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Francis I

Francis I



Francis IFrancis I. has been called the most brilliant King of France: good-natured, kindly, chivalrous, high-spirited, valorous, aesthetic in his tastes, " protector of literature, "-all this he certainly was. But his dashing, dazzling appearance must not be permitted to make us blind to his faults. If he was refined in taste, he was also sensual; if ambitious, abject also when he met with reverses; though high-spirited, yet he wanted force of character; steadfastness and" squareness" were foreign to his nature. He showed headstrong valor in battle, but did not make a good military commander: his early, brilliant victory at Mariguano gave him an unmerited reputation which his subsequent campaigns failed to support. He was intensely autocratic; though Von Ranke calls him the "King of culture," yet his people groaned under the taxes imposed to meet the expense of selfish pleasures. His incapacity and want of coolness and persist ency stand out glaringly in his long struggle against Charles V. Furthennore, he was very much under the evil influence of his energetic mother, who adored him, and her unprincipled minister, Du Prat.


Born at Cognac, September I2, 1494, Francis, Count of Angouleme, was a youth of twenty when, on January 1, 1515, he succeeded his father-in-law, Louis XII., King of France, good King Lays," to whose daughter, Claude, be had been married at the age of eleven. Almost the first act of his reign was to invade Italy at the head of a strong army, having taken up his two predecessors' claims to Milan and Naples. The Spaniards, the Swiss and the Pope were banded against him; but he overcame all obstacles by reaching the Italian plains via the Cottian Alps, which he crossed with his entire army. The Swiss gained a temporary advantage over the enthusiastic young King by a sharp attack September 13, 1515 at Marigllano, about ten miles from Milan; but on the following day the French, who had rallied, gained a complete victory over the mountaineers. Pavia and Milan yielded, as did also Genoa.


After this great victory at Marigllano, Francis concluded a perpetual peace with the Swiss, met Pope Leo X. at Bologna, where he had the Concordat of 1515 drawn up, and in the same year he and Charles I. of Spain subsequently Emperor Charles V., made peace at Noyon. But on the Emperor Maximilian's death 1519 these same two sovereigns strove after the German imperial crown, which, despite the French King's prestige as a warrior, his many friends, his negotiations and his bribes, fell to Charles. Almost uninterrupted hostilities between the two resulted.


There was surely enough for Francis to do in his own country; besides, it has been pointed out that while France easily repulsed invasion, its efforts for conquest abroad resulted in failure and disgrace. But the King was, as a rule, either indulging in useless and prodigal festivities at home, or wasting the strength of the land in foreign expeditions. He began hostilities in 1521 by placing four armies in the field, met the Emperor at Valencienues, and put him to flight. After this advantage on the Flemish frontier, which Francis failed to follow up came reverses for the light~hearted King. His officer, Lautrec, was driven out of Milan, which was thus lost to France. Charles of Bourbon, the most prominent and powerful prince in France, who had been made Constable by Francis and was subsequently offended by the distrustful attitude of the King, began secret negotiations with Charles V. and Henry VIII. of England, and fled from France when threatened with discovery. The English, in 1524 advanced within about thirty miles of Paris, and the army sent into Italy under Bonnivet 1523 was driven out within a year. But Francis still pursued the ignis fatuus of Italian conquest, and once more led a army to the other side of the Alps. The Imperialists were completely disorganized i yet Francis, as usual, did not strike at the right time. He frittered away his opportunities in a vain siege of Pavia, gave his enemies time to gather strength, was defeated by the relieving army under Pescara, and was humiliated by being made prisoner.


For awhile he was in keeping at Pizzighittonc, but later all was removed to Spain, where, wearied by close confinement, he agreed to the terms of the Treaty of Madrid, signed 14th January, 1526. Burgundy was to be ceded to Charles, whose sister Eleanor Francis was to espouse; Flanders and Artois were given up, and the French claims on Milan, Genoa, Naples and Asti were abandoned; and the fulfillment of these stipulations was to be assured by surrendering the sons of the King as hostages to the Emperor. But Francis had no intention of keeping his word; all his return to France he convened an assembly of nobles, which II packed" gathering promptly declared that the King had not the power to give lip any of his provinces, and that his oath, exacted from him during captivity, was invalid.


After this, an immediate renewal of the war was inevitable, and in May, of this same year 1526 the King fanned a Holy League" with the Pope and various Italian princes, into, like the English Henry VIII., had become alarmed at the growing power of the Emperor. But Lautrec again met defeat in Italy and Genoa was lost, so that the King was glad to conclude peace with Charles, which was done at Cambrai, August 5, 1529. But the slightest excuse for war served Francis, and in 1535 we find him again in Italy, having formed alliance with the Turks, to be driven out again in the following year. Charles, his old enemy, now invaded Provence; but the French completely shattered his army by the barbarous expedient of destroying the resources of the country. A ten years' truce was agreed to between the two monarchs at Nice in 1538, and it lasted for three years.


Francis, grown old and weak before his time, was lulled into quiet by the offer of the old prize, Milan, which was refused him by Charles when the time came: the Emperor had given him no promises in writing! This humiliation angered the King and roused him once more to enter the field of war, in 1541, with his allies, including Protestants and Turks. But his foreign friends soon turned from him, his army of mercenaries drained his resources, and Charles and Henry VIII. , having joined force s, invaded France with the intention of marching straight on to Paris, which plan was not carried out all account of mutual distrust. Peace was signed at Crespy, September, 1544, by Francis and Charles, the former giving up his rights to Flanders and Artois, the latter abandoning his claim to Burgundy in Italy France ultimately gained nothing. Two years later June, 1546, Henry VIII. and Francis came to terms, and once more combined against the Emperor; but death cut short their schemes. Henry died in the beginning of 1547, and Francis on March 31, of the same year.


Thus, at the age of fifty-three, after a life spent to a great extent in the useless pursuit of foolish ambitions, died this King, who, with all his good qualities good-nature especially prominent, lacked judgment and strength of character. He was, in a measure, the exponent of Europe's opposition against the alarming and overbearing power of Spain and Germany, but scattered his energies in foreign fields, instead of consolidating his forces at home. Taxes, corruption, arbitrary rule, at home; in-faith, and failure in war and policy, abroad; these things," says an English author, are the results of the reign of this most brilliant of French monarchs.




After the Imperialist army, commanded by the Duke of Bourbon and Pescara, had been driven from the siege of Marseilles in September, I524 King Francis resolved, contrary to the advice of his best generals, to carry the war into Italy. He crossed the Alps in the month of October, with an army of 40,000 men, and accompanied by most of the best captains in France; but Bonnivet was still the favorite adviser to whom he listened in preference to all others.


Francis I


The King's plan was to proceed direct into Lombardy, in the hope of arriving there before the Imperialists, and he reached Vercelli at the moment when Bourbon and Pescara approached Montserrat The latter, by a forced march, gained Pavia, where the Viceroy of Naples and the Duke Sforza had assembled an army of reserve; while the French marched direct upon Milan, which the Imperialists, who were unprepared for defense, were obliged to abandon, leaving only a garrison ill the castle. The army of the confederates also left strong garrisons in Alessandria and Pavia, and fell back upon Lodi and Cremona. Had the French followed them up immediately, the consequence would in all probability have been most disastrous to the imperial cause. But Francois without any great capacity of understanding, was extremely obstinate in temper, and, rejecting the advice of all his old and experienced captains, he adopted that of Bonnivet, and resolved to undertake the siege of Pavia, which was garrisoned by 7,000 imperial troops under the celebrated Spanish Commander, Antonio de Leyva. Having, therefore, given the government of Milan to La Tremoille, Francois left to him the task of reducing the castle or citadel, and marched with the bulk of his army to undertake the siege of Pavia in the latter days of October.


The error committed by the King gave time to the Imperial generals to entrench themselves on the Adda, and to increase and re-organize their army, while the garrison or Pavia successfully resisted all the attempts that were made to take the place by assault, until at length Francois was obliged to turn the siege into a blockade. On the other hand, the Imperial troops remained inactive for want of pay, for the treasury of Charles V. was exhausted; but at length Bourbon and Pescara, by great exertions, raised sufficient money to obtain considerable recruits from Germany, and on the 25th of January, 1525, having persuaded their troops to serve for another month without pay, they marched from Lodi, and took lip a position within view of the French camp before Pavia. The King's oldest and best generals advised him to raise the siege of Pavia and fall back for awhile upon Milan, because they saw the danger of allowing himself to be shut in between the garrison and the army of relief, and they knew that the Imperial generals were without money and could not keep their troops together many days but the younger and more favored captains, led by Bonnivet, exclaimed against the cowardice of this policy, and protested that it would be unworthy of the King of France to retreat before the traitor Bourbon. The King, who had sworn that be would die rather than raise the siege of Pavia, adopted the opinion of Bonnivet; and, having thus decided on remaining where they were, the French proceeded to take the best measures for fortifying their position on all sides, and for preventing the approach of the enemy to the town. The camp was entrenched in front towards Lodi, its left resting upon the Tesino, while its right extended to the walls of the park of Mirabella, the favorite villa of the Dukes of Milan. This position seemed too strong to justify an attack, and the Imperialists remained in their position. Contrary, however, to the expectations of the King of France and his advisers, this delay had proved injurious to them, for they lost by desertion or defeat a considerable number of their Swiss and Italian auxiliaries and at length, on the 22d of February, the Imperial generals received an advance of money from Spain, which enabled them to pay to their troops a portion of their arrears of wages. Encouraged by this circumstance, and by some successful skirmishing which had taken place, the Imperial generals resolved Lo force their way into Pavia through the park of Mirabello.


This park, though commanded to a considerable degree by the French artillery, was the worst guarded part of their position; and, in all probability, the attempt to pass through it would force them to come out and give battle, which was what the Imperialists desired. During the night of the 23d of February, the latter kept the French camp in a slate of alarm by a continual canl10nade and by a repetition of false attacks, while the mass of their troops approached unobserved the walls of the park of Mirabello, broke down a sufficient extent of these, and entered the park. At daybreak, the French commanders were taken by surprise when they saw the enemy's columns marching rapidly through the park, leaving the King's headquarters on their left. The French batteries, commanded by Galiot de Gel1onilIac, immediately opened upon them with terrible effect, and as the vanguard were at this moment passing a part of the park which was especially exposed, they hurried forward in the greatest precipitation to gain a deep lane which was covered from the artillery. Francois I. saw this movement, and, having just heard that the division commanded by the Duke of Alencon and Chabot de Brion, which occupied the villa of Mirabello, had gained an advantage over the Imperialists in the park, he took it for granted that the latter were flying, and hurrying out from his camp, drew the whole army with him, and threw himself before his own batteries, which were thus immediately silenced. The Imperial generals saw their utmost hopes fulfilled by this imprudent movement, and they formed their troops rapidly in order of battle, while the vanguard, which had run to the deep road to escape the cannonade, returned, reinforced by the greater part of the garrison of Pavia, commanded by Antonio de Leyva in person.


The two armies were soon engaged in a terrible struggle. The lansquenets in the pay of France were quickly routed by the German troops under the Duke of Bourbon, and their two chiefs, the English Yorkist exile, the Duke of Suffolk, and Francois de Guise, brother of the Duke of Lorraine, were slain. Bourbon then, with his victorious division, joined the Spaniards who were engaged with the right wing of the French army, which was also defeated with great slaughter. La Palisse, who commanded it, had surrendered to a Neapolitan captain named Castaldo, when a Spanish officer, named Buzarto, jealous of the Italian, slew the prisoner with an arquebus-shot. In the center the struggle was equally furious, and at first more favorable to the French. The King, at the head of the French cavalry, had routed the Italian cavalry commanded by the Marquis of St. Angelo, and Francois is said to have killed this nobleman, who was a descendant of the celebrated scanderbeg, and several others of his opponents, with his own hand. Another body of cavalry, raised in the Franche-Comte, experienced the same fate as the Italians. But Pescara hadl by a stratagem of war, mixed with the Spanish cavalry on whom the shock of the French gendarmerie fell next a large number of the most skillful of his Basque arquebusiers, and these, penetrating even into the ranks of the French cavalry, shot down with unerring aim the bravest of their captains, and threw them into irretrievable confusion. La Tremoille and De Falx, with Bayard's friend, Louis d' Ars, San Severino, the bastard of Savoy, and many other brave commanders perished. Meanwhile, in the right wing matters went worse even than in the left. The Duke of Alencon, who commanded the cavalry there, believing all was lost, drew off his men and fled without striking a blow; while the Swiss, who formed the body of that wing, were seized with the same panic, and instead of giving their assistance to the center, withdrew from the field, and made their retreat by the road to Milan. Nevertheless, Francois, who fought with the greatest courage, succeeded in rallying his troops in the center, and in repulsing his immediate assailants, and Pescara was himself wounded and thrown from his horse. But at this moment the other imperial commanders, the Duke of Bourbon, Castaldo, Del Guasto, Antonio de Leyva, and the Viceroy Lanlloi, meeting with no further resistance on the left or the right, turned also upon the French center, which was soon overwhelmed by numbers. The Slaughter had been dreadful among the French captains and gentry. BOl1nivet, in despair at the disaster which had been incurred in great measure by hi" presumption threw himself furiously upon Bourbon's lansquenets and was immediately slain. He had been one of Bourbon's bitterest enemies, and when the Duke, after seeking him through the field of battle, was shown his corpse stretched on the ground, he is said to have exclaimed, almost more in sorrow than in triumph: "Ah! wretch, thou art the cause of the ruin of France and of me !"


The King and a few of the bravest of his companions in arms still continued the struggle, until Francois, already wounded in the face and leg, and hemmed in by his enemies, was in imminent danger of sharing the fate of so many of his brave commanders. The companion of the Duke of Bourbon's flight, Pomperant, perceived him in this critical position, and, hurrying to his rescue, urged him to surrender to the Duke but the King refused indignantly, and Pomperant then sought the Viceroy Lannoi, to whom Francois surrendered his sword. Among those who were made prisoners with the King were the King of Navarre, the Count of St. Pol, Fleuranges, Montmorenci, Brion, in fact nearly all the French captains of any note who had not been slain in the battle i and among others, of less military reputation, was the King's valet~de~chambre, the poet Clement Marot, who was wounded fighting bravely by the side of his master. The first feeling exhibited by the King was that of mortification at his failure in performing his boast against Pavia and he begged that be might not be taken into the town to become a spectacle to the inhabitants. He was accordingly conducted to the tent of the Marquis del Guasto a cousin of the Marquis of Pescara, where bis wounds were immediately dressed. He was visited in the course of the day by Pescara and by the Duke of Bourbon, and the King showed his resentment against the latter no further than by addressing him with coldness, while he conversed familiarly with the former. The respect shown by the German and Italian soldiers for their prisoner, and their increased discontent, in spite of their rich plunder, at not receiving their arrears of pay, excited the alarm of the Viceroy of Naples, and, fearing that they might seize upon the King and hold him as a hostage or even set him at liberty, he contrived to remove him from the camp and convey him in safe custody to the castle of Pizzighittone. Before he left the camp before Pavia, Francois wrote to his mother a letter in which he informed her of his misfortune, that of all his possessions nothing remained but honor and life, exhorted her to act with her accustomed prudence, and begged her to allow the bearer to pass directly into Spain that he might know quickly what were the Emperor's intentions in regard to him. Historians have transformed this letter into the laconic epistle which it has been pretended that the prisoner addressed to the Regent Louise after the battle, Madame, all is lost but honor Madame, tout est perdu, fors l' honneur.


Charles V. was evidently embarrassed by his own unexpected fortune, and, while he at first concealed his joy under a show of moderation which he was far from feeling, he shrunk from the alternative of following his original design for the conquest and dismemberment of France, and chose the less generous and even the less politic one of selling the liberty of his prisoner as dearly as possible. He began, while Henry VIII. was st in his ally, by demanding for himself the surrender of Burgundy and Picardy for the King of England, Normandy, Guieune, and Gascony; and for the Duke of Bourbon, the restoration of the ancient domains of his family and the addition of Provence and Dauphine. Francois had at first been deceived by the Emperor's professions of moderation, and had appealed to him with great humility; but these demands threw him into furious indignation, and he declared that he would rather die than yield to them. Nevertheless, Francois himself offered to purchase his freedom by conditions which were sufficiently humiliating; but these-which 'were the marriage of the King with the Emperor's sister, the Queen-dowager of Portugal, with an acknowledgment that he held the Duchy of Burgundy as her dower and that it was to descend to their children, the abandonment of all his rights in Italy and Flanders., and the restoration of all his property to the Duke of Bourbon, to Whom he promised to give in marriage Marguerite of Valois, made a widow by the recent death of the Duke of Alencon-fell far short of Charles' expectations.


Charles now became aware that his captive was not safe in Italy, for Bourbon and Pescara, who were the favorites of the soldiers and were discontented with the Emperor, seemed to look upon the King as their own prisoner rather than that of their master, and the latter was alarmed by reports of plots for setting him at liberty. To defeat these, the cunning of the Viceroy Lannoi was put in requisition. The Viceroy persuaded Francois that he would gain much more favorable terms in a personal treaty with the Emperor; and the King fell so completely into the snare, that he not only expressed a wish to be carried to Spain, but he forbade the fleets which might have hindered his departure and perhaps have rescued him, from interfering, and he ordered his own subjects to furnish ships as transports for the Spanish troops who were to escort him. At the same time Lannoi induced Bourbon and Pescara to agree to his removal from Pizzighittone, by assuring them that it was for their interests that he should be transferred to Naples, as a protection against a plot of bis friends who might have procured his escape in the same manner as they had then recently done that of the King of Navarre, his fellow·captive. Francis embarked with the viceroy at Genoa on the 7th of June, and was conveyed first to Valencia, and thence to Madrid, where he was closely imprisoned, while the Emperor, who was at Toledo, refused him an interview.


The King now repented bitterly of the too easy faith which he had given to the Viceroy of Naples, and his grief and mortification brought on an attack of illness, which soon assumed so serious a character that Charles thought it advisable to pay him the visit he had so long refused, lest death should step in and deprive him of his captive. This interview took place on the 18th of September, and the King, with the same credulity as he bad shown in the case of the viceroy, believed in his fair promises, and soon recovered his spirits and with them his health. But the Emperor, having thus obtained his ends, returned to his farmer rigor, and the King, in despair, resigned himself to perpetual imprisonment rather than contribute to the ruin of his kingdom, and drew lip privately an act of abdication by which he surrendered the crown to bis infant son, the Dauphin. This act he delivered to his sister Marguerite, who had repaired to Madrid to plead in his favor, and who was compelled to make a hasty return to France lest the Emperor should cause her to be arrested in order to obtain possession of the document. It seems doubtful how far this document was intended to be ever carried into effect ; for Francois I. was, after all, more capable of conceiving great designs than of performing great acts. The deed of abdication was never presented to the Parliament; and eventually, when the Emperor became alarmed by an act which might at once deprive his prisoner of his character of King, and made new advances, the latter concluded a treaty which redounded little to his own honor. The new treaty, known as the Treaty of Madrid, was signed on the 14th of January, 1526, and Francois, before he put his signature to it, made a private protest before his own plenipotentiaries against its validity, and intimated his design to break or evade it By this treaty of Madrid, Francois I. engaged to give up to the Emperor the Duchy of Burgundy, abjured all his claims on Naples, Milan and Genoa, renounced all suzerainty over Burgundy, Flanders and Artois, gave up Tournai, abandoned the King of Navarre, the Duke of Guelders, and the family of La Marek, promised to restore their estates to the Duke of Bourbon and his accomplices, and undertook to pay a heavy debt which the Emperor had contracted with the King of England. It was further agreed that the King should marry Eleanor of Portugal and the Duke of Bourbon, to whom the Queen of Portugal had also been promised, was, by way of compensation, to be made Duke of Milan. Francois promised to ratify the treaty in the first frontier town which he entered in his own dominions; he was to deliver his two eldest sons as hostages for its performance; and he promised, in case the ratifications of the treaty should not have been exchanged and all its clauses fully executed within four months, to return to his prison in Spain.


After the treaty had been thus concluded, Francois I. was conducted by the Viceroy of Naples to Fontarabia, while the Regent and her two grandsons, who were destined to become the hostages for their father, came to Bayonne. At a point between Irun and Andaye, a large barge was placed at anchor in the middle of the river Bidassoa, which here formed the boundary of the two kingdoms, and, on the 18th of March, 1526, the viceroy, leading the King with him, met on board this vessel the Marshal Lautrec, who held in his hands the two royal children. These were delivered to Launoi and Fran90is, after shedding tears over them and giving them his blessing, departed with Lautrec, and soon set his feet on his own territory. In doing this, he exclaimed with emotion, "Here I am a King again I" He then mounted a swift horse, and rode at its full speed first to St. Jean-de-Luz, and thence with the same rapidity to Bayoune, where he was received by his mother and the court. It was the first of his cities into which be entered, and an agent of the Viceroy of Naples immediately summoned him to perform his promise of ratifying the treaty; but the King returned an evasive answer, alleging that it was necessary for him to consult the people of Burgundy before he could confirm an act which separated their duchy from the kingdom of France. -T. WRIGHT.


Francis I

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