The Leaders of the Middle Ages

Joan of Arc, King John, and William the Conqueror

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was born c. 1412 in Domremy, France. She was the daughter of Jacques and Ysabeau D’Arc. Joan lived the life of a peasant, but he was still a determined young girl. She is known as the “Maid of Orleans”.

At the age of thirteen she began to hear “voices” in her head that enlightened her that she was to liberate France from English domination. She told no one of this for a while, but at the age of fifteen she led French soldiers to victory over the English at the Battle of Orleans. Joan also helped Charles VII become king of France during the 100 Years War. Unfortunately, in 1430 Joan of Arc was captured and sold to the English, who wanted her executed. On May 30, 1431, at the age of nineteen, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen.

Since then she has been the subject of much art and literature. If it wasn’t for her courage France could still be under the control from England. She was a Catholic saint and is a symbol of French patriotism.

King John

King John was born on December 24, 1167 at Beaumont Palace, in Oxford, England as the youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was known as John Lackland. On May 27, 1199 John succeeded his brother Richard I as king of England. King John’s attitude was not attractive at all- he was unstable, suspicious, and unforgiving. On the other hand though he had many commendable traits- he was intelligent, efficient, and sophisticated.

Since some of the time his bad overwhelmed his good, in June 1215 a group of powerful nobles joined together against him because he made them upset. Those nobles came to him in “gay military array” and demanded that “liberties be granted to them”. Because of this he accepted the Magna Carta, otherwise he would have been killed. The Magna Carta basically states that the English king has to obey the laws just like his subjects. King John later died during the civil war that was going on October 18, 1216.

The important decision he made was to give into the request of his people and accept the Magna Carta, the great charter of liberties. He is important because he ruled his country to the best of his abilities, even though it was wearisome. William Shakespeare even made a chronicle play called “King John” about his troublesome reign over England.

William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror was born c. 1027 in Falaise, France. His father was Robert I , Duke of Normandy, and his mother was Robert’s concubine Herleva, a peasant girl. William I, also known as William the Conqueror or William the Bastard. Before he changed his name it was Duke of Normandy because he succeeded his father as duke at the age of 8. He was intelligent and also had a shrewdness to him that served him well as an adult.

He crossed the English Channel with his Norman knights and defeated his enemy Harold during the Battle of Hastings. After that in 1066, William the Conqueror ruled England from then till 1087.

He shaped England's feudal system so that the king not the nobles has supreme power. For example, he created a survey to help the king with taxes. Those records were known as the Doomsday book.