A cheer could be heard in the enemy camp across the river from Orleans, France. The English troops stationed in the Tourelles stronghold across the river from Orleans had heard about a woman leading the French army, and they assumed this cheer had something to do with her. Soldiers traded jokes about why the French were so excited about having a woman commanding their army.
The cheering was due to the arrival of Joan the Maid. Later known at Joan of Arc.
More than two years earlier, Joan had told a general of the French army that God had told her he would use her to defeat the British and see the dauphin (heir apparent) Charles crowned as King of France. She had been dismissed with derisive comments, but she was not finished. She told others what she had heard and seen from God. Word of her claims reached the king, so that when she approached the same commander a year later, she was granted her request to talk to the king.
But that wasn’t the hard part.
Joan wasn’t the first woman to claim to have prophecies. But she was the first outside of the guidance of a church leader. And she wasn’t just sharing a message, she wanted to lead an army. And she was only 16 years old when she went before the prince. She didn’t have a lot to recommend her credibility to the court.
Really, the only thing Joan had was a vision of what she was supposed to do and a belief that she could do it.
Before the prince allowed her to take an army, he put her through a month-long interrogation with clergy and scholarly men. They asked her repeatedly about the voices, her vision, her life and behaviors. Finally, they all recommended her as genuine in her claims as far as they could tell.
“She has conversed with everyone publicly and privately, but no evil is found in her, only goodness, humility virginity, piety, integrity and simplicity,” they wrote in a letter to the prince.
Whether out of faith or desperation, the prince consented to an experiment, to see if God was behind this girl. He would give her one chance. If she won, they would take it as a sign from God.
Orleans was to be the proving grounds for Joan.
The people of Orleans had been struggling with a difficult, 6-month-long siege under the invading English army. While King Charles of England was in control of Paris and many parts of Northern France, the southern half of France was still struggling to maintain their liberty from England and establish the dauphin Charles as their rightful king. The city of Orleans was on the Loire River, a natural barrier between the two sides. If the English could gain control of Orleans, they would march into the south and take over the rest of France.
For the French, they needed to cross the river to get to Reims, where Charles could be coroneted as king of France, and eventually start to reclaim their country.
While Joan’s triumphant entry was met with enthusiasm by the people of Orleans, the commanders in the city were not ready to give her control. They sent away her army, which she had selected and made to promise to uphold high moral standards, even in battle. They wouldn’t murder, rape or pillage those that surrendered.
Eventually the commanders relented to give Joan control of her army. Joan was anxious to get started with her campaign, and didn’t want to just be a symbol. So while she waited four days for her army to be reinstated, she was actively scouting the area and examining the enemy’s fortifications as well as the defenses of Orleans.
On May 4, 1429 her army returned in the afternoon. She led them on an attack of a stronghold up river that evening. They won the battle in three hours. Joan and her army rested that night, and then attacked the English position in Tourelles in the morning. It was a long, costly battle, Joan was hit with an arrow, but continued to fight. At the end of the day, the English had taken up refuge in a smaller outpost beyond Tourelles. In the morning, Joan and her army were ready to fight, but waited for the English to come out. Within a few hours, the English left and Orleans had been liberated.
Whether your vision comes from God or from your sincere desires, the lesson to learn from Joan is to focus on your goal. She was grilled with questions by scholars, but held firm in her resolve. She was questioned by military leaders, but she remained focused. She was praised and lavished with gifts by the people before she had even won a battle, but she didn’t get lost in the fame.
When you have a goal, you have to stay focused on achieving it. There will be many reasons, or excuses to pull you away, but you have to keep your vision as a priority. If you know it needs to be done, stay firm in your resolve until it’s done.