|From the Grand Heures of the Duchess of Brittan|
Death of a King
After the death of the Dauphin the court returned to Amboise where Anne was forced to watch her husband conduct his infidelities. Charles even chased after Anne’s maids of honour; no doubt Charles position made him attractive to women despite his being described as
‘A repulsively ugly little man betraying a character not much better than his physique.’[i]
His contemporary Commines wrote of Charles;
‘The said King was never anything but puny man with very little sense, but he was so good it was impossible to behold a better creature.’[ii]
Charles’ licentious style of life was having an effect on his health. Nevertheless he was preparing for a second expedition to Italy to recover his lost crown.
On 7th April 1498 Charles received a letter from Savonarola demanding that Charles reform the church by force. He threatened Charles with the punishment of heaven if he failed in the task. Later that day Charles inspected the work being done on the chateau at Amboise with Anne and Jean de Resley, Bishop of Angers and the king’s confessor.
Charles was then intending to watch a game of jeu de paume and to get to the courts had to pass through the Galérie Haquelbac, which had very low doorways. Charles hit his head on one of the door lintels. He was stunned by the blow, but then went on to watch the game. While talking to his confessor Charles collapsed and died at 11 o’clock at night. He was only twenty-eight.
Obsequies for a Dead King
Anne was prostrated by the loss of her husband, remaining on the floor of her suite for two days. Louis had already promised to ensure that Charles was given a good send-off but, as Charles had emptied the treasury, the funeral had to be paid for out of Louis’ own money. Imbert de Batarnay, one of the king’s counsellors wrote;
‘The Queen weeps incessantly and cannot be appeased. I think the King [Louis] will come and see her some day this week.’[iii]
Anne’s grief was assuaged by a visit from Cardinal Briçonnet and Jean Marre, Bishop of Condom. Anne spent £20,000[iv] on mourning clothes for herself and her court. She stayed at Amboise until May when she moved to the Hôtel d’Étampes in Paris in accordance with royal custom; 26,230 francs[v] being spent to renovate the building to allow Anne to live there.
The death of her husband meant that Anne was once again ruler of Brittany and Anne signed a decree re-establishing the Chancellorship of Brittany giving the job to Philippe de Montauban. Anne had not had much involvement in the affairs of her duchy during her marriage and now she appointed John IV Prince of Orange to administer the duchy on her behalf as hereditary Lieutenant General of Brittany.
|Chateau de Brest|
Anne also convened the Estates of Brittany and summonsed her principal Breton nobles, including the Lord d’Aigremont and her half-brother Baron d’Avaugour, to entrust them with the governorships of the principal towns of the duchy. Its defence was handed over to Pierre de Rohan-Gié the Maréchal de Gié. Anne ordered production of a gold coin bearing her name and she placed her squire Gilles of Texue in charge of the Château de Brest.
An Agreement Between Peers
On 15th May Anne met with Louis who confirmed that his forces had, in the main, departed from Brittany. Although there were disturbances at Brest and St Malo, where the French captains had refused to obey.
The new king, the 36 year old Louis was physically unattractive and subject to frequent bouts of ill-health. He was a keen huntsman and undertook much violent exercise. Louis was determined to marry his cousin’s widow, to keep the Duchy of Brittany under the control of the French crown.
Following the formal visit in May there were numerous meetings between Anne and Louis and on 19th August two decrees were issued; in one Anne agreed to marry Louis if he could remove the main impediment to a marriage between them; Queen Jeanne. In the second decree Louis agreed to return Nantes and Fougères if he and Anne failed to marry within the year.
By the terms of the agreement with Charles VIII, Anne was obliged to marry the new king or the heir and the heir presumptive was François d’Angoulême[vi] who was only four years old.
|Jeanne de Laval|
Anne apparently believed that she would become queen again;
‘I have enough confidence in my star to believe that I shall become for a second time Queen of France.’[vii]
In the middle of August Anne left Paris to return to Brittany; she had an escort of 100 Breton archers.
Anne had already summonsed the Estates to attend her in Rennes. At the end of August Anne arrived in Laval where she stayed for several weeks with Jeanne de Laval, the dowager Queen of Naples. Anne arrived in Nantes in October where she was greeted with joy. During her stay in her capital Anne’s old governess Françoise de Dinan died.
Invasion of Burgundy
The Emperor Maximilian was determined to regain the duchy of Burgundy for his family and he saw the death of Charles as an opportunity to do so. The Milanese ambassador told Maximilian during a hunt;
‘Now is the time to put away the deer and perform deeds worthy of your name and title.’[viii]
|Emperor Maximilian I|
Maximilian believed that the Bourbons, and other nobility that he was at odds with, would dispute Louis’s succession. In July 1498 Maximilian led his troops into Burgundy and was routed by the local French military.
Louis’ response was an attempt to separate Maximilian from his son and heir Philip, who had previously paid homage to Charles for Flanders. Philip claimed Burgundy through his mother, Mary of Burgundy. The far from warlike Philip and Louis came to an agreement and a treaty between the two of them was signed in August agreeing that French rule over Burgundy would not be disputed during their lifetimes. The agreement between Philip and Louis meant that Maximilian had no alternative but to sign a truce.
Unnerved by the rebellion headed by Perkin Warbeck and eager for the regular payments to continue from France, Henry VII agreed to a renewal of the Treaty of Étaples. Just as eager as the English to secure the agreement the French even hinted that they were prepared to ditch the old alliance with Scotland. But once the treaty with the English was signed the alliance with Scotland was confirmed.
Before he could become Anne’s husband, Louis needed to rid himself of the impediment forced upon him by Louis XI, his wife Jeanne. The marriage had been arranged by Jeanne’s father who believed that the couple would fail to have progeny resulting in the return of the duchy of Orléans to the French crown.
Louis’ case was so weak that it must have failed if the pope had not been determined to grant Louis’ application for political reasons. Alexander VI believed that France was needed to counter the Holy Roman Empire and for support of his own dynastic ambitions to be realised through his son Cesare. Cesare was to be made the Comte de Valentinois and wed a French princess in return for Alexander’s help.
Louis’ application was condemned by Oliver Maillard, Charles VIII’s confessor, and the sympathies of the population as a whole were behind Jeanne. A tribunal was set up in Tours in August 1498 and Jeanne defended the case. From 25th September to 15th October the tribunal heard four witnesses for the queen and twenty seven for Louis. Louis claimed under oath that the marriage had never been consummated but Jeanne produced a witness who claimed that Louis once told him;
‘I have earned, and well earned, a drink, for I have mounted my wife three or four times during the night.’[ix]
Louis also claimed that his performance in the marriage bed had been impeded by witchcraft. And that Louis and Jeanne were within the church’s proscribed relations, although this could not be proved. Louis also claimed to have been underage at the time of his marriage, although again there was no documentation to prove this. Jeanne’s counsel produced a dispensation from Sixtus IV allowing the marriage.
On 17th December the cardinal of Luxembourg, accepting the sworn word of an anointed king, announced that the marriage had never taken place. Louis promised Jean that she would be given the support due to the daughter, sister and ex-wife of kings and was given the duchy of Berry. Jeanne devoted the rest of her life to God and in 1503 took the veil having founded a convent in Bourges. The annulment lost Louis a lot of his original popularity with his people and he had to work hard to regain it.
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] The Rise and Fall of Renaissance France - Knecht
[ii] Twice Crowned Queen – de la Warr
[iii] Twice Crowned Queen – de la Warr
[vii] Twice Crowned Queen – de la Warr
[viii] Louis XII - Baumgartner
[ix] Renaissance Europe - Hale