|Duchess of Brittany|
|Reign||9 January 1514 – 20 July 1524|
|Queen consort of France|
|Tenure||1 January 1515 – 20 July 1524|
|Coronation||10 May 1517|
|Spouse||Francis I of France|
|Francis III, Duke of Brittany
Henry II of France
Madeleine, Queen of Scots
Charles, Duke of Orléans
Margaret, Duchess of Savoy
|House||House of Valois|
|Father||Louis XII of France|
|Mother||Anne, Duchess of Brittany|
13 October 1499|
|Died||20 July 1524
Château de Blois
|Burial||Saint Denis Basilica|
Claude of France (13 October 1499 – 20 July 1524), was a Duchess regnant of Brittany and Countess of Montfort-l'Amaury (since 1514) and Queen consort of France (since 1515), alongside with the titles of Countess of Soissons, Blois, Étampes, and Duchess consort of Milan through her marriage.
Claude was born on 13 October 1499 in Romorantin-Lanthenay as the eldest daughter of Louis XII of France and Anne of Brittany. She was named after Claudius of Besançon, a saint her mother had invoked during a pilgrimage so she could give birth to a living child: during her two marriages, Queen Anne had at least fourteen pregnancies, of whom, only two children survived to adulthood: Claude and her youngest sister Renée, born in 1510.
Because her mother had no surviving sons, Claude became heiress to the Duchy of Brittany. The crown of France, however, could pass only to and through male heirs, according to Salic Law. Eager to keep Brittany separated from the French crown, Queen Anne counted with help of Cardinal Georges d'Amboise, promoted a solution for this problem. The Cardinal essentially began a dispute with the Pierre de Rohan-Gié, the Marshal of Gié, who fervently supported the idea of a between the princess and the Duke of Valois, the heir of the French throne after Louis XII, and thus kept Brittany united to France.
On 10 August 1501 at Lyon was signed the marriage contract between Claude and the future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V by François de Busleyden, Archbshop of Besançon, William de Croÿ, Nicolas de Rutter and Pierre Lesseman, all ambassadors of Duke Philip of Burgundy, Charles' father. As a part of the contract, was promised the inheritance of Brittany to the young prince, already the next in line to thrones of Castile and Aragon, Austria and the Burgundian Estates. In addition, the first Treaty of Blois, signed in 1504, gave Claude an considerable dowry in the -likely- case of Louis XII's death without male heirs: besides Brittany, Claude also received the Duchies of Milan and Burgundy, the Counties of Blois and Asti and the territory of the Republic of Genoa, then occupied by France. Thus, all the causes of the future rivalry between Charles V and Francis I have been decided even before the succession of the two princes.
In 1505, Louis XII, very sick, fearing for his life and not wishing to threatened the reign of his only heir, cancelled the engagement in the Estates Generals of Tours, in favor of the young Duke of Valois, the future Francis I. Indeed, previously Louise of Savoy obtained from the king a secret promise that Claude could be married to her son. Anne of Brittany, furious to see the triumph of Marshal of Gié, exerted all her influence to obtain his conviction for treason before the Parliament of Paris.
On 9 January 1514, when her mother died, Claude became Duchess of Brittany; and four months later, on 18 May, she married her cousin Francis at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. With this union, was secured that Brittany would remain united to the French crown, only if the third marriage of Louis XII with Mary of England (celebrated on 9 October 1514) would produced the long-waited heir. However, the union was short-lived and childless: Louis XII died less than three months later, on 1 January 1515, reputedly worn out by his exertions in the bedchamber. Because Louis XII died without surviving sons, Francis I became in the new King and Claude in Queen consort, being the second time in history that the Duchess of Brittany became Queen of France.
As Queen, Claude was eclipsed at court by her mother-in-law, Louise of Savoy, and her sister-in-law, the literary Navarrese queen Margaret of Angoulême. She never ruled over Brittany; in 1515 she gave the government of her domains to her husband in perpetuity. Unlike her younger sister Renée, she seems to have never showed any interest in her maternal inheritance and had any disposition to politcs, as she preferred to devote himself to religion under the influence, according to some sources of Christopher Numar of Forli, who was the confessor of her mother-in-law. Gabriel Miron repeated his functions under Anne of Brittany and remained as Chancellor of Queen Claude and first doctor; he wrote a book entitled de Regimine infantium tractatus tres.
After Francis became King in 1515, Anne Boleyn stayed as a member of Claude's household. It's assumed that Anne served as Claude's translator whenever there were English visitors, such as in 1520, at the Field of Cloth of Gold. Anne Boleyn returned to England in late 1521, where she eventually became Queen of England as the second wife of Henry VIII. Diane de Poitiers, another of Claude's ladies, was a principal inspiration of the School of Fontainebleau of the French Renaissance, and became the lifelong mistress of Claude's son, Henry II.
She spent almost all her marriage in an endless round of annual pregnancies. Her husband had many mistresses, but was usually relatively discreet. Claude imposed a strict moral code on her own household, which only a few chose to flout.
About Claude, the historian Brantôme wrote:
The pawn of so much dynastic maneuvering, Claude was short in stature and afflicted with scoliosis, which gave her a hunched back, while her husband was bigger and athletic. The successive pregnancies made her appear continously plump in the words of the Court, which drew mockeries. Foreign ambassadors noted her "corpulence", claudication, the strabismus on her left eye, her small size and her ugliness, but acknowledge her heart qualities. She was little loved at court after the death of her parents. Brantôme testify:
The king's will imposed the omnipresence of his mistress, Françoise de Foix.
Claude and Francis I had seven children, two of whom lived past the age of thirty:
Claude died on 20 July 1524 at the Château de Blois, aged twenty-four. The exact cause of her death was disputed among sources and historians: while some alleged that she died in childbirth or after a miscarriage, others believed that she died for exhaustion after her many pregnancies or after suffering from bone tuberculosis (like her mother) and finally some believed that she died by the syphilis who caught from her husband. She was buried at St. Denis Basilica.
She was initially succeeded as ruler of Brittany by her eldest son, the Dauphin Francis, who became Duke Francis III, with Claude's widower King Francis I as guardian. After the Dauphin's death in 1536, Claude's second son, Henry, Duke of Orleans, became Dauphin and Duke of Brittany. He later became King of France as Henry II.
Claude's widowed husband himself remarried several years after Claude's death, to Eleanor of Austria, the sister of Emperor Charles V. The atmosphere at court became considerably more debauched, and there were rumours that King Francis's death in 1547 was due to syphilis.
The prayer book of Claude of France, is a tiny, jewel-like manuscript that was made for Claude around 1517, the year she was crowned queen of France. Her coat of arms appears on three different folios. The book is richly illustrated: the borders of each leaf are painted, front and back, with 132 scenes from the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and numerous saints. The manuscript and a companion Book of Hours also made for the queen (in a Paris private collection) were illuminated by an artist who was given the nickname Master of Claude de France after these two volumes. It was donated to The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City in 2008 by the widow of Alexandre Paul Rosenberg in memory of her husband.
Claude is remembered in a classic small plum, the size of a walnut, pale green with a glaucous bloom. It is still called "Reine Claude" (literally, "Queen Claude") in France and is known in England as a "greengage".
|Ancestors of Claude of France|
Claude of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynastyBorn: 13 October 1499 Died: 20 July 1524
|Duchess of Brittany
|Countess of Étampes
Title next held byJohn V
Mary of England
|Queen consort of France
Title next held byEleanor of Austria