Anne de Bretagne 1489-1514 Duchess of Brittany
Anne de Bretagne (1477-1514), eldest daughter and heiress of François II, succeeded to the semi-independent duchy of Brittany in 1477, at the age of eleven. Anne's marriage options were subjected to the duchy's policy of alliances which had always aimed at preventing the country from falling under direct French rule. The French feudal lords, assisted by Anne's father, had picked a quarrel with the French King and lost in the "Mad War" 1485-1488. In the ensuing peace treaty, Anne's father had to concede the final say in Brittany's marriage decisions to the French king.
In violation of this treaty, Anne married Maximilian, Archduke of Austria and future Holy Roman emperor, by proxy in 1490. But Maximilian delayed coming to Brittany and, when pressed by King Charles VIII of France, Anne, aged almost fifteen, finally agreed to marry him. Charles VIII in his turn had to have his own marriage annulled. His marriage to Maximilian's daughter Margaret of Austria had not been consumed, as the bride was just three years old when she was married. Anne's marriage contract declared that Brittany would fall to France should Anne die before her husband. Should Charles be the first to die, Anne would again become the ruling duchess of Brittany. However, she was not allowed to marry again unless it was to the succeeding French king. Anne's and Charles's marriage set off the process of unifying Brittany with the French crown. Unfortunately, none of their children survived and when Charles died in 1498, his cousin Louis of Orléans (1498-1515) succeeded as Louis XII to the French throne.
Just as the dukes of Brittany considered it imperative to stay autonomous, the French kings considered it imperative that Brittany should not fall to a foreign power. Therefore, Louis XII immediately set off to have his marriage to Jeanne of France, daughter of Louis XI, annulled. Anne, widowed at age twenty-one, agreed to marry Louis once Pope Alexander VI granted the annulment. She married Louis in 1499 and became queen of France once again. Anne made every effort to guarantee Brittany's independence. However, only two daughters survived in this marriage, and a year after Anne's death in 1514, her daughter Claude married Louis's cousin François d'Angoulême. He became King François I when Louis XII died the same year. At Claude's death in 1524, her first son became duke of Brittany, thus bringing Brittany's inclusion into the French royal domain to an end.
Anne was intelligent and well educated, she involved herself in the administration of her duchy, became a patron of artists and musicians, and collected manuscripts. Louis appreciated and made use of her political and administrative experience. Anne died aged thirty-seven, after at least 14 pregnancies.
King Charles VIII of France ⚭ Anne de Bretagne
Medal in silver
, Lyon, dated 1493. Ø 40 mm, 14,86 g. Armand I, 89,24; Kress Coll. 526
probably struck in Lyon by Louis & Jean Lepère and Nicolas de Florence about 1502 or 1515.
"a happy fortune brought him who we have sought so long"
crowned and draped bust of Charles VIII to the right, wearing the Order of St. Michael;
field semé with fleurs-de-lis.
"the Republic of Lyon cast the lion when Anna was Queen"
crowned bust of Anne de Bretagne to the right, wearing rosary;
field semé with lis (to the left) and ermines (to the right).
Charles VIII arrived in Lyons in March 1494 on his way to his Italian campaign and was greeted in great style. The notables of the city presented Queen Anne with a gold cup supported by a golden lion and containing 100 medals of this type struck in gold. They were soon melted down in order to finance Charles's military adventures. However, some medals were reissued in silver in 1502 and 1515.
The French engravers were still stylistically torn between Renaissance realism and the formalism of the late Medieval world. The care with which these portraits were made clearly shows contemporary Italian influence, but the backgrounds are a regression to earlier practice. It is, in any case, a tour de force for the Lyonnaise engravers who produced it. [Nomos, 2011]
Anne de Bretagne alone (7. April 1498 - 8. January 1499)
When Anne returned to Brittany after the death of Charles VIII in 1498, she minted the following gold coin in her own name. A year later, after their marriage, Louis XII interdicted any new mintage in Anne's name.
, n. d. (1498) Nantes. Ø 28 mm, 3,42 g. Duplessy 358A/358; Friedb.97.
Obv.: ◇:ANNA:D:G FRANCORV:REGIA:ET:BRITONVM:DVCISSA:
"Anne, by the Grace of God Queen of France and Duchess of Brittany"
Anne viewed from the front sitting on a gothic throne, crowned, with scepter and raised sword,
lilies and ermine tails on her her dress.
"The name of the Lord be praised" N : mint Nantes. (delimiter ◇ = ermine)
Crowned ermine tails in the angles of the French lilies Cross.
Older silver and gold coins showing a similar gothic throne were already called "Cadière" (derived from Latin for 'chair'). The gothic obverse picture is here combined with a revers that does not have a gothic polylobe ornament while retaining the gothic font.
King Louis XII of France ⚭ Anne de Bretagne
Cast bronze medal
, ca.1499, Lyon. Ø 114 mm. Kress Coll. 527; Scher 140.
Model by engravers Nicolas Leclerc and Jean de Saint-Priest, cast by goldsmiths Jean and Colin Lepère.
"In the blessed reign of Louis XII, a second Caesar, the entire nation rejoices"
Bust of Louis to the right, wearing his crown over a cap, with Collar and Badge of the Order of Saint Michael.
Field with fleurs-de-lis; below the bust a lion passant, the symbol of Lyon.
"The commune of Lyon rejoices in the second reign of good Queen Anne, when I was cast. 1499"
Bust of Anne de Bretagne to the left, wearing a crown, a veil, a small necklace, and a long cord with
a jewel pendant. Field with fleurs-de-lis and ermine tails, below the bust the lion passant.
The piece is medieval in spirit. Its creators had yet to learn the virtues of reducing a design to its essentials.
A specimen in gold, now lost, was produced and presented to Queen Anne to commemorate Louis's second state entry into Lyon.
The medal was recast again and again. [The Currency of Fame, p.311]
Compare with the picture Anne with her patron saints, Anne, Ursula and Helen from the book of hours which
Anne had commissioned: "Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne", 30x20cm, about 1503-08,
by Jean Bourdichon (1457-1521), preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.
• La Médaille d'Anne de Bretagne et ses auteurs, par M. Natalis Rondot, Lyon, 1885
in: The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Numismatic Society 1885, Notices of recent numismatic
publications (3rd Series, Vol.5, p.161f) online
• G.F.Hill / G.Pollard: Renaissance Medals from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1967
• Stephen K. Scher, Ed.: The Currency of Fame - Portrait Medals of the Renaissance, 1994