A French saint and a heroine in the Hundred Years’ war was Joan of Arc. This farm girl helped save the French from English command and was often called the Maid Orleans and the Maid of France. Her inspiration led the French to many victories.
Joan Of Arc (In French Jeanne d’Arc) was born around 1412, in the village of Domremy, France. She was a peasant girl who, like many girls of that time, could not read or write. Her father, Jacques, was a wealthy tenant farmer and her mother, Isabelle Romee, taught her how to sow, spin, and cook which she was proud of. She also spent much of her time praying to and serving God. She lived like most children did at that time, until when she was about thirteen. According to Wagenknecht: “The Vision first came when she was first thirteen….” The vision was Saint Michael who said she should be a good girl and go to church. When more and more Visions had come it started coming clearer to her and when she saw Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret her duty was clear, she was the chosen one to crown Charles the VII.
Since France had been fighting with England in what was called the Hundred Years’ War, much of Northern France was captured by the English, including Reims where the coronation for kings had been held for over centuries before him. Since Reims was captured, Charles the VII, who had not yet been crowned; was still called the Dauphin. When Joan had these visions of Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, she told her family and friends. When she told her father, he would not let her go. After when these Visions told her that England and Burgundy, England’s ally, were going to capture Orleans, one of France’s last strong forces, she knew she had to react. She needed to go to the governor of Vaucouleurs, an agent of the Dauphin, and convince him to give her an army to escort her to the Dauphin.
She first needed an escort to come with her to see the governor so she asked her cousin, Durand Laxart. He, at first, was skeptical about it, but then he soon came to Joan’s side. When she told the governor, Robert de Baudricourt, he said she was a fool and she should go home. But after some time of waiting, Baudri-court let her go, under his protection, to the Dauphin with male clothing, a sword, a safe conduct pass, and a small escort. They departed February 23. They safely traveled at night on byroads for eleven days from Vacouleurs to Chinon. They slept in the open air and disguised Joan, so the English would not notice her when she attended Mass in the towns they went through.
After some time arriving in Chinon, she was escorted to where the Dauphin was. The Dauphin was among his courtiers and she carefully picked him out, while he was among his courtiers. She went there.
Jean Benedetti described it:
Joan made her entrance and according to Jean Cartier, Charles VII’s official historian, curtsied as though she had been doing it her whole life. She was a striking woman who dressed, and in many ways behaved, like a man and yet had feminine qualities of compassion and tenderness. Everyone who met was impressed the force of her personality. She had ‘charisma’. Moreover she provided a minor wonder by recognizing the king who was hiding among his courtiers, trying to look inconspicuous, and doubtless succeeding. When she addressed him he denied that he was the king, pointing to one of his courtiers with the words, ‘You are mistaken, there is the king.’ But Joan persisted, calling him ‘Gentle Dauphin’. 2 Joan and the Dauphin spent some time together talking together and she told him that God has sent her there to tell him that God has said that he will be anointed and crowned king in Reims.
The decision was to be postponed for a few months. There was a commission to inspect Joan’s history; to make sure that she was really sent by God and not the devil. And Joan herself was questioned and tested at the University of Poitiers and she also had to have verification by matron to prove that she was a virgin. After three weeks the court claimed that she was acceptable. Even though there were myths said about the situation, they wanted her story to be true. If it was not true, than who would save them? As Pierre Goubert stated, “She won the confidence and respect of rough soldiers and chiefs, who knew the legend that a maiden would save the kingdom that had been lost by a woman- Isabeau. To these people, what we regard as extraordinary, the marvelous or divine appeared normal.”
The appointed rendezvous for the troops was Blois. Joan made sure that all the men in the army obeyed the Ten Commandments and kicked out all the loose women. They had to confess their sins to a priest and receive Eucharist. Wagennecht pointed out that “And LaHire himself, that good-hearted roughneck, whose every word was an oath, was forbidden to swear except by his baton!” Even though the army was living by religious rule, they did have fun. The Dauphin furnished her with armor, attendants, and horses before they left. Compton’s Living Encyclopedia states that, “A special banner was made for Joan to carry in battle. On one side were the words ‘Jesus Maria’ and a figure of God, seated on clouds holding a glove. The other side had a figure of the Virgin and a shield, with two angels supporting the arms of France”
When Joan and her army arrived in Orleans on April 29th, she was not in command but her being there fired the army with confidence. Joan did not find the plans on how they were going to enter the enclosed city of Orleans acceptable so they used the plans she made up. Joan had helped save the enclosed town of Orleans from the English. The Voices still guided Joan and they told her very precise information on what to do but she often lost her sanity in battle. But for the fact that these Voices guided her, and how she often got pulled away from certain death or pulled away from being captured made the English think that they were dealing with the supernatural. As Jean Benedetti said:
Certainly the sight of a woman dressed in white amour, carrying a white banner and leading troops into battle, must have been impressive, whatever abuse they might throw at her. Besides her frequent trips to the fortifications, her summons to the English to surrender must have taken a magic aura, as though she had been trying to put a spell on them, or conjure them to surrender.
On May 4th, Joan took command with the attack at the Bastille of Saint Loup, and they conquered it easily because the English had not enough time to get equipped; this attack cleared the eastside of Orleans. They planned an attack to take the fortress of Les Tourelles, the key point in the disposition of the English. If they could take back Les Tourelles, the French could control the river again. In doing this, Joan was injured by an arrow that made a deep wound in her shoulder. They treated it with a dressing of lard and olive oil and Joan went back into battle. On an attack at Dunois, they had started attacking in the morning and by sunset they had made no progress and were about to retire when something miraculous happened. Joan had went into a vineyard and prayed, then the fort opened and the army entered and they captured the fort.
On May 8th, 1429, the English left their fortress and the siege of Orleans was over. That night victory was celebrated; the army went from church to church and was cheered by the town. But still the Dauphin had not been crowned yet. Joan was excluded from the meetings but she always ended up figuring what was happening, and there was a delay. Joan wanted him to be crowned right away and not after Paris was liberated, which was what Charles wanted. So Charles agreed to go to Reims for the coronation but during the planning time, he would campaign in Loire valley which was consolidated.
On July 16, the army, Joan, and Charles entered Reims. And on July 17, 1429, the Dauphin was crowned king of France, with Joan stood by by the king holding her banner. This was her golden hour; she achieved her miraculous task her Visions set her out to do, and she was recognized for it.
They French decided to attack Paris, but the king’s procrastination warded Joan and her army from accorded attack. But Compiegne, Senilus, and Beauvais were all captured. On August 28, an armistice was signed between France and Burgundy, which Joan did not favor. On September 8th, Joan attacked the Porte Saint Honore, Paris and failed. Here Joan, once again, was wounded, but this time in her thigh. Joan was taken away from Paris and Charles VII disbanded his army, from autumn of 1429 until the end of the following May. She participated in taking Saint Pierre le Moutier in autumn. And on May 23, 1430 Joan went out to Compiegne, which was then sieged by the Duke of Burgundy. When she entered the Burgundian lines, she was taken away from her soldiers and was caught.
While being a prisoner at Beaurevoir, she tried to escape twice. Once she locked her jailer in but they found her out and sent her back. The second time she wanted to go back to Compiegne, and since she was scared she would fall into the English’s hands, she jumped sixty feet from her tower at Beaurevoir, without listening to her Voices. A leap from that height would have ended any other human life but she survived with no broken bones and only minor injuries. When found she was taken to Crotoy on the Somme, and there she was sold to the English to be tried as a witch under an ecclesiastical court.
She was handed over to Pierre Cauchon, bishop of Beauvais, on January 3rd, 1431. The sittings had begun on February 21 and continued over a period of months. She was held in chains, harassed by countless questions, and threatened with torture over this period of months; Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret still gave her advice through all this. On May 24, 1431, Joan was taken to the cemetery where she was too been burned at the stake unless she recanted, which she did. This is not really to clear to historians why she did that, but many believe that she did not understand what the recant meant. Wagenknecht stated that “Her own view, after she was herself again, or perhaps one should say her report and interpretation of the view of her Voices in that matter, was that she had imperiled her soul to save her life: ‘It was the fear of the fire which made me say what I did.” After her recanting she was sentenced from death to life of imprisonment. Of her being treated so softly, the English were furious. Joan had thought she was going to be sent free but instead Cauchon sentenced her to perpetual imprisonment.
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