Joan of Arc
French Heroine and Martyr
1410 – 1431 A.D.
Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc), a famous heroine, was born January 6, 1410, in the village of Domremy in Lorraine, France, of poor but decent and pious parents. She was their fifth child, and owing to the indigence of her father, received no instruction, but was accustomed to out-of-door duties, such as tending the sheep and riding of the horses to and from the watering places. The neighborhood of Domremy abounded in superstitions, and at the same time sympathized with the Orleans party in the divisions which rent the kingdom of France. Joan shared both in the political excitement and the religious enthusiasm; imaginative and devout, she loved to meditate on the legends of the Virgin, and especially, it seems, dwelt upon a current prophecy that a virgin should relieve France of her enemies.
At the age of thirteen she began to believe herself the subject of supernatural visitations, spoke of voices that she heard and of visions that she saw; and, at eighteen, was possessed by the idea that she was called to deliver her country and crown her king. Her pretensions were, at first, treated with much scorn and derision. The fortunes of the dauphin, however, were desperate,, and she was sent to Chinon, where Charles held his court. Introduced into a crowd of courtiers from whom the king was undistinguished, she is said to have singled him out at once. Her claims were submitted to a severe scrutiny. She was handed over to an ecclesiastical commission, and sent to Pointers for examination by the several faculties in the famous university there. No evidence indicating that she was a dealer in the black art, and the fact of her virginity removing all suspicions of her being under satanic influence, her wish to lead the army of her king was granted.
A suit of armor was made for her, a consecrated sword which she described as buried in the church of St. Catharine at Fierbois, was brought and placed in her hands. Thus equipped, she put herself at the head of 10,000 troops under the generalship of Dunois, threw herself upon the English who were besieging Orleans, routed them, and in a week forced them to raise the siege. Other exploits followed. In three months Charles was crowned king at Rheims, the “Maid of Orleans” standing in full armor at his side. Her promised work was done.
Denois, however, was unwilling to lose her influence and urged her to remain with the army, and she did so; but her victories were over. In an attack in the early winter (1429) she was repulsed and wounded. In the spring of the next year she was taken prisoner, and was at once carried to the Duc de Luxembourg’s fortress at Beauvais. An attempt to escape by leaping from a dungeon wall was unsuccessful, and she was taken to Rouen. Here she was tried for sorcery and convicted. The papers were sent from Rouen to Paris, and the verdict of the University of Paris was unanimous that such acts and sentiments as hers were diabolical, and merited the punishment of fire.
Sentence of condemnation was read to her publicly on a scaffold, by the Bishop of Beauvais, and the alternative offered a submission to the Church, or, the stake. The terrified girl murmured a recantation, put her mark to a confession, and was taken back to prison. Here she heard her “voices” again; her visions returned. A man’s apparel being left in her cell to tempt her, she put it on; the Bishop of Beauvais seized upon the act as a virtual relapse into her old unbelief, and hastened the execution of the first sentence. A huge pile of wood was erected in the market place of Rouen, and, surrounded by a vast assembly of soldiers and ecclesiastics, Joan of Arc was burned on the last day of May, 1431. The Seine carried her ashes to the sea.
The infamy of this transaction lies heavily upon all concerned with it; upon the Burgundians who gave her up; upon the English who allowed her execution; upon the French who did the deed, and the French who would not prevent it, and upon the king who did noting to avenge her.
The character of the “Maid of Orleans” was spotless. She was distinguished for her purity, innocence, and modesty. Her hand never shed blood. The gentle dignity of her being impressed all who knew her, and restrained the brutality of her soldiers. She must ever be sanely estimated as a “martyr to her religion, her country, and her king.”
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence, and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World published by the King-Richardson Co. in 1903.