The Hundred Years’ War began in 1337 between the English under the House of Plantagenet and the French under the House of Valois, for the French throne. In 1380, Charles VI was crowned King of France through inheritance at the age of 11, but was under regency of his four uncles until his 21st birthday and ruled until his death in 1422. His uncles were the Dukes of Burgundy, Berry, Anjou, and Bourbon.
Charles VI, suffered from periods of insanity and was at times unable to rule. As such, Louis, who was the king’s brother, Duke of Orléans and Count of Armagnac, fought for guardianship over the royal children and the regency of France itself with the king’s cousin, John, the Duke of Burgundy. This conflict ultimately resulted in the kidnapping of the royal children and the assassination in 1407 of the Duke of Orléans by orders of the Duke of Burgundy.
Saint Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) was born c.1412 in Domrémy, France, to a peasant family. Domrémy was a village in the French part of the duchy of Bar. Her parents owned about 50 acres, which they farmed. The area was remote and loyal to France, but they were surrounded by pro-Burgundians, who were loyal to England. Several times during her childhood local raiders invaded, and one time the village was burned.
Henry V invaded France and took many northern towns in 1415 and the Burgundians took Paris in 1418 and slaughtered the Court of Armagnac and around 2,500 of supporters. The Dauphine was the French Prince heir, Charles VII, the oldest living male of the royal children as his four older brothers had since died and his first significant royal act was to sign a peace treaty with the Burgundians in 1419, even though Charles VI was still on the throne. This treaty was short-lived as Armagnacs assassinated John, the Duke of Burgundy, during a meeting that was supposed to be under the protection of Charles VII. Philip, the next Duke of Burgundy responded by allying with Henry V and the combined forces conquered nearly all of France. In 1420, The Treaty of Troyes was signed between Henry V and Charles VI, in which Henry would marry Charles’s daughter, Catherine, and the French throne would pass to Henry’s children instead of those of Charles. In 1422, months apart, both Henry V and Charles VI died, essentially making the nine-month old Henry VI the king of both England and France.
In 1425, when she was around 13 years old, she had a vision while in her father’s garden – Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret came to her and appointed her to drive out the English so that the Dauphine could be coronated at Reims. In 1428, the English began the Siege of Orléans – one of the last cities still loyal to Charles VII. Joan went to the nearby town of Vaucouleurs with a family member to petition the garrison commander, Robert de Baudricourt, for permission to visit the royal court in Chinon. She was denied, but tried again in January 1429 and was successful in gaining the support of two soldiers. She told them that she must be at the King’s side or no one will help the kingdom. She then under a second meeting with Baudricourt announced the surprise success the troops of Orléans were having in the siege days before the messenger arrived to report it. Baudricourt, believing the information from Joan had to be Divine because of the distance and her knowing so far in advance, allowed the meeting to the royal court.
By 1429, nearly all of northern and parts of southwestern France were under Anglo-Burgundian control. The English controlled Paris and the Burgundians held Reims. Joan traveled through Burgundian territory dressed as a male soldier, with an escort, to the court. Charles VII was impressed by her during a private meeting and was allowed to accompany the relief effort to Orléans. She arrived at Orléans on April 29, with the mindset this was now a holy war against the Anglo-Burgundians. Although initially excluded from war councils, she attended other councils and battles. The months-long siege dragged on before her arrival, using only a single offensive strategy. However, many noblemen listened to her advice, believing it was Divine inspiration, and changed their approach. On May 4, the Armangnac troops captured the fortress of Saint Loup and followed that up with taking Saint-Jean-le-Blanc the next day. The English counter-attacked and were driven back. The Armagnacs continued their assault and took the English fortress built around the monastery of Les Augustins. They kept pressing their attack on May 7 and the English retreated the next day and the siege was over. Joan was given the full credit for the success.
Joan convinced Charles VII to continue campaigning and accompanied the troops and the Duke of Alençon to begin capturing bridges along the Loire River. The Duke followed her strategic advice and credits her with saving his life when she warned him at the Battle of Jargeau on June 12 a cannon on the wall was about to fire at him. The army advanced, taking more towns along the Loire, forcing the English out of the Loire Valley to join with the forces of Sir John Fastolf. Joan convinced the Duke to pursue and the armies clashed at the Battle of Patay. The French vanguard wiped out the English archers, then attacked the main army, capturing or killing nearly all of the commanders, although Fastolf escaped, all with minimal French losses.
The army continued marching, liberating towns along the way to their goal of retaking Reims. The city of Troyes put up some minimal resistance and was taken over four days of a bloodless siege. When the Armagnac army arrived at Reims on July 16, 1429, the city opened its gates and Charles VII was coronated there the following day. Joan remained with the army, taking other cities back throughout the rest of the year and on December 29, Charles ennobled Joan and her family for her actions.
Beginning the following year, a truce was signed with England, so Joan stopped marching with the army. That didn’t last long though as the truce was broken within the first few months. Joan marched again with the army, this time to defend Compiègne against an Anglo-Burgundian siege. On May 23, 1430, Joan was captured at Margny by troops under Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. She was imprisoned and then traded to the English for 10,000 livres tournois. She had a sham of a trial In January 1431 in Rouen in which she was found guilty of heresy and cross-dressing. She was burned alive on May 30, 1431. An appellate court found her posthumously innocent on July 7, 1456 and was declared a martyr.