Heroine, Saint, Martyr
Three of my ancestors can be traced back to the life of Joan of Arc, they either knew her personally or were part responsible for her downfall. This post covers one of those connections.
Do you know whether or not you are in God’s grace?
Joan: If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. I should be the saddest creature in the world if I knew I were not in His grace.”
There are many characters in history that as an amateur historian and genealogist I find very interesting, one such person is Joan of Arc, there is something about her life, her personality and her strength that catches my attention, It may be that I find woman in history more interesting then I do the lives that men led. For many reasons, the struggles they faced, the injustice and inequality and their ability to balance much more then men can and when woman from our history achieve greatness, the enormity is far greater. Simply because, everything is already against them.
Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) was born about 1412 and was executed on the 30th May 1431, nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” she is considered a heroine of France. Joan was born to a peasant family at Domrémy and is said to have received visions of the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret and Saint Catherine who instructed her to support Charles VII in recovering France from English dominance during the Hundred years war.
As many of you may know, I have a huge fascination with connecting my family history to important historical events and people, and I always look at history with genealogy in mind, or vice versa. We can learn so much more about our ancestors if we have a good understanding of the events that helped shape their lives. This post in particular looks at my family connections to the Hundred years war, and one connection in particular really stands out against all others, my family connection to Saint Joan of Arc.
Charles VII of France (the victorious) is my 16th great-grand uncle.
Cardinal Henry Beaufort (Bishop of Winchester) is my 20th great-grand uncle.
King Henry V of England was the first husband of my 16th great-grandmother
So who were these three characters and what role did they play in her life’s story?
Charles VII of France (the victorious)
My Family Connection to Charles VII ‘le Victorieux’ “King of France” de VALOIS (1403 – 1451)
Charles VII ‘le Victorieux’ “King of France” de VALOIS (1403 – 1451)
is my 17th great grand uncle
Charles VI “King of France” de VALOIS (1368 – 1422)
father of Charles VII ‘le Victorieux’ “King of France” de VALOIS and my 17th great grandfather
Catherine “Princess of France” de VALOIS (1401 – 1437)
daughter of Charles VI “King of France” de VALOIS and my 16th great grandmother
Sir David OWEN (1459 – 1542)
son of Catherine “Princess of France” de VALOIS and my 15th great grandfather
Sir Henry OWEN (1490 – 1542)
son of Sir David OWEN and my 14th great grandfather
Thomas ‘of Broadwater’ OWEN (1520 – )
son of Sir Henry OWEN and my 13th great grandfather
William ‘of Horsham and Slinfold’ OWEN (1560 – )
son of Thomas ‘of Broadwater’ OWEN and my 12th great grandfather
Thomas ‘of Burwash & Brighton’ OWEN (1598 – 1639)
son of William ‘of Horsham and Slinfold’ OWEN and my 11th great grandfather
William OWEN (1633 – 1680)
son of Thomas ‘of Burwash & Brighton’ OWEN and my 10th great grandfather
Thomas OWEN (1666 – 1749)
son of William OWEN and my 9th great grandfather
Mary OWEN (1692 – 1739)
daughter of Thomas OWEN and my 8th great grandmother
Ann ANDREW (1721 – 1769)
daughter of Mary OWEN and my 7th great grandmother
Ann RUSBRIDGE (1757 – 1805)
daughter of Ann ANDREW and my 6th great grandmother
Napper CHALLEN (1782 – 1855)
son of Ann RUSBRIDGE and my 5th great grandfather
Martha CHALLIN (1806 – 1868)
daughter of Napper CHALLEN and my 4th great grandmother
Hannah HARRIS (1845 – 1925)
daughter of Martha CHALLIN and my 3rd great grandmother
William Richard TAYLOR (1873 – 1948)
son of Hannah HARRIS and my 2nd great grandfather
Doris Margery TAYLOR (1904 – 1999)
daughter of William Richard TAYLOR and my great grandmother
Joyce Margery PLASKETT (1934 – 2013)
daughter of Doris Margery TAYLOR and my grandmother
Charles VII of France and The Maid of Orléans
In 1422, Charles VII inherited the throne of France under desperate circumstances. Forces from England and Duke Philip III of Burgundy occupied Guyenne and northern France, including Paris, the most populous city, and Reims, the city in which the French kings were traditionally crowned. In addition, his father Charles VI the Mad had disinherited him in 1420 and recognized Henry V of England and his heirs as the legitimate successors of the French crown instead. At the same time, a civil war raged in France between the Armagnacs (supporters of the House of Valois) and the Burgundian party.
With his court removed to Bourges, south of the Loire River, Charles was disparagingly called the “King of Bourges”, because the area around Bourges was one of the few remaining regions left to him. However, his political and military position improved dramatically with the emergence of Joan of Arc as a spiritual leader in France. Joan of Arc and other charismatic figures led French troops to several important victories that paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII in 1429 at Reims Cathedral. This long-awaited event boosted French morale as hostilities with England resumed. By 1453, the French had expelled the English from all their continental possessions except for the Pale of Calais.
Political conditions in France took a decisive turn in the year 1429 just as the prospects for the Dauphin began to look hopeless. The town of Orléans had been under siege since October 1428. The English regent, the Duke of Bedford (the uncle of Henry VI), was advancing into the Duchy of Bar, ruled by Charles’s brother-in-law, René. The French lords and soldiers loyal to Charles were becoming increasingly desperate.
But then, in the little village of Domrémy, on the border of Lorraine and Champagne, a teenage girl named Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d’Arc), demanded that the garrison commander at Vaucouleurs, Robert de Baudricourt, collect the soldiers and resources necessary to bring her to the Dauphin at Chinon, stating that visions of angels and saints had given her a divine mission. Granted an escort of five veteran soldiers and a letter of referral to Charles by Lord Baudricourt, Joan rode to see Charles at Chinon. She arrived on 4 March 1429.
What followed would become famous. When Joan appeared at Chinon, Charles wanted to test her claim to be able to recognise him despite never having seen him, and so he disguised himself as one of his courtiers. He stood in their midst when Joan entered the chamber in which the court was assembled. Joan identified Charles immediately. She bowed low to him and embraced his knees, declaring “God give you a happy life, sweet King!” Despite attempts to claim that another man was in fact the king, Charles was eventually forced to admit that he was indeed such. Thereafter Joan referred to him as “Dauphin” or “Noble Dauphin” until he was crowned in Reims four months later. After a private conversation between the two (Charles later stated that Joan knew secrets about him that he had voiced only in silent prayer to God), Charles became inspired and filled with confidence. Thereafter, he became secure in his intention to claim his inheritance by travelling to Reims.
After her encounter with Charles in March 1429, Joan of Arc set out to lead the French forces at Orléans. She was aided by skilled commanders such as Étienne de Vignolles, known as La Hire, and Jean Poton de Xaintrailles. They compelled the English to lift the siege on 8 May 1429, thus turning the tide of the war. The French won the Battle of Patay on 18 June, at which the English field army lost about half its troops. After pushing further into English and Burgundian-controlled territory, Charles was crowned King Charles VII of France in Reims Cathedral on 17 July 1429.
Joan was later captured by the Burgundians at the siege of Compiègne on 24 May 1430. The Burgundians handed her over to their English allies. Tried for heresy by a court composed of pro-English clergy such as Pierre Cauchon, who had long served the English occupation government, she was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431.