Joan of Arc, known in French as Jeanne d’Arc, was a pivotal figure in the history of France during the Hundred Years’ War with England. Her actions prior to her martyrdom were both inspiring and tragic, marked by her incredible courage and a controversial trial that led to her execution.

Joan was born around 1412 in Domrémy, a village in northeastern France. From a young age, she claimed to have visions and hear the voices of saints instructing her to support Charles VII and help drive the English out of France. Her deeply religious nature and conviction propelled her towards great things despite the fact she was a peasant girl.

In 1429, at the age of 17, Joan convinced the local garrison commander at Vaucouleurs to provide her with an escort to Chinon, where the dauphin, Charles VII, resided. Impressively, she gained the support of Charles after a private conversation, during which she reportedly revealed information only someone with divine insight could know. Charles agreed to allow her to accompany the army to Orléans, which was under siege by the English.

Dressed in armor and carrying her banner, Joan inspired the French troops and played a crucial role in lifting the siege of Orléans in May 1429. This victory was a turning point in the war and significantly boosted French morale. Joan then helped lead a series of swift military actions that culminated in the coronation of Charles VII at Reims, thereby solidifying his legitimacy as the ruler of France.

However, in 1430, Joan’s fortunes changed when she was captured by Burgundian troops during a minor skirmish outside Compiègne, a city she was defending from an English and Burgundian siege. The Burgundians handed her over to the English, who were eager to see her discredited and executed to undermine her achievements along with the legitimacy of Charles VII.

She was subjected to a mock trial in Rouen under the supervision of Bishop Pierre Cauchon, a pro-English clergyman. The trial was highly politically motivated, and Joan faced numerous charges, including heresy, witchcraft, and dressing like a man. Despite her strong, clever responses and firm assertions of her divine guidance, the court found her guilty and on May 30, 1431, at the age of 19, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen’s marketplace. As she burned, she asked for a cross, which was held up before her while she called out the name of Jesus until her death. Her execution was meant to end her influence, but it only cemented her legacy.

Almost immediately after her death, Joan was declared a martyr by supporters. And in 1456, following a new trial ordered by Charles VII, Joan was officially exonerated, her name cleared of all charges. She was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church in 1920, nearly 500 years after her death.

Her life and death continue to be celebrated and studied as an example of extraordinary faith, courage, and the power of conviction even in the face of overwhelming odds.