Friday, December 11, 2009
Joan of Arc, otherwise known as the Maid of Orléans, Jeanne d'Arc or la Pucelle (the Maid) to the French-speaking world, was born in the village of Domrémy on the river Meuse on 6 January, 1412. At the beginning of the 15th Century, Domrémy was on the eastern border of France in the region of Champagne, which was then under the control of the Duke of Burgundy.
At the age of 13, Joan claims to have had a mystical experience, in which the Archangel Michael told her to take up arms and drive the English out of France. This was a pretty tall order as Burgundy and England were allies, the Dauphin1 was a weakling, and Joan was a mere child. The situation looked bleak, but Joan was a remarkable young girl, not to be underestimated by anyone. By virtue of her strength of character and her uncanny ability to know things she had no business knowing, she gradually won enough influential support to raise an army by the age of 17.
Riding at the head of her army, she relieved the English siege of Orléans, and, later, defeated the English army of Lord Talbot outright at the battle of Patay. Unfortunately for her, things started to go badly thereafter. On 24 May, 1430, Joan was captured by the Burgundians and later sold to the English. Charles VII of France, whose crown she had fought to save, turned his back on her and, in May 1431, after a show trial, Joan of Arc was burned alive at the stake at the age of 19.
She was canonised in 1920.