Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On the trail of Joan of Arc

It is believed, Jeanne d' Arc was born 600 years ago on January 6, 1412. She lived a mere 19 years. Her life started in a village of Domremy in the Lorraine region of eastern France, the daughter of poor peasants. Starting in early adolescence she heard celestial voices and had visions commanding her to deliver France from the English occupiers and to lead the king of France to be crowned in Reims. At the age of 16, she set on a perilous voyage across France evading English enemies and their Burgundian allies to meet the dauphin Charles VII in his castle at Chinon. There, she pleaded her cause to the soon to be king promising to lift the English siege of Orleans, chasing them out of France territories and to escort him to Reims for his coronation. Unconvinced at first, Charles VII finally relented after a thorough background check and theological examination. He gave her a small army to bring food supplies to Orleans. Dressed as a knight in armor and holding a white banner with Fleur de Lys, Joanne of Arc arrived at the besieged city on april 29 1429; by May 8 the English gave up the siege and retreated out of the city. Flushed by such sudden victory, Joan went on leading an army recapturing towns after towns all the way to Troyes. This led the way for the dauphin Charles VII to enter Reims where he was crowned King. Following the coronation, the French army marched towards Paris recapturing towns along the way. However, despite an assault on the capital, Paris failed to be re-taken. Injured by a crossbow bolt Joan of Arc and the army were ordered to withdraw. In April 1430, Joan was captured in Compiegne by the Burgundians who sold her to the. English. Tried for heresy because she refused to renounce the voices that guided her, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30 1431. That is only the beginning of the story.  Thirty years later in 1450 a trial of rehabilitation took place that overturned the guilty verdict and in 1920 was canonized as Saint.  Joan of Arc became a legend and emblem for France's nationalism and for freedom. Her courage lives on and her story has inspired countless books, plays, paintings and movies.  

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