Reignier is king of Naples, and father of Margaret. As a character he is much like the other French, a comic noble always ultimately failing to achieve the victories they fight for. He does negotiate well with Suffolk for his daughter’s marriage to Henry VI.
Shakespeare uses an alternate spelling of René, Reignier, which I have preserved in the text of the play.
René of Anjou (January 16, 1409 – July 10, 1480), also known as René I of Naples and Good King René (French Le bon roi René), was Duke of Anjou, Count of Provence (1434–1480), Count of Piedmont, Duke of Bar (1430–1480), Duke of Lorraine (1431–1453), King of Naples (1438–1442; titular 1442–1480), titular King of Jerusalem (1438–1480) and Aragon (1466–1480) (including Sicily, Majorca, Corsica). He was father to Margaret of Anjou, Queen Consort to King Henry VI of England, a key figure in the Wars of the Roses.
René was born in the castle of Angers on January 9th 1409 and was the second son of Louis II of Anjou, King of Sicily (i.e. King of Naples), and of Yolande of Aragon. He was the brother of Marie d'Anjou, who married the future Charles VII of France and became Queen of France.
René d'Anjou was a storybook prince and a legend in his own lifetime. He was a dreamer and a romantic who through fame and misfortune managed to maintain an aura of romantic splendor. In addition to being a royal duke and a titular king (known as Good King René), he was an artist and a poet. René was intelligent, attractive, sensitive, tolerant, and fatalistic. He saw himself as a chivalric knight. He enjoyed jousting and even serious fighting. He planned many tournaments and wrote a famous treatise on the form and devising of a tournament. Throughout his life he was surrounded by outstanding women: his formidable mother Yolande of Aragon, his two wives Isabelle of Lorraine and Jeanne de Laval, and his daughter Marguerite, queen of England.
Louis II died in 1417, and his sons, together with their brother-in-law, afterwards Charles VII of France, were brought up under the guardianship of their mother. The elder, Louis III, succeeded to the crown of Sicily and to the duchy of Anjou, René being known as the Count of Guise. By his marriage treaty (1419) with Isabel, elder daughter of Charles II, Duke of Lorraine, he became heir to the Duchy of Bar, which was claimed as the inheritance of his mother Yolande, and, in right of his wife, heir to the Duchy of Lorraine. René, then only ten, was to be brought up in Lorraine under the guardianship of Charles II and Louis, cardinal of Bar, both of whom were attached to the Burgundian party, but he retained the right to bear the arms of Anjou.
He was far from sympathizing with the Burgundians. René was at the court of Lorraine in Nancy in 1428 when Jeanne d'Arc visited to ask duke Charles for assistance. She also requested that the dukes son (René) escort her to the court of the dauphin at Chinon. The duke offered Jeanne four francs and a black horse, which she gratefully accepted. René did not accompany her. The following year, after Jeanne had relieved the siege of Orléans and escorted the dauphin to Reims, René was present for the coronation of his brother-in-law as Charles VII on July 17, 1429. After the ceremony René was knighted by the count of Clermont. René was always in need of a quest, so in true chivalric tradition, he began his adventures in the retinue of the maid of Orléans. In August of 1429 he was campaigning against the English with Charles VII and Jeanne; on August 15 he led the main battle at Senlis; in September he was one of Jeannes captains at the siege of Paris. It was René, with the count of Clermont, who was sent by Charles VII to inform Jeanne that the siege of Paris was being withdrawn.
When Louis of Bar died in 1430 René came into sole possession of his duchy, and in the next year, on his father-in-law's death, he succeeded to the duchy of Lorraine. But the inheritance was claimed by the heir-male, Antoine de Vaudemont, who with Burgundian help defeated René at Bulgneville in July 1431. The Duchess Isabel effected a truce with Antoine de Vaudemont, but the duke remained a prisoner of the Burgundians until April 1432, when he recovered his liberty on parole on yielding up as hostages his two sons, Jean and Louis of Anjou.
His title as duke of Lorraine was confirmed by his suzerain, the Emperor Sigismund, at Basel in 1434. This proceeding roused the anger of the Burgundian duke, Philip the Good, who required him early in the next year to return to his prison, from which he was released two years later on payment of a heavy ransom. He had succeeded to the throne of the Kingdom of Naples through the deaths of his brother Louis III and of Joan II, queen of Naples, the last heir of the earlier dynasty. Louis had been adopted by her in 1431, and she now left her inheritance to René.
The marriage of Marie de Bourbon, niece of Philip of Burgundy, with John, duke of Calabria, René's eldest son, cemented peace between the two princes. After appointing a regency in Bar and Lorraine, he visited his provinces of Anjou and Provence, and in 1438 set sail for Naples, which had been held for him by the Duchess Isabel.
René's captivity, and the poverty of the Angevin resources due to his ransom, enabled Alfonso V of Aragon, who had been first adopted and then repudiated by Joan II, to make some headway in the kingdom of Naples, especially as he was already in possession of the island of Sicily. In 1441 Alfonso laid siege to Naples, which he sacked after a six-month siege. René returned to France in the same year, and though he retained the title of king of Naples his effective rule was never recovered. Later efforts to recover his rights in Italy failed. His mother Yolande, who had governed Anjou in his absence, died in 1442. René took part in the negotiations with the English at Tours in 1444, and peace was consolidated by the marriage of his younger daughter, Margaret, with Henry VI of England at Nancy.
René now made over the government of Lorraine to John, Duke of Calabria, who was, however, only formally installed as Duke of Lorraine on the death of Queen Isabel in 1453. René had the confidence of Charles VII, and is said to have initiated the reduction of the men-at-arms set on foot by the king, with whose military operations against the English he was closely associated. He entered Rouen with him in November 1449, and was also with him at Formigny and Caen.
After his second marriage with Jeanne de Laval, daughter of Guy XIV, Count of Laval, and Isabel of Brittany, René took a less active part in public affairs, and devoted himself more to artistic and literary pursuits. The fortunes of his house declined in his old age:
• In 1466, the rebellious Catalonians offered the crown of Aragon to René, and the Duke of Calabria, unsuccessful in Italy, was sent to take up the conquest of that kingdom. However, he died, apparently by poison, at Barcelona on December 16, 1470
• The Duke of Calabria's eldest son Nicholas perished in 1473, also under suspicion of poisoning.
• In 1471, René's daughter Margaret was finally defeated in the War of the Roses. Her husband and her son were killed and she herself became a prisoner and had to be ransomed by Louis XI of France in 1476.
René II, Duke of Lorraine, Rene's grandson and only surviving male descendant, was gained over to the party of Louis XI, who suspected the king of Sicily of complicity with his enemies, the Duke of Brittany and the Constable Saint-Pol.
René retired to Provence, and in 1474 made a will by which he left Bar to his grandson René II, Duke of Lorraine; Anjou and Provence to his nephew Charles, count of Le Maine. King Louis XI seized Anjou and Bar, and two years later sought to compel René to exchange the two duchies for a pension. The offer was rejected, but further negotiations assured the lapse to the crown of the duchy of Anjou, and the annexation of Provence was only postponed until the death of the Count of Le Maine. René died on July 10, 1480 in Aix-en-Provence. He was buried in the cathedral of Angers.
His charities having earned him the title of "the good." He founded an order of chivalry, the Ordre du Croissant, which preceded the royal foundation of St Michael, but did not survive René.
René and the arts
The King of Sicily's fame as an amateur painter formerly led to the optimistic attribution to him of many paintings in Anjou and Provence, in many cases simply because they bore his arms. These works are generally in the Early Netherlandish style, and were probably executed under his patronage and direction, so that he may be said to have formed a school of the fine arts in sculpture, painting, goldsmith's work and tapestry. He employed Barthélemy d'Eyck as both painter and varlet de chambre for most of his career.
Two of the most famous works formerly attributed to René are the triptych of the Burning Bush of Nicolas Froment of Avignon, in the cathedral of Aix, showing portraits of René and his second wife, Jeanne de Laval, and an illuminated Book of Hours in the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris. Among the men of letters attached to his court was Antoine de la Sale, whom he made tutor to his son, the Duke of Calabria. He encouraged the performance of mystery plays; on the performance of a mystery of the Passion at Saumur in 1462 he remitted four years of taxes to the town, and the representations of the Passion at Angers were carried out under his auspices.
He exchanged verses with his kinsman, the poet Charles of Orleans. The best of his poems is the idyl of Regnault and Jeanneton, representing his own courtship of Jeanne de Laval. Le Livre des tournois, a book of ceremonial, and the allegorical romance, "Conquests qu'un chevalier nommé le Cuer d'amour espris feist d'une dame appelée Doulce Mercy", with other works ascribed to him, were perhaps dictated to his secretaries, or at least compiled under his direction.
Marriages and issue
1. Isabelle de Lorraine (1410–February 28, 1453) in 1420
2. Jeanne de Laval, on September 10, 1454, at the Abbey of St. Nicholas in Angers
His legitimate children by Isabelle were:
1. John II, Duke of Lorraine (1425–1470)
2. René (b. 1426)
3. Louis of Anjou (1427, Nancy – 1443), Marquis of Pont-à-Mousson
4. Nicolas (b. 1428, Nancy), d. young
5. Yolande de Bar (November 2, 1428 – March 23, 1483), married 1445, Nancy, Frederick, Count of Vaudémont
6. Margaret (March 23, 1430 – August 25, 1482), married Henry VI of England.
7. Charles (1431–1432), Count of Guise
8. Isabelle, d. young
9. Louise (b. 1436), d. young
10. Anne (b. 1437), d. young
He also had several illegitimate children:
1. John, Bastard of Anjou (d. 1536), Marquis of Pont-à-Mousson, married 1500 Marguerite de Glandeves-Faucon
2. Jeanne Blanche (d. 1470), Lady of Mirebeau, married in Paris 1467 Bertrand de Beauvau (d. 1474)
3. Madeleine (d. aft. 1515), Countesss of Montferrand (+after 1515), married in Tours 1496 Louis Jean, seigneur de Bellenave