MCM: King François I of France


I’m kind of surprised that King François I of France (1494-1547; reigned from 1515 on) hasn’t gotten more cinematic love. He was Henry VIII‘s French counterpart, reigning over a similar Renaissance in that country, was also known to do well with the ladies (including mistresses Françoise de Foix, Countess of Châteaubriant, and Anne de Pisseleu d’Heilly, Duchess of Étampes), and actually was more militarily active and successful than Henry. Okay, so he stuck with his wife, staying with Queen Claude (1499-1524), also Duchess of Brittany, until her death, when he married Eleanor of Austria (1498-1558). He also had no problems with the whole children thing, having seven children with Claude, including son Henri II and daughter Madeleine, wife of James V of Scotland.

Jean Clouet, Francis I of France, 1527-30, Louvre Museum

Francis I of France by Jean Clouet, 1527-30, Louvre Museum

Let’s run down François on film — predictably, he’s mostly been in French productions. Americans, let’s give him some love!


François Ier et Triboulet (1907)

AKA “The King and the Jester.” An early silent film.

1907 François Ier et Triboulet

Jester, left; François, right.


The Pearls of the Crown (1937)

One of French director Sacha Guitry‘s episodic takes on history: “Tracing the history of seven valuable pearls of the English Crown from the time of Henry VIII of England to the present day (1937). Writer Jean Martin (Guitry) attempts to track down three of the missing pearls by tracing their previous owners, with events seen in flashback, involving Napoleon, King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I of England amongst others.” Guitry played four roles, including François and Napoleon III.

1937 Perles de la couronne

François with his son, probably François Jr., who died at age 18 before coming to the throne.


The Sword and the Rose (1953)

A Disney take on Mary, sister of Henry VIII, who was married to the elderly King Louis XII of France. François is played by Gérard Oury.

The Sword and the Rose (1953)

I believe that’s François, skeeving it up on Mary.


Diane (1956)

A biopic about Diane de Poitiers, mistress to François’s son, Henri II. François is played by Pedro Armendáriz.

Diane (1956)

Pretty darn decent in terms of menswear!

Diane (1956)

I’m liking the shapes, trims, and colors.

Diane (1956)

If Paris Were Told to Us (1956)

Another of director Sacha Guitry’s episodic takes on French history, this one focused on Paris. Famed French actor Jean Marais plays François.

1956 If Paris Were Told to Us Jean Marais 1530s

This is even nicer!

1956 If Paris Were Told to Us Jean Marais 1530s

At least for the menswear… | Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

1956 If Paris Were Told to Us Jean Marais 1530s

Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images


La Salamandre d’or (1962)

AKA The Golden Salamander (the salamander being François’s emblem). A French TV movie about François’s (Claude Titre) capture in battle, and the guy who is sent to pay his ransom.

1962 La Salamandre d'or

I 100% believe that is a fake beard and some glue.


Carry On Henry (1971)

Part of the British series of “Carry On” movies, which were comedy slapstick movies. This one focuses on Henry VIII (Sid James), and Peter Gilmore plays François.

1971 Carry On Henry

Ok, the guys aren’t bad?

1971 Carry On Henry

Ever After (1998)

Color me shocked to discover that the king in this famous retelling of Cinderella is supposed to be François (Timothy West), and hero “Prince Henry” (Dougray Scott) must therefore be Henri II? Which is confusing, because Henri II married Catherine de’ Medici.

1998 ever after

OTOH, Wikipedia says to take the names as a grain of salt.

1998 ever after

TM and Copyright (c)20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.


The Tudors (2007-10)

The Tudor soap opera. François (Emmanuel Leconte) is a minor character who shows up in a few episodes to flirt with Anne Boleyn.

2007-10 The Tudors

That’s a lot of color for a 16th-century men’s shirt.

2007-10 The Tudors

Doin’ the pimp lean…

2007-10 The Tudors

I’m not a fan of that hat.


Carlos, rey emperador (2015-16)

A Spanish TV series focused on Charles V, king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor. Apparently François (Alfonso Bassave) shows up, which makes sense since he and Charles fought many wars.

2015-16 Carlos, rey emperador

If I cared more about 16th century, I might check this out, just because the costumes I’ve seen look pretty good!

2015-16 Carlos, rey emperador

Perfect early 16th-century hat.

2015-16 Carlos, rey emperador

Good layers, trim looks good from what I can see?



Are any of these a decent representation of François I?


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

21 Responses

  1. Shashwat

    The dude in the first image of The Tudors is Mark Smeaton,not Francois.That obnoxious goatee is hard to miss.
    Most portrayals are rather lacklustre,but he had a dignified depiction in Ever After(albeit too dignified,as audience seeks a little more from a handsome French Monarch).

  2. Coco

    One thing Ever After gets right is that he brought Leonardo da Vinci to France.

  3. Susan Pola Staples

    Don’t forget his sister, Marguerite of Navarre. Can’t really ttpe left handed . Right handed but rotator cuff surgery Friday

      • Susan Pola Staples

        Thanks. You don’t know how this has cut down my tweets. And I’m still trying to figure how to vote in person. Can’t drive. Nor sign stuff so vote by mail is out.

  4. M.E. Lawrence

    Hoy! Is that Glynis Johns as Mary Rose in “The S and the R”? Her styling is a ringer for her “Court Jester” role two years later, when the rebel Captain Jean is made over into a court lady to spy on the king. (Has Glynis done enough frock flicks to get her own WCW? She is still alive at 97, and deserves the love.)

  5. Charity

    The Ever After thing has ALWAYS confused me.

    They’re dressed in Renaissance gowns, which places them in the late 1400s.

    Da Vinci is at the French Court, which happened in 1516.

    Danielle has owned a copy of Thomas More’s Utopia since childhood (published in 1516). Most of the story takes place a decade later, so 1526.

    Except Da Vinci was dead by 1519.

    And they are talking about Katharine of Aragon and Henry VIII’s divorce as if it has already happened (“Divorce is something they only do in England”) which didn’t happen until 1533.

    So… yeah.

    I tried wrapping my teenage head around that when the movie first came out, and am still doing it all these years later. XD

  6. mmcquown

    All I know about Francois and Henry is that they staged the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the most lavish tournament in history, probably to show who had the longest lance and the deepest pockets.

    • Roxana

      I snicker. But historians agree with you. It was a fabulous extravaganza that basically accomplished nothing of diplomatic value. However a good time was had by all and that’s something.

      Henry and Francis had a lifelong and intense rivalry. Ditto for Charles V and Francis. Much of England’s international importance at the time was directly due to the French/Imperial conflict and both sides courted Henry looking for an edge. Henry recognized that playing them against each other was in England’s best interest.

  7. Lily Lotus Rose

    I’ve also never understood why Henry I didn’t get more love on screen. 1. His castle, Chateau de Chambord is amazing. So, is one of his other castles, Chateau d’Amboise. They would be BEAUTIFUL filming locations!! 2. His association with Leonardo DaVinci alone is an interesting angle. I liked his portrayal in Ever After, but as has been mentioned, it barely counts as “Francis I”. Of the pictures above, my favorite costume is from If Paris Were Told To Us.

    • Boxermom

      Isn’t that costume great? It’s straight out of the Clouet portrait in the post.

      • Lily Lotus Rose

        Great catch, Boxermom! I totally didn’t see the resemblance until you pointed it out!

  8. Roxana

    Francis may have stayed married til death did them part but he was a lousy, unfaithful husband who both Claude and Eleanor may have been more than happy to be neglects by. He had a nasty habit of saying vicious, catty things about important women of his times, calling Mary the French Queen ‘More dirty than queenly’ and Catherine of Aragon’ old and deformed’ which is why I take his characterization of Mary Boleyn as his favorite ride with a chunk of salt.
    If Mary had truly made herself infamous in France as claimed she’d scarcely have been accepted as a maid of honor. Ditto for Anne.

  9. Caradoc

    Bassave from “Carlos” was a very good Francis, and his clothes were outstanding! Clothes in “Carlos” were very good in general imho.
    The man in the 1st photo of the Tudors, dancing with Anne Boleyn is Mark Smeaton, the beheades luteplayer

  10. Kelly

    The hat in The Tudors is nothing compared to the patently plastic jewels.

    • spanielpatter14

      I actually love Francois’ turquoise outfit in The Tudors. And he just annoys Henry VIII so much!