Joan of Arc was born in eastern France to a small French family in AD 1412. She was born in the height of the Hundred Years' War. The Hundred Years' War was a war mainly between England and France. Burgundy had sided with the British in the war, and together, England and Burgundy had taken over about half of France. At the time, the city of Orleans was the only thing that was keeping England from invading the French heartland. Charles VII, the future king of France, known as Dauphin, was destined for the throne, and was to be crowned in Reims, but Reims was currently controlled by the English. In 1424, when Joan was about 12 years old, she said she saw visions of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, who told her to drive out the English and bring Dauphin to Reims.
When she was 16, Joan through a series of personal connections, was able to get a private conference with Dauphin, predicting a military reversal during the Siege of Orleans. When her prediction came true, Dauphin sent her with reinforcements to Orleans, where Joan traveled with the army, dressed as a knight. After a background check to see if Joan of Arc was not a sorceress or whatnot, Dauphin tested her by sending her out into the thick of the Siege of Orleans. Though she was excluded from the war councils, Joan of Arc engaged the enemy in battle and is said to have worked during the Siege as a tactician and strategist. Soon, Orleans was free from the English siege, and Joan led troops upwards, capturing three fortresses in four days, taking an arrow wound to the neck in the process. This sudden victory led Dauphin to give Joan co-command of the army with Duke John II of Alencon. Joan made a series of victories, heading in a general direction towards Paris. The English put reinforcements in Paris to stop an attack, but instead, Joan attacked Reims, capturing it on June 29, 1429. Her series of victories had won her favor with much of the nobility, and her success in bringing Dauphin to his coronation in Reims led to Dauphin granting nobility to Joan's family.
In May of 1430, Joan was helping out at a Burgundian siege of the French city of Compiegne. While her forces were attacking a Burgundian camp, she was captured and sold to the English. The English brought Joan to Rouen, the center of the English occupation government, where she was tried for heresy. She was found guilty of the charges, though some court functionaries later testified that the transcripts of the trial were altered in her disfavor and that several clerics at the trial were forced to serve, some even receiving death threats from the English. She was executed by burning on May 30, 1431. The Hundred Years' war came to an end in 1453, and in 1452, a nullification trial was authorized by Pope Callixtus to see if Joan was truly guilty of heresy. In 1456, she was declared innocent. Later, in 1920, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV. Joan of Arc is on our list because she was one of the first women to lead a country militarily and is also one of the most famous religious and war heroes of Europe and the world.