history meme: 03/06 women | Jeanne de Clisson or de Belleville, La Tigresse Bretonne
Jeanne de Clisson, born into an affluent French family in 1300, spent most of her life as a noblewoman. In 1330 she married Olivier de Clisson (a marriage of love) who was an important Breton noble that spent years in service defending Brittany against the English. When the Duke of Brittany died with no male heir in 1341, both King Edward III of England and Phillip VI of France saw an opportunity to take the land. Olivier served the French in defending Brittany from the English. But the French authorities began to doubt his loyalty. Rumours spread that Olivier had defected to the English side. King Philip VI and his nephew Charles de Blois, had Olivier captured and tried with treason. In 1343, he was executed by beheading . Olivier’s head was then sent to Nantes and displayed on a pole outside the castle of Bouffay. Jeanne took her two young sons to Nantes, to show them the head of their father at the Sauvetout gate. Enraged and bewildered over her husband’s execution, she swore vengeance against the King and his nephew. The first thing Jeanne de Clisson did was to sell off her lands and raise a small force of loyal men with whom she attacked pro-French forces in Brittany. When her situation became too dangerous on land, she purchased three warships and took to the seas. She had her ships painted black and dyed their sails red to intimidate her enemy, earning the title “The Black Fleet”. Her main ship was named Ma Vengeance -My Revenge. The Black Fleet patrolled the English Channel for French ships, especially those owned by King Phillip and members of the French nobility. Her crews, as merciless under her orders as she was herself, would kill entire crews, leaving only one or two alive to carry news to the king that she had struck again. This earned Jeanne the epithet, “The Lioness of Brittany”, reviled as a monster by some, praised as a heroine by others. In her efforts to keep the English Channel completely free of French ships, she formed an alliance with the English, laundering supplies to their soldiers for battles. She continued her work as a pirate even after the death of her enemy, King Philip VI, in 1350. Jeanne de Clisson fought as a pirate for thirteen years. Her quest for revenge ended when Jeanne found love in English noble Sir Walter Brentley, who had been King Edward III’s lieutenant. She married him in 1356 and settled into a quiet life in the Castle of Hennebont in France, which was a territory of her allies.
Photo: Relief showing mourners from Saqqara, now at the Louvre, ca. 1330 BCE.
It could be argued that many funerals today are for the benefit of the living instead of the salvation of the dead. This however was certainly not the case in ancient Egypt; the funeral, like the mummification process, was a vital stage in regeneration of the deceased -not an end, rather the first stage in the final voyage.
The cortège which accompanied the mummy to the cemetery could include the sem-priest, lector-priest, the widow (or sometimes a paid substitute), friends, family, servants, and band of professional mourners. These professional mourners were hired to weep and wail, pull their hair and clothes, beat at their chests, and to smear their body with dirt -all of which were signs of uncontrolled behaviour. Among artistic representations of these professional mourners are often small girls emulating their moves, which may be indicative that mourners were trained on the job.
The grief of family members and mourners was artistically presented with remarkable intensity, solemn and silent sorrow was expressed by the placing of the hands over the cheeks or the head on the knees.
Those walking in the funeral had certain words to utter and speeches, all highlighting virtues of the deceased. This was an appeal to the gods of the underworld to take the deceased person to dwell amongst them. The words spoken were expressed from their hearts, and full of emotion and grief. Evidently very strong social and family ties existed in ancient Egyptian society. Some of these phrases written for the dead remain preserved for us to read today, here is one such example: “Do not leave me, come to me, come look after us. O kind father!”
Shown artifact courtesy of & currently located at the Louvre, France. Photo taken by Anne-Marie Bouché. When writing up this post, Abeer el Shahawy's The Funerary Art of Ancient Egypt (American Univ in Cairo Press, 2005) was of use. As was Joyce Tyldesley's The Penguin Book of Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt (Penguin Global, 2012).
“Jeanne de Clisson, the ‘Lioness of Brittany’ and fearsome pirate queen, stalked the English Channel for French ships from 1343 - 1356.
In 1330, the daughter of Maurice IV of Belleville-Montaigu and Létice de Parthenay, Jeanne-Louise de Belleville (Dame de Montaigu) married Olivier III de Clisson. Olivier was also a wealthy nobleman, so in 1342 he joined Charles de Blois in defending Brittany against the English claimants - and the forces of English sympathiser John de Montfort (whose wife, Jeanne de Montfort, also took to the sea to combat the French alongside the English Navy. Nicknamed 'The Flame’ due to stories about her carrying a flaming sword into battle, she is sometimes confused with the Lioness of Brittany).
During the ensuing campaign, Olivier defected to the English side, so in the summer of 1343 he was arrested and taken to Paris for trial. Fifteen of his peers, including his friend Charles de Blois, found him guilty of treason and on the 2nd of August, 1343, he was executed by beheading. Olivier’s head was then sent to Nantes and displayed on a pole outside the castle of Bouffay. Jeanne, enraged and bewildered over her husband’s execution, swore revenge on the King and, in particular, Charles de Blois. She sold off the remnants of the Clisson lands to raise money - whereupon she bought three warships, and the aid of many of the lords and people of Brittany to ensure their independence.
The ships that Jeanne purchased were painted all black on her command, and the sails dyed red. The 'Black Fleet’ took to the waters and began hunting down and destroying the ships of King Philip VI, and were merciless with the crews. But Jeanne would always leave two or three of Philip’s sailors alive, so that the message would get back to the King that the 'Lioness of Brittany’ had struck once again….When King Philip VI died in 1350, it was not the end to Jeanne’s revenge. She continued to wreak havoc among French shipping, and it was reported that she took particular joy in hunting down and capturing the ships of French noblemen, as long as they were aboard. She would then personally behead the aristocrats with an axe, tossing their lifeless bodies overboard.”
Jeanne retired in 1356, after 13 years of piracy, and died in 1359.