Consider this unique and imposing
distinction. Since the writing of human history began, Joan of Arc is
the only person, of either sex, who has ever held supreme command of the
military forces of a nation at the age of seventeen
PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF JOAN
By The Sieur Louis De Conte
(her page and secretary)
In Two Volumes
Freely translated out of the ancient
French into modern English from the original unpublished manuscript in
the National Archives of France
By Jean Francois Alden
Authorities examined in verification of
the truthfulness of this narrative:
J. E. J. QUICHERAT, Condamnation et Rehabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc.
J. FABRE, Proces de Condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc.
H. A. WALLON, Jeanne d'Arc.
M. SEPET, Jeanne d'Arc.
J. MICHELET, Jeanne d'Arc.
BERRIAT DE SAINT-PRIX, La Famille de Jeanne d'Arc.
La Comtesse A. DE CHABANNES, La Vierge Lorraine.
Monseigneur RICARD, Jeanne d'Arc la Venerable.
Lord RONALD GOWER, F.S.A., Joan of Arc. JOHN O'HAGAN, Joan of Arc.
JANET TUCKEY, Joan of Arc the Maid.
To arrive at a just estimate of a
renowned man's character one must judge it by the standards of his time,
not ours. Judged by the standards of one century, the noblest characters
of an earlier one lose much of their luster; judged by the standards of
to-day, there is probably no illustrious man of four or five centuries
ago whose character could meet the test at all points. But the character
of Joan of Arc is unique. It can be measured by the standards of all
times without misgiving or apprehension as to the result. Judged by any
of them, it is still flawless, it is still ideally perfect; it still
occupies the loftiest place possible to human attainment, a loftier one
than has been reached by any other mere mortal.
When we reflect that her century was the
brutalest, the wickedest, the rottenest in history since the darkest
ages, we are lost in wonder at the miracle of such a product from such a
soil. The contrast between her and her century is the contrast between
day and night. She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men;
she was honest when honesty was become a lost virtue; she was a keeper
of promises when the keeping of a promise was expected of no one; she
gave her great mind to great thoughts and great purposes when other
great minds wasted themselves upon pretty fancies or upon poor
ambitions; she was modest, and fine, and delicate when to be loud and
coarse might be said to be universal; she was full of pity when a
merciless cruelty was the rule; she was steadfast when stability was
unknown, and honorable in an age which had forgotten what honor was; she
was a rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing and
scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly true to an age that was false
to the core; she maintained her personal dignity unimpaired in an age of
fawnings and servilities; she was of a dauntless courage when hope and
courage had perished in the hearts of her nation; she was spotlessly
pure in mind and body when society in the highest places was foul in
both！she was all these things in an age when crime was the common
business of lords and princes, and when the highest personages in
Christendom were able to astonish even that infamous era and make it
stand aghast at the spectacle of their atrocious lives black with
unimaginable treacheries, butcheries, and beastialities.
She was perhaps the only entirely
unselfish person whose name has a place in profane history. No vestige
or suggestion of self-seeking can be found in any word or deed of hers.
When she had rescued her King from his vagabondage, and set his crown
upon his head, she was offered rewards and honors, but she refused them
all, and would take nothing. All she would take for herself！if the King
would grant it！was leave to go back to her village home, and tend her
sheep again, and feel her mother's arms about her, and be her housemaid
and helper. The selfishness of this unspoiled general of victorious
armies, companion of princes, and idol of an applauding and grateful
nation, reached but that far and no farther.
The work wrought by Joan of Arc may
fairly be regarded as ranking any recorded in history, when one
considers the conditions under which it was undertaken, the obstacles in
the way, and the means at her disposal. Caesar carried conquests far,
but he did it with the trained and confident veterans of Rome, and was a
trained soldier himself; and Napoleon swept away the disciplined armies
of Europe, but he also was a trained soldier, and he began his work with
patriot battalions inflamed and inspired by the miracle-working new
breath of Liberty breathed upon them by the Revolution！eager young
apprentices to the splendid trade of war, not old and broken
men-at-arms, despairing survivors of an age-long accumulation of
monotonous defeats; but Joan of Arc, a mere child in years, ignorant,
unlettered, a poor village girl unknown and without influence, found a
great nation lying in chains, helpless and hopeless under an alien
domination, its treasury bankrupt, its soldiers disheartened and
dispersed, all spirit torpid, all courage dead in the hearts of the
people through long years of foreign and domestic outrage and
oppression, their King cowed, resigned to its fate, and preparing to fly
the country; and she laid her hand upon this nation, this corpse, and it
rose and followed her. She led it from victory to victory, she turned
back the tide of the Hundred Years' War, she fatally crippled the
English power, and died with the earned title of DELIVERER OF FRANCE,
which she bears to this day.
And for all reward, the French King,
whom she had crowned, stood supine and indifferent, while French priests
took the noble child, the most innocent, the most lovely, the most
adorable the ages have produced, and burned her alive at the stake.
A PECULIARITY OF JOAN OF ARC'S
The details of the life of Joan of Arc
form a biography which is unique among the world's biographies in one
respect: It is the only story of a human life which comes to us under
oath, the only one which comes to us from the witness-stand. The
official records of the Great Trial of 1431, and of the Process of
Rehabilitation of a quarter of a century later, are still preserved in
the National Archives of France, and they furnish with remarkable
fullness the facts of her life. The history of no other life of that
remote time is known with either the certainty or the comprehensiveness
that attaches to hers.
The Sieur Louis de Conte is faithful to
her official history in his Personal Recollections, and thus far his
trustworthiness is unimpeachable; but his mass of added particulars must
depend for credit upon his word alone.
THE SIEUR LOUIS DE CONTE
To his Great-Great-Grand
Nephews and Nieces
This is the year 1492. I am eighty-two
years of age. The things I am going to tell you are things which I saw
myself as a child and as a youth.
In all the tales and songs and histories
of Joan of Arc, which you and the rest of the world read and sing and
study in the books wrought in the late invented art of printing, mention
is made of me, the Sieur Louis de Conte！I was her page and secretary, I
was with her from the beginning until the end.
I was reared in the same village with
her. I played with her every day, when we were little children together,
just as you play with your mates. Now that we perceive how great she
was, now that her name fills the whole world, it seems strange that what
I am saying is true; for it is as if a perishable paltry candle should
speak of the eternal sun riding in the heavens and say, "He was gossip
and housemate to me when we were candles together." And yet it is true,
just as I say. I was her playmate, and I fought at her side in the wars;
to this day I carry in my mind, fine and clear, the picture of that dear
little figure, with breast bent to the flying horse's neck, charging at
the head of the armies of France, her hair streaming back, her silver
mail plowing steadily deeper and deeper into the thick of the battle,
sometimes nearly drowned from sight by tossing heads of horses, uplifted
sword-arms, wind-blow plumes, and intercepting shields. I was with her
to the end; and when that black day came whose accusing shadow will lie
always upon the memory of the mitered French slaves of England who were
her assassins, and upon France who stood idle and essayed no rescue, my
hand was the last she touched in life.
As the years and the decades drifted by,
and the spectacle of the marvelous child's meteor flight across the war
firmament of France and its extinction in the smoke-clouds of the stake
receded deeper and deeper into the past and grew ever more strange, and
wonderful, and divine, and pathetic, I came to comprehend and recognize
her at last for what she was！the most noble life that was ever born into
this world save only One.