Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

Achievements of Francis I

As soon as the news of Francis's captivity spread abroad, all Europe was deeply moved, for it now seemed as if France were in imminent danger of extinction, and as if Charles V might realize his great ambition and become sole master of all western Europe. Feeling that England might be the next to suffer, Henry VIII suddenly decided to desert his former ally Charles V, and to unite forces instead with Francis I, as did various Italian cities also.

Encouraged by the support of these allies, and unwilling to execute a treaty wrung from him by force, Francis induced the Burgundian notables to declare that a King of France had no right to yield territory belonging to the country. This suited Francis exactly, because while he claimed to be chivalrous in the extreme, he never felt any scruples about breaking promises when he found it expedient to do so. But his refusal to respect the treaty of Madrid necessarily brought about a second war with Charles V, now the most powerful sovereign seen in Europe since the days of Charlemagne.

The greatest event in the course of the Second War for the Balance of Power was the famous siege and sack of Rome, which fell into the hands of the Imperialists and was for eight days a prey to ruthless pillagers. An enormous amount of damage was done to the Eternal City, but Bourbon, who led the troops to the assault, gained no advantage from this triumph, as he was slain on the first of the scaling ladders by a missile hurled by the artist Cellini.

The war lasted three years (1526-1529), and was concluded by "the Peace of the Ladies," negotiated by Francis's mother and Charles V's aunt. It provided that Francis should give up Flanders and all claim to Italy, but that Burgundy should remain in Francis's hands, and that this king should also recover possession of his hostage sons by paying a large ransom.

During the period of peace which followed, Francis I freely indulged his taste for pleasure, art, and literature. While he deserves great blame for the license of his own manners, and for the lack of morals which he encouraged at his court, he also deserves great credit for fostering science and literature, whereby he earned in France the title "King of Culture."

It was he who encouraged the coming of many prominent artists (including Leonardo da Vinci, the painter of "The Last Supper," and Cellini, who cast the silver statue of Perseus). He also brought back from his Italian campaigns many art treasures to adorn his castles and rare books for his library.

Francis was, besides, most lavish of the funds obtained as booty, and a great lover of everything beautiful. Thus it was that he erected the palaces of Fontainebleau and of St. Germain, rebuilt the Louvre, Pantheon, and city hall in Paris, and created near the banks of the Loire famous fairylike castles (Chambord, Chenonceaux, Chaumont, and Azay-le-Rideau), all of which are romantically situated, decorated in magnificent style, and bear his favorite emblem, the salamander.

Francis I has also the honor of being the founder of one of France's great seaports, Le Havre, which ever since 1517 has kept increasing in size and importance, until it is now one of the most thriving Atlantic commercial seaports, and one of the gateways through which thousands of tourists yearly enter the fascinating country of France.

Castle of Chambord


Literature made great progress in France during this reign. Among the great men of the time were three poets (Amyot, Ronsard, and Marot), and one very famous satirical prose writer (Rabelais). This was the epoch, too, when several religious orders were founded,—including that of the Jesuits,—all of which were to exert great influence in various Catholic countries.

During the period of peace between the second and third wars with Charles V, Francis arranged for his son's marriage with Catherine de' Medici, a niece of the Pope, and daughter of the famous Duke of Florence, Lorenzo de' Medici. This marriage assured France, not only the alliance of the Pope, but an immense sum of money, which was very welcome, as the king and his sons were always short of funds.

Vast changes were now taking place in France. The Renaissance was in full progress, and many new discoveries were being made. Francis showed interest in them all. When he heard that the Spaniards and Portuguese were rapidly gaining wealth from their lands in America, he decided that he too was entitled to a share of the New World, saying in playful defiance: "Just show me the clause in the will of Father Adam which divides America between you (Portuguese and Spaniards), and excludes the French!" French fishermen therefore visited the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador in quest of cod, and Verrazano explored a great part of the coast, to which he first gave the name of New France. In 1535 Cartier raised the French standard in Canada, which was called New France, and from that time until its conquest by the English (1763) this part of America was an important French colony.