For the past six weeks I've been doing this darned research paper that I finally was about to hand in last Thursday. Personally I felt I did a decent jpb with it. Enjoy.
"Among my own people, I was called Jehanette; since my coming to France, I am called Jeanne" (Joan of Arc). Hers is a story of triumph and despair, of sacrifice, and the creation of a true hero. As many heroes today, she came from humble beginnings, residing in a farming village until her destiny beckoned her to action. Born in an era where women were lower than men on the social ladder, she shattered the ideals of the church and society to raise her weakened homeland from a state of desperation to a thriving country. Joan of Arc is a powerful and influential historical figure; that is why it is important to explore her life, the trial that ultimately led to her demise, and the impression she left on the modern world.
Her journey began in the year 1412 on January 6 with her birth in the French village of Domremy. She was born to Jacques D'Arc and his wife, Isabelle. The youngest of five children—or third youngest, according to some—all records remaining report Joan as being "a singularly pious child, grave beyond her years" (Thurston). She spent much of her time praying at the local church and caring for the poor and less fortunate; though, she, herself, was the daughter of a meager shepherd. However, this is not to imply she spent all of her time praying; she did join in the other children at dance and play around a sacred tree near their homes: the Fairy Tree, which was said to hold magical and otherworldly properties. She did not spend much time there, for soon she grew bored of it and went for prayer. There is also some disagreement on whether she spent some parts of her childhood frolicking in the pastures amongst her father's flocks, though this is not concretely established.
In the summer of 1425, when she was a mere thirteen years of age, Joan first heard the voices of the saints. At first, she heard only a single voice, almost as if a person had only spoken in her ear. As time passed, she recognized the voices as the saints Michael, Margaret, and Catherine foremost, among other, lesser angels. She referred to them as her voices, or sometimes as her counsel, and was always hesitant to talk of them. Historians have tried for ages to tag the cause of her voices to some detail of mental hysteria or hyper-religious fervor. A true reason, however, for Joan's condition has yet to rear its head. Whatever the cause for the voices' appearance, they instructed the young girl nevertheless to go to the king and to save France.
By May of 1428, Joan knew fully that she was the only hope for her dying land. The saints' voices had become almost cruel with her, bidding her to ride to Vaucouleurs and meet with Robert Baudricourt—commander under King Charles VII at the time—on the will of God. Joan's only rebuttal to her commands was that she did not have any skills regarding fighting or riding a horse into battle; she knew she could not do any service to anyone militaristically. As a young girl, her mother taught her only sewing, spinning, and other such household abilities. Eventually, however, she succumbed to the voices and left her village of Domremy in January of 1429 to meet with the king's commander.
Joan, being only a young girl at this time, gained headway in her quest upon arriving in Vaucouleurs. Baudricourt dismissed her as foolish; yet her voices pressed on. As she pleaded with him, Orléans was, meanwhile, under heavy siege, and it would only be a matter of time before it fell to English rule. Her voices gave her premonition of a French defeat outside the besieged city, later to be known as the Battle of Herrings. This was found to be true only days later, and Baudricourt commanded her to be taken to Chinon to gain audience with the king. This finally earned her the backing she needed to proceed in flushing the English forces from her beloved France. With few soldiers as guardians, she began the journey to the rest of her short life.
Upon her arrival in Chinon, King Charles VII disguised himself in order to fool her. Had her voices been a hoax, she would never see through his façade, and her quest would have ended. The Saints did not forsake her at this time, however, and revealed his true identity to her as plainly as the daylight. According to her answer at her trial later in life, they shone bright light upon him as if an angel stood near him, though no halo appeared. Though she proved the obvious influence of otherworldly and spiritual beings on her cause, there remained a group of nonbelievers at the court that refused to accept her abilities and capacity to lead France to victory. This was, unfortunately, enough to put Charles VII on edge about her.
Before she could hope to begin her campaign against British rule, Joan was first sent to be examined by many bishops, doctors, and other educated persons in question to her sanity by order of the then-uncrowned king. She answered all questions posed to her with such honest piety and self-assurance that her lasting impression on them concreted their faith in her. It was then decided that the king should fear not about hiring her as a general for the army to lead the disheartened country to reclaim their land from the English. No further time was wasted in preparing her for the next year of battles and warfare. She insisted she be garbed in male clothing and armor—if not for simplicity, but for her own protection against the men of military camps; she placed a very high value on her holy cleanliness in respect to the Saints governing her. As Kathy O'Connell wrote in a review of a book by Mary Gordon, "Gordon correctly sees virginity and Joan's determination to preserve hers as a sign of strength, yet without denying her existence as a fully human, and therefore sexual, entity" (O'Connell), which illustrates this point magnificently.
At this point in her life, Joan was nearly ready to forge ahead with her plans. However, she needed a weapon with which to strike down her English enemies before she could continue. Instead of accepting the one given to her by Charles, she ordered for one to be retreived from a church. The voices of the Saints told her of a holy blade hidden behind the altar of St. Catherine de Fierbois. It is speculated that this sword once belonged to Charlemagne, the father of all France, but it has never been confirmed who exactly owned the blade. Wielding both her ancient sword and a standard blazoned with Jesus, Maria and the iconic fleur-de-lis held by a pair of angelic beings, she began her march on the besieged city of Orléans.
To firmly concrete her spiritual guidance, she sent a letter to Sire de Rotslaer describing how Orléans would be recovered from the English, she would be wounded but not be killed, and the King would be finally crowned the following summer. These things did not come to pass until after Joan lifted the siege on the city, proving once again how her voices were either real, or she was uncannily and intensely fortunate. Her letter only goes to prove how even this early in her quest she was obviously fit for saving France. Now there would be no question to her ability; at least, not where the French were concerned. Her enemies knew not how to respond to this otherworldly young woman who seemed to believe her "voices" gave her power to order them to retreat. Needless to say, they ridiculed her and never gave heed to her demands.
Joan, before engaging her enemies in battle at Orléans, demanded the King of England to remove his troops from the area, or there would be more bloodshed. He refused, leaving her no choice but to fight for her country. In the gruesome battle that followed, she was indeed shot through the shoulder with an arrow, survived the wound, and emerged victorious, just as she predicted. Thus, the siege was lifted, and her popularity grew to enormous amounts among the French populace. She had no intention of stopping with the single city; her voices told her she had only a year left to raise France from the devastated state it slumped into. The Saints became much more demanding of her, urging her to move onto other parts of oppressed countryside. She continued to ride on, commanding her troops to begin the Loire Valley campaign to rid the region of the English.
She made the decision to try to liberate Paris in late August of the same year. Unfortunately, during the skirmish, she was shot with a crossbow bolt and forcibly removed from the battle. The troops retreated from the attack soon after. This led to a temporary truce between the king and the Burgundians for the winter. Since Joan had been injured attacking, tradition dictated she lay down her arms to the enemy. She did so at the altar of St. Denis. The rest of winter passed by slowly, excruciatingly so, for her; she was trapped at the court among whispering royals in regards to herself. Hoping to console her in the time being, King Charles VII made her a noble and proclaimed that henceforth for all time her family would be known as Du Lis, referencing the lilies on their coat of arms. This, of course, did absolutely nothing to improve her disposition or to lessen the demands of the Saints. She had no choice but to wait out the truce until she could finally go back to the battlefield as her destiny ordered.
True to the Saints' warning, her final battle swiftly approached on May 24, 1430, at the town of Compiègne. She and her small army of five hundred sought to defend the village from Burgundian (who were allies of the English) attack. However, they were overpowered when she attempted a retreat in order to save herself and her men. It is unknown whether the commanding officer in Compiègne made some sort of mistake, panicked, or was even a traitor to France, but he ordered for the drawbridge to be raised while many of Joan's forces were still beyond it—including Joan herself. She was forcibly pulled from atop her horse and taken prisoner of John of Luxemburg, thus ending the battle, and losing the town of Compiègne in the process.
In her imprisonment, King Charles VII and his court refused to come to her aid despite her ever-loyal service to them. There were many prisoners with which to trade her for, yet she was eventually sold to the English for enough money to equal several hundred dollars by today's standards. The English fully intended on killing her; however, they needed a sufficient reason for putting her to death. Merely killing her for having won the battles against them would never suffice. Yet, they could execute her for being a witch. This they devised to prove by using her saintly voices against her.
Her trial took place in Rouen, which, at the time, was under control of the English. She did not appear in court until February 21 of 1431. Joan was not allowed to have any sort of representation beside herself and was kept in the castle tower there. She asked repeatedly to be relocated to a church prison so her attendants could be women instead, and repeatedly she was refused. Instead, her jailers were harsh, English men, and she was forced to keep her military garments just to protect her womanhood from being tainted while in captivity. Joan was also denied the privilege to attend any religious functions, much to her despair.
The twenty-two judges before her questioned Joan incessantly each day. She answered them with the same humble piousness and simplicity that had become her trademark. She refused to tell them of the recurring visions the Saints sent to her and told them not of the Saints' identities, just as she had always done before. Throughout the ordeal she remained brave and bold; so much so that on March 1, she proclaimed, "within seven years' space the English would have to forfeit a bigger prize than Orléans" (Thurston). After her statement, it was decided that the trials would be continued in the prison itself to avoid Joan gaining backing within the French populace in Rouen; for, if she gained support, their plan would unravel and she would only continue to work against them.
During the trials in the prison, Joan grew increasingly confused. She was known to have contradicted herself on few occasions, most notably regarding how she recognized King Charles VII as the king when she first met him, decreasing her chances of surviving her imprisonment. They also knew her lack of education and took great advantage of it by asking her questions impossible to answer simply because she did not know what they were meaning to say. On the 17th of March, the trials ended and over seventy different forms of execution were written for her. It was decided that if she did not confess and succumb to their will, that she would be burned at the stake for her "crimes", denouncing her voices as works of Satan and insanity.
Later, after more propositions were given to and reviewed by forty-seven judges, Joan was declared to be a witch, a heretic, and handled in that fashion. They held fast to their threat to burn her alive if she did not submit to them. She stayed firm for as long as her will held out, though it was becoming shaky at long last after repeated trials and torture. Finally, she signed a document declaring her submission to the English; she claimed only to do so to a certain extent and only by the will of God, as was instructed by the Saints.
A final trial etched her fate in stone. The judges declared her a heretic and condemned her to death by burning. On May 30, 1431, they fetched her from her prison cell after having forced her into women's clothing and allowing the guards to rape her in the night. Joan was once more dressed in her normal, male attire, though this was allowed only went to further prove the claim that she blatantly refused an order by the church. Upon arriving at the stake at which she would be burned, she requested a cross. Raising it above her head, she called out the name of Jesus as the flames consumed her. Her ashes were then gathered and thrown out over the River Seine in Paris.
At only age nineteen, Jeanne D'Arc was taken from the world at a time when France still needed a hero. Using her tactics, the French continued forward to successfully drive out the English and the Burgundians, ending the Hundred Years' War in their favor. However, her influence after her death did not end with the passing on of her military knowledge. Nearly six hundred years have passed since her public burning, and Joan continues to inspire and motivate the modern world.
An excellent example of this can be found by looking at the typical 1920's flappers. One of their trademarks was their short haircut; something they coined from Joan. As Joan wanted to appear manly in the eyes of her soldiers, she not only wore men's clothing but also cut her hair in a bob. Of course, not only did this improve her powerful image, but it also served to keep her vision clear, as longer hair would be a great nuisance in the heat of battle. The flappers saw this as a sign of rebellion and strength, and thus decided to begin implementing it into their lifestyle.
Her memory can also be found preserved around France and even in the United States. Numerous statues have been erected in her memory in various small villages where she helped liberate the countryside. The market in Rouen, where Joan breathed her last, is even marked with yet another statue of the young woman. In 1915, a giant sculpture of her was raised on Riverside Drive in New York City, a place where her personal touch had never even come. Perhaps one of the more ancient monuments to her legacy, her home, has remained intact as well, where a statuette copy of her by Marie d'Orléans rests within. Besides just statues, innumerable paintings of her decorate the halls of the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Pope Benedict XV officially made Joan of Arc a saint in 1920, four hundred and eighty-two years after her death. The very same church that condemned her to her fate so many decades before indoctrinated this. Though, before she had been proclaimed a saint, for years France had been holding—and still does today—a feasting celebration on May 30, the date of her death. She served as an inspiration to all who fought for their country, symbolizing strength and bravery in the face of certain death.
"And I answered the voice that I was a poor girl who knew nothing of riding and warfare" (Joan of Arc). Joan replied to her voices with those words long before she could possibly know of the impact her life would have on her beloved France. Though it is true her childhood proved nothing spectacular, and, in fact, she grew as a normal girl, it only proves that fate acts in mysterious ways. From a simple farm girl to one of the most well known martyrs in history, she remains a figure in schools and media, ranging from movies to books and even video games. Her story has been romanticized the world over, yet nothing can deny that Joan of Arc instills inspiration, motivation, and awe in the hearts of men and women even today.