I have always wondered at how a young girl became the leader of a French army who ended up winning a battle against the English at Orleans.
Saint Joan of Arc was born in 1412, right in the middle of the Hundred Years War between France and England about who would be heir to the French Throne because Northern France was considered a lawless frontier with many different armies just running around. She was born to a poor family and was taught piety and domestic skills from her mother. She took care of animals and became a seamstress.
Over time, Joan of Arc began to have visions. Saints such as St. Michael and St. Catherine began visiting her, encouraging her to lead a pious life. Eventually, they told her that she was destined be the savior of France and she had to get an audience with Charles who was heir to the French throne. She was instructed to ask his permission to remove the English and place him as the rightful King.
Well you can imagine Charles’ reaction at first. However, Joan won him over when she identified him in a crowd of court members dressed in disguise. She had private talks with him and recited a prayer Charles made to God to save France. Still unsure, Charles had her examined by his clergymen who reported that there was nothing improper with her. She was pious, chaste and humble.
Charles gave this 17 year old girl armor, a horse and let her join the army to Orleans where there was an English siege. After 2 months of battle, a wounded Joan led her army to systematic demolition of the enemy which resulted in an inevitable victory and Charles was crowned Charles VII with Joan at his side.
King Charles VII later sent Joan to lead another battle where she was thrown off her horse and taken prisoner by the Burgundians, who later sold her to the English. Charles VII made no attempt to save her. Joan was tried as a heretic, charged with witchcraft, heresy and dressing like a man. During her public trial, she was mercilessly interrogated while all the while maintaining her innocence and remaining humble and calm. Eventually, since they couldn’t break her, they charged her with wearing men’s clothes which was her military uniform. Found guilty of heresy, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in front of 10,000 people at the age of 19 on May 30, 1431.
Twenty years later, King Charles VII had another trial and declared her innocent of all charges and made her a martyr. She was canonized as the patron saint of France in 1920.
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