A talented military strategist and Patron Saint of France who helped win her country’s independence and restore the rightful King to the throne.
Known as ‘The Maid of Orléans’, Joan of Arc was born in France in 1412, during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England. The war lasted from 1337 to 1453 and during the conflict, areas of France had come under the control and occupation of the English. Joan’s parents were farmers and she did not have any form of formal education.
When she was 13, Joan reported that she heard the voices of saints telling her that she should help the French Dauphin (heir to the throne), Charles, defeat the English and take the crown. Joan initially travelled to Vaucouleurs where she requested to be taken to see Charles, so that she could explain that she had been sent to help him defeat the English occupying forces. She was ridiculed and sent away, but she persisted, and was eventually granted permission to meet with the Dauphin.
Joan told the Dauphin that she would help him gain the throne and that she would see him crowned King at Reims. She advised the French army in Orléans, who believed that Joan was divinely inspired. Under Joan’s counsel, the French army saw a dramatic change in their fortune, and they enjoyed a series of successes on the battlefield against the English. The lifting of the siege of Orléans was recognized as proof that God was working through Joan to save France.
While many celebrated Joan as a messenger from God, others believed that she was possessed by the devil. They believed that some kind of sorcery or witchcraft must be behind the fact that a simple, uneducated girl was able to defeat the might of the English army. In 1429, Charles was crowned at Reims, just like Joan had foretold, and he became Charles VII of France, with Joan at his side.
Following the coronation, Joan continued to advise on military strategy, and many started to fear that she was becoming too powerful and influential. In 1430, Joan was captured by the English-allied Burgundian troops and they handed her over to the English. Charles did not take any action to try and secure her release. The English handed her over to church officials and she was put on trial for heresy, witchcraft, and cross-dressing. She was convicted and burned at the stake in 1431, at the age of 19.
In a posthumous retrial, Joan was cleared of all charges and was canonized as a saint in 1920 by the Roman Catholic Church. Her story has been told in various cultural depictions, including paintings, plays, operas, and movies. She is celebrated for her fearlessness, bravery, and her refusal to submit to the social expectations that dictated that women should be passive, gentle and submissive.
“I am not afraid…I was born to do this.”
“I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin, or to be against God’s will.”
“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”