Joan of Arc
Jeanne d'Arc (modern French)
c. 6 January 1412
|Died||30 May 1431|
(aged c. 19)
|Cause of death||Execution|
Saint Joan of Arc or The Maid of Orléans (Jeanne d'Arc, c. 6 January 1412 – 30 May 1431) was a national heroine of France. She is also a Catholic saint. She was a peasant girl born in the east of France. Joan said that she had visions from God. In these visions, she said that God told her to take back her home, which was then under English rule late in the Hundred Years' War. Many quick military victories made her famous. In 1430, soldiers of Burgundy captured her and gave her to her English enemies.
Joan of Arc has remained an important figure in Western civilization. Famous writers like Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky, Mark Twain, and Voltaire wrote about her. She appears in video games, television, movies, songs, and dances.
Biography[change | change source]
Joan of Arc was born in Domremy, a small town in northeast France, in 1412 – one of five children born to Jacques and Isabelle. Growing up in a poor farming family, Joan didn’t go to school but instead took care of the farm’s animals. Her mother also taught her how to spin and sew.
Joan’s family were very religious and when Joan was about 12, she had a vision. She said an angel told her to lead the French in a battle against the English, and to take back her homeland from English rule. She was also told to take Charles, the eldest child of France’s former king, to reclaim the throne at the city of Rheims.
Joan had more visions during her teenage years, which she believed were coming from God. When she was 16, she decided to take action.
Joan asked a town official to take her to Charles, to seek permission to lead an army. The official just laughed at her, but Joan didn’t give up. She continued to hear voices and also made some extraordinary predictions, such as the French being defeated at the Battle of Rouvray near Orleans (when they were thought to be the stronger side). When these predictions came true, Joan gained the support of some local leaders. Before long, she was taken to the royal court in the city of Chinon.
Joan had to travel through some dangerous territory. She cut her hair short and dressed like a man so she wouldn’t be recognised. Charles was suspicious of such a young girl at first, and had her questioned by church representatives. But he eventually allowed her to lead an army to the city of Orleans, which was being held by the English. Meantime, Joan had been practicing her horse riding skills. Although she didn’t fight in the battles, she encouraged the soldiers’ bravery. She dressed as a knight and carried a flag instead of a sword.
Word got round about Joan and her visions. The people of Orleans greeted her with cheers and celebrations, thinking that God might save them from English rule. Joan’s army fought hard, and although Joan was wounded with an arrow, she didn’t give up. After some fierce fighting, the English eventually retreated from Orleans and Joan’s army had won a great victory.
But her work was not done. Joan then persuaded her army to take the city of Rheims, where Charles was crowned as King Charles VII of France in 1429. At the king’s coronation, Joan was given a place of honour.
The following year, when Joan heard the city of Compiegne was under attack from the Burgundians, she took a small army to help defend the city. But during the attack, Joan was captured. She was later sold to the English as a prisoner, although she tried to escape several times. The English wanted to prove that Joan was a heretic (a person who goes against the word of the church) or that she had used witchcraft to defeat them. They couldn’t find any evidence against her, but eventually claimed that because she had repeatedly dressed as a man, when asked not to, she was guilty and deserved to die. Tragically, King Charles did nothing to help her.
Joan was burned alive at the stake in the marketplace of Rouen in 1431. She bravely forgave her accusers and asked for a cross before she died. She was just 19 years old.
Twenty-five years later, Pope Callixtus III said that Joan was not guilty of any wrongdoing. Then nearly 500 years later, in 1920, Joan was made a Saint of the Catholic Church, and forever remains a national heroine of France.
Visions of Joan of Arc[change | change source]
When Joan of Arc was put on trial, she said no to the customary courtroom rules about a witness's oath. She said she would not answer every question about her visions. She complained that the normal witness oath would not be right because she had an oath that she had given to the king. It is not known how much the record which reports this has been changed by dishonest court officials or her possible lies to protect state secrets. Some historians simply say that her belief in her duty was more important than where the visions came from.
Most people say that she was healthy and that she was not crazy. Recently, people have tried to explain her visions through things like epilepsy, migraine, tuberculosis, and schizophrenia. None of these guesses have been greatly supported. This is because, even though seeing visions can be through different diseases, other facts of Joan's life do not agree with these ideas. Two experts who studied a teberculoma hypothesis in the medical journal Neuropsychobiology said:
"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."
Ralph Hoffman, professor of psychology at Yale University, points out that visions, like "hearing voices" are not always signs of mental illness. He says that her religious inspiration was possibly a reason. However, he does not say any other reasons.
Nonetheless, the court of Charles VII was obsessed about her mental health.
Execution[change | change source]
Joan was tried by a French inquisitorial tribunal under English control. The Church said Joan should be killed for wearing men's clothes even after being warned not to. Joan agreed to wear women's clothes. She wore male clothes again. This might have been to protect herself from being attacked. It could also have been, as Jean Massieu said, because her dress had been stolen and she was left with nothing else to wear.
She was burned on a stake on 30 May 1431, at age 19. After she died, the English showed people her burnt body so no one could say she had escaped alive. Then they burned the body two times again to turn it into ashes. They put what was left of her in the Seine. The executioner, Geoffroy Therage, later said that he "...greatly feared to be damned."
Notes[change | change source]
- Her name was written in a variety of ways. See Pernoud and Clin, pp. 220–221. She reportedly signed her name as "Jehanne" (see www.stjoan-center.com/Album/, parts 47 and 49; it is also noted in Pernoud and Clin).
- Joan did not know her own age for sure. Most biographers say she was born on 6 January. All of the people who saw the trial guessed her age, too, even though several of these people were her godmothers and godfathers. The 6 January claim is from 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. In here, it says: "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.
- Many of these hypotheses were made by people who knew more about history rather than medicine. d'Orsi G, Tinuper P, Epilepsy Behav. August, 2006; 9(1):152–7. Epub 2006 5 June  (idiopathic partial epilepsy with auditory features); "Joan of Arc," Foote-Smith E, Bayne L, Epilepsia. Nov-Dec, 1991; 32(6):810–5 (epilepsy); "Joan of Arc and DSM III," Henker FO, South Med J. December, 1984; 77(12):1488–90 (various psychiatric definitions); "The schizophrenia of Joan of Arc," Allen C, Hist Med. Autumn–Winter 1975;6(3–4):4–9 (schizophrenia). (Accessed 1 September 2006)
- "A historical case of disseminated chronic tuberculosis," Nores JM, Yakovleff Y, Neuropsychobiology. 1995;32(2):79–80 (temporal lobe tuberculoma) (Accessed 1 September 2006)
- Hoffman, "Auditory Hallucinations: What's It Like Hearing Voices?" in HealthyPlace.com, 27 September 2003. Archived 2009-01-14 at the Wayback Machine (Accessed 12 February 2006)
- 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 (wanted) to put her away in some ditch, but while on the way they felt moved to do everything according to her good pleasure." (Accessed 12 February 2006)
- Nullification trial testimony of Jean Massieu. (Accessed 12 February 2006)
- 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. (Accessed 1 March 2006) An interim report released 17 December 2006 states that this is unlikely to have belonged to her. (Accessed 17 December 2006)
- Pernoud, p. 233.
Sources[change | change source]
- Pernoud, Régine (1994). Joan of Arc By Herself and Her Witnesses. trans. E. Hymans. London: Scarborough House. ISBN 0-8128-1260-3. OCLC 31535658.
- Anon. The First Biography of Joan of Arc with the Chronicle Record of a Contemporary Account (PDF). trans. Rankin, Daniel & Quintal, Claire. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-09. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- Barrett, W.P., ed. (1932). The trial of Jeanne d'Arc. New York: Gotham house. OCLC 1314152.