François de Valois, duc d'Anjou et d'Alençon

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Hercule François de Valois

Also Known As: "Hercule Francois De Valois", "херцог Франсоа д'Анжу"
Birthdate: (29)
Birthplace: Château de Fontainebleau, Fontainebleau, Seine-et-Marne, Île-de-France, France
Death: June 10, 1584 (29)
Château-Thierry, Aisne, Picardie, France
Place of Burial: Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis, Île-de-France, France
Immediate Family:

Son of Henri II de Valois-Angoulême-Orleans, Roi de France and Caterina de' Medici, reine de France
Brother of François II de Valois, Roi de France; Elisabeth de Valois; Claude de France; Louis de Valois, duc d'Orléans; Charles IX de Valois, roi de France and 7 others
Half brother of Diane de Valois; Henri d'Angoulême, Baron de Fontette and Henri de Saint Rémy, comte de Saint-Rémy, baron de Fontette

Occupation: Франсоа, херцог на Анжу
Managed by: Noah Tutak
Last Updated:

About François de Valois, duc d'Anjou et d'Alençon

Early years

An attractive child, he was unfortunately scarred by smallpox at age eight, and his pitted face and slightly deformed spine did not suit his august birth name of "Hercules". He changed his name to Francis in honour of his late brother Francis II of France when he was confirmed.

In 1574, following the death of his brother Charles IX of France and the accession of his other brother Henry III of France, he became heir to the throne. In 1576, he was made Duke of Anjou, Touraine, and Berry.

In 1576, he negotiated the Edict of Beaulieu during the French Wars of Religion. In 1579, he was invited by William the Silent to become hereditary sovereign to the United Provinces. On 29 September 1580, the Dutch States-General (with the exception of Zeeland and Holland) signed the Treaty of Plessis-les-Tours with the Duke, who would assume the title "Protector of the Liberty of the Netherlands" and become the sovereign.

The Duke of Alençon and the Huguenots

During the night of 15 September 1575, Alençon ran from the French court after being alienated by his brother King Henry III. Both Henry III and Catherine de' Medici feared he would join the Protestant rebels. These fears proved well founded, Francis joined the prince of Conde and his forces in the south. When they were also joined by the King of Navarre’s forces, following his escape from court in February 1576, this combined army was enough to force Henry III, without a pitched battle of any sort, to capitulate and sign the very pro-protestant ‘peace of Monsieur’, or Edict of Beaulieu on 6 May 1576. By ‘secret treaties’ that formed part of this peace settlement, many on the Protestant side were rewarded with land and titles. Francis was awarded the Duchy of Anjou (along with other lands) and thus became the Duke of Anjou.

Coruting Elizabeth I

At the same time, in 1579, arrangements began to be made for his marriage to Elizabeth I of England. Alençon, now Duke of Anjou, was in fact the only one of Elizabeth's foreign suitors to court her in person. He was 24 and Elizabeth was 46. Despite the age gap, the two soon became very close, Elizabeth dubbing him her "frog" on account of a frog-shaped earring he had given her. Whether or not Elizabeth truly planned marrying Anjou is a hotly debated topic. It is obvious that she was quite fond of him, knowing that he was probably going to be her last suitor. There are many anecdotes about their flirting. The match was controversial in the English public: English Protestants warned the Queen that the "hearts [of the English people] will be galled when they shall see you take to husband a Frenchman, and a Papist ... the very common people well know this: that he is the son of the Jezebel of our age"., referring to the Duke's mother, Catherine de' Medici. Of her Privy Council, only William Cecil, Lord Burghley and Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex supported the marriage scheme wholeheartedly. Most notable councilors, foremost among them Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and Sir Francis Walsingham, were strongly opposed, even warning the Queen of the hazards of childbirth at her age. Thinking pragmatically, Elizabeth did not think the union was a wise one, considering the overwhelming opposition of her advisors. She continued, however, to play the engagement game, if only to warn Philip II of Spain what she might do, if it became necessary. Finally, the game played itself out, and Elizabeth bade her "frog" farewell in 1581. On his departure she penned a poem, "On Monsieur's Departure", which, taken at face value, has lent credence to the notion that she may really have been prepared to go through with the match.

Anjou in the Netherlands

Anjou continued on to the Netherlands. He did not arrive until 10 February 1582, when he was officially welcomed by William in Flushing. In spite of the Joyous Entries he was accorded in Bruges and Ghent and his ceremonious installation as Duke of Brabant and Count of Flanders, Anjou was not popular with the Dutch and Flemish, who continued to see the Catholic French as enemies; the provinces of Zeeland and Holland refused to recognise him as their sovereign, and William, the central figure of the "Politiques" who worked to defuse religious hostilities, was widely criticized for his "French politics". He is now thought to have been the patron behind the "Valois tapestries" presented to Catherine, which presented major figures in Catherine's court against scenes of festivity.[2] When Anjou's French troops arrived in late 1582, William's plan seemed to pay off, as even the Duke of Parma feared that the Dutch would now gain the upper hand.

However, Anjou himself was dissatisfied with his limited power, and decided to take the Flemish cities of Antwerp, Bruges, Dunkirk, and Ostend by force.

He decided to personally lead the attack on Antwerp on 18 January 1583. In an attempt to fool the citizens of Antwerp, Anjou asked to be permitted to make a "Joyous Entry" into the city in order to honour them with a parade.[citation needed] As soon as his troopers entered, the gates of Antwerp were slammed shut behind them. Anjou barely escaped with his life. Nearly his entire army perished.


he debacle at Antwerp marked the end of his military career. His mother, Catherine de' Medici is said to have written to him that "would to God you had died young. You would then not have been the cause of the death of so many brave gentlemen". Another insult followed when Elizabeth I formally ended her engagement to him after the massacre. The position of Anjou after this attack became impossible to hold, and he eventually left the country in June. His departure also discredited William, who nevertheless maintained his support for Anjou.

Soon Anjou fell seriously ill with "tertian ague", or malaria. Catherine de' Medici brought him back to Paris, where he was reconciled to his brother, King Henry III of France in February 1584. Henry even embraced his brother, whom he had famously called "le petit magot" ("little monkey"). By June, Alençon was dead.

Anjou's premature death meant that the Huguenot Henry of Navarre became heir-presumptive, thus leading to an escalation in the French Wars of Religion.

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François de Valois, duc d'Anjou et d'Alençon's Timeline

March 18, 1555
Fontainebleau, Seine-et-Marne, Île-de-France, France
June 10, 1584
Age 29
Château-Thierry, Aisne, Picardie, France
Saint-Denis, Seine-Saint-Denis, Île-de-France, France