Writer’s Deep Dive: The Battle of Agincourt

If you’re writing a battle scene for your book, it pays to study historical engagements. Learning the tactics and progression of actual battles can go a long way in making your fictional ones more realistic. Today I will cover a battle in which the underdog won.

Now, let’s dive in!

The Basics

The battle of Agincourt was fought in France as part of the Hundred Years’ War. The war was a dispute between France and England and lasted from 1337 to 1453. This was the same conflict in which Joan of Arc rose to prominence. If you would like to learn more about her, please read my Writer’s Deep Dive: Joan of Arc.

King Henry V of England invaded France with an army of 12,000 men on August 13th, 1415, to gain the French throne, which he claimed through his great-grandfather, Edward III of England. He besieged the port of Harfleur, but the city didn’t surrender until September 22nd, longer than he had expected. [1] The English army didn’t leave until October 8th. By that point, the campaign season was ending, and winter was approaching. The army had dwindled to 9,000 men between deaths in battle and disease. Henry marched his army through Normandy, the land he was claiming, to the English held port of Calais. [2] It was also an insult to the dauphin, who had ignored his challenge to personal combat at Harfleur. [3] The French army failed to prevent the English from crossing the River Somme and shadowed them while they waited for reinforcements. Finally, Henry forced a fight before more French forces could arrive. [4]

The English route from Harfleur toward Calais. Image source.

The armies faced each other on a narrow field between two stands of woods near the village of Agincourt. It had heavily rained the day before and the ground was newly plowed. [5]

The battlefield of Agincourt. Image source.

Henry was at a disadvantage. His army numbered between 6,000 and 8,100 men, 80% of which were archers. Bowmen were not effective at close-range fighting and were more lightly armored than men-at-arms or knights. Most were lower or middle class. As well, they were battling hunger and dysentery.

The French numbered between 15,000 to 25,000 men, including 10,000 knights. [6] They were better equipped and better rested than the English.

The battle began, after a delay, as the French waited for reinforcements, with a charge by the French cavalry. The English archers began firing arching volleys of what a French monk of Saint Denis called “a terrifying hail of arrow shot.” A skilled archer during this period could fire twelve arrows in a minute, meaning that the roughly 6,000 English archers were firing 72,000 arrows a minute!

Most of the French knights wore plate armor, and the main body pieces, such as the breastplate, were practically impervious to arrows. An archer would have to penetrate the limb armor or find a gap such as the eye slit to damage the knight. The knights’ horses, however, were much less armored and many were hit with arrow fire, which caused them to spook, throw their riders, and run into each other. [7] The charge also churned up the already boggy ground. As well, the French didn’t realize that the field narrowed approaching the English line, forcing the knights into each other, and causing what we now call a “crowd disaster.”

A 15th century miniature of the battle of Agincourt. Image source.

Very few French knights reached the English line while still on their horses. Most were thrown by an injured mount or had their horse shot out from underneath them. They had to slog their way through the mud, keeping their heads down to protect from arrows while walking around or over fallen comrades and in danger from being run over by a panicked horse. [8] Many went down in the mud and could not get up again, and there are accounts of knights drowning in their helmets. [9] The weight of their protective plate mail caused the French knights to be exhausted by the time they reached the English lines, and they were being pressed from behind their comrades. [10] The archers, who had kept up a steady rate of fire, were now loosing at point-blank range. The English men-at-arms fought them in melee combat. The archers joined with their axes, knives, and mallets when they exhausted their supply of arrows and moved much easier through the mud in their lighter armor. Thousands of Frenchmen were killed or taken prisoner.

The bloody muddy battlefield of Agincourt. Artwork by Donato Giancola. Image source.

The only French victory was an attack on the English baggage train. Henry ordered the execution of the French prisoners, fearing it was a counterattack that put them in real danger. Eventually, it was driven off. [11]

The French defeat was catastrophic, with roughly 6,000 men killed. This included many political and military leaders, among them three dukes, nine counts, an archbishop, France’s constable, an admiral, the Master of Crossbowmen, the Master of the Royal Household, and 3,069 knights and squires. [12] There were noble families that had their male line wiped out, bringing an end to their house. [13] The English, however, suffered only 600 dead.

The Write Angle

The battle of Agincourt shows how an outnumbered and disadvantaged force can still triumph. The English choose the battlefield wisely, using the terrain to their advantage. The most brilliant part of their choice was that the French didn’t realize how much the battlefield put them at a disadvantage and literally charged into a trap.

The other advantage the English had was the longbow, a formidable weapon that allowed them to cause a large amount of damage to the French before they even got close. There was a law in England that required all men between the ages of 15 and 60 to own a bow and practice for two hours every Sunday. England had a large pool of skilled archers to call upon in times of war.

Henry V was not afraid to make the hard calls, including those that went against the chivalric expectations of his time. There are accounts that several men resisted his orders, and he had to threaten them with hanging.

The English, under the command of a shrewd tactician, could pull out an impossible victory against a larger force.


I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or by writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

If you want my blog delivered straight to your inbox every month along with exclusive content and giveaways, please sign up for my email list here.

Let’s get writing!

Copyright © 2022 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] "Guardian newspaper:French correction: Henry V's Agincourt fleet was half as big, historian claims, 28 July 2015".
[2] Hibbert, Christopher (1971). Great Battles – Agincourt. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-1-84212-718-6.
[3] Barker, Juliet (2015) [2005]. Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle [US title: Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England] (revised and updated ed.). London: Abacus. ISBN 978-0-349-11918-2.
[4] Mortimer, Ian (2009). 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory. London: The Bodley Head. ISBN 978-0-224-07992-1.
[5] Wason, David (2004). Battlefield Detectives. London: Carlton Books. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-233-05083-6.
[6] Rogers, C.J. (2008). "The Battle of Agincourt". In L.J. Andrew Villalon & Donald J. Kagay (eds.). The Hundred Years War (Part II): Different Vistas (PDF). Leiden: Brill (published 29 August 2008). pp. 37–132. ISBN 978-90-04-16821-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 August 2019.
[7] Barker, Juliet (2015) [2005]. Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle [US title: Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England] (revised and updated ed.). London: Abacus. ISBN 978-0-349-11918-2.
[8] Barker, Juliet (2015) [2005]. Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle [US title: Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England] (revised and updated ed.). London: Abacus. ISBN 978-0-349-11918-2.
[9] Barker, Juliet (2015) [2005]. Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle [US title: Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England] (revised and updated ed.). London: Abacus. ISBN 978-0-349-11918-2.
[10] Curry, Anne (2000). The Battle of Agincourt: Sources and Interpretations. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-802-0.
[11] Curry, Anne (2006) [2005]. Agincourt: A New History. UK: Tempus. ISBN 978-0-7524-2828-4.
[12] Curry, Anne (2000). The Battle of Agincourt: Sources and Interpretations. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-802-0.
[13] Sumption, Jonathan (2015). The Hundred Years War IV: Cursed Kings. London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-27454-3.

The Writer’s Guide to Medieval Armies

When you ask a reader for their favorite scene in a book it is often a battle. From the despair and deliverance of Helm’s Deep to the brutality of the Battle of the Blackwater to the desperation of the Battle of Hogwarts, nothing has quite the power of a battle to get our hearts pounding and keep the pages turning.

War is common in the fantasy genre. It’s a great vehicle for drama and change, as well as providing excitement and tension. The stakes for your characters are never higher than when they are in battle. Yet to have a battle, you need an army. Medieval Europe and its bloody history are a great source of inspiration.

As always, magic is the exception to the rule. Because magic.

Average Size

Medieval armies were smaller than they are commonly depicted in movies, TV shows, books, and video games. There is a misconception that medieval armies numbered about 200,000 soldiers. Although some ancient armies were quite large, by the Middle Ages most armies were between 5,000 and 15,000 men. For example, at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French army numbered roughly 15,000 men while the English army had between 6,000 and 8,000 soldiers. [1]

A 15th century depiction of the battle of Agincourt. Image source.

Makeup of Forces

Just like modern armies, those in the Middle Ages had different types of soldiers that were utilized in different ways.

Infantry – Also known as foot soldiers or men-at-arms, infantry units were the backbone of most medieval armies and comprised most of their numbers. They would engage the enemy on foot. Heavy infantry had substantial armor while light infantry was more lightly armored and could move faster. Skirmishers were a type of light infantry that would engage ahead of the main force. Infantry units could be specialized in a weapon such as the Swiss pikemen.

Swiss pikemen. Image source.

Ranged – Ranged fighters included archers, crossbowmen, and later cannon crews and musketeers. They were often grouped together in formations to concentrate fire on the enemy. There were specialized fighters in this group as well, including the English longbowmen and the Genoese crossbowmen.

English longbowmen. Image source.

Cavalry – Cavalry fought from horseback. The most well-known members of medieval cavalry were knights. Just like infantry, there were light and heavy versions of cavalry. While they limited themselves to only using horses as mounts in medieval Europe, in other parts of the world they used other animals such as elephants and camels.

A medieval illustration of knights. Image source.

Sappers – Sappers were trained to take down enemy fortifications. I spoke about them in my Writer’s Guide to Besieging a Castle. They would use tunneling, explosives, or a combination of the two to destroy walls, letting their allies in.

Support Staff –Every army needs its noncombatant support staff. Collectively, they were known as the baggage train during the Middle Ages and included cooks, nurses, blacksmiths, farriers, clerks, laundresses, engineers, carters, and carpenters. Sometimes the families of soldiers would travel with the army in the baggage train.

To give you an idea of the numbers and breakdown of roles, below is the makeup of the English army at the Battle of Crecy in 1346, which numbered 15,250 men.

651 Knights

2,000 Squires/Men at arms

109 Mounted crossbowmen

556 Hobelars/archers

2,163 Mounted archers

4,740 Foot archers from the counties

2,290 Welsh foot archers

2,290 Welsh Spearmen

451 Gun crews, clerks, engineers, blacksmiths, carpenter etc.

That’s 7,030 Foot archers (including officers), 3,250 mounted archers (including officers and crossbowmen), 5,296 non-retinue archers, and 9,749 archers all together.

Here is the makeup of the French army at the battle of Agincourt:

2,000 Knights

4,000 Squires

4,000 Men at arms

2,000 Armed Valets

8,000 Valets

4,000 Archers

1,500 Crossbowmen


I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or by writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

If you want my blog delivered straight to your inbox every month along with exclusive content and giveaways, please sign up for my email list here.

Let’s get writing!

Copyright © 2022 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Rogers, C.J. (2008). "The Battle of Agincourt". In L.J. Andrew Villalon & Donald J. Kagay (eds.). The Hundred Years War (Part II): Different Vistas (PDF). Leiden: Brill (published 29 August 2008). pp. 37–132. ISBN 978-90-04-16821-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 August 2019.

Writer’s Deep Dive: The Black Hoffmann

Our third and final female warrior in this series is one that you have probably never heard of. Yet she played a small but vital role in a standoff of ideals in medieval Europe.

Now, let’s dive in!

The Basics

The life of a 16th century peasant was harsh, and this was especially true in Germany, which was then part have of the Holy Roman Empire. The Black Death had caused labor shortages in the second half of the 14th century that the peasants had leveraged into higher wages and higher prices for their products. [1] This had led to an improved standard of living and gains socially, economically, and legally. [2] Yet in the early 16th century, the nobility began cracking down. Lords took control of the common lands and had the right to use their peasants’ lands any way they wished. These restrictions meant peasants could no longer hunt, fish, or chop wood freely. They were also required to pay a tax to marry, and the lord helped himself to the best cattle, clothing, and tools after one of his peasants died. The justice system was also heavily weighted in favor of the nobility and clergy.

Then a voice began speaking out against the corruption of the clergy and the injustice imposed by the nobility. That voice belonged to Martin Luther, a Catholic priest and the leader of the Reformation in Germany that led to the rise of Protestantism. It all began when he nailed ninety-five theses or complaints against the Church to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517. [3] He began preaching that people didn’t need priests to act as intermediaries but could be saved by their own faith. This concept was a blow to the established hierarchy of the Church. But Luther didn’t stop there. Over time, he became more radical and began calling for the Church and all social hierarchy to be torn down. His views were cranked out in pamphlets on the new printing press and widely distributed. Discontent flared among the peasants, with many believing that Luther would support them if they attacked. [4]

A portrait of Martin Luther from 1529. Image source.

Revolts broke out in Franconia, Swabia, and Thuringia in 1524, then on February 16th ,1525, twenty-five villages in the city’s jurisdiction of Memmingen rebelled, demanding better treatment and less restriction. The German Peasants’ War had begun.

In April, a force of 5,000 peasants gathered in the village of Leipheim to assault the city of Ulm. They were challenged by Georg III Truchsess von Waldburg-Zeil, later given the name the Scourge of the Peasants. The peasant army forced him and his forces to retreat, but they took heavy losses.

Yet still their numbers swelled. It was at this critical point that two leaders emerged. The first was Jakob Rohrbach, better known as Jäcklein, which means “Little Jack.” He had a deep hatred for the nobility, fueled by the kidnapping, mistreatment, and rape of the village girl he loved.

Georg III Truchsess von Waldburg-Zeil. Image source.

Yet Jäcklein’s disgust paled compared to the savage hatred of the other leader, the Black Hoffmann. There is little we know about her, and her real name is lost to history. Hoffmann is a German title referring to the steward of property or a military commander. Said to be the bastard child of a gypsy woman, she had long black hair and usually wore a black hooded cloak and a red sash. She played an almost mystical role in the rebellion.

The Black Hoffmann rallying the troops.

With this leadership and the numbers of the peasant army swelling by the day, they assaulted the castle of Weinberg, capturing it and burning it down. [5] During the battle, the Black Hoffman stood on a nearby hill with outstretched arms, shouting, “Down with the dogs; strike them all dead! Fear nothing! I bless your weapons I, the black Hoffmann! Only strike! God wills it!” [7] The Count of Helfenstein, who was the Austrian Governor of Württemberg, was captured along with his wife, child, and several nobles and knights.

However, this was not enough for the Black Hoffmann. That night, she, Jäcklein, and their men dragged them from the mill where they had been imprisoned. She stabbed the count with her knife, killing him, and smeared his blood on the shoes and spears of the peasants. The nobles were forced to “run the gauntlet,” where the condemned passed between two rows of soldiers who struck him. [6]

The capture of Weinberg Castle was to be the last big victory for the peasants. The army splintered into separate bands that battled against several members of the Swabian League, an association of the Imperial Estates that defended its members and kept the peace. Ultimately, the better armed, better equipped, and better trained soldiers of the nobles, bolstered by a force of mercenary landsknechts, crushed the rebellion in June 1525. The nobles were merciless in their retribution. Many peasants were executed, including Jäcklein, who was burned to death. They also punished the families of the rebels, driving them from their homes and stealing their livestock and other goods. [8]

The execution of Jäcklein. Photo source.

Even the voice that had encouraged the rebellion with talk of the corruption of the clergy and the injustice of the nobility turned against them. In May 1525, Martin Luther wrote a pamphlet titled “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants.” In it, he said this: “Besides, any man against whom it can be proved that he is a maker of sedition is outside the law of God and Empire, so that the first who can slay him is doing right and well. For if a man is an open rebel, every man is his judge and executioner, just as when a fire starts, the first to put it out is the best man. For rebellion is not simple murder, but is like a great fire, which attacks and lays waste a whole land. Thus, rebellion brings with it a land full of murder and bloodshed, makes widows and orphans, and turns everything upside down, like the greatest disaster. Therefore, let everyone who can smite, slay and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you, and a whole land with you.” [9]

Yet there is no written account of the fate of the Black Hoffmann, despite detailed writings of the executions of the other leaders. I like to think she escaped punishment.

The Write Angle

The Black Hoffmann is like Boudica, rallying the common people against their oppressors. Yet unlike the queen, her downfall wasn’t hubris but disorganization. Each of the peasant bands had a different leader, and the rebellion never had clear leadership or direction. They were more of a mob than an army.

She also let her blind rage and hatred overcome whatever reason or caution she might have had. Her murder of a count and mistreatment of the countess, who was also the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, drew the wrath of the nobles and led to brutality against the rebels and their families.

Yet, she played a mystical role in the army, blessing their weapons and predicting their victories. She also urged them to fight with a clear and hateful certainty.


I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or by writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

If you want my blog delivered straight to your inbox every month along with exclusive content and giveaways, please sign up for my email list here.

Let’s get writing!

Copyright © 2022 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Zagorín, Pérez (1984). Rebels and rulers, 1500–1660. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 187, 188, 190. ISBN 978-0-521-28711-1.
[2] Zagorín, Pérez (1984). Rebels and rulers, 1500–1660. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 187, 188, 190. ISBN 978-0-521-28711-1.
[3] Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1950), p. 79.
[4] A.G. Dickens, The German Nation and Martin Luther, London: Edward Arnold, 1974, ISBN 0-7131-5700-3, 132–33. Dickens cites as an example of Luther's "liberal" phraseology: "Therefore I declare that neither pope nor bishop nor any other person has the right to impose a syllable of law upon a Christian man without his own consent".
[5] Miller, Douglas (2003). Armies of the German Peasants' War 1524–1526. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. pp. 4, 6–8, 10, 11, 13, 20, 21, 33–35.
[6] Miller, Douglas (2003). Armies of the German Peasants' War 1524–1526. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. pp. 4, 6–8, 10, 11, 13, 20, 21, 33–35.
[7] https://www.marxists.org/archive/bax/1899/peasants-war/ch04.htm
[8] Ernest Belfrt Bax, The Peasants’ War in Germany
[9] http://zimmer.csufresno.edu/~mariterel/against_the_robbing_and_murderin.htm

The Writer’s Guide to Women on the Battlefield

When you find historical mentions of women on the battlefield, it is usually in the role of nurse or support staff or as a grieving widow. On the rare occasion you find a female soldier, she is disguising her gender or relegated to a non-combat role, such as morale-booster or tactician.

As writers, especially those of us in the fantasy genre, we do not have to be confined by history. It does, however, help to make our writing realistic. So, could women fight effectively on the battlefield? Definitely.

I encourage you to read my Writer’s Guide to Women in Combat and my Writer’s Guide to Women in Single Combat.

As always, magic is the exception to the rule. Because magic.

Strength in Numbers

The biggest advantage that women have as part of an army is the strength of numbers. A smaller, weaker woman (or man, for that matter) is at less of a disadvantage when surrounded by the other members of her unit. This is especially true if there is strong unit cohesion, and the members work to protect each other.

The best situation would be units with a mix of men and women, as well as soldiers of varying strength, height, weight, reach, and skill. This way, the weakness of each soldier is balanced out by the strengths of their fellow soldiers.

However, even in an entirely female unit, the strength of numbers is still an advantage. Again, this is amplified by strong unit cohesion.

If your army is using weapons of any sophistication, the challenges facing your woman warrior are diminished even further. This is especially true if she has modern firearms, advanced futuristic weapons or powerful magic.

The Cumman na mBan, an all-female paramilitary organization that fought in Ireland’s War of Independence. Photo source.

Collaborative vs. Competitive

One of the big differences between the sexes is how they react to their teammates. Men are competitive and will push themselves to be better than the other soldiers in their unit. Women, however, are collaborative and will cheer on their teammates. It’s possible that this tendency could lead to stronger unit cohesion in an entirely female unit than an entirely male unit.

Advantages to Having Women in Your Army

There are some advantages to having women in your army. If your soldiers are interacting with the locals, especially women, your female fighters will be more successful at building relationships. This could result in alliances, intelligence, and recruitment. An example is the US Marines’ use of female Marines to search local women at checkpoints. [1] This prevented culture tension but still got the job done.

Women can also be extremely passionate when fighting for a cause, especially if it taps into their nurturing instincts. One of my favorite examples is Akashinga, an all-female unit of park rangers that protect the wildlife in Zimbabwe’s Phundundu Wildlife Park from poachers. These women are armed and trained in combat. Since October 2017, they have been involved in 72 arrests. [2] The name they picked for their unit means “the Brave Ones” in Shona.

The women of Akashinga training. Photo source.

I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or by writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

If you want my blog delivered straight to your inbox every month along with exclusive content and giveaways, please sign up for my email list here.

Let’s get writing!

Copyright © 2022 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Dr. Regina T. Akers (2009-03-19). "Women in the military: In and Out of Harm's Way". Dcmilitary.com. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
[2] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180926-akashinga-all-women-rangers-in-africa-fighting-poaching

Starting this week, I will be publishing blog articles every other Friday instead of weekly. I will be posting other content on the off weeks. I decided to make this change because last week I started plotting my second novel. Please stay tuned for more exciting news coming soon.

Writer’s Deep Dive: Joan of Arc

When you ask people for a list of famous women warriors, Joan of Arc is probably in the top five. She casts a long shadow over French history and the image of a woman leading an army into battle is a visceral one that has inspired many writers.

Now, let’s dive in!

The Basics

Joan of Arc, or Jeanne d’Arc in French, was born around 1412 in the village of Domrémy in the Lorraine region of France to Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle Romée. [1] Her family owned a farm and her father was a village official.

Joan’s birthplace in Domrémy. Photo source.

During this period, France was embroiled in the Hundred Year’s War with England, which had begun in 1337. [2] There was also a civil war between two French factions, Armagnacs and the Burgundians. The Burgundians allied with the English and between them conquered half of France. The leader of the Armagnacs and heir to the throne, Charles VII, was outnumbered and cut off. All four of his older brothers had been killed. [3] The war had a personal impact on Joan because the region around her village was raided by the Burgundians.

Around 1425, at thirteen, Joan received her first vision in her father’s garden. [4] Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint Margaret of Antioch appeared to her and instructed her to help the prince and get him crowned at Reimes.

In May 1428, she petitioned the garrison commander of the town of Vaucouleurs, Robert de Baudricourt, for soldiers to escort her to the royal court at Chinon. [5] He refused her. She returned in January, when he again refused her, then in February with the support of two of his soldiers. He was finally swayed by her and the enthusiasm of his men. She traveled with an escort of six soldiers and swapped out her dress for a soldier’s outfit as protection against rape if they should be attacked. [6]

Joan arrived at the town of Chinon in late February or early March 1429. When she entered the court, she looked at the man sitting on the throne and knew he wasn’t the prince. She picked the prince out of the crowd where he had disguised himself. Charles was incredibly moved by her in a following private conversation. [7] He had armor and a banner made for her and she was sent to the besieged city of Orléans.

She was originally meant to be a morale booster, but not actually in command. When she arrived at Orleans, she was left out of the military meetings. [8] On May 4th, she learned that the French forces were attacking the outlying fortress of Saint Loup. She mounted her horse, took up her banner, and rode out to the battle. She found the Armagnacs retreating, but she rallied them and they took the fortress. [9]

A 15th century painting of the siege of Orléans. Image source.

Over the next year, Joan led the Armagnac forces in a series of victories, although she did not directly take part in the fighting and killed no one, preferring to command and inspire the troops. Many times, the military commanders urged delay while she urged aggressive advance. Every time they followed her plan, they won. The army cleared a path to Reimes and on July 16th, 1429, Charles was crowned king with Joan in a place of honor. [10]

A 15th century painting of the coronation of Charles VII at Reims Cathedral. Joan is standing to the right with the soldiers, holding a banner. Image source.

In the spring of 1430, the Burgundians, who were allied with the English, began attacking towns loyal to the king and laid siege to Compiègne. Joan led a relief force, but they were attacked by the Burgundians and Joan was captured. [11] She was turned over to the English.

She was put on trial for heresy on January 9th, 1431. [12] The entire proceeding was a politically driven sham and the jury was packed with pro-English clergy. Despite that, Joan showed incredible shrewdness in her answers, repeatedly side-stepping verbal traps they set for her. She was condemned of heresy but was told she would be spared execution if she signed a document. Since she was illiterate and it was written in Latin, she did not know she had signed an adjuration, renouncing all her claims. [13]

Joan’s signature. Image source.

Afterward, she was returned to English custody where she was chained, mistreated, and suffered repeated attempts by the guards to rape her. [14] Her soldier’s outfit, which had been previously taken from her, was returned. She began wearing it to protect herself from the advances of the guards. Unfortunately, it was all the proof the English needed that she had relapsed in her heresy. When the English bishop who had headed her trial demanded that she renounce her visions and claims, she refused.[15]

On May 30th, 1431, Joan was taken to Rouen’s marketplace, tied to a pillar, and burned to death. [16] Her charred remains were thrown into the Seine River. She was nineteen years old.

A 19th century panting depicting Joan’s execution. Image source.

The Write Angle

For writers, Joan of Arc is another source of inspiration when writing women warriors leading armies. It is clear from Joan’s string of military successes that she had a keen grasp of military strategy and tactics. Yet on her mission to relieve Compiègne, she disbanded all but four hundred men of her army because she was struggling to feed them. Usually, medieval armies relied on the countryside to supply them with food and water, but in this case, it could not. This is a great example of how critical it was for armies to be properly supplied and to leave nothing up to chance.

Joan is also a great example of the power of inspiration. Before she arrived at the royal court, the prince and his supporters were teetering on the edge of defeat. Over half of France was controlled by the English and Burgundians, and they had not had a significant victory in a generation. Yet Joan sparked a pride and ferocity in them that drove them to victory after victory. Even after her death, the Armagnacs continued fighting with a vengeance, turning the tide of the war. In 1435, the Burgundians signed the Treaty of Arras, formally abandoning their alliance with the English, and the English were driven out of all of France except Calais after the Battle of Castillon in 1453.

Joan was canonized in the Roman Catholic Church and is one of the patron saints of France and female warriors.


I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or by writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

If you want my blog delivered straight to your inbox every month along with exclusive content and giveaways, please sign up for my email list here.

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Copyright © 2022 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] DLP 2021: Domrémy-La-Pucelle est situé en Lorraine, dans l'ouest du département des Vosges ... dans la vallée de la Meuse. [Domrémy-La-Pucelle is located in Lorraine, in the western part of the Vosges department ... in the Meuse valley]; Gies 1981, p. 10.
[2] Lace, William W. (1994). The Hundreds' Year War. Lucent Books. ISBN 1560062339. OCLC 1256248285.
[3] Pernoud, Régine; Clin, Marie-Véronique (1999) [1986]. Wheeler, Bonnie (ed.). Joan of Arc: Her Story. Translated by duQuesnay Adams, Jeremy. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-21442-5. OCLC 1035889959.
[4] Sackville-West, Victoria (1936). Saint Joan of Arc. Athenium. OCLC 1151167808.
[5] Pernoud, Régine; Clin, Marie-Véronique (1999) [1986]. Wheeler, Bonnie (ed.). Joan of Arc: Her Story. Translated by duQuesnay Adams, Jeremy. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-21442-5. OCLC 1035889959.
[6] Gies, Frances (1981). Joan of Arc: The Legend and the Reality. Harper & Row. ISBN 0690019424. OCLC 1204328346.
[7] Gies, Frances (1981). Joan of Arc: The Legend and the Reality. Harper & Row. ISBN 0690019424. OCLC 1204328346. Pernoud, Régine; Clin, Marie-Véronique (1999) [1986]. Wheeler, Bonnie (ed.). Joan of Arc: Her Story. Translated by duQuesnay Adams, Jeremy. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-21442-5. OCLC 1035889959. Sackville-West, Victoria (1936). Saint Joan of Arc. Athenium. OCLC 1151167808.
[8] DeVries, Kelly (1999). Joan of Arc: A Military Leader. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-1805-3. OCLC 42957383.
[9] Barker, Juliet (2009). Conquest: The English Kingdom of France, 1417-1450. Little, Brown. ISBN 9781408702468. OCLC 903613803.
[10] Barker, Juliet (2009). Conquest: The English Kingdom of France, 1417-1450. Little, Brown. ISBN 9781408702468. OCLC 903613803.
[11] DeVries, Kelly (1999). Joan of Arc: A Military Leader. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-1805-3. OCLC 42957383.
[12] Hobbins, Daniel (2005). "Introduction". In Hobbins, Daniel (ed.). The Trial of Joan of Arc. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674038684. OCLC 1036902468.
[13] Lowell, Francis Cabot (1896). Joan of Arc. Houghton Mifflin Co. OCLC 457671288.
[14] Hotchkiss, Valerie R. (2000). Clothes Make the Man: Female Cross Dressing in Medieval Europe. Garland. ISBN 9780815337713. OCLC 980891132.
[15] Gies, Frances (1981). Joan of Arc: The Legend and the Reality. Harper & Row. ISBN 0690019424. OCLC 1204328346.
[16] Lucie-Smith, Edward (1976). Joan of Arc. Allen Lane. ISBN 0713908572. OCLC 1280740196.