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Joan of Arc also known as “Joan the Maiden” or the “The Maid of Orléans” is considered a heroine of France for her leading role in the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.
This was a time when the French had suffered repeated defeats at the hands of the English forces. Joan of Arc’s arrival turned the tide in the favor of the French which brought a desperately-needed relief to the French army, economy, and the crown.
Joan of Arc stated that she had a vision at the age of 13 in 1425 – In the vision, she was told to be by the French King’s side where she was to play an important role.
Consequently, Joan predicted the French defeat at the Battle of Rouvray days ahead of the messengers.
This prompted the garrison commander in Vaucouleurs to take her to the royal court where she met Charles VII. At the time, Orleans was under siege. Although lacking any military capabilities, Joan was able to get permission from Charles to travel to Orleans and help in the siege.
Joan of Arc reached Orleans in April. By this time, the city had been under English siege for five months. Joan’s arrival coincided with a change in the fortunes of the French defenders. The defenders were able to capture one English fortification after another over the month of May.
Joan of Arc led the French troops on the front lines. Though not directly a part of the combat, she suffered an arrow wound near her neck but survived. Within days, the English were forced to retreat from Orleans.
Following the Orleans victory over the French, Joan came to be considered as being the instrument of divine providence. She was consequently involved in major war councils where further offensive against the English was discussed. On her advice, the French aimed for Reims which lay deep in English-controlled territory.
The French army reached Reims in July. On the way, the army took back the control of a number of towns and cities. The army also defeated a major English force under Sir John Fastolf in June. As a result of French control over Reims, Charles VII finally received his coronation and officially assumed the title of the King.
In May 1430, Joan of Arc was captured by Burgundian troops following a skirmish between the French and the Burgundians. She was initially imprisoned by the Burgundian army but was later handed over to the English army against a sizable payment. A list of religious charges was then drawn up against her by Bishop Pierre in Burgundy, a prominent supporter of the English.
Joan was consequently charged with heresy. During her captivity, the French launched a number of campaigns towards Rouen where she was captured. But the campaigns were successfully withstood by the English.
She was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. Despite her death at the young age of 19, Joan of Arc became a national legend in France and was later canonized by the Church.