Francis I (Holy Roman Empire)

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FRANCIS I (FRANCE) (14941547; ruled 15151547)

FRANCIS I (FRANCE) (14941547; ruled 15151547), king of France. The only son of Charles of Angoulême and Louise of Savoy, Francis I was born on 12 September 1494. When his father died in 1496, Francis advanced in the line of royal succession behind Louis of Orléans (ruled 14981515), his cousin, who became king in 1498. Louis XII had only two daughters; Francis married the older, Claude, shortly before Louis died on 1 January 1515. Claude and Francis had seven children before Claude's death in 1524. In 1530 Francis married Eleanor of Portugal, the sister of Emperor Charles V (ruled 15191556), but had no children with her.

Upon becoming king, Francis embarked on the Third French Invasion of Italy to reclaim the duchy of Milan and the kingdom of Naples that his two predecessors had held and lost. He defeated the Swiss, who had established a protectorate over Milan, at Marignano (Melegnano) in September 1515. Terrified that Francis would march to Rome and depose him, Pope Leo X (reigned 15131521) rushed to negotiate with him. The result was the Concordat of Bologna (1516), which established the governance of the French Church as it lasted to 1789. The king was given the right to appoint French bishops, subject to papal approval. The concordat enhanced royal control over the church in France and reduced the attraction for the monarchy of the Protestant concept of the national church independent from Rome.

In 1519 Francis sought election as Holy Roman emperor but lost out to Charles of Habsburg, who already was the king of Spain and ruler of the Netherlands. Once elected, Charles V demanded that Francis give up Milan, which he proclaimed was an imperial fief. At Francis's refusal, Charles declared war, and the rest of Francis's reign saw almost constant war with the emperor. After an imperial army captured Milan in 1522, Francis led an army into Italy, only to be defeated and captured at Pavia in February 1525. He was taken to Spain and held for ransom. Agreeing to the ransom, Francis persuaded Charles to exchange him for his two oldest sons, since only he as king could impose the taxes and transfer of lands necessary for the ransom. Once freed, he resumed the war, which ended in 1529 with the Peace of the Ladies, negotiated by Francis's mother and Charles's aunt, Margaret of Austria. Besides requiring a payment of two million gold crowns, the peace acknowledged French rule over Burgundy and Habsburg control of Flanders. Intermittent war with Charles V continued to the end of Francis's reign but with no significant results.

Francis's Italian sojourns made him an advocate of Renaissance culture. He brought Italian artists and architects to France, including Leonardo da Vinci, Benvenuto Cellini, and Francesco Primaticcio. They designed and decorated royal residences, such as Chambord and Fontainebleau, which epitomize the Renaissance châteaus. He equally supported humanism, becoming the patron of Guillaume Budé and establishing the royal lectureships in the classical languages that became the modern Collège de France (founded in 1530 as the Collège Royal). His patronage of the new learning led the humanists to honor Francis as the "Father of Letters." Another aspect of the Italian Renaissance that Francis adopted was making the French court the center of fashion and beauty. Anne d'Estampes became his mistress in 1526; she was the first royal mistress to have broad influence on decision making.

Francis at first supported the moderate church reform called Evangelism advocated by the humanists; his sister Marguerite de Navarre (14921549) was an ardent proponent. They believed the church could be reformed and the pure Gospel preached without breaking with the Catholic Church. Francis protected its adherents against accusations of heresy from the theologians of the University of Paris. He was less tolerant of more radical views, however. When in 1534 placards printed in Switzerland denouncing the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist were posted in Paris and allegedly on his bedchamber door at Amboise, a flurry of persecutions followed, leading to John Calvin's (15091564) flight from France, although he had nothing directly to do with the "Day of the Placards." After 1534 Francis took a harsher tone toward religious dissent, and many were executed or exiled for heresy. Regarding Catholic reform, Francis's attitude was that the French Church did not need reforming, but if it did, he and his clergy would do it. He refused to support the Council of Trent when it was convoked in 1544.

The king's first son died in 1536, leaving his second son Henry (ruled 15471559) as his successor. Henry's anger at Francis for using him as a hostage in 1526 created a bad relationship between them, but they were reconciled on Francis's deathbed. Francis died on 31 March 1547.

See also Charles V (Holy Roman Empire) ; Humanists and Humanism ; Italian Wars (14941559) ; Marguerite de Navarre ; Reformation, Catholic ; Renaissance .


Jacquart, Jean. François Ier. Paris, 1981. Especially good on administrative developments of the reign.

Knecht, R. J. Renaissance Warrior and Patron: The Reign of Francis I. Cambridge, U.K., 1994. Fine biography, strong on Francis as a patron of art and literature.

Seward, D. Prince of the Renaissance: The Golden Life of François I. New York, 1973. Good popular biography, excellent set of illustrations.

Frederic J. Baumgartner

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Francis I (1708–65) Holy Roman Emperor (1745–65), Duke of Lorraine (1729–35) and Tuscany (1737–65). In 1736, he married the Habsburg heiress Maria Theresa. Her accession (1740) precipitated the War of the Austrian Succession against Frederick II. Francis succeeded Charles VIII as Emperor, but Maria Theresa effectively wielded power.