France's leading lady - news article.docx - Frances Leading Lady By Amy Crawford smithsonian.com www.smithsonianmag.com Nearly 600 years after she was

France's leading lady - news article.docx - Frances Leading...

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France’s Leading Lady By Amy Crawford smithsonian.com May 31, 2007 Nearly 600 years after she was burned at the stake, Joan of Arc is still making headlines. This past April, forensic scientists at Raymond Poincaré Hospital in Garches, France, announced in the journal Nature that relics supposedly found beneath her pyre are a forgery. The remains, which included a human rib, were never burned, and instead show evidence of embalming. Using carbon-14 analysis, the researchers dated the fragments to between the third and sixth centuries B.C. They concluded that the relics were taken from an Egyptian mummy, a component, in powdered form, of some medieval pharmaceuticals. Found in the attic of a Paris apothecary in 1867, the manufactured relics date to a time when history was rediscovering Joan of Arc, and they were probably created to add to the mystique of the French martyr. The scheme may have been effective, since shortly afterward, in 1869, the Catholic Church took the first step toward Joan’s 1920 canonization as a saint. The Church, which in 1909 had recognized the relics as likely genuine, accepted the 2007 study’s findings. But though this tantalizing fragment of Joan of Arc has been proven a fake, her legend carries on. Much of what we know about Joan of Arc comes from the transcript of her 1431 trial for heresy—an inquisition that resulted not only in her execution but also assured her immortality as a French heroine
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and Catholic martyr. In 1455, additional testimony from a posthumous retrial (requested by King Charles VII and Joan’s elderly mother, and authorized by Pope Calixtus III) restored Joan’s reputation and fleshed out her story. Thanks to these records, Joan’s narrative is remarkably complete. Born into a farming family in Domrémy, in northeastern France, probably in 1412, Joan lived the average life of a peasant girl. (It is a common misconception that Joan came from a place called “Arc,” but “d’Arc,” which translates into English as “of Arc,” was only a surname.) “I worked at common tasks about the house,” Joan said of her childhood. “I learned to sew and spin .... I learned my faith, and was rightly and duly taught to do as a good child should.” Meanwhile, France had been at war with England on and off since 1337. The conflict, now known as the Hundred Years’ War, stemmed from English King Edward III’s attempt to claim the French throne. By the 15th century, the English occupied much of France, and with
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