Francis was born in Cognac, France on 12 September 1494, the son of Charles, Count of Angouleme and Louise of Savoy. Francis was born into the House of Valois, and he was the great-great-grandson of Charles V of France and the third cousin of Charles VIII of France. In 1505, King Louis XII of France (Francis' father's cousin) fell ill, so he had his daughter Claude of France marry Francis in order to guarantee that he would have an heir. They married on 28 May 1514, and Francis inherited the throne on Louis' death.
From 1515 to 1516, Franciscampaigned in northern Italy as a part of his predecessors' Italian Wars, and he defeated a combined Swiss and Papal army at Marignano in September 1515. This allowed for Francis to occupy Milan, a center of the arts, and Francis would become known as a patron of the arts during the Renaissance era. In 1519, however, King Charles of Spain was elected Holy Roman Emperor, leading to the House of Habsburg gaining control over lands to the south of France and all along the northeastern borders of France. The Habsburg encirclement of France led to Francis declaring Charles his sworn enemy, and they warred for decades.
In 1525, Francis was defeated and captured at the Battle of Pavia, resulting in the French withdrawing from Milan and granting control of northern Italy to Spain in exchange for his release. However, he repudiated the treaty in 1526 and returned to war with the Habsburgs, and he fought against them from 1526-1530, 1536-1538, and from 1542-1546. Francis allied with the Ottoman Empire to fight against the Habsburgs, allowing for Ottoman corsairs to use the Mediterranean port of Marseille as a base; he was seen as a traitor to Christianity, but he was able to fight the Habsburgs to a standstill in the 1542-1546 war. He died in the Chateau de Rambouillet, France on 31 March 1547 at the age of 52, and his son Henry II of France succeeded him.