December 10: Excerpt from Anne and Louis Forever Bound, Book Four of the Anne of Brittany Series
A big thank you to historical novelist Rozsa Gaston for sharing with us this wonderful excerpt from her forthcoming novel, Anne and Louis Forever Bound, Book Four of the Anne of Brittany Series. — Claire Ridgway, Founder UK Tudor Society, author of The Anne Boleyn Files
In the second week of February 1511, sad news arrived. Germaine wrote from Spain that England’s queen-consort, King Ferdinand’s daughter, Catherine of Aragon, had given birth to her first child by Henry VIII. A daughter, the babe had been stillborn.
“Your Grace, I hope news from Spain is not bad?” Madame de Dampierre asked as she took in the stricken look on her sovereign’s face.
“Not bad from Spain, but sad news from England.”
Madame de Dampierre looked surprised. For the most part, relations between France and England were chilly. “I am all ears, Your Grace, if you care to share with me.”
Anne sighed and put down the letter. “The English king’s wife has just delivered her first child.”
“I’m sure the new king must be happy.”
“A stillborn daughter.” Anne turned her head to the tapestry on the wall where a stag’s face stared back at her reproachfully. Queens everywhere who delivered only daughters were censured. It was a perilous job to be queen, one fraught with fear of failure and too frequent pregnancies that imperiled their health. Well did she know, still weak from Renée’s birth. She was just beginning to get around, but tired easily. At age thirty-four, after fifteen pregnancies, she was not feeling her usual resilience after childbirth.
“Ah, Your Grace, that is sad indeed. But Queen Catherine is young and has many years ahead to try again,” Madame de Dampierre remarked.
“How old is she?”
“Your Grace, I am not sure, but a few years older than the king, I believe.”
“Get Sire Lemaire here to fill us in.”
“Oh, Madame, what a sparkling idea. I will see if I can find him.” The lady-in-waiting curtsied then bustled to the door.
“Have a pot of mulled wine brought and three goblets,” Anne called after her. Lemaire was good fun and an incurable gossip. He would have something to tell them, and not from the English perspective, either.
Within moments, Jean Lemaire of Belgium appeared in the doorway. Four years older than the queen, he had served at the court of Margaret of Austria in Flanders for many years. Some said that he had held his patron in such high regard that it had been best for him to find an appointment elsewhere. Anne had offered the cultured humanist a position at her court as her historiographer. His immersion in the new learning was renowned, yet within the bounds of adherence to Church teachings, to her approval. Above all, Lemaire was a boon to her as a conduit to the court of Margaret of Austria, Governor of the Netherlands, and a valuable Habsburg connection.
“Come,” she greeted him.
“I am at Your Grace’s pleasure,” Sire Lemaire offered a graceful bow.
“What can you tell us of the young Queen and King of England?” Anne asked.
“Your Grace, I have heard news of the new queen and it is—”
“Sad, but not unusual,” she finished for him. For once, it was another queen who had lost a newborn and not her. She would send a condolence note that day, but she would not allude to the depths of darkness she herself had felt at such losses over the years. No fellow queen would wish to walk the path she had traveled in childbearing.
“Quite right, Your Grace. She has many years before her to try again.”
“How old is she?”
“I have heard that she is six years older than her husband the king,” Lemaire answered.
“And he is …?”
“Twenty this year, Your Grace.”
“And what do you know of the years she spent as widow of the young king’s older brother?”
“Ah, Arthur…” Lemaire’s voice drifted off.
“Yes, Arthur, a noble but doomed name for Brittany,” Anne filled in, referring to the late 12th century Duke of Brittany from the House of Plantagenet. He had disappeared at the tender age of thirteen, rumored to have been murdered by his uncle, the vicious King John of England.
“Your Grace, I would say that the name Arthur has not flourished in the annals of history after the great King Arthur of the Round Table,” Lemaire said heavily.
“Did not Catherine’s first husband die of the sweat?” Anne directed him back to present affairs.
“He did indeed, Madame; only five months after his marrage to the young Spanish princess,” Lemaire rerouted to the topic at hand.
“I heard she had it, too,” Madame de Ddampierre remarked.
“It has been said that the sweat takes more healthy young males than it does females,” Lemaire observed.
“Mostly from the upper classes, they say,” Madame de Dampierre tutted.
Anne shuddered. “I hope it does not make its way to the Continent.” Poor Isabella’s daughter, sent to England to become a queen only to have her husband die after a few months of marriage.
“It is dormant now, and let us hope it will remain so forever,” Lemaire exclaimed.
“What is forever in this vale of tears we walk, Sire Lemaire?” Anne asked, thinking of her ruddy Charles-Orland, who would have been a youth of eighteen had he lived.
“Your Grace, you have just presented France with a bouncing princess so I am surprised you speak of tears,” Sire Lemaire replied.
“My tears fall today for the English queen. I wonder that she was stuck in limbo so many years between marriages.”
“Your Grace, it was six years, I believe, that the former English king and the King of Spain quarreled over her dowry.”
“Let me guess. Was it her father who refused to complete the payments?” Anne scoffed. Ferdinand was even more tightfisted than Louis. Much less handsome, too.
“Indeed, it was. But the old king was determined to get the full amount, so he dangled marriage to his son up ahead as a way to make the King of Spain pay up.”
“I heard there was more to it, too,” Madame de Dampierre added.
“Go on,” Anne encouraged. She sipped her mulled wine, enjoying its warmth spreading in her belly. She looked forward to another type of warmth heating her there soon. Once she regained her full strength she would try for a son again with Louis.
“It was said that the old king needed Spain’s royal stamp upon his line, being unsure of his legitimacy,” her lady-in-waiting expounded.
“Ah, poor Henry Tudor,” Anne sighed.
“Your Grace, do tell. Did he not spend some years of his youth in Brittany as the guest of your father?” Madame de Dampierre urged.
“He was under my father’s protection,” Anne told them. “The York kings would have killed him had he set foot on English soil before he was fully supported.”
“Did you meet him, Madame?” Her lady-in-waiting’s eyes shone.
“I met him just before he returned to England and won the throne.” She remembered Henry Tudor well. She had been a young girl, the Lancastrian exile a full twenty years older. Tall and lean like Louis, but there the similarities stopped. Not debonair in the least, Henry Tudor had been tentative, with a furtive hungry look that had puzzled her at the time. As a mother, Anne’s instincts told her he had been separated from loving arms at too young an age.
“And what was he like?” Madame de Dampierre pressed.
“Timid and penniless. Unsure of himself.” Her father had considered him as a match for her, but the idea had come to nothing when Henry had returned to England in 1483 and married Elizabeth of York. It had been the solution that had ended the War of the Roses, Anne thought approvingly. Marriage was life-giving, whereas war was the opposite. She had heard that it had been Henry Tudor’s mother who had brokered the union, the indomitable Lady Margaret Beaufort—even more ambitious than that redhead in Amboise, if such a thing were possible.
“That is it, Your Grace. He proved a good king, but he was uneasy on the throne,” Lemaire agreed. “Marrying his heir apparent to a Spanish princess legitimized his claim to the crown.”
“And now Catherine needs a son to anchor her marriage to the new English king,” Anne observed.
“Indeed, Your Grace. It would be most provident.” Lemaire’s tone was judicious.
“And how was her situation in those years between marriages to the two brothers?” she asked.
“I heard that before her marriage to the new king the young princess was living most precariously at the pleasure of the old king, but without means to support her household,” Lemaire described.
“Disgraceful,” Anne exclaimed. “But Henry Tudor was always cheap. It was not his fault, as he’d lived in hiding for so many years, but he should have supported his son’s widow in style until he decided what to do with her.” What misery it must have been for Isabella of Spain’s royal daughter to rot on the vine for six years of her first bloom, far from her family in a rainy, cold, foreign land.
“It was said at one time that he thought to marry her himself,” Madame de Dampierre put in.
“It would seem he thought to marry several great ladies,” Lemaire added. “I heard a proposal was made to the Countess d’Angoulême—”
“It would have been a disaster,” Anne snapped. “Henry Tudor was as contracted as the countess is grasping. Frankly, I don’t think he had it in him to take on a new wife after Elizabeth of York died.”
“Your Grace, it was said that the light went out in his eyes the day his York wife died,” Lemaire concurred.
“Sad for Henry Tudor that he achieved the throne he aimed for, yet could not sit on it with ease,” Anne mused.
“For fear of a pretender pushing him off,” Madame de Dampierre put in.
“Let u return to Catherine,” Anne directed them.
“She is finally the queen she was meant to be, as the young Henry’s wife,” Lemaire exclaimed.
“What have you heard he’s like?” Anne asked. Henry VIII was a wild card thus far. Only in power since 1509, he was an emerging player on Europe’s stage.
“Your Grace, it is said that the young King of England has inherited his mother’s York confidence and his Beaufort grandmother’s ambition,” Lemaire described.
“I hope he will be good to his queen,” Anne said. She was no friend of England, but for the sake of Isabella of Spain she prayed that the young Henry treated his bride as befit the daughter of one of Europe’s greatest monarchs.
“They say he is eager to prove himself.”
“As I am sure Catherine is eager to prove herself capable of providing him with an heir,” Anne replied, weighing an entirely different thought that she would share later with Louis. May the young English king not prove himself by entering into an alliance with his wife’s father.
“Madame, I am sure it will come to pass,” Lemaire said, avoiding her gaze.
“No one is sure of anything in such matters, but bring me my writing tools so I may send Catherine a note,” she told him, guessing his thoughts. All of France waited for her to provide Louis with an heir. Let them wait. She had produced two princesses, and if French Salic Law forbade putting a woman on the throne to rule, it was France’s loss.
“Right away, Your Grace.”
As Anne awaited his return, she met Madame de Dampierre’s questioning gaze.
“What is it?”
“Your Grace, I am surprised you are reaching out to the English queen.”
“To me she is not just the English queen. She is the daughter of Isabella, who I have ever held in high regard. Unlike her husband.” Ferdinand had never appealed to her although God knew he was a strong ruler. He lacked both gentility of spirit and the debonair courtliness that Louis possessed and that her father had had. How Isabella of Spain had put up with him she could scarcely imagine.
Madame de Dampierre let out a titter. “Madame, she will be grateful for your show of support.”
“I do not know her at all, but I know what it is to be queen and to fail at attempting an heir.”
“Your Grace, it is not an easy road to walk, is it?”
“You would not know, as you do not walk it,” Anne dispatched her. “But Catherine of England does, so I will offer her comfort as a peer.”
“Your Grace, she will be greatly consoled by a note from you.”
“Perhaps not, but it may help.” Anne waved her away as she contemplated other objectives in opening a line of communication to Catherine. It would be useful to have a conduit to the English court, should Henry VIII think to ally with one of Louis’ enemies.
Wishing the Queen of England a speedy recovery, Anne sent her prayers for blooming health and a blooming prince to grace her family soon in the future.
As she blotted and sealed the note, she prayed the same for herself.
Finalists will be announced November 1, 2018. Thank you to Booklife and Publishers Weekly for bringing my story to today’s readers.—Anne, Duchess of Brittany, twice Queen of France
Anne of Brittany, image by Nurycat
Book Two of the Anne of Brittany Series, Anne and Louis is the story of the first years of Anne of Brittan’s marriage to Louis XII, King of France. Cast of characters include Cesare Borgia, Christine de Pizan, Marie de France, Machiavelli and more. Pre-order Anne and Louis here. Out Nov. 29, 2018.
Statue of Anne of Brittany (1477-1514), Nantes, France
Receiving a 10.00 out of 10 in four categories, the story of Anne of Brittany’s marriage to Louis XII, King of France, is Book Two of the Anne of Brittany Series.
Anne of Brittany reaches across the ages and brings her decision-making skills, and supreme self-possession in the face of enormous loss to modern readers. The Anne of Brittany Series inspires and encourages women of today through the historical example set by 15th century avant la lettre feminist ruler Anne of Brittany (1477-1514).
Send author Rozsa Gaston a personal e-mail if you’d like to receive an advance review copy of Anne and Louis in exchange for your pre-release review (review must be posted on Amazon by Nov. 29, 2018): firstname.lastname@example.org.
May Anne of Brittany’s remarkable story inform your own.
Anne and Louis: Passion and Politics in Early Renaissance France: The First Years of Anne of Brittany’s Marriage to Louis XII will delight readers of historical fiction who want their dramas firmly rooted in facts. This audience—especially those who enjoyed the first
book in the Anne of Brittany series—will find a compelling continuation of the saga in this story of Anne, the Duchess of Brittany, who has a country to run even as her lover Louis has a controversial annulment to pursue in order to fulfill his romance with Anne.
Even more complicated are the politics which dictate their romance and relationship. This is an overlay which creates seemingly insurmountable controversies between the couple and their individual political circles, and is deftly explained by Rozsa Gaston, whose saga assumes no previous knowledge of Anne of Brittany, Louis XII, or French history and politics. This makes the tale accessible to both history buffs and those with a milder familiarity with the era.
At age 21, Anne was both a widow and the ruler of a kingdom, as committed to maintaining Brittany’s independence from France as she was in seeing her relationship with Louis become a bond between their countries.
Their struggles in 16th-century Europe on the cusp of the Renaissance era come to life as Anne finds herself caught between love and country.
Chapters don’t just build the characters and explore the issues between Anne and Louis, but also probe their world. Thus, the romances and relationships between others are also presented within the context of the social mores of their times (“When he looked up, Charlotte of Naples and Aragon was floating toward him in the full glory of her youth and serene beauty. He felt himself in the presence of a goddess. One day such a glorious creature would grow into a woman like his mother or the duchess Anne. For such a woman, an offer of marriage must follow a kiss. But first, a kiss. Her father would kill her; her mother would roll over in her grave. She had allowed him to take her hand.”).
Rozsa Gaston presents a rich, multifaceted universe through the eyes of a number of characters who interact with their world, which she spices with vivid descriptions to bring the setting to life through the eyes, experiences, and thoughts of many: “Anne of Brittany turned her back on her high-spirited charges to climb the final steps to the summit. At the top the flat marshy countryside spread out before her. In the late morning sunlight the bay of Mont-St.-Michel shimmered in the distance like a beckoning jewel. Beyond the bay was the Mor Breizh, also known as the Channel, the body of water over which Brittany’s settlers had traveled from the British Isles. She drank in the view as her lungs filled with fresh sea air.”
Adding to the feel of the story are lovely color artworks and images of the times, which pepper a saga that brings to life Anne’s concerns, her people, her romance, and her conundrums. From her distrust of Italian politics and her appetite for luxury to the impact of her relationship with Louis, yet another powerful strength to this story is its astute assessment of how the personalities of each affected their choices and political perceptions: “Her Louis was too nice a man to be entering into agreements with wily Italians seeking to take advantage of his innate decency. She would protect her husband’s interests while this sharp second secretary remained among them. Louis’ step sounded on the stairs above and all eyes turned. As Anne gazed at her husband’s beneficent expression and handsome yet careworn face, her heart hurt. She knew behind her, the shrewd young Florentine would be sizing him up and determining sooner rather than later that France’s king could be easily manipulated on the Italian peninsula.”
All this means that the story about a changing society as the Renaissance gets started is given a personal touch that brings the entire era to life through Anne’s eyes and the experiences of those who interact with her.
The result is a powerfully-written saga that requires only an interest in a compelling love story and its historical background to prove satisfying, revealing, educational, and hard to put down, all in one. Quite simply, Anne and Louis is a masterpiece that paints an extraordinary emotional and political vision of its times, capturing the facets of a social and political milieu that all too often is regulated to dry facts devoid of emotion.
—D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Anne and Louis, Book Two of the Anne of Brittany Series, comes out Nov. 29, 2018. Pre-order here.
To begin your discovery of Renaissance ruler Anne of Brittany, read Anne and Charles, Book One of the Anne of Brittany Series.
Sense of Touch is burning up the Hot & Trending list of Kindle Scout nominations for the second week of its one month campaign to receive a publishing contract. Why?
Readers want to know more about Anne of Brittany.
Anne of Brittany is a fascinating historical figure about whom almost nothing has been written in English. Her dates? 1477-1514. She reigned as Queen of France after Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) and before Catherine de Medici (1519-1589).
Douleur du Roi sans Fils by Jean Pichore, c. 1503
This week I uncovered a poignant painting of her with husband Louis VII by court painter Jean Pichore. The name of the painting says it all: Douleur du Roi sans Fils. Translation: Sorrow of the King without Sons.
Before you feel sorry for Anne of Brittany, don’t.
Claude of France, eldest daughter of Anne of Brittany and Louis XII
She may not have brought a son to adulthood, but she succeeded with two daughters, Claude of France, and Renée of France. Claude of France married Francis I, known as the Renaissance King, and produced Henry II, another important Renaissance king and husband of Catherine de Medici.
Anne’s Breton blood found its way into the French royal bloodline through her daughter, not her sons. Her leadership skills, authority and self-confidence have informed French women ever since. Long live Anne of Brittany, vive Anne de Bretagne!
Speaking of sons, she had many. All of them either stillborn, dead hours after birth, weeks after birth, or by age three.
Let’s take a look at the full Jean Pichore painting of Anne of Brittany with second husband Louis XII.
We see Louis XII, King of France, looking sad. The man behind him looks at the queen with a recriminating expression, as if to say, “Why can’t you produce a son for France?”
We see Anne of Brittany, Queen of France looking regal, confident, not sad at all. Defiant, in fact. Why?
She’s gesturing to their daughter, Claude of France. “What’s wrong with the daughter I gave you?” she appears to be saying.
Sadness of the King without Sons, Jean Pichore, c. 1503
Who’s in the hot seat here? Anne.
Who’s the power on the throne? Anne.
Who’s appealing to whom? Louis and his court are appealing to Anne.
Who’s the boss? Anne. She was also a loving and deeply beloved wife to both of her husbands, Charles VIII of France before Louis, and Louis XII of France.
The more I learn about this French Renaissance queen, the more I fall in love with her.
Anne of Brittany is an amazing historical role model for girls. She invited young girls to her court where she educated them, taught them household and estate management skills, arranged marriages for them and paid for their dowries. More about this in my next blog post. Please nominate my book about her here.
Anne of Brittany by Jean Bourdichon, courtesy gallica.BnF.fr
Sense of Touch was #1 on the Hot & Trending list on Kindle Scout last week, thanks to reader nominations. If you haven’t voted, please vote here for my tale of Anne of Brittany (1477-1514), French queen who welcomed Italy’s Renaissance to France. Your vote is FREE and you will receive an eBook edition of Sense of Touch as thanks if it is chosen for publication. http://bit.ly/NominateSenseofTouch
“To my life” or “à ma vie” was Anne of Brittany’s motto.
This early Renaissance queen didn’t lack for confidence. Born to rule Brittany, she was not raised to attract the attention of a king so that she might become queen consort one day, if she was lucky.
Already she was born to rule her country, the Duchy of Brittany, to the west of and independent from France.
Firstborn royal children of Brittany’s ruler, male or female, inherited the Duchy of Brittany. France’s Salic laws of royal inheritance stipulated males only inherited the Kingdom of France. Two countries side by side with inheritance laws SOOO very different…
This changed everything for Anne of Brittany AND for the way queens were viewed in France. When Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII of France she came to France as ruler of her own country.
Anne was a female ruler in the tradition of Cleopatra, Boadicea or Dido. She was not a woman raised to attract a powerful man. She was raised to exercise power. And that, friends, is why her motto was “to my life.”
Vote here to nominate Sense of Touch for publication by Kindle Press. Campaign closes October 19 and I’ll let you know soon after if it was selected. Let me know you voted, readers and friends, so that I may add you to my acknowledgments page. You will have been a part of helping me bring this remarkable French queen’s story to life.
Anne of Brittany by Jean Bourdichon, courtesy gallica.BnF.fr
Sense of Touch is coming soon. My seventh and latest novel is based on the life of Anne of Brittany, twice Queen of France. Her dates? 1477-1514.
Sense of Touch has been chosen by Kindle Scout for a 30-day pilot program to see if readers get interested in this story. If the book receives enough nominations by Oct. 19, 2015, it will be chosen for publication by Kindle Press. That’s a very big deal. Why? Worldwide distribution.
Here’s the link to nominate Sense of Touch for publication. It’s free, and if Sense of Touch gets picked up for publication, you will receive a complimentary advance copy. I will include your name on my acknowledgments page if you let me know you voted. Thank you.
Why am I excited about Anne of Brittany? This remarkable woman, Duchess of Brittany in her own right, and twice Queen of France due to marrying well, lived exactly at the convergence of the Middle Ages with the Renaissance. What does that mean?
To put it in a nutshell, it means goodbye to collective identity and hello to self-identity. My writing platform is all about self-identity, as in how do women achieve their own? Then, how do they hone it through the years as professional and family obligations conspire to obliterate their special je ne sais quoi?
Anne of Brittany did a great job of maintaining her own sense of self. Her motto? A ma vie, to my life. It takes a confident woman to have a motto like that.
Here’s the gist of Sense of Touch.
Tapestry design based on Le Toucher from The Lady and the Unicorn series. Courtesy METRAX-CRAYE, Belgium
NICOLE SAINT SYLVAIN serves at the court of Anne of Brittany, Queen of France, in 1497, at age fifteen. Working with horse trainer Philippe de Bois to heal the Queen’s stallion, she shows an aptitude for diagnosing horses’ ailments through her sense of touch. Soon she has fallen in love, but not with the man her father has chosen for her. Duty pulls Nicole and Philippe in different directions and Nicole becomes a wife, mother, then widow while immersing herself in the healing arts. When Anne of Brittany begs her to save her infant daughter, Nicole works alongside a physician from the South whose reputation for healing began with his work with horses. Will Nicole succeed in saving the Queen’s daughter? And if she does, will the Queen reward her with the greatest desire of her heart—marriage to the only man she has ever loved?
ANNE OF BRITTANY inherited the Duchy of Brittany at age eleven upon her father’s death in 1488. Three years later she married Charles VIII and became Queen consort of France. Instrumental in introducing new techniques of architecture and craftsmanship from Milan to France, Anne of Brittany ushered in the Italian Renaissance to France. By age twenty-one she had buried her husband and all four of her children. Within nine months she became wife of the new king, Louis XII. Pregnant fourteen times, seven times by either king, she raised two children to adulthood. Both were daughters.
She is known as the first female ruler of France to bring together young women of noble birth at court, where she educated and trained them, then arranged appropriate marriage matches. A ruler of influence, refinement, and resources, she rose above personal loss with dignity and grace while espousing the cause of women’s advancement. Her story is for women everywhere.