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Francis I: His Reign and Accomplishments

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Current day Paris is one of the grandest cities in the world, in 2012 it was the most visited country in the world, toured by 83 million. Paris, the capital of France, is the main attraction. France was not always the destination it is today, once, it was barely noticeable, a stepping stone on Caesar’s seizures throughout Europe (Handford, 155). Several geographical features and individuals played a vital role in the development of the country. The reign of Francis I was instrumental in helping shape the city and country into what it is today. Francis I is partly credited for beginning the French Renaissance, by attracting many famous artists, including Leonardo Da Vinci. The development of Paris has many parts to consider, but Francis I of France’s accomplishments and aspirations play a big roll in making the city what it is today.

R. J. Knecht explains Francis’s life and accomplishments in his book The Valois, the Valois was the royal family in France from 1328 to 1589; Francis I reigned from 1515 to 1547. Knecht, an expert 16th century French historian, talks about Francis I accomplishments in terms of his court, construction achievements and love of art. One idea a reader grasps clearly from the reading is the fact that Francis had influence and power. Artists from all over the world journeyed to work for him. The king was respected, powerful and wealthy.

The royal court was obviously always existent, but during Francis’ reign it was fashioned into a much more respectable department. In terms of French court “The king prided himself on being readily accessible to his subjects.” (153). Being so accessible to the people can imply the king is not afraid to face them, this shows he was confident his people would accept him. He surely would be less likely to show himself to his subjects if they were unhappy. This shows Francis knew his empire is flourishing and was respected for it. Francis displayed his power by parading all over his country. The court consisted six departments to cater and care for the royal family (153). The most important were the chapelle, chamber, hotel, fourriere and venerie. The king’s power was so vast the court consisted of “As many as ten thousand people with a corresponding number of horses.” (155). The court carted around its own furniture and luxuries such as gold plates. When the king traveled around France his furniture would be carried around with him. He traveled regularly; one Venetian said “Never during the whole of our embassy was the court in the same place for fifteen consecutive days.” (155). The way the king is portrayed throughout the piece paints him as confident and unpredictable. This constant movement of the court was new to France and enabled Francis to exhibit more influence. Often nobles would visit the court to seek favor with the king and earn a title or office, often though, the king could not be found because he would be off hunting. The reason his court moved could possibly be due to the fact he followed herds or packs, but it could’ve also been to spread influence. There was no television or news press, so the way a king exposed himself to his subjects was by visiting different parts of the nation. Whenever Francis I would visit a providence for the first time he would be given a parade to welcome him (155). Propaganda would be spread and monuments could be erected for the king’s arrival. The court amply demonstrated the king’s influence.

Francis was a great builder. Not only did he fund the erection of Loire valley and Ile-de-France palaces he designed them (156). Certain buildings that were used as forts in time of war were repurposed during Francis I’s reign because it was a time of peace. The king’s favorite chateau was Fountainebleu, “situated in a vast forest where he hunted deer.” (158). In the palace he had commissioned Rosso, a Flourentine artist to decorate his personal gallery. A gallery he enjoyed so much he kept the key to it on his person (158). The king was a huge patron of the arts, “In 1516 he invited Leonardo da Vinci to settle in France… and gave him a house.” (158). The most notable painting in his collection he was able to get from Da Vinci, the Mona Lisa was added to the royal collection. Other notable artists to work for the King included Andrea del Sarto, who painted Charity for him, Rosso and Primaticcio. It is said that Francis has the “Finest collection of art north of the Alps.” (159)

Francis is called “the Father of Letters” for helping establish the Collège de France and credited for building a library in Fontainebleau. The library and College were designed for scholarly learning because the king himself was not well learned. In 1546 he ordered books from the royal library to be rebound (161). This demonstrates he cared for the written word and understood its importance. He also had a personal library with books in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. He is credited for promoting the standardized French language (Knecht, 1). Francis’s son, Francis II continued a lot of his father’s work, even employing one of the same artists. Francis II was more concerned with promoting his image, instilling his picture on currency, he was perceived by the people as a great swordsman and rider (164).

Francis I was remembered for being a builder, patron of the arts, father of letters and structurer of the court. His influence was vast, bringing in artists from Italy. He erected Fontainebleau and shaped it majestically. He shaped libraries, colleges and helped institute the French Renaissance. Francis I helped give France international influence, what is today’s most visited country perhaps owes this award to Francis

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