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 as portrayed in fiction:


Alternative Title(s):

Joan Of Arc