Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Joan of Arc Burned at the Stake on May 30, 1431


Medieval Europe Was Strange and Barbaric

First, a bit of context . . . 

The Hundred Years War began in 1337 and so in 1412 when Joan of Arc was born it was 75 years in. Seventy five years. That’s a really, really long time to fight a war — and it had a few decades to go yet. 

King Henry V of England became king in 1413 at age 26 and invaded France in 1415, winning a series of impressive battles even though vastly outnumbered (the most well-known is the Battle of Agincourt). 

As a result of this successful campaign and another one starting in 1417, England controlled most of northern France including Paris and so King Charles VI of France was forced to the negotiating table and eventually signed away rights of succession to the throne in the Treaty of Troyes in 1420.

Ironically both kings died within a month of each other in 1422, but because of the treaty and the fact that the English controlled Reims where French coronation took place, the French were unable to install their new king until they regained control of the region. 

And so an infant — Henry VI — became not just King of England but of France too.

At this point, obviously, things were not going well for the French, especially in the the areas controlled by the English. They needed a leader.

In 1425 when she was 13 Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc in English) — an illiterate peasant daughter of a tenant farmer and her pious mother who instilled in her a great love for the Catholic religion — began to hear “voices” in her head instructing her to fight to reclaim the throne for France. She claimed these voices were St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret. Whether that is strictly true or not, doesn’t really matter in the long run, does it? She said there were voices, she took action based on it, and changed the course of history by helping to recapture the throne for France. 

In 1428 at 16 years of age she dressed like a man and traveled to a local magistrate to present her case, but he sent her home. She tried again in 1429 and this time he agreed to travel with her, 11 days through enemy territory, to see Charles about launching an offensive at Orleans.

He agreed, after much discusion with his advisors. From history.com:

Charles furnished her with a small army, and on April 27, 1429, she set out for Orleans, besieged by the English since October 1428. On April 29, as a French sortie distracted the English troops on the west side of Orleans, Joan entered unopposed by its eastern gate. She brought greatly needed supplies and reinforcements and inspired the French to a passionate resistance. She personally led the charge in several battles and on May 7 was struck by an arrow. After quickly dressing her wound, she returned to the fight, and the French won the day. On May 8, the English retreated from Orleans.

During the next five weeks, Joan and the French commanders led the French into a string of stunning victories over the English. On July 16, the royal army reached Reims, which opened its gates to Joan and the Dauphin. The next day, Charles VII was crowned king of France, with Joan standing nearby holding up her standard: an image of Christ in judgment. After the ceremony, she knelt before Charles, joyously calling him king for the first time.

They tried to recapture Paris but failed, and then she was captured and handed over to the English and then to religious authorities who held her for a year — inexplicably, Charles VII never tried to negotiate her release — and charged her with many crimes including heresy, witchcraft … and dressing like a man. 

After some back and forth, where she signed a confession but a few days later recanted and was charged again, she was sentenced to die and burned alive at the stake.

But wait, there’s more, as Wikipedia explains.

In 1456, an inquisitorial court reinvestigated Joan's trial and overturned the verdict, declaring that it was tainted by deceit and procedural errors. Joan has been revered as a martyr, and viewed as an obedient daughter of the Roman Catholic Church, an early feminist, and a symbol of freedom and independence. After the French Revolution, she became a national symbol of France. In 1920, Joan of Arc was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church and, two years later, was declared one of the patron saints of France. She is portrayed in numerous cultural works, including literature, music, paintings, sculptures, and theater.

Links plus a video for more details …