Her call from God would turn the tide of a war. Joan of Arc was born in 1412 in Domremy, France. As a farmer’s daughter, Joan grew up a peasant along the borders of Bar and Lorraine. During the 1410s, the French and English fought a series of battles throughout France. The conflict revolved around the French crown and became known as the Hundred Years War.
By 1428, France had been without a crowned king for five years. After Charles VI died in October 1422, his son, Prince Charles, remained uncrowned. At the time, the English were occupying Reims, an area where French kings traditionally had their coronations. Instead, the English symbolically crowned their king, the infant Henry VI of England, in Reims. This act was intended to demoralize the French and assert English authority.
In May 1428, Joan of Arc received a vision from God. God wanted Joan to assist Prince Charles in his war against the English. He desired that the English be expelled from France and that peace be restored throughout the kingdom. Although hesitant, Joan would ultimately accept God’s mission for her. As a result, she set out for the prince’s closest stronghold.
Joan of Arc would make her way to Vaucoleurs. When she arrived, the captain of the garrison didn’t take her seriously. Although she persisted, Joan was forced to return home empty-handed. In January 1429, Joan once more returned to Vaucoleurs. This time, she was able to persuade the captain to let her meet Prince Charles.
After being informed of the prince’s location, Joan of Arc departed for Chinon. When she arrived, Charles felt unsure about meeting Joan. To determine her sincerity, Charles disguised himself as a courtier as a test. Joan quickly recognized Charles and bowed. She asked to be able to fight the English and help him be crowned at Reims.
The prince still felt unsure of Joan of Arc. He had church officials question her to verify her claims. Since the Western Schism had ended in 1417, there were increased fears of heresy. However, Joan convinced the officials of her pure intent. They reported back to Charles that it would be wise to utilize Joan.
Prince Charles now felt convinced of Joan of Arc’s divine mission. In April 1429, Charles began giving her military aid. By April 27, Joan and her troops left for Orleans. The city had been besieged by the English and was being surrounded from all sides. On May 4, Joan had a premonition and rode to the eastern part of Orleans.
Joan of Arc discovered that the French were attacking an English fort. She rallied the French, and the English were overwhelmed. Joan would lead another attack on an English fort two days later. The English would again suffer defeat.
Joan of Arc returned to Prince Charles after her victories. She hoped to capitalize on her successes by having Charles crowned in Reims. Although hesitant, Charles agreed with Joan. However, Joan still had to clear a path along the Loire River to Reims.
On June 18, 1429, Joan of Arc and her army met the English at Patay. Before the battle, Joan inspired her troops with a rousing speech about Charles. She promised that the French would succeed. The English would subsequently lose the battle. Upon their defeat, the sense of invincibility that had surrounded the English army disappeared.
By July, Joan of Arc and Prince Charles arrived in Reims. The coronation occurred on July 17, and she took part in the ceremony. The newly crowned King Charles VII would leave shortly after. Subsequently, Joan would become known as the savior of France. She believed that she had finally completed her mission.
Assault on Paris
Despite her belief, Joan of Arc would eventually return to the battlefield. As her successes continued, Joan became more impatient. She began urging the king to attack France’s capital, Paris. On September 8, 1429, Joan got her way. Royalist forces attacked the capital, but were ultimately unsuccessful in capturing it.
On May 23, 1430, Joan of Arc was overwhelmed by an English army. She attempted to retreat from the battle but was captured. Her captor, Philip III, Duke of Burgundy, was an English ally. He turned her over to the English for questioning. Since Charles VII wanted to make Philip an ally, he made no attempts to save her.
In Paris, an English influenced church court put Joan of Arc on trial. In January 1431, they accused her of being a heretic. Despite the court’s attempts to interrogate her, Joan remained resolute. Her evasive answers only served to agitate the court. Fed up with Joan, it was agreed upon that she should be executed.
On May 30, 1431, Joan of Arc burned to death in Rouen. To the very end, Joan maintained that God had spoken to her. The French would continue fighting against the English after Joan’s death. By 1453, English forces were expelled from the country. The expulsion ended the Hundred Years War in Frances’ favor. Thanks to Joan’s inspiring efforts, her groundwork had paved the way for France’s final victory.
Knecht, R. J. (2008). The Valois: Kings of France, 1328-1589. London: Hambledon and London.
Vale, M. G. A., & Lanhers, Y. (2019, December 2). St. Joan of Arc. Retrieved December 30, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Joan-of-Arc.