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Emily Coren view profile
London, UK
More Articles
by Emily Coren

7 Ways to Escape the Routine and Be Happy

if you take a look at your life from an outsider’s viewpoint, you will find many reasons to be happy

30 Things to Do About Your Life Right Now (part 2)

Open your heart, smile to the world, and the world will smile back at you.

30 Things to Do About Your Life Right Now (part 1)

These are just some of the tips to help you out along the way and make your path easier and your journey more rewarding

Who was Joan of Arc... really?

Every year, on the second Sunday of May, France celebrates the national holiday in the memory of Joan of Arc, the legendary Maid of Orleans who led the French troops during the Hundred Years’ War, won several decisive military victories, paved the way to the coronation of the dauphin Charles VII, then captured by the Burgundian traitors and burnt at the stake by the English on May 30, 1431. Twenty five years later, she was officially recognized as a national hero and canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century. To this day, there is no agreement among historians as to who Joan of Arc really was – peasant shepherdess or a woman of nobility.

Peasant girl

Joan of Arc was born in 1412 in the family of a village elder in Domremy, situated on the border of Alsace. One day, she heard the voices of St. Catherine and St. Margaret telling her she was the chosen one to save France from English invasion. After the revelation, she left home, secured a meeting with dauphin Charles VII and was placed at the head of the French army. Under her leadership, the troops recovered a number of cities, including the city of Orleans. Soon, Charles VII was crowned in Reims, while Joan, now nicknamed the Maid of Orleans, kept bringing military victories to France.

On May 23, 1430, Joan was captured by the Burgundians, who turned over the Maid of Orleans to the English. The legal proceedings commenced in January 1431. The Inquisition brought twelve articles of accusation against Joan. The trial was politically motivated, to demonstrate that Charles VII was brought to the throne by a sorceress and heretic. After a long process, she was sentenced to death at the stake.


The French historian and philosopher Roger Caratini offers a different twist to the legend of Joan of Arc. In his monograph “Joan of Arc: from Domremy to Orleans”, he developed his thesis of Joan being a mentally impaired girl, who was skillfully used by the politicians and high military ranks to seed the hatred for England in the Frenchmen’s souls. The military victories achieved under the leadership of Joan took place in small scale conflicts. The maid of Orleans did not participate in the battles and had never held a sword in her hands. She was a symbol, a live talisman of the troops, but not a warrior. Joan was a psychologically unstable girl suffering from mental anguish. The incessant conflict between France and Burgundy could be the cause of her ailment, as her native village was situated at the border and she witnessed the horrors of war since childhood.

Caratini also asserts that the legend of Joan of Arc became prominent in the late 19th century, when French rulers needed a new national hero, so the young maid who fell victim to the dynasty conflicts, was perfect for this role.

Married Lady and Mother

The rumours that Joanne D’Ark did not die started to spread out right after her execution. According to one version, Joan of Arc escaped the death at the stake, got married and gave birth to two sons. Her husband was Robert d’Armoise, and his descendants still consider themselves related to the famous Joan of Arc. Madam d’Armoise appeared five years after Joan of Arc’s execution. She lived in Arlone city where Joan’s brother Jan du Lys frequently came to visit his sister and sent letters to her. When she came to Orleans, the city dwellers gave her a warm welcome. Soon, however, she was arrested and had to plead guilty for misappropriating the name of the Maid of Orleans. In the late 1450s, she received an official pardon for pretending to be Joan of Arc.

King’s daughter

Another sensational theory speculates that Joan was not a simple peasant girl, but came from the royal Valois dynasty. The real name of the Maid of Orleans was, allegedly, Marguerite de Champdivaire. Ukrainian historian Sergey Gorbenko found a female scull buried with the remnants of King Charles VI. The scull belonged to a woman who was at least 57 years old, so it could not be Queen Charlotte who died at the age of 38. The researcher made a daring conclusion that those were the remnants of Joan of Arc, fathered by King Charles VI and born by his last lover Odette de Champdivaire.  The girl was raised as a warrior, that’s why she could wear the armour. Joan’s death was imitated, and another woman was burnt at the stake instead of her.

King’s sister

Yet another theory says Joan of Arc was the illegitimate child of Queen Isabelle, the stepsister of King Charles VII. This explains how a simple peasant girl was able to meet with the king and convince him that she was going to save France.

Many researchers found it odd that a peasant girl was an expert in the country’s political situation, skillfully fought with a spear, spoke clear French without any regional accent, and knew how to behave amongst the nobility.

In fact, Joan of Arc could be nicknamed the Maid of Orleans not just because she freed the city of Orleans, but also because she belonged to the royal Orleans house. Queen Isabelle’s illegitimate child was allegedly fathered by the Duke Louis d’Orleans. The official version states the baby died, but there was no tomb or remnants of the child found. The historical documents of that time don’t mention the child’s sex at all. Later records call the child Philippe, other sources – Joan.



Posted on May 31, 2012 in Simple Happiness by Emily Coren

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