THE REIGN OF HENRY VI SIRNAMED OF WINDSOR
Joan of Arc
IN CONSIDERING THE HISTORY OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY YOUNG WOMAN, it particularly deserves to be remarked, that we have only one contemporary author (Monstrelet) who gives an account of her. All the after writers have added something to what he relates, in order to embellish their history. Monstrelet was one of the retinue of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, and had himself seen this girl. But he is extremely reserved in what he says, he never gives his own opinion, and the reason is very evident. For Joan making her appearance when the Duke of Burgundy was in alliance with England, Monstrelet, with all of that party, did not believe her inspired.
But as he wrote not his chronicle till after the Duke was reconciled to King Charles, he thought it not proper to combat in his writings the general opinion of the French, who were then his master’s friends. On the other hand, as probably, in changing his party, he had not changed his opinion of Joan, he took care to say nothing, to make it thought he was under the same prejudice with the rest of the French. It seems therefore that Monstrelet may be taken for a guide, who whatever his opinion was, has said nothing to render him suspected. He never says either that Joan was, or was not inspired.
The same author has inserted in his chronicle a letter written in the name of Henry VI to the Duke of Burgundy, to acquaint him with what passed at the trial and condemnation of the Maid of Orleans. This letter might be justly suspected of partiality, if the facts it contains did not, for the most part, agree with the records of the trial mentioned hereafter.
We have a third means which is both the amplest and most considerable, namely, Joan’s examination and answers, of which the famous Stephen Pasquier has given us the particulars. Pasquier says, he had Joan’s original trial four whole years in his hands, and what he has related was faithfully extracted. But we must carefully distinguish what Pasquier says as of himself, from the records of the trial. He was so prejudiced in favour of Joan, that he could not help being angry with those of his countrymen who did not believe her inspired.
He says, they were worse than the English, and extremely injurious to the honour of France. So, considering only his private opinion, he may be said to have justly rendered himself suspected to one of the parties. But the trial itself is an original piece beyond all suspicion, since we find there word for word, Joan’s own answers to the articles she was examined upon.