Historical Nonfiction

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Jeanne de Clisson, Lionness of Brittany

She was born Jeanne-Louise de Belleville, Dame de Montaigu in 1300. At the age of 12, she was married to 19-year-old Geoffrey de Châteaubriant, by whom she had two children. In 1326, the marriage ended with the death of Châteaubriant. Four years later, in 1330, Jeanne married her second husband, Olivier III de Clisson. This union was an especially close one; Olivier and Jeanne were of an age and seemingly content, as they had five children together.

Her second-time’s-the-charm bliss ended, however, when Olivier defected to the English side during the Breton War of Succession. He was captured, found guilty of treason, and beheaded. Jeanne de Clisson swore revenge on the king who killed her husband.

She sold off all her lands, and bought three ships. Jeanne had them painted entirely black, with red sails. The ‘Black Fleet’ took to the waters and began hunting down and destroying the ships of King Philip VI. She would kill most of their crew, personally beheading any noblemen as her noble husband had been killed. But Jeanne made certain to always let a handful of sailors go, to report to the king that the “Lionness of Brittany” had bested him again.

For thirteen years, Jeanne de Clisson was the scourge of the French navy. Even the death of her enemy King Philip VI didn’t stop her from kicking ass and taking ships. She managed to keep the English Channel free of French warships during a stretch of the 100 Years’ War, before happily retiring to England.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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