Shock over theft of queen’s ‘heart’
FRANCE: It narrowly escaped being melted down after the French Revolution, but a 16thcentury gold case containing the heart of the only woman to have twice been crowned queen of France has now been stolen.
The theft of the reliquary containing the heart of Anne of Brittany, who was briefly betrothed to the Prince of Wales in 1480, has provoked outrage over the loss of an object of enormous historical value.
Thieves broke in through a window of the Thomas-Dobree museum in Nantes during the weekend, and got away with the 15-centimetre oval case, despite setting off an alarm.
Philippe Grosvalet, the president of the Loire-Atlantique authority, which owns the museum, said: ‘‘The thieves attacked our common heritage and stole an item of inestimable value. Much more than a symbol, the case containing the heart of Anne of Brittany belongs to our history.’’
Grosvalet said the theft was all the more distressing as the reliquary had nearly been destroyed during the turmoil following the French Revolution in 1789. The reliquary, topped by a gold crown with nine ‘‘fleurs-de-lis’’, the lilyshaped royal motif, is considered a masterpiece. It was displayed at the museum for more than 130 years.
Catherine Touchefeu, a departmental councillor, urged the robbers to return it. ‘‘If the thieves were motivated by the fact that it is shiny and made of gold, they should understand that its historical and symbolic value far outweigh its 100 grams of gold.’’
After Anne’s death in 1514, she was buried, as custom dictated, alongside other French royals in the Basilica of Saint Denis, outside Paris. But to show that her heart belonged to Brittany, it was placed in her parents’ tomb at the chapel of the Carmelite friars in Nantes, the Breton city of her birth, in accordance with her wishes.
Anne was reputed to be the richest woman in Europe. In 1480, her father arranged for her to marry Edward, the Prince of Wales, but the young prince disappeared, presumed to have been killed by his uncle, Richard III.
She married Charles VIII of France in 1491, ascending the throne as queen consort at the age of 14. The king died without a heir in 1498, and she married Louis XII a year later, becoming the only woman to be crowned queen of France twice.
As queen, she defended the autonomy of Brittany, which was then a duchy linked by treaty to France and often referred to as ‘‘Little Britain’’. She was also Duchess of Brittany, and immensely popular.
Johanna Rollad, the mayor of Nantes, said the reliquary ‘‘holds a special sentimental importance for all the people of Nantes, related to the personality of Anne of Brittany and the mark she left on the history of Nantes’’. The city was transferred from Brittany to the Pays de la Loire administrative region in 2014.
Louis, grief-stricken when his wife died at the age of 36, is said to have wept for eight days and ordered Anne’s tomb to be made large enough for two.
– Telegraph Group
The stolen gold case containing the heart of Anne of Brittany.