JOAN OF ARC
HE Hundred Years' War was renewed when Henry V. came to the throne,
and by his great victory at Agincourt in 1415 France was quite
at his mercy. At length the French became
so discouraged that they agreed that when their king
should die they would accept an English ruler. The daughter
of the French king was married to Henry, who died shortly
afterwards. At the death of Henry V. the new king of
England was a little boy.
tried to enforce his claims, and they invaded France. They
succeeded in getting possession of Northern
France, but they could not press farther into the country
without capturing Orleans. This they made strong efforts to do;
they laid siege to the city;
it grew weaker and weaker, and all saw that it
must soon fall into their hands.
The French were good soldiers, but they needed a leader.
They were fighting for the rights of the young king Charles,
but it did not seem to enter his mind that he should do aught
except wear the crown after they had
captured it for him. At length word came that a young
peasant girl named Joan, from Domrémy insisted upon
seeing him. She declared that she had seen visions of
angels and had heard
voices bidding her raise the siege
 of Orleans and
conduct the king to Rheims to be crowned.
JOAN OF ARC
She was brought before the king; but he had dressed himself
more plainly than his courtiers to see if she would
recognize him. She looked about her a moment, then knelt before
him. "I am not the king," said Charles. "Noble prince,
you and no one else, are the king," Joan responded; and she
told him of the voices that she had heard. Now, there was an
old saying in France that some day the country would be saved
by a maiden, and both king and courtiers became interested.
They gave her some light
armour, all white and shining, and set her upon a great white
charger with a sword in her hand. Her banner was a standard
of pure white, and on it was a picture of two angels bearing
lilies and one of God holding up the world. The French were
wild with enthusiasm. They fell down before her, and those
who could come near enough to touch her armour or even her
horse's hoofs thought themselves fortunate. Joan of Arc,
as she is known in history, was only
seventeen, and she had seen nothing of war, but she succeeded
in leading the French troops
into Orleans. When once she had made her way within the walls,
the French shut up in the city began to believe that she
was sent by Heaven to save them.
She bade them follow her
to do battle with the English, and they obeyed joyfully.
The English had heard of this. Some thought she was, indeed,
sent by Heaven; others said she was a witch; and they were
all half afraid to resist her. It was not long before they
withdrew. The city was free; and the French were almost ready
to worship the "Maid of Orleans," as they called her. They
were eager to follow wherever she led; and with every
the English were driven a little farther to the northward.
Joan now urged Charles to go to Rheims to be crowned; but he
held back. So did his brave old generals. "It is folly,"
they said, "to try to make our way through a country where
the English are still in power. Let us first drive them from
Normandy and from Paris. Let the coronation wait until we have
possession of our capital." Still Joan begged Charles to
go, and at length he yielded. There was much fighting on the
way, but the French were victorious, and Joan led her king
to Rheims. He was crowned in the cathedral, and she stood near
him, the white war banner in her hand.
Then Joan prayed to be allowed to go home; but Charles would
not think of giving her up. His people had come to believe that
they would win a victory wherever she led; they even fancied
that they saw fire flashing around her standard. "I work no
miracles," she declared. "Do not kiss my clothes or armour. I
am nothing but the instrument that God uses." She continued
to lead the army, but at length she was captured and fell into
the hands of the English. Those were hard and cruel days, and
the English fired cannon and sang the
Te Deum in the churches and rejoiced as if they had conquered
the whole kingdom of France.
Joan was kept in prison for a year, loaded with irons and
chained to a pillar. She was tried for witchcraft and was
condemned and sentenced to be burned. Charles, to whom she had
given a kingdom, made no effort to save her. A stake was
set up in the market-place of Rouen. To this she was
bound, and fagots were heaped up around it. "Let me die
with the cross in my hands," she pleaded; but no one paid any
 to her request, until at length an English
soldier tied two sticks together in the form of a cross and
gave it to her. She kissed it and laid it upon her heart.
Then a brave and kindly monk ventured to bring her the altar
cross from a church near at hand. The flames rose around
her. Those who stood near heard her say, "Jesus! Jesus!" and
soon her sufferings were ended. Her ashes were thrown into
the Seine, but to-day on the spot where she died a noble statue
stands in her honour.