MAY 2017

MAY  2017
The Billionaires Playground - 1890 - The Last Time the National Wealth was this Unbalanced

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

ILLUSIONS OF DELUSIONS

I am amazed there were only 35 attempts to murder Adolf Hitler (above), not counting the entire Second World War, of course. He was in public life for 25 years – 1920 to 1945 - so that works out to less than one (actually 0.777) attempts to shoot, stab, poison or blow him up per year. True, it was not generally known at the time that he was the second greatest mass murderer of the 20th Century. But he was a polarizing public figure, a supercilious, narcissistic vulgar vegetarian given to long antisemitic bile filled public tirades. Hitler should have attracted assassins the way the Republican Party draws frat boys. I think the explanation for Hitler's longevity may be the illusions he created to fool others, and the delusions of his would-be assassins, by which they fooled themselves.
Adolf Hitler was just an average man, about 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds. There is no accurate record for his weight because Hitler refused to disrobe for physicals. But other than that phobia, little about him was not ordinary. He had a reputation as a great public speaker, but I have doubts about that. The only thing that made him stand out in a crowd was that distinctive “chaplinesque” mustache. It was chosen by Charlie Chaplin for his “Little Tramp”, to stand out in a long shot. And that was probably why Hitler cut his World War One mustache so sharply, too. In fact just about everything Hitler did was for effect and illusion.
Marcel Gerbohay was the definition of delusion. The studious, serious French boy, and a devout Catholic, just another seminary student at Saint-Ilan (above), in the Brittany coastal village of Saint-Briuc. And it was there in 1936 that he was stricken with what his teachers described as a nervous breakdown. Marcel was not sent home, but confined to his dorm room bed for most of the year. After he had physically recovered, he displayed a new malady, a grandiose delusional disorder in which Marcel believed he was actually Dimitri Romanov-Holstein-Gottorpa, a member of the Russian royal family. He shared his delusion with only a few carefully chosen fellow students, who he admitted in his secret “Compagnie du Mystère”.
After trying to seize power by force in the November 1923 Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Adolf Hitler's party failed to secure even a single seat in the May 1924 Reichstag elections. By 1929, the power of Hitler's antisemitic speeches had increased the Nazi share to... less than 3% of the voters – winning just 12 out of some 600 Reichstag seats. Everything changed with the Great Depression. In the September 1930 elections the Nazis won 107 seats, making them the second largest party in the Reichstag. Two years later Adolf Hitler became a German citizen, and in May of 1932 the Nazi share climbed to 230 seats, 37% of the electorate. But that would be Hitler's democratic high water mark. In new elections that November, his party lost 34 seats. Luckily for Hitler, that would be the last free election in Germany for 17 years.
In 1937 Marcel/Demitri's plan to defeat communism and put himself on the Russian throne ran into an obstacle. He decided Adolf Hitler, the most virulent anti-communist in Europe, had betrayed the cause. For that crime, Hitler must die. In July of 1938 Marcel/Dimitri gave the assignment to one of his most ardent acolytes, a 21 year old Swiss landscaping student named Maurice Bavaud (above). 
The chosen assassin left the seminary and returned to his family home in the Swiss lakeside resort town of Neuchetel (above). His return was a financial burden to his family, but Maurice spent his time studying German and reading the book Hitler had written while in jail for the Beer Hall Putsch - “Mein Kampf”. Then in the early hours of 9 October, he stole 600 Swiss francs from his mother, leaving behind a note which read, “I am going to make a life for myself.”.
Adolf Hitler's father, Alois, had been born to the unmarried Maria Schicklgruber in 1837, so he used her last name until he was 39 years old, when he finally petitioned the government to adopt his stepfather Johann's last name - Hiedle. The church recorded it in another form, as “Hitler”. In German both versions mean “small land owner”. In January 1885 Alois married his third wife, Klara Potzl. Their first three children died in infancy. Their fourth child, born when Alois was 52 years old in 1889, was thus Adolf Hitler (above), and not Adolf Shicklgruber. In German Hitler means “wolf”, and Hitler often used the pseudonym “Mr Wolf” when registering in hotels. During World War Two, which he would start, Hitler called his headquarters the “Wolf's Lair”, and he named his favorite German Shepherd “Wolf”. In 1945 Hitler tested the cyanide capsules prepared for his own suicide, on his beloved Wolf.
Maurice Bavaud went first to Berlin, where he discovered Hitler was actually at his Bavarian mountain top retreat above the village of Berchtesgarden (above). Disappointed, Maurice headed for Munich, where he took a bus 2,300 feet up in the Bavarian alps, and on 25 October checked into the budget hotel Stiftskeller. Maurice spent a week pretending to be a fanatical Nazi, trying to gain access to Hitler. Then he encountered a police captain who told him Hitler had just left for Munich, to participate in the annual celebrations of the Putsch. On Halloween, Maurice headed back down the hill to Munich.
Adolf Hitler often described Angela “Geli” Raubal (above), as the only woman he ever loved. In 1929 her mother, Hitler's half sister, allowed the vibrant 19 year old girl to move into an apartment in her 42 year old “Uncle Alf's” Munich suite. The women on Hitler's staff never approved of “Geli”, one saying, “She flirted with everybody; she was not a serious girl.” 
On Friday, 18 September, 1931 as he left for a rally in Nuremburg, Hitler (above right) and Geli (above left) argued loudly over the degree he controlled her life  Around 9:30 the next morning, worried staff knocked down the door to Geli's apartment. She was found wearing a blue night dress, face down on the floor, with a bullet wound from Hitler's Walther pistol through her left lung. She had drown in her own blood and had been dead for several hours. 
Hitler was inconsolable and friends feared he would take his own life. As Chancellor Hitler hung portraits of Geli in his public offices, and for the rest of his life kept her apartment as it was the day he last saw her.
On 9 November, 1938 Maurice Bevaud secured front row VIP seating along the parade route by telling officials he was a journalist. His position street side, at the corner of Prälat and Miller Way in Munich, in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit ("Heiliggeistkirche"), meant the Nazi leaders would pass within feet of him. 
As the line of brown shirted officials leading the parade approached, Maurice stood and prepared to draw his pistol. But he was shocked to see Hitler had moved to the opposite side of the street, fifty feet away from him. Worse, the crowd rose to offer the Nazi salute ("Hitlergruss"), preventing Maurice from even seeing his target clearly. 
Still, no one had searched him before allowing him into the restricted seating and even though he spoke bad German, no one had asked to see his credentials. The frustrated Maurice Bevaud caught the next train back to Berchtesgarden.
Beginning at night fall, this night, 9 November, 1938 , the Nazi Party unleashed a 48 hour wave of violence against Jews across Germany and Austria – called the Kristallnacht, or crystal night, because of the tens of thousands of smashed store windows. 
Almost every synagogue in German was damaged or burned down. More than 7,000 Jewish owned shops and department stores were burned or ransacked (but not looted). Even Jewish cemeteries were attacked, tombstones smashed and shattered, crypts opened and bodies thrown onto the ground. Jews were beaten to death in the streets, in full view of the police. 
Another 30,000 Jewish men were arrested (above) and detained in Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen – concentration camps to be infamous in another 7 years . This time most were released over the next three months on the condition that they leave Germany, but over 2,000 died in Nazi custody. And finally, insult to injury, the Jewish community was fined for the cost of cleaning up their assault, one billion Richsmarks.
Maurice Bevaud took a taxi directly from the Berchtesgarden train station to the front gate of Hitler's retreat. He managed to talk his way inside and was finally stopped only because Hitler had already left by plane for Berlin (above). The Swiss assassin immediately returned to the capital, where he again plotted to reach Adolf Hitler. But by 12 November, Maurice he had finally used the last of the 600 francs stolen from his mother, and was forced to abandon his quest. 
Maurice stowed away aboard a train, but was caught by a conductor while still carrying the revolver and ammunition, a map of Berchtesgarden and a faked letter of introduction to Hitler. The railway officials handed him over to the Gestapo in the Bavarian university town of Augsburg. They assumed he was part of a larger plot, and tortured him until he confessed..
Adolf Hitler became a vegetarian in 1937, lecturing his Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbles that “meat-eating is harmful to humanity”. His Nazi party created the most stringent anti-vivisection laws in Europe, and stopped all use of animals in medical experimentation. Hitler would even turn his head to avoid watching any scene in a film which depicted the injury or death of an animal. 
Yet, after the 20 July 1944 bomb attack on his life, Hitler ordered the conspirators “must be hanged like cattle”, and had then filmed, slowly strangling on piano wires suspended from meat hooks, The film was  rushed through the developers, so he could view it the same night..
According to a witness “the men dangled and strangled, their belt-less trousers finally dropping...”. Now it was Goebbles who had to look away from the images Berthold von Stauffenberg, eldest brother of the man who planted the bomb, was hanged, revived, hanged again, and again and again, at least four times in all, before finally dying in front of the cameras. All German officers were ordered to watch the full 2 hour record of the executions, although many turned their backs to the screen and the SS cadets at Berlin's Lichterfelde barracks, training to become members of  Hitler's personal bodyguard, walked out during the showing.
Maurice Bevaud was convicted of conspiring to assassinate Hitler on 18 December, 1938, and was sentenced to die in Ploetzensee Prison (above). He was questioned and tortured for another 17 months. In one of last letters to his parents, Maurice had written, “Ah, if I had just kept my service to God, and not left the creator for the creation...then I would not be here...I don't know, whether my last words will be 'damn' or 'God, I put my soul into your hands.. Since my mistake was made from weakness and passion and not from bad, arrogant intention, God (may) give me the victory of goodness and mercy.”
 
On 14 May, 1941, Maurice Bevaud was led to the execution shed at the rear of the prison, and was beheaded by guillotine (above). The German government charged him 300 Reich Marks for the service.
Marcel Cerbohay went into hiding when Hitler's armies conquered France in June of 1940. Gestapo agents were then dispatched to Saint-Briuc, but the founder of the “Compagnie du Mystère” had fled to Vichy territory. But that December, Marcel slipped home to spend Christmas with his ailing mother, and was captured by the Gestapo on New Years day, 1942. He was questioned and tortured in France for 9 months, before being sent to Ploetzensee Prison, where his deluded brain was separated from his body 9 April, 1943, in the same execution shed where Maurice Bevaud had died two years before.
Adolf Hitler's illusions resulted in the deaths of some 5, 500,000 Germans, Austrians and allies, 20 million Russians, 6 million Poles, 1,500,000 Slavs, 350,000 British empire citizens, 500, 000 Czechs,  500,000 Frenchmen and women, almost 500,000 Americans, 200,000 Dutch, 160,000 Greeks, 88,000 Belgians, 20,000 Bulgarians and 10,000 Norwegians. The delusions of Marcel Gerbohay resulted in just two deaths, that of Maurice Bevaud and his own. And that is the difference between politics and mental illness. One is illusion, and the other is delusion.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

DUER CONSIQUENCES

I can't seem to find anyone who was not certain that William Duer (above) was destined to die broke. and even a few who told him so, some even while helping him bankrupt themselves. At forty-five Duer was a slight man with “sharp features and a receding hairline”, a man of “...dashing personality...with both talent and wit...”, a gregarious individual of boundless energy and imagination,  “Making schemes every hour and abandoning them as instantaneously”. His fortune, at its peak, was between $250,000 and $375,000 in 1792 (over $4 billion today). But more, William Duer was the founding father who put the manic in America's economic depressions. Thomas Jefferson called him “The King of the alley”, meaning both the back alley, and "The Street", as in Wall Street before it was even "The" street of American finance. He suckled at the breast of that most unfair American midwife, Madam Laissez Fair. His bipolar greed added the purge to American gluttony. He was the American fingers on Adam Smith's invisible hand, always reaching for his partner's wallet. Let me give you an example.
The United States officially came into existence on 1 March, 1781, when the Articles of Confederation were finally ratified after four years of bitter debate. But economically America would not be a nation until all thirteen states shared a currency. Paper money was considered too risky to be legal tender, but coins had intrinsic value. In 1786 the Treasury Board accepted a bid from the firm of Jarvis and Parker to supply copper “Fugio” pennies (above), named for the Latin word meaning “I fly” stamped on their obverse.
Winning bidder, James Jarvis (above),  suggested speeding up the process of issuing the coins by melting down the 30 tons of British copper pennies the Treasury already had on hand, and proposed paying for the copper out of his profits. And that little bit of economic legerdemain was the opening that William Duer needed to grab a little something for himself. You see, Duer was the head of the Treasury Board, appointed by his friend and business partner, Alexander Hamilton.
According to James Jarvis, when they met in William Duer's New York City mansion to discuss the copper trade, Duer bluntly demanded a share of the business as a bribe. Jarvis says he was offended and ready to walk out, but then agreed so long as Duer remained a silent partner. Duer countered with a demand for a straight $10,000 bribe. Jarvis agreed to that too, but only if the business was successful. And that was what Jarvis thought he had agreed to, “relying on his (Duer's) honor”. Unfortunately Duer had no honor. Only few hundred “Fugio”'s were ever minted. Jarvis returned the unused copper, and that should have been the end of it. . But like a bad penny, William Duer turned up again, still demanding his $10,000 bribe.
Jarvis insisted he was not bound to pay Duer so much as “ten pence”. He insisted, Duer's “share... was conditioned on the success of the contract.” Duer simply ignored Jarvis' arguments and relentlessly demanded to be paid. And Jarvis simply refused. Finally, at the end of September, 1788 Duer turned up the pressure, using his friends in Congress to demand Jarvis pay for the copper used in minting the few hundred “Fugio” pennies. The government already had the pennies. Now they wanted to be paid for the copper that was in them. Given the criminal treatment for debtors in those days, Jarvis was looking at some unpleasant jail time.
And just at this moment, Duer suggested that Jarvis might want to invest in another one of his schemes, an Ohio land speculation called the Scioto Company.  Two shares were available, at $5,000 each. Anxious to be rid of the Duer, and reasoning this way he at least got land that might some day be worth something, Jarvis gritted his teeth and sold off his coin stamping equipment, using the cash to pay a premium price for two sections of land in the “Scioto Company” Ohio reserve. Finally free from the villain (he thought), Jarvis left on a business trip to Europe.
A year later Jarvis returned and found he had no shares and no cash. He wrote to Duer's lawyers, “I demanded of Mr. Duer, the Ohio rights he was to have purchased for my account....He told me they were in the name of Doctor. J. Ledyard, and should be transferred to mine, in the company's books. I applied to...the treasurer, who informed me there were two shares in the name of Doctor Ledyard, but that he could not transfer them to me.....I have more than ten times applied to Mr. Duer, and...I could get no satisfaction....” It was a favorite tactic of Duer, to stubbornly refuse to admit he had stolen money, no matter the evidence or the law or common sense. Poor Mr Jarvis was so worn down by now, and so confused by Duer's shifting arguments, he seems to have forgotten they were arguing over the payment of an illegal  bribe! Jarvis complained, “I have been three years amused in this business, it appears that he (Duer) should at least allow me interest (on his $10,000)..." 
It was like speaking Greek to an Italian donkey. Duer (above) insisted he had sold two shares of the Scioto Company to Doctor Issac J. Ledyard. He (Duer) had been paid. He no longer had the shares. The company was supposed to transfer the shares to Mr. James Jarvis. So if Jarvis had a problem, it was with the company, not with Duer. It was perfectly logical as long as you forgot that the Scioto Company treasurer took his orders from William Duer.  If you did remember that, Duer's arguments would eventually drive you insane. When the Scioto Company finally failed some years later, two shares were still on the companies' books as belonging to Doctor Isaac J. Ledyard. And there is no hint how many times Duer used Dr. Ledyard's two shares to bilk other partners. But for William Duer all this was a mere distraction to his tour de fraud with the Bank of New York.
The BNY was America's only private bank large enough to have its shares traded on the brand new New York Stock Exchange. Many people expected Alexander Hamilton, as Secretary of the Treasury Department, to eventually take over the BNY. And that was what William Duer assured his neighbor and new partner, Alexander Macomb. Blindly following Duer's instructions, Macomb bought 290 shares of the BNY, expecting to make a tidy profit as soon as Hamilton announced the Federalists were taking over the bank.
Of course, word that Alexander Macomb (above)  was buying BNY stock sent the price climbing, which so impressed Macomb he wrote to a friend in London praising his partner. “Duer's genius assures him it can be done without any further capital farther than can be raised beyond our joint credit at the bank.” Of course, “joint capital” meant Alexander Macomb had co-signed Duer's loans, which meant the money had been raised on Macomb's reputation, not Duer's. By 1792 a growing number of people no longer  trusted William Duer enough to do that . Macomb was one, and Walter Livingston, of the large and wealthy and powerful Livingston family, was another.
While in New York City, Alexander Macomb and William Duer continued borrowing and buying BNY stock (eventually $100,000 worth), in Philadelphia Walter Livingston (above)  and William Duer were buying $160,000 shares of BNY futures, and buying them short. In other words Walter and William were betting against Alexander and William. Of course, Walter Livingston had also co-signed William Duer's Philadelphia loans. So without risking a penny of his own money, William Duer had bet both sides of the coin - heads he won and tails at least one of partners lost. It was predictable. .
Other members of the Livingston clan certainly predicted it, and Duer's involvement made them nervous. They began to withdraw the gold and silver they had on account at the BNY. That forced the directors of the bank to tighten their loan levels, and to raise the interest rates as high as 1% per day on just the sort of risky loans that Alexander Macomb and Walter Livingstson had recently made. William Duer (above)  tried to calm his New York partner, assuring Macomb, “I am now secure from my enemies, and feeling the purity of my heart, I defy the world.”
The world did not share the feeling. First Macomb and then Walter Livingston defaulted on their loans and were confined in the Manhattan debtors prison (above) . The financial panic spread and quickly caught up Duer as well.  By the summer, William Duer was also in debtors prison, partly for his own protection, flat broke but not broken, claiming he could save his fortune if the banks would just let him free to repeat his old mistakes. The American economy teetered briefly on the edge of its first collapse, the recession of 1792, or what was called "Duer's Panic". 
Five hundred of Duer's victims laid siege to the jail, chanting, “We have Mister Duer. He has our money.” Benjamin Rush, Congressional gadfly and gossip, went down to take a look, and described the victims as,  “merchants and tradesmen, dray men, widows, orphans, oyster men, market women, churches, and even common prostitutes.” A lively trade developed on the streets around the jail in Mr. Duer's IOU's, and fights even broke out. One night a man broke into the jail, and confronted Duer with a pair of dueling pistols, demanding he pay what was owed or choose a weapon right there. Duer handed over what he had on him and the would be duelist left..
The end, when it came, was long and drawn out. Confined in jail for seven years for debts he could never pay,  William Duer died, probably of kidney failure, in April of 1799. He was only 57 years old. He left behind a widow unprepared for a life without wealth, and eight children. Alexander Hamilton wrote the first   epitaph for William Duer,  when he insisted, “There must be a line of separation between honest men and knaves, between respectable stockholders and dealers in the funds, and mere unprincipled gamblers.”.
The second, more permanent epitaph to William Duer was delivered on Thursday, 17 May, 1792 when 24 traders signed an agreement under a Buttonwood tree in front of 68 Wall Street. The two regulations they committed themselves to were, one, the signers would only trade with each other, and two, they would charge a ¼ of 1 % fee on each transaction. Like all practical market systems the New York Stock and Exchange Board was created by and survived because of regulations, designed by and for the majority of "respectable stockholders and dealers in funds",  and not the manic gamblers flaming across the horizon.  
Despite having only the Bank of New York and 4 other stocks to trade, a year after it was founded the New York Stock Exchange was successful enough to build itself a home, The Tontine Coffee House (above, left) on the corner of Wall and Water Streets. John Lambert would describe the Tontine as “filled with underwriters, brokers, merchants, traders, and politicians; selling, purchasing, trafficking, or insuring...Everything was in motion; all was life, bustle and activity...”  But the attraction of the dramatic manic was there as well, even with  the wreckage of William Duer still scattered about.  Noted an observer in June of 1793, “There was an affray at the Tontine...(a fight) between...aristocrat and democrat.” A few months later the newspaper “Columbian Gazetteer” would complain, “only persons of the same party” remained at the Tontine."   Wall Street, on its way to the panic of 1798, was again becoming addicted to the dramatic manic depressives in its nature, and likely always will..    
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

THE SURPRISING JOAN

I have just been surprised again by Joan of Arc. Some modern thinkers think she was insane, others that she was hungry for attention, and many still believe she was touched by God. But I would not be surprised if all or none of that were true, considering how many surprising things I know about her  – beginning that her real name was not Joan of Arc. Her father was Jacque Darc, a farmer and a tax collector in the tiny northern French village of Domremey. Now, at the time, few people could read or write. So when Charles VII raised Joan's family into the nobility, it is probable the scribe who transcribed the family name for the first time, spelled it phonetically. And that is how Jehanne Romee Darc became Joan d'Arc. And that is half as surprising as the latest thing that has surprised me about her.
Catholic France in the 14th and 15th centuries closely resembled Islamic Syria in 21st, - a vacuum of anarchy, pestilence, war, famine, death and rape all made worse by religious fanaticism. The French inferno broke out in 1328, when 34 year old Charles IV died. The next King of France should have been Charles' nephew with his fourth wife, Edward,   AKA Edward III,. King of England. However Philip Capet, the fourth son of Charles with his first wife thought the King of France should be more French. Like him. Over the next ninety years this disagreement split the French nobility into waring factions, and justified repeated English invasions. The Gallic nobility proceeded to die, mostly with arrows from English longbows in their chests. The English nobility mostly died from campaign diseases - dysentery, gonorrhea, diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, smallpox, measles, malaria and food poisoning. And that was even before the Black Death surprised Europe in 1348 and killed half of the peasants in both France and England.
By 1429 the English and their French flunkies controlled the French coast from Normandy south to the Pyrenees mountains. They had captured Paris and most of the north, and everything in the interior down to the River Loire. They had laid siege to the only bridge over that river, at the town of Orleans.  It seemed only a matter of time before Orleans fell and the English captured the current French, French King, Charles VII.
At 27, Charles was a beaten man. He had lost his self confidence when he was defeated by the English at Agencourt, and his self-respect when his own mother called him a bastard and disinherited him. He was now the timid, indecisive King of Bourges, the capital of the only part of France he still controlled. His most adventurous thoughts of late were of retreating to Spain. So desperate were Charles' supporters that their hopes for salvation centered an illiterate 17 year old religious fanatic who showed up at court in Chinon, talking about the voices which had been telling her for five years that she and Charles would save France.
They had smuggled Joan across English controlled territory by dressing her like a man. The story is that when she arrived at Chinon, in March of 1429, Charles had disguised himself, but Joan unhesitatingly pushed through a crowd, and from one knee greeted him, “God give you a happy life, sweet King.” It must have been a miracle, since no one at court, whose lives and wealth depended on the King, could have been trying to rebuild Charles' self confidence with a little theatrics. Joan was then sent off to restore the self confidence of the troops at Orleans.
She did not carry a sword. She did not lead any charges. She carried a banner. She shouted religious cheers from behind the lines. She took an arrow in the shoulder, but it was not a serious wound. She encouraged the soldiers as they broke the siege of Orleans in early May. The turn around started so quickly it must have been a miracle, or an operation prepared over the winter, before Joan had even arrived at Chinon.
And then somebody – it could have been Joan, or Charles or his generals or even Joan's voices– proposed the King's army surprise the English, and march around Paris, 150 miles. to Reims, in the dry and beggarly province of Champagne. Reims was where Clovis, King of the Franks, was baptized in the year 496. In its Cathedral every French King since had been crowned. And with Joan symbolically leading the way, Charles VII was crowned in the Reims Cathedral, in July of 1429. 
 This recaptured the momentum from the English and their French allies. And Joan got much of the credit for this surprising reversal of fortunes in the war. Maybe a little too much credit for her own good.
The next year, 1430, was also surprising, but unpleasantly. Charles' army tried to take Paris, but failed, and Joan was wounded again. In May Joan fell off her horse in a skirmish outside of Compiegne, and was captured by English supporting Frenchmen. By January of 1431 she had been sold to the English and was a prisoner in Rouen, in northern France. And that spring she was put on trial. 
The English did not want to kill Joan. They wanted to disgrace Charles VII. And if they could get Joan to confess to being a liar or a sorceress, that would mean Charles was either a fraud or a fool. So they charged Joan with wearing men's clothing and claiming she was communicating directly with God. 
It should have been easy for the well educated ruling class clergy, politicians and soldiers to control a simple French maid, especially one being confined for months in a dank, dark cell and kept on a starvation diet. But surprisingly it didn't quite work out that way
Obviously God had communicated directly with some people – Noah, Moses, the saints, Kings and the Pope. But to claim direct contact with God without Catholic Church endorsement was heresy, and punishable by death. 
 Joan avoided this trap by refusing to discuss anything her voices had said, including who the voices said they were. The maiden of Orleans was no dummy, as she showed again while avoiding the next trap which her judges threw at her.
She was asked, “Do you know whether or not you are in God's grace?” The questioner must have thought himself clever. If she said yes, Joan was guilty of the sin of arrogance, meaning she was not in a state of grace. If she said no, then Joan was admitting to being in a state of sin. Either response would condemn her to death. But Joan left the elite judges “stupefied”. 
She said, “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace.” Joan of Arc was no simple French maid. Or perhaps, surprisingly to the ruling classes, few maids in France were as simple as their “betters” wanted to believe.
Condemned to be “burned at the stake”,  Joan changed her plea. But when Joan learned she was to live the rest of her life in an English prison on bread and water, she recanted her recantation. 
Her jailors responded by probably having her rapped, certainly having her beaten and tortured, trying to force yet another confession from her. Surprisingly to many, the torture did not work. Joan was convicted as a relapsed heretic , and again sentenced to be burned alive at the stake. But surprisingly, that was not what happened.
At nine in the morning of 30 May 1431, the now 19 year old Jehanne Romee Darc, dressed in a simple white linen shift, was lead into the old market square of Rouen, France. She knelt in front of her enemies for thirty minutes and prayed for her soul and theirs. And then she mounted the steps to the platform, and was led through an opening in the circular pile of wood. 
In the center,  she was bound to a large post. The opening was closed and the wood set afire. And then - and this is the surprising thing I have recently learned - Joan did not burn to death. No witnesses reported her screaming or writhing against her ropes. We know she could still breath because,  until almost the end, she kept repeating the name “Jesus”. In truth, Joan d'Arc died of heat stroke.
A wood fire burns at 800 to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. The bundles of wood piled around Joan were mostly air. Once the wood was ignited, the air in between the branches quickly expanded and rushed out, drawing more air in from all sides, and then up and out at the center post, where Joan was standing. While the flame was still barely a few inches high on the distant perimeter of the fire, the air temperature around Joan started climbing. The already badly dehydrated girl began to sweat, which was quickly soaked up by her linen shift, which then prevented evaporation from cooling her body.
Her terror caused her heart to beat faster until she went into tachycardia, with a heart rate above 170 beats per minute. That caused her blood pressure to plummet. That caused the blood to pool in her feet, legs and abdomen. She became light headed and faint. 
Witnesses said she repeated the name “Jesus” just seven times before her head fell forward, meaning she fell unconscious within two minutes of the fire starting. It would take another eighteen minutes for the air around her to reach 300 degrees, when flesh starts to burn. Long before then her brain had been starved of oxygen for so long, she was already dead.
Using a sickle, the binding ropes were cut and her executioners pulled the corpse out of the fire. The crowd confirmed that the body was indeed Joan's, that she was indeed a young woman, and that she was dead – all of which meant she had not yet been extensively burned. So they pushed her body back into the fire, and burned it to ash and bone. Under guard, more wood was stacked atop the chard bones, and they were burned again, until the they cracked and shattered, ensuring there was nothing left of la Pucelle – the Maiden - but ash. Then the ashes were swept up and dumped in the river Seine, which ran right outside the city walls.  
The English were determined to wipe out all traces of Joan of Arc. Not surprisingly, they failed.
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