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La Vie en Breton: Anne of Brittany’s Enduring Legacy and Appeal
By James Blake Wiener
The Celtic Guide, Vol.1, Issue 9 (2012)
Introduction: Anne of Brittany (1477-1514) has inspired painters, poets, Breton nationalists, and even a wildly popular French rock opera. Twice Queen of France and Duchess of Brittany in her own right, Anne’s life was marked by power, patronage, and responsibility. Anne was the wealthiest woman in Europe and lived at an exciting time: the transition between a feudal, medieval Europe and the rise of the nation-state with global ambitions.
In the five hundred years since her death, Anne’s legacy of patriotism, political savvy, and cultural finesse remains indelible in her native Brittany and across France.
Anne was born the only surviving child of François II of Brittany (1433-1488) and Marguerite de Foix (c. 1453-1486) in 1477. Beloved by her parents and cherished by Breton people as a living-symbol of their independence from France, Anne was given an excellent education, in preparation for her role as reigning duchess. From a young age she demonstrated a marked interested in law and politics in addition to art and music. It was however Anne’s personal wealth and her reputation as a shrewd and cultured young woman, which attracted a multitude of suitors and ensuing problems from abroad. François II had aggressively defended his duchy on behalf of his daughter, as there was no Salic law (medieval Frankish law) barring her, as a woman, from her inheritance.