The idea that Joan of Arc was raped was first popularized by Pamela Marcantel's novel "An Army of Angels" and then repeated by other people, some of whom have further confused the issue by claiming it was Jean Massieu (rather than Isambart de La Pierre) who mentioned an alleged rape.
Marcantel defended her view with the following main points:
1) She claims that Friar Isambart de La Pierre had stated (at the postwar appellate trial) that Joan was subjected to rape rather than only attempted rape, by giving his quote as: "I heard from Jeanne herself that she had been assaulted by a great lord," which is a mistranslation of his 2nd deposition on May 3, 1452. Translated properly, the crucial final phrase in the above actually reads: "someone of great authority tried to rape her" (emphasis added). This is how DuParc and Oursel also translate it. For the record, it could be noted that even the interpretation "she had been assaulted" would not prove a rape occurred: a woman can be assaulted by a man attempting to rape her, without the attacker attaining his objective.
2) Once the above is cleared up and a proper translation is used, Marcantel's second main argument loses its only supporting prop: the argument being that we should dismiss Joan of Arc's own recorded words (as relayed by Jean Toutmouillé) saying that her body had never been corrupted, which Marcantel admits is a reference to her continued virginity but speculates that Joan was simply "in denial" when she made this statement. The only justification offered for this view is the mistranslated quote from Isambart de La Pierre covered above, which is cited as a contradiction to the latter quote: in this scenario, Joan allegedly described the rape to Friar Isambart but then began to deny that the event occurred. This is a case of taking a misquotation and then coming up with a bit of speculation to try to reconcile it with the other evidence. Marcantel herself notes that Friar Martin Ladvenu also described an attempted rape in his 4th deposition (May 13, 1456), and it could be noted that still other witnesses provided additional confirmation, such as Guillaume Manchon in his fourth deposition on May 12th: "And in my presence she was asked [by the judges] why she had resumed this male clothing. She replied that she had done it to protect her virginity, because she was not safe in female clothing among her guards, who wanted to rape her". [i.e., the description is not of an actual rape but rather something the guards wanted to commit). This in fact appears to have been the consensus among the eyewitnesses.
As a final note on a related issue: the reason the "male clothing" was such a crucial means of preventing rape (as Marcantel notes) is because the clothing in question had "laces and hooks" to attach the tunic securely to the long hip-boots and hosen (i.e., the snug pants worn by men in that era), and once the outfit was thus laced together it would be a substantial undertaking for an attacker to pull the pants off. Again, the eyewitnesses specifically state this when they say that she had to keep the outfit "firmly laced and tied", and anyone familiar with the clothing of the period will immediately know what they are referring to here: there are a great many medieval documents which describe (and in some cases illustrate) such clothing.
(Also see: "Primary Sources and Context Concerning Joan of Arc's Male Clothing")
Copyright © 2002 - 2003, Allen Williamson. All rights reserved.