Joan of Arc was born the third of five children to a farmer, Jacques Darc and
his wife Isabelle de Vouthon in the town of Domremy on the border of provinces
of Champagne and Lorraine. Joan of Arc's childhood was spent attending her
father's herds in the fields and learning religion and housekeeping skills from
When Joan of Arc was about 12 years old, she began hearing "voices" of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret believing them to have been sent by God. These voices told Joan that it was her divine mission to free her country from the English and help the dauphin gain the French throne. They told Joan to cut her hair, dress in man's uniform and to pick up the arms.
By 1429 the English with the help of their Burgundian allies occupied Paris and all of France north of the Loire. The resistance was minimal due to lack of leadership and a sense of hopelessness. Henry VI of England was claiming the French throne.
Joan of Arc convinced the captain of the dauphin's forces, and then the dauphin himself of her calling. After passing an examination by a board of theologians, Joan was given troops to command and the rank of captain.
At the battle of Orleans in May 1429, Joan of Arc led the troops to a miraculous victory over the English. Joan continued fighting the enemy in other locations along the Loire. Fear of troops under her leadership was so formidable that when she approached Lord Talbot's army at Patay, most of the English troops and Commander Sir John Fastolfe fled the battlefield. Fastolfe was later stripped of his Order of the Garter for this act of cowardice. Although Lord Talbot stood his ground, he lost the battle and was captured along with a hundred English noblemen and lost 1800 of his soldiers.
Charles VII was crowned king of France on July 17, 1429 in Reims Cathedral. At the coronation, Joan was given a place of honor next to the king. Later, she was ennobled for her services to the country.
In 1430 Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians while defending Compiegne near Paris and was sold to the English. The English, in turn, handed her over to the ecclesiastical court at Rouen led by Pierre Cauchon, a pro-English Bishop of Beauvais, to be tried for witchcraft and heresy. Much was made of her insistence on wearing male clothing. Joan was told that for a woman to wear men's clothing was a crime against God. Her determination to continue wearing it (because her voices hadn't yet told her to change, as well as for protection from s--ual abuse by her jailors) was seen as defiance and finally sealed her fate. Joan was convicted after a fourteen-month interrogation and on May 30, 1431 Joan was burned at the stake in the Rouen marketplace. She was nineteen years old. Charles VII made no attempt to come to her rescue.
In 1456 a second trial was held and Joan of Arc was pronounced innocent of the charges against her. Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
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