Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d’Arc, en français) led France to victory against the English using the radical strategy of fighting back.  By the time she was born in 1412, her village was surrounded by foreign-controlled land and the French were doing their best to resemble a turtle.  When she was thirteen, she saw a vision of the saints in the sky informing her that she should do something about this personally.

For some reason, the French authorities had their doubts about Joan’s qualifications.  When they took stock of their advantages against the English, however, it turned out that one teenage girl claiming to have been sent by God was all they had, so why not?  They sent her to the siege of Orléans, and tada! there was a French victory.

The French asked Joan if they might have a breather, but she insisted that they could all sleep once they’d been martyred by the English.  On they went, retaking French territory. During her military career, Joan was shot once in the leg with a crossbow bolt, once in the neck with an arrow, and once in the head with a cannonball (the last sustained while scaling a castle wall) none of which seemed to slow her down much.

Finally, they were able to take back Reims, the site of French coronations. The newly -crowned Charles VII decided to pay Joan back by messing with a good thing.  Against her advice, he made some ill-fated truces with the English that ultimately led to her being nabbed off her horse in battle.  She attempted to escape a couple times, the most successful being a nosedive into the mud beneath a seventy-foot tower.

Joan was kept just long enough for a nice little politically motivated religious mock-trial.  They couldn’t quite get enough on her to make the heresy charges stick, so they convicted her for dressing in men’s clothing instead, then set her on fire until she died.

Believe what you want, Joan had a faith that pulled her and France through some pretty bad odds.  It almost offset the faith the English had in burning her to death as a heretic.  This may be why she is venerated both amongst Roman Catholics and Anglicans.

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