Joan of Arc Joan of Arc was a French national heroine and a beloved saint of the Roman Catholic Church. She was a simple peasant girl who led the French army to victory at the siege of Orleans in 1429. She liberated the city of Orleans form the English by excellent military strategy and personal bravery. She has been called the Maid of Orleans ever since.
Jeanne d'Arc was her name in France. She was born at Domremy, France, in 1412. Like most girls of her time, she never learned to read and write. But she learned all that her mother could teach her of sacred things. She was known for her gentleness, charity, and holiness.
Vision which she felt sure were from heaven made her believe that she was chosen to liberate her oppressed country from the English. At the age of seventeen, she left her home to fulfill that task.
She went to the town of Vaucouleurs to ask the commander for a horse, armor, and an escort of a few men, because she had to see the king. The commander first laughed at her, and then thought she was insane. But in the end he gave her what she wanted.
Young King Charles VII of France, who was then uncrowned, lived at the castle of Chinon. He was a good but weak man, and he had no money. The Hundred Years' War with the English had divided France. The English had won every battle in their effort to capture the French throne. Charles could not even reach Reins for his coronation. When he heard of the young girl whom the saints in heaven had told to save France, he had a glimmer of hope.
But first Charles tested her. He let one of his nobles occupy the throne, and he slipped into the ranks of his courtiers. When Joan came in, she gave the man on the throne only a glance. Then she turned away, walked up to Charles, and curtsied to him as to the king. Even then Charles was only half convinced. But when she told him exactly what he had asked of God when he had prayed alone in the palace chapel, he believed in her. However, he let his learned theologians test Joan again to make sure that her powers came from heaven. Joan passed that test, too. She then received a sword, a banner and command over the king's troops.
At first, the French commanders did not want to obey her. But soon they saw that all went well when they followed her and that nothing succeeded when they disregarded her orders. She liberated the besieged city of Orleanss in 1429. Before the attack every soldier received Holy Communion.
She defeated the English in four other battles. Twice she was wounded, but each time she recovered and went on fighting. Her orders were those of a military genius. She marched into the city of Reims, were Charles was crowned king of France, with the Maid of Orleans standing at his side with sword and banner.
Joan's mission ended when the crown was placed on Charles' head. Her voices were silent now, and she wished to return to Domremy. But the king would not let her go. She gave in to him and led an attack on Paris, which the English still held. The attack failed, and Joan was badly wounded. But she returned to battle, and fought until the Burgundians captured her at Compiegne in May of 1430. The Burgundians sold Joan to the English for 16,000 francs, a sum then slightly over $3,000. The English put her in prision, where she suffered many insults. Then she was tried as a witch and a heretic. The court condemned her to be burned at the stake.