Portal:France
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Portal:France

Welcome to the France Portal!
Bienvenue sur le Portail France !

Flag France
Map of France in the world and position of its largest single land territory in continental Europe.

France (French: [fs] ), officially the French Republic (French: République française, pronounced [?epyblik fs?:z] ), is a country consisting of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It borders Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland, Monaco, and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions (five of which are situated overseas) span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.07 million . France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice. France, including its overseas territories, has the most time zones of any country, with a total of 12.

During the Iron Age, what is now metropolitan France was inhabited by the Gauls, a collection of Celtic tribes. The area was annexed by Rome in 51 BC, developing a distinct Gallo-Roman culture that laid the foundation of the French language. The Germanic Franks arrived in 476 and formed the Kingdom of Francia, which became the heartland of the Carolingian Empire. The Treaty of Verdun of 843 partitioned the empire, with West Francia becoming the Kingdom of France in 987. In the High Middle Ages, King Philip Augustus achieved remarkable success in the expansion of his realm, defeating his rivals and doubling its size. By the end of his reign, France had emerged as the most powerful state in Europe. In the mid-14th century, French monarchs were embroiled in a series of dynastic conflicts with their English counterparts, which lasted over 100 years. Emerging victorious from said conflicts, disputes with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire soon followed during the Renaissance but were ultimately less successful. However, French culture flourished and a global colonial empire was established, which by the 20th century would become the second largest in the world. The second half of the 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots), which severly weakened the country. But France once again emerged as Europe's dominant cultural, political, and military power in the 17th century under Louis XIV. Endless and costly wars, notably colonial struggles with Great Britain and intervention in the American War of Independence, left the state on the brink of economic collapse by the end of the 18th century. The French Revolution in 1789 overthrew the absolute monarchy that characterized the Ancien Régime and established one of modern history's earliest republics, drafting the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen which expresses the nation's ideals to this day.

Following the revolution, France reached its political and military zenith in the early 19th century under Napoleon Bonaparte who subjugated much of continental Europe and established the First French Empire. The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of European and world history. After the collapse of the empire and a relative decline, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments culminating in the establishment of the French Third Republic in 1870 in the midst of the Franco-Prussian War. France was one of the prominent participants of World War I, from which it emerged victorious, and was one of the Allied powers in World War II, but came under occupation by the Axis in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, was formed in 1958 and remains to this day. Algeria and nearly all other French colonies became independent in the 1960s, with most retaining close economic and military connections with France.

France retains its centuries-long status as a global centre of art, science, and philosophy. It hosts the world's fifth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the leading tourist destination, receiving over 89 million foreign visitors in 2018. France is a developed country with the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the tenth-largest by PPP. 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. It remains a great power in global affairs, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and an official nuclear-weapon state. France is a founding and leading member of the European Union and the Eurozone, and a member of the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie. Read more...

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Portrait at the Uffizi Gallery

Catherine de' Medici (Italian: Caterina de’ Medici, pronounced [kate'ri:na de 'm?:dit?i]; French: Catherine de Médicis, pronounced [kat?in d? medisis]; 13 April 1519 - 5 January 1589), was an Italian noblewoman who was queen consort of France from 1547 until 1559, by marriage to King Henry II, and Queen mother of kings Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III from 1559 to 1589. The years during which her sons reigned have been called "the age of Catherine de' Medici" as she had extensive, if at times varying, influence in the political life of France.

She was born in Florence to Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Urbino and Madeleine de La Tour d'Auvergne. In 1533, at the age of fourteen, Catherine married Henry, second son of King Francis I and Queen Claude of France. Catherine's marriage was arranged by her uncle Pope Clement VII. Henry excluded Catherine from participating in state affairs and instead showered favors on his chief mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who wielded much influence over him. Henry's death thrust Catherine into the political arena as mother of the frail 15-year-old King Francis II. When Francis II died in 1560, she became regent on behalf of her 10-year-old son King Charles IX and was granted sweeping powers. From 1560 to 1563, she ruled France as regent for her son Charles IX, King of France. After Charles died in 1574, Catherine played a key role in the reign of her third son, Henry III. He dispensed with her advice only in the last months of her life (he would outlive her by seven months). Read more...

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Monteux during his conductorship of Les Ballets Russes, c. 1912
Pierre Benjamin Monteux (4 April 1875 – 1 July 1964) was a French (later American) conductor. After violin and viola studies, and a decade as an orchestral player and occasional conductor, he began to receive regular conducting engagements in 1907. He came to prominence when, for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company between 1911 and 1914, he conducted the world premieres of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and other prominent works including Petrushka, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé, and Debussy's Jeux. Thereafter he directed orchestras around the world for more than half a century.

From 1917 to 1919 Monteux was the principal conductor of the French repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He led the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1919-24), Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra (1924-34), Orchestre Symphonique de Paris (1929-38) and San Francisco Symphony (1936-52). In 1961, aged eighty-six, he accepted the chief conductorship of the London Symphony Orchestra, a post which he held until his death three years later. Although known for his performances of the French repertoire, his chief love was the music of German composers, above all Brahms.

In 1932 he began a conducting class in Paris, which he developed into a summer school that was later moved to his summer home in Les Baux in the south of France. After moving permanently to the US in 1942, and taking American citizenship, he founded a school for conductors and orchestral musicians in Hancock, Maine.

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End of the Irish Invasion ; -- or - the Destruction of the French Armada, James Gillray

The French expedition to Ireland, known in French as the Expédition d'Irlande ("Expedition to Ireland"), was an unsuccessful attempt by the First French Republic during the French Revolutionary Wars to assist the outlawed Society of United Irishmen, a popular rebel Irish republican group, in their planned rebellion against British rule. The French intended to land a large expeditionary force in Ireland during the winter of 1796-1797 which would join with the United Irishmen and drive the British out of Ireland. The French anticipated that this would be a major blow to British morale, prestige and military effectiveness, and was also intended to possibly be the first stage of an eventual invasion of Britain itself. To this end, the Directory gathered a force of approximately 15,000 soldiers at Brest under General Lazare Hoche during late 1796, in readiness for a major landing at Bantry Bay in December.

The operation was launched during one of the stormiest winters of the 18th century, with the French fleet unprepared for such severe conditions. Patrolling British frigates observed the departure of the fleet and notified the British Channel Fleet, most of which was sheltering at Spithead for the winter. The French fleet was subject to confused orders as it left port and was scattered across the approaches to Brest: one ship was wrecked with heavy loss of life and the others widely dispersed. Separated, most of the French fleet managed to reach Bantry Bay late in December, but its commanders were driven miles off course and without them the fleet was unsure of what action to take, with amphibious landings impossible due to the weather conditions, which were the worst recorded since 1708. Within a week the fleet had broken up, small squadrons and individual ships making their way back to Brest through storms, fog and British patrols. Read more...

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The Little St Bernard Pass (French: Col du Petit Saint-Bernard) is a mountain pass in the Alps, located in Savoie, France, to the south of the Mont Blanc Massif, and close to the border with Italy.
Photo credit: Vberger

Pierre-François Palloy.

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