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  • Susan Stoderl

Christine de Pizan | Joan of Arc and the Siege of Orléans

Joan of Arc in the protocol of the parliament of Paris (1429). Drawing by Clément de Fauquembergue. French National Archives

"The Poem of Joan of Arc" is dated July 31, 1429, and was the first poem to honor the historic Jeanne d’Arc. Several legends attributed to St. Bede the Venerable, Euglide of Hungary, and Merlin, among others, proclaimed that a young Maiden would save France from destruction. Jeanne d’Arc fit the bill. First, her village was near the border between France and the Duchy of Lorraine. Second, she had come forward to confess that God had told her this was to be.

In May 1428, Joan made her way to Vaucouleurs, where she attracted a small band of followers who believed her claims to be the virgin who would save France. Baudricort, who was in charge of the battle to come, finally agreed to allow her to proceed. She cropped her hair, dressed in men’s clothes, and received an army from King Charles to proceed to Orléans which was under siege by the English. Joan set off to fend off the Siege of Orléans in March 1429, dressed in white armor and riding a white horse. After sending off a defiant letter to the enemy, Joan led several French assaults against the enemy and forced them to retreat across the Loire River. One miraculous victory after another followed. She and her army escorted Charles to be crowned King Charles VII in July 1429. In the spring of 1430, the king ordered Joan to confront England’s Burgundian allies in an assault on Compiégne. Joan was thrown from her horse, then abandoned outside the town’s gates as they closed. The Burgundians took her captive and turned her over to the English. King Charles did not come to her aid. The Church tried her and charged her with over seventy counts, including witchcraft, heresy, and dressing like a man. They sentenced her to be burned at the stake.

“The Poem of Joan of Arc” comprises sixty-one stanzas made up of four hundred eighty-eight lines. Following is a quote from the poem which shows the admiration that Christine had for Joan of Arc


What honor for the female Sex!

God’s love for it appears quite clear,

Because the kingdom laid to waste

By all those wretched people now

Stands safe, a woman recused it

(A hundred thousand men could not

Do that) and killed the hostile foe!

A thing beyond belief before!


While ridding France of enemies,

Retaking town and castle both

No force was ever quite so great,

If hundreds or if thousands strong!

Among our men so brave and apt,

She’s captain over all; such strength

No Hector or Achilles had.

All this God does, who’s guiding her.

(Translated from Le Ditie de Jahnne D’Arc, by Thelma Fenster.)


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