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Women in History — Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans


Suzanne Stone, creator of the French Quarter Fascinatin’ Women Tour, continues her Wednesday profiles of important women in history with this overview of the life of Joan of Arc. This week, New Orleans kicks off Carnival Season with the annual Joan of Arc Parade in the French Quarter.

The woman who became Saint Joan d’Arc was born to a peasant family in northeast France on January 6, 1412. As a young girl, she received visitations from the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine of Alexandria. These messengers told her to support efforts of King Charles VII and recover France from English domination late in the Hundred Years’ War. The uncrowned Charles VII sent Joan to the siege of Orleans as part of a relief mission in 1428-29. Only nine days after her arrival, the siege was lifted. This became the French Royal army’s first major military victory while Joan was with them and the first to follow the crushing defeat at Agincourt in 1415. Contemporaries believed that if England took Orleans, England would succeed in conquering all of France. This long-awaited victory boosted French morale and paved the way for the final French victory. Several additional swift victories led to Charles VII’s coronation.

Unfortunately Joan was captured in May 1430 and handed over to the English. The pro-English Bishop of Beauvais put her on trial and found her guilty. She was burned at the stake on May, 30, 1431.Since then, the trial has been discredited, and she was declared innocent and a martyr. In 1803 Napoleon Bonaparte declared her a national symbol of France, and she was canonized in 1920.

The statue of Joan of Arc in New Orleans was brought here from France in 1964 but languished in a storage warehouse until she was unveiled in 1972 on Canal Street.  She was moved to her current location in the French Market district in 1999. On the statue, Joan is astride her horse, carrying her custom-made banner. In front of her are two cannons, her primary weapon.Like much of New Orleans, the story of the statue is complicated but always entertaining.  Join us on our French Quarter tour to learn more.

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