Joan of Arc

Joan_of_Arc.jpg"Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc,and there you will find it" (Mark Twain). Before Joan was born there was a well known prophecy that foretold France would be saved by a maiden from Lorraine. The person that would turn the tide in a war that lasted a hundred years was Jeanne d'Arc also known as Joan of Arc. Nicknamed the "Maid of Orleans", she became a national heroine in France and one of the most influential women of all time. She probably has one of the most adoring personality; even her enemy could not find anything vile or immoral about her. She led her army to defeat the English in many battles with the help of the voices she said came from St. Catherine, St. Margaret and St. Michael. Joan was only nineteen when she died, but achieved so much throughout her short life.


Before Joan came into this world, a war was raging between the French and the English. The Hundred Years' War begun in 1337 over a dispute about who rightfully owned the French throne. Joan was born a peasant girl on January 6, 1412, in a village that was constantly being overrun by armies and guerrilla bands. Her father Jacques d'Arc was a tenant farmer who owned about fifty acres of land in Domremy, France. Her mother Isabelle d'Arc taught her how to sew, spin, cook and to love and serve God. Although, Joan spent a myriad of time praying in church, she also had friends she could play with. Her childhood nickname was Jeannette which means "Little Joan". Joan was a very dutiful child, she helped her parents with chores such as, herding the cows and cleaning the house.

At the age of twelve, she began to experience visions which she described as both verbal communication as well as visible figures of saints and angels which she could see and touch (Allen Williamson). At first, the voices told her to be a good girl, to obey her mother and to go to church often. Then, it started to advise her to go to the Dauphin (title given to the heir of French throne) who at that time was Charles VII and to inspire his army to recapture the Reims (an area where coronation ceremonies for French kings took place). For a while, she told no one of her visions. When she decided to tell her father, he refused to let her go, but her friends believed her and and gave her boy's clothing and a horse. When she arrived, the Dauphin tried to play a trick on her. He made one of his courtiers pretend to be him, but Joan immediately recognized him in the crowd with the voices' guidance and greeted him (Regine Pemoud).
Joan_of_Arc's_capture.jpgHer first words to him were, "Very illustrious Lord Dauphin, I am come, being sent on the part of God, to give succour to the kingdom and to you." To convince Charles that she truly was God's messenger she told him about a private prayer he made where he asked God to aid him in his cause if he was right to be king. He gathered an army and Joan was equipped with armor, attendants and horses. Joan was not the commander when the army moved to Orleans on April, but her presence inspired her army. The commander made a plan to break the siege of Orleans, but Joan did not like the plan and devised her own. She led the charge during a number of skirmishes and battles and on one occasion she was hit by an arrow, but after she tended to her wound she returned to battle. On May, the English retreated and Joan won her first battle at the age of seventeen. The next five weeks she continued to lead the French force to some amazing victories over the English and recaptured the Reims. The day after they captured the Reims there was a coronation and Charles was crowned king of France.

Approximately a year later on May 23, 1430 she was separated from her soldiers in a battle and she was captured by the Duke of Burgundy's army
Joan_of_Arc's_death.jpg(during that time France was split in half and Burgundy was the side that opposed the king). The Burgundians kept her for four months before they sold her to the English for 10,000 livres. The English vowed to execute her, but they wanted her to be sentenced to ecclesiastical court first where she was blamed of heresy and witchcraft. They asked her a series of questions pertaining about her mission to save France, the voices and a little bit about her childhood. Joan was executed on May 30, 1431 after a few months of interrogation. The scene of Joan's execution was said to be very sad. She listened calmly to the sermon read to her, but she broke down weeping during her own address (Allen Williamson). They tied her to a tall pillar above a crowd and burned her while she was holding a crucifix, which is a figure of Jesus on a cross. It was said she repeatedly screamed Jesus and then her head drooped and it was over. The people in Joan's execution were depressed and enraged because they played a role in the death of someone who was believed to be a saint. Worried, English authorities tried to put a stop to this by punishing anyone who spoke out in her favor. The legal records showed a number of prosecutions during the following days. In 1456, they retried her and found her innocent, not guilty.

Personality Traits

Anyone who met Joan could only say good and positive things about her. "In truth I believe that Joan could only have been sent from God. She never swore, she loved to attend holy service, she made devoutly the sign of the cross, she confessed often and was zealous in giving alms" (Jean de Metz). She was a very inspiring and influential person. At a time of war, she inspired her army and the nation to believe in her and themselves. Bravery, courage; those are not strong enough words to describe how fearless Joan was. In the beginning, people were hesitant about having a woman lead an army, but she ignored everyone's opinion about her and proved them wrong. When she was about to leave to Vaucouleurs to begin her mission to save France she was asked by a women: "How can you make such a journey when on all sides are soldiers?" Joan responded, "I am not afraid...I was born to do this." Furthermore, the voices gave her a premonition of where and
how she would get injured in battle. Knowing she would get wounded in that battle, she went anyways and fought along with her soldiers (Herbert Thurston). When she was hit by an arrow, her wound was cared for and she immediately got back into the fight. In addition, she had the moral courage to embrace death by burning at the stakes rather than try to fight or escape her execution. Moving on, she really cared for and protected her soldiers; she always made sure she was the last to leave the battlefield. She did not just care about her troops, "even on the poor English soldiers she had so much compassion that, when she saw them dying or wounded, she had them confessed" (Father Jean Pasquerel ). Joan never carried weapons in the battlefield, she only carried a banner because she did not want to hurt anyone. Forgiveness is another trait she possessed. She forgave her enemies and during her execution she forgave her accusers for what they were doing and asked them to pray for her. She was tactical and intelligent ; she created a plan that consisted of sallies that harassed and discouraged the English who withdrew. When she was being interrogated by the English she outwitted them. Joan is very religious; she prays about six times a week and she would do anything God told her to (Allen Williamson). "I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin, or to be against God's will." After a couple of victories, Joan became quite the celebrity. She became extremely popular and she never used her popularity to her advantage or abuse it. She became so famous, Charles felt threatened by her and when she was captured by the Burgundians, he made no attempt to ransom or rescue her.


Being a woman was tough during Joan's time, but that was only one of the many obstacles she had to face. During the 1400s women were like
joan of arc statue.jpgsecond class citizens to men. They were not independent; they heavily depended on their husband to support them. Also, they were not thought highly of and as a result some of the soldiers in the beginning were unsure about Joan leading them. Not only that but many people thought she was a liar and a sorceress (Allen Williamson). They did not believe she was God's messenger. When Joan told her father about her visions he threatened her. He told her he would kill any daughter who ran away from home. However, Joan ignored the threat and went anyways because she believed it was her destiny to save France from English domination. Joan never had a formal education because she was born a peasant, but she was gifted with an argumentative nature and shrewd common senses (Avil Beckford). She also had no military training whatsoever. Some of her soldiers did not even think she could get on a horse much less ride on one. Joan was very young; she was only seventeen when she lead an army. She was not even an adult yet and she had the job to command a bunch of men much older than her; some twice her age and some triple her age. Also, her task to defeat the English seemed nearly impossible. Half of France was on the English's side, but she was able to defeat them through strategic and cunning plans.

Historical Significance

Joan of Arc in Battle.jpgMost historical figures had several years to accomplish what they did, however Joan spent only two years to accomplish everything. Not a lot of people can say they were first to do something, but Joan can claim she did two things first. She was the first woman to fight in a war and she was the first woman to lead an army. She is also the youngest man or woman at the age of seventeen to ever command a troop of soldiers. In the beginning, men use to refuse to fight in the army, but when she joined people started to volunteer because everyone wanted to serve under Joan. She inspired her army with confidence because she was always so sure and brave. Sometimes the English would retreat even before the battle started because they did not want to fight a saint. Her most famous and memorable victories were the battle of Orleans and Patay. The first and most significant battle was at Orleans. Orleans had been under siege already for over 7 months with both sides weary and worn from the prolonged stand-off. The English were in the position to cut-off the French supply route and were going with the plan to starve the French into surrender, however Joan led her army to victory (Nick Burchett). Patay was remarkable because of the outrageous margin of victory that she achieved in the battle. The French suffered couple losses while the English army was destroyed with losses in about the thousands. She also helped coronate Charles VII because she recaptured the Reims. She was able to make people believe in the Church and God. On May 16, 1920 she was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XV of the Roman Catholic Church (Allen Williamson). A saint is someone who goes out of their way to serve God by helping other people. It is the ultimate reparation of the Catholic Church to someone who it unjustly condemned to death. Joan is a perfect example of a martyr; she died and suffered for what she believed in. In two years, Joan was able to turn around a war, going on for about a hundred years, that France was losing. Most importantly, she saved her country from being taken over by the English. Without Joan would France be independent or would the English control it today? If France was not independent what would have happened during World War I and II? Joan's existence is essential to what happened in history. Without Joan the whole course of history would be dramatically different.


Williamson, Allen, "Joan of Arc, Brief Biography." Joan of Arc Archive. 30 March 2010. Web. 13 May 2012.

Geary, Patrick J. Readings in Medieval History. Canada: Broadview Press, 2003.

"Joan of Arc." Compton's by Britannica, v 6.0. 2009. eLibrary. Web. 20 May 2012.