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Historical superstar

Statue of Joan of Arc riding a horse. She is in full armour and holding a sword

This statue of Joan is in a park in Washington DC, in the USA. She looks very proud and confident, hopefully to inspire others to be the same.                          Photograph ©David King 2006. Used under Creative Comms Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence.

Joan of Arc has inspired painters, sculptors, writers, composers and cinema directors for over 600 years. Not bad for a girl who came from a village in the middle of the french countryside, who could not read or write, and  died before she was 20 years old.

Fun Fact: Whilst Disney has not made a film about Joan of Arc, she does appear in one. In ‘Frozen’ when Princess Anna sings ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’, you can see a portrait of Joan when Anna lies on the settee.

History’s first social ‘influencer’?

Joan became famous very quickly in an age when TV, the internet, social influencers and TikTok did not exist. She and her family did not have any famous or important friends to help make her famous. It was her character, her passion and her self-belief that convinced others to believe in her and support her campaign. Word of mouth did the rest. Whether she was a strategic genius, inspired by God, or just lucky, her fame spread because people simply started talking to each other. The rich, the poor, the French and the English; the military commanders and the church leaders, they were all talking about her.

Joan: Saint or Sinner?

This is the earliest drawing we have of Joan of Arc. It is in the protocol of the parliament of Paris (1429). It was drawn by Clément de Fauquembergue, but we don’t think that he ever actually saw Joan herself. © French National Archives

Joan succeeded in putting King Charles VII on the French throne, but shortly after she was captured by the English. King Charles made no attempt to help her. Joan was finally tried with the English finding her guilty of being a witch, of not believing in God and of dressing like a man. On the morning of 30th May 1431 Joan was burned at the stake.

However that was not the end of her story. After her death her fame only grew. 20 years later King Charles VII ordered a retrial for Joan. This time they decided she was innocent- not much help to Joan, of course. Joan became a hero of revolutionary France in the 1700s and 1800s. In 1920 the Catholic Church made her a Saint.

Fun Fact: Michael Morpurgo has written over 100 books, including ‘War Horse’, ‘Private Peaceful’ and ‘The Butterfly Lion’. He has also written a book called ‘Sparrow’ which is inspired by the life of Joan of Arc.

Joan’s Legacy

Poster of Joan of Arc in full armour and holding a sword. Poster is asking America women to buy war stamps to help with the war effort

Designed to inspire women to buy war stamps and save their country, this American poster shows just how inspiring Joan became.

Joan is not just a famous hero in France, she is known all over the world. Take America for example: During the Second World War, a poster was issued in America with Joan as its star. The poster was designed to ask women to donate money to the war effort. You can see it above. There is also a brand of beans in the USA and Canada named after her. Anyone for Joan of Arc chilli beans?

Her name and image have been used for lots of different things. Many of these have nothing to do with her life or the beliefs that made her famous. But it shows that Joan can be just as inspiring to people today as she was 600 years ago. Even if that is only to buy a tin of beans.

Trendsetter

Did you know that even Joan’s haircut became a fashion trend? According to the historical records, Joan cut her hair short. In 1909, Monsieur Antoine (one of Paris’ most popular hair stylists) started to cut his clients hair short, called a ‘bob’, inspired by Joan of Arc. This look really caught on in the 1920’s and it is still a popular style today.

Joan’s story shows just how much influence one person with belief and determination for a cause can have. These are the qualities of a true hero. Do you have belief in something? What do you think you could achieve?

Other fun things to do

Download the Joan of Arc Fun Activity Pack (pdf, 2 MB) to explore further the world and tactics of 15th century war. Watch the story telling to see how Joan went from average teenager to becoming a legend. Also, read our article all about other incredible warrior women from history. Finally, learn the British Sign Language for ‘blade’ and Makaton for ‘sword’ to help you tell the epic story to your friends and family.

Alternative communication formats

Please contact us if you require any of our downloadable documents in an alternative format.

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