Joan of Arc (1412-1431) was a poor peasant girl from Lorraine. One day, she had a vision in which three saints urged her to lead the French to victory over the English in the Hundred Years' War. She traveled to Charles VII's court and was appointed head of the French Army (headed to relieve the besieged city of Orleans) because her unlikely presence would inspire hope in the French forces. Upon arriving in Orleans, Joan launched several counterattacks against the English and broke the siege in only eight days. Then, she led a campaign to clear the English out of the Loire River Valley, eventually liberating the city of Reims.
During a later skirmish, Joan was captured and tried for heresy. She was found guilty and burned at the stake. Later, she was exonerated and made a saint. She has served a symbol of French nationalism and feminist pride ever since.
For more information, read:. Joan of Arc: Her Story by Regine Peroud Joan of Arc: A Military Appreciation by Stephen Richey