So then it was 1330 and Jeanne married Olivier de Clisson. This story is about her.
It was her third marriage since she was 12. They had five children. One of them was nicknamed ‘The Butcher’, so you know this is a good one.
There’s two wars you need to know about. The Hundred Years war is a long, long, series of war between France and England. These cats did *not* get on. And the Breton War of Succession.
Modern day France used to be a series of related but culturally separate series of kingdoms. One was Brittany (Breton) and it was very strategically useful in the war between France, a smaller country than now, and England. They were subject to France but were trying to get out from under. (Its actually hella more complicated and I don’t understand it all. Brittany, France, fighting. Ok?)
In 1342, England captured Oliver’s city. He is captured and ransomed back for suprisingly cheap. Nobles were rarely killed in battle. This cheap ransom makes people suspicious he was actually a traitor. A guy called Charles De Blois especially thought that.
Remember that name.
Anyway, not long after that, Brittany and France reached truce.
A great joust was declared to celebrate. Just like in that telly show ‘Tits Out For Dragons!’ Only problem was, it was a trap. Olivier was found guilty of being in league with England and his head was chopped off and mounted in front of a castle.
It was bullshit. It was weird he was hostaged cheaply but not a sure sign of treachery. 14 other Breton lords got the chop. It was the King of France being a dick. It was a show trial to cow Brittany. Probably Charles De Blois being a dick too.
Jeanne knew this. So she took her children to see her husband’s severed head. She told them that their father’s murder was a savage act of cowardice and betrayal and they would have their revenge.
One kid was nicknamed ‘The Butcher’, remember?
I *told* you this was going to be good.
So Jeanne goes back to her holdings and has a sale. She sells everything off. And with that cash she pays up fighting men. She raises an army.And hunts down every motherfucking Frenchman she can find in Brittany. She cons her way into one castle. When the drawbridge goes down, her men attack. They kill everyone in it.
Except for one man. One man goes free to tell what happened. And why.
She then sacks another castle and does the same thing. One man to testify. This second castle belonged to a vassal of one Charles de Blois.
She was looking for the man who she blamed for he husband’s death, the pious, self-mortifying weirdo, de Blois.
The King of France couldn’t lose two castles. This was a Deal. And so he dispatched armies looking for this renegade army. They couldn’t fight the King’s armies on land so they took to the sea. Pirates. They’d raid ships.
And leave one survivor.
Jeanne served on these ships. She was there.
Eventually they were found by the French navies and largely her fleet was destroyed. Jeanne and her kids got in a rowboat and made it to England. A five day trip without food. In the cold. One of her sons died.
Jeanne was able to get audience with the King of England as asked for money for ships, for men. England was happy to give it to her.
So she bought herself three warships. She painted them black. She had the sails made in red. She named her flagship ‘My Revenge.’ What a sight that must have been. Red sails coming out of the sun…
She never found de Blois, contrary to all rules of drama, who was actually captured by an English lord during this period. Perhaps she never knew. But she kept herself busy by killing as many as 3000 French.
This is where her son, an enthusiastic marine, got his nickname. Oliver the Butcher.
In time, the King of France died and Jeanne was getting on. She raided and reaved for six more years before marrying and settling in England.
Oliver would be there at the battle in which de Blois died, though. And he would go on to a bloody career, rising high. An ally would remark ‘By God I see why they call you Butcher’, after he personally killed 15 prisoners.
What must it be like, I wonder… to get a revenge as complete as Jeanne de Clisson. To have literally washed the seas in your enemy’s blood…
Next up,Joanna of Flanders, the fearsome general who destroyed the House of de Blois.
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