Retrial of Joan of Arc

In 1450 King Charles VII instructed Guillaume Bouillé, a theologigan, to open an inquiry into the trial of Joan of Arc. This inquiry was relatively short. It interviewed just seven witnesses, and when it was brought to a halt, had not had the opportunity to examine the original trial documents. The case then was taken up by Cardinal d’Estouteville who was granted an audience with the King in 1452. This led to the Inquisitor of France, Jean Bréhal, being appointed to investigate the case. However, it was not until 1455 that the matter was taken back to court. The delay was initially due to diplomatic talks with England as the Hundred Years War drew to a close, then necessitated by the churches preoccupation with the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

On 7 November 1455 a retrial opened at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Joan’s mother, Isabelle, spoke at the hearing:

I had a daughter born in lawful wedlock, whom I had furnished worthily with the sacraments of baptism and confirmation and had reared in the fear of God and respect for the tradition of the Church… yet although she never did think, conceive, or do anything whatever which set her out of the path of the faith… certain enemies … had her arraigned in religious trial… in a trial perfidious, violent, iniquitous, and without shadow of right… did they condemn her in a fashion damnable and criminal, and put her to death very cruelly by fire… for the damnation of their souls and in notorious, infamous, and irreparable damage done to me, Isabelle, and mine

The trial made extensive use of the documentation from the first trial. Witnesses were called that included many who had testified in 1431, along with those who had been involved in the proceedings. As the matter had wider eccelsiastical implications, clergy from across Europe were involved in the deliberations: overturning a conviction of heresy needed to be done in as open, and just, a manner as was possible.

The verdict of the retrial was that Joan had been wrongly convicted and executed. The findings read out translate to:

In consideration of the request of the d’Arc family against the Bishop of Beauvais, the promoter of criminal proceedings, and the inquisitor of Rouen… in consideration of the facts…. We, in session of our court and having God only before our eyes, say, pronounce, decree and declare that the said trial and sentence (of condemnation) being tainted with fraud (dolus malus), calumny, iniquity and contradiction, and manifest errors of fact and of law… to have been and to be null, invalid, worthless, without effect and annihilated… We proclaim that Joan did not contract any taint of infamy and that she shall be and is washed clean of such.

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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 Tmelines.tv. A former teacher, Dan now concentrates on research and writing, predominantly in Medieval English history. Forthcoming work includes two non-fiction titles for Pen & Sword books, along with further titles in this ‘On this day in history’ series. Books by Dan Moorhouse On this day in the Wars of the Roses On this day in the Hundred Years War

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