Joan of Arc Joan of Arc is a national heroine of France honored and respected by everyone. She was an illiterate peasant girl who rose to the ranks of leading French armies to victory against England until her capture when she was only 19 years old. She was executed as a heretic in a politically motivated trial. Twenty four years later the Catholic Church declared her innocence and she was canonized as a saint in 1920. She was born in a time when France and England were at war. The Armagnacs and the Burgundians were two French factions at war with each other.
By 1484 England was occupying Northern France. The English began a siege of Orleans. Her parents were Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romee. Her father was a farmer and a minor village official. She got her first visions at the age of 12 where St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret told her to expel the English (Brooks 25). She obtained an interview with the royal French court where she predicted about military reverses of the English near Orleans. She was responsible for pursuing an aggressive offensive strategy by the French army in the siege of Orleans.
The defeat of English led to the capture of Jargeau, Meung-sur-Loire, Beaugency and annihilated the English army at the battle of Patay. A truce was signed between the two French factions following the arrival of the French army at Reims (Brooks 15). The agreement was broken by Duke Philip. A French advance towards Paris was put off after an order to withdraw. Joan was captured on May 1430 following a skirmish with the English. She was put on trial for heresy in a politically motivated trial. She had supported the other side in France. She was executed for heresy.
The inquisitors who interviewed her could not find any evidence of heresy and were convinced of her innocent. The priests who had put her on trial were forced and intimidated by the English government to pronounce heresy. Joan of Arc is honored and revered as a heroine throughout her life and beyond. The French military was inspired by her use of artillery and frontal tactics in warfare. Legends have survived about her legacy. The best known is that she did not feel pain during her execution. She is also believed to have died peacefully (Pernoud 125).
She rose to prominence from an illiterate peasant girl to an inspiration for the French military. She gave hope to a discredited regime and inspired the French people to fight a popular war of national liberation. Joan of Arc expelled women from the French army and did not believe in feminism. She has been a political symbol ever since her death. The Vichy government, French resistance, liberals, conservatives, etc have all used her for their political purposes (Pernoud 225). Many people have studied about the religious visions of Joan. Most people believe in the sincerity of her faith. They consider it to be divine inspiration.
Documents which detail about her visions are vague and possibly some fabrications have been added. Some researchers have tried to explain her visions in the form of neurological or psychiatric terms. This view has been opposed by many historians on grounds that hallucinations and hearing voices does not necessarily point to mental illness. Further a person with such lifestyle like Joan would have found it hard to maintain if she had a serious disease. The court of King Charles VII was highly skeptical and shrewd with regards to mental illness. His own father suffered from insanity and under him France began a long decline.
Her boldness and physical rigor of her military career counters the theory that she suffered from any cognitive impairment. Joan of Arc remains a popular heroine and political symbol in France. She passionately pursued a national war of liberation and inspired the French to regain hope. She was sincere in faith. Her sincerity and legacy remain stronger than ever even after her death more than five hundred years ago.
Brooks, Polly Schoyer. Beyond the Myth: The Story of Joan of Arc. US: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Pernoud, Regine. Joan of Arc: Her Story. US: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.