On August 2, 1343, early on in the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, Breton knight, Olivier De Clisson, was executed under orders of King Philip VI of France for treason. Olivier was accused of aiding and abetting the English enemy, but the evidence was never made public prompting rumors of the lord’s execution was politically motivated. These events led Olivier’s wife, Jeanne De Belleville, took their two sons and her deceased husband’s fleet of ships and set out to teach the King of France a lesson. She hired a crew of sailors and went about roving the English Channel in the search of French targets – the Lady had turned pirate! One of the most daring raids attributing to the so-called Lioness of Brittany was a raid on the Chateau Thébaut in the Loire River Valley, where she wiped out the entire French garrison. She also reputedly captured a French ship sailing on the English Channel and, finding a French nobleman loyal to the King aboard, decapitated him by her own hand, thus she had her revenge for her (purportedly) wrongly executed husband.
While much of the story of Jeanne De Belleville is legend, the records do support that she led a short period of revolt against the French King, though many of the exact details actually date to the French Romantic Movement on the nineteenth century. Jeanne’s story of a strong female leader during the Hundred Years’ War is hardly unique. In fact, the most famous one is another one we will be covering in History is Stranger of Fiction – Joan of Arc!