Similarly, a contemporary of Joan of Arc's, her page and secretary, wrote that, "Whereas before, the spiritless and cowed people hung their heads and slunk away if one mentioned War to them, now they came clamoring to be enlisted under the banner of the Maid of Vaucouleurs, and the roaring of war-songs and the thundering of the drums filled all the air." According to Dumas, on her banner,.".. To which she was entitled by her military rank, was painted the King of Heaven holding an orb, together with the words, 'Jesus Maria.' Thus equipped, she set out to join the army at Blois for the relief of Orleans."
When Joan led her troops to victory by raising the siege of Orleans (discussed as one of her prophecies further below), her page and secretary also reported that Joan of Arc was the sole individual who was responsible for motivating the French to some early victories over the English that would not otherwise have been possible: "We soon patched a sort of bridge together and threw ourselves against the last stronghold of the English power that barred Orleans from friends and supplies. Before the sun was quite down, Joan's forever memorable day's work was finished, her banner floated from the fortress of the Tourelles, her promise was fulfilled, she had raised the siege of Orleans!"
Moreover, it appears reasonable to assert that Joan must have been sufficiently imbued with the same qualities that are typically associated with historical inspirational leaders to the point that others will follow them into the mouth of a cannon if they lead the charge because they truly believe they are divinely inspired. In this regard, her page and secretary reported that following one battle, "Joan lay on the grass, weak and suffering, hour after hour, but still insisting that the fight go on. Which it did, but not to much purpose, for it was only under her eye that men were heroes and not afraid.... When he was under Joan's eye and the inspiration of her great spirit, what was he afraid of? Nothing in this world -- and that is just the truth (emphasis added)." Interestingly, charismatic historic figures such as Rasputin have been singled out as having eyes that were mesmerizing in their effect on others, and like Rasputin, Joan of Arc also claimed divine inspiration for her goals that were communicated in this fashion. For example, her page and secretary wrote that, "Joan's eyes were deep and rich and wonderful beyond anything merely earthly. They spoke all the languages -- they had no need of words. They produced all effects -- and just by a glance, just a single glance: a glance that could... put courage into a coward and that could make the doubter believe and the hopeless hope again; that could persuade -- ah, there it is -- persuasion! That is the word; what or who is it that it couldn't persuade? (emphasis added)."
This level of followership would likely be the envy of any military or political leader today, of course, but things were much different in Europe during this period in history in ways that also affected how Joan of Arc was most likely perceived by her contemporaries. In this regard, it is important to keep in mind as well that the centrality of religion and its importance to the people of Europe during this period in history was much more pronounced than it is today, and it is little wonder that many people were more likely to accept Joan of Arc's declarations as to the source of her inspiration without the same level of questioning and skepticism that they would receive today. The continued existence of the Inquisition during this period is clearly reflective of this level of importance and centrality of religion to the people of the Middle Ages as well.
Even divinely inspired leaders, though, today or then, can get things wrong and Joan of Arc was no exception. Indeed, only two of her prophecies about the future would bear out, but those that were on the money were quickly seized upon by her contemporaries as hard evidence of her divine inspiration. For example, "To Jeanne, bringing not peace, but a sword, any man-at-arms was a...
It was a remark she might have addressed to any irreverent soldier, and possibly did address to many whom she heard using oaths distasteful to her; only, in this case, the man happened to get drowned before he could get killed in battle, and the pious Paquerel recorded her words with gusto as an example of her divine inspiration." By all accounts, Joan's sincerity and unwavering belief in the source of her inspiration was just what the demoralized French needed, and in her, they had a leader they would in fact follow into the mouth of a cannon: "They had a leader rightly clothed with authority now, and with a head and heart bent on war of the most intensely businesslike and earnest sort -- and there would be results. No doubt of that. They had Joan of Arc; and under that leadership their legs would lose the art and mystery of running."
In truth, there must have been something truly special about Joan of Arc to have created this level of reaction among the French people. After all, there were surely others of a like mind that talked among themselves about the conditions under which they were forced to live and what they could do about it, but nothing seemed to come of it until Joan of Arc built a fire under them. Some of her contemporaries suggest that it might have been her eyes or her demeanor, of maybe her demonstrated piety, but whatever special qualities Joan possessed, it is clear that she firmly believed in the source of her inspiration being the will of God and this firm belief allowed her to persuade others to join her in her cause. The research showed that Joan of Arc may or may not have been divinely inspired, and she may or may not have been a witch, and she may or may not have been guilty of heresy, at least by the definitions used during her trial, but the research also showed that her impact on the history of Europe and indeed the world has been significant and permanent. Few people have accomplished what this young woman managed to in her few years, but it is clear that she was only able to compel others to follow her into battle because of her sincere belief in the source of her destiny as God's messenger on earth. She left a legacy that continues to be cited as a modern example of what can be accomplished when the right (or even wrong) person claiming divine inspiration emerges on the scene at the right point in history where people have become sufficiently dispossessed to rise up and slay their oppressors as one. Although charismatic individuals such as Hitler and Rasputin and even cultish figures such as Jim Jones and David Karesh are frequently cited among this cadre of leaders who could inspire their followers in mysterious ways, everyone seems to agree that Joan of Arc truly believed that she heard the voices of angels and saints, and she believed it with sufficient conviction that she was able to convince others of her destiny as the Maid of Orleans who would lead the French to victory and freedom.
Alden, Jean Francois. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (New York: Harper & Brothers), 1899, 206
Dumas, F. Ribadeau. "Joan of Arc," in Richard Cavendish (Ed.), Man, Myth & Magic: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural, Vol. 11 (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation), 1970, 1518.
The Holy Bible, New International Version.
Lea, Henry Charles. A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers), 1888, 339.
Plumb, J.H. "An epoch that started 10,000 years ago," Horizon, 14(3), 1972, 5.
Stone, Jon R. The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations: The Illiterati's Guide to Latin Maxims, Mottoes, Proverbs and Sayings (New York: Routledge), 2004, 110.
Warner, Joan. Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism (New York: Knopf), 1981, 165 quoted in Pamela R. Matthews, "Glasgow's Joan of Arc in Context," the Mississippi Quarterly, 49(2), 211.
Zupko, Ronald Edward. "The Many Faces of Joan," in Mary Elizabeth Tallon (Ed.), Joan of Arc at the University (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press), 13.
Jon R. Stone, the Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations: The Illiterati's Guide to Latin Maxims, Mottoes, Proverbs and Sayings (New York: Routledge), 2004, 110.
F. Ribadeau Dumas, "Joan of Arc," in Richard Cavendish (Ed.), Man, Myth & Magic: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural, Vol. 11 (New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation), 1970, 1518.
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