Margaret of Anjou’s Last Days: Her Dogs and Her Burial

While doing Monday’s post, I wandered inadvertently into a rabbit hole of research and spent pretty much the whole day there. Here’s the result.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, Louis XI, who as a condition of ransoming Margaret of Anjou from the English had forced her to sign over all of her inheritance rights to him, wrote to Jeanne Chabot, Madame de Montsoreau, to demand that Jeanne give to him all of the dogs that Margaret had given to her. What I didn’t realize until I took another look at the French original, though, is that Louis wrote the letter on August 12, 1482–while Margaret was still alive. (It can be found in Lettres de Louis XI, vol. 9, 1481-82, p. 276, on Google Books.) Historians writing in English have almost always overlooked this fact: Both Cora Scofield and Paul Murray Kendall, for instance, indicate that Margaret was already dead when Louis demanded her dogs.

To make matters more interesting, who was Jeanne Chabot, Madame de Montsoreau? Having labored under the wrong impression that Louis was asking for Margaret’s dogs after Margaret died, I had assumed that Jeanne was someone in Margaret’s household who had somehow got stuck with taking care of Margaret’s dogs. In fact, Jeanne Chabot, Madame de Montsoreau, married to Jean de Chambes, was a lady of high standing. Louis XI wrote to her on March 3, 1472, asking her to house his queen during a measles epidemic, and her son-in-law was none other than the famous memoirist Philippe de Commynes, who married one of her daughters, Helene de Chambes. According to Kendall in his biography of Louis XI, the king paid 3,000 crowns to Jean de Chambes in return for Jean’s giving the barony of Argenton to his new son-in-law. So when Margaret sent her dogs to Jeanne Chabot, she could be reasonably sure that they would be well fed.

But what was the relationship between Margaret and Jeanne Chabot? The chateau of Montsoreau is in the neighborhood of Dampierre, where Margaret spent her last days, so the women could certainly have visited each other if they were inclined. Did Margaret owe Jeanne money and send her the dogs (presumably well-trained hunting dogs) as payment toward the debt? Was Margaret hoping to keep the dogs out of Louis’s hands by sending them to a high-ranking lady? Or was Margaret simply sending her dogs to an old friend? I haven’t the slightest idea of what the answers to these questions could be, but they’re interesting to ponder.

A couple of weeks after Louis demanded her dogs back from Jeanne Chabot, Margaret was dead. Oddly, none of Margaret’s biographers writing in English, not even the indefatigable Agnes Strickland, seems to have noticed the following description of Margaret’s burial and the disposition of her personal effects, which appears in Louis de Farcy’s Monographie de la cathédrale d’Angers, which can be found here. (I thought for a while that I might have been the first person to notice this reference, but alas, Margaret Kekewich in her biography of Rene of Anjou, The Good King, beat me to it. But she doesn’t print any of the details that follow.)

Here is the description of Margaret’s funeral, quoted by de Farcy from Manuscrit de Messire Guillaume Oudin, contained in Revue d’Anjou, 1857, p. 138:

Margueritte d’Anjou, noble dame, royne d’Angleterre, décéda le 2Oe d’aoust en la ville de Saulmur l’an 1482. [Note: the Revue d’Anjou, which is also on Google Books, doesn’t include the “le 20” date.]

Item, le corps de la ditte royne fut amené de Saulmur à l’église de monsieur Saint Laud d’Angiers le 24 jour d’aoust l’an dessus dict.

Item, ledit corps fut porté de l’église de Sainct-Laud à l’église de Monsieur Sainct Maurice le dimanche ensuivant 25 jour dudit mois, par les chanoines et les sieurs des collèges de Sainct-Maurice, Sainct-Laud et Sainct-Martin accompagnés de tous les autres collèges séculliers et des quatre mendiants et aussy les religieux de Sainct-Aulbin vinrent conduire le corps depuis Sainct-Laud…

Et fut enterré ledit corps le 26 avril jouxte la sépulture de son feu père le roy de Sicille, auprès le reliquaire de Monsieur Sainct-Maurice …

Thanks to the invaluable Kathryn, here’s a translation:

M d’A, noble lady, queen of England, died the 20th of August in the town of Saulmur in the year 1482.

Item, the body of the said queen was taken from Saulmur to the church of my lord Saint Laud of Angiers on the 24th day of August in the year aforesaid.

Item, the said body was carried from the church of St Laud to the church of my lord St Maurice the Sunday following, the 25th day of the said month, by the canons [elles sieurs, sisters?] of the colleges of St Maurice, St Laud and St Martin accompanied by all the other secular colleges and the four mendicant orders and also the religious [nuns?] of St Aulbin came to conduct the body from St Laud…

And the said body was interred on the 26th April [not sure what ‘jouxte’ is – next to?] the sepulchre of her father the king of Sicily, [near, aupres?] the reliquary of my lord St Maurice…

So Margaret actually had a fairly elaborate funeral!

De Farcy also quotes this extract from Bibliothèque d’Angers, Ms. No 656. L’ami du Secrétaire, par Brossier:

Le doyen, Jean de la Vignole, fait exécuter le testament de la reine d’Angleterre. Il donne avis à Louis XI de sa mort. Celui-ci consentit qu’on prît sur ses meubles les frais de ses funérailles et les gages de ses serviteurs. Le reste demeura à l’église, qui eut 75 aunes de drap d’or bleu et un coffret, rempli de reliques

Per the lovely Kathryn:

“The doyen, Jean de la Vignole, executed the testament of the queen of England. He informed Louis XI of her death. He [Louis, literally ‘this one’] consented that from her furniture [or possessions] the funeral expenses and the wages of her servants should be taken. The rest remained to the church, who had 75 ells of ‘blue golden cloth’ and a casket, filled with relics.”

So Margaret, after her goods were sold to pay her servants and to pay her funeral expenses, did have some cloth and some relics to give to the Church. It’s a shame we don’t know what the relics were!

Incidentally, it’s often reported that the tomb of Rene of Anjou, Margaret’s father, was destroyed during the French Revolution. Rene’s coffin, however, survived: as Kekewich, quoting de Farcy, reports, it was found in Angers Cathedral in 1895 and opened. Rene’s skeleton and his crown were found inside. A photograph of the skeleton and the crown is in Monographie de la cathédrale d’Angers. Sadly, Margaret’s remains were not found.

7 thoughts on “Margaret of Anjou’s Last Days: Her Dogs and Her Burial”

  1. Ragged Staff

    Always astounded when received wisdom like MA's destitute end, her poor funeral and Louis clamouring for the dogs over her still warm body is shown to be at least partly unfounded by a bit of digging. I've learned not to take PMK's word for things (amongst others) without some backup. Fortunately, there are better secondary sources in my area of interest. Good find, Susan!

  2. Susan Higginbotham

    Thanks, Ragged Staff! It's rare, at least in my experience, to catch Cora Scofield getting something even slightly wrong; her sinuses must have been acting up that day. PMK, though, is one of those people I've learned, like you, to doublecheck!

  3. trish wilson

    If I could pick up on a couple of points and it seems there may be some confusion and that is the Cathedral in Angers is dedicated to St Maurice.

    Also according to Erlanger, Prevost and Baudier the doyen at the time was Francois de la Vignoble.

    Where the information came from that says Rene's tomb was destroyed during the Revolution is a mystery to me since according to the Cathedral history it was only that of MoA. However given that other things in the Cathedral suffered the 'depredations of the Revolution' including some Arras tapestries donated by Rene it could be a case of his tomb took a knock but was able to be repaired.

  4. King Rene and Marguerite now share a memorial slab near the High Altar in Angers Cathedral along with other members of the family (of which I have a photo). I don't remember there being a separate tomb for Rene and I didn't photograph one at the time.
    I found this description of it:
    'The tombstone that he had chosen for his burial at the Church of Saint Maurice was rather odd, as it was surmounted by a painting he had made showing a dying, half-skeletal king sitting on a throne, holding a scepter and orb, his crown slipping off of his head as it leans to the side. It is fitting that a man with so much worldly power, and yet so spiritually adept was so comfortable with his own inevitable mortality.' I certainly don't remember that! 🙂

  5. Susan Higginbotham

    Thanks, Su! Would love to see the photo of the slab if you care to post it on Margaret's Facebook page.

    Kekewich's biography of King Rene shows a 1699 drawing of his tomb on its cover, matching the description you gave, but Kekewich and others note that the tomb did not survive the Revolution. A pity!

  6. What a great find, and a fascinating read! Hehe, I know all about getting stuck in the rabbit hole of research. 😉

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