Francis II of France

Orfeas Katsoulis | Feb 25, 2023

Table of Content


Francis II of France (Fontainebleau, January 19, 1544 - Orleans, December 5, 1560) was king of France from 1559 to 1560. He was also king consort of Scotland, as a result of his marriage to Mary I of Scotland, from 1558 until his death in 1560.

He ascended the throne of France at the age of fifteen, after the accidental death of his father, Henry II of France. His brief reign was dominated by the early movements of the French Wars of Religion.

Although the royal majority had been set at fourteen, his mother, Catherine de Medici, entrusted the reins of government to his wife's uncles from the House of Guise, staunch supporters of the Catholic cause. However, they were unable to help the Catholics in Scotland against the progressive Scottish Reformation, and the Auld Alliance was dissolved. Francis II was succeeded by two of his brothers, who also failed to reduce tensions between Protestants and Catholics.

He was the eldest son of Henry II (fourth son of Francis I and Claudia of France), and Catherine de Medici (daughter of Lorenzo II de Medici and Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne). Her paternal grandparents were King Francis I and Claudia of France. On her paternal grandmother's side, her great-grandparents were King Louis XII of France and Anne of Brittany. In 1533, at the age of fourteen, Catherine married Henri.

Born eleven years after the marriage of his parents. This long delay in producing an heir may be due to his father's repudiation of his mother in favor of his mistress, Diana of Poitiers. In 1537, another mistress of his father, Filippa Duci, gave birth to a daughter, Diana of France, who was publicly acknowledged by the prince himself. This fact proved the fertility of the French heir and added pressure on Catherine to have a descendant.

Around 1538, Diana became her father's mistress, when he was the dauphin of France, already married to her mother. Diana was lady-in-waiting to Claudia of France, Queen consort of France and Duchess of Brittany. After the death of the queen, she was lady-in-waiting to the king's mother, Louise of Savoy, duchess of Angoulême and Anjou, and finally, also to Eleanor of Austria, queen consort of France. It is said that she exercised great influence over him, to the point of being considered the true sovereign. However, this repudiation was denied by Diana's insistence that Henry spend his nights with Catherine. Francis had nine legitimate siblings:

Henry's reign saw the rise of the Guisa brothers; Charles, who became a cardinal, and Francis, Henry's childhood friend who was named Duke of Guise. Their sister, Mary of Guise, had married James V of Scotland in 1538 and was the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. At the age of five and a half, Mary was taken to the French court, where she was betrothed to the dauphin, Francis. Catherine raised her and her own children at the Parisian court, while Mary of Guise ruled Scotland as regent for her daughter.

At first, Francis was raised in the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. He was baptized on February 10, 1544 in the Trinitaires Chapel in Fontainebleau. His godparents were Francis I (who knighted him during the ceremony), Pope Paul III and his great-aunt, Marguerite de Navarre. He became governor of Languedoc in 1546 and dauphin of France in 1547, when his grandfather Francis died. Francis' mentor and governess were Jean d'Humières and Françoise d'Humières. His tutor was Pierre Danès, a Greek scholar originally from Naples. He learned to dance from Virgilio Bracesco and fencing from Hector of Mantua.

King Henry II, his father, arranged a remarkable betrothal for his son to Mary, Queen of Scots, in the settlement of Châtillon on January 27, 1548, when Francis was only four years old. Mary had been crowned Queen of Scots at Stirling Castle on September 9, 1543, at the age of nine months, following the death of her father, James V. In addition to being Queen of Scots, Mary was the granddaughter of Claude, Duke of Guise, a very influential personage and an important figure at the court of France.

Once the marriage agreement was formally ratified, six-year-old Maria was sent to France to be raised at court until marriage. Although Mary was tall for her age (she reached an adult height of 5 feet 11 inches or 6 feet 5 inches), and eloquent, her betrothed Francis was unusually short and stammering. Her father, Henry II, commented that "from the first day they met, my son and she got along as well as if they had known each other for a long time." Lively, beautiful, and intelligent (according to contemporary accounts), Mary had a promising childhood. At the French court, she was a favorite with everyone except Henry II's wife, Catherine de Medici. Portraits of Mary show that she had a small, oval head, a long, graceful neck, glossy brown hair, hazel brown eyes, thick, low-set eyelids, finely arched eyebrows, smooth, pale skin, high, regular forehead with firm features. She was considered a pretty girl and, later, a very attractive woman.

On April 24, 1558, the fourteen-year-old dauphin married the Queen of Scotland at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It was a union that could have given the future kings of France the throne of Scotland and also a claim to the throne of England, through Mary's great-grandfather, King Henry VII of England. As a result of the marriage, Francis became king consort in Scotland until his death. The marriage produced no children, possibly due to Francis' illnesses or his undescended testicles. ...

Later, already widowed, Mary returned to Scotland and arrived in Leith on August 19, 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin Henry Stuart, with whom, in June 1566, she had her only son, James.

A little more than a year after his marriage, on July 10, 1559, Francis became king at the age of fifteen, following the death of his father, Henry II. Among the festivities celebrating the marriage of his sister, Isabella, to Philip II of Spain, was a tournament, in which his father, Henry, was seriously injured, as the lance of the Earl of Montgomery, who was jousting with him, penetrated the king's eye. Elizabeth was present when the accident happened. On September 21, 1559, Francis II was crowned king of France in Reims by his uncle Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine. The crown was so heavy that the nobles had to keep it in place for him. The court then moved to the Loire Valley, where the Château de Blois and the surrounding forests were the new king's home. Francis II took the sun for his emblem and his mottoes Spectanda fides (This is how faith should be respected) and Lumen rectis (Light for the just).

According to French law, Francis at the age of fifteen was an adult who in theory did not need a regent. But since he was young, inexperienced and in fragile health both physically and mentally, he delegated his power to his wife's uncles, from the noble House of Guise: Francis, Duke of Guise and Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine. His mother, Catherine, agreed to this delegation. On the first day of his reign, Francis II ordered his four ministers to take orders from his mother, but as she was still mourning the loss of her husband, he directed them to the House of Guise. The two elder brothers of this family had all the power: Francis led the armies and the Cardinal of Lorraine had the finances and the affairs of the Church. The brothers had already played important roles in the reign of Henry II; Francis was one of the most famous military commanders of the royal army, and the Cardinal of Lorraine had participated in the most important negotiations and affairs of the kingdom. ...

The rise of the House of Guise, worked to the detriment of his old rival, Anne de Montmorency, agent of France. At the suggestion of the new king, she left the court to go to her estates to rest. Diane de Poitiers, the former king's mistress, was also asked not to appear at court. Her protégé, Jean Bertrand, had to hand over his title of Keeper of the Seals of France, to Chancellor François Olivier, whom Diana had removed from office a few years earlier. It was a palace revolution and the transition has been described as brutal. But, although it undoubtedly caused considerable ongoing frustration, there were no confrontations or reprisals. Anne de Montmorency remained attached to power. As early as the day after the king's death, he was present at the council meeting and also at the coronation. Later he supported the repression of the Amboise conspiracy of 1560, in particular by going to the Parliament of Paris to communicate to its members the measures taken by the king. In July 1560 he returned to the court and council, though in a much less flamboyant manner than before. The Guises were now the new masters of the court. The king granted them numerous favors and privileges; one of the most important was the title of Grand Master of France, a title hitherto held by the son of the constable, François de Montmorency.

The reign of Francis II was immersed in religious unrest. From the beginning of his regency, the Guisa faced deep discontent throughout the kingdom. The opposition was led by two princes of blood, who disputed their power and decisions as rulers. The Guisa were seen by many as lacking legitimacy. To their opponents, they were simply ambitious foreigners from Lorraine. Their father Claudio, Duke of Guisa, was the son of Renato II, Duke of Lorraine, who had been granted French citizenship by King Francis I, his military companion. The main criticism against the Guisa was that they took advantage of the king's youth to exercise power arbitrarily. An opposition movement led by the prince of blood, Antonio de Navarra, king of Navarra, challenged their power. Some theorists, such as Francis Hotman, believed that the law authorized the latter to be the king's chief advisor, since he was a descendant of Louis IX of France and therefore heir to the throne if the House of Valois disappeared in power. However, Anthony could not prevail against the Guises when it came to court.

The government's policy decisions were also challenged. The Guises faced a disastrous financial situation. After decades of wars against the House of Habsburg, the public debt was 48 million pounds, while the king had only 12 million pounds in annual income. The Guises implemented a policy of austerity aimed at improving the country's financial situation, but this contributed mightily to their unpopularity. They also delayed the payment of military personnel, the king's officials, and court suppliers. They reduced the size of the army and many soldiers became unemployed. Frustrations grew at court, as the cutbacks saved the regiments under the control of the Guisa and their friends.

In religion, the Guises increased the repression of Protestantism initiated by King Henry II. The autumn of 1559 saw a wave of raids, arrests and confiscations of assets. On December 23, 1559, the councilor-secretary Anne du Bourg, a magistrate of the Parliament of Paris, who had contested the repression, was publicly executed in Paris on the Place de Grève.

Amboise Conspiracy

Determined to stop the persecution and have Protestantism officially recognized, a group of nobles planned the Amboise conspiracy to overthrow the government and give power to the princes of blood, who supported the new religion. The conspirators planned to seize the palace with the help of the royal guard, kidnap the king, and then eliminate the Guisa if they offered any resistance. Substantial external military deployment was intended to secure the operation. The conspirators probably also had the secret support of Louis de Bourbon-Condé, the ambitious younger brother of King Anthony of Navarre.

During February 1560, the court received multiple warnings about the conspiracy. Because of this threat, the royal council decided, under the influence of Queen Catherine de Medici, to make some concessions. On March 8, 1560, the king signed an edict granting general amnesty to the Protestants. But it was too late; the conspiracy was already underway. From all parts of the kingdom, troops were moving towards the castle of Amboise, where the court resided. In the cities of Tours and Orleans, they received money and arms from the conspirators.

The poorly organized conspiracy ended in a bloodbath. Its outcome was determined on March 15, when Jacques, Duke of Nemours, arrested some of the main conspirators. During the following days, disoriented troops, mostly peasants, were arrested one by one in the forest of Amboise and its surroundings. At first, the king was inclined to clemency. He released them and ordered them to return to their homes. But on March 17, two hundred men attempted to storm one of the city gates at the foot of the castle. Quickly repelled by the Duke of Guise, these rebels were mercilessly pursued. More than a hundred were executed, some even hung from the castle walls. The reprisals continued for several weeks and nearly twelve hundred people died.

The Guisa were less sure how to handle the prince of Condé. He had come to court during the uprising and helped defend the castle. The testimony of prisoners clearly placed him as the beneficiary of the conspiracy, but the word of commoners did not count against that of a prince of blood, irrefutable written proof was needed to accuse him. Since he was still free, Condé left the court to meet his brother Antonio in the southwest.

Reconciliation policy

The outbreak of violence caused by the Amboise conspiracy led the court to decide that persecuting Protestants only worsened the religious crisis. Under the influence of Catherine and members of the royal council, the government attempted to ease tensions with a policy of conciliation. Leniency toward Protestants became policy. Public assemblies were still forbidden, but the government released all religious prisoners. This was the first relaxation of religious persecution since the reign of Henry II. An edict signed at Romorantin in May 1560 was the beginning of the right to freedom of conscience in France.

In April 1560, the queen mother had Michel de L'Hospital appointed chancellor of France. The government was then dominated by "medians", humanists convinced that reconciliation between Christians was possible, based on reciprocal concessions. Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine, was open to church reform. An ecumenical council for the church of France was officially proposed: instead of obtaining the consent of Pope Pius IV, the cardinal and the queen mother called for a general council in which Christians of all opinions and from all over Europe would meet to reform the religion. The pope opposed this. Although they did not want to separate from Rome, the pope's opposition led them to threaten a national council if he did not agree.

To mitigate criticism of the king based on his youth, the government tried to win his approval by communicating their decisions themselves. A meeting of the Estates General was suggested, but, fearing that they would be ousted due to their unpopularity, the Guises strongly opposed this. Under pressure from the Queen Mother, the Guises agreed to consult with the Notables: this led to a meeting of the Assembly of Notables at Fontainebleau, August 21-26. The princes of the blood and the bailiff were asked to attend and to resume their functions in the king's council. During this assembly, Admiral de Coligny, future head of the Protestants, received a petition from the Norman Protestants before an astonished court asking for freedom of religion. The assembly was closed by convening the Estates General.

Highly critical of the pope, the Assembly of Notables also decided to gather the bishops of France to obtain their consent for a national council. Fearful of seeing Gallicanism out of his control, the pope finally agreed to a general council, but refused the attendance of any Protestants, as demanded by the French government. This decision led to the reopening of the Council of Trent.


The government's policy of conciliation was intended to ease tensions, but it had the opposite effect. Encouraged by the government's leniency, Protestants continued to gather for religious services. Although law enforcement officials intervened to disperse them and imprison the organizers, the growing number of participants, which at times exceeded a thousand, made this impossible to accomplish for lack of resources. Some were even won over to the new religion. In some places, Protestants challenged royal authority with riots and armed rebellions. The riots that had begun sporadically during the Amboise conspiracy spread during the summer throughout the kingdom. The main areas of opposition spanned a crescent-shaped territory from Anjou to the Dauphinate, and included the regions of Poitou, Guiana, Périgord, Languedoc and Provence.

The rioters were often supported by local notables. Motivated by fierce propaganda against the Guisa, and seeking revenge for the eradication of the Amboise conspiracy, the boldest attacked castles, prisons and churches. During the spring of 1560, the kingdom experienced the first major events of iconoclasm in Provence. During the summer, the civil disobedience movement gained intensity; several cities in the south of France were in revolt. ...

With the secret support of the two blood princes, Condé and Navarre, a political-military organization gradually developed. The Protestants elected local leaders, raised money, bought weapons and formed militias. Armed gangs from Languedoc went to Provence and the Dauphinate, which Paul de Mouvans and Charles de Montbrun, were trying to enlist in the insurrection. The climax came during the night of September 4-5, when the Protestant militias attempted to seize the city of Lyon. The king's reaction was fierce and decisive: he mobilized his troops, sent the army to the areas of unrest and ordered the governors to return to their positions. In autumn, order was slowly restored. Convinced that the Prince de Condé was responsible for the uprising, the king summoned him to court and arrested him on October 31, 1560.

Foreign policy

In foreign policy, Francis II continued the peace efforts begun by Henry II, with the signing of the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis in April 1559, which ended 40 years of war between France and the Habsburg Empire. At the expense of its influence in Europe, France continued to restore the lands conquered over the past 40 years. In this sense, the reign of Francis II began the decline of French influence throughout Europe, to the benefit of Spain. ...

When his father, King Henry II, died, the restitution of these territories was underway. Francis II, aware of the weaknesses of the kingdom, assured Spain of his intention to honor the treaty he had just signed. Charles, Count of Brissac, who showed some reluctance to evacuate Piedmont, was asked to change his behavior and hasten the withdrawal. By the autumn of 1559, France had completely abandoned Savoy and Piedmont, except for the places agreed upon in the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (Turin, Chieri, Chivasso, Pinerolo, Savigliano and Villanova d'Asti). Territories returned to the Duke of Savoy, Emanuel Filiberto. He would also return the territories taken in Monferrato to William Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. Both were allies of Spain. Finally, Valenza, which the Count of Brissac complained about liberating, was to be returned to the Spanish Duchy of Milan. On the Spanish side, King Philip II, showed some reluctance to return Le Catelet, Ham and St. Quentin, in the northeast of the kingdom, as required by treaty. Border disputes renewed tensions between the two nations, but after months of protests, Francis II finally obtained these territories. ...

Along with the restitution of territories, the government of Francis II had to negotiate, pay or claim compensation for people whose property was taken or destroyed during the war. It also had to come to an agreement with Spain regarding prisoners of war held by both sides. Many nobles were still prisoners and could not pay their ransom. Common soldiers were consigned for use as oarsmen in the royal galleys. Even after a reciprocal release commitment was signed, Spain was not anxious to lose its prisoners. When Francis II died, France withdrew from Scotland, Brazil, Corsica, Tuscany, Savoy and most of Piedmont.

With the marriage of Francis II and Mary Stuart, the future of Scotland became linked to that of France. A secret clause signed by the queen provided that Scotland would become part of France if the royal couple had no children. The queen's mother, Mary of Guise, was already regent for Scotland. Because of French control over their country, a congregation of Scottish lords organized an uprising and made the regent and her French councils leave the capital, Edinburgh, in May 1559. After taking refuge in the fortress of Dunbar, Mary of Guise appealed to France for help. Francis II and Mary Stuart immediately sent troops. By the end of 1559, France had regained control of Scotland. ...

Nothing seemed to stand in the way of France controlling Scotland, apart from English support for the Scottish nobles' uprising. Queen Elizabeth I of England, was still offended that Francis II and Mary Stuart had taken up arms for England, thus proclaiming Mary's claims to the English throne. In January 1560, the English fleet blockaded the port of Leith, which French troops had turned into a military base. They were supported by the arrival in April of 6000 soldiers and 3000 horsemen, who began the siege of the city.

The English troops were not particularly successful, but the French troops found themselves in a better strategic position. The poor financial situation of the French government and the internal turmoil in the French kingdom prevented the sending of military reinforcements. When the Bishop of Valence and Charles de La Rochefoucault, sent by the king to negotiate, arrived in Scotland, they were treated almost as prisoners. With Mary of Guise locked in a fortress in Edinburgh, the two men were forced to negotiate a peace that was disadvantageous to France. On July 6, 1560, they signed the Treaty of Edinburgh, which ended the French occupation of Scotland. Francis II and Mary Stuart had to withdraw the French troops and stop displaying the arms of England.

A few weeks later, the Scottish parliament established Protestantism as the state religion. When Francis II and Mary Stuart received the treaty of Edinburgh, they were outraged and refused to sign it. They also questioned the legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament's decision.

After a few months of reign, Francis II died on December 5, 1560 from an otitis that caused an abscess. The trepanation was performed by Ambroise Paré. When he died without descendants, his brother, Duke Charles of Orleans, ten years old, succeeded him as Charles IX. While his wife, whom he loved until the day of his death, Mary Stuart, returned to Scotland.

The king's health deteriorated in November 1560. On November 16 he fainted and, after only 17 months on the throne, Francis II died on December 5, 1560 at the Groslot Palace, Orleans, from an ear ailment. Multiple diseases have been suggested, such as mastoiditis, meningitis or otitis exacerbated in an abscess. Ambroise Paré, the royal surgeon, considered performing a trepanation. Suspicions were growing that the Protestants had poisoned the king. A view held by Catholics as tensions between them and the Protestants increased. However, this has not been proven.

Francis II died childless, so his younger brother Charles, then ten years old, succeeded him. On December 21, the council appointed Catherine as regent of France. The Guises left the court, while Mary Stuart, the widow of Francis II, returned to Scotland. Louis, prince of Condé, imprisoned and awaiting execution, was released after some negotiations with Catherine.

Francis II had a brief reign. He became king when he was an inexperienced teenager, at a time when the kingdom was struggling with religious problems. Historians agree that Francis II was frail, both physically and psychologically, and his frail health led to his premature death. Historians agree that Francis II was frail, both physically and psychologically, and his frail health led to his premature death. The question of whether or not his marriage to Mary Stuart was consummated remains unanswered. On December 23, 1560, the body of Francis II was buried in the Basilica of Saint-Denis by Charles de La Roche-sur-Yon.


  1. Francis II of France
  2. Francisco II de Francia
  3. «A treasury of royal scandals : the shocking true stories of history's wickedest, weirdest, most wanton kings, queens, tsars, popes, and emperors : Farquhar, Michael : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming». Internet Archive (en inglés). Consultado el 21 de julio de 2020.
  4. Arlette Jouanna (dir.), Histoire et dictionnaire des guerres de religion, 1559-1598, Robert Laffont, coll. « Bouquins », 1998, p. 52-53 et 1067.
  5. Voir Lucien Romier, La Conjuration d'Amboise. L'aurore sanglante de la liberté de conscience, le règne et la mort de François II, Paris, Librairie académique Perrin et Cie, p. 1 et 3, et, Jean-Hippolyte Mariéjol, Catherine de Médicis, Hachette, 1920. Réédition : Tallandier, 1979, p. 94-95.
  6. Lettres du cardinal Charles de Lorraine (1524-1574), s.d. Daniel Cuisiat, Genève : Droz, coll. « Travaux Humanisme Renaissance », 1998, p. 14
  7. Lucien Romier, La Conjuration d'Amboise..., op. cit., p. 2-3.La tradition historiographique a très longtemps forcé la brutalité de l'éviction du connétable. Même si ce ne fut pas sans de grosses frustrations, le changement de pouvoir s'est déroulé sans confrontations, ni représailles. Anne de Montmorency reste associé au pouvoir. Dès le lendemain de la mort du roi, il est présent au conseil ; il est également présent à la cérémonie du sacre ; plus tard, il soutient la répression de la conjuration d'Amboise (en se rendant notamment au parlement de Paris pour lui communiquer les mesures prises par le roi) ; et dès le mois de juillet 1560, il réintègre la cour et le conseil du roi - avec une influence évidemment moindre que sous Henri II
  8. ^ a b Wellman 2013, p. 200.
  9. ^ Guy (2004), p. 47
  10. ^ Farquhar (2001), p. 81
  11. ^ Guy (2004), p. 102
  12. ^ Tradiția istoriografică vorbește de o evacuare forțată și brutală a conetabilului Anne de Montmorency. Dar schimbarea de guvern a avut loc fără represalii sau confruntări. Imediat după moartea regelui, conetabilul este prezent la funeralii și este de asemenea prezent la ceremonia de încoronare. Mai târziu sprijină suprimarea conjurației de la Amboise, vizitând inclusiv Parlamentul din Paris pentru a comunica măsurile luate de rege. Din iulie 1560 s-a întors la curte și în consiliul regelui, evident cu o influență mai mică decât pe vremea lui Henric al II-lea.
  13. ^ Guise s-au născut în Lorena. Tatăl lor Claude de Guise, fiul lui René al II-lea, duce de Lorraine a fost naturalizat francez de Francisc I, tovarășul său de arme
  14. ^ Lucien Romier, p. 6
  15. ^ Lucien Romier, p.86-87
  16. ^ Lucien Romier, p. 165

Please Disable Ddblocker

We are sorry, but it looks like you have an dblocker enabled.

Our only way to maintain this website is by serving a minimum ammount of ads

Please disable your adblocker in order to continue.

Dafato needs your help!

Dafato is a non-profit website that aims to record and present historical events without bias.

The continuous and uninterrupted operation of the site relies on donations from generous readers like you.

Your donation, no matter the size will help to continue providing articles to readers like you.

Will you consider making a donation today?