Francis I

Francis I

king of France, son of Charles of Orleans, count of Angouleme, and Louisa of Savoy, was born at Cognac September 12, 1494, and died at Rambouillet March 31, 1547. He came to the throne on the death of his father-in-law, Louis XII, January 1, 1515. He made a concordat with pope Leo X which sacrificed the independence of the Gallican Church. and was resisted by the Parliament of France until its registry was compelled. by the. arbitrary measures of Francis. In 1519 he was a candidate for the imperial throne of Germany, made vacant by the death of Maximilian II, but was beaten by Charles V: and thereafter gave expression to his disappointed ambition in efforts to humble his successful rival, which led to almost incessant wars between them, and wasted the lives and treasures of his subjects without adding to his fame or possessions. Francis sought to secure the support of Henry VIII of England, and a personal interview was held between these monarchs on a plain near Calais, called, from the magnificence displayed, the "Field of the Cloth of Gold;" but the crafty Wolsey managed to nullify the results of the meeting. The contests which followed were generally unfortunate for Francis, who in 1525 led an army into Italy, and was defeated and made prisoner at the battle of Pavia. He was only released on signing a treaty dishonorable to himself and his country, which he secretly protested against, and when once more at home openly repudiated. A powerful combination, called the Holy League, was formed to curb the ambition and power of Charles, but failed, chiefly from lack of energy and discretion on the part of Francis, whose mind was too much under the control of favorites and mistresses. With alternations of success and failure, of truce and war, these conflicts continued during the life of Francis, who sought aid of the Turks, the pope, the English, and the German Protestants, and abandoned the one or the other ally as the vacillations of feeling, the promptings of policy, or the influence of favorites determined. It is said that he finally died from the effects of a disease which an injured husband found means of communicating to him. Francis was a patron of artists and literary men, and his name is justly associated with the renaissance of literature and art; but he was despotic, devoted to pleasure, and grossly licentious — now inclining to religious toleration, now witnessing himself the torch applied to light the fires of the stake; in 1531 an ally of the Protestant "league of Smalcald," in 1545 permitting a most atrocious persecution of the peaceful Vaudois, his life presents a picture wherein the virtues of the brave chevalier are overlapped and almost hid by vices that darkened the lustre of his early fame, and left their traces in the corrupt morals of successive reigns. — Wright, History of France (London, 3 volumes, 4to), 1:636-676; Sismondi, Histoire des Frangais (Bruxelles, 1849, 18 volumes, 8vo; see Index in volume 18);

Ranke, History of the Papacy (1851, 2 volumes, 8vo); Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 18:510-530. (J.W.M.)

 
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