WOMEN’S HISTORY ✝ JEHANNE DE CLISSON (1300 – 1359)
Jehanne de Clisson (also known as Jeanne de Belleville) was a French noblewoman and supposed privateer. Little is known of her background, other than that she held a number of lordships in Poitou. At twelve, she married Geoffroy de Châteaubriant VIII, who was seven years her senior. Geoffroy passed away in 1326 and Jehanne remarried to Olivier IV de Clisson.
During the Breton War of Succession, Jehanne and Olivier sided with Charles de Blois and Jehanne de Penthièvre, who were backed by the French crown, rather than Jehan de Montfort and Jehanne de Flandre (who were backed by the English crown and the powerful Montfort family).
In 1342, Olivier was serving as a military commander of Vannes, when it fell to the English. Olivier was eventually ransomed however, Charles de Blois and Philippe VI (perhaps correctly) suspected that Olivier had turned traitor and allowed the city to be taken by the English. In January of 1343, Olivier and several other Breton lords were arrested for treason and beheaded.
Furious at her husband’s execution, Jehanne turned against Philippe VI and Charles de Blois. She and Jehanne de Flandre fled to England with their sons and were initially welcomed at the English court. Around 1340, Jehanne de Clisson remarried to Walter Bentley.
Though the French crown condemned Jehanne as a traitor and confiscated her family’s lands, she died peacefully in 1359. Her only surviving son, Olivier IV de Clisson, later became a Constable of France.
In legend, Jehanne was said to have bought three ships that were
painted black with red sails that patrolled the English Channel in
search of French ships to attack. Her piracy won her the nickname, “la Tigresse bretonne.”