Born: Jan. 6th, 1412
Died: mAY 30TH, 1431
FEast: mAY 30TH
Soldiers, France, Battles of Every Kind
Joan was born in an isolated part of Eastern France to a peasant family. During this time, France was involved with England in what is now known as the Hundred Years War, in which most currently, the English King had come to rule both France and England when the French King was declared illegitimate. Due to this, villages in Joan's area lived in fear, and Joan's village was even burned once, causing many to flee.
Joan did not learn how to read or write, but was taught by her mother about her faith. She also learned how to sew and spin yarn, and spent most of her days with those tasks and in church.
When she was 13, however, Joan began to hear a voice that she came to call her "counsel". While in the garden, she saw a vision of St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and Michael the Archangel, among other saints. They asked her to perform a serious and enormous task - to make the English finally leave France and to install Charles back as the King of France. Over time, she became more sure of this mission.
At age 16, after already winning one battle when she convinced a local court that she should not have to marry a man if she did not want to, she traveled to a nearby village to ask Robert de Baudricout, the local magistrate, to take her to the French Royal Court. Disbelieving the young girl's claims and dismissing her completely, Baudricourt even went so far as to mock her, saying someone should take her home for her father to whip her. He would not allow it.
Joan continued to hear the voices and they became more urgent. She told them that she was just a poor girl, and did not know how to fight - but they were convinced.
Joan tried again. She announced that the French had been defeated at a battle before the news reached town, and when it was discovered that she was right, a group of followers began to believe her.
Baudricourt finally gave her permission and gave her a guard to take her to the Royal Court. She cut her hair short and wore men's clothing to protect herself in the military camps. It was a dangerous, 11 day journey through enemy lands, but she arrived safely.
Two days later, she was permitted to see the king, who, to test her, wore a disguise - but she recognized him and saluted him immediately. Though others in the court thought she was crazy, Charles decided to give her a chance. She asked him that she be able to join the troops going to Orleans. Though it may have been because he had already tried all of the other, rational ideas, Charles agreed and allowed her to go after she had been thoroughly questioned by theologians on her faith so that the English could not dispute that her voices had actually come from the devil instead.
Her armor was all donated to her, and instead of taking a sword from the king, had a vision about a sword buried behind the altar of a certain chapel. She indeed found one buried there that was inscribed with fleur-de-lis, angels, and other Christian symbolism. In addition to this, she also predicted she would be wounded in battle, but not die from it, and that the king would be crowned by the coming summer.
Before going into battle, Joan audaciously wrote a letter to the English king, telling him to remove his troops from French soil.
Once she had joined the army, it became extremely successful, though we can not be certain what Joan's roles were. She described carrying only a banner and not killing anyone, but she also gave advice before each battle - when she was allowed or invited by generals. She faced much discrimination and distrust still, despite her success. Her army captured English fortresses, lifted sieges, recaptured bridges, and routed the English in battle. Joan was indeed wounded by an arrow in one battle but, as predicted, survived. She saved a fellow soldier's life by predicting a cannonball coming through a wall, but also predicted that she only had about a year left of her life.
In July, Joan and her soldiers escorted Charles through the enemy land until he was crowned. He granted her and her family noble status, and continued to employ her as soldier and ask her advice on battles. She wanted to try to retake Paris, but Charles began to fear that she was becoming too confident and powerful. When the battle for Paris turned out to be a failure, with Joan even being shot through the thigh and carried out of the trench by another soldier, a truce was signed between the English and French, and Joan was forced to give up her sword for the period.
When the truce ended the next Spring, Joan was back in battle again, but knew she did not have much time. In one battle, many of her soldiers retreated while she was still left valiantly fighting, and when a drawbridge was raised too soon, she could not escape and was captured. King Charles threatened the English harshly, but did not do much to try and rescue her, a few armies trying several times unsuccessfully, but not offering, even, to trade other prisoners of war.
She was sold to the English for an enormous sum of money, and since they were both terrified of her and embarrassed of that fact, they decided to put her to death. They reasoned they would be able to do this by charging her both with heresy and cross-dressing, signs of a witch. Due to this accusation, Charles separated himself even further from her, and no longer tried to rescue her. They had her imprisoned, and she tried to escape several times. She was chained disgracefully in an iron cage, and continued to wear men's clothing, which she used as a last-ditch effort to preserve herself from sexual abuse by the guards. She also lamented not being permitted to be able to attend Church services while held.
A French inquisitor was summoned, and though he refused at first, he was threatened until he agreed. Throughout Joan's trial, though she was illiterate and many questions were posed to her that were purposefully confusing and contradictory, Joan answered each question with astounding clarity and correctness.
Aside from her faith knowledge, Joan was attacked in this trial for everything ranging from criticism of her hair being cut short to blaming her for not being able to protect herself from rape and abuse in any other way while in prison. She was forced to sign a confession that she had never heard Divine voices, under threat of torture and death. She refused for a great length of time, during which she was publicly denounced with so many lies and slanderous statements. They even attacked Charles' name, which she energetically protested, until, finally worn down, she signed the document, which she could not even fully understand. She was still confined to prison, however, her jailers waiting for one final straw to be able to put her to death. When she wore men's clothing one more time (it was either a trap set by taking her other clothing, another attempt at defending herself, or just a preference she requested after being so worn down for months) Joan was condemned to be executed.
She was put to death the very next day, tied to a stake, a cross held before her as she wished. She was burned, and her last moments moved even many of the English soldiers to tears, leading some to worry that they would be eternally punished for murdering a holy woman.
Her ashes were scattered over the Seine River to prevent any relics from remaining.
24 years later, a retrial was held, headed by the Pope. Witnesses were questioned again, and her statement was overturned.
She was canonized in the early 20th century, but had been very popular throughout Europe up to that point.
You faced everything women still face today: from the reviling of your goals and dreams, to declaring you mysterious and nefarious, to doubting your sanity, to facing pain, to restraining you and taking your voice, to facing sexual and general violence. Be with all women as they navigate lives filled with historical and gender-based prejudices and mentalities. Amen.
Joan's Tattoo is her traditional symbol, and the placement of it comes from the spot in which she was wounded in battle. Her hair is cut short, but the color makes sure there is no disguising who she really is. Her expression is one of severe determination, with eyes looking beyond her mis-understanding, offending fellow humans to a realm beyond that only she can see.