Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc
Saint Joan of Arc

Painting, ca. 1485. An artist's interpretation, since the only portrait for which she is known to have sat has not survived. (Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Paris, AE II 2490)
Born ca. 1412
Domrémy, France
Died 30 May 1431 (aged 19)
Rouen, France
(then controlled by England)
Honored in Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion
Beatified 18 April 1909, Notre Dame de Paris by Pope Pius X
Canonized 16 May 1920, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome by Pope Benedict XV
Feast 30 May
Patronage France Blason Jeanne-d-Arc.svg; martyrs; captives; military personnel; people ridiculed for their piety; prisoners; soldiers, women who have served in the WAVES (Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service); and Women's Army Corps

Saint Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" (French: Jeanne d'Arc,[1] IPA: [ʒan daʁk]; ca. 1412[2] – 30 May 1431), is considered a national heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. She was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court, and burned at the stake when she was 19 years old.[3] Twenty-five years after the execution, Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr.[3] Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.[2] She is – along with St. Denis, St. Martin of Tours, St. Louis IX, and St. Theresa of Lisieux – one of the patron saints of France.

Joan asserted that she had visions from God that instructed her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege of Orléans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days. Several more swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne.

Down to the present day, Joan of Arc has remained a significant figure in Western culture. From Napoleon onward, French politicians of all leanings have invoked her memory. Famous writers and composers who have created works about her include: Shakespeare (Henry VI, Part 1), Voltaire (The Maid of Orleans poem), Schiller (The Maid of Orleans play), Verdi (Giovanna d'Arco), Tchaikovsky (The Maid of Orleans opera), Mark Twain (Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc), Arthur Honegger (Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher), Jean Anouilh (L'Alouette), Bertolt Brecht (Saint Joan of the Stockyards), George Bernard Shaw (Saint Joan) and Maxwell Anderson (Joan of Lorraine). Depictions of her continue in film, theatre, television, video games, music and performance.



France at the outset of Joan of Arc's career. The dot that represents Paris is near the centre of the Anglo-Burgundian-controlled region. Rheims lies to the northeast of this area.

The historian Kelly DeVries describes the period preceding her appearance in the following terms: "If anything could have discouraged her, the state of France in 1429 should have." The Hundred Years' War had begun in 1337 as a succession dispute over the French throne with intermittent periods of relative peace. Nearly all the fighting had taken place in France, and the English army's use of chevauchée tactics (similar to scorched earth strategies) had devastated the economy.[4] The French population had not recovered from the Black Death of the previous century and its merchants were isolated from foreign markets. At the outset of Jeanne d'Arc's appearance, the English had nearly achieved their goal of a dual monarchy under English control and the French army had not achieved any major victories for a generation. In DeVries's words, "The kingdom of France was not even a shadow of its thirteenth-century prototype."[5]

The French king at the time of Joan's birth, Charles VI, suffered bouts of insanity[6] 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.[citation needed]. The matter climaxed with the assassination of the Duke of Orléans in 1407, on the orders of the Duke of Burgundy.[7]

The factions which were loyal to these two men became known as the Armagnacs and the Burgundians. Henry V of England took advantage of this turmoil to invade France, winning a dramatic victory at Agincourt in 1415, and capturing many northern French towns.[8] The future French king, Charles VII, assumed the title of Dauphin – the heir to the throne – at the age of fourteen, after all four of his older brothers died in succession.[9] His first significant official act was to conclude a peace treaty with Burgundy in 1419. This ended in disaster when Armagnac partisans assassinated John the Fearless during a meeting under Charles's guarantee of protection. The new duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, blamed Charles for the murder and entered into an alliance with the English. Large sections of France were conquered.[10]

In 1420, Queen Isabeau of Bavaria concluded the Treaty of Troyes, which granted the succession of the French throne to Henry V and his heirs instead of her son Charles. This agreement revived rumors about her alleged affair with the late duke of Orléans and raised fresh suspicions that the Dauphin was illegitimate rather than the son of the king.[11] Henry V and Charles VI died within two months of each other in 1422, leaving an infant, Henry VI of England, the nominal monarch of both kingdoms. Henry V's brother, John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, acted as regent.[12]

By the beginning of 1429, nearly all of northern France and some parts of the southwest were under foreign control. The English controlled Paris while the Burgundians controlled Rheims, the latter city being the traditional site of French coronations. This was an important consideration since neither claimant to the throne of France had yet been officially crowned. The English had laid siege to Orléans, one of the few remaining loyal French cities and a strategic position along the Loire River which 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."[13] No one was optimistic that the city could long withstand the siege.[14]


Timeline of Joan of Arc's Life
view • discuss • edit
1412 —
1414 —
1416 —
1418 —
1420 —
1422 —
1424 —
1426 —
1428 —
1430 —
1432 —
1434 —
1436 —
1438 —
1440 —
c. 1412 - Approx date of birth
c. 1424 - Described visions
8 May 1429 - Lifting of the siege of Orleans
30 May 1431 - Executed at Rouen, France
Her birthplace is now a museum. The village church where she attended Mass is on the right behind the trees.

Joan was born the daughter of Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée.[15] in Domrémy, a village which was then in the duchy of Bar (later annexed to the province of Lorraine and renamed Domrémy-la-Pucelle).[16] Joan's parents owned about 50 acres (20 hectares) of land and her father supplemented his farming work with a minor position as a village official, collecting taxes and heading the local watch.[17] They lived in an isolated patch of eastern France that remained loyal to the French crown despite being surrounded by Burgundian lands. Several local raids occurred during her childhood and on one occasion her village was burned.

Joan said she was about 19 at her trial, so she must have been born around the year 1412. She later testified that she experienced her first vision around 1424 at the age of 12 years, when she was out alone in a field and saw visions of figures she identified as Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, who told her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Rheims for his coronation. She said she cried when they left, as they were so beautiful.[18]

At the age of 16, she asked a kinsman, Durand Lassois, to bring her to nearby Vaucouleurs where she petitioned the garrison commander, Count Robert de Baudricourt, for permission to visit the royal French court at Chinon. Baudricourt's sarcastic response did not deter her.[19] She returned the following January and gained support from two men of standing: Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy.[20] Under their auspices, she gained a second meeting where she made a remarkable prediction about a military reversal near Orléans.[21]


Jeanne d’Arc la Lorraine
Jeanne d’Arc by Henri Chapu
Ruin of the great hall at Chinon where she met King Charles VII. The castle's only remaining intact tower has also become a museum dedicated to her.

Robert de Baudricourt granted her an escort to visit Chinon after news from the front confirmed her prediction. She made the journey through hostile Burgundian territory in male disguise.[22] Upon arriving at the Royal Court she impressed Charles VII during a private conference. During this time Charles's mother-in-law Yolande of Aragon was financing a relief expedition to Orléans. Joan asked for permission to travel with the army and wear the equipment of a knight. She depended on donated items for her armor, horse, sword, banner, and other items utilized by her entourage. Historian Stephen W. Richey explains her attraction to the Royal Court by pointing out that they may have viewed her as the only source of hope for a regime that was near collapse:

After years of one humiliating defeat after another, both the military and civil leadership of France were demoralized and discredited. When the Dauphin Charles granted Joan’s urgent request to be equipped for war and placed at the head of his army, his decision must have been based in large part on the knowledge that every orthodox, every rational, option had been tried and had failed. Only a regime in the final straits of desperation would pay any heed to an illiterate farm girl who claimed that the voice of God was instructing her to take charge of her country’s army and lead it to victory.

—Stephen W. Richey, "Joan of Arc: A Military Appreciation"[23]

Upon her arrival, Joan effectively turned the longstanding Anglo-French conflict into a religious war.[24] But this course of action was not without its risks. Charles' advisers were worried that unless Joan's orthodoxy could be established beyond doubt – that she was not a heretic or a sorceress – Charles' enemies could easily make the claim that his kingdom was a gift from the Devil. To circumvent this possibility, the Dauphin ordered background inquiries and a theological examination at Poitiers to verify her morality. In April 1429, the commission of inquiry "declared her to be of irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed of the virtues of humility, honesty and simplicity."[24] The theologians at Poitiers did not pass judgment on her divine inspiration; rather, they informed the Dauphin that there was a 'favorable presumption' to be made on the divine nature of her mission. This was enough for Charles, but they put the ball back in his court by stating that he had an obligation to put Joan to the test. 'To doubt or abandon her without suspicion of evil would be to repudiate the Holy Spirit and to become unworthy of God's aid', they declared.[25] The test for the truth of her claims would be the raising of the siege of Orléans.

She arrived at the siege of Orléans on 29 April 1429, but Jean d'Orléans, the acting head of the Orléans ducal family, initially excluded her from war councils and failed to inform her when the army engaged the enemy.[26] This did not prevent her from being present at most councils and battles. The extent of her actual military leadership is a subject of historical debate. Traditional historians such as Édouard Perroy conclude that she was a standard bearer whose primary effect was on morale.[27] This type of analysis usually relies on the condemnation trial testimony, where she stated that she preferred her standard to her sword. Recent scholarship that focuses on the nullification trial testimony asserts that the army's commanders esteemed her as a skilled tactician and a successful strategist. Stephen W. Richey's opinion is one example: "She proceeded to lead the army in an astounding series of victories that reversed the tide of the war."[22] In either case, historians agree that the army enjoyed remarkable success during her brief career.[28]


Joan of Arc rejected the cautious strategy that had characterized French leadership during previous campaigns. During the five months of siege before her arrival, the defenders of Orléans had attempted only one aggressive move and that had ended in disaster. On 4 May the French attacked and captured the outlying fortress of Saint Loup, which she followed on 5 May with a march to a second fortress called Saint Jean le Blanc, which was found deserted. The next day she opposed Jean d'Orleans at a war council where she demanded another assault on the enemy. D'Orleans ordered the city gates locked to prevent another battle, but she summoned the townsmen and common soldiers and forced the mayor to unlock a gate. With the aid of only one captain she rode out and captured the fortress of Saint Augustins. That evening she learned she had been excluded from a war council where the leaders had decided to wait for reinforcements before acting again. Disregarding this decision, she insisted on attacking the main English stronghold called "les Tourelles" on 7 May.[29] Contemporaries acknowledged her as the heroine of the engagement after she was wounded in the neck by an arrow but returned to lead the final charge.[30]

"...the Maiden lets you know that here, in eight days, she has chased the English out of all the places they held on the river Loire by attack or other means: they are dead or prisoners or discouraged in battle. Believe what you have heard about the earl of Suffolk, the lord la Pole and his brother, the lord Talbot, the lord Scales, and Sir Fastolf; many more knights and captains than these are defeated."
Her Letter to the citizens of Tournai, 25 June 1429; Quicherat V, pp. 125–126, trans. Wikipedia.

The sudden victory at Orléans led to many proposals for further offensive action. The English expected an attempt to recapture Paris or an attack on Normandy. In the aftermath of the unexpected victory, Joan persuaded Charles VII to grant her co-command of the army with Duke John II of Alençon and gained royal permission for her plan to recapture nearby bridges along the Loire as a prelude to an advance on Rheims and the coronation of Charles VII. This was a bold proposal because Reims was roughly twice as far away as Paris and deep within enemy territory.[31]

The inner keep at Beaugency is one of the few surviving fortifications from Joan's battles. English defenders retreated to the tower at upper right after the French breached the town wall.
Notre-Dame de Reims, traditional site of French coronations. The structure had additional spires prior to a 1481 fire.
Joan at the coronation of Charles VII, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres in 1854, is a notable example of attempts to add more feminine characteristics to her appearance. Note the long hair and the skirt around the armor.

The army recovered Jargeau on 12 June, Meung-sur-Loire on 15 June, and Beaugency on 17 June. The Duke of Alençon agreed to all of Joan's decisions. Other commanders including Jean d'Orléans had been impressed with her performance at Orléans and became her supporters. Alençon credited her with saving his life at Jargeau, where she warned him of an imminent artillery attack.[32] During the same battle she withstood a blow from a stone cannonball to her helmet as she climbed a scaling ladder. An expected English relief force arrived in the area on 18 June under the command of Sir John Fastolf. The battle at Patay might be compared to Agincourt in reverse. The French vanguard attacked before the English archers could finish defensive preparations. A rout ensued that decimated the main body of the English army and killed or captured most of its commanders. Fastolf escaped with a small band of soldiers and became the scapegoat for the humiliating English defeat. The French suffered minimal losses.[33]

The French army set out for Reims from Gien-sur-Loire on 29 June and accepted the conditional surrender of the Burgundian-held city of Auxerre on 3 July. The other towns in their path returned to French allegiance without resistance. Troyes, the site of the treaty that had tried to disinherit Charles VII, capitulated after a bloodless four-day siege.[34] The army was in short supply of food by the time it reached Troyes. But the army was in luck: a wandering friar named Brother Richard had been preaching about the end of the world at Troyes and had convinced local residents to plant beans, a crop with an early harvest. The hungry army arrived as the beans ripened.[35]

"Prince of Burgundy, I pray of you — I beg and humbly supplicate — that you make no more war with the holy kingdom of France. Withdraw your people swiftly from certain places and fortresses of this holy kingdom, and on behalf of the gentle king of France I say he is ready to make peace with you, by his honor."
"Her Letter to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, 17 July 1429; Quicherat V, pp. 126–127, trans. Wikipedia.

Reims opened its gates to the army on 16 July. The coronation took place the following morning. Although Joan and the duke of Alençon urged a prompt march on Paris, the royal court preferred a negotiated truce with the duke of Burgundy. Duke Philip the Good broke the agreement, using it as a stalling tactic to reinforce the defense of Paris.[36] The French army marched through towns near Paris during the interim and accepted more peaceful surrenders. The Duke of Bedford headed an English force and confronted the French army in a standoff on 15 August. The French assault at Paris ensued on 8 September. Despite a wound to the leg from a crossbow bolt, Joan continued directing the troops until the day's fighting ended. The following morning she received a royal order to withdraw. Most historians blame French Grand Chamberlain Georges de la Trémoille for the political blunders which followed the coronation.[37] In October Joan took Saint-Pierre-le-Moûtier and was granted nobility.


After a minor action at La-Charité-sur-Loire in November and December, Joan traveled to Compiègne the following April to help defend the city against an English and Burgundian siege. A skirmish on 23 May 1430 led to her capture, when her force attempted to attack the Burgundian's camp at Margny.[38] When she ordered a retreat into the nearby fortifications of Compiègne after the advance of an additional force of 6,000 Burgundians,[38] she assumed the place of honor as the last to leave the field. Burgundians surrounded the rear guard, and she was unhorsed by an archer and initially refused to surrender.[39]

"It is true that the king has made a truce with the duke of Burgundy for fifteen days and that the duke is to turn over the city of Paris at the end of fifteen days. Yet you should not marvel if I do not enter that city so quickly. I am not content with these truces and do not know if I will keep them, but if I hold them it will only be to guard the king's honor: no matter how much they abuse the royal blood, I will keep and maintain the royal army in case they make no peace at the end of those fifteen days."
Her Letter to the citizens of Rheims, 5 August 1429; Quicherat I, p. 246, trans. Wikipedia.

It was customary for a captive's family to ransom a prisoner of war. Joan was in an unusual circumstance. Many historians condemn King Charles VII for failing to intervene. She attempted several escapes, on one occasion jumping from her 70 foot (21 m) tower in Vermandois to the soft earth of a dry moat, after which she was moved to the Burgundian town of Arras. The English government eventually purchased her from Duke Philip of Burgundy. Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvais, an English partisan, assumed a prominent role in these negotiations and her later trial.[40]


The keep of the castle of Rouen, surviving remnant of the fortress where Joan was imprisoned during her trial. It has since become known as the Joan of Arc tower.

The trial for heresy was politically motivated. The Duke of Bedford claimed the throne of France on behalf of his nephew Henry VI. Joan had been responsible for the rival coronation, hence condemning her was an attempt to undermine her king's legitimacy. Legal proceedings commenced on 9 January 1431 at Rouen, the seat of the English occupation government.[41] The procedure was irregular on a number of points.

Joan interrogated in her prison cell by Cardinal Winchester. By Hippolyte Delaroche, 1824, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, France.

To summarize some major problems: Under ecclesiastical law, Bishop Cauchon lacked jurisdiction over the case.[42] He owed his appointment to his partisan support of the English government which financed the trial. Clerical notary Nicolas Bailly, commissioned to collect testimony against Joan, could find no adverse evidence.[43] Without such evidence the court lacked grounds to initiate a trial. Opening a trial anyway, the court also violated ecclesiastical law in denying her right to a legal adviser. Upon the opening of the first public examination Joan complained that those present were all partisans against her and asked for "ecclesiastics of the French side" to be invited.[44]

The trial record demonstrates her remarkable 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.'"[45] 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 later testified that at the moment the court heard this reply, "Those who were interrogating her were stupefied."[46] In the twentieth century George Bernard Shaw found this dialogue so compelling that sections of his play Saint Joan are literal translations of the trial record.[47]

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.[48]

The twelve articles of accusation that summarize the court's finding contradict the already doctored court record.[49] The illiterate defendant signed an abjuration document she did not understand under threat of immediate execution. The court substituted a different abjuration in the official record.[50]


Joan of Arc's Death at the Stake, by Hermann Stilke (1803–1860).

Heresy was a capital crime only for a repeat offense. Joan agreed to wear feminine clothing when she abjured. A few days later she told a tribunal member that "a great English lord had entered her prison and tried to take her by force."[51] 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.[52] In terms of doctrine, she had been safe to disguise herself as a page during her journey through enemy territory and she was safe to wear armor during battle. The Chronique de la Pucelle states that it deterred molestation while she was camped in the field. Clergy who later testified at the posthumous rehabilitation trial affirmed that she continued to wear male clothing in prison to deter molestation and rape.[53] Preservation of chastity was another justifiable reason for cross-dressing: her apparel would have slowed an assailant, and men would be less likely to think of her as a sex object in any case.[54] She referred the court to the Poitiers inquiry when questioned on the matter. The Poitiers record no longer survives but circumstances indicate the Poitiers clerics had approved her practice. In other words, she had a mission to do a man's work so it was fitting that she dress the part.[55] She also kept her hair cut short through her military campaigns and while in prison. Her supporters, such as the theologian Jean Gerson, defended her hairstyle, as did Inquisitor Brehal later during the Rehabilitation trial.[56] Nonetheless, at the trial in 1431 she was condemned and sentenced to die.

Eyewitnesses described the scene of the execution by burning on 30 May 1431. Tied to a tall pillar in the Vieux-Marché in Rouen, she asked two of the clergy, Fr Martin Ladvenu and Fr Isambart de la Pierre, to hold a crucifix before her. A peasant also constructed a small cross which she put in the front of her dress. 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.[57] The executioner, Geoffroy Therage, later stated that he "...greatly feared to be damned."[58]

Posthumous events

Statue of Joan of Arc in Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral interior, Paris.

The Hundred Years' War continued for twenty-two years after her death. Charles VII succeeded in retaining legitimacy as the king of France in spite of a rival coronation held for Henry VI in December 1431 on the boy's tenth birthday. Before England could rebuild its military leadership and force of longbowmen, lost in 1429, the country lost its alliance with Burgundy at the Treaty of Arras in 1435. The Duke of Bedford died the same year and Henry VI became the youngest king of England to rule without a regent; his weak leadership was probably the most important factor in ending the conflict. Kelly DeVries argues that Joan of Arc's aggressive use of artillery and frontal assaults influenced French tactics for the rest of the war.[59]

In 1452, during the posthumous investigation into her execution, the Church declared that a religious play in her honor at Orléans would allow attendees to gain an indulgence (remission of temporal punishment for sin) by making a pilgrimage to the event.


A posthumous retrial opened after the war ended. Pope Callixtus III authorized this proceeding, also known as the "nullification trial", at the request of Inquisitor-General Jean Brehal and Joan's mother Isabelle Romée. The aim of the trial was to investigate whether the trial of condemnation and its verdict had been handled justly and according to canon law. Investigations started with an inquest by a priest, Guillaume Bouille. Brehal conducted an investigation in 1452. A formal appeal followed in November 1455. The appellate process involved clergy from throughout Europe and observed standard court procedure. A panel of theologians analyzed testimony from 115 witnesses. Brehal drew up his final summary in June 1456, which describes Joan as a martyr and implicated the late Pierre Cauchon with heresy for having convicted an innocent woman in pursuit of a secular vendetta. The technical reason for her execution had been a Biblical clothing law.[60] The nullification trial reversed the conviction in part because the condemnation proceeding had failed to consider the doctrinal exceptions to that stricture. The appellate court declared her innocent on 7 July 1456.[61]


She became a symbol of the Catholic League during the 16th century. When Félix Dupanloup was made bishop of Orléans in 1849, he pronounced a fervid panegyric on Joan of Arc, which attracted attention in England as well as France and he led the efforts which culminated in Joan of Arc's beatification in 1909. Pope Benedict XV canonized Joan on 16 May 1920. As Saint Joan of Arc, she has become one of the most popular saints of the Roman Catholic Church.[62]


Joan of Arc became a semi-legendary figure for the four centuries after her death. The main sources of information about her were chronicles. Five original manuscripts of her condemnation trial surfaced in old archives during the 19th century. Soon historians also located the complete records of her rehabilitation trial, which contained sworn testimony from 115 witnesses, and the original French notes for the Latin condemnation trial transcript. Various contemporary letters also emerged, three of which carry the signature "Jehanne" in the unsteady hand of a person learning to write.[63] This unusual wealth of primary source material is one reason DeVries declares, "No person of the Middle Ages, male or female, has been the subject of more study."[64]

Joan of Arc dictated her letters. Three of the surviving ones are signed.

Joan of Arc came from an obscure village and rose to prominence when she was a teenager, and she did so as an uneducated peasant. The French and English kings had justified the ongoing war through competing interpretations of the thousand-year-old Salic law. The conflict had been an inheritance feud between monarchs. She gave meaning to appeals such as that of squire Jean de Metz when he asked, "Must the king be driven from the kingdom; and are we to be English?"[20] In the words of Stephen Richey, "She turned what had been a dry dynastic squabble that left the common people unmoved except for their own suffering into a passionately popular war of national liberation."[22] Richey also expresses the breadth of her subsequent appeal:

The people who came after her in the five centuries since her death tried to make everything of her: demonic fanatic, spiritual mystic, naive and tragically ill-used tool of the powerful, creator and icon of modern popular nationalism, adored heroine, saint. She insisted, even when threatened with torture and faced with death by fire, that she was guided by voices from God. Voices or no voices, her achievements leave anyone who knows her story shaking his head in amazed wonder.
—Stephen Richey[22]

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.[65][66] 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.[67] 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 female.[68]

Flag of Charles de Gaulle's government in exile during World War II. The French Resistance used the cross of Lorraine as a symbolic reference to Joan of Arc.

Joan of Arc has been a political symbol in France since the time of Napoleon. Liberals emphasised her humble origins. Early conservatives stressed her support of the monarchy. Later conservatives recalled her nationalism. During World War II, both the Vichy Regime and the French Resistance used her image: Vichy propaganda remembered her campaign against the English with posters that showed British warplanes bombing Rouen and the ominous caption: "They Always Return to the Scene of Their Crimes." The resistance emphasised her fight against foreign occupation and her origins in the province of Lorraine, which had fallen under Nazi control.

Three separate vessels of the French Navy have been named after her, including a helicopter carrier which was retired from active service on 7 June 2010. At present the controversial French far-right political party Front National holds rallies at her statues, reproduces her likeness in party publications, and uses a tricolor flame partly symbolic of her martyrdom as its emblem. This party's opponents sometimes satirize its appropriation of her image.[69] The French civic holiday in her honour is the second Sunday of May.

Traditionalist Catholics, in France and elsewhere, also use her as a symbol of inspiration, often comparing the 1988 excommunication of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (founder of the Society of St. Pius X and a dissident against the Vatican II reforms), to her excommunication.

Philippe-Alexandre Le Brun de Charmettes is the first historian who wrote Joan of Arc's complete history[70] in 1817, in an attempt to restore her family's reputation from Joan's status as a relapsed heretic. His interest in Joan came at a time when France was still struggling to define its new identity after the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. The national ethos was in search of non-controversial heroes. A staunch supporter of King and country, Joan of Arc was an acceptable symbol to the monarchists. As a patriot and the daughter of commoners, she was seen as one prototype of the low-born volunteers (the soldats de l'an II) who had victoriously fought for revolutionary France in 1802 and as such could be claimed by the Republicans. As a religious martyr, she was also popular in the powerful Catholic community. De Charmette's Orléanide, today largely forgotten, was another attempt to magnify the national ethos as writers like Virgil (the Aeneid), or Camoens (the Lusiad) had done for Rome and Portugal.


Jeanne d' Arc, by Eugene Thirion (1876). Late 19th century images such as this often had political undertones because of French territorial cessions to Germany in 1871. (Chautou, Church of Notre Dame)

Joan of Arc's religious visions have remained an ongoing topic of interest. The consensus among scholars is that her faith was sincere. She identified Saint Margaret, Saint Catherine, and Saint Michael as the source of her revelations, although there is some ambiguity as to which of several identically named saints she intended. Some Catholics regard her visions as divine inspiration.

Analysis of her visions is problematic since the main source of information on this topic is the condemnation trial transcript in which she defied customary courtroom procedure about a witness's oath and specifically refused to answer every question about her visions. She complained that a standard witness oath would conflict with an oath she had previously sworn to maintain confidentiality about meetings with her king. It remains unknown to what extent the surviving record may represent the fabrications of corrupt court officials or her own possible fabrications to protect state secrets.[71] Some historians sidestep speculation about the visions by asserting that her belief in her calling is more relevant than questions about the visions' ultimate origin.[72]

Documents from her own era and historians prior to the twentieth century generally assume that she was both healthy and sane.

A number of more recent scholars attempted to explain her visions in psychiatric or neurological terms. Potential diagnoses have included epilepsy, migraine, tuberculosis, and schizophrenia.[73] None of the putative diagnoses have gained consensus support, possibly due to the limited amount of information available about Joan's life. Two experts who analyse a temporal lobe tuberculoma hypothesis in the medical journal Neuropsychobiology express their misgivings this way:

It is difficult to draw final conclusions, but it would seem unlikely that widespread tuberculosis, a serious disease, was present in this 'patient' whose life-style and activities would surely have been impossible had such a serious disease been present."[74]

In response to another such theory alleging that she suffered from bovine tuberculosis as a result of drinking unpasteurized milk, historian Régine Pernoud wrote that if drinking unpasteurized milk could produce such potential benefits for the nation, then the French government should stop mandating the pasteurization of milk.[75]

The fact that Joan of Arc gained favor in the court of King Charles VII has been suggested as evidence against mental illness hypotheses. The argument suggests that Charles VII would have been able to recognize "madness" because his own father, Charles VI, suffered from it. Charles VI was popularly known as "Charles the Mad", and much of the political and military decline that France had suffered during his reign could be attributed to the power vacuum that his episodes of insanity had produced. The previous king had believed he was made of glass, a delusion no courtier had mistaken for a religious awakening. Fears that King Charles VII would manifest the same insanity may have factored into the attempt to disinherit him at Troyes. This stigma was so persistent that contemporaries of the next generation would attribute to inherited madness the breakdown that England's King Henry VI was to suffer in 1453: Henry VI was nephew to Charles VII and grandson to Charles VI. Upon Joan's arrival at Chinon the royal counselor Jacques Gélu cautioned,

One should not lightly alter any policy because of conversation with a girl, a peasant... so susceptible to illusions; one should not make oneself ridiculous in the sight of foreign nations...

The court of Charles VII was shrewd and skeptical on the subject of mental health.[76][77]

Also potentially relevant is the fact that she displayed none of the objective symptoms that can accompany the mental illnesses which have been suggested, such as Schizophrenia. She remained astute to the end of her life and the rehabilitation trial testimony frequently marvels at her astuteness:

Often they [the judges] turned from one question to another, changing about, but, notwithstanding this, she answered prudently, and evinced a wonderful memory.[78]

Her subtle replies under interrogation even forced the court to stop holding public sessions.[46]

Although mental illness does not necessarily include severe cognitive impairment, nonetheless the various psychiatric conditions which have been specifically suggested to explain Joan's experiences would include certain detrimental symptoms which are among the diagnostic criteria. For example, in the case of Schizophrenia the American Psychiatric Association's "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" lists detrimental and noticeable side effects such as disorganized speech, disorganized or catatonic behavior, affective flattening, alogia, and avolition, among other effects.[79] As noted farther above, these symptoms do not appear to have been present in Joan's case.

Some psychiatrists have also urged that a distinction should be made between different types of experiences. Ralph Hoffman, professor of psychology at Yale University, argues that visionary and creative states including "hearing voices" are not necessarily signs of mental illness. He lists Joan of Arc's case as a possible example of what Hoffman describes as an "inspired voice", without elaborating on the term.[80]

Alleged relics disproven

Joan of Arc on horseback, triumphantly raising her sword to the heavens and crepuscular rays at San Francisco's Palace of the Legion of Honor.

In 1867, a jar was found in a Paris pharmacy with the inscription "Remains found under the stake of Joan of Arc, virgin of Orleans". They consisted of a charred human rib, carbonized wood, a piece of linen and a cat femur — explained as the practice of throwing black cats onto the pyre of witches. They are now in the Museum of Art and History in Chinon museum. In 2006, Philippe Charlier, a forensic scientist at Raymond Poincaré Hospital (Garches) was authorized to study the relics. Carbon-14 tests and spectrometry were performed, and the results[81] show that the remains come from an Egyptian mummy from the sixth to the third century BC. The charred appearance comes from the embalming substances, not from combustion. Large amounts of pine pollen were also found, consistent with the presence of resin used in mummification and some unburned linen was found to be similar to that used to wrap mummies. The famous perfumers Guerlain and Jean Patou said that they could smell vanilla in the remains, also consistent with mummification. Apparently the mummy was part of the ingredients of medieval pharmacopoeia and it was relabeled in a time of French nationalism.

Revisionist theories

The accuracy of the standard accounts of the life of Joan of Arc has been questioned by revisionist authors. These issues are covered in a separate Wikipedia article, Alternative historical interpretations of Joan of Arc.

See also

Joan of Arc on horseback
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  1. ^ Her name was written in a variety of ways, particularly prior to the mid-19th century. See Pernoud and Clin, pp. 220–221. She reportedly signed her name as "Jehanne" (see, parts 47 and 49; it is also noted in Pernoud and Clin).
  2. ^ a b Modern biographical summaries often assert a birthdate of 6 January for Joan. In fact, however, she could only estimate her own age. All of the rehabilitation-trial witnesses likewise estimated her age even though several of these people were her godmothers and godfathers. The 6 January claim is based on a single source: a letter from Lord Perceval de Boullainvilliers on 21 July 1429 (see Pernoud's Joan of Arc By Herself and Her Witnesses, p. 98: "Boulainvilliers tells of her birth in Domrémy, and it is he who gives us an exact date, which may be the true one, saying that she was born on the night of Epiphany, 6 January"). Boulainvilliers, however, was not from Domrémy. The event was probably not recorded. The practice of parish registers for non-noble births did not begin until several generations later.
  3. ^ a b Andrew Ward (2005) Joan of Arc at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ John Aberth. From the Brink of the Apocalypse,Routledge, 2000 ISBN 0-415-92715-3, 9780415927154 p. 85
  5. ^ DeVries, pp. 27–28.
  6. ^ "Charles VI". Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 9 March 2010. 
  7. ^ "The Glorious Age of the Dukes of Burgundy". Burgundy Today. Retrieved 9 March 2010. 
  8. ^ DeVries, pp. 15–19.
  9. ^ Pernoud and Clin, p. 167.
  10. ^ DeVries, p. 24.
  11. ^ Pernoud and Clin, pp. 188–189.
  12. ^ DeVries, pp. 24, 26.
  13. ^ Pernoud and Clin, p. 10.
  14. ^ DeVries, p. 28.
  15. ^ Jacques d'Arc (1380–1440) was a farmer in Domremy who held the post of doyen – a local tax-collector and organizer of village defenses. He married Isabelle de Vouthon (1387–1468), called Romée, in 1405. Their other children were Jacquemin, Jean, Pierre and Catherine. Charles VII ennobled Jacques and Isabelle's family on 29 December 1429; the Chamber of Accounts registered the family's designation to nobility on 20 January 1430. The grant permitted the family to change their surname to du Lys.
  16. ^ Condemnation trial, p. 37.[1] . Retrieved 23 March 2006.
  17. ^ Pernoud and Clin, p. 221.
  18. ^ Condemnation trial, pp. 58–59.[2] . Retrieved 23 March 2006.
  19. ^ DeVries, pp. 37–40.
  20. ^ a b Nullification trial testimony of Jean de Metz.[3] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  21. ^ Oliphant, ch. 2.[4] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  22. ^ a b c d Richey, p. 4.
  23. ^ Richey, Stephen W. (2000). "Joan of Arc: A Military Appreciation". The Saint Joan of Arc Center. Retrieved 2011-07-10. 
  24. ^ a b Vale, M.G.A., 'Charles VII', 1974, p. 55.
  25. ^ Vale, M.G.A., 'Charles VII', 1974, p. 56.
  26. ^ Histories and fictional works often refer to this man by other names. Some call him count of Dunois in reference to a title he received years after Joan's death. During her lifetime he preferred Bastard of Orléans, which his contemporaries understood as an honor because it described him as a first cousin of King Charles VII. That name often confuses modern readers because "bastard" has become a popular insult. "Jean d'Orleans" is less precise but not anachronistic. For a short biography see Pernoud and Clin, pp. 180–181.
  27. ^ Perroy, p. 283.
  28. ^ Pernoud and Clin, p. 230.
  29. ^ DeVries, pp. 74–83
  30. ^ Devout Catholics regard this as proof of her divine mission. At Chinon and Poitiers she had declared that she would give a sign at Orléans. The lifting of the siege gained her the support of prominent clergy such as the Archbishop of Embrun and theologian Jean Gerson, who both wrote supportive treatises immediately following this event.
  31. ^ DeVries, pp. 96–97.
  32. ^ Nullification trial testimony of Jean, Duke of Alençon.[5] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  33. ^ DeVries, pp. 114–115.
  34. ^ DeVries, pp. 122–126.
  35. ^ Lucie-Smith, pp. 156–160.
  36. ^ DeVries, p. 134.
  37. ^ These range from mild associations of intrigue to scholarly invective. For an impassioned statement see Gower, ch. 4.[6] (Accessed 12 February 2006) Milder examples are Pernoud and Clin, pp. 78–80; DeVries, p. 135; and Oliphant, ch. 6.[7] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  38. ^ a b Geiger,Barbara (April 2008). "A Friend to Compiegne". Calliope Magazine 18 (8): 32–34. 
  39. ^ DeVries, pp. 161–170.
  40. ^ "Joan of Arc, Saint". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition. 12 September 2007 <>.
  41. ^ Judges' investigations 9 January – 26 March, ordinary trial 26 March – 24 May, recantation 24 May, relapse trial 28–29 May.
  42. ^ The retrial verdict later affirmed that Cauchon had no authority to try the case. See also Joan of Arc: Her Story, by Regine Pernoud and Marie-Veronique Clin, p. 108. The vice-inquisitor of France objected to the trial on jurisdictional grounds at its outset.
  43. ^ Nullification trial testimony of Father Nicholas Bailly.[8] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  44. ^ Taylor, Craig, Joan of Arc: La Pucelle p. 137.
  45. ^ Condemnation trial, p. 52.[9] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  46. ^ a b Pernoud and Clin, p. 112.
  47. ^ Shaw, "Saint Joan". Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (2001). ISBN 0-14-043791-6
  48. ^ Pernoud and Clin, p. 130.
  49. ^ Condemnation trial, pp. 314–316.[10] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  50. ^ Condemnation trial, pp. 342–343.[11] (Accessed 12 February 2006) Also nullification trial testimony of Brother Pierre Migier, "As to the act of recantation, I know it was performed by her; it was in writing, and was about the length of a Pater Noster."[12] (Accessed 12 February 2006) In modern English this is better known as the Lord's Prayer, Latin and English text available here:[13] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  51. ^ See Pernoud, p. 220, which quotes appellate testimony by Friar Martin Ladvenu and Friar Isambart de la Pierre.
  52. ^ Nullification trial testimony of Jean Massieu.[14] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  53. ^ Nullification trial testimony of Guillaume de Manchon.[15] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  54. ^ According to medieval clothing expert Adrien Harmand, she wore two layers of pants (trousers in British-English) attached to the doublet with 20 fastenings. The outer pants were made of a boot-like leather. "Jeanne d'Arc, son costume, son armure."[16](French) . Retrieved 23 March 2006.
  55. ^ Condemnation trial, p. 78.[17] (Accessed 12 February 2006) Retrial testimony of Brother Seguin de Seguin, Professor of Theology at Poitiers, does not mention clothing directly, but constitutes a wholehearted endorsement of her piety.[18] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  56. ^ Fraioli, "Joan of Arc: The Early Debate", p. 131.
  57. ^ In February, 2006 a team of forensic scientists announced the beginning of a six-month study to assess bone and skin remains from a museum at Chinon and reputed to be those of the heroine. The study cannot provide a positive identification but could rule out some types of hoax through carbon dating and gender determination.[19] (Accessed 1 March 2006) An interim report released 17 December 2006 states that this is unlikely to have belonged to her.[20] . Retrieved 17 December 2006.
  58. ^ Pernoud, p. 233.
  59. ^ DeVries, pp. 179–180.
  60. ^ Deuteronomy 22:5
  61. ^ Nullification trial sentence rehabilitation.[21] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  62. ^ She is the most requested saint profile at[22] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  63. ^ Pernoud and Clin, pp. 247–264.
  64. ^ DeVries in "Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc", edited by Bonnie Wheeler, p. 3.
  65. ^ Contrary to popular myth, the primary role of camp followers was not prostitution. They performed support functions such as laundry, cooking, and hauling. Female camp followers were often the wives of soldiers. Some prostitution also took place. Byron C. Hacker and Margaret Vining, "The World of Camp and Train: Women's Changing Roles in Early Modern Armies".[23] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  66. ^ The Duke of Alençon reported seeing her break a sword against a camp follower at Saint Denis. Her page Louis de Contes described the event as happening near Chauteau-Thierry and insisted that it was only a verbal warning. Nullification trial testimony.[24] . Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  67. ^ These tests, which her confessor describes as hymen investigations, are not reliable measures of virginity. However, they signified approval from matrons of the highest social rank at key moments of her life. Rehabilitation trial testimony of Jean Pasquerel.[25] Retrieved 12 March 2006.
  68. ^ English translation of Christine de Pizan's poem "La Ditie de Jeanne d'Arc" by L. Shopkow.[26] (Accessed 12 February 2006) Analysis of the poem by Professors Kennedy and Varty of Magdalen College, Oxford.[27] Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  69. ^ Front National publicity logos include the tricolor flame and reproductions of statues depicting her. The graphics forums at Étapes magazine include a variety of political posters from the 2002 presidential election.[28][dead link] (French) Retrieved 7 February 2006.
  70. ^ Histoire de Jeanne d`Arc by P.A Le Brun de Charmettes-Tome1 Tome2 Tome3 Tome4
  71. ^ Condemnation trial, pp. 36–37, 41–42, 48–49. . Retrieved 1 September 2006.
  72. ^ In a parenthetical note to a military biography, DeVries asserts:

    "The visions, or their veracity, are not in themselves important for this study. What is important, in fact what is key to Joan's history as a military leader, is that she (author's emphasis) believed that they came from God," p. 35.

  73. ^ Many of these hypotheses were devised by people whose expertise is in history rather than medicine. For a sampling of papers that passed peer review in medical journals, see
    d'Orsi G, Tinuper P (August 2006). ""I heard voices...": from semiology, a historical review, and a new hypothesis on the presumed epilepsy of Joan of Arc". Epilepsy Behav 9 (1): 152–7. doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2006.04.020. PMID 16750938.  (idiopathic partial epilepsy with auditory features)
    Foote-Smith E, Bayne L (1991). "Joan of Arc". Epilepsia 32 (6): 810–5. doi:10.1111/j.1528-1157.1991.tb05537.x. PMID 1743152.  (epilepsy)
    Henker FO (December 1984). "Joan of Arc and DSM III". South. Med. J. 77 (12): 1488–90. doi:10.1097/00007611-198412000-00003. PMID 6390693.  (various psychiatric definitions)
    Allen C (Autumn–Winter 1975). "The schizophrenia of Joan of Arc". Hist Med 6 (3–4): 4–9. PMID 11630627.  (schizophrenia)
  74. ^ Nores JM, Yakovleff Y (1995). "A historical case of disseminated chronic tuberculosis". Neuropsychobiology 32 (2): 79–80. doi:10.1159/000119218. PMID 7477805. 
  75. ^ Pernoud, p. 275.
  76. ^ Pernoud and Clin, pp. 3, 169, 183.
  77. ^ Nullification trial testimony of Dame Marguerite de Touroulde, widow of a king's counselor: "I heard from those that brought her to the king that at first they thought she was mad, and intended to put her away in some ditch, but while on the way they felt moved to do everything according to her good pleasure."[29] Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  78. ^ Nullification trial testimony of Guillaume de Manchon.[30] Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  79. ^ APA's "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders", fourth edition, pp. 273–275. Online copy of the print manual available at: [31]. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
  80. ^ Hoffman, "Auditory Hallucinations: What's It Like Hearing Voices?" in, 27 September 2003.[32]. Retrieved 12 February 2006.
  81. ^ Declan Butler. (4 April 2007). "Joan of Arc's relics exposed as forgery". Nature 446 (7136): 593. doi:10.1038/446593a. 


Joan of Arc, by Scheffer Henry, 1843.

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