JOAN OF ARC (Fr. Jeanne Darc), the Maid of Orleans, was the daughter of respectable peasants, and was born in 1412, in the village of Domreny, in the department of Vosges, France. She was taught like other young women of her station in that age, to sew and spin, but not to read or write. She was distinguished from other girls by her greater simplicity, modesty, industry and piety. When about thirteen years of age, she believed she saw a flash of light and heard an unearthly voice, which enjoined her to be modest, and to be diligent in her religious duties. The impression made upon her mind by the national distresses of the time, soon gave a new character to the revelations which she supposed herself to receive, and when fifteen years old, she imagined that unearthly voices called her to go and fight for the Dauphin.
Her story was at first rejected as that of an insane person, but she not only succeeded in making her way to the Dauphin, but in persuading him of her heavenly mission. She assumed male attire and warlike equipments, and with a sword and a white banner she put herself at the head of the French troops, whom her example, and the heavenly mission notion inspired with new enthusiasm. On the 29th of April, 1429, she threw herself with supplies of provisions, into Orleans, then closely besieged by the English, and the 4th to the 8th of May made successful sallies upon the English, which resulted in their being compelled to raise the siege. After this important victory, the national ardor of the French was rekindled to the utmost, and Joan became the dread of the previously triumphant English. She conducted the Dauphin to Rheims, where he was crowned July 17th 1429, and Joan, with many tears, saluted him as King. She now wished to return home deeming her mission accomplished; but Charles importuned her to remain with the army, to which she consented. Now however, because she no longer heard any unearthly voice, she began to have fearful forebodings. She continued to accompany the French army, and was present in many conflicts, till, on May 24, 1430, she threw herself with a few troops into Compiegne, which the Burgundian forces besieged; and being driven back by them in a sally, was taken prisoner, and sold by the Burgundian officer to the English for the sum of 16,000 francs. Being conveyed to Rouen, the headquarters of the English, she was brought before the spiritual tribunal of the Bishop of Beauvias as a sorceress and heretic; and after a long trial, accompanied by many shameful circumstances, she was condemned to be burned to death. She recanted her alleged errors at the stake, and expressed penitence, in the hope of having her punishment commuted to perpetual imprisonment. But this did not accord with the views of those in whose power she now was. Words which fell from her when subjected to great indignities, and her resumption of male attire when all articles of female attire were carefully removed from her, were made grounds for concluding that she had relapsed, and she was again brought to the stake, on May 30th 1431, and burned. Her family, who had been ennobled upon her account, obtained in 1440 a revisal of her trial; and in 1456, she was formally pronounced to have been innocent.