Shock over theft of queen’s ‘heart’

The Southland Times - - WORLD -

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.

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