21 Fascinating Facts About Joan Of Arc, Misunderstood Hero And Modern-Day Icon

Published September 17, 2017
Updated July 24, 2019

From her actual name to the full details of her grisly end, these are the Joan of Arc facts that most people don't know.

Joan Of Arc In Battle
Despite being known as a warrior, Joan of Arc never actually participated in active combat, and instead worked behind the scenes to outline strategy and direction for French troops as well as lead them into battle. Wikimedia Commons

Joan Of Arc on a Horse
Ultimately executed for heresy, Joan of Arc was arrested on more than 70 charges, including horse theft and sorcery. Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arch's mental health
Joan of Arc has been posthumously “diagnosed” with disorders ranging from epilepsy to schizophrenia based on the claims that she would often see bright lights and hear voices of angels, saints, and God, instructing her to fight for France. Wikimedia Commons

Origin Of Joan Of Arc's Name
Joan of Arc was not actually from any place called Arc, but instead from the town of Domremy. Her surname was nothing more than an educated guess as to her father's surname, which itself shows up in various forms in the extant historical records. Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc statue
Although she did not fight, Joan of Arc was said to have been injured in battle, at one time allegedly stuck in the chest with an arrow, which she removed herself before resuming her leadership duties. Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc bob haircut
The “bob” style haircut, created in 1909 by a Polish-born hairstylist living in Paris, was inspired by Joan of Arc. Leo Jeje/Flickr

Joan of Arc burned at the stake
Joan of Arc was eventually burned at the stake for heresy, not witchcraft, as some sources contend. It was believed that virgins like Joan were incapable of being witches.Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc burned at the stake
After she was burned at the stake, the English cleared away the coals to display her charred body, thus preventing anyone from claiming that she'd somehow escaped. Then they burned the body twice more to completely obliterate it and prevent anyone from taking any souvenirs.Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc gold statue
After her body was reduced to ashes, the remains were tossed into the Seine River, which famously flows through Paris to this day.Wikimedia Commons

St Catherine
One of the voices said to have guided Joan of Arc was that of St. Catherine, who was herself martyred at the age of 18 more than 1,000 years before Joan would come to follow her. According to Joan, St. Catherine led her to her sword, which was found behind the altar of the church bearing the saint’s name. Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc facts
While she didn’t use it to cause harm in battle, it was said that Joan of Arc did use her sword to swat away prostitutes who followed soldiers within her camp.Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc art
Although she couldn’t read, she could sign her name, which she wrote as “Jehanne,” the feminine of “John,” later translated to “Joan” by the English. Today, in France, she is known as "Jeanne."Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc on her knees
During her trial following her capture by the English, Joan of Arc referred to herself only as “Jehanne la Pucelle” (“Joan the Maid”) and stated on the record that she didn't even know her last name.Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc praying statue
As part of a plan devised by her own brothers, several women posed as Joan of Arc after her execution and received warm receptions and countless gifts while fooling the people of Orleans. Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc in mens clothes
Joan of Arc did not believe that she was a man, but instead regarded herself as a maiden who wore men’s clothing while carrying out her military duty. Before leading the French in battle, she was not known to have worn men's clothes.Wikimedia Commons

Joan of arc handing keys to king
Some sources say that she wore male clothing because it was more difficult to tear off and thus acted as something of a deterrent against rape.Wikimedia Commons

Joan of arc in armor
Upon her capture by the English in 1430, she signed an admission of guilt on charges of wearing men’s clothing, and claimed that she was contacted by God. Because she was illiterate, many believe that she did not actually know what she was signing. Wikimedia Commons

Joan of arc at Charles Coronation
She was initially given a sentence of life imprisonment after signing a confession and removing her men's clothing. But when she eventually put her men's clothing back on — in part, due to threats of rape by her captors, some sources say — it was decided that she should be burned at the stake.Wikimedia Commons

Joan of arc during a clergy Interrogation
Other sources offer another reason as to why she put back on the men's clothing. Trial bailiff Jean Massieu wrote that the English gave her no choice by offering her only men's clothing in her cell. Then, after several hours, when she was "compelled by the necessity of the body to leave the room and hence to wear this clothing," the men's clothes were all she had.Wikimedia Commons

Joan of Arc captured
Joan of Arc was born a peasant, and had no military training when she led French forces to defeat the English at the historic Battle of Orleans in 1429. Wikimedia Commons

St. Bede the Venerable
St. Bede the Venerable prophesied the arrival of a figure that some believe to be Joan of Arc, speaking of an armed woman who would arrive from the Eastern border of France to liberate the nation. Wikimedia Commons

As a child, Joan of Arc was said to have had visions of bright lights and would often hear the voices of saints, angels, and even God. Among these visionary figures were the Archangel Michael and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, who Joan says instructed her to take up the sword and lead French forces against the English — and thus make history.

A natural leader, Joan of Arc used her unconventional military skills to carry out what she believed to be the will of God and fight the English during a small portion of the Hundred Years' War in the early 15th century. Dressed in men’s clothing and wearing short hair — which is partly why she was later burned at the stake — she battled Anglo-Burgundian forces for a year.

Ultimately, upon following the king’s orders to confront an English attack near Compiègne in 1430, Joan of Arc was taken captive by Burgundian soldiers, jailed, charged with more than 70 infractions, and eventually sentenced to death by burning on charges of heresy. She was 19 years old.

Even after her death, Joan of Arc remained a controversial and mysterious figure. Countless scholars have offered various theories about her over the years, including that she was really a man and that she wasn’t actually burned at all but instead went on to live to the age of 57.

Controversies notwithstanding, Joan of Arc’s name was cleared of all charges 20 years after her death and she was eventually canonized in 1920. Today, she is recognized as one of the patron saints of France and remains celebrated as a hero and icon by people the world over.

View the Joan of Arc facts above to discover why she's still revered all around the world.

After reading these Joan of Arc facts, check out 12 badass Revolutionary War women you've never heard of and learn about some of the most courageous women of World War II.

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