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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Joan of Arc

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Joan of Arc was a French Saint and national heroine known as the Maid of Orleans. Joan of Arcs new spirit of hope and resolution was injected into the oppressed population although some saw her as a threat. Due to being a strategic genius, Joan of Arc gathered and united a nation at a critical hour and decisively turned the Hundred Years’ War in France’s favor. It was rare for a woman to take such a position but she influenced the country through her loving heart and good sense of virtue (Michelet, ).


Joan was born to the parents of Jacques d’Arc, her father, who was a peasant farmer and her mother who was Isabelle de Vouthon, a deeply religious woman who had a strong influence on Joan and her religion. She was the youngest in a family of five in a fairly wealthy family. While the other children would go in the fields to work with their father, their mother had Joan stay with her, and kept her busy sewing and spinning. Her mother taught her everything she knew, which was all holy virtues, but Joan never


learned how to read or write. She was known throughout the town as a very good girl, simple and sweet. She spent much of her time praying and serving God and she went to church and sacred places frequently and confessed her sins often. She was often criticized by friends for her love and devotion to the church. (Michelet, 8)


Joan grew up to be a beautiful young women but the physical curse of women never affected Joan and she never let it get in the way of her assertiveness. She became the idol of the French and national heroine. Joan of Arc’s presence and activity changed the course of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France (Warner 4). As a seventeen year old peasant girl she went to the Dauphin of France and introduced herself as the God-given savoir and reversed his unlucky fortunes.


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It was a summer afternoon and Joan was in her father’s garden by the church and she saw a light along with a voice. “Joan, be a good and dutiful child; go often to church” (Michelet, 11). The poor girl was alarmed with great uncertainty. But five years later she again heard the voices with the radiance of light and there appeared noble figures. He said to her, “Joan, go thou to the assistance of the king of France, and thou shale restore his kingdom to him” (Michelet, 1). She answered trembling, “Sir, I am but a


poor village maiden; I could not ride a horse, or lead men at arms.” The voice replied, “Thou shalt go to M. de Baudricourt, Captain of Vaucouleurs, and he shall have thee conducted to the king. St. Catherine and St. Margaret will come to they aid (Michelet, 1). Joan of course was amazed and couldn’t believe what was just brought upon her, but she felt as though St. Michael has helped her envision her own destiny.


St. Michael had later returned to give her courage and explain to her how much France needs her. Although these visions were fair and glorious they transformed her life. She knew that she would have to leave her mother who was such an important part of her life. She knew that everything would change. Joan of Arc was easily dismayed by a single word and she knew she would have to go among men, speak to men, and soldiers. She would have to leave her garden in the shadows of the church to face the world in war. Joan now had her sign that it was her divine mission to save France.


Her family of course tried to make her marry and become condemned and opposed her position to go to the king. Because she could find no support within her family she had to find someone who had faith in her. She managed to win over her uncle and he took her away with him and then the soldiers came and said that she must return back to her father’s house. This, however, did not discourage her, but helped her make up her mind. She made the decision to go to the king and she knew she was leaving her family and village forever.


Of course there were many people other than some of her family to argue the nature of this experience. They claimed it was a case of hallucination, but they didn’t understand why it would happen to a girl with such common sense and lack of hysteria. But those familiar with the church saw it as sensational and they felt that only blessed individuals could receive messages from the spirit. (Stolpe, 0)


She went to ask the military commander at Vaucouleurs, Robert de Baudricourt, for an escort to see the king. The testimony she told about her visions to him was not taken seriously. Afterwards, she left back home but eventually went back to Vaucouleurs and gained respect of the people by her quiet firmness (Michelet 16). The people of Vaucleurs, not doubting her mission, collected money to provide her with equipment and a horse. The commander who was persuaded that she was not a witch, had six men-at-arms escort her dressed in men’s clothing to go see the dauphin at Chinon. At the age of seventeen she left to fulfill her mission to save France (Bangs 16).


Joan made it to the castle where Charles VII stayed. Charles’s counselors gave him conflicting advice on whether to see her or not, but after two days he agreed to her presence. At the Dauphin’s court, one of his courtiers posed as the king, as a test. Joan somehow knew that she was not being led to Charles and went to the king and greeted him. She told the Dauphin and the counselors of her visions and the voices encountered and she was trying to convince them that she was on a mission to save France (Bigelow 1). Then Dauphins coronation was desperate because if the English captured Orleans, Charles’s position would be in jeopardy, so he was willing to listen to her. (Michelet 18)


The Dauphin and his counselors were not completely convinced of Joan’s story. But Joan convinced them when she told the Dauphin exactly what he asked God when he prayed alone. She has been known to some historians as being a clairvoyant, a person who has knowledge of events that happen in the future. After being investigated as a visionary by the theologians at Poitiers, after a few weeks she was eventually accepted.


Joan received an army as well as armor, attendants, and horses (Brooks 40).


Several hundred men set out towards Orleans to rescue it from the English, and although Joan was not commander, she inspired the soldiers with confidence. Orleans had been besieged since October 1, 148 and was surrounded by ring of English troops. One of the French commanders and Joan entered with supplies and she was told that action was hold until reinforcements were brought in. Joan did not approve of the plans that were made to besiege the Orleans and her own plan was adopted. She led a series of rallies from the city that discouraged the English, which caused them to withdraw. On May 8, 14, victory was made when Joan succeeded in ending the long siege of Orleans. She led the French to a victory over the English (Brooks 87). This victory was the turning point of the war. In June, Joan captured the English Fort of Jargeau, and at the Fort of Beaugency. With Joan’s inspiration and success, Charles was transformed, his troops rallied and their cause began to prosper (Warner 4).


On May , Joan left Orleans and met Charles at Tours. She urged him to go to Reims to be crowned. Under Charles’s advisors, Normandy was to be defeated first. It was decided to clear the English out along the Loire River. Joan met the lieutenant general, Duc d’Alencon, of the French armies and they went together taking an important bridge and a town. Joan promised the French that they would win the greatest victory ever. That greatest victory happened when the French defeated the English at Patay June 18, 14 (Brooks 88). The army entered Reims on July 16 and the next day Joan stood by Charles VII with her banner, as he was crowned king.


On July 0, Charles VII left Reims. The king decided to retreat from Provins to the Loire, which meant the plan to attack Paris would be abandoned. Although Joan united the French behind Clarles, the king opposed further military campaigns. Joan opposed the king’s decision and reassured the people of Reims, saying that the Duke of Burgandy had made a truce. It was hoped that he would give Paris to the King (Bigelow 57). There was a decision that was made to attack the English at Compeigne, near Paris, but the king prevented Joan’s soldiers from attack and Compeigne along with other nearby towns were taken. Joan thought it was important to take Paris. Charles arrived on September seventh and on September eighth an attack was launched. She called on the Parisians to withdraw and surrender to the city of France. Joan got wounded but she still continued to encourage the soldiers until she had to abandon the attack. The next day Alecon and Joan wanted to renew the assault, they were ordered by Charles to retreat and Joan failed to siege Paris on September 8.


In early 140, the Duke of Burgundy was placing threats on Brie and Compeigne. Joan left the king and went to Compeigne, now besieged by forces of the Duke of Burgundy. She only had her brother, Pierre, her squire Jean d’Aulon, and a small troop (Brooks 88). Overrun by the English reinforcements, she was compelled to retreat and on May , 140, Joan, was unhorsed, could not get away and was captured by the Burgundian army along with her brother and Jean d’Aulon. They were taken to Margny and the Duke of Burgandy had come to see her. Renaud de Chartres told the people of Reims that she refused to accept counsel (Bangs 47). At this time the Duke of Burgandy and Charles were working on a truce.


She became a prisoner at Beaurevoir. During her time in prison, Charles VII did not make any attempt to rescue Joan. The trial was to take place at Rouen. She was moved to a tower in the castle of Bouvreuil, which she attempted to escape, but was injured when she tried to leap from the donjon tower. When the news of her capture got to Paris on May 5, it was requested that the Duke of Burgundy turn her over for judgment to the chief inquisitor or to Pierrs Cauchon, the bishop of Beauvais. She was eventually turned over to the bishop of Beauvais for a payment of 10,000 francs (Bigelow 58). The Burgundians sold her to the English hoping that they would execute her hoping to see her influence on the French end. The English wanted to avoid responsibility for Joan’s outcome so they sent her to be sentenced at the Burgundian ecclesiastical court. She was to appear in court on February 1, 141. Joan asked to attend mass beforehand, but she was refused because of the crimes she was being charged for. Guards were assigned to her at all times, even to stay inside the cell with her, though she was chained and put in irons. She went through a month of interrogations and she was always required to swear to tell the truth (Bigelow 61).


It took Joan two days to answer the seventy charges that were brought against her. The seventy charges that she was on trial for were reduced to twelve, then were sent for consideration to eminent theologians in Rouen and Paris.


During this time Joan became ill in prison and she thought she was dying. She begged that she be allowed to go to confession and receive Holy Communion and to be buried in consecrated ground (Brooks 1). They continued to interrogate her, and the constant response they were getting from Joan was “I am relying on out Lord,” “I hold to what I have already said” (Bangs 67). They wanted to clarify some points, and they threatened her with torture if she did not participate. After concluding that torture would be useless she was handed over to the secular court and they would carry her death.


The court charged her with heresy and witchcraft. After over a four year period of interrogation, she was then accused of wrong doing for wearing men’s clothing and of heresy for saying that she was responsible for God instead of the Roman Catholic Church (Bigelow 7). Joan was then sentenced to death, but she confessed her errors, and the sentence was changed to life in prison. She was condemned again after she still continued to wear men’s clothing and by the secular court was sentenced to death. On May 0, 141, Joan was burned at the stake.


Joan of Arc was out of the ordinary in her culture, a woman renowned for doing something on her own, and not by birthright. Because she conveyed a change in society and was doing what she believed and what she was told, people saw her as hazard for being different in society. Joan of Arc illuminated the Hundred Years’ War and France would not have succeeded without her inspiration and strategic motivation. Joan was guided by her voices that created the nation-state of France and became known as one of the most heroic women of all time.


Bangs, Mary. Jeanne d’Arc. New York Houghton, 1.


Bigelow, Albert. The Girl in White Armor The Story of Joan of Arc. New York Macmillan, 167.


Brooks, Polly. Beyond the Myth The Story of Joan of Arc. New York J.B. Lippincott, 10.


Gies, Frances. Joan of Arc The Legend and The Reality. New York Harper and Row, 15.


Joan of Arc. The New Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago Pub. University of Chicago. Vol. , 10 Pg. 77-80.


Michelet, Jules. Joan of Arc. Canada University of Michigan Press, 157.


Stolpe, Sven. The Maid of Orleans. London Burns and Oates, 15.


Warner, Marina. Joan of Arc The Image of Female Heroism. New York Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 181.


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