Thursday, April 12, 2012

Joan of Arc: The Heroine of France

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In 141, in a small town of Domremy which was near Lorraine and Nancy in France a small girl was born into a normal family. Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romee, named there daughter Joan of Arc. She preferred to the name “Joan the Maid”. But in her lifetime, she never used her surname. Her father, Jacques was a ploughman, and his wife a nurse. She had three brothers, Jacquemin, Pierre and Jean. Joan also had a sister called Catherine, whom was named after Saint Catherine. She was healthy and strong. Her family was religious. Her mother, Isabelle was more religious than her father Jacques. That’s where Joan learned all the religious things. Her sister, Catherine wore a cross around her neck which Joan admired. The whole village knew of her family well because of their kindness and bravery. The head villagers usually asked Jacques for advice on decisions. He suggested on renting a Castle for the village in case battles came along. They often used the castle for protection during nearby battles. Joan was a normal child. She was pleased to help in anyway possible. She didn’t go to school like most other children. Like most children Joan couldn’t read or write. Education was only available for the wealthy. Instead, she helped her mother with the housework. Although, from time to time, she stopped what she was doing and prayed wherever she was. Joan sometimes confessed more than once a day. Her friends thought that this wasn’t necessary. Even though Joan was strange, she was accepted by Domremy like any other citizen. That was all until she was 1.

Joan’s Voices

One day in144, Joan was playing by herself out in the backyard. Suddenly, she heard the church bell ring and saw a bright light in the sky. Then and there, she saw Saint Michael and he said, “Be good, for God loves you.” First she was frightened but the she started to think. St Michael had ordered her to be good. After that, Saint Catherine & Margaret came to Joan. She didn’t tell anyone of her voices for the fear that no-one would believe her. So as Joan grew, her voices came more often, sometimes more than twice a day. After a while she became to trust them and became devoted to the church. Every spare time she had, Joan prayed and confessed as often as she could. Her friends were wondering why she was praying more than she used to. The whole town wanted to know why Joan of Arc was like this. Then, one night, the war came right to her own town, Domremy. She scrambled around, gathering all the children onto boats where they would escape to their town castle. Joan’s whole family survived except for her beloved sister, Catherine. Joan was devastated since Catherine was like her best friend and a sister. She took the wooden cross around her neck and wore it on hers. When she was around 16, her voices became darker telling her to save France. She ignored them for a while. After some time they became more real and louder than ever. So Joan decided to set off at once to see the Dauphin. First she told her parents of the voices she had been having and how she had obeyed everything they said. Her father thought Joan had gone mad. Jacques the told Joan of her arranged marriage he had been planning for sometime. Joan was angry and she refused to marry. Without telling her family, she set of to Voucouleurs to find help. Joan only hoped they would believe her. She took an old horse to the nearby town, Voucouleurs. The soldiers only laughed when Joan told them her story. Some priests thought she was a witch and sent her home with a scolding. Joan was sent back home to Domremy. Her voices urged her to try again. So when she was around 17 she tried again and this time the soldiers listened. Joan sounded more confident and sure. The army, sent a letter to the Dauphin to inform him that a girl from Lorrain, Domremy was coming. Joan was escorted by Jean de Metz and Bertrand de Poulengy with a couple of arbalests to protect them. Together they made their way to Chinon where the dauphin was. Joan had to have her hair cut short like a boy’s and also had to dress in boy clothes. As she made the long journey from Voucouleurs to Chinon, she insisted on stopping every few hours to visit chapels and churches to pray and confess. The soldiers thought this was unnecessary. Joan hoped the dauphin would give her an army.

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The Dauphin

Charles VII was the heir to the throne of France. Scared of the battlefields, he stayed safely in a castle in Chinon. He was to be crowned but the English had plans of their own future king. The dauphin was too spoilt and a coward to do anything to help his people castle in Chinon. He only cared for himself and was very selfish. The Dauphin heard that the maid from Lorrain was coming to see him. At first he wasn’t worried. But then he’s priests suggested that the girl might be an agent of the devil or the enemy. The dauphin thought about it all. He thought of the consequences and the prophesy; A young girl from Lorrain would come to save France and drive the enemy out of French soil. As scared as he was, he had an idea. When the girl came, he would seat one of his colleagues as himself and himself as the colleague. Therefore, if the girl was the enemy, she would assassinate the wrong person. Soon Joan finally reached the castle. She entered, and at once knew that the person on the throne was not who he claimed to be. Joan had no difficulty finding the real dauphin (she had never seen a picture of him). The dauphin listened to what she had to say. Joan told him of her voices and how they told her to save France. She managed to convince the dauphin to let her command an army. They offered Joan an armor and a sword. Joan took the armor but didn’t take the sword. She ordered some soldiers to look behind the Alter at a chapel that they had stopped at. There, they would find a rusty old sword. When the soldiers returned, everyone was amazed at the sword they had found. As Joan took it in her hands, the rust fell off revealing the sword’s true appearance. They also gave her a black war horse, one of the best in the stables. Joan had also instructed the servants to make a banner for which she would carry with her at all times. It had a white lily which represented France. Joan was rather more fond of the banner than the sword. She was ready for battle.

The Siege of Orleons

Joan led her army to Blois to gather more soldiers to help. The soldiers were anxious to take orders from a seventeen-year-old girl whom had never fought before. As she reached Orleans to deliver the supplies they had brought for them, the villagers reached forward to touch or pat her horse. Joan was annoyed that they stared at her. La Hire was second in charge of the army. He proposed to make an attack from the back of the city where the English would least suspect. Joan however, argued. She said her voices told her to attack from the front gate. So the attack began. Blood spilt everywhere as Joan watched the battle. She drew her sword only to defend herself but not to kill. As Joan was riding, she got wounded by an arrow in the chest and couldn’t fight any longer. She commanded Jean and Bertrand to take her banner and keep fighting. The soldiers were determined to fight for victory. She woke up from a deep sleep and found out they had won the battle. Joan was so proud of them. The Orleans villagers cheered from windows, doors, streets and rooftops as she rode proudly into the city. As the weeks went by, more victories came for France. Joan became more confident and grew stronger. She convinced the dauphin to come with her to Rheims to be crowned king of France in14. Joan proudly led the dauphin to the cathedral where all the previous kings had been crowned. Since Rheims was English territory, Joan asked the English to step aside and let the dauphin be crowned. The ceremony was wonderful. So Charles VII was no longer the dauphin of France. He was the king of France. Joan wanted more victories. She asked for the king’s permission to recapture Paris. Shocked, the king refused. But Joan was still determined. Her friends told her that the king had the only thing he was after; the crown. Now that he had the crown he didn’t care whether or not he had all of France back. Her voices hadn’t spoken to her for weeks. Joan didn’t notice. In secret she rounded up some soldiers to come and fight with her. But the battle of Paris was a disaster. Her army was defeated. Then Joan realized she had been fighting on a holy day. No wonder God didn’t help her! She was so upset. She prayed for her forgiveness many times. Joan still wanted more victories. Soon she forgot about her voices and grew more independed. A fortnight later, she tried to rescue a small town called Compiegne on May 140. The saints warned her that she would be captured, Joan took no notice. As she was fighting, Joan was cornered by Burgundies. Joan was captured.

The Imprisonment

They took her to a castle where she was locked and had only bread and water to eat. The people of France begged the king to pay ransom for Joan’s release but he stubbornly refused. Joan was treated well by the English ladies. They offered her women clothes; dresses, skirts. Joan thanked the offer but declined. Accused of witchcraft by the king of England, he wanted her dead.

Joan Trials

Her first trial took place in Rouen. She spoke in confidence even after month of imprisonment in a cell. She refused to believe her voices came from the devil. Judges and Popes from Roam came to her trial for judjement. They of course heard of Joan and some were on her side and others were not. The judges asked her to sign a parchment which had said her voices came from the devil. Joan didnt sign. She was beaten and kicked in her cell. A pope promised her that if she signed the paper, she would be free of the tortures. Joan was weak and was hurt. So she signed it without knowing what she had done. Her voices were very angry and told Joan she had just signed away Gods existence. Joan was in fact free of the beating but was still imprisoned in the cell. She asked to have the paper back. The pope didnt give it to her. So Joan kicked and shouted, grabbed the paper and ripped it up. At her last trial, she told them she would die before believing that her voices were from the devil. Thats exactly what they did.

Joans Punishment

Her punishment was death. Joan knew she had done the right thing. She wanted to be decapitated rather than burnt at the stake. The English wanted her to be as painful and as slow as possible so they had her death burnt at the stake. Joan was to be burnt at the stake on 1st of May, 141. When the day came for her to be burnt, she was nervous. As she was being tied, a priest read all her faults and her case. She was found to be guilty for witchcraft. The flames burnt and they heard her praying to Jesus and God, until her voice faded away slowly. Instead of being buried, her ashes were thrown into the Seine River. The memory of Jeanne dArc had been told from generation to generation.

What happened next?

The French army was so sad the decided to keep fighting not for France, but for Joan. Even the English and Burgundy felt guilty of her death they gave France back to the King. In 1458, Joans mother Isabelle asked for a retrial. Priests from all over France and Rome came to investigate. They looked at all the sources possible; Joans friends, family, soldiers and her villagers. After 0 years of investigation, Joan was found innocent. In 10, Joan was canonized as Saint Joan of Arc.

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