On January 25, 1515, François d'Angoulême was crowned King of France. Commemoration requires, the sovereign and his battle are the subject of publications, exhibitions and reconstructions. The time has come to take stock: was he a good king or a bad king?
In the opinion of all, the young prince is a brilliant and joyful nature, a hothead who hunts wild boar as far as the corridors of Amboise, smashes the doors of his castles in the Loire Valley and almost kills himself on horseback. But, against a tenacious legend, he is also of great political intuition and a master of propaganda. Taking advantage of the distribution of print, in 1518 he launched a real campaign to win the imperial election against Charles Quint. In vain.
Still, metamorphosed into Caesar, the god Mars or even a saint by the greatest artists of the time, he was the object of exceptional exaltation. The transformation of Marignan into a mythical victory has no other explanation.
If it was not yet a question of absolutism, his reign saw the development of the monarchical state. Authoritarian, François Ier eliminates too powerful lords, like the constable of Bourbon, and does not hesitate to silence the parliament in 1527. King-knight, he charges his enemies in Marignan, which earned him universal glory, then ten years later humiliation in Pavia. But he also promotes cannons and puts away his sword after 1525. The war will continue without him. On the religious level, this Very Christian King defends the evangelical current, before being forced by Parliament and the Sorbonne to repress "heretics" in blood.
It is however on the intellectual and artistic levels that his reign stands out, accompanying this French Renaissance which, influenced by Italy, follows a specific path, as shown by the architecture of the castles, but also the music, the cuisine or letters. Beyond the chiaroscuro, it is decidedly what will remain of this king, forever the child of a "beautiful sixteenth century" to which he helped to give his colors.
The Renaissance of Francis I. Collections L'Histoire July 2015. On newsstands and by subscription.