France History Timeline

With the expansion of the royal domain (crown domain), a strong monarchy was formed, which in early modern Europe became a political and cultural point of reference. The French Revolution made France a modern nation-state. Subjects of an absolute monarch became citizens with basic democratic rights. Check to see more about France and other countries in the world.

Heads of State of France

The French heads of state (Kings: 843–1792 and 1814–1848)
Charles II, the bald 840 / 843–877 (875 emperors)
Ludwig II., The regular 877-879
Ludwig III. 879-882
Karlmann 879-884
Charles III , the thick 885-887 (881 emperors)
Odo of Paris 888-898
Charles III, the simple-minded 898-923
Robert I of France 922-923
House of the Boso
Rudolf of Burgundy 923-936
Ludwig IV., The overseas 936-954
Lothar 954-986
Ludwig V. 986-987
Capetians (Robertians)
Hugo Capet 987-996
Robert II, the pious 996-1031
Heinrich I. 1031-1060
Philip I. 1060-1108
Louis VI. , the thick 1108-1137
Louis VII, the boy 1137-1180
Philip II Augustus 1180-1223
Louis VIII, the lion 1223-1226
Louis IX , the Saint 1226-1270
Philip III , the bold one 1270-1285
Philip IV, the handsome 1285-1314
Ludwig X., the brawler 1314-1316
Johann I, the child 1316
Philip V, the Tall One 1317-1322
Charles IV, the handsome 1322-1328
House Valois (Capetian)
Philip VI 1328-1350
Johann II, the good 1350-1364
Charles V the Wise 1364-1380
Charles VI , the madman 1380-1422
Charles VII, the victorious 1422-1461
Louis XI. , the cruel one 1461-1483
Charles VIII 1483-1498
Louis XII. from Orléans 1498-1515
Francis I of Angoulême 1515-1547
Henry II 1547-1559
Francis II 1559-1560
Charles IX 1560-1574
Henry III. 1574-1589
House Bourbon (Capetian)
Henry IV of Navarre 1589-1610
Louis XIII. 1610-1643
Louis XIV 1643-1715
Louis XV 1715-1774
Louis XVI 1774-1792
(Louis XVII, Dauphin)
First republic
National Convention 1792-1795
Directory 1795-1799
consulate 1799-1804
First empire
Napoleon I. 1804-1814 (1815)
House Bourbon (Capetian)
Louis XVIII (1814) 1815-1824
Charles X. 1824-1830
House Orléans
Louis Philippe 1830-1848
Second republic
PJB Buchez 1848
LE Cavaignac 1848
Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte 1848-1851 (1852)
Second empire
Napoleon III 1852-1870
Third Republic (Presidents)
A. Thiers 1871-1873
MEPM Count of Mac-Mahon 1873-1879
J. Grévy 1879-1887
MFS Carnot 1887-1894
JPP Casimir-Périer 1894-1895
F. Faure 1895-1899
É. Loubet 1899-1906
CA Fallieres 1906-1913
R. Poincare 1913-1920
P. Deschanel 1920
A. Millerand 1920-1924
G. Doumergue 1924-1931
P. Doumer 1931-1932
A. Lebrun 1932-1940
État Français (Head of State)
HP Pétain 1940–1944 / 45
Provisional Government of the French Republic (Presidents)
C. de Gaulle 1944 / 45-1946
F. Gouin, G. Bidault, L. Blum 1946-1947
Fourth Republic (Presidents)
V. Auriol 1947-1954
R. Coty 1954-1959
Fifth Republic (Presidents)
C. de Gaulle 1959-1969
G. Pompidou 1969-1974
V. Giscard d’Estaing 1974-1981
F. Mitterrand 1981-1995
J. Chirac 1995-2007
N. Sarkozy 2007–2012
F. Hollande 2012-2017
E. Macron since 2017



Decline of the absolute monarchy (1715–89)

With the death of Louis XIV, the reign of his still underage great-grandson and successor Louis XV. (1715–74, of age 1723) to Philip II, Duke of Orléans.

This fundamentally changed French politics by giving back part of their power to the aristocracy and especially to the parliaments and allied with Great Britain against Spain. The national debt decreased through the financial manipulation of the J. Law, so that the economy received new impulses. Cardinal Fleury (leading minister 1726–43) succeeded once again in consolidating the state finances. Nevertheless, the crown succumbed to a gradual decline in power, caused by Ludwig’s weak policy and the rule of mistresses (Marquise de Pompadour, Countess Dubarry), its costly and loss-making war and colonial policy and the renewed shaking of state finances. Fleury was able to secure the right to Lorraine to France in 1735/38 (War of the Polish Succession; 1766 Acquisition of Lorraine); in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), in which France intervened against Fleury’s will, it was unsuccessful; In 1756/57 France finally changed the alliance from Prussia to Austria, which was fateful for France: In the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) it fought unsuccessfully against Prussia and lost its North American and most of its Indian colonies to Great Britain (Peace of Paris 1763).

Fundamental reform approaches to reorganize state finances by taxing all income and all classes failed due to the resistance of the privileged classes, the nobility and clergy, against which the crown was unable to assert itself. The attempts at reform also met with bitter resistance from the highest courts of justice, the parliaments. These were ruled by the holders of commercial and hereditary offices, the official nobility (noblesse de robe) who gradually rose alongside the old nobility (noblesse d’épée). The situation of the clergy was determined by the social contrast between poorly paid pastors and the prelates, who came almost exclusively from the aristocracy. The French Enlightenment, without a uniform political concept, directed their criticism both against absolutism and the power position of the church (Montesquieu and Voltaire) as well as against the privileged structure of the ancien régime (encyclopedists, J.-J. Rousseau).

The Physiocrats advocated the abolition of feudality, which hampered agricultural productivity. Against the political and social grievances and their own disadvantage, the economically strengthening and socially rising bourgeoisie began increasingly to oppose as the leading layer of the third estate.

The reform of the Chancellor R. N. de Maupeou (1771) aimed at modernizing the judicial organization was followed by Louis XVI. (1774–92), the grandson and successor of Louis XV. , withdrawn under pressure from the privileged.

Attempts at reform by his finance ministers A. R. J. Turgot (1774–76), J. Necker (1777–81) and C. A. de Calonne (1783–87) also failed under his government. The politically unproductive French participation in the North American War of Independence exacerbated the financial crisis. After the failure of all efforts to avert national bankruptcy, which undermined the authority of the Crown, the King convened the Estates General, which had not met since 1614, to eliminate the deficit and reform the state. This triggered the movement that led to the revolution.

France History Timeline