The Story of Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc is widely known to the public, and is especially important in France where she embodies the national spirit of the French. Because Joan of Arc played such an important role in French history, based around events in many of the towns you will visit in the Loire Valley, it is worth reminding ourselves of her story.

Joan was the daughter of illiterate peasants, and was still very young when she left her father's home to follow some mysterious voices that incited her to take charge of the French Army. Remember, this was the time of the Hundred Years War and France was largely occupied by the British.

Joan came to Chinon, where she was received by Charles. Overcoming much resistance, Joan managed to convince the Dauphin to entrust to her a small army with which she could relieve the English Siege of Orleans. In May 8, 1429, following an English siege that had lasted seven months Orleans was freed by Joan's leadership with just eaight days of battle.

Joan also wanted to bring Charles to Reims, where, according to tradition, he was to be crowned King of France - in July 17, with a lavish ceremony in the cathedral of Reims, Charles VII was consecrated King of France.

Joan of Arc had other successful military victories and wanted to liberate Paris. While Charles VII began a series of diplomatic negotiations, Joan was wounded on the outskirts of Paris. The king ordered her to disband her army, forcing Joan to conduct military operations of little importance.

But then in 1430, at Margny, Joan of Arc was taken prisoner by the Burgundians and subsequently sold to the English. They moved her to Rouen, where an ecclesiastical tribunal accused her of witchcraft. The trial, conducted by the Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon (1371-1442), ended with the sentencing to death of Joan for heresy and witchcraft.

In May 1431 the 'Maid of Orleans' was burned at the stake in the market square of Rouen and her ashes were scattered in the Seine.

Twenty-four years later the accusation and charges were reversed and Joan was declared a martyr. In 1920, the Church recognized the sanctity of Joan of Arc, who became the patron saint of France.