St. Joan of Arc (c.1412 - 1431)
"Maid of Orleans"
Joan was the daughter of prosperous peasants. From a young age (13yo), Joan claimed to hear the voices of Sts. Michael, Catherine and Margaret, who insisted she help French forces besieging English at Orleans (1429).
Upon convincing the local military commander, Robert Baudricourt, Joan was received at the French Court. Here, Joan gained the support of the most powerful woman at court - Yolande de Aragon, Countess of Anjou - and mother-in-law of King Charles VI of France. It was through the patronage of Yolande that Joan met with the Charles at Chinon (March 1429).
For Charles, Joan held the key to his need - that was to be crowned King of France at Rheims. Being a superstitious man, Joan provided the impetus - and she would prove to be an apt figurehead for the French army. Bouyed by her initial success, Joan led the French to a victory at Orleans - and Charles received his much wanted coronation at Rheims.
Joan continued to fight in later battles, however, the intial enthusiasm for her began to wane. She was wounded and defeated in Paris. Captured by Burgundians (1430) and sold to English. It is interesting to note that Charles could have ransomed Joan but did not.
Joan was tried as witch and heretic. The trial was engineered by the English under Bedford in an attempt to retain what little control they held in France at the time - and in order to justify the crowning of 10yo Henry VI as King of France (1431). The trial was purely for political show. Joan was burnt at the stake at Rouen (May 1431).
An ecclesiastical court reversed guilty verdict (1455) and she was canonized (1920).
There is an interesting article by Norman Boutin regarding Joan's ultimate fate at the stake.
- St. Joan - Catholic Encyclopedia