Length of Reigns of the Kings and Queens of Britain.

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Since today is the 117th Anniversary of the death of Queen Victoria, who used to be the longest reigning British Monarch, I would like to revisit the list of the reigns of all the British Monarchs (England, Scotland, Great Britain) to see where Her Majesty the Queen and other monarchs now stand.

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1. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ~ 65 years 11 months 16 days

2. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ~ 63 years, 216 days
3. King George III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ~ 59 years, 96 days
4. King James VI of Scotland ~ 57 years, 246 days*
5. King Henry III of England ~ 56 years, 30 days
6. King Edward III of England ~ 50 years, 147 days
7. King William I of Scotland ~ 48 years, 360 days
8. Queen Elizabeth I of England ~ 44 years, 127 days
9. King David II of Scotland ~ 41 years, 260 days
10. King Henry VI of England ~ 38 years, 185 days
11. King Æthelred II of England ~ 37 years, 362 days
12. King Henry VIII of England ~ 37 years, 281 days
13. King Alexander III of Scotland ~ 36 years, 256 days
14. King Malcolm III of Scotland ~ 35 years, 241 days
15. King Henry I of England ~ 35 years, 120 days
16. King Henry II of England ~ 34 years, 254 days
17. King Edward I of England~ 34 years, 229 days
18. King Alexander II of Scotland ~ 34 years, 214 days
19. King George II of Great Britain ~ 33 years, 125 days
20. King James I of Scotland ~ 30 years, 323 days
21. King James V of Scotland ~ 29 years, 96 days
22. King David I of Scotland ~ 29 years, 31 days
23. King Alfred the Great of England ~ 28 years, 185 days
24. King James III of Scotland ~ 27 years, 313 days
25. King George V of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ~ 25 years, 259 days
26. King James IV of Scotland ~ 25 years, 90 days
27. King Ædward the Elder of England ~ 24 years, 264 days
28. King Charles II of England and Scotland ~ 24 years, 253 days
29. Queen Mary I of Scotland ~ 24 years, 222 days
30. King Charles I of England and Scotland ~ 23 years, 309 days
31. King Henry VII of England ~ 23 years, 242 days
32. King Edward the Confessor of England ~ 23 years, 211 days
33. King James II of Scotland ~ 23 years, 164 days
34. King Robert I of Scotland ~ 23 years, 74 days
35. King Richard II of England ~ 22 years, 99 days
36. King James I of England and Scotland ~ 22 years, 3 days*
37. King Edward IV of England ~ 21 years, 211 days
38. King William I of England ~ 20 years, 258 days
39. King Edward II of England ~ 19 years, 197 days
40. King Robert II of Scotland ~ 19 years, 56 days
41. King Canute II of Denmark and England ~ 18 years, 347 days
42. King John of England ~ 17 years, 196 days
43. King Alexander I of Scotland ~ 17 years, 106 days
44. King Stephen of England ~ 17 years, 99 days
45. King Robert III of Scotland ~ 15 years, 350 days
46. King Edgar I of England ~ 15 years, 280 days
47. King Æthelstan of England ~ 15 years, 86 days
48. King George VI of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ~ 15 years, 57 days
49. King Henry IV of England ~ 13 years, 172 days
50. King William III-II of England and Scotland ~ 13 years, 23 days
51. King George I of Great Britain ~ 12 years, 314 days
52. King William II of England ~ 12 years, 327 days
53. King Malcolm IV of Scotland ~ 12 years, 199 days
54. Queen Anne of England and Scotland (Great Britain) ~ 12 years, 146 days
55. King George IV of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ~ 10 years, 148 days
56. King Ædred of England ~ 09 years, 181 days
57. King Henry V of Edward ~ 09 years, 163 days
58. King Edward VII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ~ 09 years, 104 days
59. King William IV of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ~ 06 years, 359 days
60. King Edmund I of England 06 years, 211 days
61. King Edward VI of England ~ 06 years, 159 days
62. Queen Mary II of England and Scotland ~ 05 years, 318 days
63. Queen Mary I of England ~ 05 years, 121 days
64. King James II-VII of England and Scotland ~ 03 years, 309 days
65. King John Balliol of Scotland ~ 03 years, 236 days
66. King Ædwig of England ~ 02 years, 312 days
67. King Ædward the Martyr of England ~ 02 years, 253 days
68. King Harold I of England ~ 02 years, 126 days
69. King Canute III of England and Denmark ~ 02 years, 83 days
70. King Richard III of England ~ 02 years, 57 days
71. King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain ~ 00 years, 326 days
72. King Harold II of England ~ 00 years, 282 days
73. King Edmund II of England ~ 00 years, 221 days
74. King Edward V of England ~ 00 years, 78 days
75. King Edgar II of England ~ 00 years, 63 days

* James VI-I of England and Scotland. As King James VI of Scotland he ruled Scotland for 57 years. As King James I of England he ruled for 22 years.

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Anne of Brittany: Conclusion

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Three days after the death of Charles VIII the terms of Anne’s marriage contract became an issue. The contract stipulated that Anne had to marry her husbands successor if Anne and Charles did not have an heir. This clause in the contract was made so France would be able to maintain control over the Duchy of Brittany. There was one significant obstacle to adhering to the clause in the contract. The new King, Louis XII, was already married, to Joan of France, daughter of Louis XI and sister to the recently deceased Charles VIII. On August 19, 1498, at Étampes, Anne agreed to marry Louis XII if he obtained an annulment from Joan within a year. Days later, the process for the annulment of the marriage between Louis XII and Joan of France began. In the interim, Anne returned to Brittany by October of 1498 and began the administration of her Duchy.

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(Louis XII of France & Naples)

With Anne being a fierce defender of the independence of Brittany it may seem odd that she agreed to abide by the contract and marry Louis XII. It has been theorized by many historical scholars that Anne was hoping that Pope Alexander VI would not grant the annulment. That was not the case, for Pope Alexander VI dissolved the marriage between Louis XII and Joan of France before the end of the year. * At Nantes, on January 7, 1499 Anne’s signed her third marriage contract and was married to Louis XII that very same day. Anne was 21 and Louis XII was 37.

Since Anne was no longer a child as she was at her first two marriages, she was now a Dowager Queen of France and about to turn the ripe old age of 22 two weeks after her marriage to Louis XII, she was determined to ensure the recognition of her rights as sovereign Duchess of Brittany from the start of this marriage.

Although after the marriage Louis XII exercised Anne’s powers in Brittany, and issued decisions in her name, he did formally recognize her right to the title “Duchess of Brittany” and allowed her to formally use her title. The marriage contract settled the issue of the succession to Duchy. The Contract ensured that their second child, son or daughter, would inherit the duchy of Brittany. Sadly this was a clause that would not be respected in the future. Anne also had her second coronation ceremony as Queen of France which took place on November 18, 1504, again at St. Denis Basilica.

Since Anne, as the reigning Duchess of Brittany fiercely defended the independence of her Duchy, she arranged the marriage of her daughter, Claude, heiress of the Duchy, born October 13, 1499, to Archduke Charles of Austria, (future Holy Roman Emperor Karl V, King of Spain) to reinforce the Franco-Spanish alliance and ensure French success in the Italian Wars. This marriage contract was signed on August 10, 1501 in Lyon by François de Busleyden, Archbshop of Besançon, William de Croÿ, Nicolas de Rutter and Pierre Lesseman, all ambassadors of Archduke Philipp of Austria, reigning Duke of Burgundy, Charles’ father.

After several years of marriage, and with Claude being the only surviving child of Anne and Louis XII, it became readily apparent that Anne would not produce a male heir. Therefore, Louis XII had the arranged marriage between Claude and Archduke Charles of Austria canceled. Alternatively, Louis XII arranged a marriage between Claude and the perspective heir to the French throne, Francis of Angoulême. This would continue to bring Brittany under the direct control of the French Crown. Anne was determined to maintain independence for her Duchy and refused to approve of this union. Anne continued to support the planned marriage between Claude and Archduke Charles, and added the addendum that her other daughter, Renée, would inherit the Duchy, forever keeping it out of the clutches of the French Crown. She was so against the marriage between Claude and Francis of Angoulême that she withheld any support or sanctioning of the union until her dying day.

Death

At the still young age of 37 Anne died at 6 a.m. on January 9, 1514 of a kidney-stone attack while at the Château de Blois. It has been theorized that her health declined, hastening her demise, due to her many pregnancies and miscarriages. According to her will her body was partitioned. The customary partitioning of her body (dilaceratio corporis, “division of the body” in heart, entrails and bones) allowed for multiple burials, a privilege of the Capetian dynasty, which also allowed for multiple ceremonies.

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(Arms of Anne of Brittany)

Anne’s will also granted the succession of Brittany to her second daughter, Renée. Louis XII ignored Anne’s Will and confirmed Claude as Duchess of Brittany. On May 18, 1514, Francis of Angoulême married his second cousin Claude, the new reigning Duchess of Brittany. The younger daughter, Renée (1510–1575), married Duke Ercole II of Ferrara. After the death of Anne, Louis XII married Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII of England, in Abbeville, France, on October 9, 1514. This represented a final attempt to produce an heir to the French throne, for despite two previous marriages the king had no living sons. On December 24, 1514, Louis was reportedly suffering from a severe case of gout. In the early hours of January 1, 1515, he had received the final sacraments and died later that evening. Louis XII was interred in Saint Denis Basilica. He was 52 years old and had reigned for 17 Years.

Succession

The succession to the throne of France followed Salic Law, which did not allow women to inherit the throne or pass on succession right to their issue. As a result, Louis XII was succeeded by Francis I. Born to Louise of Savoy, on September 12, 1494. Francis I was the son of Charles, Count of Angoulême and he was a great-great grandson of King Charles V of France. This meant that the Duchy of Brittany was once again the property of the queen consort of France.

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(Tomb of Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII of France)

Anne’s marriage with Louis XII of France, produced at least another nine pregnancies:

* Claude of France (13 October 1499 – 20 July 1524), who succeeded her as Duchess of Brittany and later also became Queen consort of France as wife of Francis I.
* miscarriage (1500).
* Stillborn son (21 January 1503).
* miscarriage (end 1503).
* miscarriage (1505).
* miscarriage (1508).
* miscarriage (1509).
* Renée of France (25 October 1510 – 12 June 1574), married Ercole II d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara, and became Duchess of Ferrara of Chartres, and Lady of Montargis on occasion of her wedding.
* Stillborn son (January 1512).

Each miscarriage or stillbirth is said to have delighted the ambitious Louise of Savoy, whose son Francis was the heir apparent under the Salic Law. There even existed contemporary rumours that Louise used witchcraft to kill Anne’s sons. Anne’s male bloodline ended with her great-grandson Henri III of France in 1589.

Through her granddaughter Margaret, Duchess of Savoy (Claude’s youngest daughter), Anne of Brittany was the ancestor of Vittorio Emanuele IV, Prince of Naples, and the current pretender to the throne of Italy. Through her great-granddaughter Claude, Duchess of Lorraine (daughter of Henri II of France), Anne is also the ancestor of Karl II von Habsburg, Archduke of Austria, the current pretender to the throne of Austria. Through her granddaughter Anna d’Este (Renée’s eldest daughter), Anne of Brittany is also the ancestor of the Houses of Guise and Savoy-Nemours.

* The marriage and annulment between Louis XII and Joan of France was rather complex and the details of this will be addressed in a future blog post.

Anne of Brittany: Part III

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Continuing our examination of Anne of Brittany, here is more information on her marriage to King Charles VIII of France.

At sunrise on December 6, 1491 the 14 year old Anne, Duchess of Brittany, married the 21 year old King Charles VIII of France. The marriage was solemnized in the Great Hall of the Château de Langeais. The wedding was concluded discreetly and in a near clandestine fashion because technically the marriage was illegal because the proxy marriage between Anne and Maximilian of Austria was still valid.

To resolves this dilemma Pope Innocent VIII annulled the by-proxy marriage between Anne and Maximilian in February 1492. A dispensation for the marriage with Charles VIII was also obtained because Charles VIII and Anne were related within the fourth degree of consanguinity and this was forbidden under Church law.

Anne and Charles VIII were paternal third cousins both direct descendants of Charles V of France. Charles VIII was a direct male line descendant of Charles V via the eldest son of son of Charles V, Charles VI. Anne was a direct descendant of Louis, Duke of Orleans, younger brother of Charles VI. The Duke of Orleans daughter, Margaret, was the mother of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, the father of Anne of Brittany.

The marriage between Anne and Charles stipulated in a contract that if one of them died, the surviving spouse would retain possession of Brittany. The contract further stated that if Charles VIII died without male heirs, Anne would marry his successor. These conditions were proposed to insure the French kings would eventually, and permanently, annex Brittany.

Anne’s marriage contract, which heavily favored France, mentioned that these lopsided provisions were to ensure peace between the Duchy of Brittany and the Kingdom of France. Anne granted Charles VIII the right to be her her representative. Anne was crowned Queen of France at St. Denis Basilica on February 8, 1492 and she was the first Queen crowned and consecrated there. One slight to her dignity was that Charles VIII forbade her to use her title of Duchess of Brittany. This issue became a bone of contention between the two.

Anne of Brittany had a limited role in both France and Brittany. However, her role did mean she was frequently separated from her children in infancy. Her primary residences were in the royal castles of Amboise, Loches and Plessis or in the towns of Lyon. In 1494 She became Queen Consort of Naples and Jerusalem during the conquest of Naples by Charles VIII when he became king of Naples Italy. As Queen of Naples, Anne lived in the palaces of Grenoble or Moulins when the king was in Italy. At Amboise, when Charles VIII had work, she mainly resided in the nearby Clos Lucé, the future home of Leonardo da Vinci.

Charles VIII died as the result of a unfortunate accident on April 4, 1498. While on his way to watch a game of jeu de paume (real tennis) in Amboise he struck his head on the lintel of a door. At around 2pm, while returning from the game, he fell into a sudden coma, and died nine hours later, perhaps of a subdural hematoma. Charles VIII had reigned for 15 years and was only 27 years old. He left no heir and the throne was passed to Louis of Orleans who became King Louis XII of France. Louis XII was the son of Charles, Duke of Orléans, and Maria of Cleves, and a great-grandson of King Charles V of France.

Queen Anne was 21 years old and without surviving children. She now reassumed her position as reigning Duchess of Brittany and personally took charge of the administration of the Duchy. She restored the faithful Philippe de Montauban to the chancellery of Brittany, named Jean de Châlon, the Prince of Orange, as Hereditary Lieutenant General of Brittany. Anne convened the Estates of Brittany, and ordered production of a new gold coin bearing her name and likeness.

Issue

Her marriage with Charles VIII of France produced seven pregnancies:

Tomb of Charles Orland and Charles, two sons of Anne and Charles VIII at Tours Cathedral.

* Charles Orland, Dauphin of France (11 October 1492 – 16 December 1495). Her only healthy son, he died of the measles when three years old. Buried at Tours Cathedral.

* Francis (August 1493). Anne had become pregnant in late 1492/early 1493, but travelled with her husband from castle to castle; she went into labour during a drive in the forest of Courcelles, and the child was premature and stillborn. Buried at Notre-Dame de Cléry.

* Stillborn daughter (March 1494). In her third pregnancy, Anne avoided travel (instead residing in Amboise near the Dauphin). However, in February 1494 she accompanied the king to Lyon, where he was preparing to depart for the Italian Wars. After arriving on 15 March, she attended all of the ceremonies; the stress of the occasion caused her to go into premature labour, and the child was stillborn.

* Stillborn daughter (March 1495). She had become pregnant again in late 1494, but lost the child soon after.

* Charles, Dauphin of France (8 September 1496 – 2 October 1496). His death prompted Anne to withdraw temporarily to Moulins in despair. Buried at Tours Cathedral.

* Francis, Dauphin of France (July 1497). He died several hours after his birth. Buried at Tours Cathedral.

* Anne of France (20 March 1498). She died on the day of her birth at Château de Plessis-lez-Tours. Buried at Tours Cathedral.

Anne of Brittany: Part II

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(Recreation of the Marriage of Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII of France)

Anne was crowned Duchess of Brittany in Rennes on February 10, 1489, five months after the death of her father Francis II, Duke of Brittany. Although the semi-salic law allowed for female succession her marriage was a matter of great state importance because, despite her being a sovereign in her own right, women’s liberation was centuries away therefore any husband would have a hand in ruling the duchy. This made Anne not only a sought after bride, many European states were eager to add Brittany to their domains.

Anne was married three times. Prior to her first marriage to Archduke Maximilian I of Austria (future Holy Roman Emperor) Anne was betrothed numerous times. Here is a list of the Royal suitors to whom she had been promised.

* In 1480 she was officially promised in marriage to Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Edward IV of England; however, (future Edward V) soon after the death of Edward IV in 1483 the boy disappeared, presumed to have been killed – some say on the orders of his regent, Richard III.
* Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria, widower of Mary of Burgundy, daughter and heiress of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.
* Alain I of Albret, son of Catherine of Rohan and Jean I of Albret. Through his mother, he was a great-grandson of Duke Jean V of Brittany, and thus a possible heir. Although he was an ally of Duke Francis II, Anne refused to marry him because she found him repulsive.
* Louis, Duke of Orléans, cousin of King Charles VIII of France and in turn future King, was another aspirant for her hand, despite being already married to the King’s sister Joan.
* John IV of Chalon-Arlay, Prince of Orange. A grandson of Richard, Count of Étampes, and nephew of Francis II, he was in line to the throne after Anne and Isabelle.
* Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. In 1488 Henry VII had suggested a marriage between Buckingham and Anne, but in December 1489 the executors of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, paid the King £4000 for Buckingham’s marriage to Percy’s eldest daughter Eleanor.

At the tender age of thirteen, on December 19, 1490, Anne married Archduke Maximilian I of Austria (future Holy Roman Emperor) at Rennes Cathedral by proxy, which conferred upon her the title Queen of the Romans. The French regarded this union as a serious provocation. First, it was a violation not of the Treaty of Sablé which required any marriage to Duchess Anne to be sanctioned by the King of France who did not personally consent to the marriage. The larger, and more important political issue, was this marriage reintroduced the Habsburgs in general and the Holy Roman Empire specifically, an enemy of the French, as a ruler of Brittany, and this was a position the French had been avoiding during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Things were not to be between Anne and Maximillian as the politics of the day prevented this marriage from going any further than a proxy ceremony. King Louis XI of France had his eyes set on Anne to marry the Dauphin of France, Charles of Valois, and Louis XI had his heart on ruling Brittany. However, the betrothal between Charles of Valois and Archduchess Margaret of Austria, daughter of the Archduke Maximilian of Austria (later Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I) and Mary, Duchess of Burgundy. (Mary was the Duchess of Burgundy in her own right and in a similar situation to Anne of Brittany)had to be addressed before and arrangement could be made between Charles of Valois and Anne of Brittany.

The 13 year old Charles of Valois had been formally betrothed on July 22, 1483 to the 3-year-old Archduchess Margaret of Austria. It would be a difficult betrothal to break. The marriage had been arranged by Louis XI, Maximilian I, and the Estates of the Low Countries as part of the 1482 Peace of Arras between France and the Duchy of Burgundy. Margaret brought a wealthy dowry with her, the Counties of Artois and Burgundy to France and she was raised in the French court as a prospective Queen consort of France. Giving up the Counties of Artois and Burgundy in exchange for the duchy of Brittany seemed to be a worthwhile risk to take.

In 1488, however, Francis II, Duke of Brittany, having died in a riding accident leaving his 11-year-old daughter Anne as the new reigning duchess speeded up the desire to incorporate Brittany into the French crown. Anne, strongly desired that Brittany remained an independent duchy and was against the ambitions of France and King Louis XI. Therefore an arranged marriage was conducted in 1490 between herself and the widower Maximilian, thus making Anne a stepmother to Margaret of Austria, the perspective bride of Charles of Valois. This marriage would place the Habsburg lead Holy Roman Empire, long the enemy of France, as the protectorate of the duchy’s independence.

A month after the betrothal of between Charles of Valois and Archduchess Margaret of Austria in 1483, King louis XI of France died and his 13 year old son, Charles of Valois, succeed to the throne as King Charles VIII of France. The elder sister of Louis XI, Anne of France, had been appointed regent jointly with her husband Peter II, Duke of Bourbon until 1491 when the young king turned 21 years of age. When learning of the prospective union between Anne of Brittany and Archduke Maximilian I, the regent Anne of France and her husband Peter refused to sanction the marriage (her marriage had to be approved of by the king of France per the treaty of Treaty of Sablé) because it placed the Habsburgs on two French borders.

In response to the marriage the French army invaded Brittany, taking advantage of the preoccupation of Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich III and his son (Maximilian) with the disputed succession of Mathias Corvinus to the Kingship of Hungary, another domain which the family ruled. With Brittany now an occupied territory of France, Anne of Brittany was forced to renounce Maximilian (whom she had only married by proxy) and reluctantly agreed to be married to Charles VIII instead.

Marriage to Anne of Brittany at the Château de Langeais.

In December of 1491, Charles VIII of France and Anne of Brittany were married in an elaborate ceremony at the Château de Langeais. The 14-year-old Duchess Anne, entered this marriage under protest and was unhappy about the arrangement. When she arrived for the wedding ceremony with her entourage they were carrying two beds sending the king a clear message this would be a union of political convenience and nothing more. For Charles VIII the marriage brought him freedom and independence from his aunt, Regent Anne of France, Duchess of Bourbon and thereafter was allowed to rule on his own. Anne, Duchess of Brittany was now Queen Anne of France and she lived at the Clos Lucé in Amboise separate from her husband the king.

However, there still remained the matter of Charles’ first betrothed, the young Archduchess Margaret of Austria. Although the cancellation of her betrothal meant that she by rights should have been returned to the Habsburg family, Charles did not initially do so, intending to marry her usefully elsewhere in France. This placed the young Margaret in a difficult situation. Desperate, Margaret informed her father in her letters that she was so determined to escape that she would even flee Paris in her nightgown if it gave her her freedom. Eventually, in 1493, she was returned to her family, together with her dowry – though the Duchy of Burgundy was kept in the Treaty of Senlis.

Upon her return to Austria, Margaret was betrothed to Juan, Prince of the Asturias and heir to the newly united Spanish throne. The Prince of the Asturias was the only son of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Fernando II of Aragon. In order to completely solidify this Spanish alliance Maximilian started negotiating the marriage of his son, Archduke Philipp of Austria, to the Spanish royal couple’s daughter, Infanta Juanna.

Margaret left the Netherlands for Spain late in 1496. The marriage took place in 1497. Juan, Prince of the Asturias died after only six months, on October 4, 1497, widowed Margaret, now Dowager Princess of the Austirias was left pregnant, and sadly on April 2, 1498 she gave birth to a premature stillborn daughter. The Dowager Princess of Asturias then returned to the Netherlands early in 1500, when her brother and sister-in-law (Philipp and Juanna) invited her to be godmother to their newborn son, Charles of Austria, the future powerful Holy Roman Emperor Karl V who was also Carlos I of Spain.

Anne of Brittany: Part I

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On the 504 anniversary of the death of Anne of Brittany I would like to begin this short series on her life and the marriages that shaped her destiny.

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First some historical background of the Duchy of Brittany itself. The Duchy of Brittany was a independent medieval feudal state that existed between approximately 939 and 1547. Its territory covered the northwestern peninsula of Europe in what is now modern day France, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the English Channel to the north, and less definitively by the Loire River to the south, and Normandy and other French provinces to the east. The Duchy was established after the expulsion of raiding Viking armies from the region around 939. The Duchy had a rich history and because of its strategic location was a sought after jewel for the crowns of the Kingdoms of France and England and the Duchy of Normandy. This would lead to great conflicts as Brittany struggled to maintain its independence.

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Anne of Brittany (January 25/26 1477 – January 9 1514) was Duchess of Brittany in her own right from 1488 until her death, and twice queen consort of France from 1491 to 1498 and from 1499 to her death in 1514. From 1501-1504 Anne was also queen consort of Naples when her husband Charles VIII of France became King of Naples. Anne was also duchess consort of Milan, in 1499–1500 and from 1500 to 1512 as the spouse of Charles VIII of France.

Anne was born on 25 or 26 January 1477 in the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany in the city of Nantes in what is now the Loire-Atlantique region of France, as the eldest child of Duke Francis II of Brittany and his second wife Margaret of Foix, Infanta of Navarre (herself the daughter of Queen Eleanor of Navarre [1425–1479] and of Gaston IV, Count of Foix [1425–1472]).

Heiress of Brittany

During this time period, the laws of succession were unclear and guided by a vague tradition rather than a strict coded law of succession. Before the Breton War of Succession the Duchy mainly adhered to the Franco-Germanic semi-Salic Law; i.e., women could inherit, but only if the male line had died out. The Treaty of Guérande in 1365, however, stated that in the absence of a male heir from the House of Montfort, the heirs of Joanna of Penthièvre would succeed. At the time of Anne’s birth, her father was the only male representative from the House of Montfort, and the Blois-Penthièvre heir was a female, Nicole of Blois, and she had sold her rights to Brittany to King Louis XI of France for the amount of 50,000 écus in 1480, leaving Anne the only viable heiress to the Duchy of Brittany.

This lack of a male heir gave rise to the threat of not only a dynastic crisis within the Duchy, but the direct possibility of the Duchy passing directly into the royal domain to be incorporated into the Kingdom of France. To avoid this, Francis II had Anne officially recognised as his heiress by the Estates of Brittany on February 10, 1486. However, the question of her marriage remained a diplomatic issue.

In 1488, the armies of Francis II were defeated at the Battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, ending the Mad War (la Guerre Folle) between Brittany and France. In the subsequent Treaty of Sablé signed on August 9, 1488 Duke Francis II was forced to accept clauses stipulating that his daughters were not to marry without the approval of the King of France. For whomever married Anne would also have a hand in governing the Duchy of Brittany and for that reason the French king wanted a say in whom she married.

The death of Francis II shortly a month after signing the treaty (September 9, 1488) as a result of a fall from his horse, Brittany was plunged into a new crisis, which lead to the final Franco-Breton war. On his deathbed, the Duke extracted a promise from Anne to never to consent to the subjugation of the Duchy to the Kingdom of France. His final act as Duke, Francis II appointed the Marshal of Rieux guardian of his daughter who was only 11 years old at the time.

The independent sovereign nature of the Duchy began to crumble upon the death of Francis II in 1488. The Duchy was inherited by his daughter, Anne, but King Charles VIII of France had his eye on the Duchy for himself.

This date: Death of King Edward the Confessor of England.

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Ēadƿeard (Edward) the Confessor, King of the English, died this date, January 5, 1066 after a reign of 23 years. Edward died without issue creating a succession crisis.

At the end of 1065 King Edward the Confessor had fallen into a coma without clarifying his preference for the succession. He died on January 5, 1066, according to the Vita Ædwardi Regis, but not before briefly regaining consciousness and commending his widow and the kingdom to Harold’s “protection”. The intent of this charge remains ambiguous, as is the Bayeux Tapestry, which simply depicts Edward pointing at a man thought to represent Harold. When the Witan convened the next day they selected Harold to succeed, and his coronation followed on 6 January, most likely held in Westminster Abbey; though no evidence from the time survives to confirm this. Although later Norman sources point to the suddenness of this coronation, the reason may have been that all the nobles of the land were present at Westminster for the feast of Epiphany, and not because of any usurpation of the throne on Harold’s part.

The succession

At the time of Edward’s death there were four strong claimants to the throne. Edgar Ætheling (son of Edward Ætheling, see below) who was the closest male representative of the House of Wessex, Harold Godwinson, Earl Godwin, brother-in-law of the king and to whom Edward allegedly promised the throne, William II, Duke of Normandy (great-nephew of Emma of Normandy, Edward’s mother) a cousin of the king and to whom Edward also allegedly promised the throne. The final candidate was Harald III Hardråde, King of Norway (1046-1066) who claimed the English throne via a promise made in 1038 or 1039 between Harald III’s father, Sigurd Syr (petty king of Ringerike, a region in Buskerud) who had wrangled a promise from King Harthacnut of England (1040-1042, also known as Canute III of Denmark, the son of King Canute II the Great [who ruled Denmark, Norway, and England] and Emma of Normandy), that his eldest son would succeed him in England should King Harthacnut die childless.

Historians have been trying to understand the intentions of Edward and the succession as early as William of Malmesbury in the early 12th century. One school of thought supports the Norman case that Edward always intended William the Conqueror to be his heir, accepting the medieval claim that Edward had already decided to be celibate before he married, but most historians believe that he hoped to have an heir by Edith at least until his quarrel with Godwin in 1051. William may have visited Edward during Godwin’s exile, and he is thought to have promised William the succession at this time, but historians disagree how seriously he meant the promise, and whether he later changed his mind.

Edward Ætheling had the best claim to the throne during Edward’s reign and had been considered Edward’s heir until his death in 1057. Edward Ætheling, also known as Edward the Exile, was the son of King Edmund II Ironside (half-brother of Edward the Confessor) and of Ealdgyth. He spent most of his life in exile in the Kingdom of Hungary following the defeat of his father by Canute II the Great, King of Denmark, England and Norway.

Edward the Exile had a very strong claim to the English throne and was a direct descendant of a line of Wessex kings dating back, at least on the pages of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, to the arrival of Cerdic of Wessex in 495AD, and from Alfred the Great. Of his more immediate ancestors, all four of Edward’s male-line ancestors were Kings of England before Canute II the Great took the crown and sent Edward into exile.

Edward the Exile had been taken as a young child to Hungary, and in 1054 Bishop Ealdred of Worcester visited the Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich III to secure his return, probably with a view to becoming Edward’s heir. The exile returned to England in 1057 with his family, but died almost immediately. His son Edgar, who was then about five years old, was brought up at the English court. He was given the designation Ætheling, meaning throneworthy, which may mean that Edward considered making him his heir, and he was briefly declared king after Harold’s death in 1066. However, Edgar was absent from witness lists of Edward’s diplomas, and there is no evidence in the Domesday Book that he was a substantial landowner, which suggests that he was marginalised at the end of Edward’s reign.

After the mid-1050s, Edward seems to have withdrawn from affairs as he became increasingly dependent on the Godwins, and may have become reconciled to the idea that one of them would succeed him. The Normans claimed that Edward sent Harold to Normandy in about 1064 to confirm the promise of the succession to William. The strongest evidence comes from a Norman apologist, William of Poitiers.

According to his account, shortly before the Battle of Hastings, Harold sent William an envoy who admitted that Edward had promised the throne to William but argued that this was over-ridden by his deathbed promise to Harold. In reply, William did not dispute the deathbed promise, but argued that Edward’s prior promise to him took precedence.

In Stephen Baxter’s view, Edward’s “handling of the succession issue was dangerously indecisive, and contributed to one of the greatest catastrophes to which the English have ever succumbed.”

In early January 1066, hearing of Harold’s coronation, Duke William II of Normandy began plans to invade England, building 700 warships and transports at Dives-sur-Mer on the Normandy coast.

The rest they say is history.

Charles I, Enters the House of Commons

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On this Day in Royal History: January 4, 1642, King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland (1625-1649) marches into the House of Commons with troops intending to arrest five Members of Parliament for disobeying his orders. This historic and brazen action was the catalyst for the English Civil War 1642-1649.

This act greatly angered the MPs who saw this behavior as a breach of parliamentary privilege. Members of the House slammed the doors of the chamber in the faces of the King’s men. When King Charles finally entered the House of Commons, the Speaker, William Lenthall, refused to reveal the location of the wanted men, famously saying: “May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here.”

What lead to this breech of privilege? It came in the aftermath of rebellions in Ireland and Scotland. Charles suspected, and there is evidence his suspicions were correct, that some members of the English Parliament had colluded with the invading Scots. On January 3, 1642, the day before this historic event, Charles directed Parliament to give up five members of the House of Commons – John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, William Strode and Sir Arthur Haselrig– and one peer from the House of Lords, Lord Mandeville – to be arrested on the grounds of high treason.

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When Parliament refused there is some evidence to suggest Queen Henrietta Maria had persuaded Charles to arrest the five members by force and that Charles himself should intended carry out the arrests. However, news of the warrant reached Parliament ahead of him, and the wanted men slipped away by boat shortly before Charles entered the House of Commons. Charles abjectly declared “all my birds have flown”, and was forced to retire, empty-handed.

The failed arrest attempt was politically disastrous for Charles, for in one smooth stroke Charles destroyed his supporters’ efforts to portray him as a defence against innovation and disorder. Parliament quickly seized London, and Charles fled the capital for Hampton Court Palace.

No English sovereign has ever entered the House of Commons since this unprecedented breach of parliamentary privilege. Every year this event is commemorated during the State Opening of Parliament when Black Rod tries to enter the Commons, the door is slammed in his face to symbolise the independence of the elected House of Commons from the monarchy.

Christmas Cornorations

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Merry Christmas from the European Royal History Blog!!

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Today I will briefly mention two coronations that took place on Christmas Day.

Charlemagne. King of the Franks crowned Emperor 800CE.
William I The Conquer, King of the English, Duke of Normandy 1066

Charlemagne

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In 799, Pope Leo III did not have a good relationship with the citizens of Rome and suffered sever abuse when the Romans tried to put out his eyes and tear out his tongue. Leo III, naturally fearing for his life, escaped and fled to the court of King Charlemagne at Paderborn. Charlemagne, under the advisement of scholar Alcuin, sojourned to Rome and in November of 800 and on the first of December held a council on 1 December. On December 23rd Pope Leo III swore an oath of innocence. And two days later during a Mass, on Christmas Day (25 December), Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum (“Emperor of the Romans”) in Saint Peter’s Basilica. By doing this doing, the Pope effectively nullified the legitimacy of Empress Irene of Constantinople.

It was seen by scholars of the day that when Odoacer forced the abdication of Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476CE this did not effectively abolish the Western Roman Empire as a separate power Europe. Theoretically the powers of the Western Roman Emperor were said to have been reunited with or grafted into the Eastern Roman Empire. Therefore from that time contemporary scholars believed that there was a singular undivided Roman Empire. Pope Leo III and King Charlemagne, as well as their predecessors, also held to this political ideal of there being a singular Roman Empire that was one and indivisible.

However, the imperial coronation of Charlemagne was not believed to have caused a severance of the Roman Empire back into East and West factions. In the eyes Leo III and Charlemagne, along with contemporary political theorists, they were not revolting against a reigning sovereign, Empress Irene, but legitimately filling up the void of legitimate successors caused by the deposition Emperor Constatine VI in 797 and Charlemagne was held to be the legitimate successor, not of the Emperor Romulus Augustulus, but that of Emperor Constantine VI.

Despite the good intentions of Charlemagne’s coronation as Emperor, it intended to represent the continuation of the unbroken line of Emperors from Augustus to Constantine VI. The reality was that his imperial coronation had the effect of setting up two separate, and often opposing, Empires along with two separate claims to imperial authority.

One of the issues that has been debated by scholars is whether of not Charlemagne saw this prestigious gift bestowed on him on that Christmas Day? According to the twenty-eight chapter of Einhard’s Vita Karoli Magni which says that Charlemagne was ignorant of the Pope’s intent and did not want any such coronation:

He (Charlemagne) at first had such an aversion to being granted the imperial title that he declared that he would not have set foot in the Church the day that theses imperial titles were conferred, although it was a great feast-day, if he could have foreseen the design of the Pope.”

A number of modern scholars, however, logically suggest that Charlemagne was indeed aware of the coronation. It has been said he certainly cannot have missed the bejewelled crown waiting on the altar when he came to pray; something even contemporary sources support.

Charlemagne is counted as Charles I, Holy Roman Emperor, but many scholars believe the state that evolved into the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation began with the coronation of Otto I, Duke of Saxony in 962. Otto I was crowned Emperor by Pope John XII at Olds St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pope also anointed Otto’s wife Adelaide of Italy, who had accompanied Otto on his Italian campaign, as empress. With Otto’s coronation as emperor, the Kingdom of Germany and the Kingdom of Italy were unified into a common realm, later called the Holy Roman Empire.

William I

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Exactly when did William I The Conqueror become King of the English? Although he certainly became the De Facto King of the English when he defeated King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in October of 1066, it was not until his coronation on Christmas Day of that year did will accede to the throne.

William may have hoped the English would surrender to his rule immediately after his his victory over Harold II but that just was not the case. A swiftly convened meeting of the Wittan, comprising the English clergy and magnates, elected Edgar the Ætheling King of the English. Edgar the Ætheling was of the House of Wessex and a nephew of King Edward the Confessor. The support for Edgar by the Wittan was very lukewarm.

Undeterred, William continued his conquest of England. He and his armies secured Dover, parts of Kent, and Canterbury, and also captured Winchester, where the royal treasury was located. These captures solidified his holdings in that region and also his line of retreat to Normandy, if that was needed. It was unnecessary.

William then marched northward to Southwark and into London in late November. Next he led his forces around the south and west of London, burning buildings of those in resistance along the way. He crossed the Thames at Wallingford in early December where Archbishop Stigand submitted to William. He moved on to Berkhamsted soon afterwards where Edgar the Ætheling, Morcar, Edwin, and Archbishop Ealdred also submitted. This solidified his power in London where William began the construction of the Tower of London And with his troops garrisoned in London William was crowned King of the English at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066.

James II-VII Flees England.

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On this day in 1688. James II-VII King of England, Scotland and Ireland attempted to flee England during the Glorious Revolution. On the way, he threw the Great Seal into the Thames, preventing a Parliament from being called. He was caught by a fisherman in Kent and returned to London on Dec. 16 and placed under Dutch protective guard. Having no desire to make James II-VII a martyr, Prince Willem IIII, Prince of Orange, let him escape on December 23. James II-VII was received by his maternal first cousin and ally, King Louis XIV of France and Navarre (1643-1715) offered him a palace and a pension.