Sunday, October 22, 2023

Queen Claude and Anne Boleyn

In my post about the global art market I noted that my given name, Claude, is gender neutral in French. Today, thanks to Tina Brown's review of Hunting the Falcon: Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and the Marriage that Shook Europe, by John Guy and Julia Fox, I know there was a Queen Claude of France  (image above: School of Jean Clouet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons). She was consort of King François I from 1515 until her death in 1524. During their nine years of marriage, she and the King had seven children. One of them succeeded his father as King Henri II.

The connection between Queen Claude and Anne Boleyn is, as Ms. Brown notes, that Anne served as the Queen's "teenage demoiselle" following her service as "maid of honor" to Margaret of Austria. About these youthful exposures to women in Continental courts, Ms. Brown quotes Mr, Guy and Ms. Fox, "Anne found herself in a world in which women could exercise power in strikingly different ways." This was, according to Ms. Brown, in contrast to "the dour, dutiful sewing circle serving Katherine of Aragon at the British court," to which Anne returned. She found Henry still in his unhappy marriage to Katherine, and Anne's younger sister Margaret as his favorite mistress. During and after the divorce from Katherine, he turned his attention to Anne. What ensued is well known. Ms. Brown notes that a special executioner "had been summoned from France" and that "the only remnant of Anne's Francophile influence was her executioner's axe."

The supreme irony is that, although a reason for Anne's execution was her failure to produce a male heir, her daughter, Elizabeth, eventually succeeded to the crown and became one of Britain's most revered monarchs.