French figures: The true spirit of France

This is the incredible story about the teenage girl who became a symbol of France for the ages.

French figures: The true spirit of France
Illustration photo: AFP

The story of Joan of Arc – Jeanne d'Arc in French – begun like many fairytales do: an unlikely hero is chosen to accomplish a dangerous task.

Born around 1412, Joan of Arc was an illiterate peasant girl convinced that divine powers had decided she would fight the English army in France. 

She then did exactly that. 

This was during the so-called Hundred Years’ War, when English troops battled for territory across the country that is now France.

Joan of Arc liberated Orléans city from English forces in a legendary and decisive battle that paved the way for the later French victory in 1453.

Joan of Arc paid for her heroism with her life. She was captured and sold her to the English army, who burned her at the stake in Rouen, northeast France, around 1431. She was approximately 19 years old at the time.

But her short life left a lasting mark on France and in 1920 she was made a Saint. Almost 600 years after her death she is still commemorated and celebrated in France and her spirit is invoked during difficult times for the country.

Known today as “the Maid of Orléans”, Joan of Arc's silhouette is all over the city, ingrained on medallions on the street, cast into sculptures and painted on the boxes of Cotignac, an Orléans culinary speciality.

READ ALSO: Ten reasons why you should visit the French city Orléans

This article is the final instalment of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – featuring every day a person or thing that has a special place in French culture. To see the whole calendar, click here.


Member comments

  1. She also had the surname of “Pucelle d’Orléans” (pucelle = virgin). Watch out, you dates are wrong.

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French figures: The only socially acceptable street snack in France

This might be the most French snack there is.

French figures: The only socially acceptable street snack in France
Illustration photo: AFP

The French generally don't snack while walking down the street – except the croûton.

Nibbling le croûton, the French term for the 'end' or 'crust' of the baguette, is something of a ritual in France. 

After work, French people will typically pass by a boulangerie to pick up a fresh baguette to bring home for dinner. When they arrive at home, the croûton will generally be missing (because it has been eaten).

It's a cliché that perfectly aligns with reality, even if it contradicts the French no-snacking policy that otherwise reigns here.

Devouring the croûton before arriving at one's home is so common in France that BuzzFeed once wrote an article about 19 things that were “even more French” than eating le croûton of a baguette on the way home.

Obviously this has become quite different after most of  France made face masks compulsory in the street to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus. 

But if we were to bet on what French customs will survive the pandemic, le croûton would be among them (unlike the sometimes dreaded bise, French kiss-greeting).

READ ALSO: Kiss off: Why the coronavirus could spell the end of 'la bise' in France

Beloved as the croûton of the baguette may be in France, it can also be an insult. Un vieux croûton (an old crust) refers to a person who is either old or old-fashioned and grumpy.

This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France.