Francis I Historical Profile

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King Francis I as played by Emmanuel Leconte
The History of
Francis I
King Of France

1494 -1547 ( aged 53)

Reigned 32 years
1515 - 1547
Young Francis I

  • Francis was less than 2 years old when his father died and only 4 years old when he became heir apparent to the throne. He grew up as a ward of Louis XII

  • His closest personal associations during his youth were with his mother, Louise of Savoy & sister Princess Marguerite, who became queen of Navarre.Even after his accession to the throne he was greatly influenced by them.

  • He had a great rivalry with Emperor Charles V who ruled Spain, the Low Countries, the Holy Roman Empire, and Franche-Comté because his own Kingdom was virtually encircled by these territories.

  • Francis went to war against Charles V , 4 times (1522, 1527, 1536, and 1542)

  • in 1525 at the disastrous defeat at Pavie, the French army was slaughtered, and Francis was taken prisoner by the Emperor.

  • The two territorial acquisitions that Francis retained when the wars ceased following the Peace of Crépy (1544) were Savoy and Piedmont.

  • Francis derived more pleasure from, and certainly spent more money on, the arts than on the new learning. He commissioned and collected paintings by the great masters of Italy and was devoted to architecture. Francis employed several Italian artists on these and other artistic projects Like Leonardo da Vinci.

  • Although he allowed the humanists to publicize their program, Francis I had no intention of actually supporting the establishment of Lutheranism in France. The threat that Lutheranism posed to civil society and to traditional religious practice was clear in the 1520s, but Francis refrained from actively persecuting Protestants until the late 1530s which was in large measure due to his policy toward Charles V.

  • He changed his foreign policy in 1538 and tried to reach an accord with Charles V and then persecution of Protestantism in France began more earnestly. The Edict of Fontainebleau (1540) brought the full machinery of royal government into action against suspected heretics.

  • Government affairs were not only dominated by his mother Louis of Savoy and Princess Marguerite but also his successive personal favorites, including Anne, duc de Montmorency and his mistresses.

  • His first son died in 1536, leaving his second son Henry (ruled 1547–1559) as his successor. Henry's anger at Francis for using him as a hostage in 1526 during one of the wars with Charles V created a bad relationship between them, but they were reconciled on Francis' deathbed.

  • His legacy is generally considered a mixed one. He achieved great cultural feats, but they came at the expense of France's economic well being.
Franics I

During his visits to Italy, Francis read Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier which so inspired him that he had it translated into French. He had several copies made, which he brought back to France to distribute amongst his courtiers. He felt that this book portrayed the model royal court and he strove to create this type of court for himself.

In the book, the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice (with beautiful, elegant and brave words) and proper bearing and gestures. At the same time though, the courtier is expected to have a warrior spirit, to be athletic and to have good knowledge of the humanities, classics, and how to draw and paint.

To this day, the Book of the Courtier remains the definitive account of Rennaissance court life. In its own day, however, it was used as a manual on how to be the "Perfect Courtier" and the consummate "Court Lady."

Quotes from Francis I :

About King Henry VIII - In 1519 Francis I is known to have said Henry was "young and handsome" while he ungallantly said Queen Katherine of Aragon was " old and deformed" .
He would later
remark that Henry was "the strangest man in the world"

About Mary Boleyn when she was a young maid of honour in the french court - he described her as "The English Mare" and
as "una grandissima ribalda, infame sopra tutti" ("a great prostitute, infamous above all")

About Anne Boleyn when she was court - he was known to have composed some poetic words about her -
Venus était blonde, on m'a dit:
Venus was blonde, I've been told:
L'on voit bien, qu'elle est brunette.
Now I see that she's a brunette!)

To his mother Louise of Savoy,
written in letter given to the Viceroy of Naples the morning after Pavia
- Madame, that you may know the state of the rest of my misfortune, there is nothing left to me but honor, and my life, which is saved.

Scratched with his ring on a window of Chambord Castle - Toute femme varie Bien fol est qui s'y fie
(Woman is always fickle--foolish is he who trusts h

Louise of Savoy
Left : Louise of Savoy - Francis' mother and major influence in his life:

Francis appointed Louise of Savoy as his regent in 1515-16 when he was absent during Italian wars. In 1522, she was accused of diverting war funds to her own treasury; she denied any part in the scandal. In 1525-26 when Francis again went to fight the Italian wars, she was his regent. She, with her daughter Princess Marguerite of Navarre, arranged an alliance with King Henry VIII of England, in which Henry broke his alliance with Francis' war opponent, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.Louise and Marguerite then negotiated Francis' release from Spanish captivity, and negotiated the Treaty of Cambrai (called "The Ladies Peace") with Margaret of Austria, aunt of Charles V. Louise of Savoy died after becoming chilled while watching a comet in 1531.

Princess Marguerite
Francis' sister Princess Marguerite
ChambordChâteau de Chambord is without a doubt, one of the most remarkable Renaissance castles in France. Many call it the most beautiful Château of the Loire Valley, but all agree that its scale and majesty are impressive.
François the First (Francis I) spent lavishly to realize the project of the Château de Chambord. In fact, the construction of the castle took more than a quarter of a century. Started in 1518, the work was stopped in 1525 when the coffer of the Kingdom was empty. The work could be resumed only in October 1526. From this date forward, one could find up to 2000 workers at the site. Having to give up the crazy project of rerouting the <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Loire</a> to bring the river to the foot of the castle, Francis I did not hesitate to divert one of its tributaries, the Cosson, to come to the Château .

The Château was completed in 1547 and contains 440 rooms, 84 staircases, 365 fireplaces (one for each day of the year). It also has stables to accommodate 1200 horses. The domain is surrounded by 32 km of walls, protecting more than 12,000 acres of woods which is a huge hunting reserve whose surface equals that of <a class="external" href="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Paris</a>! -

Salamander - Francis I emblem
Francis' emblem - the Salamander
(Also used my Mary Queen of Scots)

Francis I took every opportunity to embellish the Château de Chambord with the letter "F" and also with a stylized Salamander, his emblematic animal. Still today, you will see these F’s and salamanders around the castle, especially on the decorated vaults of the third floor. As the symbol of fire and cold, the salamander was François’ chosen symbol. This animal could live in the fire without being consumed, but it could also extinguish the fire due to the exceptional coldness of its body. In the medieval iconography the salamander represents "the just who never loses God’s confidence in the middle of tribulations." François the First adapted this motto for himself: "I live among it and extinguish it".
Tomb of Francis and Claude de France in the Basilica of Saint Denis, Paris
Tomb of Francis I and Claude of France
in the Basilica of Saint Denis, Paris
  • Seward, D. Prince of the Renaissance: The Golden Life of François I. New York, 1973.
  • R. J. Knecht, Francis I and Absolute Monarchy (1969) - pamphlet
  • R. J. Knecht (Robert Jean), Francis I, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, (1982)
  • Andrew C. P. Haggard, Two Great Rivals (François I and Charles V) and the Women Who Influenced Them (1910)
  • Francis Hackett, Francis the First (1935)
  • Dorothy M. Mayer, The Great Regent: Louise of Savoy, 1476-1531 (1966)
  • Joycelyne G. Russell, The Field of Cloth of Gold: Men and Manners in 1520 (1969)
  • William L. Wiley, The Gentleman of Renaissance France (1954)
  • Anne Denieul-Cormier, The Renaissance in France, 1488-1559 (1969)
  • Anthony Blunt, Art and Architecture in France, 1500-1700 (1953)
Francis I grave
Another view of Francis I tomb
Francis I praying
c. 1551 - 1556
Stained Glass window of Francis I praying
at the Musee nationale de la renaissance
Francis I Historical Profile - The Tudors Wiki
The Funerary Urn of Francis I.
Resting place of his heart.
Located in the "Basilique Saint-Denis" Paris, France