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War and Conflict

Joan of Arc

How did Joan of Arcbecome a warrior?

Joan of Arc (called the Maid of Orleans; c. 1412–1431) gained fame for leading the French into victory over the English in the Battle for Orleans in 1429. A year before the battle, the English forces had invaded northern France and took possession of an area that included the city of Reims, where all of France’s kings were crowned in the cathedral. Thus, Charles VII (1403–1461), whom France recognized as their king, had never had a proper coronation. It is said that Joan, an extraordinarily devoted Catholic who was then just a teen, appealed to Charles to allow her to go into battle against the English who were besieging Orleans. Though he was skeptical of her at first (she claimed to have heard the voices of saints), he eventually conceded. In the battlefield, Joan also overcame the doubts of the French troops and their leaders, who were understandably hesitant to follow the young girl’s lead. She proved to them that she was not only capable but also successful. In April 1429, in just 10 days’ time, Joan led the French to victory over the English, who fled Orleans.

Still determined to see Charles properly crowned, Joan proceeded to lead a military escort for the king into Reims, where he was at last coronated on July 17, 1429—with Joan of Arc standing beside him. Next she determined that Charles should authorize her to try to free Paris from English control. Again the king acquiesced, but this time with dire results: She was captured by the French Burgundians (English sympathizers and loyalists), who turned her over to the English. Believing she was a heretic (by all reports Joan of Arc was clairvoyant), the English burned her at the stake in Rouen, France, on May 30, 1431. She is still considered a national hero of France. Recognizing Joan of Arc for her unswerving faith and for having valiantly pursued what she believed her mission to be, the Catholic Church canonized Joan of Arc in 1920. The feast day of St. Joan of Arc is celebrated on May 30.



Joan of Arc is surrounded by a crowd after leading the French into victory over the English in the Battle for Orleans in 1429. (Original painting by J.J. Scherrer.)
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