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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Francis I.

  • [King of France; born at Cognac, Sept. 12, 1494; succeeded his cousin Louis XII., 1515; conquered the Milanese the same year; was a candidate for the imperial crown, which Charles V. obtained, and formed a league with England and the Pope against Francis, who was defeated at Pavia, 1525, and taken prisoner; confined in Madrid until 1526, when he continued the war until 1529, and later until 1544; promoted science, art, and literature; died March, 1547.]
  • Let him who loves me follow me! (Qui m’aime me suive!)

  • To his officers, who opposed his fighting the battle of Marignano against the Milanese, in which, however, he was victorious, Sept. 13 and 14, 1515. The exclamation became a proverbial expression.
  • A more elaborate appeal to the personal loyalty of his followers was the watchword of Henry IV. at Ivry, March 14, 1590: “If the ensigns fail you, rally to my white plume: you will always find it in the path of honor and victory” (Si les cornets vous manquent, ralliez-vous à mon panache blanc: vous le trouverez toujours au chemin de l’honneur et de la victoire).
  • La Rochejaquelin said to his volunteers, in the royalist insurrection in La Vendée, 1793, “If I advance, follow me! if I retreat, kill me! if I die, avenge me!” (Si j’avance, suivez-moi! si je recule, tuez-moi! si je meurs, vengez-moi!)
  • All is lost save honor.

  • The translation of the announcement which Francis I. was supposed to have made of the disastrous battle of Pavia, containing only the words, “Tout est perdu fors l’honneur.” The real letter was found in the manuscript registers of Parliament, and published in 1837. The original is lost; but the autograph reply of the mother of Francis, Louise de Savoy, is preserved, and contains almost textually the phrases of the king’s missive, which began by informing her that nothing remains to him but honor and life (de toutes choses ne m’est demouré que l’honneur et la vie qui est saulve). He hopes that God will not abandon him; recommends to her care his young children, and entreats her to effect a safe return to Spain of the bearer of a letter he had written to the emperor to ask what treatment he might expect during his captivity.—Captivité de François I., 129.
  • As Drouot pressed the hand of Napoleon, on the emperor’s return to the palace of the Élysée, three days after the battle of Waterloo, Caulaincourt exclaimed, “All is lost!”—“Excepté l’honneur,” added Napoleon. It was the first word he had spoken since leaving Laon.
  • The Comte de Provence (afterwards Louis XVIII.) replied, while in exile, to a proposal that he should renounce his claim to the French throne, by saying that he was ignorant of the designs of Providence, but was aware of the obligations of his rank: as a Christian, he would perform those obligations to his latest breath; son of St. Louis, he would respect himself even in chains; successor of Francis I., he would say, like him, “Tout est perdu fors l’honneur.”—BOURRIENNE: Memoirs of Napoleon, II. chap. xxvi.
  • The defeat of Pavia led to the surrender and captivity of Francis I. It is said that in the first moment of despondency he attempted suicide; crying, as he struck at himself with a dagger, “’Twere better that a king should die thus.” He was, however, conveyed to Spain; the journey being imbittered by the thought, “How dearly do I pay for this crown, which I thought God had given me free!” At the termination of his captivity,—which he purchased by a treaty he afterwards disavowed, and by the exchange of his two sons,—he exclaimed, as his horse leaped across the Bidassoa, the narrow boundary between France and Spain, “I am still a king!”
  • I can make nobles when I will, and even great lords: God alone can make a man like him whom we are going to lose (Je puis faire des nobles quand je veux, et même de très grands seigneurs: Dieu seul peut faire un homme comme celui que nous allons perdre).

  • The very doubtful mot, concerning Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian painter, who visited Paris on the invitation of Francis, and is said to have died in the king’s arms at Fontainebleau. It is now, however, considered impossible that the artist, broken by infirmity, could have left the château of Clou, near Amboise, which had been given him as a residence by the king, to mix in the festivals of the court at Fontainebleau; nor could he have been buried at Amboise (as was the fact), if his death had occurred in the royal palace. It is also well settled, that on the day of Leonardo’s death (May 2, 1519), Francis could not have been either at Fontainebleau or at Clou; the contest for the imperial crown of Germany then demanding his attention, and preventing his absence from Paris at a greater distance than St. Germain.
  • However that may be, there is no question of the liberality of Francis towards art and artists. Raphael received more than he thought due for the St. Michael, now in the Louvre, and insisted upon the king’s acceptance of a Holy Family. Francis received it as if it had been the present of a monarch, saying, “Persons famous in the arts partake of the immortality of princes, and are upon a footing with them.”
  • Other kings have shown the same appreciation of great artistic and literary talent. When a nobleman complained to Henry VIII. of rude treatment he alleged to have received from Hans Holbein, the German painter, the king turned him away with the sharp reproof, “I tell you, of seven peasants I can make as many lords; but of seven lords I could not make one Holbein.” Charles V., the third of these rivals for the German crown, made a similar reply to his courtiers, who complained of the long audiences he gave an Italian author who lived many years at Antwerp: “I can make a hundred grandees, but no Guicciardini.” Philip IV. of Spain (1605–65) said of a decoration painted by himself in a portrait by a celebrated artist, “Is it not a great honor to have borne a hand in a picture of Velasquez?” Selden in his “Table-Talk” drew a clear distinction: “The king cannot make a gentleman of blood, nor God Almighty, but he can make a gentleman by creation.” James I. had already said, “I can make a lord, but only God Almighty can make a gentleman.”
  • Such is our good pleasure (Tel est notre bon plaisir).

  • His form of assent, resting, says Sully (“Memoirs”), not on the approbation of his people, but upon his royal caprice. The careless answer of a pleasure-loving king became the formula by which his successors indicated their approval of legislative enactments. The English derive a similar one from their Norman sovereigns: “Le roi le veut” (The king wills it).
  • The indifference of Francis to his subjects is shown by his answer to Charles V., who asked him what revenues he drew from certain cities of France through which they were passing: “What I please” (Ce que je veux).
  • Toute femme varie.

  • Written on a window of the château of Chambord by Francis I., where it was seen and read by Brantôme.—Vie des Dames Galantes.
  • That he scratched the words on a pane of glass with the point of a diamond, rather than wrote them on the sill with a pencil, is less certain. If with the former, it is the first time that we read of the application of the diamond to that purpose.—THÉOPHILE: Essai sur divers Arts.
  • Tradition assigns two lines to the royal hand:—
  • “Souvent femme varie:
  • Bien fol est qui s’y fie.”
  • (Woman often changes: foolish is the man who trusts her.)
  • It is but another form of the Virgilian line (“Æneid,” IV. 569):
  • “Varium et mutabile semper
  • Fœmina.”
  • (“Always is woman fickleness and change.”)
  • LONG’S Translation.
  • Verdi echoed it in the air of his opera “Rigoletto” (“La donna è mobile”). Napoleon declared at St. Helena, that there was no accounting for the actions of a woman; and Victor Hugo pronounces her “the enigma of the nineteenth century.”