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Joan of Arc fought during the Hundred Years’ War and is considered one of France’s greatest heroines called, “The Maid of Orléans. She was captured, put on trial by the English, and burned at the stake at only 19 years old. The Roman Catholic Church canonized her after declaring her innocent of the charges and became a symbol of the Catholic League and France as declared by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Early Life

Joan of Arc, or Joan d’Arc, was born sometime around 1412 in Domrémy in eastern France. Her parents were Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romée.[1] Her family owned 50 acres and her father was a farmer and a village official who helped head the local watch. She experienced several raids and her village being burned once as a child. In 1425, she had her first vision. She testified that she saw Saint Margaret, Saint Michael, and Saint Catherine, who commanded her to expel the English from France and see the Dauphin be coronated in Reims and then they left and she cried.[2]

Military Beginnings

Joan D’arc petitioned for permission to enter the French Royal Court in Chinon around 1428. She spoke to Robert de Baudricourt, the garrison commissioner, who denied her.[3] The next year she petitioned again with two of his soldiers, Bertrand De Poulengy and Jean de Metz after convincing them of her divine mission. She predicted the turning of the Battle of Rouvray days before it was reported. Baudricourt allowed her to visit Chinon after hearing her predictions validity. He provided her an escort and they disguised her as a male soldier. [4]

Since the French army was on the brink of collapse, the hope Joan of Arc created with her divine mission gave them the will to fight on.

Charles VII believed Joan’s story when she arrived at the Royal Court. She asked to join the upcoming expedition to Orléans his mother in law financed and received armor, sword, and horse from the army. She instilled hope in the French fighters with the Catholic Lord’s plan for her to help them achieve victory. Since this essentially made the Anglo-French war a religious one, advisors to Charles VII recommended investigating her background so his enemies could not declare she represented the devil and not God. The commission declared Joan virtuous and truthful in April 1429, but stated the final test would be if the French succeed at the Orléans siege.

Joan of Arc joined Jean d’Orléans in the city on April 29, 1429, and he kept her out of the war councils and battles initially.[5] Historians differ regarding her eventual participation. Some believe she only carried a banner and never participated in the councils. [6] Other historians believe she played an integral part in tactics and decision making since the soldiers believed her divine assistance.[7]

Joan of Arc’s Campaign Biography

According to every biography and historian, the arrival of Joan of Arc coincided with the French beginning to win.[8] On May 4, the soldiers captured Saint Loup fortress and, the next day, they took the empty Saint-Jean-le-Blanc fortress. They moved on and captured Les Augustins and then the main fortress “les Tourelles” on May 7, where Joan was injured by an arrow in the shoulder and neck.[9] Her prediction fulfilled, she gained the support of important figures like Jean Gerson and the Archbishop of Embrun.[10] Charles VII then permitted Joan d’Arc to march with Duke John II of Alençon to help recapture bridges on the Loire to allow an attack on Reims, far into enemy territory.

Whether or not Joan of Arc truly had divine assistance behind her cause, history agrees that her impact on French morale won them many battles and, eventually, their country.

At the battle of Jargeau, she saved the Duke of Alençon’s life and was hit in the helmet by a stone before they won on June 12. They progressed and took Meung-sur-Loire on June 15 and Beaugency two days later. On June 18, the English army went north and out of the Loire Valley, but Joan urged the French to chase and they beat the English outside Patay. On July 3, Auxerre surrendered to Joan and the French army and many others joined them peacefully. Troyes required a four-day siege, but they too surrendered without spilling blood on July 16, 1429, and Charles VII was coronated the next day.[11]

On September 8, the attack on Paris finally occurred and Joan took a crossbow to the leg.[12] She rode with the army to take Saint-Pierre-le-Moûtier and when they failed at La-Charité-sur-Loire.

Capture and Imprisonment

On March 23, 1430, Joan of Arc sent a threat to the Hussites, who broke away from the Catholic Church, during a truce negotiated with England.[13] That soon ended and on May 23, 1430, she rode with an attack on Margny in north Compiègne and was captured during an ambush.[14]

Joan of Arc was imprisoned initially at Beaurevoir Castle but after several escape attempts, including jumping 70 feet from a tower, they transferred her to Arras.[15] When the English moved her to Rouen, the French attempted to rescue her several times, but did not succeed.[16]

Trial, Execution, and Canonization

They began interrogating her on February 21, 1431, and after almost a month Joan of Arc was convicted and sentenced to death. The trial was littered with illegalities and bias which led to a later retrial after her death by the Roman Catholic Church and her exoneration.[17]

On May 30, 1431, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen. They exposed her body and then burned it twice more before eating it into the Seine River.[18] The Roman Catholic Church retried her case and declared her innocent in 1456. In 1920, she was canonized as a saint.[19]

References

Bibliography

DeVries, K. (1999). Joan of Arc: A Military Leader. Oxford, United Kingdom: Sutton Publishing.

Fraioli, D. A. (2002). Joan of Arc: The Early Debate. London, United Kingdom: The Boydell Press.


Halsall, P. (1999, September ). Medieval Sourcebook: The Trial of Joan of Arc. Internet Medieval Source Book.

Pernoud, R. (1990). Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses. Philadelphia, PA, United States: Scarborough House. 
Pernoud, R., & Clin, M.-V. (1999). Joan of Arc: Her Story. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Vale, M. G. A. G. (1974). Charles the Seventh. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Footnotes

  1. Halsall, 1999
  2. Pernoud & Clin, 1999
  3. DeVries, 1999
  4. Pernoud, 1990
  5. Vale, 1974
  6. Halsall, 1999
  7. Pernoud, 1990
  8. Pernoud & Clin, 1999
  9. DeVries, 1999
  10. Fraioli, 2002
  11. DeVries, 1999
  12. Pernoud, 1990
  13. Pernoud & Clin, 1999
  14. DeVries, 1999
  15. Pernoud, 1990
  16. Halsall, 1999
  17. Halsall, 1999
  18. Pernoud, 1990
  19. Richey, S. W. (2000). Joan of Arc: A Military Appreciation. The Saint Joan of Arc Center.[1]

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