King Francis I is King of France (as well as a claimant to the Duchies of Burgundy and Milan) during the duration of The Tudors. Although only appearing in a handful of episodes in Seasons 1 and 2, he is the most frequently seen foreign monarch. Francis has a libertine personality and is not as quick to anger as Henry, but he has just as much vanity, and the first time he and Henry meet in person they immediately start to provoke each others' egos aggressively, despite it being a peace summit. He and Henry are allies on several occasions (though they are at war in early Season One and late Season Four) and they have both a personal friendship and a fierce rivalry at the same time. Although he dissaproves of Henry's Reformation, Francis does not let his Catholic faith interfere with their diplomacy as much as the Holy Roman Empire, which is more firmly under the sway of the Papacy. Francis apparently shares Henry's pechant for cheating on his Queen; like her first counterpart Catherine of Aragon, Queen Claude endures his various mistresses with little complaint, but does not seem to genuinely love her husband as much as Catherine loves Henry. Two of Francis' sons (the Dauphin and the Duke of Orleans) are shown in the series; Henry at one point writes Francis a letter of condolance, as his eldest son Henri-Philippe dies. Francis in turn writes to Henry several times on the subject of Henry's various marriages, or attempts by himself or Henry to arrange marriages between their families.
Because France is economically (if not militarily) more powerful than England, Henry is fortunate that Francis' real feud in the series is usually with Charles V, the Spanish Holy Roman Emperor. Francis dies a few weeks before Henry himself, as mentioned in the final episode of the series. He is played by French actor Emmanuel Leconte.
Role in the series EditFrancis is first mentioned in episode one as having bullied the Pope into giving him the title 'Defender of the Faith' (according to Henry) and Henry also cites him as having plotted the murder of his uncle, the Ambassador to Urbino- giving him an excuse to go to war with France. Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas More manage to talk him down from doing so, instead encouraging him to author a 'Treaty of Universal and Perpetual Peace' with Francis and betrothing their children at a summit. Henry reluctantly agrees, clearly only doing so because he wants to look like the better man. Henry is briefed on Francis himself by his Ambassador to France, Thomas Boleyn.
In the next episode, Henry and Francis finally meet face-to-face in the Field of Cloth of Gold, part of English territory in France. Francis and Henry initially try to be courteous to each other, but in every case are trying to subtly one-up the other, first with Princess Mary meeting with Francis' son Henri-Phillipe. Mary knocks the Dauphin over after he reacts with boyish disgust to her kisses, and it is subtly seen as the competition at hand (although Henry chides Mary for her behavior, he gives her a subtle look of fatherly approval). At an exchanging of gifts, Francis gives Henry an ornate brooch, and Henry in turns gives Francis "only a pastry", which turns out to be two dozen birds covered by a pie crust, to which the people marvel. Henry seems to be at an advantage at first in this competition, but Francis distracts him by pointing out his mistress- Thomas Boleyn's daughter, Mary Boleyn. Later, Francis (possibly drunk) begins boasting about the superiority of the French in almost every cultural field, provoking an increasingly angry Henry to challenge him to a wrestling match. Francis angrily accepts the challenge when Henry calls him a coward; although they seem evenly matched, Francis finally wins the match, to Henry's fury. He almost doesn't sign the treaty, but Wolsey and More manage to talk him down. However, when he returns to England after signing the treaty, Henry promptly begins planning to make an alliance with Spain, France's sworn enemy.
Francis promptly finds out about this betrayal courtesy of his communications with Wolsey (whom he pays a pension to) and furiously protests, but by episode 1.04, France is at war with Spain and England, with Spain intending to take France's Italian territories and England intending to take the throne of France itself. Near the end of the episode, Henry is delighted to learn that Francis was captured in a battle against the Spanish, but in episode 1.05 Emperor Charles releases Francis and makes peace with France, to Henry's fury. Francis, however, is still very bitter towards Charles (who holds his son the Dauphin as a hostage) and, understanding Henry's personality better, offers a renewed alliance against the Emperor, which Henry accepts. In this, he is supported both by Wolsey and by his lover Anne Boleyn, who was a former lady-in-waiting to Francis' Queen and has a friendly attitude towards France. France and England swiftly unite against Spain.
Francis is seen again in episode 1.06 when Wolsey is sent to France to renew the alliance and to summon a conclave of the Cardinals (to both deal with religious matters since the Pope is the Emperor's captive and-more significantly- to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon). However, to Wolsey's horror, Francis apologetically tells him the Cardinals are not coming. He is seen again in episode 1.08 at his palace in Paris, talking with Charles Brandon, whom Henry sent to inquire about Wolsey and Cardinal Compeggio; Francis states that he sees nothing wrong with either of them, but notes they are both close to the Pope, and that if Henry wants his annulment he should tackle it more directly himself instead of entrusting them. Francis then leaves, apparently, as Queen Claude bitterly observes, to 'service his latest mistress.'Francis is seen in person once more in episode 2.02. He comes to English-held Calais, when Henry intends to present Anne Boleyn as his betrothed and future Queen- and to renew the Anglo-French alliance. Francis has a very enjoyable visit (there is no visible tension between him and Henry this time) and even suggests he and Henry should go on a Crusade to molify the Pope; he also assures Henry that Anne will be welcomed and accepted, though his wife and sister refused to attend the summit. Anne promptly appears with a group of masquerade dancers and dances with the surprised and pleased Francis. She later speaks to him, asking him not to discuss her past with Henry, and inquiring if he actually approves of her marriage. Francis graciously says yes to both, assuring her that he knows she is pro-French and that her marriage will anger his enemy the Emperor (therefore pleasing him). However, he warns Anne that, since she is not born to the world of monarchy, it will be difficult for her to adjust. Despite his friendly attitude towards Anne, Francis drags out actually recognizing her as Queen after she is married and crowned; Thomas Boleyn remarks, "He sends you wedding gifts, yet he pretends he cannot recognize you as Queen as long as Catherine is still alive." indicating that Francis, for all that he opposes the Catholic Emperor, still respects the Pope. This is shown by Francis' final appearance; he comes to Rome dressed as a shepherd and bows to Pope Paul III. Paul blesses him and asks him to invade England and overthrow Henry on behalf of the Papacy, as Henry has been officiailly excommunicated from the Catholic Church. However, Francis is visibly unnerved by this request; he continues to walk a tightrope between Rome and England (as well as such an invasion could ultimately cost Francis his throne, being expensive both in blood and treasure). Francis reserves his disdain for Henry somewhat tactfully, saying to the Pope that the King of England "is the toughest king in Europe for me to be friends with".
England's relations with France sour towards the end of Season Two, especially after Anne's death, but they remain officially in alliance until the end of Season Three, when it briefly appears that France may ally with its' old enemy Spain against England, though this doesn't occur. In Season Four, Francis resumes his war with the Emperor, now allied with the Ottoman Empire- a controversial move for a Catholic country at the time. Henry ponders which side to take, then unexpectedly allies with the Spanish, intending to regain his lost French territories. However, after a brutal siege warfare, all three kingdoms are exhausted and sign separate peace treaties. In the season finale, in his final months, Henry learns that his old rival and friend is also dying, and muses on it wistfully.
- "King Francis is not the easiest person to deal with- he sends you wedding gifts, yet he pretends he cannot officially recognize you as Queen, as long as Catherine remains alive." -Earl Thomas Boleyn to Queen Anne Boleyn
- (in French) "The wheel turns, my friend..." - to Cardinal Wolsey
- "Mon Frère." (my brother, to Henry)
- Francis: "The station you are to occupy, is not an easy one... It is much easier to have nothing, than to have everything. If I had not been born to be king, I certainly would not have wished that fate upon myself or anyone else. Vous comprenez? (do you understand?)" Anne Boleyn: "...Oui, oui, je comprends. (Yes, I understand)"