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Classful

A girl who started as a mere farmer secured herself a place in our history textbooks in one of the most perplexing and unusual accounts to date.

With its tragic ending and documented cases of hearing the voice of God, it is a classic that everyone should be familiar with.

Joan of Arc is a famous historical figure with multiple screen adaptations of her timeless story, but do you know anything about her life? If not, then this is the article for you. Read on to discover more about this revolutionary woman.

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Birthplace and early life

Joan of Arc was born on March 6, 1412, in the village of Domrémy, which is now part of France. She was the daughter of Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romée.

At the time, her father was a farmer who needed her to help with the workload as soon as she turned twelve. Because of this lifestyle, Joan enjoyed tending sheep for most of her youth and helping with household chores. She also loved to play games with other children but never played any sports because her father thought they were too dangerous for girls. However, she learned how to use a sword from her uncle, who taught her how to fight with it because there were a lot of battles going on at that time between England and France.

Isabelle was incredibly pious and ensured that Joan was well-versed in the Bible from a young age. It is believed that this was one of the reasons she began to hear voices from God when she hit her teenage years.

It might have seemed like Joan was well equipped to have a long, comfortable life on the farm as a faithful servant of God, but more considerable prospects were calling for her – quite literally.

Hearing voices

Joan started hearing voices at age thirteen, which she claimed had been sent by God. These voices told her to lead France to victory over England and make Charles VII king again. Taking a vow of chastity, Joan led an army against the English, who had been in control since Charles VI died without leaving a son behind. The English were so afraid of Joan that they burned at least 40 villages as they retreated from her army.

When she was sixteen, Jacques arranged a marriage for his daughter. Joan managed to convince the courts that this should not go ahead. Although illiterate, she wrote letters saying God sent her on his mission, but there was no way for anyone else to know if it was true because these letters were written in Latin, a language Joan did not know. She also believed that she had been given messages from Saint Michael and Saint Catherine during confession sessions with priests.

The Seige of Orleans

The Siege of Orleans was a battle that took place in 1428.

Claiming to be the virgin to save France, Joan marched forward with her band of followers into the fight. However, the magistrate, Robert de Baudicourt, declined her will to help due to her gender. She cropped her hair and donned men’s clothing to counter his rejection, then made the eleven-day journey to Chinon to see Charles. Fearlessly, she asked him to give her an army to lead. Her request was miraculously granted.

It was the first significant victory for Joan of Arc and helped turn the tide of war against England. The English outnumbered the French, but Joan’s actions helped to turn things around. Her bravery inspired her troops and allowed them to gain ground on their enemy, who began to retreat before they realized they were being outmaneuvered by a single woman leading an army of peasants. They retreated across the Loire River and did not return.

Joan of Arc’s capture

After the victory, Joan’s name was spread far and wide. She and her army took Charles across Reims, an enemy territory, and allowed him to be coronated as the rightful king in 1429. After this, Joan got slightly carried away in her ambitions for success. She demanded that they take Paris by storm, but Charles refused because a court member, Georges de La Tremoille, argued that Joan was becoming too strong and powerful for their liking. Unfortunately, he was correct. Joan was outnumbered in Paris and had an attack launched on her after her failure.

In 1430, a battle at Compiegne turned sour. Joan was thrown from her horse and trapped outside the town’s gates as they closed. Due to this, she was taken captive and held prisoner by the Burgundians, with whom she was facing conflict.

How did Joan die?

What followed this capture was a trial. Joan of Arc was made to answer seventy questions in regard to some charges that had been made against her. These included dressing in a man’s clothing, witchcraft due to her experience of hearing voices, and heresy. These unfair allegations were made in an attempt to get rid of her for good, alongside Charles, who had unfairly taken the role of king. The two had worked in allegiance with one another. Hence they would be eliminated together.

In a cruel attempt to remove himself from the situation, Charles denied involvement in Joan’s situation and did not attempt to have her released. He did this to save his own life, frightened of the serious charges that had been made against her. Under the threat of death a year later, Joan signed a confession declaring that she had not been given divine guidance, but only a few days later, she was caught dressing like a man again. She was taken to be burned at stake on the 30th of May 1431, aged only nineteen at the time.

Her mother discovered what had happened when she saw smoke rising from where Joan’s pyre was burning. She was devastated and refused to believe that her daughter could have committed any sins since she had always been a good girl who loved God and everyone around her. She spent the rest of her life trying to cleanse her name and redeem the family’s faithful qualities.

St Joan of Arc

Twenty years onwards, a new trial cleared Joan’s name. Charles VII made up for his predecessor’s mistakes and cowardice, granting her mythical stature and leading to her receiving the title of “saint” for her noble, unexplainable actions. Her life has inspired many literary, art, and film adaptations, and she will continue to inspire those around her years after her death.