By Joan Spitz
The origin of conflict historically is a cruel repetition of destructive, nefarious individuals influencing wealth, military, government and religion. Cultures not holding evil-doers to account in position of power contribute to unfortunate outcomes, inflicting misery and decimating what those with good intensions create and build. This theory of unsavory influences are demonstrated in the Hundred Years War between England and France, specifically surrounding the dynastic quarrel originating in Western Europe 1337 to 1453.
At that time, England suffering from its own internal battles decided to expand by invading weakened France suffering from plagues and internal skirmishes. The four influences of discourse left a wake of misery and despair driving the rise of a new kind of leader. A girl.
Amidst the turmoil around 1412, a baby arrived on the scene named Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) in the village of Domremy, Northeastern France. She was raised in a peasant home by devout Catholic parents. Around Joan’s 8th year, weakened France, recovering from internal strife engaged in the Treaty of Troyes with England. This agreement provided King Henry V of England inheritance of the French throne upon the death of King Charles VI of France. The Dauphin, Charles VII of France was disinherited from succession. The French Burgundians, formed an inner alliance with England in support of the Treaty.
What provoked the chronic state of war between England and France can be left to the experts but for the purpose of exploring possible causes of this most desperate predicament, one would consider wealth disparity and a contributing factor to the destabilization of France. Wealth control is typically a duel relationship between Government and Wealthy class. Business practices of robing the working class gets a pass. Taxation practices leveraging unfair burden on working and producing people. By creating poverty, French leadership put their countryman in a condition of economic failure inducing internal wars over limited resources. This weakening of France in tandem with the black plague induced vulnerability for English invasion. This double edge sword of internal unrest and external attack was the climate in which young Joan began her life. This likely, was not the best environment for a child to formulate her adult life.
As Joan entered her teen years, she became inspired by Catholicism, and what she described as the voices of Saint Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret compelling her to lead an army against the French Burgundians and the English. Her proclamation of these voices of encouragement and direction was received well by the peasant masses who began to follow her. This new influence of the people provided an opportunity for her to approach the disinherited Charles the VII who reluctantly believes her testimony and provides her an army to battle the English Siege of Orleans, of which they were miraculously victorious.
The success of the Armagnac army provided her momentum to push back the English and French Burgundians. As she moved across Northern France, her notoriety and influence began to grow. She was an aggressive military offensive strategist. At least thirty different cities, towns and villages surrendered without a fight. Historians clash to this day as they attempt to understand her or qualify her military contributions. One thing is not contested is her ability to inspire and lead the masses.
Charles VII embraced her influence with the people and soon after the battle of Olean was able to secure political capital due to her achievements and was coronated king Charles VII of France with Joan at his side. This proved to be a wise political move, as it invalidated the Treaty of Trois and created momentum to secure the trust and loyalty of the French people.
The more battles Charles VII army won, the more powerful she became to the masses. This was troubling to the English, the French Burgundians, and the Church as they believed she was an instrument of the Devil in order to explain how an uneducated girl was leading an army and winning.
Georges de la Tremoille warned Charles VII that Joan was becoming too powerful with each successful encounter as she derived authority from the people not over the people. A premise past and present leaders fail to recognize as some leadership figures create problems instead of fixing them. Charles the VII in order to secure his crown and territory south of France began negotiations with England and French Burgundians. This was not satisfactory for Joan, as she proclaimed her directive from God was for England to leave France entirely. To that end, the battle at Compaienge was not entirely supported by Charles VII and she was captured by the French Burgundians and sold to the English for 10,000 pieces of Gold.
The English court unable to find charges for conviction turned her over to Pro-English Bishop Pierre Cauchon. He cited the grant of jurisdiction within the city of Rouen by the chapter of the cathedral of Rouen. The vice inquisitory for Rouen, Jean le Maistre, whose presence was required by canon law to validate proceedings had objections to the trial and refused to cooperate until the English threatened his life.
The ecclesiastical tribunal attempted entrapment but were highly unsuccessful as Joan was able to thwart their theological attacks with knowledge and wisdom beyond her years. The trial of Joan chronicled almost every detail of her religious convictions and military life. To Bishop Cauchon She states “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 at great peril. And I warn you so that if God punish you for it, I shall have done my duty in telling you. Although they had nothing to assure her execution, declared her a witch under penalty of death was burned at the stake at Rouen on May 30, 1431.
The end becomes the beginning
Unlike the lives of many saints, the Maid of Orleans boasts a voluminous legal transcript as proof of not only her existence but her remarkable short life. Upon her death, the four influences of discourse, Instead of quieting her, they aneled her voice until the end of time. Murdered because her authority was derived from the respect of the masses, harassed and imprisoned for a year due to her intelligence and military talent, Shamed because she wore men’s clothing in battle and to protect herself from rape in captivity, tortured because she possessed all the qualities of a great leader.
Charles the VII used her momentum to influence his coronation, did not seek her freedom when she was captured and later to atone his political ineptitude and betrayal of her, repudiated the trial outcome.
Joan’s legend grew and in 1909 she was beatified in the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris by Pope Pius X. In 1920 she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV. The event moved far beyond that day as she is honored in church windows, town square statues and postage stamps throughout the world.