Joan of Arc. Her Story

Article excerpt

Joan of Arc. Her Story. By R(gine Pernoud (^ 1998) and Marie-Veronique Clin. Translated and revised by Jeremy duQuesnay Adams. Edited by Bonnie Wheeler. (New York: St. Martin's Press. 1998. Pp. xxiii, 304. $27.95.)

In her short life, Joan of Arc was co-opted by opposing forces that sought to use her for their own ends. Since then, she has been hailed as a French nationalist, scorned as a monarchist, prayed to as saint and martyr, championed and pilloried as a feminist and cross-dresser, and honored as a prisoner-of-war But scholarly and popular authors often consider Joan through their eyes, not hers. By contrast, Regine Pernoud, founding director of the Centre Jeanne dArc in Orleans, and Marie-Veronique Clin, director of the Musee d'Histoire de la Medecine in Paris, first published this book as Jeanne dArc (Paris: Librairie Artheme Fayard, 1980) to put Joan back in her time. Pernoud is the author or editor of more than three dozen books on Joan and her trials, and thus a scholar steeped in the historical record she often quotes liberally here. Her final work is an act of exegesis from the record that combats the frequent eisegesis coloring Joan.

This volume is divided into three parts. The first is largely a chronicle of Joan's story. From her first appearance at Vaucouleurs where Robert de Baudricourt told the male relative with whom she traveled to slap Joan and take her home, we follow Joan to the dauphin and through military successes, capture, trial,and execution. The trial in 1456 that nullified her earlier condemnation is also described. There is some satisfaction in this chapter, especially given the venom with which Bishop Pierre Cauchon, his colleagues, and their Parisian advisers treated Joan. They distorted her responses, denied her appeal to the pope, and conducted a procedure that was so irregular in so many ways that its verdict was easily reversed, especially given the testimony of a large number of witnesses from 1431 who were still alive to set the record straight it quarter century later. …