Jeanne d'Arc (1412?-1431)
La Pucelle

Born in the duchy of Bar, then also under the duc de Lorraine, to a peasent-farmer with a minor official position in the village of Domrémy, Jeanne flashed brightly, but briefly, on the scene of the Hundred Years' War as La Pucelle (The Maid) with undeniable impact on events. She remains the most well-known figure of the Hundred Years' War, the subject of countless essays, books, plays, and art-works.

Her father was Jacques Darc* and her mother was known as Isabelle Romée de Vouthon. Though her brief story is supported by contemporary writings and trial records, it remains highly controversial. To some extent, the controversy surrounding Jeanne is due to the multi-dimensional impact her story has had on subsequent perceptions, which portray her variously as: national heroine, religious saint, martyr of simple reasoning versus institutional dogma, a witch, a charlatan or imposter, and more. As a result, no summary can adequately address her historic role. A bibliography to this page contains some suggested readings on her.


* Evidently an apostrophe was never used in the name during Jeanne's lifetime.

Jeanne d'Arc's military role in the war is not such a mystery to military veterans who also reflect upon military history. One special factor to understanding Jeanne's military contribution is to appreciate the extensive hold that religious belief had on Western society in the 15th century. Her acceptance among her warrior 'companions' as a symbol of divine support provided a 'morale' factor that even Napoleon placed as the foremost element in combat. It would not be too far from the mark to say that Jeanne d'Arc was one of the worlds most famous and effective standard bearers. Besides inspiration, sufficient examples in the contemporary accounts illustrate that Jeanne brought to tactical situations a directness and vigor that countered the conservative caution of the veterans around her. Her daring was not always wise, but managed to force situations that compelled her 'companions' to bravely perform, if only to extricate her. Much of her success lay in the unexpected, sudden action that suprised her enemies.

Important to Jeanne d'Arc's early military success was the caliber of support that surrounded her. She was not a military commander in the sense that she directed operations. She had 'titular' command, a common practice in early warfare. It was usual for a teenage prince to have such command, where more senior military leaders held the reins of control of operations. But it was 'her' army, and her commanders did have to consider (though not always exactly comply with) her wishes. One could say that Jeanne d'Arc was 'well served' by her military leaders (her 'companions') in the Loire Valley campaign of 1429. The commanders received her with initial skepticism, then recognized her vital contribution as well as appreciating her singular example. The constable de Richemont reportedly greeted Jeanne with these realistic warrior-wise words: "Jehanne, ... If you come from God, I do not fear you ... if you come from the Devil, I fear you even less." He went on to serve at her side in the victory at Patay (18 June 1429). Such support was not there in the disasters of 1430. What followed in her fate is beyond military analysis, but the ultimate progress of the war was left to those original 'companions'.

CHRONOLOGY

1428
Jeanne d'Arc arrived at Vaucouleurs (May).
Siege of Orléans begun by the English (12 October).
1429
Jeanne d'Arc's second visit to Vaucouleurs (Jan-Feb).
Jeanne d'Arc arrived at Chinon (23 February).
Probably first met with Charles VII on the 25th.
Jeanne d'Arc is questioned by the clergy at Poitiers (spring).
Jeanne d'Arc entered Orléans (29 April).
Saint-Loup bastide taken (4 May).
Journée des Tourelles (7 May).
Siege of Orléans raised (8 May).
Capture of Jargeau (12 June).
Meung-sur-Loire attacked (15 June).
Capture of Beaugency (17 June).
Forces of Jeanne d'Arc and Richemont defeat English at Patay (18 June).
Royal army departed Gien (24 June) with Charles VII on march to Reims.
Charles VII admitted into city of Troyes (10 July).
Coronation of Charles VII at Reims (17 July).
Skirmish at Montépilloy (15 August).
Jeanne d'Arc wounded during failed attack on Paris (8 September).
Army of the Loire disbanded by royal order (21 September).
Expedition to La Charité fails (November-December).
Jeanne's family enobled, with surname "du Lys" (December).
1430
Jeanne engaged in a battle at Lagny (29 March).
Jeanne d'Arc captured by Burgundians at Compiègne (23 May).
1431
Trial of Jeanne d'Arc opened at Rouen (9 January).
Jeanne d'Arc burnt at the stake in Rouen Market Place (30 May).
1449
Rehabilitation process begun. Intermitently conducted until 7 July 1456.
1920
Jeanne d'Arc canonised by Pope Benedict XV (16 May).

More details on the military exploits of Jeanne d'Arc
are at the following websites:

Siege of Orléans (1428-29) and Loire Valley Campaign (1429)

Les chevauchées de Jeanne d'Arc (1429-30)

For further study on this subject, the Joan of Arc site is highly recommended.
The site provides an even-handed treatment of the historical Jeanne d'Arc, and admirably serves its stated objective "to provide a counterbalance to the many myths, distortions, and stereotypes found in so many books, films, and college courses (especially recent ones)."
The site contains a detailed timeline and quality web links. It has a most valuable section on "Myths and Distortions about Joan of Arc."

There are many books on Jeanne d'Arc, some of which are listed in the Hundred Years' War Bibliography that supports this website. For anyone who is new to the subject, a recommended work is Frances Gies' The Legend and the Rality, NY, 1981.


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This page was last updated 31 December 1999. Comments can be sent to the Société de l'Oriflamme. Hundred Years War, la guerre de cent ans