January 6, 2013 - Happy Birthday, Joan of Arc

There have been plays and poems and books written about her; her story has been told in film, on television, and through video games; she has inspired paintings and operas and songs and even a modern-day TV show called “Joan of Arcadia.”

She is a folk hero and a saint.

Amazing stuff for an illiterate peasant girl who was born in 1412 and killed when she was just 19 years old!

Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) was a French girl who thought she got a message from God that she should support Charles VII and fight for France against England late in the Hundred Years' War. She became a soldier and helped lift the siege of Orleans in just nine days. Because people were impressed by Joan's spirit and courage—and perhaps because they were convinced she had a special line to God, after her success at Orleans—Joan's advice was followed throughout several more battles. This untrained, inexperienced girl planned bold attacks that went against the previous cautious, “smart” moves by the French army—and her boldness succeeded where the earlier caution had failed.

The French army had several quick victories. They were able to negotiate a truce with England and with its French allies, the Burgundians, and Charles VII was crowned King of France.

Joan urged that the French army capitalize on its victories and quickly move on to Paris to free it from English/Burgundian rule, but Charles and others in the court preferred to keep the truce. However, the Duke of Burgundy broke his side of the truce after using it as a stalling technique while he strengthened his defenses of Paris.

Joan was captured by the Burgundians. She made several escape attempts, including jumping down from her 70-foot-high tower—but she failed to escape her enemies. Eventually she faced a trial and execution for heresy—in other words, she was found guilty of not having what her enemies said were the correct views on religion!

By the way, Joan was apparently very intelligent. Her answers at her trial, according to court transcripts, were sophisticated and well-thought-out—so brilliant, in fact, that 20th-Century playwright George Bernard Shaw judged it couldn't be improved upon in his play and just copied parts of the court record.

Also on this date:

Three Kings Day / Epiphany / Twelfth Night

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