Friday, May 25, 2012

Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

Fight for Control of France
English kings fought with French kings over control of much of what is now France starting in 1337. By 1412, when Joan of Arc was born, the English controlled most of northern France with the help of their friends the Burgundians.

Joan’s Birth and Childhood
Joan was born in the rural village of Domremy about 190 km (120 mi) southeast of Reims. Her parents were farmers.

In 1412, the village of Domremy was loyal to the king of France even though all the other townspeople nearby were loyal to the duke of Burgundy. The duke, at that time, was loyal to the king of England. Consequently, during Joan’s childhood, people from nearby towns would sometimes steal things from her village. Once they even burned it down.

When Joan was 12 years old, she was sitting alone in her father’s garden. Suddenly the angel Michael, with saints Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret (or Marina) of Antioch, came to her. They told her to get the English out of France and the king of France crowned. They were so beautiful that Joan cried when they left her.

Joan’s Rise to Glory
In 1428, when Joan was 16, she went to the nearby town of Vaucouleurs. She asked the leader of the small group of French soldiers there to take her to see the king of France. He laughed. She then predicted that French soldiers fighting for the city of Orleans would soon lose a battle against the English army. When they did, the army leader in Vaucouleurs agreed to take Joan to see the French king.

Charles 7th was very impressed with Joan. He really wanted his army to win a battle. He wanted this so much that he even agreed to let Joan lead his army into battle. Who knew? Maybe the angel Michael really did talk with her. What did he have to lose?

An English army had made a complete circle around the city of Orleans by October 1428. It didn’t let any food into the city. It wanted the people of Orleans to give up and let it take control of the city. If they did, then the English king could also become the king of France.

Six hard months later, the people of Orleans were almost ready to surrender their city to the English. Joan of Arc got there on April 29, 1429. In the next eight days she led the French army in four battles against the English. She led the final attack even though she had been shot in the neck with an arrow. The English army quickly left Orleans. Joan had saved the city.

From Orleans to Reims
Tradition said that a man must get crowned in the cathedral in Reims to become the true king of France. Joan wanted Charles to be crowned in Reims. That way everyone would accept him as the one true king. But the city of Reims was controlled by the enemies of Charles. So Joan next led the French army to Reims to take control of it.

Beginning on June 12, Joan again led the French army in another series of battles. On June 18 it beat the English army at Patay very badly. After that, city after city surrendered to Joan and her army with little fighting. On July 16, Joan led the army into Reims. The very next day, Charles was crowned the one true king of France in the cathedral there.

From Reims to Prison
No one knew it at the time, but that was the last great success that Joan would enjoy.

After Charles had been crowned, Joan wanted to quickly attack Paris and take control of it. Charles didn’t. Instead, Charles talked with Philip, the leader in Burgundy. Philip told Charles that he would not fight him anymore. But Philip lied. He quickly sent many more soldiers to Paris to increase English control of it.

Meanwhile, Joan slowly led the army of France toward Paris. More and more cities decided to stop being loyal to the leaders of England and Burgundy and to start being loyal to Charles.

On September 8, the French army finally attacked Paris. Joan continued to lead it even after she was hit in the leg by an arrow. The next day, Charles told Joan to stop the attack. Joan did. That was the last major battle that Joan would fight.

So Joan actively led the army of France in battle for only four months: from late April to early September 1429. During that short time she was able to restore control of most of northern France to the king of France.

Seven months passed. In April 1430, soldiers of England and Burgundy attacked the French city of Compiegne. Joan led soldiers there to help the city.

On May 23, Joan was captured by soldiers of Burgundy. Although she tried to escape, she failed each time. Worse, Charles failed to help her at all. Worst of all, the English gave Philip, the leader of Burgundy, a lot of money and he then gave control of Joan to them.

From Prison to Death
Charles had been crowned king of France. But powerful men in England still wanted to control France. To get the crown from Charles, these men had to get people to think that Charles should not be king of France. To get people thinking that way, they had to get people thinking that Joan was a bad person.

To get people thinking that Joan was evil, English leaders accused Joan of being a heretic. A heretic is someone who speaks and acts against the teachings of the Church.

In 1430, Rouen was the capital of the English government in France. Joan was brought to Rouen and taken to court there. Her trial started on January 9, 1431.

The point of the trial was not to find out whether Joan was guilty of being a heretic. The point was to kill her and to kill her good name as well. That way powerful English men could get rid of Charles more easily.

It was no surprise, then, that her judges said Joan was guilty. On May 30, 1431, she was murdered by being burned to death.

Her death did the English no good. Charles remained king of France. English power in France continued to diminish until it disappeared only 20 years later.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.