Questions of Due Process and Conviction in the Trial of Joan of Arc

  • Henry Ansgar Kelly
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Joan of Arc is one of the most famous persons in all history and certainly the best-known figure of the fifteenth century, along with Christopher Columbus. The basic outline of her life is familiar. Born around 1412, she was convinced from the age of 13 or so that she was meant to aid the dauphin of France; she gained the confidence of the military advisers of the dauphin and participated in raising the siege of Orleans in May 1429. She took part in other campaigns for just over a year, until she was captured by the rival Burgundians on May 23, 1430; she was sold to the allied English faction six months later, and in due course she was tried, aged only 19, at Rouen and burned at the stake, May 30, 1431. After an extensive retrial two decades later, the earlier trial was nullified and Joan’s reputation was “rehabilitated.”


Fifteenth Century Specific Crime Famous Person Extensive Retrial Nullity Trial 
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  1. 2.
    Daniel Hobbins, The Trial of Joan of Arc (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). His “Introduction” is on 1–32. In his “Note on the Translation” (xi–xii), he states that his translation is based on the edition of Pierre Champion of 1920, Procès de condamnation de Jeanne d’Arc, and adds that he has also consulted the edition of Pierre Tisset without explaining why he chose to rely primarily on the older edition.Google Scholar
  2. I on the contrary follow and cite the newer edition: Le procès de condamnation de Jeanne d’Arc, ed. Pierre Tisset with Yvonne Lanhers, intro. Jean Marchand, 3 vols. (Paris: Klincksieck, 1960–71), both here and in my earlier essays:Google Scholar
  3. see H. A. Kelly, “The Right to Remain Silent: Before and After Joan of Arc,” Speculum 68 (1993): 992–1026,CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. reprinted as essay III in my Inquisitions and Other Trial Procedures in the Medieval West, Variorum Collected Studies (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001); and, “Saint Joan and Confession: Internal and External Forum,” in Joan of Arc and Spirituality, ed. Ann W. Astell and Bonnie Wheeler (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 60–84. See also “Joan of Arc’s Last Trial: The Attack of the Devil’s Advocates,” in Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc, ed. Bonnie Wheeler and Charles T. Wood (New York: Garland, 1996), 205–38, reprinted as essay IV in Inquisitions.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Jean Fraikin, “La date de la rédaction latine du procès de Jeanne d’Arc,” Quaerendo 3 (1973): 39–65, with an English summary on 66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 5.
    Fraikin, “La date de la rédaction latine,” 60–1; the letter is edited by Richard A. Newhall, “Payment to Pierre Cauchon for Presiding at the Trial ofJeanne d’Arc,” Speculum 9 (1934), 88–91 at 90–1. The translated passage reads in the original, “Lequel voyaige fut pour le fait du procez de heresies de feue Jehanne, nagueres apelles ‘La Pucelle,’ delaquelle notre dit conseillier estoit juge.” He was originally paid 770 pounds (in a receipt Cauchon said 765), leaving 1407.10 in arrears, out of a total of 2177.10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Procès en nullité de la condamnation de Jeanne d’Arc, ed. Pierre Duparc, 5 vols. (Paris: Klincksieck, 1977–88), 1: 416.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Qualiter et quando no. 2 [X 5.1.24], canon 8 of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). Hobbins, Trial of Joan of Arc, 14, says that Gregory IX’s work “was seen not as a code but as a collection of individual precedents and instructions of varying authority,” citing as his own authority Stephan Kuttner, “The Code of Canon Law in Historical Perspective,” The Jurist 28 (1968): 129–48 at 140–6. This is close enough to what Kuttner says about Gregory’s own intentions and the perception of commentators in the thirteenth century; but Kuttner goes on to say that Boniface VIII’s Liber Sextus of 1298 was indeed put forth on the model of Justinian’s Code, and that by the fifteenth century the Liber Extra was taken in the same spirit. We should also note that, in any event, a decree of a pope in an ecumenical council (like Qualiter et quando) had the highest and most binding status of all decretals.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    See H. A. Kelly, “Inquisition, Public Fame, and Confession: General Rules and English Practice,” in The Culture of Inquisition in Medieval England, ed. Mary Flannery and Katie Walter (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2013), 8–29 at 9.Google Scholar
  10. 35.
    Kelly, “Right to Remain Silent,” 1018, summarizing Paul Doncoeur and Yvonne Lanhers, La rehabilitation de Jeanne la Pucelle, vol. 1, La enquête ordonnée par Charles VI en 1450 (Paris: Librairie d’Argences, 1956), 48–9.Google Scholar
  11. 50.
    Jean Gerson, Nova posittio, in Oeuvres complètes de Jean Gerson, ed. Palémon Glorieux, 10 vols. (Paris: Desclée, 1960–73), 6: 146–64. The treatise was written in September 1415 (Glorieux, 6: xiii). Hobbins dates the treatise to early 1416 on the handout that he distributed, giving excerpts and translations.Google Scholar
  12. 51.
    Brian Patrick McGuire, Jean Gerson and the Last Medieval Reformation (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005), 1.Google Scholar
  13. 83.
    In Savonarola’s case, admissions were similarly extorted before charges were levied, but here there was little attempt to give the trial the appearance of due process. Savonarola and two other Dominicans were found guilty of heresy and schism, without specifics, and without the mandatory offer of abjuration, and they were consigned to the secular arm to be burned. There was no thought of appeal, for the proceedings were conducted by an emissary from the pope, Alexander VI. See I processi di Girolamo Savonarola (1498), ed. Ida Giovanna Rao, Paolo Viti and Raffaella Maria Zaccaria (Florence: Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2001); see 35–6 for the formal charges, and 44 for the sentence.Google Scholar
  14. Cf. Lauro Martines, Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 247–75.Google Scholar

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© Karen Bollermann, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Cary J. Nederman 2014

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  • Henry Ansgar Kelly

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