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Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was a military leader and French heroine who led her country's troops to victory in many key battles against the occupying English forces, paving the way for the coronation of King Charles VII, and setting the stage for later victory in the Hundred Years' War.

Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Jeanne d'Arc

Date and place of birth: January 6, 1412, Domremy, Lorraine, France

Date, place and cause of death: May 30, 1431, shortly after 12 noon, Rouen, France (Burned at the stake)

Siblings: Pierre d'Arc (1404-1467), Jean d'Arc, and Jacquemin d'Arc (brothers)
Sister: Catherine d'Arc (b. 1413, Domremy, Lorraine, France)

Father: Jacques d'Arc (1380-1431)
Mother: Isabelle d'Arc (Romee) (d. December 8, 1458, Orleans, France)

Remains: Joan of Arc was cremated and her ashes were cast into the river Seine.


Born in Domremy, France, during the Hundred Years' War, Joan of Arc led one of the greatest campaigns for freedom the world has ever known, while still a teenager. She was a unifying figure who rescued France from defeat in one of the darkest periods of their occupation by England. In just over a year, she managed to take the demoralized French troops who had known little else but defeat, and led them through an astonishing series of victories which not only inspired the French troops, but the nation as well.

Joan reported that she began hearing voices at age 12 or 13, while in her family's garden. She later attributed the voices to Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret. At the time, England, in alliance with Burgundy, controlled much of France. As English occupying forces began seizing control of the remainder of the country against an increasingly ineffective French army, her voices began telling her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin Charles to Reims to be crowned King of France.

She took charge of French forces and after leading them to implausible victories in battle after battle, even some of her doubters began to question whether her "voices" might actually be from God. Following her momentous victory at Orleans, she became known as the "Maid of Orleans."

Just as her voices had instructed, she saw that Dauphin Charles made it to Reims, and she stood beside him at his coronation. As word of her achievements against the English occupying forces spread, there was talk that a "saint" was leading the French to victory with the help of God.

In 1430, the Maid of Orleans was captured and sentenced to death. Those involved with the "trial" later admitted that the motive for the proceedings was revenge, not any real belief that Joan was a heretic, as was charged. May 30th, 1431, shortly after 12 noon, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France.

Her death only served to unify the French people as a nation, and reinvigorated their desire to rid themselves of English rule, once and for all. It would take a little more than two decades following her death to reclaim the country, but in 1453, France was finally free of foreign rule.

Joan of Arc was later vindicated and officially canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920.

Over the years, Joan of Arc's struggle to free her people from English rule has been told numerous times in films with widely varying degrees of accuracy. Some of the very earliest silent films ever produced were themed around Joan of Arc, and the French campaign for freedom. The subject has remained a popular one with filmmakers for over a century. A few of the motion pictures include Cecil B. DeMille's Joan the Woman (1916), Joan of Arc directed by Victor Fleming and starring Ingrid Bergman and Jose Ferrer (1948), Otto Preminger's Saint Joan, starred Jean Seberg and Richard Widmark, and was scripted by Graham Greene adapting George Bernard Shaw's play (1957). More recently, Leelee Sobieski portrayed Joan in Joan of Arc, a 1999 TV-movie.

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