Francois de Lorraine, also known as Francois de Guise was born on February 17, 1519 in the Chateau de Bar to Claude de Lorraine and Antoinette de Bourbon. He died on February 24, 1563, only seven days after his birthday. Being Claude and Antoinette's first son he became the second Duc de Guise. After Henry II's urging, Guise married Anne d'Este (1531-1607) in 1549. She was the daughter of Hercule II d'Este, the Duke of Ferrara, and of René of France. Through her mother, Anne was the granddaughter of Louis XII. Before marrying Francoise she was on the verge of becoming the wife of Sigismund I, King of Poland. Anne and Guise had six sons and one daughter.
After Francois' death, Anne held the Admiral de Coligny responsible for his death, and her interview with the admiral at Moulins was only an apparent reconciliation. She married James of Savoy (d. 1583) soon after, they had two children. She lived to see the extinction of the House of Este with the death of Alphonso II, fifth Duke of Ferrara. She also saw her two sons by Francois, Henry Duc de Guise, and the Cardinal de Guise slain at the Chateau de Blois. "Oh great king", she cried before the statue of her grandfather, Louis XII, "did you build this château that the children of your granddaughter might perish in it?" The poet Pierre de Ronsard sang the praises of the wife of François de Guise, according to the fashion of the time:
Venus la sainte en ses grâces habite,
Tous les amours logent en ses regards;
Pour ce, a bon droit, telle dam mérite
D'avoir été femme de notre Mars.
Francoise de Guise was the warrior of his family, the Spanish called him el gran capitan de Guysa. He received a wound at the sieg of Boulogne in 1545 that won him the surname Balafré, meaning the scarred. His successful defense against Charles V siege of Metz made his reputation golden in 1552. The siege lasted for two months and the emperor was forced to give up after losing thirty thousand of his own men. Francois also fought courageously in the battle of Renty in 1554. His military career seemed at an end after the Truce of Vaucelles in 1556 which would last for six years, and the abdication of Charles V.
However, the Guise's were descendants of the House of Anjou and they had certain pretensions to the kingdom of Naples. With the intention of defending these claims, Francois de Lorraine made an alliance between Henry II and Pope Paul IV which was threatened by Philip II of Spain. After the alliance, Francois entered Milanese territory in January 1557, he then marched through Italy. Without the assistance of the pope or princes, he took the town of Campli on April 17, 1557. On April 24 he laid siege to Civitella. After twenty-two days, Francois fell back to reorganize his troops after being threatened by the epidemic and Duke of Alva at the same time. He was preparing to return south when Henry II summoned him to "restore France" after the victory of the Spaniards over the Constable de Montmorency at Saint-Quentin on August 23, 1557. Francois returned to the French Court on October 20, 1557 and was given the title lieutenant general of France. He took the city of Calais on January 8, 1558 by plans that were drawn by Coligny. In June he captured Thionville, in July he took Arlon. The general was about to attack Luxemburg but was stopped by Henry II who, despite the Duke's protests made peace of Cateau-Cambresis on April 3, 1559. Henry was also on the point of disgracing the Duke on the insistence of Diana of Poiters and the Constable de Montmorency.
On July 10, 1559 Francis II acceded the throne, and his consort Mary Stuart of Scotland also known as Mary de Guise, niece of Francois, was a triumph for the Guise family, and the Constable de Montmorency was disgraced.
"François de Guise was supreme in the royal council. "My advice", he would say, "is so-and-so; we must act thus."
~ Constable de Montmorency
Occasionally Francois signed public acts in the royal manner, with his baptismal name only. Antoine de Bourbon and the Prince de Condé, got La Renaudie, a Protestant gentlemen of Périgord, to organize a plot to seize François de Guise and his brother, the second cardinal of Lorraine. The plot was violently suppressed when it was discovered in 1560, it was also known as the conspiracy of Amboise. Condé was forced to flee the court, and the power of the Guises was increased.
In August 1560, Coligny, leader of the Huguenots, declared discourse against the Guise's in the Assembly of the notables at Fountainbleau. This however did not influence Francis II in the least, instead it backfired and resulted with the imprisonment of Condé. However, Francis II died on December 5 1560, a year that was full of calamity for the Guises both in Scotland and France. Within a few months the Guise's influence decreased greatly and waned.
After the accession of Charles IX to the throne, François de Guise lived in retirement on his estates. The regent Catherine de Medici, her son Charles IX still being too young, at first inclined to favour the Protestants, and to save the Catholic party. François de Lorraine formed the triumvirate in April 1561 with his old enemy, the Constable de Montmorency and the Maréchal de Saint-André. The triumvirate was hostile to the policy of concession which Catherine de Medici attempted to inaugurate in favour of the Protestants.
The Triumvirate's plan was to make a treaty with Spain and the Holy See, to also come to an understanding with the Lutheran princes of Germany to abandon the idea of relieving the French protestants. In July 1561, Francois wrote about this to the Duke of Würtemberg. The Colloquy of Poissy that took place between September and October of 1561 between theologians of the two religions was worthless, and the policy of Catherine de Medici was defeated. From February 15 to 18 of 1562, Guise visited the Duke of Würtemberg at Saverne, and convinced him that if the conference at Poissy had failed, the fault was that of the Calvinists. As Guise passed through Vassay on his way to Paris on March 1, 1562, a massacre of Protestants took place. It is not known to what extent he was responsible for this, but it kindled the religious war. Rouen was retaken from the Protestants by Guise after a month's siege in October. At the battle of Dreux, Montmorency was taken prisoner and Saint-André was slain. was in the end turned by Guise to the advantage of the Catholic cause on December 19, and Condé, leader of the Huguenots was taken prisoner. Guise was about to take Orléans from the Huguenots when he was wounded by the Protestant Poltrot de Mere on February 18, 1563. He died six days later.
"We cannot deny", wrote the Protestant Coligny, in reference to his death, "the manifest miracles of God."
Sources: The Catholic Encyclopedia, the World Book Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica.