History of France

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty

Premodern history

Inhabited since the Paleolithic era, the territory of Metropolitan France was settled by Celtic tribes known as Gauls during the Iron Age. Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, leading to a distinct Gallo-Roman culture that laid the foundation of the French language. The Germanic Franks arrived in the fifth century and formed the Kingdom of Francia, which became the heartland of the Carolingian Empire. The Treaty of Verdun in 843 partitioned the empire, with West Francia becoming the Kingdom of France in 987. Since then, France has seen the rule of different dynasties, eventually leading to the Bourbon dynasty coming into power during the 16th century. By then, France started to establish a burgeoning colonial empire.

Philippine period: 1714–1795

The reign of Philip VII

Louis XIV of France passed away in 1714. His heir presumptive was Dauphine Victoire Philip, Duke of Anjou, would ascend to the throne as Philip VII.

The Augustine Wars

The Valentines: 1815–1873

After the Augustine Wars, the Grimaldi dynasty, based in the small principality of Monaco, became the seventh and latest ruling royal house of France in 1815.


In 1733, Princess Louise Hippolyte - the reigning Grimaldi sovereign of Monaco - married Louis I, Duke of Orléans, a high-ranking French noble and descendant of Louis XIII. This would establish the House of Bourbon-Monaco. The Duke would serve as regent for his wife until her death in 1738, when he became Louis II, Prince of Monaco. Philip VII thereupon recreated the title of Valentinois by letters patent for the Prince.

Their son, Antoine II, would become Prince of Monaco, Duke of Orléans, and Duke of Valentinois in 1759 upon his father's death. Born in Paris, the Prince would spend the majority of his life in northern France, building his family's reputation among the nobles of Versailles. After he was killed during the Augustine Wars in 1796, he would be succeeded by his brother, Antoine III. In 1800, his son, Louis, the Marquis of Baux, married a high-ranking descendant of Louis XIV, thus establishing himself as one of the preeminent candidates for King of France.

After Augustine Spiga was ousted from power, the Bourbon-Monaco dynasty's candidature was endorsed by Austria, the new Dutch kingdom, and several German electoral families. When it became clear that Henri V, the Bourbon successor in New France, would not return to Versailles, the young Marquis of Baux was crowned Louis XV of France. The family would informally become known as the Valentine dynasty (dynastie Valentinoise), after one of their ducal titles.

Communard Revolution: 1873–1877

Louis XVII of the Grimaldi dynasty, King of France, was murdered by communard rebels in 1873. Soon after, the political party the Society of the Allies of the Republic (SAR) took over the government and declared a republic in the 1874 Statement of Senlis, rejecting traditional French religious and class structures. Étienne Thévenet, the new republic's leader, invaded and annexed the short-lived Belgic Duchy in December of the same year. The Duchy's incorporation is celebrated annually in the region as the Christmas Uprising.

However, in 1876, the Society were revealed to have attempted to manipulate elections in Britain, causing the British government to sponsor the Society's rivals, the Communard Party of France (PCF). In 1877, the Party orchestrated a coup with British support, establishing the Third Republic. During this period of turmoil, the Royal British Navy occupied numerous French colonies in the Caribbean and Asia.

The young Republic: 1877–1908

Le Avant Garde: 1908–1935

During the later half of the Third Republic, several autocrats came to power in France, collectively known as members of the political organization Le Avant Garde, which consisted of various influential pro-military, anti-British French nationalists.

Saunier and Desmarais: 1908–1928

France's diplomatic situation was precarious at the start of the 20th century. They remained cordial with the British, though British intervention in France's sphere of influence strained relations. Tensions came to a boil when the British sanctioned the Venetian annexation of the Papal Adriatic in 1908. This catalyzed a shift towards an anti-British political climate merely months before the French elections of 1908.

In November, Hervé Saunier, a nationalistic author and professor residing in Paris, was proclaimed as the next President. Saunier was more of an ideologue than a statesman and subsequently delegated authorities to political allies. In 1910, Saunier appointed his close affiliate and former Governor-General of Kampuchea François Desmarais to the position of Grand Marshal, the highest military rank in France. His appointment saw the military increasingly begin to involve itself in national politics, striking down opponents of Saunier through violence, manipulation, and intimidation. In 1914, Saunier was reelected as President in an election widely purported to have been manipulated by the French military.

In 1919, Desmarais and Saunier began a political feud over Desmarais' rising influence and the jeopardization of Saunier's reputation. Shortly after, Desmarais founded Le Avant Garde, a political clique of several high-ranking nationalistic military and government officials. The clique then orchestrated a coup d'état on 2 September, a year before the national elections. François Desmarais would establish martial rule, abolishing the presidency of France and ruling as Grand Marshal until his death in 1928.

The rise of Laframboise: 1928–1935

Desmarais' successor, famed general Camille Laframboise, succeeded him as Grand Marshal. Camille Laframboise's domestic policies proved to be harsher than his predecessor's, alienating supporters. Despite this, he proved to remain popular among the political elite of France. He was known as Le Maréchal abroad and was often the subject of political caricatures in the British empire and the Italian states.

Laframboise established a close alliance with Austria in the early 1930s, keen on stalling the expansion of British influence in southern Europe.

France in the Great War

Remise de l'état: 1939–1950

The period of French history termed the Remise de l'état is characterized by the five-year occupation of France by foreign forces after the Great War, the brief Fourth Republic (1941-1949), the Cavendish Affair, and the short rule and subsequent fall of Jean-Jacques Caillat.

Occupation of France: to 1944

Depiction of the British, Dutch, Portuguese and Rheinish occupation zones of France, the Parisian occupation zone, and the fate of the Italian Alpine states.
After the defeat of the Tripartite Coalition, the French state was jointly occupied by the Netherlands, the Rhineland, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. The First Auxerre Convention disestablished the Third Republic and forced France to cede certain territories. The states of Arpitania and Piedmont were liberated their government were reorganized under British oversight. Lombardy's lost Alpine territories were returned to them as well.

Within the Rhenish and Dutch occupation zones, the occupying forces rapidly de-industrialized, hauling means of production back to the Netherlands and the Rhineland. The British took measures to decrease the influence of communardism and endorsing local pro-British politicians. In the southwest, the Portuguese maintained a more forgiving policy, carefully rebuilding.

In 1941, France was reunited as the Fourth Republic. However, the occupying powers maintained large military presences until 1944, when elections were held for the first time in three decades.

Dormoy's government: 1944–1949

Henri Dormoy won the 1944 elections, narrowly beating his opponents. His administration was determined to curb the influence of communardism, further liberalized the country, and granted clemency to political prisoners held captive during the rule of Laframboise. In 1946, Dormoy's ministry revoked the ban on national republicanism in France, allowing national republican parties to run in elections.

In 1945, the Cavendish Affair rocked France. A group of elites, involving several banks, clergymen, and politicians, aimed to restore the Bourbon monarchy in France with the New French noble, the Count of Soissons, floated as the new monarch. The scandal implicated Catalan G. Grimaldi, the Bourbon-Monaco pretender to the French throne, Prime Minister William Cavendish of Britain, and others. While the conspiracy proved to be unsuccessful, it greatly affected the political climate of Europe and the future of the French state.

The French people grew to become disillusioned with Britain once more, fueling the growth of the National Republican Party (PNRF) among the youth and in cities such as Paris. Jean-Jacques Caillat came out victorious in the 1949 elections. As a result, the British government took measures to disestablish the new national republican administration in France.

The Charenton State: from 1950

Charenton coup d’état: 1950

Merely months after the national republican victory in the 1949 French elections, military leader and decorated war hero Fulgence Morel overthrew the French state in a coup d’état with support from Britain. Morel, a man intent on dismantling the post-war status quo, accused the national republicans of rigging the election and maintaining illicit ties to the Russian government. The coup spelled the end of Russian influence in France and the beginning of a hostile, conservative policy against national republicanism.

In December 1950, Britain formally recognized Morel's legitimate rule of France. He would remain in control of the Fourth Republic for nearly a decade. In the late 1950s, democratic demonstrations against Morel's government and pressure from the British forced France to conduct popular elections in 1960. However, the elections were marred with electoral fraud, leading to the victory of Morel's right-hand man, François Deveraux. Morel would still serve in several ministerial positions during the tenure of Deveraux.

See also