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#15: Joan of Arc

by Eric Platel, with Jens Kreutzer

Most famous for its interaction with Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker, Joan of Arc is one of the most sought-after rare cards in the basic set of Netrunner. In comparison to Umbrella Policy, which is also an insurance against programs getting trashed, Joan of Arc's strengths are reusability and the ability to save many programs at the same time (as might be useful when accessing an Experimental AI node). The only way around Joan is having two separate trash effects one after the other, like with Colonel Failure. Especially Demon-dependent Runner stacks, and of course users of the trash-prone Bartmoss Memorial Icebreaker, cannot go amiss packing one or more Joans while on the run.

With game effects out of the way, we can look at the story behind the card. The evocative artwork by John Casebeer features two knights on a chessboard, or perhaps the same knight being resurrected (re-rezzed?) at a different location. In the sky behind the two, the floating face of a woman, presumably the icon of the Joan program, observes the scene. Both the artwork and the name of the card are an obvious reference to the famous 15th century French military leader and martyr, Joan of Arc, also known as the Maid of Orleans. Frenchman Eric Platel has provided us with a detailed account of the history of Jeanne d'Arc, as she is called in French:

Jeanne d'Arc (La Pucelle) - 1412-1431

Early years

The story begins in 1412 with Edward III, King of England, and his ambitions to become King of France as well. Since 1337, France had been engulfed in blood and fire, and now, the Hundred Years' War takes a new turn: The French army led by Charles VII takes back the lost territories, but will soon (1415) be dramatically defeated at the battle of Ajincourt. The situation is worse than ever. France has three masters: The English troops, who occupy Normandy, Brittany, Aquitaine and Paris, the Burgundians, who rule in the east, and the Armagnacs, the faction of Charles VII, 'true' King of France, who controls the rest of France.

In January 1412, Jeanne is born in Domremy as the youngest daughter of a family of five. Domremy lies in the heartland of the Burgundian fief, but the village and its environs have always remained faithful to Charles. Jeanne's father Jacques is a peasant farmer. She doesn't know how to read or write, but is skillful in sewing and spinning. She is a singularly pious child, often to been seen kneeling in the church absorbed in prayer. Later, she would be called "The Maid of Orleans".

At the age of 13, in the summer of 1425, Jeanne becomes conscious of weird manifestations for the first time, which she calls 'voices'. At first simply hearing a voice, she later discerns the appearance of those who speak to her, recognizing them as St. Michael, St. Margaret and St. Catherine, accompanied by angels. She is gradually told that God has chosen to side with the French people, and that she will participate in freeing the country under the leadership of the True King.

Glory days

Meanwhile, the military situation is growing more desperate for Charles, and on 12 October 1428, Orleans (the gate to the Armagnacs' territories) comes under siege. Jeanne's voices become urgent and even threatening in reiterating that she should go and act, as "it is God who commands it". She finally leaves Domremy in January 1429, dressed in male attire, and heads to Vaucouleurs, where she meets Robert Baudricourt, a rude and sceptical soldier who had mocked her during her first visit some months earlier.

This time, however, she is allowed to stay, and her cause gains ground when a few days after her announcing that a great defeat will fall upon the French army, an official statement confirms her prophecy. Now convinced of her sincerity, Baudricourt sends her on to seek out the King in Chinon. Since the King knows of the Maid's coming, he decides to test her and disguises himself, but she picks him out without hesitation amidst a group of attendants and salutes him.

The court is divided on the matter and opposes her as a mad visionary, but a secret sign she gives to the King (probably telling him about the legitimacy of his birth) leads him to believe in her mission. She receives a suit of full plate armor, an escort, and a banner with the words "Jesus Maria". Declining the sword Charles has offered to her, she searches for an ancient sword buried behind the altar of a neighbouring church and finds it at the very spot that her voices indicated.

In a letter written by a counselor of the King, it is reported that Jeanne prophesied that she would save Orleans, repelling the English to lift the siege, that she herself would be wounded but would not die of it, and that the King would be crowned in Reims. She writes a letter to the English King (can be seen here) asking him to leave Orleans and the rest of France. Of course, he refuses.

With the help of experienced officers and noblemen she has met at the court (Gilles de Rays, and Jeanne's famous brother-in-arms La Hire), she enters Orleans on April 29 and gives back hope to its inhabitants and the remaining garrison, though the city still remains under siege. On May 8, after a series of victorious battles, the English siege is lifted, but Jeanne is wounded by an arrow. Her first prophecy has been fulfilled.

After many more victories, the warlike spirit of Jeanne dramatically defeats the English in Patay, opening up the way to Reims. In just a few weeks, the best English officers are either killed or taken prisoner, and as the morale of the English army is hitting rock bottom, desertions are more than frequent.

The solemn coronation of Charles is celebrated in Reims on Sunday, 17 July 1429.

The fall

An assault on Paris is attempted on September 8, but as it is not supported in earnest by the King, it is aborted when Jeanne is shot in the thigh with a crossbow quarrel. She has to be removed from the battlefield by force.

It follows a period of inactivity, in which a peace treaty is signed with the Burgundians - and the war deescalates to mere skirmishes. In Melun, Jeanne's voices make it known to her that she will be taken prisoner before Midsummer Day. While defending the garrison in Compiegne against a Burgundian attack, she is then indeed pulled down from her horse and becomes the prisoner of Jean de Luxembourg, who sends her to the English.

No words can describe the terrible apathy and ingratitude of Charles and his counselor, who could have bargained for the release of Jeanne in exchange for an English prisoner like the Earl of Suffolk. Abandoning her to a dark fate is probably a diplomatic tactic, Charles being most in favor of a long-lasting peace with Burgundy. Jeanne is sacrificed on the reconciliation altar.

The trial

The purpose of the now ensuing trial is to sentence Jeanne to death for being a heretic and a witch. It might seem strange at first glance to see important dignitaries of Jeanne's own Church condemning her, but the following must be remembered: Because she always claimed that her orders were given to her by God Himself and wouldn't listen to anybody else, she undermined the authority of those very people. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy of calling her a witch in consequence is quite obvious.

The trial begins on 21 February 1431 and is conducted by the bishop of Beauvais, Pierre Cauchon (his name translates as "Peter Pig"), an unscrupulous and ambitious man belonging to the Burgundian faction. His 231 assessors are, for the most part, theologists and doctors of the University of Paris. Historians relate that her trial was "fair", without omitting to say that she was kept in a secular prison instead of a clerical one. The difference is not that slight, since she is at times kept in an iron cage, chained at neck, hands and feet. Because her jailers are men, she prefers to keep her male attire.

The questioning of Jeanne ends on March 15, and a document of twelve accusations is submitted to the University of Paris for debating. Meanwhile, on many occasions her judges put terrible pressure on her, in order to make her retract her statements. This practice is called "admonitions". But even when threatened with torture, Jeanne remains unshaken.

The University's response comes on May 23, denouncing the Maid in no uncertain terms: Superstitious, heretical, idolatrous and schimastic. The verdict is, as expected, death by burning at the stake. On the day before her execution, Jeanne's courage fails her at the St. Ouen cemetery. She consents to sign a retraction document and gives up her men's clothes. By virtue of this concession she is not to be burnt, but condemned to perpetual imprisonment.

The English and Cauchon are furious. But Jeanne recovers her courage once more, and two grave mistakes seal her fate: She revokes her abjuration and puts her male attire back on (some say it was because her women's clothes were stolen from her). Considered now a relapsed heretic, she is burnt at the stake in Rouen on 31 May 1431, and her ashes are thrown into the Seine river. It is recorded that up to her last moments, she keeps declaring that her voices had come from God and had not deceived her.


Weirdly enough at first glance, the rehabilitation process starting in 1450 is initiated by Charles VII. But things have changed a lot since Jeanne's death. First of all, she is now considered a national heroine who gave hope back to the French people. Since 1431, Charles has been leading assaults on Normandy, and plots to destabilize Paris were hatched. The city became quite insecure, and its inhabitants put the blame on the English occupation troops. In 1434, a peasant revolt flared up in Normandy. The King of England needed the help of the Burgundians, but they had irreversibly sided with Charles.

In this year of 1450, Paris has been liberated and is back in French hands, taken by an Armagnac-Burgundian coalition, and so is the University of Paris. The Pope, who had not participated in the first trial, is now part of this reassessment of the case. Charles has to prove that his legitimacy as the King of France is not based on the mad visions of a witch. Again, it is a political stratagem.

Jeanne is rehabilitated in 1456, six years after the second trial began. The judges use a formal mistake made by Cauchon to justify their verdict: On the morning of her execution, Jeanne was allowed by Cauchon himself to confess and to receive the holy communion, which was strictly forbidden since she was considered an excommunicated heretic.

It takes a very long time, but Jeanne's beatification is confirmed by Pope Pius X in April 1909, and she is canonized in 1920.

This brings Eric's account to a close, but there is one more bit of trivia about the Joan of Arc program. One of the staunchest supporters of the game of Netrunner is Jennifer Clarke Wilkes of Wizards of the Coast, and her much-appreciated efforts have earned her the nickname "Jen of Arc", both in reference to the pugnacious and virtuous French heroine and the one program that can save other programs.

Finally, the designers of Netrunner saw to it that Joan of Arc has a nemesis in the ice card D'Arc Knight: As a killer sentry, the Knight's job is trashing programs, just what Joan sets out to prevent. "D'Arc Knight" is of course a humorous version of the ubiquitous dark knight of fantasy movies or novels, or perhaps even of the Magic: The Gathering card Black Knight. In the artwork by Douglas Shuler, the knight's icon sure looks dark and black. Just good to know that Joan of Arc will usually prevail against the trasher subroutine and come back to fight another day - as long as the Runner has a bit to spare, that is.

Robert Fossier, Le Moyen age, Book 3. Paris 1983: Armand Colin.
Alain Demurger, Temps de crises, Temps d'espoirs. 1990: Seuil.

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