Claude of France

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Claude de France (1499-1524).jpg
Duchess of Brittany
Reign 9 January 1514 – 20 July 1524
Predecessor Anne
Successor Francis III
Queen consort of France
Tenure 1 January 1515 – 20 July 1524
Spouse Francis I of France
among others...
Charlotte of Valois
Francis III, Duke of Brittany
Henry II of France
Madeleine, Queen of Scots
Charles, Duke of Orléans
Margaret, Duchess of Savoy
House House of Valois
Father Louis XII of France
Mother Anne, Duchess of Brittany
Born (1499-10-13)13 October 1499[1]
Died 20 July 1524(1524-07-20) (aged 24)
Château de Blois
Burial Saint Denis Basilica
Religion Roman Catholicism

Claude of France (13 October 1499[1] – 20 July 1524) was queen consort of France and duchess regnant of Brittany. She was the eldest daughter of Louis XII of France and Anne of Brittany, as well as the first spouse of Francis I of France.

Queen Claude was named after Claudius of Besançon, a saint her mother had invoked during a pilgrimage so she could give birth to a living child.

Betrothals and marriage[edit]

Because her mother, Anne, Duchess of Brittany, had no surviving sons, Claude became heiress to the Duchy of Brittany. The crown of France, however, could pass only to and through male heirs, according to Salic Law. In 1504, Anne, eager to keep Brittany separate from the French crown, effected the Treaty of Blois, which promised Claude's hand in marriage to the future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V with the promise of Brittany and the Duchy of Burgundy. The prospect of a reduced France surrounded on several sides was unacceptable to the Valois, and so the betrothal was soon canceled.

The French nobles argued against a betrothal to a foreigner, urging Louis XII to marry Claude to her cousin Francis, Duke of Angoulême, "who is at least all French", and was also the heir-presumptive to the French crown. In 1506, the child was betrothed to Francis. In 1514, when her mother died, Claude became Duchess of Brittany; and on 18 May 1514, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, she married Francis.

Court life[edit]

Claude, the pawn of so much dynastic maneuvering, was short in stature and afflicted with scoliosis, which gave her a hunched back. She was eclipsed at court by her mother-in-law, Louise of Savoy, and her sister-in-law, the literary Navarrese queen Margaret of Angoulême.

When Francis became king in 1515, after the death of Louis XII mere months after his wedding to Mary Tudor of England, Anne Boleyn stayed on as one of Claude's household. It is assumed that Anne served as Claude's translator whenever there were English visitors, such as in 1520, at the Field of Cloth of Gold. Anne Boleyn returned to England in late 1521, where she eventually became Queen of England as the second wife of Henry VIII. Diane de Poitiers, another of Claude's ladies, was a principal inspiration of the School of Fontainebleau of the French Renaissance, and became the lifelong mistress of Claude's son, Henry II.

Claude's life was spent in an endless round of annual pregnancies. Her husband had many mistresses, but was usually relatively discreet. Claude imposed a strict moral code on her own household, which only a few chose to flout.


Claude and Francis I had seven children, two of whom lived past the age of thirty:

Death and later events[edit]

Coat of arms of Queen Claude

Claude died in 1524, when she was twenty-four. She was initially succeeded as ruler of Brittany by her eldest son, the Dauphin Francis, who became Duke Francis III, with Claude's widower King Francis I as guardian. After the Dauphin's death in 1536, Claude's second son, Henry, Duke of Orleans, became Dauphin and Duke of Brittany. He later became King of France as Henry II.

Claude's widowed husband himself remarried several years after Claude's death, to Eleanor of Austria, the sister of Emperor Charles V. The atmosphere at court became considerably more debauched, and there were rumours that King Francis's death in 1547 was due to syphilis.

The prayer book of Claude of France, is a tiny, jewel-like manuscript that was made for Claude around 1517, the year she was crowned queen of France. Her coat of arms appears on three different folios. The book is richly illustrated: the borders of each leaf are painted, front and back, with 132 scenes from the lives of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and numerous saints. The manuscript and a companion Book of Hours also made for the queen (in a Paris private collection) were illuminated by an artist who was given the nickname Master of Claude de France after these two volumes. It was donated to The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City in 2008 by the widow of Alexandre Paul Rosenberg in memory of her husband.[2]

"Reine Claude" plum[edit]

Claude is remembered in a classic small plum, the size of a walnut, pale green with a glaucous bloom. It is still called "Reine Claude" (literally, "Queen Claude") in France and is known in England as a "greengage".

Depictions in Popular Culture[edit]

Queen Claude of France is played by Gabriella Wright in season one of the Showtime series The Tudors.
"Kind Queen Claude" is a major character in Robin Maxwell's Mademoiselle Boleyn.



  1. ^ a b c Jirí Louda and Michael MacLagan, Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, 2nd edition (London, U.K.: Little, Brown and Company, 1999), table 67.
  2. ^
Claude of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 13 October 1499 Died: 20 July 1524
French nobility
Preceded by
Duchess of Brittany
Succeeded by
Francis III
Countess of Étampes
Title next held by
John V
French royalty
Preceded by
Mary of England
Queen consort of France
Title next held by
Eleanor of Austria