4.4 100 Years War: Joan of Arc

Okay, so let's just remind ourselves of a few facts: firstly in 1414, Henry V of England reasserted his claim to the French throne and then invaded in 1415. Secondly, the English decisively defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt thereafter controlling all of northern France. Thirdly, in exchange for peace the French King Charles VI declared Henry V of England as the next king of France. Fourthly, Charles VI disowned his own son (Charles VII). Lastly, Henry V died before being declared king. Henry VI was coronated as the king of France and England; however, Henry VI was a completely ineffectual leader; moreover, many French nobles supported Charles VII's claim to the French throne.

ENTER JOAN OF ARC (1412 -1431)
On March 7, 1429, Joan of Arc persuaded Charles VII to let her lead the French troops into battle. Initially he did not want to allow a Joan—a peasant girl—to lead his army; but something happened changed his mind about her. There was a prophecy bouncing around France that a “maid from Lorraine” would save the kingdom. Joan seemed to fit the description of the savoir of France. Also, Joan was different than other people. She claimed to speak directly to God and she claimed God had sent her to save France.

joan of arcThere is also another interesting story about when Joan first met Charles VII. She had never actually seen him before so she did not know what he looked like. At a party Charles VII was told Joan had arrived and wanted to see him. He reasoned that if she was in fact the messenger of God she would be able to pick him out of a crowd. So, he had a friend dress up as king and the royal guard led Joan into his chamber was filled with guests.

Joan approached the throne and looked at the fake king. She stood silent for a moment and looked into the man’s eyes knowing right away this was not the real king. She turned around scouring the faces in the crowd and picking out the true king. This convinced Charles VII Joan was something special.

Charles gave Joan his authority to lead the French army in battle. Under her influence, the French army was victorious at the Battle of Orleans. This battle was the turning point of the war and Joan’s army pushed the English back towards the English Channel. One of the reasons the French were so successful under Joan was that even the English started believing she was sent by God. The English soldiers became increasingly reluctant to fight the French (Joan) for two reasons: firstly, they believed she might actually be sent by God (and God could not be defeated); secondly, Joan supposedly wielded Charles Martel’s sword in battle. Martel was an important figure in French history because under his leadership France prevented a full-blown invasion by Muslims during the Battle of Tours in 732 AD.

On May 23, 1430, Joan was captured by the Burgundians while attempting to lead a defense of the town of Beaurevior. Joan was held in a castle. She attempted to escape by jumping from a window. She survived the 60 foot fall but was recaptured. In November, the Duke of Burgundy sold Joan to the English. The English were anxious to destroy Joan's reputation. If they could destroy her reputation, the English believed Charles VII's claim to the French throne could be weakened and England's armies would become more confident. The English clergy finally arrested Joan trying her for the heresy of witchcraft. She was burnt at the stake on May 30, 1431.

Joan set an example inspiring the French Army enabling them to completely drive the English from France.  From that point on, the power of the French Monarchy prevailed in Western Europe. Charles VII became king uniting all of France under his leadership. The fighting officially ended in 1453 AD even though no formal treaty was ever signed.