Useful Notes: Joan of Arc

"Hope in God. If you have good hope and faith in him, you shall be delivered from your enemies."
—Joan of Arc, April 1429

Joan of Arc was a peasant girl who rose from obscurity to lead the French army to several victories during the Hundred Years War, leading to the coronation of Charles VII as the French king — she did not personally kill anyone, but carried a battle standard and led the army, as well as making tactical decisions. She was born about 1412, and starting at age twelve claimed to see visions of and hear the voices of Saints Catherine, Michael, and Margaret (one of the less understood aspects of her life — either she was lying, or she was mentally ill in some way, or God really was telling her to drive out the English, the reader can draw their own conclusions without stating them here), who she said told her to drive out the English and bring Charles VII to Rheims, then under English control, for his coronation.

After gaining the approval of Charles and a theological commission, she arrived at the siege of Orleans in 1429, where at the age of 17 she led the French to victory; contemporaries acknowledged her as the heroine of the engagement after she was wounded in the neck by an arrow but returned to lead the final charge. She led the French to several other victories, including at Reims, and was present at Charles VII's coronation. In October, Joan took Saint-Pierre-le-Moûtier and was granted nobility.

However, a risky skirmish on 23 May 1430 led to her capture. Her family were peasants and did not have the money to ransom her, and King Charles VII, despite her winning several battles that strengthened his claim to the crown, refused to intervene. She attempted several escapes, but all failed. The Duke of Burgundy, who actually held much of France under English control, wanted his nephew King Henry VI to be recognized as the legitimate king of France; therefore Joan's victories had put a major crimp in his plans. Formal religion was still very strong during this time, and painting Joan as a heretic helped to cast aspersions on Charles VII's hold on the crown. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she was tried and convicted of heresy by a pro-Burgundy court, and forced to sign a renunciation of heresy she did not understand because she was illiterate. Heresy was a capital crime only for a repeat offense; she promised not to wear male clothing, which was considered heretical, but resumed it either as a defense against rape or, in the testimony of Jean Massieu, because her dress had been stolen and she was left with nothing else to wear. In any case, the church court rejected her supporters' explanations, and she was burned at the stake in 1431. In 1456 her conviction was posthumously reversed, and in 1920 she was declared a Catholic saint.

There are more churches and shrines dedicated to her in England than in France. She also is often painted in a Battle Ballgown.

Her fame also made writers base characters on her, thus the Jeanne d'Archétype.

For further information, see the book Joan of Arc: The Warrior Saint, by Stephen W. Richey. For a famous fictional portrayal, there is George Bernard Shaw's play Joan of Arc which fictionalises large amounts of the story and actually seems to make an attempt to redeem her accusers. See also Luc Besson's film The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, which offers a post-modern interpretation of Joan's story.

Tropes relating to Joan of Arc:

  • Action Girl: Downplayed in real life; she was not a warrior, but a standard-bearer. However, this made her no stranger to the battlefield. And being a standard-bearer was one of the more dangerous duties one could have on a battlefield.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Joan's Voices have been seen as either the result of a genuine religious experience, schizophrenia, or drugs. More recently, doctors have speculated she might have had Meniere's disease, which causes auditory and sometimes visual phenomena. In any case, Abraham Lincoln's quip about what General Ulysses S. Grant is drinking is appropriate here.note 
  • Archenemy: To the Duke of Bedford. She prevented him from conquering the whole country, and after having her put to death, he spent the rest of his life trying to undo the damage she inflicted to England's war effort at Orleans.
  • The Atoner: Charles VII later in life pushed the Pope to start another trial on Joan some 25 years after her execution. Partly due to at long last having secured France from English meddling and the war itself all but over. But also in part due to sincerely wanting to redeem her name.
    • In the same trial, it's revealed that a number of those involved in the Kangaroo Court leading up to her execution also felt at least some remorse for what they had done.
  • Badass Boast: "I am not afraid; I was born for this."
  • Badass Pacifist/Martial Pacifist: In her trial, Joan claimed to never have killed anyone on the battlefield, saying she preferred her banner over her sword. If that doesn't sound like much, know that this was an era where the standard-bearer was always at the front of the army since it was the only way they knew where they were supposed to go or move on a battlefield. The person holding the banner was often a specific target of the enemy because of this.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Sometimes depicted as such in paintings, even ones taking place during her war career, to reflect her humble upbringing.
  • Battle Ballgown: Portrayed with this in some illustrations, though there's no proof she wore one.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel reveal that Joan was actually rescued from her burning by Scathach the Shadow and is alive and well in Paris, now over 500 years old. This is a Retcon from a previous book that implied she did die.
    • And some Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics imply she was the Slayer.
    • Also Puella Magi Madoka Magica states that she was one of many Magical Girls, alongside Cleopatra and Anne Frank. Joan would later get her own series.
    • In the Nasu Verse, there are hints that Joan (spelled Jeanne) was being influenced by the Counter Force, and that she made a deal with Alaya to become a Counter Guardian after she died. Even if she didn't, she likely would have ascended to the Throne of Heroes anyway. She becomes one of the 2 protagonists of Fate/Apocrypha.
    • Axis Powers Hetalia plays her mostly straight when France tells a young woman in the modern day about her, but it's implied that the young woman is actually Joan reincarnated.
    • Jeanne D Arc casts her as a Magical Girl of sorts who fights against the English... and their demonic allies. In this version, it is not her, but her best friend, acting as a body double, who is burnt at the stake.
    • In Continuum, Joan of Arc was/is a spanner, and makes up a substantial portion of the police force of Atlantis.
  • Brainy Brunette: She was known as a brilliant strategist and tactician, and was described historically as having dark brown or black hair.
  • Boyish Short Hair: While many paintings depict her with long flowing hair, she claimed the voices commanded her to cut her hair as well. It was thus worn in a bob cut, which nowadays is feminine but then was associated with pageboys.
  • Celibate Hero: Joan used her virginity as a sign of her purity, and as such remained chaste all her life. Two tests were performed to confirm her virginity, including one during her trial, thus confirming it. This was, in fact, the true reason for her canonization as a Saint, not because she was a martyr (which she technically was not).
  • Child Soldier: In the broad definition. She was 16-17 when she set out, and 19 when she was executed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: If her trial records are anything to go by, Joan was this, even delivering a Take That to the heavily-accented judge Seguin Seguin:
    Seguin Seguin: What language did [the Voices] speak?
    Joan of Arc: A better one than yours.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Despite her winning him most of France, Charles VII didn't try to rescue her when she was captured.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: In Henry VI Part 1, where her voices are made more demonic in nature, her virginity is hinted to be a lie, and even some of the French distrust her. To be expected of a Theme Park Version of the English perspective of the Hundred Years' War. Years later, another English dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, wrote Saint Joan which went a long way to rub away centuries of anti-Joan English propaganda.
  • I Have Many Names: While she's most commonly known as Joan of Arc or Jeanne D'Arc, at her trial Joan said it was the custom of her region for girls to use their mother's surname. Her father was Jacques d'Arc and her mother was Isabelle de Vouthon, also known as Isabelle Romée. So she could have gone by Romée or de Vouthon also... except there's no record of it. Her family was also awarded the name "du Lys" by the king when she was made a noble.
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: Trope Maker, Trope Codifier and Trope Namer.
  • Just a Kid: This, along with her sex or even her claim to have been called by God, was why people didn't think she could do what she said she would do.
  • Kangaroo Court: Joan's trial was headed by Bishop Pierre Cauchon, who was in the payroll of both the English Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Burgundy, and handpicked the judges himself from members of the University of Paris who also hated Joan's guts. She never really stood a chance.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Joan is sort of a female example. She is usually portrayed in full plate armor when not in a Battle Ballgown. She also had a chain mail overshirt, a long tabard and (rarely depicted) a big hat.
  • Lady of War: One of the common depictions of her, though there's no proof of it.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: To an extent. Her battle tactics focused quite a bit on aggression and full-frontal assaults.
  • Made of Iron: She took an arrow or crossbow bolt to the shoulder during the Siege of Orleans and still led the final charge; she also took a crossbow bolt though the thigh while scouting near Paris and recovered quite quickly.
  • The Magnificent: No records survive where Joan uses the name "D'Arc", and all her signatures are just simply "Jehanne". But she was known as La Pucelle, "The Maiden".
  • Mission from God: What she and the Christians believe she was following.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Her executioner, Geoffrey Therage, believed that he had damned himself irredeemably by burning her.
    • A possible example may be Cardinal Henry Beaufort, the overseer of the trial, who left the execution in tears.
    • Several of her judges, like John de Stogumber and Nicolas Loiseleur, seemed to feel some remorse after her execution.
  • Not So Different: With her companion Gilles de Rais, if Jean Benedetti's writings are anything to go by:
    "They had much in common: both were reckless in battle; they both preferred a simple response to any situation; they both had a sense of occasion, of the theatrical; and they both shared a fondness for fine clothes."
  • Odd Friendship: With La Hire; she was a celibate, intensely religious teenage peasant girl and he was a brash, hard swearing, professional old war horse and near bandit whose normal prayer was "Fair Sir God, I pray You this day, do for me what I would do for You, if I were God and You, La Hire." They got on very well.
  • Plucky Girl: She always tried to be in the thick of the action, not to fight herself but to motivate her troops.
  • Rape as Drama: Some scholars say she was raped, possibly gang-raped, after her abjuration. According to her contemporary Martin Ladvenu, an English Lord tried to rape her in jail, but failed.
  • Red-Headed Hero: Even though no portrait of her made while she was alive exists, she is frequently portrayed in the media with red hair.
    • Similarly, a sort of Historical Beauty Update seems to apply, probably inspired by Beauty Equals Goodness. As above, there are no known portraits of her but that doesn't stop her from being a memetic beauty. She was consistently described as short and sturdy, with dark hair. One of her contemporaries said she had lovely breasts.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Charles VII and Joan of Arc.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Even before she died, her name had become legend. And in the centuries that followed, she would come to become associated with various ideologies and causes, in time becoming intertwined with the French nation.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Joan? Jehanne? Jeanne? She used Jehanne.
    • Joan didn't come from a place called Arc; her hometown was called Domrémy. "Of Arc" is English for "d'Arc", the accepted surname of Joan's father Jacques. But French naming conventions of the time didn't use apostrophes, so it might really be "Darc" (and even this was spelled variously at the time - "Darx", "Tarc"...).
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Not herself, but she told one woman her era's version of this.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: She didn't really disguise herself as a man, but she did wear male clothing for practical reasons.
  • Take a Third Option: During her trial, Joan was asked if she believed she was in God's grace. This question was a trap - Church doctrine held that no-one could be sure of being in God's grace, so if she answered "yes," she would have proven herself a heretic, but if she had answered "no," she would also have confirmed her guilt. However, she answered:
    "If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me."
  • Token Evil Teammate: Gilles de Rais was this, as he was a Serial Killer. Though Joan of Arc most likely did not know about this. In addition, Gilles de Rais may very well have been completely innocent, as the main evidence behind his conviction was gotten through torture and the threat of excommunication.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: According to herself during her trial, she followed this.
  • Warrior Monk: Joan herself, though she's obviously more of a warrior nun.

Alternative Title(s):

Joan Of Arc