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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Anne of Brittany

b. 1477, Nantes, France; d. 1514, Blois, France

In 1488, Anne succeeded her father as ruler of the independent duchy of Brittany, which had maintained a precarious autonomy against repeated incursions by the French and English. Now its future depended upon the marriage of its eleven-year-old duchess. Desperate to avoid annexation to France, Anne arranged to marry Maximilian of Austria, prompting the French king, Charles VIII, to invade Brittany. By the end of 1491, Anne had been forced into an agreement that included marriage to Charles and, should he die before Anne, to his successor. Charles did, in fact, leave Anne a widow, and she married Louis XII in 1499. Thus, she was twice crowned queen of France. An intelligent, cultivated woman, a patron of the arts and a bibliophile, Anne brought to the French court an entourage of women employed as secretaries, librarians, and chamberlains. She introduced the Maids of Honor, or ladies-in-waiting, and she sponsored the writing, translation, and publication of literary works about women, including the first French edition of Christine de Pisan’s Book of the City of Ladies.