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

Jul20,2022 #Queen Claude

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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One thought on “July 20 – The death of Anne Boleyn’s former mistress, Queen Claude of France”
  1. Beautiful photos Claire and Tim, the resting place of Francis and Claude is magnificent, the marble figures are exquisite, was not the tomb destroyed in the revolution? If so they did a marvellous job of restoration, poor Claude being born a member of the French ruling family, she had to marry whom her father ordained and she was not healthy, born with scoliosis and possible dysplasia of the hips, she must have found it quite painful walking and her back was said to have quite a hump, she must have looked shorter than she was, and in fact had she lived longer, she may have suffered mobility issues, amazingly she gave birth to a large brood and here is what to the modern mind seems extremely selfish of her husband, she had no resting period in between for annually she was expecting, even after her son and heir Henri was born, her husband continued to sleep with her, Claude was a kind yet strict mistress moral and very religious who expected her ladies to uphold the same high standards, she preferred to keep her own court away from the decadence of King Francois’s court and was more at home in the country, this could be because she wished to guard her pretty companions from the roving eye of her husband, she was for some time, both the Boleyn sisters mistress and there were rumours that Mary the eldest was seduced by Francois, no one ever said an unkind word about Queen Claude she was warm hearted and gracious, even though she endured years of infidelity from her husband and her body was worn out through so much child bearing, it is Brantome who said she died of syphilis and he could be right, for the king was so immoral he must have slept with most of the court and probably half of France, if he had infected his wife it was very very sad that this poor woman, innocent and virtuous as she was, should have suffered from this dreadful disease eventually dying from it, but there have been other theories she had just given birth and her baby daughter died to, therefore it could have simply been the travails of childbirth that killed her, she was buried with her infant, but if it was syphilis that would explain to the death of her baby, another theory was TB, we will never know but she was only twenty four which was still young for the times, Francois was said to have been very upset, he must have respected her for her calm uncomplaining manner, her acceptance of his many lovers, but French queens were realistic every Frenchman had a mistress, even more so kings, it was something that was as natural to them as breathing, rather like the warm breeze that wafted round the Loire valley, she was buried with full honours and later King Francois was laid to rest beside her, on his death from what was most surely syphilis, later in life Anne Boleyn must have looked back on her early life at the French court with much fondness, and recalled the kindness sweetness and generosity of her former mistress.

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