Joan of Arc, (c. 1412 – May 30 1431)
16″ x 20″ oil on canvas
Joan was born to Jacques d’ Arc and Isabelle, a peasant family, in northeast France. By the time of Joan’s birth, the French and English had been fighting for dominance for since 1337. The English had nearly achieved their goal of a dual monarchy under English control and the French army had not achieved any major victories for a generation.
The French king at the time of Joan’s birth, Charles VI, suffered from bouts of insanity, and was often unable to rule. Eventually the young Dauphine, Charles VII became ruler.
When Joan was about thirteen years old, in 1425, she claimed to have had her first vision. In her vision, Joan stated that she was told by St. Catherine, St. Michael, and St. Margaret how to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Reims for coronation.
Joan sought audience with the Queen who was regent to the Dauphine. It took her three years to convince the Queen to see her. By then the French monarchy was near collapse. When she was finally granted an audience with the Queen she asked for permission to travel with the army and wear protective armor. It speaks to the desperation of the French Monarchy that her petition was granted. The Royal government donated items for her armor, horse, sword, banner, and other items utilized by her entourage.
Upon her arrival at the front, Joan effectively turned the longstanding Anglo-French conflict into a religious war. The extent of her actual military participation and leadership is a subject of historical debate. Joan stated that she carried her banner in battle and never killed anyone. Many noblemen stated that Joan had a profound effect on their decisions as they often accepted the advice she gave them, believing her advice was Divinely inspired. In either case, historians agree that the army enjoyed remarkable success during her brief time with it. A truce with England followed.
The truce was short-lived. When fighting was resumed, Joan was captured and imprisoned by the English. She was tried for heresy based on the complaint that she dressed as a man. The tribunal was composed entirely of pro-English clerics. Joan was found guilty and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431- at the age of 19.
The Hundred Years’ War continued for twenty-two years after her death. Charles VII succeeded in retaining legitimacy as the king of France.
In 1452, a posthumous investigation was conducted into her execution and in June 1456 Joan was labeled a martyr by the Church. The technical reason for her execution had been a Biblical clothing law. The appellate court declared her innocent on July 7, 1456.