Primary Sources and Context Concerning Joan of Arc’s Male Clothing
By Robert Wirth
Historical Academy (Association) for Joan of Arc Studies, (2006)
Introduction: The issue of Joan of Arc’s male clothing is one of the more controversial points related to her history, and an issue continually inspiring much writing which has often been based on an incomplete understanding of the evidence. Due to the greater availability of the Condemnation transcript in English translation, the version given in this document is often accepted at face value, with little or no effort to examine the many other sources nor the 15th century theological principles governing the subject of cross-dressing. Moreover, the nature of the clothing, and hence the eyewitness descriptions of its usage for purposes of necessity, are often misunderstood.
The stated legal justification for Joan of Arc’s conviction and execution on 30 May 1431 was her resumption of male clothing on the 28th. Her judges implied that her actions were sinful; certain modern authors have surmised that she was motivated by transgender feelings or other such identity issues. Both positions allege that she was guilty of heresy under the tenets of 15th century theology. To any historian of the subject, these assertions present a number of obvious problems, on both factual and theological grounds.
A number of the clergy who had served on the tribunal later testified, during the posthumous investigations and appeal of the case (1450, 1452, and 1455-56) after the English were expelled, that the transcript and judges had misrepresented the circumstances and hence the theological implications. In detailed testimony [see section farther below], these witnesses related that Joan of Arc had told them that she had worn, and had resumed, this clothing and kept the hosen and doublet “firmly fastened and tied together” because this provided her with the only means she had of protecting herself against the incidences of attempted rape which her English guards were inflicting on her.