The marriage of Anne of Brittany and King Louis XII of France was very successful. One could even say it was a love match, highly unusual for kingly couples. Royal marriages were for the most part arranged with the parties barely knowing each other and the king having mistresses. But Anne had known Louis since she was a girl. And while Louis was promiscuous in his younger years, once he married Anne he was faithful.
Anne relished the married state and did not hesitate to recommend it to others. In fact, she was known for her matchmaking abilities. As Queen of France she took in young ladies of good family and gave them an education and taught them courtly customs and practices. The girls would have enhanced Anne’s esteem as queen but she certainly intended to benefit the girls. While she was Queen of France as the wife of King Charles VIII, she is known to have had sixteen ‘dames’ and eighteen ‘demoiselles’ in 1492. While she was married to King Louis these numbers grew to fifty-nine and forty-eight respectively by 1498.
Once these girls arrived at court she would take complete responsibility for them, including finding suitable husbands. If the young lady didn’t come from a rich family, Anne would provide the dowry and escort. Anne was so passionate about matchmaking that in 1506, she asked for and received a special dispensation from Pope Julius II allowing her to have marriages formalized anywhere, anytime, even when travelling and without prior publication. She made sure the parties were of comparable rank and that their union would further her husband’s interests.
There is an interesting case that exemplifies Anne’s ability as matchmaker. In 1500, King Vladislas II of Hungary and Bohemia had been recently divorced and had no heirs. He sent envoys to France to pursue an alliance with King Louis which he hoped to cement with a new marriage with a young woman who could bear children. The envoys returned to Hungary with painted portraits of two women from the house of Foix and who were both related to Queen Anne: the king’s niece Germaine of Foix and Anne of Foix-Candale, an orphan who had lived with Anne since she was seven.
Anne of Foix-Candale won the portrait contest. Germaine of Foix would eventually marry Ferdinand of Aragon. The marriage to Vladislas took place by procuration in December of 1501. By that time, Anne of Foix-Candale had fallen in love with François II, count of Dunois. Poor Anne had to leave her lover to move to Hungary to live with a man she had never seen and live at court with foreign ways and a foreign language. When she left in May of 1502, tears were shed by everyone at court.
Queen Anne provided her with a dazzling escort and her journey lasted from May to September where she was honored at many stops along the way, especially in Italy and Venice. Queen Anne sent her king of arms Pierre Choque along with Anne to bring back a written report of the journey and Anne’s reception in Buda. When the Queen later became worried about the climate in Hungary and of Vladislas’ health, she sent a confidential messenger for the latest reports and used the Venetian diplomatic network to exchange news and letters.
The young Anne managed to overcome her homesickness and became a complete and utter success in Hungary. Queen Anne’s schooling paid off nicely. Her marriage was celebrated on September 9, 1502 and she was crowned Queen of Hungary on the same day. Vladislas came to consider her a friend, assistant and trusted advisor. He bestowed her with many jewels and ducats and the people of Venice courted and admired her. Anne quickly bore him a daughter. In 1506, she fulfilled her duty in securing the succession of the Hungarian throne by giving birth to a son named Louis. She died three weeks later of puerperal fever.
Further reading: “Queen’s Mate: Three women of power in France on the eve of the Renaissance” by Pauline Matarasso