Saint Joan

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Saint Joan was born in 1412, a peasant girl, the daughter of Jacques Darc, a farmer, in the village of Domremy, now Domrémy-la-Pucelle, in the French region of Lorraine. From her thirteenth year, she claimed to hear messages in the voices of the Saints, particularly Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. These told her to fight the English (then in occupation of half of France, in the course of the Hundred Years War), and to ensure that King Charles VII of France received his coronation in Rheims, the traditional place. She raised the siege of Orleans, drove the English from the Loire valley, and intended to return to her family farm; but could not resist the demands of the patriots that she continue to fight. She was sold by Philip 'the Good' Duke of Burgundy to the English, who had her tried for witchcraft and heresy: a French ecclesiastical court found her guilty and sentenced her as a heretic, and the English burned her alive at Rouen in 1431. Saint Joan is also known as Joan of Arc in English or Jeanne d'Arc in French: contemporary documents use no apostrophe, and call her Jeanne Darc, or Joan Darc; Joan of Lorraine; Jeanne la Pucelle (= 'flea'); and the Maid of Orléans.

In the late nineteenth century Joan of Arc became a French national heroine. She appears in Shakespeare's 1 Henry VI and is the subject of Voltaire's La Pucelle d'Orléans, Schiller's Die Jungfrau von Orleans, Southey's Joan of Arc, Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan, Anouilh's L'Alouette, Bertolt Brecht's Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe, and Maxwell Anderson's Joan of Lorraine. Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco and Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans (Russian: 'Orleanskaja deva' (Орлеанская дева)) are two operas on the subject.


Marina Warner's Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism (1981) is a modern study of Joan's history as an icon of nationalism and of feminism, and of the use of females to symbolize countries and ideas.