Francis resumed the Italian Wars, beginning his reign with the recovery of Milan through the brilliant victory at Marignano (1515). A candidate for the Holy Roman emperor's crown (1519), he was defeated by Charles V, king of Spain, whose supremacy in Europe Francis was to contest in four wars. In 1520 Francis tried to secure the support of King Henry VIII of England against the emperor in the interview on the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
Although no agreement was reached with the English king, Francis began his first war against the emperor (1521–25). He was defeated at La Bicocca (1522) and at Pavia (1525), where he was captured. Francis regained his freedom by consenting to the Treaty of Madrid (1526); he renounced his claims in Italy, agreed to surrender Burgundy to Charles, and abandoned his suzerainty over Flanders and Artois. Resolved to violate a treaty signed under duress, Francis created the League of Cognac (1526) with Pope Clement VII, Henry VIII, Venice, and Florence, and commenced his second war (1527–29) against Charles. It ended, unfavorably for Francis, with the Treaty of Cambrai (see Cambrai, Treaty of), which left Burgundy to France but otherwise duplicated the Treaty of Madrid.
Francis fulfilled the treaty's terms until 1535, when the death of the duke of Milan, Francisco Sforza, opened the question of the Milanese succession. In a third attempt to regain Milan, Francis invaded (1536) Italy. Charles retaliated by invading Provence, and in 1538 a 10-year truce was arranged at Nice. In 1542 with the support of the Ottoman sultan Sulayman I, Francis for the fourth time attacked the emperor, who allied himself (1543) with Henry VIII. Their invasion of France resulted (1544) in the Treaty of Crépy, in which Francis relinquished his claims to Naples, Flanders, and Artois. Peace with England (1546) confirmed the loss of Boulogne.
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