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 the King was Taken Prisoner
Francis I [1515-1547]

A year after the peaceful Field of the Cloth of Gold Francis was once more at war with Spain and with Italy. The Pope and Emperor (who was also the King of Spain) joined against him. The French were beaten, and for the third time Milan was lost to France. Henry VIII also joined with the Emperor, and Francis saw himself surrounded by enemies on all sides. To these enemies there was soon added the greatest noble in France, Charles Duke of Bourbon.

All the mighty feudal princes who had caused France so much trouble had disappeared. There was no longer a Duke of Normandy, there was no longer a Duke of Brittany; their lands and their titles now belonged to the King of France. The Duke of Bourbon alone possessed lands over which he held sway as a King.

Charles of Bourbon was handsome and fiery tempered, a splendid knight and soldier, and he kept state as brilliant as the King himself. "If I had a subject like that in my kingdom," said Henry of England, "I would not leave his head very long on his shoulders."

Francis indeed may well have been jealous of his great vassal, and his mother, who was a headstrong, proud woman, greedy of power, hated him. She claimed all the Duke's possessions and succeeded in robbing him of them.

Burning with wrath at this unjust and wrongful treatment, Charles revolted against his King, and joined his enemies.

When it was too late Francis tried to bring back Charles of Bourbon to his faith. He tried in vain, and soon the Duke was leading a hostile army against the French in Italy.

It was in this war that Bayard, the Knight Without Fear and Without Reproach, met his death. The French were retreating before the enemy; Bayard, fighting bravely, covered the retreat, giving more trouble to the foe than a hundred other men.

But at length he was struck by a bullet. When he felt the blow he cried out, "Alas! I am killed." Feeling that indeed his last hour had come he drew his sword, and taking it by the hilt he kissed the cross upon it, murmuring, "Have pity on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy."

Then he begged his comrades to lay him at the foot of a tree, with his face to the enemy; for all his life he had never turned his back to the foe, and would not do so now in death. This being done, he bade his comrades save themselves, for, he said, "There is no more to do for me in this world." But they would not leave him. A few moments later Charles of Bourbon, who was in hot pursuit of the French, passed near the tree under which Bayard lay dying.

"Ah, sir," he cried, "it is great pity to see you thus. For you are a good and valiant knight."

"My lord," answered Bayard, "there is no need to pity me. I die as a soldier should. But I have pity for you to see you thus in arms against your King, your country, and your oath."

Charles made no answer. In silence he turned away.

In vain Bayard begged his comrades to flee. "I pray you get you gone," he said, "else you will fall into the hands of the enemy. That would profit me nothing, for there is nought more to do for me in this world." Yet they stayed, until after a few hours the gentle knight closed his eyes and died. He was mourned for alike by friend and foe.

The war still went on. Before the town of Pa via a great battle was fought. It was a desperate fight, and went ill for the French. Knight after knight went down, the foot soldiers were broken and scattered, the artillery useless. But the King, wounded and exhausted, still fought on amid the dead and dying. His horse was killed beneath him. Then some Spanish soldiers, seeing him unhorsed and at their mercy, knowing not who he was, but sure that he was some great noble, began to quarrel for the prize. But at the moment a French gentleman came up who knew the King. He beat off the Spanish soldiers, and begged Francis to surrender to Bourbon.

"Nay," said the King in wrath, "I would rather die than pledge my faith to a traitor. Where is the Viceroy of Naples?'

The Viceroy was found. He came to Francis, and kneeling on one knee before him, received the King's sword, and gave his own in exchange.

The battle was over, and the King of France a prisoner. "Madame," he wrote to his mother the same evening, "all is lost but honor."

During more than a year Francis remained a prisoner, for the terms upon which alone Charles would set him free were so hard that at first Francis swore he would rather die in captivity than sign them. But at length, weary of his prison, he yielded, and signed what is known as the Treaty of Madrid. By this treaty he gave back to Charles of Bourbon all the land which had been unjustly taken from him, yielded to the Emperor Burgundy and Flanders, and agreed to send his two little sons to live in Spain as hostages, and to return himself if within four months he had not kept all his promises.

Francis was then led to the borders of the two kingdoms. There on the river Bidassoa a large barge was anchored. From the Spanish side came the King, from the French side came the two little princes. As they met the King took them in his arms. With tears in his eyes he kissed and blessed them. Then they passed on to Spain and captivity, he to France and freedom.

When he reached the French shore Francis sprang upon his horse, which was ready waiting him. "Once more I am King!" he cried exultantly, and setting spurs to his fiery steed he dashed away toward Bayonne.

But Francis had never meant to keep his promises, and he did not keep them. The nobles of Burgundy gathered together, and swore that the King had no right to give away their land, and that nothing would ever persuade them to live under Spanish rule.

So there was more fighting again in Italy. The Duke of Bourbon was killed, but for the most part things went so badly for France that Francis at length was willing to make peace. The Emperor Charles, too, was anxious to make peace, for he saw himself surrounded by other enemies.

So at Cambrai there was a meeting between the aunt of the Emperor and the mother of the King, and these two ladies arranged a peace known as "The Ladies' Peace." It was much the same as the Peace of Madrid. except that the Emperor Charles consented to take a large sum of money instead of Burgundy.

For six years now France had peace, and Francis strengthened the position of his kingdom by making treaties with other countries of Europe, and by improving the condition of his army. But the great passion of the French King's life was hatred of Charles. So it was not wonderful that war broke out between the two rivals again and yet again.

And it is to the credit of Francis that he held his own against his powerful rival, and left his kingdom when he died as great as when he inherited it from his cousin.

Even although Francis at times made peace with Charles he was constant in his hatred of him. In all else he was fickle. At times he made friends with the English King, at times he fought with him. The Reformation had begun. In Germany, Martin Luther had defied the Pope. In France, John Calvin had followed his example. At times Francis tried to make friends with the Protestants, at times he treated those in his own lands with frightful cruelty. But all this changeableness was the outcome of his hatred of the Emperor. Many of the princes of Germany had become Protestant, and Francis tried to make friends with them in order to win them to his side. His one desire was to get the better of the Emperor.

The worst and cruelest persecutions in the reign of Francis were against the Vaudois. They were quiet, peaceful folk who lived in little towns and villages in the south of France. It is said by some that they had followed their own simple ways of religion ever since the days of Philip Augustus, and that they needed no Calvin, no Reformation, to teach them to worship God in simple fashion.

For long years they had lived untroubled in their lonely villages. Now the order went forth that they must die. Armed men poured into the peaceful valleys, the defenseless villagers were slaughtered without mercy. Some fled to the mountains and died there of hunger and cold. Many children were sold into slavery, and over three thousand were slain in less than a week.

Yet Francis himself was not actually cruel, though he was selfish and pleasure-loving. By this time he had grown worn and ill, and he allowed the Constable, Anne of Montmorency, a hard and cruel man who had grown to great power, to do as he liked among the wretched Protestants.