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Massive parades spill throughout the streets of Orléans, France to celebrate the woman who saved the city from a tremendous English seize. The crowd splits to make way, as a statue enters the venue. The parade sweeps through the historical city like a large and electrified procession. Although the acts of this day may seem much too jovial for a funeral, that is in fact what the populace is celebrating. This day commemorates the acts of a solitary woman, who managed to entirely reverse the outcome of the Hundred Years War.Joan of Arc’s Feast Day is celebrated on May 30 all throughout France, but it is primarily memorialized in Orléans, France. The center of the celebrations consists of a large statue of Joan mounted atop a horse, prepared for battle. The parade continues until it comes across a medieval marketplace, where a majority of the festival takes place. Towards the evening, people watch famous battle reenactments involving Joan, and soon after, a large feast takes place. During this feast, everyone can enjoy special food such as Pain Perdu, a French toast with a quince marmalade, while the children can indulge in crown cookies. After the feast, the celebrations come to an end and several prayers are said to honor Saint Joan.Joan’s story has deep roots, beginning in the medieval struggle to gain control of France. The 100 Years War began in 1337 and ended in 1453, however, the true commencement was in 1066 when William the Conqueror defeated the English troops at the Battle of Hastings. William was the Duke of Normandy, and after this battle, William was also crowned as the king of England. Since this invasion, the succeeding kings of England believed that they still maintained a claim to certain French lands. In 1328, King Charles IV died with no children, sparking the beginnings of the 100 Years War. King Edward III of England believed that he should inherit the throne since he had a legitimate claim through his mother’s side of the family, and since he was the closest relative of Charles. Not wanting to fall under the rule of England, the French Assembly decided that the claim was invalid and that the throne would go to Philip of Valois or Philip VI regardless of what the English presumed. Dissatisfied with the decision made, Edward III declared war against Philip VI over several territories across France, marking the beginning of the war.Although England’s claim to the French throne was a large factor, there were several others in this century-long war. One of the main causes was England’s previous control of several French colonies. The English had control over many regions in France, particularly, areas in the fertile south. These areas had been under the control of France, until the mid-twelfth century. Eleanor of Aquitaine was the heiress to this area of land. When Eleanor married Henry II of England, control of the region was turned over to the English. The French monarchs were infuriated and terrified of possible English invasions from the south. This led to constant disputes arising along the English – French frontier, creating tension between the two countries. Another cause was the battle over control of the English Channel and trade. England heavily depended on trade with foreign nations, including France. England relied on the importation of wine from France, not being able to produce grapes themselves. England also relied on the Flemish region for the importation of several other goods. This created a trade triangle between the three countries. Eventually, France tried to gain control of the Flemish area to control its wealth. A civil war broke out in the region, and English support was given to the manufacturing middle class, while French supported the landowning nobles. The English won and now had an ally directly above France. Not wanting to be conquered by England, it was decided that it was in the best interest of France to ally with Scotland, to place England in a similar situation. This meant that both countries were now vying for dominance of the English Channel.The Hundred Years War began seventy-five years prior to Joan of Arc, and there were several important battles before her, however, a majority of them were won by England. One important battle during the Hundred Years War was the Battle of Crecy in Normandy, France. During this battle, King Edward III’s forces annihilate the French army under King Philip VI. On July 12, 1346, Edward led 14,000 men up the coast of Normandy, ravaging the countryside. After being enlightened about the approaching English army, Philip VI recruited forces, composed of 8,000 knights and 4,000 crossbowmen. Once the English army reached Normandy, they halted and waited for the French army, which arrived mid-afternoon on August 26. Soon after the assault began, Philip VI’s army became overwhelmed by Edward’s 10,000 longbowmen, who could load and fire shots much faster. Realizing that they could not withstand the English longbowmen, the French army withdrew their troops, bringing out their knights. Next, the French sent their knights to attempt and penetrate the English infantry lines. However, with each attack, the Englishmen put down the French with a shower of arrows. Unable to prevail, the French retreated, leaving about one – third of their troops deceased. Another important battle was the Battle of Poitiers, which took place on September 19, 1356. During this battle, Edward, the Prince of Wales, who was better known as the Black Prince, led a raid into France from Aquitaine. The Black Prince’s army was delayed at Tours, by an inability to take the city and its castle. This delay made it able for King John II to be informed about the attacks, and gather an army to counter it. Once realizing that he was greatly outnumbered, the Black Prince began to retreat. However, when seeing the French army approach, they began to head back to face the army. The Black Prince decided to split up his significantly smaller army into three sections. As a protection mechanism, Edwards positioned his army behind a low hedge, with a marsh and wagon on either side of his troops. After a series of attacks were delivered by both forces, the English army triumphed. The English also captured King John II and his son Philip, along with 17 French lords, 13 French counts, and 5 French viscounts. The French additionally had 2,000 men captured, and 2,500 dead. The English, although having a remarkably smaller army, faced only 40 losses in all. The third battle with great significance was the siege of Orléans, in which a seventeen-year-old peasant girl aided in the alleviation of the city. Joan of Arc was born in 1412 in Domrémy, a city in northeastern France. She was also referred to as Joan the Maid, which symbolized her virginity, which was very important in her society. Joan’s birthplace was a location with conflicting loyalties. Some people were loyal to Charles VIII, while others were loyal English supporters. Joan was born to Jacques d’Arc and Romée d’Arc, as a peasant girl. Her family was not rich at all, and Joan was a shy girl who never ventured far from her house. She took care of the farm and the animals, and eventually became a skilled seamstress. Joan was never taught how to read or write, however, she had a very religious mother. This greatly influenced Joan, who also began to have a deep love for Catholicism as well. Around the age of 13, while sitting in her family’s garden, Joan began experiencing voices and visions of saints, specifically Saint Michael, Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine. She also experiences large groups of angels. Joan described to experience both verbal communications, along with visible figures in her visions. She perceived that the voice of God was commanding her to serve the French nation by expelling the English troops. Joan claimed that her visions were very realistic and that she felt as if she were talking to the person itself. She claimed that the people were accompanied by a bright light and that the voices came from the general direction of the Church. While hearing the voices, Joan determined that she had been chosen by God and that it was her mission to save France by expelling their British enemies. She claimed to be told to go to the King of France, and request to assist him during the battle. Soon after receiving these visions, her village was attacked by Anglo-Burgundian forces, and she and her family fled, returning after the raids were over. This was the last time Joan went to her house, as she left to visit the king the following day. She went to meet with Robert de Baudricourt, the captain of the Vaucouleurs, requesting for armor, a horse, and an escort to see  Charles VII at Chinon. (Since Paris was deep inside the territory of the English, Charles VII was forced to build a makeshift palace in Chinon). After being denied twice by Robert de Baudricourt, she was very persuasive and had the support of a great majority of the town. After her third attempt, she was finally allowed to visit the king.Joan of Arc left for Chinon in February of 1429 and arrived 11 days later. The journey was 300 miles long, and she was taken through the territory of enemies and bandits. While on her trial, Joan also mentions that they traveled by night, and avoided any and all towns. When she finally reached the city, she was dressed in the clothing of a man, as they thought that she would be taken advantage of if her identity as a woman was revealed. Once she reached the palace, she was turned away and was not able to meet with the king. Joan returned later that year, and instead attempted to convince a panel of theologians who granted her with permission to speak with Charles VII. Joan then proceeded to explain her story to Charles VII and his followers, who after deep examination, believed her. It was then decided that she would accompany Charles VII to his coronation in Reims, and lead troops into battle at Orléans.The Siege of Orléans took place from October 12, 1428, to May 8, 1429. Charles VII had assigned Joan with an army, and she and her troops left for the city of Orléans. On April 29, 1428, Joan sent a French sortie to distract the British troops on the west side of the city, and she led another group in through the east side. Entering unopposed, Joan entered the city and brought supplies and reinforcements that were greatly needed by the French. She also offered inspiration for the French to lead a spirited resistance. Joan personally led the attacks during several battles and offered words of encouragement to her soldiers. Joan did not go unharmed, as, on May 7, she was struck by an arrow, but after quickly dressing her wound, she returned to the battlefield on the same day, leading the French to a victory. On May 8, 1429, the English troops retreated from Orléans, and the French were able to celebrate a very important victory.For the remaining portion of her life, Joan continued to lead the French troops to several victories over the English. In July of 1429, Joan of Arc helped to recapture the city of Reims, and it was decided that Charles’ coronation would be hosted in this city during the month of August. Joan accompanied Charles VII to the ceremony and kneeled beside him while he was being knighted. On the day of the coronation, King Charles VII had a great amount of momentum, so he decided to march to Paris, and attempt to reclaim it. However, not wanting to exploit all of the troops, King Charles decided to take a diplomatic approach and a truce was decided on. In May of 1430, Bourguignon soldiers captured Joan, ending her military career. This left the French devastated, and the English overjoyed by the capture of the maiden. The Bourguignon soldiers then sold her to the English, who had several accusations against Joan. These accusations include dressing like a man and bearing arms, committing “divine offense”, deceiving people, witchcraft, and heresy. In January of 1431, Joan was imprisoned in Rouen, a prison in France. On February 21, Joan was able to answer her charges for the first time since she was captured. The judges asked Joan very difficult, misleading, and subtle questions, making it extremely hard for her to effectively answer. However, to many people’s surprise, Joan was able to adequately answer the questions asked. Soon, her list of accusations significantly diminished from 70 allegations to solely 12 charges.Despite the significant drop in the number of charges, Joan was still sentenced to death due to other reasons. It was thought that Joan began to once again hear voices in the prison from Saints, similar to the voices she heard as a little girl. It was also said that although she had been wearing women’s clothing in the prison, Joan was molested, and began to wear men’s clothing once again. These ideas only encouraged the English to end her life. On May 30, Joan was taken to the stake where she was burnt alive, repeatedly saying “Jesus”. Once her body had been fully engulfed in the flames, she was burned twice more, as proof of her death. Her ashes were then spread throughout the city.The death of Joan was a major misfortune to the French since the Hundred Years War had not yet terminated. The final battle that took place was the Battle of Castillon. During this battle, the English troops were led by John Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury. On July 17, Talbot succeeded in driving back a French detachment, however, this only alerted the French commander, Jean Bureau. Now enlightened about the English approach, Bureau stationed all of his men behind a massive fortification, awaiting the attack by Talbot. As the English army neared, they were stunned to find that all the French lines were manned. Despite this, Talbot tried to penetrate Bureau’s fortifications but was not able to succeed. Soon, Talbot was killed, forcing the English to retreat. During this battle, the English lost 4,000 soldiers, while the French only lost about 100 men. Later, due to the failing mental health of King Henry, and the beginnings of the War of the Roses, it was decided England was in no position to pursue the war, and that the French would be victorious.Joan of Arc was very impactful upon this century-long war. After her death, her trial was reviewed, and she was canonized and declared a saint. It is truly unimaginable how a single girl can manage to completely reverse the direction of a war, as Joan did. Joan of Arc was once a peasant girl, but she now stands as a symbol of French unity and nationalism.

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