March is Women’s History Month, and it’s also the month that the Australian publisher Fablecroft are running a fundraiser for their new anthology Cranky Ladies of History. Some familiar names are in the line-up: Juliet Marillier, Lauren Beukes, Garth Nix, Jane Yolen. There’s also some newer names like, well, me, and also Foz Meadows, and many more. They will be writing about the cranky women of history from all over the world. The funding page has been up for a few days and it’s already over a third funded, so I’m hoping it’ll make it the rest of the way there.
I’ve been invited to participate, and if it’s funded, I’ll be able to write about the Lioness of Brittany, Jeanne de Clisson.
A brief summary of her life: she was a French noblewoman born in 1300. At the age of 12 she was married to her first husband, a 19-year-old nobleman, and they had two kids but then he died. Her second husband was Olivier de Clisson III, and they loved each other dearly. They went on to have five children. According to BBC, “Olivier came under suspicion and criticism from Charles de Blois for failing to hold Vannes against the English forces, and so Clisson defected to the English side. In the summer, 1343, while he was attending a tourney in French territory, Olivier 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 2 August, 1343, he was executed by beheading at Les Halles, on the orders of King Philip VI. Olivier’s head was then sent to Nantes and displayed on a pole outside the castle of Bouffay.”
This broke Jeanne’s heart.
Then she was pissed.
She swore revenge against the King and his noblemen, especially Charles de Blois. She sold her lands, raised money, and some sources say she sold her body to raise more funds. Then she bought three ships, which she painted black and gave red sails.
And then she became a pirate. She attacked the King’s ships and killed almost everyone, but left one or two alive so that the stories of the Lioness of Brittany could spread. BCC also says, “Jeanne and her fleet also assisted in keeping the English Channel free of French warships, and it is very likely that as a privateer she had a hand in keeping supplies available to the English forces for the Battle of Crécy in 1346. 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.”
After 13 years, piracy began to get a little old, so she retired to England and married again, this time to Sir Walter Bentley. Eventually she returned to France, and after she died, her ghost has been said to have been seen haunting Clisson Castle.
So I thought she definitely fit the billing of the prompt of the anthology, which was to pick women who bucked the trends of their time. I’ll be adding some fantasy elements, and hopefully it’ll have the sort of atmosphere of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell or Naomi Novik’s work. I originally learned about the Lionness when I was researching badass lady pirates for this post I wrote last year.
I’m really looking forward to it and hope it funds!