PRAYER (contemporary language)
Thei commemoration adopted provisionally at General Convention 2009
Return to Lectionary Home Page
Webmaster: Charles Wohlers
Last updated: 2 April 2016
JOAN OF ARC
VISIONARY, 30 May 1431
Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc, Jeanne la Pucelle) was born in France, near the border of Burgundy, on 6 January 1412. In her time the King of England claimed the crown of France by the laws of inheritance, and English troops were fighting in France to support that claim. (The English King inherited through a woman, and the French claimants, the House of Valois, asserted that French law did not allow the crown to be inherited by or through a woman.) Henry V of England won a decisive victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 (see Shakespeare's play Henry V, filmed in 1944 starring Laurence Olivier and in 1993 starring Kenneth Branagh, who emphasizes the darker aspects of war), and signed an agreement with the Valois monarch Charles VI, providing that Charles should keep his crown during his lifetime, that his daughter Catherine should marry Henry, and that Henry should be the next king. Charles VI had a son (the Dauphin), but the Queen took an oath that she had been unfaithful to her husband, and that the Dauphin was not the King's son, and therefore had no right to inherit the throne. In 1422, Henry V died, leaving an infant son who became Henry VI of England. England claimed the throne of France in his name. The Duke of Burgundy supported the English claim, and was allied with England. The French claimant, the Dauphin (later Charles VII), had not been crowned. Since many Frenchmen thought that his mother the Queen might be telling the truth about his illegitimacy, the story largely paralyzed the national will to fight for Charles.
Into this situation came Joan. When she was thirteen, she began to hear voices telling her that she was called to save France. Eventually she identified these voices as those of Michael the Archangel (mentioned in the Bible in Daniel and Jude and Revelation), and Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch, two early virgin martyrs about whom little is known historically (the accounts of their lives as we have them contain many blatant improbabilities, and even among thoroughly conservative Roman Catholics, they are widely thought to be fictional persons), but who were popular in France at that time. Acting, as she said, under direction from her voices, she persuaded a local baron to send her to the castle of Charles at Chinon, where she spoke with the Dauphin (French word for the heir to the throne until he is officially crowned king), and convinced him that her message was genuine. The city of Orleans was under siege by the English. Joan and an army marched to the scene and raised the siege (8 May 1429). She then proceeded to win other battles, and to bring Charles to Rheims to be crowned king. However, the king refused to take her advice that he should press the military advantage. When she attempted to recapture Paris from the English, he denied her adequate support, and the attempt failed.
Among many literary works inspired by the life of Joan, I mention three:
George Bernard Shaw has written a play about her, Saint Joan. It has a preface for the reader which should not be skipped
Mark Twain has a novel, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, supposedly related by a follower of Joan. Twain is a devoted and uncritical admirer of Joan.
— by James Kiefer