What is it with French women named Jeanne? Unlike Madamoiselle d’Arc, however, Jeanne de Clisson was born into privilege and only took to kicking butt and taking names after the French king Phillip VI “wrongfully” executed her husband. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For those of you who don’t like all the dates and details, there is a clever little summary below I invite you to skip to. For the rest of you:
Jeanne was born in the Gâtine Vendéenne in the year 1300 CE to nobleman Maurice IV of Belleville-Montaigu and Létice de Parthenay of Parthenay. She was married at the age of twelve and during the span of that marriage, bore two children. Her husband died fourteen years later. In 1330 she remarried, this time to a wealthy Breton named Olivier de Clisson IV. It was here our story really begins.
She bore Oliver five children, one of whom died in toddlerhood, but the rest, two boys (one of whom was destined to become a Constable of France) and two girls, would reach their maturity.
During the Breton War of Succession, Oliver sided with Charles de Bois and was captured at Vannes (after the English’s fourth attempt to take the city). He was released in a prisoner exchange, but a very small ransom was demanded, which caused Charles de Bois to suspect Oliver of treachery, but seemingly nothing came of it.
In 1343, the Truce of Malestroit was signed and aggressions ceased. Under the guise of safe passage, Oliver and fifteen other Breton lords were invited to a tournament wherein he was arrested, dragged to France, tried and summarily executed on April 2nd, 1343. His body was put publicly on display for his crimes.
This shocked the nobility, for his alleged guilt was not made publicly known, and to display a body in such a way was generally a disgrace reserved for lower-class criminals. Most shocked of all was Jeanne, Oliver’s now 43-year-old wife. She took her two young sons to see their father’s head mounted at the Sauvetout gate in Nantes and swore that she would have vengeance on King Phillip VI and Charles de Bois for what she considered a wrongful and cowardly act.
She sold all the lands at Clisson and raised a force of fighting men to attack French forces in Brittany. She is said to have attacked brutally and mercilessly, a fitting description for a woman bent on revenge. When things became too intense in Brittany, she escaped to England. Her eldest son died en route, but her younger son was raised in the English Court. The English happily outfitted her with three warships which she immediately ordered painted black and they were outfitted with blood red sails.
For 13 years, Jeanne raided the English Channel for French ships, earning her very own pirate (sorry “privateer”) name: The Lioness of Brittany.
In 1356, she married an English officer and retired from privateering to settle down at the Castle of Hennebont. She died in 1359.
In summary: Jeanne’s second husband, Oliver, attacked the French successor to the leadership of Brittany and was captured in a battle. Because the English asked very little to return him to his place, the French government suspected him of treason, but couldn’t do anything about it as shortly there after, a truce was signed. Under the banner of a white flag, he was lured onto French soil, arrested, tried, and executed. Jeanne swore revenge, sold all she had, raised an army to attack the French. When fighting on land got to be too much, she enlisted the help of the English and took to the English Channel, targeting French vessels for 13 years. Her ferocity and skill earned her the nickname the Lioness of Brittany. She remarried and retired in the same year, and died three years later on an estate in Britanny. THE END.
This just serves to remind me not to anger any French women who answer to the name Jeanne. They seem to do things like serve 13 years of revenge and murder the English. Yes, I am American, but I can trace my lineage back to London in the 1600’s so I might still qualify….