Joan of Arc: Her Mission

Guest Article written by: Samia Chebbah

Place du vieux
Place Du Vieux March Rouen where Joan of Arc died

Hello everyone, my name is Samia, I live in Rouen, Normandy in France where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake on Wednesday 30th May, 1431, at the age of 19. We know she was 13 when she heard voices from three saints, Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. Apparently, God sent them to her to tell her that she would be the one who would save France, drive the English out of the country and last but not least, have King Charles VII crowned at Reims Cathedral on July 17, 1429. Although Charles was the legitimate heir of his father, Charles VI of France, he was not allowed to become king of France. Indeed, the signature of the Treaty of Troyes in May 1420 between the King of France and Henry V of England gave the throne of France to the king of England who was going to marry the princess Catherine of Valois, Charles VI’s daughter.[1] That left little hope to Charles to become king one day. His only luck was that both his father and Henry V died in 1422.

After this brief recap, let’s go back to Joan of Arc’s story which was short but full of mystery. The even more mystical part of it is that it is said that centuries before she was born, soothsayers said they foresaw her mission.

The most popular versions are those of Merlin, the famous enchanter and Marie d’Avignon. It is even said that Joan herself envisioned her own death.

Let’s start with Merlin. His prophecies are collected in Prophecii Merlini by Geoffrey Monmouth[2] in the 12th century. Monmouth’s life is not well documented and historians often use words such as ”traditionally”.[3] This is understandable since at that period, the accounts were oral. It was often based on hearsay. Some also said that some parts of the collection were invented.[4]

Apparently, Merlin foresaw two things. First of all, he said ”ex nemore Canuto eliminabitur puella” meaning ”from Le Bois Chenu, a maiden will come” He also said ”Descendet virgo dorsum sagitarii et flores virgineos obscurabit.” meaning ” she will ride down the back of the Sagittarius”.[5] Le Bois Chenu was a wood which belonged to Joan’s father, Jack of Arc and the Sagittarius, reminded of the shape the English archers.[6] In this imagination of Joan of Arc riding down the english archers, one can understand that she will succeed in defeating the English. Since Merlin is a legendary figure. Can we believe it? Indeed, in my research, he existed either in literature and some he truly existed because of the prophecies. Some even said that he descended from the Devil.[7]His very existence is as mysterious as how it was possible that in 1429 a young girl was allowed to wear an armor to fight and to top it all, have a king crowned! But there must be some truth in it because how could Geoffrey Monmouth relate the prophecies?

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Cross in Memory of Joan of Arc, Place du Vieux March

Closer to Joan of Arc’s lifetime, Marie Robine, also known as Marie of Avignon (in the south of France) because she settled down in this city, was considered insane. Her predictions started when she was cured from paralysis.[8] In total, she had 12 visions which are collected in Marie Robine’s Book of Revelations. It is said that she told King Charles VI of France, father of the future Charles VII, that ”she had a vision where she could see numerous arms. She feared that she had to use them but she was told that they were meant for another maiden that would come after her.”[9] It is even said that Charles VII himself might have remembered the conversation between his father and Marie Robine.[10]The account was oral, based on hearsay and related during the revision of Joan of Arc’s trial in 1456 that gave way to a rehabilitation[11]. To this extent, we cannot be sure of the veracity of the facts. What is more, I have found a source that contradicted the fact that Marie Robine foresaw Joan of Arc. Indeed, the historian Nol Valois makes it clear that after reading The Book of Revelations, he had found no mention to the Joan of Arc episode.[12]

The white sign, the very place where she died

Joan of Arc herself foresaw her mission. She supposedly knew that the Dauphin Charles would eventually be restored. She also predicted that the English would be defeated and driven out of France, except for those who would die there. She gave the very localization of Charles Martel’s Sword inside the Church of Fierbois. Eventually, she asked the voices if she would be burnt at the stake.[13]

The white sign, the very place where she died
The white sign, the very place where she died

The question of the sword is essential since it was that very one that Jeanne D’Arc used to fight. Charles Martel was a descendant of Charlemagne (King of the France in 8th century).[14] Martel defeated the Arabs in Poitiers in 732 and gave his sword to the said church. The voices supposedly told Joan about where she would find it and fight with it herself.[15]

Other soothsayers were said to have foreseen Joan of Arc. Among them, Pierre de MonteAlcino, St Bede the Vulnerable, Jean de Montalcin, Euglide of Hungary. They are mentioned but little is known about what was said exactly.

Interesting fact:

Satue JA (2)
Photo Copyright: Samia Chebbah

During her trial for heresy and witchcraft, which started on February 24th1431, Joan of Arc was asked to dress like a woman and to deny that God gave her the mission to save France. She did not until May 24th when the Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon decided to stage her execution. In fact, Joan of Arc carried on saying that she would not stop fighting and wearing men clothes as long as God did not stop her.[16] Everything was done in due form during the fake execution episode for even the executioner, Geoffroy Thrage, was present. That was cruel but seemed to work on Joan. Indeed, she accepted to wear women’sclothingagain and her death sentence was commuted into a life sentence.[17] A source explains the reason why Pierre Cauchon did not accept Joan of Arc’s mission to crown Charles VII. In fact, the bishop was a counsellor of the King of England, Henry V. In fact, on May 21st 1420, King Charles VI of France signed the Treaty of Troyes, an alliance with England through the marriage of Catherine of Valois (his daughter) and King Henry V of England[18]. That Treaty stipulated that Henry V would become King of France after Charles VI’s death, even though the latter had an heir, Charles. So If Charles VII really was the king of France, that meant that Joan of Arc’s mission (saving France and have the Dauphin crowned) were legitimate.[19] The life sentence also dissatisfied the English. Unfortunately, Joan of Arc returned to her old habits of wearing men clothes and was sentenced to death again.[20] It is said that the executioner, Geoffrroy Tthrage, was moved by the death of Joan of Arc ”and feared that God would never forgive him for he did.”[21]

NB: Most of the sources are in french, if you are interested and need more explanation about this article, I will gladly help you.
[1]https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trait%C3%A9_de_Troyes
[2]http://medievales.revues.org/5513
[3]http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/geofmon.html
[4]http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/geofmon.html
[5]http://channelconscience.unblog.fr/2012/10/30/propheties-du-moyen-age-2eme-partie/
[6]https://medievales.revues.org/5800#ftn28
[7]https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin
[8]https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Robine
[9]http://www.persee.fr/doc/mefr_0223-5110_1986_num_98_1_2857
[10]Liocourt, de, Ferdinant. La Mission de Jeanne D’Arc, Volume 2. Source Internet
[11] I visited the Historial Jeanne D’arc in Rouen which is mostly about the revision of her trial. I was told that Charles VII needed that revision because she was the reason why he was king and she was sentenced to death because she was said to be a witch. In order to legitimate his title, he needed her to be rehabilitated.
[12]Valois, Nol. Jeanne D’Arc et la Prophtie de Marie Robine. Source Internet.
[13]https://archive.org/stream/lavraiejeanneda03ayrogoog#page/n527/mode/2up
[14]http://www.history.com/topics/charlemagne
[15]http://www.jeannedomremy.fr/S_ChinonRouen/fierbois.htm
[16]Les Mini Larousse. Jeanne D’Arc. Editions Larousse, 2012.
[17]Les Mini Larousse. Jeanne D’Arc. Editions Larousse, 2012.
[18]http://www.larousse.fr/encyclopedie/divers/trait%C3%A9_de_Troyes/147556
[19]http://www.histoire-normandie.fr/le-proces-de-jeanne-darc-le-role-de-pierre-cauchon
[20]Les Mini Larousse. Jeanne D’Arc. Editions Larousse, 2012.
[21]http://www.brogilbert.org/joan-arc/6jofa_ordeal.HTM

About the Author: Samia Chebbah

SnHLuCicI live in France and french is my mother tongue. I am in love with the History ofEngland ! Whenever I go there, visiting castles is my top priority ! My favourite period is the endof the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. So it came as no surprise that when Ihad to decide the dissertation topic for my Master’s Degree, theEnglishmonarchy was my firstchoice. And so I talked about the ennoblement of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s race forsupremacy. I am very curious and always have to make some researches when I learn about a newhistorical event! I have found it to be very enriching to do so because it always leads to anotherfact. This is the magic of history I guess!

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