Chapter from: The Story of Rouen, by Sir Theodore Andrea Cook, Illustrated by Helen M. James and Jane E. Cook.
Rouen – Jeanne d’Arc and the English Occupation
“Je sçay bien que les Angloys me feront mourir, croyant qu’ après ma mort ils gagneront le royaume de France; mais quand même ils seraient cent mille godons de plus qu’ils ne sont présentement, ils n’auraient pas ce royaume.”
Of the many interesting processions which must have taken place in the fifteenth century on the occasion of the great ceremony of the Fierte St. Romain, surely few can have been more impressive than that in which the Duke of Bedford, in his capacity as Canon of the Cathedral, walked among the ecclesiastics towards the little chapel in the Place de la Haute Vieille Tour where the freedom of the prisoner was declared before the assembled people. For in him all might see the outward and visible proof of an English occupation in its most intimate connection with the ancient traditions begun under his ancestors the Dukes of Normandy. But his presence is not the only sign that can be clearly traced of the interest which the English inevitably felt in the most extraordinary privilege of their new possession. As usual on every occasion when a new set of officials came in touch with this astonishing and deeply-rooted custom, their contact is marked by fresh expressions of dissent. So, just as Philip-Augustus had to uphold, against his own officials, the custom which every prince before him had sanctioned, in exactly the same way we find Henry V. affirming that the Privilege of St. Romain was of right to be exercised by the canons of the Cathedral according to their ancient precedents. And it is instructive that though his verdict was first pronounced in a case by which a native prisoner benefited, it was only in the next year, and again on some other occasions, that an Englishman was chosen to bear the holy shrine and win pardon for his sins. So strangely, indeed, and so strongly was the privilege exercised during these years of foreign dominion, that I cannot avoid the reflection—humiliating to Rouen as it is—that an attempt at least might have been made to exercise it in the case of the most famous prisoner ever in the donjons of the city, of the woman who would have been most worthy of those upon the roll of mercy to benefit by the protection of the Church. But if any attempt was made in favour of Jeanne d’Arc, it has not been recorded, and this is one of the strongest reasons for my regret that, full as they are, these records of the Privilege are often only too obviously imperfect.
The case in which objection was first raised was very naturally the first which occurred after the English flag had been unfurled above the city. In great surprise at the confidence shown by the good canons, the new bailli, Gauthier de Beauchamp, demanded an enquiry which was promptly held in his presence before the Cardinal Bishop of Winchester. On learning of the dispute Henry V. at once wrote to declare his reverence for the privilege established “En l’onneur et révérence du dict glorieux confesseur monsieur sainct Rommaing”; so Jehan Anquetil was duly delivered to mercy, after a crime to which modern civilisation is very rightly and unswervingly severe, and his accomplice was claimed by the Chapterhouse and delivered also. I confess it is beyond my powers to suggest the reason for so solemn a prerogative having been exercised by the highest dignitaries of the city’s Cathedral in favour of a prisoner convicted of rape. If a privilege that can only have resisted official competition for so long because it was based on deeply-rooted popular support, could survive a choice of this kind, it is one of the strongest proofs of the changes in society and in public opinion which have fortunately appeared in civilised communities since the fifteenth century.
In 1420 a still more interesting case arose, which is the first that suggests to my mind the possibility of the canons’ choice being occasionally influenced by those in authority, and if by them, then it is only too probable that other suggestions (not strictly religious in their nature) may have been made in other years when “equity,” according to our notions, does not explain their triumph over “law.” For in this year the manuscript records, “Pierre Lamequin, de la paroisse de Vize, en Angleterre, diocèse de Salisbéry;” an entry which inevitably suggests to English ears that Peter Lambkin of Devizes was the lucky prisoner. He killed a merchant at an outlying village, with a French friend to help him. Other instances occur in which the foreign army profited by the native privilege. In 1429 the entry reads: “Thomas Grandon, anglais, de la paroisse de Hanniquem, diocèse d’York,” who killed two Scotchmen at Chambroix. In 1434 we find: “Guillaume Banc, anglais, de la paroisse de Saint-Bin, diocèse de Carlisle,” who slew one Saunders in a brawl, helped by a friend named William Peters. In 1437, “Jehan Hotot, laïque, de la paroisse de Sainte-Marie de Helnyngan, diocèse de Norfolk,” who killed a pair of Englishmen in the country. In 1438, “Jennequin Benc ou Bent, anglais, de la paroisse de Bosc-Châtel, diocèse d’Héréford, dans le pays de Galles,” who killed an Englishman. In 1439, “Jehan Helys, anglais, de la paroisse de Hest-Monceaulz, diocèse de Cantorbéry,” who had stolen goods in Rouen, in company with one John Johnson and Thomas “Kneet.” In 1447, “Jean Houcton, anglais, de la paroisse de Langthon, en Clindal, diocèse de Dublin,” who was charged with stealing a horse, alleging, in defence, that foraging was a common privilege of soldiers, and was subsequently convicted of robbing an innkeeper near the bridge of a silver cup six ounces in weight. Now that these names are brought to the knowledge of English antiquaries with more science and leisure at their disposal than are mine, I await with interest to hear whether any traces of these freebooters exist in the parish records of their native towns.
But, after all, the privilege was not always exercised in one direction. Occasionally the feelings of the conquered population had evidently to be consulted, as in 1425, when Geoffroy Cordebœuf was chosen to bear the shrine, who had murdered an Englishman at Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer. There was a lengthy discussion over this, during which it is recorded that the year before, the disputing canons in their ecclesiastical costume had gone to the tavern of the Lion d’Or to drink with Lieutenant Poolin, their opponent, in flat disobedience to the Cathedral statute of 1361. It came out in the evidence presented that the canons were actually allowed to keep the keys of the prisons during Ascension Day and the three Rogation Days before it, and that they questioned the prisoners alone, without the jailers being present. In 1448 the same cause evidently suggested the liberation of no less than eighteen prisoners at once, who had banded together in the village of St. Trinité-de-Tankerville, and killed four Englishmen. The soldiers thoroughly deserved their fate, for they had brutally ill-treated two women, and killed one of their husbands, before the villagers took vengeance into their own hands.
There is but space to notice very briefly the other more interesting cases in this period. In 1428 a woman, named Estiennote Présart, who had stolen a silver cup from a priest, was pardoned. In 1441 some workmen on the Palace of the English King near “Mal s’y Frotte,” who had thrown some troublesome brawlers into the Seine, bore the shrine. The next year the privilege was enjoyed by a husband who had several times discovered his wife’s infidelity with a neighbouring knight, and had killed her on finding that she also extended her favours to a priest. This is one of the most intelligible instances of all; and in 1454 its circumstances are almost exactly repeated in the case of Michel Manant, who also slew his unfaithful wife. Indeed, a French jury even of to-day is never very hard upon the “crime passionel,” with which that nation has always had so much sympathy. A similar case of the “equity” I have sometimes fancied I could trace occurs in 1446, when Nicolas Hébert stole four cups of silver, two belts studded with silver, twelve silver and ten gold spoons, having been unable to get any wages paid him after nine years of service with an advocate of Falaise. He was condemned to death and pardoned by the canons.
I have already mentioned the famous Talbot in connection with the Fierte. He appears again in its records (as the Comte de Sursbérik) in 1444 with a refusal to allow the canons to visit the prisons of the castle, because they contained Armagnacs and other treasonable enemies to the King’s Majesty. But the usual processions and popular enthusiasm with which the canons replied soon made him change his mind, and the prisoners were duly visited both in “La Grosse Tour” or donjon, and in every other jail. His refusal had been particularly ill-advised, because in May of 1430 the canons had appealed from an obstinate jailer to the Duke of Bedford, and had obtained his permission to visit the donjon according to their ancient custom. That very winter the castle of Philip Augustus in the Place Bouvreuil was to hold its most famous prisoner. For when Jeanne d’Arc was brought to Rouen in December 1430, the prison of the Baillage (called “les prisons ou la geôle du roi”), whose archways you may still see near the stairway of the Rue du Baillage, had been destroyed by fire in 1425; and it is particularly mentioned that she was not placed either in the cells of the Hôtel de Ville, where I have already recorded that an English jailer had been placed, or in the “Ecclesiastical Prisons” of the Rue St. Romain near the Cathedral, although her whole trial was conducted by ecclesiastics, but in the “Château de Rouen,” where (in Talbot’s words) “prisoners of war and treasonable felons” were especially guarded.
At the siege of Compiègne, on May 24, 1430, Jeanne d’Arc had been taken prisoner by one of the men of John of Luxemburg, and from the English camp at Margny she was sent further off to the Château of Beaulieu. Within two days the Vicar-General of the Inquisition, and the University of Paris, had demanded that she should be delivered over to the “Justice of the Church.” And behind both was a power stronger than either, the hatred of the English. They soon found a ready instrument in Pierre Cauchon, who had been made Bishop of Beauvais by the Duke of207 Burgundy, was chased out of it by the party of Charles VII., and now expected to get the Archbishopric of Rouen by the help of the English. It was he who bore the King of England’s request to John of Luxemburg that he would give up Jeanne d’Arc for ten thousand pieces of gold to the Church to be judged. Neither Charles VII. nor any French ecclesiastic (save the Archbishop of Reims) made any movement, so she was surrendered at the price of an army. After being taken to Beaurevoir, to Arras, and to Crotoy, she was moved by way of St. Valery, Eu, and Dieppe to Rouen. She entered the town by the valley of Bihorel, past the spot where the Gare du Havre now stands, and by way of the Rue Verte was led to the castle of Philip Augustus and placed in an iron cage, so that the smirched authority of English rule might be re-established by proving her, in the formal processes of law, a witch.
Of the castle itself the only tower that now stands still bears her name. Almost the last scene of her imprisonment took place within the walls that you may visit here, though originally she was not placed in this donjon itself. For the original castle, built by Philip Augustus in 1205 to consolidate his rule over John Lackland’s fresh-won province, had consisted of an almost circular building, with six towers, a demi-tower, and this donjon which was built upon two thick curtain-walls and entirely interrupted the guards’ “chemin de ronde,” on to which no door opened from its massive circular walls. The Castle of Arques (1038), and of Château Guillard (1195), are indeed older than this of Rouen, but the ruins of their donjon-keeps do not show anything like the character of the Tour Jeanne d’Arc, which is itself earlier in date than either Coucy (1228) or Pierrefonds (1390). More than this, a document of 1202 preserves the most interesting fact that this tower was planned after the dimensions and shape of the famous Tour du Louvre, of which Paris now possesses only a circle of white marble to mark the site of the royal tower that once stood where the south-west corner of the Louvre courtyard is now.
The walls of Rouen’s donjon are 4 metres 20 thick, 46 metres in circumference at the base, and 30 metres high. These last two measurements show a difference of only two metres from those of the vanished Tour du Louvre. Before this chapter closes I shall be able to explain how it is that you are able to see in Rouen the most perfect presentment of a thirteenth-century donjon in France, with two-thirds of the present building in its original masonry. Within it took place most of the stirring events of history after a change in dynasty had left the castle of the Norman dukes to develop gradually into a commercial instead of a royal or military centre. One of these, the arrest of Charles le Mauvais, and the execution of his four friends by King Jean le Bon, I have spoken of in earlier chapters. This, too, was the fortress that held out longest for the King when the Révolte de la Harelle was at its height in 1382.
Before its walls Sir Gilbert Talbot and Sir William Hanington sat down to besiege Guy le Bouteiller, who as captain of the garrison had it in his especial charge. Within it the eighty hostages for the ransom of the city, and the thirty burgesses especially punished with high fines, were imprisoned when King Henry V. took the town. It was still held by the English garrison when Jeanne d’Arc was brought to Rouen as a prisoner. It is the last visible relic of the royal homes of Rouen, for every other one has disappeared, from the first keep of Rollo to the Haute et Basse Vieilles Tours of his descendants, to the Palace of Philip Augustus and of the English kings, even to the fortresses of St. Catherine’s Hill and of the barbacan beside the bridge.
Once his prisoner was safe within the castle, the Bishop of Beauvais proceeded to “pack his jury,” and choose his companions for the trial. His right hand man was Jean d’Estivet (or “Benedicite”). From Paris arrived Jean Beaupère, who took Gerson’s place as Chancellor, with Jacques de Touraine, Nicole Midi, and Thomas de Courcelles, all brilliant and authoritative theologians. From Normandy itself came the Prior of Longueville, the Abbé of Jumièges, Gilles, Abbé of Fécamp and councillor to the English King, Nicolas Loyseleur, a canon of Rouen, and others. One alone of those invited, Nicolas de Houppeville, objected to serving, because his direct superior, the Archbishop of Reims, had already disapproved. He was only just saved from being murdered. No one else dared to differ with Pierre Cauchon, and several affirmed later on that they had voted in fear of their lives. Both the clerk of the court, Manchon, and Massieu, the doorkeeper, found their sympathies too perilous to express. This was because, though scarcely an Englishman was actually a member of the Court, the English kept the whole proceeding directly under their thumb, and to every appeal the same answer was returned—”The King (of England) has ordered it.” The King’s two uncles, of Bedford and of Winchester, watched that the orders were carried out; and the price of every one is still recorded in the exact account-books of the time. The English never let her leave their castle till the end, so that any slight “judicial error” might always be corrected if need were.
They kept her first in an iron cage, then in one of the castle towers, with irons upon her feet, chained to a log of wood, and guarded night and day by four common soldiers. On the 9th of January 1431 the Bishop of Beauvais summoned in Rouen the council chosen for the trial, and appointed its officials. On the 20th, Jeanne, being summoned to make her appearance before the court at eight next morning, begged that her judges might be more fairly chosen, and that she might hear Mass. She was refused both, and appeared on the 21st, in the chapel of the castle. Asked to answer truly upon oath all the questions put to her, Jeanne replied—”I do not know on what points you wish to question me. You might perhaps ask me things which I will not tell you.” After this she told how she was called “Jeannette” at home, and Jeanne “in France,” and knew no surname; how she was baptised and born at Domrémy, of Jacques d’Arc and his wife Isabel about nineteen years ago; she refused to promise not to escape if she could; and would only recite the Lord’s Prayer in confession to a priest. After Cauchon had begun, the next day’s questioning was more gently taken by Jean Beaupère, to whom she told of her care of the house at home, and of her skill in needlework, “as good as any in Rouen.” The inquirers then went on to reveal the story of her “voices,” and she firmly repeated her refusal to bind herself by a general oath as to every answer, saying that she had more fear of God and of her “voices,” than of her conduct in that trial. Asked whether she was sure of the favour of God (a double-edged question at which some even of her judges murmured) she passed the danger by saying, “If I am not, may God help me to it; and if I am, may God preserve me in it.”
Baffled at this point by the innocent faith of this country girl, the university professor changed the attack, and approached questions of a more political importance, cleverly interwoven with the first appearance of her “voices” when she was a girl of thirteen at Domrémy. But neither of treasonable partisanship nor of local superstitions could he convict her. She gave the names of her heavenly councillors as St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and St. Michael, the same saint whose fortress held out inviolable against every English attack among the quicksands and the rushing tides of the north coast. Unable to find anything heretic or infidel in her replies on religious subjects, and only getting candid common sense in return for their suspicions, her judges turned to the idea of satanic inspiration and support. But it proved equally useless. Her patriotism shone clear above every trivial element in her long examination.
The last public hearing of her evidence before all her judges was on the 3rd of March. The result of the inquiry was then collected to form the basis of a fresh interrogation in her prison, which was conducted on the 10th by Jean de la Fontaine for a whole week. At the end of it Jean Lemaître himself arrived by order of the Chief Inquisitor. Nothing was added to the information already gathered, and nothing shook the firmness of the girl’s replies. For only explanation she repeated, “It pleased God to do this by means of a simple maid, in order to rebuff the enemies of the King.” Throughout, her negligence of trifles, her insistence upon the important points, her swift common sense, were the more conspicuous, because her judges persisted in reading their own meaning into all she answered to their subtle questions. Did they ask her, for instance, “Does God hate the English?” she would reply, “I know nothing of the hatred or the love of God for Englishmen, but this I know, that they will soon be all thrust out of France, save those of them who leave their bodies here.”
On the much-disputed question of her masculine attire, she said she would wear woman’s dress only when she heard Mass, and woman’s clothing at her execution, if it came to that. The judges were perfectly well aware of her proved maidenhood, and of the real reason for her dress, but they persisted—without result—in trying to trap her into dangerous replies. She was far too direct and simple to be caught, just because she saw no “heresy” in an act of simple prudence.
Her judges, strong and clever men as most of them were, themselves were tired out by the closeness and the duration of the trial. Yet this young girl, fasting even from her prison-fare, was resolute enough to keep her head, and reply steadily through it all. But she refused to be troubled with unnecessary or merely reiterated questions, and claimed her right to feel as tired as were her judges when she felt it necessary. She was in fact perfectly natural and frank throughout, even when the open expression of her thoughts was hardly politic for one in her position. Without the help of counsel, or of any to assist her, French or English, layman or ecclesiastic, she was even deprived of the friendly countenance or signs of anyone whose sympathy overcame for the moment his very justifiable fear of her persecutors. Even the consolations of her religion were denied her. The only semblance of advice she got was in the base and hypocritical attempts of a scoundrelly canon of Rouen Cathedral to teach her certain answers which might afterwards be used against her by her accusers. It is a shameful thing to have to record that the Earl of Warwick helped the Bishop of Beauvais to complete this villainy, and took clerks with him to listen at the door, but they refused to lend themselves to such dishonourable methods.
Early in the week of Palm Sunday she was formally summoned to the great hall of the castle to hear the seventy articles of the Act of Accusation against her. The web of calumny that had been spun out of her replies then first must have been apparent to her, and though silent for the most part, she quickly contradicted some statements, and pointed out the fallacy of others. Reproached for her unwomanly behaviour, she replied at once, “As for woman’s work, there are plenty of other women who can do that”; and asserted that before fighting at all, she had made every effort to obtain her wishes peacefully. She even recited the short prayer it was her custom to make when she needed the counsel of her heavenly visitors.
After this the seventy articles were reduced to twelve, which resumed the whole accusation, and became the pivot of the prosecution. They were never communicated at all to the prisoner. They were based on her visions, her wearing of a man’s dress, her attitude towards the Church, which meant, in fact, her obedience to Poitiers and to the Archbishop of Reims, instead of to Pierre Cauchon, his subordinate.
On Thursday the 6th of April Érard Émengard held a meeting in the chapel of the Archbishop’s Palace at Rouen to deliberate over the twelve articles. You may still see the place where this went on. As you enter the gateway of the Screen to the Portail des Libraires from the Rue St. Romain, on the left of the forecourt before the great carved door, you will see an old building which in the August of 1897 was being repaired and reconstructed to provide a school for the children of the Cathedral choir. This house forms itself the western side of a courtyard into which a door has no doubt by this time (December 1898) been opened from the Rue St. Romain, between the large turret that projects on the left of the old screened entrance in the street and the next octagonal turret with a sharply pointed roof that is built on the wall of the Cathedral buildings. By whatever entrance practicable, you must go into this courtyard and see the private chapel of the Archbishop, the old “Chapelle des Ordres” which touches the north wall of the Cathedral choir. Within this chapel the council was held, that by its approval of the Twelve Articles of Accusation pronounced the death-warrant of Jeanne d’Arc.
In the midst of all these machinations the prisoner herself fell ill. Doctors were hurried to her cell to save her for the vengeance of her judges, and the “processes of law” were pushed forward more hastily than ever. On the 2nd of May she was once more confronted with the accusations made against her, in a long speech by the Archdeacon. She would add nothing to what had been already said. “Even if I saw the flames before me I should say what I have already told you, and do what I have done;” and the clerk writes “Superba Responsio” opposite the entry.
Determined to leave no means untried to overcome this resistance, her judges summoned her on Wednesday the 9th of May into the “Grosse Tour du château de Rouen,” the donjon which you can visit in the Rouen of to-day, by turning to the left as you go northward up the Rue Bouvreuil. The room in which Jeanne stood to answer her accusers has been carefully restored, but it is obscured by the huge plaster cast of a statue by Mercié. The vaulting is the original work intact, and on the keystone is carved the oldest existing shield of the arms of France, the six truncated Fleurs de Lys of Philip Augustus, which are reproduced more clearly on the huge and lofty cowl above the chimney. Beneath the floor there is still the old well that supplied the garrison, a little to the left of the entrance, and rather further round is the small spiral staircase leading to the upper rooms, which are not so large.
She was brought here because there was no room in her former prison for the instruments of torture, and the executioners’ gear with which her courage was finally to be tested. Pierre Cauchon directed the proceedings, with Lemaître and nine others, of whom three were members of the Chapterhouse of Rouen, and one was Massieu the clerk. Besides these, the ushers and the guard of English soldiers lined the walls. Here it is recorded how she was threatened with torture “if she did not avow the truth,” and shown the instruments and the officials who were ready to administer it. I will not attempt to translate the few words Jeanne d’Arc ever uttered whose echoes we may still imagine beneath the very roof that heard them. There is hardly a single other place of which the same thing can be said.
In answer to the first threatening question the manuscript gives her reply as follows:—
“Vraiement, se vous me deviez faire détraire les membres et faire partir l’âme hors du corps, si ne vous diray-je autre chose; et se aucune chose vous en disoye-je, après si diroye-je tousjours que vous le me auriés fait dire par force.
“Item, dit que, à la Sainte-Croix, oult le confort de Saint Gabriel: ‘Et cröiez que ce fust sainct Gabriel;’ et l’a sceu par les voix que c’estoit Saint Gabriel.
“Item, dit qu’elle (a) demandé conseil à ses voix s’elle se submectroit à l’Église, pour ce que les gens d’église la pressoient fort de se submectre à l’Eglise, et ils lui ont dit que s’elle veult que nostre Seigneur luy aide, qu’elle s’actende à luy de tous ses fais.
“Item, dit qu’elle sçait bien que nostre Seigneur a esté toujours maistre de ses fais, et que l’ennemy n’avait oncques eu puissance sur ses faits.
“Item, dit qu’elle a demandé à ses voix s’elle sera arse, et que les dictes voix luy ont répondu que elle se actende à nostre sire, et il luy aidera.
“Item, du signe de la couronne qu’elle dit avoir esté baillé à l’arcevesque de Reims, interoguée s’elle s’en veult rapporter à luy, respond; ‘Faictes le y venir, et que je l’oe parler, et puis je vous respondray; ne il ne oseroit dire le contraire de ce que je vous en ay dit.'”
In 1455 the “Procès de réhabilitation” recorded the testimony of Mauger Separmentier, the executioner, who saw her during this scene in the donjon, whither he had been summoned, with his assistant, to administer the torture, if necessary. “She showed great prudence in her replies,” he affirmed, “so that those who heard were astonished; and this deponent retired with his assistant without touching her” (see Quicherat, “Procès,” vols. i., ii., iii.). It is evident that if she had given them the least excuse, by any mistake in her replies, her judges would not have allowed the executioner to depart idle.
There are very few other places to which I can point you as witnesses of her tragedy. But, besides that chapel you have already visited, there is in the same district, between the north side of the Cathedral and the Rue de la Chaine, a whole labyrinth of twisting streets wherein lived the ecclesiastics who plotted her death.
In the Rue St. Nicolas (which turns eastward after the Cathedral Parvis from the Rue des Carmes) there is a small open square just opposite the opening of the Rue Croix de Fer; within the walls of a house there are still preserved a few ruined stones of the Church of St. Nicolas le Paincteur, at the end of a courtyard. If you go round into the Place des Carmes, it is still possible to trace (at Nos. 27 and 31) some old vaults beneath the soil, by the ventilation holes just above the pavement. Close to this Church of St. Nicolas was the house of Jean Rubé, Canon of Rouen, with whom lodged Pierre Cauchon when he came to preside over the trial. It was there that, with Nicolas Loyseleur and others, those sinister discussions went on between every public examination of the prisoner. And in the house that rose above those vaults lived Loyseleur himself. The present façade has been so altered since 1818 that only in the interior courtyard (if M. Laurent, Mayor of Rouen in 1897, and M. Sarrasin, the historian of Jeanne d’Arc, are kind enough to allow it) can you realise the age of the building. The thick walls and deep-set windows leave no doubt of the age of their construction. The vaults beneath are still more extraordinary relics of antiquity, with their massive round arches and double sets of substructures. The house itself was most probably given to the Cathedral in those days by the Duke of Bedford, who had already done much in the same direction; and it was therefore very appropriately allotted as a lodging to that one of the canons who was helping the English most effectually in their iniquitous task.
After the canons left the main block of Cathedral-buildings to go into lodgings in this quarter so near at hand, they still kept their oven, their granary, and their common cellar in the Cour d’Albane. This quiet little quadrangle is one of the prettiest nooks of old Rouen, and I am fortunate enough to be able to show in the drawing on p. 218 how well worth while it is to find the entrance to it just north of the Tour St. Romain in the angle of the Rue des Quatre Vents. It was probably first built for cloisters and a cemetery, and afterwards used merely as a “deambulatorium.” But the bakery of the chapterhouse, which remained here for so long, was always renowned for the purity and goodness of its bread, and loaves from it were often presented to distinguished visitors on occasions when the civic authorities were obliged either to rise to jewellery or to descend to nuts. The “Salle Capitulaire,” now being restored from M. Sauvageot’s designs, used also to open on the cloister, and in it the canons transacted their temporal and spiritual business, including their famous choice for the Fierte St. Romain, and their trials of ecclesiastical prisoners. Crimes of “outsiders” committed within the Cathedral limits were tried by a special tribunal in the Porter’s Lodge, and he guarded the prisoners in the dungeon beneath the Tour St. Romain. Another more interesting duty of the same official was to care, during daytime, for the dogs who were loosed in the Cathedral at night to keep out sacrilegious robbers, a custom which lasted down to 1760. But the Cour d’Albane took its name from the founder of that school for choir-boys with which it is most intimately associated now. Pierre de Colmieu, the Archbishop from 1236 to 1245, was also Cardinal d’Albano, and from him was named the institution he endowed to educate three priests, three deacons, and four subdeacons. Paid singers were unknown at that time; the services were long and pompous, and it took some time to learn them, so these men, all over twenty-one, were chosen as much for their ability to read and sing as for their good conduct. They benefited again in 1401 by the bequests of Jacques Cavé, who is buried beneath the Tour de Beurre. There were seven of these singers in 1440, and it was one of Jeanne d’Arc’s judges, Gilles Deschamps, who left money to provide the little choir-boys with the red caps they wear to this day to keep their little shaved heads from the cold. In 1459 painters and sculptors were allowed to exhibit some of their work in this beautiful courtyard, “if it was decent”; and every year the canons and the clerks lit in this open space the “Feu de la St. Jean,” and even planted their pious Maypole.
But the memories of this quarter are not exhausted yet. Turn down into the Rue St. Romain. From No. 8 to No. 14 are the old canons’ lodgings, where more of Jeanne’s judges lived, and especially Canon Guillaume le Désert, who survived the trial longer than any of his companions. Near No. 28 is the Rue des Chanoines. Close by, at the “Écu de France,” lived Jehan Salvart, the architect who built the palace for Henry V. near Mal s’y Frotte. Within his house a workman saw, it is recorded, the iron cage made by Étienne Castille, in which Jeanne was chained by hands and feet and neck. At the tavern called “Maison de Pierre” Manchon, the clerk of the court, used to take his wine of an afternoon. On the side next the Cathedral were the ecclesiastical prisons, whose deepest dungeon was beneath the Tour St. Romain. Just opposite the screen of the Portail des Libraires is No. 74, a strange old house, carved with two bishops on the beams of the first floor, and three more upon the brackets above. The door may well be original, and the whole house is as old as the fifteenth century. On the other side again, and just in face of the opening of the Rue Croix de Fer, is the “Maison Jeanne d’Arc,” which has no right to that name beyond the possibility of her having seen it. For this strange remnant of Gothic woodwork that juts out above the pavement is no doubt contemporaneous with the trial that we are following out now. In August 1897 the Municipal Council announced its determination to pull it down. The Journal de Rouen, which deserves well of every honest lover of antiquity, at once published a letter from M. Paul Dubosc, in which that zealous writer pointed out the unnecessary vandalism of the proposal; Englishmen in Rouen at the time were not afraid to add their protests even in an alien tongue; when I left it last year it had, at least, been standing long enough for Miss James to draw it (see p. 206) on the left hand side of an illustration that gives a very good idea of the Rouen of the fifteenth century. The little Renaissance doorway in the distance, at the angle of the Rue des Quatre Vents, is an entrance to the Cour des Comptes, which at the same date had just been freed from ruined encumbrances, and its lovely courtyard opened to the Rue des Carmes on the other side.
This same old house was a canon’s residence, and the property of the Chapter of the Cathedral before the Revolution. Some furniture-dealers bought it at the general sale of ecclesiastical effects. In 1893 it was sold to the State for 36,000 francs by Mr Dumont, to whom the Civil Tribunal had awarded it. The loss to the Rue St. Romain would be a serious one, if the house were finally pulled down. A fatal passion for “alignement” has Haussmannised Rouen quite enough already, and to strip the Cathedral bare of all appendages would be to forget the main object of mediæval architecture in France. I have pointed out elsewhere that it was owing to a more settled state of society that the English Cathedral rose from the turf of a broad quiet close, as at Salisbury. In France the houses of the Cathedral towns crowded close round the walls that were their temporal safety as well as their spiritual salvation. The Parvis of Notre Dame is a creation of modern Paris. Many a church in Provence still shows by the machicolations and loopholes on its walls and towers that it could have played the fortress with a good grace whenever necessary. And it was no doubt because a French cathedral rose above the clustered houses round its base that its lines of architecture spring so boldly to the sky, and that its detailed carving within easy vision was so close and excellent.
This old Rue St. Romain may have received its name from the Hôtel St. Romain mentioned in it in 1466. In any case the name of the city’s patron saint could hardly have been given to a more characteristic thoroughfare. By 1423 it seems to have been called the Rue Féronnerie, which is interesting, because the workers in metal (whose trade is preserved in their old quarter of the Rue Dinanderie) were not natives of Rouen, but all came from Lorraine, and especially from Urville, a town within a few leagues of Domrémy. So that Jean Moreau, a maker of copper flagons in the Rue Écuyère, was especially chosen by Pierre Cauchon to go to his native place and make inquiries as to the truth of Jeanne d’Arc’s statement about her birth and upbringing.
The next place in Rouen that actually saw Jeanne herself was the open space round the rising nave of St. Ouen, then called the Cemetery, where we have already watched the farcical royalty of the Révolte de la Harelle (p. 152). In thus tracing her footsteps, where we may still find them, I shall be showing you what little is left of the Rouen of the English occupation. Few of the towers and spires that rise now above the roofs of Rouen were standing then. “Rouvel” indeed was in the Town-Belfry, but uttered never a sound in his captivity. Of the Cathedral the Tour de Beurre did not exist, the Tour St. Romain was scarce two-thirds its present height, the western façade was far simpler and smaller. St. Maclou was not completed when Jeanne d’Arc died, nor the Palais de Justice begun. Of St. Ouen only the eastern end of the nave, the apse and the choir, with the far older Tour aux Clercs beside them, were being built; neither its central crown nor its rose windows yet existed. The French architect chosen by the English was at this time Alexander de Berneval, who had carried on the work of Jean de Bayeux and his son, the architects from 1378 to 1421. And you may still see where Jacques Theroulde (for Antoine Bohier) carried on the work which Berneval’s son left unfinished in 1441.
From their scaffolding round the uncompleted arches the architect and his apprentices must have had a good view, on the Thursday after Pentecost in 1431, of those other scaffoldings erected in the Cemetery below them, on one of which sat Pierre Cauchon with the Cardinal of Winchester, while on the other stood Jeanne d’Arc. The ceremony, called the Abjuration, was a last attempt to frighten Jeanne into confessing that her “Voices” had deceived her, and her mission was untrue. It succeeded only because of her physical weakness, and in forty-eight hours her moral courage repudiated it entirely. Proceedings began by a long sermon from Guillaume Erard, a celebrated preacher. When he called the King of France “heretic and schismatic” she interrupted him at once to contradict. When he commanded her own submission to the Church, she replied that she was ready to answer to God and to the Pope for all, and that for all she was herself alone responsible. This was a confusing reply for her judges, when made before the great concourse of people who had assembled to witness this younggirl’s examination. They could only retort that the ecclesiastics there present were the representatives both of God and of the Pope, and that she must submit to them. They then ordered her “to abjure” publicly the various things of which she was accused. She did not understand what was required of her. Erard exclaimed that she must “abjure” or be burnt at once. At last he began to read her sentence of condemnation. Then, though she was conscious of no evil, she at last said, “I submit myself to the Church.” They hastened to read over the twelve articles of accusation already given, and the poor girl agreed to them, promising never to sin again and to submit herself to the justice of the Church. Massieu read to her a formula “of some eight lines,” according to his testimony afterwards.
There was some murmuring among the crowd during this long ceremony; for while Jeanne was alive the English soldiery dared attempt nothing fresh; and they only saw in her refusals to “abjure” an immediate reason for handing her over from the ecclesiastical justice to the secular, whose ways were swifter. But merely burning Jeanne would not have been enough. She had to confess her sins, to disavow her mission, to be received into the bosom of the Church and pardoned, and then—to be discovered in fresh crime. One of the consequences of her “abjuration” was that she was wearing woman’s dress that very afternoon. Two days afterwards (on Sunday) the ecclesiastics heard that she had changed to masculine attire again. They rushed to the castle to verify the “relapse” they were so ardently expecting, but the English soldiers drove them out again, being very tired by this time of their unintelligible delays. On May 28th Pierre Cauchon questioned her, and she said that if they kept their word, to free her and let her hear mass, she would keep hers and change her dress, but that among men a man’s dress suited her best. Asked if she had heard her “voices” again—a deliberate trap to secure the certainty of proved “relapse”—she replied, “God has told me by Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret of the pity and the betrayal that I have wrought in making abjuration to save my life, and that I lost my soul to save my life.” To this the clerk added the fatal comment, “Responsio Mortifera.” Jeanne realised now what her “abjuration” had really meant. The fear that had inspired it had passed, and she boldly reaffirmed her mission and her faith. It was all her judges needed. “Farewell,” cried Pierre Cauchon to Warwick and his English who waited in the castle-yard, “be of good cheer, for it is done.”
By orders of the meeting of the 29th of May, already mentioned as held in the Chapelle des Ordres, Martin Ladvenu and Jean Toutmouillé came to her cell early in the morning of the next day, and announced that she was to be handed over to the Secular Justice and burnt. “Hélas!” she cried, with all the natural terror of a woman, “me traite-t-on si horriblement et cruellement, qu’il faille que mon corps net et entier, qui ne fut jamais corrompu, soit aujourd’hui consumé et rendu en cendres!” She then confessed to Ladvenu, and after some discussion the sacred elements were brought to her, without any of the usual ceremonial accompaniments, and she received them with deep devotion.
The last scene in her life now drew near. That you may understand it, you must realise that the present Place du Vieux Marché has little except its name in common with the Vieux Marché where Jeanne was burnt. The map I have reproduced from Jacques Lelieur’s plan of 1525 will show you very much what it was like in the fifteenth century (see map F), and will prove not only that it was far smaller in extent, but that many buildings round it then have now disappeared without a trace of them remaining. In this old map the “Rue Massacre” must be understood as representing that part of the Rue de la Grosse Horloge which extended from the Porte Massacre (see p. 135) to the Place du Vieux Marché. When you stand in the Vieux Marché now, if you imagine that the houses of the Rue Cauchoise extended across the open square to the beginning of the Rue de la Grosse Horloge, you may realise how much less space there was in the fifteenth century. In those days, too, it must be remembered that what is now the Place Verdrel was called the Marché Neuf, and that the old Marché aux Veaux has now become quite wrongly the Place de la Pucelle. How this mistake arose will soon be clear.
M. Charles de Beaurepaire’s untiring researches have established from recorded documents every house that stood round the Vieux Marché. The map shows that the Church of St. Sauveur (now vanished) stood near the Rue du Vieux Palais and the Rue de la Pie, with its apse turned towards the Grosse Horloge. Within its cemetery was erected the scaffolding beyond the east end of the church on which Jeanne’s judges stood at her execution. Near it was another stage at the end of the Market-Hall, and in sight of both was the place where she was burnt, marked by the “Escharfaut,” recorded by Lelieur, and known to have been in the same place since 1233. It was well within the view not only of the judges but of a crowd in the Vieux Marché and the Rue Cauchoise, and its place is commemorated by the tablet you can now read at the corner of the new Market-Hall.
The mistake of the “Place de la Pucelle” arose because a monumental fountain was erected there for the first time, when Cardinal Georges d’Amboise, who really started the waterworks of Rouen on a proper basis, used the Fontaine St. Filleul for the benefit of the Quartier Cauchoise. The pipe was brought into the Marché aux Veaux because the level of the ground permitted a better fall for the water, and the town took advantage of the opportunity to turn the new fountain into a memorial of Jeanne d’Arc. The actual spot where she was burnt was never marked at all, until the tablet of to-day was set up; for although the “Procès de Réhabilitation” decreed that the scene of her execution should be consecrated with a cross, that cross was placed on the point of the wall of the Cemetery of St. Sauveur, which was nearest to her scaffold; and this for the very good reason that the English (if for no other motive) would not allow another “sanctuary” (as all crosses were in the fifteenth century) to be erected so near to the cemetery which was already holy ground itself. It was this commemorative cross which was replaced by the Fountain of St. Sauveur just before the larger monumental fountain was erected in the more convenient (though less appropriate) situation of the Marché aux Veaux, now the Place de la Pucelle.
Over the hideous tragedy of the Vieux Marché I have neither space nor inclination to linger. At nine o’clock on the 30th of May 1431 she left the château of Philip Augustus in woman’s dress, wearing a mitre on which was written, “Hérétique, Relapse, Apostate, Idolatre,” with Ladvenu and Massieu beside her, and seven or eight hundred men-at-arms accompanying them. She wept bitterly as she went, and the people wept to see her sobbing in the cart. Even Loyseleur was overcome by his remorse, and was bidden to leave Rouen. In the Vieux Marché she had first to listen to the sermon of Nicole Midi, who formally delivered her to the Secular Justice. The Bishop of Beauvais then pronounced her sentence of excommunication. When Jeanne rose to implore the pardon of the people and the prayers of the Church, insisting to the end on the sincerity of her cause and of her King, there was hardly even an English soldier who was not touched with some compassion after the six hours of her suspense. Massieu handed her a roughly-fashioned cross which she placed in her bosom. She begged Isambard de la Pierre to hold another before her eyes until the end. The delay of the ecclesiastics had been long, but the civil powers were short. “Do your duty” was the only sentence she heard in the short command to the executioner. Then she wept again, crying, “Rouen, Rouen, mourrai-je ici, seras-tu ma maison? Ah Rouen, j’ai grand peur que tu n’aies à souffrir de ma mort.” The slow flames mounted from the scaffold which had been built to burn her slowly, and with the last word, “Jesus,” on her lips, she died.
Her ashes were cast into the Seine. They were scarcely cold before the rumour of her saintliness, and the miracles of her passing spread through Rouen and through France. Soon afterwards Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, died of apoplexy. Nicole Midi was struck with leprosy within a few days of her death. Loyseleur died suddenly at Bâle. The corpse of d’Estivet was found in a gutter outside the gates of Rouen.
Not a single attempt was made to rescue her in Rouen at the last, not a solitary effort had been made before to save her by the French. Judged by the Church, and appealing for fair hearing, Jeanne was not supported in her trial by a single French ecclesiastic. Not a single reference to her death occurs on subsequent occasions, when the Court of France had official opportunity to make it. An age still so strongly imbued with the principles of feudalism could not believe in that intense patriotism and worship of nationality which was as foreign to their instincts as was the doctrine of liberty of conscience. This peasant-girl personified them both. “Il y a ès livres de nostre Seigneur plus que ès vostres,” she had said in her first questioning at Chinon; and laymen and ecclesiastics alike were unable to reconcile her with any scheme of philosophy they knew. In English writings there is no contemporary mention of her except a line in William of Worcester. Caxton’s English Chronicles only give the lie that Shakespeare has preserved against her tainted purity. Thomas Fuller classed her with the Witch of Endor. It was not for twenty-four years that the very town which saw her martyrdom was moved to declare judicially her innocence. In the “Procès de Réhabilitation,” begun on the first of June 1456, everyone who had known her came forward—too late—to testify to her innocence. On the seventh of July, in the presence of her brother and her mother’s representative in the great hall of the palace of the Archbishop of Rouen, it was ordered that her memory should be publicly reinstated both in the Cemetery of St. Ouen and in the Vieux Marché.
The most astonishing thing in the whole story is, not that the prophecies were fulfilled, not what she did before her death, not even the memory of how she died, but the woman herself, and that is why I have reproduced as far as was possible, from the text of Quicherat’s volumes, all that she is known certainly to have said and done in Rouen, as is recorded in the contemporary manuscripts which he has reproduced from the minutes of her “Trials.” The donjon of the castle, where she stood before her judges, is for this reason the best memory of her that could possibly have been preserved. No other monument will ever be so appropriate, and in their patriotic and successful efforts to preserve this building, the citizens of modern Rouen have done much to wipe out the shame of other days. It preserves not merely the heroism of Jeanne. She had scarcely left it when the brave Xaintrailles was imprisoned within its walls, but he must have escaped or been exchanged very soon, for at the end of December in the same year he was fighting the English again at Lagny. In February of the following year, 1432, another famous name is connected with the donjon, for in that month Ricarville with scarcely a hundred men behind him was let in by Pierre Audebœuf, and killed every one of the English garrison except the Earl of Arundel, who was governor, with his immediate bodyguard.
This remnant barricaded themselves in the Tour Carrée, which Henry the Fifth had built to the north-west of the old fort, after the siege of Rouen. Ricarville hastily retired for help to Marshal de Boussac, and during his absence his companions, attacked by reinforcements of the English, were obliged to take refuge in the donjon, where they were hotly besieged by artillery which seriously damaged the second storey of the tower. Forced to surrender after three weeks of heroic resistance, the whole hundred were beheaded in the Vieux Marché. For fifty days this handful of men had held the entire English garrison in check, and yet not a man had thought of rescuing Jeanne d’Arc scarcely a year ago.
Jacques Lelieur’s map shows that by 1525 a new roof had been put on the donjon, in the shape of a platform with embrasures. By 1591 Valdory, whose account of the siege by Henri Quatre I shall mention later, records that it was almost ruined. In 1610 its remnants were spared, when the rest of the castle was demolished to make a practice-ground for the arquebusiers of the town. After passing into private hands, the tower became the property of a convent in the eighteenth century. In 1796 it was sold to another private owner, who was warned to be careful of the well within the walls that was supplied by the spring Gaalor. By 1809 some nuns bought it again, and for long the old donjon decorated incongruously a portion of the garden in the Ursuline Convent. In 1842 M. Deville, Inspecteur des Monuments Historiques, drew public attention to its value, and was supported by M. Barthélemy the municipal architect. The publication of M. Quicherat’s five volumes of the “Trials,” in 1849, renewed the interest in all that had to do with Jeanne d’Arc. After a long and most creditable agitation, a committee, on which M. F. Bouquet served as secretary, was formed under the presidency of the mayor, M. Verdrel. The ground was bought from the Ursuline nuns, the trained advice of M. Viollet le Duc was solicited, and by the active assistance of MM. Desmarest and Durand the tower was finally restored as you may see it now.
Though the filling up of the moat makes it look shorter than it really is, a great deal of the old masonry remains intact, and so carefully has the restoring work been done that in the embrasures and recesses on both232 first and second floors you may still see the scratches and inscriptions of prisoners or sentinels, much as they are preserved in our own Tower of London. On Wednesday, the 18th of February 1874, the work of reconstruction was finished by the placing of the iron vane with its great fleur-de-lys upon the summit of the conical roof. It is the fourth floor, just beneath this vane, that is the most interesting of all the new work, as it presents a complete and accurate picture of mediæval defences, showing both the wooden hoarding which projected beyond the walls in order to give space to hurl down stones and boiling lead, and the guard’s chemin-de-ronde cut in the solid wall with its openings that communicate with each side. Its walls conjure up a flood of memories of the men and women who saw those solid cliffs of masonry before they fell into ruin and restoration:—
“Berthe au grand pied, Bietris, Allys
Harembourges, qui tint le Mayne,
Et Jehanne la bonne Lorraine
Qu’Anglois bruslèrent à Rouen:
Où sont-ilz, Vierge Souveraine?
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?”
On the 10th of November 1449 Charles the Seventh of France was riding through his own good town of Rouen; by his side were Jacques Cœur, René d’Anjou, King of Sicily, and Pierre de Brézé. The English had surrendered Rouen, and all of them were on their way home again who had not left their bones in France.