Jehanne: a year’s worth of a Joan of Arc blog

CALENDAR  L’Anniversaire

30 May, 1431Jehanne is burned alive as a relapsed heretic in the marketplace at Rouen.

It’s a strange number, the 574th anniversary. It catches on the hems of our base-10 consciousness, looking close to a number that should be significant to a culture that celebrates centennials and their quarters. But because quarter centuries aren’t particularly important except to people and occasion-starved businesses, even next year’s anniversary will have two important flaws. Firstly, it will seem either 25 years too early to recognize with any real flair, or 75 years too late, and secondly, it’s the anniversary of the horrific death of a young woman who wasn’t even sure how old she was.

Joan’s words that morning, as translated by Willard Trask, are as follows:

Alas! Am I so horribly and cruelly used, that my clean body, never yet defiled, must this day be burnt and turned to ashes. Ha! Ha! I would rather be beheaded seven times than suffer burning.

Alas! If I had been kept in the Church’s prison, to which I had submitted — if I had been kept by churchmen instead of my enemies and adversaries, I should not have come to such a miserable end.

Famously, she asked for a cross to be held at eye level as she burned so that she could concentrate upon salvation, and her final recorded words are that she cried out the name of her saviour. Quite different than the defiance that George Bernard Shaw lends her as she is marched to the marketplace and the pyre. Instead of wsihing that God would deliver her from this end, Shaw has Joan say, “His will is that I go through the fire to His bosom; for I am his child, and you are not fit that I should live among you.”

Of course, Joan was canonized in 1920, a scant three years before Shaw wrote his play, and the canonization was the result of a particularly popular movement to reclaim her as an icon of liberty and strength. Shaw’s Joan marches to defiant and faithful end, sure in her beliefs, whereas I have no doubt that the fact that Joan had not been allowed to take mass before her death weighed enormously upon the mind of the young medieval Catholic, and that her terror at a possible lack of salvation consumed her as much as did the fire.

Shaw portrays her as child of God, predestined to achieve sanctity, but in these days when Pope Benedict XVI is hastening to canonize Pope John Paul II before the customary waiting period, it’s important to remember that after the investigation of the character of the individual, and after it is determined whether s/he meets the standards of the Four Cardinal Virtues, that miracles still need to attested and proven within the period of beatification. In Joan’s case, four miracles were considered, and three met the standards of the Church’s investigatory body.

Lastly, speaking of Pope Bennies, the man who would become Pope Benedict XIV was originally a Promotor of the Faith, or “Devil’s Advocate” in an 18th century investigation of Joan’s sanctity. Prosper Lambertini, as he was then known, argued successfully that “the gift of prophecy could exist apart from sanctity” [Henry Angar Kelly, Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc]. Why do I somehow think our current Pope Benny will argue the reverse?

Pop-Culture  Sometimes A

In the season finale to the teen detective series Veronica Mars, the eponymous character is trapped inside a refrigerator and her aggressor is threatening to burn her to death. As he splashes gasoline about her improvised cell he shouts, “Want to know something about Joan of Arc, Veronica? Huh? God didn’t really talk to her… It’s true; I saw it on TV… You know, it was one of those historical forensics programs? They decided that she had a brain tumor. Burned alive! What a waste. She thought her death meant something, but all it meant was she was crazy! Think about that…”

Putting aside the ludicrous affrontery of a character — particularly a character who is an actor and has worked in television — saying something as patently silly as “It’s true; I saw it on TV…”, I was instantly intriqued to find out if this was based upon an actual piece of retroactive diagnosis, or if the writers merely felt that a Joan of Arc reference would have effective echoes in a scene where a teenaged girl might burn to death for proclaiming the truth as she saw it. After looking for it briefly, I can’t categorically say that such a television documentary doesn’t exist, but if it does, I doubt it is based upon publishable medical research.

So, as a brief piece of entertainment here tonight, I thought I’d quote from the citations of a handful of medical and psychological publications that have attempted to diagnose Joan using the techniques contemporary to the time of writing.

  • 1857 – R.R. Madden spends two volumes examining some of the most popular mental disorders in European history in an attempt to discover through sociological research if they may have had any basis in medical fact. “Chapters on ancient sorcery, child sacrifice, St. Teresa, the inquisition, lycanthropy, flagellation mania, convulsive chorea, Joan of Arc, erotic monomania, theomania in Protestant countries. About half of the second volume is devoted to Joan of Arc.” It is unknown at this point what his conclusions were.

    Madden, R[ichard] R[obert] (1798-1886). Phantasmata or Illusions and Fanatacisms of Protean Forms Productive of Great Evils. London: Published by T. C. Newby, 1857. 2 volumes. Summary taken from antiqarian book catalogue

  • 1933 – Using the methods popularized by Sigmund Freud, the author deconstructs Joan’s voices by the type of messages they give her, and thereby associates them with a particular aspect of consciousness, specifically the super-ego. But Money-Kyrle isn’t content with simply demystifying Joan’s voices, no, is psychoanalysis it’s all about sex, sex, sex! So it is further posited that Joan’s motivations are based upon “Her hypothetical discovery of the anatomical difference between the sexes seems to have been traumatic and to have been followed by the desire to prove this knowledge false.”

    Money-Kyrle, R.”A psycho-analytic study of the voices of Joan of Arc.” British Journal of Medical Psychology; 1933; 13; p. 63-81. Abstract from PsycInfo.

  • 1941 – “Her mental normality should be judged, not by her voices and visions, but by her behavior, which throughout her career was that of a singularly brave, intensely devout, impetuous, self-assertive country girl, fully conscious of her power. Her voices were not morbid. They began as simple pious admonitions (not rare at puberty), and later became political. …In short, she behaved as a sane, constructive person of her time and its beliefs.”

    Bayon, H. P. “A medico-psychological revision of the story of Jehanne, la pucelle de Demremy”. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine; 1941; 34; p. 161-170. Abstract from PsycInfo.

  • 1989 – Takes the 1933 concept of the traumatic adolescent discovery of the concept of sexes and sex and extends it still further, claiming that the voices, the visions, and the very mission of Joan were caused by an unconscious desire for “countercathectic… sublimation of her sexual drives through the purification of the Royal Court and of France itself.” She wasn’t saving France for God, he was trying to rirtually purify and thereby restore the psychological pre-sexual innocence of both France and England! That’s no small-scale neurosis! I only wish I knew if the article explained why she didn’t seem to think that, oh… Italy, Germany, and Scotland also needed such purification.

    Duparc, Francois. “La mission inconsciente de Jeanne d’Arc./Joan of Arc’s unconscious mission”. Psychanalyse a l’Universite; Jan 1989; 14(53); p. 51-70. Adapated from PsycInfo abstract.

  • 1995 – “A British author… suggests that the voices Joan of Arc heard were due to the presence of a temporal lobe tuberculoma in the context of widespread chronic tuberculosis (exposure to bovine tuberculosis, amenorrhoea, heart and intestines incombustible). We consider that some elements are incompatible with widespread tuberculosis. It is difficult to draw final conclusions, but it would seem unlikely that widespread tuberculosis, a serious disease, was present in this ‘patient’ whose life-style and activities would surely have been impossible had such a serious disease been present.”

    Nores J. M. ; Yakovleff Y. “A historical case of disseminated chronic tuberculosis.” Neuropsychobiology. 1995; Vol. 32 (2), pp. 79-80. Abstract from PubMed.

Church  The Legacy of
 Pope Joan

When it was announced that Cardinal Ratzinger would inherit the bishopric of Rome, renaming himself as Pope Benedict XVI, many news organizations carried stories about the process of ordination and many pilgrims turned out for the ceremony. There is, however, one aspect of the transformation from political cleric to infallible icon to which the public was not made privy. A British-based internet gossip rag called PopBitch posted the following details in their special commemorative “PopeBitch” edition:

The hanging testicles of the Vatican

The Vatican is still annoyed about Pope Joan,
the female pope who passed herself off as a
man, only to be rumbled and put to death when
she gave birth to the son of a fellow Cardinal
in her accession procession.

To prevent any repetition, the candidate chosen
as the new Pontiff has to sit naked on a special
marble throne in the Vatican. The Cardinals
assemble in a room below the throne, and look up
through a hole to check that all is as
it should be.

Once satisfied... they then incant in Latin,
"He has testicles and they hang well".

The Latin, by the way, for “He has testicles, and they dangle nicely”, is “Testiculos habet et bene pendentes“.

It’s a laughably appealing story, catering to our desire to see the Catholic Church as obsessed with sex and with ceremony. What’s fascinating is just how long the legend has existed. Of the variations on the legend, the strongest is that Pope Joan was supposed to have reigned for a matter of years in the mid-800s. Specifically, it was believed that she succeeded Pope Leo IV in 855 [Thelema] and reigned until her discover in 858. Considering that in the mid-1700s, historian David Blondel was able to debunk this by citing records that Pope Benedict III succeeded Pope Leo within a matter of weeks, this currently seems unlikely. [Wikipedia].

However, it was a powerful and appealling story, and for many years it was taken as fact by the larger Catholic community. A bust of Pope Joan apparently appeared in the Siena Cathedral [Catholic Encyclopedia], honored along with her “fellows”, and medieval tours of Vatican City would invite tourists… sorry, pilgrims to visit the place where she gave birth while in public procession [Wikipedia]. And in the time of Joan of Arc, the legend of a female pope was so well-established that when, during a trial for heresy, when Jan Hus said “‘many times have the Popes fallen into sin and error; for instance, when Joan was elected Pope, who was a woman’ [it] was not disputed by any of the 28 cardinals, four patriarchs, 30 metropolitans, 206 bishops and 440 theologians who were present, nor was he charged with blasphemy or falsehood on this one charge.” [Wikipedia]

sedia stercorariaMost reports about this tradition trace it back to the legend of Pope Joan, and thereafter attempt to trace her origins — I prefer the idea that her name and solidified legend came about as a deliberate satire of the effeminate Pope John VIII, also from the also from the ninth century [Catholic Encyclopedia] — but not so many take into account the fact that the chair through which the prospective papal scrotum is observed actually exists. Or, that is to say, there are particularly placed important chairs that have holes in them in… inappropriate places. However, that stick-in-the-mud David Blondel once again stamps all over a good, raucous rumor and points out that “both the seats and their holes predated the Pope Joan story, and indeed Catholicism by centuries, they clearly have nothing to do with a need to check the sex of a pope.” []

Crossing The Channel  Elizabethan

On the most recent episode of 8 out of 10 Cats, a game show about statistics and polls, comic Alan Carr answered the question, “What is Britain’s Favourite Smell?” with the answer: a burning Frenchman. The cross-channel rivalry is an extraordinarily long-standing grudge, and Mr. Carr’s answer immediately invokes in my mind the iconic image of Joan of Arc. During the end of the Hundred Years War, Joan was well-established in England as a witch and a heretic. Watching the film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett, I was struck by an odd inverse of Joan’s story: the film begins with a burning at the stake and ends with virginity.

Now, debating the accuracy of Elizabeth would be fruitless, but looking at the thematic and artistic choices of the film and comparing them to Joan’s story is still perfectly valid. Over the course of the film, we are shown an Elizabeth that is being pressured to marry, not only so that she will provide a male heir to shore up the throne and the line’s stability, but also so that there will be a male in court making military decisions, instead of a Queen Regent. Elizabeth, frustrated with the caliber of her prospective Kings and uncomprehending the military devotion of the Catholics, finds herself pleading with a statue of the Virgin Mary. In order to prevent the burnings, tortures, and executions that a Catholic reign in England would surely breed, Elizabeth — and I reiterate, this is the film’s interpretation — creates her iconic image of The Virgin Queen as a counterpoint to the Virgin Mary, parallel avatar around with the Anglican faith can muster, and for whom Protestants would be willing to die.

It’s a brilliant little four minutes of film and a great ending. Because she was right… a scant hundred years before Elizabeth’s birth, Joan had used her virginity, her purity, as a rallying point around which thousands fought and died. The idea that Elizabeth could successfully counteract rumours of her dalliances with a regal public persona of absolute purity is a marvelous trick and a gorgeous visual. But the single-mindedness of Elizabeth‘s comparison to Mary when Joan was a more available and more military figure made me wonder what the English feelings were towards Joan during Elizabeth’s reign.

title page of 'The First part of king henry the Sixt'And where better to turn for such information than William Shakespeare. Amusingly, the play sometimes considered to be Shakespeare’s earliest work (others place it third or slightly later) prominently features the character of “Joan la Pucelle”, who strides into Act I, scene ii of Henry VI, part I to recount her origins and even overpower the Dauphin in a quick and furious duel. Trivia fans might enjoy the fact that in the First Folio, Joan is refered to as “Iaone Puzel”, perhaps the most tortured variation on her name in all the multifarious and bizarre variations on her name and her epithets.

I have yet to read 1 Henry VI myself, but the full text is available online or as a facsimile of a 1902 facsimile of the First Folio (2.4MB). Since I haven’t read it, I shall instead present Frederick S. Boas’ analysis in his article “Joan of Arc in Shakespeare, Schiller, and Shaw”, as published in Shakespeare Quarterly in 1951.

[I]n this Elizabethan play, though the courage and shrewdness of Joan are brought in prominence, she is represented throughout as a woman of unchaste life. Not only in this, but at the episodes at Rouen the dramatist is false to history. The city was never surprised by a stratagem and afterwards retaken, though here and again in the story of the counterfeit peasants he adapts an episode in Holinshed connected with the capture of a castle elsewhere. There is another violation of history when in III.iii Joan is made the instrument by her eloquence of detaching the Duke of Burgundy from his alliance with the English. The change of front of this great Duke was an all-important factor in the war , but it did not take place until 1435, while Joan met her end on May 30, 1431. [p.37-38]

[Still, the dramatist’s] characterization of the Maid corresponds in certain points with reality. She is courageous, shrewd, and convinced of her divine mission to save France. On the other hand she is represented as unchaste, coarse of tongue, and in league with the powers of evil. [Joan actually calls upon the assistance of silent figures described as “fiends” in the dramatis personae, implying that Shakespeare wanted the audience to actually see she was consorting with infernal spirits and not saintly voices. —blr] More than one hand has probably been at work, and no consistent image is presented. And except for the clash of French and English patriotism there is no hint of deeper underlying values. Yet speaking broadly the picture of Joan in 1 Henry VI might well pass more than a century and a half after her death with a deeply prejudiced Elizabethan theater audience for a genuine delineation of La Pucelle. [p.39]

Mr. Russell  Liberté,

Roight. I should point out the obvious here, and state exactly how crap I am at updating blogs and things during the summer. In the past, this has been because I have spent my summers under the frantic umbrella of Summerbridge Manchester, and despite the fact that I quit and left the program last August, this summer is no exception. I once again find myself wandering the hallways of The Derryfield School, in a virtually uninterrupted pattern that has held sway since 1988. Aside from the hour and fifty minute commute in the morning, and the fact that I’m trying to do this while simultaneously taking a class a this summer, it’s working out pretty well. Actually, that might be an understatement: I love it; it’s just the commute and the high gas prices and the summer class that bring me down.

However, speaking of the class, I just did a little Joan-related work in order to fulfill an assignment. The class is called Emerging Technology in the School Library Media Center and has consisted primarily, so far, of introducing me to software and websites with which I had already acquired user accounts. The syllabus promises me stuff I haven’t heard of eventually, and I live in hope… However, the recent assignment focused around a little piece of internet curriculum I’d not previously encountered: the WebQuest.

Wikipedia defines a WebQuest as "a research activity in which students collect information, where most of the information comes from the World Wide Web... a highly constructivist teaching method, meaning that students are "turned loose" to find, synthesize, and analyze information in a hands-on fashion, actively constructing their own understanding of the material." Examples at seem to emphasize group work and incorporate a high degree of happy-fun role-playing, despite the fact that there are lesson plans for both high school and adult students, populations that don’t often have time for things like “fun”.

Anyway, I had to write one of these things for my Emerging Tech class, and in order to share the WebQuest with the other students in the class, we had to place it online. So, here it is. Former students — for the Joan class or in general — who are subjecting themselves to this sorry excuse for entertainment are welcome to e-mail me with responses as to whether they might have gone along with such an activity in the classroom and, more usefully, if it had been assigned what clarifying questions they would immediately have asked.

Joan of Arc BeansWhy do I tell this whole dreary story? Well, in coding the hotlinks for the WebQuest, I wanted to send students to a useful page that collected inspirational images of various Joan postcards from the last century. I couldn’t remember the URL offhand, but thought it might be This was not the case — it was — as is instead owned by and registered to B&G Foods, Inc. because they own the trademark to Joan of Arc Kidney Beans. Somehow, while searching for various appearances of Joan in pop culture last year, it never occurred to me to look for instances in the supermarket. More fool me. I should have expected something like that from the manufacturers of Brer Rabbit Molasses.

Pop Culture  15th Century

Alan Moore is perhaps the most well-respected author in contemporary English-language comics. I realize that’s a lot of qualifiers; I don’t mean to imply that if it wasn’t right now, if you were speaking with a Francophone, or someone who isn’t a corpulent, bearded Cat-Piss man like the Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons, that Alan Moore wouldn’t be respected. But the average person won’t have heard of him, and if one were to mention his most well-known comic creations, Joe Q. Public might only be familiar with them via their rather dismal cinematic adaptations. Constantine, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the upcoming V for Vendetta were all originally based upon Moore’s comics. Like I said, not an immediatelly apparent track record of which one might seem proud.

The Maid in Alan Moore's THE 49ERSHowever, the comics each of these films was based upon was quite good, hence the reason why someone might think they could sustain a wider audience than the tens of thousands of comic readers. Moore’s comics are significantly literary, with a structural depth that uses the visual medium is such a way that most authors use repeated phrases and thematic motif. He is also the master of the particular comic book technique of having a “voice-over” narration that operates in conjunction with a separate but realted visual storyline.

What does this have to do with Joan of Arc, you may well ask? Well, today marks the release of the prequel to Moore’s superheroic police precinct comic, Top Ten. Top Ten is the story of the super-powered cops that police the super-powered city of Neopolis. Well-loved amongst comic geeks for its “easter egg” cameo appearances of a number of characters in the populous background scenes, Top Ten was good fun, a decent mystery, and had some entertaining characters. The prequel, The 49ers, is about the establishment of Neopolis, as it is built and settled by super-heroes after World War II. One of the first police officers in the city is Joanna, who uses the nom de guerre “The Maid”, and who has the holy virtue and spiritual powers that one associates with Jehanne la Pucelle. And a funky spacecraft that looks like the holy Catholic thingy that is used as a hand grenade in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

For those of you interested in keeping abreast of Joan’s contemporary appearances and adaptations, you can’t really go wrong with the elegant writings of Alan Moore. Plus, she kills a bunch of vampires. A four-page PDF preview is available for your entertainment and perusal.

The English Channel  Disarmament

French article about the missing blade of a statue of Jehanne

All France was moved by learning that the sword of the statue of Joan of Arc located on the square of the Cathedral of Rheims had been removed. It is necessary to believe that the bayonet of the Virgin attracts much covetousness because it suffered the same mishap before it arrived here a few years ago at Montigny-les-Metz. Unhappily for the inhabitants who pass regularly in front of the square of Saint-Joseph church, this situation became banal.

The statue of Jehanne (sans sword) as it stands in front of the Cathedral Saint JosephThe reproduction of Jeanne After Victory by the sculptor Allouard, whose original is in the Pantheon, was inaugurated in 1935 by Monsignor Pelt and Felix Peupion, mayor of Montigny, is not without previous mishap. Let us recall that the Germans had "put it at evil". It was only by the will of residents of Montigny, in 1949, which they could reunite with this symbol of faith in the destinies of the Fatherland.

Since then, the blade of the sword disappeared as it did in Rheims. The statue of Joan in Montigny-les-Metz looks at her pommel hopelessly. The rocket, the quillon, the guard, it's all there, except.... the blade!

If Rheims decides not to tolerate this disarmament and has 12,000 Euros to give the statue back its original silhouette, Montigny-les-Metz is undoubtedly fortunate. But perhaps a miracle will take place at the foot of this splendid church in time for the celebration of its hundred year anniversary. Who knows?

Translation provided by BabelFish.

Pop Culture  I HATE

Lord, I hate him. When he came to Derryfield to read chapters from Angels and Demons and early pre-press material from The Da Vinci Code I didn’t actually go to see him and hear him. I had read the first chapter of A&D and found it to be the same sloppy writing that had characterized all of Digital Fortress, which was an appallingly one-dimensional screenplay treatment masquerading as a novel. Disgusted with his unmerciful treatment of the English language, I felt that it was the better part of valour for me not to meet him face-to-face just in case I said something I might later regret.

Now that he’s become the international best-selling author of That Book, I wish I had gone to see him, if only to have a more accurate mnemonic portrait of my enemy. Because it’s not so much that I begrudge him his commercial success and enormous popularity — I don’t dislike J.K. Rowling for her ability to pull the wool over the eyes of the collective literate and illiterate publics, and I even got a couple of hours of enjoyment out of the hilariously sophomoronic Vertical Run by Joseph Garber back in the day — but the fact that the book plays so fast and loose with history and accuracy that it has stimulated the long-dormant scepticism centers in people who don’t have sufficient context to be looking at the world through suspicion-coloured glasses.

Just say NO to Dan Brown“What if Jesus did have children? Why has the Catholic Church been hiding these documents from us? What don’t they want us to know?” Kevin Smith clumsily posed these very same queries in his film Dogma, and no one left the cinemas stroking their chins and pondering the relationship between doctrine and history. The Catholic Church, since its inception, has been dealing with whacked-out theories. Transubstantiation is a whacked-out theory, but one that was kept instead of declared heretical. The early church was populated by people who were fighting for pilgrims and congregations and converts, and local saints, faked relics, and splinter doctrines were always the way to get people to flock to your parish. Rome’s job has always been to try and keep a level of consistency amongst the holy writ, which was difficult in just Europe in the early medieval ages and is virtually impossible now. Do we look sceptically upon the decision of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD or the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD?

Both of these instances, you should note long, loooooong predate the establishment of the Knights Templar, which is commonly associated with the Priory of Sion, which is at the heart of this whole Jesus Had Kids debacle. And since it is popularly claimed that the current leader of the Priory constructed a fabricated history for itself [Wikipedia], that holds even less water in my book.

So, why do I care? Besides the fact that I wish more people recognized Brown’s crap writing ability, the populist notion of the Priory of Sion touches upon the reputation of Joan of Arc. The Prior has a long list of Grand Masters, members charged with maintaining the secret protocols of the order, and most of them are famous and influential personages. Frankly, if I were in a secret society, I might want members who were less in the public eye, but if one is retroactively creating a secret order, the way to give it a little juice is to link it to as many historical celebrities as possible. And on the list, along with Claude de Bussy, Leonardo da Vinci, Nostradamus, and Victor Hugo is Rene d’Anjou, who is reported to have led troops in some of Joan’s campaigns after the coronation of Charles at Reims and prior to her capture. A month after her death, Rene himself was captured during the Battle of Bulgneville.

And Rene the Good, Duke of Bar, Duke of Anjou, and Count of Guise is variously connected with Joan in other ways as well. Those that refuse to believe that a commoner could have accomplished what Joan was able to, and that she was secretly royalty of some stripe, often claim that he was her cousin. Still others believe that they were lovers (he was 22 in 1431), and there are camps that believe there is a conspiracy surrounding her death and defamation, and that he was somehow involved.

Frankly, if I’m going to have to pick a bizarre list of people that include Victor Hugo and Jehanne d’Arc, I’m going to go with the list of saints named by the Vietnamese religion of Cao Dai. Founded in 1926, Cao Dai lists Joan of Arc as an “honoured spirit” amidst ranks of great people to be honoured and channelled including Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Confucius, Sun-Yat Sen, Victor Hugo, Julius Caesar, Louis Pasteur, Perikles, Napoleon Bonaparte, Descartes, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

Calendar  September
 11, 1429

Three days earlier, Joan launched an offensive against Paris. She meant to take the Saint-Honoré Gate, but in the moats outside the gate, she was struck with a crossbow bolt in the thigh. It is a severe wound and her captains drag her from the scene of battle, fearful for her life. Joan prefers to stay, but is forced to leave the engagement. The offensive is not successful and some claim that this is in part due to the low morale of Joan’s unfortunate departure.

If fact, now that Charles has been crowned, very little seems to go Joan’s way. Within two days of Joan’s wounding, two duke arrive with order from King Charles to retreat from Paris. Joan is most loath to leave, claiming that her voices told her to remain fighting at the gate. She spends September 11 in prayer.

I made an offering of a sword and armor in Saint-Denis — a whole suit of white armor and a sword which I had won before Paris. That is the custom among soldiers when they are wounded. And because I had been wounded before Paris, I offered them to Saint Denis, for his is the war-cry of France.

Armor found in 1996 and believed to have been worn by Joan of Arc.It is worth noting that Joan had abandoned one or her sacred precepts in order to attack Paris on September 8: it was the Feast of Our Lady’s Nativity. Previously she had roundly refused to let any of the soldiers under her commands wage war on a holy day. She had specifically refused to attack Orleans on Ascension Day, but was now fighting on the birthday of the Virgin Mary. Despite being wounded severly enough to have potentially caused the loss of the battle, Joan doesn’t seem to have connected the dots and attributed Divine Will to her circumstances. Even at her trial Joan first refuses to answer questions about this deviation, and then “simply denied point blank that she had sinend mortally in making her attack.” [Warner, 180] Nor do many people seem to make anything of the fact that she makes a sacrifice to a foreign saint, a saint that is not one of her voices, and does so in the manner of a warrior. This is not a sacrifice designed to find direction in the will of God, it is a martial ceremony for renewed protection and favor upon the field.

Regardless, it all comes to naught. Within ten days the entire army is disssolved and Paris remains in the hands of the English.

The suit of armor in question is believed by Régine Pernoud to be in the Invalides Musée de l’Armée. However, not everyone agrees with Mlle Pernoud that Joan gave someone else’s suit of armor up at the Church of Saint-Denis. Others believe that she presented the saint with her own suit of armor, which was then stoen by the English. Certainly, after Joan’s trial and execution, there is no record of where her personal suit of armor got to. In 1996 it was believed to have resurfaced (See picture on the above left. Accompanying article in the New York Times, June 26, 1996 for those of you with access to subscription databases), but definitive proof is absent. Despite carbon dating that indicates it is from the 1400s, Olivier Bouzy, then head of the Joan of Arc Center in Orleans is quoted in the article as saying, “I’ve seen the armor, and it’s from the end of the 15th century, not the beginning.”

The English Channel  An Ignorant

Brief entry this week, as it’s really a springboard from the mainpage post.

I was looking through my copy of Jane Austen’s The History of England in tandem with the online version of the manuscript while preparing said post. In part because the edition I have — a pocket-sized souvenir from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath — has subtly altered some of the illustrations. They look considerably odder in black and white and without the placements upon the page as originally intended by the author and her artist sister. In doing so, I noticed for the first time that Miss Austen included our dear Jehanne in her minor satirical work.

Jane Austen's manuscript HISTORY OF ENGLAND, featuring Joan of Arc.

Written in 1791 by the 16 year-old Austen, the book was apparently written as a parody of the four-volume The History of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II by Oliver Goldsmith. Supposedly quite popular in its time, Austen apparently thought much less of it, as students are wont and entitled to do. I particularly like her title, which reads to me as a deft admission of her own unsuitability to write a comparable text while simultaneously spitting criticism at the man whose work she parodies: The History of England by a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian (N.B. There will be very few Dates in this History).

As I am unfamilar with Goldsmith’s work, it’s hard for me to say precisely what tone Miss Austen is trying to achieve in the following passage, whether she is mocking Goldsmith’s summary, mocking the ideology about Joan that had sprung up between the two nations, or something less precise.

It was in this reign that Joan of Arc lived
& made such a row among the English.
They should not have burnt her—but they did.

The Church  Gender

When the Pope Formerly Known as Cardinal Ratzinger was finally installed as the new pontiff, he was quoted as saying that he “promised to listen ‘to the world and the will of the Lord'” [BBC, 24/4/05], a concilatory statement to those worried about his conservatism. However, despite the regular “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” tactics of Catholic seminaries that have allowed the ordination of gay priests in an attempt to boost the flagging numbers of people entering the ministry, Pope Benny has now declared that he intends “to ban all gay men from joining the clergy even if they accept a vow of celibacy” [BBC, 23/9/05]. This is generally seen as Rome’s way of trying to show a strong front in preventing further incidence of molestation by priests. The difficulty in this move is that it perpretrates the ongoing mistaken conflation between pedophiles, who are sexually attracted to children, and homosexuals, who are sexually attracted to adults. So this move by the Pope is not only not addressing the problem at hand, it is furthering an ongoing problem of uninformed perception.

Meanwhile, while the ordination of New Hampshire bishop Gene Robinson in the Anglican Church has prompted many to predict an eventual split of the church into two politically-opposed factions, a new little blip for said factions to fight about has appeared on the scene. The Bishop of Hereford, England has ordained a woman to be a priest. However, while women have been allowed to be priests in the Anglican Church for some time, this is reportedly the first woman priest who was born a man and who subsequently underwent gender reassignment surgery.

The Bishop Priddis is quoted as saying

“Gender realignment surgery helps address that issue and it’s about bringing mind and body into wholeness.

“I see this as something restorative and healing.

“What’s important is that she’s a person made by God, loved by God and given gifts by God who feels that she’s called to be a priest and that’s a call that’s been checked out by the church rigorously.”

But Don Horrocks, of the Evangelical Alliance, said the Bible made it “absolutely clear that God created human beings as male and female”.

“Therefore there is absolutely no Christian acknowledgement of the 21st Century human idea that it’s possible somehow for a person to take charge of their own destiny and to decide what their own sexuality is,” he added. [BBC, 24/09/05]

With regards to her own choices in cross-gender expression, Joan said at her trial, “I did not put on men’s clothing by the counsel of any man on earth. I did not put n this clothing, nor do anything else, except at the bidding of God and the angels.” [Trask, 100]

But, returning to the Catholic Church, as Pope Benny begins his first synod, in an attempt to clarify issues facing the modern church, I think back to the Vatican II council of 1965. I understand that any church needs to refine its positions in order to continue to be relevant with the needs of the changing world, and it’s a tradition that goes as far back as the amusingly-named Concordat of Worms. Of course, such a name makes it hard for someone as superficial as myself to take the tradition seriously, as does Tom Lehrer’s infamous satire on Vatican II. Listen to it here.

Mr. Russell  Wait just a

So, I had this whole big “Music of Joan of Arc” post planned under the Pop Cultur3 banner, but… that’s not happening. Partially because I feel certain that some of the music, while bizarre, is significantly less amusing than I thought it was when I first found it. That being said, should any reader want a pointer towards an original Finnish musical about Our Lady Joan, post a comment, and I’ll set you up with the links to that, as well as to the music of the band My Favorite, and a early recording of the patriotic anthem “Joan of Arc” as sung by Henry Burr.

Mostly, however, I’ve jumped the concentration track a little bit by discovering the following passage amongst the Statement of Philosophy for the BBC 2 television show QI:

We live, they say, in The Information Age, yet almost none of the information we think we possess is true. Eskimos do not rub noses. The rickshaw was invented by an American. Joan of Arc was not French. Lenin was not Russian. The world is not solid, it is made of empty space and energy, and neither haggis, whisky, porridge, clan tartans nor kilts are Scottish. [Emphasis mine]

Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Stephen Fry, Rob Brydon, Rich HallMost Americans won’t have encountered QI, which stands for “Quite Interesting”, which is the particular gem of the current landscape of both half-hour comedies and game shows. I love it because it a a reference librarian’s dream… it focuses its questions around incorrect common knowledge, basic assumptions that have never been popularly challenged by current research, or which have always been false, and the origins of how these widespread notions supplanted the correct state of affairs is lost to time. Each show is chock-a-block full of nerdy trivia that I would love to have in my proverbial gunbelt.

However, back to the question at hand, I beg your what? Not French? Is this some sort of minor flaky interpretation of history based upon the fact that Domremy was in the suzerainty of the Duke of Burgundy, who was an English ally? Some maps even go so far as to simply say that Champagne was in the recognized territory of English-conquered lands, thus making Joan an English subject, regardless of the political affilitions of her father and the town government? I realize that citizenship wasn’t quite at the same level of solidity in 1430 as it is today, let alone the concept of of nationality. However, Joan was fighting for the sovereignty of Charles, which certainly makes her a French subject by treason, if nothing else.

The Hundred Years War  Agincourt
 and Emma

Two recently publications, with the reviews partially quoted below. The first is on Henry V’s famous victory at the battle of Agincourt, the second on the influence of another powerful and influential medieval woman, the Norman Queen Emma. The full reviews are linked below; please give the publications that produced them their due by clicking through and reading the whole article. Hopefully, I should have my own review of Queen Emma in a few weeks; Agincourt is not yet available for sale in the United States.

Agincourt: the King, the Campaign, the Battle by Juliet Barker
Reviewed by Frances Stonor Saunders

The military facts of the battle of Agincourt, insofar as they can be accurately reconstructed, are briskly delivered by Juliet Barker. Too briskly, perhaps. We have to wait until page 287 for the fight to begin, and a mere 20 pages later, it’s over (give or take: a subsequent chapter deals with the mopping-up exercise). There is little or nothing to distinguish her treatment from, say, John Keegan’s commanding chapter in The Face of Battle. But Barker’s account, as her subtitle suggests, seeks a much wider perspective on this cherished episode in English national myth than conventional military history can offer.

…[T]his is narrative non-fiction in grand sweep mode. This allows Barker to gather up much rich material, but leaves her little room for analysis. We learn of the extraordinary sums raised to pay for Henry’s campaign, and much about how it was disbursed, but there is no discussion of how this impacted the economy…

Elsewhere, Barker is more vigilant in her reading of primary sources (not just for what they say, but for what they fail to say). She is right to warn of the “propaganda trap” that historians must dodge, “the one-sided, politically motivated or simply jingoistic” response to Agincourt that seasoned generations of prep-school history lessons…

Queen Emma And The Vikings: Power, Love And Greed In 11th-Century England by Harriet O’Brien
Reviewed by Donna Bowman

Journalist Harriet O’Brien chooses an intriguing and relatively unheralded figure on which to hang her tale: Emma, the daughter of a Norman king, wedded as a girl to Aethelred, the Anglo-Saxon king of England. The wedding was an attempt to forge an alliance against the Viking raiders that had been plaguing England for decades. After Aethelred’s death 14 years later, Emma, half-Danish herself, hooked up with a notorious Viking invader. She managed to place two of her sons on the English throne in a time of cutthroat intrigue battles over succession.

Few contemporary records show details about Emma’s life, so O’Brien makes much of court documents that list Emma as a witness. Her methodology in writing about these contracts and treaties illustrates the way she approaches her subject as a whole. First she extrapolates creatively from what’s known about the “witness” role to place Emma in a semi-fictional scene. Then she steps back for a look at the social hierarchy of 11th-century England, the legal status of women, and the historical-critical techniques that allow a glimpse beneath later forgeries, ideological corrections, and political censorship in the witnessed documents.

Calendar  Saint Martin

November 11, the Feast of Saint Martin.

From the 11th of July, 1430 until late November of that same year, Jehanne was held prisoner in the fortress of Beaurevoir. While imprisoned, Jehanne made two attempts to escape, one of which involved jumping from the tower in which she was held. In her testimony, Jehanne variously says that she did this in an attempt to end her life, much in the way that she believed lives were being mercilessly ended in the siege of Compiègne, and that she did not jump out of despair.

Despair, the official reason for suicide in medieval Catholocism, was widely held to be one of the worst of the mortal sins. To end one’s own life was to reject the gift that God had given and was an act that was in total refutation of His will and His plan. Despair was a truly desperate sin, and one that Jehanne would have been careful not to admit to in trial. However, she also said that she would “rather die than be in the hands of the hands of the English”. Joan of Luxembourg, the Lady of the estate of Beaurevoir had considerable influence over her nephew, John of Luxembourg, the count who held Jehanne captive. It wasn’t until her death in 18 Septmeber, 1430 that the Lord of Luxembourg felt like he could enter into negotiations in good faith to turn Jehanne over to the English. Even though it is not known for certain when Jehanne jumped, it was almost certain that by early October she would have known about certain arrangements. Régine Pernoud is only willing to posit that it was “well before” November the 11th, but I am willing to stake an earlier claim: if the siege of Compiègne was raised by 24 October, then Jehanne’s jump must have occrred before any rumours of the tide turning would have filtered across the countryside.

Image copyright Rik ScherpenbergBut, to re-emphasize, Jehanne’s claims for the easons why she jumped vary to a considerable degree, sometimes even within the same block of testimony. She wishes to die, because how can she live while the people of Compiègne are dying; she would rather die than be delivered to the English, and she did not wish to die, but simply escape — “In leaping I commened myself to God”.

So what’s the big deal about November 11th? One of Jehanne’s voices, St. Catherine, promised Jehanne that the people of Compiègne would have received help by that date. Of course, she gives testimony well after the siege has been lifted, so this is not so much an event that one can chalk up on the “successfully recorded miracle” side of the tally. It is more important to recognize that, like attacking Paris on a holy day, this is one of the key moments where Jehanne defies her voices and, by extension, the will of her Lord God. Which makes he last statement, about commending herself to God’s judgment as she leaps, particularly interesting. She says that St. Catherine told her numerous times not to jump, and says that she argued back and then chose to jump anyway, and yet she still thinks God will deliver her from merciless gravity? No wonder after falling and being recaptured she had not the will to eat for two or three days.

For more about Saint Martin, the man, visit his Wikipedia article.

Pop Culture  Homegirl

I am addicted to eBay.

This is a considerable problem, because I am also broker than Al Roker, and eBay requires capital which I cannot afford to spend. I basically look for things in one of four categories: a) Items having to do with the film Charade, b) items having to do with the original productions of The Philadelphia Story on film and on Broadway, c) props and costumes from various movies, and d) press kits and promotional goodies from film premieres and junkets. I am not catholic in my tastes, but only want items that are associated with films or actors for which I hold particular affection, but this is also where the addiciton comes in. For while I didn’t think that the recent film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was particularly good, I sure wouldn’t mind getting one of the promo towels that have the embroidered logo and the words “Don’t Panic” sewn into the material in large, friendly letters. And the slippery slope is pretty damn slippery in this regard: even the most gentle or casual of regards is stoked into a pillar of fire by the chance to have some kitchy object attached to it.

Joan Is Our HomegirlEven harder to resist are vintage pieces of promotional itemry from the 1963 film Charade. Most people don’t understand my obsession with Charade, something that is clear to me simply by their use of the word “obsession”. Charade is my hobby. In the way in which I once collected back issues of comic books, I now collect stuff having to do with Charade: print ads, promo materials, original magainzes with contemporary reviews or interviews, props, costumes, autographs, etc. It gives me something to look for when I’m in a new city: find antique and memorabilia stores and wander around, peering into dusty bins. This sort of a hobby gives a good focus to traveler, and gets him out of his hotel room and out into the city. Museums can do the same thing, as can bars, but the people who go to those are also hobbyists, also collectors: they collect experiences, the collect the knowledge and samplings of microbreweries, the collect snowglobes or ticket stubs or refrigerator magnets.

Aside from one slip — I picked up a 1963 Showman’s Manual with only four damaged pages — I have been very good about not succumbing to the siren call of eBay for the last year and a half. As soon as I’m salaried again, you know I’ll be back, though, checking the listings every fortnight, hoping to stumble upon that rare item, that rare deal. But until then, I will be strong. Which is why I’m glad that the official worn-by-the-crew of Joan of Arcadia “Joan is our Homegirl” t-shirt is no longer available for bidding. This will help me stay strong for a little longer.


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