Francis I: The Renaissance king of France and the impact of his reign

King of France from 1515 to 1547, Francis I is known for his war against the Habsburgs. He also opposed the Emperor Charles V.

Famous as the “king-knight” who won the Battle of Marignan in 1515, Francis I (or François I) reigned as king of France from 1515 until 1547. His reign profoundly shaped the sixteenth century as the founder of the Valois dynasty, a great lover of ladies and hunting, a great prince of the French Renaissance, and a guardian of the arts and literature. As a result of the ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts in 1539, the language of official actions shifted from Latin to French, and the power of the nobility dwindled to the advantage of the monarchy. His predecessor, Louis XII, did not think much of the young prince who would soon succeed him, though, saying, “This fat boy will spoil everything.” On numerous occasions, Francis I would endanger the country.


François d’Angoulême: Future Francis I

Francis I around 1530.
Francis I around 1530 (by Jean Clouet, oil on canvas, 96 × 74 cm, Paris, Musée du Louvre).

François d’Angoulême was a prince of the blood and a first cousin, once removed, of the French monarch Louis XII. He was born on September 12, 1494, in Cognac. His mother, Louise of Savoy, committed him to the care of the marshal of Gié, where he was nurtured. For a prince of such intelligence and practicality, only military training and rigorous exercise seem to have any interest. His height gave him an advantage in wrestling and running, both of which he excelled at. His mother, who had passed on all her goals to her son, had been quietly preparing him for the responsibilities of leadership. Despite this, Francis was never meant to be king.

But Louis XII had no male heirs in 1506. Hesitant about his own line of succession, the king set about arranging a marriage between his daughter Claude of France and François of Angoulême. The young prince, who had been appointed head of the Guyanese army, had previously been a regular in the king’s council and had been seen accompanying the monarch everywhere he went. Following Louis XII’s death on January 25, 1515, Francis I ascended to the throne and was crowned at Reims. On February 15, he reached Paris with great solemnity at the head of a lavish procession, eager to take part in the festivities that had been planned for him.

Beginning of the reign of Francis I

After ascending the throne on February 4, 1515, he showered his family and friends with gifts. He gave his mother the duchy of Angoulême, to which he later added the counties of Anjou, Maine, and Beaufort; his sister, Margaret, the revenues of the duchy of Berry; his childhood friend Bonnivet; and his teenage friend, Robert La Marck. Then he established his administration and court, naming Louise Madame and appointed her regent as needed due to her frequent moves. She put out a judge from Auvergne called Antoine Duprat as the new regime’s “architect of absolute authority” and “man of confidence.”

The major bodies’ positions were solidified financially, and new taxes were instituted, all in an effort to refill the coffers. The Court, an idea introduced from Italy at the period that was still vague, consisted of powerful lords and their spouses who accompanied the king on his journeys and stood by him at the ceremonial entry into the towns of the realm. Young Claude barely made an appearance since she was pregnant, bashful, and modest. She gave birth to a daughter, Louise, in August of 1515.

The future King Francis I was well-versed in the military sciences and anxious to make a name for himself. What better place to do combat than on ground to which he thought he had rights, and whose excellent culture he was familiar, just as his predecessor had?

The Italian mirage

Battle of Marignano
On the French side, the idealized depiction is of Bayard bestowing a knighthood to King during a fight.

Since the dawn of the Renaissance, the Italian peninsula has been sought by European tyrants—especially French kings—for its wealth and splendor. Furthermore, since Charles VIII’s reign, France has been at open war with the Pope and the Italian principalities, who are joined with European rulers in a Holy League. Louis XII took control of Milan in 1499, but he ended up having to give it back after losing the Battle of Novara (June 6, 1513). Francis I, who had been given his wife Claude’s claim to the duchy, attempted to incorporate it into the royal realm.

Henry VIII of England’s neutrality and the assistance of the Venetians were secured before the young king set off on an expedition in 1515. Marignan’s victory against the Swiss mercenaries supporting the Duke of Milan was guaranteed by the superiority of the French artillery. Due to his military prowess, the lord of Bayard knighted Francis I, a young monarch of just twenty years of age, earning him a reputation for valor and adoration.

Yesterday’s adversaries were forced to bargain with France’s monarch. In Bologna, Francis I and Pope Leo X had their meeting. The Swiss agreed to a permanent ceasefire, allowing France to recruit mercenary soldiers indefinitely. For the sake of maintaining his claim on Naples, Charles I of Spain (the future Charles V) acknowledged Milan to France.

The rivalry with Charles V

515px Bernard van Orley 1487 1541 Karel V Koninklijk klooster van Brou 25 10 2016 10 06 36
Portrait of the young Charles of Habsburg, the future emperor Charles V, around 1515, the eternal rival of Francis I; painted by Bernard van Orley, Paris, Musée du Louvre.

In 1519, Francis I was favored by the Imperial Electors against King Charles of Spain, who, because to the wealth amassed by the Fugger family from the New World’s gold mines, had significantly more influence than his French counterpart. Charles V’s expansionist goals (“Always more”, “always further“) endangered the French throne. Charles, grandson of Charles the Bold, made an attempt to incorporate Burgundy into the Holy Empire and asserted his authority over the regions of Dauphiné and Provence that had previously been under the rule of his great-grandfather.

From that point on, Francis I was constantly forming new alliances with foreign princes while being encircled on all sides by a sovereign who ruled over Spain, Flanders, the Empire, and a large portion of Italy. After an expensive and fruitless conversation with Henry VIII of England at the Field of the Cloth of Gold (June 1520), during which he failed to win the king’s favor, he was forced into war with the Emperor.

The fighting between the two kings officially began in 1521, during the Italian Wars. Very rapidly, operations went from favorable to unfavorable for France; the loss at La Bicoque (1522), where Bayard was murdered, handed Milan up to imperialists. In the year following, the famous royal army leader Constable of Bourbon abandoned his lord, joined Charles V’s service, and led an unsuccessful invasion of Provence.

In 1525, after the tragedy of Pavia, the king himself was kidnapped by the armies of the emperor; he later wrote to his mother, “Of all things, only dignity and life remained to me.” Louise of Savoy secured the regency while he was in jail, and the circumstances were dramatic, calling to mind John II the Good’s incarceration during the Hundred Years’ War.

Francis I was imprisoned in Madrid on January 14, 1526, and forced to sign the Treaty of Madrid, which gave Milan and Burgundy to the Empire in exchange for a promise from his sons, the Dauphin François and Prince Henry, the future Henry II. When he was finally released, however, he wasted no time in abandoning his obligations and restarting the conflict. Francis I, the Pope, Venice, and Duke Sforza of Milan formed an alliance at Cognac in May 1526, but in 1527, imperial armies stormed Rome, forcing Pope Julius II to sign a humiliating peace deal with Emperor Charles V.

For this reason, Louise of Savoy and Margaret of Austria, aunt of Charles V, agreed at the time of the peace of Cambrai, known as the “Paix des Dames,” (1529) to restrict bellicose actions in northern Europe. This was an official acknowledgment of French sovereignty over Burgundy, with Italian claims dropped. This adornment seems to be confirmed by the fact that in 1525, Francis I, a widower since 1524, married the sister of the emperor, Eleanor of Habsburg, who was also the widow of Manuel I, king of Portugal.

New alliances

Kings Francis I and Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
Kings Francis I and Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Oil on canvas, 1545, Royal Collection.

Francis I, however, was cognizant of the precarious nature of this accommodation and attempted to create new alliances, offering his support in 1531 to the Schmalkaldic League, formed against Charles V by the German Lutheran princes, much to the shock and dismay of Catholic Europe. However, the battle continued the next year when the emperor invaded Provence after signing a contract with Suleiman the Magnificent in 1535. Both men hoped to reduce the Habsburgs’ influence. At Aigues-Mortes (1538), Charles V was obliged to accept a ten-year ceasefire after being rebuffed by Duke Anne de Montmorency, who had won the position of Constable in 1537.

Francis sacked Montmorency and reignited the struggle in 1542 when his diplomatic efforts to acquire the Duchy of Milan proved futile. In 1543, the French army, aided by the Turks, defeated the Anglo-German alliance and retook Nice. One year later, the monarch won the Battle of Cerisoles.

Amid growing threats to his realm as a result of his collaboration with the “infidels,” he eventually signed the Treaty of Crépy with Charles V (1544) and the Treaty of Ardres with Henry VIII (1546). These treaties legitimize France’s decision to give up Savoy and their defeat in Artois and Flanders, and they put an end to a disastrous war that did little to disrupt the stability of the Habsburg empire.

Francis I: Prince of the Renaissance

The monumental staircase of the Château de Blois.
The monumental staircase of the Château de Blois.

Due to his many trips, the French king was soon in touch with the emerging Italian Renaissance. Francis I, whose refined education made him especially sensitive to the need for change in his country, took this task extremely seriously.

He gained the support of Marguerite de Navarre and became known as a protector of humanists at the Meaux apex. The king’s children were taught by the humanist theologian Lefèvre d’Étaples. First, in 1520, the erudite Guillaume Budé was tasked with establishing a royal library in Fontainebleau, the precursor to the National Library; then, in 1530, he was tasked with establishing a trilingual college, the future Collège de France, in which the royal readers taught Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. The king awarded high positions to poets like Mellin de Saint-Gelais and Marot, who were both guests at his court.

The Francis I Gallery at the Château de Fontainebleau.
The Francis I Gallery at the Château de Fontainebleau.

Like Jean Clouet (the king’s official painter from 1516 until his death), Fiorentino Rosso (who succeeded him from 1530 until his death), Primaticcio (a painter, decorator, and architect who arrived in France in 1531), and Benvenuto Cellini (a guest sculptor from 1540 to 1545), the king attracted great Italian or foreign artists to France. Francis I established the tradition of royal patronage via his invitation strategy, which was continued by his successors, most notably Louis XIV.

Francis was successful in adapting Renaissance art to France in no small part because he welcomed Leonardo da Vinci in 1516. He hired the Florentine artist to live and work in the Château du Clos-Lucé in Touraine and then had him build several palaces for him, notably the Château de Chambord.

The monarch was a skilled constructor, and his palaces at Saint-Germain, Villers-Cotterêts, and Madrid (in Neuilly) were all examples of his work. He also had the castle of Blois (the construction of the staircase) and the castle of Fontainebleau redecorated in the Italian style (Rosso for the royal gallery and Primatice for the ballroom). The Fontainebleau school reached its zenith during his rule.

Francis I greatly expanded the king’s court, inspired in part by Italian aesthetic preferences. It served as the epicenter of the king’s lavish lifestyle, which he transferred between lavish castles whenever his fancy took him. While keeping the medieval (royal entries into cities, tournaments, and hunting) rituals that had been practiced for centuries, the monarch hosted several Italian-inspired feasts, concerts, and theatrical performances.

He was a guy who enjoyed the finer things in life, and he had several affairs, the most noteworthy of which were with the Countess of Chateaubriand and the Duchess of Etampes. The sovereign was able to exert more authority over the normally unruly order by courting the nobles and amassing a larger number of promises and favors.

Money: The sinew of war

Francis I had seized control of his realm after his release from Spanish captivity with an iron fist, and he recognized that having access to sufficient financial resources was crucial to the success of any strategy. All of the Valois were affected by the sudden financial crisis. Ordinary revenues came from the king’s private domain and extraordinary revenues began as exceptional but quickly became ordinary and accounted for nine tenths of the royal treasury’s resources (aids on wine or on cloven-hoofed animals, tolls, gabelle on salt and, finally, the most unbearable of them all, the taille -direct land tax with its increases, its “floods” levied as and when needed). The taille did not fall uniformly on the king’s subjects; the nobility, the clergy, the vast majority of the king’s officers, and the urban populace were spared.

The tax was not well-grounded and was subject to change depending on the “generalities” by which the treasurers and generals of finance made their decisions. Consequently, the Treasury was always in the dark about its true income. As long as its needs were made clear, the job of communicating with parish taxpayers fell to the treasurers or their receivers and collectors.

The treasurers and “generals” were the financial gurus of the organization. They often came from wealthy banking families and loaned or gave the monarch money when required. Therefore, the Beaunes, Briconnets, and Berthelots had tremendous influence as the king’s creditors, since the Crown was ultimately forced to depend on them despite resorting to various expedients, including the establishment or sale of offices and loans to the cities.

Francis I had appointed a rich businessman called Jacques de Beaune de Semblançay as a “general” and a kind of supervisor of finance, making him the most influential member of this oligarchy. However, beginning in 1521, Semblançay’s ability to meet the expanding needs of the king, who had to pay his men, declined, no matter how intelligent he was. He wired an additional 360,000 livres to the Italian army, but he refused to cover the following gap: He informed the king that “the scholarships are closed.”

Francis, prompted by Louise, became certain that he had been duped, and in 1524 he filed his first lawsuit against his backer, a suit that ultimately went in favor of Semblançay and exonerated him. Nonetheless, the French monarch had no plans to rest on his laurels.

The next year, 1527, he had him jailed once again and formed the “Square Tower” panel, whose members were under his absolute control. The trial lasted many months and ended tragically when Semblancay, having been found guilty of fraud, was hung on August 12, 1527, at the gallows of Montfaucon. In his honor, Marot wrote a renowned epigram. Other people also had to pay the price for Semblancay’s authority. In turn, Bohier, Berthelot, Ruzé, and Poncher were each sentenced to very large penalties but seldom to death. Francis was finally able to break away from the control of the financial aristocracy after escaping the tutelage of parliament. The only thing left to do was implement wide-ranging changes.

The consolidation of the monarchy

Francis I was a tall and elegant monarch who had a lofty conception of his role. He was also bright and cunning, if sometimes impetuous and shallow, and he had a presence that was noted by all the memorialists of his day. Administrative centralization was bolstered, and court life was refined, both of which contributed to the unmistakable advancement of absolute monarchy. The phrase “for such is our pleasure” and the title “His Majesty” both have their origins in Francis I.

A Council (also known as the Privy Council or Council of State) made up of members of the royal family, princes of the blood, powerful commanders, and some elderly servants provided the monarch with advice and counsel as he ran the country. Members of the Privy Council were excluded from government activities until they were invited to join the Council of Affairs, a small, secretive circle in which the monarch and one of his counselors held control.

Francis I’s reign, dominated by military concerns, is remembered for the consolidation of royal power that hints at the eventual rise of absolute monarchy. The expropriation of the Constable of Bourbon’s property in 1523, the formal reunion of Brittany to the kingdom in 1532, and the confirmation of royal justice in the face of seigneurial justice were all examples of events that hinted at the possibility of unification and centralization. Other affirmations included the ban on parliaments exercising their right of remonstrance, leaving them with only the right of registration, the dispatch of intendants to the provinces; and the ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts (1539), which mandated, among other things, the writing of judicial and notarial acts in French rather than Latin. The Duke of Montmorency, Lord of Bonnivet (c. 1488–c. 1525), and Admiral Philippe de Chabot (c. 1480–c. 1543) were the king’s foremost advisors who faithfully interpreted this centralization and unity.

However, the government’s interest in colonial development and the opening of the kingdom may be seen in the founding of the port of Le Havre by Bonnivet (1517) and the support provided to the explorer Jacques Cartier.

Though the government was always scrambling to come up with new ways to pay for the war’s mounting costs, its financial policies seemed disjointed at best. He had a huge need for money (paid to win over the German princes during his campaign for the Empire and for his patronage), but no logical tax structure was put in place, so he pressed his people instead. Taxes rose from 2,400,000 to 4,600,000 livres between 1517 and 1543.

Even though the government was able to increase tax revenue after the Treasury of Savings was established in 1523, the constant strain on state coffers was the result of heavy borrowing, the sale of numerous government positions, the promotion of inflation, and the issuance of numerous titles (such as the annuities on the Hôtel de Ville, established by Chancellor Antoine Duprat in 1522). This practice of imposing interim restrictions that are then made permanent was a mainstay of the French tax system up to the French Revolution.

Francis I: Religious leader

568px Registre du procès criminel du connétable de Bourbon BNF Fr5109 frontispice
Francis I presiding over a court session. Workshop of Étienne Colaud, ca. 1528-1535, Paris,

Francis I set out to establish his authority over the aristocracy, the Third Estate, and the clergy from the start of his reign. With the help of Pope Leo X, he signed a concordat in 1516 that gave him the authority to choose bishops throughout his realm. Despite the authority of confirmation being acknowledged for the pope, this concordat of Bologna guarantees him control of the French episcopate. Many members of the clergy and the intellectual community had begun to see the necessity for Church reform at that time.

The clergy frequently exhibited incompetence, confusion, and moral sloppiness, to the point where they forgot the words of the creed. Luther used the business of indulgences as a pretext to set the world on fire and initiate the Reformation as the pope struggled to recover from the moral degradation into which his magisterium had fallen.

At least at first, the monarch was tolerant of Protestant beliefs. When the humanists of Meaux, headed by Bishop Guillaume Briçonnet, Marguerite de Navarre’s spiritual guide, were falsely accused of being Lutherans by the Sorbonne, the monarch intervened on their behalf. In the 1530s, he quelled the many ecclesiastical controversies because he wanted to make peace with the German Lutherans on the political front.

After the incident of the Placards in October 1534, however, King Henry VIII saw the full scope of the movement and gave permission for the Parliament to launch a wave of persecutions, which were diplomatically halted by the Edict of Coucy (July 1535). The persecution, which had been temporarily halted by the 1540 decree of Fontainebleau, resumed in April 1545 with the horrific example of the killing of several hundred Vaudois in Provence. Ultimately, Francis I stayed devoted to Rome throughout his rule, albeit sometimes protecting a few relatives or intellectuals. Protestantism had acquired a solid footing in France, and its position was to be the main dilemma confronting the French monarchy for a hundred years, and this was the revelation of the incident of the Placards.

Francis I passed away on March 31st, 1547, at his Rambouillet fortress due to complications from syphilis. After the dauphin François passed away in 1536, Francis I’s second son, then 28 years old, became King Henry II of France.


September 12, 1494: Birth of Francis I

Francis I, born François d’Angoulême, was born in Cognac. The heir apparent to the French throne in 1515, he is the son of Charles of Valois, Count of Angouleme, and Louise of Savoy. On April 7, 1514, he married Claude of France, the daughter of Louis XII. Aside from being the herald of the French Renaissance, the victor of the Battle of Marignan is also a symbol of French independence. Many artists, notably Leonardo da Vinci, were drawn to his court throughout his reign. He initiated the building of Chambord Castle and the establishment of the Collège de France.

April 7, 1514: Francis I marries Claude de France

François d’Angoulême married Claude of France, the daughter of his cousin which was the French king Louis XII. Following this, he was elevated to the position of Duke of Valois. As a result of this marriage, he will be the monarch’s only heir should the king ever die.

January 25, 1515: Coronation of Francis I

Francis I, just 20 years old, became king on January 1 after the death of his cousin and father-in-law, Louis XII. In the city of Reims, he was officially made king of France. His reign would last 32 years.

September 13, 1515: Francis I was victorious at Marignan

Wanting to emulate his ancestors, the young king resolved to lead an invasion of Italy. With his army, he marched across the Alps in August to conquer the Duchy of Milan. When he arrived in September, he found Swiss mercenaries who had been sent as reinforcements by the pope. The conflict didn’t end until the 14th of September, when the French monarch was declared victorious. In response, Lord Bayard knighted Francis I. Along with this victory came the signing of a contract of “perpetual peace” with the Helvetic cantons.

January 1, 1516: Leonardo da Vinci, a hint of an opportunist, enters the service of the King of France

Da Vinci left Italy for France after being there for just two years. He moves to the Clos-Lucé property in Amboise at the invitation of King Francis I of France, who names him “first painter, architect, and engineer of the King” and provides him with a position in the royal court.

August 8, 1516: Francis I signs the Concordat of Bologna

By signing the Concordat of Bologna, the King of France gave himself absolute authority over the French episcopate.

November 29, 1516: Peace of Fribourg

Francis I and the Helvetic Confederation agreed to “perpetual peace” by signing a pact. France paid a hefty sum to ensure Swiss neutrality in any future conflicts and to secure the right to draft Swiss soldiers into French service.

February 7, 1517: Foundation of the Port of Le Havre

King Francis I of France wanted to encourage economic growth in his kingdom, so he granted the charter that would eventually become the port of Le Havre. His vessel, Hermine, arrived in the harbor in October of the following year.

June 7, 1520: The interview at the Field of the Cloth of Gold

There was a summit between France’s King Francis I and England’s King Henry VIII at the city of Calais. The Holy Roman Emperor, King Charles V of Spain, had been elected the previous year, and this meeting’s principal topic was how to react to his accession. Francis I, being encircled by the emperor’s lands, intended to persuade the king of England to join France in an alliance. At the Field of the Cloth of Gold, he gave him the royal treatment with all the pomp and circumstance at his disposal. But whatever advantage Francis planned to gain from this encounter would be nullified by Henry VIII’s reunion with Charles V two weeks later.

April 27, 1522: Defeat of Francis I at Bicoque

Charles V’s armies beat Francis I’s, led by Lautrec, at Bicoque. Finally, France had no choice but to hand over the Duchy of Milan to its most savage opponent.

October 26, 1524: Francis I takes Milan

Led by their king, the French troops captured Charles V’s Milan. The French began a siege of Pavia the next day. The day Francis I was captured was February 24, 1525.

February 24, 1525: Francis I was taken prisoner in Pavia

In his hurry and eagerness for victory, the monarch rushed to assault the opposing forces while the French guns of Genouillac were hitting the Spanish troops in Pavia. French artillery fire instantly ceased out of concern for the safety of the monarch. As a result, the Spanish took advantage of the situation and encircled the king. All of Francis I’s troops were slaughtered, and the king and some of his generals were captured. Francis I was first held captive at a Carthusian abbey in Pavia before being taken to Charles V’s Spain. He was released after renunciating Italy and receiving Burgundy in return for signing the Treaty of Madrid on January 14, 1526.

January 14, 1526: Francis I signs the Treaty of Madrid

Francis I signed the Treaty of Madrid in order to be released from Charles V’s prison in February 1525. He promised to give up Burgundy and any claims to Italian territory. The French monarch disregarded the terms of the contract the day following his release in March 1526, leaving his two sons in Spain as hostages.

March 17, 1526: Release of Francis I

France’s monarch, who had been held captive by Charles V since his loss at Pavia, was liberated from his Madrid cell. As part of the deal that secured his freedom, he had to give up Burgundy and surrender his two sons, Francis and Henry, to the Emperor. In a hurry, Francis I broke this treaty and joined forces with the Italian princes and the Pope in the League of Cognac to fight Charles V. As soon as the Peace of Cambrai is signed in 1529, the war will resume.

August 3, 1529: Signature of the Peace of Cambrai

Louise of Savoy, mother of Francis I, and Margaret of Austria, aunt of Charles V, signed the Peace of Cambrai, often known as the Ladies’ Peace, to bring an end to hostilities between France and the Habsburgs. Francis I, who had been a widower for some time, decided to wed Eleanor of Habsburg, the Emperor’s sister, to finalize the treaty. He also regained Burgundy but sacrificed Italy in exchange. The king’s two sons were finally freed after a massive ransom was paid. However, the anger of the French monarch would spark a new war the next year, in 1536.

January 1, 1530: Foundation of the Collège de France

Francis I was persuaded by Guillaume Budé to establish a royal academy to teach classical languages. The building underwent a transformation during the Restoration and eventually became the prestigious Collège de France.

July 4, 1530: Francis I marries Eleanor of Habsburg

According to one of the treaty’s provisions, Eleanor of Habsburg was to wed Francis I sometime after the Treaty of Cambrai ended hostilities between France and the Habsburgs. July 4, 1530, was the date of the wedding.

August 9, 1534: Jacques Cartier discovers the St. Lawrence

Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, discovered the river’s mouth and gave it the name Saint Lawrence, after the patron saint of navigators at the time. He was successful in getting King Francis I to fund an expedition to the Pacific through the Arctic. Two Indians and a map were among the items he brought back from his journey. The king was suitably pleased, and he was granted permission to proceed with his mission. In the next year, Jacques Cartier would go up the St. Lawrence.

October 18, 1534: Affair of the Placards

Protestant “Placards” were printed in Neuchâtel at Pastor François Antoine Marcourt’s urging. They thought the Mass was a tool of the pope’s to consolidate his authority, so they resisted it. On the night of October 17–18, they were “Placarded” all throughout France, including King Francis I’s quarters in Amboise. “Placards” were “actual articles on the awful, vast, and intolerable excesses of the royal mass,” as the Protestants of the period put it. The French Protestants will be profoundly affected by this incident. The narrative convinced Francis I to go on a quest for the “heretics.” The “placards” scandal has effectively ended decades of religious tolerance in France.

January 13, 1535: Francis I censored books

The French monarch, fearing the spread of Lutheran ideas, bans all book production. A few days later, he changed his mind, but he nevertheless stuck to the notion of censorship and handed it up to a commission of the Paris Parliament.

February 4, 1536: Francis I allies himself with Suleiman the Magnificent

The Treaty of Capitulations was an agreement between France’s monarch and the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. During his conflict with Emperor Charles V over Savoy and Turin, Francis I depended on this alliance, which was unprecedented at the time since it was between a Christian and a Muslim kingdom.

August 10, 1539: Signature of the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts

Francis I of France mandated the use of French instead of Latin for all official documents in the fields of government and law with his ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts (Picardy). This was a major choice in achieving the goal of a unified kingdom. The “Langue d’oïl” was the standard language used in official documents across the Paris region and the Loire Valley. Indeed, it will be quite some time before the royal proclamation is implemented everywhere. It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that everyone spoke the same language.

March 31, 1547: Death of Francis I

At the age of 53, the king of France died in his castle of Rambouillet. He had been very ill for months, and had previously undergone the utmost unction. It took two months to bury the “Great King François.” On May 24, his coffin would be lowered into the crypt of the royal abbey of Saint-Denis. Francis I, a figurehead of the French Renaissance, was succeeded by his son, Henry II, at the young age of 28.


  1. Jensen, De Lamar. “The Ottoman Turks in Sixteenth Century French Diplomacy,” Sixteenth Century Journal 16:4 (1985): 451–470. online
  2. Frieda, Leonie. Francis I: The Maker of Modern France. New York: HarperCollins, 2018.
  3. Richardson, Glenn. The Field of the Cloth of Gold (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2014).
  4. Knecht, R.J. Francis I (Cambridge University Press, 1982) online
  5. Jensen, De Lamar, ed. Renaissance Europe: Age of Recovery and Reconciliation. Lexington, Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company (2nd ed. 1991).

By Bertie Atkinson

Bertie Atkinson is a history writer at Malevus. He writes about diverse subjects in history, from ancient civilizations to world wars. In his free time, he enjoys reading, watching Netflix, and playing chess.