François Hotman was born in Paris in 1524. He was from a family which was prominent in law and earned a doctorate and became a professor of Roman law at the University of Paris in 1546. The next year he converted to Protestantism and left Paris to teach at other universities.
In 1560, he was implicated in the conspiracy of Amboise, and was henceforth was persecuted by the French government. He fled France for good after Regent Catherine de Medici ordered the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1752. He spent the rest of his life in Switzerland where he continued to teach law.
He was prominent in the war of words between European Catholics and Protestants regarding just forms of monarchy and government. His most influential work, Francogallia (1573), was written to refute Roman Catholic arguments in favor of absolute monarchy, advocating instead an elective monarchy.