Joan was born around 1412 in the village of Domremy, on the border of France and the Holy Roman Empire, in the current day province of Lorraine. She later testified that she experienced her first vision around 1424 at the age of 12 years, when she was out alone in a field and saw visions of figures she identified as Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, who told her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation. She said she cried when they left, as they were so beautiful.
At the age of 16, “voices” of Christian saints told Joan to aid Charles, the French dauphin, in gaining the French throne and expelling the English from France. Convinced of the validity of her divine mission, Charles furnished Joan with a small force of troops.
Many historians believe that when the Dauphin Charles granted Joan’s urgent request to be equipped for war and placed at the head of his army, his decision must have been based in large part on the knowledge that every orthodox, every rational, option had been tried and had failed. Only a regime in the final straits of desperation would pay any heed to an illiterate farm girl who claimed that the voice of God was instructing her to take charge of her country’s army and lead it to victory. Throughout his reign, Charles was also subject to bouts of insanity.
Never-the-less, Joan led her troops to Orleans, and on April 29th, as a French sortie distracted the English troops on the west side of the city, Joan entered unopposed by its eastern gate. Bringing needed supplies and troops into the besieged city, she also inspired the French to a passionate resistance and through the next week led the charge during a number of skirmishes and battles. On one occasion, she was even hit by an arrow, but after dressing her wounds she returned to the battle. On May 8, the siege of Orleans was broken, and the English retreated.
During the next five weeks, Joan led French forces into a number of stunning victories over the English, and Reims, the traditional city of coronation, was captured in July. Later that month, Charles VII was crowned king of France, with Joan of Arc kneeling at his feet. In May 1430, while leading another military expedition against the English occupiers of France, Bourguignon soldiers captured Joan and sold her to the English, who tried her for heresy. She was tried as a heretic and witch, convicted, and on May 30th 1431, burned at the stake at Rouen.
The Hundred Years’ War continued for twenty-two years after her death. Charles VII succeeded in retaining legitimacy as the king of France in spite of a rival coronation held for Henry VI in December 1431 on the boy’s tenth birthday. Before England could rebuild its military leadership and force of longbowmen, lost in 1429, the country lost its alliance with Burgundy at the Treaty of Arras in 1435. The Duke of Bedford died the same year and Henry VI became the youngest king of England to rule without a regent; his weak leadership was probably the most important factor in ending the conflict. Kelly DeVries argues that Joan of Arc’s aggressive use of artillery and frontal assaults influenced French tactics for the rest of the war.
On 16th May 1920, Joan of Arc, already one of the great heroes of French history, was recognised as a Christian saint by the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XV, and is one of the churches most popular saints.