Or, ‘Isabelle, who made the Maid of Orléans’.
To any other mother in the village of Domrémy, Joan would have been considered a difficult child. Even before the visions started she argued her views loudly and displayed a stubbornness bordering on the unfeminine.
But Joan’s mother was Isabelle Romée, wife of farmer Jacques d’Arc and Isabelle was not an ordinary medieval wife.
A journey of faith
Her commitment to her faith and to God was usual for the times and her beliefs shaped her daily thoughts.
Where Isabelle differed was her longing to make the hazardous pilgrimage to Rome for the chance to be close to Gods representative on earth.
Isabelle did not consider herself brave, simply unworthy as she trecked from Lorraine across the Alps and through Italy to the eternal city. It was a treacherous time of civil unrest as the Armagnacs and Burgundians fought for control of France.
The challenges she faced were more than bad roads as the highways had become the unlawful playground for bands of desperate robbers. Travel was dangerous for anyone and especially a woman but Isabelle did reach Rome. Her thoughts are not recorded but can be imagined.
To mark her achievement in Domrémy she was given the name ‘Romée’.
Joan was her first daughter, one of five children to the fortunate Isabelle and Jacques.
By the time Joan was 13 and receiving beautiful visions of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret telling her to drive the English from France, Isabelle had ensured Joan knew the essentials skills of the farmer’s wife.
Isabelle imbued all her teachings with her love of God and Joan later said these were the most important lessons for her:
“From my mother I learned ‘Our Father,’ ‘Hail Mary,’ and ‘I believe.’ And my teaching in my faith I had from her and no one else”.
Once the visions took hold of Isabelle’s child she found her faith tested to extraordinary limits. She desperately and unsuccessfully begged Joan not to fight for God and for France.
Enemies and the devil
To Isabelle’s horror, as the world knows, by 19 poor Joan was dead.
She was executed brutally in Rouen on 30 May 1431 by the English loving Bishop of Beauvais for ‘insubordination and heterodoxy’.
The pious young girl was wickedly proclaimed a sorceress by her enemies.
Isabelle Romée dedicated the rest of her life to fighting to restore her daughter’s name.
Campaign of courage
She relentlessly petitioned Pope Nicholas V to reopen the court case that had convicted Joan of heresy.
Finally an inquiry was opened in 1449. On 7 November 1455, in the reign of Pope Callixtus III, Isabelle traveled to Paris to visit the delegation from the Holy See.
Isabelle was now over seventy years old but her faith and her cause kept her mind clear and her body young.
She addressed the assembly with a poignant speech that began:
“I had a daughter, born in legitimate marriage, whom I fortified worthily with the sacraments of baptism and confirmation and raised in the fear of God and respect for the tradition of the Church,”
“…without any aid given to her innocence in a perfidious, violent, and iniquitous trial, without a shadow of right… they condemned her in a damnable and criminal fashion and made her die most cruelly by fire.”
Victory and the birth of a martyr.
The appeals court overturned Joan’s conviction on 7 July 1456. Twenty-five years after her execution, Joan of Arc was declared innocent and a martyr.
Isabelle Romée lived two years more, in more peace than she had known for a quarter of a century. She missed her daughter very day.