Joan of Arc through the Ages: In Art and Imagination
By Anne Midgley
Saber and Scroll, Vol. 6:1 (2017)
Introduction: Since her death at the hands of the English in 1431, Joan of Arc has inspired and puzzled millions. The poor peasant girl who rallied the French to victory at Orléans has fuelled the imagination of artists, authors, poets, and cinematographers. Over the past six centuries, the enigmatic Joan has appealed to not only the people of France, but also to groups as diverse as Philippine and Macedonian revolutionaries, literary societies, American suffragists, and temperance advocates. Yet, according to one Victorian writer, she has also alarmed and troubled many, for according to her assessment, “There is no figure in history more incendiary to the imagination than this Joan of Arc.”
Cam Rea’s article “The Maiden of France: A Brief Overview of Joan of Arc and the Siege of Orléans,” published in this issue of the Saber and Scroll Journal, well details the French military victories that Joan inspired against the English and their French allies, the Burgundians. The English and their allies feared and detested Joan; however, her loyalty to the Dauphin of France, Charles, and her visionary leadership in battle inspired the French Armagnacs to repulse their enemies, lift the siege of Orléans, and win a number of subsequent military victories.
These victories eventually led to the coronation of Charles VII as the king of France on 17 July 1429. Out of gratitude, Charles ennobled Joan and her family on 29 December 1429. He provided them with the name of Du Lis and established lilies for their coat of arms. On 24 May 1430, a surprise Burgundian attack on the town of Compiègne led to Joan’s capture. She became a prisoner of John of Luxemburg, who sold her to the English. The English desired her death. This prompted the charge of heresy and the infamous ecclesiastical trial that resulted in her death sentence.