Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

How Bayard Knighted the King
Francis I [1515-1547]

Louis XII left no sons, so he was succeeded by his cousin Francis, Duke of Angouleme. He was the next heir to the throne, and he had strengthened his claim by marrying the Princess Claude, Louis's eldest daughter. Francis was young and gay, he loved splendor and show, fine clothes and magnificent pageants. He cared little for the tears of his people. Louis XII had watched him grow up with grief. When he was trying hard to make good laws he would sigh and say, "We labor in vain; this great boy will spoil it all."

But Francis was the most knightly knight in all France at a time when France rejoiced in many knights of fair fame. He was gracious and winning; the people believed that he would be a good king and greeted him with joy.

Francis loved tournaments and he loved war. For war to him was little more than a tournament with an added spice of danger. Almost at once, eager to win back Milan, he renewed the war with Italy. With a great army led by the greatest soldiers of the day, among them the aged La Tremouille and the young and famous Bayard, he set out across the Alps.

This time the war went well for the French. Near the village of Marignano a great battle was fought. It began at four o'clock in the afternoon and lasted till midnight, for the bright September moon shed its light upon the deadly strife. The French soldiers fought with desperate rage, anxious to prove their courage. For ever since they had fled almost without striking a blow at Guinegate their enemies had laughed at them, nicknaming them the "armed hares," and they longed to wipe out that reproach.

But when the moon set and darkness covered the ghastly field the victory was not sure. The foot-soldiers lay down to rest upon the field where they were, with their helmets on their heads, and their lances in their hands. The horse-soldiers sat upon their horses fully armed awaiting the dawn, the King himself among them.

With the first streak of dawn the battle again began. For hours the strife lasted, but at length the Swiss, who were fighting on the Italian side, gave way, and the victory belonged to France. It was such a terrible battle that one of the oldest and most tried leaders there said that all his other battles had been as child's play to it. This, he said, was a true battle of giants.

In the French camp there was great rejoicing. The King had won his spurs nobly, and wished to be made a knight. So he commanded Bayard, the Knight Without Fear and Without Reproach, to come to him.

"Bayard, my friend," said Francis, "I wish to-day to be made a knight at your hands. For you have fought valiantly and proved yourself a true knight in many lands and many battles."

But Bayard, the valiant knight, was humble. "Sire," he said, "he who is crowned and anointed with the holy oil, and King of so noble a realm, is knight above all other knights."

"Nay, Bayard, haste you," said the King. "Do rny will and commandment if you would be counted among my faithful nobles and servants."

"I' faith, Sire," said Bayard, "if it pleases you I, all unworthy as I am, will even do your will and commandment."

So the King knelt before his knight. Then drawing his sword Bayard struck the King on the shoulder, saying, "Sire as valiant as Roland, or Oliver, or Godfrey, or his brother Baldwin, you are certainly the first prince to be made knight in this manner. God grant that you may never flee before an enemy.

Then raising his sword high in his right hand Bayard cried aloud, "Thou art most happy, O my sword, in having this day given to so splendid and powerful a King the order of knighthood. I' faith, my good sword, thou shalt be carefully guarded as a relic, and honored above all others. And I will never draw thee again unless against Turks, Saracens, or Moors." Then leaping twice for joy he thrust his sword into its scabbard.

Having thus been knighted, Francis in his turn knighted several of the young nobles who had fought bravely around him.

Soon after this battle the city of Milan was taken, and the Duke Maximilian, the son of the Duke Lodovico who had died a prisoner in France, gave himself up. He too, like his father, went to live in France. Like him, he lived neglected and forgotten, and died in Paris fifteen years later.

The Swiss at this time were considered the best foot-soldiers in Europe. They took part in all the wars, and were often to be found on both sides, for they fought not for any one country or for any particular cause, but for money. When Francis saw how gallantly they fought, and remembered that Switzerland lay upon the borders of France, he resolved to make friends with them. So he made a treaty with them called the Perpetual Peace, and, if they would allow him to raise as many troops in their country as he liked, promised to give them a large sum of money. By this means he gained a very useful friend. And although not quite perpetual the treaty between the two countries lasted for two hundred and fifty years; that is as long as the French monarchy lasted.

Soon after Francis had conquered Milan, Ferdinand of Spain died. He was succeeded by his grandson, Charles of Austria. This made Charles very powerful. For besides being ruler of the Netherlands he was now King of Spain and Naples. Added to this, America had been by this time discovered, and Spain owned a great part of the wonderful new western lands. Spain, it has been said, was like a great vessel, the prow of which was in the Atlantic, the poop in the Indian Seas. But all these possessions were not enough to satisfy Charles. He had for a motto the words, "Toujours plus oultre" that is, "always farther."

Two years after Charles became King of Spain the Emperor Maximilian died. The title of Emperor did not pass from father to son, but each new Emperor was chosen by the princes of the Empire. Charles and Francis were the two most powerful rulers in Europe. Each hoped to be chosen. Each did everything he could to make the princes of the Empire choose him. "We are lovers striving for the hand of a fair lady," said Francis. "As only one can win, the loser must by no means bear malice against his more fortunate rival." He said this hoping that he would be the fortunate one.

It was Charles, however, who was chosen. Soon it was plain that the pride of Francis could not bear the slight. Besides, he could not but know that the great power which Charles now had was a danger to France. For the lands of Charles enclosed France on north, south, and east. Francis therefore became very eager to swear friendship with King Henry of England. For he was the only other great King in Western Europe at the time. So a meeting between the two Kings was arranged.

But the Emperor, too, was anxious to have Henry's friendship. He determined to be beforehand with him and he set sail in haste, and paid Henry an unexpected visit in England. He flattered and made much of Henry's favorite, Cardinal Wolsey, loaded him with presents and promises, and then set sail again, pretty sure that he had a friend in Henry.

But all the same, as soon as the Emperor had gone, Henry set out for France to meet the French King. The place of their meeting was near the town of Guines, and everything about it was so gorgeous and rich that it is known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The knights and nobles who followed the two kings tried to outdo each other in magnificence. Many ruined themselves to make a brave show, so that it was said they carried on their backs their mills, their forests, and their meadows.

The two Kings, clad in the utmost splendor, met and embraced each other before getting off their horses, and exchanged words of courteous greeting. Then alighting they went arm in arm, like loving brothers, into a great tent in which they were to sign a treaty.

But in spite of all this show of affection, cause of quarrel was not far to seek. The King of England being seated took up the treaty and began to read it aloud. The first part was all about the King of France, the second part was about the King of England. When he came to that part Henry read, "I, Henry King" then he hesitated. He wanted to say "of France and of England." But instead he turned to Francis with a jest, "I will not put it in, seeing you are here," he said, "for I should lie." So he left out the title so far as France was concerned, and said only, "I, Henry King of England." Yet he did not strike it out of the treaty. And from this we may see, that in spite of all the show of it, there was little real friendship between the two Kings. How could there be, when one was only awaiting a chance to wrest his crown from the other?

Yet for more than a fortnight the days went pleasantly past in tournaments and wrestling, shows and pageants. Then the Kings parted, to all seeming the best of friends. But Francis had made the mistake of making too much display of wealth and grandeur. He had outdone the splendor-loving King of England, and before even he left France, Henry once more had a meeting with the Emperor Charles V.

In the following January King Francis was nearly killed by accident. On Twelfth Night the court had games and revels, during which one of the nobles was crowned as King of the Fete. Francis came to besiege this King of the Fete in his castle.

Both sides used snowballs for ammunition. But after a keen fight the store of snow within the castle gave out, and the besiegers rushed in in triumph. Just as the gateway was stormed some thoughtless person threw a live coal from one of the windows. It fell upon the head of the King, and wounded him sorely. Thus a sudden and sad end was put to the fun.

For some days it was not known if the King would recover. Wild rumors were spread abroad. Some said the King was dead, some that he was blinded. But Francis got well quickly, and as soon as he was able he showed himself everywhere, to prove to his people that he was still alive.

Up to this time the Kings of France had worn long hair, like the Frankish Kings of old, and shaved their faces. But after his accident Francis was obliged to cut his hair short. He let his beard grow too and so set a new fashion, for the Court soon followed the King, and the people the Court, and for a century and more Frenchmen wore short hair and beards.