July 20 – The death of Anne Boleyn’s former mistress, Queen Claude of France

Posted By on July 20, 2022

On this day in history, 20th July 1524, Claude of France, queen consort of Francis I, died at the age of just twenty-four at the Royal Chateau of Blois.

She was temporarily laid to rest at Blois and then later moved to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint-Denis just outside Paris.

Brantôme declared that Claude’s husband, Francis I, gave her “the pox, which shortened her days”, i.e. syphilis, but the cause of her death is not known for certain.

In the video and transcript below, I give an overview of Queen Claude’s life, as well as sharing the theories regarding her death.

You can find out more about Anne Boleyn’s time in France in my article here, and you can see photos of Claude’s resting place in the video below and more in my video on my visit to Saint-Denis – click here.

Transcript:

On this day in history, 20th July 1524, Queen Claude of France, consort of Francis I, died at the age of just twenty-four. She died at Blois and was temporarily laid to rest in the chapel there, but then moved to the royal mausoleum of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis just outside Paris in 1527. Brantôme declared that Claude’s husband, Francis I, gave her “the pox, which shortened her days”, meaning syphilis, but the cause of her death is not known for certain.

Let me tell you a bit more about Queen Claude of France before I share some photos that Tim and I took of the tomb she shares with her husband, Francis I.

  • Claude was born on 13th October 1499 and was the eldest daughter of King Louis XII of France and his second wife, Anne of Brittany. Out of the 14 pregnancies her mother experience, only Claude and her sister, Renée survived childhood.
  • In 1501, the infant Claude was contracted to marry Charles, the future Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. However, the contract was cancelled in 1505 when an ill Louis XII decided that it was best to marry his daughter off to his heir, his first cousin once removed, Francis, Duke of Valois and later Duke of Angoulême, son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, and Louise of Savoy.
  • Claude became Duchess of Brittany on her mother’s death in January 1514.
  • On 18th May 1514, Claude married Francis, and on 9th October 1514, her father married Mary Tudor, sister of King Henry VIII. However, Louis’ marriage was short-lived as he died on 1st January 1515. His daughter became queen of France as her husband succeeded her father as king, becoming King Francis I of France.
  • Claude was crowned queen on 10th May 1517 at the Basilica of St-Denis, by which point she had given her husband two children, daughters Louise and Charlotte. She went on to give him at least five more, including Henry II, King of France.
  • Due to her almost annual pregnancies, Claude spent much of her time away from court in the Upper Loire area, at the chateaux of Amboise and Blois.
  • Claude attended the historic meeting between her husband and King Henry VIII at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.
  • Anne Boleyn, future Queen of England, was one of Claude’s ladies, serving her from 1514 to late 1521.
  • Claude was a well-loved queen. Historian Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme, described her as “very good and very charitable, and very sweet to everyone and never showed displeasure to anybody in her court or of her domains”.
  • Queen Claude was petite and suffered with scoliosis, and problems with her hips. Theories regarding her cause of death on this day in 1524 include syphilis, complications after childbirth or a miscarriage, exhaustion from her many pregnancies, and bone tuberculosis.
  • Claude’s husband, King Francis I, went on to marry Eleanor of Austria, daughter of Philip the Handsome and Juana of Castile.
  • Trivia: Queen Claude has a greengage, the Reine Claude, named after her.
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