Benjamin Stich Professor BashawHONOR-105 MC02 26 November 2018 The Story of Joan of Arc It is the early 15th Century
Professor BashawHONOR-105 MC02
26 November 2018
The Story of Joan of Arc
It is the early 15th Century, large parts of France are under control of the English as Henry VI fights for the French throne; things are looking bad for Charles VII of France, who has yet to be coronated as king, as Orleans is under siege. Things changed when, in 1425, young Joan had received God’s guidance and brought France back from the brink of defeat. This young peasant turned victorious general has been a shining example of a brave and heroic woman, she became a French hero and a sign of hope, who rallied her people better than her king could; she is a patron of martyrs, captives, the military, France, soldiers, and more specifically women soldiers.
Jeanne d’Arc was born in early January of 1412 in Domrémy, France. For the past several decades France had been in a state of constant warfare with England over the status of the French throne. The French economy was in ruins as a result of English scorched earth tactics, and the French army had not seen victory for almost a generation. These were hard times Joan was born into, and she would not know peace in her short life. The first recorded appearance of Joan was on February 1429, as quoted in Joan of Arc: Her Story: “They say that a maid passed by the city of Gien, a maid who presented herself to the noble dauphin to raise the siege of Orleans and to lead the dauphin to Reims so that he might be anointed.” Indeed, it was at the Siege of Orleans that Joan of Arc first made a name for herself because “On the fate of Orleans hung that of the entire kingdom” (Pernoud and Clin, 10). Orleans was important because it was the gateway to southern France, and if it fell the English and Burgundian forces could make one final push end the war.
Joan claims to have seen her first vision in 1425 in her father’s garden. As Pernoud wrote in Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses, “Joan had a voice from God to help her govern her conduct,” she saw figures that she identified as Saints Michael, Catherine, and Margaret, who told her to “raise the siege laid to the city of Orleans” (30). She was only 13 at this time, but at the age of 16 she traveled to Vaucouleurs and said, “there will be no help (for the kingdom) if not from me” (35). To convince Robert de Baudricourt, a French commander, to take her to Dauphin she made a correct prediction about the outcome of the Battle of Rouvray before messengers arrived to report it. Baudricourt brought her to Charles’s court where she got permission to travel to Orleans. She arrived at the city on the 29th of April, and the siege ended with a French victory on the 8th of May; it was the first French victory since their defeat at Agincourt in 1415. While the English claimed Joan was led by the devil (after all it would be embarrassing to admit to the English people that a teenage girl beat them) the Archbishop of Embrun and theologian Jean Gerson wrote treatises confirming her divinity (Fraioli, 87).
The victory at Orleans gained Joan support amongst the French commanders. With the support of the nobles, and advised by Joan, the French army took Jargeau, Meung-sur-Loire, and Beaugency in rapid succession. To further support the divine guidance Joan had, she saved the Duke of Alencon’s life at Jargeau when she warned him about a cannon that was about to fire at him, and she survived a serious hit to the head by a rock (St. Joan Center). The French army then decisively defeated the English at the Battle of Patay with minimal losses, and on the 3rd of July recaptured Auxerre from the Burgundians. Then on the 16th of July the city of Reims, a historical site for the coronation of French kings, submitted to the French army, and Charles VII was promptly coronated the next day.
On the 23rd of May 1430, Joan went with a force to defend Compiegne and was ambushed and captured. Despite several attempts to escape, and several French offensives attempting to rescue her, Joan remained imprisoned by the English and was put on trial for heresy. Despite an astonishing defense from this illiterate and uneducated French girl, the English sentenced her to death by being burned at the stake. While Joan may have been gone, the damage she did to the English army led to the French winning the war twenty-two years later. The tactics used by Joan influenced French commanders for the rest of the war, and Pope Callixtus III authorized a nullification trial to reverse the conviction of Joan and declared her innocent. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.
Joan of Arc has had a lasting legacy. As DeVries wrote on page 3 of Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc, “No person of the Middle Ages, male or female, has been the subject of more study than Joan of Arc.” The most obvious part of her legacy is the French victory in the Hundred Years War, which guaranteed French independence from England and paved the way for French hegemony in years to come. French dominance in western Europe likely would not have happened if Joan of Arc did not lead the French armies to victory, because her ability to rally the French troops was a leading cause for their victory at Orleans, and again at Patay; these being the two victories that truly secured a French victory. During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, she was declared a national symbol of France. During the French Wars of Religion, she became a symbol of the Catholic League. Because of this she is a key part of French culture, especially for Catholics in France, and thus is a celebrated hero for the French people.
Another aspect of her legacy is in religion. Her story exemplifies the Biblical teachings of “with God all things are possible” because she was a young peasant who could do what neither the King of France nor any French noble could. However, perhaps more importantly, Joan trampled cultural norms of her time. At a time when women were not allowed to go to war, she went against the custom and not only fought, but led an army to victory. She took up her religious mission, she followed God’s will, and was determined to follow through with it up until her martyrdom.
Today Joan of Arc is a patron saint of France, for her contributions to the war; martyrs, because of her death at English hands for ‘heresy;’ captives, because she was imprisoned by the Burgundians and English; soldiers (especially women soldiers), because of her military service; and people who are ridiculed for their piety, because she insisted that she was being led by God in spite of the English trial against her. Joan is a symbol of hope in the face of defeat, because that is what she gave the demoralized French army. Joan is one of, if not the most, influential women of the Late Middle Ages, and in French History.
Fraioli, Deborah A. Joan of Arc: the Early Debate. The Boydell Press, 2002.
Joan, Saint. “JOAN’S FRIENDS PART 1.” The Canonization of Joan of Arc, Virginia Frohlick-Saint Joan of Arc Center, www.stjoan-center.com/Trials/null07.html.
Pernoud Re?gine. Joan of Arc by Herself and Her Witnesses. Scarborough House, 1994.
Pernoud, Régine, et al. Joan of Arc Her Story. St. Martins Press, 1999.
Wheeler, Bonnie, et al. Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc. Garland Pub., 1999.