This is a letter sent to Count Jean IV d'Armagnac, in response to the
Count's previous letter asking her which of the three rival Popes should
be obeyed. The Papacy had been disputed by multiple claimants for
several decades by that point, a period known as "the Great Schism" in
Predictably, the pro-English clergy who placed her on trial
would later try to use these letters against her by charging that
she had the pretension of pronouncing which Pope was the valid claimant;
although: 1) Joan testified that the portion of the letter which
promises to give an opinion on the matter was inaccurate,
explaining that this comment actually concerned a different issue which the
Count's messenger had brought up.
This discrepancy can be explained by looking at her description of the
hectic conditions prevailing during the dictation of the letter: she said she was
just preparing to ride off, and the Count's messenger was facing threats
from others nearby who wanted to "throw him into the river", at the time
when the contents of the letter were being communicated. The
scribe may therefore have garbled portions of the letter in the confusion.
On a final point, she also explained
that as far as she knew, "the Pope in Rome" (Martin V, the claimant
also supported by her judges) was the valid Pontiff.
2) Moreover: her judges' allegation, even if it had been based on
accurate information, can easily be shown to be a distortion
of medieval theology. Earlier during
the Schism, other mystics or visionaries had made precisely the type of
pronouncement being alleged here, but without being considered heretics
for details]. Since Joan of Arc had previously been approved as a valid
visionary by the clergy
at Poitiers in March of 1429, she, like the others, would have had the
right to relay messages on such issues if she had chosen to do so.
A brief word should be said about her correspondent, Count Jean IV
of Armagnac. Although he was the son of the man whom the "Armagnac"
faction had been named after, Jean pursued a remarkably different policy than
his father: he supported the English in 1421, further angered Charles VII
by paying homage to the King of Castille in 1425, and
subsequently negotiated for a more permanent marriage alliance with
the English Royal family.
Despite his name and lineage, he was not a staunch supporter of the "Armagnac"
His question to Joan was motivated by his
troubles with the rival Popes: true to form, he had supported
various claimants in turn, and was excommunicated by Martin V on 4
March 1429. It was natural to resolve such dilemmas by turning to
accepted visionaries. The Count would shortly submit to Martin V,
who lifted the sentence of excommunication on 4 March 1430.
The full text of the letter was entered into the Condemnation
transcript. Although the original letter itself has not survived, the
transcript's copy was preceded by the description that the original
was "signed by her own hand", which would mean that this signature
was an earlier example than the one on the letter of 9 November 1429.
An English translation is below on the left; commentary on the right.
A transcription of the original language is also available,
as is the Count's letter which initiated the correspondence.