Joan of Arc and the Close of the War
by Samuel B. Harding
Brief biography about Joan of Arc from the book The Story of The Middle Ages by Samuel B. Harding providing a good brief history about Joan.
Even so great a defeat as this could not make the
French princes cease their quarrels. Again the leader
of one party was murdered by the follower of another;
and the followers of the dead prince became so bitterly
hostile that they were willing to join the English
against the other party. In this way the Burgundians,
as the one party was called, entered into a treaty with
Henry of England against the Armagnacs, as the other
party was called; and it was agreed that Henry should
marry Katherine, the daughter of the insane King, and
Henry should become King of France when the old King
died. No one seemed to care for the rights of the
Dauphin (the French King's son) except the Armagnacs;
they, of course, were opposed to all that the
Both Henry V. of England and poor old Charles VI. of
France died within two years after this treaty was
signed. Henry had married Katharine as agreed; and
though their son (Henry VI.) was a mere
baby, only nine
months old, he now became King of both England and
France. In neither country, however, was his reign to
be a happy or a peaceful one. In England the little
King's relatives fell to quarreling about the
government, just as had happened in France; and when he
grew up, like his French grandfather he became insane.
At the same time the English found their hold upon
France relaxing and the land slipping from their grasp.
Only the Armagnacs at first recognized the Dauphin as
King; and for seven years after the death of his father
he had great difficulty in keeping any part of France
from the hands of the English. In the year 1429,
however, a great change took place. A young peasant
girl, named Joan of Arc, appeared at the King's court
in that year, and under her inspiration and guidance
the French cause began to gain, and the English and
Burgundian to lose ground.
Joan's home was in the far northeastern part of France,
and there she had been brought up in the cottage of her
father with her brothers and sisters. There she helped
to herd the sheep, assisted her mother in household
tasks, and learned to spin and to sew. She never
learned to read and write, for that was not thought
necessary for peasant girls. Joan was a sweet, good
girl, and was very religious. Even in her far-off
village the people suffered from the evils which the
wars brought upon the land, and Joan's heart was moved
by the distress which she saw about her. When she was
thirteen she began to hear voices
of saints and
angels,—of Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret, and of
the angel Gabriel. When she was eighteen her "voices"
told her that she must go into France, aid the Dauphin,
and cause him to be crowned king at Rheims, where the
kings of France had been crowned before him.
The cause of the Dauphin at this time was at its lowest
ebb. The English were besieging the city of Orleans,
on the Loire River; and if that was taken all France
would be lost. So the first work of Joan must be to
raise the siege of Orleans.
With much difficulty she
succeeded in reaching the Dauphin. When she was
brought into the room where
he was, she picked him out
from among all, though she had never seen him, and many
of the courtiers were more richly dressed than he.
After many weeks she succeeded in persuading his
councillors that her "voices" were from God, and not the
evil one. Then, at last, she was given a suit of
armor, and mounted on a white horse, with a sword at
her side and a standard in her hand, she rode at the
head of the Dauphin's troops to Orleans.
When once Joan had reached that place, she so
encouraged the citizens that within eight days the
English were forced to raise the siege and retire. It
seemed to the French a miracle of God, while the
English dreaded and feared her as a witch or sorceress.
From this time Joan is called "the Maid of Orleans."
Nor did her success stop with the relief of that city.
Within a few months, the Dauphin was taken to Rheims,
and crowned as true King of France. After this many
flocked to his standard who before had taken no part in
the war. From that time on the French began to get the
advantage of the English; and it was mainly the
enthusiasm and faith aroused by the Maid that caused
Joan's work was now almost done. Twice she was wounded
while fighting at the head of the King's troops. At
last she was taken prisoner by a party of Burgundians,
and turned over to the English. By them she was put on
trial for heresy and sorcery. She showed much courage
and skill before her judges, but she was condemned and
sentenced to be burned to death at the stake.
The next day the sentence was carried out. To the last she
showed herself brave, kind, and womanly. As the flames
mounted about her an Englishman cried out:
"We are lost; we have burned a saint."
Such indeed she was, if a saint was ever made by purity,
faith, and noble suffering.
The English burned the Maid and threw her ashes in the
river Seine; but they could not undo her work. The
French continued to gain victory after victory. Soon
the old breach between the Armagnacs and Burgundians
was healed, and the Burgundians abandoned the English.
Then Paris was gained by the French King. Some years
later Normandy was conquered, and finally Aquitaine.
In the year 1453, the long, long war came to an end.
Of all the wide territories which the English had once
possessed in France, they now held only one little town
in the north; and the shadows of a civil war—the War
of the Roses—were rising in England to prevent them
ever regaining what they had lost. Down to the
time of George III. the English kings continued to
style themselves kings of France; but this was a mere
form. The French now felt themselves to be a nation,
and only a national king could rule over them.
That this was so was mainly due to the Maid of Orleans. She
was the real savior of France, and remains its greatest