Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Born: c. Jan 6, 1412 in Domrémy, Duchy of Bar, France
Died: May 30, 1431 (at about age 19) in Rouen, Normandy
Nationality: French
Famous For: Leading the French Army during the Hundred Year’s War

Joan of Arc is a renowned American television series, but only few people actually know the history of the teenager to whom the story is attributed. Remarkably, many ancient sources have been preserved for over seven centuries and tell the tale of a girl who has long been hailed as a martyr, leader, and saint.

Early Life

Jehanne La Pucelle was born in Domrey, Champagne (France) on January 6, 1412, to Jacques and Isabelle D’Arc. Born to a peasant family during harsh political times, her parents were devoted Christians. Joan also showed great inclination towards religion.

At about the age of 12, she attested to have seen visions and heard the voices of angels, specifically Gabriel and Michael, along with the saints Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch. At 13 years old, she began hearing the voice of God.

For the five years that followed, these deities instructed her on her mission, which included conquering the English army and restoring the rightful ruler in France – Charles de Ponthieu.

Her Leadership Abilities

In 1428, 16-year-old Joan of Arc set out to convince the local commander of her mission. Uncertain and bemused by the audacity of such a young girl, the French authorities subjected her to rigorous examinations. When she overwhelmed them with her wit, courage, conviction and clear signs of divine intervention, Joan entered the army as the dauphin in a quest to reclaim France.

After Dauphin Charles was raised to the French throne in 1429, Joan led her army to take back Orleans from the English. Soon after his crowning, the new ruler seemed to have lost interest in Joan’s counsel and he could not be persuaded to fight for the rest of France.

Joan of Arc then challenged the Burgundian army against all odds and with very few men. She was captured and although King Charles tried to trade her back for ransom, the Burgundians declined and instead sold her to the English after about four months of imprisonment.

Joan’s Trial and Final Moments

It was during her captivity under the English that Joan of Arc’s trial was planned and executed. For one year, she was questioned extensively and intensively about her childhood, visions, religion, army life and much more. Although the first list of charges spanned to about 70, another more orderly list was compressed to 12 charges and she stood trial.

Among her alleged crimes were Satanism, witchcraft, and wearing men’s clothing, among others. Out of a panel of 47 judges, 42 found her punishable by death which was the prescribed penalty. It is believed that the judges were coerced into such a ruling by the English rulers who knew that she was a threat to their conquest.

Joan of Arc was asked recant her crimes if she desired pardon; she refused. She was therefore sentenced to burn at the stake and went on to forgive her accusers. In a scene that is well-documented, Joan asked for a crucifix on her way to execution and had a cross held up in front of her as the fire was lit. To her last breath, she called on Jesus’ name relentlessly.