Joan of Arc's letter to Charles VII, c. 20 November 1429

 

 

 

Joan of Arc's letter to Charles VII
(c. 20 November 1429)
 

Introduction

According to the testimony at the Condemnation trial, Joan of Arc dictated a letter to Charles VII concerning Catherine de La Rochelle, a woman associated with the Franciscan clergyman Friar Richard. Catherine claimed to see visions of a "white lady", which Joan rejected as false.

The testimony is included below, in the original format (the standard third-person rendering that was the normal procedure in medieval court transcripts). An English translation is on the left, notes and commentary on the right. A transcription of the original language is also available.


English Translation1 Notes and Commentary

[From the trial session on 3 March 1431]

"Asked what she [Catherine de la Rochelle] had said to her, she [Joan] replied that this Catherine told her that a white lady dressed in cloth-of-gold appeared to her, and would tell her that she should go through the cities,n1 and the king would give her heralds and trumpets to announce that whoever had any gold, silver, or hidden valuables should immediately bring it;n2 and that for those who didn't do so and yet possessed hidden items, she would know it without a doubt, and would know how to find these valuables; and [she said] that this would be used for paying Joan's men-at-arms. To which the aforesaid Joan replied that she [Catherine] should return to her husband, do the housework and raise her children.n3 And in order to find out for certain about this matter, she spoke to Saint Margaret or Saint Catherine, who told her that the matter of this Catherine was nothing but foolishness, and was completely meaningless. And she wrote to her Kingn4 that she would tell him what he should do about this; and when she met with him, she told him that the matter of the aforesaid Catherine was foolishness and completely meaningless."


 

 

 

Note 1:
In the French minutes of the trial: "bonnes villes", a term often used for walled towns.

 

Note 2:
As is indicated a bit farther below, in which the purpose of this plan is described as the payment of Joan's troops, this was Catherine's proposed solution to the Royal army's chronic shortage of funds.

 

 

Note 3:
This comment telling Catherine to go back home and do the housework, etc, is one of Joan of Arc's few recorded statements concerning (in any manner) the subject of "gender roles" - the other chief statement being her comment that "I would prefer to spin wool beside my poor mother [i.e., rather than going to the war], because this is not of my social station", explaining elsewhere that she had resisted for several years her saints' orders to go to the war.

Note 4:
I.e., dictated a letter to a scribe. Although no date is given, it's assumed that it was sent from Montfaucon-en-Berri when she was there around 20 November 1429.


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Translation and other content Copyright 2005, Allen Williamson. All rights reserved.