Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War
HIS 101 Pima Community College
April 23, 2015
In this paper, we aim to assess the influence of Joan of Arc in the outcome of the “Hundred Years War”. In this case, we intend to give an extensive historical background on the Hundred Years War; and a long biographical note of Joan, and her involvement in the war. Also, we intend to show the political, and religious influences that the “Maid of Orleans” have had in the events of the war. However, before starting the subject in hand, is important to give a brief background on the events regarding the Hundred Years War, so the reader is able to understand the importance of this event, and the role that eventually Joan of Arc played in it. The Hundred Years War is a broad subject, but it shall be treated rigorously, in order to avoid confusions and historical misunderstandings.
Thesis Statement: The role that Joan of Arc played in the Hundred Years War.
The Hundred Years War
In 1066, England was conquered by a French fief, specifically by William, duke of Normandy –who would be later called “The Conqueror”. William was promised the kingdom by Edward “The confessor” The English king, who was childless. But it was not granted to him, but to Harold Godwinson, who was a powerful ear of Anglo-Saxon blood. The reasons that led William to invade England are clear, nonetheless, Harold disputed William’s claims, as Edward allegedly had granted him the kingdom in his deathbed. William, on the other hand, considered that the previous promise had more weight than the promise the king had done on his deathbed and decided to attack. William took the throne, and the Norman dynasty ruled England. This led to the England we currently know and shaped the English to the form it has today. Although those are fascinating subjects, we shall focus on the causes that led to war. After the conquest, the rulers of England also became subjects of the French king, by the Duchy of Normandy, this created a power vacuum that many French kings tried to exploit. And while many of the continental possessions the English had in Normandy had been lost by the 13th century, the English still had Aquitaine, a fief granted to the English kings by marriage. This made the English crown one of the biggest and mightiest vassals to the French kingdom, and some tensions were unavoidable. In 1337, Edward III of England challenged Phillip V of France right to the throne. Many historians believe that Edward did not really believe he could attain the French kingdom, yet used it to gain leverage when negotiating with Phillip.. The years passed and the status of the war was unsure, and by 1429, the English were in the zenith of their power. It is at that moment when Joan of Arc makes her appearance; a teenage maiden, who dressed like a man and was able to rally the French into breaking the Siege of Orleans, driven by religious visions. Her intrusion in the war was able to temporary stem the tide and change the course of the war but sadly, she was captured and tried by the English and burned at the stake.
Joan of Arc Biography
The historical recounts tell us that Joanne of Arc was born in the year of 1412m, in the village of Domrémy in north-east France. Her parents were free peasants with a rather accommodate situation, and she lived a rather easy life. In her teen years, she started receiving visions of the Archangel Michel; Saint Catherine; and Saint Margaret. These visions told her to support the king Charles VII, and recover France from the English. She confided the revelations to an uncle, who promptly took her to the castle of Vaucouleurs, near Domrémy. Neither the men-at-arms nor the gentlemen believed her, but she persevered, and they granted her an escort who took her to the king, who was in Chinon at the time.
She was presented before the king, and after interrogating her thoroughly, he decided to give her his support. This might have obeyed to desperation, as it is quite unlikely that a king would have trusted in a teenage girl with visions before trusting to his own arm and his nobles’. However, the king decided on doing this Hail Mary move and trusted her with men and money, to break the siege of Orleans. Liberating Orleans was not easy and required to take many forts the English had constructed in the nearby river to protect the city. Many times the lords and knights were against Joan’s decisions but decided to follow her lead as they considered that everything she planned and ordered came to a happy ending. In Orleans liberation, she took an arrow to the leg –some say that it was to the shoulder- and spent a month convalescing. Afterward, she aided the army on the liberation of Troyes, and to the further coronation of the king in Reims, where he was crowned as the rightful king of France.
After those events, many nobles and captains started to envy her and her accomplishments. Which lead to her eventual capture by the English. She was told that the city of Compiegne was being sieged, and she went there with the soldiers she had at the moment. Her arrival brought new hopes to the city’s defenders and made a sortie fight the enemy, and although Joan did not agree with the decision, she fight, as she did not want to be seen as a coward. Not so long after the fray, the French sounded the retreat, and Joan and her forces fought to retard the advance of the English. The confusion was big, and she could not pass through the city gates, and was captured by John of Luxembourg, who fought alongside the Duchy of Burgundy.
The capture and posterior trial of Joan were in charge of the Bishop of Beauvais, who wanted her dead. Many people protested that if the crimes made by Joann were of religious matter, she should be judged by a religious court. However, these claims were dismissed and Joan was locked up in a prison of the English to administer “righteous justice” After the deliberation, Joan was declared heretic, and thrown outside of the church without the possibility of reconciliation. She was handed to secular justice and without further ado, she was burned at a stake.
Joan of Arc’s Influence in The Hundred Years War
As we pointed before, to the French, the war was almost lost, and the rise of a figure with the power and the charisma of Joan, gave them a relief, and actually helped them to their eventual victory. Joan was not only a girl who had visions, and was inspired by the Holy Spirit. She also was a skillful commander and negotiator who was able to foresee the outcome of the situations –with or without visions- and act accordingly. In a French army where knights charged to battle regardless of the dangers, only to appease their moral code, a tactician was a relief.After the death of Joan, the tides of the war turned drastically against the English, and although most of the English nobles were against making peace, they were committed mostly to their own interests. The first intend to negotiate was in 1435, in the congress of Arras, where no accord was able to be done, and negotiations stalled. After that congress, the duke of Burgundy deserted to the French, and that marked the end of the War, as Paris, who was in control of the Burgundians, returned to the Crown of France. The Battle of Castillon is considered the last battle of the Hundred Years War, but both France, and England remained formally at war for another 20 years The eventual defeat of the Englishmen in the War, led to the a civil unrest known as the War of the Roses that started in 1455.
In order for Joan to reach the power and acceptance she gained, something had to happen In this case, prophecies about a virgin who would eventually destroy the English, like biblical heroines, added legitimacy to Joan’s mission. To the French, Joan raised to the ranks of biblical figures such as Deborah or Judith. This bestowed upon her mission a sense of authority, righteousness and inevitability. Nevertheless, in Joan’s case, God did not feature in her prophecies, but the sense of manifest destiny was there, bolstering French moral, and aiding a tired army into defeating their enemies. Joan herself was seen as a prophetess, and with the aid of the Dolphin’s counselors, her image was tailored to the point of rendering her almost impossible to recognize. However, more than a prophetess, she was viewed as a symbol, as a herald of victory, to her contemporaries, she was the fulfillment of existing prophecies that eventually led to the belief of Joan as a savior sent from heaven to free the French.
The Hundred Years War was a long and bloody conflict that torn continental Europe for more than a century. It might seem weird to contemporary observers that England and France, two countries with strong and close ties, have fought for centuries. The Hundred Years war was not the beginning of an amicable relationship between both countries, but the recognition of England, as a power of its own, by France. A power that almost destroyed the country. In the same light, when thinking about the Maid of Orleans, many questions arise. However, a manifest destiny has slowly developed in the background, and Joan was only seen as the continuation of it. She was the symbol the country needed to shake off the apathy and start to fight back. Although Joan, as we stated before, was not only a prophetess. She was a skilled natural-born tactician whose well-thought plans contrasted heavily with the ones used by her male counterparts, who relied on the power of cavalry to overcome their foes, with little results. Likewise, Joan’s intervention served to agglutinate otherwise separated nobles. Men with different thoughts were now fighting alongside to defend their homeland from a bigger threat than themselves. In a way, French nationalism was born with the rise of Joan of Arc.
Devries, Kelly. “The Use of Gunpowder Weaponry by and against Joan of Arc During the Hundred Years War.” War & Society, 1996, 1-15.
Fraioli, D. “The Literary Image of Joan of Arc: Prior Influences.” http://faculty.smu.edu/bwheeler/Joan_of_Arc/OLR/crfraioli.pdf.
Keen, M. “The Hundred Years War.” BBC.co.uk. February 17, 2011.
Rankin, Daniel S. The First Biography of Joan of Arc, with the Chronicle Record of a Contemporary Account. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1964. 17
Seward, D. “The Hundred Years War: The English in France, 1337-1453.” 2013, 1. http://www.math.chalmers.se/~ulfp/Review/seward.pdf.