FEATURE image: France was divided in the early 15th century when a teenage girl called Joan of Arc heard her Voices with their explicit instruction for her to go to the French royal court to aid France as a warrior-maid. For a young girl to dress and act as a military figure was shocking and unsettling to many who up to now had simply taken one side or another in the situation of France’s national divide.
JOAN OF ARC (French, 1412-1431) is one of the best documented and most popular of late medieval saints. The story of Jeanne La Pucelle, as she is known in France, has been beautifully depicted by artists and writers for centuries—as well as in films.
In France many of the places and sites associated with “the Maid” of 600 years ago are intact and can be visited today. Visiting the same buildings and places where Joan was in the late Middle Ages provides a concrete connection to and sense of her world.
There are stacks of academic and popular nonfiction as well as historical fiction about Joan. The fascination with her story started in her own century with her trial’s transcripts. Modern authors have also devoted their books and tomes to her, such as Mark Twain (Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, 1896), George Bernard Shaw (Saint Joan, 1923), and Vita Sackville-West (Saint Joan of Arc, 1936) as well as, in our times, Helen Castor (Joan of Arc: A History, 2016), Kathryn Harrison (Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured, 2014) and Kimberly Cutter (The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc, 2011). There are many, many more actually. Each and every year there are new scholarly tracts and other nonfiction to add to the long list of books and articles. Within this immense educational and informational field, there are several ways to approach the subject of France’s warrior-maid, Joan of Arc – and the combination of art and literature is one of them.
One approach is the artwork of Octave Denis Victor Guillonnet (1872-1967), a popular French illustrator.
Anyone interested in Joan of Arc first meets her when she is a humble peasant girl in the small village of Domrémy in eastern France.
Before Joan is a teenager, and for the rest of her life, Joan hears and is called by the heavenly voices of Saints Michael, Margaret, and Catherine of Alexandria.
Their explicit instruction is for the teenage girl to aid France as a warrior-maid.
Joan’s spiritual and military involvement started at a critical juncture in the king of France’s involvement in the Hundred Years’ War. The king of France was fighting against competing powers of England and Burgundy for control of France.
Joan’s military mission began in 1429 at 17 years old. Following fast and spectacular military successes, Joan led the dauphin to Reims Cathedral to be crowned as Charles VII (1401-1461), King of France, in 1429.
Joan’s military role ended abruptly with Joan’s capture on the battlefield.
Joan was held in prison for a ransom that her King never paid. There were attempts to rescue her but they failed.
Joan’s enemies put her on trial as a heretic. The result was that the Maid was infamously burned at the stake in Rouen, France, on May 30, 1431. Her condemnation by local Church officials sympathetic to England was overturned in 1456 by higher Church authorities which set justice aright in Joan’s case.
Joan of Arc was condemned as a heretic by 37 judges sympathetic to her enemies in England. The next day, May 30, 1431, the 19-year-old French visionary and soldier was burned at the stake in the market place of Rouen, France. Illustrations by French artist, Octave Denis Victor Guillonnet (1872-1967), are in the Public Domain.
In May 1920, Joan was consecrated as a Catholic saint. There are miracles attributed to the Maid’s intercession.
Joan was 19 years old when she died. Her brief and successful military and political career—as well as her unshakable belief under incredible duress that she was on God’s errand — put France on the path to sovereignty and earned Joan of Arc a place as a co-patron of France today.
GLOSSARY by John P. Walsh.
Versailles – The Palace of Versailles (French: Château de Versailles), or simply Versailles is a royal castle in Versailles, west of Paris in the Île-de-France region that includes Paris and its environs. The Château is open today as a museum and is a very popular tourist attraction. For more visit: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/
Joan of Arc – Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d’Arc) was born January 6, 1412 and died by execution (burned at the stake) in Rouen, France, on May 30, 1431. Nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” (French: La Pucelle d’Orléans) Joan of Arc is considered a heroine of France for her role during the The Hundred Years War and is a canonized Roman Catholic saint. She is one of several patrons of France today.
Domremy – (French: Domrémy, today Domrémy-la-Pucelle in reference to Joan of Arc.) Domremy is a small commune in the Vosges department in Grand Est in northeastern France. It is the birthplace of Joan of Arc. In 1429 Domrémy (and neighboring Greux) was exempted from taxes “forever” by King Charles VII which was the sole request made of the king by Joan of Arc when Charles asked her how he could show her his appreciation for seeing him made king. Taxes were imposed again upon Domrémy and Greux during the French Revolution and the people have had to pay taxes again ever since.
Meuse – (French: la Meuse.) The Meuse is a major European river, originating in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands and draining into the North Sea. It has a total length of 925 km (575 miles).
Rivulet of Three-Fountains – (French: Le ruisseau des Trois Fontaines.) In Jeanne’s time, the village of Domremy was divided by the Creek of Three Fountains, so named because of three sources that fed it. To the south of it (right bank) is the Barrois and to the north of it (left bank) is Champagne. The stream also separates Domremy and Greux. Champagne was part of the royal domain, and when Joan left her home to aid the “Dauphin” Charles at Chinon or went to Nancy to visit the Duke of Lorraine, she had to seek safe conduct.
The Duchy of Lorraine – (French: Lorraine) was a duchy or dukedom that today is included in the larger region of Lorraine in northeastern France. Its capital was Nancy.
Province of Chaumont – Chaumont is a small commune of France which historically was the seat of the Counts of Champagne.
Jacques d’Arc – also Jacquot d’Arc. (b. 1375/80-d. 1431). Father of the Maid, he was born about 1375 at Ceffonds, in the diocese of Troyes, according to the Traité sommaire of Charles du Lys published in 1612. It was about the time of his marriage that he established himself at Domrémy, for his wife Isabelle Romée was from Vouthon, a village about seven kilometers away. He seems to have enjoyed an honorable position in this countryside, whether he was rich, as some have implied, or not. In 1419 he was the purchaser of the Chateau de I’Ile, with its appurtenances, put up at auction that year. In a document of 1423 he is described as doyen or sergeant of the village. He therefore took rank between the mayor and the provost, and was in charge of collecting taxes, and exercised functions similar to those of the garde Champêtre which is a combination of forest ranger, game warden, and policeman in certain rural communes in France. The same year finds him among the seven notables who responded for the village in the matter of tribute imposed by the damoiseau of Commercy. In 1427 in an important trial held before Robert de Baudricourt, captain of Vaucouleurs, he was again acting as a delegate of his fellow citizens. We know that he opposed with all his power the mission of his daughter, whom he wished to marry off. However, he went to Reims for the coronation of the King, and the King and the municipality defrayed his expenses and gave him a horse for his return to Domrémy. He was ennobled in December, 1429. Jacques d’Arc died 1431, it is said, from sorrowing over his daughter’s end.
Castle of the Island – In front of Domremy, and connected by a bridge, the Castle of the Island was the possession of the Bourlemont family, the lords of Domremy. It was rented by the inhabitants in the time of Joan and served, at times, as a refuge for their cattle.
Brothers Jacques, Jean, and Pierre, and sister, Catherine – Jacquemin d’Arc (b. 1402 d. 1450). There is very little known about Jacquemin, other than he was born 1402 in Vaudeville-le-Haut, and died in 1450. He was married to Catherine Corviset who was born in 1405 and died in 1430. They were married at Domremy.
Jean d’Arc (b. 1409 d. 1447) fled with his sister Joan to Neufchâteau; accompanied her to France; and was lodged at the house of Jacques Boucher at Orléans. With his father, he was ennobled in December 1429. As provost of Vaucouleurs he worked for the rehabilitation of his sister; appeared at bodies in Rouen and Paris; and formed a commission to get evidence from their native district and produce witnesses. He was Bailly of Vermandois and captain of Chartres.
Pierre d’Arc (b. 1408 d. ?) went to seek his sister in France; fought along with her at Orléans; lived in the same house with her in that city; accompanied her to Reims; and was ennobled with the rest of the family. He was captured with Jeanne at Compiègne, but was eventually released. Pierre retired to the city of Orléans where he received many gifts – from the King, the city of Orléans, and a pension from Duke Charles, among them the Île aux Boeufs in 1443. The descendants of Pierre had in their possession three of Jeanne’s letters and a sword that she had worn. The letters were saved but the sword was lost during the the French Revolution.
Catherine d’Arc (b. 1413 d. 1429). There is very little known about Catherine, other than she married Colin, the son of Greux’s mayor, and died very young in childbirth near the end of 1429.
Isabella Romée – Isabelle Romée (b. 1385 d. Dec. 8, 1458), known as Isabelle de Vouthon. Isabelle d’Arc and Ysabeau Romée, was the mother of Jeanne. She moved to Orléans in 1440 and received a pension from the city. She petitioned Pope Nicholas V to reopen the court case that had convicted Jeanne of heresy, and then, in her seventies, addressed the assembly delegation from the Holy See in Paris. On July 7, 1456 the appeals court overturned the conviction of Jeanne. Isabelle gave her daughter an upbringing in the Catholic religion and taught her the craft of spinning wool.
The First Biography of Joan of Arc, with the Chronicle Record of a Contemporary Account. Translated and Annotated by Rankin, Daniel S., Quintal, Claire. [Pittsburgh] University of Pittsburgh Press .
Joan of Arc by Herself and her Witnesses. Pernoud, Régine. Lanham, MD : Scarborough House, . Translation of: Jeanne d’Arc par elle-même et par ses témoins.
Joan of Arc: Her Story. Pernoud, Régine. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998. Translation of: Jeanne d’Arc.
Joan of Arc. Lucie-Smith, Edward, New York: Norton, 1977.
Joan of Arc. Twain, Mark, New York, Harper and Brothers [c.1924].
Joan of Arc. Boutet de Monvel, Louis Maurice (1850-1913), New York: Pierpont Morgan Library: Viking Press, 1980.
Joan of Arc : A Life Transfigured. Harrison, Kathryn, New York: Doubleday, 2014.
Joan of Arc : A History. Castor, Helen, New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers, .
The Beautiful Story of Joan of Arc The Martyr Maid of France, Lowe, Viola Ruth, illustrations by O.D.V. Guillonnet, 1923, multiple U.S. editions.
The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957, pp. 577; 399-402.