Monday, June 22, 2015

Joan of Arc - The Maid of Orleans

"I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin, 
or to be against God's will."

"You say that you are my judge; I do not know if you are; 
but take good heed not to judge me ill, 
because you would put yourself in great peril."

"Get up tomorrow early in the morning, 
and earlier than you did today, 
and do the best that you can."

"Always stay near me, 
for tomorrow I will have much to do and more than I ever had, 
and tomorrow blood will leave my body above the breast."

 "Act, and God will act."

"I was in my thirteenth year when I heard a voice from God 
to help me govern my conduct. 
And the first time I was very much afraid."

 One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. 
But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, 
that is a fate more terrible than dying."

 If I am not, may God put me there; 
and if I am, may God so keep me."

"Children say that people are hung sometimes for speaking the truth." 

Joan of Arc

The legend of Joan of Arc has endured through the centuries. How a young fourteen year old girl could overcome the social biases over her gender and not only gain the ear of the king, but lead an entire army (of men) in battle still astounds the world! Yup, it's hard to believe, but Joan of Arc accomplished every bit of it!

From the tender age of thirteen, she heard voices from Heaven that clearly assured her that she had been chosen to convince King Charles VII, who lacked confidence, that he could oust the English from the city of Orleans with her help. Not only was she to gain the King's confidence, but she was the one to lead the battle. 

Joan took the voices to heart. First, she gained the attention of the women in the King's court. Then she gained an audience with the king himself, and managed to convince him that she, a teenage girl, a virgin no less, untouched by man or the world, could free Orleans as long as he provided her with battle gear and an army.

"I am not afraid... I was born to do this," she said to the king.

And this she proved! Not only did she free Orleans, but the English fled back to their homeland. As a reward, she asked that her home town of Domremy pay no taxes. The king granted her this wish and for centuries thereafter, the town was tax-free.

Encouraged, the king wanted more from Joan. He wanted her to seize Paris from the English too. But this was not part of God's plan. The voices from Heaven were silent. As a result, Joan's army failed, and poor Joan was captured. And what did King Charles do on her behalf after she had come to his rescue when he needed her? Absolutely nothing! He deserted Joan in her hour of need. 

The English accused Joan of witchcraft and heresy and put her on trial. The evidence? Well, she wore men's clothing and armor! While imprisoned, she suffered horrendous abuse. 

They found her guilty and sentenced her to burn at the stake. The young Joan faced her death with courage, grace, and great dignity.

Twenty years later, the English king overturned the verdict and made amends to her family by granting them pensions and honoring them in numerous ways.

Five hundred years after her death, the Vatican canonized her as a saint.

Numerous movies and books have been created commenorating this courageous woman's life. She stands as a model of bravery, perseverence, and faith for all women to this very day. She continues to movitate and live in our hearts.

Helen Castor has now taken her turn at writing about this amazing young woman. She has written a comprehensive, believable, and vibrant novel, about Joan including insight into her doubts, her fears, her convictions, and her great love for her family. One of the best books I've read about this famous historical woman.

"It was the day of victory. First light dragged, cold and sodden, over a camp of exhausted men. Exhausted from unpredictable weeks of forced march, parrying the enemy's manoeuvres along the banks of the river Somme, or moving at speed to this urgent rendezvoux. Exhausted from a fear-filled day with the enemy in sight, waiting for a battle that had not come beore sundown. Exhauted, now, from a wet night bivouacked in the fields, or billeted nearby with the terrified villagers of Tramecourt and Azincourt. Exhausted, but expectant." Opening Paragraph.

From the author of the acclaimed She-Wolves, the complex, surprising, and engaging story of one of the most remarkable women of the medieval world—as never told before. Helen Castor tells afresh the gripping story of the peasant girl from Domremy who hears voices from God, leads the French army to victory, is burned at the stake for heresy, and eventually becomes a saint. But unlike the traditional narrative, a story already shaped by the knowledge of what Joan would become and told in hindsight, Castor’s Joan of Arc: A History takes us back to fifteenth century France and tells the story forwards. Instead of an icon, she gives us a living, breathing woman confronting the challenges of faith and doubt, a roaring girl who, in fighting the English, was also taking sides in a bloody civil war. We meet this extraordinary girl amid the tumultuous events of her extraordinary world where no one—not Joan herself, nor the people around her—princes, bishops, soldiers, or peasants—knew what would happen next. Adding complexity, depth, and fresh insight into Joan’s life, and placing her actions in the context of the larger political and religious conflicts of fifteenth century France, Joan of Arc: A History is history at its finest and a surprising new portrait of this remarkable woman. Joan of Arc: A History features an 8-page color insert.

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