Today we have a guest blog from Deanna Proach, the author of two novels: To be Maria (Amazon Kindle, May 1, 2013) and Day of Revenge (Inkwater Press). You can learn more about her at www.deannaproachwriter.com and www.crusadesandcrusaders.com. She’s written a post for The Freelance History Writer on Saint Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc, a young French peasant woman in the 15th century, believed she was commanded by God to unite the French people and repel the English invaders. She led the French army in a crushing victory at Orleans in 1429, a victory that severely crippled the English attempt to conquer France during the Hundred Years War. Two years later, Joan was captured by the Burgundians who were collaborating with the French against the English and she was put on trial and burned at the stake.
Joan was born in the small town of Domrémy in 1412. At the time of her birth, there was conflict between the Dauphin Charles, son and heir to the Valois King Charles VI and the Lancastrian English King Henry VI. The dispute was over the empty French throne and control over French lands. King Henry was in alliance with Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy and their armies were occupying much of the northern part of the kingdom of France.
At the end of 1427, five years after his father’s death, Charles had still not been crowned king. All of his hopes to ascend the throne, unite the French people and oust the English invaders had faded. To make matters worse, Reims, the traditional city for the coronation of French kings, was well within English held territory. As long as the French king remained uncrowned, the Dauphin’s rightful claim to be king was subject to challenge.
Since Domrémy lay on the frontier between the lands of the Anglo-Burgundians and that of the Dauphin, the village was subject to constant threats by Burgundian and English knights. Many villagers fled their homes before the raids, others perished at the hands of their attackers. Joan and her family lived in fear and terror.
Joan first heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret in her early teens. They implored her to release France from the English. Led by her divine voices, Joan travelled to Vaucouleurs and exhorted the local commander, Robert de Baudricourt, for permission to send her across the English held territory to see the Dauphin in Chinon. Insisting she had lost her sanity, Baudricourt refused to believe the sixteen-year-old girl’s accounts of her visions and sent her home. Early in the year 1429, Joan returned to Vaucouleurs. This time her steadfastness and piety won the respect of the village people and the commander permitted her to travel to Chinon, accompanied by six knights. Joan’s purity and virginity earned her the title of “Maid of Orleans”.
On March 6, 1429, Joan was invited to the Dauphin’s court. Charles, preparing for the Maid’s arrival, strategically disguised himself as one of his courtiers to test her. Joan’s success in identifying him was instantly interpreted as divine confirmation of Charles’ legitimate claim to the throne. She was also successful in the ecclesiastical examination which she was subjected to at Poitiers. Consequently, she was given charge of the French army.
The following month, Joan led the French army against the English forces in Orleans and by early May, successfully forced the English to lift the siege and leave the Loire valley. Soon after, Joan, with the aid of 12,000 soldiers, accompanied the Dauphin to Reims where he was finally crowned King. At Charles’ coronation, Joan, the Maid of Orleans, was granted a place of honor next to the new King.
In the following year, the newly crowned King Charles VII rewarded Joan’s services for France by placing her at the head of the French army but failed to support her future military endeavors. Therefore, she took matters into her own hands. Her campaign to take Paris failed miserably and her later march on Compiegne ended with her capture by the Burgundians. Joan was sold to the English who, after a lengthy trial conducted by the Inquisitor Bishop Cauchon, was charged with sorcery and witchcraft. She was taken out into the churchyard at St. Ouen and burnt at the stake on May 30, 1431.
Joan’s achievement created a national consciousness among the French people which only grew stronger after her death. Twenty-five years after her execution, when the English were finally driven out of France, the Pope at Avignon ordered a rehearing of Joan’s trial. At the time the French people already revered her as the savior of France. After hearing from witnesses, Joan was declared innocent of the charges against her. In 1920, nearly five hundred years later, Pope Benedict XV canonized her as a patron saint of France.
Resources: “Joan of Arc (1412-1431)” by Danuta Bois, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., “St. Joan of Arc Biography (1412-1431)”, Eternal World Network, “Saint Joan of Arc Virgin – 1412-1431: Feast May 8”, “Joan of Arc, c. 1412-1431” by Steven Kreis in “The History Guide: Lectures on Ancient and Medieval European History”