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.
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.
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.
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.
A biopic about Diane de Poitiers, mistress to François’s son, Henri II. François is played by Pedro Armendáriz.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are any of these a decent representation of François I?