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René d'Anjou, René I of Naples (René I the Good, French Le bon roi René) (January 16, 1409July 10, 1480), was Duke of Anjou, Count of Provence (14341480), Count of Piedmont, Duke of Bar (14301480), Duke of Lorraine (14311453), King of Naples (14381442; titular 14421480) and titular King of Jerusalem and Sicily.



King René's castle in Tarascon
King René's castle in Tarascon

He was born in the castle of Angers, and was the second son of Louis II of Anjou, king of Sicily, and of Yolande of Aragon. He was the brother of Marie d'Anjou, who married the future Charles VII of France and became Queen of France.

Louis II died in 1417, and his sons, together with their brother-in-law, afterwards Charles VII of France, were brought up under the guardianship of their mother. The elder, Louis III, succeeded to the crown of Sicily and to the duchy of Anjou, René being known as the count of Guise. By his marriage treaty (1419) with Isabel, elder daughter of Charles I, Duke of Lorraine, he became heir to the duchy of Bar, which was claimed as the inheritance of his mother Yolande, and, in right of his wife, heir to the duchy of Lorraine. René, then only ten, was to be brought up in Lorraine under the guardianship of Charles II and Louis, cardinal of Bar, both of whom were attached to the Burgundian party, but he retained the right to bear the arms of Anjou.

He was far from sympathizing with the Burgundians, and, joining the French army at Reims in 1429, was present at the coronation of Charles VII. When Louis of Bar died in 1430 René came into sole possession of his duchy, and in the next year, on his father-in-law's death, he succeeded to the duchy of Lorraine. But the inheritance was claimed by the heir-male, Antoine de Vaudemont, who with Burgundian help defeated René at Bulgneville in July 1431. The Duchess Isabel effected a truce with Antoine de Vaudemont, but the duke remained a prisoner of the Burgundians until April 1432, when he recovered his liberty on parole on yielding up as hostages his two sons, Jean and Louis of Anjou.

His title as duke of Lorraine was confirmed by his suzerain, the Emperor Sigismund, at Basel in 1434. This proceeding roused the anger of the Burgundian duke, Philip the Good, who required him early in the next year to return to his prison, from which he was released two years later on payment of a heavy ransom. He had succeeded to the kingdom of Naples through the deaths of his brother Louis III and of Joan II, queen of Naples, the last heir of the earlier dynasty. Louis had been adopted by her in 1431, and she now left her inheritance to René.

The marriage of Marie de Bourbon, niece of Philip of Burgundy, with John, duke of Calabria, René's eldest son, cemented peace between the two princes. After appointing a regency in Bar and Lorraine, he visited his provinces of Anjou and Provence, and in 1438 set sail for Naples, which had been held for him by the Duchess Isabel.

René's captivity, and the poverty of the Angevin resources due to his ransom, enabled Alfonso V of Aragon, who had been first adopted and then repudiated by Joan II, to make some headway in the kingdom of Naples, especially as he was already in possession of the island of Sicily. In 1441 Alfonso laid siege to Naples, which he sacked after a six-month siege. René returned to France in the same year, and though he retained the title of king of Naples his effective rule was never recovered. Later efforts to recover his rights in Italy failed. His mother Yolande, who had governed Anjou in his absence, died in 1442. René took part in the negotiations with the English at Tours in 1444, and peace was consolidated by the marriage of his younger daughter, Margaret, with Henry VI of England at Nancy.

René now made over the government of Lorraine to John, Duke of Calabria, who was, however, only formally installed as Duke of Lorraine on the death of Queen Isabel in 1453. René had the confidence of Charles VII, and is said to have initiated the reduction of the men-at-arms set on foot by the king, with whose military operations against the English he was closely associated. He entered Rouen with him in November 1449, and was also with him at Formigny and Caen.

After his second marriage with Jeanne de Laval, daughter of Guy XIV, Count of Laval, and Isabel of Brittany, René took a less active part in public affairs, and devoted himself more to artistic and literary pursuits. The fortunes of his house declined in his old age. The Duke of Calabria, after repeated misfortunes in Italy, was offered the crown of Aragon in 1467, but died, apparently by poison, at Barcelona on December 16, 1470; the Duke's eldest son Nicholas perished in 1473, also under suspicion of poisoning; René's daughter Margaret was a refugee from England, her son Prince Edward was murdered in 1471, and she herself became a prisoner, to be ransomed by Louis XI in 1476. His only surviving male descendant was then René II, Duke of Lorraine, son of his daughter Yolande, Countess of Vaudemont, who was gained over to the party of Louis XI, who suspected the king of Sicily of complicity with his enemies, the Duke of Brittany and the Constable Saint-Pol.

René retired to Provence, and in 1474 made a will by which he left Bar to his grandson René II, Duke of Lorraine; Anjou and Provence to his nephew Charles, count of Le Maine. Louis seized Anjou and Bar, and two years later sought to compel René to exchange the two duchies for a pension. The offer was rejected, but further negotiations assured the lapse to the crown of the duchy of Anjou, and the annexation of Provence was only postponed until the death of the Count of Le Maine. René died on July 10, 1480 in Aix-en-Provence. He was buried in the cathedral of Angers.

His charities having earned for him the title of "the good." He founded an order of chivalry, the Ordre du Croissant, which was anterior to the royal foundation of St Michael, but did not survive René.

René and the arts

The King of Sicily's fame as an amateur painter has led to the attribution to him of many old paintings in Anjou and Provence, in many cases simply because they bear his arms. These works are generally in the Flemish style, and were probably executed under his patronage and direction, so that he may be said to have formed a school of the fine arts in sculpture, painting, gold work and tapestry.

Two of the most famous works formerly attributed to René are the triptych, the "Burning Bush," in the cathedral of Aix, showing portraits of René and his second wife, Jeanne de Laval, and an illuminated Book of Hours in the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris. The "Burning Bush" was in fact the work of Nicolas Froment, a painter of Avignon. Among the men of letters attached to his court was Antoine de la Sale, whom he made tutor to his son, the Duke of Calabria. He encouraged the performance of mystery plays; on the performance of a mystery of the Passion at Saumur in 1462 he remitted four years of taxes to the town, and the representations of the Passion at Angers were carried out under his auspices.

He exchanged verses with his kinsman, the poet Charles of Orleans. The best of his poems is the idyl of Regnault and Jeanneton, representing his own courtship of Jeanne de Laval. Le Livre des tournois, a book of ceremonial, and the allegorical romance, "Conquests qu'un chevalier nomme le Cuer d'amour espris feist d'une dame appelee Doulce Mercy", with other works ascribed to him, were perhaps dictated to his secretaries, or at least compiled under his direction.

Marriages and issue

René married:

  1. Isabelle de Lorraine (1410February 28, 1453) in 1420
  2. Jeanne de Laval, on September 10, 1454, at the Abbey of St. Nicholas in Angers

Children (from Isabelle):


He appears as "Reignier" in the history play of William Shakespeare, Henry VI, part 1.

Agnès Sorel, the future mistress of Charles VII was holding a position in René's household when Charles met her.

He spent 8 years in Naples, and later spent his time between his castles in Angers, Tarascon and Aix-en-Provence.

It is claimed that Rene was the 19th grand master of the Priory of Sion; quite possible a fictional secret society.

See also

Preceded by:
Charles I
Duke of Lorraine
with Isabella
Succeeded by:
John II
Preceded by:
Louis III
Duke of Anjou
Succeeded by:
Charles IV
Preceded by:
Joan II
King of Naples
1435–1442 (1480)
Succeeded by:
Alfonso I

Template:End box

External links and references

fr:René Ier de Naples


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