Joan Of Arc: 13 Insane Things You Didn't Know
If you remember your European history, you probably remember Joan of Arc as the determined teenage girl who led the French to victory over the English in a key battle of the Hundred Years' War before her capture and burning at the stake. While this simplistic summary of her life is accurate, there was also much more to the story. Let's look at some of the insane things you may not have known about Joan of Arc.
There Was No Arc
When a person's name is followed by "of [place]," it usually means a person is from that place. It makes sense, then, to assume that Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d'Arc, in her native French) was from some village named Arc, but it was actually just the surname that God and her parents, Jacques and Isabelle d'Arc, gave her. Perhaps the family originated in some arcish place, but historians haven't found it, noting that Joan lived in a town in northeastern France named Domremy. To make matters more confusing, when she was arrested, she gave her name as Jehanne la Pucelle, or Joan the Maiden. She was also known as the Maid of Orléans, which is a place; in fact, it's where she fought in battle against the English. Have you got all that?
No Relation To Noah
The "Arc" part of Joan's name continues to cause confusion to this day. About 12% of people in the U.S. believe she was married to Noah, the biblical ark builder, which the details of Joan's life prove a comical mistake. She was kind of famously a virgin, for one thing. She was a devoutly religious young woman who never got to chance to marry, dying at 19 and all. She also lived well after the time period depicted in the Bible, having been born in 1412. For what its worth, other religious texts indicate that Noah's wife was named Naamah, and just to be clear, neither Joan of Arc nor Noah had anything to do with the Ark of the Covenant, the gold and wooden box that houses the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments carved on them that everyone seems to be looking for in all those Hollywood movies and History Channel documentaries.
A Strange Prophecy
Joan was born during the Hundred Years' War, which famously lasted a really long time. (Fun fact: It would more accurately be called the 116 Years' War.) Basically, England wanted control over France, and it's frankly a little hard to see why they didn't just give it up. France was a hot mess: A bunch of royals had died in a series of suspicious events, leaving only one legitimate heir to the throne, the teenage Charles VII. Since he was too young to rule, much of the decision-making fell to Isabelle of Bavaria, who may or may not have been Charles's real mother. Royal gossip aside, a strange prophecy had floated around the countryside for years which held that "France would be lost by a woman and restored by a virgin." When Isabelle signed the Treaty of Troyes, agreeing that the French throne would pass to an English heir, the French were certain that the first part of the prophecy had come to pass. They were convinced they needed a virgin to save them.
Joan Saw Things
From an early age, Joan of Arc claimed she experienced visions. As a child, these visions urged her to lead a pure and pious life, but as she grew older, their instructions became more specific. Joan stated at her trial that, beginning at around age 13, she was visited by the spirits of Saint Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine. Joan said she wept with joy because the ghostly figures were so beautiful, but the spirits were not there to impress, informing Joan that she was the virgin who was destined to save France. They instructed her to drive out the English and escort young Charles to his consecration, where he, not an English heir, would officially be crowned the King of France.
Joan Had To Prove Her Visions
Joan traveled to a nearby town to seek an armed escort to take her to the French court, but when she told her story, the garrison commander snickered and sent her away. Undeterred, Joan returned and asked again, but this time, she was ready to prove that her visions were real. She told the commander that her visions informed her of an unexpected victory at the Battle of Rouvray, which he believed was still raging but had actually just ended. When word of the battle's outcome reached the commander, he granted her an armed escort, probably out of fear as much as anything else.
The Dauphin's Trick
Whisperings of Joan of Arc and her otherworldly visions reached Charles VII before she did. Like the garrison commander before him, Charles was skeptical of the rumors, so he decided to test Joan. He ordered another young man to dress as him and sit upon his throne while he dressed as a commoner and mingled with the crowds, but Joan wasn't fooled. When she was presented to the throne, she turned away from the imposter and walked directly to Charles, bowing before him. She then revealed specific details of a prayer that Charles had made to God in private. That sufficed to convince Charles, who soon admitted Joan into discussions about the fate of France.
Joan May Have Had A Mental Health Disorder
Many modern doctors who have examined the Joan of Arc case are convinced that the young girl was suffering not from divine intervention but simple hallucinations. A variety of potential diagnoses have been floated as explanations for these hallucinations, from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia to seizures to bovine tuberculosis contracted on the peasant farm where she grew up. These diagnoses may explain her visions, but they don't explain how she supposedly had advance knowledge of battlefield victories or what Charles VII looked like.
Joan Rocked A Bob Hairstyle
Before her journey to see the dauphin, Joan considered the risks of traveling in the company of male soldiers and thus took steps to look less feminine and appealing. She cut her long hair into a boyish bob, wore trousers instead of a dress, and even allegedly tied extra layers of undergarments tightly around her waist to thwart any attacks that might leave her virginity in question. It was, after all, was an important part of the prophecy she was planning to fulfill.
Did Joan Really Fight In The Battle Of Orléans?
According to the story, Charles gave Joan a horse and armor so she could lead the French army into battle in Orléans, an area besieged by the English. Hollywood portrayals of Joan of Arc lead us to believe that she fought valiantly alongside the French soldiers in the four-day battle of early May 1429, but Joan was actually just the person who held the banner as the soldiers fought. Still, that didn't protect her from battlefield injuries; she took arrows in both the shoulder and the thigh. The Battle of Orléans was hard fought, but in the end, the French routed the English. The victory (and Joan's hand in it) seemed to prove that the old prophecy was coming true.
The Sword of Saint Catherine, with five crosses on the blade. (jeanne-darc.info)
Joan Did Have A Sword
On the way to meet with the dauphin, Joan of Arc went on a side quest to the Chapel of Saint Catherine. She insisted that her visions told her to go there and seek out an ancient sword, the Sword of Saint Catherine, which had five crosses on the blade. The visions directed her to a small room behind the altar of the chapel, where she dug beneath the earthen floor and found a rusty old sword exactly where her visions said it would be. The blade was so rusty, in fact, that it completely obscured the metal underneath, but when Joan wiped the rust away, she saw the unmistakable five crosses. There's no historical evidence that Joan ever wielded the sword in battle, but she did use it to swat the behinds of every prostitute she saw.
It Was The Church, Not The English, Who Tried Joan Of Arc
It's true that Joan of Arc was captured by the English during the Battle of Burgundian, but they didn't put her on trial. They used Joan as a bargaining tool, releasing her to the Catholic Church in exchange for 10,000 francs. The Church charged Joan with a whopping 70 crimes, including cross-dressing and heresy, and she was found guilty on May 29, 1431. The next day, she was marched to the center of town and burned at the stake, although some legends claim that her heart could not be damaged by the fire. She was 19 years old.
Found Innocent Much Too Late
After Joan's death, Charles reclaimed the French crown, the English were ousted, and the Hundred Years' War came to an end. In 1456, King Charles ordered a retrial of Joan of Arc, in which she was acquitted of all the charges against her. A true martyr, Joan of Arc was made a saint on May 16, 1920. Today, she is the patron saint of France.
A Strange Religion Worships Joan To This Day
A religious movement founded in Vietnam in 1926 worships Joan of Arc as one of its divine deities. Caodaism, as the group is called, has upwards of six million followers and draws on aspects of Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Taoism in its teachings. Alongside Joan of Arc, the saints of Caodaism include Buddha, Pericles, Jesus Christ, and Victor Hugo.
Tags: England | france | Hundred Years War | joan of arc
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