Joan of Arc Biography
Joan of Arc was a young woman who led the French army to victory over the British in a crucial battle during the Hundred Years' War and is hailed as a heroine of France. Born into a simple peasant family in France, Joan is believed to have experienced divine visions of archangels and saints from the time she was a young girl. As the daughter of highly religious parents, Joan too was inclined towards God and religion from an early age and experiencing divine visions further strengthened her faith. She claimed that she was instructed by Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation. At that time, the crown of France was in dispute between the Dauphin Charles (later Charles VII), and the English King Henry VI. It had been five years since the death of the Dauphin’s father but he still had not been crowned king of France. Led by the voices of the saints, she sought permission to join the Dauphin and his cause. Provided with several military men by the Dauphin, she led the French army in war against the English and emerged victorious. A year later she was captured by the enemies and put on trial for witchcraft, declared guilty and burned at the stake. Years later, she was declared a martyr.
Jacques d'Arc, Isabelle Romée
Jacquemin d'Arc, Pierre d'Arc, Catherine d'Arc, Jean d'Arc
Joan was born to Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée in Domrémy on the borders of the duchies of Bar and Lorraine, in early 15th century. Her year of birth is believed to be 1412. Her parents were humble peasants and owned about 50 acres (20 hectares) of land. She was strongly inclined towards religion from a young age. Deeply pious, she revered the Blessed Mary and was committed to the service of God. She started experiencing divine visions when she was around 12-13 years old. According to her own later accounts, she felt the voice of God commanding her to serve the French nation by driving out the English and bringing the dauphin to Reims for his coronation. Her visions felt so real, as if she was communicating with another real person. She also saw saints like St Michael and St Catherine in her visions. At that time the Hundred Years’ War was raging on, and the crown of France was in dispute between the Dauphin Charles (later Charles VII), son and heir to the King of France, Charles VI, and the English King Henry VI. In 1415, King Henry V of England had invaded France and defeated the French army at Agincourt. It had been five years since Charles VI died, but his son was yet to be crowned King of France. Reims, the place where French kings were traditionally crowned, lay in the territory held by his enemies.
In May 1428, Joan was led by her visions to travel to Vaucouleurs from Domrémy to seek an audience with the Dauphin. She first met the captain of the garrison, Robert de Baudricourt, and sought his permission to join the Dauphin. He did not take the young girl seriously and sent her away. Joan returned to Vaucouleurs in January 1429 and this time she made an announcement about a military reversal near Orléans several days before messengers arrived to report it. Her knowledge of the French defeat before the official announcement convinced Baudricourt that the girl must have known this fact only through Divine revelation and he allowed her to go to the Dauphin at Chinon. She was escorted to the castle occupied by the Dauphin Charles. On meeting him, she told him that she wished to lead the battle against the English. Even though she was just a young girl, the Dauphin was convinced by her confidence and after some interrogation regarding her background, he decided to entrust Joan with the responsibility of leading the army. The Dauphin provided her with a military and appointed Jean d’Aulon as her squire. She was also joined by her brave young brothers, Jean and Pierre. She told her men that the sword she was meant to use in the battle would be found in the church of Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois, and it was in fact discovered there. Her army arrived at the city of Orleans on 29 April 1429. The city, which had been besieged since October 1428, was almost totally surrounded by the English. The French, led by Joan, attacked and captured the fortress of Saint Loup on 4 May. Within days, the siege of Orleans was lifted and this marked a turning point in the Hundred Years' War between France and England. In the following days, she led several military detachments and liberated many other cities from English control. All these developments in favor of the French finally paved the way for the coronation of the Dauphin. Joan was with the Dauphin Charles when he was finally crowned as King Charles VII of France on 17 July, 1429, in Reims. She was hailed as a heroine in France for the courage and valor she displayed in the battle and her family was granted noble status. On 23 May 1430, she was captured at Compiègne by the Burgundian faction which was a French political party aligned with the English. The party sold Joan to the English and she was put on trial for a variety of charges. Following the trial which she faced very bravely, Joan was found guilty and condemned to death. She was executed by burning at the stake on 30 May 1431 and her execution was witnessed by thousands of people. Later her ashes were scattered in the Seine. The Hundred Years' War carried on for 22 years after her death. After the war ended, a posthumus retrial of Joan of Arc was ordered. The trial pronounced her innocent and on 7 July 1456 she was declared a martyr. Joan of Arc became a symbol of the Catholic League during the 16th century and was canonized on 16 May 1920. She is one of the nine secondary patron saints of France. As a semi-legendary figure, considered to be the epitome of a brave and courageous woman, she has been the subject of several works of literature, arts, and other cultural works since the time of her death.