Today In Fact, 30 May

She was a village girl who heard voices. She wore men’s clothes in an age where women had no rights or status. She dared to lecture and scorn nobles and kings. They killed her before she was out of her teens.

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake today in 1431. Claiming divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII of France. She was captured by the Burgundians, transferred to the English in exchange for money, put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon, for charges of “insubordination and heterodoxy”,and was burned at the stake for heresy when she was 19 years old.

Twenty-five years after her execution, an inquisitorial court authorised by Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, pronounced her innocent, and declared her a martyr. Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonised in 1920. She is today one of the patron saints of France.

Stephen Richey said of Joan: “The people who came after her in the five centuries since her death tried to make everything of her: demonic fanatic, spiritual mystic, naive and tragically ill-used tool of the powerful, creator and icon of modern popular nationalism, adored heroine, saint. She insisted, even when threatened with torture and faced with death by fire, that she was guided by voices from God. Voices or no voices, her achievements leave anyone who knows her story shaking his head in amazed wonder.”

The Maid of Orleans shows what a single determined person can do in the teeth of history and tradition. Joan was perhaps the earliest proponent of a French nationalism and the glory of martial combat for one’s country.

Joan of Arc was also a pain in the ass. She lectured and demeaned wiser and nobler people and she dared to show the powers that be their complete stupidity. I agree with George Bernard Shaw, that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake less for heresy and more for “insubordination”. Her allies and her enemies just could not bear to be shown up by this young, vigorous , passionate and driven young girl.

Does your passion and sense of self-worth rub others up the wrong way?

Douglas Racionzer