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Who was Anne of Brittany?

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Anne of Brittany’s portrait on wall of Chateau Royal Amboise

The only woman to have ever been crowned twice queen of France, Anne of Brittany became Brittany’s ruler at age eleven, upon the death of her father.

Her dates? 1477-1514. Born deep in the night at the Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany in Nantes, Brittany, on the night of January 25, her hour of birth is unrecorded. My guess is the firstborn child of Francis II of Montfort, Duke of Brittany, and his wife, Marguerite de Foix, was born after midnight, putting her birth date at Jan. 26, 1477.

Her personality?

  • Delightfully feminine.
  • Decidedly feminist.

Lucky in love, unlucky in childbearing, she was a woman who ruled with authority while winning the love of two kings and the admiration of all Europe.

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Anne’s birthplace of the Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany, Nantes, France

Brittany at the time of Anne’s birth was a duchy to the west of the kingdom of France. The kings of France had their eye on obtaining this fertile and affluent territory for France. Anne’s life story is largely the story of her struggles to maintain Brittany’s independence. Did she succeed? With first husband Charles VIII of France, no. With second husband Louis XII of France, yes.

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Map courtesy of Stephane Berne’s Secrets d’Histoire series, Anne de Bretagne, deux fois Reine

Discover French queen Anne of Brittany between the pages of Sense of Touch, a fictional love story, set in her court.

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Ever since picking up Mildred Allen Butler’s book on Anne of Brittany a few years ago (Twice Queen of France: Anne of Brittany. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1967), I’ve been fascinated by this French queen who came to power at age eleven as ruler of Brittany, then became queen of France at age fourteen.
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Anne of Brittany’s travails trying to bring live children into the world rival any woman’s in history. Her fourteen pregnancies resulted in the survival of two children, both daughters.The rest? Three miscarriages, five stillborn infants, one son dead after three hours, one daughter dead after one day, another son lived three weeks, her longest living son survived to age three when he succumbed to measles. As a public figure, this queen’s drama played out on the stage of all of France. If I had made this up, readers wouldn’t believe it.Yet it’s all true, and carefully historically documented.

I began to wonder why Anne of Brittany’s story is not well known.
Many modern women share the same secret heartaches their medieval and ancient-era sisters suffered: pregnancy loss, inability to bring a live child into the world, inability to keep a child alive once born. Women continue to struggle with these issues, suffering in silence when pregnancy and childbirth loss occurs. My heart aches for every one of them.I wanted to bring alive Anne of Brittany’s tale for modern women, many of whom share her story in personal grief and in courage. At the same time this brave woman endured continual personal tragedy she achieved great success as queen of France. She offers the world a model of fortitude and resilience in the face of enormous personal suffering.

  • Anne of Brittany ruled over the most sophisticated court in Europe.
  • She was the first European royal to wear lingerie, specifically brassieres.
  • She helped usher in the glories of the Renaissance from Italy to France.She ran the first finishing school for young women of noble birth,educating them in book learning and estate management and supplying or supplementing their dowries when they married.

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    Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany in an idealized 15th century diptych: Charles was not this handsome, Anne was not this ugly

  • Both of Anne of Brittany’s husbands were madly in love with her. Neither considered putting her aside despite her inability to produce an heir for the throne of France. Her first husband, Charles VIII of France, was mad about her despite cheating on her throughout their marriage, as was typical for kings in that age. Her second husband, Louis XII of France, died less than a year after her death at the age of thirty seven. It was said that he never recovered from her death.

    Douleur du Roi sans Fils by Jean Pichore, c. 1503

    Louis XII asking Anne of Brittany why the daughter she has given him is not a son. Anne giving her husband a look. Painting by Jean Pichore, c. 1503

  • Anne of Brittany was renown throughout Europe as a matchmaker. Rulers of other European countries,including King Ferdinand of Spain, after his wife Isabella’s death, and the King of Hungary sought her advice in choosing suitable new spouses.

Enjoy discovering the remarkable historical figure Anne of Brittany in Sense of Touch.  And look for its sequel in 2017, Anne and Charles: Arranged Marriage, Renaissance Romance.

Happy birthday, Anne of Brittany, fierce Breton duchess and twice queen of France,

Author Rozsa Gaston

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