Marie of Anjou (1404–1463)

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Marie of Anjou (1404–1463)

Queen of France . Name variations: Marie d'Anjou; Mary of Anjou; Mary d'Anjou. Born in 1404 in Angers, France; died in 1463 at Amboise, France; daughter of Louis II (1377–1417), duke of Anjou and king of Sicily, and Yolande of Aragon (1379–1442); sister of King René I the Good, duke of Anjou and Lorraine (husband of Isabelle of Lorraine ); married Charles VII (1403–1461), king of France (r. 1422–1461), on December 18, 1422; children: 14, including Louis XI (1423–1483), king of France (r. 1461–1483); Jean (b.1426); Catherine de France (1428–1446, who married Charles the Bold); Jacques (b. 1432); Jeanne of Bourbon (1434–1482, who married John II of Bourbon); Yolande of France (1434–1478, who married Amadeus of Savoy); Marguerite (1437–1438); Marie (1437–1439); Charles of Berri (1446–1472); Radegonde (b. 1445); Madeleine of France (1443–1486, who married Ladislas Posthumus); and adopted daughter Louise de Laval .

The life of the French queen Marie of Anjou is often overshadowed by the lives of three other women who had a profound influence over her husband, King Charles VII: her mother Yolande of Aragon, Joan of Arc , and Charles' mistress Agnes Sorel . Born into the ducal family of Anjou, which also claimed the kingdoms of Sicily and Naples, Marie was the great-grand daughter of the French king John II on her father's side and the granddaughter of John I, king of Aragon, on her mother's.

In 1413, her parents and Queen Isabeau of Bavaria (1371–1435) arranged a marriage between nine-year-old Marie and Isabeau's eldest son and Marie's cousin, the Dauphin Charles Valois. As was customary for a royal bride, Marie of Anjou soon moved to the royal palace in Paris along with her mother and a large entourage. Charles, about 14 years old in 1414, became attached to his intelligent, ambitious, and politically savvy future mother-in-law, who would exercise enormous sway over him personally and politically. Her influence apparently prevented Marie from developing a close relationship with her future husband; there is no evidence from his reign, or before, that he valued his wife's advice much.

In October 1422, one of the final years of the protracted war with England known as the Hundred Years' War, King Charles VI died, leaving a kingdom destroyed by war and mostly held by English forces. Marie's husband nominally succeeded to the throne, but the ongoing war prevented his coronation. In December 1422, Charles and 18-year-old Marie were finally wed. Over the 24 years of their marriage, Marie of Anjou had fourteen children, only six of whom survived to adulthood, including the future king Louis XI.

Charles was finally crowned king in 1429 at Rheims, after the remarkable young heroine Joan of Arc led the French army to victory against the English there. The queen was conspicuously absent from the coronation ceremony in 1429; the king felt that Rheims was too dangerous for her and her ladies. But the political and public role of the French queen was minor compared to that of the king anyway, and it was not believed that her coronation was significant in establishing royal authority. Marie was crowned in a rather small ceremony some months later in Paris.

After 1429, Charles VII began to rule in actuality, displaying military prowess combined with a deep piety and generosity but also a weak constitution. He was always susceptible to the manipulation of others, however, which led in 1433 to a conspiracy by Marie and Yolande of Aragon against one of his favorites, Georges de La Trémouille. They feared that Georges had gained too much influence over Charles' actions and convinced three nobles to attempt to assassinate him. The plot failed, but Georges was exiled when Charles realized that Georges was costing him his mother-in-law's goodwill.

Eventually the king and his well-chosen advisors succeeded in reconquering all of France's territory held by the English. Having no political role to play during these years, Marie of Anjou was occupied in presiding over the royal courts in Paris and the other royal residences across France, and performing other ceremonial functions. She also spent her time raising her many children. The queen was particularly involved in their education, unlike many queens who left child-rearing to servants and tutors. Marie also devoted herself to charitable works. Like Charles, she was intensely religious, and supported the church by establishing religious foundations. She did not regularly stay with the king, who spent much of his time on military campaign, but lived a rather quiet life with her children.

After the death of Yolande of Aragon in 1442, whatever sway Marie had held with her husband diminished. Charles then came under the influence of another woman, Agnes Sorel, a lady in the queen's entourage. The first royal mistress to hold an official title, maitresse en titre, she quickly became a sort of second queen,

and gave birth to three children acknowledged by Charles as his own. Agnes presided over many royal social functions and was referred to as Dame de Beauté, Lady of Beauty. After Agnes' death, probably by poison, in 1450, a series of less influential mistresses took her place.

Marie of Anjou was not with her husband when he died in July 1461. After her son succeeded as Louis XI, she retired to her estates at Amboise. There she died in 1462, at age 58.

sources:

Pernoud, Regine and Marie-Veronique Clin. Joan of Arc: Her Story. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

Vale, M.G. Charles VII. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1974.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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