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Anne of Brittany

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Court of the Ladies of Queen Anne of Brittany, Miniature representing this lady weeping on account of the absence of her husband during the Italian war.--Manuscript of the "Epistres Envoyées au Roi" (Sixteenth Century), obtained by the Coislin Fund for the Library of St. Germain des Pres in Paris, now in the Library of St. Petersburg.

Anne of Brittany (January 25, 1477January 9, 1514) was also known as Anna of Brittany and Anne de Bretagne. She was born in Nantes, France on January 25, 1477 and was the daughter of Francis II, Duke of Brittany and Margaret of Foix.

Marriages

The ducal house of Dreux, rulers of Brittany since after their ancestress Duchess Constance (1203), was going extinct: Francis seemed to be the last male. The duchy had been inherited under Salic succession (though no written law existed) and one succession war confirmed that principle: the war between Jeanne of Penthievre and her uncle John of Montfort in 1340's, won by Montfort. Now Montfort's male descent was going extinct, too. In the peace treaty, it had actually been stipulated that if Montfort's male descent fails, Jeanne's heirs then inherit. No one however remembered or put forth such claim now, after more than a century. It was felt natural that Anne succeeds her father as his closest relative (a typical Semi-Salic solution favoring pragmatic succession) when no male lines were left. The family of Brosse, Counts of Penthievre, would have been the heirs of Jeanne at that time.

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Picture of the statue of Anne of Britanny located near the castle in Nantes, France

Anne was initially betrothed to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and the marriage was performed by proxy on 19 December, 1490.

Charles VIII, King of France, fearful of Brittany falling under foreign control, invaded Brittany in 1491 and forced Anne to break her marriage and marry him on 6 December at the Château de Langeais, causing Brittany to come under French control.

A law was created which forced Anne, in the event of her having no issue with Charles, to marry the next heir to the throne.

Anne had four children by Charles VIII. However, none survived childhood, and when Charles died in an accident in 1498, he therefore had no direct male heir to succeed him. This meant that the throne went to his cousin, Louis XII, who was the next in line to the throne. On January 8, 1499, Anne married him. She wore white, thus setting a new precedent thereafter for brides worldwide.

She had two surviving daughters by Louis XII:

Of Note

Anne was her parents' only child who survived childhood, and her marriage was therefore of immense political importance. When her father died after falling from a horse on September 9, 1488, Anne became the Duchess of Brittany. This caused an enormous disruption in the internal politics of Brittany because Anne was then only eleven years old and still single, which meant that several Breton fractions were able to struggle for control of the duchy.

Anne was a highly intelligent woman and spent most of her time completing the administration of Brittany, as well as guarding its autonomy. This was futile in the end, however, as the duchy was eventually fully merged with the French crown by her daughter Claude.

Anne was also a patron of the arts and enjoyed music. She commissed a book of French manuscipts, known as the Book of Hours. She also institued the queen's maids of honour at the court.

One of Anne's legs was shorter than the other (a common ailment affecting many people), causing a limp. To fix the problem, she wore a higher heel on that leg.

Anne kept a box of precious stones and semi-precious stones. She would randomly pick one and give it to her visitor.

Anne died on January 9, 1514 in the Chateau de Blois. Her death signified the end of the independence of the duchy of Brittany from the French throne, and from 1514 the title was only conferred on French princes.

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