A Woman to Know: Jeanne de Clisson

Jeanne has the heart of a man and of a lion. — Jean Froissart

Jeanne has the heart of a man and of a lion. — Jean Froissart

(image via Wikimedia)

Following her husband’s grisly death in the midst of the Hundred Years War, Jeanne liquidated their joint estate. With the money, she purchased three ships and painted them black. The noblewoman-turned-privateer ordered red sails be flown, and she named the (literal) flagship after her intentions for the French kingdom: “My Revenge.”

She vowed to terrorize the French King Philip VI, who had executed her husband, and by 1341, she had gathered a small army around her cause: freeing her native Brittany from French rule.

For the next decade, the “Lioness of Brittany” ransacked the French coast, blazing a trail of destruction. Her “Black Fleet” scored safe harbor with British sympathizers, and French aristocrats lived in fear of her wrath.

But come 1356, with “My Revenge” sunk in battle and the French king himself now dead, Jeanne retired from her privateer life. A regime change in France ended her long campaign. She retreated to her previous palace life, marrying a British nobleman and disappearing from history.

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