Friday, April 8, 2016

Jeanne de Clisson

Jeanne de Clisson

Jeanne Avenges the Death of her Husband Olivier

Jeanne-Louise de Belleville was born into an affluent French family in1300 and was the descendent of a British family that lived in Brittany. She spent most of her life as a noblewoman and was married to a wealthy man, Geoffrey de Chateaubriand at the age of 12 and had two children named Louise and Geoffrey. Her husband died in 1325 and four years after the death of Geoffrey, she had been remarried to Olivier III de Clisson, a wealthy nobleman who was obliged to defend Brittany from the English claimants.They had five children namely Maurice, Guillaume, Olivier, Isabeau who died in 1343 and Jeanne.

Though Olivier had served the French, defending Brittany from the English, the French authorities especially Charles de Blois, who earlier had fought by Olivier’s side, doubted Olivier’s loyalty. There were rumours circulating that Olivier had absconded to the English side. King Philip VI taking Charles de Blois’s advice arrestedOlivier and tried him with disloyalty.

 Olivier was then taken to Paris and under the orders from King Philip VI had been executed at Les Halles on August 2, 1343. Olivier’s head was thereafter sent to Nantes and displayed on a pole outside the castle of Bouffay. Jeanne was filled with rage and swore vengeance against the king as well as Charles de Blois.

The Black Fleet

To avenge her husband’s death, she had sold her lands which she had and raised a small force of loyal men with whose help she could attack pro-French forces in Brittany. When her condition seemed to get dangerous on land she purchased three warships and took to the seas. She had the ships painted black and their sails dyed red.

 The `Black Fleet’went out at sea and patrolled the English Channel, hunting down ships belonging to King Philip as well as members of the French nobility. Under her orders, her crew slaughtered mercilessly, the crew of the ship she had captured leaving only a few sailors alive to convey to the King that the Lioness of Brittany had struck them again.

She thus earned the epithet `The Lioness of Brittany’, hated as a monster by some and praised by others as a heroine. She continued with her fight to the French even after the death of Philip in 1350 till 1356.

Lioness of Brittany

She took great pleasure in hunting down and capturing ships belonging to the French noblemen while they were aboard. She would behead them with an axe and then toss their bodies overboard. Eventually, she retired to England which was the only place where the people liked the French just as much as she did.

After thirteen years of piracy, Jeanne married for the third time to lieutenant to the English King Edward III, Sir Walter Bentley. Towards the end of her life she returned to France and had settled in Hennebont castle and apparently died in 1359.

 Taking into account the various tales regarding the Lioness of Brittany it is clear that Jeanne de Clission was not a defenceless damsel in distress but a fierce as well as a courageous woman who avenged the death of her husband. She seemed to be a woman of great substance and courage.

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