"The Maid of Orleans" 24x36 oil on canvas.
Joan of Arc, also known as "The Maid of Orleans," was born a peasant. Her family lived in an isolated area of Eastern France that remained loyal to the French crown during the 100 years war.
At 16 Joan claimed to have seen holy visions, instructing her to support Charles Vll of France and help defeat the English. So Joan set out to get an audience with the King and convince him that she could help save France. She succeeded in getting her audience and managed to become a figurehead of the French forces.
It is absolutely astonishing to me that a 16 year old illiterate farm girl was not only able to convince a monarch that God spoke to her, she was able to convince an entire army that God was on their side when she rode with them. Indeed the tide began to turn for the French when Joan came on the scene. For they believed they now had God on their side.
The English despised Joan, it is said that English soldiers would shout "go back to your cows!" with great vitriol when they saw her with her flag on the battlefield.
When the English captured Joan in 1430 they set their minds to having her executed. They attempted to charge her with Heresy, but she was suprisingly shrewd in the face of their inquisitions.
The court became frustrated and settled on a cross-dressing charge. Joan had chosen to dress in men's clothing, presumably to protect herself from men. At the time this was an executionable offense.
So Joan was burned at the stake for wearing men's clothing and then burned twice more to prove that she was no holy woman. She was 19.
It is interesting to speculate about Joan. Some scholars now say she might have been epileptic or schizophernic. She was prone to outbursts and visions. Things that could be explained away by modern medicine.
Regardless, Joan, a teenage girl who couldn't read or write, a humble girl indeed, managed to convince a king and an entire army that she was a messenger of God. And that's pretty impressive, regardless of her mental state.
Painting inspired by "Joan of Arc" by Albert Lynch (1851-1912).