Joan Of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc), known as La Pucelle and "the Maid of Orleans," a French heroine, born at Domremy (now called from her Domremy-la-Pucelle), in Lorraine, about 1411, burned at the stake in Rouen, May 31, 1431. She was the fifth child of poor parents, whose family name was probably Dare. She received no instruction, but was accustomed to out-of-door duties, such as the tending of sheep and the riding of horses to and from the watering place. The neighborhood of Domremy abounded in superstitions, and at the same time sympathized with the Orleans party in the divisions which rent the kingdom of France. Jeanne shared both in the political excitement and the religious enthusiasm; imaginative and devout, she loved to meditate on the legends of the Virgin, and especially, it seems, dwelt upon a current prophecy that a virgin should relieve France of her enemies. At the age of 13 she began to believe herself the subject of supernatural visitations, spoke of voices that she heard and visions that she saw, and a few years later was possessed by the idea that she was called to deliver her country and crown her king.
An outrage upon her native village by some roving Burgundians raised this belief to a purpose; her " voices " importuned her to enter upon her mission by applying to Baudricourt, governor of Vaucouleurs; and this, by the aid of an uncle, she did in May, 1428. The governor, after some delay, granted her an audience, but treated her pretensions with such scorn that she returned to her uncle. The fortunes of the dauphin, however, were desperate, and Baudricourt, pressed by her entreaties, sent her to Chinon, where Charles held his court. Introduced into a crowd of courtiers from whom the king was undistinguished, she is said to have singled him out at once. Her claims were submitted to a severe scrutiny. No evidence indicating that she was a dealer in the black art, and the fact of her virginity removing all suspicions of her being under satanic influence, her wish to lead the army of her king was granted. A suit of armor was made for her, and a consecrated sword which she described as buried in the church of St. Catharine at Fierbois was brought and placed in her hands.
Thus equipped, she put herself at the head of 10,000 troops commanded by royal officers, threw herself upon the English who were besieging Orleans, routed them, and in a week forced them to raise the siege (May, 1429). Other exploits followed..
The presence of the virgin with her consecrated banner struck a panic into the souls of her enemies. In less than three months Charles was crowned king at Rheims, the maid of Orleans standing in full armor at his side. Her promised work was done. Dunois, however, unwilling to lose her influence, urged her to remain with the army, and she did so; but her victories were over. In an attack on Paris in the early winter she was repulsed and wounded. In the spring of the next year (1430) she threw herself into Compiegne, then beleaguered by the English; made a sortie in which she was taken prisoner (May 24), and was at once carried to Jean de Luxembourg's fortress at Beaurevoir. An attempt to escape by leaping from a dungeon wall was unsuccessful, and she was taken to Rouen. The university of Paris demanded that she should be tried on a charge of sorcery, and solicited letters patent from the king of England, which were reluctantly granted. The chapter at Rouen were rather favorably disposed toward her; many of the English in authority were unwilling to proceed to extremities; but the university of Paris prevailed. The examination lasted several months, and resulted in a conviction of sorcery.
The papers were sent from Rouen to Paris, and the verdict of the university was unanimous that such acts and sentiments as hers were diabolical, and merited the punishment of fire. Sentence of condemnation was read to her publicly by the bishop of Beauvais, and the alternative offered of the stake or submission to the church. The terrified girl made a recantation, and was taken back to prison. Here her visions returned. A man's apparel being left in her cell to tempt her, she put it on; the bishop seized upon the act as a virtual relapse into her old unbelief, and hastened the execution of the first sentence. A huge pile of wood was erected in the market place of Rouen, and, surrounded by a vast assembly of soldiers and ecclesiastics, 'Joan of Arc was burned, and her ashes were thrown into the Seine. The infamy of this transaction lies heavily upon all concerned in it. The French king did nothing to avenge her, and waited ten years before he reversed the process by which she was condemned, and pronounced her " a martyr to her religion, her country, and her king." The character of the "Maid of Orleans " was spotless. She was distinguished for her purity, innocence, and modesty. Her hand never shed blood.
The gentle dignity of her bearing impressed all who knew her, and restrained the brutality of her soldiers. The cottage in which she was born still stands between two buildings, founded as a monument to her by the department of the Vosges; it contains a copy of the beautiful statue by Marie d'Orleans, daughter of Louis Philippe. The place where she was captured was indicated by a ruined tower which fell down in 1868; and the spot of her execution in the place de la Pucelle, Rouen, is marked by a mean statue. A fine statue of her was unveiled in Paris, in the place des Pyramides, Feb. 25, 1873. - Among the French authors who have written the life of Joan of Arc are Lenglet du Fresnoy (2 vols., Paris, 1753-'4), Lebrun de Charmettes (3 vols., 1817), Barthelemy de Beauregard (2 vols., 1847), Michelet (1853), Lafontaine (Orleans, 1854), Villaume (Paris, 1863), and Barante (1865). The best German life is by Eysell (Ratisbon, 1864). The best English works are by Lord Mahon (now Earl Stanhope), " Life of Joan of Arc" (London, 1853), and Mrs. Bray, " Joan of Arc and the Times of Charles VII., King of France" (1874). See also Quicherat, Proces de condamnation et de rehabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc (published by the French historical society, 5 vols., Paris, 1841-'50), and his Apercus nouvelles sur l'histoire de Jeanne dArc (1850). Among the poems and dramas founded on the history of Joan of Arc, the most noteworthy are Voltaire's travesty La Pucelle, Southey's "Joan of Arc," Schiller's Jungfrau von Orleans, and Calvert's " Maid of Orleans " (1874).