Part 15 Francis Is Released from Captivity and Returns to France
Negotiations for King Francis’s Release from Prison in Spain – His Sons Are Exchanged as Prisoners – Francis Breaches Release Contract – New Military Alliance Formed against Charles – League of Cognac
To secure his release from captivity in Spain, King Francis entered into the Treaty of Madrid on 14 January 1526. In the treaty, he ceded his lands in Italy, Flanders, Artois and Tournai as well as parts of France to Charles V. In addition, he contracted the marriage of his sister to Charles.
As security to perform the contract, his two sons were exchanged for him, to be held captive in his place.
Francis was released on 6 March 1526 and, escorted by one of the emperor’s senior commanders, Charles de Lannoy, journeyed north to Fuenterrabia. On 18 March 1526, he crossed the River Bidasoa and entered France. The dauphin and his brother had been brought to Bayonne by Louise and Lautrec and crossed into Spain to become prisoners.
Safely in back France, Francis cocked an archer’s salute at Charles and, to follow that, on 22 March 1526, with the blessing of the pope, he claimed that the treaty had been signed under duress and that he would not abide by it. The treaty was ripped up.
Pope Clement VII was alarmed at Charles’s increasing power and saw, correctly as it turned out, his dominance as a threat to his own well-being in Italy. He sent envoys to Francis and Henry proposing an alliance against the emperor.
By May 1526, England had been instrumental in the formation of an alliance against the emperor, composed of France, the papacy, Venice, Milan and Florence which became known as the League of Cognac.
Wolsey, however, kept England out of the treaty. He was upset that it was signed in Cognac, not London as he had wished. Nevertheless, aloof, he was the arbiter again, an honest broker and Steward of Christendom.
Meanwhile, in Speyer, an Imperial city on the Rhine, following the formation of the League of Torgau (an alliance of Lutheran princes including Philip of Hesse and John of Saxony), an Imperial Diet was opened on 25 June 1526. Charles was unable to attend and it was hosted, in his name, by his younger brother, Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria. Ferdinand’s task was to unite the Habsburg Empire. The animosity between the Habsburgs and the pope – indeed, between the Habsburgs and much of Christendom – and the threat of the Turks weakened Charles and Ferdinand’s position. They stepped back from the anti-Lutheran Edict of Worms and for the time being allowed the establishment of separate state churches in the German states of the Holy Roman Empire, according to the maxim ‘the ruler of the territory is the ruler of religion within its bounds’ (cuius regio, eius religio).
With an overbearing cleric with papal ambitions ruling the kingdom, this was an adage that also found much resonance in Henry VIII’s England.