St. Joan of Arc

by Sarah from San Diego

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"But since God had commanded me to go, I must do it. And since God had commanded it, had I had a hundred fathers and a hundred mothers, and had I been a king's daughter, I would have gone" (Trask). People are seldom seen with this devotion and drive to achieve, yet an inspiring figure who greatly carries these qualities is the first female war leader, Joan of Arc. St. Joan of Arc, or Jehanne d'Arc as her original French name, was born in 1412 on a small farm in Domremy during the Hundred Years' War. When Joan was 13 she began hearing voices from saints reporting God's plan for her to bring Charles VIII, the oldest son, the dauphin, of the previous king to the throne instead of invading English rulers such as king Henry VI, and to lead the French army to victory (Gale). At Chinon, she met the dauphin and received her sword, banner, armor, and permission to lead 20,000 men into battle at Orleans, and on May 8, 1429, Joan and her troops drove the English out of Orleans and reclaimed it as French land. At Reims she recaptured various French cities, all without shedding any blood, called "The Bloodless March". Her campaign to crown Charles VII as king of France also succeeded in July 17, 1429, largely due to her victory in Orleans. Her reign of triumph was cut short, however, while retreating to Compiegne, when dwindling numbers of soldiers and lack of royal support allowed her capture by the English in the Chateau of Beaurevior. After being tortured, charged for cross dressing and heresy, and sentenced to death by fire, she signed the abjuration to deny the voices she heard to avoid being burned but later revoked the abjuration when she was put into an English prison instead of a church prison as promised. Gazing upon a consecrated cross and repeatedly shouting the name of Jesus, she was tied and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. Near the war's end at 1449 and with the English driven out of France, Joan was proclaimed a martyr - she was eventually beatified in 1909 and canonized as a saint in 1920 (Champion). Her sacrifice affected her captors and those watching, as the realization that they had burned a saint dawned on them. She affected people all over Europe and eventually all over the world people recognized her as a legend. A hero must possess the qualities of determination and selflessness: determination is a quality that pushes one to continue trying to accomplish a difficult task, and selflessness is showing great concern for others and none for oneself. St. Joan of Arc's determination to save lives, free and protect France, and end the invasion in conjunction with her selflessness in her goals and actions in battle and towards her troops qualify her as a deserving hero.

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           Joan of Arc devoted herself to fulfilling God's mission and saving her people which showed her immense determination. In the very beginning of her journey, she had to face the captain of Vancouleurs, Robert de Baudricourt, for permission to meet the king in order to carry out her mission, showing her fearlessness and persistence: "Joan twice [asked] for an escort to Charles VII at Chinon. The third time she was granted an escort, and she set out... and two days later was allowed to see the [dauphin]" (Gale).Joan, still 18, boldly requested to meet the dauphin on military request. This was rather daring for a young girl like her, asking to meet someone of such a high stature; she was even rejected twice but persisted and achieved a meeting with the king. Most people would never try to confront a town captain to meet the dauphin, out of fear; this, coupled with the fact that it is completely appropriate for a person to leave after being turned down, showed Joan's outstanding persistence. She persevered in reaching her goals and did not fear of the means to achieve them as long as they were fair and just. Similarly, her resolve is shown when she led her troops to the siege of Orleans in 1429: "[Before the siege of Orleans], Joan called on the English commander for him to retreat... and she turned rough French soldiers into Crusaders. Joan's leadership encouraged troops to follow her famous banner and her ringing cry, "In God's name, charge boldly!" ...She rallied [the troops at Tourelles] after French captains had given up hope. The next day, the English withdrew from Orleans" (Stewart). Although war is a huge leap from farm life, she pursued this mission because of her strong morals, trust in God, and her fortitude. Joan was hopeful and persistent enough, surprisingly as a woman, to change her rough soldiers into Crusaders; she stuck to her Catholicism and was determined to reform them to Catholic values such as prayer and confession, which leads to a more just and compassionate army rather than ruthless soldiers. Her tenacity, shown in her leadership and confidence, was a major driving force in the battles and siege. She was ever-courageous; being able to continue the battle even after the French captains had lost hope. Due to her never-ending determination, despite her young age and especially as a woman, she persevered enough to lead successful troops and triumph over the English.

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            Another aspect of Joan that makes her a hero is her selflessness in her goals and motives with her battles and troops. While rallying her troops, Joan reveals she does not care about her health and safety and only for the safety of the French when she says, "I shall last a year, and but little longer... Four things are laid upon me: to drive out the English; to bring you to be crowned and anointed at Reims; to rescue the Duke of Orleans from the hands of the English; and to raise the siege of Orleans" (Trask). All of her goals were to protect her beloved country from the English by leading the French troops during the wars and by helping the French dauphin to the throne because she believed he would serve the country justly. Unselfish, she never had her own needs, wants, and well-being in mind as others do. Joan risked her life in battle only for the sake of France and to fulfill God's plans. Not only did she lead troops and fight but she also showed devotion towards her soldiers, her king, and her country, especially at Les Tourelles during the siege of Orleans: "Wounded, she continued to encourage the soldiers until she had to abandon the attack. Though the next day she sought to renew the assault, they were ordered by Charles's council to retreat" (Lanhers). Though fatally wounded near her neck, Joan proceeded to pull out the arrow on her own and quickly returned to the battlefield to support her soldiers and only ceased the attack on Charles' orders. Her chivalry is immeasurable; she valued life, but she put her own on the line to protect a greater good, her country. Joan's hero title and canonization is largely a result of not only her magnanimity in her war efforts but in her love for her country, her troops, and her king.

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            These noble qualities, determination and selflessness, is what distinguishes St. Joan of Arc from a military leader and a hero. Joan, only a teenager and a girl at that, put God and her country before everything. She gave her soldiers strength to fight the English even though she was a woman, being one of the first female soldiers in history. Though she had no experience in battle, she fought bravely and trusted herself and her troops to succeed. She even risked her life in battle by continuing to encourage her soldiers while she bled, showing perseverance and inner strength.  Joan exceeded many military officers when she, even as she was mortally wounded, continued to support the French troops. Fearless, Joan led battles with her beloved sword in hand and banner waving without cowering behind her troops. Joan was not only a tough war leader, she was also very much human with her compassion and struggles: "...she charged towards the gate struck with grief at the unfolding bloody scene before her as countrymen were carried into town, dead or bleeding.  French forces appeared to be losing the battle; when the troops saw Jehanne riding into battle, the French troops rallied. Three hours later, the fortress of St. Loup was taken. It's reported that she had great compassion for her enemy, grieving for the loss of their life, and not allowing harm to come to the living" (Champion). Joan, although heavily repelled by bloodshed, continued to fight to protect France. She sympathized with her enemies and showed love towards her soldiers. Even in victory, she felt empathy towards lost enemy souls because in her eyes, everyone is made equal, clearly differentiating her from merciless war captains. Today, Joan of Arc is respected as a military leader and a brave, kind soul, not as a heretic. Joan's perseverance in war motivates me to persist in any hardships I face. Her selflessness inspires me to see the best in others, unafraid of putting others before myself. Joan of Arc is a role model for all women, as she shows her defiance to the norm and her influence as a great leader. Her actions inspire all, from the day of her birth to her ultimate sacrifice.

Works Cited

Champion, Pierre. "Her Journey." Joan of Arc: A Map of Her Journey. Trans. Coley Taylor and Ruth H. Kerr. Sojourn Photography, 2005. Web. 08 May 2014. .

"Joan of Arc." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography in Context. Web. 2 May 2014. 

Stewart, Paul, and Stewart Paul. "Joan Of Arc." Great Lives From History: The Middle Ages (2005): 1. Biography Reference Center. Web. 2 May 2014.

Trask, Willard R., and Joan. Joan of Arc: In Her Own Words. New York: Turtle Point, 1996. Print.

Yvonne, Lanhers, and Vale Malcolm G.A. "Joan Of Arc, Saint." Britannica Biographies (2012): 1. Biography Reference Center. Web. 2 May 2014.

Page created on 5/25/2014 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/25/2014 12:00:00 AM

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