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R+M 4: La Pucelle
On May 30, 1431 a nineteen-year-old woman was burned alive. A girl of humble peasant origins, she was sometimes called la Pucelle or “the Maid” her people, but became known as a heroine to her country. Today she is remembered as Jeanne d’Arc or Joan of Arc, and venerated by Roman Catholics as Saint Joan of Arc.
Jeanne claimed to be guided by God, seeing visions of saints and hearing the voice of God telling her to lead her country to defeat the English, who were occupying France in the Hundred Years’ War. She was eventually granted an opportunity to accompany her countrymen into battle by the desperate French royal and military leadership. Jeanne wore the short hair of a man and the armor of a knight, perhaps leading the French into battle as a standard-bearer—or even as a fighter. She helped lift the siege at Orléans, and continued to prove herself as a useful tactician and an inspiration to French soldiers in several other victories.
She was eventually captured and put on trial by her English enemies for heresy, then sentenced to death for violating an Old Testament law forbidding women from wearing men’s clothing. The trial by the English occupiers was clearly motivated to undermine the authority of the Charles VII, whom Jeanne championed; nonetheless, she was burned at the stake at Rouen. Her body was burned twice more, with her ashen remains then tossed into the Seine.
Later Pope Callixtus III authorized a posthumous retrial, and she was eventually declared a martyr. She was canonized centuries later, shortly after the end of World War I.
Jeanne d’Arc’s legacy is one of inspiration to many, from young women worldwide to leaders like Napoleon Bonaparte, from French Resistance fighters during World War II to modern French nationalists. On this side of the Atlantic, though, I see her a bit differently. I tend to think of her not so much from a religious stand point—but as an intelligent (although illiterate) young woman who saw a threat and engaged it. Instead of cowering or running away from danger, she charged toward it. She had faith not only in her God, but in her people, too. She wittily defied those who sought to condemn her, and maintained her beliefs until the final painful end. She believed she could make a difference, and she did. Religious or not, maybe there’s something all of us can take away from her story.
- Me: Ughhh Do we really have to do this? We read this a month ago!
- Kysha: Si! We just read it!
- Me: Okay what do i have to do?
- Kysha: Recite these lines!
- Me: But im tired!
- Kysha: ....
- Me: ..... Why is this character wearing clothing for a prostitute?
- Kysha: Cuz it's fun.
- Me: .... So for Puritans this is okay?
- Kysha: Please, I would do things to you that would get us burned at the stake if we lived in a Puritan village!
- Me: ....
- Kysha: ... All homo
- Life in current evaluation: :D