HistoryHero Portrait Joan of Arc.png

It was 1429. She was an illiterate French peasant, born in midst of the most notable conflict of the Middle Ages, the 100 Years War, in which five generations of kings from two rival kingdoms, England and France, fought over who should rule Western Europe.

Henry V of England at this point claimed the French crown and occupied northern France, including Paris, the most populous city, and Reims, a city of huge symbolic importance for the French: its kings had been crowned there since there were kings. In 1429 the rightful pretender to the throne, Charles VII, was holed up south of Loire River.

His military and political luck were about to change in the form of a teenage girl dressed as a man.

There are few more widely known and admired #HistoryHeroes than Joan of Arc. Her amazing story is the stuff of legends. Here is the short verion as it's come down through the centuries...

While still a child in the village of Domrémy in northeast France, Joan saw visions and heard voices. She believed it was God, speaking to her through Saints Michael, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioc and instructing her to support Charles VII in recovering France from English Domination. 

At the age of 13, Joan claimed that she was divinely chosen to save France from English invasion. For the next few years, she prepared for her God-given destiny. She refined her focus through chastity vows and refused to marry. In 1428, now 17, she felt it was time to embark. She cut her hair short, donned men's clothes, and traveled eleven days across enemy territory to speak to Charles. She promised him that she would win back his throne if allowed to lead his army into Battle at Orléans.

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She had no military training and no experience in battle, but in 1429, Joan rode aback a white charger, wearing a glorious suit of white armor. She initiated numerous attacks against the British invaders, forcing them into retreat. When King Charles VII took the throne, as she’d promised, she stood by his side, an icon of French strength for all.

But then the tides turned against Joan. Her incredible success at Orléans inspired Charles to send her, in 1430, to fight the British back at Compiégne, in the northernmost reaches of what is now modern France. That battle didn’t go so well. Joan she was taken captive by a French faction sympathetic to the British, who sold to them for 10,000 francs.

She was condemned as a witch and put her on trial for heresy. And for dressing like a man.

They burned poor Joan at the stake in 1431 in front of thousands of onlookers. She was only nineteen. It is said they had to burn her three times to get the job done.

Her ashes were scattered into the Seine. Decades later, after the Hundred Years War ended, King Charles ordered an investigation, resulting in the postmortem claim of Joan's innocence. In 1456, she was deigned a martyr. In 1920 she was canonized as an official saint. She is now the patron saint of France.

A national icon and one of history’s most famous military leaders, Joan of Arc led France to a miraculous victory with no military training. That's why she's a Time Traveler Tours #HistoryHero. Thanks to Jeanne B. de Sainte Marie of Paris, France for nominating her.


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