Joan of Arc

Michael Portillo presents a series revisiting the great moments of history to discover that they often conceal other events of equal but forgotten importance.

Michael explores the myth and memory of Joan of Arc, and discovers that another French woman deserves just as much, if not more, credit for saving France in its hour of need.

Battered by decades of war, riven by internal divisions and with large swathes of the country occupied by the English, Charles VII's France was on its knees in the 1420s. To its rescue came a young woman, Joan of Arc. Under her inspiration the fortunes of the country were turned round and France appeared saved. Joan's place in history was confirmed as she was burned at the stake at the age of 19.

But Joan's notoriety eclipses the contribution made by another of her contemporaries, who did as at least as much to secure the future of the French nation and its monarchy. She was Yolande D'Aragon, the King's mother-in-law. It was Yolande who used her position to secure the French monarchy by marriage, diplomacy and force. It was she who invited the young Joan to court, who provided her with her armour and who acted as her sponsor as an emblem of hope for the troops. It was also Yolande who ditched Joan as soon as she became a liability and spent the next decades making laws and allegiances to strengthen the French crown.

Michael investigates why her 40 years of service have been forgotten, buried in the mythology that has grown around Joan.

Release date:

Available now

28 minutes

Last on

Tue 2 Oct 2012 16:00