Debunking Joan of Arc
And why she’s important
PART ONE: HER PLACE IN HISTORY
History celebrates heroes.
It sings of astounding characters with godly abilities and revolutionary spirits. They appear ordinary, lying complacent until circumstances compel them to act differently, feverishly dedicated to a humanitarian cause. Their existence does not end with their death, it can be seen in the actions of others — a ubiquitous influence that remains for centuries.
Joan of Arc, France’s immortal war hero, is one such luminary, a popular subject of speculation and rampant imagination even six hundred years after her demise.
Joan of Arc was brought up ordinary, born into a peasant family in 1412. She was not privy to formal education, instead, she learned how to sew and paint — delicate things that would allow her to become an eligible bride. She was also instilled with a deep love for the Catholic Church, a devotion that burned constantly.
In 1429, this same peasant girl appeared before the court of the crown prince, Charles of Valois, claiming to be Frances's salvation from the British, propelled by holy voices that tasked her with freeing France from Anglo-Burgundian rule. True to her word, Joan of Arc successfully drove away British forces and won the crown for Charles of Valois, the rightful heir. Clad in her heavy armour, Joan was a picture of a fearless warrior for some, and a figure of suspicion for others. This suspicion rose steadily until she was sold to the English, accused of witchcraft, and burned at the stake.
A fear-trodden verdict of her supposed supernatural character wrongly robbed Joan of her life. Since then, the quest to uncover her true identity has created multiple depictions, each conforming to a different approach, each placing emphasis on different components of her life.
While this extensive, ever-present debate serves as evidence of her far-reaching influence, it also creates a perplexing atmosphere that clouds the reality of her life. How much of her history stems from the truth and how much is fiction?
Most of us are already familiar with the “creativity” that colors Joan’s story. We know that she was more of a mascot than a warrior — that she was the creation of over-imaginative minds.
But not all of Joan was a fabrication.
There is still much to talk about.