France has had mixed fortunes in its long existence, swinging from being the dominant power in Europe to being hated and distrusted by all the major powers. These periods of contrast, it seems are very often close to each other. Today, France is ruled by a constitutional monarchy, which was founded by King Charles XI (although during his reign it was a totalitarian state) in the years after the Great War, following the collapse of the corrupt Third Republic. Today, it is seen as the culture capital of Europe and although no longer a major military power, unlike Russia, Britain or Germany, its economic and cultural might more than make up for it.
France sent aid to the Confederacy during the War of Secession, putting it at odds with the United States, Britain and Prussia. This was one of the key reasons for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, which resulted in the unification of Germany. Even then, the weakness of the Third Republic was obvious, but it staged a amazing recovery between 1870 and 1914. It however, also alienated Britain, forcing the island nation to ally with Sweden and Germany in 1904. To avoid being overwhelmed, France formed an alliance with Russia, Serbia and perhaps most troubling, the Confederate States of America. This Quadruple Entente was counter-balanced by the Central Powers of Britain, Canada, the United States, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Sweden. Despite its apparent strength, France was a good deal weaker than either Britain or Germany even with Russia. Never the less, France declared war on Austria-Hungary in support of Russia on July 30th 1914, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
The Great War (1914 to 1919)
The war went well for France at first, as it drove into Belgium, pushing the British forces sent to aid the Belgians back very quickly. Threatened on the right flank, the Germans in Alsace-Lorraine and the Rhineland were forced to withdraw back behind the Rhine. Despite a Russian attack in eastern Prussia, France was unable to cross the Rhine and war ground into a stalemate. Both the British and the Germans launched repeated attacks against the French between 1914 and 1918, but they were always stopped. The grind took a dreadful toll on France's armies, their only major offensive after November 1914, the battle of Essen in 1916 was a failure, thanks to the brilliant generalship of Hindenburg and his determination that "They shall not pass". After 1917, the French began a long retreat, being hounded by the British and Germans all the way. Attempts to stop them at Verdun, the Somme and the Marne failed. Finally, in November 1919, France surrendered.
Between the wars (1919 to 1941)
France was stripped of all its colonies and was forced to watch as Quebec fell under a brutal military occupation. Support for the Third Republic collapsed and support grew for the radical Action Fransisce, which was elected to power in 1923. They immediately named their leader King Charles XIX and set about molding France into their own image. Charles XI believed that France's greatest difficulty was the corruption of its Latin blood with those of Germanic blood. Charles XIX believed people with blonde hair and blue eyes were inherently inferior to all other peoples. He also tried to gain the aid of Tsar Alexis following his defeat of the communists in 1927. However, the Tsar didn't want anything to do with France and instead remained isolationist throughout the 1920s and 30s. By 1935, France was building up a large military, part of which aided the Nationalists in their struggle against the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. In 1941, with the support of a disgruntled Sweden and Bulgaria, France declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The World War (1941 to 1946)
France found itself allied with Sweden, Bulgaria and Japan and with their aid, they crushed Germany and overran Austria-Hungary. Japan's occupation however of German possessions in the Pacific provoked war between the two countries (Britain had already declared war on the Confederate States of America over its invasion of the United States and Texas). In 1942, France invaded Russia, gaining large amounts of territory, nearly capturing Moscow and besieging St. Petersburg. However, later in the year, Spain under the Nationalists declared war on France over its persecution of the Germanic peoples. France crushed all resistance in the peninsula, only to find itself having to defend against determined British attacks in Iberia in 1943 and 1944. In Russia, the twin defeats at Volgograd and the Kursk Salient in 1943 and 1944 respectively shattered France's armies in the east. The collapse of Sweden, Bulgaria, Mexico, Deseret and the CSA in 1945 allowed thousands of troops to focus their attention on France. Charles XIX immediately ordered his generals to prepare a Arthurian trial by battle, which from the start was doomed to failure. America and Britain invaded Normandy in 1945, restoring British control after nearly 500 years. The French defeat at the Second battle of the Nations against the forces of a revived Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia sealed the country's fate. The final blow came in May 1946, when the British dropped an atomic bomb on Paris, Lyons and Brest, killing King Charles XIX and knocking France out of the war permanently. Japan, tired by the war, agreed to peace, where Japan was allowed to keep its conquered territories, in return for withdrawing from China, although it remained very strong in the region.
The Cold War (1946 to 1991)
France was portioned into the Anglo-Russian backed France and the the American backed, Vichy France in the south. There were calls to dismantle the monarchy in both areas, but referenda denied the chance of a Fourth Republic. Normandy flourished in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. The southern half of the country did not do so well, but it still survived as a nation and struggled on into the 1980s. However, by the end of that decade, Russia and the United States were becoming more friendly and reunification came to the forefront. On October 10th 1989, the king of France was killed in a coup, which promptly requested annexation by Normandy. King Louis XXI agreed and on December 31st, the two halves of France were formally united as a single nation.
After the Cold War
The revival of France as a single nation brought new found prosperity to the country, although all attempts to force the return of a Fourth Republic were foiled and France remained a monarchy. On July 5th 2006, following a long battle with cancer, King Louis XXI died and was succeeded by his 15 year old great-granddaughter, the first monarch to receive the title through inheritance instead of appointment since 1848. Because of her young age, a regent was appointed. However, the Queen is expected to take full responsibilities soon (probably in 2009 or 2010).
There are some, who claim that France's current monarchy is not its legitimate head of state. These groups state the atrocities committed by France under Charles XI in the World War against people of German blood as a prime reason for this. However, the current monarch is unrelated to the King Charles XI, as Louis XX was the senior surviving French official not in captivity at the time (before then he was the Prime Minister).