Inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people, the area was annexed by the Roman Republic in 51 BC. In AD 486, the Germanic Franks conquered the region and formed the Kingdom of France. The kingdom emerged as a major European power in the Late Middle Ages, having weathered civil and regional wars to hone its state-building and political prowess by the middle of the 15th century. In the 16th century, it would become the main battleground in religious wars between the Catholic and Caluinist Churches.
During the Age of Exploration, France would establish an Empire that circled the globe. It would be the world's largest empire. It would be said that "Le soleil ne se couche jamais sur l'Empire français" (English: The sun never sets on the French Empire). However, they would lose almost all of their colonies after being embroiled in a terrible Civil War that lasted over 20 years. Following a royalist victory in the war, France set off to create a new colonial empire.
France is a developed country with the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP and sixth-largest by purchasing power. In terms of aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world. France performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, and human development.
Prehistory (before 6th Century BC)
There is evidence of mankind having been in France since far before recorded history. From simple tools to elaborate cave paintings to burial sites that preserve elaborate decorative embellishment to jewelry everyday objects, the inhabitants of the land provide an indication of sophistication that baffles most anthropologists to this day.
These tribes, called Cro-Magnon, left artwork that includes figurines similar to those of religions from a much later period. The more these discoveries reveal about the lives of these early inhabitants of France, the more of a sense of tragedy arises in their destruction at the hands of later migrations into the area. As the climate changed, the populations settled down and began to farm the land. More use was made of grains and fruits grown locally. Animals began to be domesticated and villages formed along the banks of the rivers and in the valleys. With settlements came an interest in the cycle of life -- be it plant, animal or human. Exploration of "how things worked" led to improved tools, including the use of metals.
Structures made of stone began to be erected to aid in the study of the world around them, and then, perhaps to further study the unknown worlds, burial of the dead moved was facilitated by erected tombs. The changing climate, including the acidity of the soil, reduced any remains to dust long ago. Hundreds of orderly formations of large stones, and several stone tombs, still survive to this day.
In time, migration from the east brought new innovations. Work began with metals; first with palatable gold, and then with harder metals from copper, to bronze and all the way to iron. With each innovation, the effectiveness of the hardened tools became greater. These people were the progenitors of all those of Celtic origin to this day.
Antiquity (600 BC--AD 500)
Into this well established culture came the explorers of the early seafaring cultures. These cultures, beginning with the Greeks, had well developed languages and preserved a record of their travels that was written down by their scholars and poets. Within all the legends, and to some extent their mythology, the early settlement of southern France can be found.
In about 600 BC, Ionian Greeks from Phocaea came ashore and founded a colony at what is now Marseilles. Originally "Massalia," this colony has survived for over 2600 years, making it France's oldest city. Interaction between the Greeks and the Celts proved stressful, but probably contributed to the spread of the latter into the interior of what became known as Gaul.
This expansion resulted in a Gallic chieftain by the name of Brennus led his troops through the Alps all the way to Rome, besieging the city and demanding tribute in 390 BC. This harassment continued for 45 years until an uneasy peace was reached. This would hold until the 125 BC when Rome became strong enough to push back, conquering much of southern Gaul (modern France). Gaul would become the largest province of the Roman empire after General Gaius Julius pushed north to conquer the rest of Gaul in 52 BC. He would go on to subjugate the people in the region of Armorica, the stronghold of the Celtic civilization. His exploits among the Armoricans would set the stage for his rise to power in Rome.
Gaul would be assimilated into Roman culture, though it retained much of its heritage over the years. The French language developed from the old Latin language introduced during this period, though the language of Armorica would later be influenced greatly by the invasion of the Angles and the Saxons to become "English" (French: Anglais). France gets its name, though, from the invading Franks, led by Clovis I, soon after the fall of the Roman Empire.
Early Middle Ages (500--1100)
Clovis was baptised at the insistence of his wife into the Catholic denomination of Christianity in 496. He would be instrumental in united all of Gaul to create the kingdom and eventually the Republic of France. He had inherited the crown of the Salian Franks from his father Childeric I. He would be the first of the Merovingian dynasty over France and the German states. This dynasty got it's name from Merovech, Clovis' grandfather.
By this time, a migration of Jutes, Angles and Saxons had begun in the old Roman province of Armorica, along the coast. These Germanic and Nordic invaders were resistant to change and would stand in the way of an orderly assimilation of western France. Over the years, the Merovingian kings would deal gently with the Anglian subculture that had taken root there. Clovis found them to be allies in defeating resistance in the Visigothic kingdom in 507. Just before his death, Clovis called a church counsel at Orléans at which Roman law was applied to Frank and Roman citizens alike, promoting the equality of conqueror with the conquered. At his death, his realm was divided between his sons, leading to a disunity only broken once before the eventually formation of France, the Netherlands and numerous German states.
In 732, Charles Martel, Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, defeated an invasion of Islamic forces at the Battle of Tours. This set the stage for the founding of the Carolingian dynasty under his grandson Charlemagne. Charlemagne would be the first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. His dynasty in France would continue until Adelaide of Vermandois married Hugh I, the first Capetian king of France, around 1000.
The Capetians were mostly served at the pleasure of the Counts and Dukes, remaining in power with the support of the Church. During the the early days, during the reign of King Henry I of France, a young duke by the name of William (called "the Bastard" by many since his father had not married his mother) ascended in the Duchy of Normandy. The lad was about eight years old and his cousins kept him safe as rivals tried to take his life and/or take the dukedom from him. Henry supported him, as did the Church, for his father Robert had died on the way back from the Crusades. By the time William (the second Duke by that name) attained his Duchy, trouble arose in Anglia and lower Normandy. William took decisive action, pressing so hard against Geoffrey II, Count of Anjou. In the siege of Arques-la-Bataille, Geoffrey was killed. By 1070, the Duchy of Normandy had expanded to include the Duchy of Anglia. At William's death in 1087, King Philip I of France moved his forces against Robert and William III, forcing a division of Normandy into two duchies, with William III becoming the Duke of Anglia.
Late Middle Ages (1100--1400)
The rise and spread of Islam had become a concern to the Church and the royal houses of Europe. One of the most loyal regimes was in France. In a series of military campaigns known as the Crusades, the French were leading participants. Participants were given a cloth patch in the form of a cross (crois) that was sewn into their clothing to identify themselves with Christ. The battles were for the purpose of reclaiming the Biblical holy sites found in the Levant from the caliphates that had established themselves there. These efforts were only partially successful, and were temporary at best.
In 1115, Duke Henry of Anglia arose against Louis VI in a civil war that had been brewing since the founding of the Duchy of Anglia in 1087. Henry, the youngest son of William II had arisen to power after the death of William III. As he was grooming his own son, also named William, to be his successor, Louis had determined that William of Normandy, Henry's nephew, was to be the next Duke of Anglia. After negotiations broke down, war broke out. The tensions created a war between cousins in the coastal duchies of France. Things did not go well for Henry, for he was killed by Juliana of Breteuil, his daughter by a concubine, in defense of her husband Eustace's castle. Henry's son William fought his cousin for the title of Duke of Anglia, and prevailed with concessions to Louis VI. Duke William III died in an accident in 1134, and was succeeded by his cousin Steven.
The Duchy of Anglia continued to remain strong even as the Capetian dynasty continued to consolidate its power. Finally, in 1346, Duke Edward III saw a chance at seizing the French throne from his cousin Philip IV. The civil war was going well when Edward was forced to fall back from further advances by a pandemic that swept most of Europe from 1348 to 1353. With what seemed to be an act of vengeance from God, an uneasy peace was called. In the end, Edward conceded defeat. The Duchy of Anglia was granted to John of Montfort (French: Jean de Montfort) a Capetian descendant of the wife of Duke Henry II. Taking the name Duke John II, Jean de Montfort helped unify France as he ruled Anglia from 1350 to his death in 1399.
Early Modern Period (1400–1789)
The history of France continued to be dominated by relations with Anglia throughout most of the fifteenth century. John II's son, also named John, began his co-regency with his mother Joan of Navarre. He would become Duke John III of Anglia under the tutelage of Philip II of Burgundy, the youngest son of the late King John II of France (second cousin to Charles VI). This relationship helped forge a growing bond with the crown, as seen in the marriage of his daughter Joan of Valois. Though the relationship between Anglia and the crown had it's ups and downs, the marriage of Anne of Anglia to king Charles VIII in 1491 began the merger of the realms. She would marry Louis VII, Charles' cousin, who succeeded him when no children had survived infancy betweenthem..She would be queen of France until 1514, having finally produced two daughters. Her older daughter Claude married a cousin Francis of Valois, to follow her mother as "Queen of France." After this, Anglia would be ruled by its Dukes as Princes étrangers ("foreign princes") under the crown of France.
Anne of Anglia had first been married to Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1490. However, this had been on paper only, and Charles VII had forced his own hand in the matter, marrying her himself. Within a few years, the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire were at war in the Italian peninsula. At first, it was as an ally to Venice against Milan. France and Spain became allies against the Empire and the papal states when Francis I of Naples died in 1494. Ultimately failing to take Naples, France and its allies were at war against the forces of the Holy Roman Empire for over sixty years, with the "Italian Wars" lasting until 1559.
One of the factors in the course of the war was the Protestant Reformation that began within the bounds of the German states of the Empire. The invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century had made it possible to spread the writings of Martin Luther to the libraries all over Europe. The Roman Catholic Church was beginning to lose control of the nobles both in the German states and in France. A young lawyer by the name of Jehan Cauvin (French: Jean Calvin), spurred on by the writings of Luther, had studied the New Testament in Greek and come to similar conclusion to the German monk. As he began seeking reforms in the French churches, he was forced to flee from the country, ending up in Geneva, Switzerland.
However, his writings remained, published all over France. Especially popular in the nobility (the traditional soldiers, just recently having been joined by the lower classes in standing armies), Calvin's teachings began to form the basis for the French Protestant Church, or the Calvinian Church (analogous to the Lutheran Church). The Dukes of several of the duchies in France began to flex their political muscle as Protestants, leading to resistance from the crown and the Church. Unfortunately for some Protestants in the duchies, the authorities in Paris and Rome over-reacted and many thousands of non-combatants died in the wars of religion that followed. In the end, the only conclaves of protestants in France were in Anglia; and these were small. All others fled to German and Dutch lands where protestants had freedom to worship apart from the Roman Catholic Church.
King Henry IV of France, who had espoused protestantism in the religious wars, brought peace early in his reign (1589--1610) by returning to the Catholic faith. This move brought a measure of freedom to the Calvinian Church. Meanwhile, he turned the new peace into a time of exploration abroad, founding colonies in North America, and at home through building and land management. Not forgetting his loyal soldiers on the protestant side of the wars of religion, he backed the exploration of what would become Canada, along the St. Lawrence River. With a thriving fur trade with the indigenous people, the Kingdom of France began its climb to world power before Henry was assassinated in Paris in 1610. Not long before, a French adventurer, Pierre-Olivier Malherbe, had sailed around the world, bringing his word of his findings.
Henry IV had finally found a wife to produce male heirs to the throne. This was a political marriage to Marie de' Medici, an Italian duchess from Tuscany. Her mother was Joanna, Archduchess of Austria. Having married the king in 1600, she was crowned queen in 1610 -- the day before her husband was killed. She ruled as regent with her son Louis until he was forced by intrigue to banish her from the kingdom in 1624. The course of the events were influenced by the Roman Catholic Church to turn Louis XIII against the Calvinisns. Many years of conflict followed between the protestant nobles and the throne. As a result, thousands of protestants fled north to the Netherlands. Others settled in the Duchy of Anglia after the Treaty of Compiègne had been signed in 1624. During his reign, France expanded its colonies in Africa, America, and the East Indies. Most notably was the establishment of New France on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.
In 1638, after a series of miscarriages, Louis' wife of 23 years gave birth to a son, the heir apparent, whom they named Louis. This birth was considered miraculous by many in France, including Anne his mother. By order of his father, the young prince came under a royal council, lead by his mother, when the elder Louis died in 1643. Under the leadership of his mother King Louis XIV came to believe in the "divine right" of the monarchy. As an absolute monarch, he would rule for over 72 years. His reign would be strengthened by conflict and war with the great powers of the day: the Spanish, the Dutch and the Holy Roman Empire.
Modern Period (1789–1914)
Contemporary Period (1914--Present)
- ↑ This differed from OTL, removing Geoffrey as a threat to William's expansion into Anglia.
- ↑ From Medieval Latin cruciāta, Middle French: croisade
- ↑ Thus ended the conflict of the Normans versus French which in OTL was the so-called Hundred Years War. The Montfort dynasty, which had lost Anglia, was restored in TTL, indebting them to the crown.
- ↑ In OTL she would go on to remarry to Henry IV, of the Normandy dynasty of England. An analogue of this person in the ALT would be the grandson of Henry III of Anglia.