“It is true that the king has made a truce with the duke of Burgundy for fifteen days and that the duke is to turn over the city of Paris at the end of fifteen days. Yet you should not marvel if I do not enter that city so quickly. If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.” – Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc would go down in history as a canonized saint of France. She would change the English and French throne during the one hundred year war all before her eighteenth birthday. Joan was a very brave, religious, and strong woman. She did not conform to the world’s standards and threw gender roles to the wind by becoming a 15th century military leader.
In today’s post, I wanted to share a little of Joan’s history and a two letters she had sent out at the height of military expeditions. One is written to Duke Philip of Burgundy and another to the citizens of Rheims. She never learned to read or write, except her own signature which was simply an x.
According to handwriting experts who studied the signatures on her letters, Joan was left-handed. She is thought to have been illiterate, obtaining no formal education so her letters were often dictated by her page Louis de Contes and her priest, Father Jean Pasquerel. Joan’s letters show tremendous passion, devotion and compassion, even for the enemies of France.
The story of Joan of Arc is an inspiring tale of a strong-willed teenager but also an extremely sad one. Joan wouldn’t live past nineteen years of age. She will forever be remembered as a martyr, saint, and a leader. Joan was born around 1412 in Domremy, France as the daughter of a poor farmer.
She was the fourth child of Jacques and Isabelle d’Arc and had been originally named Jeanne d’Arc but would be later referred to as “The Maid of Orleans.” The girl’s early life was fairly normal and simple for the time. Joan learned how to be a hard worker quite young, being raised to tend on the animals and do laborious chores around the farm with her siblings.
The d’Arc’s had five children. The three eldest boys were Jacquemin, Jean, and Pierre. The two younger daughters were Joan and Catherine. All of them were well behaved and dutiful children who helped run their family’s farm. Joan was taught many skills and was a very talented seamstress from early on. She however would not be taught to read and was illiterate.
It was from Isabelle d’Arc that Joan would learn to love the Catholic Church. She become highly religious as early as the age five believing in piousness and devoutness to god above all other things. Joan was said to have a longing for religious knowledge that encouraged her to attend confessional often, pray in solitary to god for hours, and always lead through example.
She was smart, strong, and beautiful in appearance. Joan was something extraordinary from the very beginning. It was around the age of thirteen that Joan had an outlandish experience that would forever change her life and place her on a path to lead an entire army against England in the name of France. Joan started hearing voices in her head which she concluded were messages from god. The mission of the god was to save France.
This would be accomplished by removing its enemies and putting the rightful king, Charles VII on the French throne. This was an appealing prospect because the French and English were wholly consumed in their hundred year war at the time leading France to be outmaneuvered which prevented Charles from claiming the throne for himself as King of France.
What is so interesting about all of this was the fact that in the area Joan lived, the people were staunch supporters of Charles, so it was quite natural for Joan and her supporters to want him placed on the throne. God’s message promised this would happen with Joan’s help and guidance.
It would not take long before Charles was convinced to give this strange girl a chance to help his cause when she was at the age of sixteen. “In a private audience at his castle at Chinon, Joan of Arc won the future Charles VII over by supposedly revealing information that only a messenger from God could know; the details of this conversation are unknown.” It would be a long road before Charles would have his throne but this was the beginning of that journey.
Joan’s father wanted to arrange a marriage for his daughter, but she refused declaring she would not marry whereas she immediately took a vow of chastity. Joan would ultimately have to convince a local court she should not be forced to accept any arranged matches. Joan never did marry.
This is a letter sent to Duke Philip of Burgundy on July 17, 1429, while Joan was in Rheims for the coronation of Charles VII, reminding the duke of a previous letter asking him to attend the coronation. Burgundy was one of the six secular Peers of the kingdom expected to attend , along with a matching set of six ecclesiastic Peers; but the duke was allied with the English and therefore supported Henry VI as king of France. In this second letter she asks the Duke to “make a lasting peace” with Charles.
Great and formidable Prince, Duke of Burgundy,
Jeanne the Virgin requests of you, in the name of the King of Heaven, my rightful and sovereign Lord, that the King of France and yourself should make a good firm lasting peace. Fully pardon each other willingly, as faithful Christians should do; and if it should please you to make war, then go against the Saracens. Prince of Burgundy, I pray, beg, and request as humbly as I can that you wage war no longer in the holy kingdom of France, and order your people who are in any towns and fortresses of the holy kingdom to withdraw promptly and without delay. As for the noble King of France, he is ready to make peace with you, saving his honor; if you’re not opposed.
I tell you, in the name of the King of Heaven, my rightful and sovereign Lord, for your well-being and your honor and upon your lives, that you will never win a battle against the loyal French, and that all those who have been waging war in the holy kingdom of France have been fighting against King Jesus, King of Heaven and of all the world. And I beg and request of you with clasped hands to not fight any battles nor wage war against us – neither yourself, your troops nor subjects; and know beyond a doubt that despite whatever number of soldiers you bring against us they will never win.
And there will be tremendous heartbreak from the great clash and from the blood that will be spilled of those who come against us. And it has been three weeks since I had written to you and sent proper letters via a herald [saying] that you should be at the anointing of the King, which this day, Sunday, the seventeenth day of this current month of July, is taking place in the city of Rheims – to which I have not received any reply. Nor have I ever heard any word from this herald since then.
I commend you to God and may He watch over you if it pleases Him, and I pray God that He shall establish a good peace.
Written in the aforementioned place of Rheims on the aforesaid seventeenth day of July.
This is a letter sent to the citizens of Rheims on August 5, 1429, while she was near the town of Provins with the army during its march to Paris. The letter refers to a new truce with the Duke of Burgundy which she was none too pleased with, being aware of the Duke’s famous talent for duplicity. The previous month she had sent a letter proposing that a permanent peace with Burgundy be established; but the fifteen-day truce; however, this would merely allow the Duke to stall for time. the result that the English and Burgundians were able to further prepare their forces.
“My dear and good friends, the obedient and loyal Frenchmen of the city of Rheims, Jeanne the Virgin lets you know of her tidings, and asks and requests that you should have no concerns about the good cause she is carrying on for the Royal family. And I promise and guarantee you that I will never abandon you so long as I live. And it’s true that the King has made a truce with the Duke of Burgundy lasting fifteen days, by which he [Burgundy] must turn over the city of Paris peaceably at the end of fifteen days. However, do not be surprised if I don’t enter it [Paris] so quickly.
I am not at all content with truces made like this, and I don’t know if I will uphold them; but if I do uphold them it will only be in order to protect the honor of the King; also, they [the Burgundians] will not cheat the Royal family, for I will maintain and keep together the King’s army so as to be ready at the end of these fifteen days if they don’t make peace. For this reason, my very dear and perfect friends, I pray that you do not worry yourselves so long as I live, but I ask that you keep good watch and defend the King’s city; and let me know if there are any traitors who wish to do you harm, and as soon as I can I will remove them; and let me know your news. I commend you to God, may He protect you.
Written this Friday the fifthn day of August near Provins, while encamped in the fields on the road to Paris.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope everyone enjoyed that bit of history about Joan of Arc. Now in this post I didn’t really cover her death too much because it is an intricate and complicated story which deserves it’s own fully researched post to give it justice. She is a fascinating figure and I want to give any writing about her the dedication required to truly tell her tale.
BOOK PICK OF THE DAY
1412. France is mired in a losing war against England. Its people are starving. Its king is in hiding. From this chaos emerges a teenage girl who will turn the tide of battle and lead the French to victory, becoming an unlikely hero whose name will echo across the centuries.
In Katherine J. Chen’s hands, the myth and legend of Joan of Arc is transformed into a flesh-and-blood young woman: reckless, steel-willed, and brilliant. This meticulously researched novel is a sweeping narrative of her life, from a childhood steeped in both joy and violence, to her meteoric rise to fame at the head of the French army, where she navigates the perils of the battlefield and the equally treacherous politics of the royal court. Many are threatened by a woman who leads, and Joan draws wrath and suspicion from all corners, while her first taste of fame and glory leaves her vulnerable to her own powerful ambition.
With unforgettably vivid characters, transporting settings, and action-packed storytelling, Joan is a thrilling epic, a triumph of historical fiction, as well as a feminist celebration of one remarkable—and remarkably real—woman who left an indelible mark on history.
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