In public imagination, the Valois dynasty is largely overshadowed by their English rivals, the Tudors. Yet, the two centuries of the Valois reign were crucial in the establishment of France as a major European power. Historian Alexander Mikaberidze explores the dynasty’s rise—and fall.
When the first Valois came to power in 1328, France was weak, with much of its territory under English rule. Under the leadership of successive generations of Valois kings, France prevailed in the Hundred Years’ War and steadily expanded its realm. By the early 16th century, with the power of the Valois at its pinnacle, Francis I allied with Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, feuded with his nemesis Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and negotiated with England’s Henry VIII—while cultivating French arts and sciences and championing Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance artists.
The dynasty came to an end amidst internal intrigues, the chaos of the Reformation, and the Wars of Religion. The last of the Valois, King Henry III, died childless in 1589.
Mikaberidze is professor of history and Ruth Herring Noel Endowed Chair for the Curatorship of the James Smith Noel Collection, Louisiana State University.
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