ca. 1412– 30 May 1431)


Isabelle Guiard
  Jeanne d'Arc

Coat of arms of Jeanne d'Arc

no verified image of Jeanne


Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d'Arc; is a national heroine of France and a Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France, Domrémy, to Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée. Her parents owned about 50 acres of land and her father supplemented his farming work with a minor position as a village official, collecting taxes and heading the town watch.
asserted that she had visions from God that told her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War.


Pennant of Jeanne
which was never found

Sword of Jeanne d'Arc

The French king at the time of Joan's birth, Charles VI, suffered bouts of insanity and was often unable to rule. The king's brother Duke Louis of Orléans and the king's cousin John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, quarreled over the regency of France and the guardianship of the royal children. This dispute escalated to accusations of an extramarital affair with Queen Isabeau of Bavaria and the kidnappings of the royal children. The matter climaxed when the Duke of Burgundy ordered the assassination of the Duke of Orléans in 1407.

The factions loyal to these two men became known as the Armagnacs and the Burgundians. The English king, Henry V, took advantage of this turmoil to invade France, winning a dramatic victory at Agincourt in 1415, and capturing northern French towns. The future French king, Charles VII, assumed the title of Dauphin as heir to the throne at the age of 14, after all four of his older brothers died.His first significant official act was to conclude a peace treaty with Burgundy in 1419. This ended in disaster when Armagnac partisans murdered John the Fearless (Jeans-sans-Peur) during a meeting under Charles's guarantee of protection. The new duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Bon, blamed Charles and entered into an alliance with the English. Large sections of France were conquered.

By the beginning of 1429, nearly all of northern France and some parts of the southwest were under foreign control. The English ruled Paris, while the Burgundians controlled Reims. The latter city was important as the traditional site of French coronations and consecrations, especially since neither claimant to the throne of France had yet been crowned. The English had laid siege to Orléans, which was the only remaining loyal French city north of the Loire. Its strategic location along the river made it the last obstacle to an assault on the remainder of the French heartland. In the words of one modern historian, "On the fate of Orléans hung that of the entire kingdom. No one was optimistic that the city could long withstand the siege.


Sketch representing Joan of Arc,
 in a register of the Parliament of Paris
 by Clerk Clément de Fauquembergue

Journey of Jeanne to Chinon
to meet the Dauphin

Jeanne d'Arc enters Orléans
painting by
Jean Jacques SCHERRER, 1887.

The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege at Orléans as part of a relief mission. Joan of Arc arrived at the siege of Orléans on 29 April 1429. She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days. She overcame this by disregarding the veteran commanders' decisions, appealed to the town's population, and rode out to each skirmish, where she placed herself at the extreme front line, carrying her banner. Several more swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne. She led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, claiming divine guidance.

Jeanne d'Arc
and King Charles VII

Jeanne d'Arc
Siege of Orléans

Jeanne d'Arc


Capture of Jeanne d'Arc

After minor action at La-Charité-sur-Loire in November and December, Joan went to Compiègne the following April to defend against an English and Burgundian siege. A reckless skirmish on 23 May 1430 led to her being captured. When she ordered a retreat, she assumed the place of honor as the last to leave the field. Burgundians surrounded the rear guard, she was unhorsed by an archer and initially refused to surrender.
The English government eventually purchased her from Jean de Luxembourg for ten thousand écus - to be tried by an ecclesiastical court.

Joan's trial for heresy was politically motivated. The duke of Bedford claimed the throne of France for his nephew Henry VI. She was responsible for the rival coronation. Condemning her was an attempt to discredit her king. Legal proceedings commenced on 9 January 1431 at Rouen, the seat of the English occupation government. The procedure was irregular on a number of points.

To summarize some major problems, the jurisdiction of judge Bishop Cauchon was a legal fiction. He owed his appointment to his partisanship. The English government financed the entire trial. Clerical notary Nicolas Bailly, commissioned to collect testimony against her, could find no adverse evidence. Without this, the court lacked grounds to initiate a trial. Opening one anyway, it denied her right to a legal advisor.

The trial record demonstrates her exceptional intellect. The transcript's most famous exchange is an exercise in subtlety. "Asked if she knew she was in God's grace, she answered: 'If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. The question is a scholarly trap. Church doctrine held that no one could be certain of being in God's grace. If she had answered yes, then she would have convicted herself of heresy. If she had answered no, then she would have confessed her own guilt. Notary Boisguillaume would later testify that at the moment the court heard this reply, "Those who were interrogating her were stupefied" and abruptly halted the questioning for that day. This exchange would become famous, and is incorporated into many modern works on the subject.

Several court functionaries later testified that significant portions of the transcript were altered in her disfavor. Many clerics served under compulsion, including the inquisitor, Jean LeMaitre, and a few even received death threats from the English. Under Inquisitorial guidelines, Joan should have been confined to an ecclesiastical prison under the supervision of female guards (i.e., nuns). Instead, the English kept her in a secular prison guarded by their own soldiers. Bishop Cauchon denied Joan's appeals to the Council of Basel and the Pope, which should have stopped his proceeding.

Castle of Rouen

Tower in Rouen - where
she might have been imprisoned


The twelve articles of accusation that summarize the court's finding contradict the already-doctored court record. Illiterate Joan signed an abjuration document she did not understand under threat of immediate execution. The court substituted a different abjuration in the official record.

Heresy was a capital crime only for a repeat offense. Joan agreed to wear women's clothes when she abjured. A few days later, according to eyewitnesses, she was subjected to an attempted rape in prison by an English lord. She resumed male attire either as a defense against molestation or, in the testimony of Jean Massieu, because her dress had been stolen and she was left with nothing else to wear.

Eyewitnesses described the scene of the execution on 30 May 1431. Tied to a tall pillar, she asked two of the clergy, Martin Ladvenu and Isambart de la Pierre, to hold a crucifix before her. She repeatedly called out "in a loud voice the holy name of Jesus, and implored and invoked without ceasing the aid of the saints of Paradise." After she expired, the English raked back the coals to expose her charred body so that no one could claim she had escaped alive, then burned the body twice more to reduce it to ashes and prevent any collection of relics. They cast her remains into the Seine. The executioner, Geoffroy Therage, later stated that he "...greatly feared to be damned for he had burned a holy woman.

Jeanne d'Arc was burned at the stake 30 May 1431 nineteen years old.

place where Jeanne died


location where Jeanne died


Twenty-four years later, on the initiative of Charles VII, who could not possibly afford being seen as having been brought to power with the aid of a condemned heretic, Pope Callixtus III reviewed the decision of the ecclesiastical court, found her innocent, and declared her a martyr. She was beatified in 1909 and later canonized in 1920. She is one of three patron saints of France.

Joan of Arc was not a feminist. She operated within a religious tradition that believed an exceptional person from any level of society might receive a divine calling. She expelled women from the French army and may have struck one stubborn camp follower with the flat of a sword. Nonetheless, some of her most significant aid came from women. King Charles VII's mother-in-law, Yolande of Aragon, confirmed Joan's virginity and financed her departure to Orléans. Joan of Luxembourg, aunt to the count of Luxembourg who held custody of her after Compiègne, alleviated her conditions of captivity and may have delayed her sale to the English. Finally, Anne of Burgundy, the duchess of Bedford and wife to the regent of England, declared Joan a virgin during pretrial inquiries.For technical reasons this prevented the court from charging her with witchcraft. Ultimately this provided part of the basis for her vindication and sainthood. From Christine de Pizan to the present, women have looked to her as a positive example of a brave and active

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a sincere thank you goes to my friend Frédérique for giving me clues, where to look for more information about Jeanne d'Arc.

to Sophie another dear friend from France for sending her private photos, taken on location.

links to some beautiful Jeanne d'Arc websites thank you very much dear Virginia  for your wonderful work dedicated to Jeanne d'Arc. thank you very much Ben D. Kennedy  for letting us use the coat-of-arms  for Juliette Benzoni's birthday card


Wikipedia and various sources of the Internet
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