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Louise de Savoie

Louise of Savoy (September 11, 1476 – September 22, 1531) was a French noble, Duchess regnant of Auvergne and Bourbon, Duchess of Nemours, the mother of King Francis I of France. She was politically active and served as the Regent of France in 1515, in 1525-1526 and in 1529.



Louise of Savoy was born at Pont-d'Ain, the eldest daughter of Philip II, Duke of Savoy (1443–1497) and his first wife, Margaret of Bourbon (1438–1483). Her brother, Philibert II, Duke of Savoy (1480–1504), succeeded her father as ruler of the duchy and head of the House of Savoy. He was, in turn, succeeded by their half-brother Charles III, Duke of Savoy (1486–1553).


At age eleven, Louise married Charles of Orléans (1459–1496), Count of Angoulême, on 16 February 1488 in Paris. Their first child, Marguerite, was born on 11 April 1492; their second child, François, was born on 12 September 1494.

The household of Charles was presided over by his châtelaine Antoinette de Polignac, Dame de Combronde, by whom he had two illegitimate daughters, Jeanne of Angoulême and Madeleine. Antoinette became Louise's lady-in-waiting and confidante. Her children were raised alongside Louise's own.[1] Charles had another illegitimate daughter, Souveraine, by Jeanne le Conte, who also lived in the Angoulême chateau.

Louise had a keen awareness for the intricacies of politics and diplomacy, and was deeply interested in the advances of arts and sciences in Renaissance Italy. She made certain that her children were educated in the spirit of the Italian Renaissance, also helped by her Italian confessor, Cristoforo Numai from Forlì. When she was widowed at the young age of 19, Louise deftly maneuvered her children into a position that would secure for each of them a promising future. She moved her family to the court of King Louis XII, her husband's cousin. Francis became a favorite of the king, who gave him his daughter Claude de France in marriage on 8 May 1514. With that marriage, Louis XII designated Francis as his heir. With the death of Louis XII on 1 January 1515, Francis became king of France.

On 4 February 1515, Louise was named Duchess of Angoulême, and on 15 April 1524, Duchess of Anjou.

The Bourbon inheritance

Her mother having been one of the sisters of the last dukes of the main branch of Bourbon, after the death of Suzanne, Duchess of Bourbon in 1521, Louise, on basis of proximity of blood, advanced claims to the Duchy of Auvergne and other possessions of the Bourbons. This led her (supported by her son the king) in rivalry against Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, Suzanne's widower, whom she proposed to marry in order to settle the Bourbon inheritance issue. When rejected by Charles, Louise instigated efforts to undermine him. This led to Charles' exile and his attempt to regain his lost status by waging war against the King. He died in 1527 having failed to regain his lost lands and titles. Louise recovered Auvergne from confiscations and became duchess.


Louise of Savoy

Louise of Savoy remained politically active on behalf of her son in the early years of his reign especially. During his absences, she acted as regent on his behalf. Louise served as the Regent of France in 1515, during the king's war in Italy, and again from 1525 to 1526, when the king was at war and during his time as prisoner in Spain.

Louise de Savoie symbolically taking over the "rudder" in 1525, and requesting the help of Suleiman the Magnificent, here shown lying at her feet enturbanned.

She initiated friendly relations with the Ottoman Empire by sending a mission to Suleiman the Magnificent requesting assistance, but the mission was lost on its way in Bosnia.[2] In December 1525 a second mission was sent, led by John Frangipani, which managed to reach Constantinople, the Ottoman capital, with secret letters asking for the deliverance of king Francis I and an attack on the Habsburg. Frangipani returned with a positive answer from Suleiman, on 6 February 1526, initating the first steps of a Franco-Ottoman alliance.[2]

She was the principal negotiator for the Treaty of Cambrai between France and the Holy Roman Empire, concluded on August 3, 1529. That treaty, called "the Ladies' Peace", put an end to the second Italian war between the head of the Valois dynasty, Francis I of France, and the head of the Habsburg dynasty, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The Treaty temporarily confirmed Habsburg hegemony in Italy. The treaty was signed by Louise of Savoy for France and her sister-in-law, Margaretha von Habsburg (Margaret of Austria), for the Holy Roman Empire.


Louise of Savoy died on 22 September 1531, in Gretz-sur-Loing. The story of her death is that she became chilled while watching a comet. [1] Her remains were entombed at Saint-Denis in Paris. After her death her lands, including Auvergne, merged in the crown. Through her daughter Margaret of Angoulême and her granddaughter Jeanne d'Albret, she is the ancestress of the Bourbon kings of France, as her great-grandson, Henry of Navarre, succeeded as Henry IV of France.



  1. ^ Hackett (1937), pp. 48-52
  2. ^ a b Merriman, p.129


  • Hacket, Francis (1937). Francis the First. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc. 
Preceded by
New Creation
Duchess of Nemours
Succeeded by
Philippe de Savoie


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