of unusual intelligence and yet rarer education, and stimulated by the
companionship of an elder sister whose extensive acquirements furnished
the theme of countless panegyrics, Francis early conceived the design of
making his court illustrious for the generous patronage extended to the
disciples of the liberal arts. His own attainments have been overrated,
and posterity has too credulously believed all that admiring and
interested courtiers chose to invent in his praise. But, if he was
himself ignorant of anything beyond the mere rudiments even of Latin,
the universal language of science, he possessed at least one signal
merit: he was a munificent friend of those whom poverty would otherwise
have precluded from cultivating their resplendent abilities. I shall not
repeat the familiar names of the eminent painters and sculptors whom he
encouraged and enriched, nor give a list of the skilful architects
employed in the construction of his magnificent palaces of St. Germain
and Fontainebleau, of Chambord and Chenonceaux. Poetry, not less than
painting and architecture, witnessed his liberality. Clément Marot,
whose name has been regarded as marking the first truly remarkable epoch
in the history of this
1 Mignet, Établissement de la Réforme à Genève, Mémoires,
ii. 243. Étienne Pasquier draws a dark picture of the barbarism reigning
at Paris at the accession of Francis. More highly honored than any other
university of Europe, that of Paris had fallen so low that the Hebrew
tongue was known only by name, and as for Greek, the attention given to
it was more apparent than real. "Car mesmes lors qu'il estoit question
de l'expliquer, ceste parole couroit en la bouche de plusieurs ignorans,
Græcum est, non legitur." The very Latin, which was the language in
ordinary use, was rude and clumsy. Recherches de la France, 831.
department of French art,1 was a favorite at the court of Francis and Margaret
of Angoulême, and repaid their gifts with unbounded eulogy. The
more solid studies of the philosopher and the linguist were fostered
with equal care. Vatable, Melchior Wolmar, and other scholars of
note were invited to France, to give instruction in Greek and Hebrew.
Erasmus himself might have been induced to yield to the king's
importunate messages, could he have been able to divest himself
of the apprehension of annoyance from the bigoted "Sorbonnists;"
while even Melanchthon was, at a later period, on the point of accepting
a pressing summons to visit the French court on a mission of reconciliation.
Foundation of the Collége Royal.
Among the most notable achievements of this prince was the foundation of
a school of learning intended to supply the deficiencies of the
instruction given by the university. In the "Collége Royal" Francis
desired to leave a lasting token of his devotion to letters. Here he
founded chairs of three languages--of Greek and Hebrew at first, and
afterward of Latin--whence was derived the name of Trilingue, under
which the college was celebrated in the writings of the day. The
monarch's plan encountered the obstacles which prejudice always knows
how to set in the way of improvement. The university doctors, fearing
that their own prelections would be forsaken for the more brilliant lectures of the salaried professors of the royal school, demanded that the latter should submit
to an examination before the more ancient body of instructors; but parliament
wisely rejected their pretensions. Liberal men throughout the world rejoiced at
the defeat of the Sorbonne and its representative, Beda,2 while
1 La Harpe, Cours de litérature, vi. 405.
2 Gaillard, Histoire de François premier (Paris ed., 1769),
vii. 282-300. Félibien, among the many interesting documents he has
preserved, reproduces one of the first programmes of the professors of
the Collége Royal, preserved from destruction, doubtless, simply from
the circumstance that it formed the ground of a citation of the
professors by the syndic of the university (Beda), January, 1534,
wherein he alleges that "some simple grammarians or rhetoricians, who
had not studied with the faculty, had undertaken to read in public and
to interpret the Holy Scriptures, as appears from certain bills posted
in the streets and squares of Paris." In the programme, Agathius
Guidacerius, Francis Vatable, P. Arnesius (Danesius), and Paul Paradisus
figure as lecturing--the first two upon the Psalms, the third on
Aristotle, and the last on Hebrew grammar and the book of Proverbs.
Michel Félibien, Histoire de la ville de Paris (Paris, 1725), iv. 682.
miserable inhabitants cruelty such as disgraces the very name of man.1 Barbarous punishments.
The character or the punishments inflicted for the commission of crime
furnishes a convenient test of national civilization. If France in the
sixteenth century be tried by this criterion, the conclusion is
inevitable that for her the age of barbarism had not yet completely
passed away. The catalogue of crimes to which death was affixed as the
penalty is frightfully long; some of them were almost trivial offences.
A boy less than sixteen years of age was hung for stealing jewelry from
his master.2 On the other hand, with flagrant inconsistency, a
nobleman, René de Bonneville, superintendent of the royal mint, for the
murder of his brother-in-law, was dragged to the place of execution on a
hurdle, but suffered the less ignominious fate of decapitation. A part
of his property was given to his sister, and the rest confiscated to the crown,
with the exception of four hundred livres, reserved for the purchase of masses
to be said for the benefit of the soul of his murdered victim.3 Especially for heresy.
For other culprits extraordinary refinements of cruelty were reserved.
The aventuriers, when so ill-starred as to fall into the hands of
justice, were customarily burned alive at the stake.3
1 The law of 1523 thus sets forth some of their exploits:
"Outre mesure multiplient leurs pilleries, cruautez et meschancetez,
jusques à vouloir assaillir les villes closes: les aucunes desquelles
ils out prinses d'assaut, saccagées, robées et pillées, forcé filles et
femmes, tué les habitans inhumainement, et cruellement traitté les
aucuns en leur crevant les yeux, et coupant les membres les uns après
les autres, sans en avoir pitié, faisant ce que cruelles bestes ne
feroient," etc. Isambert, Recueil des lois anc., xii. 216. See also
Journal d'un bourgeois de Paris (1516), 36; and Lettres de Marguerite
d'Angoulême, Nouvelle Coll., lettre 7.
2 Journal d'un bourgeois (1516), 37.
3 Ibid, (anno 1527), 328.
4 Ibid., 36. It would appear that even this penalty did not deter them from the commission
of their infamous crimes, for a fresh edict, in 1523 (Isambert, xii., 216), prescribes that
for exemplary punishment "lesdicts blasphemateurs exécrables avant que souffrir mort,
ayent la gorge ouverte avec un fer chaud et la langue tirée ou coupée
par les dessouz; et ce faict penduz et attachez au gibet ou potence, et
estranglez, selon leurs desmerites!"
The same fate overtook those who were detected in frauds against the public
treasury. More frightful than all the rest was the vengeance taken by the law
upon the counterfeiter of the king's coin. The legal penalty, which is said
to have become a dead letter on the pages of the statute-book long
before the French revolution, was in the sixteenth century rigidly
enforced: on the 9th of November, 1527, a rich merchant of Paris, having
been found guilty of the crime in question, was boiled alive before the
assembled multitude in the Marché-aux-pourceaux.1 Heresy and
blasphemy were treated with no greater degree of leniency than the most
infamous of crimes. Even before the reformation a lingering death in the
flames had been the doom pronounced upon the person who dared to accept
or promulgate doctrines condemned by the church. But when the bitterness
of strife had awakened the desire to enhance the punishment of dissent,
new or extraordinary tortures were resorted to, of the application of
which this history will furnish only too many examples. The forehead was
branded, the tongue torn out, the hand cut off at the wrist, or the
agonies of death prolonged by alternately dropping the wretched victim
into the fire and drawing him out again, until exhausted nature found
tardy release in death.
But if we can to some extent account for the excess of cruelty which
blind frenzy inflicted on the inflexible martyr to his faith, it is
certainly more difficult to explain the severity exercised upon the more
pliable, whom the arguments of ghostly advisers, or the terrors of the
Place de Grève, had induced to recant. Generally the judge did nothing
more in their behalf than commute their punishment by ordering them to
be strangled before
1 Journal d'un bourgeois, 327. The Marché-aux-pourceaux, or
swine market, was a little west of the present Palais Royal, just
outside of the walls of Paris, as they existed in the time of Francis I.
See the atlas accompanying Dulaure, Histoire de Paris. In December,
1581, the Parliament of Rouen sentenced one Salcède to this horrible