Under the Radar: Raphael Reviews "The Maid And The Queen"

Apr 13, 2012

Book reviewer Lev Raphael has been reading a book that sheds new light on the life of Joan of Arc. He spoke with WKAR's Melissa Benmark.

LEV RAPHAEL: It’s called, “The Maid and the Queen,” by Nancy Goldstone, and it is an amazing combination of history and mystery. It’s the story of Joan of Arc, but it’s not like any telling of the story you’ve ever heard, because it goes behind the scenes to look at how Joan of Arc really was as successful as she was in gaining access to the French court, leading troops, and in everything else she did, to the point she was captured.

MELISSA BENMARK: It’s interesting because that story has always sounded kind of implausible to me to the point of almost being mythical. Like, how does this “simple maid” lead all these people and make this enormous impact on history?

RAPHAEL: She had help. And she had help in Yolande of Aragon, who was the Dauphin’s mother-in-law. And she was a wonderful mother-in-law, because she cared about him, she cared about the succession, she cared about France.

And she was a one-woman committee. She raised money. She paid people off. She helped negotiate treaties. She had a network of spies. She did everything possible to get Joan to him to deliver her prophecy, and to get him off his butt so he could fight the British.

So, what you get here is an amazing piece of history, because what the author does is interweave the story of these two remarkable women, one of common origins, one of royal origins, and shows how the two of them could not have been successful without each other. It’s a very political story, it’s a military story, it’s a story based on reams and reams of contemporary evidence and letters and chronicles. It’s very much of its time, but when you finish it, you think, well, this is a story about today.

BENMARK: So essentially, it’s almost kind of a cynical…I feel like I’m making a cynical observation by saying, so, Joan, it wasn’t the visions and God and all that. She had a fixer. I mean, is any of the mystical stuff addressed at all?

RAPHAEL: The author addresses that and says we can’t really know what actually happened to Joan. We know what Joan believed. And what she believed fueled her, the king, and tens of thousands of troops. That’s indisputable. The author doesn’t go into the divine aspects, the mystical aspects of it, because she can’t. But what she can do is give you, in a beautifully written, exciting, and impossible to put down adventure story, what we have not known about Joan of Arc, and how she got to make history.

BENMARK: This seems like a pretty radical revelation that there was another person involved in this. Does the author talk about how she found out about this Yolande? How did she find out that there was this other person, since I’ve never heard anybody mention that there was any question of that before.

RAPHAEL: Well, she’s an expert in writing about powerful women of the late medieval age and the Renaissance. But as she puts it, in answering the question, “why haven’t we known about Yolande,” the answer is very simple. There’s no better way to be invisible in history than to be born a woman.