N.B. While reading through these materials, I suggest both underlining/making note of the facts, phrases, language, and events that strike you. You might also create a list of moments in Joan of Arc’s life that particularly speak to you, that seem like experiences you might like to explore with your writing.
7 Surprising Facts About Joan of Arc by Jennie Cohen
1. Joan’s real name was Jehanne d’Arc, Jehanne Tarc, Jehanne Romée or possibly Jehanne de Vouthon—but she didn’t go by any of these. Joan didn’t hail from a place called Arc, as the typical Anglicization of her father’s surname, d’Arc (sometimes rendered as Darc or Tarc), might imply. Instead, Jehanne—or Jehanette, as she was known—grew up in Domrémy, a village in northeastern France, the daughter of a farmer and his devoutly Catholic wife. During her trial before an ecclesiastical court in 1431, Joan referred to herself only as “Jehanne la Pucelle” (“Joan the Maid”) and initially testified that she didn’t know her last name. She later explained that her father was called Jacques d’Arc and her mother Isabelle Romée, adding that in her hometown daughters often took their mothers’ surnames. In medieval France, where family names were neither fixed nor widely used, “Romée” simply designated a person who had made a pilgrimage to Rome or another religiously significant destination; other sources suggest that Joan’s mother went by Isabelle de Vouthon.
2. In modern times, some doctors and scholars have “diagnosed” Joan of Arc with disorders ranging from epilepsy to schizophrenia. Around the age of 12 or 13, Joan of Arc apparently began hearing voices and experiencing visions, which she interpreted as signs from God. During her trial, she testified that angels and saints first told her merely to attend church and live piously; later, they began instructing her to deliver France from the invading English and establish Charles VII, the uncrowned heir to the French throne, as the country’s rightful king. The Maid asserted that a bright light often accompanied the visions and that she heard the voices more distinctly when bells sounded. Based on these details, some experts have suggested that Joan suffered from one of numerous neurological and psychiatric condition that trigger hallucinations or delusions, including migraines, bipolar disorder and brain lesions, to name just a few. Yet another theory holds that she contracted bovine tuberculosis, which can cause seizures and dementia, from drinking unpasteurized milk and tending cattle as a young girl.
3. While commander of the French army, Joan of Arc didn’t participate in active combat. Though remembered as a fearless warrior and considered a heroine of the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, Joan never actually fought in battle or killed an opponent. Instead, she would accompany her men as a sort of inspirational mascot, brandishing her banner in place of a weapon. She was also responsible for outlining military strategies, directing troops and proposing diplomatic solutions to the English (all of which they rejected). Despite her distance from the front lines, Joan was wounded at least twice, taking an arrow to the shoulder during her famed Orléans campaign and a crossbow bolt to the thigh during her failed bid to liberate Paris.