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Joan of Arc is born

September 9, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Joan of Arc, the “Maid of Orléans,” is born on January 6, 1412. She lived only 19 years, but she would become a Roman Catholic saint and a national hero of France for her pivotal role in the Hundred Years’ War.

Joan was born to Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romée in a small town in northeastern France. At the time of her birth, the English and their allies controlled much of France, including Paris, Bordeaux, and Reims. In addition to the English threat, a faction loyal to the Duke of Burgundy challenged the right of the Dauphin (heir apparent), Charles of Orléans, to the French throne. Joan claimed that she first received divine instruction at the age of 13, in her father’s garden, when Saints Michael, Catherine, and Margaret told her to drive the English from the country. At age 16, she correctly predicted the outcome of a battle to a French commander, who then agreed to take her to Charles.

READ MORE: How Long Was the Hundred Years’ War?

The illiterate farm girl made a strong impression on the Dauphin, enough that she began to travel with him and advise French military leaders. It is unclear what exactly her role was in the subsequent campaign, but it is clear that it was more than merely symbolic. She carried a banner rather than a weapon, and later testified that she never killed an enemy soldier, but French leaders credited her as a major factor in lifting the siege at Orléans. The liberation of the city shocked the English and put the French on the offensive for the first time in years. With Joan’s advice, foresight, and charisma aiding his advance, Charles’ forces expelled the English and Burgundians from the Loire Valley. The French re-took Troyes and liberated Reims, the traditional coronation site for French monarchs, where the Dauphin took his crown.

A short time later, Joan was captured in battle with the Burgundians. She was put on trial by the English, who were determined to prove that her inspiration had come from the devil. Accounts of the trial feature prominently in her mythos, as she evaded English attempts to trick her into admitting heresy. In one such attempt, Joan was asked if she knew she was in God’s grace. According to doctrine, answering “yes” would have been heresy because no one could truly know the answer, but saying …read more


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