This photo shows my daughter’s Essentials group in costume. The kids dressed as the historical figures they wrote about in their final papers. From left to right we have Leif Ericson, Eric the Red, Eleanor of Aquitaine, two Joan of Arcs (my daughter is the one in armor), Johannes Gutenberg, Richard the Lionheart, Kubla Kahn, Genghis Kahn and Queen Elizabeth.
The kids in my daughter’s Essentials group took turns reading their papers to one another yesterday. They also had medieval games (including jousting with pool noodles) and medieval foods such as meat pies and roasted yams.
I thought I would share my daughter’s essay below so family and friends and anyone else who is curious can read it. My nine year old wrote this by herself. I typed everything as she spoke out the words using her keyword outline for reference. I am very proud of what my daughter has accomplished this year in Essentials. She is gifted, but she could not have done so well without the structure provided by The Institute for Excellence in Writing, the writing program used in Essentials.
Joan of Arc
England and France were at war, a war that we now call the Hundred Years War. The reason for the war was the fact that Henry V, the king of England, had a grandmother who was a French princess. He thought that he should inherit the French land that his grandmother had owned. So Henry asked the king of France, Charles VI, if he could have the land his grandmother had owned and Charles VI’s daughter Cathryn’s hand in marriage. Charles VI did not want to hand over the land or his daughter because if Henry V married his daughter, Henry V’s descendents would become kings of France. Henry V was angered by this and declared war on France. As the war went on, Charles VI went mad. His queen, Isabella, decided that she wanted the king to sign a treaty that said “Yes” to Henry V’s demands. Since the king was mad, he signed the treaty for Isabella. So Henry got the land his grandmother had owned and Cathryn as his wife. Cathryn and Henry V had a little boy Henry VI. After Charles the VI and Henry V died, the Dauphin, the French prince, decided he wanted to become king of France even though Henry VI was the one who was supposed to become king according to the treaty Queen Isabella had forced the mad Charles VI to sign. Some of France wanted Henry VI to be the king of France. These people were called Burgundians since they were led by the Duke of Burgundy. But the rest of France was loyal to the Dauphin.
It was into this time that Joan of Arc was born. She lived in the town of Domremy, which was a village in French territory, cut off from the rest of France by Burgundian territory on one side and the Holy Roman Empire on the other. Since Domremy was cut off from the rest of France, it had no protection from Burgundian soldiers. Whenever their village was threatened, the villagers had to run to a different town. When they came back, their village was usually burned down to the ground, so they constantly had to rebuild their town and their lives.
When Joan was very young, she started having visions of Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Margaret, and Saint Kathryn. There were statues of Saint Margaret and Saint Kathryn in her village, so she recognized them quickly. The visions started telling her that she must lead the Dauphin and an army to Chinon and eventually to Reims so that the Dauphin could be crowned. Around this time, her father had a dream that she would run off with soldiers and join the army. He told her two older brothers that they could drown her if she ever tried to do such a thing. But later, when he wasn’t so angry, he decided that if Joan married, she wouldn’t be able to run off with soldiers. But she had secretly made a vow never to marry and she stuck to her vow even when a man took her to court for breaking the promised arrangement her father had made without her consent.
Even though her father forbade her from running off with soldiers, Joan defied him and went to a nearby town to ask its governor for a military escort through Burgundian land to get to the Dauphin. The governor refused, but he became convinced that Joan was sent from God when she was able to tell him about a battle that the French were losing three days before anyone should have known about it. He agreed to give her a military escort to Chinon. Joan would be traveling through enemy territory, so she dressed as a man and cut her hair. A local knight gave her a horse and a sword. After traveling for a few weeks, they arrived in a little French town called Fierbois from where she sent a letter to the Dauphin saying she wanted an interview. While the letter was being sent, she went to a little chapel and prayed. A messenger came back after the prince had read her letter and he said that the prince would see her. She traveled on to Chinon to see the Dauphin. As she arrived at the castle, she was mocked by one of the guards. Joan quickly snapped back, “Do not mock God so near your death.” As the story goes, not more than an hour later, the same guard fell into the moat and drown. You can guess how fast this story spread around Chinon and it made people believe in Joan even more.
The Dauphin heard this story and immediately let Joan have an interview with him as she requested in her letter. But before Joan came in, the Dauphin gave his rich royal robes to a man in the crowd and told the man to sit on his throne. The Dauphin dressed himself in regular clothing and hid among the crowd as a test to see if Joan was really sent by God. When Joan came into the room, she ignored the man on the throne and found the Dauphin in the crowd and knelled before him. The Dauphin was impressed with Joan, but he was a cautious man and he wanted to make sure that the spirit working with her was from God, so he sent Joan to a church where nuns and priests questioned her about the Bible. Eventually, the church leaders told the king they found nothing but good in her.
Now that she had been proved holy, the Dauphin raised an army and with Joan leading the charge, they drove the Burgundians and English back so they could make their way to Reims. As long as Joan was in the battles, the French were victorious. Her presence was so stirring among the French forces that it led the English to believe she was a witch. Eventually, Joan and the Dauphin arrived in Reims and the prince was crowned immediately, becoming Charles VII, King of France. As a reward for Joan’s service, her family was raised to the nobility and her village, Domremy, did not have to pay taxes ever again.
The Burgundian and English forces who were occupying Paris were still a threat to Charles VII. Joan wanted to attack the king’s enemies immediately, but Charles thought that he could get the Duke of Burgundy away from his English allies. Charles asked the Duke of Burgundy if he would sign a peace treaty. For fifteen days, neither side would fight and on the sixteenth day, as a sign of his loyalty, the Duke of Burgundy would hand over Paris. But the Duke of Burgundy was not planning to sign the treaty. He was just stalling for more time. He knew that thirty-five hundred soldiers had crossed the English Channel and were marching down to reinforce his position in Paris. Charles VII decided to attack Paris, but then he changed his mind and decided to retreat. Charles spent the next six months hoping the Duke would switch sides. He gave back some of the French towns that he had taken from the Duke of Burgundy, including the town of Compiegne. But the people who lived in Compiegne refused to hand over their city, so the Burgundian troops put the city under siege. Joan thought that Charles VII was wrong, so she went with a small band of volunteer soldiers to the city to help. They attacked the Burgundian encampment surrounding the city. Seemingly taken by surprise, the Burgundian and English ran for cover. Joan and her soldiers chased them, but once they were away from the city, they found themselves in an ambush and were attacked on both sides. Joan and the volunteer soldiers spun around and starting riding back to the city, being chased by their enemies. The governor of Compiegne tried to keep the gates of the city open long enough everyone to get in, but Joan was covering the other soldiers’ retreat, so the gates closed before she got in. Joan was surrounded and captured by the English and Burgundian forces.
The Duke of Burgundy kept her in prison until he accepted a huge ransom from the English king and released her into the hands of France’s brutal enemies. Charles VII never tried to come to Joan’s aid. Joan was tried for witchcraft in an English church court. No one was allowed to speak for her defense, so she was found guilty even though there was almost no evidence against her. She was burned at the stake. Even several of the English people who witnessed her trial and death were convinced that they had done something terribly wrong. The chief prosecutor said he feared the wrath of God over what he had done. An English man in the crowd exclaimed, “We are doomed for we have burned a saint!”
Twenty-five years after her death, Charles VII asked the Catholic church if they would consider the case against Joan. The church found that she was in an unfair trial and they declared her innocent of all the she was accused of. Later, five hundred years later, the Catholic church made Joan of Arc a saint. The Hundred Years War lasted one hundred years, not two hundred or three hundred, because of Joan of Arc. She helped restore the French kingdom and crown to Charles VII and his French descendents once and for all.
Bauer, Susan Wise. The Story of the World: The Middle Ages U.S.A., Peace Hill Press, 2003. Print.
Stanley, Diane. Joan of Arc Hong Kong: Harper Collins, 2002. Print.