Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Renaissance France - Anne of Brittany II

Louis de la Tremoille
Outnumbered and Outgunned

Charles’ general Louis de La Trémoille led a French army of 15,000 to besiege Ploȅrmel[i] which fell on 1st June. Louis d’Orléans and his small army retreated to Vannes closely followed by the French, where the majority of rebels surrendered. Louis fled to Nantes which was immediately besieged by La Trémoille. François d'Orléans-Longueville[ii], the Comte de Dunois led an army of 10,000 to harry the French besiegers.

The war continued throughout the summer of 1488 and Charles wrote to La Trémoille;

‘Make war as vigorously as you can and give them no leave to make repairs, get provisions or prepare.’[iii]

St Malo
The French were the victors of the Battle of St Aubin du Cormier on 29th June. Louis and his men deferred to the most experienced captain on their side d’Albret who insisted on ensuring that everything was positioned perfectly before attacking, despite having the initial advantage. It is possible that he was bribed to lose the battle. The French army then moved on to take St Malo forcing Francis to come to terms.

The Treaty of Sablé[iv] signed on 20th August 1488 saw Francis submit as a vassal of the throne of France. He promised to obtain Charles’ permission before arranging a marriage for Anne. He also agreed to remove all foreign troops from Brittany and stop supporting the English. The rebel Louis d’Orléans was imprisoned and he did not see Anne again until after she was married to his cousin.

A Death in the Family

Arms of the Counts of Comminges
With Francis’ death on 4th September 1488, following a fall from his horse, Anne became sovereign Duchess of Brittany, Countess of Nantes, Montfort and Richmond and Viscountess of Limoges. On his deathbed Francis appointed Marshall Rieux and Odet d’Aydie, the Comte de Comminges and Governor of Guyenne, as Anne’s guardians. The eleven year old duchess was beset by enemies, not only the French but her former ally d’Albret who conspired and fought with them.

Anne was now a prize to be fought over by the rulers of Europe; Henry VII suggested a marriage between Anne and Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, but in December 1489 the executors of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, paid the King £4000[v] to allow Buckingham to marry Percy's eldest daughter Eleanor. The Spanish sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella were also interested in gaining Anne’s dominions for their son Juan Prince of the Asturias, and Maximilian too was looking for a well-endowed wife.

Following divisions amongst her advisers and still hopeful of marrying Anne, by force if necessary, d’Albret laid siege to Nantes and Anne had to flee to Rennes.

‘While aid from England was delayed….she [Anne] sent for de Rieux and Commines to conduct her to Nantes. Instead of obeying they remained with d’Albret.’[vi]

She was crowned duchess of 10th February 1489 in Rennes. Her cousin John became Anne’s heir presumptive and a member of her high council. In August 1490 Anne lost her sister Isabeau; always a sickly child.

In a desperate attempt to find allies, John was instrumental in arranging Anne’s marriage to Maximilian. Anne was married by proxy to Maximilian on 19th December 1490 at Rennes cathedral. The marriage was regarded as consummated when Maximilian’s proxy, in a ceremony new to western Europe, laid his leg naked to the knee under the sheets of the bed in which the 14 year old Anne lay. The French viewed the marriage as illegal as Charles’ consent had not been requested or given.


Chateau de Ducs de Bretagne
With the proxy marriage to Maximilian as their justification the French intensified their efforts to subjugate Brittany[vii]. D’Albret, captain of the garrison in Nantes and disappointed in his hopes of Anne, handed over the town to the French in return for a full pardon, the return of his confiscated lands and a large sum of money. The French entered Nantes in February 1491. Maximilian and Henry VII promised aid but before either could act the French were besieging Anne’s capital of Rennes.

Maximilian was too engrossed fighting in Hungary to spare troops to support Anne in Brittany. Her English and Castilian allies sent a nominal number of troops to fight in the siege of Rennes. The chances of surviving the siege were minimal and there was no money to pay for an army to relieve the city. Charles offered Anne 1200,000 livres[viii] and a free pass to travel to join Maximilian, an offer it was easy for Anne to refuse as it meant the loss of her duchy.

Anne’s advisers suggested that Anne agree to marry Charles. Angry with Maximilian for his failure to come to her aid and persuaded by her confessor and governess that the proxy marriage was not binding, Anne agreed. Louis d’Orléans worked to bring about his cousin’s marriage; he had been freed from his imprisonment by Charles after Louis agreed to plead his cousin’s case. In July 1491 Louis and Dunois travelled to Rennes.

Margaret of Austria
Reflecting the helplessness of Anne’s position the contract was one sided and Anne had to agree to marry Charles’ successor if he should die without a son, a twist of fate that was to reunite Anne with Louis.

‘She was beautiful, young and full of graces, so that it was a pleasure to look on her.’[x]

While Charles has been described as

‘A young and licentious hunchback of doubtful sanity.’[xi]

Maximilian’s daughter Margaret who had been betrothed to Charles in 1483 and was living at the French court, was now repudiated[xii].

Queen of France

Chateau de Langeais
Dispensation for the marriage was required from the pope Innocent VIII and the couple were married at the Chateau de Langeais[xiii]. Charles became Duke of Brittany; if Anne died before Charles and any children of the marriage, and the duchy was to become part of France. If Charles died before Anne then she regained her duchy.

In France it was recorded that;

‘There is no sign of rejoicing over this marriage [at court] on the part of the king or anyone else.’[xiv]

Following the wedding on 6th December 1491, the couple went to Tours, before travelling on to Paris. Anne was crowned at the Basilica of St Denis on 8th February 1492 and the following day Anne made her official entry into the city.

Charles and Anne lived at the Hôtel des Tournelles[xv], but neither of the couple liked Paris and Charles had the Chateau d’ Amboise, where he had spent much of his childhood, extended. At the same time Anne had the chateau at Nantes refurbished.

A Valois Dauphin

Charles Orlando
In the autumn of 1492 a pregnant Anne and Charles travelled to the Chateau de Plessis les Tours where Anne gave birth to her first child on 11th October 1492, Charles Orlando.. The name was a compromise; Anne, Charles and his godmother, Jeanne de Laval, widow of King René I of Naples wanted the Dauphin to be called Orlando, a variant of the name Roland the French hero of the battle of Roncevaux Pass as glorified in the Chanson de Rolande[xvi].

Louis d’Orléans and Peter II, Duke of Bourbon, as godfathers refused to allow the future king of France to receive such an outlandish name. Anne was still recovering from giving birth and did not attend the christening the Church of Saint Jean of Plessisour. The Dauphin was held during the service by his mother’s cousin John IV.

When Charles Orlando was 18 months old he was
Lord de Boissy
installed in the castle at
Amboise. He had two governors, the Lord de Boissy and That-Guénant. His governess was Madam de Bussière and he surrounded by a multitude of servants. Charles Orlando was the pride and joy of his parents. His mother doted on him, buying him presents; his father described him as the;

‘Most beautiful of gems.’[xvii]

Both parents insisted on being kept informed of his health and his progress, by means of letters and messages. To protect Charles Orlando his father decreed that there was to be no hunting in the fôret d’Amboise and that the city be reduced to having only four gates, impeding access to the castle.


Louis XII – Frederic J Baumgartner, MacMillan Press Ltd 1996
Renaissance Europe – JR Hale, Wm Collins Sons and Co Ltd 1971
The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France – RJ Knecht, Fontana Press 1996
Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011
A History of France 1460-1560 – David Potter, MacMillan Press Ltd 1995
Anne of Brittany – Helen Josephine Sanborn, General Books 2012
The March of Folly – Barbara W Tuchman, Sphere Books Ltd 1984
Twice Crowned Queen – Constance de la Warr, Eveliegh Nash 1905 (Reprint 2015)

[i] Between Vannes and Rennes
[ii] Son of Jean de Dunois who was a cousin of Louis’ father Charles and one of Joan of Arc’s captains
[iii] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[iv] Also known as the Treaty of La Verger
[v] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £2,664,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £85,390,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,240,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[vi] Anne of Brittany - Sanborn
[vii] Claiming that Anne had not received permission from Charles to marry Maximilian
[viii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £76,710,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £2,399,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £34,620,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[ix] One of Charles’ courtiers
[x] Anne of Brittany - Sanborn
[xi] Absolute Monarchs - Norwich
[xii] Her first husband was Juan, Prince of the Asturias
[xiii] Where the Roumer river enters the Loire valley
[xiv] The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France - Knecht
[xv] To the north of what is now the Place des Vosges. The buildings spread over 20 acres

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Renaissance France - Anne of Brittany

Francis II Duke of Brittany
An Heir to the Dukedom

Anne of Brittany was the child of Francis II, Duke of Brittany and his second wife Margaret de Foix, Infanta of Navarre. Francis’ first wife had been his cousin Margaret of Brittany, the daughter of Francis I Duke of Brittany. On the death of Francis I, his brother Peter II inherited the dukedom. When Peter II died an uncle Arthur of Richemont inherited the duchy for eleven months and his nephew Francis II ruled after his death.

From his first marriage to Margaret Francis II had a son Jean, Count of Montfort, but Jean died young. Brittany was an independent dukedom and, unlike the rest of France, had a variation of Salic Law which allowed for women to succeed to the dukedom if there were no male heirs.

Charles VII
Anne was born on 25th January 1477; her sister Isabeau was born the following year. Anne also had four half-siblings from her father’s relationship with Antoinette de Maignelais, a former mistress of King Charles VII of France[i]. One son, François, was made Baron d’Avagour[ii]. Anne’s mother Margaret died on 15th May 1486, when Anne was nine.

Anne’s governess Françoise de Dinan, was a member of the powerful d’Albret family, and was Lady of Chateaubriant in her own right and Countess of Laval by marriage[iii]. Anne was taught Greek and Latin and it is believed that she had some knowledge of Italian and Hebrew. She was also an accomplished needlewoman and horse rider. In addition to her governess, Anne had several tutors, including her butler and court poet, Jean Meschinot, who is thought to have taught her dancing, singing and music.


Louis XI
Brittany had supported the English in their fight to subdue France and even before the Treaty of Picquingy that formally ended the 100 Years War, on 29th August 1475, the kings of France had been eager to extend their rule over the whole of France. Francis II was committed to maintaining Brittany’s independence and fought two wars with France, becoming a member of the League of the Public Weal. The league opposed the centralising aims of Louis XI[iv].

At the beginning of his reign Francis II had been welcomed by his subjects; but his popularity lessened as he came under the sway of his favourites, Antoinette de Maignelais and Peter Landais, who was the keeper of the duke’s wardrobe despite being only of merchant stock. Francis II was believed to be

‘More occupied in pleasure than in the care of his duchy.’[v]

A tax on wine and cider to fund the Breton army did not find many supporters. Following the arrest and imprisonment of the Chancellor Chauvain, at Landais’ behest, the Breton nobility united against the favourite and he was hanged.

Marshall Jean IV de Rieux[vi], along with his brother Peter, equerry to the duke, was among a considerable number of Breton courtiers who took pensions from the French crown. Françoise de Dinan was another French pensioner. The pensions ranged from 250 livres[vii] to 12,000 livres[viii].


Arms of John of Chalons-Arlay
In an attempt to find allies Francis used his daughter as a pawn; Anne was betrothed a number of times. In 1480 he turned to his old allies and she was officially promised in marriage to Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Edward IV of England; Not long after Edward’s death in 1483 his son disappeared, presumed to have been killed on the orders of his uncle and regent Richard, who made himself king.

One of Anne’s cousins; John IV of Chalon-Arlay, Prince of Orange[ix] was also under consideration as Anne’s husband. Following his support for Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, John was exiled in Brittany.

Viscount Jean II of Rohan[x], also in line to the Breton duchy offered with the support of Marshal de Rieux, a double marriage of his sons François and Jean with Anne and her sister Isabeau, but Francis II was opposed to this plan.

Death of the Spider

Charles VIII
With the death of Louis XI, on 30th August 1483, his son Charles VIII became king. As he was too young to rule his sister Anne of Beaujeu was made Regent and ruled with the assistance of her husband, Peter II, Duke of Bourbon.

‘Madam de Beaujeu, his sister, was with the king all the time…nor was anything touching the king and his kingdom done except with her knowledge, approval and consent.’[xi]

In 1484 Charles was introduced to the Estates General by his chancellor who promised them a leader whose sagacity belied his years;

‘Look with joy, then, upon his face. How radiantly it displays such beauty, such serenity! How clearly it reflects a noble and illustrious nature! Is it not worthy to be obeyed: to deliver you from fear, to bring perpetual calm from the terrors of the whole world?’[xii]

Anne de Beaujeu
Such hyperbole was not to be supported by fact in the years to come.

Anne of Beaujeu’s regency was not acceptable to many of the nobility, not least among them her cousin, Louis, Duke of Orléans next in line for the throne. Supported by Francis and a number of other lords Louis made an attempt to seize the regency but failed. The revolt was put down without much fighting and the Peace of Bourges was agreed in November 1485.

Louis d’Orléans was another aspirant for Anne’s hand, despite being already married to the king's sister Jeanne[xiii]. Louis requested an annulment of his marriage from Pope Innocent VIII. Anne met Louis d’Orléans[xiv], who was to be her second husband, for the first time in 1485.

The Mad War

During the second Franco-Breton or Mad War the King of the Romans[xv]; Maximilian I invaded northern France into Artois, momentarily distracting attention from the Bretons. Maximilian then had to divert his armies northwards to Switzerland where a rebellion was in the offing.

France during the Mad War
A suggestion was made that Anne marry Alain I d’Albret[xvi]. Although d’Albret was an ally of her father’s and commanded an army of his own, he was regarded by his contemporaries as greedy, fickle and unscrupulous. Anne refused to marry d’Albret as she found him repulsive; a contemporary Jaligny described the forty-five year old as having;

‘[A] spotted face, harsh voice, fierce expression, and still fiercer temper’[xvii]

making him an unattractive suitor for a thirteen year old despite the encouragement of her governess, d’Albret’s sister.

In 1487 Louis d’Orléans returned to the Breton court accompanied by 400 lancers and rebellious French nobles; he was on the run from the French Regent. Rumours were spread that Louis had come to court Anne and he was obliged to refute them, saying

‘That his visits were solely for business with her [Anne’s] father.’[xviii]

In fact Louis had suggested to Anne de Beaujeu that his duchy of Orléans revert to Charles and in return she support Louis’ marriage to Anne of Brittany. Resentful of the French nobles at the Breton court a number of the Breton nobility came to an agreement in March 1487 with the French crown that in return for 6,000 troops and a subsidy they would help drive out the French rebels from Brittany.

Louis XII – Frederic J Baumgartner, MacMillan Press Ltd 1996
Renaissance Europe – JR Hale, Wm Collins Sons and Co Ltd 1971
Louis XI – Paul Murray Kendall, Sphere Books Ltd 1974
The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France – RJ Knecht, Fontana Press 1996
Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011
A History of France 1460-1560 – David Potter, MacMillan Press Ltd 1995
Anne of Brittany – Helen Josephine Sanborn, General Books 2012
The March of Folly – Barbara W Tuchman, Sphere Books Ltd 1984
Twice Crowned Queen – Constance de la Warr, Eveliegh Nash 1905 (Reprint 2015)

[i] Antoinette became Charles’ mistress after the death of Agnès Sorel in 1450. Charles married Antoinette off to one of his retainers André, Baron de Villequier. Antoinette’s relationship with Francis began after the king’s death
[ii] A title awarded to his son by Francis; the rights to the title and to countship and rights of Penthièvre were lost after Olivier d’Avagour attempted and failed to take John VI, duke of Brittany prisoner in 1420
[iii] Her husband was Guy XIV de Laval
[iv] Known as the Spider
[v] Anne of Brittany - Sanborn
[vi] Commander of the Breton army
[vii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £167,500.00
economic status value of that income or wealth is £5,369,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £78,410,000.00
[viii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £8,039,000.00
economic status value of that income or wealth is £257,700,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £3,764,000,000.00
[ix] A grandson of Richard, Count of Étampes, he was one of Anne’s cousins and third in line to the duchy after Anne and Isabeau.
[x] Married Marie daughter of Duke Francis I of Brittany
[xi] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[xii] Renaissance Europe - Hale
[xiii] Louis XI had deliberately forced Louis d’Orléans to marry Jean, who was severely physically handicapped and it was believed (probably correctly) that she was barren and the Orléans line would die out
[xv] The title given to the chosen heir of the Holy Roman Emperor 
[xvi] Son of Catherine of Rohan and Jean I of Albret. Through his mother, he was a great-grandson of Duke John V of Brittany
[xvii] Twice Crowned Queen – de la Warr
[xviii] Anne of Brittany - Sanborn