What was Saint Joan's impact upon France right after her death and now?

 picture of Joan sick in prison

The best way to answer this question is for me to quote two chapters from my unpublished, copyrighted book entitled: The Chateaudun Chronicles: The Story of Saint Joan of Arc.


After Joan of Arc was captured by the enemy what did King Charles VII do for his well-beloved Maid? NOTHING!

The Archbishop of Embrun, Jacques Gelu, was a supporter of Joan. He wrote a treatise about her at the beginning of her career, in which he urged the King to follow her guidance. Upon her capture he wrote a letter to Charles, and begged him to do everything possible to win her freedom. He stated: To recover this girl and to pay her ransom, I bid you spare neither means nor money, nor any price however great, unless you would incur the indelible shame of a most culpable ingratitude.

Yet, according to the historical records, Joan was completely abandoned in her time of need by the King she had loved and served so well! King Charles could have done many things to help her, such as raising an army of rescue, paying her ransom, or threatening to treat his English and Burgundian prisoners in the same way as the English treated Joan. Failing that, he could have ordered the Archbishop of Reims, Bishop Cauchon's superior, to have Joan examined by churchmen from all three parties. Lastly, Charles could have appealed to the Pope, but he did not. Why? Perhaps because, Joan had pleaded the Constable's case before him. Perhaps, King Charles saw in Joan's capture a sign of God's displeasure with her. Nonetheless, whatever his reason for his inaction, he was and is guilty of despicable ingratitude.

It is very possible that King Charles' opinion followed closely the one expressed by the Archbishop of Reims when he wrote to his diocese: It was entirely her own fault because she would not to take advice, but did her own pleasure.

In a second letter the Archbishop wrote, There came before the King a young shepherd, a keeper of sheep in the mountains of Gevaudan, in the bishopric of Mande. He said neither more nor less than the Maid had, and that he was ordered by God to set forth with the King's army and without fail the English and the Burgundians would be discomfited.

It would seem that this shepherd boy named Guillaume had been tending his flocks when God favored him with revelations concerning the King and the kingdom of France. As he prayed, he heard a voice which he obeyed and with the help of the towns people of Mande he came to Charles' court. The boy was physically frail and like Saint Francis he too had the stigmata as his hands, feet and side were wounded and bled for all to see.

In his third letter the Archbishop stated, God had allowed the English to take Joan because she had grown proud, because of the bright raiment that she wore and because she had not done what God had ordered her to do, but had done her own will and desire.

Guillaume was hailed as the new deliverer and was given a horse and brought to the army. He accomplished nothing and was finally taken by the English who sewed him into a sack and threw him into the Seine to drown.

As for the French people and the common soldiers whom Joan loved so well, they were filled with disbelief, sorrow, anger, and consternation about her capture and subsequent trial. As an act of supplication to God they held public processions, in which the people walked barefoot! They offered Masses and held public prayers calling upon God to bring about Joan's release; but God had other plans for Joan.


After Joan's victory at Orleans, the famous French poet, Christine de Pisan, wrote a poem in 1429 which she praised Joan and stated her belief that the Maid was sent by God to help an oppressed people.

The French chronicles that were written eight or nine years after her death expressed the same sentiments as de Pisan, namely that God had sent Joan to save the kingdom. As for the Burgundian chronicles that were written after the signing of the Treaty of Arras in 1436, we would consider them today as being middle of the road. They would not go so far as to say that Joan was sent by God but they were tactful enough not to repeat the English sentiments either, namely that Joan was sent by Satan. They were skeptical as to the source of her mission but they did acknowledge her importance in defeating the English.

From 1430 until 1793, when ever the subject of Joan of Arc came up, all the English histories were filled with resentment and repeated the same old claim that she was inspired and accomplished her deeds through the power of Satan. To them she was nothing more than a common chambermaid who was a bold tomboy. They said in their works that she was able to keep her virginity only because she was so ugly that no man wanted her.

In English literature, Shakespeare's play, HENRY VI, part 1, was the ultimate insult to Joan's memory because the play portrays her as the devil's tool, a violent, calculating and scheming shrew.

As for the opinion of Charles VII's court, Joan during her life time was at first a curiosity who quickly became an embarrassing mystery to them. They frequently asked her to wear woman's dress whenever she attended court, this of course she refused to do. It is not hard to imagine both the lords and ladies of the court question each other as they snickered and whispered behind covered mouths, "What is it?"

The first and only official French court biography of Joan of Arc was written around the year 1500. The Admiral of France, Louis Malet de Graville, persuaded King Louis XII to have it written. After this though, the official court historians gave the subject of Joan of Arc only a passing mention. For the most part the future Kings of France took their cue from Charles VII and completely ignored her. In 1580, the French court historian, Du Haillan, wrote in his history of France a scandalous lie about her when he stated that Joan had been the whore of de Baudricourt, Dunois or another of her captains named Xaintrailles.

Joan of Arc's good name and deeds of valor were preserved by private individuals and historians from Orleans, Reims and Rouen. These men used the biography of 1500 as a basis of their works to which they added the local records. These biographies were published in 1522, 1578, 1581, 1589 and 1610.

Mostly though her story was preserved in French literature. The first to write of Joan was Francois Villon who wrote in his poem, The Ladies of Yesteryear, "Joan, the good Lorrainer, whom the English burnt at Rouen...."

In the sixteenth century Cardinal Richelieu added Joan of Arc's name to the list of heroic women of history. In 1646, Mlle. Madeleine de Scudiy organized a "literary tournament" because she was incensed by a Protestant Minster Rivet who publicly doubted Joan's virginity. Mlle. De Scudiy strongly defended Joan as a chaste warrior who was sent by God to save her country. She also stated that the sentence of Rouen was the most unjust ever pronounced.

In the middle of the seventeenth century, Jean Chaplain, the official court poet, wrote an epic poem about Joan of Arc entitled, The Maid, The Deliverer of France. Although the title sounds favorable, in reality his work played down Joan's importance and spiritual guidance and instead he portrayed Dunois as the primary hero.

In the eighteenth century Voltaire based his work entitled The Maid of Orleans on Chaplain's epic. In his satire, Voltaire, tried in the cruelest way possible to damage Joan's character and image by portraying her as a village idiot. He used her story to attack the Church, the Monarchy and the Nobility.

The end of the eighteenth century saw several literary works written about Joan of Arc. In 1794, the English poet, Robert Southey, wrote an epic poem in honor of Joan of Arc. With this one work he single- handedly changed the people's attitude toward her because up to this time the English histories continued to consider her as nothing more than a witch. At this time there was a popular play being performed in which, to the cheers and applause of the enthusiastic audience, Joan was depicted as being carried off alive by Satan into hell. It was but a short time after Southey's poem was published that the audience's reaction drastically changed. Instead of cheering they began to throw rotten vegetables at the actor who portrayed Satan as they jeered and booed him. Within a few nights of this reaction a new character, an angel, was hastily introduced, who rescued her from Satan's clutches. This scene was received very warmly by all those who saw it.

The powers in charge during the French Revolution were very cruel to Joan of Arc's memory. They canceled the May 8th procession that had been held at Orleans continuously since two years after Joan's death. They also destroyed statues and crosses that were set up to honor Joan of Arc and they burned her relics, consisting of her hat that she gave to Charlotte, her standard and a sword that had belonged to her. For the next ten years Joan's memory was relegated to the shadows of French life and it was not until 1803 when Napoleon once more made it 'politically correct' to honor Joan of Arc by giving his permission for the May 8th ceremonies at Orleans to be resumed. Because Joan had fought the English, Napoleon made use of her to further his own campaign against them. He made her an official symbol of French patriotism and a national heroine. As a consequence her popularity among the people grew. All during the first half of the nineteenth century France was struggling against England in one way or another and during this time many 'histories' were written about her.

It took Jules Quicherat, a French historian, five years from 1841-1845 to compile all the documents concerning Joan of Arc into five volumes. Not only did he publish the complete texts of the trial of Condemnation and Nullification but he also gathered excerpts from chronicles, literary works, letters, public documents and the accounting ledgers from the city of Orleans into his scholarly work. Single handedly Quicherat sparked a renaissance of interest in Joan of Arc among the scholars who in turn translated the Latin and Old French into modern French. By doing this the general public could finally read for themselves Joan's own words and at last she became for them a real historical figure.

With this development the whole spectrum of political ideologies began to claim her. Joan became the champion for many causes from the atheistic anticlerical Freemasons, the Socialist Nationalists and Communists to the conservative Catholic Monarchists. From the 1850's on France was shaken by a savage anticlerical movement. Those who supported the Church decried the rapid spread of atheistic secular-humanism and the growing immorality of the nation and they used Joan of Arc as a symbol to reclaim these souls.

The Church was not blind to the upsurge in popularity that Joan of Arc had achieved and on May 8, 1869, Bishop Dupanloup of Orleans with the support of eleven other French Bishops petitioned Rome to begin the process of Canonization. Bishop Dupanloup declared, "Not only Orleans and France but also the whole world venerate God's actions through Joan of Arc, the piety and enthusiasm of this young girl, her purity and selflessness with which she always carried out the will of God....

"We wish that Your Holiness would now honor and exalt her memory. This would be a just tribute to Joan of Arc, who in freeing her country also saved it from the heresy which might have become a danger.... It would also constitute a title of honor to the French people...."

Unfortunately with the coming of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870 and France's ensuing defeat, Bishop Dupanloup's request was put on hold. During this war France lost the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to the Germans and the French politicians used Joan of Arc as a symbol for a crusade to regain these territories.

In 1893 the French people overwhelmingly elected a Socialist government into power. Eight months later on January 27, 1894, Pope Leo XIII, in hopes of improving relations between the Vatican and the French government, extended an olive branch to them by officially beginning the process of Joan's Beatification. In doing so he proclaimed the Maid to have been the venerable handmaiden of God.

In the process of declaring a person a 'saint' the promoters of the prospective saint's cause are asked to vouch for four authentic miracles to secure for beatification and two more miracles form Canonization.

The Holy Father can dispense one miracle if the candidate has founded a religious order. In Joan's case, this dispensation was granted because she had saved France. Thus, three miracles sufficed for her beatification. The three approved miracles that raised Joan of Arc to Blessed were as follows:

1) Sister Therese of Saint Augustine, who lived in Orleans, had been cured of leg ulcers.

2) Sister Julie Gauthier, who lived in Faverolles, was cured of a cancerous ulcer of her left breast.

3) Sister Marie Sagnier, who lived in Frages, was miraculously cured of cancer of the stomach.

Pope Pius X solemnly accepted these three miracles as authentic on December 13, 1908. He declared, "Joan has shone like a new star destined to be the glory not only of France but of the Universal Church as well." It was because of her heroic virtue that she was declared Blessed on April 18, 1909.

Because the Socialist Party was very anti-clerical, they wanted Joan of Arc canonized so that they could used her strictly as a political hero. Between 1895 and 1905 relations between the Socialist government and the Holy See worsened to the point of total breakdown. L' Action Francaise, a conservative royalist political organization, worked and demonstrated in the streets to bring down the Socialist government. This organization also worked for Joan's canonization.

The two miracles needed for Joan of Arc's canonization were obtained and authenticated without much delay but World War I put a stop to all such activities. In 1920 when the war was over and the French were victorious, the Vatican wanted to improve relations with the Socialist government. The Holy See was willing to give them their saint if the French government would reestablish diplomatic relations.

In his book, Saint Joan of Arc, Msgr. Leon Cristiani described his connection to one of the two miracles that caused Joan officially to be declared a saint by the Church. The miracle that he witnessed occurred in Lourdes on August 22, 1909, during the procession of the Blessed Sacrament.

The person in question was Therese Belin who lay unconscious when the Blessed Sacrament passed before her. Msgr. Cristiani was desirous of seeing Joan of Arc canonized. He obtained permission from the Bishop of Orleans to invoke Joan during the Blessing of the sick in hopes that a miracle would occur that could be attributed to Joan's intercession. At the first invocation to Blessed Joan of Arc, Therese opened her eyes, at the second she sat up on her stretcher and at the third she felt she had been cured. Msgr. Cristiani later interviewed Therese and her god-mother about her illness. They informed him of the various stages of her sickness, the operations she had had and the remedies that had been used without effect. Her medical diagnosis was : Peritoneal and Pulmonary tuberculosis, complicated by an Organic Lesion of the Mitral Orifice. In plain English she had tuberculosis of her lungs and abdominal cavity which was complicated by an organic lesion of her mitral valve of her heart - obviously she was VERY sick.

The other recognized cure occurred to Miss Mirandelle who had a diagnosis of Perforating Plantar Affliction which means she had a hole that went through the sole of her foot.

Joan of Arc was canonized in a grand and solemn ceremony in Saint Peter's Basilica on May 16, 1920. Her feast day is celebrated on May 30, the day of her death.

UP ARROW Index LEFT ARROW Previous Question RIGHT ARROW Next Question
This web page is being maintained by The Saint Joan of Arc Center