Claude, Queen of France

Posted By on October 13, 2017

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Claude, Duchess of Brittany and Queen of France, on 13th October 1499 in Romorantin-Lanthenay.

Claude was the eldest daughter of Louis XII of France and Anne of Brittany, and she became Queen of France after the death of her father in January 1515 when her husband, Francis, Duke of Angoulême, who had been named Louis’ heir, became King Francis I. She bore Francis seven children, including King Henry II of France, but died at the age of just twenty-four in July 1524.

You can click here to read more about her and her link to Anne Boleyn.

I just wanted to share with you this beautiful portrait that I saw in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow this summer. It used to be known as “Claude of France” but is now known as “portrait of an unknown woman” and it’s by Corneille de Lyon. I don’t know who it is, but it is stunning; tiny, but stunning. I was very drawn to it!

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17 thoughts on “Claude, Queen of France”

  1. CB says:

    This is the portrait used on the cover of Alison Weir’s “Mary Boleyn”. I would say that the costume is definitely French; whether that means the sitter was also French is open to question, especially since foreign courts also adopted French fashions. For all we know, this portrait could be of an English lady dressed in French costume.

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, that’s right, they just coloured it differently. There’s certainly nothing to link it to Mary Boleyn at all. I think the reason why it was changed from Claude to unknown woman was because Corneille de Lyon was active in France in the 1530s, and Claude died in 1524, but it could be posthumous. It is breathtakingly beautiful in the flesh, I loved it.

  2. Michael Wright says:

    Gorgeous portrait. It would be wonderful to know who it actually is. In regards to Anne’s time in Claude’s court anybody who knew what Claude was like would understand that if Anne were as loose as they claimed Claude would have kicked her out of her court. I’m sure the main reason people didn’t like Anne was she seemed to be and did eventually displace Katherine. It probably wouldn’t have mattered who Henry was with, they would have distained her.

    1. CB says:

      I’m not sure a foreign princess would have been as an unpopular as an English bride. If Henry had, for example, married a French princess in 1533 as Wolsey had originally planned, his subjects may well have reacted with more tolerance – even if they still begrudged the expulsion of Katherine from court. Anne was unpopular for several reasons, but one of the main ones was her lack of royal status. Wolsey and Cromwell were similarly disparaged for their ‘low birth’ when they spectacularly rose to power; to the sixteenth-century mind, you were expected to stay in your place and accept the station God had given you. To do otherwise threatened the social hierarchy that held society in place.

      Of course, by the time that Henry married his other English wives, his subjects were no longer as surprised or taken aback, though there is some evidence that some objected to Anne of Cleves, a foreign princess, being replaced by her English maid of honour.

      You’re probably right in saying that Claude would have expelled Anne from her household if she had been as morally dubious as her enemies suggested, but these rumours belong to fiction, they are not rooted in historical evidence. Historians continue to debate whether Anne was a passive bystander during Henry’s courtship of her or whether she actively schemed to win the crown, or whether it was somewhere in the middle. Certainly she was not the immoral and heretical witch of Catholic propaganda, but neither was she completely virtuous and guiltless.

      1. Christine says:

        CB your comments about Anne are true, we will never know if she schemed to marry Henry and wear the crown or wether she reluctantly accepted his proposal of marriage after a year of trying to avoid him, did she actually say to him she would only sleep with him if she were his wife, or did she tell him she would not sleep with him because she valued her honour? Historians and writers are divided over whether she held Henry of because it was all a ploy to become queen or because she was genuine in her desire not to be his mistress, used and discarded like her sister Bessie Blount and others, I believe it was the latter and as mentioned she had been bought up in the French and Austrian courts in the service of two pious women who guarded their chastity and impressed this on their ladies, she would have had no idea Henry would offer her marriage and in the early stages she found him a bit of a pain I should imagine, she had wanted to marry her first love Harry Percy and then there was the King pestering her which today really, we would call stalking, she left court time and again for Hever therefore I think we can safely assume that Henry being so in love with her deciding he couldn’t live without her and knowing no other way he would her, decided to offer her marriage, this was not what she wanted I’m sure but once offered she accepted, and I’m sure any other woman would have done the same, and once offered, the dazzling prospect of being queen was something she became as obsessed with as Henry was with her, thus was sown the seeds of the destruction of a long and quite happy marriage and the birth of the reformation, two people were brought together and changed the course of English history forever.

  3. Christine says:

    I to have Weirs book on Mary Boleyn and I find the features are similar with the portrait said to be of her at Hever, but as noted there is nothing to link this portrait to Mary and the fashion is in the continental style, it’s much like the gown that Marie De Chateaubraind wears in her portrait, the material looks like silk and of a watered down shade of blue, it is certainly exquisite and the subject is that of a very pretty woman with delicate features, the eyes are large and the colour is like her gown, the hair is a beautiful shade of light auburn, I like to think it’s this French queen who died so tragically young, she resided over the most sophisticated yet decadent court in Europe and had in her service the young Anne Boleyn who was about the same age as her, whilst she was married to the most licentious man in Europe she guarded her women jealously and would have no scandal attach itself to her household, Anne hadnt long arrived from England after residing at the court of Margaret of Austria, and both these two women doyens of virtue, were to have a marked effect on Anne and how her character was moulded by them in later years, they both upheld the belief that women should be virtuous and pious above such temptation, cultured and learned, as we have seen when Anne became queen she ruled her household with the attributes she had learned from these two remarkable women, Claude was said to be a charming woman with an easy going nature and preferred to retire to her own palace in the country away from the heady atmosphere of the French court, maybe she felt uncomfortable there having her husband’s lovers in attendance and she must have been appalled by their behaviour but she did her duty and gave him seven children, all before the age of 24! it was said she liked to keep her most attractive women away from her husband, she was born with the spinal deformity known as scoliosis the same condition which Richard 111 suffered from, as noted the ambassadors to the court described her as having a hump but in an age where women were taught how to sit and walk properly it most likely looked more apparent when she was standing next to the gentleman and ladies of the court, in other words it possibly did not look that bad, but in some people today surgery is recommended as if the spine is twisted that much and it can get worse with age, in which case had Claude had quite a severe form of scoliosis it would have grown more pronounced as she got older, possibly she stooped a little as it does affect posture but I think it’s cruel to call a person deformed, it’s a hateful word, does anyone know what she died of? And did any of her children suffer from the same condition, we know Henri 11 did not have any physical deformity and his children did not have it either, but it can run in families, strangely enough Richard 111 was the only one of his siblings to have this condition and it did not surface in their descendants the Tudors, her sad death whilst so young affected her husband the French King which proves he had a great deal of affection for her, they both lie together in the beautiful tomb in the Basilica Of Saint Denis, the resting place of the kings and their consorts of France, happy birthday to one whom was surely a most learned kind and gracious lady.

    1. Michael Wright says:

      I have an 80 yr old friend with a very pronounced ‘S’ shaped curvature to her spine. If she hadn’t told me about it and showed me I wouldn’t have known. The only problem it gives her is her chest doesn’t expand as much as it should so she tires slightly easier than normal. She’s a musician and plays piano, organ and sings.

      1. Christine says:

        She sounds marvellous Michael, and having a spinal deformity does not of course mean that your life span is affected.

        1. Michael Wright says:

          I’m aware of that. The point I was trying to make was that it may not have been that noticeable in Claude.

        2. CB says:

          Claude’s sister Renee was also alleged to have a deformity of some kind. I can’t recall the exact details off the top of my head, but Retha Warnicke makes the point that Henry VIII refused a mooted betrothal to Renee because of it.

  4. Christine says:

    Yes I also heard that Renee who became Duchess of Feria was described as having some kind of deformity, it is true as I said that some sufferers of scoliosis their condition is not noticeable if it’s only slight and covered up by clothing as in Michaels friends case, Richard 111 was said to just have had one shoulder slightly raised, and he was able to ride a horse easy and was known as a good soldier with fighting prowess, yet his skeleton showed quite a bad s shaped curvature in the spine, and in fact Edward V1 did have one shoulder slightly raised higher than the other, none of us are born perfect it’s natural in face for nature to go astray from time to time.

  5. Michael Wright says:

    Perhaps he thought it was hereditary? I know in my friend’s case she is aware of no ancestor or descendant with scoliosis.

  6. Christine says:

    Henry was certainly fussy with his women and he hated bad teeth.

  7. Banditqueen says:

    I actually doubt either Mary or Anne Boleyn had the reputation later given to them in France. From the boasting of the French King, who did have loose morals, you get the impression Mary was one of his regular mistresses, but I doubt this. It is possible she had slept with King Francis once or twice, but he boasted that she was almost a mare for him. Yes, the boasting of a man over a woman is a good reliable source, I don’t think.

    Claude must have been no more than sixteen when she married and began to have children as she gave her husband seven and died when she was twenty four. This is a very exquisite portrait. Claude may have had scoliosis, the same as Richard iii, but she was charming and very sophisticated at her own court. Her court was noted for the finest education and patronising of the arts and science money can buy, or connections. One of the young ladies who was well known to benefit here was Anne Boleyn. It has been assumed that Anne may have been corrupted in France, based on a very odd remark Henry made some years later, but there is no supporting evidence. I have to agree that morality was very highly prized at certain high courts, like that of Claude and Catherine of Aragon and later Anne herself, so yes she probably would have been sent home in disgrace had she misbehaved. Anne did leave in 1521/2 in order to arrange a marriage which never came about and Mary Boleyn was married in 1520.

    Claude still found a loyal husband in Francis despite his infidelity, because he came to her apartment every evening and praised his wife. Ambassadors were impressed with her and it is clear her court was very impressive. What a pity she died so young.

    1. Christine says:

      I agree you cannot base too much on the casual boasting of men and Francois was a dreadful rake, Mary quite possibly did sleep with him but it could have just been the once, but just once can ruin a woman’s reputation, particularly when your name is linked with the King of France, it does not mean you are loose in your morals, she could well have found it impossible to resist his advances because he was the King, as we know Claude did impress strict moral’s on her ladies and there was not any scandal attached to her younger sister Anne, years later when she was in the Tower Henry was told she had not lived very virtuously in France and he too remarked she had been corrupted in France but this could just have been his way of further blackening her name, double standards existed then like they do now, Mary was called an infamous whore but she married respectably and she was faithful to her husband, as far as we know, she had an affair with Henry but she probably found it difficult to say no to him like Francois, no woman did Anne was the exception however.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        I agree, Christine, I believe Anne slept only with her husband, possibly with Harry Percy, whom she hoped to marry, nobody really knows and she was a virtuous Queen and wife. She held Henry off and they agreed to wait and marry. An illegitimate child could not be afforded, but in any case Anne would not be Henry’s mistress and she certainly was not that of any other man so it was certain she was virtuous all through their relationship. Mary may have slept with Francois once and she had an affair with Henry, but apart from this she remained a good wife and definitely did not deserve her reputation. I would not be surprised if half of the court had affairs, which is why they spread gossip about others. It has to be remembered that Anne replaced a Queen who was worshipped and adored and almost seen as a saint and leader. Anne was an English lady in waiting, with the same problem as Elizabeth Woodville, she was the daughter of an elevated knight whom the King wanted to marry for love, not a foreign Princess with a long family line, property, a rich dowry and which brought him wealth and an alliance. She was on the spot for a long time and blamed for the annulment. A foreign bride could easily be forgiven as having nothing to do with Katherine and the divorce, which would have made her more acceptable . I don’t think Anne was ever really accepted and the myths didn’t help.

        I would like to know if anyone has ever heard of a book on Claude. I found one on her sister, Rene, a small one but nothing on Claude.

        1. Christine says:

          Yes I believe many at court were at it as we say today, Sir Thomas Wyatts wife was a serial adulteress, Lady Worcester whose casual comments sealed Anne Boleyns fate was indulging in a love affair, many of the male courtiers quite possibly slept with women of their own household whilst their wives were pregnant as indeed, did the King, Anne quite possibly did sleep with Percy as they saw themselves as man and wife anyway they intended to marry, it’s her sister who has been maligned throughout history for bed hopping but as we have seen the truth is very different, she appears to have been fond of Carey he was young and handsome, and whilst Catherine their first child quite possibly was the Kings, I have no doubt Henry born a few years later was Carey’s, her name was not linked to any other man after her marriage and her last marriage was to Stafford, a man she professed to love, so many people accuse others of things they themselves are guilty of, and a lot of gossip and scandal mongering were prevalent then as today, a lot of malicious gossip is also started off usually by envy, human nature hasn’t changed much at all.

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