Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly

Jump to navigation Jump to search
Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly
Duchess of Étampes
Portrait of Anne attributed to Corneille de Lyon, c. 1535–40
Died1580 (aged 71–72)
Noble familyPisseleu d'Heilly (by birth)
Brosse (by marriage)
Spouse(s)Jean IV de Brosse
FatherGuillaume de Pisseleu, seigneur d'Heilly
MotherCharlotte d'Ailly

Anna Jeanne de Pisseleu d'Heilly, Duchess of Étampes (1508 – 1580), was chief mistress of Francis I of France (r1515–1547). She became Francis' mistress following his return from captivity in 1526. Anne enriched her family and friends through her courtly influence and after Francis' death, she was banished from court and imprisoned in her husband's castle where she died in obscurity in 1580.

King's mistress[edit]

Anne was a daughter of Guillaume de Pisseleu, seigneur d'Heilly, a nobleman of Picardy,[1] who, with the rise of his daughter at court, was made seigneur of Meudon, Master of waters and forests of Île de France, of Champagne and of Brie. She came to court before 1522 and was one of the maids-of-honour of Louise of Savoy, Duchess of Angoulême, the mother of Francis I.[2] Francis made Anne his mistress, probably upon his return from his captivity at Madrid (1526), and soon gave up his long-term mistress, Françoise de Foix, for her.[3]

Anne was described as being sprightly, pretty, witty and cultured, "the most beautiful among the learned and the most learned among the beautiful".[4] The liaison received some official recognition, when Francis started wearing Anne's colors.[5] Anne was appointed lady-in-waiting to the new queen, Eleanor of Austria, and later became governess to Francis' two daughters.[5] In 1534, Francis gave her in marriage to Jean IV de Brosse, whom he created Duke of Étampes.[6]

Sketch of Anne by François Clouet.

Court influence[edit]

The influence of the Duchess of Étampes, especially in the last years of Francis' reign, was considerable.[6] She counciled Francis on toleration for "Lutherans", and anti-Habsburg action in Europe despite the advice of Admiral Annebault.[7] Unbeknownst to Francis, she had affairs with Admiral Philippe de Chabot, Constable de Montmorency, count of Brissac, and the count of Longueval.[8] She used her influence to elevate and enrich her family;[9] her brother, Adrien sieur d'Heilly, was made captain of the Picard legion,[9] her uncle, Antoine Sanguin (d. 1559), being made Bishop of Orléans in 1533 and a cardinal in 1539;[9] her three other brothers were made bishops[9] and two sisters were abbesses, the other sisters making great marriages.

She was won over by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (r1519–1556), and during the war during 1554, with the help of the count of Longueval, persuaded the garrison of Saint-Dizier into surrendering to the Emperor.[8] Despite knowing of her treasonous actions, Francis continued to favor her.[8]

Following Francis's death, Henry II of France (r1547–1559), had the Duchess dismissed from the court and confiscated her possessions.[10] Her husband also seeking vengeance, accused her of theft and disgracing his family. She was confined in the castle of La Hardoinaye and died in obscurity in 1580.[10]


  1. ^ Potter 1993, p. 135.
  2. ^ Knecht 1994, p. 249.
  3. ^ Wellman 2013, p. 143-144.
  4. ^ Wellman 2013, p. 170,172.
  5. ^ a b Wellman 2013, p. 172.
  6. ^ a b Knecht 1994, p. 290.
  7. ^ Crawford 2010, p. 201.
  8. ^ a b c Knecht 1994, p. 557.
  9. ^ a b c d Potter 1993, p. 136.
  10. ^ a b Wellman 2013, p. 177.


  • Crawford, Katherine (2010). The Sexual Culture of the French Renaissance. Cambridge University Press.
  • Knecht, R.J. (1994). Renaissance Warrior and Patron: The Reign of Francis I. Cambridge University Press.
  • Potter, David (1993). War and Government in the French Provinces. Cambridge University Press.
  • Wellman, Kathleen (2013). Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France. Yale University Press.

External links[edit]