Jeanne de Clisson Was a French Noblewoman Who Turned to Piracy to Avenge Her Husband

Jeanne de Clisson is one of the most famous female pirates in history. Her story is one of love, cruelty, and revenge, and continues to captivate history enthusiasts even today.

In 1343, Jeanne’s husband, Olivier IV de Clisson, Breton Marche Lord, was arrested for his role in the War of the Breton Succession and accused of treason by King Philip VI of France. De Clisson was put on a sham trial and executed, while Jeanne was sentenced to banishment due to her attempt to organize an escape for her husband.

Seeking revenge, Jeanne sold all of her late husband’s properties and raised an army of 400 men to fight French forces in Brittany. After several successful actions, Jeanne took her battle to the sea, purchasing three merchant ships and making them battle-ready. They were painted black and sailed under red sails, with the main ship carrying the name My Revenge.

While at sea, Jeanne’s Black Fleet hunted down French commerce ships and attacked them. After taking over the ship, Jeanne, now nicknamed “The Lioness of Brittany,” would have the entire crew killed while leaving only one person alive. This survivor would serve as a witness so they could send her message to King Philip VI.

Eventually, the French fleet managed to orchestrate an attack on the Black Fleet and sink My Revenge. Jeanne and her two sons, Guillaume and Olivier, remained adrift for almost a week, during which Guillaume died. Eventually, Jeanne and Olivier were saved, and Jeanne continued with her piracy activities for more than a decade.

At some point in 1350s, Jeanne married Walter Bentley, who served as one of King Edward III of England’s military deputies. The two lived at Castle of Hennebont, a small town on the coast of Brittany until their deaths in 1359.

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