Jeanne des Armoises (aka Claude of)

Jeanne des Armoises (aka Claude of)

From 1434 to 1440 Jeanne des Armoises, also known as Claude des Armoises, was presented as being Joan of Arc. Despite the Maid of Orléans having been publicly executed, there was widespread acceptance of this new Jeanne as being the heroine of France. So much so that the brothers of Joan of Arc accepted her as their sister, the town of Orléans stopped the annual services commemorating the Maid’s death, and many people who had known Joan of Arc contributed funds to Jeanne des Armoises cause.

Jeanne des Armoises was revealed as an imposter by King Charles VII. The true maid had shared a secret with him, one which Jeanne des Armoises had no knowledge of. She admitted that she was false and presented a ‘true’ account, rather implausible, of what her real history was. The admission to the King was not the end of her being accepted by the brothers of Joan of Arc though, they continued to treat Jeanne des Armoises as their sister after the myth was shattered!

The origin of the ruse seems to be manipulation of a fear held by the English at the time of Joan of Arc’s execution. French historian Jules Quicherat noted that:

‘When the Maid was dead, as the English feared that she might be said to have escaped, they bade the executioner rake back the fire somewhat that the bystanders might see her dead’.

Chronicles occasionally hint at the real Jeanne escaping. This most probably reflects stories concocted to explain how Jeanne des Armoises was Joan of Arc. In a climate in which the French were still fighting against the English, and victory was by no means assured at this point, the survival of the talismanic maid would be greeted warmly and possibly without scepticism in some quarters.

 At last they burned her, or another woman like her, on which point many persons are, and have been, of different opinions. Bibliotheque de l’Ecole des Chartes, ii., Second Series.

That Jeanne was accepted by the brothers of Joan of Arc may appear strange. They did, however, stand to benefit greatly from the reappearance of their sister. In very simple terms, the story of the maid’s escape and survival generated a lot of money: the council of Orléans spent 210 livres on the expenses of Jeanne des Armoises in July 1439, just one example of a large amount of money being spent of the legend of her survival.

Clearly there are similarities between Joan of Arc and Jeanne des Armoises. They were both from peasant families. Appearances must have been reasonably similar to convince people who had seen the maid from afar that Jeanne des Armoises was the maid of Orléans. Likewise, Jeanne des Armoises met with people of all ranks who had met Joan of Arc. Whilst some of these people may have been ‘in’ on a plan to create a myth, it is implausible that all were. The fake Jeanne must also have had a very similar voice to the true maid, or they would not have believed that it was the same person. The imposter also wore armour, dressed as a soldier, and according to some accounts she was active on military campaigns.


Did Joan Survive as “Claude des Armoises”?

Andrew Lang

Procès de condamnation et de réhabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc, dite la Pucelle

Jeanne des Armoises,

Image Credit

Portrait présumé de Claude (ou Jeanne) des Armoises, médaillon peint au dessus d’une cheminée du château de Jaulny et datant vraisemblablement du XIXe siècle. Circa 1871

Jeanne des Armoises in documents

Jeanne des Armoises appears in many contemporary records. These are outlined in the nineteenth century works of Jules Quicherat. A summary of these is included in The Valet’s Tragedy And Other Studies by Andrew Long (1903), the text of which is Public Domain and is copied below:

From the Valet’s Tragedy and Other Studies. Andrew Long. 1903.

Chapter Four: The False Jeanne d’Arc

Who that ever saw Jeanne d’Arc could mistake her for another woman? No portrait of the Maid was painted from the life, but we know the light perfect figure, the black hair cut short like a soldier’s, and we can imagine the face of her, who, says young Laval, writing to his mother after his first meeting with the deliverer of France, ‘seemed a thing all divine.’ Yet even two of her own brothers certainly recognised another girl as the Maid, five years after her death by fire. It is equally certain that, eight years after the martyrdom of Jeanne, an impostor dwelt for several days in Orleans, and was there publicly regarded as the heroine who raised the siege in 1429. Her family accepted the impostor for sixteen years. These facts rest on undoubted evidence.

To unravel the threads of the story is a task very difficult. My table is strewn with pamphlets, papers, genealogies, essays; the authors taking opposite sides as to the question, Was Jeanne d’Arc burned at Rouen on May 30, 1431? Unluckily even the most exact historians (yea, even M. Quicherat, the editor of the five volumes of documents and notices about the Maid) (1841-1849) make slips in dates, where dates are all important. It would add confusion if we dwelt on these errors, or on the bias of the various disputants.

Not a word was said at the Trial of Rehabilitation in 1452-1456 about the supposed survival of the Maid. But there are indications of the inevitable popular belief that she was not burned. Long after the fall of Khartoum, rumours of the escape of Charles Gordon were current; even in our own day people are loth to believe that their hero has perished. Like Arthur he will come again, and from Arthur to James IV. of Scotland, from James IV. to the Duke of Monmouth, or the son of Louis XVI., the populace believes and hopes that its darling has not perished. We destroyed the Mahdi’s body to nullify such a belief, or to prevent worship at his tomb. In the same way, at Rouen, ‘when the Maid was dead, as the English feared that she might be said to have escaped, they bade the executioner rake back the fire somewhat that the bystanders might see her dead.’* An account of a similar precaution, the fire drawn back after the Maid’s robes were burned away, is given in brutal detail by the contemporary diarist (who was not present), the Bourgeois de Paris.**

*Quicherat, iii. p. 191. These lines are not in MS. 5970. M. Save, in Jehanne des Armoises, Pucelle d’Orleans, p. 6 (Nancy, 1893), interpolates, in italics, words of his own into his translation of this text, which improve the force of his argument! **Quicherat, iv. p. 471.

In spite of all this, the populace, as reflected in several chronicles, was uncertain that Jeanne had died. A ‘manuscript in the British Museum’ says: ‘At last they burned her, or another woman like her, on which point many persons are, and have been, of different opinions.’*

*Save, p. 7, citing Bibliotheque de l’Ecole des Chartes, ii., Second Series.

This hopeful rumour of the Maid’s escape was certain to arise, populus vult decipi.

Now we reach a point at which we may well doubt how to array the evidence. But probably the best plan is first to give the testimony of undoubted public documents from the Treasury Accounts of the town of Orleans. In that loyal city the day of the Maid’s death had been duly celebrated by religious services; the Orleanese had indulged in no illusions. None the less on August 9, 1436, the good town pays its pursuivant, Fleur-de-lys, ‘because he had brought letters to the town FROM JEHANNE LA PUCELLE’! On August 21 money is paid to ‘Jehan du Lys, brother of Jehanne la Pucelle,’ because he has visited the King, Charles VII., is returning to his sister, the Maid, and is in want of cash, as the King’s order given to him was not fully honoured. On October 18 another pursuivant is paid for a mission occupying six weeks. He has visited the Maid at Arlon in Luxembourg, and carried letters from her to the King at Loches on the Loire. Earlier, in August, a messenger brought letters from the Maid, and went on to Guillaume Belier, bailiff of Troyes, in whose house the real Maid had lodged, at Chinon, in the dawn of her mission, March 1429. Thus the impostor was dealing, by letters, with some of the people who knew the Maid best, and was freely accepted by her brother Jehan.*

*Quicherat, v. pp. 326-327.

For three years the account-books of Orleans are silent about this strange Pucelle. Orleans has not seen her, but has had Jeanne’s brother’s word for her reappearance, and the word, probably, of the pursuivants sent to her. Jeanne’s annual funeral services are therefore discontinued.

Mention of her in the accounts again appears on July 18, 1439. Money is now paid to Jaquet Leprestre for ten pints and a chopine of wine given to DAME JEHANNE DES ARMOISES. On the 29th, 30th, and on August 1, when she left the town, entries of payments for quantities of wine and food for Jehanne des Armoises occur, and she is given 210 livres ‘after deliberation with the town council,’ ‘for the good that she did to the said town during the siege of 1429.’

The only Jehanne who served Orleans in the siege was Jehanne d’Arc. Here, then, she is, as Jehanne des Armoises, in Orleans for several days in 1439, feasted and presented with money by command of the town council. Again she returns and receives ‘propine’ on September 4.* The Leprestre who is paid for the wine was he who furnished wine to the real Maid in 1429.

*Quicherat, v. pp. 331-332.

It is undeniable that the people of Orleans must have seen the impostor in 1439, and they ceased to celebrate service on the day of the true Maid’s death. Really it seems as if better evidence could not be that Jeanne des Armoises, nee Jeanne d’Arc, was alive in 1439. All Orleans knew the Maid, and yet the town council recognised the impostor.

She is again heard of on September 27, 1439, when the town of Tours pays a messenger for carrying to Orleans letters which Jeanne wrote to the King, and also letters from the bailli of Touraine to the King, concerning Jeanne. The real Jeanne could not write, but the impostor, too, may have employed a secretary.*

*Quicherat, v. p. 332.

In June 1441 Charles VII. pardoned, for an escape from prison, one de Siquemville, who, ‘two years ago or thereabouts’ (1439), was sent by the late Gilles de Raiz, Marechal de France, to take over the leadership of a commando at Mans, which had hitherto been under ‘UNE APPELEE JEHANNE, QUI SE DISOIT PUCELLE.’* The phrase ‘one styled Jehanne who called herself Pucelle’ does not indicate fervent belief on the part of the King. Apparently this Jeanne went to Orleans and Tours after quitting her command at Mans in 1439. If ever she saw Gilles de Raiz (the notorious monster of cruelty) in 1439, she saw a man who had fought in the campaigns of the true Maid under her sacred banner, argent a dove on an azure field.**

*Quicherat, v. p. 333. **She never used the arms given to her and her family by Charles VII.

Here public documents about the impostor fall silent. It is not known what she was doing between August 9, 1436, and September 1439. At the earlier date she had written to the town of Orleans; at the later, she was writing to the King, from Tours. Here an error must be avoided. According to the author of the ‘Chronicle of the Constable of Alvaro de Luna,’* the impostor was, in 1436, sending a letter, and ambassadors, to the King of Spain, asking him to succour La Rochelle. The ambassadors found the King at Valladolid, and the Constable treated the letter, ‘as if it were a relic, with great reverence.’

*Madrid, 1784, p. 131.

The impostor flies high! But the whole story is false.

  1. Quicherat held at first that the date and place may be erroneously stated, but did not doubt that the False Pucelle did send her ambassadors and letter to the King of Spain. We never hear that the true Maid did anything of the sort. But Quicherat changed his mind on the subject. The author of the ‘Chronicle of Alvaro de Luna’ merely cites a Coronica de la Poncella. That coronica, says Quicherat later, ‘is a tissue of fables, a romance in the Spanish taste,’ and in this nonsense occurs the story of the embassy to the Spanish King. That story does not apply to the False Pucelle, and is not true, a point of which students of Quicherat’s great work need to be warned; his correction may escape notice.*

*Revue des Questions Historiques, April 1, 1881, pp. 553-566. Article by the Comte de Puymaigre.

We thus discard a strong trump in the hand of believers that the impostor was the real Maid; had a Pucelle actually sent ambassadors to Spain in 1436, their case would be stronger than it is.

Next, why is the false Pucelle styled ‘Jeanne des Armoises’ in the town accounts of Orleans in 1439?

This leads us to the proofs of the marriage of the false Pucelle, in 1436, with a Monsieur Robert des Armoises, a gentleman of the Metz country. The evidence is in a confused state. In the reign of Louis XIV. lived a Pere Vignier, a savant, who is said to have been a fraudulent antiquary. Whether this be true or not, his brother, after the death of Pere Vignier, wrote a letter to the Duc de Grammont, which was published in the ‘Mercure Galant’ of November, 1683. The writer says that his brother, Pere Vignier, found, at Metz, an ancient chronicle of the town, in manuscript, and had a copy made by a notary royal. The extract is perfectly genuine, whatever the reputation of the discoverer may be. This portion of the chronicle of the doyen of Saint-Thibaud de Metz exists in two forms, of which the latter, whoever wrote it, is intended to correct the former.

In the earlier shape the author says that, on May 20, 1436, the Pucelle Jeanne came to Metz, and was met by her brothers, Pierre, a knight, and Jehan, an esquire. Pierre had, in fact, fought beside his sister when both he and she were captured, at Compiegne, in May 1430. Jehan, as we have already seen, was in attendance on the false Maid in August 1436.

According to the Metz chronicle, these two brothers of the Maid, on May 20, 1436, recognised the impostor for their sister, and the account-books of Orleans leave no doubt that Jehan, at least, actually did accept her as such, in August 1436, four months after they met in May. Now this lasting recognition by one, at least, of the brothers, is a fact very hard to explain.

  1. Anatole France offers a theory of the easiest. The brothers went to Lorraine in May 1436, to see the pretender. ‘Did they hurry to expose the fraud, or did they not think it credible, on the other hand, that, with God’s permission, the Saint had risen again? Nothing could seem impossible, after all that they had seen. . . . They acted in good faith. A woman said to them, “I am Jeanne, your sister.” They believed, because they wished to believe.’ And so forth, about the credulity of the age.

The age was not promiscuously credulous. In a RESURRECTION of Jeanne, after death, the age did not believe. The brothers had never seen anything of the kind, nor had the town council of Orleans. THEY had nothing to gain by their belief, the brothers had everything to gain. One might say that they feigned belief, in the hope that ‘there was money in it;’ but one cannot say that about the people of Orleans who had to spend money. The case is simply a puzzle.*

*Anatole France, ‘La Fausse Pucelle,’ Revue de Famille, Feb. 15, 1891. I cite from the quotation by M. P. Lanery d’Arc in Deux Lettres (Beauvais, 1894), a brochure which I owe to the kindness of the author.

After displaying feats of horsemanship, in male attire, and being accepted by many gentlemen, and receiving gifts of horses and jewels, the impostor went to Arlon, in Luxembourg, where she was welcomed by the lady of the duchy, Elizabeth de Gorlitz, Madame de Luxembourg. And at Arlon she was in October 1436, as the town accounts of Orleans have proved. Thence, says the Metz chronicle, the ‘Comte de Warnonbourg'(?) took her to Cologne, and gave her a cuirass. Thence she returned to Arlon in Luxembourg, and there married the knight Robert des Hermoises, or Armoises, ‘and they dwelt in their own house at Metz, as long as they would.’ Thus Jeanne became ‘Madame des Hermoises,’ or ‘Ermaises,’ or, in the town accounts of Orleans, in 1439, ‘des Armoises.’

So says the Metz chronicle, in one form, but, in another manuscript version, it denounces this Pucelle as an impostor, who especially deceived tous les plus grands. Her brothers, we read (the real Maid’s brothers), brought her to the neighbourhood of Metz. She dwelt with Madame de Luxembourg, and married ‘Robert des Armoize.’* The Pere Vignier’s brother, in 1683, published the first, but not the second, of these two accounts in the ‘Mercure Galant’ for November.

*Quicherat, v. pp. 321-324, cf. iv. 321.

In or about 1439, Nider, a witch-hunting priest, in his Formicarium, speaks of a false Jeanne at Cologne, protected by Ulrich of Wirtemberg, (the Metz chronicle has ‘Comte de Warnonbourg’), who took the woman to Cologne. The woman, says Nider, was a noisy lass, who came eating, drinking, and doing conjuring feats; the Inquisition failed to catch her, thanks to Ulrich’s protection. She married a knight, and presently became the concubine of a priest in Metz.* This reads like a piece of confused gossip.

*Quicherat, v. pp. 324-325.

Vignier’s brother goes on to say (1683) in the ‘Mercure Galant,’ that his learned brother found the wedding contract of Jeanne la Pucelle and Robert des Armoises in the charter chest of the M. des Armoises of his own day, the time of Louis XIV. The brother of Vignier had himself met the son of this des Armoises, who corroborated the fact. But ‘the original copy of this ancient manuscript vanished, with all the papers of Pere Vignier, at his death.’

Two months later, in the spring of 1684, Vienne de Plancy wrote to the ‘Mercure Galant,’ saying that ‘the late illustrious brother’ of the Duc de Grammont was fully persuaded, and argued very well in favour of his opinion, that the actual Pucelle did not die at Rouen, but married Robert des Armoises. He quoted a genuine petition of Pierre du Lys, the brother of the real Maid, to the Duc d’Orleans, of 1443. Pierre herein says he has warred ‘in the company of Jeanne la Pucelle, his sister, jusqu’a son absentement, and so on till this hour, exposing his body and goods in the King’s service.’ This, argued M. de Grammont, implied that Jeanne was not dead; Pierre does not say, feue ma soeur, ‘my late sister,’ and his words may even mean that he is still with her. (‘Avec laquelle, jusques a son absentement, ET DEPUIS JUSQUES A PRESENT, il a expose son corps.’)*

*The petition is in Quicherat, v. pp. 212-214. For Vienne-Plancy see the papers from the Mercure Galant in Jeanne d’Arc n’a point ete brulee a Rouen (Rouen, Lanctin, 1872). The tract was published in 100 copies only.

Though no copy of the marriage contract of Jeanne and des Armoises exists, Quicherat prints a deed of November 7, 1436, in which Robert des Armoises and his wife, ‘La Pucelle de France,’ acknowledge themselves to be married, and sell a piece of land. The paper was first cited by Dom Calmet, among the documents in his ‘Histoire de Lorraine.’ It is rather under suspicion.

There seems no good reason, however, to doubt the authenticity of the fact that a woman, calling herself Jeanne Pucelle de France, did, in 1436, marry Robert des Armoises, a man of ancient and noble family. Hence, in the town accounts of Tours and Orleans, after October 1436, up to September 1439, the impostor appears as ‘Mme. Jehanne des Armoises.’ In August 1436, she was probably not yet married, as the Orleans accounts then call her ‘Jehanne la Pucelle,’ when they send their pursuivants to her; men who, doubtless, had known the true Maid in 1429-1430. These men did not undeceive the citizens, who, at least till September 1439, accepted the impostor. There is hardly a more extraordinary fact in history. For the rest we know that, in 1436-1439, the impostor was dealing with the King by letters, and that she held a command under one of his marshals, who had known the true Maid well in 1429-1430.

It appears possible that, emboldened by her amazing successes, the false Pucelle sought an interview with Charles VII. The authority, to be sure, is late. The King had a chamberlain, de Boisy, who survived till 1480, when he met Pierre Sala, one of the gentlemen of the chamber of Charles VIII. De Boisy, having served Charles VII., knew and told Sala the nature of the secret that was between that king and the true Maid. That such a secret existed is certain. Alain Chartier, the poet, may have been present, in March 1429, when the Maid spoke words to Charles VII. which filled him with a spiritual rapture. So Alain wrote to a foreign prince in July 1429. M. Quicherat avers that Alain was present: I cannot find this in his letter.* Any amount of evidence for the ‘sign’ given to the King, by his own statement, is found throughout the two trials, that of Rouen and that of Rehabilitation. Dunois, the famous Bastard of Orleans, told the story to Basin, Bishop of Lisieux; and at Rouen the French examiners of the Maid vainly tried to extort from her the secret.** In 1480, Boisy, who had been used to sleep in the bed of Charles VII., according to the odd custom of the time, told the secret to Sala. The Maid, in 1429, revealed to Charles the purpose of a secret prayer which he had made alone in his oratory, imploring light on the question of his legitimacy.*** M. Quicherat, no bigot, thinks that ‘the authenticity of the revelation is beyond the reach of doubt.’****

*Quicherat, Apercus Nouveaux, p. 62. Proces, v. p. 133.

**For the complete evidence, see Quicherat, Apercus, pp. 61-66.

***Quicherat, v. p. 280, iv. pp. 258, 259, another and ampler account, in a MS. of 1500. Another, iv. p. 271: MS. of the period of Louis XII.

****Apercus, p. 60, Paris, 1850.

Thus there was a secret between the true Maid and Charles VII. The King, of course, could not afford to let it be known that he had secretly doubted whether he were legitimate. Boisy alone, at some later date, was admitted to his confidence.

Boisy went on to tell Sala that, ten years later (whether after 1429 or after 1431, the date of the Maid’s death, is uncertain), a pretended Pucelle, ‘very like the first,’ was brought to the King. He was in a garden, and bade one of his gentlemen personate him. The impostor was not deceived, for she knew that Charles, having hurt his foot, then wore a soft boot. She passed the gentleman, and walked straight to the King, ‘whereat he was astonished, and knew not what to say, but, gently saluting her, exclaimed, “Pucelle, my dear, you are right welcome back, in the name of God, who knows the secret that is between you and me.”‘ The false Pucelle then knelt, confessed her sin, and cried for mercy. ‘For her treachery some were sorely punished, as in such a case was fitting.’*

*Quicherat, v. p. 281. There is doubt as to whether Boisy’s tale does not refer to Jeanne la Feronne, a visionary. Varlet de Vireville, Charles VII., iii. p. 425, note 1.

If any deserved punishment, the Maid’s brothers did, but they rather flourished and prospered, as time went on, than otherwise.

It appears, then, that in 1439-1441 the King exposed the false Pucelle, or another person, Jeanne la Feronne. A great foe of the true Maid, the diarist known as the Bourgeois de Paris, in his journal for August 1440, tells us that just then many believed that Jeanne had not been burned at Rouen. The gens d’armes brought to Paris ‘a woman who had been received with great honour at Orleans’– clearly Jeanne des Armoises. The University and Parlement had her seized and exhibited to the public at the Palais. Her life was exposed; she confessed that she was no maid, but a mother, and the wife of a knight (des Armoises?). After this follows an unintelligible story of how she had gone on pilgrimage to Rome, and fought in the Italian wars.* Apparently she now joined a regiment at Paris, et puis s’en alla, but all is very vaguely recorded.

*Quicherat, v. pp. 334, 335; c.f. Lefevre-Pontalis, Les Sources Allemands, 113-115. Fontemoing, Paris, 1903.

The most extraordinary circumstance remains to be told. Apparently the brothers and cousins of the true Maid continued to entertain and accept the impostor! We have already seen that, in 1443, Pierre du Lys, in his petition to the Duc d’Orleans, writes as if he did not believe in the death of his sister, but that may be a mere ambiguity of language; we cannot repose on the passage.

In 1476 a legal process and inquest was held as to the descendants of the brother of the mother of Jeanne d’Arc, named Voulton or Vouthon. Among other witnesses was Henry de Voulton, called Perinet, a carpenter, aged fifty-two. He was grandson of the brother of the mother of Jeanne d’Arc, his grand-maternal aunt. This witness declared that he had often seen the two brothers du Lys, Jehan and Pierre, with their sister, La Pucelle, come to the village of Sermaise and feast with his father. They always accepted him, the witness, as their cousin, ‘in all places where he has been, conversed, eaten, and drunk in their company.’ Now Perinet is clearly speaking of his associations with Jeanne and her brothers AFTER HE HIMSELF WAS A MAN GROWN. Born in 1424, he was only five years old when the Maid left Domremy for ever. He cannot mean that, as a child of five, he was always, in various places, drinking with the Maid and her brothers. Indeed, he says, taking a distinction, that in his early childhood–‘son jeune aage’–he visited the family of d’Arc, with his father, at Domremy, and saw the Maid, qui pour lors estoit jeune fille.*

*De Bouteiller et de Braux, Nouvelles Recherches sur la Famille de Jeanne d’Arc, Paris, 1879, pp. 8, 9.

Moreover, the next witness, the cure of Sermaise, aged fifty-three, says that, twenty-four years ago (in 1452), a young woman dressed as a man, calling herself Jeanne la Pucelle, used to come to Sermaise, and that, as he heard, she was the near kinswoman of all the Voultons, ‘and he saw her make great and joyous cheer with them while she was at Sermaise.’* Clearly it was about this time, in or before 1452, that Perinet himself was conversant with Jehan and Pierre du Lys, and with their sister, calling herself La Pucelle.

*Op. cit. p. 11.

Again, Jehan le Montigueue, aged about seventy, deposed that, in 1449, a woman calling herself Jeanne la Pucelle came to Sermaise and feasted with the Voultons, as also did (but he does not say at the same time) the Maid’s brother, Jehan du Lys.* Jehan du Lys could, at least, if he did not accept her, have warned his cousins, the Voultons, against their pretended kinswoman, the false Pucelle. But for some three years at least she came, a welcome guest, to Sermaise, matched herself against the cure at tennis, and told him that he might now say that he had played against la Pucelle de France. This news gave him the greatest pleasure.

*Op. cit. pp. 4,5, MM. de Bouteiller and de Graux do not observe the remarkable nature of this evidence, as regards the BROTHERS of the Maid; see their Preface, p. xxx.

Jehan Guillaume, aged seventy-six, had seen both the self-styled Pucelle and the real Maid’s brothers at the house of the Voultons. He did not know whether she was the true Maid or not.

It is certain, practically, that this PUCELLE, so merry at Sermaise with the brothers and cousins of the Maid, was the Jeanne des Armoises of 1436-1439. The du Lys family could not successively adopt TWO impostors as their sister! Again, the woman of circ. 1449-1452 is not a younger sister of Jeanne, who in 1429 had no sister living, though one, Catherine, whom she dearly loved, was dead.

We have now had glimpses of the impostor from 1436 to 1440, when she seems to have been publicly exposed (though the statement of the Bourgeois de Paris is certainly that of a prejudiced writer), and again we have found the impostor accepted by the paternal and maternal kin of the Maid, about 1449-1452. In 1452 the preliminary steps towards the Rehabilitation of the true Maid began, ending triumphantly in 1456. Probably the families of Voulton and du Lys now, after the trial began in 1452, found their jolly tennis-playing sister and cousin inconvenient. She reappears, NOT at Sermaise, in 1457. In that year King Rene (father of Margaret, wife of our Henry VI.) gives a remission to ‘Jeanne de Sermaises.’ M. Lecoy de la March, in his ‘Roi Rene’ (1875) made this discovery, and took ‘Jeanne de Sermaises’ for our old friend, ‘Jeanne des Ermaises,’ or ‘des Armoises.’ She was accused of ‘having LONG called herself Jeanne la Pucelle, and deceived many persons who had seen Jeanne at the siege of Orleans.’ She has lain in prison, but is let out, in February 1457, on a five years’ ticket of leave, so to speak, ‘provided she bear herself honestly in dress, and in other matters, as a woman should do.’

Probably, though ‘at present the wife of Jean Douillet,’ this Jeanne still wore male costume, hence the reference to bearing herself ‘honestly in dress.’ She acknowledges nothing, merely says that the charge of imposture lui a ete impose, and that she has not been actainte d’aucun autre vilain cas.* At this date Jeanne cruised about Anjou and the town of Saumur. And here, at the age of forty- five, if she was of the same age as the true Maid, we lose sight for ever of this extraordinary woman. Of course, if she was the genuine Maid, the career of La Pucelle de France ends most ignobly. The idea ‘was nuts’ (as the Elizabethans said) to a good anti-clerical Frenchman, M. Lesigne, who, in 1889, published ‘La Fin d’une Legende.’ There would be no chance of canonising a Pucelle who was twice married and lived a life of frolic.

*Lecoy de la Marche, Le Roi Rene, ii. 281-283, 1875.

A more serious and discreet scholar, M. Gaston Save, in 1893, made an effort to prove that Jeanne was not burned at Rouen.* He supposed that the Duchess of Bedford let Jeanne out of prison and bribed the two priests, Massieu and Ladvenu, who accompanied the Maid to the scaffold, to pretend that they had been with her, not with a substituted victim. This victim went with hidden face to the scaffold, le visage embronche, says Percival de Cagny, a retainer of Jeanne’s ‘beau duc,’ d’Alencon.** The townspeople were kept apart by 800 English soldiers.*** The Madame de Luxembourg who entertained the impostor at Arlon (1436) was ‘perhaps’ the same as she who entertained the real Jeanne at Beaurevoir in 1430. Unluckily THAT lady died in November 1430!

*Jehanne des Armoises, Pucelle d’Orleans, Nancy, 1893.

**Quicherat, iv. 36.

***Quicherat, ii. 14, 19.

However, the Madame de Luxembourg who entertained the impostor was aunt, by marriage, of the Duke of Burgundy, the true Maid’s enemy, and she had means of being absolutely well informed, so the case remains very strange. Strange, too, it is that, in the records of payment of pension to the true Maid’s mother, from the town of Orleans, she is ‘mere de la Pucelle’ till 1452, when she becomes ‘mere de feue la Pucelle,’ ‘mother of the LATE Pucelle.’ That is to say, the family and the town of Orleans recognised the impostor till, in 1452, the Trial of Rehabilitation began. So I have inferred, as regards the family, from the record of the inquest of 1476, which, though it suited the argument of M. Save, was unknown to him.

His brochure distressed the faithful. The Abbe, Dr. Jangen, editor of ‘Le Pretre,’ wrote anxiously to M. P. Lanery d’Arc, who replied in a tract already cited (1894). But M. Lanery d’Arc did not demolish the sounder parts of the argument of M. Save, and he knew nothing of the inquest of 1476, or said nothing. Then arose M. Lefevre Pontalis.* Admitting the merits of M. Save’s other works, he noted many errors in this tract. For example, the fire at Rouen was raked (as we saw) more or less (admodum) clear of the dead body of the martyr. But would it be easy, in the circumstances, to recognise a charred corpse? The two Mesdames de Luxembourg were distinguished apart, as by Quicherat. The Vignier documents as to Robert des Armoises were said to be impostures. Quicherat, however, throws no doubt on the deed of sale by Jehanne and her husband, des Armoises, in November 1436. Many errors in dates were exposed. The difficulty about the impostor’s reception in Orleans, was recognised, and it is, of course, THE difficulty. M. Lefevre de Pontalis, however, urges that her brothers are not said to have been with her, ‘and there is not a trace of their persistence in their error after the first months of the imposture.’ But we have traces, nay proofs, in the inquest of 1476. The inference of M. Save from the fact that the Pucelle is never styled ‘the late Pucelle,’ in the Orleans accounts, till 1452, is merely declared ‘inadmissible.’ The fact, on the other hand, is highly significant. In 1452 the impostor was recognised by the family; but in that year began the Trial of Rehabilitation, and we hear no more of her among the du Lys and the Voultons. M. Lefevre Pontalis merely mentions the inquest of 1476, saying that the impostor of Sermaise (1449-1452) may perhaps have been another impostor, not Jeanne des Armoises. The family of the Maid was not capable, surely, of accepting TWO impostors, ‘one down, the other come on’! This is utterly incredible.

*Le Moyen Age, June 1895.

In brief, the family of Jeanne, in 1436,1449-1452, were revelling with Jeanne des Armoises, accepting her, some as sister, some as cousin. In 1439 the Town Council of Orleans not only gave many presents of wine and meat to the same woman, recognising her as their saviour in the siege of 1429, but also gave her 210 livres. Now, on February 7, 1430, the town of Orleans had refused to give 100 crowns, at Jeanne’s request, to Heliote, daughter of her Scottish painter, ‘Heuves Polnoir.’* They said that they could not afford the money. They were not the people to give 210 livres to a self-styled Pucelle without examining her personally. Moreover, the impostor supped, in August 1439, with Jehan Luillier, who, in June, 1429, had supplied the true Maid with cloth, a present from Charles d’Orleans. He was in Orleans during the siege of 1429, and gave evidence as to the actions of the Maid at the trial in 1456.** This man clearly did not detect or expose the impostor, she was again welcomed at Orleans six weeks after he supped with her. These facts must not be overlooked, and they have never been explained. So there we leave the most surprising and baffling of historical mysteries. It is, of course, an obvious conjecture that, in 1436, Jehan and Pierre du Lys may have pretended to recognise the impostor, in hopes of honour and rewards such as they had already received through their connection with the Maid. But, if the impostor was unmasked in 1440, there was no more to be got in that way.*** While the nature of the arts of the False Pucelle is inscrutable, the evidence as to the heroic death of the True Maid is copious and deeply moving. There is absolutely no room for doubt that she won the martyr’s crown at Rouen.

*Quicherat, v. 155. **Quicherat, v. pp. 112,113,331, iii. p. 23. ***By 1452, Pierre du Lys had un grand hotel opposite the Ile des Boeufs, at Orleans, given to him for two lives, by Charles d’Orleans, in 1443. He was also building a town house in Orleans, and the chevalier Pierre was no snob, for he brought from Sermaise his carpenter kinsman, Perinet de Voulton, to superintend the erection. Nouvelles Recherches, pp. 19, 20.

Dan Moorhouse

Dan Moorhouse graduated in History and Politics and has since undertaken postgraduate studies in Medieval History and Education. Dan is a member of the Royal Historical Society and has previously been a member of the Historical Association’s Secondary Education Committee. Dan’s early publishing was in the Secondary School History Education field. This included co-authoring the Becta Award shortlisted Dynamic Learning: Medicine Through Time series for Hodder Murray and contributing to the Bafta Award winning Smallpox Through Time documentary series by A former teacher, Dan now concentrates on research and writing, predominantly in Medieval English history. Books by Dan Moorhouse On this day in the Wars of the Roses On this day in the Hundred Years War

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.