Born a peasant in Champagne around January 1412 AD, Jeanne – later known as la Pucelle (the Maid) – was illiterate and unlearned … although she was quite skilled at spinning and sewing. And she was singularly pious, embarrassingly so. Around the age of 13, Jeanne became conscious that she was hearing the voices of angels – St. Michael, St. Margaret, St. Catherine, and others. Soon enough, these angels were telling Jeanne she was to drive the English out of France (the Hundred Years' War which had begun in 1337 was dragging on) and bring the Dauphin (later Charles VII) to Reims (which was occupied by the English and their Burgundian allies) to be crowned the true king of France.
In May 1428, the 17-year-old girl convinced Robert de Baudricourt, French commander at Vaucouleurs, to take her to Chinon, where Charles’ court was in residence. Persuading the non-too-bright Dauphin to allow her to accompany the French troops attempting to raise the English siege of Orléans, in a series of battles she inspired them to a stunning victory. Although he hesitated to make the commitment, Charles finally entered Reims accompanied by Jeanne and was crowned King of France in July 1429.
The following spring, King Charles ordered Jeanne to Compiégne to defeat the Burgundians, but during the battle she was thrown from her horse and captured. In the months that followed, the Burgundians got 10,000 francs in ransom, the English executed her as a heretic, and the French had a new patron saint.