Young son of Louis II of Anjou and Yolande of Aragon, he was born in Angers castle. He becomes Duke of Bar and in 1420, marries Isabelle of Lorraine. At the death of his older brother, in 1434, he inherits the titles of Duke of Anjou, King of Naples, Sicily and Jerusalem.
Sharing his time between Provence and Anjou, he appears to be a great aristocrat, a lover of tournaments, a patron of arts, a writer and a poet, opens to the world and to sciences.
Having become the widower of Isabelle of Lorraine in 1453, he marries Jeanne of Laval the following year. In 1471, while his relations with his nephew Louis XI, King of France, deteriorate, King René definitely leaves Anjou for Provence where he dies in 1480, at the age of 71.
King René was born in Angers in 1409 and died in Aix en Provence in 1480.
He was first Lord, then Count of Guise (1417-1425), Duke of Bar (1430-1480), Duke of Lorraine (1431-1453), Duke of Anjou (1434-1480). He was also Count of Provence (1434-1480), King of Naples (1435-1445) and Titular King of Jerusalem (1435-1480).
The nickname “Good King René”, bestowed upon him very early on by the people, survived the centuries. “He was forgiven his weaknesses, his whims; only his kindness and simplicity were remembered. The historians were not wrong. René was genuinely a sensitive prince, an idealist. In a century when politicians were numerous and hogged centre stage with their plotting and their ambitions, he desired peace and preferred the arts.
Excerpt from the book “The Good King René” by Jacques Levron.
The King Knight
From a very early age, King René was trained in weaponry. He won his spurs at the age of 9. This instruction stood him in good stead when he first became Duke of Bar and Lorraine. His other titles, equally as coveted, forced him into battle on numerous occasions.King René also had a passion for games and tournaments. He held various competitions in different towns. These were prestigious feasts, which lasted several weeks.
On the subject of this passion, he wrote “The Book of Tournaments”, which described the way in which a tournament should be organized, and founded an order of chivalry called the Order of the Crescent.
An Educated King
King René could speak several languages: Latin, Italian, Greek, Hebrew, Catalan and French. As a young boy, he was instructed in every subject: calculus, theology, jurisprudence of customs, the holy scriptures… At the end of his life, he read a great deal: works on medicine, nature, the legend of the saints…
A builder King
The many projects undertaken by King René, the plans to rebuild the civil and religious monuments destroyed throughout the Hundred Years War, gave impetus to the exploitation of slate quarries in Trélazé and tuffeau quarries in the Saumurois.
It is to him that we owe the construction or restoration of around thirty buildings in Anjou and Provence.
Here are just a few examples in Anjou:
- Angers: La Baumette convent, Chanzé manor, Cordeliers chapel, Carmes convent… At the château d’Angers, he built the gallery in the Royal Lodge. In St. Maurice cathedral, he erected the chapel of the Order of the Crescent in the south arm of the transept.
- Saumur: the Queen’s house was built for his mother; the church of Notre Dame de Nantilly, which housed the tomb of his nurse, Tiphaine; a beautiful manor house in Launay, near Saumur, a manor house in La Ménitré, Reculée manor, the Logis d’Epluchard also-known as “Haute Folie” manor house.
- Baugé: the château and the chapel of Notre Dame du Petit Mont.
A nature loving King
All the manor houses and chateaux redeveloped by King René were embellished by beautiful gardens. He introduced the Provencal carnation into Anjou, along with the micocoulier (European nettle tree), the Rose de Provins (rosa gallica officinalis), apricot tree and the Muscat grape.
King René, just like any other prince in the late Middle Ages, was fascinated by the ferocious beasts and wild animals brought back from the crusades. He owned menageries (camels, elephants, lions, gazelles, ostriches, etc…) and had aviaries on several of his estates.
A King patron and lover of the arts
Thwarted in his political and military ambitions, King René found a kind of moral compensation for his failures by becoming a seasoned patron of the arts. A great art lover, he was himself a poet, an artist and an illuminator.
In his youth, he produced paintings on glass and painted in oils on wood. He took lessons from the great Flemish artist, Van Eyck. He wrote the work “Le Cœur d’Amour épris”, and a poem dedicated to Jeanne de Laval entitled “Regnault et Jehanneton”…