On this day (at least it’s assumed it was this day) in 1412, Joan of Arc was born. Remarkably, this illiterate daughter of a farmer would go on to become the patron saint of France.
At the time, France had been greatly weakened by war with England, which would later be known as the Hundred Years’ War.
According to history.com, “At the age of 13, Joan began to hear voices, which she determined had been sent by God to give her a mission of overwhelming importance: to save France by expelling its enemies, and to install” its rightful king.
After initially not being taken seriously and turned away by the local magistrate, Joan eventually gained his permission to travel to visit the crowned prince. To make the trek, she dressed in male clothing. Once at the palace, she “asked him to give her an army to lead to Orléans, then under siege from the English.” She went on to inspire the pro-French troops and helped lead several successful assaults.
In 1430, Joan was captured by the enemy and charged in a politically-motivated trial with cross-dressing, heresy, and witchcraft. The trial was fraught with illegalities.
History.com details the rest of her short life reporting that in “May 1431, after a year in captivity and under threat of death, Joan relented and signed a confession denying that she had ever received divine guidance. Several days later, however, she defied orders by again donning men’s clothes, and authorities pronounced her death sentence. On the morning of May 30, at the age of 19, Joan was taken to the old market place of Rouen and burned at the stake.”
However, her enemies were unsuccessful in their attempts to get rid of the young hero. Joan’s memory would live on for centuries to come. Another trial 20 years after her death cleared her name, and later in 1920, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV.