After a lot of
consideration, her offer was accepted. The dauphin provided her with
a military household of several men; Jean d' Aulon, the authority
who interrogated her became her squire, and she was joined by her
brothers Jean and Pierre. For a sword, Joan said that she wanted one
that would be found in the church of Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois!
Indeed, one was discovered there.
Joan entered Orléans on April 29, 1429. It was surrounded by
troops of Englishmen. When she entered, she was advised to defer
action until more supplies were sent to her. However, on the evening
of May 4, when she was resting, she suddenly sprang up, apparently
inspired, and decided to go and attack the English.
appropriately, she reached a fort where there was a skirmish and of
which she had not been informed. On seeing her arrive, the French
army was inspired enough to capture the fort. She then wrote one of
her famous letters of defiance to the English. Two days later, she
arrived at another fort and at her arrival, the English left the
fort ran to defend another one nearby. But Joan chased them and
captured that one too.
In the next encounter,
Joan was wounded, but she returned and participated in the combat.
Inspired once again by her relentless participation, the French gave
out their very best until the English capitulated.
The coronation of
After this, she left Orléans and met Dauphin Charles, urging him
to make haste to Reims (where the coronation takes place) and be
crowned. After this, it was one sweet series of victories for the
valiant lady. On June 18, 1429, the French and English armies came
face to face at Patay. Joan promised that Charles would win a
greater victory that day than any he had won so far. It was proved
true and the English army was routed. Once again, she pressed
Charles to return to Reims for the coronation. He vacillated, but
Joan finally won him over to see her point of view. After a few more
adventures and encounters, they reached Reims and the coronation
took place on July 17, 1429.
The issue of Paris
It was next left to Joan to impress upon the people the
importance of taking Paris. On September 8, an attack directed
between the gates of Saint-Honoré and Saint-Denis was launched. Joan
was wounded in the attack. However, she continued to encourage the
soldiers until she had to abandon the attack. The next day, Charles
passed an order for retreat.
Charles VII retired to the Loire and Joan followed him. She
remained with the King, supporting him faithfully. On May 23, she
twice repelled the English but was eventually compelled to retreat.
Until the last, she remained with her men, protecting the rear
guard. While crossing the Oise River, she was unhorsed and could not
remount. She finally surrendered. Along with her brother Pierre, she
was taken to Margny, where the Duke of Burgundy came to see her.
Unfortunately for her, King Charles, who was working toward a truce
with the Duke of Burgundy, made no attempts to save her.
Days in captivity
Joan was moved from one castle to another. In a desperate
attempt to escape, she jumped from the top of a tower and fell
unconscious into the moat. She was not seriously hurt and when she
had recovered, she was taken captive again. News of her capture had
reached Paris on May 25. An offer was made for handing over the
trail of Joan by the Bishop of Beauvais. The price for the exchange
was 10,000 francs. On January 3, 1431, she was handed over to the
The University of Paris,
an arbiter in matters concerning the faith, insisted that she should
be tried as a heretic. If she could be proved a sorceress, then the
coronation too would also come under a cloud as Charles would then
owe his coronation to a heretic.
Throughout the trial,
Joan refused to reveal what she had told Charles. Also, since she
insisted that she was morally free to attempt escape, she was
chained to a wooden block. In addition to heresy, she was accused of
having attempted suicide. At the end of the preliminary report,
there were seventy charges against her. As the trial proceeded, the
number was reduced to twelve.
In the meantime, Joan
became seriously sick. Fearing that she would die, she asked to go
to confession and receive Holy Communion. The authorities threatened
to torture her into clarifying certain issues. Even in such a sick
condition, Joan refused to fold in and declared that her answer
would be no different from the earlier ones which could be summed up
in two sentences, namely “I am relying on our Lord” and “I hold to
what I have already said.” She also made it clear that if she were
tortured she would make it known that any response was “extorted”
from her. Finally, on May 23, it was intimated that Joan could be
turned over to the secular authorities as only they could carry out
the death sentence of a condemned heretic.
Since nothing further
could be done, Joan was taken out of prison for the first time in
four months. She was conducted to the cemetery of the church of
Saint-Ouen, where her sentence was to be read out. The sentence was
that she would be abandoned to secular power. At this, Joan decided
to fall in line with the decree of the church. She was condemned to
perpetual imprisonment and told to change back to wearing women’s
attire. However, within a couple of days, she returned to wearing
male attire and after some exchanges, it was decided to hand her
over to secular power.
In a move, unprecedented for a relapsed heretic, Joan received
permission to make her confession and receive Communion on May 30,
1431. Later, she was led to the Place du Vieux-Marché where the
sentence was read out. She was ordered to be burnt. An executioner
seized her, led her to the stake and lit the pyre. A few days later
the English king and the University of Paris formally published the
news of Joan's execution.
Almost 20 years later, King Charles VII ordered an inquiry into
the trial. Following a petition from the Joan’s family, proceedings
were instituted in 1455-56 that revoked and annulled the sentence of
1431. She was canonized (enshrined) by Pope Benedict XV May 16,
1920. The French observe May 30 as her feast day is May 30 and the
French parliament decreed an annual national festival in her honor
on the second Sunday in May.