But there is a great deal of evidence linking Yolande of Aragon with this novel. Scholars who research a period as long ago as the Middle Ages—remember that we are talking about events that occurred over six hundred years ago—understand that many, many documents have been lost due to age and war and so they are often forced to rely on a body of evidence and to deal in probabilities.
Speaking of Angels and Saints: The Story of Joan of Arc | Ancient Origins
Was something likely, highly likely, unlikely, or highly unlikely? In the case of Yolande of Aragon, we know that her maternal grandmother, the duchess of Bar, requested that the book be written because Jean of Arras said so explicitly in his introduction to The Romance of Melusine , which he also dedicated to her. We know that Jean of Arras actually wrote Yolande's parents, the king and queen of Aragon, into the book as important characters who played a large role in the story.
We know that in real life the king and queen of Aragon were great supporters of the arts and the queen of Aragon, in particular, had been known to write to her mother, the duchess of Bar, to please send her more books. It is therefore highly unlikely that the court of Aragon, where Yolande of Aragon grew up, was unfamiliar with The Romance of Melusine. More than this, Yolande of Aragon was herself known to be a great reader and to have amassed a substantial library.
She is on record as haggling with a bookseller over the price of a particular manuscript. In the language of scholarship, all of these facts taken together meant that it was almost impossible that Yolande was unaware of, or had never read, The Romance of Melusine. But Joan's life does not replicate Melusine's story exactly.
You can't pick and choose like that from a narrative and expect people to believe that this was the inspiration for Yolande's soliciting a mystic like Joan of Arc. Well, actually, you can, especially when the narrative in question functioned as much as a political and military instructional manual as it did a work of literature.
The Romance of Melusine offered very explicit advice to princes and other noblemen who found themselves in difficulties. Among its many lessons were helpful discourses on 1 how to get back your inheritance if you felt you had been unfairly cheated out of it a situation certainly applicable to the dauphin, who had been deprived of the throne of France by Henry V ; 2 how to turn a murder into an accident and thereby gain political capital from it the dauphin murdered the duke of Burgundy on a bridge in but never took responsibility for the act, always claiming it was an accident ; 3 how to prepare your army for war make your knights wear their armor on the way to a battle no matter how much they complained as that way they would be used to the weight when it came time to fight ; 4 strategies for winning a war based on historical precedent; 5 how to isolate your enemies and win allies to your cause something Yolande was always trying to get the dauphin to do ; in short, how to succeed politically and militarily.
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The advice comes from Melusine, who introduces herself to Raymondin as follows: "In God's name, Raymondin, I am, after God, the one who can help and advance you the most in this mortal world in whatever adversity befalls you I am sent by order of God May you also know with certainty that without me or my advice you cannot accomplish your goals The parallels are so striking that it seems almost inconceivable that, once the dauphin had murdered the duke of Burgundy and was subsequently disinherited, Yolande would not have made the connection to this book.
Well, if this is so obvious, how come no academic or more credentialed person has come up with this? What makes you think that you know more than someone who teaches medieval history at a university or written a scholarly book on Joan of Arc? Nearly every book on Joan of Arc, academic or otherwise, begins with Joan's birth and seeks to understand events from her point of view. Unfortunately, it is impossible to grasp the overall situation from this perspective, as Joan herself was unaware of Yolande's influence.
Joan believed that everything that happened to her was a result of her own actions or the intervention of her angels. A number of scholars have hypothesized that Yolande had something to do with Joan's story but they don't know how, or why. And the handful of biographies of Yolande in French also overlook her role in the Joan of Arc narrative because they don't go back to her grandmother's court and so miss the Melusine connection.
Similarly, scholars who specialize in The Romance of Melusine are generally far more interested in its artistic merits than in its political influence. They tend to know a great deal about medieval literature and very little about the politics of the second half of the Hundred Years War, particularly from the French side, which admittedly can be very confusing. Even when they notice the similarity between Joan of Arc and Melusine, as Nadia Margolis, a medieval literature specialist, did in a scholarly article entitled "Myths in Progress: A Literary-Typological Comparison of Melusine and Joan of Arc," she failed to see Yolande of Aragon as the real world link between the two because it is clear she had never heard of her.
Celebrating the real Joan of Arc : She earned our respect with her courage, not by virtue of a tale about her birth date. Ordinarily, you write about unknown people in history. With this book, did you set out to write about Joan of Arc? Alas, no.
Joan of Arc Meets the King
Joan of Arc is famous. There were dozens of them in the Middle Ages. The woman I initially set out to investigate was Yolande of Aragon, fifteenth century queen of Sicily, duchess of Maine and Anjou, and countess of Provence. Bet you never heard of her. Yolande of Aragon was the predominant politician in France during the second half of the Hundred Years War. She was the de facto leader of the Armagnac party from until her death in As duchess of Maine and Anjou she owned outright or was regent for substantial property in France, including the all-important fortress of Angers. She chaired his council and occasionally, when the need arose, took over his court.
In her own day she was both revered and feared.
Today, she is almost completely unknown. Why do you think this evidence has remained uncovered for years? They begin their study with her birth, and follow her personal development. Joan believed that everything that happened was the result of her own actions or the intervention of her angels.
Joan of Arc
Also, there is the problem that the study of medieval history was for centuries dominated by men who were simply not that interested in delving into the lives of the women of the period. I bridge the gap between all of these different groups. I was almost ludicrously positioned to stumble across this story. I am well aware from my previous books that a queen can wield just as much political power as a king or prince—and sometimes more. I have also written extensively with my husband about old and rare books and have traced the trajectory and influence of forgotten volumes on the course of history.
All of these seemingly disparate elements were necessary to uncovering the secret history of Joan of Arc. Can you explain a bit more about how your previous work led you to write about Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War? A few years ago, I wrote a book called Four Queens , about a family of four thirteenth century sisters, the daughters of the count of Provence, who all became queens—queen of France, queen of England, queen of Germany and queen of Sicily. Theirs was an extremely important family and it was almost impossible to understand the dynamic of 13th century Europe without them.
While I was researching that book, I stumbled across the story of one of their descendants, Joanna I, fourteenth century queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily, and countess of Provence.
Joanna was even more amazing and influential than her ancestors—she was the only woman of her day to inherit and rule a major European kingdom in her own right. She became the subject of my next book, The Lady Queen. Were any of them important? And that is how I came to Yolande of Aragon, the most powerful woman of her time—and certainly one of the most capable women of any time! And Yolande led me directly to Joan. Believing herself to be a messenger from God and the subject of a divine prophecy, she approaches a captain in the French army who agrees to send her to the royal court.
Once there, she reveals a secret sign to the dauphin that convinces him of her authenticity. It reveals the secret sign she presented to him. It is a completely new interpretation of events, the uncovering of a narrative that was deliberately hidden for political purposes. Why does placing Joan in this new context matter so much to understanding her story?
For far too long the events of the civil war between the Armagnacs and Burgundians have been sloughed over, not to mention the day-to-day operations of the English occupation. Yet she made her first attempt to see Robert de Baudricourt nearly six months earlier, in May Who might have had a motive for introducing a mystic into this volatile situation? Where might the inspiration for such an unusual intervention have come from? Stripping away preconceptions and staying in the moment—not letting what I knew about her intrude on the depiction of events in her life.
To them, she just materialized out of some far away part of the kingdom. Similarly, when Joan was captured in battle, I knew that she would be sold to the English, subjected to a trial by the Inquisition, and then burned at the stake. But the king and his court had no reason to believe or even suspect that this would happen as it was entirely outside the rules of chivalry that governed the treatment of captured soldiers. If you want to find out why Twain was truly great, look at some of his other novels and stories, and especially "Joan of Arc.
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May 18, Jenny rated it it was amazing.