Francis I

Robert Knecht

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online August 2011 | | DOI:
Francis I

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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Francis I, king of France from 1515 to 1547, has not always been treated by posterity with the seriousness he deserves. The French historian Jules Michelet (b. 1798–d. 1874), who has exerted a long-standing influence on popular notions of the past among his countrymen, dismissed him as a “fine talker” who allowed himself to be ruled by women, principally his mother and sister. As a child of the French Revolution, Michelet despised Francis for not having assumed leadership of the Protestant revolt against the Roman Catholic Church. Francis has also been largely eclipsed by the brilliance of the Sun King, Louis XIV. But all this has now changed. Since the 1950s there has been a revival of interest in the Renaissance and the Reformation. Francis was a central figure in both. As king, he laid the foundations of the “absolute” monarchy that was to flourish in the next century under Louis XIV. Though not entirely successful in his long struggle with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Francis successfully resisted his claim to the duchy of Burgundy, which, if conceded, would have dismantled the kingdom of France. Faced by the challenge of the Protestant Reformation that shattered the religious unity of his kingdom, Francis took the fateful decision to uphold the Catholic faith. He also supported some of the earliest French expeditions to the New World. On the cultural level, his legacy was second to none. Presiding over the most magnificent court north of the Alps, in which women assumed a more significant presence than in the past, he built numerous châteaus, patronized some of the most illustrious artists of his day, built up a superb library, and paved the way for the prestigious Collège de France in Paris—not a bad record for a ruler once dismissed as a lightweight.

Article.  18456 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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