Saint André Cathedral in Bordeaux

Bordeaux’s city tourist office is quick to admit that the Cathédrale Saint André cannot compete with the ones in northern France like Amiens, Chartres or Reims, but they say its “heterogeneous appearance has something unexpected and endearing, in particular its separate bell tower.”

The free-standing bell tower

This cathedral is where Anne of Austria (who despite her name was more Spanish than anything else; she was born in Valladolid and baptized as Ana María Mauricia de Austria y Austria) was married to the French King Louis XIII in 1615.

They were both fourteen years old at the time, and their wedding night seems to have been a humiliating experience for both of them, especially Louis, since his mother Marie de’ Medici insisted the marriage had to be consummated immediately. Louis was still very much a child at age fourteen (as were most children in the seventeenth century), and there was no way he could have physically consummated a marriage, no matter how much his mother nagged him about it.

Georges Bordonove’s book on Louis XIII

In his book on Louis XIII, the French historian Georges Bordonove points out that neither Louis nor Anne had the slightest experience in this sort of thing. “They were two strangers who had been brusquely thrown into the same bed, for reasons of state. And one can imagine that at the same age and in the same circumstances, Henri IV wouldn’t have done any better. At age fourteen, the ‘Vert-Galant’ was still a virgin. Why should his son have been any different?”

Protocol demanded that the Consummation of a Royal Marriage had to be confirmed by two witnesses. Two nurses were assigned to remain in the room with the young couple, and the next morning they dutifully affirmed that the young king had made love twice to his young bride and then taken a nap before requesting his boots and returning to his own quarters.

Cathédrale Saint André

His failure on his wedding night put an end to any attraction Louis XIII might have felt towards women in general or Anne in particular. It took them 22 years before they finally produced an heir, the future Louis XIV, and inevitably there were rumors that Louis XIII was not really the father. He was known to be homosexual and to hate his wife Anne, who for her part was (allegedly) on friendly terms with the prime minister Cardinal Richelieu.

Entrance to the cathedral Saint André

A few years ago there was a brief flurry of articles in the French press claiming that modern DNA analysis had ‘proved’ Louis XIII was the father after all, even though the ‘proof’ later turned out to be rather tenuous.

Inside the cathedral Saint André

Location, aerial view and photos of Cathédrale Saint André on monumentum.fr.

My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2019.

See more posts on Bordeaux, France.

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