Joan Of Arc

, commonly called the Maid of Orleans, one of the most remarkable heroines in history, was the daughter of James d‘ re, and of Isabella Rome his wife, two persons of low rank, in the village of Domremi, near Vauconleurs, on the borders of Lorraine, where she was born in 1402. The instructions she received during her childhood and youth were suited to her humble condition. She quitted her parents at an early age, as they were ill able to maintain her, and engaged herself as a servant at a small inn. In this situation she employed herself in attending the horses of the guests, and in riding them to the watering-place, and by these exercises she acquired a robust and hardy frame. At this time the affairs of France were in a desperate condition, and the city of Orleans, the most important place in the kingdom, was besieged by the English regent, the duke of Bedford, as a step to prepare the way for the conquest of all France. The French king used every expedient to supply the city with a garrison and provisions; and the English left no method unemployed for reducing it. The eyes of all Europe were | turned towards this scene of action, and after numberless feats of valour on both sides, the attack was so vigorously pushed by the English,’ that the king (Charles VII.) gave up the city as lost, when relief was brought from a very unexpected quarter. Joan, influenced by the frequent accounts of the rencounters at this memorable siege, and affected with the distresses of her country and king, was seized with a wild desire of relieving him; and as her inexperienced mind worked day and night on this favourite object, she fancied she saw visions, and heard voices, exhorting her to re-establish the throne of France, and expel the English invaders. Enthusiastic in these notions, she went to Vaucouleurs, and informed Baudricourt, the governor, of her inspirations and intentions, who sent her to the French court, then at Chinon. Here, on being introduced to the king, she offered, in the name of the Supreme Being, to raise the siege of Orleans, and conduct his majesty to Rheims, to be there crowned and anointed; and she demanded, as the instrument of her future victories, a particular sword which was kept in the church of St. Catherine de Fierbois. The king and his ministers at first either hesitated or pretended to hesitate; but after an assembly of grave and learned divines had pronounced her mission to be real and supernatural, her request was granted, and she was exhibited to the whole people, on horseback in military habiliments. On this sight, her dexterity in managing her steed, though acquired in her former station, was regarded as a fresh proof of her mission her former occupation was even denied she was converted into a shepherdess, an employment more agreeable to the fancy. Some years were subtracted from her age, in order to excite still more admiration; and she was received with the loudest acclamations, by persons of all ranks.

The English at first affected to speak with derision of the maid and her heavenly mission; but were secretly struck with the strong persuasion which prevailed in all around them. They found their courage daunted by degrees, and thence began to infer a divine vengeance hanging over them. A silent astonishment reigned among those troops formerly so elated with victory, and so fierce for the combat The maid entered the city of Orleans at the head of a convoy, arrayed in her military garb, and displaying her consecrated standard. She was received as a celestial | deliverer by the garrison and its inhabitants; and with the instructions of count Dunois, commonly called the Bastard of Orleans, who commanded in that place, she actually obliged the English to raise the siege of that city, after driving them from their entrenchments, and defeating them in several desperate attacks.

Raising the siege of Orleans was one part of the maid’s promise to Charles crowning him at Rheims was the other and she now vehemently insisted that he should set out immediately on that journey. A few weeks before, such a proposal would have appeared altogether extravagant. Rheims lay in a distant quarter of the kingdom; was then in the hands of a victorious enemy the whole road that led to it was occupied by their garrisons and no imagination could have been so sanguine as to hope that such an attempt could possibly be carried into execution. But, as it was the interest of the king of France to maintain the belief of something extraordinary and divine in these events, he resolved to comply with her exhortations, and avail himself of the present consternation of the English. He accordingly set out for Rheims, at the head of 12,000 men, and scarcely perceived as he passed along, that he was marching through an enemy’s country. Every place opened its gates to him; Rheims sent him its keys, and the ceremony of his inauguration was performed with the holy oil, which a pigeon is said to have brought from heaven to Clovis, on the first establishment of the French monarchy.

As a mark of his gratitude, Charles had a medal struck in her honour. On one side was her portrait, on the other a hand holding a sword with these words, Consilio confirmata Dei. “Sustained by the assistance of God.” The king also ennobled all her family, as well in the male as in the female line; the former became extinct in 1760. In 1614 the latter, at the request of the procurator-general, were deprived of their privilege of ennobling their children, independent of their husband. The town of Domremi, also, where she was born, was exempted from all taxes, aids, and subsidies for ever.

The Maid of Orleans, as she is called, declared after this coronation, that her mission was now accomplished; and expressed her inclination to retire to the occupations and course of life which became her sex. But Dunois, sensible of the great advantages which might still b- reaped | from her presence in the army, exhorted her to persevere till the final expulsion of the English. In pursuance of this advice, she threw herself into the town of Compiegne, at that time besieged by the duke of Burgundy, assisted by the earls of Arundel and Suffolk. The garrison, on her appearance, believed themselves invincible; but Joan, after performing prodigies of valour, was taken prisoner in a sally, and no efforts having been made by the French court to deliver her, was condemned by the English to be burnt alive, which sentence she sustained with great courage in the nineteenth year of her age, 1431. Such are the outlines of the history of this extraordinary heroine, which however is involved in many doubts and difficulties, and has too many of the features of romance for serious belief. It has lately even been doubted whether she was actually put to death; and some plausible evidence has been brought forward to prove that the judges appointed by the duke of Bedford to try her, passed a sentence from which they saved her on the day of execution by a trick, and that she afterwards made her appearance, was married to a gentleman of the house of Amboise in 1436, and her sentence was annulled in 1456. Be this as it may, her memory has long been consecrated by her countrymen, none of whom, however, have done her so much honour as our present poet-laureat, in his admirable poem of “Joan of Arc.1


Histories of England and France. Southey’s Joan of Arc. Gleig’s Suppleaent to the Encyclopaedia Briannica.