Joan Of Arc Essay, Research Paper
Anno Domini 1412
N the night of the Feast of the Epiphany (January
6th)2 at the end of the medieval Christmas season, in
the year 1412 during the final waning period of
relative peace secured by the Truce of Leulinghen, a
baby was born to Jacques Darc and his wife Isabelle
in the village of Domr?my. She was christened
Jehanne (”Joan”), after her godmothers Jehanne
Royer and Jehanne de Viteau.3 Perceval de
Boulainvilliers later claimed that the roosters of the
village, “like heralds of a new joy”, hailed her birth by
crowing long before dawn4, allegedly to announce (as
some later believed) a different type of dawn. Her childhood was spent among the forests and strawberry-covered fields of the Meuse river valley, far from the northern regions where the political situation was becoming increasingly troubled. In May 1413 Paris was subjected to several weeks of violence during an anti-Royalist revolt which was engineered by the Duke of Burgundy, led by a butcher named Simon Caboche, and egged on by a young clergyman and Burgundian partisan named Pierre Cauchon, whom Jehanne would later meet during a less pleasant period of her life. War with England was renewed in August 1415 when Henry V invaded Normandy and defeated the French Royal army near the little village of Agin?ourt on October 25th. The losses suffered by the French aristocracy severely weakened the Royalist faction and stripped it of its most energetic leader, Duke Charles d’Orl?ans, the captive prince whom Jehanne would later refer to as “the sweet Duke”.
Against this turbulent backdrop the members of the Darc family continued to farm their 50-some acres of land near the Meuse. According to the Domr?my villagers who later testified to Jehanne’s childhood upbringing, she was a dutiful child who helped her parents with the chores along with her other siblings: her three older brothers
Jacquemin, Jean, and Pierre, and her little sister Catherine. One of her godfathers, a farmer named Jean Moreau from the nearby village of Greux, later recalled that “she was such a good girl that almost everyone in Domr?my loved her”.5 Her friends, such as Hauviette, Mengette, Simonin Musnier, Colin, and Michel Lebuin, remembered her as a “good, simple, sweet-natured girl” who “worked gladly” and “went to church gladly and often”, especially to a forest chapel called Notre Dame de Bermont, to which she and her sister Catherine would bring candles in honor of the Virgin Mary.
“She was deeply devoted to God and the Blessed Virgin,” said Colin, “so much so that some other lads and I – for I was young then – used to tease her for being so pious.”6 Simonin Musnier remembered that “she tended the sick, and gave alms to the poor. I have seen her do so, for I was ill myself when I was a child, and Jehanne came to comfort me.”7
Later, Jehanne would say: “It was from my mother that I learned the Our Father (Pater Noster), the Hail Mary (Ave Maria), and the Apostles Creed (Credo)”8, and “to sew linen fabrics and to spin wool, and when it comes to spinning and sewing I fear no woman…”. 9 Catherine le Royer remembered that “she loved to spin wool, and spun well”.10 She also loved to listen to the ringing of the church bells: Dominique Jacob, a priest of a nearby parish, remembered that “sometimes when complines were rung in the village church, she would go down on her knees; and I used to think that she said her prayers most devoutly.”11 Jean Waterin, a childhood playmate, recalled that “when she was in the fields she used to go down on her knees every time she heard the bell tolled”.12 She sometimes chased down Perrin Drappier, the churchwarden at
Domr?my, if he was remiss in performing his duties: “when I did not ring for compline she scolded me, saying that it was not good; and she used to promise to give me pieces of wool [or possibly "flat cakes"])”13 so that I should be diligent in ringing for
In 1419 her father rented the nearby Ch?teau de l’Ile from a local aristocratic family to serve as a secure sanctuary for the villagers and their livestock. On the wider stage of European politics, the same year witnessed the assassination of Duke Jean-sans-Peur de Burgundy by supporters of the Dauphin Charles, leading Jean’s successor
Philippe-le-Bon to enter into full alliance with the English. Events now accelerated.
In 1420, when Jehanne was eight, the Treaty of Troyes granted Henry V eventual title to the kingdom of France and the hand of Catherine, daughter of King Charles “the Mad”. The Dauphin was disowned, and France was divided between Henry V and the Duke of Burgundy. Among the men who helped negotiate the treaty was Pierre Cauchon, whose efforts were rewarded when the Duke of Burgundy secured him the episcopal position from which he would later prosecute Jehanne on behalf of the English.
In 1422 Henry V and Charles VI died within two months of each other, leaving the infant Henry VI as the nominal king of France. His regent, the Duke of Bedford, spent the next few years cementing alliances with the Dukes of Brittany and Burgundy, and engaging Dauphinist forces in the field. The military situation swung in Bedford’s favor with victories at Cravant on July 31, 1423 and at Verneuil on August 17, 1424. In the wake of defeat and frustration, demoralization set in within the Dauphinist faction.
Around that time, perhaps in the summer of 1424, the young farm girl from Domr?my said she began to experience visions. She would later explain: “I was in my thirteenth year when I heard a voice from God to help me govern my conduct. And the first time I was very much afraid. And this voice came, about the hour of noon, in the summer time, in my father’s garden…” 15
A new chapter had begun for Jehanne and the various factions fighting for control of the Kingdom of France.