Queen Claude of France, first wife of Francis I, had emblems just like her husband.
Her coat of arms looked like this:
Half of it are 2 groups of Azure, three Fleur-de-lis or, which were the modern emblem of the kings of France symbol for her dad Louis XII and the coat of arms of Brittany which were her mom’s Anna of Brittany.
The black and white symbols ermine fur. But as was custom her coat of arms changed after her marriage with Francis I to incorporate his:
Queen Anne of Brittany had really tried to keep Brittany independent from France, but with the marriage between her daughter Claude and Francis I this failed. Francis I did give several privileges to Brittany like they didn’t have to pay taxes on salt which at the time was a very unpopular taxation. They tried in the beginning to rule their countries separated under the same crown, so Breton aristocrats would still be seen and addressed as foreign princes at the Royal Court of France. It would take a much longer time before France was one united country as we know it today.
The motto of Queen Claude of France surprised me at first: “a ma vie” (to my life). It just didn’t really sound like her. It sounded way to independent for a woman that pretty much all her life did what was expected of her. Than I discovered that it was a motto that others in her mom’s family had used and than it made a lot more sense. It wasn’t a personal motto, but more the motto of her mom’s side of the family.
The first to use the motto was the duke John IV who founded the order of the hermine: (He called together the prelates, abbots and clerics of all estates, lords, knights and squires who bore new collars of great beauty, and the new motto being on two brown beautiful little straps tied together with soft knots and below was the ermine of nice shape and color; on two scrolls was written : A ma vie, as I have said, one being white and the other black, to be sure, as you can see.)
The motto referred to the return ‘For Life ’ to Brittany of John IV, Brittany being symbolized by the ermine.
Soon after the creation of the order its motto and emblem were engraved on the signet of John IV.
The reason he picked the ermine was most likely that their fur was the most luxurious fur one could have in Europe and European monarchs used it to show their wealth and status.
After the death of John IV the ermine and mantlet became in fact an imprese or badge of the dukes of Brittany. No collar of the so-called order of the Ermine is known from their rule until the annexation of the duchy in 1532. In 1532 it is said, the order was abolished on the pretext that the kings of France had no need of an Order that would encourage Breton particularism. Nevertheless, the collar of the order of the spear was represented in the time of french rule even when the order did not exist officially. They did use another collar though the collar of the Ordre de l’Épis (Order of the Spike) founded by Francis I in 1447. This collar is represented around the arms of the duke of Brittany in the armorial of Conrad Grüneberg (1480).
The collar consists of plaited stalks of grain and spikes, a running ermine hanging from a little chain in base.
Even though the order of the ermine officially didn’t exist have ermines been used as motto by dukes and duchesses of Brittany including Claude of France and her mother Anne of Brittany.
Claude of France used the ermine symbol sometimes alone sometimes combined with Francis I salamander.
For example here in Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau.
Here on a fireplace in Chateau de la Loire:
And here in chateau de Blois:
The one symbol I think was really personal for Claude of France was a pierced swan and the motto candidior candida which means something like fairest of the fair.
It’s easy to see that Claude of France wasn’t very happy. I will write more about her fate later and why she was so unhappy.
We sometimes see a cord around other emblems of Claude of France. That is the cord that her mom Anne of Brittany also used. Anne of Brittany founded the Order of the Ladies of the Rope with the motto “J’ay le corps délié” (“I have the body untied“). It is unclear what the rope was supposed to symbolize. Some say it has to do with the rope of Francis of Assisi while others believe it symbolized being relieved of the involuntary marriage Anne of Brittany had with Charles VIII because she founded the order just after his death.
Last but not least. Claude of France was the first to use her Initials interlocking with each other. It is said that this inspired Catherine de Medici and Coco Chanel to do the same.
Hope you liked to learn a bit more about Queen Claude of France.
Bonsoir, mon amis! Hilde