Francis I of Valois

Francis I of Valois


Cognac, 12 September 1494


Rabouillet, 31 March 1547

Francis I of Valois

Son of the Count of Angoulême and of Luisa di Savoia, his first wife was the daughter of King Louis XII, whom he succeeded on the first of January 1515. His long reign is considered a time of consolidation of the royal power in France. Charles V was his arch-enemy: first for the title as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, in 1519; then at war on French soil, fighting for the Bourgogne lands and the disputed Pyrenees border; finally, in the Mediterranean and in Italy, more specifically for the control of Milan, Naples and Piedmont. The war between the two started in 1521, taking a turn for the worse for the King of France, who was defeated and captured in Pavia (1525), he was forced to sign the Treaty of Madrid (1526), which involved giving up all the disputed territories. for this reason Francis I convinced Clement VII to start a new anti-Imperial alliance, the League of Cognac (1526) declaring the Treaty of Madrid null and void (because it had been signed under duress). The Imperial forces, however, gained the upper hand: after the Sack of Rome (1527), which had pacified the Pontifical ally, the king of France was betrayed by the Genoa fleet (under Andrea Doria's command, who had switched to the Imperial side) and his army was decimated under the walls of Naples, the victim of an epidemic (1528). The last Florentine Republic, theoretically an ally of France, did not get any substantial help during the Siege of 1529-1530, which ended with the victory of the Papal-Imperial armed forces. The fight in Italy started again in 1536 with the French invasion of Piedmont and, in alternating phases, it lasted after the death of Francis I until the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis (1559). The latter ended the sixty-year period known as Italian Wars and marked the Habsburg domination over the peninsula. Francis I was also a great patron of the arts: to give just two examples, he hosted and paid Leonardo da Vinci a pension from 1517 until he died two years later, as well as paying a substantial salary, between 1540 and 1545, Benvenuto Cellini; moreover, it appears that the King was one of the few personalities friendly with Caterina de’ Medici, who had arrived in France in October 1533 as wife of his second child.

Bibliography and sources:

François Jacquart, Francesco I e la civiltà del Rinascimento, Milano, Mondadori, 1983
Marcello Simonetta, Caterina de’ Medici. Storia segreta di una faida famigliare, Milano, Rizzoli, 2019

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