Anne Gilmour-Bryson

title.none: Hobbins, The Trial of Joan of Arc (Anne Gilmour-Bryson)

identifier.other: baj9928.0605.002 06.05.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Anne Gilmour-Bryson, University of Melbourne,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Champion, Pierre and Pierre Tisset. Hobbins, Daniel. The Trial of Joan of Arc. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Pp. xii, 251. $24.95 0-647-01894-X. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.05.02

Champion, Pierre and Pierre Tisset. Hobbins, Daniel. The Trial of Joan of Arc. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Pp. xii, 251. $24.95 0-647-01894-X. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Anne Gilmour-Bryson
University of Melbourne

No medieval heroine, including Heloise, Hildegard, or Eleanor of Aquitaine, has received such incredible attention as Joan of Arc. I found more then one million hits on Google for "Trial + Joan of Arc"; the number of web sites of varying quality is enormous and growing; and finally, students of mine choose her for term papers or research essays with amazing regularity given that I scarcely mention her in lectures since her death in 1431 places her outside the time boundaries of many of my courses. Given the existence of letters written by her, documents from her trial of the same year, the nullification trial which overthrew her conviction in 1456, and other contemporary and later writings about her, there is more documentary evidence on this young woman than on any other medieval heroine or female heretic. Unfortunately, a huge number of inaccurate, prejudiced, yet popular books and articles on this topic are also out there.

Daniel Hobbins has made a great contribution to students working on Joan of Arc by publishing a modern English translation of the original trial in 1431, and also of a number of crucial documents in what Hobbins terms the "Aftermath" and the "Appendix": "Assessments after her death", the "Poitiers Conclusions", "Chronology", "Notes", "Further Reading", and "Index". The translation is based on Pierre Champion's Latin text, Proces de condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, vol. 1 (Paris, 1921), an edition of the translation of the trial from French into Latin made, Hobbins argues, in 1431 (9); there is, however, scholarly disagreement on the date, which some place as late as 1435. [1] Since only two much later copies of the original French minutes survive, the three remaining Latin copies are the closest texts to the trial itself. Ideally, one would also consult Jules Quicherat, ed., Proces de condamnation et de rehabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc (Paris, 1841-1890) and Pierre Tisset, Proces de condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc (Paris, 1960), which are both unavailable to me here in Vancouver. A complete translation of the trial, and full copies of documents which are summarized in Hobbins, is available in W. P. Barrett, The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc (New York, 1932). As Hobbins states: "Academic specialists will of course continue to consult the Latin original in its entirety." (xi) Since the manuscript pages reproduced in Champion, vol. 1, show an amazingly clear and easy-to-read manuscript, one should also check portions of it against Champion's transcription. Volume two of the Champion edition mentioned above includes, as well as the Latin text, his translation into modern French, a language which many young historians who cannot read Latin can manage.

Unfortunately, Hobbins' new edition has the dreaded end-notes which require the reader to leaf back and forth every few moments from the front to the back of the book. I can see no reason for such a practice at a time when computer programs make footnotes so easy to include. The bibliography is also minimal and in a short book, 251 pages including index, could easily have been enlarged. Serious students will need to consult bibliographies from any of the excellent, reasonably recent books on the topic.

As a historian preoccupied with the Inquisition and contemporary trial manuscripts for the last thirty years, I find myself unable to concur with several statements made by Hobbins in the Introduction. He states that "most medieval texts survive only in later copies. Rarely an autograph copy by a medieval author is discovered" (8), and he also states that it is rare to hear medieval voices. (13) My hundreds of hours in the Vatican and other archives have enabled me to consult original copies of Templar trials, cartularies, and other documents, and to hear what would appear to be the words of ordinary medieval persons caught up in the trial process there and in other documents of the Inquisition. Students need to consult more work on the medieval Inquisition and its processes in order to find out that especially in heresy trials, as in Coroner's hearings in England, we are able to illuminate the lives of non-literate, ordinary, persons.

We do find in Hobbins, nevertheless, an excellent explanation of the inquisitionary process and its various stages (pp. 16-24). It is refreshing to find such a well-balanced and non-biased, clear and succinct explanation of the real issues in the Joan of Arc affair. As Hobbins points out, after Joan's recantation of her previous confession and insistence on donning male clothing once more, "...the judges really had no choice but to deliver her to the secular arm as a relapsed heretic". (25-6) There is, nevertheless, a legion of reputable authors who argue that Joan had to resume wearing male clothing either because no female clothing was available to her or because she feared rape. Hobbins is well aware of these other opinions but finds the version cited above more plausible.

As Hobbins states, scholars to this day do not agree on whether the regulations of the Inquisition were, or were not, followed in this trial. Edward Peters, for example, wrote that this trial was "the best known example of a...court violating generally recognized inquisitorial procedures" (quoted on p. 17). Hobbins disagrees and states that Bishop Cauchon "was obsessed with following correct procedure" (18), and: "The official Latin text is a monument to correct procedure...". (26) [2] Barrett, in a statement illuminating his point of view on Joan, wrote: "The [trial] is a masterpiece of partiality under the appearance of the most regular of procedures." (p. 480) Regine Pernoud, author of many works on Joan, asserted: "Prototype of the glorious military heroine, Joan is also prototype of the political prisoner, of the hostage, and of the victim of isolated human being facing suffocating ideology and murderous fanaticism." [3] Pernoud's earlier book, Joan of Arc. By Herself and Her Witnesses (New York, 1966), provides an excellent place to read up on the origins of the affair. Pernoud included this statement: "...for us, Joan is above all the saint of reconciliation--the one woman...we admire...and love..." (p. 277) Disagreements are equally numerous as to Joan of Arc's character, mental state, and actions. Hobbins believes that she was tried because "she heard voices telling her to attack the English". (20) Genuinely divine voices do not speak from such a political point of view. Deborah Fraioli, Joan of Arc: the Early Debate, 2000, emphasizes that in the outset of this whole affair, Jeanne did not speak of voices and they were not the real issue. Fraoli's book provides crucial translations of contemporary tracts, treatises, chronicles, and poetry, which illustrate the fact that "The medieval fear that Joan was a malignant force in league with the devil is sometimes minimized by modern observers, many of whom overemphasize political motives at the expense of religious or quasi-religious ones." (Fraioli, p. 21)

Regarding the translation, I consulted as well as Hobbins' new English edition, Champion's Latin and French versions, the English version of W. P. Barrett cited above, a complete edition of the trial, also from the Champion Latin text, as well as from his French edition, vol. 2 of the Champion set. In spite of its age, the Barrett work is very valuable for non-French reading persons since it also translates the full set of documents included by Champion and his capsule biographies of the principal players, plus a dated bibliography.

For readers of English only, Hobbins' translation is definitely much more readable than the 1932 Barrett edition. In the places I checked, the updating has resulted in a better text. When comparing parts of Hobbins with the French and Latin produced by Champion, and the English of Barrett, I found Hobbins' choice, a more literal translation from the Latin and a better current version than that of Barrett. For example, Champion: "non habebat licentiam a Deo" (vol. 1, p. 71); Champion, French translation: "Elle non avait conge de Notre Seigneur" (vol. 2, p. 64); Hobbins, "She said that she did not have God's permission" (p. 79); Barrett: "she had not God's permission" (p. 79).

Hobbins' translation of Joan of Arc's trial, and of the most important ancillary documents printed by Champion, will be of great use to any academic teaching undergraduate students. I would hope that graduate students, and scholars, would return to the full Latin text exactly as Hobbins suggests they should do (xi), and to the manuscripts themselves on all crucial points.


[1] W. P. Barrett asserted that 1435 was the earliest the Latin copy could have been made, The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc (New York, 1932) p. vii.

[2] See the opposing view in Henry Ansgar Kelly, Inquisitions and other Trial Procedures in the Medieval West (Aldershot, 2001), cited in Hobbins, p. 242.

[3] Joan of Arc: Her Story, trans. and rev. Jeremy duQuesnay Adams, ed. Bonnie Wheeler, New York, 1999, xiii.