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Joan of Arc at the Siege of Orleans, late 19th century painting by Jules Eugene Lenepveu.

Saint Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d'Arc;[1] ca. 1412[2] – 30 May 1431) is a national heroine of France and a Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, claiming divine guidance, and was indirectly responsible 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 nineteen years old.[3] Twenty-four years later, on the initiative of Charles VII, who could not afford being seen as having been brought to power with the aid of a condemned heretic, Pope Callixtus III reviewed the decision of the ecclesiastical court, found her innocent, and declared her a martyr.[3] She 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 told her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege at 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.

Joan of Arc has remained an important figure in Western culture. From Napoleon to the present, French politicians of all leanings have invoked her memory. Major writers and composers who have created works about her include William Shakespeare (Henry VI, Part 1), Voltaire (La Pucelle d'Orléans), Friedrich Schiller (Die Jungfrau von Orléans ), Giuseppe Verdi (Giovanna d'Arco), Tchaikovsky (Орлеанская дева (The Maid of Orleans)), Mark Twain (Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc), Jean Anouilh (L'Alouette), Bertolt Brecht (Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe), George Bernard Shaw (Saint Joan), and Maxwell Anderson (Joan of Lorraine). Depictions of her continue in film, television, video games, song, and dance.


The historian Kelly DeVries describes the period preceding her appearance with, "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 to the French throne with intermittent periods of relative peace. Nearly all the fighting had taken place in France, and the English use of chevauchée (similar to scorched earth) tactics had devastated the economy. The French population had not recovered from the Black Death of the previous century and its merchants were cut off from foreign markets. At the outset of her career, the English had almost achieved their goal of a dual monarchy under English control and the French army had won no major victory for a generation. In DeVries's words, "the kingdom of France was not even a shadow of its thirteenth-century prototype."[4]

The French king at the time of Joan's birth, Charles VI, suffered bouts of insanity 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. The matter climaxed when the Duke of Burgundy ordered the assassination of the Duke of Orléans in 1407.

King Henry V of England at the Battle of Agincourt. 1915 illustration by Harry Payne.

The factions loyal to these two men became known as the Armagnacs and the Burgundians. The English king, Henry V, took advantage of this turmoil to invade France, winning a dramatic victory at Agincourt in 1415, and capturing northern French towns.[5] The future French king, Charles VII, assumed the title of Dauphin as heir to the throne at the age of 14, after all four of his older brothers died.[6] His first significant official act was to conclude a peace treaty with Burgundy in 1419. This ended in disaster when Armagnac partisans murdered John the Fearless during a meeting under Charles's guarantee of protection. The new duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, blamed Charles and entered into an alliance with the English. Large sections of France were conquered.[7]

In 1420, Queen Isabeau of Bavaria concluded the Treaty of Troyes, which granted the French royal succession to Henry V and his heirs in preference to her son Charles. This agreement revived rumors about her supposed affair with the late duke of Orléans and raised fresh suspicions that the Dauphin was a royal bastard rather than the son of the king.[8] 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.[9]

By the beginning of 1429, nearly all of northern France and some parts of the southwest were under foreign control. The English ruled Paris, while the Burgundians controlled Reims. The latter city was important as the traditional site of French coronations and consecrations, especially since neither claimant to the throne of France had yet been crowned. The English had laid siege to Orléans, which was the only remaining loyal French city north of the Loire. Its strategic location along the river 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."[10] No one was optimistic that the city could long withstand the siege.[11]


Joan was the daughter of Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée[12] in Domrémy, a village which was then in the duchy of Bar (later annexed to the province of Lorraine and renamed Domrémy-la-Pucelle).[13] Her parents owned about 50 acres (0.2 square kilometers) of land and her father supplemented his farming work with a minor position as a village official, collecting taxes and heading the local watch.[14] They lived in an isolated patch of northeastern territory 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.

Coat of arms of Joan of Arc.

Joan said she was about 19 at her trial, so she was born about 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 heard voices. She had said she cried when they left as they were so beautiful. She would report that Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret told her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation.[15]

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.[16] She returned the following January and gained support from two men of standing: Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy.[17] Under their auspices, she gained a second interview where she made a remarkable prediction about a military reversal near Orléans.[18]


15th century depiction of Joan of Arc.

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.[19] 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 petitioned 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 entourage. Her armor was said to be white. Historian Stephen W. Richey explains her attraction 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.
"King of England, and you, Duke of Bedford, who call yourself regent of the kingdom of France...settle your debt to the king of Heaven; return to the Maiden, who is envoy of the king of Heaven, the keys to all the good towns you took and violated in France."
Her Letter to the English, March–April 1429; Quicherat I, p. 240, trans. Wikipedia.

With Joan's arrival, she effectively turned the long-standing Anglo-French conflict into a religious war.[20] However, this 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."[20] The theologians at Poitiers did not pass judgement on her divine inspiration; rather, they informed the Dauphin that there was a 'favourable presumption' to be made on the divine nature of her mission. This was enough for Charles, but they then pushed 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] 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 her fellow officers 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."[19] In either case, historians agree that the army enjoyed remarkable success during her brief career.[24]


Depiction of Joan of Arc on horseback from an early 16th century manuscript.

Joan of Arc defied the cautious strategy that had characterized French leadership. 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. Finding it deserted, this became a bloodless victory. 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 assaulting the main English stronghold called "les Tourelles" on 7 May.[25] Contemporaries acknowledged her as the heroine of the engagement after she sustained an arrow wound to her neck but returned wounded to lead the final charge.[26]

"...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 offensive action. The English expected an attempt to recapture Paris or an attack on Normandy. In the aftermath of the unexpected victory, she 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 Reims and a coronation. Hers was a bold proposal because Reims was roughly twice as far away as Paris and deep in enemy territory.[27]

The army recovered Jargeau on 12 June, Meung-sur-Loire on 15 June, then 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 for saving his life at Jargeau, where she warned him of an imminent artillery attack.[28] 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 devastated 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 English humiliation. The French suffered minimal losses.[29]

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. Every other town 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.[30] The army was in short supply of food by the time it reached Troyes. Edward Lucie-Smith cites this as an example of her 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.[31]

"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 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 pursued 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.[32] 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 crossbow bolt wound to the leg, 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 that followed the coronation.[33] In October Joan successfully took Saint-Pierre-le-Moûtier, receiving a noble status.


After minor action at La-Charité-sur-Loire in November and December, Joan went to Compiègne the following April to defend against an English and Burgundian siege. A reckless skirmish on 23 May 1430 led to her being captured. When she ordered a retreat, she assumed the place of honor as the last to leave the field. Burgundians surrounded the rear guard, she was unhorsed by an archer and initially refused to surrender.[34]

"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 Reims, 5 August 1429; Quicherat I, p. 246, trans. Wikipedia.

It was customary for a captive's family to ransom a prisoner of war. Unfortunately, Joan and her family lacked the financial resources. 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.[35]


The trial for heresy was politically motivated. The Duke of Bedford claimed the throne of France for his nephew Henry VI. She had been responsible for the rival coronation so to condemn her was to undermine her king's legitimacy. Legal proceedings commenced on 9 January 1431 at Rouen, the seat of the English occupation government.[36] The procedure was irregular on a number of points.

1824 painting by Paul Delaroche which depicts The Cardinal of Winchester interrogating Joan of Arc in her prison cell.

To summarize some major problems, the jurisdiction of judge Bishop Cauchon was a legal fiction.[37] He owed his appointment to his partisan support of the English government that financed the entire trial. Clerical notary Nicolas Bailly, commissioned to collect testimony against Joan, could find no adverse evidence.[38] 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 advisor. 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.[39]

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.'"[40] 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 would later testify that at the moment the court heard this reply, "Those who were interrogating her were stupefied."[41] In the twentieth century George Bernard Shaw would find this dialogue so compelling that sections of his play Saint Joan are literal translations of the trial record.[42]

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.[43]

The twelve articles of accusation that summarize the court's finding contradict the already doctored court record.[44] 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.[45]


Joan of Arc's Death at the Stake, 1843 oil painting by Hermann Anton.

Heresy was a capital crime only for a repeat offense. Joan agreed to wear women's clothes when she abjured. A few days later she was sexually assaulted in prison.[46] 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.[47]

Eyewitnesses described the scene of the execution by burning on 30 May 1431. Tied to a tall pillar in the Vieux-Marche 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.[48] The executioner, Geoffroy Therage, later stated that he "...greatly feared to be damned."[49]


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 included 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 implicates the late Pierre Cauchon with heresy for having convicted an innocent woman in pursuit of a secular vendetta. The court declared her innocence on 7 July 1456.[50]


Joan of Arc wore men's clothing between her departure from Vaucouleurs and her abjuration at Rouen.[51] This raised theological questions in her own era and raised other questions in the twentieth century. The technical reason for her execution was a biblical clothing law.[52] The nullification trial reversed the conviction in part because the condemnation proceeding had failed to consider the doctrinal exceptions to that stricture.

Doctrinally speaking, she was safe to disguise herself as a page during a 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 testified at her 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 crossdressing: 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 during her condemnation trial. The Poitiers record no longer survives but circumstances indicate the Poitiers clerics 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 during the Rehabilitation trial.[56]


Jeanne d'Arc, 1876 painting by Eugene Thirion.

Joan of Arc's religious visions have interested many people. 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.[57] 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.[58]

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.[59] None of the putative diagnoses have gained consensus support because, although hallucination and religious enthusiasm can be symptomatic of various syndromes, other characteristic symptoms conflict with other known facts of Joan's life. Two experts who analyze 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."[60]

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.[61] Ralph Hoffman, professor of psychology at Yale University, points out that visionary and creative states including "hearing voices" are not necessarily signs of mental illness and names her religious inspiration as a possible exception although he offers no speculation as to alternative causes.[62]

Among the specific challenges that potential diagnoses such as schizophrenia face is the slim likelihood that any person with such a disorder could gain favor in the court of King Charles VII. His own father, 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 her 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....

Contrary to modern stereotypes about the Middle Ages, the court of Charles VII was shrewd and skeptical on the subject of mental health.[63][64]

Besides the physical rigor of her military career, which would seem to exclude many medical hypotheses, Joan of Arc displayed none of the cognitive impairment that can accompany some major mental illnesses when symptoms are present. She remained astute to the end of her life and 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.[65]

Her subtle replies under interrogation even forced the court to stop holding public sessions.[41] If her visions had some medical or psychiatric origin then she would have been an exceptional case.


Gold statue of Joan of Arc in the Place des Pyramides, Paris.


Philippe-Alexandre Le Brun de Charmettes is the first historian who wrote Joan of Arc's complete history[66] in 1817, in an attempt to restore her family fortunes from relapsed heretic name. His interest for 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 prop to 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 Orleanide, today largely forgotten, was another attempt to magnify the national ethos as writers like Virgil (the Aeneid), or Luís de Camões (the Lusiad) had done for Rome and Portugal.

Hundred Years' War

Animated map which shows territories that belonged to the Kingdom of France, the Kingdom of England and the Duchy of Burgundy during the Hundred Years' War. Sites of battles are marked in red.

The Hundred Years' War continued for twenty-two years after her death. Charles VII succeeded in retaining legitimacy as 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 longbow corps, lost during 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.[67]

Joan of Arc became a semi-legendary figure for the next four centuries. 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.[68] 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".[69]

Joan of Arc came from an obscure village and rose to prominence when she was barely more than a child, 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?"[17] 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."[19] 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."[19]

In 1452, during the postwar investigation into her execution, the Church declared that a religious play in her honor at Orléans would qualify as a pilgrimage meriting an indulgence. She became a symbol of the Catholic League during the 16th century. Monsignor Félix Dupanloup, Bishop of Orléans from 1849 to 1878, led the effort for Joan's beatification, but did not live to see it come about.

Joan of Arc's beatification finally came in 1909 - directly following upon the passage of the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State, at the time considered a major blow to the Catholic Church's position in French society. Her canonization followed on 16 May 1920. Her feast day is 30 May. As Saint Joan of Arc, she has become one of the most popular saints of the Roman Catholic Church.[70]

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.[71][72] 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.[73] 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.[74]

Joan of Arc has been a political symbol in France since the time of Napoleon. Liberals emphasized 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 emphasized 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 currently in active service. 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.[75] The French civic holiday in her honor 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.

Alleged relics disproven

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[76] show that the remains come from an Egyptian mummy from the sixth to the third century BCE. 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 relabelled in a time of French nationalism.


  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. 2.0 2.1 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. 3.0 3.1 Andrew Ward (2005) Joan of Arc at the Internet Movie Database
  4. DeVries, pp. 27–28.
  5. DeVries, pp. 15–19.
  6. Pernoud and Clin, p. 167.
  7. DeVries, p. 24.
  8. Pernoud and Clin, pp. 188–189.
  9. DeVries, pp. 24, 26.
  10. Pernoud and Clin, p. 10.
  11. DeVries, p. 28.
  12. Jacques d'Arc (1380–1440) was a farmer in Domremy who held the post of doyen a local tax-collector and organiser 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.
  13. Condemnation trial, p. 37.[1] (Accessed 23 March 2006)
  14. Pernoud and Clin, p. 221.
  15. Condemnation trial, pp. 58–59.[2] (Accessed 23 March 2006)
  16. DeVries, pp. 37–40.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Nullification trial testimony of Jean de Metz.[3] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  18. Oliphant, ch. 2.[4] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Richey, p. 4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Richey" defined multiple times with different content
  20. 20.0 20.1 Vale, M.G.A., 'Charles VII', 1974, p. 55.
  21. Vale, M.G.A., 'Charles VII', 1974, p. 56.
  22. 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.
  23. Perroy, p. 283.
  24. Pernoud and Clin, p. 230.
  25. DeVries, pp. 74–83
  26. 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.
  27. DeVries, pp. 96–97.
  28. Nullification trial testimony of Jean, Duke of Alençon.[5] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  29. DeVries, pp. 114–115.
  30. DeVries, pp. 122–126.
  31. Lucie-Smith, pp. 156–160.
  32. DeVries, p. 134.
  33. 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] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  34. DeVries, pp. 161–170.
  35. "Joan of Arc, Saint." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition. 12 September 2007 <>.
  36. Judges' investigations 9 January – 26 March, ordinary trial 26 March – 24 May, recantation 24 May, relapse trial 28–29 May.
  37. The retrial verdict later affirmed that Cauchon had no right 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.
  38. Nullification trial testimony of Father Nicholas Bailly.[8] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  39. Taylor, Craig, Joan of Arc: La Pucelle p. 137.
  40. Condemnation trial, p. 52.[9] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  41. 41.0 41.1 Pernoud and Clin, p. 112.
  42. Shaw, "Saint Joan." Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (2001). ISBN 0-14-043791-6
  43. Pernoud and Clin, p. 130.
  44. Condemnation trial, pp. 314–316.[10] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  45. 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] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  46. See Pernoud, p. 220, which quotes appellate testimony by Friar Martin Ladvenu and Friar Isambart de la Pierre.
  47. Nullification trial testimony of Jean Massieu.[14] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  48. 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.[15] (Accessed 1 March 2006) An interim report released 17 December 2006 states that this is unlikely to have belonged to her.[16] (Accessed 17 December 2006)
  49. Pernoud, p. 233.
  50. Nullification trial sentence rehabilitation.[17] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  51. Condemnation trial, pp. 78–79.[18] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  52. Deuteronomy 22:5.[19] (Accessed 22 March 2006).
  53. Nullification trial testimony of Guillaume de Manchon.[20] (Accessed 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."[21](French) (Accessed 23 March 2006)
  55. Condemnation trial, p. 78.[22] (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.[23] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  56. Fraioli, "Joan of Arc: The Early Debate," p. 131.
  57. Condemnation trial, pp. 36–37, 41–42, 48–49. (Accessed 1 September 2006)
  58. 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.

  59. 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 ""I heard voices...": From semiology, a historical review, and a new hypothesis on the presumed epilepsy of Joan of Arc," d'Orsi G, Tinuper P, Epilepsy Behav. August, 2006; 9(1):152–7. Epub 2006 5 June [24] (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);[25] "The schizophrenia of Joan of Arc," Allen C, Hist Med. Autumn–Winter 1975;6(3–4):4–9 (schizophrenia).[26] (Accessed 1 September 2006)
  60. "A historical case of disseminated chronic tuberculosis," Nores JM, Yakovleff Y, Neuropsychobiology. 1995;32(2):79–80 (temporal lobe tuberculoma) (Accessed 1 September 2006)[27]
  61. Pernoud, p. 275.
  62. Hoffman, "Auditory Hallucinations: What's It Like Hearing Voices?" in, 27 September 2003.[28] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  63. Pernoud and Clin, pp. 3, 169, 183.
  64. 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] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  65. Nullification trial testimony of Guillaume de Manchon.[30] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  66. Histoire de Jeanne d`Arc by P.A Le Brun de Charmettes-Tome1 Tome2 Tome3 Tome4
  67. DeVries, pp. 179–180.
  68. Pernoud and Clin, pp. 247–264.
  69. DeVries in "Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc," edited by Bonnie Wheeler, p. 3.
  70. She is the most requested saint profile at[31] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  71. 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".[32] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  72. 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.[33] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  73. 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.[34] (Accessed 12 March 2006)
  74. English translation of Christine de Pizan's poem "La Ditie de Jeanne d'Arc" by L. Shopkow.[35] (Accessed 12 February 2006) Analysis of the poem by Professors Kennedy and Varty of Magdalen College, Oxford.[36] (Accessed 12 February 2006)
  75. 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.[37] (French) (Accessed 7 February 2006)
  76. Declan Butler. Joan of Arc's relics exposed as forgery, Nature, 4 April 2007.


Further reading

Related history

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Joan of Arc. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.