Noblewoman… mother… prostitute… widow… pirate. In the 14th century, Jeanne de Clisson – the “Lioness of Brittany” — was all these, and more.
Actually, no one really seems sure about the prostitute part. What is true beyond doubt is that the Lioness of Brittany was as vicious as any male pirate. The reasons for her rage, however, are perhaps a bit more compelling.
The king was Charles VI of France, who ruled from 1380 to 1422. Charles suffered from what was most likely schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder. During his recurrent episodes of madness, he had severe hallucinations and delusions. At one point, he even believed he was made out of glass. He forbade anyone to touch him, lest he break, and had his tailors sew rods into his clothing for additional protection.
But Joan persisted and – according to legend — told Baudricort that as they were speaking, the French were suffering a terrible defeat near Orléans. Several days later a messenger confirmed Joan’s prediction. The French had attacked the English convoy and been routed, losing 400 men.
This allegedly inspired Baudricourt to believe in the divine nature of Joan’s mission. He gave her the requested escort and the rest, as they say, is history. As is the Battle of the Herrings – the most awesomely named battle ever.