Francis III, Duke of Brittany


Francis III, Duke of Brittany

Infobox French Royalty|prince
name=Francis III
title=Duke of Brittany; Dauphin of Viennois



caption=
reign=20 July 1524 – 10 August 1536
titles=The Duke of Brittany
The Dauphin of Viennois
full name=
succession = Duke of Brittany
predecessor=Claude
successor=Henry
royal house=House of Valois
royal anthem =
father=Francis I of France
mother=Claude, Duchess of Brittany
date of birth=birth date|1518|2|28|df=y
place of birth=
date of death=death date and age|1536|8|10|1518|2|28|df=y
place of death=
place of burial=|

Francis III, Duke of Brittany (French: "François III, Duc de Bretagne"), also Francis, Dauphin of France (French: "François, Dauphin de France") (28 February,1518 – 10 August, 1536), was the first son and heir of King Francis I of France and Claude of France, daughter of Louis XII of France.

Life

Francis I said of his son at birth, "a beautiful dauphin who is the most beautiful and puissant child one could imagine and who will be the easiest to bring up". His mother, Claude, Duchess of Brittany, said, "tell the King that he is even more beautiful than himself". The Dauphin was christened at Amboise on April 25, 1519. Leonardo da Vinci, who had been brought to Amboise by Francis I, designed the decorations.

One of the most researched aspects of the Dauphin's short life is the time he and his brother Henry (later Henry II of France) spent as hostages in Spain. The king had been badly defeated and captured at the Battle of Pavia (1525) and became a hostage of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, initially in the Alcázar in Madrid. In order to ensure his release, the king signed the Treaty of Madrid (1526). However, in order to ensure that Francis abided by the treaty, Charles demanded that the king's two oldest sons take his place as hostages. Francis agreed.

On March 15, 1526, the exchange took place at the border between Spain and France. The eight-year-old Dauphin and his younger brother Henry spent the next three years as captives of Charles V, a period that scarred them for life. The Dauphin's "somber, solitary tastes" and his preference for dressing in black (like a Spaniard) were attributed to the time he spent in captivity in Madrid.

Marriage arrangements

Being the first son and heir to a king of France made the Dauphin a marriage pawn to his father. He could not be wasted in marriage (as many felt his brother Henry had been with his marriage to Catherine de' Medici), and there were several betrothals to eligible princesses throughout the Dauphin's life, the first, when he was an infant, to the four-year-old Mary Tudor (later Mary I of England), daughter of Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon; but this arrangement was abandoned around 1520.

Death

The Dauphin Francis died at Touron on August 10, 1536, at the age of eighteen. The circumstances of his death seemed suspicious, and it is believed by many that he was poisoned. However, there is ample evidence that he died of natural causes, possibly tuberculosis. The Dauphin had never fully recovered his health from the years spent in damp, dank cells in Madrid.After playing a round of tennis, the Dauphin asked for a cup of water, which was brought to him by his secretary, Count Montecuccoli. After drinking it, Francis fell ill and died several days later. Montecuccoli, who was brought to the court by Catherine de' Medici, was accused of being in the pay of Charles V, and when his quarters were searched a book of different poisons was found. (Catherine de' Medici was well known to have an interest in poisons and the occult.) Under torture, Montecuccoli confessed to poisoning the Dauphin.

In an age before forensic science, poison was usually suspected whenever a young, healthy person dropped dead shortly after eating or drinking something. There was no way to pinpoint and trace the substance after death; therefore, it was considered a quick, easy and non-traceable form of homicide. There are several other suspected cases of political-murder-by-poison in the French royal family through the ages. Among other suspected poisonings are the Dauphin's younger brother, Charles, and Gabrielle d'Estrée, mistress and fiancee of Henry IV of France.

Duchy of Brittany

In 1524, the Dauphin inherited the Duchy of Brittany on his mother's death, becoming Duke Francis III, although the Duchy was actually ruled by officials of the French crown. The Duchy was inherited upon the death of Francis by his brother, Henry; upon his succession to the French throne in 1547, the Duchy and the crown were effectively merged, the Breton estates having already tied the succession of the Duchy to the French crown, rather than to the line of succession of the Dukes of Brittany, by vote in 1532.

Anecdotes

* Was known to prefer books to soldiering.
* Even though he died at a young age, he was known to have a mistress — Madame d'Estranges.

References


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