Mastodon The Writing Desk: Guest Post by Rozsa Gaston, Author of Anne and Charles: Passion and Politics in Late Medieval France: The Story of Anne of Brittany's Marriage to Charles VIII

28 February 2019

Guest Post by Rozsa Gaston, Author of Anne and Charles: Passion and Politics in Late Medieval France: The Story of Anne of Brittany's Marriage to Charles VIII

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII: Political alliance or true love? 

France, 1491:  In the fall of 1491 twenty-one-year-old Charles VIII of France is king, but he doesn't feel like one. When he marries Anne of Brittany in a political alliance, he acquires a wife who already feels like a queen and guides her husband to feeling like the king he already is. The brimming self-confidence of Brittany's ruler inspires his own, and fans the flames of their attraction into a lasting love. Their partnership and shared interest in new techniques in design and architecture from Italy results in the introduction of the Italian Renaissance to France.

Chateau Royal d’Amboise
Royal residence of Charles VIII of France and Anne of Brittany 
during the years of their marriage, 1491-1498
Amboise, Loire Valley, France
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Renaissance Gardens of the Chateau Royal d’Amboise
Designed by Pacello Mercogliano of Naples and commissioned by Anne and Charles
First Renaissance garden to be introduced in France, designed 1495-1497
Photo courtesy of Stephane Bern, Anne de Bretagne: Secrets d’Histoire
Anne and Charles presents French king Charles VIII in a new historical light, not as the naïve pawn of his older sister, Anne de Beaujeu, France’s regent in Charles’s minority, but as a young man with a sincere heart fired by the chivalrous tales of Roland. Charles successfully throws off his older sister’s powerful regency with the newfound confidence his bride Anne of Brittany gives him.

Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany on their wedding day
Waxwork reenactment of their Dec. 6, 1491 marriage ceremony
Great Hall of Chateau de Langeais, Loire Valley, France
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Anne de Beaujeu, regent of France from 1483-1491 stands on far left\
Wax reenactment of secret wedding of Anne of Brittany with Charles VIII of France
Both were betrothed to others: Anne to Maximilian I of Austria, Charles to his daughter Margaret of Austria
At age fourteen, Anne of Brittany has been ruler of Brittany for three years since her father died in 1488. She lacks the resources with which to rule her country, which Charles gives her by marrying her, saving Brittany from desecration by France. Additionally, he crowns Anne Queen of France to add to her title of Duchess of Brittany.

Both Anne and Charles are pleased with what the other offers, politically and personally. Anne's objective is to retain Brittany's independence from France. Charles's aim is to fold Brittany into his kingdom. But the surprising and lasting passion they develop for each other early on in their marriage tempers their opposing political objectives.

Portraits of Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII, artist unknown, c. 1492
Chateau Royal d’Amboise, Amboise, France, photos by R. Gaston

Charles's lack of self-confidence, due to his neglected upbringing, manifests itself in his incessant need to prove himself. At age twenty-four, he invades Italy with the French army, based on a flimsy Angevin claim to the throne of Naples. After twenty months in Italy, he is forced to cede Naples by the combined forces of Venice, Milan, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire. His army returns to France, defeated and with many men carrying syphilis. But with him, Charles brings back artists, artisans, architects and designers who introduce the glories of the Italian Renaissance to France, beginning at his and Anne’s royal residence in Amboise.

 Repeatedly faithless to Anne, despite his reliance on her love and support for him, Charles finally reforms his ways in a crisis of conscience during Anne's seventh pregnancy. Believing that he is being divinely punished for his faithlessness to his wife by the death of all of their children, he gives up his dalliances and turns to managing the affairs of his kingdom.

But it is too late…

Next month’s guest post on Anne and Louis, Book Two of the Anne of Brittany Series.


STROLLING DOWN TO the great hall Charles paused on the threshold, searching for a small figure within. The room was filled with courtiers and wedding guests, all of them noble, except for the six Bretons from Rennes in the corner. They were talking animatedly in their strange rolling accents, most likely on the subject of a duty well done.
God, it had been well done. And duty had had nothing to do with it. Scanning the room, he searched for the little bird who had laughed then cried the night before, finally falling into the sweet sleep of exhaustion in his arms until late in the morning. When they had awoken, her head had been nestled against his chest and he had felt himself a hundred times the man he had thought himself to be the morning before.
His heart swelled to think of it. Standing, he was constantly reminded of how inferior he was in height. But lying down with his Breton princess on his chest, he had felt as tall as he needed to be. The woman had the sort of ability to make him feel differently about himself than he ever had. Good God, she had even called him clever. What he most liked about her was what he most lacked in himself: her confidence. Starting with the night before, he felt as if he was beginning to have some, too.
Moving further into the great hall he traversed its length, unnoticed by anyone, as usual, due to his short stature and unprepossessing demeanor. He could do nothing about his height. But he would work on his demeanor, beginning that day. Finally, there was someone in his life he wished to prove himself to, again and again. He didn’t doubt she would advise him on how to prove himself before his public, too.
Looking everywhere for her, he avoided the eyes of his guests, who were beginning to notice he was in their midst. Where was his minx when he needed her?
“Sire! Your Majesty!” The duke of Bourbon slapped Charles heartily on the back. “Did you sleep well?” His eyes twinkled at Charles with the expected post-nuptial-night mirth.
“Not a wink, Monsieur. Too busy,” Charles replied, thinking it was not far from the truth.
“Good lad, Your Majesty. Work well done!”
Charles reached out and grabbed the duke of Bourbon's wrist. He gazed coolly into the older man’s eyes.
“What's that? What's that?” the duke spluttered, staring at the king's hand upon his wrist, the mirth draining from his face.
“You will never again address me as 'lad', Sire Beaujeu. I am your king and your sovereign.” Charles willed himself to remain calm.
“Yes, Your Majesty. Your Grace.” Pierre de Bourbon struggled to regain his composure as Charles released his wrist. He bowed to the king and when he stood again his eyes held new respect for the short youth over whom he and his wife had served as regents for the past eight years.
“And you may tell your wife the same, do you understand?” Charles stared into the older man’s eyes.
“Y-yes, Sire, I will do so at the first opportunity,” the duke of Bourbon spluttered.
“Good. Then let us break fast together. I am famished.” Charles slapped his sister’s husband on the back in precisely the same patronizing manner the duke had done to him a moment earlier.
The room had quieted. Glancing around, Charles caught Guillaume de Roquefort gazing at him with a look the king had never seen his chancellor face him with before: respect.
“What's the matter, Guillaume? Do you not recognize your newly-married king?”  Charles eyed his chancellor coolly.
“Your Majesty, I am your humble servant.” De Roquefort bent one knee before him. As he did, the other men in the room followed suit. One by one, Charles d'Angoulême, Louis d'Orleans, the count de Vendome, and the count de Foix all knelt, and as they did Charles was pleased to see he stood taller than any of them, for once.
The new order had begun. He would see to it that it continued. But he needed help. Where was she?
Anne and Charles at the time of Anne’s coronation as Queen of France, February 1492
By Jean Bourdichon, c. 1492
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Available for pre-order now is my new short story The Least Foolish Woman in France. Readers might be interested to learn the true tale of how Anne of Brittany’s second husband was sexually harassed in young adulthood by his sister-in-law Anne de Beaujeu, France’s most powerful woman at the time. This story is short but riveting, a surprising twist on the #MeToo movement.

On pre-order now, it comes out April 12, 2019. Post a short review on Amazon by the end of April and receive an eBook edition of any of my other books for free.

Rozsa Gaston

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About the Author

Rozsa Gaston writes playful books on serious matters, including the struggles women face to get what they want out of life. She studied European history at Yale, and received her Master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University. She worked at Institutional Investor, then as a hedge funds marketer. Entirely unsuited to the world of finance, she was happy to give it up to become a full-time novelist. Gaston lives in Bronxville, New York with her family and is currently working on Anne and Louis: Middle Years, Book Three of the Anne of Brittany Series. If you read and enjoy Sense of Touch, please post a review at to help others find this book. One sentence is enough to let readers know what you thought. Drop Rozsa Gaston a line on Facebook to let her know you posted a review and receive as thanks an eBook edition of any other of Gaston’s books: Anne and Charles, Anne and Louis, The Least Foolish Woman in France, Paris Adieu, or Black is Not a Color. Visit her at or at
Facebook:  Instagram: rozsagastonauthor  and on Twitter: @RozsaGaston

See Also:

Anne of Brittany? Raised to rule, she knew how to lead: Guest Post by Rozsa Gaston, Author of Sense of Touch

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