December 12, 2020
Today’s story, told by Parlamente, of a prince of such perfection “that in his day there was no one equal to him,” is generally assumed to be about a young François I, before he became king.
The fifteen-year-old prince in this tale falls in love with the sixteen-year-old Françoise, a girl of low birth who had played with his sister as a child and whose own sister is now married to his butler. He pursues her doggedly, sending messages through a servant, writing a letter, sitting near her in church (and changing seats every time she does), deliberately falling off his horse and into the mud in front of her house so that he will be taken inside to change clothes, offering money (at a servant’s suggestion), and arranging for a private meeting by a vineyard (he shows up too late, because his mother needs his help redecorating a room in the castle!) She refuses him just as determinedly, giving a firm and eloquent defense of her honor but offering her steadfast devotion and prayers. In the end, he accepts her wishes, respects her deeply, approves her marriage with one of his servants, and provides her with other “great benefits.”
This tale offers a few glimpses of the young prince’s mother—presumably Louise de Savoie—working behind the scenes to steer her son to good behavior. After changing clothes, the young prince does not linger at Françoise’s house for fear of displeasing “his mother, who was one of the most virtuous ladies in the world,” and the funds he wants to use to persuade Françoise are limited, since “[his] mother was in charge of his finances, and he only received small sums to spend on his amusement.” Who knows, perhaps she had been tipped off about the plan at the vineyard, and that’s why she decided that her son’s assistance with the redecoration project was so indispensable!
Here’s a portrait of a young François I at the Musée Condé in Chantilly (PE 241).