Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy under Francis I., Henri II., 1515-1559

The foreign policy under Francis I. (1515-1547) and his son Henri II. (1547-1559) was rather complex. Firstly, there was the encirclement of France by territories ruled by CHARLES V., who simultaneously was King of Spain, Hungary and Bohemia, Duke of Austria, ruler of the Netherlands and of the Franche Comte. Francis I. declared his candidacy for the crown of German Emperor (1519), in vain; his contrahent Charles V. was elected. In Italy France occupied MILAN in 1515. In 1521-1525 Francis fought Charles V in Italy; in 1525 he was defeated and taken prisoner in the Battle of Pavia. In 1526 he renounced his claims on Italy. Further wars with the Habsburgs followed in 1527-1529, 1535-1538 and 1542-1544. France was not succesful; it had to accept Habsburg succession to the Duchy of Milan (1535) and cede the French sovereignty over Flanders and Artois (1526, 1544).
Francis I. tried a number of alliances, with Switzerland (1516), with the pope (CONCORDATE of 1516, alliance of 1526, which failed as Imperial troops occupied Rome and ousted the pope; son Henri II. signed another alliance with the pope in 1555), with Florence (1526; marriage of his son Henri II. with CATHERINE DE MEDICI in 1533), even with the Ottoman Sultan in 1542, all serving the purpose of strengthening France's position against their Habsburg rivals.
England in 1526 had been a French ally, in the 1540es an opponent; in 1546 France had to cede BOULOGNE to Henry VIII.; it was recovered by HENRI II. (King since 1547) in 1549; in 1559, England had to cede CALAIS, it's last foothold in continental France.
Henri II. was appointed, in the TREATY OF CHAMBORD 1552 signed with German (protestant) princes, VICAR OF THE EMPIRE; he established his control of the bishoprics of TOUL, METZ and VERDUN, the cities by that name he had fortified. Henri II. found himself in a war with the Emperor, fought in Italy, France and the Empire. In 1557 Spanish troops expelled the French from Italy. In 1557 the French suffered a defeat at the hand of the Habsburg troops at St. Quentin, in 1558 another at Gravelines.
In 1558, dauphin Francis (soon to be king Francis II.) was married to MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS. His sister Elisabeth was married to King Philip II. of Spain, with which the PEACE OF CATEAU-CAMBRESIS was signed in 1559. France had to return the cities she held in Piemont, the Charolais, Bugey and Bresse to Savoy (a Spanish ally), Corsica to the Republic of Genova.

France did not recognize the TREATY OF TORDESILLAS which partitioned the non-European world into a Spanish and a Portuguese sector. Norman and Breton fishermen had sailed to Newfoundland for long (only they had not published their discoveries); French pirates (mostly Normans) sailed to the Caribbean in search for Spanish ships to capture since 1522. In 1534, JACQUES CARTIER, looking for a Northwest Passage to China, discovered Canada (the St. Lawrence River).
In 1555 French pirates under JACQUES DE SORES plundered and sacked HAVANA on Cuba The same year another party of Frenchmen settled on GUANABARA BAY, near present-day Rio de Janeiro (from where they were expelled by the Portuguese in 1567).

Biography of Francis I., from infoplease, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Who is who in 16th century France, from Le Poulet Gauche
Biography of Catherine de Medici, from Women's History Resource Site
Jacques Cartier, from Discoverer's Web
Henri II., from Histoire de France - Renaissance a Amboise
Metz, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Verdun, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Chronology French Renaissance, from e-chronologie, in French

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 9th 2004

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