The heart of Queen Anne of Breton

The heart of Queen Anne of Breton

Reliquary with the heart of Anna Breton in the Nantes Museum

On January 9, 1514, Anna Bletonska died in the Blois castle, the duchess of Brittany, the queen of France, the wife of two successive kings – Charles VIII and Louis XII of the Valois dynasty.
On February 16, Anna’s body was buried in the tomb of the Saint-Denis Basilica, traditional for the burial of the kings and queens of France, in the northern suburbs of Paris. However, according to the personal will of the Queen, her heart was delivered to her native city of Nantes in a gold, decorated with a relic enamel. There, on March 13, 1514, it was placed on the tomb of Duke Arthur III, her uncle. And on March 19, it was solemnly moved to the cathedral of Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul (as they would say in Russian – to the Peter and Paul Cathedral) and is located in the marble tomb of her parents – the Duke of Brittany Francis II and the Navarre princess Marguerite de Foix.

According to the testimony of contemporaries, those present were kneeling and crying. This suggests that Anna of Breton was very popular during her lifetime, and after her death she became almost a legend.
The heart of the queen, the symbol of Brittany, was placed exactly in the middle between the coffins of her father and mother.
Reliquary for the heart of Anna Bretonskaya has an oval shape. It is a casket made of finely worked gold and crowned with a crown made up of nine lilies and nine flowers of clover. The height of the precious relic is 15 centimeters, width – 12.5 centimeters.
Reliquary (a golden oval shaped chest) for the heart of the queen was made by an unknown court jeweler from Blois, perhaps, according to the drawing of the famous artist and decorator of the late XV – early XVI century, Jean Perreal.
After the Great French Revolution, in 1792, on the orders of the Convention, a reliquary with the heart of Anne of Bretagne was confiscated, the heart was thrown out (it was never found), and gold pieces, together with other church property, were sent for melting to the mint.
No less terrible fate was waiting for the coffins of her parents.
Anna Breton, the Duchess of Brittany, the Countess of Nantes and de Rishmon, the Countess of Montfort-l’Amori and d’Etampes, the Viscountess of Limoges, the queen of France, the wife of the two succeeding kings of France and the richest woman of Europe of her time, was born in Nantes on 25 January 1477 years.
From early childhood, Anna was raised as the heiress of the duchy, devoted to all the subtleties of politics. She was taught French, Latin, Greek and various technical arts; while she also received ladies’ education, was trained in music, embroidering and weaving lace.
As it always was in those days, it was very early to ask who the young duchess would give her hand and heart. But in this case this question arose even before Anna officially declared her heiress (there were no sons from Francis II and Margarita de Foix), since her father did not want Brittany to be absorbed by France, and therefore sought a son-in-law who could withstand a powerful neighbor.
Originally Francis II turned to such a natural ally as England. The 11-year-old Prince of Wales, the son of King Edward IV (1470-1483), was named the betrothed fiancé of the four-year-old Anna, according to the contract signed in May 1481. After the death of his father in 1483, the young prince briefly became King of England under the name of Edward V, but was soon deposed by his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, who declared the king and his younger brother illegal children, and himself became King Richard III (1452-1485). After that, Edward V disappeared without a trace (presumably he was killed in the Tower prison). The same fate befell and his younger brother Richard of York, who, according to the contract, would be engaged to Anna in the event of Edward’s death.
Another British bridegroom could be the ambitious claimant to the throne at this time in Brittany, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (1457-1509). In 1485 he landed in England, defeated Richard III and became King Henry VII, but was not at all interested in the prospect of a marriage with Brittany, as the condition for the recognition of his rights to the throne was a marriage with the daughter of Edward IV Elizabeth of York.
Other candidates for the hand of Anna were the Archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Habsburg (1459-1519), a close friend of the father of Alain d’Albre and Louis of Orleans (1462-1515), the son of the Duke of Orleans and the future King Louis XII, who by that time was already married His will on ugly and childless Jeanne, the daughter of King Louis XI. The Breton nobility initially supported the nomination of Maximilian von Habsburg, the future emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, but the successful actions of the French troops in 1487 strengthened the position of the King of France, Charles VIII, in the struggle for the arm of the Breton heir.
July 28, 1488, the troops of Francis II were defeated by the French king at Saint-Aubin, which ended the “Mad War” between Brittany and France. According to the terms of the peace treaty in Verger, the duke was forced to promise not to marry his daughters Anna and Isabo without the consent of the French king.
September 9, 1488 Francis II died after an unsuccessful fall from a horse, and eleven
Anna became the Duchess of Brittany. After this, a dynastic crisis began, almost immediately leading to a new French-Breton war. The first clashes of this conflict occurred already in 1489.
In these conditions, Anna’s advisors decided to urgently find her an independent groom and force a conclusion with him on the marriage agreement. The candidature was chosen the same – Maximilian von Habsburg. However, to his deep chagrin, he could not personally come for the bride. I had to resort to the practice of marriage by proxy. As a result, December 19, 1490 in Rennes was married in absentia, after which Anna became the legal wife of the heir to the heir of the Holy Roman Empire.
Naturally, the French perceived this marriage as a violation of the treaty in Verger. In addition, they considered it an openly unfriendly act – the Holy Roman Empire at the time was hostile to France.
In the spring of 1491, after a series of victories, the armies of Charles VIII besieged Rennes, where the young ruler of Brittany was just married in absentia. They already controlled the rest of the territory of the duchy. This time, the hands of Anna was personally sought by King Charles VIII (1470-1498), the son of Louis XI, nicknamed Lubezny.
was to agree to terminate his correspondence marriage and become a French queen. At the same time, she cried bitterly, but nevertheless announced:
“Tell the French king to come see me.”
On November 15, 1491, peace was concluded, and Anna was betrothed to Charles VIII at Rennes. After that, she went to the castle of Lange, where her formal wedding with the French king was to take place. The Austrian ambassadors immediately protested, arguing that this marriage is contrary to church laws, since Anna is already married to Maximilian. Maximilian also openly expressed his outrage at the “robbery of the bride.” Despite this, on December 6, 1491, a marriage of Anna of Breton and Charles VIII of the clan of Valois was held in Lange. Already on February 15, 1492, the legality of this marriage was confirmed by Pope Innocent VIII.
I must say that Charles VIII was simply ugly even compared with the same Louis Orleans, but Anna, oddly enough, quickly reconciled with this. Their marriage contract provided that the spouse who survives the other, will retain power in Brittany. If Charles VIII dies without leaving his sons, then Anna should have married his successor. This treaty actually made the inevitable annexation of Brittany by France.
Going to Lange to marry Charles VIII, Anna demonstratively took with her from Rennes two beds – as a sign that he was not going to sleep with the French, who forcibly took her as his wife. In time, however, as we have already said, Anna became very attached to her husband.

The heart of Queen Anne of Breton

Medal with the image of Louis XII and Anna of Breton

On February 8, 1492, Anna was crowned in Saint-Denis, and her husband forbade her to carry the hereditary ducal title of Brittany, claiming it in her own right.
Almost all of the reign of Charles VIII Anna lived in castles in Amboise, Losche or Plessis. After Charles VIII took Naples, Anna nominally became also the queen of Naples.
Anna had seven pregnancies from Karl in seven years, but only four children were born alive. However, none of them survived early childhood. In particular, the eldest son, the Dauphin Karl-Orlan, who was born on October 11, 1492, died at the age of three from measles, provoking the inconsolable grief of his parents who adored him. By the way, this misfortune brought them closer. Their next children – Karl, Jr., Francois and Anna – did not live a month.
as Anna Anne-Marie-Joseph Trebyusche’s biographer writes, he “understood that marrying a young widow queen was the only way to inextricably link Brittany and France.”
His wife, Jeanne of France, daughter of King Louis XI, was alive, and the new king was to be divorced, which was easy enough to justify – the couple were inappropriately close in terms of church canons – but the sanction of the pope took some time.
Anna tried to take advantage of this and on August 19, 1498, in Etampes agreed to a marriage with Louis, provided that he would get a divorce within a year. According to the testimony of contemporaries, having nothing against Louis personally, she sought, with the help of this condition, to obtain additional political opportunities in her hereditary possessions.
After that Anna returned to her native Brittany. In the homeland, the Duchess, who at last could again bear this title, appointed her faithful Philip de Montauban Chancellor of Brittany, called the General States and ordered the coinage to be started with her name. During the autumn-winter of 1498, she traveled all over the duchy, and in all the cities the vassals arranged a solemn reception for her, hoping for the restoration of the country’s political might.
Nevertheless, even before the new 1499, Pope Alexander VI dissolved the alliance of Louis XII and Jeanne of France, and already
On January 8, Anna Bretonsky remarried and again became the queen of France. During the wedding, she was dressed in white, which was still unusual in Europe, as white color was considered a mourning color, but it was from this wedding that the tradition for the bride to wear a white dress first adopted by the French and then by the inhabitants of other countries began.
Already on October 14 of the same year Anna had a daughter, known as Claude the French.
Behind the shoulders of Louis XII was a great political experience, and he was not a straightforward stubborn youth, like Charles VIII. After accession to the throne, he, at least initially, with great skill began to seek compromises in relations with feudal lords and peasants. In an incomparably more flexible way, he acted with his wife, as well. Moreover, earlier, rebelling against the king, he acted on the side of Brittany and was personally acquainted with Anna, he was wooing her, and therefore their relationship even before marriage was very good. According to the marriage contract signed on the eve of the wedding, Louis recognized from the very beginning the title of the Duchess of Brittany for Anna, and he himself enjoyed only the title of Consort Duke. All decisions concerning Brittany were now published on behalf of the Duchess Anna.
Claude and Charles, the future emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and the King of Spain, Charles V, were then very young children (Claude was not even two years old, and Carl was barely a year old). Formally, this marriage would have played into the hands of France, because in the Italian Wars, the Austrian Habsburgs, which Spain was supposed to soon have to go to, were its allies. However, in the event that Louis and Anna did not have sons, the Habsburgs would eventually get Brittany. And this would not only moderate the appetites of France, but in general would put it under direct threat – from all sides the kingdom would be surrounded by the possessions of the Austrian house.
Regardless of everything, Louis XII and Anna of Breton lived happily, and the French court, oddly enough and incredibly it sounds, has become one of the most respectable courtyards in Europe.
In this case, the king and the queen for a long time had only one surviving child – the girl Claude, and only in 1510 another daughter was born, named Renee. In this setting, Louis XII, who initially approved the project of Anna, broke off the engagement of Claude and began to prepare her marriage with her cousin François Angoulême, who was next in line to the throne in the straight line of the male line of the Valois dynasty. May 31, 1505, this requirement was included in the will of Louis XII, and a year later Claude and Francois were engaged. This caused a sharp protest from the queen, who stubbornly refused to consent to this marriage, demanding that Claude would either marry Carl of Luxembourg or be deprived of an inheritance in favor of her younger sister Rene. Ludovic could not counter anything, and until the end of Anna Claude’s life remained unmarried.
By the end of 1513 the health of the queen had greatly worsened: she suffered from kidney stones. Fifteen years and one day after the marriage with Louis XII, on January 9, 1514, Anna of Breton died in the castle of Blois. The funeral was not just a queen-wife, but also the rulers of a neighboring power passed with extraordinary pomp and lasted forty days (the funeral ceremonies of Charles VIII took only twenty-three days). Like Anna’s wedding, her funeral became a model for similar ceremonies in the French royal house.
Ludovik XII will die on December 31, 1514. Claude the French, Anna’s eldest daughter, will marry François Angoulême, who will become the king of France by Francis I, and she will bring him the duchy of Brittany as a dowry. So Brittany, which was so loved by Anna of Breton, will finally become one of the provinces of France. However, this is a completely different story …

The heart of Queen Anne of Breton

According to the most historically established point of view, Anna, later nicknamed the “good duchess” and one of the central figures in the history of Brittany, was a smart, educated and sophisticated woman in politics. From adolescence until the end of her short life, she did everything to ensure that her country remained as independent as possible from the French crown, but circumstances ultimately formed against it.
There are many descriptions of Anna’s appearance and her portraits. Many of them, however, represent its features only in an allegorical way. So, for example, Anna, served as a model of the allegory of Justice on the grave of her father in Nantes. In the time of Louis XII she was written in the image of the Virgin Mary, carrying peace and union of France and Brittany. The portraits of Anna from the time of Charles VIII do not show any characteristic portraits – at that time she was not considered an independent figure, but was only a shadow of her husband.