Out of the four wives of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, the second, Anne of Bavaria, is the least known. It is not surprising that there is not much known of her, of Charles’ four wives; she was the only one who did not give him a child that survived past infancy. She also was the one who was married to Charles for the shortest time – just under four years.
Anne (Anna) of Bavaria, also known as Anne/Anna of the Palatinate, was born on 26 September 1329, as the only child of Rudolf II, Count Palatinate of the Rhine, and Anne of Carinthia-Tyrol. In early 1349, Charles of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, was looking for a new wife. His first wife, Blanche of Valois had died in August 1348. By this marriage, he only had two daughters, so he was in need of a son. Charles was also a claimant to the Holy Roman Empire. He was elected as a rival King of the Romans in 1346, and in 1347, after the death of Emperor Louis IV, the road to the imperial throne became open to him. However, the Wittelsbachs, the dynasty the old Emperor belonged to, were still opposed to Charles and elected a rival king.
Since the Wittelsbachs were one of the empire’s most powerful families, Charles needed to win them over to his side in order to become emperor. Anne’s father, Rudolf, also belonged to the Wittelsbach dynasty and was a nephew of the late Emperor Louis. Charles and Rudolf soon reached a compromise, and a marriage with Rudolf’s 19-year-old daughter was arranged. Charles and Anne were married in March 1349 at Bacharach Castle on the Rhine. This marriage strengthened Charles’ claims to the imperial throne.
Queen of Bohemia
On 26 July 1349, Anne was crowned as Queen of the Romans in Aachen, Germany. She was not crowned as Holy Roman Empress, because her husband had not become emperor yet. On 1 November 1349, she was crowned as Queen of Bohemia in St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague. On 17 January 1350, Anna gave birth to a son named Wenceslaus. Charles finally had an heir, and there was much rejoicing. Immediately, Charles made marriage arrangements for the newborn. He betrothed his son to 11-year-old Anna, the heiress of the Polish territory of Swidnica, and grand-niece of the King of Poland. He decided on this so he could bring Swidnica into the Crown of Bohemia.
In the autumn of 1350, Charles suddenly fell ill with a mysterious illness. There were rumours of poisoning, and some even attributed this to Anne herself. According to a Florentine chronicler, Anne felt that Charles was losing interest in her, so she made a “drink of love” in the hope that he would return her affection. The story goes on to say that Anne mixed the drink incorrectly or used the wrong ingredients, and she accidentally poisoned him instead. It is more likely that the illness was from a spinal injury Charles suffered after falling from his horse shortly before. Charles was seriously ill for several months but eventually recovered.
Little Wenceslaus died on 28 December 1351, not yet two years old. His death was a major blow to both Charles and Anne. Anne would have no more children. She survived her son by just over a year, and died on 2 February 1353, at the age of 23. The cause of her death is uncertain: most sources say she died from a bad fall from her horse, but it has also been suggested that she died of grief from losing her only son. Anne was buried in St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague. Her father outlived her by eight months.
Still in need of an heir, Charles remarried just three months after Anne’s death. This time he married Anna of Swidnica, who was originally betrothed to his late son. In 1361, she would give him his much-needed surviving son, also named Wenceslaus.
Charles was finally crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1355. Although Anne of Bavaria did not live long enough to become Holy Roman Empress, her marriage boosted Charles’ standing in Germany and paved the way for him to become Holy Roman Emperor.1