The Maid of Orleans, Saint Joan of Arc, was born January 6, 1412 in the Domremy village, the daughter of Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romee. Her parents owned about 50 acres and her father supplemented his farming income with a minor position as a village official. Joan was illiterate and it is thought that her letters were dictated by her to scribes and then she signed her letters with the assistance of others.
Joan later testified at trial that she had experienced her first vision in 1425 when she was in her father’s garden. She identified them as Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, who told her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation.
According to the Journal du Siege d’Orelans, Joan was shown as a miraculous figure, a peasant girl acting under Divine guidance and leading the French army to victory. Swift victories led to Charles VII’s coronation at Reims and later Joan would be canonized as a Roman Catholic saint. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920. Joan of Arc is one of nine secondary patron saints of France.
The background to her story began with the Hundred Years’ War in 1337. The inheritance dispute over the French throne was interspersed with occasional periods of peace. The French king at the time of Joan’s birth was Charles VI who suffered from bouts of insanity. The king’s brother and a cousin quarreled over the regency of France and the guardianship of the royal children. Their conflict climaxed with the assassination of the Duke of Orleans in 1407 on the orders of the Duke of Burgundy.
Joan was disguised as a male soldier on the relief expedition to Orleans. Protective armor was provided by the Royal government. She had donated items for her armor, horse, sword, banner, and other items used by her entourage. The regime of Charles was near collapse and Joan was viewed as the only source of hope.
The king thought that Joan was neither a heretic nor a sorceress and after a theological examination at Poitiers which verified her morality, the commission of 1429 declared her to of “irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed of the virtues of humility, honesty, and simplicity.” They recommended that her claims should be put to the test by seeing if she could lift the siege of Orleans which she had predicted.
Joan arrived at the besieged city of Orleans April 29, 1429. She carried her banner in battle preferring her banner “forty times” better than a sword. The army was always directly commanded by a nobleman such as the Duke of Aliencon. The army leaders accepted her advice believing her to be divinely inspired. Historians agree that the army enjoyed remarkable success during Joan’s brief time with it. Joan was wounded by an arrow between her neck and shoulder, but later returned to encourage a final assault.
May 23,1430 Joan was captured at Margny north of Compiegne. She was pulled off her horse by an archer and surrendered. She was imprisoned at Beaurevoir Castle from which she made several escape attempts.
Her trial for heresy was politically motivated. The tribunal was composed entirely of pro-English and Burgundian clerics and overseen by English commanders. She was tied to a tall pillar May 30, 1431 and executed. The English burned her body twice to reduce it to ashes and then cast her remains into the Seine River.