The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as the Annunciade was founded in 1501 by St. Joan of France (the family name de Valois) with the active support and counsel of a Franciscan, Fr. Gilbert Nicolas, also known by the name of Blessed Gabriel Maria.
The Foundress was born on April 23, 1464. She was the second daughter of the King of France Louis XI and Queen Charlotte de Savoy. The newborn princess was badly received by her father who desired a son. At the age of 2 months, she was betrothed to her father’s cousin Louis, the two-year old Duke of Orléan, whom she eventually married in 1476. In April of 1498, after the death of Charles VIII, Louis took the French throne. Jeanne became the Queen. Shortly afterwards, her husband petitioned the Apostolic See for an annulment of their marriage, which was granted.
Her former husband, against whom she held no grudge and prayed for him the rest of her life, granted Joan de Valois after the annulment of her marriage and the loss of her title as Queen of France in 1498, the title of the Duchess of Berry. She became known for her wise ruling and particular concern for her poorest subjects. Guided by an inspiration received in her childhood, she gave herself entirely to founding a contemplative Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The first convent of the Annunciades was founded in 1501 at Bourges – the seat of the Duchess of Berry. Joan died in 1505, but the evangelical work begun by her grew dynamically, producing fruit in the form of over fifty convents that existed up until the destructive seed of the French Revolution, which destroyed nearly all of them.
Today the Order numbers around eighty nuns living in six convents in France, Poland, and Costa Rica.