Joan of Arc (French,
Jeanne d'Arc), born ca.1412, was a French peasant girl who led the
French army against the English during the Hundred Years' War. Called
the Maid of Orleans, she is a French national heroine and patron
When Joan was about
13 years old she began to hear "voices" (which she later identified
as those of Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret, and Saint Michael) that
gave her the mission of liberating France from English domination.
She kept the messages secret for about 5 years, and only in 1429 did
she leave her home in Domremy, Champagne, and travel with an escort
to the court of the dauphin, later King Charles VII, who had been
deprived of his rights as heir to the French throne by the Treaty of
Troyes of 1420. At that time the English were besieging Orleans.
After a group of theologians tested her, Charles was persuaded to
reassemble his troops and place them under Joan's command in an
expedition to relieve the city. In 8 days during May 1429, she lifted
the siege that had lain on Orleans for 8 months. In June 1429, Joan
and her troops were able to break through to Reims, where she
persuaded Charles to hold his coronation. The relief of Orleans and
the crowning of the dauphin revived French hopes.
advice, a period of military inactivity followed, but in the spring
of 1430, Joan resumed her campaigns. In May, while attempting to
relieve Compiegne, she was captured by the Burgundians, who sold her
to the English. The latter, who wanted her executed but were
reluctant to accept the responsibility for such an action, turned her
over to a church court in Rouen. There she was tried on charges of
heresy and witchcraft, and the judges declared her visions
diabolical. After months of interrogation Joan was tricked into
admission of guilt. She soon retracted her confession, however, and
was condemned as a relapsed heretic. On May 30, 1431, she was burned
at the stake in Rouen. When French fortunes were finally restored,
Joan was rehabilitated in a formal trial (1456) called for by Charles
VII, who had done nothing to save her while she was alive.
Joan of Arc has been
the subject of much art and literature. There are monuments to her
memory in many French cities and towns. In Rouen, a statue stands on
the spot in the marketplace where she was executed. She was canonized
in 1920. Feast day: May 30.
Thomas E. Morrissey, Associate Professor of History, State University College, Fredonia, N.Y.
Source: The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Release #9, ©1997
Bibliography: Barstow, Anne, Joan of Arc (1986); Lucie-Smith, Edward, Joan of
Arc (1977); Michelet, Jules, Joan of Arc, trans. by A. Guerard (1957); Pernoud, Regine,
Joan of Arc by Herself and Her Witnesses (1969); Sackville-West, Victoria, Saint Joan
of Arc (1936; repr. 1991); Wood, Richard, Joan of Arc and Richard III (1988).