May 1431, Rouen, France: Born of peasant stock yet now a national heroine Joan of Arc (aka The Maid of Orleans) languishes in a prison cell a captive of the English. At just 19 years of age she has led the French army to a famous victory at Orleans paving the way for Charles VII to become King of France. A little later upon hearing that the Burgundians held the town of Compiègne under siege, Joan accompanied by a small military force took it upon themselves to defend the city. Regrettably, for Joan she was captured and later sold (for a considerable sum of money) to the English. Tomorrow she will face trial in a Church Court under the jurisdiction of the evil Cardinal of Winchester. She is charged with heresy. We join Joan and her prison officer ‘Nobby the Lyrical’ (on account of the fact that he gives fine renditions of the songs of the day as a means by way of which to suffer the daily grind) in the bleakness of a cold prison cell. Unusually for a woman of her time, Joan has a bobbed hairdo and a current preference for boy’s clothes. Nobby, a shaven headed lump of a man to look at has a heart of gold – he has even allowed Joan to keep hold of her IPad. If found guilty of the charges against her then a death sentence is a given – she will be burnt at the stake in the Old Marketplace in Rouen.
Joan: “Look Nobby I’ve just posted a picture of that ‘tarte fraise’ you smuggled in for me on Facebook – obviously I didn’t say it was from you – and the King himself has clicked ‘like.’ Isn’t that just wonderful?”
Nobby: “Well Joanie luv it would be better if he actually had a word in the shell of that Cardinal bloke on your behalf don’t you think? Without you he’d have never got that monarchy gig in the first place.”
Joan: “I know but it doesn’t matter you see. God sent me a vision that I would be captured – if death be my sentence then it is what He deemed fit for me. Anyway, you couldn’t give me another rendition of ‘If You Go Away,’ in the style of Scott Walker while I preparing my next update could you?”
Nobby: “Look Joanie I’d love to but I’m under instructions to torture you a bit – you know luv, get a confession and all that gubbins. Tell you what we’ll have a little sing song whilst you’re on the rack.”
Joan: “Will it hurt a lot – you know, on the rack?”
Nobby: “To the average punter the answer would be ‘yes’ but seeing how it’s you I’ll just give the handle a bit of a tweak. Just a little notch or two – the mayor of Rouen suffers from terrible back ache and he often pops in for a quick mild racking. Nothing to it really.”
Joan: “Do you really have to Nobby; I’m feeling pretty frail at the moment.”
Nobby: “More than me job’s worth not to luv. Tell you what so long as you yell out a couple of screams whilst we’re in the torture chamber – just loud enough for the Governor to hear no one will be any the wiser. Like I said – a couple of tweaks and you even get to keep your kit on. Can’t say fairer than that can I?”
A duly cuffed Joan and Nobby depart for the torture chamber. We join them as they return to the prison cell, Joan feeling a tad fresher for the mild stretching session in the hands of a true master of the art.
Joan: “Oh Nobby, you have such a wonderful voice. Indeed it was like being in the finest Deauville Health Spa except with proper music instead of the usual swoony stuff they play – we really must keep this regime up during any recesses in the trial if you don’t mind. Look I’m back to my IPad for a moment. While you attend to your duties I would love it so much if you’d sing that Queen song, you know, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ Please Nobby, oh please.”
Nobby: “Course I will love, it’s one of me favourites. By the way your scream was pretty authentic too. Did yourself proud you did.”
Joan: “Oh Nobby, sorry to interrupt you sweeping the soiled straw yet you really must have a look at this. I’ve posted pictures of the guard dogs on Facebook and I got like 47 ‘likes’ can you believe it. I’m so happy. Look, look one of the ‘likes’ hasn’t got a name tag. It must be from God!
Nobby: “Nice one girl. Keep the spirits up. You really ought to get some kip the trial starts tomorrow and want to be as fresh as a daisy don’t you luv?”
Joan: “True. But what will you tell them about a confession?”
Nobby: “Well you’ve got to be a bit careful what you confess to. I don’t know? Why don’t I just say something on the lines of you admitted you’re guilty of dressing like a bloke? That’s harmless enough. You’ll probably just get slapped wrists for that.”
Joan: “What a good idea Nobby, you really are such a kind and clever man.”
Joan and Nobby take to their beds without realizing the enormity of the impact of Nobby’s suggested confession and guilty plea. You see back then it was a heresy for a woman to attire herself as a man. In the words of the Judge, “that it wasn’t proper for a woman to wear a man’s tunic [and] hosen firmly tied together with many cords.” Joan pointed out to the court that she only dressed this way, for as a soldier she feared looking too feminine might invite rape yet this riposte fell on deaf ears. Joan was sentenced to burn alive at the stake on the 31st. May 1431. It is now the night before the execution and a mortified, emotional Nobby is with a surprisingly calm Joan in her cell.
Nobby: “I’m so sorry luv – me and my great ideas. Look where it’s got you.”
Joan: “Don’t take it to heart Nobby, it wasn’t your fault they’d have found me guilty one way or the other. Come on Nobby, don’t cry, it is God’s decision. Go on sing me ‘Billericay Dicky’ the Ian Drury way it’s my favourite of all time. Look Nobby I just took a ‘selfie’ and updated it on Facebook and the King and God have ‘liked’ it.”
It is said that the bones of Joan of Arc were never discovered. Did then she really die at the stake that next morning? What we do know is that just prior to the flames of the bonfire reaching the gown the authorities demanded she wear that day, the evil Cardinal of Winchester was heard to say, “Christ, Joan’s porked up a bit since yesterday!” Neither Joan nor Nobby were ever seen again.