Joan of Arc: the Historical Saint

Jeanne d’Arc is a historical figure that had a great impact in many different aspects. She is well known and has many different titles such as, Joan of Arc, Saint Joan, Joan the maid, and Maid of Orleans. She was the catalyst that ended the Hundred Years War by insisting that the French army fight to win and in so doing she helped to end the suffering of the common people and bring peace between the French and the English kingdom.

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Joan of Arc gave herself totally for love of her people and the freedom of their country. In today’s world, Joan of Arc is known mainly as a hero. Although during her time this wasn’t the case, she kept to her word with her whole career. What she did not only impacted the time period she was in, but it impacted on today’s world in so many ways.

Joan of Arc was born around 1412 in the village of Domremy, within northeastern France. She was the daughter of a poor tenant farmer and his wife, Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romee. Her family lived in an area that remained loyal to the French even though they were surrounded by English loyalist. At a young age Joan was taught how to stay within her family’s limits of being farmers, she learned piety and domestic skills from her mother. She also took care of the animals within her farm and became a very good seamstress. During her childhood, there were many raids that occurred within her hometown. At one point the village her family and herself lived within was burned down. At the age of 12 – 13, Joan claimed she had begun hearing voices from angels. The angels she had claimed to hear from was Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Margaret of Antioch, and the Archangel Michael. She also claimed to have heard voices from the angel Gabriel. Joan had stated that the angels were designating her as the savior of France during that time. They encouraged her to seek an audience with Charles VII and ask his permission to pursue the English and help him become the king. Charles VII was the assumed heir to the throne for the French at that time. Joan of Arc had listened to these voices and she did seek an audience, but she had to go through Robert de Baudricourt in Vaucouleurs, who was the garrison commander and a supporter of Charles VII. At first Robert de Baudricourt did not take Joan seriously, because of her young age and crazy visions. In January of 1429, Joan of Arc returned to Vaucouleurs to speak to Robert, the commander again. This time her firmness about the situation gained her the respect of the people in the village and the commander. After being persuaded that Joan was not a witch or feebleminded, Robert had allowed Joan to go to the Dauphin at Chinon. Although it was not going to be an easy journey, she left the village of Vaucouleurs on February 13th. Joan of Arc was dressed in men’s clothing and was accompanied by 6 men at arms. Within the journey she had to cross into enemy territory and travel the 11-day trip. When she arrived at Charles VII court place, Charles was not certain what to exactly make of this girl and her visions. The Dauphin had Joan of Arc examined by prominent theologians for many weeks. They fortunately found nothing unproper with Joan of Arc. In the month of April 1429, Charles VII gave her command of a small force.

For a little bit of a background, the Hundred Years War was fought between France and England during the Middle Ages. The war started because Charles IV of France died in 1328 without a son. Edward III of England then believed that he had a right to the throne for France through his mother. The French did not want a foreign king, so Philip VI of France said he should be king because that’s not the law to become king because of a person’s mother. The two countries went to war because of this disagreement at that time. To start off the war, France was stronger of the two countries. Back and forth the two countries had fought each other with victories on both ends. The most famous part of the war began in 1415. Henry the V of England invaded France and had won the Battle of Agincourt. King Charles VI of France was not fully there within the mind and was unable to be fit to be the proper king, and nearly all his sons died young. Charles VI son, Charles VII had taken the role of being the proper king, but he was never coronated before the king died, so more conflict on who was to be king was brought up. During this disagreement, the English had kept capturing land but then came along Joan of Arc. On April 27th, 1429 Joan and her troops had set out from Blois to relieve French forces at the siege of Orleans. A couple weeks later, Joan had led an attack on the English, with victory of Orleans, Joan and her troops moved across taking any village and town they met that was controlled by the English. There was a successful battle at Les Tourelles and of Patay. After these battles Joan had traveled to the Dauphin to help him reach Reims. In July of 1429 Charles VII was crowned the King of France. Even with him being crowned the rightful king, Joan of Arc did not stop there. She continued to fight against the English. Compiegne, Beauvais, Senlis and other towns north of Paris has all surrendered to the king. Joan had thought it essential to take control of Paris, being that it was a large city. Unfortunately, the tables had started turning for the French, because of the well organization of the enemy’s attack, the king no longer wanted to fight for Paris and order Joan of arc and her troops to retreat. She was then sent to Compiegne for order because there was an English siege on the city but was ripped off her horse and captured by the Burgundians.

The Burgundians took Joan captive and held her for several months, trying to negotiate with the English, who at the time saw her as valuable propaganda. Finally, the Burgundians exchanged her. Joan of Arc was then released to the church and was charged with 70 different accounts. Things such as heresy, witchcraft, and dressing like a man. Between the dates of February 21st – March 24th, 1431, Joan of Arc was interrogated dozens of times, but officials could not get her to talk about what they wanted to hear, she would claim nothing but her complete innocence. She was not held within the church during this time. She was held in an actual military prison, due to her trying to escape multiple times. During this time, King Charles VII tried to stay out of the picture and did not object to anything that was happening to Joan of Arc. Although they could not prove anything because of lack of evidence, they did put her on trial for cross dressing into males clothing. She signed a document stating she wouldn’t wear men’s clothing again, but she ended up putting the clothes back on when given the chance to prevent her from rape. The church didn’t want to understand the reasoning and then pursued to charge her with heresy. On May 30th, 1431, Joan of Arc was executed via burned at the stake in the marketplace in Rouen before a crowd. She was 19 years old. Even after her death the Hundred Years War continued for another 22 years. King Charles VII eventually ordered an investigation within the trial for Joan of Arc in 1456, she was then declared officially innocent of all charges. She was canonized as a Saint on May 16th, 1920 by Pope benedict XV and became the patron saint of France.

Although she was very young when her career had started, she was very inspiring and enduring symbol of the French unity and nationalism at that time period. Not only did she restate what a female can really do and show that there’s no limits, she successfully put an end to a long war. Even though the war ended 22 years after she died, she still was a huge factor in it ending. Joan of Arc brought Charles VII and received him as king during the war. With a king in standing there wasn’t much more to disagree about, and it would take some time to settle down. Today, she is still a symbol of unity to the French and to anyone who knows her history and her story. Joan of Arc is a reminder of what anyone can do with a mindset to do it.

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