translated by Allen Williamson

Joan of Arc's Letter to Her Parents
(Probably March 1429)

In her testimony at the Condemnation trial, Joan of Arc mentioned sending a letter to her parents at some point after her departure, in which she explained her reasons for having left Vaucouleurs while staying with family relations.

There are many misconceptions related to these events. She did not "run away" from home: her own testimony, and the later testimony of the eyewitnesses at the postwar appeal of her case, state that she had left with her uncle, Durand Lassois, to help his wife during her pregnancy. She then stayed with family friends, Henri and Catherine Royer, before convincing the local garrison commander to give her an escort to bring her to Chinon. Durand Lassois helped her leave on this journey by paying part of the cost of her horse. She therefore had the help and consent of a family member.
Another misconception concerns a theological issue. Her pro-English judges predictably accused her of violating the Commandment to "honor thy father and mother", but this is one of her judges' many subtle distortions of doctrine: while the Commandments certainly do require obedience to one's parents under most circumstances, the Bible clarifies the context by quoting Christ as saying that obedience to God can require disobedience to one's parents: "For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" [Matthew 10:35] and "He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me" [Matthew 10:37]. Medieval books of saints' lives were full of cases in which saints defied their parents in order to obey a Divine calling - a common theme. Joan said that her own 'disobedience' had this motivation, and would therefore not be a violation of medieval Catholic doctrine.

Although she doesn't state when this letter was dictated or where it was sent from, it's assumed that it must have been either during her stop at Ste-Catherine-de-Fierbois or after her arrival at Chinon.

The letter itself has not survived; but below is a translation of her testimony on this subject, during the trial session on 12 March 1431; translated from ms 1119 at la Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée Nationale. This translation leaves the testimony in its original form - in the third-person voice, as court transcripts of that era were recorded.
An English translation is on the left; commentary on the right. A transcription of the original language is also available.  
English TranslationNotes and Commentary

[Excerpt from the trial session on 12 March 1431]

"Asked whether she believed she had done well by leaving without the permission of her father and mother,n1 since honor should be given to one's father and mother;n2 she replied that in all other things she certainly did obey her father and mother,n3 except concerning this departure; but later she wrote to them about it and they forgave her.n4 Asked whether, when she left her father and mother, she believed she was sinning, she replied that since God was ordering it, it was necessary to do it; she additionally said that since God was ordering it, if she had a hundred fathers and a hundred mothers,1 and if she had been a king's daughter, she nevertheless would have left."

Note 1: This is a bit misleading, since she did obtain permission from her parents to leave the village with her uncle, Durand Lassois. The latter approved and facilitated her departure from Vaucouleurs.

Note 2: See the comments above concerning the full theological position on this point, and Joan's explanation for her own 'disobedience' farther below in this excerpt.

Note 3: This is confirmed by the witnesses at the appeal, who said that her life at home was marked by obedience: they remembered that "we never saw her in the streets", since she was always at home spinning wool or helping with the other chores, or at church praying.

Note 4: This is confirmed by her family's involvement during her campaigns: her mother met some of the men who had escorted her to Chinon and had them bring a friar named Jean Pasquerel to Joan to serve as her chaplain and confessor; two of Joan's brothers joined her in the army; and we know from the municipal records of Rheims that her parents attended the coronation.

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