Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), more famously known in France as the Maid of Orleans, is considered a national heroine of France. For simplicity we will refer to her as Joan of Arc here. Just at the age of 18, she led the French army to battle with England and had a historic victory over England its and French allies, the Burgundians.
Here is a short anime clip from Hetalia based on the story of Joan d’Arc:
Joan was born as a peasant girl in 1412, in a village by the name of Domrémy, located in northern France. She was the daughter of farmer Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle d’Arc. She was illiterate, but with the teachings of her mother, she developed a deep love for Catholicism.
During this stage in her life, there was an ongoing war, called the Hundred Years War (which began in 1337). The 1420 Peace Treaty of Troyes disinherited prince Charles of Valois, and instead, King Henry V became the ruler of England and France. Henry VI, his son, succeeded Henry V after his death in 1422. King Henry VI then gained an alliance with Philip the Good and the Duke of Burgundy. Together, they sent threats to cities located in northern France, such as Domrémy, which is where Joan was living. Joan, her family, and the remaining residents had no choice but to flee from their homes.
At the age of thirteen, Joan began to hear voices and experience visions, in which she believed she was destined to save France and ensure Charles VII would become the rightful king. It is told that she was given a mission by the voices of St Michael, St Catherine and St Margaret.
So in 1428, at the age of 16, Joan embarked on a journey to Vaucouleurs to meet Charles of Valois. She disguised herself as a peasant boy so that she would be allowed to enter and speak with Charles. At first, he was weary of her exclaiming that she would be able to save France. But it was when she identified him while he was in disguise during an event that she got the chance to speak with him. Joan told Charles about her visions and he finally gave her permission to accompany his army to Orléans. A series of battles then took place during the months of May and June in 1429, in which French troops were able to take control of English territory. However, Charles still did not have complete faith in Joan. So after the glorious victory at Orléans, Joan encouraged Charles to go to Reims, a city in France, to try to be crowned king. He was cautious but finally went to Reims and succeeded in becoming Charles VII in 1429.
The final battle that Joan of Arc participated in was a battle against the Burgundian in Compiègne. During this battle, Joan was thrown off her horse and abandoned outside the town’s gates. She was then taken captive by the Burgundians and eventually handed over to the English.
The English, who were most gleeful about her capture, did not only want her gone but also wanted to use her to remove King Charles VII's legitimacy as king. They tried to do so by getting the church to condemn Joan as heretic.
King Charles VII, who owed his success and crowning to Joan, for some
reason, did nothing to help her. Betrayed by those she fought to protect and help, Joan was left to fend for herself. She remained under captivity until she was forced to confess she had never received any heavenly guidance.
In her trial, she faced several charges against her, such as being a heretic, crossdressing as a man and performing witchcraft. In 1431, she was announced guilty, and on the morning of May 30th, 19 year old Joan was taken to a marketplace in Rouen and burned at the stake. Her last words were “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”.
Joan the Phoenix
Even after her death, it seemed as though Joan of Arc had risen from her own ashes. Or rather, there were some who decided to steal her identity and paraded themselves as her, proclaiming that Joan of Arc had survived the burning.
Claude des Armoises was the most successful imposter of the lot. She claimed to be Joan of Arc in 1436, she even managed to convince both of Joan’s brothers that she was their sister. She was so good at her bluff that she carried on this charade for years till 1440. Eventually she had to confess the truth.
There were also other conspiracies of how Joan might have actually escaped the burning. Some stories said it was the English themselves that help her escaped, through a secret passage that had connected her cell to the outside.
Other theories suggest Joan might have been replaced with another woman at the stake.
Her influence in modern life and interesting perceptions of her today:
Joan, as a publicly reputable figure, has her impacts on people’s everyday life, she has inspired a popular bob haircut in Paris in the 1900s and still stays popular in the 21th century. Alexander Mcqueen has released a collection inspired by Joan of Arc.
Issues concerning Joan of Arc’s mental status remains debatable after centuries of her death. Scholars hypothesize that Joan had mental disorders as she started drinking unpasteurized milk and tend cattle since young, but Joan might have falsely taken the hallucinations as signs from God.