Francis I (1494-1547) was inconstant, amorous, hot-headed and flawed. Yet he was also arguably the most significant king that France ever had. This is his story.
A contemporary of Henry VIII of England, Francis saw himself as the first Renaissance king, a man who was the exemplar of courtly and civilised behaviour throughout Europe. A courageous and heroic warrior, he was also a keen aesthete, an accomplished diplomat and an energetic ruler who turned his country into a force to be reckoned with.
Yet he was also capricious, vain and arrogant, taking hugely unnecessary risks, at least one of which nearly resulted in the end of his kingdom. His great feud with his nemesis Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, defined European diplomacy and sovereignty, but his notorious alliance with the great Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent threatened to destroy everything.
With access to never-before-seen private archives, Leonie Frieda's comprehensive and sympathetic account explores the life of the most human of all Renaissance monarchs - and the most enigmatic.
A captivating biography ... [Frieda] does herself proud. Battle scenes are vividly drawn and the intricacies of statecraft reconstructed with admirable clarity. She also has a fine eye for detail - this rollicking story is packed with anecdotes — Gerard DeGroot, THE TIMES
A thoughtful, vivid and well-paced telling of a complex story; and it is set against an even more complex background of European power-politics, which Frieda picks apart with admirable skill — Noel Malcolm, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
Frieda paints a surprisingly funny account of a king obsessed by power and sex, who took Renaissance France in directions that his predecessors would never have dared but was nearly undone by his own hubris. Frieda maintains a fine balance between psychological insight, the intricacies of 16th-century diplomacy and uproarious anecdotes of bad behaviour — Alexander Larman, OBSERVER
A superb and vivid biography ... that brings the world of Francis I to life, skillfully delineating the moves and major players in both European and domestic politics ... and also gives the reader wonderful glimpses of the often licentious court life of that time ... Ms Frieda suggests that, under Francis I, France preserved its political power, greatly increased its cultural influence, and positioned itself for the Grand Siècle that his Bourbon successors would soon preside over — John Steele Gordon, WALL STREET JOURNAL
Good English biographies of French kings are rare. So Leonie Frieda's life of Francis I is welcome. Leonie Frieda has done her hero such justice as is possible. She tells his story in great detail ... I can't suppose that there has been a better English biography of Francis, or indeed is likely to be one — Alan Massie, CATHOLIC HERALD
A glittering new biography of one of 16th-century Europe's most charismatic and complex royals ... Frieda does brilliantly to condense all the captivating personalities, events, intrigues and conflicts of his reign into one book. Francis I transports the reader into the glittering and dangerous world of 16th-century France. It is a testament to its quality that upon closing the book you don't entirely want to leave — Joanne Paul, BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE