Anne of Burgundy, Duchess of Bedford

Anne of Burgundy, Duchess of Bedford from the Bedford Hours

The Dukes of Burgundy were wealthy and powerful, the premier nobles in France. As a daughter of Burgundy, Anne lived a life of luxury and was destined for a noteworthy marriage. Anne had something that is a rarity in medieval times. A happy royal marriage.

Born September 30, 1404 in Paris. Her father was John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy and her mother was Margaret of Bavaria. Little is known of her childhood but she would have been given an education commensurate with her status as the daughter of a premier noble of France. The continuation of the Hundred Years War and King Henry V of England’s ambitions in France would play a major role in Anne’s future.

Henry V was on a mission to conquer Normandy in the years between 1417 and 1419. In addition to the invasion by the English, there was civil war between the Armagnacs and Burgundians who were jostling for control of the French government during the reign of King Charles VI who was suffering from bouts of mental illness. On September 10, 1419, Anne’s father John the Fearless was assassinated on the bridge of Montereau on the orders of and in the presence of the Dauphin Charles. This prompted the new Duke of Burgundy, Anne’s brother Philip, to seek an alliance with the English and back Henry V’s claim to the French throne. In May 1420, an uneasy peace was brokered with the Treaty of Troyes. King Charles was allowed to remain king until his death with Henry V serving as regent in France. Upon Charles’ death, Henry V and his heirs were recognized as Kings of France.

King Henry V’s brother John, Duke of Bedford was with Henry when the Treaty of Troyes was finalized. Due to various conditions of this arrangement, the Duke of Bedford would spend the rest of his life defending the claims of his brother King Henry V and his nephew King Henry VI in France. After King Henry V’s death on August 31, 1422, John became governor of Normandy. He was then named Regent of France but only after Anne’s brother Philip turned down the office.

Isabeau of Bavaria and Charles VI of France at the Treaty of Troyes. Illuminated miniature from Jean Froissart’s Chroniques, BL Harley 4380, c. 1470

The Duke of Burgundy sought an alliance with the English after the death of King Charles VI and negotiations began in October 1422 for a marriage between Anne and the Duke of Bedford. The treaty was sealed at Vernon on December 12. Bedford’s main intention was to safeguard Normandy. In April of 1423 at Amiens, the Duke of Bedford and the Duke of Burgundy made a defensive agreement along with the Duke of Brittany. In addition to the marriage, the three dukes acknowledged Henry VI of England as King of France and agreed to aid each other against the new French king Charles VII.

Anne of Burgundy and John, Duke of Bedford were married on May 13, 1423 at Troyes. Anne’s dowry consisted of fifty thousand écus, ten thousand of which were in cash along with valuable plate, jewels and vestments. Bedford was also promised the county of Artois if Philip of Burgundy died childless. As a wedding gift, the Duke gave Anne the medieval manuscript known as the Bedford Hours and the couple set up household in Paris. From the time of her marriage until her death, as the wife of the Regent of France, Anne was second only in rank to Charles VI’s widow, Queen Isabeau of Bavaria.

John, Duke of Bedford, praying before St George; from BL Add MS 18850, f. 256v (the “Bedford Hours”)

Over the next few years, Bedford gained acceptance for his regency in France for his nephew. He also fought against Charles VII and gained territory for the English. His greatest victory was at Verneuil on August 17, 1424. After the victory, Anne and Bedford entered Paris in triumph on September 8. The citizens gave them an extravagant gift of plate.

Bedford continued to administer lands in France and returned to England to oversee, control and govern matters there. He managed to increase his own income and territory in France. Lands that he acquired in Normandy included the Estouteville lands which were granted to Anne by September 1425. Many of the lands in France which the Duke held were by right of Anne and he appropriated the revenues for himself.

In 1428, the Hundred Years war took a devastating turn for the English. The Duke was persuaded to begin the Siege of Orléans in July. He raised large sums for the siege by using Anne’s jewels. In March of 1429, Joan of Arc arrived to relieve the siege of Orléans. It was a turning point in the long conflict. On July 17, 1429, the Dauphin Charles was finally crowned King of France at Rheims.

The English alliance with Burgundy was at a point where repairs were needed. During the Duke’s battles with the French, he made a will in June of 1429 naming Anne as his heir. Because the marriage remained childless, this meant that Anne’s brother would eventually inherit Bedford’s lands. Anne would act as mediator between her husband and her brother and was a great help in maintaining the Anglo-Burgundian alliance. Anne was sent to Philip from July to September of 1429. She attended the magnificent wedding of her brother to Isabel of Portugal in Bruges on January 7, 1430.

From October of 1429, Anne and the Duke made their home in Rouen in Normandy. Bedford remodeled his castle of Joyeux Repos, making the domestic apartments more comfortable and improving the chapel, library and wardrobe. Bedford was now advocating for the coronation of his nephew Henry VI as king of France. In April of 1430, Henry arrived at Calais and made his way to Rouen. At Christmas, Anne presented Henry with the Bedford Hours manuscript that her husband had given her as a wedding gift.

In January 1431, in an effort to gain acceptance of Henry as king, Anne and the Duke arrived by water in Paris with large amounts of food. Processions and prayers were held in Paris and Rouen. After the city of Louviers was recaptured in late October, the land route to Paris was open for Henry to make his entry on December 2. As he progressed through the city he was greeted by many of the major nobility of both countries. The procession ended at Anne and Bedford’s primary residence, the Hôtel des Tournelles. They later dined at a state dinner at the Palais. Henry VI was crowned in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris on December 16, 1431 by the English Cardinal Beaufort instead of the bishop of Paris. This created resentment among the Parisians.

After this grand occasion, Bedford’s power began to be curtailed by Cardinal Beaufort and others on the king’s council in England. He had to take a pay cut to help with debts the English crown had incurred. Also, losses of English territory in France piled up as King Charles VII gained the initiative. Funds to continue the war were hard to come by. To top off all of these reverses, Anne became extremely ill. Bedford ordered the relics of St. Germain be carried in procession in an effort to intercede for her recovery. The effort was made in vain as Anne died on November 14, 1432 at the Hôtel d’Orléans to the deep grief and devastation of the Duke.

The Duke had Anne buried in the church of the Convent of the Celestines in Paris as she requested and made a large endowment. On January 8, 1433, the Duke paid for an elaborate memorial service that was attended by fourteen thousand Parisians. He also may have given gifts to Rouen Cathedral in her name as well as other churches where he funded masses to be said for himself and for Anne. In addition to all of this, the Anglo-Burgundian alliance was broken and Bedford married five months later. His bride was Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the niece of his French chancellor.

On April 19, 1435, Philip of Burgundy and his wife Isabel were in Paris where they sponsored a memorial service for Anne and gave a large donation to the Convent of the Celestines. He may have noticed his sister did not have an appropriate tomb at this time and when the Duke of Bedford died in September of that year, Philip determined he would erect a tomb worthy of her memory. This decision was surely based on Philip’s affection for Anne but he also wanted to make a political statement now that his alliance with England had collapsed.

Sometime between 1436 and early 1445, Philip commissioned Guillaume Vluten to design and build the monument. The tomb was designed with three components built into the wall of the church: an effigy, a black marble slab and seven mourner statues which were placed in seven arched niches along the base of the tomb. The middle five of these mourners were dressed in ecclesiastical garb. The statue on the far left was dressed as a nobleman with the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece on his neck. This is a representation of Philip himself. The statue on the far right was also dressed as a nobleman and probably represents the Duke of Bedford.

Effigy of Anne of Burgundy now in the Louvre Museum (Photo by fr: Photo personnelle de Gérard Ducher (user:Néfermaât))

At the time the monument was commissioned, Philip was looking to expand his territories in the Low Countries and for a reconciliation with King Charles VII and the House of Valois of which the Burgundian Dukes were members. By having himself portrayed on the tomb, he sought to bolster his reputation as a peacemaker. This magnificent monument to his beloved sister remained untouched until the French Revolution when the church was sacked.

The tomb was transferred to the Petits-Augustins in Paris and became part of the new Musée des Monuments Français. In 1816, it went to the École des Beaux-Arts. Under the government of Louis Philippe from 1830-1848, the monument was moved to Versailles. In 1847, the church of the Celestines was torn down to make more room for the Gendarmerie and during archaeological digs, Anne’s bones were found, conveniently marked by a plaque. In 1851, the effigy and the slab of the monument entered the Musée du Louvre where they remain today. In 1853, Anne’s bones were sent to the Saint Bégnine cathedral in Dijon and were buried in her grandfather’s grave.

Further reading: “Philip the Good” by Richard Vaughan, entry on John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography written by Jenny Stratford, “The Tomb of Anne of Burgundy, Duchess of Bedford, in the Musée du Louvre” by Jeffrey Chipps Smith in the journal “Gesta”, Vol. 23, No 1 (1984), pp. 39-50.

Mimi Matthews

Mimi Matthews

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