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Francis I: The Maker of Modern France

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  175 ratings  ·  32 reviews
The bestselling author of Catherine de Medici returns to sixteenth-century Europe in this evocative and entertaining biography that recreates a remarkable era of French history and brings to life a great monarch—Francis I—who turned France into a great nation.

Catherine de Medici’s father-in-law, King Francis of France, was the perfect Renaissance knight, the movement’s exe
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 10th 2018 by Harper (first published July 13th 2017)
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Paula Apparently it's on preorder; it's set to be available in hardcover & audiobook in late March.…more
Apparently it's on preorder; it's set to be available in hardcover & audiobook in late March.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this. From the content to the narrator of the audiobook.
What a fascinating and complicated period in European history.
So many colorful and horrible characters abound during this period.
Caidyn (NO LONGER ACTIVE; he/him/his)
This review can also be found on my blog!


So, this is basically the first book that I’ve read about Francis I… or medieval/Renaissance French history in general. Never gotten there. Growing up, I had a weird obsession with Marie Antoinette, but I didn’t go this far back. I never have, so this makes it a first for me.

Was this a bad book? No.

It was so easy to read. The writing is so accessible, and I think that’s what helped me get through it. I could easily understand what Frieda was writing
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Being not well informed about this period of French history, I’m glad that I found this book. While never a page turner, it is a readable story of an unpredictable monarch. Leonie Frieda shows Francis as a gambler, spending borrowed money on wars he cannot win. He makes treaties he will not keep, even at the expense of his sons. The subtitle “Maker of Modern France” does not seem fitting.

The most valuable parts for me were those that filled in gaps in my knowledge of British and Italian history.
Francis I was an interesting man, living in interesting times. This book was interesting to read but offered few surprises and was a little shallow. I don't see how he lived up to the sub-title of the book "the maker of modern France" and the book focuses on his foreign policy at the expense of his domestic affairs and cultural patronage and in that sense was a bit too old-fashioned for my taste. It was difficult to gain a true feeling for his relations with most of his relatives and associates, ...more
Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I won a lovely hardback edition of this book when it was first published, two years ago, and I am slightly embarrassed to admit that it has sat on my bookshelf ever since, looking impressive, but unread until now. Unfortunately, I can't say that it was worth the wait!

Leonie Frieda certainly packs a lot of information into her book, but I was disappointed that most of the pages are taken up with details of yet another cash-strapped army settin
Jo Walton
It is neither Francis's fault not Frieda's that I'm more interested in Charles VIII and Louis XII than their successor, while nobody else much seems to be interested in writing me a book about either one. From that point of view, this was useful in its early chapters.

On the whole this is a very good book, well written, consistently interesting, and it dealt well with the complexities of the international situation while keeping the focus on the people. I think Francis was a terrible person, but
Carolyn Harris
An old fashioned royal biography that recounts various aspects of Francis's life and reign, especially his foreign policy, without much additional analysis from the author. Frieda describes wars, peace treaties, dynastic marriages and contacts between rulers but rarely brings these details together to assess Francis's overall strategy toward kingship. The book is filled with historical figures who are more interesting than Francis himself including his mother, Louise of Savoy, sister, Marguerite ...more
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is entertaining, but it doesn’t substantiate its claim that Francis made “modern France.” He appears to have “made” a high proportion of the French court, but the court was a small proportion of the nation. His attempts to remake himself as a Renaissance prince were largely frustrated. He recruited the aged da Vinci and Cellini to inconsequential results, at least during his lifetime. More space could have been devoted to Clouet and also the school for painting at Fountainbleau. Francis achie ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Frieda's biography of Francis I is certainly on the popular history end, and is well written and accessible. Moreover, not only did I find it accessible, but it gave me some desire to get back to Here I Stand , which covers the period, and includes much of what she goes into.

However, she does not deliver on her promises in the subtitle or the introduction. Freida mentions she first got interested in Francis by seeing his symbol (a flame-wreathed salamander) everywhere in buildings while doing
May 06, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
A bit dry. But ok. My first real foray into the French royalty.
Rebecca Hill
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, edelweiss
Francis I of France has long been overshadowed in history. He lived through the times of Henry VIII and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Leonie Frieda breathes life back into one of the major players in European policies and military movements, in such a way that you feel as though you are walking through the halls of the french palaces.

Francis was not born with the promise of a great future, but through his mother and her endless working and dealing, he claimed the French throne. As he sought to
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was given a copy of this book by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.

Today's Nonfiction post is on Francis I: The Maker of Modern France by Leonie Frieda. It is 384 pages long and is Harper Collins. The cover is a portrait of Francis I. The intended reader is someone who is interested in French history. There is foul language, talk of sex, and discussion of violence. Much of the text is taken from first hand historical documents. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- T
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. Francis has always been a sideline character in the endless number of books I’ve read on the Tudors, and this was my first attempt at reading a biography about him. I think it was the perfect introduction to his heritage, strengths, weaknesses, and how his subjects perceived him as a ruler. Some reviewers have mentioned that they found it too general, but as I’m just starting out, I found this to be both informative and easy to follow.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I also enjoyed seeing
Delina April
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Despite my love for French history and it’s monarchy, especially during the Renaissance period, I have a few specific qualms about this book.

Seeming Francis as the ‘Maker of Modern France’, I didn’t necessarily see this argument running throughout the book.
Although there were various points made about his patronage of the arts, and his own personal intellect and interests towards it, influenced by his mother, a lot of the book covered his many campaigns - a lot of which were initiated against h
Jason Vanhee
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
Muddled, representing a poor grasp of events outside of France, and without much effort made to even report events in France coherently. Francis comes off as surprisingly dull, often barely a player in his own story; Marguerite, who we're told is important to him, vanishes for much of the book and is scarcely referenced; and it is clear that the author is massively fond of Catherine de Medici and cannot wait to actually be able to speak about her. Other flaws: official mistresses appearing just ...more
Andrew Dockrill
Apr 14, 2018 rated it liked it
This being my first introduction to Leonie Frieda it wasn't too bad. There seemed to be a few grammatical errors I ran into, that threw me off a little and took me out of my reading. With that issue aside, her writing flowed very well and it was an easy and enjoyable read. I was a little let down that a few of his more interesting stories didn't find their way into her book, like how he sent John Cabot I believe it was, to go to the new world towards what would today be Newfoundland. Also I was ...more
May 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a well written book about the life of King Francis I of France. He was a contemporary of King Henry VIII of England and Emperor Charles V. It was interesting to read a history about the politics of Europe during the first half of the 1500s from the French perspective. The details about the French royal family and the court, and the relationship between Francis I and Charles V showed a stormy relationship of royal one-upmanship. Knowing very little about European national politics at the ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Received an ARC as a GoodReads giveaway. I entered this giveaway mainly because of my late high school French teacher Mrs. Rohrer. She loved all things French, and I remember her enthusiastic stories about Francois Premier, his chateaux, his salamander symbol, etc. This book is quite readable and interesting for a layperson like me. The names were a challenge, though. With so many royals of that time named Charles, Louis/Louise, Henry, Francis and Mary, I had trouble juggling the cast of charact ...more
Gerry Connolly
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Leonie Frieda has written an engaging biography of Francis I of France. During his 32 year reign during the 16th century he warred with Henry VIII of England and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. His many expeditions to conquer parts of Italy—especially Milan—led to ruinous results including his own imprisonment after the battle of Pavia. Nonetheless Francis managed to foster French unity and cultivated the arts as a Renaissance prince. He was surrounded by strong women such his mother Louise of Sav ...more
Jeanne Nichols
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaway
I did not enjoy this book very much. I read a lot and can usually go through a nonfiction book of this length in 2-3 days. This one took me over a week, because I kept making excuses not to read it.

It started out okay, but as it developed, several biased opinions were presented. It seemed that the editing became more superficial as the book progressed. I was disappointed, as I really knew very little about Francis I and had hoped to increase my understanding of him and his times. I did learn som
Roy Farchmin
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
After finishing the book, never figured out the title "Francis I, the Maker of Modern France". Frieda chronicles in detail the military history of Francis. But, Francis's contributions to art, architecture, philosophy, mathematics and other advances made during the Renaissance are only superficially explored. Overall, the book is disappointing. Unfortunately, a better source for a bio of Francis I is Wikipedia.
Helen Carolan
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting and fascinating look at a king who while being brave and a man of action was also prone to making the wrong decisions at the wrong time. His decision to besiege Pavia led to his capture by Charles the fifth. Francis was also charming but something of a turncoat when it suited him. An interesting if flawed man.
Mike Shoop
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Solid, very readable biography of a French monarch who saw himself as the "first Renaissance king." A contemporary of Henry VIII (with whom he had much in common), Francis managed to transform France and set it on the path to becoming a nation to be reckoned with. Excellent bio for anyone interested in French history.
Phyllis Lantz
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this book because I don't know a lot about French history. I gained a lot of insight as to the relationship between Francis I, King Henry VIII, Charles, Holy Roman Emperor and the various Popes of the time. Some of the reading was tedious with so much intrigue and battles to try to put together. I can now say I know more about the history of France if not a small part of it.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history, france
Of two minds - entertaining, a good "popular" history; but nothing revelatory, and "the maker of modern France"? Hmm. Perhaps in that the realm was consolidated, mostly, during the reign of Francis, but "modern" conveys so much else that isn't true. If you don't know much about Renaissance France, a good intro. If you do, probably not worth the price.
Nancy Bielski
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Great read but a lot of military history.
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A decent history of Francis I. Not the best history book out there but it provides a good overview.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, bio
Filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge about this contemporary of Henry VIII of England. Well written, covers both the personal and political elements of the life of Francis.
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Forgettable. This is really a prequel to the author's Catherine d'Medici bio. There were some interesting snippits, but it never really grabbed me.
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Tudor History Lovers: * August 2020 - Francis I, by Leonie Frieda 4 34 Jul 15, 2020 03:48PM  

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Swedish by birth, but educated in Britain, Germany and France, Leonie Frieda speaks five languages. Her researches on Catherine de Medici has taken her to Paris, Florence and Rome, as well as the châteaux of the Loire. Her next book is a biography of the Great War soldier and letter-writer Edward Horner. She lives in London with her daughter Elisabeth and son Jake.

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