Sculpture équestre Jeanne d’Arc - Crédit : Léonard de Serres
Sculpture équestre Jeanne d’Arc - Crédit : Léonard de Serres

Joan of Arc

(1412 - 1429)

Born in 1412, Joan of Arc grew up in Domremy, a village located in Lorraine, on the border with the Burgundian territories that were enemies of the King of France. 

Joan claimed to have heard voices for the first time at the age of thirteen. The messages were delivered to her by what she called her council: Saint Michael, Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine. These voices of divine origin dictated very precise missions to her: to lift the siege of Orleans, to have Charles VII crowned in Reims and "to drive the English out of France". To carry out her missions, she decided to join the dauphin Charles in Touraine.

After several unsuccessful attempts, she obtained from Captain Baudricourt an armed escort to accompany her to Chinon, where the Dauphin Charles and his court were residing.

On 23 February 1429, Joan of Arc arrived in Chinon after an eleven-day ride to meet the man she considered the legitimate heir to the kingdom of France, Charles VII.

 Jeanne d'Arc part pour Chinon. JOB
Jeanne d’Arc en guerrière. Assiette produite dans les ateliers de la faïencerie de Lunéville (Lucien Marchal, 1899).

The meeting: between myth and legend

This famous episode of the Joan of Arc epic is generally described as a mythical and miraculous scene: "The Recognition". This was not the case, because there were not one, but two interviews in Chinon.

The first one took place on 25 February 1429, two days after Joan's arrival. She was led to the apartments of the king where he received her with a small committee. She was housed in the keep of Coudray. Her virginity was verified by an assembly of women, presided over by the Queen of Sicily, Yolande of Aragon. Then, Charles VII sent her to Poitiers so that his advisers and doctors of theology could judge her good faith. On her return, Joan was again received by the king, between 27 March and 5 April 1429.

This second hearing, called the "sign", took on the official and public aspect that is generally attributed to the first interview. It marked the end of the Poitiers investigation and served as the official presentation of Joan. She then brought the king a golden crown which was the material "sign" of her promise to lead the king to the coronation, then she retired to a nearby chapel.

From Orleans to Reims... on the way to the coronation

Joan's first mission was to liberate the town of Orleans, which was under siege by the English.

On 29 April 1429, taking advantage of a convoy of supplies brought in by water, Joan managed to get inside the town. Gradually, the fortresses that commanded the entrance to the town were taken back from the English and the siege was finally lifted on 8 May.

Sculpture équestre Jeanne d’Arc - Crédit : Léonard de Serres
Sculpture équestre Jeanne d’Arc - Crédit : Léonard de Serres

Joan of Arc prisoner

Joan's second mission was to have Charles VII crowned king of France in Reims.

Crossing the lands of the Anglo-Burgundians, the future king and his escort arrived in Reims without a hitch. On 17 July 1429, Charles VII was crowned king of France. After the coronation, Joan of Arc continued to fight but failed due to lack of resources. On 23 May 1430, she was taken prisoner by the Burgundians in Compiègne after having attempted to leave the besieged town. In December, she was sold to the English for ten thousand pounds and taken to Rouen for her trial.

A trial and sentence

Joan of Arc was delivered to Pierre Cauchon, bishop of Beauvais and chaplain for the king of England.

He intended to conduct a religious trial for heresy, but it was a political trial: it had to be proven that the king of France owed his coronation to a heretic.

On 24 May 1431, invited to repent at the reading of the judgment, Joan of Arc recognized her errors. But on 30 May she retracted her confession. Immediately condemned as relapsed, she was publicly burned in Rouen the same day.