Monday, June 10, 2013

They Threw Her Ashes In The River

I have been to the cathedral where the Maid of Orléans broke the English siege for the Dauphin, and Mom and John and I visited the cathedral in Reims where she took him to be crowned Charles VII. In Rouen, we saw where Charles VII abandoned her to be tried for heresy, and burned alive.

Naturally, it's one of the most-visited places in the city, so it's less a solemn pilgrimage and more a jostle through chattering crowds to get there. I didn't get the same feeling from this square as I did in Paris standing in the middle of the ghosts of the guillotine at the Place de la Concorde; perhaps that's because this one death didn't have the worldwide repercussions of the Revolution. Or maybe the echoes have just faded - May 30, 1431 was a long, long time ago.

She was held in a tower and interrogated by hostile priests, who disapproved of her wearing men's clothing and claiming to speak with angels and saints. Although she had beaten the English armies for the French, Charles VII apparently abandoned her to the tribunal that favored the English and the Dukes of Burgundy over the newly-crowned king. Twenty-five years later he had the trial documents reviewed and determined - shocker! - that she had been unfairly executed, named her a martyr, and nominated her for sainthood.

Trying to prevent martyrdom and sainthood, her executioners had her body burned three times so that nothing was left but ash, and then threw the ashes in the river Seine so that no relics would be available for future shrines. Brave girl, crazy girl. The power of belief can take you farther than you can imagine.

Roy d'Angleterre, se ainsi ne le faictes, je suis chief de guerre, et en quelque lieu que je actaindray vos gens en France, je les en ferai aler, veuillent on non veuillent, et si ne vuellent obéir, je les ferai tous occire. Je suis cy envoiée de par Dieu, le Roy du ciel, corps pour corps, pour vous bouter hors de toute France.

"King of England, if you do not do this, I am the warleader, and in any place that I find your people in France, I will make them leave, willing or unwilling, and if they do not wish to obey me, I will have them all slain. I have been sent here by God, the King of Heaven, to drive you one and all out of France."

- the first letter from Joan of Arc to the King of England, March 22, 1429

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