JOAN OF ARC
Moving from Spanish culture, history and walking, to a French one, I have always been interested in strong women, from when I was very young. Jeanne d’ Arc was one. Eva Peron another, and much later the reporter Kate Adie who met the tyrant Colonel Gaddaffi of Libya several times. Despite being tall, blonde and good looking, she was never accosted by the Arabs, as they had the habit of doing to European women. Having lived in Libya for a number of years, I knew all about that! I lived in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, for a couple of years (2016 to 2018), the link there is the landing of the French at Carrickfergus, depicted in Charles McConnell’s wonderful book, “The Landing of the French” (ISBN Then I discovered the book “Carrickfergus to Carcasonne” (ISBN)… a medieval book…..I love links!
At the age of 14, I wrote a project about Joan of Arc, and when I was around 21 years old, followed the route of her battles with my then boyfriend on a great trip hitchhiking across France. In August 2018 I found that there were Jeanne de Arc schools all over the south of France, and probably other places and of course a Jeanne d’ Arc chapel in Lourdes. My lack of understanding of the French language prevented me from exploring them, so now I have started to learn the language in preparation of making a further trip to France in 2019, not only revising my knowledge of Joan of Arc but also looking at the wonderland of the French environment. I started in August 2018 by starting to draw trees around Monfaucon, two hours south of Toulouse. Whether the trees were dead or alive, it didn’t matter. As in Ireland, there are some wonderful trees. The food of the earth. I appreciate trees more these days, having lived in the far north of Scotland where there were few of these wonderful living beings. I am currently reading “The Secret of Trees” by Colin Tudge. There are some magnificent lines in the book such as “I met a yew in a churchyard in Scotland” like the tree is a person which of course it is.
I digress. The purpose of this article is history and environment linked through Joan of Arc. There is a great disrespect for the environment going on in Scotland at the moment with two environmental disasters waiting to happen, as outlined by the Reverend Elizabeth Cairns in her piece about the earth being God’s creation and we should respect it. As a shepherdess, Joan of Arc did respect the earth, and there is a wonderful film about her childhood I went to see earlier in the year about her struggle not to go to war and follow her destiny. She was called by God, so in the end succumbed.
A section of the project I wrote as a 14 year old about Joan of Arc is reproduced here. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, having being delighted to find it again. The language of course is that of a 14 year old, but I am struck by the depth of research I did as a child.
The French-English war really took effect after the death of Philippe Vis last son died and there was no direct heir to the throne of France. The question arose who was to reign. From the possibilities, two particular figures arose:
Each one said that the throng was rightfully his. It all depended on the Salic Law which excluded the succession to a throne passing through women. This law was strictly observed in France and th French had no qualms about disregarding Edward III, which could not be valid because his mother was of Royal descent. They proclaimed Philippe de Valois because of his father.
The Salic Law, however, did not obtain in England. The English, holding that a grandson takes precedence over a nephew, prepared to fight for their contention. They were goaded into attack in 1337, after the French had the cheek to send aid to the Scots who were making a bid for independence.
(Even in 1337 the Scots were making a bid for independence from the United Kingdom)
The Armagnac-Burgundian feud took on real historical significance only because it became part of a vaster conflict, the 100 years war. They were integrated into the Anglo-French conflict. The Hundred Years was means that for a hundred years the Kings of England attempted to unite France and England under one crown; their own. They tried hereditary justification, and they tried the force of arms. Neither was successful, although there was a certain amount of bloodshed and considerable suffering. All to no avail. The Hundred Years’ War was one of the most foolish and ill advised wars ever undertaken.
So, trees, France and Spain interconnected, as they have done throughout the ages. The attempt by the Spanish to invade England through the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the ensuing sweeping storm which swept the Armada to its fate of the Irish and Scottish coasts. Hence my project LetsGoNorth meets LetsGoSouth which was commenced in 2014, has now been brought to France, to a beautiful village called Monfaucon. You can read more about these exploits in our magazine, The Explorer which was published in …. but which is no less valid today. This also fits nicely with the proposed art walk in Competa, Spain There are of course, lots of wonderful old olive trees in Spain. Much of Spain was denuded though, as all these years later the effects of harvesting the timber to build the Armada has taken its toll in certain areas. Trees, after all can live for thousands of years. I recommend reading the “Secret Life of Trees” It is a tonic to the soul.
You can see some of my environmental work at www.thewriteway.blog.