St. Jeanne de Valois
Queen and Foundress of the Order of the Annonciades
(1464 – 1505)
Queen and foundress of the Order of the Annonciades, b. 1464; d. at Bourges, 4 Feb., 1505. Daughter of one king and wife of another, there are perhaps few saints in the calendar who suffered greater or more bitter humiliations than did Madame Jéhanne de France, the heroic woman usually known in English as St. Jane of Valois. A daughter of Louis XI by his second wife, Charlotte of Savoy, she was hated from birth by her father, partly because of her sex and partly on account of her being sickly and deformed. Sent away to be brought up by guardians in a lonely country château, and deprived not only of every advantage due to her rank, but even of common comforts and almost of necessities, it was the intense solitude and abjectness of her life that first made Jeanne turn to God for consolation, and that gave her very early a tender and practical devotion to the Blessed Virgin. She is said to have had a supernatural promise that some day she would be allowed to found a religious family in honour of Our Lady. The mysteries of the Annunciation and Incarnation, as set forth in the Angelus, were her great delight.
For political purposes of his own, Louis XI compelled Jeanne to marry Louis, Duke of Orléans, his second cousin, and heir presumptive to the throne. After her marriage, the princess suffered even more than before, for the duke hated the wife imposed upon him, and even publicly insulted her in every possible way. She, imagining virtues in her husband that did not exist, loved him tenderly, and when he got into disgrace and was imprisoned exerted herself to mitigate his sufferings and to get him freed. No sooner, however, was the duke, on the death of Charles VIII, raised to the throne of France as Louis XII, than he got his marriage with Jeanne annulled at Rome, on the ground that it was invalid, from lack of consent, and from the fact that it had never been consummated (see ALEXANDER VI); and the saint’s humiliations reached their climax when she found herself, in the face of all France, an unjustly repudiated wife and queen. Continue reading