Anne of Brittany, Brittany, Claude of France, Duchess of Brittany, Francis I of France, Henri III of France, Henry VIII, King Henri II of France, King Henry VIII of England, Louis XII of France, Margaret Tudor, Salic Law
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.
(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.
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.
(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.
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.
(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.