Announcer: Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class from howstuffworks.com.
Candace Keynard: Hello, and welcome to the Podcast. I'm Editor Candace Keynard joined by Staff Writer, Jane McGrath.
Jane McGrath: Hey there, Candace.
Candace Keynard: Hey, Jane. So, we spend a lot of time on the podcast talking about ancient civilizations and societies of the past and wars and medieval torture devices and Thomas Jefferson but something we don't get around to as often is very important women in history and we actually had a listener email us and she wrote, "First off, I'd like to say I love your podcasts, thank you very much, anyway, I would like to hear about some more famous women in history. I have a couple of ideas but someone who really sticks out to me, that would be fun, is Joan of Arc. She's always so shrouded in mystery and I would really love to hear your take on it. If you had to do one, I would definitely suggest her," and that came from Tasheka. And she also said she wanted to hear about Annie Oakley, Jane Adams, Stacy Warner Truth and a couple of other very exciting women. And not only are we going to cover Joan of Arc, but just to give you guys a little sneak peak of what's coming up down the line, we're going to be talking about women in ancient Egypt and Betsy Ross and a few other surprises.
Jane McGrath: Yeah, and Joan of Arc has got to be one of the most popular I think. I think maybe I remember another fan asking for her as well but, you know, always a popular choice. To give you some context, she lived from 1412 to 1431, and if you haven't noticed, that's a pretty short amount of time. She didn't live very long. If you don't want to do the math real quick, that means she was only about 19 when she died and that's when she was put to death for heresy.
Candace Keynard: Yeah. But that's the end of a very long and complicated life story so I think, to get everyone started, we'll sort of set up what's brewing over in Europe, and more specifically, in France and England, because Joan was known for leading the Siege of Orleans which occurred in 1429 but, as you may remember from one of our earlier podcasts, the inquisition started raging much earlier than that. And, in 1231, they started trying to phase out heretics from the Catholic Church and as events transpired, we had the Hundred Years' Wars start up and that's where things got really sticky with the church and then with France and England fighting for the throne and I'm going to let Jane give you guys some background on that.
Jane McGrath: So, the Hundred Years' War was actually a little bit longer. I think it was a 116 years that it lasted and we lump it together, call it the Hundred Years' War but it was really a series of conflicts as you might guess. It was treaties and broken treaties that lasted for this period. Between about 1337 and 1453, between France and England. It's really sticky issues; it's really complicated but it goes back to actually 1066 when William, who is the Duke of Normandy at the time, defeated the King of England and took over England. So, that meant that the King of England held territory in France and by the 14th Century, those territories, those French territories were still in dispute.
Candace Keynard: And things had gotten even stickier, too, Jane because people had been intermarrying between France and England and so when you talk about lineage and the heir to certain seats, it's really complicated.
Jane McGrath: Yeah, in 1309, the King of England's son married the daughter of the King of France and the result of that marriage was Edward III, I believe, and so he had a claim to the French throne in 1328, which happened to be the year that the France King Charles IV died without a clear heir. So, as you can see, it was just a huge mess and if you fast forward to about 1415, you have English King, Henry the V, and if you've ever read that Shakespeare - one of the best Shakespeare plays I think, you know a little bit about the battle of Erring Court, etcetera, and how he was very victorious and eventually he invaded France and got them to sign the Treaty of Twa which agreed that Henry would get to the French throne after the sitting King, Charles VI, died.
Candace Keynard: So, it seemed like a fair compromise but it was made void when both of them died.
Jane McGrath: Yeah, they both died in 1422. Henry died first and Charles died a few weeks afterwards so this complicated the question of who would get the French throne. Basically, you have the issue of the French people didn't like - they didn't support the Treaty of Twa and they supported Charles VII, the King's son, to become King. And also it's complicated by the fact that Henry V's heir, son, was only a baby when he died. So, the baby basically had - according to the treaty, the baby was now king of both England and France and France was not happy with this.
Candace Keynard: And, so, Charles the VII [inaudible], he was actually living in exile in [inaudible] and that is where he would meet Joan of Arc. And, if we flashback to Joan, when she was at the age of 13; she started hearing voices and she was a peasant girl from very humble, humble origins. I think she was illiterate and she prided herself I think on bei ng a good daughter and a good servant to God. And one day she was working outside and she started hearing people talking to her and she was able to identify the voices as coming from St. Michael, St. Margaret and St. Catherine.
Jane McGrath: And we should note also that - I was reading about Joan in the context of France at this time, that French - France was Catholic but they were very mystic believers in France so they put a lot of stock into these visions and these divine signs. So, obviously, Joan would buy into it very quickly.
Candace Keynard: And she took it to heart.
Jane McGrath: Yeah.
Candace Keynard: And, at first, I don't think the directions were too complicated coming from the voices. Things like be a good daughter, be obedient, do a good job with your chores and those seemed like good comments and just things that most of us probably got from watching Sesame Street when we were younger, but then the voices became a little bit more I guess fervent and the messages were much poignant. They started telling her that she needed to cut her hair short and start wearing men's garb and that eventually her calling was that she was going to get her own military troops and she was going to help lead the French to Victoria over the English and put Charles VII on his rightful place on the throne. And like Jane was saying, people in France bought into the idea of mystical visions and dreams and Joan's own father started having dreams around this time, too, that his daughter was going to run away. So, he was ensuring that his sons were watching her to make sure she wasn't fleeing from home, but she did.
Jane McGrath: Yeah, she thought she was hearing signs from God and if God tells you to leave, you have to -
Candace Keynard: You leave.
Jane McGrath: Yeah.
Candace Keynard: Yeah, you cut your hair and you get out of dodge.
Jane McGrath: Yeah, so, she left to seek out Charles VII. She arrived at his court and after a couple days, she was granted permission to see him, but even then, when she was granted permission, she was there at the Court and he - Charles VII decided to disguise himself, but interestingly, Joan recognized him immediately which sort of wins the idea that she was sent from God.
Candace Keynard: Right and I'm trying to put in Charles place and really think about this. Here is a very young girl who is wearing men's clothes, she's got short hair, it's very unusual for the times that a cross-dressing girl would come to court and seek out rather forcefully the [inaudible]. It just seems a little bit - what's the word I'm looking for - a little -
Jane McGrath: Bizarre.
Candace Keynard: - a little pushy.
Jane McGrath: Okay.
Candace Keynard: Bizarre, you know, who does she think she is to find me and so he really wanted to be able to trust her if she was who she said she was. And after she located him in a crowd full of people, had never seen him before, maybe never even seen a likeness of him or one of him at that age, she told him also a secret about himself that no one else would know and supposedly, to this day, we still don't know what that secret is.
Jane McGrath: Yeah, that's true, although I read that historians speculate at least that the secret that she said had to do with his legitimacy. He suspected that he was illegitimate child and Joan sort of put an end to this question from divine sources.
Candace Keynard: Well, if that is in fact the secret that she told and she was able to put his mind at ease, then we can understand why he put full trust in her and gave her her own troops and made her a captain in the French Army and she was sent to Orleans. And before he actually put her on the battle field, he wanted to make sure that he wasn't aligning himself with some sort of sorceress so he had her questioned by a panel of clergy and they said she was legit. She's not a witch; she probably is hearing these voices from Saints and she is sent from God.
Jane McGrath: Yeah, one curious thing that they - during this inquisition - well, this initi al questioning of whether she was actually sent from God was that they had women actually physically examine her and see if she was a virgin and they found that she was and so that concluded to them that she couldn't have been in cohorts with the devil.
Candace Keynard: So, by this time, if you're a not a huge fan of Joan, hold on, because there's more. And I'm a huge fan because I think it takes a lot of bravery and guts to follow through on these voices that you're hearing and to put yourself through that kind rigorous examination. I mean, you really are putting yourself on the line and can you imagine what the men in the military must have thought when a 16-year old girl was put in front of them and said that she was going to be their leader.
Jane McGrath: Yeah, one story that I read about that was that soldiers were convinced that she was sent from God because at one point when she was wounded in battle they saw part of her naked body and they weren't taken by desire or anything and they thought this was sort of God, you know, shielding them from sexual advances on her and that was a problem that would emerge later in her life, but as a soldier, and as a captain really, she proved that she was a very, very good, good fighter and she had this sword that was given to her in sort of an Arthur like way, the voices told her that before she went into battle, there would be a sword for her hidden behind the alter of a church and it would be covered in rust and carved with five different crosses and they sent some people out to go fetch the sword, and sure enough, it was there and she wiped off the rust and she was ready for the battlefield and so -
Candace Keynard: With her miraculous sword.
Jane McGrath: With her miraculous sword. Doesn't it sound very sword and the stone to you?
Candace Keynard: Yeah, it's a very good comparison.
Jane McGrath: So, she's out on the battlefield and she's got her white flag with the fluoride lei and it started in May 1429 and it lasted nine days and she won.
Candace Keynard: It was pretty impressive and so Charles, a few months later, was officially crowned the King of France. And what's interesting about this point is that Joan wanted to go on and liberate Paris at this point, you know, Charles has got his legitimacy but there's still conflict going on and Paris was still controlled by other forces. Charles was actually against this. He wanted to stop the violence; he wanted to not push any further so he opposed and delayed her traveling to France - or traveling to Paris to liberate it. And historians speculate that Charles' opposition actually crippled her chances at success because when Joan did leave to go do this, she failed. And a few months after that, she actually tried again to liberate the City of Compean and it was there that she was captured in 1430.
Jane McGrath: So, when she was captured, she wasn't a regular prisoner of war. She had actually made a couple of enemies along the way. One of whom was a somewhat powerful man, the Bishop of Beauvais named Pierre Cauchon and he was determined that he was going to make this girl out to be the witch that he suspected she was and he wanted her burned at the stake. He was tired of her. She was insubordinate. She was just causing a huge ruckus and what's more, if she were convicted for heresy, it would totally discredit the fact that Charles was on the throne because he would've gotten there by some sort of means of black magic almost so this was going to have to resounding ripple effects if he could just prove that she was a witch. And what's interesting about this trial is that it was so hard to convict Joan of anything because she was so incredibly devoted to God and to the voices that she'd been hearing and so any time they tried to catch her in a heretical statement or telling some sort of lie, it just kept reflecting back to the fact that she was a girl of God. She was following him and she was sent to earth to do his divine deeds.
Candace Keynard: Cauchon knew what he was doing, trying to corner her into admitting heresies but it's interesting that Joan was so - she was unlearned, she was illiterate and yet she was able to give very good answers and a lot of historians chalk this trial up to being part of the inquisition, and like we mentioned in the podcast about the Spanish Inquisition, that there were different factions of inquisitions going around Europe and when Cauchon wanted to bring in official inquisitors, they were really reluctant. The grand inquisitor of the faith in Rome wasn't able to come and so the bishop had to settle for a sub inquisitor and even him, he was reluctant, because there's lots of irregularities going on in this case. They didn't want to be involved. She - maybe she was legitimate, we don't know, and so the sub inquisitor only came after Cauchon, like, threatened him, which is interesting and he only showed up occasionally when he did come to England for the trial.
Jane McGrath: So, if Cauchon hadn't already shown his true colors, he did a little bit later because he thought that there was a loophole in a law that he thought he could Joan through for cross-dressing, of all things, here is a girl who has listened to divine voices and delivered France and now she's going to be punished for wearing men's clothes which was what the voices had commanded her to do, and furthermore, when you're on the battlefield surrounded by men, you've got to dress yourself in similar [inaudible]. I mean, you're a soldier at that point. And we should note that there are two different types of churches that were recognized; the church militant which was the Catholic Church on Earth, that particular incarnation; and then there was the Church Triumph, which was God's heavenly church. And the one that Joan ascribed to, above all else, was the Church Triumph, but in order to be a true and devout Catholic, you would have ascribe to both and follow the laws of both churches.
Candace Keynard: Yeah, so, this was how Cauchon was able to sort of corner her into heresy that she was - she felt herself directly responsible to God himself rather than going through the Church on Earth. And Cauchon essentially asked, you know, you know that cross-dressing is a sin and she tried to say, yes, I understand that but it's a very small detail. Let's look at the big picture but he eventually forced her into signing a decree that said she would not wear men's clothes anymore because it was a violation of the Catholic Church on Earth, the Church militant, but then when she was in prison awaiting the rest of the investigation and the trial, some people later testified that all of her female clothes were stolen and the only ones left were men's clothes and she certainly wasn't going to go around nude because that would be very unsafe for her. She needed to protect herself.
Jane McGrath: Yeah.
Candace Keynard: And, so, once she had on the men's clothes, she had broken the law.
Jane McGrath: Yeah, I actually read there was one account I think that she was actually sexually assaulted in prison and I think, obviously, even though she wasn't on the battlefield when she was on prison during her trial, etcetera, she would want to stay in men's clothes to protect herself from this kind of assault.
Candace Keynard: And, so, while that may have worked in fending off sexual advances, it certainly didn't work for Cauchon and that was it. She was set to be burned at the stake. Only 19 years old and she was burned alive.
Jane McGrath: Oh, you've gotta talk about this.
Candace Keynard: I can't let it go. When you're burned at the stake, you don't actually die from being burned. Just like if you were in a burning building, you die from smoke inhalation first and that's how Joan died, from smoke inhalation and so they ordered her body to be burned again and the - after the second time, her organs were still somewhat intact so she was ordered to be burned a third time to completely finish off her body. So, she was burned at the stake three times. The first time killed her but they wanted to get her all done for good measure.
Jane McGrath: Um-hum.
Candace Keynard: And then her ashes were meant to be scattered in a nearby river but some people suspect that they weren't and not too long ago, some ashes were found in a Persian Apothecary and scientists started wondering, you know, just wondering, could these be Joan of Arcs and so in 2006, one French scientist was able to say that these ashes show evidence that they from a young female body and I think it shows evidence of bone and muscle tissue from a somewhat young adult girl and we don't know definitively whether or not it's Joan of Arc but you have to ask yourself, how many women were really burned at the stake at France during this time?
Jane McGrath: True, yeah, I doubt the records would show many.
Candace Keynard: Exactly. And, so, they've sifted through these ashes and they've also found what looks like a femur from a cat and it would not be uncommon during medieval times for a cat to be thrown on a funeral pier if a witch was being burned as sort of an appeasement to satin but the femur wasn't burned as badly as the other fragments of bones. They think that maybe the cat just went walking by afterward. Bad luck for the cat. But there's also a very small fragment of cloth that could be linen or some sort of gown that one would've worn when one was being burned at the stake so there's a lot of mysteries there. Whether or not it's Joan, we don't know but -
Jane McGrath: That's pretty incredible though.
Candace Keynard: It is. It is. Anyway, so, a lot of interesting news about women in history and the grand sacrifices that they underwent for trying to be a savior and having to be a man to do it and then getting kicked in the pants for that one. So -
Jane McGrath: And speaking of relic, I recently wrote about the Shroud of Turin and its fate during the middle ages. It was a really cool story. I wrote about it on the blog which you can find at howstuffworks.com. Stuff You Missed in History Class Blog is really cool. You should check it out. Candace and I each write on it once a day.
Candace Keynard: We do and starting every Friday, we're going to be having conversations with you guys about our latest podcast so be sure you check that out and we also hope that you will look up this wonderful article called, "Why Was Cross-dressing the Only Crime that Joan of Arc was Convicted Of," on howstuffworks.com.
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