Francis I (king of France)
Francis I, 1494–1547, king of France (1515–47), known as Francis of Angoulême before he succeeded his cousin and father-in-law, King Louis XII.
Wars with the Holy Roman Emperor
Francis resumed the Italian Wars, beginning his reign with the recovery of Milan through the brilliant victory at Marignano (1515). A candidate for the Holy Roman emperor's crown (1519), he was defeated by Charles V, king of Spain, whose supremacy in Europe Francis was to contest in four wars. In 1520 Francis tried to secure the support of King Henry VIII of England against the emperor in the interview on the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
Although no agreement was reached with the English king, Francis began his first war against the emperor (1521–25). He was defeated at La Bicocca (1522) and at Pavia (1525), where he was captured. Francis regained his freedom by consenting to the Treaty of Madrid (1526); he renounced his claims in Italy, agreed to surrender Burgundy to Charles, and abandoned his suzerainty over Flanders and Artois. Resolved to violate a treaty signed under duress, Francis created the League of Cognac (1526) with Pope Clement VII, Henry VIII, Venice, and Florence, and commenced his second war (1527–29) against Charles. It ended, unfavorably for Francis, with the Treaty of Cambrai (see Cambrai, Treaty of), which left Burgundy to France but otherwise duplicated the Treaty of Madrid.
Francis fulfilled the treaty's terms until 1535, when the death of the duke of Milan, Francisco Sforza, opened the question of the Milanese succession. In a third attempt to regain Milan, Francis invaded (1536) Italy. Charles retaliated by invading Provence, and in 1538 a 10-year truce was arranged at Nice. In 1542 with the support of the Ottoman sultan Sulayman I, Francis for the fourth time attacked the emperor, who allied himself (1543) with Henry VIII. Their invasion of France resulted (1544) in the Treaty of Crépy, in which Francis relinquished his claims to Naples, Flanders, and Artois. Peace with England (1546) confirmed the loss of Boulogne.
The French Renaissance
Despite Francis's military failures, his reign saw domestic glory in the fullest development of the French Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci, Benvenuto Cellini, and Andrea del Sarto worked at his court. Francis and his sister, Margaret of Navarre, were the patrons of François Rabelais, Clément Marot, and Guillaume Budé; Francis also founded the Collège de France. The most permanent monuments of Francis's reign are the châteaus of the Loire, notably Chambord, and the royal residence at Fontainebleau.
Other Aspects of Francis's Reign
The king also had some notable political achievements, including a concordat with the papacy and an alliance with Switzerland (both in 1516). Jacques Cartier, exploring the coast of North America for Francis, established French interest in Canada. In domestic affairs, Francis expanded the absolutism of the monarchy. Government affairs were dominated by successive personal favorites, including Anne, duc de Montmorency, and Francis's mistresses. Louise of Savoy, the king's mother, was also influential. Francis's persecution of the Waldenses (1545), his ruinous expenditures for foreign wars, and the prodigality of his court foreshadowed some aspects of the reign of King Louis XIV. Francis I was succeeded by his son, Henry II.
See biographies by F. Hackett (1935, repr. 1968) and D. Seward (1973).