The Maid’s call was not simply to serve as a cheerleader from a safe distance. Joan donned 60 pounds of armor, mounted her horse, and led her troops into battle. The first week, she was shot in the shoulder with a well-placed arrow but was back on her horse several hours later. Within 9 days, her small army ended a 200 days siege. This victory marked a turning point in the Hundred Year’s War that, according to historians, was “a milestone in the development of national consciousness in western Europe.”
The Legacy and Liability of Bravery
Joan’s desire to defeat the English was not motivated by a need for fame or a love for war. Rather, she believed that individual nations mattered to God. With regard to France, that meant a safe route to Reims had to be secured so that Charles could rightfully claim the crown. In part due to her efforts, the coronation occurred a mere six months after Joan left Domrémy. In that short time Joan won the allegiance of many because of her fierce loyalty to France, unparalleled courage, and devotion to God.
But, despite her scruples and miraculous success, Joan also had some powerful opponents. Insecure, power-hungry men felt threatened by her. Elaborate charges were trumped up against Joan including heresy, witchcraft, and the wearing of men’s clothing. On May 23, 1430, she was taken as prisoner and spent the remainder of her too-short life confined to a cell, deprived of adequate nutrition, companionship, and the sacraments.
During her trial, Joan had no advocates and was denied a lawyer. It became a match of wits and a contest of “faith vs. institution.” In response to her accusers’ question about whether she was in a state of grace, she brilliantly responded, “If I am not in the state of grace, may God put me there—and if I am, may he keep me there.”
In the end, though they were unable to substantiate any charges against her (except the wearing of men’s clothing, which was not uncommon if women were traveling or in a potentially dangerous situation), she was indicted and condemned to death by fire. King Charles VII, who arguably would never have been crowned apart from her service, utterly abandoned her. Despite his shameful behavior, she defended him as the rightful heir until her death.