Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary
The Philosophical Dictionary
Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf
New York: Knopf, 1924

Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.

Joan of Arc

IT is meet that the reader should be acquainted with the true history of Joan of Arc surnamed "the Maid." The details of her adventure are very little known and may give readers pleasure; here they are.

Paul Jove says that the courage of the French was stimulated by this girl, and takes good care not to believe her inspired. Neither Robert, Gaguin, Paul Emile, Polydore Vergile, Genebrard, Philip of Bergamo, Papyre Masson, nor even Mariana, say that she was sent by God; and even though Mariana the Jesuit had said it, that would not deceive me.

Mezerai relates "that the prince of the celestial militia appeared to her." I am sorry for Mezerai, and I ask pardon of the prince of the celestial militia.

Most of our historians, who copy each other, suppose that the Maid uttered prophecies, and that her prophecies were accomplished. She is made to say that " she will drive the English out of the kingdom," and they were still there five years after her death. She is said to have written a long letter to the King of England, and assuredly she could neither read nor write; such an educaticn was not given to an inn servant in the Barois; and the information laid against her states that she could not sign her name.

But, it is said, she found a rusted sword, the blade of which was engraved with five golden fleurs-de-lis; and this sword was hidden in the church of Sainte Catherine de Fierbois at Tours. There, certainly is a great miracle!

Poor Joan of Arc having been captured by the English, despite her prophecies and her miracles, maintained first of all in her cross-examination that St. Catherine and St. Marguerite had honoured her with many revelations. I am astonished that she never said anything of her talks with the prince of the celestial militia. These two saints apparently liked talking better than St. Michael: Her judges thought her a sorceress, she thought herself inspired.

One great proof that Charles VII.'s captains made use of the marvellous in order to encourage the soldiers, in the deplorable state to which France was reduced, is that Saintrailles had his shepherd, as the Comte de Dunois had his shepherdess. The shepherd made prophecies on one side, while the shepherdess made them on the other.

But unfortunately the Comte de Dunois' prophetess was captured at the siege of Compiegne by a bastard of Vendome, and Saintrailles' prophet was captured by Talbot. The gallant Talbot was far from having the shepherd burned. This Talbot was one of those true Englishmen who scorn superstition, and who have not the fanaticism for punishing fanatics.

This, it seems to me, is what the historians should have observed, and what they have neglected.

The Maid was taken to Jean de Luxembourg, Comte deLigny. She was shut up in the fortress of Beaulieu, then in that of Beaurevoir, and from there in that of Crotoy in Picardy.

First of all Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, who was of the King of England's party against his own legitimate king, claims the Maid as a sorceress arrested on the limits of his diocese. He wishes to judge her as a sorceress. He supported the right he claimed by a down- right lie. Joan had been captured on the territory of the bishopric of Noyon: and neither the Bishop of Beauvais, nor the Bishop of Noyon assuredly had the right of condemning anybody, and still less of committing to death a subject of the Duke of Lorraine, and a warrior in the pay of the King of France.

There was at that time (who would believe it?) a vicar- general of the Inquisition in France, by name Brother Martin. It was one of the most horrible effects of the total subversion of that unfortunate country. Brother Martin claimed the prisoner as smelling of heresy (odorantem haeresim). He called upon the Duke of Burgundy and the Comte de Ligny, " by the right of his office, and of the authority given to him by the Holy See, to deliver Joan to the Holy Inquisition."

The Sorbonne hastened to support Brother Martin, and wrote to the Duke of Burgundy and to Jean de Luxembourg -" You have used your noble power to apprehend this woman who calls herself the Maid, by means of whom the honour of God has been immeasurably offended, the faith exceedingly hurt, and the Church too greatly dishonoured; for by reason of her, idolatry, errors, bad doctrine, and other inestimable evils have ensued in this kingdom . . . but what this woman has done would be of small account, if did not ensue what is meet for satisfying the offence perpetrated by her against our gentle Creator and His faith, and the Holy Church with her other innumerable misdeeds . . . and it would be intolerable offence against the divine majesty if it happened that this woman were freed."

Finally, the Maid was awarded to Jean Cauchon whom people called the unworthy bishop, the unworthy Frenchman, and the unworthy man. Jean de Luxembourg sold the Maid to Cauchon and the English for ten thousand livres, and the Duke of Bedford paid them. The Sorbonne, the bishop and Brother Martin, then presented a new petition to this Duke of Bedford, regent of France, "in honour of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for that the said Joan may be briefly put into the hands of the Church." Joan was led to Rouen. The archbishopric was vacant at that time, and the chapter permitted the Bishop of Beauvais to work in the town. (Besogner is the term which was used.) He chose as assessors nine doctors of the Sorbonne with thirty-five other assisiants, abbots or monks. The vicar of the Inquisition, Martin, presided with Cauchon; and as lie was only a vicar, he had but second place.

Joan underwent fourteen examinations; they are singular. She said that she saw St. Catherine and St. Marguerite at Poitiers. Doctor Beaupere asks her how she recognized the saints. She answers that it was by their way of bowing. Beaupere asks her if they are great chatterboxes. "Go look on the register," she says. Beaupere asks her if, when she saw St. Michael, he was naked. She answers: " Do you think our Lord had nothing to clothe him with? "

The curious will carefully observe here that Joan had long been directed with other religious women of the populace by a rogue named Richard, who performed miracles, and who taught these girls to perform them. One day he gave communion three times in succession to Joan, in honour of the Trinity. It was then the custom in matters of importance and in times of great peril. The knights had three masses said, and communicated three times when they went to seek fortune or to fight in a duel. It is what has been observed on the part of the Chevalier Bayard.

The workers of miracles, Joan's companions, who were submissive to Richard, were named Pierrone and Catherine. Pierrone affirmed that she had seen that God appeared to her in human form as a friend to a friend. God was "clad in a long white robe, etc.''

Up to the present the ridiculous; here now is the horrible.

One of Joan's judges, doctor of theology and priest, by name Nicholas the Bird-Catcher, comes to confess her in prison. He abuses the sacrament to the point of hiding behind a piece of serge two priests who transcribed Joan of Arc's confession. Thus did the judges use sacrilege in order to be murderers. And an unfortunate idiot, who had had enough courage to render very great services to the king and the country, was condemned to be burned by fortyfour French priests who immolated her for the English faction.

It is sufficiently well-known how someone had the cunning and meanness to put a man's suit beside her to tempt her to wear this suit again, and with what absurd barbarism this transgression was claimed as a pretext for condemning her to the flames, as if in a warrior girl it was a crime worthy of the fire, to put on breeches instead of a skirt. All this wrings the heart, and makes common sense shudder. One cannot conceive how we dare, after the countless horrors of which we have been guilty, call any nation by the name of barbarian.

Most of our historians, lovers of the so-called embellishments of history rather than of truth, say that Joan went fearlessly to the torture; but as the chronicles of the times bear witness, and as the historian Villaret admits, she received her sentence with cries and tears; a weakness pardonable in her sex, and perhaps in ours, and very compatible with the courage which this girl had displayed amid the dangers of war; for one can be fearless in battle, and sensitive on the scaffold.

I must add that many persons have believed without any examination that the Maid of Orleans was not burned at Rouen at all, although we have the official report of her execution. They have been deceived by the account we still have of an adventuress who took the name of the " Maid," deceived Joan of Arc's brothers, and under cover of this imposture, married in Lorraine a nobleman of the house of Armoise. There were two other rogues who also passed themselves off as the " Maid of Orleans." All three claimed that Joan was not burned at all, and that another woman had been substituted for her. Such stories can be admitted only by those who want to be deceived.

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