18.03.

1555: The French Duke who Became the “Prince and Lord of the Netherlands”

1555: The French Duke who Became the “Prince and Lord of the Netherlands”
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 18 March 1555
  • François, Duke of Alençon and Anjou and brother of as many as three French kings, was called to the Netherlands to be “Prince and Lord” there (Dutch: vorst en heer der Nederlanden).

This day in 1555 marked the birth of François, the youngest son of French king Henry II from the Capet-Valois dynasty.

François’s mother was the famous queen Catherine de’ Medici, a member of the powerful Florentine Medici family. King Henry II died tragically in a jousting accident. Namely, his opponent’s lance pierced his helmet and went right into his head (that event was allegedly foretold by Nostradamus, who at one time worked for Queen Catherine de’ Medici.

At the moment of his father’s death, little François was only four years old. He had three older brothers – Francis, Charles, and Henry – who were at that time aged 14, 9, and 7, respectively.

Therefore, Queen Catherine de’ Medici was left with four underage sons after the king’s death. The oldest among them – the 14-year-old Francis – became the new king. His younger brothers bore distinguished ducal titles – Charles was the Duke of Orléans, Henry the Duke of Angoulême, while François was the Duke of Alençon. The well-known Queen Margot was their sister.

All three of François’s older brothers became Kings of France, one after the other. This was the result of the fact that all of them died young and without male issue. When the third brother became the king (Henry III), François became the designated heir to the throne because Henry didn’t have children.

It is interesting that François was declared the sovereign ruler of the Netherlands. This episode is not well-known in popular history. Namely, at one point François was called to the Netherlands to be “Prince and Lord” there (Dutch: vorst en heer der Nederlanden). He triumphantly entered the cities of Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerpen. However, the local population rose up in rebellion and in the end François barely managed to survive.

François died at the age of only 29. He never inherited the French crown because his older brother, Henry III, outlived him for five years. With Henry III’s death, the male line of the Capet-Valois dynasty also died out, and the French crown passed into the hands of the Capet-Bourbon dynasty.

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