9. A Savage Predator of the Sea
Jeanne de Clisson was not taken seriously at first. Then she attacked and captured a French castle, and massacred its entire garrison, except for one man whom she let live to tell the tale. The dangerous widow was taken seriously from then on. Aware that her forces were too small to withstand a determined French counterattack, Jeanne retreated across the Channel to England. There, she bought and outfitted three warships, and as a signal of her intent, painted them black and dyed their sails red. She led her black fleet into the English Channel, fell upon French shipping, and soon gained a reputation for savagery. Among other things, she routinely massacred nearly all who fell into her hands, except for a few survivors spared so they could spread the tale.
French nobles in particular were in serious trouble if they were discovered aboard any ship captured by the widow Clisson. Although there was serious money to be made ransoming them, as the was custom of the day, she wanted none of that. Instead, she tormented the nobles, then personally chopped off their heads with an ax, and finally tossed their corpses overboard. She continued her murderous rampage against the French wherever she could find them, for thirteen years, before her blood lust was finally sated. Eventually, in 1356, Jeanne Clisson gave up the life of piracy and retired to her estates in Brittany. She remarried for a fourth time, and settled into a castle on Brittany’s southern coast, where she died peacefully in 1359.