Anne of Brittany: Life Story

Chapter 9 : Twice-Crowned Queen

Whilst war was waging ceaselessly in Italy during 1503, Louis fell dangerously ill. Perhaps hinting at Anne’s true feelings about her position, whilst her husband was thought to be on his death-bed, she made preparations to send her jewellery and furniture to Brittany by barge – in accordance with the marriage treaties which gave her possession of her moveable goods on her widowhood.

She may also have been considering removing Claude from France, to prevent any marriage with François of Angoulême. She was stopped in her tracks by the Marshal of France, Pierre de Rohan-Gié, leader of the faction in favour of the match with François. The Marshal prevented her barges from travelling, pointing out that Louis was not yet dead.

Anne was furious, and along with other of de Gié’s enemies, accused him of treason, for which he was tried by the Parlement of Toulouse, and sentenced to dismissal from his offices for five years. Anne’s animosity toward de Gié was widely known, and was even the subject of a satire, in which the character of de Gié tried to shoe a donkey (âne in French) but it gave him such a kick that he was ejected from the courtyard into the fields beyond.

In the event, Louis recovered, and perhaps to show that the couple were united, despite the de Gié affair, or to take the taint of the loss of Naples away, the king and queen made a state entry to Paris, for Anne to be crowned a second time as queen. The Parlement of Paris voted a grant of 10,000 livres tournois and the elaborate ceremony took place on 18th November 1504.

In early 1505, Anne paid a visit to her duchy, leaving Louis convalescing from illness at Blois, in the company of Claude, Louise of Savoy and her two children – Louis’ heir, François, and Marguerite of Angoulême, later queen of Navarre. The ostensible reason for Anne’s visit was in fulfilment of a vow she had made to the Breton Virgin of Folgoët, to make a pilgrimage to her shrine, should Louis recover from his sickness. Anne travelled through Brittany for five months,

Louis, either missing Anne, or worried that she was showing too much independence, recalled her to France, but she was detained at Morlaix by an inflammation in her left eye. Hoping for a cure, she sent for the relic of St Jean-du-doigt, but the wrath of the saint at her presumption was made known by the carriage bearing his relic breaking down and the saint’s precious fingerbone mysteriously disappearing, only to be found to have miraculously returned itself to its reliquary in the church.

The digit having failed to come to the duchess, the duchess was obliged to go to the digit. She went on foot to the shrine, where her eye was touched by the relic, and, pleasingly, was restored to health. The church was suitably rewarded with gifts and grants.

Once back in France, Anne was obliged to accept the rejection by Louis of the betrothal between Claude and Charles. He was determined that Claude should marry François of Angoulême. Despite Anne’s vigorous protests, he required his nobles to swear that, in the event of his death before such a marriage, they would prevent Claude leaving the kingdom, and carry out his wishes.

On 14th May 1506, Louis received deputations from the Estates of France, who announced that they wished him to adopt the title ‘Father of his people’ (in echo of the title of the Roman Emperor Augustus). Louis having graciously acceded to the request, was then importuned to confirm the betrothal of Claude and François, which he gladly did.

Archduke Philip was offended at the breaking of the betrothal between Charles and Claude, but his remonstrances had no effect. On Ascension Day 1506, six-year-old Claude was betrothed to François, who was twelve, at Plessis-les-Tours.

Anne was furious, and made her feelings known by travelling to Brittany once again, where she stayed for several months. She assembled the Estates-General of the duchy for the 20th August, although the letters of summons were expressed as coming jointly from Louis and herself.

As the months passed, and she failed to return, Louis’ minister, the Cardinal of Amboise, sent her several letters, begging her to come back, and to make up with her husband, before they lost all trust in each other, and became the source of mockery and gossip. She disobeyed his request to burn his letter, but eventually, she came back to Blois and appears to have been reconciled to Louis – although she continued to dislike the betrothal between Claude and François. 

Claude was not a robust child, and fell ill in 1507. Anne was at Grenoble, where she had gone with Louis, as he prepared to journey, yet again, to Milan. Anne had, by this time, lost all faith in doctors, and ordered Claude’s governess, Madame de Bouchard, to keep her little girl out of the clutches of any physician. She was to attend to the little princess herself, and put faith in prayer and the intercession of the saints.