|Anne of Brittany|
The Search for an Heir
In 1505 when Louis was once again very ill and, in the absence of his wife in Brittany on ducal business, he bowed to pressure from Cardinal d’Amboise. Louis cancelled Claude’s engagement to Charles[i], in favour of his heir François. He named Anne as Regent for the ten year old François. Anne was furious with Louis’s action as it threatened the autonomy of Brittany; she remained in Brittany for five months to make clear her displeasure.
Louis recovered and spent the late summer riding and hunting in the environs of Tours. In May 1506, following a convocation of the Estates General in Tours, the betrothal between Claude and François was confirmed. After the engagement to Claude, Louis increased François’ pension to 20,000 livres per annum[ii]. Two years later François moved from Amboise to live at court.
Philip the Fair was furious at Louis’ perfidy but he died at the age of twenty-eight in September 1506 and Maximilian named his daughter Margaret as regent for his six year old grandson Charles[iii].
Along with five miscarriages Anne gave birth to a stillborn son on 21st January 1503. Anne detested Louise of Savoy who was ambitious for her own son and gloated over Anne’s stillborn children;
‘Anne, Queen of France…..had a son, but he could not retard the exaltation of my Caesar [François] because he was lacking in life.’[iv]
Eleven years after Claude’s birth, on 25th October 1510, Princess Renée was born; Louis was present in the birthing chamber, having rushed to Lyons. Renée was named after St René of Angers; Louis and Anne had made several pilgrimages to Angers pray for an heir. Michelle de Saubonne, Madame de Soubise was named as Renée’s governess.
In March 1511 Anne became sick with a fever and her life was despaired of; but she recovered after having been given the last rites. Anne suffered the loss of another stillborn son in January 1512. After this Louis gave up hopes of an heir and made François the Dauphin. He was admitted to the king’s council and made captain of 100 lances.
Louis at Home and Abroad
Louis believed that the king should live from his income from his own domains, not rely on his subjects paying for him. Louis was determined to keep taxation to a minimum and the taille levied was used for the defence of France. Louis kept to a minimum the pensions he paid and for this he was mocked. But he was unrepentant, saying;
‘I much prefer to make dandies laugh at my miserliness than to make the people weep at my open-handedness.’[v]
Louis used the sale of financial offices to fund his expenditure. The fight to quell the 1506 revolt in Genoa was funded by an additional surplus tax that was revoked once the revolt was suppressed. On 4th February 1505 Queen Jeanne died; she’d lived in seclusion in Berri since the divorce.
In 1509, in alliance with Pope Julius II[vi] and Maximilian, Louis in his role as Duke of Milan, took his army to fight the Venetian Republic. Both Anne and de la Trémoille opposed the war; Anne because she was a pacifist and Trémoille because he was suspicious of Maximilian’s motives.
Anne wrote to Louis urging him to come home which he did in the August, although only forty-seven, the campaign had tired him. Anne met him at Grenoble. En route to Paris Louis was stricken with gout at St Pierre le Moûtier and he retired to Blois where he spent some time with Claude.
In December François’ sister, Marguerite, was married to Charles d’Alençon, a bosom friend of her brother’s. Louis and Anne were both present at the marriage and at the dinner and at the tournament that followed François displayed his jousting skills.
Pope Julius was a quarrelsome man and his and Louis’ interests soon diverged. Julius then joined forces with Maximilian who was still enraged at Louis’ games over Claude’s marriage and Henry VIII on Louis’ northern and western borders distracted Louis’ attention from Milan. It did not help that Anne supported Julius over her husband.
Anne was guided in religious matters by her confessor Yves de Maheuc and tried to make peace between the Vicar of Rome and Louis. Louis was not pleased, claiming that;
‘The Holy Father aims at royal honours; St Peter had not the leisure to look after the affairs of Claudius or Nero, which in truth do not belong to him at all.’[vii]
Anne refused to let the churchmen from Brittany to attend the Council of Pisa[viii], preferring to adhere to the Council of the Lateran convened by Julius. Louis and Anne were not in accord and Anne now redoubled her pious activities, lavishing alms on the Filles Pénitentes de Paris and the Minimes of Nigeon and inviting them to pray for Louis. Anne had the Jews expelled from Brittany although she gave pensions to those prepared to convert. In March 1512 Anne retired to bed with a fever and did not leave her chamber until May.
Louis was infuriated by Julius’ refusal to raise any French churchmen to the College of Cardinals and he was not pleased when Julius made peace with Venice. By the summer of 1512 Milan was in revolt; Louis had, possibly deliberately, failed to control his soldiers and the Milanese were sickened by the casual cruelty of the French.
|Battle of Ravenna|
The Swiss, encouraged by Maximilian, invaded and panicked Louis into retreating towards Asti. The majority of his army was caught on the wrong side of a river and were forced to surrender. The remnants of the army entered the Dauphiné in late June, barely two months after a great victory at Ravenna.
On 10th December, ignoring Anne’s intercession, Julius summonsed Louis to appear at the Lateran Council. Having finally persuaded her husband to relent in his animosity to the pope, Anne begged the Cardinal de Luxembourg to intercede with the council and beg Julius to pardon Louis. Before Julius could receive Louis’ submission he died on 21st February 1513.
When Leo X was made pope Louis immediately forbad money to be sent to the church in Rome, causing a serious reduction in church revenue. Leo had supported Maximilian Sforza as a rival to Louis as Duke of Milan and he funded the Swiss battalions defending Piedmont against further French incursions. The church now suffered from that support.
|Anne on her deathbed|
On 9th January 1514 Anne died at Blois; she never recovered her health after the loss of her last stillborn child in January 1512. Anne was suffering from gallstones and was in great pain during the last days of her life. She was thirty-seven years old and had been active almost to the last with the negotiations with Ferdinand of Aragon, trying to negotiate the marriage between Renée and his grandson Ferdinand. Anne left custody of her daughters to Louise of Savoy.
Louis went into seclusion for several days, telling his courtiers;
‘Go make the vault…..big enough for us both. Before the year is over I’ll be with her.’[ix]
The mourning period was extended beyond the traditional forty days and Louis wore black and insisted that anyone wishing to talk to him should also be dressed in black. Anne was buried in the Chapel of St Denis and the bill for candles for the two services in Notre Dame and the chapel amounted to 2,050 livres[x].
On 18th May Claude married François d’Angoulême at St Germain en Laye. The wedding was subdued as the court was still in mourning for the queen.
Another wedding was to follow shortly; on 9th October, desperate for an heir, Louis married Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. The marriage had the added advantage of splitting his two enemies; Henry and Maximilian.
Mary was thirty years Louis’ junior and in her train were two young ladies Anne and Mary Boleyn. Queen Mary wrote to her brother of;
‘How lovingly the King her husband treats her.’[xi]
Louis was taken with Mary’s charm, beauty and eagerness to please.
Louis’ lifestyle changed completely after his marriage and this may have exacerbated his health problems; he was suffering from gout. Louis died just under a year after Anne’s death on 1st January 1515. Just over two months later, her forty days of seclusion over, Mary was secretly married to Charles’ Brandon, her brother’s great friend. François commissioned Jean Juste to create his parents-in-law’s tomb which was completed in 1531.
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 1906 (Reprint 2015)
[iii] Whose mother was in Spain, confined as a mad woman
[iv] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[v] The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France - Knecht
[vi] Known as Papa Terribilis
[vii] A Twice Crowned Queen – de la Warr
[viii] An attempt to end the Western Schism
[ix] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[xi] Louis XII - Baumgartner