Calling and Charisma: The Life and Mission of Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc overcame incredible challenges in the name of God and her country. Her military prowess both frustrated the English and endeared her to the French people. Although the accomplishments of Joan are well documented, the truth behind her success and her motivations for leaving home remain a mystery to this day. Joan claimed that she was called by God to free her country, but some doubted the truth of her statement. It is difficult to determine Joan’s true motivations for becoming a soldier, but regardless of her motives, she was an important factor in France’s fight for freedom and the story of her life and death made her one of the most interesting warriors in medieval history.
Joan of Arc was born in the village of Domremy, France, around the year 1412 (Taylor 1-2). Even from an early age, it was obvious that Joan was an unusual child. Although she helped her family with the daily chores, such as spinning, sewing, and field work (8), she spent her play time in a curious way. When she was not working at home, she was often at the church; in fact, Joan loved attending church so much that she often spent more time at church than she did playing with children her own age (14). Despite her obvious piety, Joan was very headstrong and occasionally deceptive. For example, she sometimes lied to her parents about her whereabouts so she could attend church more often (15). Joan’s fiery attitude and religious devotion later proved to be important factors in her development as a leader in France’s fight for freedom.
Joan was always surrounded by warfare, even as a child. Domremy was caught in a seemingly endless string of skirmishes and raids (Taylor 2), but in the late 1420s several especially destructive attacks occurred during which buildings were damaged and peasants were forced to evacuate for a short time (21, 30). In the midst of the chaos, Joan supposedly heard the voice of God call to her in 1425; she said that he instructed her both to “be a good girl and go to church often” and to go to France (21, 24). By 1428, the voice had begun to call more frequently and, perhaps, more urgently. The messages were also becoming more specific, telling her to visit the heir to the French throne and to help the French fight at Orléans (30). Thus, in 1428, she left her village behind to try and make contacts that would help her gain an audience with the heir (31), or the “Dauphin” as he was officially called (Kiefer).
Joan finally found herself in the presence of Charles the Dauphin in February of 1429 (Taylor 39). However, much to her chagrin, she did not immediately receive Charles’ permission to leave for battle. Instead, he first sent her to the city of Poitiers to undergo thorough physical and religious testing before he finally consented (43, 46-47). Shortly before she left for Orléans, Joan sent a letter addressed to the English king and several nobles (53). Joan’s headstrong character...