“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.”
– Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc was born on this day in Domremy, Cuch of Bar, France in 1412. Today is the 600th anniversary of her birth.
Born into a poor farming family, Joan was the youngest of five children. Being a peasant at a time of typically feudal political structure, Joan was not permitted an education and began working as a shepherd and field hand early in life. Despite this lack of schooling, Joan has been described as extremely quick-witted and articulate, a trait extolled by her friends, and bemoaned by her foes.
Even as a child, Joan displayed an ardent attachment to the church, going to mass at least once a day and spending what little free time she had there. However, it was not until 1425, when she was 13, that she heard what she would term for the rest of her life as her “voices”. At first her voices only spoke to her, though they did so quite clearly, but over time they were accompanied by flashes of light, and eventually discernible figures that she identified as St. Michael, St. Margaret, and St. Catherine.(1)
Joan was born in a time and place of great political unrest. A few decades before France had split into two factions, the Armagnacs and Burgundians, due to the instability of the king of Frances’ mental health ( it is most likely that he suffered from multiple personality disorder). The king of England, Henry V, took advantage of the situation and invaded France, capturing most of North West France. He was granted succession to the French throne by the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 by Queen Isabeau, an Armagnac sympathizer, leaving her own son, Charles the VII, out. Henry and the current king dies within a few months of each other, leaving Henry’s baby son as the heir, as well as his Armagnac and English supporters. Meanwhile, Charles, who had declared himself as the rightful king, was gathering Burgundian support, with the help of his mother-in-law, Yolande of Aragon. Despite so much support, he lost battle after battle.
By May of 1428 Joan’s “voices” had become insistent that she help Charles win back his kingdom. When she told them she could not fight or ride, the voices replied, “It is God who commands it.”(1) She presented herself, first to Robert Baudricourt, a commander of Charles’ army, then to Charles himself. In both cases she is said to have displayed mystical powers and knowledge to get them to trust her. She was vetted by bishops and doctors, and eventually was allowed to lead forces into battle.
Due to her efforts, the siege of Orleans was lifted, and Charles was crowned King in Reims in 1429. It seemed that her holy powers would win Charles his throne despite Armagnac opposition, but Joan was captured during any attack on Paris in the fall of that year. Instead of returning her to the Burgundians for a ransom, as was customary at the time, she was imprisoned and interrogated by Armagnac officials bent on revenge. She was charged with heresy and executed on May 30th, 1431, at the age of 19.
When Charles eventually retook Paris and was declared King of all of France, he set up a committee to clear Joan’s name of heresy, and made her family part of his court. She was canonized by the Catholic church in May, 1920, and her feast day is May 30th.
Authors Note: Thanks again to Maggie who stepped in to guest write today’s blog!
For more information, this author recommends “the Maid and the Queen” by Nancy Goldstone
- HAPPY 601st BIRTHDAY JOAN OF ARC! JOAN OF ARC was HISTORY’S FIRST POWERFUL WOMAN, a military leader, attacked for wearing men’s clothes, called a witch and burned at the stake all by the age of 19! (greatkat.wordpress.com)
- 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Joan of Arc (history.com)
- Joan of Arc Is born! Read Her Bio. (commuteresources101.wordpress.com)