Saint Joan of Arc is one of the quintessential symbols of France and one of the most iconic women in our history. Having supported would-be king Charles VII in ascending to the throne of France, fighting alongside men, she is credited with the French victory against the English at Orléans. She also forms an integral part of French national identity and is an icon of feminism for her efforts to join the men on an equal footing.
Even though all this was brought on by her devout Christianity, which may lead to many disagreeing with her beliefs, there is no denying that she had an important influence as a leader before anything else.
Here are 9 interesting facts about the iconic Joan of Arc.
Joan of Arc Facts
1. According to modern medicine, Joan was not well
Modern doctors looking at her symptoms have considered Joan of Arc to have a number of illnesses. She claimed to have been visited by the archangels, receiving divine messages and guidance. By today’s standards, she would be diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
At the same time, some have speculated that, as a child in rural France, Joan could have contracted bovine tuberculosis, which can cause dementia later in life.
2. She was not from Arc
Joan of Arc’s name is misleading, as there is no place called Arc where she was from, an interesting fact about Joan of Arc. She came from a village in the northeast of France called Domrémy.
In life, originally, Jeanne was known as “Jehanne la Pucelle” which means “Joan the maid”. She always claimed she didn’t know her last name. However, later on, she guessed at her father’s surname and called herself d’Arc.
3. She didn’t get burnt at the stake for witchcraft after all
Joan was captured by the English army and they accused her of around 70 crimes, including horse theft. During her captivity, the number of crimes she was considered to have committed went down to 12, among which were things such as wearing men’s clothing, as well as talking to archangels.
However, it did look like more of her charges would be dropped. One night, though, Joan decided to put her male clothes back on and told the judges who visited her that she could hear the voices of angels again.
As a result, the judges called her a “relapsed heretic” and this was her final sentence which led to her being burnt at the stake.
4. She never fought in active combat
An interesting fact about Joan of Arc is that she may be remembered as a fearless leader of the French army, but she never actually led the troops in combat herself.
She accompanied the troops and brandished her banner instead of a weapon. She also drew up military strategies behind the lines, proposing where troops would go and also suggesting some diplomatic offerings to the English, which were rejected.
You could say she was a sort of mascot for the troops and then spent most of her time during the war behind the scenes.
5. She was very feisty
Evidence suggests that Joan of Arc was a strong-willed, feisty teenager. She would tell off the soldiers around her for swearing or skipping mass and she accused the nobles of being spineless for the way they dealt with the English.
There is also evidence that she tried to slap a Scottish soldier (from the allied army with the French) for eating stolen meat. She drove away prostitutes who travelled with the army and hit some in the process.
She was also sharp-tongued and there is a transcript from her trial when a priest with a thick accent asked her what language her voices spoke; she replied that they spoke better French than he did!
6. Her family profited from her fame after her death
From 1434 to 1440, Joan’s brothers Jean and Pierre tried to pass off Claude des Armoises as Joan. Claude looked like Joan and presented herself to the people of Orléans claiming she had escaped the English and married a knight.
This ruse worked as the three received gifts from the people of Orléans and were hailed as heroes. Claude eventually confessed to the King Charles VII.
7. Joan of Arc inspired the bob haircut
As she was trying to pass off as a man, Joan cut her hair short, at the bequest of the voices she heard. This was in the pageboy style that a lot of knights wore their hair in the 15th century. Later, in 1909, Monsieur Antoine, a Parisian hairdresser of Polish origin, started doing the bob haircut and claimed he was inspired by Joan of Arc’s look.
This look became very popular in the 1920s and has endured to this day, an interesting Joan of Arc fact.
8. Joan had great intellectual acumen
Not only was she witty, Joan of Arc was very clever, despite her lack of formal education. During her trial, she is quoted many times cleverly avoiding dangerous or controversial confessions towards the priests interrogating her.
For example, her judges tried to trap her into siding with God against the Church, which would have branded her a heretic immediately. Her answer was: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”
9. Although she didn’t fight, she had war injuries
Joan of Arc didn’t join her army in battle, but she still received injuries. She was once struck in the chest with an arrow, and allegedly she removed it herself and carried on with her duties.
She also received a crossbow blow to the thigh.
Joan of Arc’s tenacity and unfaltering belief made her a charismatic and inspirational figure at a time when the leadership of France lacked strength to face the English army. The power of her personality was clear at the time and the English even burnt her three times over to make sure it was clear that she was dead!
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