Anne of Brittany Facts
based on article by Jone Johnson Lewis (on ThoughtCo)
Known for: richest woman in Europe in her time; Queen of France twice, married to two kings in succession.
Occupation: sovereign duchess of Burgundy
Dates: January 22, 1477 – January 9, 1514
Also known as: Anne de Bretagne, Anna Vreizh
Mother: Margaret of Foix, daughter of Queen Eleanor of Navarre and Gaston IV, Count of Foix
Father: Francis II, Duke of Brittany, who fought with King Louis and Charles VIII of France to keep Brittany independent, and who protected Henry Tudor who had fled England and would later become King Henry VII of England.
Member of the house of Dreux-Montfort, tracing descent back to Hugh Capet, French king.
As heiress to the rich duchy of Brittany, Anne was sought as a marriage prize by many of the royal families of Europe, including the Prince of Wales, Edward, son of Edward IV of England. That same year, Edward IV died and Edward V was briefly king, until his uncle, Richard III, took the throne and the young prince and his brother disappeared and are presumed to have been killed. Another possible husband was Louis of Orleans, but he was already married and would have to get an annulment in order to marry Anne.
In 1486, Anne’s mother died. Her father, with no male heirs, arranged that Anne would inherit his titles and lands.
In 1488, Anne’s father was forced to sign a treaty with France stating that neither Anne nor her sister Isabelle could marry without the permission of the king of France. Within the month, Anne’s father died in an accident, and Anne, barely older than ten years old, was left his heiress.
First Mariage – or was it?…
Anne was married by proxy to Maximilian in 1490. No second ceremony, in person, was ever held.
Charles, Louis X1’s son, became king of France as Charles VIII and sent troops to Brittany to prevent Maximilian from completing his marriage to Anne of Brittany. Maximilian was already fighting in Spain and Central Europe, and France was able to quickly subdue Brittany.
Queen of France, twice!
Charles arranged that Anne would marry him, and she agreed, hoping that their arrangement would allow Brittany significant independence. They married on December 6, 1491, and Anne was crowned Queen of France on February 8, 1492. In becoming Queen, she had to give up her title as Duchess of Brittany.
The marriage contract between Anne and Charles specified that whomever outlived the other would inherit Brittany. It also specified that if Charles and Anne had no male heirs, and Charles died first, that Anne would marry Charles’ successor.
Their son, Charles, was born in October of 1492; he died in 1495 of the measles. Another son died soon after birth and there were two other pregnancies ending in stillbirths.
In April of 1498, Charles died. By the terms of their marriage contract, she was required to marry Louis XII, Charles’ successor — the same man who, as Louis of Orleans, had been considered as a husband for Anne earlier, but was rejected because he was already married.
Anne agreed to fulfil the terms of the marriage contract and marry Louis, provided that he get an annulment from the Pope Alexander within a year. Pope son, Caesar Borgia, was given French titles in exchange for the consent….
When the annulment was granted, Anne returned to France from Brittany to marry Louis on January 8, 1499. She wore a white dress to the wedding, the beginning of the Western custom of brides wearing white for their weddings. She was able to negotiate a wedding contract that permitted her to continue to rule in Brittany, rather than giving up the title for the title of Queen of France.
Anne was a patron of the arts. The Unicorn Tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) may have been created with her patronage. She also commissioned a funeral monument at Nantes in Brittany for her father.
Anne died of kidney stones on January 9, 1514, only 36 years old. While her burial was at the cathedral of Saint-Denis, where French royalty were laid to rest, her heart, as specified in her will, was put in a gold box and sent to Nantes in Brittany.
During the French Revolution, this reliquary was to be melted down along with many other relics, but was saved and protected, and eventually returned to Nantes.