National Heroine Of France

Header Painting: Joan of Arc, 1879, by Jules Bastien-Lepage, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
© Estate of Jules Bastien-Lepage.

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Joan of Arc ~ Biography (c. 1412 - 1431)

  • Known as: 15th Century Virgin Saint
  • Also known: The Maid of Orleans
  • Born: c. 1412, Domrémy, France
  • Birthname: Jehanne
  • Date of death: May 30, 1431 (Rouen, France) (burnt at the stake)

    < < J e h a n n e  D ' A r c > >
    < < L a  P u c e l l e > > ( T h e  M a i d )

    "King of England, and you, duke of Bedford,
    who call yourself regent of the kingdom of
    ...settle your debt to the king of
    ; return to the Maiden, who is envoy
    of the king of Heaven, the keys to all the
    good towns you took and violated in

    Her Letter to the English, March–April 1429; Quicherat I, p. 240

    Date of birth: 6th January 1412 to Jacques & Isabelle D'Arc in the village of Domrémy, surrounded by countryside in the La Lorraine Region, eastern France. Joan of Arc (also known as Jeanne d'Arc & Jehanne d'Arc in French) was born during a period of relative peace <<Truce of Leulinghen>>

    At this time, France was embroiled in an internal war after Louis I de Valois, Duke of Orléans, was assasinated on the orders of his cousin, John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy in 1407. The French were divided between the Armagnac party and the Burgundians who were allied to the English.

    Among the pro-Burgundian clergy who defended the assassination was the future judge at Jehanne's trial, Bishop Pierre Cauchon, tribunal members such as Jean Beaupere and Miget, the English backed inquisitor who would accept her trial, Jean Graverent.

    Among those who condemned the assassination and would be found later as "supporters" of Jeanne was the famous theologian Jean Gerson and Pierre de Versailles (later Bishop of Meaux).

    The political climate at the time would be crucial in determining the behaviour of Joan of Arc, her beliefs and her death.

    After the failure of negotiations to extend the Truce of Leulinghen, the war with England started again (part of the Hundred Years' War, which was a term used by historians later). King Henry V of England invaded Normandy and defeated the French Royal Army, dominated by Armagnac leaders <<<25/10/1415 Battle of Agincourt>>.

    It cannot be overstated just what a disaster this was for the French Army; obviously, of course, for the generation of French aristocrats killed on the battlefield but also for those that came after, the descendants who would later align themselves to Jehanne. The battle had a direct bearing on the killing of Jeanne d'Arc and, consequently, was responsible for fuelling a profound distrust in France of the English which persisits to this day.

    In 1417, the English troops conquered much of northern France and gained the support of the new Burgundian Duke, Philippe le Bon in recognising Henry V as the legal heir to the French throne.

    Conversely, later, Joan of Arc would consider the rightful heir as Charles De Ponthieu, later Charles VII and member of the House of Valois, which had ruled France since 1328.

    When she was 12 or 13 (historians disagree on her exact age), she heard the 'voices' for the first time but refused to pay attention to them but later she saw those who spoke to her. Even later she would say that she recognized St. Michael accompanied by angels, St. Margaret and St. Catherine. She constantly refused to speak about them and to say how she recognized them.

    As written above, at the beginning she didn't want to pay attention to them but little by little her 'voice' became persistant and when the miltary situation of Charles VII and his supporters became desperate <<The Siege of Orléans (1428)>> and a complete defeat seemed imminent, she decided to leave Domrémy and go to Vaucouleurs in order to gain the support of Robert de Baudricourt in the hope he would provide an escort to the court of Charles VII.

    At first he didn't take her seriously and he sent her away. She returned and her deeply-held faith, her stubborness and her remarkable prediction about a military reversal near Orléans persuaded him to give her a three man escort to accompany her to go to Chinon in order to see Charles VII.

    joan of arc
    Joan of Arc

    She recognized the King as soon as she saw him despite him being disguised in order to test her. The King sent her to Poitiers for a theological examination. They found nothing heretical in her faith. 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 armour, horse, sword, banner, and entourage. Her armor was said to be white.

    The army was desperate. They had tried everything. Jeanne, still a teenager, was placed at the head of his army.

    She ordered a special standard bearing the word of Jesus, with a picture of God the Father and kneeling angels. She refused a sword that Charles offered her for one she found there the 'voices' told her to find it.

    Before entering the campaign, she asked the King of England to withdraw his troops (at top of page). The English Commander was furious and perceived this as French arrogance. They rejected her request. On 30/04 she entered Orleans and after a series of successes ended with a great victory at Patay on the 18th June.

    She succeeded in opening the way to Reims, an incredibly difficult task because some important towns like Troyes refused to allow her army in, but finally in July 1429, Charles VII was solemly crowned.

    On 29th December 1429, the King of France decided to ennoble Jehanne and all her family to show his recognition of her endeavours.

    After that, many felt her mission was finished and expected her to return to her village. She stayed, however, so she could defend Compiegne against the Burgundians' attack but she was made a prisonner by a follower of John of Luxembourg (1430).

    Historians do not agree what exactly was the behaviour of Charles VII towards Jeanne d'Arc at this point.

    Some have said that he showed a disgraceful ingratitude to her and nothing short of apathy towards her fate; others have argued that he tried to buy the most famous prisoner back.

    Whatever, she was sold by John of Luxembourg to the English.

    Her trial took place in Rouen (the military headquarters and administrative capital in France of King Henry VI of England) under the authority of Pierre Cauchon, the Bishop of Beauvais, an unscrupulous and ambitious man ... a strict disciple of the Burgundian faction. He was also an English partisan. The trial consisted almost entirely of Frenchmen, theologians and doctors of the University of Paris.

    The first public interrogation session of Jeanne took place on 21/02/1431. The regular trial on 26/03 with the reading of the 70 articles (later summarized in a 12 article indictment) and concluded on 24/05 with the abjuration. A court decided unanimously that <<La Pucelle>> was a relapsed heretic and consequently must be sentenced to death.

    In Rouen maketplace on the 30th May 1431 Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. Her ashes were thrown into the Seine.

    During her imprisonment, she asked to be transferred to a jail with nuns. This was refused and she was held by Brisish soldiers as guards. She agreed to wear women's clothes when she abjured. A few days later she was sexually assaulted in prison. She resumed male attire either as a defense against molestation. She was tortured too and she couldn't practice her faith except for just before her death when she was alloed to make her confession and receive communion.

    24 years after her death, Pope Callixtus III reopened the case, and a new finding overturned the original conviction. Her piety to the end impressed the retrial court.

    A demand for her beatification was introduced in 1869 by Monseignor Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans.

    She was indeed beatified in April 1909, and Pope Benedict XV canonized her on May 16, 1920 (canonization being the act by which the Catholic Church declares a deceased person to be a saint).

    © ~ Pascale RENAULD-ADAMCZUK

    Signature of Joan of Arc

    Joan of Arc ~ Gallery

    Various artists' intrepretations of the look of St. Joan of Arc over the nearly 600 years since her martrydom. The softer side, away from the armour, is intriguing to me especially the header painting.

    In my mind's eye I see Joan as Renee Maria Falconetti in the 1928 classic film, The Passion of Joan of Arc. The power of her portrayal is remarkable - obviously because of all the striking close ups where you see her pain and suffering. It's worth remembering that when Renee played her she was at least 15 years older than Joan of Arc - perhaps it's that slightly world-weary face that extenuates the pain. I don't know.

    Title:  The Entrance of Joan of Arc into Orleans on 8th May 1429;  
Artist: Jean-jacques Scherrer
    The Entrance of Joan of Arc into Orleans on 8th May 1429
    Jean-Jacques Scherrer

    Joan of Arc dictated her letters. Three of the surviving ones are signed

    Many of these official prints are available at

    Joan of Arc Books available @

    Joan of Arc ~ Film Posters

    You won't be surprised to know but the company with the most varied of Joan of Arc repro. film posters is amazon. There are a vast array of his posters there - far, far more than here.

    They come in various sizes and usually work out to be less than $10 per poster which I don't think is too bad. You get an unusual and beautiful item to hang on your walls and I bet your friends won't have it.

    Here, occasionally, you will find an original poster from the time of the release of the movie. They are obviously far more expensive but if you have the money they are worth it as they are works of art in their own right.

    Joan of Arc Film Posters available @

    Joan of Arc Film Posters available @


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