Joan of Arc
Igniting a Flame in the Heart of a Nation
Joan of Arc grew up during the tumultuous times of the Hundred Years’ War. Born in France around 1412, she lived in a nation that had been battling England for decades. Joan couldn’t read or write, but she held a deep reverence for the Catholic Church, a gift from her devout mother.
Joan of Arc illustration by Albert Lynch, 1903
By 13, she began to hear voices she believed were from God. And though she was a peasant girl in an era where women didn’t lead in battle, she was convinced God wanted her to guide France to victory. She even took a vow of chastity for this mission.
By 1428, much of France was under English control, leaving the French king powerless. But Joan, with her unwavering determination, managed to convince a local leader to help her meet King Charles VII. She believed she could help him reclaim his throne.
Appearance of Saints Catherine and Michael to Joan of Arc by Hermann Stilke, 1843
Despite many doubting her, including many of Charles’ advisors, the king entrusted her with an army. With her hair cropped short and dressed in shining white armor, Joan bravely led the French at the Siege of Orléans in 1429. With her help, the French saw a miraculous victory. Legends had long spoken of an armored maiden saving France, and to many, Joan was that very maiden.
Joan of Arc enters Orléans by Jean-Jacques Scherrer, 1887
Emboldened, Joan spearheaded a campaign to have Charles crowned at Reims, a city under English allies’ control. While many saw her plan as overly ambitious, her recent successes drew fighters from all over. Their march, known as the Loire Campaign of 1429, was a sweeping success, culminating in the surrender of Reims. Charles VII was crowned with Joan by his side.
However, Joan’s fortunes took a turn later that year. Captured in battle, she was imprisoned and accused of witchcraft and impropriety for dressing like a man. King Charles, whom she had served so loyally, did little to help her. Though she initially recanted her divine claims under threat of death, her belief returned stronger than ever. Holding firm to her visions, she was deemed a heretic and executed in 1431 at the age of 19. To ensure her end, Joan’s body was burned twice more, and her ashes scattered in the River Seine.
Joan of Arc’s Death at the Stake by Hermann Anton Stilke, 1843
King Charles, who owed his crown to Joan, went on to have an uninspiring reign, often seen as weak. However, France ultimately won the Hundred Years’ War in 1453, a victory many credit to Joan’s inspiring leadership rather than any strategic brilliance.
Joan’s legacy is undeniable. Whether she truly heard divine voices or not, it’s astounding that a teenage peasant girl could command a king and lead his army. Two decades after her death, her name was cleared, and she was canonized as a saint in 1920. Today, she stands as France’s patron saint and a beacon of national pride.
Interestingly, in 1909, the famed hairdresser Monsieur Antoine cited Joan as his muse when he started fashioning women’s hair into the now-iconic bob cut.
Joan of Arc, a peasant girl born in France around 1412, believed she was divinely chosen to lead France to victory during the Hundred Years’ War against England. Despite skepticism, she guided the French to key victories, including the crowning of Charles VII. Later imprisoned and executed as a heretic at 19, she was posthumously cleared of charges and canonized as a saint in 1920. She remains an emblem of French pride.
Words of wisdom
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” ―William Shakespeare, As You Like It
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” ―Mark Twain
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” ―Winston Churchill
“We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.” ―Oscar Wilde