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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Francis I of France

Francis I of France (1494-1547) was born in Cognac, France on September 12, 1494. He was the only son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, and Louise of Savoy and a great-great-grandson of King Charles V.

King Charles VIII died childless in 1498, and was succeeded by Louis XII, who had no male heir. The four-year-old Francis became the heir presumptive to the throne of France and was vested with the title of Duke of Valois.

Francis I painted in 1515

In 1505, Louis XII, having fallen ill, ordered that his daughter Claude and Francis be married immediately. The marriage took place on May 18, 1514.

Louis died the beginning of the next year and Francis inherited the throne. He was crowned King of France in the Cathedral of Reims on January 25, 1515.

Queen Claude of France, Duchess of Brittany

Claude spent almost all her marriage in an endless round of annual pregnancies. Francis had many mistresses, but was usually relatively discreet.

They had seven children, two died before turning eight, another two died at the ages of eighteen to twenty-three. The remaining three were: Henry, King of France, Madeline, Queen of Scotland and Margaret, Duchess of Berry.

Claude died on July 20, 1524 at the Château de Blois, aged twenty-four. The exact cause of her death was disputed among sources and historians. Francis remarried several years after Claude's death, to Eleanor of Austria, the sister of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

By the time Francis ascended the throne, the Renaissance had arrived in France, and the new French king became an enthusiastic patron of the arts. He employed Leonardo Da Vinci as the "First Painter, Architect & Mechanic of the King."

After Leonardo da Vinci's death in 1519, King Francis, hung the Mona Lisa in his bathroom.

Francis/ well educated sister, Marguerite de Navarre, (1492-1549) helped him make the French court one of the main centers of intellectual life in Europe. A fervent Christian as well as an educated woman, Margaret took an interest in the teachings of Luther and Calvin and followed their ideas.

A great lover of poultry and veal, with the arrival of the Florentine cooks schooled in the subtleties of Renaissance cooking, Francis revived the days of opulent eating and drinking.

When Francis met King Henry VIII of England at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520,  his clothing was bedecked with some 13,600 gold buttons.

After Francis accidentally burned his hair with a torch, his male subjects started wearing their hair short and trimming their beards and mustaches.


On February 24, 1525 Francis suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Pavia during the Italian Wars. The French king was captured by the forces of Charles V and imprisoned in Madrid.

Battle of Pavia 1525

In the Treaty of Madrid, Francis was forced to make major concessions to the Holy Roman Emperor before he was freed on March 17, 1526.

It was during Francis' reign that Martin Luther's preaching and writing led to the formation of the Protestant movement, which spread through much of Europe, including France. Francis was relatively tolerant of the new movement. However The French Parliament took  advantage of Francis’ absence in Madrid to pass such anti-Lutheran laws as banning translations of the Bible into French.

Francis' attitude toward Protestantism changed for the worse following the "Affair of the Placards", on the night of October 17, 1534, in which notices appeared on the streets of Paris and other major cities denouncing the Catholic mass. They even posted one on the door of the king's bedchamber in Amboise. Francis came to view the movement as a plot against him and began to persecute its followers. Protestants were jailed and executed and in some areas whole villages were destroyed.

Placard contre la messe, http://www.garamond.culture.fr/en/glossaire

During his imprisonment in Madrid, Francis wrote in a letter to his mother, "Of all things, nothing remains to me but honor and life, which is safe." This line has come down in history famously as "All is lost save honor."

Francis was also renowned as a man of letters and the king worked diligently at improving the royal library In 1537, he decreed that his library be given a copy of every book to be sold in France.

Mummy-based panaceas were once popular as quack medicine. Francis I took a daily dose of ancient Egyptian mummy to build strength—like a multivitamin made of corpse.

Francis suffered from intestinal problems in his last years. A Jewish doctor from Constantinople treated him with yogurt, which at the time was little known in western Europe.

Francis I died on March 31, 1547 at the Château de Rambouillet. There were rumors that his cause of death was syphilis.

Francis is buried in the Saint Denis Basilica, along with his first wife, Claude, Duchess of Brittany. He was succeeded by his son, Henry II.

Sources Wikipedia, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

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