Lioness Of Brittany

08 02 jeanne de clissonI’m sorry, but today’s story starts with a beheading, which is rarely a good thing, on August 2nd 1343. Also after that loads of people die. I know this doesn’t sound brilliant, but bear with me.

I want to tell you about Jeanne de Clisson who was born in Brittany in 1300. She was first married at the age of twelve. Her husband died in 1326 and she married Olivier de Clisson in 1330. They were unlucky enough to live the latter part of their lives during the Hundred Years war, which actually lasted one hundred and sixteen years and involved most of Western Europe. During a massive battle between the English and the French over who should be in charge of Brittany, Olivier de Clisson was defending the city of Vannes but was captured by the English. He was eventually released but the French thought the ransom they had paid for him was a bit low. They decided that meant he must not have defended the city very well and must be a traitor. In 1343, during a period of truce, de Clisson was invited to a tournament. It was a ruse, he was arrested, taken to Paris, tried and beheaded. His body was put on a gibbet in Paris and his head sent to Nantes where it was displayed on a spear.

Not only had he been killed by his own side, the punishment was one usually reserved for low class criminals. His wife Jeanne was furious. She took her two young sons to see there father’s head and swore retribution against the King of France. She sold all their lands and gathered an army of loyal supporters. With them she seems to of attacked at least two French castles, on one occasion slaughtering everyone in the entire garrison save one.

She later fled to England and, with the help of the English king and her Breton sympathisers, bought three warships. She painted them all black and dyed the sails red. Then she spent the next thirteen years sailing up and down the English Channel hunting down and attacking French ships. She would slaughter almost everyone on board, leaving only a few to transmit the news to the French king. It seems that she personally beheaded French nobles with an axe. This earned her the nickname Lioness of Brittany. She also attacked several coastal villages in Normandy and used her ships to supply the English during the Battle of Crecy.

So there we are. Apologies for all the death and destruction in this one but it’s a brilliant story of revenge. A dish best served with three menacing warships and a massive axe.


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