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Joan of Arc: The Image of a Female Leader of/to Men

Joan of Arc was a martyr, a saint, and a leader guided by divine voices to lead the French army to victory against the English.

The beginning of the film teaches us that the real Joan of Arc was simply a 17-year-old peasant girl growing up
throughout the height of the Hundred Years’ War. Disaster after disaster overtook her native France and by the May of 1429, Joan claimed that God was instructing her through voices she heard. Claiming to have received divine orders to liberate the country, Joan’s badgering of Robert de Baudricourt, Charles’ representative in nearby Vaucouleurs, gave in to her request and had her sent for an 11-day journey across enemy land towards Charles at Chinon.

To make her travels safer, Joan cut her hair short and dressed in men’s clothes. The war torn France was not safe for a woman, and traveling as a man would prevent any troublemakers in the old times. The divine voices instructed Joan to lead the king’s army and to restore her country to a state of peace. So, at seventeen, Joan set out to do just that. She emerged victorious on her journey until England’s allies, the Burgundians, captured her at a small battle.

Despite being a woman at her young age, Joan of Arc demonstrated so much bravery and valor. She came from a humble upbringing, but achieved many great things. She is described as “The Maid of Orleans” and is considered as a hero in French history. Yet it took more than mere courage for Joan to travel across the court of Charles VII of France. Taking note that she was just a farm girl saying God had sent her to deal with the issues of succession that Charles had.

Although it seemed that Charles had accepted Joan’s mission, he did not show full trust in her judgement or advice. After the victory at Orleans, she kept encouraging him to hurry to Reims to be crowned as the new king, but he and his advisors were more doubtful. However, Charles and his people finally entered Reims, and he was crowned as Charles VII on July 18, 1429. Joan was at his side throughout the ceremonies.

Women weren’t allowed in battle, and even though the king accepted Joan into his army, she still had to gain acceptance by her country. They were unsure about the king’s decision, and the French soldiers and commanders hesitated to follow her orders. However, they soon realized that all went well when they followed her orders. By winning battle after battle, she showed that she could be courageous and she was capable of doing the impossible. At first, no one believed that Joan could lead the French to victory, but she proved them otherwise.

The Maid of Orleans had put courage back into the hearts of the dispirited French.

Barely a year later, Joan helped with the defense of the city from the renewed English and Burgundian attacks. As always she was in the midst of the fighting, and when she accompanied a group of warriors to attack the Burgundian camp, she was ambushed and captured. She stayed back with the rear guards to allow others to escape when the Burgundians counter-attacked, she was quickly surrounded. The Burgundians took her and kept her for several months, negotiating with the English. The English desperately wanted her and they needed to prove to the world that she was just a crazy heretic and not a messenger of God.

The Trial of Joan of Arc had begun. She was judged by a purely English court. Joan was charged with two major offenses, heresy? and cross-dressing. To be executed for heresy, the court needed to prove that she did it repeatedly, so they mainly went with the cross-dressing charge, as there were eyewitnesses of multiple accounts of her wearing men’s clothing as armor. The trial was not taken seriously as a legal proceeding, and the court tried it’s best to keep Joan convicted.

Joan refused to give in to the church’s accusations about her visions being false, but she renounced her faith before she died by burning at the stake. She challenged the church’s authority, which was nothing of at the time and it was wrong for a woman to stand up against the church. Centuries later, the Catholic Church finally recognized her sacrifice by not submitting to the Church of England.

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