Joan of Arc by Mary Gordon; Joan of Arc: A Military Leader by Kelly Devries - review by Jan Morris

Jan Morris

Rather Like Margaret

Joan of Arc

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 160pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Joan of Arc: A Military Leader

By

Sutton Publishing 224pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

It seems to me that of all the persons elevated to sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church, Joan of Arc must be one of the least worthy, unless you count among the saintly virtues courage, charisma, chutzpah, patriotic fervour and tactical military intuition. It is true that she was a lifelong virgin, a step towards the example of Our Lady, that she allegedly performed miracles and claimed to have been guided by holy voices from heaven; but she did nothing for humanity at large, she did not live a life of renunciation, she was a terrible show-off and her chief enthusiasm was for fighting battles. One might just as well canonise Margaret Thatcher.

Of course, it depends upon what you mean by holy. Voices from the unseen can mean almost anything you like, from evil resolutions to poetic inspiration; even in Joan’s day her friends took them to be divine, while her enemies supposed them satanic. The canonising experts of the Vatican interpreted

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