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Louise of Savoy
Mother of King Francis I of France (1476-1531)

Louise of Savoy (September 11, 1476 – September 22, 1531) was a French noble and regent, Duchess suo jure of Auvergne and Bourbon, Duchess of Nemours, and the mother of King François I of France. She was politically active and served as the regent of France in 1515, in 1525–1526 and in 1529.


Family and early life

Louise of Savoy was born at Pont-d’Ain, the eldest daughter of Philip II, Duke of Savoy and his first wife, Margaret of Bourbon. Her brother, Philibert II, Duke of Savoy, succeeded her father as ruler of the duchy and head of the House of Savoy. He was, in turn, succeeded by their half-brother Charles III, Duke of Savoy.

Because her mother died when she was only seven, she was brought up by Anne de Beaujeu,who was regent of France for her brother King Charles VIII of France. At Amboise she met Margaret of Austria, who was betrothed to the young king and with whom Louise would negotiate peace several decades later.


At age eleven, Louise married Charles of Orléans, Count of Angoulême, aged 29, on February 16, 1488 in Paris. She only began living with him when she was fifteen, though. Despite her husband having two mistresses, the marriage was not unhappy and they shared a love for books.

The household of Charles was presided over by his châtelaine, Antoinette de Polignac, Dame de Combronde, by whom he had two illegitimate daughters, Jeanne of Angoulême and Madeleine.


Charles of Orléans, Count of Angoulême

Antoinette became Louise’s lady-in-waiting and confidante. Her children were raised alongside Louise’s own. Charles had another illegitimate daughter, Souveraine, by Jeanne le Conte, who also lived in the Angoulême chateau. Louise would later arrange marriages for her husband’s illegitimate children.

Their first child, Marguerite, was born on April 11, 1492 when Louise was just 16 years of age; their second child, François, was born on September 12, 1494 when she was 18.

When her husband fell ill after going out riding in the winter of 1495, she nursed him and suffered much grief when he died on January 1, 1496.

Widowed and motherhood

When she was widowed at the young age of 19, Louise deftly maneuvered her children into a position that would secure for each of them a promising future. Though they remained in Cognac for two years, she moved her family to court at the ascension of King Louis XII, her husband’s cousin.

Louise had a keen awareness for the intricacies of politics and diplomacy, and was deeply interested in the advances of arts and sciences in Renaissance Italy. She made certain that her children were educated in the spirit of the Italian Renaissance, also helped by her Italian confessor, Cristoforo Numai from Forlì. She commissioned books specifically for them and she taught Francis Italian and Spanish.

When Louis XII became ill in 1505, he determined that François should succeed him and both Louise and his wife Anne of Brittany should be part of the regency council. He recovered and François became a favourite of the king, who eventually gave him his daughter Claude of France in marriage on May 8, m1514. Following the marriage, Louis XII designated François as his heir.

Mother of the King

With the death of Louis XII on January 1, 1515, François became King of France. On February 4, 1515, Louise was named Duchess of Angoulême, and on April 15, 1524, Duchess of Anjou.

Louise of Savoy remained politically active on behalf of her son in the early years of his reign especially. During his absences, she acted as regent on his behalf. Louise served as the Regent of France in 1515, during the king’s war in Italy, and again from 1525 to 1526, when the king was at war and during his time as prisoner in Spain.

In 1524, she sent one of her servants, Jean-Joachim de Passano, to London to open unofficial negotiations with Cardinal Wolsey for a peace treaty; the negotiations were not a success, although they may have prepared the ground for the Treaty of the More the following year.

She initiated friendly relations with the Ottoman Empire by sending a mission to Suleiman the Magnificent requesting assistance, but the mission was lost on its way in Bosnia. In December 1525, a second mission was sent, led by John Frangipani, which managed to reach Constantinople, the Ottoman capital, with secret letters asking for the deliverance of King François I and an attack on the Habsburg. Frangipani returned with a positive answer from Suleiman, on February 6, 1526, initiating the first steps of a Franco-Ottoman alliance.

She was the principal negotiator for the Treaty of Cambrai between France and the Holy Roman Empire, concluded on August 3, 1529. That treaty, called “the Ladies’ Peace”, put an end to the second Italian war between the head of the Valois dynasty, Francis I of France, and the head of the Habsburg dynasty, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The Treaty temporarily confirmed Habsburg hegemony in Italy. The treaty was signed by Louise of Savoy for France and her sister-in-law, Margaret of Austria, for the Holy Roman Empire.


Louise of Savoy died on September 22, 1531, in Grez-sur-Loing. Her remains were entombed at Saint-Denis in Paris. After her death her lands, including Auvergne, merged in the crown. Through her daughter Marguerite (Queen of Navarre) and her granddaughter Jeanne d’Albret, she is the ancestress of the Bourbon kings of France, as her great-grandson, Henri of Navarre, succeeded as Henri IV of France.