Saint Jeanne of France (1464-1505)

Jeanne of France, daughter of King Louis XI and Queen Charlotte of Savoy was born at Nogent le Roi on the 23rd of April 1464. At the close of the Middle Ages one watchword was circulating: that of “Reform”, reform of society, reform of Church…  The states general of 1484 were pursing reform as did the Assembly of Tours in 1493.  King Charles VIII engaged in the reform movement of the Church and Christianity, supporting especially the Mendicant Orders in that task.  As far as the Franciscans were concerned, the reformed branch of the Order, the Observance, took active part in that vast undertaking.  The direct entourage of Jeanne, on both the paternal and maternal sides, supported the Mendicants Brothers in the efforts of reform, being well present at court. The spiritual intuition of Jeanne therefore fitted into the context (of reform) that, of course had to be developed.

Portrait de Louis XI et de Charlotte de Savoie, Bib.Nat., cabinet des Estampes, n°63 t 104 f°120


When Jeanne was 5 years old, she was entrusted to Anne of Culan, wife of François of Beaujeu, baron of Lignières, in Berry province.  There, her entire human and spiritual adventure was started.

One day when she was about 7, she was in church and had the feeling that the Virgin Mary said to her in her heart “Before you die, you will found an order in my honour and, in doing so, you will give me great pleasure and render me service” (Chronicle of the Annunciade).

She lived with that promise more than thirty  years before seeing it realized. Jeanne suffered a grievous curvature of the spine.

In 1476, her father Louis XI decided to marry her off to the Duke of Orleans.  Jeanne and the young Duke had acquired the legal age of this time for their wedding.  Political marriage. The two adolescents are only pawns on the king’s chessboard.  The young Duke will never accept this forced union and, from the outset of the marriage, he led a life of pleasure and abandoned his wife.

Engraving by Hazé, 1840, Bourges reproduced in the biography of Pierquin de Gembloux, Paris 1840

King Louis died in 1483.  Jeanne was 19.  She was a young lady, accessible to others, especially those deprived, being aware of the problems of that period.  The education received at Lignières had, indeed, not cut her off from the world.  At court, Jeanne met with indifference and ill natured tittle-tattle due to the political and conjugal indiscretions of her husband.  Louis of Orleans had allied himself with the Duke of Brittany.

It was in the “stupid war” of 1487 that Louis of Orleans was defeated and taken prisoner by the troops of Charles VIII.  During her husband’s captivity, having to rule the Duchy of Orleans, Jeanne revealed her qualities of heart and of administration.

On the 7th  April 1498, King Charles VIII died suddenly without leaving an heir.  The crown passed to the first blood prince, that is, to Louis of Orleans.  His first official act on becoming King Louis XII was to ask Rome to acknowledge the nullity of his marriage.  The Church ratified that on 17 December 1498.  Terrible shock for Jeanne.  She assigned the blow to the light of her faith.

Separated from Jeanne, Louis XII gave her as compensation the Duchy of Berry.  Quickly, she gave proof of her enterprising spirit working and several spheres:
- social (care of the sick, help for those in need, support for “fallen women”…)
- intellectual (founding a college, students grants for poor children…)
- religious (reform of convent…)

At the same time, she thinks the moment has arrived for her to fulfil the promise made long ago in her childhood, to found a religious order given to please God by imitating  the Virgin Mary.

From her youth, Jeanne was guided spiritually by the Sons of St Francis of Assisi.  In 1499  & 1500 her confessor was therefore a Franciscan, father Gabriel Maria.  Quite naturally, she made her project known to him.  However, since the 4th Lateran Council  (1215) the establishment of new religious orders was not encouraged, father was not forthcoming. But when the time came, he recognized the spiritual nature of the promise made to Jeanne and from then on encouraged her with all his power.

Between 1500 & 1501 he brought together in Bourges some young girls and taught them the elements of religious life.  In 1502, on Jeanne’s instructions, he wrote the rule by which future Annunciade sisters live.

In 1503-1504, the first clothing and first professions took place: Jeanne’s mission was accomplished… She died on 4th February 1505 after have entrusted the Annunciade to the fraternal care of the Minor Brothers.

Her cult spread at her death. Beatified in 1742, she was canonized by Pope Pius XII on 28th May 1950.