Anne of Burgundy, Duchess of Bedford

Anne of Burgundy was born on 30th September 1404. Her parents were John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy and Margaret of Bavaria. Her family were one of the dominant forces in French and Western European politics. Her early years saw her father in virtual control of Paris and the French Parlement at times. Her elder sister was married to the French Dauphin just weeks before Anne was born, and her other siblings all had marriages, or betrothals, to highly important nobles from France and the Low Countries.

Anne of Burgundy’s Importance

Anne’s destiny was to follow in the footsteps of her siblings. Both her mother and father were well aware of the diplomatic benefits that could be acquired through marriages. As France slipped into Civil War then faced Henry V of England’s attempts at conquest, the opportunities for Burgundy to use a marriage for their own benefit rose. Diplomacy led to Anne’s parents forming an alliance with the English in December of 1419. Soon after, the Queen Consort of France, influenced by John the Fearless, entered into talks with the English. With there being the prospect of a lasting peace in France, dominated by England and, in the short term, Burgundy, it was prudent for the Duke and Duchess of Burgundy to seek to make the links that they had with the English as close as possible. The method, agreed alongside the Treaty of Troyes, was to contract a marriage between Anne of Burgundy and John of Lancaster, duke of Bedford, brother and at the time heir of King Henry V of England.

Marriage of Anne of Burgundy and John duke of Bedford

Anne and John married in June 1423. By this time John was Regent of France and heir to his infant nephew, Henry VI. The dowry for Anne was fifty thousand ecus, paid partly in coins, and mainly in valuables such as plate. The couples wedding was in Troyes, from where they moved to Paris where they resided as Regent and Consort. From the date of her marriage until her death, Anne of Burgundy was the second highest ranked woman in France, after the Dowager Queen Isabeau.

Diplomacy

Anne’s greatest achievement as Consort was perhaps the role she played in liaising between her husband and her brother. In the late 1420’s the Anglo-Burgundian alliance was strained. Anne’s husband had used much of her jewellery and revenue to fund the disastrous Siege of Orleans. Furthermore, the victories such as that at Verneuil in 1424 were not continuing, instead, the Regents forces were facing defeats. Orleans fell, then to the huge embarrassment of the English, Charles of Valois, the Dauphin, was able to enter Rheims and be crowned as King Charles VII of France.

Poor military decisions were emptying the coffers of the Regent. Burgundian lands held by Anne were being used to fund the duke of Bedford’s campaigns. As an ally, Burgundy itself was also stretched by the increased costs and burden of waging war against the resurgent House of Valois. The solution to the strained diplomatic relationship was based entirely around Anne, who also became instrumental in ensuring that the alliance held together. As the duke of Bedford and Anne of Burgundy had no heirs, a simple legal mechanism was put into place that would placate the Burgundians. John, duke of Bedford made a will in 1429. He named Anne of Burgundy as his heir. Ultimately, this meant that Bedford’s lands and wealth would pass to the Duke of Burgundy at some point, as he stood to inherit from Anne.

Bedford Book of Hours

As Regent and Consort, John and Anne oversaw the preparations for the coronation of Henry VI as King of France. The ceremony was to take place in 1431. Henry arrived in Calais in April of 1430. He then travelled to Rouen, where he was hosted by John and Anne until early 1431. During the celebrations of Christmas [1430] and New Year, Anne of Burgundy presented a gift to the young king. It was the Bedford Book of Hours. The Book of Hours had been gifted to Anne by John at their wedding. The Book is one of the finest to have been made in the period. It contains 38 miniatures and over 1200 marginal roundels.

Miniature from the Bedford Book of Hours
The legend of the Fleur-de-lis: London, British Library, MS Additional 18850, f. 288v.

Gifting the Book of Hours to King Henry VI was very symbolic. The story that is outlined within the miniatures is that of the origin of France. Above, is shown an angel descending from heaven. The angel carries a fleur-de-lis banner to the hermit of Joyenval, who then hands it over to Queen Clothilda. Clothilda herself was an early Queen Consort of France. Like Anne, she was Burgundian. The message in the book is that the symbols of France were given by god himself, to a Burgundian noblewoman, who then presented them to the king. In presenting the Book of Hours to Henry VI, Anne was symbolically doing the same, illustrating the Kings god given right to rule over France and the French.

It also visualises the link between Burgundy and the King of France. In the image below, the herald is wearing the livery of Burgundy. Again, the presentation of the Book of Hours is symbolic, Anne of Burgundy is reaffirming the support of Burgundians to the French crown, in this case, in the guise of King Henry VI.

Clothilda presenting the Fleur-de-lis arms to Clovis: London, British Library, MS Additional 18850, f. 288v.
Clothilda presenting the Fleur-de-lis arms to Clovis: London, British Library, MS Additional 18850, f. 288v.

Illness and death of Anne of Burgundy

Anne of Burgundy fell ill shortly after the coronation of King Henry VI as King of France. It was an illness from which she was not to recover. Anne died at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, Paris, on 13th November 1432.

Links

Books of Duchesses – this site lists the library of Duchesses. Anne of Burgundy and her husband were patrons of the arts, so the collection for Anne is quite good.

British Library – Blog Post about the Bedford Book of Hours.

British Museum –  See the Related Objects tab

Freelance History Writer – Biography of Anne of Burgundy

History of Information – Bedford Book of Hours

Wikimedia Commons – a range of public domain images.

Dan Moorhouse

Dan Moorhouse graduated in History and Politics and has since undertaken postgraduate studies in Medieval History and Education. Dan is a member of the Royal Historical Society and has previously been a member of the Historical Association’s Secondary Education Committee. Dan’s early publishing was in the Secondary School History Education field. This included co-authoring the Becta Award shortlisted Dynamic Learning: Medicine Through Time series for Hodder Murray and contributing to the Bafta Award winning Smallpox Through Time documentary series by Tmelines.tv. A former teacher, Dan now concentrates on research and writing, predominantly in Medieval English history. Forthcoming work includes two non-fiction titles for Pen & Sword books, along with further titles in this ‘On this day in history’ series. Books by Dan Moorhouse On this day in the Wars of the Roses On this day in the Hundred Years War

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