It’s been far too long since I’ve done a post on real life female pirates. So far, you can find info about Ching Shih, our Chinese prostitute turned pirate here, and Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate queen here. Today’s post features Jeanne de Clisson, a French aristocrat who turned pirate as a means of obtaining revenge.
Jeanne was born in 1300 to a wealthy family and had a proper aristocratic upbringing. She was married three times in her life. She married her first husband when she was twelve and had two sons with him. He died fourteen years later, and Jeanne later married Olivier de Clisson.
At this time in history, the War of Breton Succession was occurring, in which the French and English were fighting for control of the Duchy of Brittany after the duke had died without a male heir. Charles de Blois sought to claim it for the French, and John de Montfort, for the English. Naturally, the Clissons sided with the French. Jeanne’s husband served as a military commander during the fighting that ensued.
Though there is no proof that Olivier was anything but loyal, the French suspected him of aiding the English, and King Philip VI of France had Olivier tried with treason. He was beheaded, and his body was displayed publicly.
Jeanne was furious. She sold all of her lands, purchased several warships, rallied herself some loyal supporters, and started attacking French ships. To invoke more fear, she had her ships painted black and her sails dyed red. After capturing a ship, she’d kill everyone on board, save a couple of witnesses who could report back to King Philip. She wanted the king to know exactly who was causing him so much trouble. When she captured any French noblemen, she personally beheaded them. They called her the Lioness of Brittany for her brutality.
Jeanne kept at it successfully for thirteen years, even after the king had died. She fell in love and married her third husband, an English nobleman; retired as a pirate; and lived happily ever after. In a castle.