[Régine Pernoud (1909–1998) was a French historian and medievalist known for writing extensively about Joan of Arc. The following passage is from the preface to her 1986 book Joan of Arc: Her Story, co-written with Marie-Véronique Clin.]
Régine Pernoud evinced little interest in Joan of Arc before the 1950s; if anything, she found the subject distasteful, a sad case of the exploitive deformation of a historical figure by political and religious interests concerned primarily with recruitment propaganda. In an interview at her Paris apartment on August 3, 1995, Pernoud recalled her active dislike even as a child of processions in honour of Joan organized either by the rightist Action Française or by the Communist Party. Pernoud’s conversion (it does not seem too strong a word) to Joan of Arc occurred on Christmas Eve, 1952, in the French Archives Nationales. Her friend Marcel Thiébault, editor of the Revue de Paris, had been pressing her for some time to write an article on Joan’s nullification trial. She had refused, reminding him repeatedly that her specialty was the twelfth century, not the fifteenth; occasionally, she had ventured a bit forward in time, but only in conjunction with her work on urban statutes and the history of the bourgeoisie. Finally, as a courtesy to her good friend Thiébault, Pernoud interrupted her schedule during a busy holiday season and went to the nearly empty Archives Nationales on December 24 just to glance through Jules Quicherat’s nineteenth-century edition of the nullification trial. Hours later, still perched high on a ladder in the stacks, she heard the janitor insist politely but firmly that he had to close the library; everyone else had left hours ago. Clutching all five volumes of Quicherat’s cornerstone edition, she descended the ladder and called Thiébault. Pernoud told him that she would do not an article but a whole book on Joan’s second trial: “It is all too beautiful; this is an extraordinary person.” She began work on January 8, 1953; by the end of the year, Hachette published her Vie et mort de Jeanne d’Arc (les témoignages du Procés de réhabilitation, 1450-1456).
Jeremy Duquesnay Adams
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