Rulers & Styles

Henry II
Henry II
1519 – 1559

Henri II
(Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 1519 – Paris, 1559)

Son of François I and Claude de France, King of France between 1547 and 1559, he marries Catherine de Medicis in 1533 and his time is divided up between the influence of his wife’s Italian entourage and the affairs of Guises, des Coligny and Diane de Poitiers, his mistress. He fights against the progression of Calvinism (edict of Chateaubriant – 1551) and increases royal authority by strengthening the administration of the State.

1551 – 1552: War against Charles Quint. Within the context of his struggle against the Hapsburgs, his union with the German Protestant Princes allows him to seize three bishoprics: Metz, Toul and Verdun.

1556: Abdication of Charles Quint succeeded by his son Philippe II (1527-1598).

1557: Marie Tudor, Queen of England, marries Philippe II and declares war against Henri II. The King is defeated by Philippe II at Saint-Quentin.

1558: Victory over England at Calais.

1559: Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis. The French keep Calais, Saint-Quentin as well as the three Bishoprics; in exchange, Valois gives up claims on Italy.

Henri II dies from eye injuries sustained from the spear of Montgomery during a tournament organized in the honor of the marriages of Marguerite de Valois and Elisabeth de France. His reign sees the blossoming of the French Renaissance.

Charles IV
Charles IX
1550 – 1574

Charles IX 
(Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 1550 – Vincennes, 1574)

Son of Henri II and Catherine de Medicis, he comes to the throne following the death of his brother François II in 1560. During his reign, power is effectively in the hands of his mother, then, after the Peace of Saint-Germain (1570), by the Protestant Coligny who was later killed during the Saint-Barthelemy (1572) massacre.

1561: Conference of Poissy (Michel de L’Hopital, chancellor, attempts to reconcile Catholics and Protestants).

1562: Edict of Saint-Germain (free practice of religion, 670 Reformed Churches) – Wassy en Haute-Marne massacre by the Guise leading to eight religious wars up until 1598.

1562-1563: 1st WAR (the Huguenots receive help from England and Germany – Peace of Amboise).

1564: The year begins on the 1st January and no longer at Easter.

1567: 2nd WAR (an attempt to remove Charles IX).

1568: Peace of Longjumeau.

1568-1570: 3rd WAR (Protestant defeat at Jarnac – Assassination of Conde in 1569 – Henri de Navarre, the future Henri IV, becomes the head of the Protestants).

1570: Peace of Saint-Germain (the Protestants four fortified towns being La Rochelle, Cognac, Montauban and La Charite).

1572: Saint-Barthelemy massacre, 24th August (3000 victims including the admiral of Coligny).

1573: 4th WAR (sieges de Sancerre and La Rochelle – The Duke of Anjou, the future Henri III, becomes King of Poland for a few months).

1574: Death of Charles IX. The end of a sad reign.

Charles IV
Henri III
1551 – 1589

Henri III
(Fontainebleau, 1551 – Saint-Cloud, 1589)

Third son of Henri II and Catherine de Medicis and the last of Valois, having just been elected King of Poland he returns to France following the death of his brother Charles IX. Reigning form 1574 to 1589 he marries Louise de Lorraine in 1575. Criticized for his effeminate tastes, according to favors to his “cuties” oscillating for a long time between the Protestants, supported by Henri de Navarre (the future Henri IV), and the Catholic league, led by les Guise.

1575: 5th WAR (Catholic victory in la Marne – Henri de Guise receives an injury, he will be known as “the Scar-Peace” of Loches).

1576: Establishing of the League with les Guise, the cardinal of Lorraine, in order to defeat Henri III.

1577: 6th WAR (Catholic success – Henri de Navarre renounces Catholicism which he had prudently converted to after Saint Barthelemy – Peace of Bergerac).

1578: Creation of the Holy-Spirit Order by Henri III.

1580: 7th WAR called des Amoureux due to the frivolous nature of the court of Henri de Navarre. Peace of Fleix.

1584: Henri III does not have any descendants so he chooses Henri de Navarre as heir.

1585-1588: 8th WAR known as the 3 Henri (Henri III, Henri de Navarre, Henri de Guise). The Protestants lose their privileges. The power of Guises is strengthened.

1588: Day of barricades (12th May). Royalty fails to be ousted. Henri III kills two of Guise. The 3rd, The Duke of Mayenne (1554-1611), takes over as the head of the League.

1589: Members of the League crown the cardinal of Bourbon (1525-1590). Henri III and Henri de Navarre besiege Paris. Jacques Clement, a monk member to the League (1567-1589), assassinates the King at Saint-Cloud.

Charles IV
Henri IV
1553 – 1610

Henri IV 
(Château de Pau, 1553 – Paris, 1610)

Son of Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne d’Albret, founder of the Bourbon dynasty and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. In 1572, he marries Marguerite de Valois, the daughter of Henri II and Catherine de Medicis. As one of the leaders of the Calvinist Party, he escapes to Saint-Barthelemy (24th August 1572) by temporarily renouncing the Reformed Doctrines. Recognized as the legitimate heir by Henri III, King of France, he took the name of Henri IV (1589), but he has to conquer his kingdom first.

1589-1591: Fights against Duke of Mayenne. Victories against the league at Arques (1589) and Ivry (1590).

1593: Henri IV once again renounces Protestantism at Saint-Denis. Yet again he converts to Catholicism (“Paris vaut bien une messe” – “Paris is well worth a mass”) in order to be recognized as King of France.

1594: Crowned at Chartes, the King makes his entry into Paris. An assassination attempt by Jean Chatel.

1595: Submission of the Duke of Mayenne. Henri IV is master of the situation.

1598: Through the Treaty of Vervins, he re-establishes outside peace and, by the Nantes edict, religious peace at home. The freedom to worship is re-established, Protestants are able to aspire to posts within the civil service, to have fortified towns, representatives in Parliament and the right to assembly.

1600: The first marriage of Henri IV to Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), sister of Henri II, is cancelled. The King marries Marie de Medicis (1575-1642).

 Louis XIII
Louis XIII
1601 – 1643

Louis XIII
(Fontainebleau 1601 – Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 1643)

Nicknamed le Juste, son of Henri IV and Marie de Medicis, who reigns under the regency of his mother at the age of nine years old following the death of his father who was assassinated by Ravaillac.

1610-1614: Regency of Marie de Medicis. Sully is replaced by Concini, marshal of Ancre and his wife Eleonora Dori, known as la Galigaï (1571-1671), foster sister of Marie de Medicis. The royal treasure is plundered.

1614: The coming of age of Louis XIII.

1615: Marriage of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria.

1617: With the help of the Duke Luynes, Louis XIII has Concini assassinated by the Baron of Vitry, captain of the bodyguards. La Galigaï is burned as a witch.

1620: Supported by the Queen mother, revolt of great lords put down at the Pont-de-Ce.

1621: Protestants in the south rise up. Defeated by the Duke of Luynes (1578-1621) at the end of the siege of Montauban, they keep Montpellier and La Rochelle.

1624: After several years of troubles, the King hands over power to Richelieu in which he follows the advice and the three main objectives: to get rid of the House of Austria, to ruin the Protestant party and destroy the power of the nobility.

 Louis XIII
Louis XIV
1643 – 1715

Louis XIV 
(Saint-German-en-Laye, 1638 – Versailles, 1715)

Nicknamed le Grand, known as the Sun Kin, son of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, he reigns from 1643 to 1715.

1643: Death of Louis XIII. As Louis XIV is only five years old, the Regency Council, organized by Louis XIII, includes Anne of Austria and Mazarin, his first prime.

1648: End of the Thirty Year’s War.

1648-1652: Insurrection (uprising against Mazarin during the infancy of Louis XIV). Caused by the unpopularity of the Cardinal and his financial affairs, the Insurrection is carried out in two phases. The first phase is known as the Parliamentary Insurrection, born out of the desire of the nobility to find their prerogatives. It finishes with the Peace of Rueil and an amnesty for those involved in the insurrection. The second phase is known as the Insurrection of Princes of commitment. With the secret support of Spain, de Condé, Beaufort (…) involved in a forthright campaign against the royal troops. It ends in failure Royalty and Mazarin come out of this troubled period stronger.

1651: Louis XIV comes of age. The young King stays under the influence of Mazarin.

1660: Marriage of Louis XIV with the infanta Marie-Therese of Austria who gives him a son, the grand Dauphin.

1661: Mazarin dies; the young sovereign becomes absolute monarch. He passionately carries out his “job of King and is concerned by glory and etiquette, Versailles being the prestigious symbol of these things. Thereafter, he surrounds himself with useful company (Colbert, Louvois, Vauban…) and attentively chairs meeting. Louis XIV ambition is to impose outside French predominance, highlighted in the long series of Wars which marked his reign.

1662: Colbert is named general controller of finances after Fouguet falls from grace.

1642: The West Indies Company is established (Antilles). The first festival of Versailles – The Enchanted Island, in the presence of Moliere (1622-1673).

1666: Louvois (1641-1691), the war minister, Founding of the Science Academy.

1669: The Colbert ruling on Waters and Forests.

1672: The court and government is installed at Versailles.

1676: The Poisons Affair. The marchioness of Brinvilliers is executed. There are a few dishonest characters in the Court in which one of them is Montespan. The proceedings are suspended on the order of the King.

1678: The Minegue treaties put an end to the War of Holland. Jules Hardoin Mansart builds Marly (holiday castle) where the famous horse (chevoux de l’abreuvoir), sculptured by Coysevox, were housed.

1680: Louvois starts the “Dragonnades” against the Protestants. Creation Comedy.

1682: Declaration of the four articles in order to decrease the Pope’s power over the French clergy.

1684: After the death of Marie-Therese of Austria (1683), Louis XIV secretly marries Mme de Maintenon. Court life becomes austere.

Right up to last days of his life, saddened by family bereavements (death of Dauphin in 1711…), the King considered himself as monarch of divine right. Administrative centralization, passive obedience, the unchanging nature of the royal person leads to the debasing of the nobility. The concern of the religious community leads to a conflict with the papacy (regal affair), forcing it to abandon the Edict of Nantes (1685), allowing the “Dragonnades”, to persecute the Jansenists.

1715: Death of Louis XIV

Louis XV
Louis XV
1715 – 1774

Louis XV
(Versailles, 1710 – Versailles, 1774)

Louis XV (February 15, 1710 – May 10, 1774), called the Well-Beloved (French: le Bien-Aimé), was king of France from 1715 to 1774. Miraculously surviving the death of his entire family, he was beloved by Frenchmen in the beginning of his reign. However, in time, his inability to reform the French monarchy as well his policy of appeasement on the European stage led French people to gradually turn away from him, and he died one of the most unpopular kings of France.

Louis XV is the king with the most ambivalent personality in the history of France. Much maligned by historians, modern research shows that Louis XV was in fact a very intelligent king dedicated to his task of ruling the largest kingdom of Europe. However, his indecisiveness, fueled by his awareness of the complexity of problems ahead, as well as his profound timidity, hidden behind the mask of an imperious king, account for the poor results achieved during his reign. In many ways, Louis XV announces the bourgeois rulers of the romantic 19th century: although dutifully playing the role of the imperial king carved out by his great-grandfather Louis XIV, Louis XV in fact cherished nothing more than his private life far away from pomp and ceremonies. Having lost his mother while still an infant, he always longed for a motherly and reassuring presence, which he tried to find in the intimate company of women, for which he was much slandered both during and after his life.

1725: Marriage of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska.

1726: Dismissal of the Duke of Bourbon who becomes unpopular. The Cardinal de Fleury is chosen to govern (1726-1743)

He takes France into a War on Polish Succession (1733-1738), ending with the treaty of Vienna, then into a war on Austrian Succession in which the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle is brought to an end (1748). Excellent management by the general controller Orry helps economic expansion.

1743: Death of de Fleury. The King personally governs while being subject to the political influence of Mme de Pompadour.

1756 – 1763: The Seven Year’s War. Undertaken following the “reversal for the alliances” in order to halt the ambitious intentions of Prussia and England, ending with the loss of India and Canada, despite the family pact concluded by Choiseul and the four branches of the House of Bourbon.

1757: Assassination attempt by Damiens. The King receives a knife injury. Damiens is quartered.

1766: Death of Stanislas Leszczynski. Lorraine becomes French Genoa gives Corsica to France for 40 millions pounds, Jeanne Becu (1744-1793) becomes Countess to Barry, the favorite of Louis XV.

1770: Marriage of the future Louis XVI, grandson of Louis XV, with Marie Antoinette of Austria ((1755-1793). Choiseul is disgrace and replaced by Maupeau, Terry and Aiguillon. Popular unrest due to the high price of wheat. The last years of the reign are marked by interior change and the reinforcement of the Austrian alliance, at the same time as an absolutist reaction.

1774: Louis XV dies of smallpox.

Louis XVI
Louis XVI
1715 – 1774

Louis XVI 
(Versailles, 1754 – Paris, 1793)

Son of Dauphin Louis and Marie-Josephe of Saxony, King of France from 1774 to 1791 then King of the French from 1791 to 1792, he marries Marie-Antoinette of Austria in 1770.

1774: Death of Louis XV. The Countess of Barry goes into exile. He is advised by Maurepas who replaces Maupeau, the King choosing ministers of talent: Turgot, Saint-German, and MalesherbesŠ

1775: “The Grain War” is started by Turgot’s edict concerning the free circulation of grains.

1776: Dominated by his wife and influenced by privileges, the King replaces Turgot by Necker.

1777: The Marquis of La Fayette (1754-1834) leaves for the American War of Independence.

1777-1783: Difficult period. Necker report to the King on the state of the finances is presented to parliamentary members by the Count of Provence (1781). Necker is dismissed; Ormesson then Calonne both follow him without having found a solution to the financial problems

1779: Emancipation of the lat serfs.

1780: Abolition of the preparatory question (torture).

1783: Treaty of Versailles. End of the American War of Independence, 13 confederate colonies.

1785: Affair of the Queen’s necklace produced by the jewelers Boelmer ET Bessange leads to growing unpopularity towards Marie-Antoinette.

1788: Recalling of the Necker.

1789: The 5th May, more than 1000 elected deputies take part in the opening of the States General at Versailles.

· June 20th: The Tennis Court Oath by Mirabeau.
· July 9th : Start of the constituent National Assembly.
· July 14th : Storming of the Bastille.
· July 17th: The King accepts the tricolor rosette.
· August 4th : Abolition of privileges. Freedom of the press and religion.
· August 26th : Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

1790: Division of France into 83 departments. Sale of national treasures (those of the clergy and the nobility). Civil constitution of the clergy. Suppression of nobility titles. Festival of the Federation au Champ-de-Mars (14th July).

1791: Creation of the tricolor. The guillotine is introduced. The King and his family flee on 22nd June. They are stopped at Varennes (Meuse). Avignon and the region of Comtat Venassin, belonging to the pope, are annexed to France. End of the constituent National Assembly which is replaced by the Legislative Assembly (September 1791 to October 1792) with 745 deputies. Austria and Prussia from a coalition with the objective of defending the King.

1792: The gathering of the Convention. France declares War and the homeland are proclaimed in danger. The Tuileries massacre (10th August). The monarchy is suspended and the King is imprisoned in the Temple Dungeons along with his family. The first beheadings take place (Gironde Deputies). Secularization of civil rights. The First Republic is proclaimed the 21st September. Valmy is victorious against the Prussians and Jemmapes defeats the Austrians. Start of the King’s trial.

1793: Louis XVI is condemned to death on 17th January. He is beheaded the 21st January at the Place de la Revolution, today known as la Concorde.

The Directorate 1789 – 1799

First Consul
1799 – 1804

The Influence of First Consul Bonaparte’s Supposed Plans for North America on the United States’ Foreign Policy, 1799-1804. In 1803, when the United States of America bought the Louisiana Territory from the French Republic, the American negotiators in Paris inquired about the boundaries and extent of their new acquisition. French Foreign Minister Talleyrand responded to the American inquiry by simply stating, “You have made a noble bargain for yourselves, and I suppose you will make the most of it.” The events leading up to that conversation progressed like a roller coaster’s course in United States’ foreign policy towards France by having many high and low points with much excitement and, as with the above comments of Talleyrand, a lack of clarity on the part of both American and French diplomats, newspaper writers, and politicians tending to characterize what had really transpired historically.

After the alliance between France and the fledgling United States of America crumbled during the French Revolution, tensions brought about by the scheming of various American and French politicians only intensified when France’s pro-American Consular government under Napoléon Bonaparte took over the reigns of power in France and dreamed of restoring the once great influence of France in North America. Questions concerning how much and in what ways these dreams inspired fear in the American populace, while enticing American politicians to enact significant foreign policies, can be answered by exploring the history of Franco-American relations before the aforementioned conversation occurred in 1803. Such an investigation will show that during the first quarter century of the United States’ history, not only did the ambitions of adventurous Americans profoundly affect American foreign policy towards France, Great Britain, and Spain, but also, if not more so, the perceived ambitions of First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte had a significant impact on these policies. A meaningful understanding of the influence of Napoléon Bonaparte’s plans on American foreign policy contributes considerably to both the fields of history and political science. Sampling the abundance of available sources helps to paint a better picture of a volatile era of adventurous schemes that significantly affected American foreign policy in ways not often considered. A presentation of this compelling topic provides a unique approach to analyzing the remarkable events relating to the Louisiana Purchase by not repeating what other historians have extensively written about in regards to this period. These historians have tended to look exclusively at key personalities involved with the Louisiana Purchase or solely at the diplomatic history of the events leading up to that momentous territorial transaction. Instead, the time has come for a new focus, primarily on the impact of Bonaparte’s unrealized designs on the North American continent as perceived by the American public and government on America’s foreign policy. Future generations of historians will benefit from a gripping, insightful, and worthy analysis of the influence of Bonaparte’s plans for North America and the crisis that resulted, which contributes considerably to the historical knowledge of this period in nineteenth century American and world history.

The origins of the crisis that emerged after Americans became aware of France’s re-acquisition of Louisiana, also known as the retrocession, in the early years of Bonaparte’s reign in France go back over forty years before these exhilarating events played out. In November 1762, Louis XV the Well-Beloved ceded the Louisiana Territory, including the port of New Orleans and the Trans-Mississippi portion of Louisiana to Charles III of Spain by the Treaty of Fontainebleau. At the end of the Seven Years’ War, Britain accepted the Trans-Allegheny portion of French Louisiana in 1763 and occupied the Illinois country in 1765. In 1766, Spain sent the first Spanish governor, Antonio de Ulloa, to Louisiana to replace the last French governor, Jean-Jacques Blaise D’Abbadie. In 1768, during the Louisiana Revolt, French inhabitants, such as Pierre Carresse, who professed loyalty to the French king, contemplated a republic that would also encourage English colonists to revolt against the British monarchy. Although, in 1769, Spain sent Alejandro O’Reilly to suppress the revolt, few Spaniards settled in Louisiana and so French immigrants continued to arrive in Louisiana before and after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Exiles from various French regimes, including royalists around 1800, flocked to this vast territory. In particular, Frenchmen from Saint Domingue arrived in both St. Louis and New Orleans in significant numbers from 1793 to 1804. In addition to these French immigrants, Americans rushed for Spanish land grants in Upper and Lower Louisiana from 1795 to 1803.

American settlement in former French territory in North American did not begin in Louisiana. Citizens of the United States inhabited and acquired other ex-French territory before American immigration to Spanish Louisiana in 1795. The Detroit region and the Mississippi Territory, two formerly French held territories in North America, became part of the United States in the 1790s. In the ten years before the Louisiana Purchase, the French, who still lived in their former North American colonies, held generally negative opinions of the increasing number of American settlers. French lieutenant governor Zenon Trudeau of Upper Louisiana under the Spanish regime referred to the Americans as “un peuple sans loix ni discipline.” Correspondingly, Americans, including John Quincy Adams, equally viewed the French in Louisiana with disapproval, because these North American Frenchmen spoke French and practiced Catholicism.Greater suspicions arose after the French Revolution began in 1789.

Like the first few seconds on a roller coaster, American opinion towards France had climbed throughout the American Revolution, as the two states became allies. The American victory at Saratoga in their struggle for independence from Great Britain, showed the world that the mother country could be defeated by her thirteen daughter colonies and inspired France and Spain, both still desirous for revenge for the 1763 Treaty of Paris, to aid the rebel army. French contributions went beyond simply sending over Lafayette and basset hounds, while besieging Gibraltar near Spain. During the American War of Independence, a French fleet along with a French force helped Americans under General George Washington take Yorktown in 1781 from Lord Cornwallis and seven thousand British soldiers. The decisive victory at Yorktown practically ended the Revolution and thus secured American independence from Britain. Ironically, however, while the American Revolution created an alliance between France and America, the French Revolution destroyed this friendship. The time of chaos known as the French Revolution began with the seizure of the Bastille by Parisian insurgents on July 14, 1789. As the First Republic replaced the French monarchy in 1792, terror reigned and several coups transpired, including the creation of the National Convention and the infamous Committee of Public Safety. Most of Europe turned on France, hoping to restore the monarchy, but the French general Charles-François du Périer Dumouriez halted the allied invasion at Valmy on September 20, 1792. After this battle, France took on an expansionist policy by conquering new territory and creating satellite republics, all in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity, ideals reminiscent to those held by the American revolutionaries a decade earlier; however, this revitalized French spirit did not limit its conquering attention to Europe.

After the French Revolution began and before learning of French goals in North America, the American politician and a leading figure of the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, initially expressed enthusiasm for the French Revolution. The French, such as minister Adet, noticed and reciprocated Jefferson’s sentiments by attempting to have Jefferson elected president of the United States. Moreover, the Directory government in France in the later 1790s, like Republicans Jefferson and Monroe, disapproved of the Federalists like Hamilton, who supported Great Britain. The French efforts began by replacing the French minister in the United States and, as one might expect, Jefferson did not show disapproval of this support. Those Federalists astute enough to realize this relationship damned Jefferson as an agent of French atheism and anarchy. Nonetheless, like the first drop on a roller coaster, even the enthusiasm espoused by Americans like Jefferson drastically declined during the XYZ Affair and spiraled further downward when a Quasi-War between France and the United States threatened to explode into larger hostilities during John Adams’ presidency.

Relations between America and France deteriorated steadily during this troubled time. Tensions flared from the onset of the naval conflict among the British, Dutch, French, and Spanish fleets operating in the West Indies and disrupting American trade. During the early stages of the naval aspect of the French Revolutionary Wars, acts by the United States Congress moved the nation towards war. These included an act imposing duties on tonnage on July 20, 1789 and an act imposing duties on the tonnage of ships on July 2, 1790. On September 11, 1790, during Louis XVI’s fall from power, the king wrote to American President George Washington, who wanted America to avoid any entanglements in European conflicts, that Louis wanted to renew “these assurances of regard and friendship which we feel for the United States.” The “assurances” Louis mentioned likely referred to the treaty of 1778, which required the United States to defend France’s possessions in the Caribbean. Americans, including Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, wanted peace at this time. Acknowledging the lack of desire for war, Washington disregarded the treaty by declaring American neutrality, but other factors soon roused American passions in the opposite direction.

With the French monarchy in a shambles, the National Convention, dominated by Georges-Jacques Danton, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien-François-Marie-Isidore de Robespierre, further plunged France into a bloodbath of execution, including the beheading of King Louis XVI, who had made the alliance with America, and a war that spread beyond France’s borders, stretching even across the Atlantic. This new republican government of the Girondists in France sent Edmund Charles Genêt to the United States in 1793 as its official ambassador.

Genêt’s audacious activities, including plans for attacks on Spain’s possessions in Florida and Louisiana, which Genet mentioned to Thomas Jefferson in 1793, resulted in his recall. Meanwhile, the manipulative Talleyrand sent Comte Constantin de Volney to Monticello in order to explore the possibility of French colonization on the American continent and soon discovered that Americans would not smile upon a retrocession of Louisiana to France.

First Empire Napoleon
First Empire Napoleon
1804 – 1815

First Empire Napoleon 
(Corsica, 1804 – St. Helena, 1815)

French general and emperor (1804 – 1815). Born in Corsica to parents of Italian ancestry, he was educated in France and became an army officer in 1785.

1793: He fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and was promoted to brigadier general.

1797: After victories against the Austrians in north Italy, he negotiated the Treaty of Campo Formio.

1798-1799: He attempted to conquer Egypt but was defeated by British under H. Nelson in the Battle of the Nile.

1799: The Coup of 1819 Brumaire brought him to power, and he installed a military dictatorship, with himself as First Consul. He introduced numerous reforms in government, incl. the Napoleonic Code, and reconstructed the French education system.

1800: Victory against the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo, he embarked on the Napoleonic Wars.

1801: He negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the pope.

1804: The formation of coalitions of European countries against him led Napoleon to declare France a hereditary empire and to crown himself emperor.

1805: He won his greatest military victory at the Battle of Austerity against Austria and Russia.

1806: He defeated Prussia at the Battles of Jena and Auerstedt.

1807: He defeated Russia at the Battle of Friedland. He then imposed the Treaty of Tilsit of Russia, ending the fourth coalition of countries against France. Despite his loss to Britain at the Battle of Trafalgar, he sought to weaken British commerce and established the Continental System of port blockades. He consolidate his European empire until 1810, but became embroiled in the Peninsular War (1808-1814).

1809: He led the French army into Austria and defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Wagram, signing the Treaty of Vienna.

1812: To enforce the Treaty of Tilsit, he led an army of over 450,000 into Russia, winning the Battle of Borodino, but was forced to retreat from Moscow with disastrous losses.

1813: His army greatly weakened, he was met by a strong coalition of allied powers, who defeated him at the Battle of Leipzig.

1814: After Paris was taken by the allied coalition, Napoleon was forced to abdicate and was exiled to the island of Elba.

1815: Napoleon mustered a force and returned to France to reestablish himself as emperor for the Hundred Days, but was decisively defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. He was sent into exile on the remote island of St. Helena, where he died six years later. One of the most celebrated figures in history, Napoleon revolutionized military organization and training and brought about reforms that permanently influenced civil institutions in France and throughout Europe.

1815 – 1824

Louis XVIII 
(Versailles, 1755 – Paris, 1824)

Grandson of Louis XV, son of the Dauphin Louis and Marie-Josephe of Saxony, reigning from 1814 to 1815 then, after the Hundred-Day episode, from 1815 to 1824. During his exile, he takes on the title of lieutenant general of the kingdom, then, after the death of his nephew Louis XVII, adopts the name Louis XVIII.

1791: Count of Provence, he emigrates and lives Koblentz, Verona, Mitau and then in England.

First Restoration:

1815: He returns to Paris following the fall of the Empire. In the month of March, Napoleon flees to the Island of Elba, landing at Golfe-Juan and then heads towards Paris along the “route Napoleon”. Ney (1769-1815) is sent to stop him, coming across the Emperor at Lyon. Louis XVIII flees to Belgium. He is baptized “our father of Ghent”.

The Hundred Days (20th March – 22nd June 1815):

7e Coalition: At the Treaty of Vienna, Napoleon is declared outside the law. A united Europe inflicts defeat on Napoleon at Waterloo (18th June). The Emperor is sent to Saint-Helen (an English island in the Atlantic to the west of Central Africa)

Second restoration:

1815: Return of Louis XVIII to the Tuileries. Dismissal of the imperial army. Domestically, reactionary measures of the Chambre introuvabel and the Terreur Blanche which prevails in the South, he then decides – to dissolve the Chambre (September 1816).

1816-1820: The Richelieu ministries, then especially Decazes, take a more liberal direction concerning business; however Baron Louis enables France to have prosperous finances.

1820: Assassination of the Duke of Berry (1778-1820) by Louvel (1783-1820). The last descendant of the Bourbons leaves a posthumous son, the Duke of Bordeaux.

1821: The ultras exploit the assassination of the Duke of Berry, imposing on the King new reactionary measures (Villele ministry), stirred up by carbonarism.

1823: France intervene in the Spanish War in order to save the Bourbon regime, this being the last important event of the reign.

1824: Death of Louis XVIII (16th September).

Charles X
Charles X
1824 – 1830

Charles X 
(Versailles, 1757 ­ Görz today known as Gorizia, 1836)

Grandson of Louis XVI, brother of Louis XVIII, the last son of the Dauphin Louis and of Marie-Josephe of Saxony, he reigns from 1824 to 1830. He becomes the Count of Artois when he emigrates in 1789.

1814-1824: During the reign of Louis XVIII, he is head of the ultra-royalist party.

1824: Advent of Charles X. The last King of to be crowned at Reims.

1825: The Milliard Des Emigres Act, refundable after five years, to endorse the sale of national goods in 1790.

1827: Fall of the authoritative and reactionary ministry of Villele.

1828: Martignac Ministry (1778-1832). He vainly tries to reconcile the liberal bourgeoisie and the Bourbons.

1830: Five rulings (suspension of press freedom, dissolution of electoral law, summonig of electors for September, nomination of high-ranking royalist civil servants) setting the revolution in motion (28-28-29 July: Les Trois Glorieuses). Charles X abdicates the 2nd August and dies in exile.

1830 – 1848

Louis-Philippe Ier 
(Paris, 1773, – Claremont, Great Britain, 1850)

Son of Louis-Philippe de’Orleans, known as Philippe-Egalite, and of Louise-Marie de Bourbon-Penthieve. Initially known under the name of the Duke of Chartres, then the Duke of Orleans, he grows up in a cosmopolitan environment being influenced by liberal ideas. After taking in the battles of Valmy and Jemmapes (1792), he goes to live a precarious life abroad. He marries Marie-Amelie de Bourbon des Deux-Siciles in 1809, and returns to France under Louis XVIII. He reigns from 1830 to 1848.

1830: The Duke of Orleans is named lieutenant general of the kingdom and is named King of France after revision of the Charter. First of all seconded by liberal ministries (Movement Party), he leans more and more towards the Resistance Party.

1831: Silk workers revolt a Lyon.

1832: Legitimist plot on behalf of the Duke of Berry or the Duke of Bordeaux. The royalists wanted him to be Henri V. He never reigned. Republican insurrection (5th and 6th June 1832).

1834: Rue Transnonain Massacre: rioting caused by the society for the Rights of Man.

1835: First attempt on the life of Louis-Philippe by Fieschi, followed by four other attempts by Alibaud, Meunier in 1836, Lecomte and Henri in 1846.

1836: Louis Napoleon Bonaparte attempts a Coup d’Etat at Strasbourg. Exiled to Brazil, the United States, Switzerland and England.

1839: Insurrections stirred up by Barbes and Blanqui.

1840: Louis Napoleon lands at Boulogne. Arrested, he is taken to the fort of Ham (Somme). The ashes of Napoleon I are returned.

1840-1848: The long Guizot ministry reflects the stability of the regime. In fact the opposition remains awake. It attacks the foreign policy of the ministry and especially the reforms. The regime’s opposition to change in the face of the economic and social crisis leads to the 1848 revolution. Louis-Philippe, whose elder son, the Duke of Orleans, dies 1842, abdicates in favor of his grandson, the Count of Paris, and seeks in Great Britain.

President Louis Napoleon
President Louis Napoleon
1848 – 1852

France: Election of President Under the second republic of 1848, France for the first time chose as its head of state and chief executive a president elected by universal manhood sufferings. The First Republic of 1792 had experimented with several forms of collegial executive, and even Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul had shared power (at least in theory) with two others. But the constitutional committee of the national constituent assembly in 1848, partly out of regard for the failure of the earlier forms and partly inspired by the American example, by late May 1848 had decided in favor of a presidential executive, to be elected by the same democratic suffrage that had produced the national assembly itself.

The election of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte as a deputy in four by- elections on June 4 raised a new issue, however; alarmed, the Executive Commission decided to arrest the pretender should he return to France from England, but the national assembly voted to admit him. Louis Napoleon, however, decided to resign his seat and bide his time. The Parisian insurrection of late June, while turning the assembly against socialist theories and radical activists, left intact the committee’s commitment to political democracy. But when Louis Napoleon again won even more impressively in five by-elections on September 17, there was no new attempt to obstruct the man who was obviously already a strong candidate for the presidency itself, and he calmly took his seat. Despite a new attempt, led by the young Jules Grévy (later to be president of the Third Republic), to create not an elected president but a premier chosen by the assembly, the deputies, after a grandiloquent speech by Alphonse de Lamartine in favor of popular election, overwhelmingly rejected the Grévy amendment. The constitution adopted on November 4 therefore included the provision for a president to be elected directly by all Frenchmen 21 years of age or older, but also contained several precautions against any abuse of presidential power. The constitution prohibited a president from succeeding himself immediately after one four-year term (the provision that in 1851 would become the pretext for Louis Napoleon’s coup d’état), required him to take an oath to uphold the constitution, and provided that any attempt to dissolve the legislative assembly would result in the automatic deposition of the president. The constitution also provided that should any candidate fail to win an absolute majority, the national assembly would choose the president from among the leading candidates. Louis Napoleon had few supporters in the assembly, which presumably would favor General Louis Eugêne Cavaignac, whom it had kept in power as chief executive since the June Days.

The assembly decided to proceed immediately to the election of the president, on December 10 and 11. Although it was apparent that Louis Napoleon and Cavaignac were the leading candidates, there was considerable room for maneuver among the competing political forces. Most of the moderate republicans favored Cavaignac, but Lamarti ne stood also and the radicals and socialists put forward Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin and François Raspail. Proposals by some monarchists to offer the candidacies of the legitimist pretender, the Comte de Chambord, or as an Orleanist a son of Louis Philippe or Adolphe Thiers, were soon abandoned as unrealistic; but the leading organization of the combined monarchists, the R,union de la Rue de Poitiers, or the “party of order,” was unable to decide between the republican Cavaignac or Louis Napoleon, both of whom members detested or distrusted. Both Cavaignac and Napoleon stood above all as men of order, but the general was inept in his appeal for conservative support, most of which in the end went to Bonaparte. The result was a massive victory for Louis Napoleon, who was elected with 5,534,520 votes, a majority of 74 percent of those cast. General Cavaignac came in a distant second, with 1,448,302 votes, or 19.5 percent. Ledru-Rollin, whom Thiers had expected to garner more than two million ballots, attracted only 371,431; Raspail received 36,964 and Lamartine, who had been the most popular member of the provisional government, now was the choice of only 17,914 voters in all of France. Louis Napoleon won in all but four departments, two in Brittany and two in the Midi, where Cavaignac was victorious. The prince also had strong support in all social classes, from the peasantry who provided most of his majority to the notables, the various levels of the bourgeoisie, and even the workers in many cities, including Paris, where he received his largest majorities in the working- class areas. The election was an overwhelming defeat for all of the republican candidates and in a sense a victory for the Napoleonic legend, incarnate in the little-known nephew of the great Emperor.

Frederick de Luna

Second Empire Louis Napoleon III
Second Empire Louis Napoleon III
1852 – 1871

Louis Napoleon III 
(Emperor of France 1852 – 1870)

1815: Louis was born the last three sons of Louis and Hortense Bonaparte, king and queen of Holland during the regime of his uncle Napoleon I. With the final Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1815 he left France for exile.

1831: At the age 23 he became an artillery officer with the Italian patriots in their (unsuccessful) effort to establish an Italian national government.

1836: When Napoleon’s only son died, this offered the ambitious Louise the opportunity to claim to represent the interest of the considerably large and influential Napoleonic faction in France. In 1836 at Strasbourg.

1840: After another attempted coup at Boulogne-sur-Mer he attempted to overthrow the government of French King Louis-Philippe but failed again and was jailed as a result of the latter and sentenced to life imprisonment in Picardie.

1846: He escaped and fled to England.

The February Revolution (1848)

1848: When the February Revolution broke out he returned to Paris, where he was elected to the national assembly. He evoked the legend of Napoleon to win the popular vote as president of the Second Republic.

1850: He defeated his opponent, Gen. L. E. Cavaignac, with a large majority of the French votes.

1851: In late 1851 he conducted a parliamentary coup d’Etat which stripped the French legislature.

The Establishment of the Empire (1852)

1852: Early 1852 he issued a new constitution which made him absolute ruler in France. Then in late 1852, with the army and the church in full support behind him (and his opposition nicely silenced in prison), he called for a national plebiscite in support of the end of the Republic and the creation of the Second French Empire in its place, with him as its Emperor (with a title of Louis Napoleon III). He also put down a workers’ uprising with a very heavy hand, further establishing his tight grip over French national politics.

The Industrial Modernization of France

As ruler over the Second Empire he began to push a vision of rapid industrial and urban development in France, to make it the military equal of Britain to the West and fast-rising Prussia to the East. He pushed for the development of a national network of trains needed to unite the country commercially. He redesigned much of Paris (with a number of new boulevards, squares, parks, bridges) in an effort to make it the most attractive capital city of Europe.

1856: Seeking to reestablish French power, he led France into the Crimean War and helped negotiate the treaty at the Congress of Paris. In an effort to halt the rapid Russian expansion against the rapidly declining Turkish/Ottoman Empire (because Britain and France hat their own designs on the Turkish Empire).

1859: He sided with Sicily against Austria and was victorious at the Battle of Solferino.

1860: He aided Italy in achieving unity and annexed Savoy and Nice. He promoted liberalized policies within France, which enjoyed prosperity during much of his reign. In the 1860s he gradually introduced political liberalization.

1864-1867: He expected material rewards from his “Latin empire” by installing Maximilian as emperor of Mexico, but was disappointed.

1866: He kept France neutral in the Austro-Prussian War.

1870: In 1870 O. von Bismarck contrived to involve France in the disastrous Franco-Prussian War. After leading his troops to defeat in the Battle of Sedan, he surrendered .

1871: In the meantime back in Paris his political opponents engineered a parliamentary coup which deposed him as ruler of France. He was eventually released from Prussian captivity (1871) and made his way in exile to England. There he died two years later (1873).

The name Versailles is known around the world as that of the vastest and most luxurious château ever built by a king. To the visitor with little knowledge of the ins and outs of French history, the name of Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette are linked, often casting aside to other kings, queens, and princes who lived here. Certain authors, striving for excessive symbolism only created with hindsight, have at times tried to explain Versailles as a representation of the myth of the sun, under the pretext that Louis XIV was known as the sun King (as were several of his ancestors). And that his bedchamber had been placed in the geometric center of the château (this fact owing to an oversight during the conversion of the royal apartments in 1701).

In fact, the importance of Versailles and those who lived there should be explained otherwise. Rather than a solar symbol, Versailles stood for the past Régime, or so-called absolute monarchy, a force, which it would be more appropriate to term as on of divine and individual right. Curiously enough, it was a hunting lodge at Versailles, soon to be replaced by a small château, that in 1630 on the “Journée des Dupes” (Day of the Duped) Louis XIII confirmed the rights of Cardinal Richelieu, already engrossing power like the first king to hunt in the woods at Versailles Henri IV. In addition, it was at Versailles that the States General met for the last time in 1789, marking the end for the ancient line of the Capetians, who had ruled over France since AD 987.

Between 1630 and 1789 the château grew in size, its gardens were laid out and a new town was built. Louis XIV made Louis XIII’s hunting lodge into a bigger and more and more luxurious country residence until, in April of 1682, he decided to make Versailles the seat of his government. During those years his architects, first Levau then Hardouin-Mansart, his painter Lebrun and his gardener Le Nôtre had left their mark. However, the king’s influence had been decisive: from his mother, Anne of Austria, his grandmother Marie de Médicis and his ancestor Marguerite de Valois (sister of François I), he had inherited a taste for the plastic arts. From his father Louis XIII, whom he had hardly known and of which little was said, he had a taste for music and sound government, a principle defended by almost all his ancestors since the creation of the French monarchy. His grandson Louis XV succeeded him in 1716, and though he only decided to transform the château’s architecture at the end of his reign, in 1770, he nonetheless inherited his ancestor’s taste for the arts, as can be seen in his private apartments. He took after his Italian ancestors, the Medici or House of Savoy, regarding secrecy in politics as essential, and it was, in fact, in his private apartments – far form the Court’s lack of discretion – that the Bien-Aimé (“beloved”) took some of his most important decisions. But neither did he neglect etiquette, the rules of which had been set down by his predecessors, nor family life of which he was reminded at times by a somewhat neglected wife, and in particular by his daughters of whom he was especially fond.

Finally, Louis XVI, grandson and heir to Louis XV whose reign was inopportunely cut short by the Revolution, had inherited Herculean strength from his grandfather Augustus of Saxony, King of Poland. From his ancestors of the House of Bourbon he got not only a taste of hunting, but also a genuine interest in science. By his side Marie-Antoinette, daughter of the former Duc de Lorraine crowned emperor and therefore great-granddaughter of Louis XIV’s brother Monsieur, Philippe Duc d’Orléans and the famous Princess Palatine, left on Versailles the mark of her love for music and theater, which she had acquired, from the Habsburgs of Austria as well as form Louis XIII. Much more than just a history of 17th and 18th-century art, a visit to Versailles will leave the visitor with a broader image of France’s past.


French furniture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is not greatly different from that made elsewhere in Europe at those dates. However, the principal wood used in England was oak, but in France, it was walnut, which was plentiful there. Just as many foreign workers came to London, so did others to Paris; it is almost impossible to distinguish an Italian-made cabinet from one made in France by an Italian craftsman. It was not until the end of the seventeenth century that French furniture gained its recognizable distinction. The first to give his name to a style there was Andre Charles Boulle (1642- 1732), who perfected a marquetry, originating in Italy, employing tortoiseshell and brass which was used mostly on furniture veneered with ebony. This is known now as either Boulle or Buhl work and the majority of it that has survived was made in Victorian times, or later. Old work of the eighteenth century is very valuable ($3,000 to $6,000 for a piece would not be considered extraordinary), but the nineteenth-century copies fetch a tenth or so of this.

Louis XV

This monarch has his name coupled with the most extravagant of furniture designs, known as Rococo! A style that spread throughout Europe. The term means ornamented with shells, scrollwork, and similar patterns, and until one grows accustomed to it, the dictionary definition of tastelessly florid or ornate may often be thought to apply. To our eyes, it is noticeable principally for a generous use of curved lines, and an ‘unbalanced’ look. Out of its elaborate setting there is no doubt that, Louis XV furniture appears very showy, but when it is seen in the rooms for which it was designed, it takes its place unobtrusively in the decorative scheme.

The French had a liking during the eighteenth century for small tables and cabinets, chests of drawers (called commodes), large writing tables with leather-covered tops having a row of drawers beneath and ta111egs, and upright cabinets with drop-down fronts concealing a writing space. Veneering was the usual decoration, aided by parquetry and marquetry set off with ormolu mountings. When compared with the sophisticated outside appearance, most of the pieces exhibit very rough finishing of the woodwork not usually seen, and a glance at the inside or underneath of a piece will prove this.

Many of the small tables and cabinets are supported on delicately curved cabriole legs so slight that it is a wonder they can stand without breaking. Chests of drawers always have a slab of colored marble as the top, and many other pieces are similarly finished. Chairs and settees were carved usually of beech wood, sometimes finished with gilding, and sometimes painted in pale colors. Mirror-frames were gilt, and are often very like English ones of the same date.

Louis XVI

A style that coincided roughly with the reign of this king: 1774 to 1793 and that is associated with a predominance of straight lines in place of curves. Tables and cabinets usually had square instead of rounded comers, and legs were square or rounded in place of cabriole. Furniture continued to be veneered and fitted with ormolu mounts, and many pieces were decorated with plaques of Sevres porcelain; some of it in blue and white to imitate Wedgwood ware. There was a revival of interest in Bou1le work, more of this was made to fill the demand, and it can be distinguished only with difficulty from that made earlier. Chairs no longer had the cabriole leg, but usually oval backs and turned legs; in both this and the preceding period they were often upholstered in tapestry.


Following the luxurious tastes of the eighteenth century, there was a revival of comparative austerity when the excesses of the Revolution finally died away. Instead of the richly mounted and colorful marquetry, the fashion was for plain mahogany with perhaps an inlay of brass and restrained ormolu mounts. The mahogany used was often of a darker color and more even grain than that favored in England, but there are a number of similarities between the Empire style in France and the Regency. Chairs, in particular, often had the sabre leg in both countries.

It must be emphasized that old French furniture was costly when it was made, and has always maintained a high price. During the past hundred years, those who could not afford the genuine article bought copies which were made to sell at reasonable prices and, apart from these copies which were not made with intent to deceive, it has paid the unscrupulous to spend time and money in making fakes. Remembering the years that have passed since most of it was made, some two centuries, and the fact that much was destroyed and damaged during the Revolution, it is surprising that so many fine examples have survived. A lot of these have been repaired ski1ful1y: lost veneer replaced, lost tops of tables restored, cupboards converted into drawers, and so forth. Thus, with French furniture as much as with any other, the collector must be very cautious indeed, and the subject needs careful study before its qualities can be appreciated and assessed.

With English furniture, it is rarely possible to name the maker unless bills or other definite evidence has been preserved. Only very occasionally is a cabinetmaker’s label found pasted inside a piece. French craftsmen, however, had the custom of marking their productions (or the majority of them) with a steel stamp bearing their name or initials. This was followed, when applicable, by a monogram of the letters J M E, standing for jurande des menuisiers-ebenistes; showing that the article was up to; the standard required by the Corporation of French cabinet-makers and had been inspected by their appointed jury. This custom, also, has had the attention of the fakers, and more pieces bear the alleged stamp of famous craftsmen than they could ever have had the time to make.

The following is a very brief list of the more eminent French cabinet -makers of the eighteenth century, of whom there were nearly 1,000 working in 1790:

J. H. Reisener L. Boudin Bernard Van Reisen Burgh P. Roussel (Stamped B. V .R.B.) J. F. Deben D. Rontgen
Martin Carlin C. C. Saunier
Roger Vandereruse Lacroix A. Weisweiler (Stamped R. V .L.C.) G. Jacob
(Specialized in making chairs)