Royal Anniversary: Death of Louise of Savoy

  September 22, 2012 at 7:18 am by

Louise of Savoy

On September 22nd, 1531 Louise of Savoy, the formidable mother of King François I, died at Grez-sur-Loing, outside Paris. During the first 15 years of the reign of her son, Louise was the most powerful woman in the Kingdom of France. Though Louise was born a Princess and was never Queen of France, she was Queen Mother in all but name.

Maternal, politically active and shrewd, Louise acted as Regent of France on several ocassions: 1515, 1524, 1525-1526 and again in 1529. Her finest hour was following the French disaster at the Battle of Pavia, and the capture and imprisonment of her son by the Emperor Charles V. With the King in captivity in Madrid and France threatened with a double invasion by the newly forged alliance of the Holy Roman Empire and England, Louise successfully avoided calamity by tactfully breaking the Anglo-Imperial Alliance.

King Francois I of France

The Regent also brewed up a rebellion in Northern Italy against the Emperor and sent a French delegation to Suleiman the Magnificent in Constantinople to cause trouble for the Emperor in the east. Louise then set about having her son released from captivity and began to negotiate with the Emperor. The Treaty of Madrid was signed in February 1526, which saw her beloved son François released, and he returned to France in March.

During the early years of her son’s reign, Louise was made Duchess d’Angoulême, de Nemours, de Bourbon, Anjou and Countess of Maine. Her final political act was to negotiate a lasting peace between France and the Empire, despite being weak and suffering from gout, Louise travelled with her daughter Marguerite to the city of Cambrai in August 1529. Here, the ‘Ladies Peace’, or ‘Paix des Dames’, was signed by Louise and Archduchess Margaret of Austria acting on behalf of her nephew, Charles V, on August 29th, 1529.

Marguerite of Angoulême

Both Archduchess Margaret and Louise were old childhood friends, Margaret was also married to Louise’s late brother, Philip, Duke of Savoy. After his death, Margaret was appointed the Imperial Regent of the Low Countries.

Louise, who was deeply superstitious and fascinated with astronomy, is said to have gone outside to view a comet late at night (possibly Halley’s Comet), and thus caught a chill. The sight of the comet also filled this highly superstitious royal lady with a sense of dread and she saw it as a premonition of her own mortality. She died several days later with her devoted daughter by her side. The King is reported to have fainted at the news of her death.

King François ordered that his mother be given a splendid funeral and her remains, after much pomp, were buried at the Royal vault of St Denis Abbey in October 1531. Her heart was buried beneath the high altar of Notre Dame de Paris.

Filed under France, Historical Royals, Italy
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