Joan of Arc: saint or heretic? hero or traitor? These were the questions at hand as the NBS 7th & 8th graders represented either the prosecution or defense team or portrayed historical witnesses as Joan faced charges of heresy and treason. Both charges had ample evidence on both sides, making this an intriguing and exciting trial. The jury of parents and 5th & 6th graders listened carefully to the testimony and debated the issues at hand. In the end, Joan was narrowly found innocent by this panel. Below the sideshow is a bit of background information provided by Middle School teacher, Katrien Vance, in case your 15th-century history needs brushing up!
Imagine yourself in 15th-century France. France has been battling with England for the past century in a series of battles now called the Hundred Years War over who should be King. England claims the throne, due to a complicated family tree and a questionable treaty. The French people are split in their loyalty: some are loyal to Charles, the son of the former French king. Others are loyal to Henry VI, the English king, who claims the French throne because of a treaty signed in 1420 by Charles VI and his wife, Isabeau, giving the throne to Henry’s father, Henry V. Parts of France are under Charles’ control, and parts are under Henry’s control, most notably northern France and Burgundy. In 1429, French loyalists almost lost control of the city of Orleans, when the English laid siege to it for months. Had the English and Burgundians taken over Orleans, the rest of France might well have fallen under English control quickly. The map of Europe today would be very different, as would its culture, language, and history.
Enter Joan of Arc. The daughter of a farmer, Joan came to Charles seemingly out of the blue and said that God (through his saints) had spoken to her and commanded her to 1) get Charles officially crowned king at the cathedral of Reims, where all French kings are crowned, and 2) rescue Orleans from the English. Joan succeeded at both of these things: she successfully brought Charles through enemy territory to be crowned king and become Charles VII, and she went on to lift — in only ten days — the English siege at Orleans that had last for five months before she got there. (Some feel she could have done it faster if more French military leaders had listened to her!)