Joan of Arc has intrigued and indeed obsessed many people and many have sought out the various locations of her short but brilliant life. Mark Twain, who researched her life for 10 years and wrote his book in another 1wo years, was not alone when he stated
“Taking into account …all the circumstances — her origin, youth, sex, illiteracy, early environment, and the obstructing conditions under which she exploited her high gifts and made her conquests in the field and before the courts that tried her for her life, — she is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.”
Indeed there are many books, numerous operas (including ones by Verdi and Tchaikovsky) and even a Leonard Cohen song on Joan. We are not the first to develop such an interest, nor make a “pilgrimage” or tour following her trajectory.
How did our interest in Joan of Arc emerge? It is hard to say… but may have something to do with Joan (Gamble) being married to Arch (Ritter)… “Joan of Arch” or from childhood visits to Domremy when we lived in Metz, France during the 1950s when our fathers worked at the RCAF Headquarters there.
When one considers Joan of Arc’s incredible trajectory through life, a small interest can easily become a major interest. An illiterate farm girl of humble origin, she heard “Voices” convincing her that her destiny was to drive the English out of France – in the second last decade of the “100 Years War” – and to have the “Dauphin” Charles crowned King of France in Reims.
At age 17, never having strayed far from her village and never having lifted a weapon, she persuaded some minor nobles to take her through enemy territory to the Dauphin in Chinon, then persuaded him of her mission and to make her Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of France. In a few months, she succeeded as a brilliant commander as well as inspiration to the soldiers, relieving the English siege of Orleans, defeating the English in the major battle of Patay, then capturing numerous cities on her way to Reims where the Dauphin Charles was crowned King.
Charles then more or less abandoned the “mission” after being crowned, seeking a truce with the Burgundians. Joan continued the battle, however, feeling that it was imperative that the English be driven out of French territory.
After some subsequent inconclusive skirmishing in which she received little support from Charles, she was captured by the Burgundians, ransomed by the English and, after eight months in captivity, she was tried by an ecclesiastical court and sentenced to death. The newly-crowned King, Charles, had refused to pay the ransom for her release.
In her trial she faced alone an ecclesiastical kangaroo court, with 62 prosecutor-judges, without legal counsel or support, chained in a prison cell, ill-fed, maltreated. She nonetheless defended herself with amazing intelligence. Her judges ultimately had to invent a way to prosecute her – mainly for wearing men’s clothes – and condemned her to death.
The proceedings of this “Trial of Condemnation”, together with the “Trial of Rehabilitation” 25 years later, were written down with great care and accuracy by clerical scribes. We, therefore, have an accurate depiction of the trials. Because the case against her involved questioning many of those she had grown up with and fought with, we know more about her life than perhaps anyone who lived in that era (1412 to 1431.)
The trials are written up in perhaps the best book on Joan of Arc – Joan, in her own words – by Regine Pernoud Joan of Arc: By Herself and In her Own Words (Original: Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1961.) After reading Pernoud’s book, one feels that one almost knows Joan of Arc personally!
After we decided to make our Joan of Arc journey, we discovered that 2012 is the 600th anniversary of her birth!
This is part of a painting from the Metroplitan Museum of Art in New York which Alexis Gubbey sent to Joan and Arch as a post card several years ago. Was Alexis then inspiration for this tour?