When Pierre de Souzy bought the suit, he thought he had merely acquired a set of old armour in unusually good condition. But the armour was also unusual in being very small. When Mr de Souzy's 14-year-old daughter was allowed to try it on, it fitted her perfectly.
But Mr de Souzy says that it was only when his wife joked that their daughter looked just like Joan of Arc that the possibility occurred to him that it might have been made for the Maid of Orleans.
He then embarked on months of detective work - which revealed striking coincidences which might support the claims of authenticity. According to experts cited by France's main Sunday paper, the Journal du Dimanche, the metal has been dated to the 15th century.
Marks on the armour correspond to injuries Joan is known to have suffered during the siege of Orleans in 1429 and subsequently near Paris.
The possibilities that the armour was made for a child or another female warrior have been rejected. Jean-Pierre Duchiron, an armour expert, said he is "practically sure" that the armour was Joan's. But the curator of France's army museum is sceptical. One opposing piece of evidence is that Joan wore a helmet with a moveable visor; Mr de Souzy's armour is visorless.
He bought the suit from an elderly woman, whose ancestor bought it in Britain in 1760. Joan of Arc's armour vanished after she was taken prisoner near Compiegne on 23 May 1431. But even if the armour eventually proves to be Joan's, Mr de Souzy's problems may not be at an end. He fears that the armour would become priceless, as a French national relic - and therefore, perhaps, unsellable.Reuse content