France Facts

France Facts and History


France – The Grande Nation introduces itself

France is the second largest country in Europe by area. However, it has fewer residents than Germany. The country with its many different regions and landscapes is not only known for its more than 350 types of cheese, but above all for its way of life and culture. This varies with the nature of the country. From the beautiful alpine regions in the north to the Cote d´Azur in the south, the coast with the azure blue Mediterranean Sea, France offers the visitor a very interesting and varied backdrop.

The “Grande Nation”, as the French proudly call their country, is shaped by an exciting history that has left its mark throughout the country in the form of castles, monasteries and churches as well as other architectural monuments. And the cultural products of artists, writers and thinkers also make France one of the richest cultures on earth. Anyone looking for culinary delights in addition to all the stimuli for the eye and the mind will definitely find it in France.

The regionally different cuisine and especially the French wine are known and loved by all gourmets. So France is definitely worth more than just a trip.

Name of the country République Française/French Republic
Form of government Parliamentary presidential democrats
Head of state President of the Republic, since May 16, 2007 Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP)
Geographical location In Central Europe
National anthem Marseillaise
National holiday July 14 (“Fête nationale”) – Storming of the Bastille in 1789
Population approximately 65.4 million (Credit: Countryaah: France Population)
Ethnicities French and around 5.5 million foreigners, around 18% Portuguese, around 18% Algerians, around 15% Moroccans, around 7% Italians and around 5% Spanish.
Religions approx. 82% Catholics, 7% Muslims, 1% Protestants, 1% Jews
Languages French – around 2 million people speak Occitan around Toulouse
Capital Paris with around 2.2 million residents
Surface 547,026 km²
Highest mountain Mont Blanc with a height of 4,807 m
Longest river The Rhine – as a border river – with a length of around 1,320 km.The Loire is a purely French river with a length of 1,020 km
Largest lake Lake Geneva with an area of 234 km²
International license plate ** F.
National currency 1 euro (€) = 100 cents
Time difference to CET = CET
International phone code 0033
Mains voltage, frequency 230 volts, 50 hertz
Top Level Domain (TLD) .fr

** In France, the police chief of Paris had issued an ordinance in 1893, according to which motor vehicles required a police permit and had to be provided with a metal plate on which information about the owner and a number were to be found. It was the hour of birth of the car license plates and is considered the first license plate because it was issued by the authorities. In the German Reich, a uniform procedure for motor vehicles did not apply until October 1st, 1907.

France: history

Before the year 1000

The area of what is now France was settled around 10,000 years ago. There are many testimonies from the Stone Age, such as the cave paintings in southern France as well as grave and cult structures, from this time. Around 600 BC Chr. Settled Greek merchants on the Mediterranean coast of France and founded the colony Massila where the present name of the city comes Marseille.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, after 500 BC Chr. Were the Celts from the east into the area. The Iberians settled in the south and the Ligurians on the Mediterranean coast. 121 BC Chr. The Romans established a province to the land route between Italy and Spain. Today’s Provence was founded in 109 BC.. Chr threatened by Teutons and Cimbri from northern Europe. 102 BC Chr. The Romans defeated the invaders back and destroyed it almost completely. Caesar made around 50 BC BC Gaul to the Roman province. Old French eventually developed from the adopted Vulgar Latin.

In the 2nd century Gaul was Christianized. From 300 to 600, the country was hit by a wave of peoples’ migration in which Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians, Huns and Bretons settled in what is now France. In a battle in 451, the Huns under King Attila were defeated by the Romans, Visigoths, Franks and Burgundians and withdrew to Hungary.

The Franks ruled the area from 400 to 800. In the years 482 to 511 the Merovingian king Clovis unified the Franks and became the founder of the Franconian Empire. In 496 the Franks became Catholics and received support from the Church. In the same year they were able to defeat the Alemanni. From 687 the Carolingian king Pippin ruled the entire Frankish empire. His son Karl Martell was able to defeat the Arabs entering from Spain at Tours and Poitiers in 732. Pepin the Younger was anointed by Archbishop Boniface in 751 as the first Frankish king and helped Pope Stephen II in the fight against the Lombards.

The Carolingian Charlemagne (748-814) ruled the empire from 772 to 814 and incorporated Upper Italy and the West Germanic tribes of Saxony and Bavaria. In the year 800 the power of Charles in western Europe was increased by the imperial coronation in Rome by Pope Leo III. (750-816) confirmed.

The hereditary monarchy was consolidated in the 9th century. The Carolingians ruled France until 987. Due to the lack of central power, large territories such as Champagne, Aquitaine, Brittany, Normandy, Flanders, etc.

From the year 1000 to the 17th century

The Capetians ruled France from 987 to 1328. In 1066, Duke William of Normandy conquered England.

Between 1096 and 1270, many crusades began in France, orders were formed, Christian architecture and knightly poetry served as a model throughout Europe. In 1253 the University of Sorbonne was founded as a theological institute and a supreme court called parliament.

Under Louis VIII, France became a hereditary monarchy in 1223 with the coronation city of Reims. The Popes resided in Avignon from 1309 to 1377. In 1328 the French crown passed to the Valois family until 1498.

From 1339 to 1453 the 100 Years War raged between France and England. The English could not be defeated until 1429 by the French under the leadership of Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) near Orleans and only expelled from the French mainland in 1453 to Calais.

Louis XI. During his reign from 1461 to 1483, the centralized monarchy finally prevailed over the high nobility. Between 1480 and 1491, Anjou, Maine and Brittany were annexed to the empire. In 1484 the Estates General of all provinces met in Tours for the first time. The city representatives were designated as representatives of the third estate.

Between 1556 and 1559 the Spanish and French fought in the Spanish War. France waived claims in Italy and Burgundy.

From 1562, France was hit by the Reformation, whereupon the Huguenot Wars break out. The Protestant Huguenots were murdered by the thousands on the so-called Bartholomäusnacht in 1572 by order of Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), wife of the French King Henry II (1519-1559) during the wedding celebrations of their daughter Maria. Her daughter Maria von Valois (1553-1615) married the later King Henry IV (1553-1610) of the house of the Bourbons, who had converted from Protestantism to Catholicism. The war with the Protestants could only be ended in 1598 with the Edict of Tolerance of Nantes, which promised freedom of religion and civic equality.

Between 1610 and 1789, absolutism prevailed in France. Cardinal Richelieu took over from 1624 to 1642 under Louis XIII. the state leadership and secured the absolute power of the crown.

From 1635 France was involved in the Thirty Years War and received the Habsburg possessions in Alsace in the Peace of Westphalia.

Between 1643 and 1661, Cardinal Mazarin directed the affairs of state for Louis XIV (1638-1715). In 1648 the so-called Fronde revolt of the nobility, parliament and the population against the absolutist royal power took place in Paris, but the revolt was suppressed in 1653.

From 1661, Louis XIV ruled as the so-called Sun King in France. Under him absolutism reached its greatest development.

Colbert’s financial and economic policies, including mercantilism, made the following wars of conquest possible. Between 1667 and 1768 Spain, Lille and other Dutch fortresses, Burgundy, Strasbourg, Lorraine and Corsica went to France.

In 1685 the Edict of Nantes was repealed, which resulted in the flight of about half a million Huguenots, especially to Prussia under Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I the Great Elector (1620-1688).

In the 18th and 19th centuries

Louis XIV died in 1715, leaving behind a ruined empire and an impoverished peasantry. Wars and lavish court rulings had resulted in excessive national debt. Under Louis XV. the situation could not be improved. The reform attempts by Louis XVI. failed.

Finally, in 1789, the French Revolution broke out. On July 14, 1789, the storming of the Bastille proclaimed the end of feudal order and the rule of the people. In 1791 a new constitution with a constitutional monarchy was passed and in 1792 the first republic with a legislative national assembly was established. The reign of terror under Robespierre began with the execution of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette (on January 21, 1793) as well as the Girondists and numerous nobles. In 1794 this reign of terror ended with the overthrow and execution of Robespierre.

The Corsican Napoleon Bonaparte, who had won many foreign policy victories for France in recent years, was elected consul for ten years by a plebiscite in 1799 and made consul for life in 1802. In the period that followed, the Napoleonic wars against European countries began. In 1804 Napoleon was crowned Emperor of the French and French law was standardized in the Code Napoleon.

Napoleon crowned himself King of Italy in 1805, defeated the Austrians and Russians in the Battle of Austerlitz and defeated the Prussians in 1806. It was not until 1812 that Napoleon saw the failure of his Russian campaign near Moscow. Napoleon also lost the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig in 1813. After returning to Paris in 1814, he abdicated and retired to Elba. He left the throne to Louis XVIII. In 1815 Napoleon returned to France. In the reign of the hundred days he again seized power, but lost in the Battle of Waterloo against the Prussians and British and was finally exiled to St. Helena in the Atlantic, where he was in 1821 died.

From 1850 on, France participated in the colonialist and imperialist endeavors of the great powers of Europe. Algeria was conquered between 1830 and 1847.

In 1848 the February Revolution took place in Paris, which resulted in the abdication of King Ludwig Philip and the proclamation of France as a republic. Prince Louis Napoleon was elected President. In 1851, Louis Napoleon was elected president for ten years following a coup and in 1852 he was elected Emperor of the French until 1870. Years of war and the expansion of the colonies followed. France received Nice and Savoy as well as colonies in Southeast Asia.

Between 1870 and 1871 war raged between Germany and France. Louis Napoleon was captured and a republic was again proclaimed in France. France lost Alsace-Lorraine to Germany. The Wilhelminian style houses, which were very popular in Germany, were paid for with reparations money from France.

Other colonies such as Madagascar, Indochina, Tunis and parts of Central Africa were conquered.

20th and 21st centuries

In 1904, in the Entente Cordiale, England and France decided to rule England in Egypt and France in Morocco. The alliance was expanded in 1907 to form the British-Russian-French Entente.

From 1914 to 1918 France was involved in the First World War. On August 3, 1914, Germany declared war on France. The German advance into France was halted in the Battle of the Marne. It came to trench warfare. In the battle for Verdun in 1916, the French emerged victorious. However, there were extreme losses on both sides. The Franco-German armistice took place in 1918.

In the Versailles Peace Treaty, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France. France received Tongo and Cameroon as additional areas, as well as economic sovereignty over the Saarland. In 1923 the French occupied the Ruhr area, which was cleared again in 1929. In the Locarnopact of 1925, Germany guaranteed the inviolability of the French eastern border.

France was involved in World War II from 1939 to 1945. After Germany invaded Poland, France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. Germany was able to occupy Paris. France was then divided into occupied northern and eastern France and an unoccupied southern France. The Vichy government under Marshal Petain in southern France sympathized and collaborated with the German Empire. Meanwhile, a strong Resistance movement was forming in France. In 1942 the Allied troops landed in French North Africa, whereupon German troops occupied the previously unoccupied part of France. De Gaulle formed in 1943in Algiers the National Liberation Committee. On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed in Normandy and southern France and liberated France. The Resistance and De Gaulle formed a new French government, while supporters and collaborators of the Vichy regime were convicted.

France received a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in 1945 and joined NATO and the Council of Europe in 1949.

Between 1946 and 1954 France was involved in the Indochina War, which it finally lost in 1954. In addition, France had to give Tunisia, Morocco, French West and Equatorial Africa independence. The Algerian War of 1954 and the coup of 1958 also led to Algeria’s independence in the 1962 Evian Agreement. From 1966 France built up its own nuclear force.

The euro has been the official currency in France since January 1st, 2001. In 2005, France voted with a clear no to the European Constitution.

On May 6, 2012, after 17 years, François Hollande became President of the country again – his swearing-in took place on May 15, 2012. He won the runoff election with 51.67% against incumbent Sarkozy, who received 48.33%. Nicolas Sarkozy ruled from 2007 to 2012.

His predecessor was Jacques Chirac, who was president from 1995 to 2007. The socialist François Mitterrand ruled from 1981 to 1995.

France Facts