By: Gene Kirschbaum
On 29 April 1429 (the day Joan of Arc arrived in Orleans) the Hundred Years War against the English had been going very poorly for the French. Luckily for the French, a young, illiterate, farm girl had received visions that she would lead French troops to victory.
(Note: the Hundred Years War was another one of those ridiculous wars that was fought because the ruling class couldn’t come to agreement regarding who should be the next king).
As a prelude to Joan’s story, we must note that an old French legend held that France would be saved by a virgin who would work miracles. Perhaps this is why 17-year-old Joan was able to convince Charles VII of her merit. And then again, perhaps it was simply desperation that caused Charles to send her to Orleans as part of a relief mission.
She was amazing — the original Wonder Woman! Within nine days of her arrival, French fortunes turned and the English lifted the siege on Orleans. This led to an incredible boost in morale, and the French went on the offensive — leading to a succession of victories.
Unfortunately, Joan was eventually captured, imprisoned by the English, and tried by clerics for religious crimes.
Possessing uncanny wisdom, Joan was able to fend off her inquisitors with incredible clarity. For instance, the tribunal asked if she was “in God’s grace.” This was a trap, for if she answered affirmatively, then she could be convicted of heresy — for under church doctrine, no one could be certain of being in God’s grace. On the other hand, if she answered, “no,” then she would be confessing to her crimes.
Utterly confounding the clerics, here’s how young Joan answered the question of whether she was in God’s grace: “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.”
She occasionally dressed as a male soldier, so the religious tribunal convicted her of “cross dressing.”
On 30 May 1431, she was burned at the stake at the tender age of 19. She became Saint Joan in 1920.