If you are fascinated with Saint Joan of Arc, a key figure in the French resistance against English rule and would like to know more about her, then just read this brief biography and profle.

Joan Of Arc Biography

Born On: 1412
Born In: Domrémy
Died On: 30 May 1431
Career: Worked with the French army in the Hundred Years War
Nationality: French

A 19 year old peasant girl grows up to lead the French army to some key victories during the Hundred Years War against the English and is indirectly responsible for putting Charles VII on the throne. It may sound like more than any peasant could hope to achieve in the 15th century, but it is true. At a time when the King of France suffered from bouts of insanity and had cousins fighting over the throne of France, Joan of Arc was born to a peasant family. She claimed to have heard a divine voice and helped the French army in their campaign to overthrow the English. Unfortunately, during the course of the campaign, she was captured and handed her over to the English who had her declared a heretic and burned at the stake. For her contribution to the Hundred Years War she was later declared a martyr by Pope Callixtus III. Today she is one of the most revered heroes of France and is also known as Saint Joan of Arc or The Maid of Orléans.

Early Life
Joan of Arc was born to a peasant family in the small town of Domrémy near Vaucouleurs. The Hundred Years War had already been raging for the past 75 years but Domrémy was one of the last few towns that were still loyal to Charles VI. She was brought up as a religious girl by her parents Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée. She grew up living on her father’s farm which was about 50 acres in size. Her father worked not only as a farmer but also as a tax collector and the head of the local watch. Since the Hundred Years War was raging all around them, there were instances when even her village was raided and, on one occasion, burned down. During her life at her village she helped her father at the farm and performed some common tasks like herding the sheep and cattle. Apart from this she also learned how to spin and sew.

Her Visions
Joan claimed that she had heard the voice of God and that it was that voice that instructed her to take action. In these visions she indicated that the messengers of the message from god were St Michael (The commander of the Army of God), Saint Margaret (also known as Margaret of Antioch) and Saint Catherine (also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine). Joan of Arc was only thirteen when she claimed to have had her first vision in which she claimed that St Michael came to her and told her of the sorry situation that prevailed in France at that time and instructed her to go to the King of France and lend him aid in these desperate times. She did claim to have had other visions, but refused to answer any questions about these visions because she had already sworn an oath to keep such communications secret. More often than not, scholars don’t pay much heed to the records of visions as it can be argued that whatever was recorded could have been tainted by corrupt court officials. It is also thought there is a possibility that Joan of Arc herself could have altered or falsified these visions in order to protect other secrets. In any case what we should pay attention to is her conviction and the actions that she took as a result of these convictions.

Joan of Arc And King Charles VII
Immediately following her first vision Joan of Arc petitioned Count Robert de Baudricourt to allow her an escort so that she could go meet the King. She was turned down twice, but on the third attempt she managed to convince him and was allowed to go see Charles VII at Chinon. To get to Chinon, Joan of Arc had to travel through hostile Burgundian territory, which she did, dressed as a male.

Upon reaching Chinon she was granted an audience with Charles VII after having been examined for orthodoxy. A description of her offered to Charles described her by saying, “This Maid … has a virile bearing, speaks little, shows an admirable prudence in all her words. She has a pretty, woman's voice, eats little, drinks very little wine; she enjoys riding a horse and takes pleasure in fine arms, greatly likes the company of noble fighting men, detests numerous assemblies and meetings, readily sheds copious tears, has a cheerful face…”

It was Joan of Arc who advised Charles VII to travel to his coronation at Reims so that he can be acknowledged as the King in the eyes of all men. When he was officially crowned the King of France on 18th July, 1429 Joan of Arc was also there, standing by him. She soon became a valued advisor to the King and was the one who favored the military action against Paris that failed. This failure forced Charles VII to enter into a treaty with the Duke of Burgundy and was virtually incapacitated by the terms of the treaty.  

Her divine convictions did raise some doubts among Charles VII’s advisors who suggested that a more thorough investigation of her orthodoxy be carried out. They suggested this because they feared that if she was found to be a sorcerer or a heretic then the people might argue that Charles VII got his crown with the help of the devil. The investigation was carried out and it "declared her to be of irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed of the virtues of humility, honesty and simplicity." (from Vale, M.G.A., 'Charles VII'). This was also one of the reasons why she was permitted to go to the siege of Orléans.

Military Actions Of Joan Of Arc
Joan of Arc wore men’s clothing when she was in the army and depended on donations for her armor, sword, horse, and banner. It is believed that she wore men’s clothing most of the time to not only disguise herself but also to deter any attempts by the soldiers to molest her or view her as a sex object. It is believed that she continued this practice for the same reasons even when she was imprisoned during her trial.

Her first entry into military service came when she met Charles VII for the first time. At the time of the meeting, Charles VII’s mother-in-law Yolande of Aragon was arranging a relief convoy for Orléans. When Joan of Arc came to know of this convoy she asked for permission to join it and be permitted to dress as a knight. When she arrived at the siege of Orléans, on 29th April 1429, she was initially excluded from military councils. However, later Joan of Arc made sure that she was not excluded for such councils and military actions.

There are times when historians debate over her actual contribution to the French military because some believe that her actual contribution to battles was just about raising the morale of the men. However, others argue that that she did play a more active role than that as can be supported by the testimony of some of her fellow officers who described her as a solid tactician and a successful strategist.

She was against the defensive strategies employed by the French forces and urged everyone to go on the offensive. This led to her capturing the fortress of Saint Loup and the fortress of Saint Jean le Blanc the very next day. Following these two victories she wanted to aggress on Saint Augustine but was turned down by Jean d'Orleans. To stop her Jean d'Orleans had ordered the gates shut but Joan of Arc managed to convince some soldiers and townsfolk to accompany her and went and took the fortress of Saint Augustine. Following the capture of Saint Augustine, Joan of Arc insisted that they move against the main English stronghold at les Tourelles. The battle at Patay was another place where the French forces proved themselves by attacking the English before the archers could complete their preparations. The attack managed to decimate the main English fighting force, captured most of the officers and forced the commander of the forces, Sir John Fastolf, to flee.

On 23 May 1430 Joan of Arc was in Compiègne defending against an English and Burgundian siege. It was during a skirmish, when Joan of Arc ordered a retreat, that the Burgundian soldier’s surrounded the rear guard and captured her. After being captured she made several attempts to escape and even jumped out of the tower that she was being held in, but was not able to escape her captors. It was due to her capture that many historians have condemned King Charles VII. During times of war, it was common practice for the family of the captured soldier to pay a ransom for the release of the soldier. This was not done in the case of Joan of Arc because not only did her family not have that much money but also because the King failed to intervene.

When everyone failed to pay the ransom for Joan of Arc, she was sold to the English by Duke Philip of Burgundy for a heafty price. Once in the hands of the English she was put on trial for heresy. This is the point where things get obscure because of the belief that some of the court official had deliberately falsified or altered trial transcripts so as to serve against her. The appointment of the judge, Bishop Cauchon, itself is believed to have been due to his long standing support of the English government. When Clerical notary Nicolas Bailly failed to find evidence against her the case was not dismissed but move to trial and Joan of Arc was denied council. The judge, bishop Cauchon, denied her permission to appeal to the Council of Basel and the pope because such an appeal would have stopped the trial.

Among the charges brought against Joan were those of witchcraft and fraud. After being tested she was declared guilty on the basis of the fact that she wore male clothing. The trial started in April and went on till the end of May with Joan of Arc’s abjuration.

According to eyewitness accounts, on 30 May 1431 Joan of Arc was brought to Vieux-Marche in Rouen and was tied to a tall pillar. Once tied, she asked two priests present to hold a cross in front of her. Once that had been done, she was set on fire and burned alive at the stake. She was 19 years old when she was executed.

The trial had convicted her of heresy and had sentenced her to being burned at the stake, but a retrial conducted posthumously declared her guilty of none of the charges that had been brought against her. On 7 July 1456, after having reviewed the complete case against Joan of Arc, the court declared her innocent of all crimes, declared the case against her null and void and convicted the late Bishop Pierre Cauchon of heresy for having sentenced an innocent girl to death. On 16 May 1920 about 300,000 people attended a ceremony that was presided over by Pope Benedict XV in Rome. Among the people attending were nearly 140 descendants of the family of Joan of Arc. The ceremony had been conducted to mark the official canonization of Joan of Arc. From that point on she came to be known as St Joan of Arc. About the same time as her canonization, France had just invented the ‘Janvier transfer engraving machine’ which was meant to mint coins and make medallions. As a tribute to her they issued a series of religious art medals that had Saint Jeanne d'Arc featured on them.


1412: Joan of Arc is born to Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée.
1425: Joan has her first vision of St Michael, Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine.
1428: Joan makes her first attempt to meet Charles VII.
1429: She makes her second attempt to meet Charles VII and is allowed to do so.
1429: Joan reaches Orleans to help defend against the siege and is told to await reinforcements.
1429: In July of 1429 Joan of Arc attends the coronation of King Charles VII.
1429: At the Battle of Patay Joan convinces soldiers to accompany her and attacks the English forces and defeats Sir John Fastolf who fled the battle field.
1429: Joan insists that France aggress on Paris and take it back from the Duke of Burgundy. The assault fails.
1430: Joan is captured while fighting the Burundians atCompiègne
1430: She is sold to the English by the Burundians
1430: Joan is put on trial for heresy, witchcraft and fraud. She is found guilty and sentenced to death by burning at the stake.
1431: Joan is burnt at the stake
1450: At the request of Joan’s mother, Charles VII orders an investigation into Joan’s case and the subsequent trial.
1456: At the retrial Joan of Arc is declared innocent of all the charges against her by the court.
1920: PopeBenedict XV formally canonizes her as Saint Jeanne d'Arc or Saint Joan of Arc.

How to Cite

More from iloveindia.com