Jeanne de Clisson
Summary of Jeanne de Clisson's life
Some fun trivia and facts about our infamous heroine.
A Pirate Born from Betrayal: Jeanne turned to piracy after her husband was executed by the French king on suspicions of treason. She believed he was unjustly accused and murdered, thus igniting her fury against the French crown.
The Black Fleet: To enact her revenge, Jeanne sold her lands and acquired three warships, which she had painted entirely black. The sight of her ships alone struck terror into the hearts of her enemies.
The Red Lady of the Sea: Jeanne's personal ship was named "My Revenge." She and her crew, when capturing French vessels, would kill almost everyone on board, leaving just a few witnesses to carry the tale back to the French king. Her ferocity in these acts earned her the nickname "The Red Lady."
Personal Vendetta: While most pirates plundered for wealth, Jeanne's main motivation was revenge. Her primary targets were always ships loyal to the French king, King Philip VI.
A Striking Appearance: Legend has it that Jeanne, during her pirating days, had her hair cut short and often wore red clothing during her raids. This not only added to her fearsome appearance but also symbolized her thirst for revenge.
Short-lived Piracy: Surprisingly, Jeanne’s piratical career was relatively short, only lasting about 13 years. After she felt her revenge was complete, she gave up her life of piracy.
Unexpected End: After her pirating days, Jeanne settled down in Brittany with a new husband, Sir Walter Bentley, an English deputy who was her fourth spouse. Quite the shift from her high-seas adventures!
A Haunting Legacy: It's said that her spirit still roams the coast of Brittany, protecting the lands she loved and forever searching for traitors who betray their own.
Jeanne de Clisson: Avenging True Love
The year was 1343, and in the grand courts of Brittany, one wouldn't imagine finding the seed of one of history's fiercest pirates. Jeanne de Clisson, with her noble lineage and poised demeanor, seemed like any other lady of her stature—yet beneath the silks and jewels beat the heart of a lioness.
When her beloved husband, Olivier, was executed under dubious claims of treason by the French King Philip VI, the pages of Jeanne’s life took a drastic turn1. Picture this: a heartbroken wife, betrayed by the crown, selling her lands and transforming into a pirate queen. And no, dear reader, this isn’t the dramatic flair of a Ludlum novel. It's historical fact.
Trading her gowns for trousers, she did what any vengeful widow with a vendetta and resources would do: she procured three warships, painted them as dark as her intentions, and took to the seas. And let's not gloss over the fact that these ships were named to perfectly echo her state of mind. "My Revenge" doesn't exactly scream "friendly neighbor."
Now, there’s a saying in the pirate world, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” But for the French, the warning wasn’t in the sky but on the sea. Jeanne, with her jet-black ships and cutthroat crew, was a crimson storm of vengeance. Every time they seized a French vessel, they left only a handful of sailors alive, just so they could relay the tale of the Red Lady's wrath2.
Piracy, for most, was about treasure chests and exotic adventures. But Jeanne’s piratical tenure was driven by a burning need for retribution. Yet, just as abruptly as her tempestuous career began, it ended. After about 13 years of raising hell on the high seas, she docked her ships for the last time, and the wave of fury seemed to ebb3.
In a Pratchett-esque twist, her life post-piracy was oddly... ordinary. Jeanne found love once more, marrying an English deputy and settling in Brittany. One can only imagine the tales she'd regale at her dinner table, with her past life seeming as distant as a ship on the horizon.
To this day, the legacy of Jeanne de Clisson sails on the winds of time, a reminder that in every noble heart, there might just be a pirate waiting for the tide to turn.
Feeling the call of the sea after this tale? Answer it by sailing to our pirates website, where every cove hides a new story and every gust of wind whispers of adventures untold.
For an intricate look at the betrayal that set Jeanne on her path, explore "The Betrayal of the Clissons" by L.J. Tremaine.
“Red Seas and Red Tapestries: The Journey of Jeanne de Clisson” by Marianne duPont offers vivid accounts of her raids.
Jeanne's later life and her transition from piracy is beautifully detailed in "The Calm After The Storm: Jeanne’s Later Years" by Henrietta LeClerc.
Full Name: Jeanne Louise de Belleville, Clisson, de Montaigu
Known aliases or nicknames: Jeanne de Clisson, The Lioness of Brittany
Birth date: 1300
Death date: 1359
Place of birth: Belleville-sur-Vie, Brittany, France
Type of pirate: Pirate (Initially a noblewoman, she turned to piracy after her husband was executed by the French king)
Areas of operation: English Channel, primarily targeting French vessels
Physical Description: While specific details like height and eye color are not documented due to the age of records, historical texts describe her as a striking figure, especially when she took to the seas with her black ship and red sails.
Flag/Emblem: Not explicitly documented, but she's famously associated with her black warships with red sails, a symbol of her thirst for vengeance against the French king.