- Francis I
- (1494-1547)King of France from 1515. His reign is associated with the flowering of Renaissance culture in France. Born to the duke of Angoulême and his wife Louise of Savoy, he and his sister Marguerite (usually known in English as Margaret of Navarre) were educated in the new Renaissance learning that was being introduced from Italy. Unlike his intellectual sister, Francis did not pursue learning closely and was more attracted to the usual avocations of the high nobility, sports and hunting. After succeeding his cousin Louis XII in 1515, Francis pursued his hereditary claim to the duchy of Milan and reopened the struggle against Spain for hegemony in Italy that filled his reign with costly wars. In the long run, these turned out to the advantage of his rival, the Emperor Charles V. From the early 1530s, his government faced the rapid spread of Protestantism in many parts of France, and despite his sympathy for some moderate reform humanists such as Lefèvre d'Etaples, he attempted to suppress the new heresy, though with only partial success.Francis has a reputation as a great patron of Renaissance art and scholarship. He was an active builder of palaces, and his new chateaux in the Loire valley at Amboise, Blois, and Chambord show strong traces of Italian Renaissance architectural influence. In 1519 he invited the elderly Leonardo da Vinci to France, where he died in 1521. The ruler later acquired several works of Leonardo, notably the Mona Lisa. Francis employed the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini and continued to patronize traditional Flemish and French painters, especially for portraits.Francis was a patron of the new humanist learning, making the leading French humanist of his time, Guillaume Budé, a member of his household and an adviser on cultural matters. The king acquired a large library, including many classical works in Greek and Latin. He attempted without success to persuade the greatest humanist of the age, Erasmus, to settle in France. Urged on by Budé, he repeatedly promised to found a special college devoted to classical studies, but perhaps because of his costly wars, he took no action to fulfill these promises until 1530, when he agreed to subsidize two lecturers in Greek and two in Hebrew, soon supplemented by a lecturer in Latin language and literature and one in mathematics. Although the king provided no institutional framework or facilities for their lectures, these lectureships did encourage the spread of humanism among educated Frenchmen and are conventionally regarded as the origin of the later Collège Royal.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.