12 Surprising Facts Most People Don't Know About Joan of Arc

Jeanne d'Arc - Joan of Arc, to English speakers - was a woman ahead of her time. Although she only lived for 19 years in the early 15th century, she made her mark on history. In an era when women were considered second-class citizens, Joan led an army and inspired a country. These surprising Joan of Arc facts will give you new insight into the young peasant who rallied French troops in massive victories against the English during the Hundred Years' War and helped establish Charles VII as the king of France.

One of the most badass historical women, Joan rode into battle and drove fear into the hearts of her enemies, all while sustaining multiple near-fatal injuries. She tirelessly fought for her God and her country, and although she helped restore faith in France, she was tried by the Catholic church and burned at the stake before she turned twenty. Like many other saints, Joan of Arc's true legacy was decided after her death as stories about her grew into legends. Heretic or heroine, Joan of Arc was fiercely passionate and just straight up fierce.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

  • Her Name Wasn’t Joan And She Wasn’t From Arc

    Her Name Wasn’t Joan And She Wasn’t From Arc
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    Joan referred to herself as "Jehanne," which was translated to "Joan" by the English. As for the misconception that she came from a place called "Arc," that's another error of translation - she was actually from the French village Domrémy. The confusion about her name came from her father’s surname, d’Arc. Joan’s preferred moniker for herself was Jehanne la Pucelle, which translated to "Joan the Maiden."

  • She Chose Not To Engage In Combat

    She Chose Not To Engage In Combat
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    While Joan of Arc led the French army to victory during the Hundred Years’ War, she didn’t engage in combat herself. Her role was more that of a military strategist and a rallying figure for her troops. Joan's weapon of choice was her banner, and she chose to carry that into battle instead of a weapon.

    Joan is quoted as saying, "I loved my banner forty times better than my sword. And when I went against my enemy, I carried my banner myself, lest I kill any. I have never killed a man."

  • She Bossed Around Knights

    She Bossed Around Knights
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    Like many teenagers, Joan had a pretty vicious temper. She would yell at knights who swore, skipped mass, or misbehaved. Although Joan didn’t use her swords in combat, she did use them to chase off prostitutes who were traveling with her army, hitting them with flat side of her blades. During her trial she said her swords were “excellent for giving hard clouts and buffets.”

  • She Might Have Had Epilepsy

    She Might Have Had Epilepsy
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    Joan began to hear voices and have visions around the age of 13 - the same voices that would eventually tell her to lead the French army against the English and help establish Charles VII as France’s king. During her trial, she said that when the voices spoke to her she would often see bright lights. Joan also said that the voices would become clearer whenever bells were ringing in the background.

    Based on these symptoms, some medical experts believe she could have suffered from epilepsy - which studies have shown can cause auditory hallucinations - or some other neurological disorder.

  • She Survived Several Near-Fatal Injuries

    She Survived Several Near-Fatal Injuries
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    Joan suffered many injuries. She reportedly fell from a siege ladder and once had a heavy rock thrown at her head - luckily, her helmet blocked the blow. During the storming of the fort of Les Tourelles, Joan was struck in the chest with an arrow. She applied some salve on the wound, and continued to lead her men in battle, which terrified the English.

    It’s difficult to tell whether these accounts were exaggerated, but they were effective tools for intimidating the enemy.

  • She Found Her Sword Thanks To Her Voices

    She Found Her Sword Thanks To Her Voices
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    Joan’s voices told her she could find one of her four swords at the church of Saint Catherine of Fierbois, behind the church’s altar. She wrote to one of the bishops of the church and asked if they could unearth the sword and send it to her. The bishops found the rust covered sword, cleaned it up, and sent it to Joan.