In the period of World War I, Joan of Arc was to Americans the sentimentalized symbol of the Franco-American alliance and of the cause of the “Entente Cordiale.” Popular ballads, bric-a-brac, medals, art exhibitions, alike expressed this sentiment; so did the noble monument, the work of Anna Hyatt Huntington, which stands on Riverside Drive in New York City. W.P. Yancy’s Soldier Virgin catches the mood of the period. In Holman Day’s Joan of Arc of the North Woods, and in the popular songs Joan of Arkansas and Jerome Kern’s Joan of Arc Was On Her Own When She Was Quite a Child, we hear a raw and raucous note distinctly North American.
Following World War II there was again a revival of the Joan of Arc cult in the United States, appearing even in women’s clothes and in advertisements of the most varied sorts. The revival, this time, had little to do with Franco-American relations. Perhaps there was something synthetic about this then new phase of the perennial interest in Joan of Arc; it centered around Maxwell Anderson’s rather mediocre play Joan of Lorraine, which to his good fortune had a decent run in New York with Ingrid Bergman in the leading part; and it centered also, about the expensive but not that successful film which was inspired by the Anderson play, and not surprisingly, offered the Swedish actress as the Maid.
The fortunes of Joan’s reputation have in recent times been much affected by the policy of the Roman Catholic Church. The “fille de Dieu,” as we have seen, played her part in the Catholic revival which accompanied the Restoration in France. The Neo-Catholicism of the period following 1848 further elevated Joan’s reputation, and the number of works appearing which were devoted to her steadily increased. Finally, in 1869, the celebrated cleric Mgr. Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans, the city which was always the center of the “Joan cult,” launched the movement for Joan’s canonization.
The defeat of 1870, weakening the position of France very greatly, may have delayed the canonization; it would appear that a party at Rome, backed undoubtedly by German and other influences of the Triple Alliance, long delayed action of Joan’s cause, which, however, moved deliberately through its various stages. Meanwhile, in France, Joan was the focus of a tremendous outpouring of scholarship designed to support the cause of canonization.
(see link at end)… In the eighteenth century Voltaire based his work entitled The Maid of Orleans on Chaplain’s epic. In his satire, Voltaire, tried in the cruelest way possible to damage Joan’s character and image by portraying her as a village idiot. He used her story to attack the Church, the Monarchy and the Nobility.
The end of the eighteenth century saw several literary works written about Joan. In 1794, the English poet, Robert Southey, wrote an epic poem in honor of Joan. With this one work he single-handedly changed the people’s attitude toward her because up to this time the English histories continued to consider her as nothing more than a witch. At this time there was a popular play being performed in which, to the cheers and applause of the enthusiastic audience, Joan was depicted as being carried off alive by Satan into hell. It was but a short time after Southey’s poem was published that the audience’s reaction drastically changed. Instead of cheering they began to throw rotten vegetables at the actor who portrayed Satan as they jeered and booed him. Within a few nights of this reaction a new character, an angel, was hastily introduced, who rescued her from Satan’s clutches. This scene was received very warmly by all those who saw it.
The powers in charge during the French Revolution were very cruel to Joan’s memory. They canceled the May 8th procession that had been held at Orleans continuously since two years after Joan’s death. They also destroyed statues and crosses that were set up to honor Joan and they burned her relics, consisting of her hat that she gave to Charlotte, her standard and a sword that had belonged to her. For the next ten years Joan’s memory was relegated to the shadows of French life and it was not until 1803 when Napoleon once more made it ‘politically correct’ to honor Joan by giving his permission for the May 8th ceremonies at Orleans to be resumed. Because Joan had fought the English, Napoleon made use
er to further his own campaign against them. He made her an official symbol of French patriotism and a national heroine. As a consequence her popularity among the people grew. All during the first half of the nineteenth century France was struggling against England in one way or another and during this time many ‘histories’ were written about her.
It took Jules Quicherat, a French historian, five years from 1841-1845 to compile all the documents concerning Joan into five volumes. Not only did he publish the complete texts of the trial of Condemnation and Nullification but he also gathered excerpts from chronicles, literary works, letters, public documents and the accounting ledgers from the city of Orleans into his scholarly work. Single handedly Quicherat sparked a renaissance of interest in Joan among the scholars who in turn translated the Latin and Old French into modern French. By doing this the general public could finally read for themselves Joan’s own words and at last she became for them a real historical figure. Read More:http://www.stjoan-center.com/novelapp/joaap04.html