Footnote 350

We have a couple sources available for determining her approximate height, including one which allows us to limit it to a precise range of values.
First of all, there's an eyewitness account which is important, despite its vagueness, in that it provides a context for interpreting the more specific source cited below. According to an Italian who had seen her (Guillelmus Guaschus), as related in a document by Philip of Bergamo, she was short - "erat brevi". [For a transcription of the original language of this excerpt, see "Procès de la Condamnation et de Réhabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc, dite la Pucelle" Vol IV, p. 523].
"Short", in the context of the 15th century, would mean less than 5 feet: even as late as the 19th century, most women were at or under 5 feet, and those who were a few inches above that height were considered abnormally tall. This brings us to the more specific data that we have on her height, provided by a surviving letter from Duke Charles d'Orléans which refers to the purchase of two items of clothing for her, one cut from two ells of cloth and the other (a sleeveless garment which therefore used less cloth) cut from one ell. This has given us a means to calculate the maximum possible size of the garments, and hence her maximum possible height (the "upper bound" in the range of possible values). Adrian Harmand has calculated this value as 5'2", although he strangely took this for an absolute measure of her precise height despite the fact that the value of "two ells" listed in the document is, needless to say, a round number representing not the amount of cloth actually used, but rather a purchase quantity equaling the necessary amount rounded upwards to the nearest ell (cloth is sold in whole units, meaning that one almost always ends up buying more than is needed). Harmand calculated the largest possible garment of that type which could be cut out from a two-ell rectangle of cloth, but it would be improbable that exactly two ells were actually needed. Additionally, 5'2" would be abnormally tall for a woman of the 15th century and would therefore be inconsistent with with the description that she was "short". The only counter-argument I've seen is a citation from the unreliable "Chronique de Lorraine" which claims she was "large"; but it also invents the notion that she took part in campaigns not discoverable in any other document, and gives the view that she simply vanished without a trace while leading an assault against Rouen... which indicates something about its accuracy. While Philip of Bergamo includes quite a number of errors, his account is not nearly as muddled as "Chronique de Lorraine" and his information concerning her height is attributed to an eyewitness.

It seems reasonable to assume that her actual height was at or below 5 feet.

Copyright © 2002 - 2003, Allen Williamson. All rights reserved.

Return to the biography.