With one loud cry of ‘Jesus!’ her head fell on her breast.
Thus came Joan of Arc to her glorious end.
There is a tradition that when the ashes of the martyr Maid were gathered to be cast into the Seine, the heart was found unconsumed—Cor cordium!
Many other traditions are related regarding her death, but none with much certainty. The executioner is said to have come later on that day to Isambard in an agony of grief. He confessed himself, and told Isambard that he felt Heaven would never pardon him for the part he had taken in killing a saint. The poor fellow’s responsibility for her death was really not greater than that of the fagots and the flames which had destroyed her life. On Cauchon and his gang of judges, lay and clerical—on the University of Paris and the Catholic Church—on Winchester and the English, noble and simple, who had sold and bought the glorious Maid, the crime of her martyrdom will ever rest, and surely no other crime but one in the world’s history can be paralleled with it.
Twenty years after the events which I have attempted to describe, an act of tardy justice was accorded to Joan of Arc. Charles VII. at length felt it necessary, more for his own interest than for any care of the memory of Joan of Arc, to have a revision made of the iniquitous condemnation of the heroine.
This King, even if unable to rescue the Maid of Orleans from her captors, might at least have attempted her release, yet during all the time—over a year—of her imprisonment he had not even made a sign in her behalf.
There does not exist in the documents of the time a trace of any negotiation, of the smallest offer made to obtain her exchange by prisoners or by ransom, or of any wish to effect her release. But Charles was anxious on his own account, when France had almost wholly been gained back to its allegiance, that his coronation at Rheims should not be imputed to the actions and to the aid of one whom the French clergy and the French judges had condemned and executed as a heretic and apostate. Hence the vast judicial inquiry set on foot by the King to vindicate the fame of her whom the English and the Anglo-French had hoped, through the condemnation pronounced by Cauchon in the name of the Church, to vilify, and through her, by her trial, condemnation, and death, to discredit Charles and his coronation.
On the 15th of February, 1450, Charles VII. declared that Joan of Arc’s enemies had destroyed her ’against reason’—so ran the formula—’and very cruelly,’ and that it was his, the King’s, intention ‘to obtain the truth regarding this affair.’
Pope Nicolas V. made difficulties. Cardinal d’Estouteville, who had undertaken to manage the process of rehabilitation, presented the Pope with a claim for a revision of the sentence of condemnation in the name of Joan of Arc’s mother and of her two brothers. The petition ran thus: ’The brothers, mother, and relations of Joan, anxious that her memory and their own should be cleansed from this unmerited disgrace, demand that the sentence of condemnation that was given at Rouen shall be annulled.’ Not, however, until the death of Pope Nicolas V., and the accession of Calixtus III., was anything further done.