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

The End of Francis I's Reign

While Francis was gradually changing the face of the country by his manifold improvements, his rival Charles V was covering himself with glory by besieging Tunis, the stronghold of the Mussulman pirates, whence he freed twenty thousand Christian captives. The Emperor's power and influence were greatly increased by this triumph. As he passed from one to another of his vast dominions, he made it a point to converse with each nation in its own language; for he was a famous linguist, and he was often heard to declare, "One is as many times a man as one knows different languages!"

Francis was jealous, and seeing the influence of his rival constantly increasing, he dreaded evil consequences for himself and for France. He therefore gladly seized the pretext of the murder of one of his agents at Milan to begin the Third War for the Balance of Power against Charles V.

Meanwhile, the French king had sought the alliance of Turkey, justifying himself for associating with unbelievers by saying: "When the wolves attack the flock, one has the right to call the dogs to help!" This alliance, which sorely shocked Christian Europe, won for France the exclusive privilege of trading in the eastern seas, as well as that of protecting all Christians in the East and the holy places visited so frequently by pilgrims.

As soon as the war broke out, Charles hastened to invade Provence, where he would doubtless have been successful, had not the French general devastated the country ahead of him so thoroughly that he could find no provisions to feed his army, and was obliged to retreat to escape starvation.

It was during the Third War for the Balance of Power that a great French physician, Ambrose Pare, made a discovery which was to be of lasting benefit in medicine. You see, people in those days were very literal, and because the good Samaritan in the New Testament poured oil in the wounds of the man who had fallen by the wayside, it was customary to treat even gunshot wounds by that primitive method. At one battle, however, the supply of oil was so limited that Pare and his assistant physicians soon had none left. The great doctor then gazed at the wounded in despair, having no hope of saving them; yet, unable to stand by inactive while people were suffering, he promptly soused bandages in cold water, and proceeded skillfully to bind up the wounds with them, saying compassionately, "We can at least make them as comfortable as possible, and ease their departure from this world by keeping these bandages moist."

He was greatly surprised to discover that the patients thus tended had less fever, and recovered much faster, than those who had been doctored in the old way with oil. The result of this experiment was that no oil was thereafter poured into wounds. Pare also has the credit of making other helpful discoveries in medicine, which are connected with his name.

The third war against Charles V ended with the treaty of Nice (1538), which provided for a ten years' truce between the two kings. Soon after this, Charles V, wishing to proceed from Spain to Flanders, begged Francis I's permission to cross France. The king's fool, on hearing of this proposal, appeared at court with a huge book under his arm, and when his master smilingly inquired why he carried one so large, promptly said: "To keep a record of all the fools, and I have inscribed the name of Charles V at the head of my list!"

Francis, amused by this sally, good-naturedly inquired, "But what will you do if I allow him to pass through my dominions unharmed?"

"I shall efface his name, your majesty, and inscribe yours there in its stead," promptly replied the jester, who, according to the custom of the day, was never rebuked or punished for anything he chose to say or do.

Francis I. and Charles V.


Having obtained permission to cross France, Charles V began his long journey; yet, remembering vividly how unkindly he had treated the French king at Madrid, he never felt quite at ease while in this rival's power. It is even said that one day, when he was riding out, one of the young princes sprang up behind him on his horse, and flinging his arms around him playfully cried, "Now you are my prisoner!" upon which Charles turned ghastly pale, not realizing at once that this was only a joke.

On another occasion Francis made Charles very uncomfortable by pointing to one of his favorites and remarking: "You see that fair lady, my brother? She is of the opinion that I ought not to allow you to leave Paris until you have atoned for the treaty of Madrid." But this time Charles kept his presence of mind, for he merely replied: "If the advice is good, brother, it should be followed!" Still, he was very careful, shortly after, to conciliate the king's favorite by dropping a beautiful diamond ring into the basin which she held for him while he washed his hands, refusing to take it back again and gallantly bidding her keep it in memory of him.

The ten years' truce, provided by the treaty of Nice, lasted only four, a mere pretext causing hostilities to break forth afresh. A combined force of Turks and Frenchmen captured Nice, and a French army won a brilliant victory in Italy (Cerisoles). This war was ended the same year by a treaty, none of whose provisions were respected by either party.

It was during the reign of Francis I that the Protestant Reformation began in Germany. Calvin, the French reformer, dedicated his chief work to Francis, but he never won the king's favor, and soon found himself banished from France. The policy of Francis was to persecute the Protestants in his own kingdom, while encouraging them abroad. His purpose in sending support to them abroad was to stir up as much trouble as possible for his rival, Charles V.

In his premature and embittered old age Francis persecuted the French Protestants more severely than before. In the southwest were many Waldenses, people who had long followed the teachings of an earlier reformer named Waldo. Because they now joined the Protestant movement, Francis ordered the sect suppressed (1545). Thus twenty-two villages were either burned or otherwise destroyed, hundreds of people slain, and many Waldenses forced to flee to the mountains, making their way thence out of the country as best as they could.

Francis was always a most arbitrary ruler. All his decrees were signed not only by his name, but with the haughty formula, "For such is my good pleasure!" It is on that account that he is said to be the founder of the Old Rule or Old Regime, according to which the king had absolute authority, ruling by divine right, unchecked by Parliament or States-General.

Because of his many wars, his love of display, and his extensive buildings, Francis was always in need of money. To secure funds, he sold offices, and started the public debt, which is now greater than that of any other country, although the people of France are wealthier, on the average, than those of other nations.

Francis, who was also known as "Father of Letters," not only made French the literary language of the country, but had all the laws drawn up in French instead of in Latin. He also founded the royal printing press and the College of France, and greatly enlarged the royal library. A great reader himself, he is said to have perused many of the works of the great reformers (Waldo, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin), but he remained a Catholic, and made use of all his power to maintain Catholicism in France.