign Lord, in whose royal service she remains each day, that you should render true obedience and recognition to the noble king of France, who will be at Rheims and Paris quite soon, regardless of whomever may come against us; and [will be] in his towns of the holy kingdom with the help of King Jesus. Loyal Frenchmen, come before King Charles and let there be no failing; and do not worry about your lives nor your property if you do so; and if you do not do so I promise and guarantee upon your lives that we will enter, with the help of God, into all the towns which should be part of the holy kingdom, and make there a good durable peace, regardless of whomever may come against us.
I commend you to God; may God protect you, if it pleases Him.
Before the city of Troyes, written at St. Phal, Tuesday July fourth.
1429 (July 17) - To the Duke of Burgundy
+ Jesus Mary
Great and formidable Prince, Duke of Burgundy, Jeanne the Virgin requests of you, in the name of the King of Heaven, my rightful and sovereign Lord, that the King of France and yourself should make a good firm lasting peace. Fully pardon each other willingly, as faithful Christians should do; and if it should please you to make war, then go against the Saracens. Prince of Burgundy, I pray, beg, and request as humbly as I can that you wage war no longer in the holy kingdom of France, and order your people who are in any towns and fortresses of the holy kingdom to withdraw promptly and without delay. And as for the noble King of France, he is ready to make peace with you, saving his honor; if you’re not opposed. And I tell you, in the name of the King of Heaven, my rightful and sovereign Lord, for your well-being and your honor and [which I affirm] upon your lives, that you will never win a battle against the loyal French, and that all those who have been waging war in the holy kingdom of France have been fighting against King Jesus, King of Heaven and of all the world, my rightful and sovereign Lord. And I beg and request of you with clasped hands to not fight any battles nor wage war against us – neither yourself, your troops nor subjects; and know beyond a doubt that despite whatever number [duplicated phrase] of soldiers you bring against us they will never win. And there will be tremendous heartbreak from the great clash and from the blood that will be spilled of those who come against us. And it has been three weeks since I had written to you and sent proper letters via a herald [saying] that you should be at the anointing of the King, which this day, Sunday, the seventeenth day of this current month of July, is taking place in the city of Rheims – to which I have not received any reply. Nor have I ever heard any word from this herald since then.
I commend you to God and may He watch over you if it pleases Him, and I pray God that He shall establish a good peace.
Written in the aforementioned place of Rheims on the aforesaid seventeenth day of July.
1429 (August 5) - To the people of Rhiems
“My dear and good friends, the obedient and loyal Frenchmen of the city of Rheims, Jeanne the Virgin lets you know of her tidings, and asks and requests that you should have no concerns about the good cause she is carrying on for the Royal family. And I promise and guarantee you that I will never abandon you so long as I live. And it’s true that the King has made a truce with the Duke of Burgundy lasting fifteen days, by which he [Burgundy] must turn over the city of Paris peaceably at the end of fifteen days. However, do not be surprised if I don’t enter it [Paris] so quickly. I am not at all content with truces made like this, and I don’t know if I will uphold them; but if I do uphold them it will only be in order to protect the honor of the King; also, they [the Burgundians] will not cheat the Royal family, for I will maintain and keep together the King’s army so as to be ready at the end of these fifteen days if they don’t make peace. For this reason, my very dear and perfect friends, I pray that you do not worry yourselves so long as I live, but I ask that you keep good watch and defend the King’s city; and let me know if there are any traitors who wish to do you harm, and as soon as I can I will remove them; and let me know your news. I commend you to God, may He protect you.
Written this Friday the fifthn day of August near Provins, while encamped in the fields on the road to Paris.
1429 (9 November) - To the people of Riom
Dear and good friends, you well know how the town of Saint-Pierre-le-Moutier was taken by assault, and with God’s help I intend to clear out the other places which are against the King. But because so much gunpowder, projectiles, and other war materials had been expended before this town, and because myself and the lords who are at this town are so poorly supplied for laying siege to La Charité, where we will be going shortly, I pray you, upon whatever love you have for the well-being and honor of the King and also all the others here, that you will immediately send and donate for the siege gunpowder, saltpeter, sulfur, projectiles, arbalestes and other materials of war. And do well enough in this matter that the [siege] will not be prolonged for lack of gunpowder and other war materials, and that no one can say you were negligent or unwilling. Dear and good friends, may Our Lord protect you.
Written at Moulins the ninth day of November.
1430 (16 March,) - To the people of Reims
To my very dear and good friends, men of the Church, bourgeois, and other inhabitants of the town of Reims Very dear and well-beloved, whom I greatly desire to see: I Jeanne the Virgin have received your letters mentioning that you fear facing a siege. Know then that you will not, if I can meet them soon. And if it should so happen that I do not intercept them and they come against you, then shut your gates, for I will be with you shortly. And if they are there I will make them put on their spurs in such haste that they won’t be able to do so; and their time will be short, for this will be soon. I won’t write you anything else for the present, except that you should always be obedient and loyal. I pray to God to hold you in His keeping.
Written at Sully the 16th day of March. I would send you some further news which would make you quite happy, but I fear that the letters would be captured on the road, and that the news would be seen.
1430 (23 March) - To The Hussites
The text below is an English translation of a letter sent to the Hussites on March 23, 1430. The letter purports to be from Jeanne d’Arc but it does not bear her signature but instead that of Father Pasquerel. The original letter was also written in Latin and does not sound much like Jeanne’s usual letters so it is doubtful that she herself composed the letter. It is much likelier that Pasquerel wrote that letter and obtained Jeanne’s cursory approval to send it.
For some time now, rumor and public information have made it clear to me, Jeanne the Virgin, that from true Christians you have become heretics and, practically on a level with the Saracens, you have destroyed true faith and worship, and taken up a disgraceful and criminal superstition and wishing to protect and propagate it, there is not a single disgrace nor act of barbarism which you do not dare. You ruin the sacraments of the Church, you mutilate the articles of the Faith, you destroy churches, you break and burn statues which were created as memorial monuments, you massacre Christians unless they adopt your beliefs.
What is this frenzy? What rage or madness drives you? This faith, which Almighty God, which the Son, which the Holy Spirit have revealed, established, given sway and glorified a thousandfold through miracles is the faith which you persecute, which you wish to overturn and obliterate. You yourselves are blind, but not because you’re among those who lack eyes or the ability to see. Do you think that you will not be punished for this? Or do you not realize that God will block your criminal efforts? Do you think He will allow you to remain in darkness and error? The more you give yourselves over to criminal sacrilege, the more He will ready great punishment and torment for you.
As for myself, I tell you frankly, if I wasn’t busy with these English wars I would have come to see you a long time ago. But if I do not hear that you have reformed yourselves, I might leave the English behind and go against you, so that by the sword, if I cannot otherwise, I may eliminate your false and vile superstition, and take away either your heresy or your life. But if you choose instead to return to the Catholic faith and the original source of Light, then send me your ambassadors and I will tell them what you need to do. If you do not wish to do so and persist in resisting the spur, keep in mind what damages and crimes you have committed and await me, who will deal with you comparably with the aid of divine and human force.
Given at Sully, the 23d of March.
to the heretics of Bohemia.
1416 - The future executioner of Jeanne d'Arc - Geoffroy Thérage
Document signed by Guillaume Leprevost, deputy of the bailli of Caux, Neufchâtel, 20 May 1416, addressed to [Gille de Lépée,] vicomte de Gournay, A pay order for the future executioner of Jeanne d’Arc, Geoffroy Thérage, who is to be paid 72 sols and six deniers for dragging and hanging one Colin Rastel ‘pour ses demerites’, in French, on vellum.
Thérage’s name is known from eight receipts preserved in the BnF, including one of 25 March 1432 for executing 104 French soldiers who had attempted to capture the castle of Rouen – a feat for which he earned 111 livres and 13 sols.
Thérage had been the Rouen executioner for more than 25 years when he was charged with the burning of Jeanne d’Arc in the Vieux-Marché of Rouen on 30 May 1431, and with casting her remains into the Seine thereafter: he is reported to have had some difficulty in tying her to the pillar where she was to be burned, on account of its unusual height. Witnesses at the saint’s posthumous rehabilitation testified to Thérage’s sense of remorse at the manner of Jeanne’s death, and reported that he was particularly struck at the fact that her heart initially remained intact despite the flames.
‘Au viconte de gournay, ou a son lieuten[ant] salut. Nous avons tauxe A Gieffroy t[er]rache bourrel du bailliage de rouen pour son salaire davoir traine et pendu au gibet du neufchastel feu colin rastel qui par vous a este a ce condempne po[ur] ses demerites la som[m]e de lxxii s, vi dt …’
Cite Sources: W. S. Scott: Jeanne d’Arc – Her Life, Her Death, and the Myth.