Cardinal Tournon

Anne de Montmorency

Anne de Montmorency, duc de Montmorency, KG (March 15, 1493November 12, 1567), was a French soldier, statesman and diplomat. He became Marshal of France and Constable of France.

Early life

Montmorency was born at Chantilly to the ancient Montmorency family. His father had a senior status in the household of the king Louis XII. As a young boy he was brought up with the future King Francis I and they became close. In 1512 de Montmorency fought at the Battle of Ravenna, and in 1514 his sister Louise de Montmorency married Gaspard I de Coligny, and their children included the admiral of France.

Reign of Francis I

When the young king acceded to the throne in January 1515, de Montmorency became an influential member of his court. When the king reasserted the French claim to Milan the same year, De Montmorency followed his king into Italy and distinguished himself at Marignano.

De Montmorency was named captain of the Bastille in 1516 and became governor of Novara. In 1518 he was one of the hostages in England for Francis' debt to Henry VIII for the city of Tournai. He returned to France to attend a short and unsuccessful peace conference between the French and the Holy Roman Empire in May 1519. In 1520 he was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and afterwards had charge of diplomatic negotiations in England when relations between the two once again countries began to sour.

In August 1521, de Montmorency helped to command the defence of Mézières against the Imperial German army. In the same year he commanded Swiss troops in Italy. His troops were defeated in the Battle of La Bicocca on April 27 1522 but he was made Marshal of France in recognition of his courage.

De Montmorency spent the next three years defending northern France against the English invasion of 1523. By that time England had allied with the Holy Roman Empire. In 1524 he again joined Francis I in a campaign to retake Milan. On February 24 1525 the allied army of Italians, Spanish and Germans defeated the French at the Pavia and captured both de Montmorency and his king. Both of them were sent to Spain but de Montmorency was released soon afterwards. He was one of the negotiators of the Treaty of Madrid in 1526 and attended his king when he was exchanged for his two eldest sons. In 1530 he returned the king's sons into France.

On March 23 1526 de Montmorency was named Grand Master of France charged with supervision of the royal household and the king's private service. In 1527 he married Madeleine, the daughter of René of Savoy. He supported the king's efforts to form an alliance against Charles V. He worked with Cardinal Wolsey to form an alliance between Francis I and Henry VIII in 1527. This led to a new war against the Holy Roman empire that ended with the Peace of Cambrai.

In 1536 Francis I invaded the Savoy, against the advice of de Montmorency, staking claim to the lands of the duchy but also to pressure Charles V to give Milan back to him. Charles V invaded Provence from Northern Italy in retaliation. Francis appointed De Montmorency, who had now retired from the court to be a governor of Languedoc, the lieutenant general in the southeast of France and they led the defence of Provence using scorched earth tactics. De Montmorency evacuated Aix-en-Provence and concentrated his forces near Avignon. By the early autumn Charles V had retreated his army to Genova and lifted the siege of Marseille.

De Montmorency joined the king in Picardy and at the end of the Netherlands campaign marched to the relief of Turin. He led the French troops in 1537 when they attacked Artois in the Netherlands and captured many towns before the ten-year truce. On February 10 1538 the king made him Constable of France.

Afterwards de Montmorency begun to support peace with the Holy Roman Emperor, against the prevailing attitude of the court. He renewed negotiations with the Holy Roman Empire and encouraged the Pope Paul II to create a settlement. He managed to get the two kings to meet at Aigues-Mortes in July 1538. According to the deal he had brokered, Francis expected that Charles would give Milan to one of Francis' sons as a sign of alliance, but Charles gave the title to his son Philip.

The result was a diplomatic failure and de Montmorency fell out of royal favor. Francis turned to his rivals Cardinal Tournon, Claude d'Annebault and his mistress Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly, the Duchess of Etampes. De Montmorency retired from court in June 1541. De Montmorency lost his post as a governor of Languedoc and was forbidden to exercise his other offices. He continued to maintain correspondence with the prince Henry.

Henry II

De Montmorency did not return to public life until the accession of Henry II in March 1547. The new king gave him back all his former offices and dismissed the Duchess of Etampes and her followers. In 1548 de Montmorency crushed the insurrections in the southwest, particularly at Bordeaux.

On 1549-1550 de Montmorency led the war in the Boulonnais, negotiating the treaty for the surrender of Boulogne on March 24 1550. As a reward the king created him a duke and peer of France and in 1551 his barony was expanded into a duchy. Soon afterwards his armies fought in the northeast when the French army seized Metz, Toul and Verdun.

Francis II

De Montmorency's attempt to relieve St Quentin in August 10 1557 led to his defeat and capture. He was not released until October 1558, at the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis.

By this time the Guises had supplanted him and the 15-year-old king Francis II treated him with indifference. De Montmorency had to give up his Great Master status to the Duke of Guise. However, his son was appointed marshal by way of indemnity. He himself retired to his estates.

French Wars of Religion

On the accession of Charles IX in 1560 de Montmorency again assumed his duties in the court. However, when the Protestant-minded Bourbons begun to assert influence over the young king, Catholic de Montmorency left the court again. In April, 1561 he allied with Francis, Duke of Guise, his former enemy, and Jacques d'Albon, Marshal Saint-Andre to form the Triumvirate, an association for the defense of Catholicism.

De Montmorency played an important part in the war of 1562. He was captured early in the Battle of Dreux when the cavalry under him was routed. De Montmorency's soldiers eventually won the battle, but it was one of the bloodiest of the 16th century. He helped to negotiate the Treaty of Amboise on March 19, 1563.

In 1567 the Huguenots tried to pressure for a better settlement, threatening the King. In November 10 1567 de Montmorency led the royal army to victory in the Battle of Saint-Denis, but was himself fatally wounded. He died in Paris two days later.


His marriage produced twelve children:

  • François (1530-1579), succeeded his father as duke of Montmorency.
  • Henri (1534-1614), succeeded his elder brother as duke of Montmorency.
  • Charles
  • Gabriel
  • Guillaume (died 1593)
  • Eléonore (died 1557)
  • Jeanne (1528-1596), married Louis III de La Trémoille.
  • Catherine
  • Marie
  • Anne
  • Louise
  • Madeleine

Family tree


  • Glenn Richardson - Anne de Montmorency: Great Master, Great Survivor (History Today September 2002)

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