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The Middle Years of Anne of Brittany's Marriage to Louis XII

From the Anne of Brittany series, volume 3

by Rozsa Gaston

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 2019
Publisher: Renaissance Editions

In this third installment of a series, Anne of Brittany and her husband, Louis XII, the king of France, struggle to agree on a future husband for their daughter, a choice with high political stakes.

Initially, the decision regarding the marital future of Princess Claude of France is amicably made in the early 16th century by her parents. Both Anne and Louis select Charles of Luxembourg, not quite 2 years old, to one day marry their infant daughter. Their reasons for picking Charles, while different, are borne out of political strategy, lucidly depicted in this historical novel by Gaston (Anne and Louis: Passion and Politics in Early Renaissance France, 2018, etc.). Anne pushes the idea, knowing Charles is destined for great power: He’s the son of Philip of Burgundy, archduke of Austria and heir to the Holy Roman Empire, and Joanna of Castile, the daughter of Ferdinand, the king of Spain. Since Charles will one day become the Holy Roman emperor and Claude the duchess of Brittany, he surely would prevent the French usurpation of Brittany, preserving its sovereignty, a cause close to Anne’s heart. And Louis hopes that Ferdinand will support his interests in Italy. But Louis harbors a “secret desire” for Claude to wed Francis d’Angoulême, the son of a dead cousin, in order to maintain the throne within his own bloodline. Even after brokering the arrangement with Philip and Joanna, he furtively authorizes the composition of a new will that ensures the future matrimony of Claude and Francis, risking the astonished ire of Anne. In this engrossing volume of the Anne of Brittany series, the author deftly re-creates the complex political landscape of Europe, an entangled skein of agreements and acrimonies. Her mastery of the historical period is superb, and her portrayal of the social nuances of the day, painstakingly authentic. In addition, the relationship between Anne and Louis—romantically strong but politically disharmonious—is brought to vivid life (Louis’ “mind wandered to Anne. Would she remain loyal to him, should she find out one day that he had promised Claude to Francis? He could bear a rupture with Ferdinand, the Borgias, the Venetians, or the Florentines, but he couldn’t bear the thought of one with his wife”). This is a delightful blend of historical rigor and dramatic entertainment delivered in easily companionable prose. 

Impressively well-researched historical fiction conveyed with dramatic verve.