THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR 1339 -
JOAN OF ARC c1412 -
Charles VII of France
and Jean Fouquet
xxxxxAt the age of 17 the French peasant girl Joan of Arc, claiming to have received spiritual guidance, visited the Dauphin and convinced him of her mission to defeat the English. In 1429 she led the French army to a resounding victory over the English at the Battle of Patay, north of Orleans, and witnessed the crowning of the Dauphin at Reims. Whilst campaigning the following year, however, she fell into the hands of the English, and an ecclesiastical court at Rouen found her guilty of heresy and witchcraft. In May 1431 she was burned at the stake. Today a national hero, there is no doubt that she played a vital psychological role in renewing French hopes and resolve at a crucial time in the Hundred Years’ War.
aaaaaJoan was born into a peasant family in Domremy in Lorraine, and at the age of thirteen claimed that St. Michael and the early martyrs St. Catherine and St. Margaret had spoken to her. Four years later, at the command of these "voices", she went to the Dauphin at Chinon in north-
aaaaaFor the young peasant girl, however, the triumph was to be short-
aaaaaWhether in this account of Joan's life one accepts the part played by divine intervention must be a matter of personal opinion, but what she achieved by listening to her “voices” is not in doubt. By defeating the English at Orleans -
aaaaaThere is, of course, a danger of exaggerating the part played by this slip-
aaaaaWhat can be said with certainty is that throughout her military mission, imprisonment and trial she showed an incredible amount of physical and mental courage, and an amazing degree of piety. For these qualities alone she will always have a place as one of the most incredible and enigmatic figures in world affairs.
aaaaaIncidentally, as one would expect, Joan of Arc has provided a fascinating subject for a vast number of writers, painters and sculptors -
aaaaa…… The spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in the old market square in Rouen is today marked with a large silver cross. St. Sauveur’s Church, which stood nearby and was the parish church of the dramatist Pierre Corneille, was destroyed around 1833, and the church that replaced it, Saint Vincent’s, was badly bombed during the Second World War. The present building, the Church of Saint Joan of Arc, was completed in 1979. Designed by the French architect Louis Arretche, it follows local tradition, and is built in the form of an upturned boat. The thirteen stained glass windows are from the 16th century, having been removed from St. Vincent’s and stored away before the bombing began. The statue of Joan of Arc outside the church was the work of French sculptor Maxime Real del Sarte and dates from 1926.
xxxxxCharles VII of France (1422-
aaaaaCharles VII was king of France from 1422 to his death in 1461. He became Dauphin in 1417, but three years later Henry V of England concluded the Treaty of Troyes with his father, Charles VI, and with the Duke of Burgundy, whereby he and his successors became heirs to the French throne. Thus when Charles VI died in 1422, Charles only inherited the southern part of his country. However, the arrival on the scene of Joan of Arc in 1429 proved a turning point. With the defeat of the English at the siege of Orleans and the Battle of Patay, he was crowned king at Reims in July of that year. Later, when the Burgundians agreed to make peace in 1435, and Paris was recaptured the following year, the unity of France became a real possibility. (The portrait is by the French artist Jean Fouquet.)
aaaaaAlthough not the most dynamic of monarchs, Charles was skilful at court intrigue, and was thus able to set in motion a number of important internal reforms. He introduced a system of taxation which gave him a large measure of financial independence, and he encouraged trade. Given increased funds he was thus able to establish a permanent, more efficient army, and to go on the offensive. By 1453 he had driven the English out of all of France save the port of Calais. For this accomplishment alone he must be seen as one of the most important monarchs in French history.
aaaaaThe portrait of Charles VII above was the work of the French painter, miniaturist and illuminator Jean Fouquet (c1420-
aaaaaSuch was the quality of his work that he was appointed court painter to both Charles VII, in 1448, and to his successor, Louis XI, in 1475. His portraits showed a firmness of line, the use of strong colours, and his ability to capture the character of his sitter. While in Rome, where his artistic skills were much admired, he painted the portrait of Pope Eugene IV, but this work was later lost. His known paintings depicted religious themes -
aaaaaIllustrated below are a detail from his Pietà, a Self-
xxxxxThe French artist Jean Fouquet (c1420-
aaaaaAnd in addition to his portraits and paintings, he produced a number of finely executed and detailed miniatures, sixty of which were contained in one of his masterpieces, the large Book of Hours, produced during the 1450s for Étienne Chevalier, the royal secretary and lord treasurer. Noteworthy, too, was his rich illumination of a number of manuscripts, including two French translations from the witty stories of The Decameron, the masterpiece of the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio.
Joan of Arc: French miniature, interpretation by an unknown artist – French National Archives, Paris. Execution: by the German painter Hermann Anton Stilke (1803-