Anne de France

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Entry by Elodie Lequain, 2004

Daughter of King Louis XI and his second wife Charlotte of Savoy, eldest sister of Jeanne de France and the future Charles VIII, Anne of France was born in 1461 in Genappe in Brabant, near Brussels. On the death of Charles VII, Louis XI came to the throne and settled his family in Amboise. The princess became a pawn in the game of matrimonial politics from an early age. As an infant, she was betrothed to the young Nicolas, Marquis de Pont-à-Mousson, grandson of René d'Anjou. But it was Pierre, Lord de Beaujeu and younger brother of Duke John II of Bourbon, and more than twenty years her senior, whom she was to marry. The contract was concluded in Jargeau in November 1473, and the marriage was celebrated in Tours in 1474.

On the death of Louis XI in 1483, Anne and Pierre de Beaujeu received charge of Charles VIII, a frail teenager of thirteen. Anne, the ‘least crazy woman in France’ according to her father, again demonstrated great political skills in difficult times. The Beaujeu sacrificed Olivier Le Dain and Jean Doyat, servants hated by Louis XI, on the altar of appeasement and sought to buy the obedience of the people and princes through gifts. Faced with the hostility of Louis d'Orléans, later Louis XII and unhappy husband of her sister Jeanne, Anne of France skilfully manoeuvred the General States of Tours in January 1484 and consolidated her authority. The young king was crowned at Reims in May. However, the princes did not give up. Louis d’Orléans triggered the ‘Mad War’ in 1486; and Archduke Maximilian of Austria threatened the borders. The princes’ armed opposition begun in the duchy of Brittany belonging to François II. Led by Louis de la Tremoille who was in close contact with Anne, the royal armies won the battle of Saint-Aubin du Cormier in July 1488; and Louis of Orleans was taken prisoner. In 1491, Charles VIII's marriage to the heiress Duchess Anne of Brittany prepared the way for the incorporation of the duchy into the kingdom.

From 1488, the lady and her husband dedicated themselves specifically to the Bourbon principality. Indeed, on the death of Duke Jean II of Bourbon, Anne de France negotiated with Cardinal Charles de Bourbon. He waived the ducal inheritance in favour of his brother Pierre de Beaujeu, in exchange for a liftetime’s entitlement to seigneurial rights to Beaujolais. Now Dukes of Bourbon, Anne and Pierre made the Mills Court a glittering centre of power, especially since Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany stayed there often and since Pierre remained a secondary figure in the regime until his death. After the premature death of a little boy, Anne gave birth to Suzanne in May 1491. The representation of Anne of France, Pierre II of Bourbon and their only daughter on the altarpiece of the Master of Moulins symbolizes the power of the ducal house in the late fifteenth century.

Widowed in October 1503, Anne of France continued to watch carefully over the destiny of the Bourbon house, arranging the marriage of Suzanne with her cousin Charles de Montpensier, future commander of Bourbon, in May 1505. Between the death of Duke Pierre and Suzanne's wedding, she wrote a didactic treatise for her daughter to remind her of her duties as a princess, which was published with Suzanne’s consent. As Dowager Duchess, she was actively involved in managing the duchy of Bourbon alongside her son whom she had advised, according to testimony given by the Bishop of Autun in the trial of the commander, to enter into an alliance with Emperor Charles V against the king of France. Anne witnessed the rapid decay of the ducal line: after Suzanne's death without heirs in April 1521, the Bourbon succession was contested by the mother of the king of France, Louise de Savoie. Anne of France died at Chantelle on 14 November 1522 at the age of sixty-one. She was buried beside her husband on December, 4th in the chapel of the Priory of Souvigny.

The historiography has mostly retained that Anne of France was a woman of power with a strong personality. Yet the princess was also an astute bibliophile and was the dedicatee of several books; and when she became a widow, she took up the pen. We owe to her, apart from the didactic treatise addressed to her daughter Suzanne de Bourbon, a novel that reworks Le Réconfort de Madame de Fresne written by Antoine de La Sale in 1457. Her castle (the Château de Moulins), which was enlarged from 1488, illustrates the innovative influences of the Italian Renaissance and was home to a large library.

( translated by Julie Robertson)


- Entre 1503 et 1505 : Les Enseignements d'Anne de France duchesse de Bourbonnois et d'Auvergne à sa fille Susanne de Bourbon (vendus A la requeste de treshaulte et puissante princesse madame Suzanne de Bourbon...), Lyon, Le Prince, s.d. (rééd. sous le titre Enseignements moraux, Toulouse, Jehan Barril, 1535).
- Éd. A.-M. Chazaud, Les Enseignements d'Anne de France duchesse de Bourbonnois et d'Auvergne à sa fille Susanne de Bourbon; extrait d'une épistre consolatoire à Katerine de Neufville, dame de Fresne, sur la mort de son premier et seul filz (texte original publié d'après le manuscrit unique de Saint-Pétersbourg aujourd'hui perdu, et suivi des catalogues des bibliothèques du duc de Bourbon existant au XVIe siècle, tant à Aigueperse qu'au château de Moulins, et d'un glossaire; reproduction des 19 miniatures originales d'après les dessins de M. A. de Queyroy), Moulins, C. Desrosiers, 1878; Marseille, Laffitte reprints, 1978.

Selected bibliography

- Chombart de Lauwe, Marc, Anne de Beaujeu ou la passion du pouvoir, Paris, J. Tallandier, 1980.
- Pélicier, Paul, Essai sur le gouvernement de la dame de Beaujeu, 1483-1491, Genève, Slatkine reprints, 1970 [Chartres, 1882].
- Pradel, Pierre, Anne de France, 1461-1522, Paris, Publisud, 1986.
- Viennot, Éliane, «Une nouvelle d'Anne de France: l'histoire du siège de Brest», in Jean Lecointe, Catherine Magnien, Isabelle Pantin et Marie-Claire Thomine (dir), Devis d'amitié. Mélanges en l'honneur de Nicole Cazauran, Paris, Honoré Champion, 2002, p.139-150.
- Viennot, Éliane, «Gouverner masqués: Anne de France, Pierre de Beaujeu et la correspondance dite "de Charles VIII"», in L'Épistolaire au XVIe siècle, Cahiers L.-V. Saulnier, 18, Paris, Éditions de la Rue d'Ulm, 2001.

Selected bibliography of images

- «Le Maître de Moulins», Anne de France présentée par saint Jean l'Évangéliste et Suzanne de Bourbon (huile sur bois), vers 1492/1493?, Paris, Musée du Louvre [fragments d'un volet droit qui faisait face à un volet gauche où figurait Pierre II de Bourbon présenté par saint Pierre] -- Châtelet, Albert, Jean Prévost. Le Maître de Moulins, Gallimard, 2001, p.91.
- «Le Maître de Moulins», Triptyque de la Vierge en gloire (huile sur bois), vers 1497/1500. Moulins, cathédrale Notre-Dame [avec le duc Pierre, la duchesse et sa fille sur la face intérieure des volets; à droite, Anne de France et Suzanne sont agenouillées en prière et présentées par sainte Anne] -- Châtelet, voir supra, p.103-121; Le Duché de Bourbon, des origines au Connétable, Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, Bleu Autour, 2001, p.120.
- Anne de France en compagnie de sa fille Suzanne (enluminure), Saint-Pétersbourg (fol.1) [assises côte à côte, les deux femmes lisent sous le regard attentif des suivantes rassemblées au fond de la scène] -- Les Enseignements d'Anne de France..., éd. A.-M. Chazaud, voir supra, OEuvres).


- «Qui vouldra veoir le mirouer des dames
Et le patron ou chascune regarde,
Qui vouldra veoir la regente des femmes,
Et le guidon [«étendard»] ou toutes prenent garde,
Qui leur honneur preserve et contregarde,
A son povoir de honte et dommage;
Nulle ne vit qui ne luy doye homage
Comme a princesse excellent, souveraine,
Sans excepter ne duchesse

Anne de France
Title(s) Duchesse de Beaujeu
Duchesse de Bourbon et d'Auvergne
Régente de France
Comtesse de Gien et de Forests
Also known as Anne de Beaujeu
Birth date 1461
Death 1522
Biographical entries in old dictionaries
Dictionnaire Pierre-Joseph Boudier de Villemert
Dictionnaire Hilarion de Coste
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