|Sculpture of Jeanne d'Arc in Eglise Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc, Rouen, erected near the site where the young woman was burned alive.|
January 6 is the 600th anniversary of the birth of the young French martyr, Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc). In the 15th century the teenager led French armies against the English in the One Hundred Years War, liberating Orléans in 1429 and enabling Charles VII to be crowned king of France. She was later captured, turned over to the English, then burned at the stake in 1431 following a trial for heresy.
The French national heroine has been appropriated, so to speak, as a symbol of the extreme right political party, le Front National. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, however, today in giving hommage to the "Maid of Orléans" pointedly declared that "Jeanne n'appartient à aucun parti, à aucun clan." (Joan belongs to no party, to no clan.)
American author and humorist Mark Twain, was fascinated by her life and spent twelve years researching his biography of her, producing what he himself considered to be his most important work: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. (The rest of the world doesn't necessarily agree.) It's preface by Louis Kossuth, 19th century Hungarian revolutionary and statesman, bears repeating:
"Consider this unique and imposing distinction. Since the writing of human history began, Joan of Arc is the only person, of either sex, who has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a nation at the age of seventeen."
©2012 P.B. Lecron