Joan of France (Valois), St.

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Foundress of the Franciscan Annunciades; b. Paris, 1464; d. Bourges, France, Feb. 4, 1505. Joan, the sister of Charles VII, was deformed from birth, and because of her infirmity was despised by her father, Louis XI. When she was only two months old, she was betrothed to the duke of Orléans, and at the age of five she was sent to his chateau to be trained in court etiquette. Joan was a devout child with a lively horror of sin. She wanted to enter a cloister, but her desire met with only derision and abuse. She was once apparently granted a vision in which it was revealed to her that someday she would flee the world she feared and found a religious community. However, the marriage was solemnized when she was 12. The duke treated her with utmost contempt, and when he succeeded to the throne he had the marriage annulled, pensioning off his unwanted wife. Free at last, Joan devoted herself entirely to prayer and good works. Her Franciscan confessor wanted her to found a Poor Clare monastery, but she preferred the active works of charity. With a group of 10 devout women she founded the Franciscan Annunciades. The rule was approved in 1501, and a year later she erected a second monastery at Bourges, dedicated to the care of the sick as well as to the ordinary austerities of monastic life. Joan adopted the name of Sister Gabriella Marie and made profession in the community, but resided in her own palace until the time of her death. She was buried in the habit along with her royal crown. In 1617 the canonization process was opened. Briefs of Popes alexander vii, innocent x, and clement xi styled her "saint" without undertaking formal canonization proceedings, and in 1775 pius vi authorized the cult.

Feast: Feb. 4.

Bibliography: a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 1:252253. a. destefanis, Louis XII et Jeanne de France (Avignon 1975). j.-f. drÈze, Raison d'Etat, raison de Dieu: politique et mystique chez Jeanne de France (Paris 1991). a. m. c. forster, The Good Duchess: Joan of France (London 1950). a. redier, Jeanne de France (Le Puy, France 1946).

[m. j. dorcy]