Isabelle Romee by Linda Harris Sittig

Isabelle Romée was born in the small village of Vouthon-Bas in eastern France where in late summer bright yellow fields of grain ripen under a sky of azure blue. Born around 1385, she became the wife of Jacques Darc, giving him three sons and two daughters, but retaining her own surname as was often the custom of the time. She inherited a parcel of land from her family, and together she and Jacques farmed 50 acres. They lived a pastoral life in a modest house, following the seasons of planting, growing, and harvesting. While their sons performed the harder tasks of farm labor, Isabelle taught her two daughters how to garden, cook, spin, and keep house. All five children were raised Roman Catholic, and by all accounts the family was well respected.

But then one of the daughters entered her teens and began to act in unconventional ways, announcing that she had no intention of becoming married, but wanted instead to help the French soldiers in their fight against the English.

Isabelle and Jacques surely must have protested, but eventually Isabelle must have also seen the longing in her daughter to leave home. Isabelle spoke to the local priest for counseling, and apparently the priest sanctioned the girl’s ambitions. For the next two years the daughter, dressed now in boy’s clothing, traveled with the military. News would reach Isabelle and Jacques of their daughter’s whereabouts, but she did not return home.

Then malicious gossip started. People said the daughter was acting strange, saying that voices spoke to her with messages of how the military should proceed. Soon the gossip turned ugly and accusations of witchcraft were being whispered. Through a combination of politics and religious power plays the girl was arrested and jailed in a dungeon far from home. Isabelle tried in vain to have the Catholic Church intervene, but to no avail.

After several months of being incarcerated, the jailors started to subject the girl to torture until she confessed to the crime of witchcraft.  She was executed the very next day. To add further insult – the execution was by fire, so that she could not receive a proper Christian burial. By the time that Isabelle and Jacques received the news, the deed had already been done.

Overcome with grief, Isabelle believed her daughter innocent of any witchcraft charges and she knew the family did not have the clout to bring the daughter’s executioners to justice. The only thing Isabelle could do was an attempt to clear her daughter’s name. Almost immediately she embarked upon a campaign to open an investigation into her daughter’s death. No political or religious official was willing to help.

Jacques died a few years later and Isabelle moved to Orleans where she sought and received a widow’s stipend, thereby giving her the financial freedom to step up her efforts in having the Catholic Church look into the injustice of her daughter’s murder.

She diligently pursued her cause for 25 years, going all the way to petition Pope Nicholas V to listen to her pleas. In late 1455 when Isabelle was seventy years old, she traveled in the early winter to Paris, in order to speak in person to the Holy See, the judicial arm of the Catholic Church. On the day that she appeared at Notre Dom Cathedral, the church was packed with hundreds of Parisians who had heard the story of the crazy mother attempting to plead a case for a daughter long deceased. The accounts tell of how Isabelle walked up the long aisle, stood before the judges with her head held high, and delivered an eloquent and impassioned speech about her daughter’s innocence.

The Papal magistrates were so impressed that they advised Pope Nicholas V to have the case reopened. It took eight months, but the appeals court eventually cleared Isabelle’s daughter of all charges of witchcraft. Isabelle died soon after, finally achieving peace.

In 1920 her daughter became canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Young Jehanne Darc became St. Jeanne, or in English – Joan of Arc. Jehanne Darc was her authentic French name, not the modern Anglicized version we recognize today.

Isabelle surely danced with the angels in celebration.

Strong women often become strong mothers.

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About lhsittig

I am a freelance writer who specializes in historical fiction that showcases strong female protagonists. In non-fiction I focus on literacy tips for parents and teachers to help children become life long readers.
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12 Responses to Isabelle Romee by Linda Harris Sittig

  1. Linda, you have done it again. You have educated me about an amazing woman I never knew about. I particularly loved the truism that strong women often become strong mothers. I hope your words echo for many years,

  2. linda sittig says:

    Thanks, Bobbi, I could also had said that strong women often give birth to strong-minded daughters:)

  3. Michelle Simons says:

    Linda. I was surprised at the end to learn I was reading about Joan of Arc! How little I know about amazing women. Thanks!

  4. Teresa says:

    What an excellently written story. I wondered If that was Jeanne, did not realize her name was spelled that way. Loved the story through her mother’s eyes.

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Cynthia Rogers says:

    Linda, this is the best…..I had no idea her mother played such a crucial role—but of course! Thank you for this.

    • lhsittig says:

      I know! Everyone knows about Joan of Arc, but honestly I never even thought about her mother until I met a French historian last month who opened my eyes.

  6. clarbojahn says:

    The French Historian opened your eyes and you have opened our eyes. Thanks for this very real and true story of Joan of Arc. I have a book by that name in my Kindle and hope it is half as inlightening and fun to read as your blog.

    Thanks for introducing us to her mother. 🙂

  7. rich fox says:

    i would’ve been burned for my rock guitar antics. great writing linda and look at how far we’ve come? now they’re beheading and kidnapping innocents – a sad statement on humanity.

  8. dhallaj says:

    Loved the story. Thanks again, Linda. I never suspected that Joan of Arc owed her sainthood to a strong determined mother.

  9. lhsittig says:

    Moms rarely get the credit!

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