Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans," was born in 1412 in Domrémy, Bar, France. A national heroine of France, at age 18 she led the French army to victory over the English at Orléans. Captured a year later, Joan was burned at the stake as a heretic by the English and their French collaborators. She was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint more than 500 years later, on May 16, 1920.
Early years and historical background
Joan of Arc was the daughter of poor tenant farmers Jacques d’ Arc and his wife, Isabelle, also known as Romée, Joan learned piety and domestic skills from her mother. Never venturing far from home, Joan took care of the animals and became quite skilled as a seamstress.
At the time of Joan of Arc’s birth, France was embroiled in a long-running war with England known as the Hundred Years’ War; the dispute began over who would be the heir to the French throne. By the early 15th century, northern France was a lawless frontier of marauding armies (Charles the ruler of France was replaced by the English ruler Henry).
At the age of 13, Joan began to hear voices, which she determined had been sent by God to give her a mission of overwhelming importance: to save France by expelling its enemies and to install Charles as its rightful king. In May 1428, Joan’s visions instructed her to go and contact the commander and supporter of Charles. After three attempts, she was allowed to see Charles, and after some conversations with him, he allowed her to lead an army. Joan then dressed like a man, cropped her hair, lead the army and won it successfully.
Later on, Joan was asked to lead another army, but unfortunately, it wasn’t as successful as the first. She fell off her horse and was captured during it. After many trials, she was charged with 70 counts, including witchcraft, heresy, and dressing like a man. Finally, she was burned at the stake, before an estimated crowd of 10,000 people on May 30 and was only 19 years old.
The factors that favored this woman’s ability to occupy a position beyond the normative roles ascribed to women by the social order
At the time of Joan of Arc, women engaging in politics and war wasn’t the norm, and therefore women were not supposed to lead armies and reinstall kings. However, the thing that enabled Joan to be an exception and defy the prevailing norm was her religious inclination and piety. Religion was the only weapon for women to defy and change prevailing norms at that time. Had Joan not stated her visions from God, she wouldn’t have been heard from anyone.
Main obstacles faced by Joan of Arc
She was a woman at a time when they were considered as secondary citizens and supposed to be subservient to men.
She was still a teenager and had no military training.
She said she had seen apparitions sent by God and most people did not believe her.
The people who surrounded the king tried to play tricks on her to prove that she was stupid, ignorant, or mad.
The king himself was weak and ineffectual.
When she was the only woman amongst soldiers she was in danger of being abused by them.
Her task to rid France of the English seemed insurmountable.
Because she was successful in her leadership she made bitter enemies of the English.
Joan succeeded in overcoming her difficulties to a certain extent
She managed to convince everyone that she was hearing voices from God and should save France.
She galvanized the king and restored his self-esteem and assurance.
She inspired the troops and gained their respect as well as that of the other generals.
She dressed in men's clothes and kept herself to herself to avoid molestation.
She succeeded in defeating the English spectacularly.
However, she failed in escaping their wrath, was captured and handed over to a corrupt religious tribunal that condemned her to be burnt alive at the stake for being a witch and renegade.
Joan of Arc’s main legacy was her explicit combination of religion and women’s right.
Joan of Arc has come to mean many things to many people. One of the most important legacies she left behind is the Bible's teachings of "with God all things are possible." Joan was described as being a simple young girl, the only aspect about her that was different was that she had a deep devotion to God. Joan of Arc was teased at times by some of the other children for having such a strong connection to God. When you look at where she came from and then at all that she accomplished, it is really hard to come up with a reasonable explanation for her life other than to help do God's work. Basically, the legacy she left behind was to stay strong to your beliefs, whether your family or friends agree or disagree with them.
Joan of Arc also subliminally left another legacy behind for women. Back then, women were not allowed to go to war, but that did not stop her from doing what she wanted to do. She wanted to fight for her country, so she disguised herself. Joan of Arc is a hero because she refused not to fight for her country just because she was a woman.
© 2017 Joseph Kfoury