Joan of Arc's Sign

Saint Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d'Arc; ca. 1412 – 30 May 1431) is a peasant girl born in eastern France. She was the daughter of Jacques d'Arc and Isabelle Romée in Domrémy, a village which was then in the duchy of Bar (later annexed to the province of Lorraine and renamed Domrémy-la-Pucelle). Her parents owned about 50 acres (0.2 square kilometers) of land and her father supplemented his farming work with a minor position as a village official, collecting taxes and heading the local watch. They lived in an isolated patch of northeastern territory that remained loyal to the French crown despite being surrounded by Burgundian lands. Several local raids occurred during her childhood and on one occasion her village was burned. She led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, claiming divine guidance, and was indirectly responsible for the coronation of Charles VII.

In 1429, when Joan of Arc met the future King Charles VII, the on-again, off-again wars between France and England had been going on a mere ninety years, and the end seemed near. The English had routed the French army at Agincourt, then formed an alliance with the duke of Burgundy that gave them effective control of half of France. Paris was in Anglo-Burgundian hands, the Parlement was in exile in Poitiers, and Orleans, the last French stronghold north of the Loire River, was surrounded by British troops. To make matters worse, Charles was an extremely reluctant champion of his own cause.

A victorious Joan of Arc, from an 1833 painting

After his father’s death in 1422, Charles had taken the title of king of France, but he’d never been formally crowned, and he continued to be known as the “dauphin,” or crown prince. His own mother, Queen Isabeau, had effectively disowned him when she’d joined the Burgundian side. Never decisive, Charles was now paralyzed by doubts about his own legitimacy; he seemed uncertain both about whether he was truly his father’s son and about whether he could rule France. Joan asserted that she had a “sign” that told her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege at Orléans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days. Several more swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne.

For Joan, the victory was short lived. She was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried and condemned as a heretic, and in May 1431, burned at the stake. But she had saved France: though the Hundred Years War would drag on until 1453 (lasting 116 years, to be precise), the British would never again threaten to overrun the entire nation. How did Joan do it? And, first and foremost, what had convinced the wary Charles to entrust his fate to her—a mere seventeen-year-old, a peasant with no military experience, and a girl to boot? Contemporaries told tales of a “sign” that Joan had shown the dauphin, something that immediately gained his trust. Ever since, historians have been determined to figure out what that sign was.

The sign was a subject of immediate interest at Joan’s 1431 trial for heresy. The official record of the court, of which three copies have survived, indicates that her prosecutors and judges questioned her repeatedly about it. At first Joan refused to answer, saying the sign was a matter between her king and herself. But this trial was run under the auspices of the Inquisition, and her inquisitors knew how to wear her down. By the trial’s seventh session, on March 10, Joan gave in and answered their questions: an angel had given the sign to the king, she told the court. Pressed further, Joan continued to duck questions about what, exactly, the angel had brought. Two days later, she added that the angel had told the king that he should put Joan to work for his army.

At the trial’s tenth session, on March 13, Joan was again questioned about the sign. “Do you want me to risk perjuring myself?” she asked, almost as if to warn the court that what would follow would be a lie. Then she launched into a much more detailed description of how a number of angels—some with wings, some with crowns—brought the king a crown of fine gold. One of the angels handed the king the crown and said,“Here is your sign.” The crown was now in the king’s treasury, Joan added. Most historians have been understandably reluctant to believe Joan’s testimony. The techniques of the Inquisition were hardly conducive to eliciting honest answers; though Joan was never tortured, she was overmatched by more than seventy churchmen and lawyers. Joan’s question about perjuring herself indicated she had decided to stop resisting them and to give them what they wanted—namely, evidence that she was in touch with supernatural forces. Once Joan admitted that, it was up to her inquisitors to determine whether these were angels or devils—and there was no doubt they’d choose the latter. Her fate was sealed.

Twenty-five years after Joan’s death, a second court overturned its verdict, and these records also survive. Like the original verdict, this one was pretty much predetermined. Charles, who wanted to eliminate any taint of heresy from his reputation, ordered an investigation into the first trial in 1448. The hearings stretched on until 1456, when the second court pronounced the first one “contaminated with fraud, calumny, wickedness, contradictions, and manifest errors of fact and law.” Joan was, the court said, “washed clean.” It was at this second trial, which became known as the “trial of rehabilitation,” that a now-famous version of Joan’s first meeting with the dauphin emerged. Two witnesses recalled that when Joan entered the castle of Chinon, Charles hid himself among his courtiers. Yet Joan, though she’d never before laid eyes on the dauphin, immediately recognized him. Joan then spoke privately with the dauphin, after which he appeared “radiant,” according to the witnesses.

The story of the hidden king, later embellished to include Joan’s refusal to address a courtier posing as the king, appealed to historians, since it could be explained without recourse to any supernatural power on Joan’s part. Many historians noted that even if Joan had never before seen the king, she could have picked him out based on someone else’s description. The story was also appealingly theatrical, and it proved irresistible to, among others, Shakespeare, Schiller, Twain, and Shaw. The hidden-king story may very well be true, but it still left unanswered questions. Would Charles have trusted Joan just because she picked him out of a crowd? Wouldn’t Charles have realized that someone could have described him to Joan? And what did Joan say to him or show him that made him so “radiant”?

To those questions, none of the witnesses at the trial of rehabilitation had an answer. One theory, which first appeared in print in 1516, was that Joan told the dauphin about a prayer he’d recently made. According to a chronicle written by Pierre Sala, who claimed to have heard the story from an intimate friend of Charles VII, Charles had asked God to grant him his kingdom if he was the true heir, or to let him escape death or prison if he wasn’t. When Joan told Charles that she knew about his prayer—a prayer he’d confided to no one—he took it as a “sign” to trust her. Like the hidden-king story, the prayer story could easily be true. It, too, could be explained without resorting to the supernatural. Joan would not have had to be extraordinarily intuitive to figure out that Charles was insecure about his parentage.

The court was full of gossip that he was illegitimate, especially since his mother had disowned him as part of her alliance with the Burgundians and the English. Charles himself must have heard the widespread rumor that his real father was Charles VI’s brother, the duke of Orleans. So Joan could easily have guessed that he’d turned to prayers, and Charles would certainly have been relieved that someone had arrived to answer them. The problem with the secret-prayer story is the same as with the hidden-king story. Even if true, is it enough to explain Charles’s decision to put his fate in the hands of an unknown teenager? Charles may have been weak and indecisive, but he was neither stupid nor naive. He would have been as capable as later historians of seeing how Joan might have known what he looked like, or what his prayers were.

The appeal of the hidden-king and secret-prayer stories—that a rational, modern historian can make sense of them—is also their weakness, for if Joan’s sign could easily be explained away, why did it so sway Charles? What was required, clearly, was a more dramatic sign, one that could impress the dauphin yet one that didn’t involve angels or devils or other supernatural phenomena. In 1805, Pierre Caze came up with a theory that fit the bill: it was Joan, not Charles, Caze wrote, who was the illegitimate offspring of Queen Isabeau and the duke of Orleans. By this account, the infant Joan was smuggled out of Paris to save her from her father’s enemies. She was handed over to Jacques d’Arc, who raised her (and who in this version of Joan’s story was a country gentleman, not a peasant).

The sign she gave Charles at Chinon, then, was some proof that she was his half sister, perhaps a ring or a document or some inside knowledge of their family. Caze’s theory solved all sorts of problems. It explained why the dauphin trusted her. It also explained how Joan had gotten in to see the dauphin in the first place, and how she learned military tactics and strategy. This was no ordinary peasant girl; this was a princess born to command, with royal blood and royal contacts. The theory caught on, especially among monarchists who were never entirely comfortable with the idea of a peasant saving the kingdom. It also appealed to those who liked conspiracies, and it reemerged in various forms during the 1960s and 1970s.

The problem—and neither Caze nor any of his followers could ever overcome this— is that the theory was based on no evidence whatsoever. In fact, it presumed that a good deal of the evidence from both of Joan’s trials was somehow falsified. The testimony about Joan’s birth came not just from her parents but also from numerous other relatives and neighbors who said they either witnessed her birth or knew her from the day she was born. For Joan to be the king’s sister, all of these witnesses—indeed, much of her hometown— must have committed perjury, as part of a grand conspiracy to conceal her royal birth. Caze’s theory, though ingenious, simply isn’t credible. Other proposed conspiracies were less grand, less royal.

In 1756, Voltaire suggested that the dauphin’s ministers sought out a peasant girl and trained her, in the hope that her dramatic appearance at Chinon would inspire the cowardly Charles and his dejected soldiers to strike back at the English. In 1908, Anatole France’s biography of Joan implicated church leaders in the same type of conspiracy. To those who shared their skeptical attitude toward either church or state, such conspiracy theories were very appealing; alas, neither Voltaire nor France had any evidence to back them up. Another way to explain Joan’s influence was to argue that it was never as great as it seemed, and for this position there was some evidence. Charles may have been deeply moved by Joan’s sign, but he didn’t instantly turn over his troops to her. Instead, in typically bureaucratic style, he appointed a commission to examine her more rigorously. The commissioners met for three weeks at Poitiers. Their report has been lost, but apparently they believed Joan’s story, since she then proceeded to Orleans.

Many historians have also disparaged Joan’s military contributions, even at the Battle of Orleans. Anatole France, for example, pictured her as little more than a mascot for the French army: brave and inspiring, yes, but with no real role in the battle’s planning or execution. And none of the testimony at either of Joan’s trials indicated that she was ever in command of the troops at Orleans. There was no point in arguing about how Joan did what she did, some historians argued, since she didn’t do all that much anyway. Such belittling positions had always to compete, of course, with the legend of the savior of France, the young woman whose death at the stake seemed sometimes to rival Christ’s on the cross.

Through the centuries, Joan became the symbol of France, embraced by all, regardless of their political or religious beliefs. She has stood with revolutionary republicans and Catholic monarchists alike, among others. Even Jean-Marie Le Pen’s ultraconservative nationalists made her one of their own. Not surprisingly, these groups have all been quicker to extol her powers than to offer any credible explanation of them. Yet most historians, though less biased, haven’t done much better. Most believe, unlike Anatole France, that Joan was a significant factor in the war, and that she held great sway over the king, at least for a while. But almost all reject any form of a conspiracy theory, whether it be the result of Joan’s royal blood or plots of Charles’s ministers. That has left historians without any generally agreed-upon explanation for Joan’s achievements, starting with her sign to the king. So, in one sense, after more than five hundred years of historiography, historians are asking the same questions as Joan’s inquisitors:Were there angels at work here? Or devils? To a historian, of course, the answers must be no.

But to return to these questions is perfectly appropriate, for to the people of the fifteenth century—and these included Joan and Charles and the French soldiers, as well as the lawyers and churchmen who condemned her—angels and devils were very real. So were the “voices” that Joan believed she heard and that she attributed to St. Catherine and St.Margaret. It was because the French soldiers believed she had saints and angels on her side that they followed her into battle. And it was because Joan’s judges believed she had devils on her side that they condemned her to death. Charles, though a highly educated and sophisticated courtier, was also a man of his times. He may very well have believed that Joan’s voices or angels had come to save his kingdom. And that belief, more than anything she said or did at Chinon, was the true “sign” of her power.

(Sources : Mysteries In History “From Prehistory to the Present” by Paul D. Aron; and Wikipedia)

(Pics sources :; Mysteries In History “From Prehistory to the Present” by Paul D. Aron page 129)
Joan of Arc's Sign Joan of Arc's Sign Reviewed by Tripzibit on 06:37 Rating: 5


  1. I couldn't solve that mystery too, but one thing for sure: she's not just a peasant girl. It's said that her heart survived the combustion during the execution, so they had to re-burn the remains of her. It's similar to other stories that "holy people" sometimes left a relic out of their decayed body (the Buddha or Zen masters, St. Anthony's tongue, etc.). And other fact about the existence of a prophecy foretold that France would be saved by a maid from Lorraine. This prediction was well known in France during Joan's time and has been attributed to several prophets including the mythical Merlin. If there was ever such a famous prophecy among French people, may be Joan wouldn't be the first maid to claim it. But Charles did some tests and believed she's the chosen one. (Well, it means something, doesn't it?) And if the prophecy actually existed, then the impact of Joan's presence among the army will be huge to raise the troop's morale; and in such wars, sometimes morale could be the most destructive element against the enemy. (If that's so, whether there was an extra "help from above" or not, Joan's presence itself had already become the miracle for the French army at that time). As an addition, I'm afraid the discussion about Joan's signs was already brought up by or deeply involving the church organization on their favor; to clean up their mess, to gain sympathy, or the strengthen their position as one of the religions (another campaign through heroic stories they call martyrdom).

  2. What did Darth Gator say to the dolphin? "Fluke. You are my fodder."
    What did D'Arc Vader say to the dolphin of France, Charles VII?
    "Fluke. I am your father."
    [Fluke, being the pet name of Jacques D'Arc (Joan's dark father)
    for his illegitimate son, the dolphin of France - Charles VII]

    Charles VII was born on Feb. 22 and died on July 22.
    Jacques was 22 years old at the conception of Charles VII. 22 is a SIGN for us.

    Jacques did not marry Isabelle Romee until 1405.
    Jacques had opportunity to have an affair with Isabelle of Bavaria during her
    husband Charles VII time of madness. She was 10 years senior to Jacques.
    How they got together is the question. What were the circumstances?

    The Jacques D'Arc family are hereditary Knights Templar nobility,
    descended from the kings of Jerusalem (I understand).
    Charles VII would have a right to the throne via this bloodline, not Charles VI.
    Israel/Jerusalem moved NW to France/Rheims with Mary Magdalene.

    Joan was Mary Magdalene returned (just as Elijah returned as John the Baptist).
    Joan was an incarnation of the Holy Spirit (as was Mary M.). Not the fullness.
    Elijah/"John The Baptist" were incarnations of the Son of God. Not the fullness.
    The Feast Day of Mary Magdalene is July 22, the day Charles VII died.
    Both Joan and Mary saved France in their day.
    Mary with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Joan with the sword of the Lord, and her martyrdom.


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