Francis I, Towards Royal Absolutism Patron of the Arts and Letters, Francis I is the perfect image of a Renaissance prince. At just twenty years old he succeeded his distant cousin Louis XII to the throne. According to a prophecy made by the hermit Francesco da Paola to his mother Louisa of Savoy, fate had destined him to the role of sovereign. And so, on 1 January 1515, in the most lawful way, the young Francis I, consecrated king of the French, became one of God’s elect.
He won much glory in arms in September 1515 with the famous victory of Marignano against the Swiss who defended their Milanese dominions. This brilliant success was the result of powerful artillery, the presence of the knight Bayard and of Francis I’s actions at the centre of the battlefield. It was a personal victory for the king that impressed the whole of Europe and initiated his glorious reign. Furthermore, he benefited from the expedition to Italy to sign the pact of Bologna with Pope Leo X which allowed the king to nominate bishops and cardinals, in this way strengthening his power over the clergy.
Francis I established the legal collection in the Royal Library with a copy of every printed book and, thanks to the ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts, imposed the use of French rather than Latin for all official acts, thus making French the only language for government.
Finally, in the military sphere, the long rivalry with the emperor Charles V would be a constant obsession in a reign that lasted 32 years; a reign that would affirm itself for its artistic and intellectual patronage, for strengthening French unity and for founding the system of absolute monarchy.