Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Women Pirates - the Lioness of Brittany

An everyday tale of love and revenge in the Middle Ages....

Jeanne-Louise de Belleville had an unremarkable early life - as the daughter of Maurice IV of Belleville-Montagaiu and his wife Letice, she was married at the age of 12 to Geoffrey de Chateaubriant, who was 19, and they had two children. When Geoffrey died, she married Olivier III de Clisson, and had five more children with him. During the Breton War of Succession, Olivier was accused of treason, and executed by the French crown (he had, in fact, defected to the English side).
Jeanne swore revenge on King Philip VI and Charles de Blois, who was one of the claimants to the Duchy of Brittany, and who had her husband arrested. She sold her lands, raised money from other Breton nobles who were in favour of independence from France, and bought three warships, which she had painted black with red sails. They were known as the Black Fleet, and patrolled the English Channel, attacking French shipping. She may also have assisted in getting supplies across the Channel to the English troops at the Battle of Crecy in 1346.
After thirteen years of successful piracy, Jeanne married an Englishman called Sir Walter Bentley, Edward III's Commander in the Marches, but later returned to live in France. In fact, King Edward granted her the Belleville lands that he held, and in 1359, when she died, her son Olivier IV did homage to Edward in order to continue to hold those lands.

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