Synopsis: A young girl goes to war and wins
the hearts and minds of France. Her life and death create
a cautionary tale for insurrectionists and investors.
Jeannette?!” The motherly tone of exasperation rattled off the wood beams of the farmhouse overhead and the woman scowled.
“Jeannette de Romée, where are you girl?” She was becoming rather annoyed with her teenage daughter who had taken to daydreaming and ignoring her chores. They lived in rural France and on the edge of poverty, making all chores important. Her two brothers were beginning to grumble about not doing her share. If the girl were lucky her father wouldn’t find out.
Through the window now, she could see her gliding out of the dusty courtyard and into the lane toward town. The mother, her name was Isabelle, followed, catching her as she rounded the hedge. But as Jeanette turned, the look in her eye brought her mother up short.
“What is it child?” The mother felt gooseflesh ripple across her bare arms though it was a warm spring day.
Her daughter’s eyes looked vacant, staring at her as if she didn’t know her. And yet, she said, “They call me mother. And I must go.”
“Who calls you? And where are you going?” Isabelle was a deeply religious woman. Indeed, a family name like Romée likely indicates one of her ancestors had journeyed as far as Rome on a religious pilgrimage. Something about the look in her young daughter’s eye made her make the sign of the cross.
Jeanette smiled at the gesture. “The Saints have called me to war. I must go find Charles.” In the beginning the voices in her head had urged her to be virtuous, live piously and to remain a devout Catholic. In a family such as hers, this wasn’t that difficult. But now the voices, she believed them to be those of angels or Saints, had became more specific and more dangerous in their directions.
The Anglicized version of Jeannette is Joan, but you’ve probably never heard of Joan de Romée either. In her home town it was common for female children to take their mother’s surnames. She never went by her father’s surname d’Arc.
Joan found Charles of Valois, gave him information that supposedly only he could know to prove she was sent by God and with no military training convinced the crown prince to allow her to lead a French army against the besieged city of Orleans. On May 8th, 1429 troops led by the peasant girl in white armor defeated the English and raised the siege, shifting the balance of power in the Hundred Years War in favor of the French defenders.
Unfortunately, some in the French court wondered if this teenage girl who dressed like a man was becoming too popular with the peasantry and too powerful in France. In defense of the town of Compiegne, the warrior teen was thrown from her horse outside the city gates and captured by the pro-English Burgundians. No attempt was made at securing her release. More than seventy charges including witchcraft, heresy and dressing as a man were brought against her. After a year in captivity, she signed a confession and was allowed to live, but reneged on the deal when the voices returned. Her judges found her again dressing like a man and to the stake she went. Twenty years after her death, Charles demanded a new trial where Joan was found innocent. Better late than never, unless you were a nineteen-year girl who wasn’t fire resistant.
Here are three lessons from Joan that investors can use to keep their plans from going up in flames:
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