Joan of Arc – her beginnings
As a child Joan of Arc’s local community knew her by the name, “Jeannette.” That later became what we know in English today as “Joan” after she left her small village on the borderlands of the Holy Roman Empire and ventured on her mission into what was left of France during that period of the Hundred Years War between England and France.
Joan was born in Domrémy, which essentially was one community with Greux, and it was the latter that held the principle community church.
Joan was born on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1412 to Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle R0mée and baptized in the church of Domrémy by a priest she recalled years later and to the best of her ability as Jean Minet. Joan had many godparents based on what she remembered her mother saying, and by her own recollection named an Agnes, another “Jeanne” (Joan in English), and a Sibille as godmothers, along with a Jean Lingue and Jean Barre as godfathers.
Mother Isabelle taught Joan her Catholic faith, particularly the Pater Noster (Our Father), the Ave Maria (Hail Mary), and the Credo (Creed). From a work and chore standpoint, Joan boasted mischievously of her ability to out-sew and out-spin any of the ladies in the region. She confessed her sins often, if not to her parish priest, to any who could hear them, notably to the begging friars in the nearby town of Neufchâteau. She received the sacrament of the Eucharist at a minimum every Easter.
Joan’s account of her own beginnings are fully confirmed by the testimonies of many who knew her as a child, for example, Jean Moreau, a farmer at Greux and one of Joan’s godfathers, along with Simon Musnier, Mengette (Marguerite), and Hauviette who were playmates, just to name a few.
These many eye witness accounts of Joan’s early years reveal a very normal life, though in very unsettling times, and a most pious and devoted spirit. Joan gave alms to the poor, cared for the sick, and worked very hard at her chores, including taking care of the livestock, all the while maintaining a very pleasing demeanor. Her priest spoke of her to others, at the time he knew her (and not simply in reflection many years later), as the best and most devoted Catholic he had. She would visit often the nearby hermitage of Our Lady of Bermont, founded in honor of the Blessed Virgin, with candles or flowers. Other accounts point to her being so pious and observant that the other children sometimes made fun of her.
Joan of Arc was raised a good, hard-working girl and a pious, devoted Catholic.
Source: Joan of Arc – By herself and her witnesses, Régine Pernoud, pp. 15-20
Conditions were not ideal in Domrémy while Joan was a youth. Of course, the Hundred Years War made the situation appalling at times. Of notable importance is the fact that France was at war with herself during this period. Due to a feud between the Prince of Burgundy and the “dauphin” (heir apparent to the Kingship of France) Charles the VII, the Burgundians sided with the English to deny Charles the French crown and create a “double crown” for the King of England. The Anglo-Burgundian alliance made significant headway against Charles VII and his beleaguered Armagnac army (named for the region that rallied to defend the dauphin). Domrémy was one of the few towns in the region to hold out for Charles. One notable exception was Vaucouleurs. Another was Neufchâteau.
Domrémy was almost exclusively sided with the dauphin and opposed to the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. Joan said that she knew “only one Burgundian there, and I could have wished his head cut off – however, only if it pleased God.” Nearby Maxey was Burgundian. Whereas Joan had no recollection of the children fighting, she did remember adult villagers from Domrémy going out to fight the Burgundians of Maxey and coming home wounded and bleeding.
Despite the neighborly ill-will caused by the civil war in France and the anxiety created by the English advances, Joan maintained a beautifully positive point of view. She expressed not that she wished to fight the Burgundians but that she “had a great will and desire that my King (Charles) have his kingdom.” Early in life, love for her King and his Kingdom drove Joan’s stern attitude toward the Burgundians as opposed to a hatred for her Burgundian enemy.
Though Joan could not remember well the degree to which she continued guarding the livestock after she grew older and attained the age of reason, she did remember taking on the responsibility to drive them away from Domrémy to a fortified place called the Isle for fear of “men-at-arms.” Once, in danger of Burgundian attacks, Joan stayed for about fifteen days in Neufchâteau with a highly regarded local woman named La Rousse. She did not stay longer as she preferred Domrémy.
Fear of Burgundian men-at-arms clearly played havoc on the lives of the residents of Domrémy, Joan included. Joan would have much more serious reasons to fear Burgundians years later, but for now, she and her playmates would find ways to enjoy themselves as any children will.
Source: Joan of Arc – By herself and her witnesses, Régine Pernoud, pp. 20-21