Academic journal article Arthuriana

Joan of Arc: The Warrior Saint

Academic journal article Arthuriana

Joan of Arc: The Warrior Saint

Article excerpt

STEVEN W. RICHEY, Joan of Arc: The Warrior Saint. Westport, Conn. & London: Praeger, 2003. Pp. x, 175. ISBN: 0-275-98103-7. $34.95.

Although one might wonder why yet another book on Joan of Arc should appear, Steven Richey's offering does indeed fill a need, for this is Joan as seen not through the eyes of an historian or literary author, but of a modern military-historical researcher who is also a man-at-arms. In his own words, he purports 'to describe what Joan did as a soldier and then to attempt to explain how she did it' (Ch. 1). His discussion thus sets out to resolve disputes and fill in the spaces left among previous modern military-historical analyses-particularly those by Perroy, Gies, Lancesseur, Liocourt and, most recently and authoritatively, De Vries-within the context of fifteenth-century socio-political events. He also frequently consults contemporary trial testimony and literary works on the Maid, and also modern treatises on the rules of war found, for example, in the archives of West Point, in order to evaluate Joan's leadership qualities more concretely than ever before.

It is also a very personal book, but unlike others (Johannic Studies being riddled with authors professing objectivity who often prove highly subjective malgré eux), Richey takes care to distinguish his opinions from his factual findings, while meticulously documenting previous research and theories. Yet his discussion is always very readable and clear. His judicious use of endnotes enables his arguments to move along briskly, unencumbered by digressions and ancillary detail. Other onetime soldiers have written on Joan, but these accounts often lapse into sentimentality.

After reviewing previous literature on the heroine (Ch. 2), Richey begins his actual argument by depicting France's desperate historical situation under English dominance-already well-known but here with more military-strategic detail-just prior to Joan's spectacular arrival. His next chapter outlines her preliminary military career, debunking a few cliché marvels on the way, such as her ability to recognize the Dauphin at Chinon during their first meeting. While demonstrating this feat to be unremarkable, Richey rightly concedes the reality of its charismatic effect, and that of her other similar deeds, on her future supporters at court and in the field. …

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