In France, President Valery Giscard d'Estaing and several members of his cabinet spent Tuesday (8 May) in Orleans, attending the celebrations to mark the national Joan of Arc feast day.
In France, President Valery Giscard d'Estaing and several members of his cabinet spent Tuesday (8 May) in Orleans, attending the celebrations to mark the national Joan of Arc feast day. The city has particular significance in the story of St Joan. Orleans has been besieged by English forces for seven months when Joan of Arc led in French relief forces in 1429. The battle marked the turning point in the Hundred Years War, and the present day citizens of Orleans had a day of pageantry and festivities to celebrate the five hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the lifting of the siege.
SYNOPSIS: President Giscard took part in the procession of dignitaries down the main street of Orleans. Joan of Arc was a peasant girl who, believing that she was acting under divine guidance, led the French army in repulsing an English attempt to conquer France. A year after her momentous victory at Orleans, she was captured by the English and burned at the stake for heresy. Her achievement has been seen as a decisive factor in the fifteenth century revival of French determination to oust the English.
Joan of Arc became a national heroine after her execution and in 1920, Pope Benedict the fifteenth canonized her. Following President Giscard and the official party in the procession was a girl representing St Joan and an escort of people dressed as fifteenth century soldiers.
A band from Holland was one of the contingents representing other European countries in the procession. The handwritten account of St Joan's trial, which is normally kept in the National Assembly library in Paris, is on exhibition in Orleans for three days at the special request of President Giscard. The manuscript was put on display in the building known as Joan of Arc's house, where St Joan is thought to have stayed after the relief of Orleans.