Francis I

King of France 1515-1547

Renaissance Warrior

Patron of the Arts

Man of Letters

Member of the Valois family

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Francis I

King of France 1515-1547

Renaissance Warrior

Patron of the Arts

Man of Letters

Member of the Valois family

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Early Years

1515 - Defeated the Swiss at Marignano.

1516 - Concordat of Bologna with Pope Leo X.

1519 - Failed to acquire the position of HRE; losing to Charles V, a Hapsburg.

1520 - Field of the Cloth of Gold: Alliance attempt with Henry VIII, 200,000 spent on it. Claimed to also be a competition between the two monarchs.

1522 - Francis lost Milan to Charles V.

1524 - Francis attempted to regain Milan.

1525 - Battle of Pavia; Francis defeated and taken prisoner by Charles V.

1526 - Treaty of Madrid; Francis, already humiliated, had to renounce all claims to Italy.

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Humanism was closely associated with the initiation of the Reformation.

He was taught by humanists such as Jacques Lefèvre + Guillaume Budé, who are said to have influenced many of his decisions.

Budé was instrumental in founding the Collège de France.

Francis also formed the basis of the National Library in Paris; he obtained precious classic manuscripts (from Rome and Greece), and also ordered a copy of every published book in his realm.

He translated the Bible into French.

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Renaissance France

Francis spent the majority of his funding on the arts and new learning (humanism).

He set up court in Fontainebleau.

He devoted most of his time to architecture; improving the Blois, remodelling the Louvre, and rebuilding the City Hall in Paris.

Francis saw domestic glory in the full development of the French Renaissance. The likes of Leonardo Da Vinci worked at his court.

The 'Renaissance Warrior' wanted international prestige + glory of being a successful King in battle.

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 The Couseil du Roi (King’s Council) specialised its activities and systematised its work. One day it would concentrate on finance, the next day on justice etc. Important decisions were taken by the Conseil des Affaires which was a small inner circle around the king.

The taille was increased to finance French foreign policy.

Offices and titles were sold as was the right to nominate a successor to the purchased office; Parlément resisted Francis' new measures, such as the sale of offices, but also his protection of religious innovators, and above all the Concordat of Bologna with the Pope.

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A reform of his tax collecting and accounting system which placed financial administration under the close supervision of two central officials : theTresorier de L’Epargne and the Receveur des Parties Casuelles.

Judicially, the chief agent of royal administration was the Grand Conseil - an off-shoot of the Royal Council - which co-ordinated civil and criminal justice.

This policy of Francis lead to him clashing with the Parlément de Paris which frequently objected to royal policy which was certainly weakening its status as one of the leading legal bodies in France.

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Monarchy v Church

Ordnance de Villers-Cotterets ordered that all legal documents had to be in French and asserted that all royal courts were superior to those of the church.

This was an extension of royal authority at the expense of the church.

Francis expanded royal power at the expense of the nobility : the lands of the Duke of Bourbon from 1523 on; the lands of Alenç on by escheat in 1525; those of Albret by the marriage of Francis’ sister Margueritte to Henry II D’Albret, King of Navarre in 1527; those of Burgundy in 1529 and Brittany in 1532 by royal decree.

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The Concordat of Bologna of 1516 with Pope Leo X gave Francis the right to appoint nearly 600 of the chief church offices in France.

The Parlément de Paris only recognised this right in March 1518.

The Concordat also gave people the right to appeal to Rome on legal matters and this would lead to a dilution of the power of the Parlément de Paris.

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The Reformation had to enter France purely for geographical reasons but the persecution of the Protestants in this catholic country did not start at once. Francis encouraged the spread of Humanism.

In April 1521, the University of Paris condemned Luther and the Parlément began to charge Humanists as heretics. As both these institutions had opposed the growth of absolutism, Francis did all he could to block their persecution - if he could undermine the authority of these two institutions, then he could advance his own cause at their expense.

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Francis was also an ally of some of the north German princes throughout the 1530s, who were fighting the Holy Roman Emperor - yet Francis was a catholic.

When the Affairs of the Placards took place in 1534, (an anti-Catholic movement) he took action but this was because Francis saw it as a threat to his life rather than a religious issue.

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The Hapsburg/Valois rivalry was a continuation of the Italian Wars of their predecessors, as Francis pursued dynastic claims to Milan and Naples, due to his love of their architecture, but Francis was also threatened by the encirclement of Charles V.

He had challenged Charles V for the title of emperor but he had lost.

Four successive wars against him filled the reign of King Francis. When Francis lost Milan in 1522, his attempt to regain it ended in disasterous defeat at Pavia.

The defeat of Francis I at Pavia (1525), and his captivity, ended with the Treaty of Madrid (1526), by which he renounced all claim to Italy. 

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Francis created an alliance between himself, the Italian princes, among them Pope Clement VII, Henry VIII and both Florence and Venice; League of Cognac, 1526, against Charles.

After the failure of the league, he obtained the help of the Ottoman Empire and went to war again in Italy.

In the Franco-Ottoman Alliance, Francis persuaded Suleiman the Magnificent to attack Vienna twice, but failed both times, and to also raid Hapsburg possessions in the Mediterranean.

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Francis I was an absolutist King, who strived for power and glory.

His main accomplishments were internal, as his external affairs (Hapsburg Rivalry) tended to end with failure, even when campaigning to be HRE.

His love of the arts branded him the 'Renaissance Prince'.

He made many alliances depending on the state of his country, some controversial.

His financial advisors were corrupt, only allowing him 25% of revenue. Despite this, he did improve the system, separating the 16 provinces to allowing collection of taxes such as the salt tax to be collected more efficiently. 

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