So, Anne of Brittany needed a new fiancee after the prince she was betrothed with had disappeared in 1483. Even though she was just 6 year old they were eager to betroth her because they were running out of time. Francis II still didn’t have a legitimate son to give the throne to and on top of that he was waging war against the French king Louis XI and after his dead in 1483 against his daughter Anne of France who was the regent for her brother Charles VIII who was still a minor at the time.
In 1486 Francis II managed to get approval of his noblemen to let his elder daughter inherit the throne if he should die without a son to inherit. This was great news for Francis II who wanted to keep Brittany independent, but now it was even more important to find the right partner for Anne of Brittany. In 1486 is also the year that Margaret of Foix, Anne and Isabelle’s mom died when she was just 32,5 years old.
Francis II allied himself with Maximilian I, Holy Royal emperor against France. He was one possible candidate to marry Anne. He also got aid from Alain I d’Albret who believed that he would marry Anne but Anne found him crude and a brutal and she refused to marry him. Alain was also 37 year older than Anne so it’s not a shock to us that she thought he was repulsive!
Viscount John II of Rohan, also in line to the Breton throne, offered with the support of Marshal Jean IX of Rieux a double marriage of his sons François and Jean with Anne and her sister Isabelle, but Francis II opposed this plan. Both John II of Rohan and Alan d’Albret were just interested in gaining control over Brittany and that was not what Francis II wanted.
In 1488 Henry VII king of England suggested she could marry Edward Stafford, 3rd duke of Buckingham who was the same age as Anne but Buckingham received a better offer in 1489 to marry Eleanor Percy, daughter of Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland.
In 1488 Francis II and his allies started to lose the Mad War. Another possible suitor, Prince of Orange John IV of Chalon-Arlay was captured and Francis II was forced to sign the treaty of Verger with Charles VIII of France. He had to declare himself his vassal, give up a lot of land AND he had to ask the King of France for his consent before marrying off his heiress Anne of Brittany.
It seemed like it couldn’t got any worse, but than adversity struck again. A few months later that year Francis II died after a fall from his horse during a leisure ride. This was a horrible scenario. Now the future of Brittany lay in the hands of an 11-year old orphaned girl that was supposed to lead a duchy under constant threat of a much stronger enemy that had already defeated her father and most of his allies.
Her only hope was to marry a powerful man that could stand up for her duchy ASAP. But even if she could find the perfect partner she wasn’t allowed to marry until she was 13 which was the lowest age of consent at the time. Luckily her dad had appointed a reliable adviser to aid her: John IV of Rieux.
I hope you all liked the post. To me it was quite astonishing that the poor girl had to consider who to marry from the age of 6 and was put in charge of duchy surrounded by hostile neighbors at the age of 11.