Anne Gonzaga

Anna Gonzaga (Anna Marie; 1616 – 6 July 1684) was an Italian French noblewoman and salonist. The youngest daughter of Charles Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua and Montferrat, and Catherine de Mayenne (herself daughter of Charles, Duke of Mayenne), Anna was "Princess Palatine" as the wife of Edward of the Palatinate, a grandson of King James I of England and uncle to King George I of Great Britain. She bore Edward three children, all daughters. Had Anna not converted Edward to Catholicism, the English throne might have passed to their descendants.

Anna Gonzaga
Countess Palatine of Simmern
Paris, France
Died6 July 1684 (aged 6768)
Paris, France
SpouseEdward of the Palatinate
Louise Marie, Princess of Salm
Anne Henriette, Princess of Condé
Bénédicte, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Full name
French: Anna Marie (de) Gonzague
Italian: Anna Maria (di) Gonzaga
FatherCharles Gonzaga
MotherCatherine of Lorraine
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Family and early life

Anna Marie de Gonzague was born in Paris into a cadet French branch of the ducal House of Gonzaga, which ruled Mantua in northern Italy. The Nevers branch later came to rule Mantua again after the War of the Mantuan Succession, triggered in part by her Parisian-born father's claim to the duchies of Mantua and Montferrat. With the promised support of the French crown, which naturally preferred a French peer to rule Mantua, Charles arrived there in January 1628 and proclaimed himself its sovereign.

Although her name and patriline was Mantuan (Italian), Anna de Gonzague (sometimes "Anna Gonzague de Clèves-Nevers", as the granddaughter of Henriette of Cleves, Duchess of Nevers) was born and lived mainly in France. She probably remained in France even after her father's reclamation of the ancestral city of Mantua, considering the town was in ruin by 1630 (marred by war, plague and a brutal sacking by the Imperial army).

Anna was the youngest of the Duke and Duchess of Mantua's six children. She had three brothers, including Charles II Gonzaga, and two sisters, the elder of whom became Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga of Poland. Her French mother, Catherine de Mayenne (who belonged to a junior branch of the royal House of Lorraine), died in 1618, when Anna was only about two years old. Originally her family planned for her to become a nun, but her father's death in 1637 relieved her of this obligation and thereafter Anna carried out an adventurous life.

Duke of Guise

Anna fell passionately in love with her maternal second cousin Henry II, Duke of Guise; later, she claimed to have contracted a secret marriage with him in 1639, which he denied. In 1640, she disguised herself as a man to join him in Sedan, but he gave her up the following year, in 1641. She brought a lawsuit against him, demanding recognition as his wife.

Marriage and children

On 24 April 1645 in Paris, Anna was married, without much enthusiasm, to Edward, Count Palatine of Simmern, a nineteen-year-old, landless and penniless German nobleman who was nine years her junior. She became Countess Palatine of Simmern, and was known in German as Pfalzgräfin Anne and in English as Anna, Princess Palatine.

With Edward, she had three daughters:

According to the Italian historian Signor G. B. Intra, Anna "held one of the most brilliant salons during the early years of the reign of Louis XIV."[1]

Her second daughter's marriage to Henri Jules de Bourbon, duc d'Enghien, came to restore her position; Henri Jules, son of le Grand Condé, was a cousin of Louis XIV and one of the highest-ranking males at court. Her sister, the Polish queen Marie Louise Gonzaga (Polish: Ludwika Maria), had designated Anne Henriette as her heir and was committed to supporting the candidature of the Duke of Enghien for the Polish throne.

Princess Anna managed to marry her youngest daughter, Bénédicte (sometimes Benedicta or Benedictine), to the Duke of Brunswick and Hanover. The Princess Palatine was a confidante of Philippe d'Orléans, whose second marriage (to her husband's nineteen-year-old niece Liselotte, Princess Palatine) she helped orchestrate.[2]

Later life and religion

Anna's mother was a member of the "ultra-Catholic" Guise family, and Anna appears to have been deeply devoted to the religion, especially in her later years. Besides being illegitimately descended from a pope,[3] she was the granddaughter of Charles de Guise, head of the Catholic League of France, which his assassinated brother had formed. Anna managed to convert her Calvinist husband to Catholicism despite his mother, Elizabeth Stuart's threats to disown any of her children who became Catholic. (Elizabeth forgave her son surprisingly quickly.)

In 1663, Edward died in Paris aged 37. 40 years after his death, Edward's younger sister Sophia of the Palatinate, commonly referred to as Sophia of Hanover after her marriage to the Protestant Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover, was declared the heiress presumptive to their first cousin once removed, Queen Anne of Great Britain. Sophia was never declared heiress presumptive to Scotland. She would have acceded to Anne's crown, had she not died a few weeks before Queen Anne did. Upon Sophia's death, her son George Louis, Elector of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, became heir presumptive. Upon Queen Anne's death, he became King George I of Great Britain, the first of the Hanoverian line of kings. "If Sophia's elder brother Edward had not converted to Catholicism," writes George L. Williams, "it is possible that the English throne would have been held by his descendants."[4]

In 1671, Anna Gonzaga rededicated herself to Catholicism and completely changed her lifestyle. She died in 1684. Bossuet delivered her famous funeral oration.



  1. Review of reviews and world's work: An international magazine, volume 1, William Thomas Stead, 1890, page 431
  2. Wikipedia article on Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
  3. Anna was a descendant of Pope Alexander VI through her mother, Caterina of Mayenne, granddaughter of Anna d'Este, she in turn was the granddaughter of Lucrezia Borgia.
  4. Williams, p. 66


  • Williams, George L. Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes. Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland, 2004. ISBN 0-7864-2071-5.
Court offices
Preceded by
Surintendante de la Maison de la Reine to the Queen of France
Succeeded by
Olympia Mancini, Countess of Soissons
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