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The History Makers: Joan of Arc

Alice Barnes-Brown reveals how a peasant girl who ran away with the army became a martyr of the Hundred Years’ War
FRENCH SAINT Joan’s famous white standard was adorned with lilies, a flower traditionally associated with the French monarchy for whom she was fighting

As the young peasant, Jeanne d’Arc, was led up to the place where she was to be burned at the stake, she cried to the heavens, pleading for God’s good grace. Her crime? Technically, it was the ‘heretical’ offence of cross-dressing, but she had been a marked woman for a while. After all, a woman who humiliated the almighty English during the Hundred Years’ War could not be let off easily.

The daughter of a farmer, Joan spent her childhood in the countryside tending to the animals
ALAMY X2, GETTY X2

Ten thousand people had converged on the marketplace of Rouen – part of Normandy, which at the time was under English control – to watch the ordeal unfold. Jeanne’s (or Joan’s) only comfort in these agonising final moments was a Dominican priest, who had been instructed to hold his crucifix high so that she could see it from the flames – which by now were scorching her lower body.

Joan was granted an audience with the King – but she would have to wear men’s clothing en route for her own safety
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About History Revealed

When we began thinking of how best to celebrate our 50th issue, we thought it would be great to look at the turning points in history, to pick which decisions had the greatest impact on the world. But as we started to come up with a list of key moments, it soon became clear that this was a herculean task; we were going to need some help. A few phone calls and emails later, we had assembled a panel of experts including some of the most respected and popular historians, writers and broadcasters in the land. We quickly realised it’s not possible to define the single biggest decision in history – how could anyone? – but the variety of responses we had illustrated the vast richness of history. So, from Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, to Decca Records choosing to pass on the Beatles, we present 50 decisions that, for better or worse, have shaped our world. Before I let you go, I’d like to thank all of our readers most sincerely for your support since we launched – here’s to the next 50 issues!