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The Story of France by  Mary Macgregor

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THE REFORMERS

[271] FRANCIS I. soon made it plain that he did not mean to keep the Treaty of Madrid, which he had signed only that he might escape from his gloomy Spanish prison. The Emperor Charles was angry when he found that he had been duped by the French king, and soon war again broke out between France and Spain.

During this war, in 1527, the Duke of Bourbon with his German mercenaries dared to assail the walls of Rome. "Clad all in white," that he might the better be seen by his men, the duke was shot as he was scaling the walls of the city. As he fell he bade one of his captains cover him with a cloak, and carry him away, that his men might not know of his death until the city was taken.

By August 1529 Charles and Francis had both grown weary of War, and once again a treaty was signed, called the Treaty of Camlwai, or the "Ladies' Peace," because it was chiefly arranged by two royal ladies, Margaret of Austria and Louise of Savoy.

Three years later Louise of Savoy died, leaving great wealth to her son, the king.

Then Francis, thinking that now he had money enough to pay an army, again began to invade Charles"s domains. The emperor, however, not only drove the French back to their own country, but himself marched with his troops into the south of France.

A French general, named Montmorency, was sent to repulse the invaders. But though he had a splendid [272] army, he would neither fight nor garrison the important towns.

Instead, he sent his soldiers to wander through the beautiful country of Provence, with orders to destroy everything that would otherwise give shelter or food to the enemy.

Farms were burned, olive-yards and vineyards trampled down and destroyed. Bakehouses and mills were pulled to pieces, and wheat and hay consumed by fire. Wells were, if not poisoned, made useless for drinking; wine-casks were pierced, so that there might be no wine to refresh the weary army. In a short time no more desolate land than Provence was to be seen.

For two months Charles V., refusing to be baffled, struggled on through the desolate country with his starving army. But at length, hearing that Francis himself, with a large army, was marching against him, he gave up all hope of conquering Provence, and retreated into Italy. The emperor had fought no battle, but he had brought misery and starvation to many a fair home in the south of France.

The king's two sons had by this time left Spain and returned home. Shortly before Francis marched against Charles, Francis the Dauphin died. This was a great grief to the king.

The king's second son, Henry, a moody, passionate prince, now became heir to the throne. He allied himself with Montmorency, who had been made constable after the emperor had been forced to leave Provence. The constable was a strict Catholic, and a powerful and ambitious noble.

Meanwhile, in June 1538, a truce for ten years was made between Francis and Charles. It only lasted for four years, for the French king still wished to punish Charles for becoming emperor. So for six years, battles of which I need not tell you were fought between [273] the rival monarchs. But at last, in 1544, a treaty was signed at Crespy, by which Francis gave up his claim to any possessions in Italy, while he also promised to join the emperor in upholding the Roman Catholic Church and putting down the Reformers.

The Reformers, who were also called Protestants, were sorry when they saw the greedy and wicked lives of many of the monks in the Romish Church, and they wished to reform the Church so that only those who lived pure and holy lives might be her servants.

A great movement, called the Reformation, was begun by the Reformers, and soon spread all over France and Germany. Indeed, before long, the new sect was to be found in every town and village in Europe.

The Pope was very angry that any one should think that the Church, of which he was the head, should need to be reformed, and he encouraged Charles and Francis to punish the Reformers.

In Germany the great Martin Luther fought against the evils of the Church. In France John Calvin used his power on the same side.

Francis I. kept the promise he had made at Crespy by beginning to persecute the peasants of Vaudois. The Vaudians or Waldensians were quiet, hardworking, honest folk, who lived in certain valleys among the Alps. They were no longer Catholic, but worshipped God in their own simple way, and were known as Reformers or Protestants.

One spring morning in 1545 Francis sent his soldiers into the silent valleys, where the peasants lived their simple lives, with orders to slay the Waldensians and destroy their homes.

Three thousand people were put to death, and many more were sent to the galleys, while hundreds of children were sold as slaves.

Lest any Reformer had escaped, Francis's captain, before he marched home, forbade "any one on pain of death [274] to give any asylum, aid or succour, or furnish money or victuals, to any Vaudian or heretic." There is no deeper stain on the name of Francis I. than this cruel persecution of the peasants of Vaudois. The Reformers had cause to fear the king; but when the dauphin married the Pope's niece, Catherine de Medici, they knew that even when Francis I. no longer reigned they would still have reason to fear their new sovereign.

During the last years of the king's life the kingdom was largely ruled by the dauphin, along with the Montmorencies and the Guises, the two most powerful families in France.

Early in 1547 the king grew seriously ill. As he lay dying, Diana of Poitiers, the dauphin's great favourite, and the Duke of Guise, mocked at their king, saying, "He is going at last, the fine fellow." Thus, with none to comfort him, Francis I. died. At his father's funeral the dauphin could scarcely conceal his happiness that now, at length, he would really begin to reign.

In spite of all his wars Francis I. had found time, after the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529, to show his interest in the new love of books, of painting, and of sculpture, that had arisen in his reign.

This new love of literature, painting, and other arts was called the Renaissance. The king, in his desire to encourage a revival of learning, had invited to his court poets, artists, musicians, sculptors, to show the interest he felt in their pursuits, and the honour in which he held them. A great Italian painter named Leonardo da Vinci, as well as an Italian sculptor called Benvenuto Cellini, not only visited but lived at the king's court. Francis had also shown his love of architecture by building many beautiful palaces, among which the best known is perhaps Fontainebleau.


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