Francis I (French: François Ier; Middle French: Francoys; 12 September 1494 – 31 March 1547) was King of France from 1515 until his death in 1547. He was the son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, and Louise of Savoy. He succeeded his cousin and father-in-law Louis XII, who died without a son.
A prodigious patron of the arts, he initiated the French Renaissance by attracting many Italian artists to work on the Château de Chambord, including Leonardo da Vinci, who brought the Mona Lisa with him, which Francis had acquired. Francis’ reign saw important cultural changes with the rise of absolute monarchy in France, the spread of humanism and Protestantism, and the beginning of French exploration of the New World. Jacques Cartier and others claimed lands in the Americas for France and paved the way for the expansion of the first French colonial empire.
For his role in the development and promotion of a standardized French language, he became known as le Père et Restaurateur des Lettres (the “Father and Restorer of Letters”). He was also known as François du Grand Nez (“Francis of the Large Nose”), the Grand Colas, and the Roi-Chevalier (the “Knight-King”) for his personal involvement in the wars against his great rival Emperor Charles V, who was also King of Spain.
Following the policy of his predecessors, Francis continued the Italian Wars. The succession of Charles V to the Burgundian Netherlands, the throne of Spain, and his subsequent election as Holy Roman Emperor meant that France was geographically encircled by the Habsburg monarchy. In his struggle against Imperial hegemony, he sought the support of Henry VIII of England at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. When this was unsuccessful, he formed a Franco-Ottoman alliance with the Muslim sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, a controversial move for a Christian king at the time.