|Joan of Arc painted in 1854.|
The two leaders are to stage rival celebrations of the 600th anniversary of the birth of the 15th-century Catholic martyr who has been appropriated by the far-right partly for her booting out of medieval English “immigrants.”
The teenage peasant led the French army against the English after experiencing religious visions and was later burned at the stake, but her broad appeal to French of all political colours has ensured her immortality.
France is officially a secular state, but the story of Joan’s struggle against the English and Burgundians on behalf of the French crown has often served as an inspiration in patriotic causes.
She is regularly wheeled out as a symbol of French unity, alongside such Gallic icons as general Charles de Gaulle or Vercingetorix, who defied the Romans like a real-life Asterix.
Her broad appeal is key: French Catholics see in her a saint, nationalists see her as a royalist warrior who kicked out the English, while Socialists can hail her humble origins, although she was the daughter of a landowner.
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