The major personalities

Jeanne de Belleville (1300-1359)

In the 14th century, the de Clisson family was one of the most powerful in Brittany. However, the family was severely impacted by the events of the Hundred Years War (1337 - 1453). Lord Olivier IV of Clisson was accused of treason by the King of France and executed.

His widow, Jeanne de Belleville, decided to wage a private war against the King of France in order to defend her property and protect her children's inheritance. She commanded a military expedition to lay siege to the Château de Touffou, near Nantes, and then decided to seek refuge in England with her children. During the journey at sea, she attacked French merchant ships and killed their crews, which earned her a reputation as a pirate from the 18th century onwards.

Listen to the two episodes of the France Culture podcast Jeanne de Belleville, la lionne de Bretagne (in French)

Olivier V de Clisson (1336 - 1407)

Olivier V de Clisson
Olivier V de Clisson © C. Hémon - Grand Patrimoine de Loire-Atlantique

Jeanne de Belleville's youngest son was by her side during her journey at sea, and when she took refuge in England.

As an adult, Olivier V was a fierce knight who pursued his family's revenge against the King of France, before setting out to become one of the richest lords of Brittany through his marriages and political alliances.

At war with the Duke of Brittany, John IV, who remained allied with the English, Olivier V preferred to fight in the ranks of the army of the King of France. Recognized by his contemporaries as one of the most valiant fighters and military strategists of his time, he was appointed Constable (head of the armies of the kingdom of France) by King Charles VI of France in 1380.

Olivier V spent little time in Clisson because he was very busy with political affairs related to the royal government. He lived mainly in Paris and Josselin.

In 1420, his daughter Marguerite de Clisson betrayed the Duke of Brittany. The castle was then confiscated for the benefit of the younger branch of the ducal family, from which Duke François II came.

François II, Duke of Brittany (1435-1488)

François II au parlement
François II au parlement © Coll. Musée Dobrée

The last Duke of Brittany was particularly fond of the Château de Clisson, where he was born and where he married Marguerite de Foix, mother of Anne de Bretagne. François II designed the castle's formal amenities, such as the living quarters, chapel and kitchens, in order to enjoy these areas away from the tumult of politics. However, during the war that he waged against the Kings of France Louis XI and Charles VIII, he decided to enlarge the castle. He tripled the size and adapted the fortress to accommodate the use of gunpowder weapons. These improvements, such as the artillery boulevards and cannon towers, made the fortress impregnable, and give the Château de Clisson the imposing aspect it has today.

François-Frédéric Lemot (1771 - 1827)

François-Frédéric Lemot
François-Frédéric Lemot © Dépôt au musée Dobrée / Archives Lemot

In 1805, the sculptor François-Frédéric Lemot was invited to Clisson by his friends Pierre-René Cacault, painter, and François Cacault, diplomat and collector. He fell in love with the town and the scenery along the banks of the Sèvre River, which reminded him of his travels in Italy. That same year, he purchased the Garenne woods in Gétigné.

Alongside his official career in Paris, in the service of Napoleon, he imagined a landscape domain similar to the landscapes that had so impressed him during his stay in Rome. In order to offer artists and painters picturesque perspectives, he designed and built ornamental structures (statues, grotto, column, tomb) placed strategically along the paths. He also acquired the château de Clisson to turn it into a folly park, opposite his domain on the other side of the Sèvre River.

Although the sculptor's name is not well known, his official commissions include the bas-relief of the tribune of the National Assembly, the pediment of the colonnade of the Louvre, the statue of Henri IV at the Pont-Neuf in Paris and the statue of Louis XIV, place Bellecour in Lyon.