The Other Joan of Arc

Beautiful, clever and determined, Yolande of Aragon was at the heart of the diplomatic and military campaigns that united 15th-century France. Margaret L. Kekewich charts her career.

Traditionally the turning point in the reconquest of France from the English is believed to have coincided with the career of Joan of Arc. The relief of Orleans in May 1429 and the subsequent coronation of the Dauphin as Charles VII of France at Reims in July were principally the achievements of this devout peasant maiden. She inspired the indecisive Charles, uncertain of his own legitimacy, to embark on a series of campaigns that led to the capture of Paris and parts of Normandy. But an alternative account sees Queen Yolande of Aragon (1380-1442), mother-in-law of the Dauphin, as a more important and longer-term source of emotional, financial and diplomatic support. She was beautiful, clever and determined to defend the interests of her own Angevin family, interests, which she saw as synonymous with those of France.

In 1425 Yolande of Aragon almost certainly received an anonymous treatise addressed to her in which she was urged to recall the Dauphin (by then actually Charles VII) to his duty to save France from ruin. The treatise declared that he should obey the Church, consider the ‘common good’, avoid lowly born advisers and excessive taxation. His parlement (supreme court) should promote religious and economic rule by ensuring that justice was maintained. All this was to be achieved by the King but the fact that it was sent to his mother-in-law shows where the real power was thought to lie. 

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