The name of Francis I and his emblem, the salamander, are familiar to the many thousands of tourists who visit the chateaux of the Loire each year. But what sort of monarch was he? Whereas in his own day he was acclaimed as 'the great king Francis', in more recent times he has generally been taken less seriously than his exact contemporaries Henry VIII of England and the Emperor Charles V. Yet his reign was no less important than theirs. It witnessed and promoted fundamental changes in France's political structure, economy, society, religion and cultural life. The king's obsession with war stimulated constitutional change. By entailing expenditures far in excess of the crown's traditional resources, it obliged him to tap new sources of wealth, to reorganise the fiscal system and to promote administrative centralisation. Economically, Francis' reign saw the completion of the recovery that had followed the Hundred Years' War. While the land was reclaimed, the population grew, town life flourished and trade expanded.
' ... an undoubted achievement ... in the breadth and comprehensibility of its narrative history, in the sensitivity of its pieces on humanism, religion and the arts particularly: but valuable throughout.' The Times Literary Supplement ' ... there can be no doubt that Knecht's book is a valuable achievement. Wide-ranging and written throughout with exemplary clarity, it draws together a mass of important information and interpretation that English students of Renaissance France will find immensely serviceable.' English Historical Review 'Until Desmond Seward's Prince of the Renaissance there was no modern life in English, and until now no full-scale biography at all. The gap is superbly filled by R. J. Knecht's new book. Francis I is vigorous, exhaustive, and much rarer in a work of this range and scale - particularly well measured and shaped ... a model of what a dense historical biography should be.' The Times