Joan of Arc is well-known as the young peasant girl who, during the last years of the Hundred Years War between France and England, claimed God called upon her to come to the aid of the exiled Charles VII of France. She raised the siege of Orleans allowing Charles to be crowned but was then captured and burnt at the stake by the English.
The Demoiselle of Luxembourg is only remembered for the last few months of her life in which her life intersected with Joan of Arc’s.
Joan, the Demoiselle of Luxembourg was the daughter of Guy of Luxembourg, Count of Ligny. At the time of these events in 1430 Joan, who never married, was living with her nephew John of Luxembourg at the Castle of Beauvoir. John was a vassal of the powerful Duke of Burgundy. Also at the castle were John’s wife, Joan of Bethune and her daughter from her first marriage, Joan of Bar.
In May, one of John of Luxembourg’s soldiers captured Joan of Arc. John initially had her guarded at one of his fortresses, but when she tried to escape from there, she was sent to Beauvoir which was deemed more secure. Joan of Bethune and the Duke of Burgundy’s wife Isabella also advocated for this move since they deemed it more comfortable. There were now four Joans at Beauvoir.
Joan of Arc acknowledged at her trial that the Demoiselle of Luxembourg and Joan of Bethune were of some comfort to her while she was at Beauvoir. They encouraged her to cut her hair and gave her dresses and fabric so she could dress like a female. This Joan refused to do, saying she did not have the permission of God, but she added: “I would have dressed in woman’s clothes more willingly at the request of these women than of any other woman who might be in France, except for my Queen.”
She also testified at her trial that the Demoiselle of Luxembourg had advocated on her behalf. “The Demoiselle of Luxembourg asked my Lord of Luxembourg that I not be delivered to the English.”
History has recorded the kindness of these two women to Joan of Arc. However more than kindness most likely came into it. While John of Luxembourg was a vassal to Philip of Burgundy who was allied with the English, the two women were likely supporters of Charles VII and the French cause. The Demoiselle of Luxembourg was actually the godmother of Charles and had been a lady in waiting to his mother Queen Isabeau of France. Joan of Bethune’s first husband, Robert of Bar, had been killed by the English at the Battle of Agincourt, one of the decisive battles between the French and the English.
Joan of Arc arrived at Beauvoir in early July 1430. On 4 August, Philip of Brabant, the great-nephew of the Demoiselle, unexpectedly died. As his closest blood relative, she suddenly inherited his Luxembourg inheritance. These she apparently used as a bargaining chip with John. By rights, her heir should have been John’s older brother Peter. But she offered them to John, and she then threatened to disinherit him if he turned over Joan of Arc to the English. This put John in a difficult position. As a vassal of Philip of Burgundy, he owed allegiance to Philip. But he didn’t want to cross his aunt and lose his new-found inheritance either. Joan’s fate was in a holding pattern.
On 18 September however Joan of Arc’s luck ended. The Demoiselle of Luxembourg died. John was away at the siege of Compiegne. In October, the siege was lifted, and John, the new Count of Ligny returned home. Shortly thereafter Joan was given to the English. She was put on trial and condemned. She was killed on 30 May 1431. Perhaps if the Lady of Luxembourg had lived a few more months, she would have been able to negotiate a different ending…