The Trial of Joan of Arc, 1431
[Colby Introduction]: Joan of Arc is the most phenomenal and
attractive personage of the Hundred Years' War on either side. Those whom she led to
victory believed that she was inspired of God, and the English, not denying her
inspiration, believed that it was of the devil. A full and authentic report of her trial
remains, and from it is extracted the passage in which she answers questions relative to
her Voices. She maintained that she raised the siege of Orleans in obedience to the divine
call, and that all her important acts were prompted by a voice from heaven. Her trial for
witchcraft at Rouen was conducted by Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, to whom she had
been handed over by the English for that purpose. She was little more than nineteen years
old at the date of her execution.
We next required and admonished Joan, appearing before us in the said place, to
take, under penalty of law, the oath which she had taken the day before; and that she
should swear simply and absolutely to tell the truth in answer to what was asked her in
the matter concerning which the charge had been brought and which was generally known. To
this she answered that she had sworn yesterday and that was enough. Again we required that
she should swear; for every one, though he be a prince, when required to take the oath on
a point of faith cannot refuse. And she answered again: "I took the oath for you
yesterday; that should suffice you quite well. You burden me too much." Finally she
swore to tell the truth in whatever related to faith.
Then a distinguished professor of sacred theology, Master John Beaupère, acting by our
order and behest, questioned Joan on the points which follow. And first he urged here to
answer his questions truly, just as she had sworn to do. Whereupon she replied "You
might very well ask me one sort of question which I would answer truly, and another sort
which I would not answer." And she added: "If you were well informed about me,
you should wish that I were out of your hands. I have done nothing save by
Next asked about her age when she left home: she said that she did not know. Asked
whether in her girlhood she had learned any art: she said yes, that she had learned to sew
linen cloth and to knit; and that she did not fear any woman in Rouen when it came to
knitting and sewing. She further confessed that, through fear of the Burgundians, she left
home and went to the town of Neufchâteau in Lorraine [Colby: seven miles south of Joan's
birthplace, Domremy] to live with a woman named La Rousse, where she stayed a fortnight;
adding furthermore that when she was at home she was exempt from household work nor went
with the sheep and other animals to pasture.
Again asked whether she confessed her sins each year: she answered yes, to her own
curé; and when the curé was hindered she with his permission confessed to another
priest. Sometimes also, twice or thrice as she believed, she confessed to the friars. And
this was in the said town of Neufchâteau. And she had been in the habit of receiving the
Eucharist at Easter. Asked whether she had been in the habit of receiving the Sacrament of
the Eucharist at any other feasts save Easter: she told her questioner to pass on. She
further confessed that when she was thirteen years old she had a voice from God to aid her
in self-discipline. And the first time she was greatly afraid. And this voice came about
noon in summer in her father's garden, and she had fasted the day before. And she heard
the voice on her right hand toward the church, and she seldom heard it without a light.
Which light comes from the same side as the voice, but is usually great. And when she came
to France she often heard this voice. Asked how she saw the light which she said was there
present when it was on one side; to this she answered nothing, but passed to other things.
She moreover said that if she were in a grove she distinctly heard voices coming to her.
She also said that the voice seemed to her worthy, and she believes that it was sent by
God; and after she had heard it three times she knew that it was the voice of an angel.
She also said that it always guarded her well, and that she knew it well.
Asked about the teaching which her voice gave her respecting the salvation of her soul,
she said that it taught her to govern herself well, to go often to church, and that it
said she also must go to France. And Joan added that the questioner would not this time
learn from her in what guise the voice had appeared to her. She furthermore confessed that
the voice told her twice or thrice a week that she must leave home and go to France; and
that her father knew nothing of her departure. She also said that the voice told her to go
to France, and that she could no longer remain where she was, and that the voice told her
that she should raise the siege of Orleans. She further said that her voice had told here
that she should go to Robert de Baudricourt, Captain of the fortress of Vaucouleurs, and
he would give her attendants; and she then answered that she was a poor girl who knew not
how to ride a horse nor head a campaign. She also said that she went to her uncle and told
him that she wished to stay with him for a little while; and she stayed there about eight
days; and she then told her uncle that she must go to the fortress of Vaucouleurs; and he
She also said that when she came to Vaucouleurs she recognized Robert de Baudricourt,
although she had never seen him before; and she recognized him by the aid of her voice,
for the voice told her that it was he; and she told Robert that she must go into France.
Twice he denied and withstood her, and the third time he took her and gave her attendants;
and so it happened even as her voice had said. . . . Moreover she confessed that in
leaving Vaucouleurs she put on men's dress, wearing a sword which Robert de Baudricourt
had given her and no other arms. Accompanied by a knight, a shield-bearer and four
servants, she reached the town of St. Urbain, and there passed a night in the abbey.
She also said that in this journey she passed through the town of Auxerre and there
heard mass in the cathedral, and at this time she was often wont to hear her voices. Asked
to say by whose advice she put on men's dress, she refused several times to answer. At
last she said that she would not laden any man with this; and she several times changed
her answer. She also stated that Robert de Baudricourt made those who took her swear that
they would convey her well and safely, and Robert on parting with her said: "Go, go,
and let whatever good can, come of it."
She also said that she well knew that God loved the Duke of Orleans [Colby: Charles,
Duke of Orleans, son of Duke Louis who was murdered in Paris, 23rd Nov., 1407]; and that
she had had more revelations about him than about any living man, save him whom she called
her king. She said, too, that she was obliged to change her own dress for a man's. She
also said that she believed that she had been well advised.
She said that she sent letters to the English before Orleans telling them to raise the
siege, just as is set down in many letters which have been read to her in this town of
Rouen, save for two or three words in them; for instance, "yield to the Maid"
should be "yield to the King." These words also occur there which were not in
the original letters, "body for body," and "head of the war."
Joan further said that she went to him whom she called her king [Colby: the Dauphin,
the future Charles VII] without hindrance, and when she reached to town of Ste. Catharine
de Fierbois she was sent to Chinon, where he whom she called her king was. She reached
this place about noon and lodged in an inn; and after dinner she went to him whom she
called her king who was in the castle. She also said that when she entered his chamber she
knew him from the rest by the revelation of her voice. And she told her king that she
wished to go making war against the English.
Asked if when the voice disclosed the king, there was any light in the place: she
answered: "Pass on." Asked whether she had seen an angel above her king: she
answered: "Spare me, pass on." Still she said that before her king gave her a
charge she had many beautiful visions and revelations. Asked how the king regarded the
revelations and visions: she answered: "I shall not tell you this. This is not to be
answered you; but send to the king himself and he will tell you." Joan also said that
the voice promised her that as soon as she came to her king he would receive her. She said
that they on their part well knew that the voice came to her from God, and that they had
seen and known her voice, stating that she was confident of it. She further said that her
king and several others had heard and seen voices coming to her; and Charles de Bourbon
with two or three others were present.
She moreover said that there was no day when she did not hear this voice, and that she
stood in great need of it. She said that she had never asked from her voice any other
final reward except the salvation of her soul. She further confessed that the voice told
her to remain at the town of St. Denis in France; and she had wished to remain there; but
they had led her out against the will of this master. Nevertheless if she had not been
wounded she would not have retired; and she was wounded in the trenches before Paris after
she had gone there from St. Denis; but in five days she was healed. She confessed that she
had directed an attack, called in French a skirmish, before Paris. And when she was
questioned whether that were a feast day: she answered to that to the best of her belief
it was. Asked if she approved of this: she answered: "Pass on."
After these things had been thus transacted, because it seemed quite enough for one
day, we, the said bishop, postponed the trial until Saturday next following, at eight
o'clock in the morning.
From: Charles W. Colby, ed., Selections from the Sources of English History, B.C.
55 - A.D. 1832 (London: Longmans, Green, 1920), pp. 113-117
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall June 1998