Joan of Arc
JOAN OF ARC
JOAN OF ARC (c. 1412–1431) was a French visionary; also known as the Maid of Orléans. Joan, who called herself Jeanne La Pucelle, used her claims to mystical experience to influence the course of French history in the fifteenth century. Led by her visions, she inspired the French army to turn the tide of the Hundred Years' War. Born around 1412 in Domrémy-la-Pucelle, a village on the border between Lorraine and France, Joan was a peasant who, in her own words, did not "know A from B." As she grew up she heard the magical lore and local saints' legends of Lorraine and reports of continuing French defeats at the hands of the English.
At age thirteen Joan began to hear a voice from God instructing her to go to the dauphin Charles, the uncrowned Valois king. Believing that she was called to drive the English out of France, Joan privately took a vow of virginity and prepared herself for the role of prophetic adviser to the king, a type of female mystic familiar in the late medieval period. At some point in these troubled years the voice became three voices, whom she later identified as the saints Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch, both known for their heroic virginity, and the archangel Michael, protector of the French royal family.
Joan established her authority through her urgent sincerity, by identifying herself with prophecies about a virgin who would save France, and by accurately announcing a French defeat on the day it took place 150 miles away. No longer able to ignore her, the garrison captain at the nearby town of Vaucouleurs refused to endorse her mission to save France until she was exorcised, raising the issue that would haunt her mission henceforth: Did her powers come from God or from the devil? Not fully assured, the captain nonetheless gave her arms and an escort. Cutting her hair short and donning male clothing, Joan and her companions made their way through enemy territory, reaching the dauphin's court at Chinon in late February 1429.
Joan's indomitable belief that only she could save France impressed Charles, his astronomer, and some of the nobles. But they too moved carefully, requiring an examination for heresy by theologians at Poitiers, who declared her a good Christian, and a physical examination by three matrons, who certified that she was indeed a virgin. For a woman about to attempt the "miracle" of defeating the English, virginity added an aura of almost magical power.
Given the desperate nature of Charles's position, he had little to lose in allowing Joan to join the army marching to the relief of Orléans, which had been besieged by the English. Her presence attracted volunteers and raised morale. Charging into the midst of battle, Joan was wounded and became the hero of the day. With Orléans secured, Joan impatiently counseled the army to move on. Town after town along the Loire fell, others offered their loyalty without battle. By late July, the dauphin could be crowned King Charles VII at Reims with Joan by his side.
But Joan's days of glory were brief. Driven by her voices, she disobeyed the king and continued to fight. Her attack on Paris failed, and several other ventures ended inconclusively. In May 1430, Joan was captured in a skirmish outside Compiègne. Neither Charles nor any of his court made an attempt to rescue or ransom her.
Determined to discredit Joan as a heretic and a witch, the English turned her over to an inquisitional court. Manned by more than one hundred French clerics in the pay of the English, Joan's trial in Rouen lasted from February 21 to May 28, 1431. Under inquisitional procedure she could not have counsel or call witnesses. As a layperson she had no religious order to speak for her, nor had she ever enlisted the support of a priest. Yet although she had spent months in military prisons, in chains and guarded constantly by men, Joan began with a strong defense. Reminding her interrogators that she was sent by God, she warned that they would condemn her at great risk. The charges came down to the question of ultimate authority: The judges insisted that she submit to the church's interpretation that her visions were evil, but Joan held to her claim that they came from God. Perhaps without intending it, Joan thus advocated the right of individual experience over the church's authority.
After weeks of unrelenting questioning, Joan began to break. Threatened with death by fire, she finally denied her voices and agreed to wear women's dress. It is not known precisely what happened next, but three days later she was found wearing male clothing again. She claimed that she had repented of betraying her voices; there are indications that her guards may have tried to rape her. Whatever her motivation, her actions sealed her fate. Declared a relapsed heretic on May 31, 1431, Joan was burned at the stake.
In 1450, because he was uneasy that he owed his crown to a convicted heretic, Charles instigated an inquiry into the trial, which led to a thorough papal investigation. Although the verdict of 1431 was revoked in 1456, the main charges against Joan were not cleared. Despite this ambiguity, Joan's memory received continuous attention from the French people through the centuries. It is ironic that in 1920 she was declared a saint, because none of the church's proceedings has acknowledged her right to interpret her divine messages, leaving the main issue for which she was condemned unaddressed.
The basic materials relative to the trial are found in Jules Quicherat's five-volume Procès de condamnation et de réhabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc (Paris, 1841–1849; New York, 1960). For an updated edition of the trial in French and Latin, see Procès de condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, 3 vols., edited by Pierre Tisset and Yvonne Lanhers (Paris, 1960–1971), and of the retrial, see Procès en nullité de la condamnation de Jeanne d'Arc, 3 vols., edited by Pierre Duparc (Paris, 1979–1983). An abridged English translation of the trial can be found in Wilfred P. Barrett's The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc (London, 1932), and of the retrial, in Régine Pernoud's The Retrial of Joan of Arc, translated by J. M. Cohen (London, 1955).
Of the vast secondary literature, the following biographies are good places to begin: Frances Gies's Joan of Arc: The Legend and the Reality (New York, 1981), Lucien Fabre's Joan of Arc (New York, 1954), and Victoria Sackville-West's St. Joan of Arc (London, 1936; New York, 1984). See also my study Joan of Arc: Heretic, Mystic, Shaman (Lewiston, N.Y., 1985) and Régine Pernoud's Joan of Arc by Herself and Her Witnesses, translated by Edward Hyams (London, 1964).
Anne Llewellyn Barstow (1987)
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
Born c. 1412
French military leader and martyr
F ew people ever make history, and a person who does so in his or her teens is extremely rare. Joan of Arc, who came to prominence at the age of seventeen, never lived to see twenty. In less than three years, however, she turned the tide of a century-long conflict, and proved that a girl could lead men to victory.
Joan claimed to hear voices, which she said came from the saints, giving her wisdom from God. Whatever the source of her knowledge, she was uncannily wise beyond her years, and she might have led France to greater and greater victories if she had not been captured by her nation's enemies. Under trial as a heretic, her prophetic gift was turned against her as evidence that she was doing the Devil's work, not God's, and she was burned at the stake. The verdict of history, however, rests on the side of Joan.
The Hundred Years' War
When Joan was born in about 1412, France had been locked in a war with England for more than seventy-five years. The conflict would drag on throughout her lifetime and beyond, becoming known as the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453), even though it actually lasted for 116 years.
Most of the war was fought in France, which was devastated not so much by the fighting itself—there were few actual battles during the Hundred Years' War—but by English raids on French towns. Then, in 1415, when Joan was about three years old, the English under King Henry V scored a major victory at Agincourt (AH-zhin-kohr).
After Henry died in 1422, regents who ruled England in the name of his infant son Henry VI continued the attacks. In 1428 they began a siege, or sustained assault, on the city of Orléans (ohr-lay-AWN).
Voices and visions
Joan was born in about 1412 in Domremy (doh[n]ray-MEE), a village in the prosperous region of Champagne. Her family, despite later legends maintaining that she grew up in poverty as a shepherd girl, were in fact successful farmers.
So many tales would surround Joan's life that it was sometimes difficult to separate out the facts. For instance, artists often depicted her as possessing a physical beauty that matched her purity of spirit, but this was probably not the case. Contemporary records make no mention of her appearance (had she been a great beauty, presumably these records would have mentioned it) except to note that she was strongly and solidly built.
One thing that is known, because Joan reported it herself, was that when she was about thirteen, she began hearing voices and seeing visions. The priests at her trial would later accuse her of receiving messages from demons, and some modern scholars dismiss the voices and visions as the product of mental illness. Joan, however, claimed that she was hearing from God through the voices of long-deceased saints.
On her way to meet the king
As the siege of Orléans wore on, Joan came to believe that the voices had a special message for her. It was her destiny to save France from the English, and to do that, she needed to get the king's approval to lead an army into battle. At some point, her father tried to arrange her marriage to a local youth, but Joan had made a vow to remain a virgin, committed to Christ, and she refused.
Knowing that her father would not permit her to seek out the king, she convinced her uncle to help her get an audience with one of the local authorities. It is hard to imagine how Joan, a seventeen-year-old girl in a world where even grown women were expected to stay away from men's affairs, got anyone to take her seriously.
Finally, however, she had an opportunity to meet with Sir Robert de Baudricourt roh-BAYR; BOH-dri-kohr), who was at first amused and then impressed by her determination. In early 1429, he arranged for her to meet with the king.
Gaining Charles's trust
In fact the king, Charles VII, had yet to be crowned. By the standards of what was required to be a king in medieval times, he was a timid figure, and later his unwillingness to make a stand would cost Joan dearly. On meeting him, Joan announced boldly that she had come to raise, or end, the siege and lead him safely to the town of Reims (RAM), the traditional place where French kings were crowned or consecrated.
Given his lack of resolve, Charles was particularly hesitant to take her claims seriously, and he forced her to undergo a series of tests concerning her faith. These tests included lengthy questioning by priests, who wanted to make sure that she was hearing from God. She passed all the tests, as she would later point out when she was brought up on charges of witchcraft.
In time Charles agreed to send her into battle, and she acquired a distinctive suit of white armor, probably made to fit a boy. As for a sword, legend holds that she told one of the king's men that he would find a specially engraved sword buried beneath the altar in a certain church—and he did. Whatever the truth of this story, it was yet another item brought up against her later as "proof" that Satan had given her special insight.
Victory after victory
To the English troops at Orléans, the sight of Joan in her white armor leading a tiny French force must have looked the way David did to Goliath in the biblical story. But just as the future king of Israel killed the giant, Joan was to lead her force to victory over a much stronger opponent. First she led the capture of the English fort at Saint Loup outside Orléans, and in a series of skirmishes, she forced the English to lift the siege. She was wounded both on the foot and above the breast, but she stayed in the battle until they had victory.
Two weeks later, Joan, claiming she had been healed by the saints, was ready to go back into action. By now she was the most popular person in France, and soldiers who had previously scorned the idea of a woman leading them into battle became zealous followers. They took the village of Patay on June 18, 1429, and their victory led a number of towns to switch their allegiance from England to France.
Joan informed Charles that he should next march on Reims, but he did not immediately heed her advice. After he relented and they began moving toward the city, they were stopped at Troyes TRWAH), an English stronghold that they seemingly could not conquer. With supplies running out, the men were starting to grow hungry, but Joan urged them not to give up the siege, telling the troops that they would have victory in just two more days. Once again she was proven right, and on July 17, 1429, Charles was crowned in Reims with Joan standing nearby.
Trouble on the horizon
Charles and the leaders of the French army never fully accepted Joan into their confidence and often excluded her from strategy meetings. In many cases they would seek her advice after having met amongst themselves, only to discover that they should have asked her in the first place.
Joan's extremely unorthodox ways were bound to make her enemies, and not just on the English side. Many of the French remained uncomfortable with the idea of a female leader, and civilians as well as soldiers remarked scornfully about her habit of always wearing men's clothes. Nonetheless,
she had far more admirers than opponents among the French, and everywhere she went, crowds tried to touch her in the hopes that she could heal sicknesses—a gift she never claimed.
Then in September 1429, she failed to take Paris, and was wounded again, this time in the leg. Two months later, she failed to take another town. Meanwhile, she was growing restless with Charles's indecisiveness; therefore she set out to assist the fortress at Compiegne kawn-pee-AN) in the northeast, which was under attack. It was to be her last military campaign.
Capture and trial
During a battle in May 1430, Joan was captured by John of Luxembourg, who was loyal to the Duchy of Burgundy. Burgundy, a large state to the north of France, was in
Like Joan, William Wallace (c. 1270–1305), subject of the 1995 Academy Award–winning film Braveheart, led a heroic struggle against the English on behalf of his people. As with Joan, his fight was to end in his own trial and execution—but he, too, would remain a powerful symbol.
A minor Scottish nobleman from the western part of the country, William grew up in a time when his land faced severe oppression from the English. In his early twenties, he became the leader of a rag-tag guerrilla army that set out to oppose them.
With the support of the lower classes and the lesser nobility—but not the greater nobles, who favored coexistence with their English masters—William led what was called the Rising of 1297. They scored a major victory against the armies of King Edward I at Stirling Bridge on September 11, but were badly defeated at Falkirk on July 22 of the following year.
In the wake of Falkirk, William fled the country, going to France and Italy in hopes of gaining support for a new campaign against Edward. He never obtained it, and on August 5, 1305, after he had returned to Scotland, one of his former lieutenants turned him over to the English.
William was tried for war and treason, and as with Joan, the results of the trial were a foregone conclusion. Dragged by horses to the gallows, he was hanged and then disemboweled his intestines were removed). Edward ordered William's severed head to be placed on display on London Bridge, and sent his body in pieces to be displayed at four castles around Scotland. His move backfired, however: the murder of William became a rallying cry for the Scots, who soon raised a much more formidable effort against England.
turn allied with the English, to whom they gave her after receiving a handsome payment. The English were thrilled, and immediately handed her over to Peter Cauchon koh-SHAWn), bishop of Beauvais (boh-VAY), for trial. Neither Charles nor any of the other French leaders made any significant effort to rescue her.
The legal proceedings that followed represented a ghastly miscarriage of justice, even by medieval standards. Because she was charged with heresy, or defying church teachings, she should have been confined in a jail controlled by the church, where she would have had female guards. Instead, she was thrown into a dungeon controlled by the civil authorities in the town of Rouen rü-AN), and there she was guarded by five of the most brutish soldiers the English could muster.
Her trial wore on for months and months, and Cauchon's tactics failed to wrangle a confession from Joan. He and the other interrogators could never successfully tie her to witchcraft, and eventually the charges were whittled down to a claim that she was not cooperating with the trial. Scrambling to find a case, Cauchon emphasized her wearing of men's clothing as evidence of her disloyalty to the church. Finally on May 24, 1431, he managed to bully the exhausted Joan into signing a statement that she was guilty of a wide range of crimes. She even agreed to wear women's clothing.
The martyrdom of Joan
Cauchon had led Joan to believe that after signing the statement, she would be moved to a church prison. Instead, he had her thrown back into the dungeon. Realizing that she would never get out alive, she made a final act of protest by putting on men's clothing again. Now Cauchon had her where he wanted her: not only was she a heretic, but she had gone back to her heresy after recanting, or disavowing, it.
On May 30, Joan's death sentence was read aloud in the town square of Rouen. Her captors were so eager to see her killed that, in another breach of law—the church had no power to pass a death sentence in France—they immediately hauled her off to her execution. She was tied to a pole, and branches were heaped around her; then the fire was lit, and Joan was burned at the stake.
The English and their French allies—most of those involved in the trial were her countrymen—were so afraid of Joan and her alleged witchcraft that they arranged to have her ashes thrown in the River Seine nearby. And indeed Joan did exert a force after her death: her efforts contributed significantly to France's final victory in 1453.
By that time there was a massive movement to reverse the sentence against Joan. In 1456, a commission directed by Pope Calixtus III declared that the verdict against her had been wrongfully obtained. Joan soon became one of the most widely loved and admired figures in Europe, and in 1920, she was declared a saint.
For More Information
Bull, Angela. A Saint in Armor: The Story of Joan of Arc. New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishers, 2000.
Bunson, Margaret and Matthew. St. Joan of Arc. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 1992.
Hodges, Margaret. Joan of Arc: The Lily Maid. Illustrated by Robert Rayevsky. New York: Holiday House, 1999.
Madison, Lucy Foster. Joan of Arc. Retold by Christine Messina, illustrations by Frank Schoonover. New York: Children's Classics, 1995.
Nardo, Don. The Trial of Joan of Arc. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1998.
"Joan of Arc" 1452–1519). [Online] Available http://www.phs.princeton.k12.oh.us/Public/Lessons/enl/sudz2.html (last accessed July 26,2000).
ScotWeb's Scottish History Online Magazine. [Online] Available http://www.clan.com/history/mainframe.html (last accessed July 26, 2000).
"The Trial of Scotsman William Wallace, 1306." World Wide Legal Information Association. [Online] Available http://www.wwlia.org/ukwall.htm (last accessed July 26, 2000).
William Wallace: The Truth. [Online] Available http://www.highlanderweb.co.uk/wallace/index2.html (last accessed July 26, 2000).
Jeanne D'Arc, St. (St. Joan of Arc) (ca. 1412-1431)
Jeanne D'Arc, St. (St. Joan of Arc) (ca. 1412-1431)
Joan was born Jeanette, with the surname Arc or Romée, in the village of Domrémy, on the border of Champagne and Lorraine, on January 15, 1412. In documents of her time she is known as Jeanne.
She was taught to spin and sew but not to read or write, these accomplishments being unnecessary to people in her station of life. Her parents were devout, and she was brought up piously. Her nature was gentle, modest, and religious, but with no physical weakness or morbidity. On the contrary, she was exceptionally strong, as her later history shows.
At or about age 13 she began to experience what modern psychology calls "auditory hallucinations." In other words, she heard voices (usually accompanied by a bright light) when no visible person was present. This is a symptom that occasionally presages a mental disorder, but no insanity developed in Jeanne d'Arc. She was startled at first, but continuation of the experience led to familiarity and trust. The voices gave good counsel of a commonplace nature, for example, that she "must be a good girl and go often to church."
Soon, however, she began to have visions. She saw St. Michael, St. Catharine, and St. Margaret and was given instructions as to her mission. She eventually made her way to the dauphin, put herself at the head of 6,000 men, and advanced to the relief of Orleans, which was surrounded by the victorious English. After a fortnight of hard fighting the siege was raised and the enemy driven off. The tide of war turned, and in three months the dauphin was crowned king at Rheims as Charles VII.
At this point Jeanne felt that her mission was accomplished, but her wish to return to her family was overruled by the king and the archbishop. She took part in further fighting against the allied English and Burgundian forces, showing great bravery and tactical skill. In November 1430, however, in a desperate sally from Compiégne (which was besieged by the duke of Burgundy), she fell into the enemy's hands and was sold to the English and thrown into a dungeon at their headquarters in Rouen.
After a year's imprisonment she was brought to trial before the bishop of Beauvais in an ecclesiastical court. The charges were heresy and sorcery. Learned doctors of the church and subtle lawyers did their best to entangle the simple girl in their dialectical webs, but she showed remarkable power in keeping to her affirmations and avoiding heretical statements. "God has always been my Lord in all that I have done," she repeated.
But the trial was only a sham, for her fate was already decided. She was condemned to the stake. To the end she solemnly affirmed the reality of her "voices" and the truth of her depositions. Her last word, as the smoke and flame rolled round her, was "Jesus." Said an English soldier, awestruck by the manner of her passing, "We are lost; we have burned a saint." The idea was corroborated in popular opinion by events that followed, for speedy death (as if by Heaven's anger) overtook her judges and accusers. Inspired by her example and claims, and helped by dissension and weakening on the side of the enemy, the French took heart once more and the English were all but swept out of the country.
Jeanne's family was rewarded by ennoblement, under the name De Lys. Twenty-five years after her death, the pope acceded to a petition that the trial by which Jeanne was condemned should be reexamined. The judgment was reversed and her innocence was established and proclaimed.
The life of the Maid of Orleans presents a problem that orthodox science cannot solve. She was a simple peasant girl with no ambitions. She rebelled pathetically against her mission, saying, "I had far rather rest and spin by my mother's side, for this is no work of my choosing, but I must go and do it, for my Lord wills it." She cannot be dismissed on the "simple idiot" theory of Voltaire, for her genius in war and her aptitude in repartee undoubtedly prove exceptional mental powers, un-schooled though she was. She cannot be dismissed as a mere hysteric, for her health and strength were superb.
It is on record that a man of science said to an abbot, "Come to the Salpêtrière Hospital [the refuge for elderly, poor, and insane patients in Paris] and I will show you twenty Jeannes d'Arc." To which the abbot responded, "Has one of them given us back Alsace and Lorraine?"
Although Jeanne delivered France and her importance in history is great, it is arguable that her mission and her actions were the outcome of merely subjective hallucinations induced by the brooding of her religious and patriotic mind on the woes of her country. The army, being ignorant and superstitious, would have readily believed in the supernatural nature of her mission, resulting in great energy and valor—soldiers fight well when they feel that Providence is on their side. So goes the most common theory in explaining the facts surrounding the life of St. Joan. But it is not fully satisfactory.
How was it possible that this simple, untutored peasant girl could persuade not only the soldiers, but also the dauphin of France and the court of her divine appointment? How did she come to be given the command of an army? It seems improbable that a post of such responsibility and power would be given to an ignorant girl of 18 on the mere strength of her own claim to inspiration.
Although the materialistic school of historians conveniently ignores or belittles it, there is strong evidence to support the idea that Jeanne gave the dauphin some proof of her possession of supernormal faculties. In fact, the evidence is so strong that Andrew Lang, not known for unsupported statements, called it "unimpeachable." Among other curious things, Jeanne seems to have repeated to Charles the words of a prayer that he had said mentally, and she also made some kind of clairvoyant discovery of a sword hidden behind the altar of the Fierbois church. Johann Schiller's magnificent dramatic poem "Die Jungfrau von Orleans" (1801), although not historically correct in some details, is positive on these points concerning clairvoyance and mindreading.
There is also evidence that Jeanne was connected with fairies, which were also part of witchcraft beliefs. Not far from Domrémy was a tree called "the Fairies' Tree" beside a spring said to cure fevers. The wife of the local mayor stated that it had been said that "Jeanne received her mission at the tree of the fairy-ladies" and that St. Katharine and St. Margaret came and spoke to her at the spring beside the fairies' tree. During Jeanne's trial the fourth article of accusation was that Jeanne was not instructed in her youth in the primitive faith, but was imbued by certain old women in the use of witchcraft, divination, and other superstitious works or magic arts. Jeanne herself, according the accusation, had said she heard from her godmother and other people about visions and apparitions of fairies.
Moreover, Pierronne, a follower of Jeanne d'Arc, was burned at the stake as a witch. She stated on oath that God appeared to her in human form and spoke to her as a friend, and that he was clothed in a scarlet cap and a long white robe.
It has been suggested that the voices heard by Jeanne may have been those of human beings rather than Christian saints, and Jeanne herself stated, "Those of my party know well that the Voice had been sent to me from God, they have seen and known this Voice. My king and many others have also heard and seen the Voices which came to me…. I saw him [St. Michael] with my bodily eyes as well as I see you." Jeanne's references to "the King of Heaven" in the original Latin and French were translated with a Christian bias as "Our Lord," and "my Lord" was translated as "Our Saviour." The scholar Margaret A. Murray in her book The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) also suggests that if Jeanne was a member of a Dianic [witch] cult, the wearing of male clothing may have been for Jeanne an outward sign of that faith, hence the importance attached to it.
In another book, The God of the Witches (1931), Murray examines the tradition that Jeanne was not actually burned at the stake but survived for a number of years afterward. The Chronique de Metz states, "Then she was sent to the city of Rouen in Normandy, and there was placed on a scaffold and burned in a fire, so it was said, but since then was found to be the contrary." Some of the evidence for this view had been cited earlier by Andrew Lang in his essay "The False Jeanne d'Arc" in his book The Valet's Tragedy and Other Studies (1903).
The period between the trial at Rouen and the Trial of Rehabilitation (1452-56) is crucial. In 1436, five years after the Rouen trial, the herald-at-arms and Jeanne's brother Jean du Lys announced officially in Orleans that Jeanne was still alive. The city accounts record that on Sunday, August 6, Jean du Lys, brother of "Jehane la Pucelle" [Jeanne the Maid] was in Orleans with letters from his sister to the king. In July 1439 Jeanne's brothers were in Orleans with their sister, now married to the sieur des Armoises (or Harmoises), and the city council presented Jeanne des Armoises with 210 pounds "for the good that she did to the said town during the siege of 1429." Accounts are also recorded of the wine merchant and draper who supplied Jeanne with wine and clothing. Her own mother was in Orleans at the time. Moreover, the masses that had been celebrated in Orleans for the repose of Jeanne's soul were discontinued after her mother's visit.
It is not conclusive that this Jeanne was an impostor (as Andrew Lang believed), and it seems unlikely that many people in Orleans, including Jeanne's own brothers, could have been deceived. The riddle of conflicting evidence of burning at the stake or substantiated appearances years later has never been satisfactorily resolved. Many such questions remain unresolved, in spite of various books, mainly by French writers, dealing with the issue.
Early French books on the subject include La Survivance et le Mariage de Jeanne D'Arc, by Grillot de Givry and La Legende Detruite: Indications pour essayer de suivre l'histoire de Jeanne d'Arc, by Paraf-Javal (1929). More recently another French writer, Pierre de Sermoise, published Jeanne d'Arc et la Mandragore (1983), which has revived the claim that the veiled woman burned at the stake in the marketplace was a prisoner condemned to death as a witch, substituting for France's national heroine.
More speculative is the conclusion of American biologist Robert Greenblatt (reported in 1983) that Jeanne was really a man. It was also claimed that two midwives who had examined Jeanne to establish her virginity were astonished to find that she had not reached puberty. In 1994, Jeanne d'Arc's suit of armor was thought to have been discovered by a Parisian antiques dealer. Not only did the suit fit his 14-year-old daughter's body, but where it was damaged seemed to match where it was believed to be the saint was wounded. Even in the twenty-first century Jeanne d'Arc remains a popular subject for articles, books and a popular character for television programs and movies.
Barstow, Anne Llewellyn. Joan of Arc: Heretic, Mystic, Shaman. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1986.
Marglis, Nadia. Joan of Arc in History, Literature, and Film: A Select Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990.
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
The French national heroine Joan of Arc led a troop of French soldiers and served as a temporary focus of French resistance to English occupation in the last phase of the Hundred Years War (1339–1453), a war with England which caused severe hardship in France. Joan of Arc's place in history was finally solidified in the twentieth century when she was declared a saint.
A restless France
In 1392 the insanity of the French king, Charles VI (1368–1422), had begun the struggle between two factions (rival groups) to control the kingdom, the Burgundians and the Armagnacs. The leader of the Armagnacs, John the Fearless (1371–1419), Duke of Burgundy, finally assumed control, as both sides appealed for help to England. Henry V (1387–1422) of England invaded France in 1415 and delivered a shattering defeat upon the French. The English and Burgundians entered Paris in 1418, and the murder of John the Fearless in 1419 strengthened Burgundian hatred for the Armagnac faction.
In 1420 Charles VI, Henry V, and Philip the Good (1396–1467) of Burgundy agreed to the Treaty of Troyes. The treaty said that Henry was to act as regent, or acting ruler, for the mad Charles VI, marry Charles's daughter, then inherit the throne of France upon Charles's death. The treaty thus disinherited Charles VI's son, Charles VII (1403–1461). In 1422 both Henry V and Charles VI died, leaving Henry VI, the infant son of Henry, as king of both kingdoms. Henry VI, through his regent, the Duke of Bedford, ruled unchallenged in Normandy and the Île-de France. In the autumn of 1428 the English attacked Orléans, the key city to Charles's land. Charles, lacking in men and money, could do nothing. By the spring of 1429 the city appeared about to fall and with it the hopes of Charles VII.
Joan was born to a peasant family in Domrémy, France, a small town near Vaucouleurs, the last town in the east still loyal to Charles VII. "As long as I lived at home," she said at her trial in 1431, "I worked at common tasks about the house, going but seldom afield with our sheep and other cattle. I learned to sew and spin: I fear no woman in Rouen at sewing and spinning."
Some time in 1425 Joan began to have visions—"When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me govern myself." The voice was that of St. Michael, who, with St. Catherine and St. Margaret, "told me of the pitiful state of France, and told me that I must go to succor [assist] the King of France." Joan twice went to Robert de Baudricourt, the captain of Vaucouleurs, asking for armor, a horse, and an escort to Charles VII at Chinon, but her request was denied both times. However, Joan was both persistent and persuasive, and when she went to de Baudricourt a third time he granted her request. She set out in February 1429, arriving eleven days later at Chinon.
Joan of Arc was once described: "This Maid … has a virile [man-like] bearing, speaks little, shows an admirable prudence [carefulness] in all her words. She has a pretty, woman's voice, eats little, drinks very little wine; she enjoys riding a horse and takes pleasure in fine arms, greatly likes the company of noble fighting men, detests [dislikes] numerous assemblies and meetings, readily sheds copious [many] tears, has a cheerful face.…" Joan appears to have been robust, with dark brown hair, and, as one historian remarked, "in the excitement which raised her up from earth to heaven, she retained her solid common sense and a clear sense of reality."
In April 1429 Charles VII sent her to Orléans as captain of a troop of men—not as leader of all his forces. With the Duke d'Alençon and Jean, the Bastard of Orléans (later Count of Dunois), Joan relieved the city, thus removing the greatest immediate threat to Charles and for the first time in his reign allowing him a military triumph.
Although Charles VII appears to have accepted Joan's mission, his attitude toward her, on the whole, is unclear. He followed her pressing advice to use the relief provided by the success of Orléans to proceed to his coronation (crowning ceremony) at Reims, thereby becoming king in the eyes of all men. Charles VII was crowned at Reims on July 18, 1429. Joan was at his side and occupied a visible place in the ceremonies following the coronation.
From the spring of 1429 to the spring of 1430, Charles and his advisers were undecided on the course of the war. Joan favored taking the military offensive against English positions, particularly Paris. An attack upon Paris in September 1429 failed, and Charles VII entered into a treaty with Burgundy that committed him to virtual inaction.
From September 1429 to the early months of 1430, Joan appears to have been kept inactive by the royal court, finally moving to the defense of the town of Compiègne in May 1430. During a small battle outside the town's walls against the Burgundians, Joan was cut off and captured. She was a valuable prize. The Burgundians turned Joan over to the English, who prepared to try her for heresy, or having opinions that conflict with the beliefs of the church. Charles VII could do nothing.
Joan's trial was held in three parts. Technically it was an ecclesiastical (involving the church) trial for heresy (having religious beliefs that are against those held by the church), and Joan's judges were Pierre Cauchon (1371–1442), the bishop of Beauvais, and Jean Lemaitre, vicar of the inquisitor of France, or the religious assistant to the top judge in France. Both were aided by a large number of theologians (those that study religion) and lawyers who sat as a kind of consulting and advising jury.
From January to the end of March, the court investigated Joan's "case" and questioned witnesses. The trial itself lasted from April to nearly the end of May and ended with Joan's abjuration, or renouncing her faith. The trial was both an ecclesiastical one and a political one. Joan was charged with witchcraft and fraud, or a willful cheating. She was tested by being asked complicated theological (involving religious teachings) questions, and finally condemned (found guilty) on the grounds of persisting in wearing male clothing, a technical offense against the authority of the Church.
Joan's answers throughout the trial reveal her presence of mind, humility, wit, and good sense. Apparently Joan and her accusers differed about the nature of her abjuration, and two days after she signed it, she recanted, or withdrew her previous belief.
The third phase of her trial began on May 28. This time she was tried as a relapsed heretic, conviction of which meant "release" to the "secular arm," that is, she would be turned over to the English to be burned. Joan was convicted and she was burned at the stake in the marketplace of Rouen on May 30, 1431.
Rehabilitation and later legend
From 1450 to 1456 a reinvestigation of Joan's trial and condemnation was undertaken by ecclesiastical lawyers. On July 7, 1456, the commission declared Joan's trial null and void, thereby freeing Joan from the taint of heresy. The Joan of Arc legend, however, did not gather momentum until the seventeenth century. In spite of her legend, Joan was not canonized (declared a saint) until May 16, 1920.
For More Information
Brooks, Polly Schoyer. Beyond the Myth: The Story of Joan of Arc. New York: Lippincott, 1990.
Nash-Marshall, Siobhan. Joan of Arc: A Spiritual Biography. New York: Crossroad Pub., 1999.
Pernoud, Régine. Joan of Arc: Her Story. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Sackville-West, Victoria Mary. Saint Joan of Arc. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Doran & Co., 1936. Reprint, New York: Grove Press, 2001.
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
The French national heroine Joan of Arc (c. 1412-1431) led a troop of French soldiers and served as a temporary focus of French resistance to English occupation in the last phase of the Hundred Years War.
The life of Joan of Arc must be considered against the background of the later stages of the Hundred Years War (1339-1453). The war, which had begun in 1339 and continued intermittently till the 1380s, had caused severe hardship in France. In 1392 the insanity of the French king, Charles VI, had provided the opportunity for two aristocratic factions to struggle for control of the King and kingdom. The leader of one of these, John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, finally assumed control, and both factions appealed for help to England. Henry V of England invaded France on the Burgundian side in 1415 and inflicted a shattering defeat upon the French at Agincourt in the same year. The English and Burgundians entered Paris in 1418, and the murder of John the Fearless in 1419 strengthened Burgundian hatred for the Armagnac faction.
In 1420 Charles VI, Henry V, and Philip the Good of Burgundy agreed to the Treaty of Troyes, according to which Henry was to act as regent for the mad Charles VI, marry Charles's daughter, and inherit the throne of France on Charles's death. The treaty thus disinherited Charles VI's son, the Dauphin Charles (later Charles VII). Charles VI also implied that the Dauphin was illegitimate. In 1422 both Henry V and Charles VI died, leaving Henry VI, the infant son of Henry, as king of both kingdoms. Henry VI, through his regent, the Duke of Bedford, ruled uncontested in Normandy and the Île-deFrance. The Duke of Burgundy followed an independent policy in the territories he was assembling to the north and east of France. The Dauphin was reduced to holding the south of France, threatened with Anglo-Burgundian invasion, and taunted with the title "King of Bourges," from which city he ineffectively ruled what was left of his kingdom. He was in perpetual fear that the key city of Orléans, the gateway to his lands, might be captured by the English. In the autumn of 1428 the English laid siege to Orléans. Charles, dominated by the infamous favorite Georges de la Tremoille, naturally apathetic, and lacking in men and money, could do nothing. By the spring of 1429 the city appeared about to fall and with it the hopes of Charles VII.
Joan was born to a peasant family in Domrémy, a small town near Vaucouleurs, the last town in the east still loyal to Charles VII. "As long as I lived at home," she said at her trial in 1431, "I worked at common tasks about the house, going but seldom afield with our sheep and other cattle. I learned to sew and spin: I fear no woman in Rouen at sewing and spinning."
Some time in 1425 Joan began to have visions— "When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me govern myself." The voice was that of St. Michael, who, with St. Catherine and St. Margaret, "told me of the pitiful state of France, and told me that I must go to succor the King of France." Joan twice went to Robert de Baudricourt, the captain of Vaucouleurs, asking for an escort to Charles VII at Chinon. The third time she was granted an escort, and she set out in February 1429, arriving 11 days later at Chinon. She was immediately examined for orthodoxy and 2 days later was allowed to see the King.
A contemporary described her: "This Maid … has a virile bearing, speaks little, shows an admirable prudence in all her words. She has a pretty, woman's voice, eats little, drinks very little wine; she enjoys riding a horse and takes pleasure in fine arms, greatly likes the company of noble fighting men, detests numerous assemblies and meetings, readily sheds copious tears, has a cheerful face…" Joan appears to have been robust, with darkbrown hair, and, as one historian succinctly remarked, "in the excitement which raised her up from earth to heaven, she retained her solid common sense and a clear sense of reality." She was also persuasive. In April 1429 Charles VII sent her to Orléans as captain of a troop of men—not as leader of all his forces. With the Duke d'Alençon and Jean, the Bastard of Orléans (later Count of Dunois), Joan relieved the city, thus removing the greatest immediate threat to Charles and for the first time in his reign allowing him a military triumph.
Although Charles VII appears to have accepted Joan's mission—after having had her examined several times at Chinon and at the University of Poitiers—his attitude toward her, on the whole, is ambiguous. He followed her pressing advice to use the respite provided by the relief of Orléans to proceed to his coronation at Reims, thereby becoming king in the eyes of all men. After a series of victorious battles and sieges on the way, Charles VII was crowned at Reims on July 18, 1429. Joan was at his side and occupied a prominent place in the ceremonies following the coronation. From the spring of 1429 to the spring of 1430, Charles and his advisers wavered on the course of the war. The choices were those of negotiation, particularly with the Duke of Burgundy, or taking the military offensive against English positions, particularly Paris. Joan favored the second course, but an attack upon Paris in September 1429 failed, and Charles VII entered into a treaty with Burgundy that committed him to virtual inaction. From September 1429 to the early months of 1430, Joan appears to have been kept inactive by the royal court, finally moving to the defense of the town of Compiègne in May 1430. During a skirmish outside the town's walls against the Burgundians, Joan was cut off and captured. She was a rich prize. The Burgundians turned Joan over to the English, who prepared to try her for heresy. Charles VII could do nothing.
Joan's trial was held in three parts. Technically it was an ecclesiastical trial for heresy, and Joan's judges were Pierre Cauchon, the bishop of Beauvais, and Jean Lemaitre, vicar of the inquisitor of France; both were aided by a large number of theologians and lawyers who sat as a kind of consulting and advising jury. From January to the end of March, the court investigated Joan's "case" and interrogated witnesses. The trial itself lasted from April to nearly the end of May and ended with Joan's abjuration. The trial was both an ecclesiastical one and a political one (because Joan was kept in an English prison rather than in that of the archbishop of Rouen and because the English continually intervened in the trial). Joan was charged with witchcraft and fraud, tested by being asked complicated theological questions, and finally condemned on the grounds of persisting in wearing male clothing, a technical offense against the authority of the Church. Joan's answers throughout the trial reveal her presence of mind, humility, wit, and good sense. Apparently Joan and her accusers differed about the nature of her abjuration, and 2 days after she signed it, she recanted. The third phase of her trial began on May 28. This time she was tried as a relapsed heretic, conviction of which meant "release" to the "secular arm" that is, she would be turned over to the English to be burned. Joan was convicted of being a relapsed heretic, and she was burned at the stake in the marketplace of Rouen on May 30, 1431.
Rehabilitation and Later Legend
From 1450 to 1456, first under the impetus of Charles VII, then under that of Joan's mother, and finally under that of the Inquisition, a reinvestigation of Joan's trial and condemnation was undertaken by ecclesiastical lawyers. On July 7, 1456, the commission declared Joan's trial null and void, thereby freeing Joan from the taint of heresy. The Joan of Arc legend, however, did not gather momentum, and then only intermittently, until the 17th century. The 19th and 20th centuries were really, as a historian has called them, "the centuries of the Maid." In spite of her legend, Joan was not canonized until May 16, 1920.
There is an immense literature about Joan of Arc, most of it fanciful and inaccurate. Some of it, however, is great literature in its own right: for example, George Bernard Shaw's play, Saint Joan, or Jules Michelet's Joan of Arc, translated by Albert Guerard (1957). There is no standard English or French biography which is entirely reliable. Therefore, the best source concerning Joan's career is the text of her trial and rehabilitation proceedings. Full texts were published by J. Quicherat in French. The choice English works have been built around extracts from these texts; the best of these is Regine Pernoud, Joan of Arc (1959; trans. 1964). A shorter work, consisting only of extracts from the trial materials, is Willard R. Trask, Joan of Arc: Self Portrait (1936). Joan's place in 15th-century France is described by Edouard Perroy, The Hundred Years War (1945; trans. 1951), and Alice Buchan, Joan of Arc and the Recovery of France (1948). A careful analysis of the sources concerning Joan and a brief description of her later reputation are in Charles W. Lightbody, The Judgements of Joan (1960). □
Joan of Arc (1412–1431)
Joan of Arc (1412–1431)
A patron saint of the French nation, Joan of Arc was born in the village of Domremy, in the Vosges region of eastern France. Her father owned a small estate and served as a village official. At the time of her birth and childhood, much of France lay in ruins from the conflict with England that had begun more than seventy years earlier. The war had started over English claims to the French throne, claims supported by the powerful dukes of Burgundy. While the English controlled Paris, the capital, the Burgundians held Reims, the traditional site of French coronations. For this reason, the heir to the French throne, the son of King Charles VI, remained an uncrowned dauphin (eldest son of a king) while the English fought for the claim of Henry VI, an infant who ruled through the regent John of Lancaster.
Inspired by visions of the saints to defend France from its powerful enemies, the sixteen-year-old Joan rode to the French camp at Vaucouleurs to demand an audience with the dauphin. At first mocked and refused, she persisted and eventually won over the garrison commander. Arriving in the dauphin's presence at the chateau of Chinon, she asked Charles permission to lead an army to the relief of Orléans, a French city then holding out against an English siege. In a desperate situation, and with little realistic hope of success, the dauphin agreed. In just nine days, however, Joan led the French to victory at Orléans. She was rewarded with co-command of an army, with which she defeated the English at the Battle of Patay. She then marched to Reims, where she witnessed the coronation of the dauphin as Charles VII of France on July 17, 1429.
After the coronation, Joan continued to lead the French against the scattered enemy troops in northern France. At the town of Compiègne, she was captured by a company of Burgundians and then sold to the English. The English governor in France, Duke Henry of Bedford, put her on trial for religious heresy. Her impassioned defense proved futile, as the English and Bishop Cauchon of Beauvais, an ally of England who presided at the trial, were determined to see her dead. She was convicted and burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30, 1431.
Joan's inspired leadership of the demoralized French army proved a turning point in the Hundred Years' War. By the Treaty of Arras in 1435, the Burgundians ended their alliance with the English, who lost Rouen in 1449 and their last stronghold at Calais in 1558. Under the successors of Charles VII, a unified French kingdom emerged that would develop by the end of the Renaissance into the largest and wealthiest realm in Europe.