Joan of Arc

Larissa Taylor

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online July 2012 | | DOI:
Joan of Arc

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy



Joan of Arc was born the daughter of well-off peasants in 1412 in Domremy on the frontier of France, Burgundy, and the Holy Roman Empire. After the disastrous French defeat by King Henry V at the battle of Agincourt in 1415 and the taking of Rouen and Paris by allied English and Burgundian forces, Queen Isabeau of Bavaria signed the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, disinheriting the dauphin Charles in favor of Henry V and his heirs by marriage to Catherine, Charles’s sister. Before Henry died unexpectedly in 1422, leaving the throne to his infant son Henry (VI), French morale had been nearly destroyed. Henry V’s brother, John, Duke of Bedford, governed as regent while Charles remained in his castles in the Loire. The English siege of Orléans that began in the autumn of 1428 portended ill for French dynastic hopes, for, if the city fell, the English could have consolidated their control over much of France. In this context, at age sixteen, Joan first left home seeking support from the captain of Vaucouleurs for her mission to “save France.” Joan claimed inspiration by the voice of God, although some then and now believe that the king’s mother-in-law, Yolande of Aragon, was the force behind Joan’s success. After interviews with the captain and the Duke of Lorraine, and after successfully fighting a marriage contract arranged by her parents, Joan embarked for Chinon. After tests of her theological purity and virginity, Joan was armed and outfitted as a soldier and sent to Orléans. Within a week after her arrival on 29 April, the siege was lifted. Further successful battles, in which Joan took a leadership role and proved remarkably adept in matters of war, pushed the English back from the Loire Valley to their base in Paris. In July 1429 Joan and her large, energized army led the dauphin to his coronation as Charles VII at Reims. Joan wanted to pursue the fight and laid siege to Paris in September 1429. But, the heavily fortified capital could not be taken, and Charles quickly called off the siege. Joan was then sent on minor missions as the king and his courtiers worked on a truce with Burgundy. Joan, not comprehending its political necessity, went off on her own, becoming an increasing liability to the king. Still, when the truce expired, Charles sent her into battle once more. At Compiègne in May 1430, a vassal of the Duke of Burgundy captured Joan. Several months later, she was sold to the English for 10,000 crowns. After a grueling five-month trial, Joan was executed on 30 May 1431 as a heretic, schismatic, idolator, and apostate. Twenty-five years after her death, the papacy opened proceedings into the conduct of the original trial, which was declared null and void. Until the 19th century, the historical Joan of Arc was largely forgotten, except by the city of Orléans. As a result of historical research by Jules Michelet and his student Jules Quicherat, Joan became a symbol for France. In 1869 the bishop of Orléans began the process toward beatification. Joan of Arc was declared blessed in 1909, and her canonization followed in 1920.

Article.  10097 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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