The maid from Lorraine. A young teenage French peasant girl who lead an army and saved France from England. My first question when I began to study “La Pucelle,” was if she was crazy or not. Was she a schizophrenic girl that was deluded into doing amazing things? Was she a genuine holy virgin? The more I read about her, particularly during the trials, I saw less and less evidence of her being crazy. She was not only very coherent, but she was surprisingly sharp, witty, and articulate. She was more than capable of turning her accusers’ questions back at them in embarrassing ways. She really seems to be a young girl who was absolutely convinced that she was receiving messages from God. She wasn’t self delusional and didn’t think she was a saint or miraculous. When some peasants came to her, asking if they could touch her and be healed, a noble woman that was with Joan asked if she could heal. Joan replied that they’d have as much success touching her and that she knew nothing of the healing arts. Also, when some soldiers said that Joan was fearless in battle, she replied that she had just as much a chance of dying as they did. So, I honestly don’t believe that she was crazy. As for the nature of her visions that is something for you to decide for yourself.
But, really, why study Joan of Arc? Because she’s a young chick in full plate armor, kicking butt and taking names in a French accent. How much of a military commander was she? Was she just a tomboy mascot waiving a pretty white banner? In a word: No. She was far more than that. Despite all prejudices in the Middle Ages, Joan really did lead an army of brutish men into lethal combat. So, what accounts for her success? She simply did what what the French men around her were unwilling to do, she attacked. At this point in the Hundred Years War, the English were poning and tea-bagging the French like they were a bunch of noobs. They occupied large portions of France and were poised to take the rest. The French heir to the throne, Charles the gutless…okay, that was my own nickname for him, was hiding out in a castle, camping out trying not to be noticed by all the mean men around him. The English were besieging the town of Orleans, which controlled a major river. If the English took this town, they’d control the river and cut Charles’ territory in half. A similar tactic was used by the North in the American Civil War. Apparently it’s a pretty popular strategy. The Dauphin, Charles the spineless, was too busy crying and sucking his thumb to go help the town. Now, this was not a hopeless situation for the French. The English only sent a small force to siege the town, so small that they couldn’t completely surround the town. The French were able to just come and go as they please. In fact, when Joan came to Orleans, she just waltzed right in. Okay, the point of a siege is to keep people and food from going in and out, right? Oh well. So, Joan and her small army came in and set up shop.
So, Joan and her band of thugs in armor, sat down to make a plan of attack. There were several small English forts that were bombarding the town. They had to be taken care of first. So, Joan suggests that they strike right now at the heart of the English’s strongest forts. The veteran officers disagreed a bit. Keep in mind that they were all veterans. The Hundred Years War had been going on for quite a while. Some, like LaHire, were veterans of Agincourt, where Henry V made a great speech and then murdered half the French nobility. So, back to Olreans, the French officers launched a surprise attack on an English fort. The problem was, it was a surprise for Joan as well. No one had bothered to wake her up. So, she throws on her armor (which was not a chainmail bikini btw, but full plate warrior armor) and goes out to find the French retreating. No surprise there. So, she tells them all to cowboy up and lead them back into the fray. Not only does she take the fort, but she, without consulting the officers, begins to lead the soldiers on to attack the next fort. She was a French Blitzkrieg before Blitzkrieg was cool. And right there, that was what made her a successful military leader. She was highly aggressive and attacked. The English were greatly outnumbered but one because the French kept giving them time to set up little fortifications. So, Joan simply attacked them before they can set up and overwhelmed them by numbers. She attacked and attacked and attacked. In fact, the main impediment to Joan was the French. They kept trying to talk and wait and hope things got better. Joan realized that to win, they had to defeat the English. Seems obvious, but I guess it wasn’t. So, she was a teenage girl with more cahones than the entire French army.