Amusement park brings ‘Joan of Arc ring’ back to France
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A medieval ring widely believed to be Joan of Arc’s last worldly possession is finally back in France, and will soon be unveiled to the public, after being purchased at an auction in England.
Le Puy du Fou, a history-themed amusement park in western France, paid close to €385,000 (£297,600) for the devotional jewel at an auction in the high-end Bloomsbury neighbourhood of London on February 26.
A spokesman for the park told FRANCE 24 that the ring arrived back in France on Friday evening.
The UK’s TimeLine Auctions said numerous documents offered evidence that the ring belonged to the French national heroine, who gave it to English cardinal, Henry Beaufort, before she was burned at the stake.
Ring's true history?
However, Le Puy du Fou issued a statement Friday offering a markedly different version of events surrounding the ring. The park argues that the ring was confiscated by pro-English Bishop Pierre Cauchon during the ill-fated teenager’s heresy trial, and that Joan repeatedly demanded her prized possession be returned to her. But Cauchon was deaf to her pleas. He gave the ring to Beaufort and he carted it off to England as a “symbolic spoil of war”.
The ring “remained in England for 600 years until the auction” the statement said, with the park’s founder, Philippe de Villiers, proclaiming that a long-lost “treasure” had finally been “restored to the French people”.
The silver-gilt hoop features the inscriptions “IHS” and “MAR” as abbreviations for Jesus and Mary, and is said to have been a first-communion gift to Joan of Arc from her parents.
Le Puy de Fou amusement park said the ring would be officially unveiled at a press conference on March 20 and will go on public display by mid-April.
There nevertheless appears to be some debate about the ring’s authenticity and whereabouts over the past six centuries.
TimeLine Auction describes the ring as being “associated” with Joan of Arc, and that it was once “owned by the son of a French doctor who came to Britain with General de Gaulle in World War II”. The auction house said the ring has been on public display several times in France and England.
Villiers told the AFP news agency that there was “no doubt” that the ring belonged to Joan of Arc, and that it had already been accurately dated to the 15th century.
Joan believed that God chose her to lead France to victory in its long-running war with England. With no military training, Joan convinced the beleaguered crown prince Charles of Valois to allow her to lead a French army to the besieged city of Orléans where they won a famous victory over the English.
After seeing the prince crowned King Charles VII, Joan was captured and tried for witchcraft and heresy by the English. She was burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of just 19.