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Who was Joan of Arc?

A portrait of Joan of ArcA portrait of Joan of ArcSaint Joan of Arc (1412–31), the Maid of Orléans, is a national heroine in France. She was a peasant girl who inspired the French army to win a great victory against the English at Orléans, in 1429. She was later captured by the English and burned to death at the stake for heresy (breaking religious law). She was not yet 20 years old. In 1920, centuries after her death, Joan was made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

France in the 15th century

Battle during the Hundred Years' WarBattle during the Hundred Years' WarJoan (Jeanne in French) was born in 1412 in a small village called Domrémy in eastern France. France and England had been at war since around 1337, during what is now known as the Hundred Years' War. 

A portrait of the dauphin, later Charles VII A portrait of the dauphin, later Charles VII
Also at this time the French king, Charles VI, was unable to rule because of his bouts of insanity. The king’s brother, the Duke of Orléans, and his cousin, the Duke of Burgundy, quarrelled over who should govern until the king’s young son, Charles, the dauphin (the French name for the heir to the throne), was old enough to be able to rule France himself.


English invasion

In 1920, Pope Benedict XV canonized Joan of Arc (made her a saint). She is patron saint of soldiers, and of France.

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