Joan of Arc 1412-1431
Joan of Arc 1412-1431


A Peasant With Balls of Steel

... changed the tides of world events in less than twenty years of living.

Image Above

St. Joan of Arc supporting the flag at Charles VII's coronation in Rheims Cathedral

Detail from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres' painting, oil on canvas, created in 1854. See entire painting at the end of this page.

Louvre, Paris.

Who Was Joan of Arc?

Joan was also called The Maid of Orléans, or, if you are French, Sainte Jeanne d'Arc or La Pucelle (pucelle = maid).

Joan was a very courageous young woman. She was a simple peasant girl and a strong believer. More to the point, she claimed that she was in tune with some of the Saints because they spoke to her.


Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years' War

The  Hundred Years' War was fought from 1337 until 1453.

This war had started 75 years before Joan's birth, and it ended 22 years after Joan's death.

If you know about Joan of Arc, you already know quite a bit about the Hundred Years' War because Joan was soldier of the month in this war, several months in a row, thanks to her performance at the Siege of Orleans, which ended in May 1429.

Joan of Arc in Battle Attire
Joan of Arc in Battle Attire
From Ken Follett's Journey into the Dark Ages

But let's start at the beginning.


Joan's Background and Early Life

Joan's father was the pious peasant Jacques d'Arc who lived in the village of Domremy, or Domrémy. Joan was born in Domremy as well.

Here is Domremy on a map. Look for the B/VI square:

Extent of the English Conquests in France, 1382 - 1453
France 1382 - 1453
Click map to enlarge


Domrémy, Joan's home town, was located in the Duchy of Bar. The Duchy of Bar became part of Lorraine in 1480. By then, of course, Joan was long gone.

You are welcome to visit Joan of Arc's birthplace at Domremy, which is now a humble little museum. Today, the tiny village of Domremy is home to about 200 residents. And here is a recent photo:

Domrémy-la-Pucelle, Vosges département, Lorraine région, France
Domrémy-la-Pucelle, Vosges département, Lorraine région, France


Growing up during the Hundred Years' War, Joan's family had to flee their home several times to escape either Burgundian or English raiders. Thus, Joan developed a strong patriotic sense.

Check the map above to see how France was sandwiched by the English on the mainland and Burgundy.

And here is more on the Burgundians.

This painting shows Joan in her early days. We see her standing in the garden of her parents at that exact moment when The Voices made contact.

Joan of Arc Painting by Jules Bastien-Lepage, who created it in 1879. Oil on canvas. Met.
Joan of Arc
Painting by Jules Bastien-Lepage, who created it in 1879. Oil on canvas.
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Painter Jules Bastien-Lepage, himself hailing from Damvillers, Lorraine, received some harsh comments from the critics, who could not appreciate his mixture of naturalism and mysticism.

Back to Joan.


Joan of Arc's Impossible Mission

According to herself, and well ahead of her age group, Joan started hearing voices when she was only thirteen years old.

Who were these voices, and what did they want?

The voices, who revealed themselves as St. Michael (main man), St. Catherine of Alexandria (legendary young Christian girl, later martyr, struggling against persecution under the Roman emperor Maxentius in the 4th century), and St. Margaret of Antioch (legendary virgin, later martyr, whom even the Devil himself could not digest [long story]), told Joan that she was to save France.

So far, so good.

As Joan grew older, the voices became more specific. They informed her that she was the instrument chosen by Heaven itself to drive away the English. Her mission, should she choose to accept it, was to bring the Dauphin to Rheims (or Reims) where he would become anointed king.

Joan of Arc immediately notified her parents, packed her bundle, and was on her way.

A dauphin, by the way, is the title of the eldest son of the King of France. This title was in use from 1349 to 1830.


Operation Rheims

First task on Joan's list was to make contact with the Sire de Baudricourt in Vaucouleurs.

The people of Vaucouleurs were intrigued by young Joan, partly because of her piety and devoutness, partly because of her spunk and enthusiasm, but mostly because of her ability to tie all of the above together with patriotism that, frankly, was as solid as it was badly needed.

Joan explained to the good citizens of Vaucouleurs that the voices had asked her to dress up as a knight. The townspeople were delighted and fell into competition with each other to equip the girl with the best horse, armor, and sword.

Mr. Baudricourt himself arranged for an escort and a very sharp looking Joan was accompanied to the French town of Chinon where she was to meet the Dauphin Charles.


French King Charles VII, formerly the Dauphin Charles, around 1447
French King Charles VII, formerly the Dauphin Charles, around 1447
Painting by Jean Fouquet, Louvre, Paris
Photo PHGCOM, Wiki


It was February 1429. Having arrived at Chinon, Joan was invited into a room full of people in fancy outfits. Among these people mingled Charles, whose attire was carefully selected to blend in perfectly. Nothing gave away his true identity. The idea was to see if Joan could identify the Dauphin, whom she never met before in her life, on her own, which would confirm that Heaven was in fact speaking French in general and through Joan of Arc in particular.

Joan spotted and addressed Charles right away. While the entire audience was still trying to figure out how she done it — and briefly contemplated frisking her sleeves for potential flower bouquets — Joan kept on track and prompted Charles on his new agenda: He was to be crowned king in the city of Rheims. Chop chop.

"Is it your Voices that command you to say that to the King?"

"Yes, and urgently."

Mark Twain in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, 1895

Really? Not quite.

Joan had a private meeting with Charles before the big official first introduction and could therefore easily recognize him. Welcome to political stunts of the Middle Ages.


Joan of Arc — Accomplishments

Up to this point in the Hundred Years' War, the French did not perform very well. Their lands were destroyed and their morale was shattered. But now that Providence had seemingly taken a breath mint, an invigorating wind of change blew across the land. A Holy Maid led the way, and France felt perky again.

And then events happened with the quickness:

Joan visited the French camp at Blois, and on April 25, 1429, she left for Orleans, where she arrived on April 28. By May 8 the English raised the Siege of Orleans.

Joan of Arc Thanking God After the Battle of Patay
Joan of Arc Thanking God After the Battle of Patay,
Decisive French Victory — June 18, 1429
Unknown artist, Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée, Paris

On July 17, 1429, Charles VII was crowned at Rheims.


So, in a Nutshell, What Was Joan of Arc's Greatest Accomplishment?

Her courage and her loyalty to Charles VII.

It was thanks to her that the Siege of Orleans became the turning point in the Hundred Years' War and France eventually managed to win this war.

"Then what did the Voice say?"

"It told me to answer boldly, and God would help me."

Mark Twain in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, 1895



Joan's Life After Rheims

Joan went on to fight as a soldier in Charles' army and saw battle at Laon, Soissons, and Beauvais.

In September 1429, Joan was severely wounded while trying to take Paris in the name of her king.


Joan of Arc 1412-1431
Joan of Arc in Action
Gutenberg Project
Click image to enlarge


The Death of Joan of Arc

It was 1430 and spring when a strong Burgundian force besieged the fortress of Compiegne. On May 24, 1430, the besieged tried to make a break for it, but weren't successful. Joan was taken prisoner by the Burgundians.

Being basically the enemy's mascot, Joan was somewhat of a catch for the Burgundians, who brought her to Arras and later to Crotoy on the Flemish coast. In November 1430, the Burgundians sold her to the English for a good buck.

The English, too, believed that Joan had connections to other dimensions, but were convinced that these associations were clearly of the evil kind. Hence, they brought her to Rouen, an English stronghold in France at the time (Henry V of England had taken Rouen in 1419), put her on trial, and burned Joan at the stake on the Place du Vieux-Marché.

When did Joan of Arc die?

It was on May 30, 1431. Joan was 19 years old.


Joan of Arc's Death at the Stake, Oil on canvas by Hermann Anton Stilke, 1843, State Hermitage Museum
Joan of Arc's Death at the Stake
Oil on canvas by Hermann Anton Stilke, 1843
State Hermitage Museum


How Joan of Arc Became Saint Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc became the official patron saint of France, soldiers, and all girls who like to tomboy, when she was canonized by Benedict XV on May 16, 1920.

That's right, after nearly 500 years of holy forgetfulness World War I hit, and the demand for a morale booster was of such magnitude that church historians boldly looked everywhere, even in the carefully hidden file cabinet labeled "Middle Ages". Which couldn't have been for the faint of heart, let's face it.

And it was very much a case of selective recollection. The memory of Pierre Cauchon, who was the Bishop of Beauvais and the judge chiefly responsible for Joan's death sentence in the first place, is rarely evoked.

Cauchon, a bishop of the Catholic Church, was pro-English (as was the University of Paris, by the way), hence the verdict.

It therefore took a pope to revise Cauchon's judgment. This took place in 1456, when Pope Calixtus III declared it null and void and Joan posthumously innocent.


Joan of Arc and National Holidays

Joan is still a national hero in France. Annually on the second Sunday in May, the French (ironically including the Burgundians) enjoy a national holiday in honor of the incredible amount of guts the Maid Joan of Arc had shown.

Sick, tired, and depressed because of people who achieved amazing things before their twentieth birthday?

Attention suicidal late bloomers:

  • It took Darwin 50 years to come up with his On the Origin of Species.

  • It took Truman 60 years to become president.

  • It took Moses 80 years to get to the burning bush.

  • And finally, it took Harriette Thompson 92 years to become the oldest woman to complete a marathon when, in 2015, she finished the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in 7:24:36. But now you start feeling bad again ...


Joan of Arc — Residue Trivia

Although they burned her at the stake, we got some smart dudes here discussing whether or not they found some bones that once were on good ol' Joan.

April 4, 2007 - Update... National Geographic reports that the relics are not Joan's but rather that of an Egyptian mummy. Close call.


Joan of Arc Movies

Ingrid Bergman was Joan of Arc twice. First at age 33 in 1948 with Gone With the Wind director Victor Fleming, and then in 1954 with husband Roberto Rossellini directing. At this point the lady was 39 years old. Takes a Bergman to pull that off.

Ingrid Bergman is Joan of Arc, 1948
Ingrid Bergman is Joan of Arc, 1948
Sierra Pictures


Ingrid Bergman is Joan of Arc, 1954
Ingrid Bergman is Joan of Arc, 1954
Produzioni Cinematografiche Associate


The other way around is equally impressive. In 1999, Leelee Sobieski was 16 years old when Canada's Christian Duguay directed her as, and in, Joan of Arc.

Leelee Sobieski is Joan of Arc, 1999
Leelee Sobieski is Joan of Arc, 1999
Alliance Atlantis


A real gem is Robert Bresson's 1962 French movie The Trial of Joan of Arc (Procès de Jeanne d'Arc) starring Florence Delay as Jeanne d'Arc, based on the transcripts of Joan's real-life trial.

Florence Delay is Joan of Arc, 1962
Florence Delay is Joan of Arc, 1962
Agnes Delahaie


More Joan of Arc movies in the right column.


Best Joan of Arc Quote

Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

With stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain.

Friedrich von Schiller in Die Jungfrau von Orleans, 1801




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More Joan of Arc Movies

Back in 1928, director Carl Theodor Dreyer led The Passion of Joan of Arc, which was a silent film and, like Bresson's film later, tells the story of Joan's trial.

Maria Falconetti is Joan of Arc, 1928
Maria Falconetti is Joan of Arc, 1928


In 1994, an incredible Sandrine Bonnaire starred as Jeanne d'Arc in the French two volume Joan The Maid series.

The first was Joan the Maid — The Battles, and the second was Joan the Maid — The Prisons (Jeanne la Pucelle I — Les batailles and Jeanne la Pucelle II — Les prisons.) Jacques Rivette directed.

Sandrine Bonnaire is Joan of Arc, 1994Sandrine Bonnaire is Joan of Arc, 1994 - 2
Sandrine Bonnaire is Joan of Arc, 1994
France 3 Cinéma



Another 1999 Joan of Arc movie starred Milla Jovovich as Joan. Husband Luc Besson directed The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.

Milla Jovovich is Joan of Arc, 1999
Milla Jovovich is Joan of Arc, 1999

Joan of Arc in French Literature

By 1755, the always witty Voltaire had written his controversial poem La Pucelle d’Orléans (The Maid of Orleans.)

In it, Saint Denis resolves to give the French a helping hand and looks for a maid to carry out his will.

Contemplating the likelihood of finding a true virgin in France, Richmond has a good laugh. He replies:

To seek it here I never should advise;
'Twere better bring it from gay Paradise.

Here you can
read Voltaire's La Pucelle.


Joan of Arc in English Literature

In 1895, Mark Twain's novel Sieur Louis de Conte: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc was published.

Fordham University tells us that,

Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc is a work of fiction by Samuel Langhorne Clemens (i.e. Mark Twain).

The pseudonymous author's name - Sieur Louis de Conte [initials SLC] derives from Samuel Langhorne Clemens [initials SLC].

Joan of Arc did have a servant named Louis and the the French word for "tale" is conte, hence the name adopted for this story by Clemens.

Here is a Twain quote:

With Joan of Arc love of country was more than a sentiment - it was a passion.

She was the Genius of Patriotism - she was Patriotism embodied, concreted, made flesh, and palpable to the touch and visible to the eye.

And here you can
read Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.


Had you been in New York in 1923, you would have had a chance of seeing George Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan at the Garrick Theater.

On opening night, Winifred Lenihan was Joan.

CHARLES: Yes, I am afraid. It's no use preaching to me about it. [...]

JOAN: Blethers! We are all like that to begin with. I shall put courage into thee.

George Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan, Scene II, 1923


What Else?
Joan of Arc in our daily lives:

  • There's an Indie Rock band from Chicago called Joan of Arc.

  • One of Ryan Leslie's songs is called Joan of Arc.

  • Yes, it is possible to purchase Joan of Arc costumes not only for kids but also for adults.

  • Joan of Arc Light & Dark Red Kidney Beans, Red Beans, Black Beans, Pinto Beans, Butter Beans, Great Northern Beans, AND Garbanzo Beans are GLUTEN FREE. Please send us an email if you already knew that.

  • Jeanne d'Arc can keep your children out of your hair for a while when you let them play the so named video game.


Jeanne d'Arc Video Game
Jeanne d'Arc Video Game
Level 5


And finally, let's keep this classy, this one from the Louvre:

Saint Joan of Arc 1412-1431
Saint Joan of Arc 1412-1431
Louvre, Paris




















































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