INTRODUCTORY NOTES TO THE TRIAL OF (REHABILITATION) NULLIFICATION
It was not until nearly twenty years after the death of Jeanne d’Arc that any attempt was made by those in authority to vindicate her memory or even to acknowledge the services she had rendered to the kingdom of France.
In 1450, however, after the occupation of Normandy and the submission of the town of Rouen, the idea appeared to have occurred to Charles VII. that to suffer the stigma of heresy and witchcraft to rest on the name of the Maid of Orleans, who had “led him to his anointing,” was to throw a doubt upon his own orthodoxy, and to justify the taunt of his enemies that he had been the mere tool of “a lyme of the Fiend.” On February 13th, 1450, therefore, he issued a Declaration empowering one of his Counselors, Guillaume Bouillé, to inquire into the conduct of the Trial undertaken against Jeanne by “our ancient enemies the English,” who, “against reason, had cruelly put her to death,” and to report the result of his investigations to the Council.
Bouillé was Rector of the University of Paris, Dean of the Theological Faculty, Dean of Noyon, a Member of the Great Council, and at one time Ambassador to Rome. It is very probable that he was the author of the first memorial issued in favor of Jeanne, throwing doubts upon the validity of the Rouen sentence-a memorial which, according to some, was prior to the Inquiry of 1450 with which we are now dealing. It was to an able and competent person therefore, that Charles committed the Inquiry, which was held at Rouen on March 4th and 5th, less than three weeks after the issue of the Royal Mandate.
Seven witnesses were heard; namely, Toutmouillé, de la Pierre, Ladvenu, and Duval,-all Dominicans of Saint Jacques, Rouen; the Notary Manchon, the Usher Massieu, and Beaupere, one of the chief Examiners. But the Court took no further interest in the matter; and, although in the opinion of several legal authorities consulted by De Bouillé, the Process of Condemnation was held as null and void, the proceedings were carried no further: the Inquiry was forwarded to the King and Council, and the whole question once more fell into abeyance.
Two years later, the Cardinal-Bishop of Digne, Guillaume d’Estouteville, Legate in France for Pope Nicholas V. took up the Inquiry, at the formal request of Isabel d’Arc, mother of the Maid, who claimed, on Civil as well as on Ecclesiastical authority, the rehabilitation of her daughter, and the restoration of the family to the position they had lost by the imputation of heresy cast on them in the person of one of their number.
The failure of the former Inquiry was due, in great part, to the fear of arousing the hostility of the English, and also of meeting with opposition from the Ecclesiastical authorities, by bringing forward an action instituted by the Sovereign against proceedings which had received the unquestioned sanction of the Holy Office and the University of Paris, and which were also guaranteed by the protection of the English King. The expedient of shifting the entire responsibility on to the shoulders of the d’Arc family obviated these difficulties, and enabled the Case to be taken as a purely private one, an appeal against a judgment given on false premises. The reversal of this verdict could offend no one, as the action was brought against Defendants none of whom were living to meet the charge, and who could therefore be represented only by their titular legal successors. Their innocence in the whole matter made the case a perfectly harmless one a legal fiction which might satisfy many and could injure none.
The first act of the Cardinal d’Estouteville was to associate with himself the Prior of the Convent of the Jacobins at Paris, Jean Bréhal, Inquisitor of France; and, together, they proceeded to an Inquiry at Rouen in April, 1452, at which witnesses to the number of twenty-one, including some of those heard in 1450, their evidence. The Cardinal being obliged by his duties to leave Rouen, the Inquiry was left in the hands of Bréhal and of Philippe la Rose, the Treasurer of the Cathedral. There were still difficulties in the way. The Pope feared to wound English susceptibilities; and, in spite of the efforts of the Cardinal and of the petition presented to Rome by Isabel d’Arc and her two sons, the proceeding languished; and three more years passed without any definite step being taken.
In 1455, however, the Pope Nicholas V. died, and his successor Calixtus III. [Borgia], less timorous, acceded to the request of the d’Arc family, granting a Rescript authorizing the process of revision, and appointing as delegates for the Trial; the Archbishop of Reims (Jean Jouvenal des Ursins), the Bishop of Paris (Guillaume Chartier), and the Bishop of Coutances (Richard de Longueil), who afterwards associated with themselves the Inquisitor, Jean Bréhal.
The Case was solemnly opened on November 7th, 1455, in the Church of Notre Dame at Paris, when the mother and brothers of the Maid came before the Court to present their humble petition for a revision of her sentence, demanding only “the triumph of truth and justice.” The Court heard the request with some emotion. When Isabel d’Arc threw herself at the feet of the Commissioners, showing the Papal Legit Rescript and weeping aloud, while her Advocate, Pierre Maugier, and his assistants prayed for justice for her and for the memory of her martyred daughter, so many of those present joined aloud in the petition, that at last, we are told, it seemed that one great cry for justice broke from the multitude.
The Commissioners formally received the petition, and appointed November 17th, ten days later, for its consideration, warning the Petitioners of the possible danger of a confirmation of the previous Trial, instead of the reversal they looked for, but promising careful consideration of the Case should they persist in their appeal.
On November 17th the Court met a second time at Notre Dame; the Papal Rescript was solemnly read, and the Advocate for the Petitioners brought his formal accusation against the Judges and Promoter of the late Trial none of whom, as has been said, were then alive-carefully excluding the Assessors concerned in the case, who, he said, were led to wrong conclusions by false deductions. At the close of the Advocate’s address, the Archbishop of Reims and the Bishop of Paris declared themselves ready to act as Judges in the Appeal Case, in conjunction with the Inquisitor Bréhal, appointing the following December 12th for the inaugural sitting, and citing all those concerned in this Case to appear before them on that day.
The Trial opened on December 12th. The family of d’Arc were represented by the Procurator, Guillaume Prevosteau, who had formerly been appointed Promoter in the case instituted by Cardinal d’Estouteville: but the Plaintiffs alone were represented, no one appearing to answer for either of the accused Judges nor for the Promoter d’Estivet. The Case was adjourned until December 15th, in order that Advocates for the Defendants might be summoned to appear.
The Court met accordingly on the 15th December; but, in spite of mandates and citations placed on Church doors and other public places, no one was found to come forward as representatives of the accused ; and a further delay of five days was therefore granted. At the same time, the Commissioners formally constituted the Tribunal and appointed their Officers: Simon Chapitault as Promoter or Advocate-General, Ferrebouc and Lecomte as Registrars for the Court. The Registrars of the former Trial, being present, were asked if they wished in any way to defend the Process in which they had been concerned; but, on their replying in the negative, they were requested to lay before the Court any documents relating to the previous Trial which they might have in their possession. By this means the Commissioners were enabled to have before them the actual Minute of the Trial of 1431, written in Manchon’s own hand and presented by him, and also to obtain his formal attestation of the authenticity of the Official Procés Verbal, upon which their further inquiries were to be based.
The “Preliminary Inquiry” made in 1452, by command of the Cardinal d’Estouteville and his delegates, was formally annexed, by request of the Promoter, to the official documents of the Trial of Rehabilitation ; but the earlier Inquiry of 1450, having been made under secular authority, was unfortunately treated as of no value, and not included in the authorized Case.
On December 18th the Promoter lodged his request on the part of the family of d’Arc, and prayed for a Judgment of Nullity on the previous sentence, on the ground that, both in form and substantiation, it was null and void, and that it should therefore be publicly and legally so declared.
On December 20th-the last day appointed for the appearance of any representatives of the accused only the Advocate for the family of Cauchon presented himself. He made a declaration to the effect that the heirs of the late Bishop had no desire to maintain the validity of a Trial with which they had no concern, and which took place either before they were born or when they were very little children; that Jeanne had been the victim of the hatred of the English, and that therefore the responsibility fell rather upon them ; finally they begged that the Rehabilitation of Jeanne might not be to their prejudice, invoking for themselves the benefits of the King’s amnesty granted after the conquest of Normandy.
The Procurator having declared his willingness to agree, the heirs of Cauchon were put out of the question; and the other Defendants,not having appeared, were declared contumacious, and cited once more to appear on February 16th following. On the same day [Dec. 20th] the Promoter formulated his Accusation, and brought before the notice of the Court certain special points in the previous Trial which tended to vitiate the whole: 1st, the intervention of the hidden registrars and the alterations, additions, and omissions made in the Twelve Articles; 2nd, the suppression of the Preliminary Inquiry, and the obvious predisposition of the Judges ; 3rd, the incompetence of the Court, and the unfairness of the treatment received throughout by the Accused, culminating in an illegal sentence and an irregular execution.
The Promoter then asked that inquiries might be instituted into the life and conduct of the Maid, and as to the manner in which she had undertaken the reconquest of the country. Orders were accordingly given, that information should at once be taken at Domremy and Vaucouleurs, under the direction of Reginald de Chichery, Dean of Vaucouleurs, and of Wautrin Thierry, Canon of Toul.
While these inquiries were being made, a document containing 101 Articles was drawn up, (Of these 101 Articles, the first thirty-three form the basis of the succeeding inquiries made at Paris, Orleans, and Rouen.) setting forth the case of the Plaintiffs for the consideration of the still absent Defendants, and stating at great length the grounds, both in fact and reason, for the demand of a revision of sentence.
On the day fixed for the final citation of the Defendants Feb. 16th, 1456, the Court again assembled; and on this occasion the accused were represented by their legal successors: the Promoter of the Diocese of Beauvais, Bredouillé, as representative of the authority of the Bishop, Guillaume de Hellande; and Chaussetier, the Prior of the Convent of Evreux, as representing the Dominicans of Beauvais, to whose Order Jean Lemaitre, the other Judge of the Maid, belonged. Both of these disclaimed any responsibility for the former Trial, but submitted themselves to the mandate of the Court; and, no objection being offered to the 101 Articles, these were accepted by the Judges and the case was proceeded with.
The Inquiry of 1456 extended over several months. Thirty-four witnesses were heard, in January and February, at Domremy and Vaucouleurs; forty-one, in February and March, at Orleans; twenty at Paris, in April and May; nineteen at Rouen, in December and May; and on May 28th, at Lyons, the Vice-Inquisitor of the province received the deposition of Jean d’Aulon, whose evidence is specially important, as being that of the Steward of the Maid’s household, and the most devoted of her followers.
After the close of these Inquiries and their formal reception as part of the Process, the Advocate of the d’Arc family petitioned the Judges to give their attention to certain Memorials drawn up on the Case by learned men, which documents he prayed might also be inserted among the formal proceedings of the Trial. The request being granted, Eight Memorials were presented and formally annexed to the Authentic Documents of the Process. The whole case was then admirably summed up, for the guidance of the Judges,in the ‘Recollectio’ of the Inquisitor, Jean Bréhal, and on this document the final Sentence of Rehabilitation was subsequently based.
On the 18th of June, Jean d’Arc and the Promoter, Chapitault in the name of the Plaintiffs, appeared at the Palace of the Bishop of Paris, and prayed that a day might be fixed for the conclusion of the Case. In answer to this request the following 1st of July was appointed for the purpose, and an announcement to that effect was ordered to be placed on all the doors of the Cathedral at Rouen.
On July 2nd the Pontifical Delegates met and appointed the following Wednesday, July 7th, for the pronouncement of the final Sentence; and on that day, at 8 a.m., the Court assembled in the Hall of the Archiepiscopal Palace, and the formal Sentence of Rehabilitation was solemnly read by the Archbishop of Reims. This was followed by a procession and sermon on the same day in the Place St. Ouen, and by a second sermon on the day following in the Old Market Place, where a Cross to perpetuate the memory of the martyrdom was then erected, “for the salvation of her soul.” This Cross remained until the end of the following century, when it was replaced by a fountain, with a statue of the Maid under an arcade surmounted by a Cross; the fountain now standing was erected in 1756.