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France is the largest country in Western Europe and it's officially recognized as the French Republic.
In Western Europe, France has served as the gateway between the southern and northern regions of the European continent. The border of France also touches Germany and Belgium in the north, Spain and the Pyrenees mountains in the south, and the Atlantic Ocean in the west.
The country also borders Italy, Switzerland, and the Alps in the east and the Mediterranean sea in the southeast. The ancient Gallic Celtic tribes settled in the region during 600 BC and founded the country of France. In the modern era, France has become one of the largest economies in the world and has ties with countries all around the world. France is the most visited country in the world, with around 89 million tourists visiting Paris every year. France also has the busiest railway station in Europe. The Gare du Nord station in Paris sees around 214 million passengers each year!
France has come a long way, with a past that has seen various rulers like Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte who took control of the country and contributed to the rise of France on a global scale.
If you like this article about French history facts, make sure to check out articles on facts about the French Revolution and French economy facts too!
Based on the evidence, historians predict France was settled nearly two million years ago! Neanderthals, the earliest human relatives, rose to prominence in the region prior to the arrival of the Cro-Magnons (early homo sapien population) in 40,000 BC.
Paris was previously known as Lutetia during the Roman times and was formally pronounced as the capital city in 847 CE. Prior to its installation as the capital, Paris was a diminutive city and had no real significance.
The Roman occupation in France finally ended prior to the French Revolution, which began in 1789. The Celtic Gauls lived in France from 1,500-500 BC and Julius Caesar, one of the most influential Roman generals, took charge of France in 55 BC. Lyon was the city that became the second-largest region in the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire ruled France until the fifth century and the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties ruled France from the fifth century to the 10th century.
William the Conqueror played an important role in the extension of France's power on a global scale as he took charge of several battles for new dominions and also became the ruler of England in 1066. The First Crusade in 1096 is credited with the spread of cathedrals throughout France.
Joan of Arc, also known as 'The Maid of Orléans' is a French hero who attained mythical status in her role in the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years' War. Charged for blasphemy, they sent her to her death in Rouen, in 1431. Joan of Arc was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 as Saint Joan of Arc.
Built in 1519, the Château de Chambord is one of the largest Loire Valley castles with 440 rooms. In total, the Loire Valley is home to 300 castles! The root of these castles can be traced back to the Hundred Year War between England and France.
Napoleon Bonaparte, a general who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and took charge of the French army, declared himself as the Emperor of France in 1804. Napoleon's rule saw him expand his empire as he fought other countries and conquered them in battle. The French empire gained a huge territory and ruled continental Europe. Napoleon's rule came to an end when he was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
During the July Revolution of 1830, King Charles X renounced his position, and his son, King Louise XIX became the new King. His rule only lasted for 20 minutes before his nephew, the Duke of Bordeaux, replaced him.
In the modern-day and age, France saw German occupation take power during World War II, but the Allied Powers liberated the country in 1944. France suffered great losses in World War I and World War II but it didn't take long to recover and regain its place amongst the leading countries in the world.
The republic government made the French Fourth Republic which spanned a total of 12 years, from 1946 to 1958, before Charles de Gaulle formed the French Fifth Republic in 1958. This republic is still in action to this day.
During the French Revolution, an estimated 75% of the French population did not use French as their mother tongue. French was more widely spoken in countries like Germany and Holland until the 19th century.
Courtesy in France matters a lot! We can see these things even in a little coffee shop, where simple greetings can impact how much you pay when you finish your coffee!
The French citizens originally protested the construction of the Eiffel tower when it was being planned. Despite protests, the Eiffel tower was completed and today is one of the most recognizable structures in the world.
The Versailles Palace is one of the most famous palaces in France and has been used by French rulers from Louis XIV to Louis XVI. The palace was the face of how royals should live and the 'château' still houses a lot of gold.
The French flag has three colours and is known as 'le tricolore' because of the colors. The French flag consists of blue, white, and red. White represents the monarchy and red and blue are used to represent Paris.
The Gallic rooster is the national symbol of France and has been since the French Revolution. The French republic also uses the rooster on its official seal.
The French army is responsible for the creation of the camouflage. During World War I, the army hired artists to paint their guns and vehicles in an effort to blend them with the surroundings. Other countries adopted the concept and camouflage became a tremendous hit!
Based on laws passed by the French government in 1994, at least 35% of the music played on French radio must be French. They did this to prevent a change in cultural taste in music caused by the large entertainment market in the west.
The famous Tour de France began on July 1, 1903. They integrated the event when 60 people took part in the first event.
France takes food wastage seriously! France made its stance clear on wastage when it banned food wasting by supermarkets. Surplus groceries are to be donated to food banks and charities and people who don't comply receive a fine.
Voltaire, Hugo, and Zola are some of the many world-renowned authors who have been awarded Nobel Prizes in Literature! There have been 15 awards in the field won by French authors, making France the holder of the record for Nobel Prizes in literature.
French people are governed by France whose political stance is a combination of parliamentary and presidential systems. The president installs a Prime Minister who works with the elected government to pass laws.
Snails are a major part of the cuisine of the French people and the country consumes an average of 33,069.3 US tons of snails per year. Snails, or escargot in French, are an important part of French cuisine and they're commonly served with garlic, butter, and parsley. French cuisine is known for its rich experience with various varieties of cheese, bread and wine, that are consumed by the French population.
French people are known for their laid-back attitude, but this doesn't affect their position as one of the most productive countries in Europe. The population works efficiently and performs day-to-day tasks despite their reputation of being workshy.
France follows 12 time zones! French colonies like French Guiana, Martinique, and Polynesia have their own time zones and France keeps up with these time zones to keep a check on its colonies.
Guillotines have played an important part in French history, as the guillotine has executed many renowned personalities. The execution method began in 1792 and was finally abolished in 1981.
The Medal of the French Family is an award presented to the parents of citizens who achieve success in society. They reward responsible parents who have raised their children with the utmost care to make them into fine citizens.
France is one of the largest consumers of wine! The country ranks second on the global consumption scale and an estimated 660 million gal (25 million hl) worth of wine is consumed per year. French wine is also one of the most expensive wines in the world, and one bottle of an expensive bottle could fetch up to around $21,000! Some of the most popular French wines are Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy.
French was England's approved language for over 300 years! Anglo-Norman French was introduced to the country after William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 during the Norman Conquest. English was made the recognized language in 1362 when the Pleading Act was inscribed in English.
French ranks second after English in the official language usage as French is the official language in around 32 countries, compared to English being recognized as an official language in 45 countries. Currently, the La Francophonie, which aims to promote the French language and its linguistic and cultural importance in the world, comprises 56 members and is larger than the Commonwealth, which has 54 members.
French is also among one of the Romance languages. These languages include Spanish, Italian and French, whose origins we can trace to Latin. French, alongside English, is the only language that is taught in every country around the world and is used as the first or second language by an estimated 300 million people worldwide!
The French Alps are home to Mont Blanc mountain, which is one of the highest in all of Europe and stands at a height of 15.7 ft (4.8 m)!
Paris is one of the most culturally rich cities in France and is also home to some of the most amazing architectural attractions, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the River Seine, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, also known as the 'Iron Lady' is 1062.9 ft (324 m) high. The Eiffel tower was built by Gustave Eiffel and his associates and the tower is also named after Gustave Eiffel. Today, the Eiffel tower is a symbol of Paris.
The construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the most famous architectural achievements of France began in the year 1163 and was completed in the year 1330! The Cathedral was created to pay tribute to Victor Hugo, the French author. The gargoyles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame can be seen during the ascent to the bell tower.
Because of the large landmass that France has, the country is home to various plant and animals species. 25% of the country is covered with forests and is home to alpine hares, brown bears, and the ibex. The French alps see millions of birds that migrate to France. At least 10% of the country's landmass has been reserved for nature reserves and parks.
The Lascaux Caves in Montignac, France, have some of the oldest rock paintings in the world! Some of these paintings are estimated to be over 17,000 years old.
Former French president Charles de Gaulle has survived 32 assassination attempts!
In France, Paris is known as the City of Light because it was among the very few European cities that made use of gas in the form of street lights and boulevards.
The political terms 'left-wing' and 'right-wing' originated in the French republic. Conservatives politicians would sit on the right side and the radical reformists would sit on the left in the National Assembly.
In France, a law prohibits the local population from naming their pig 'Napoleon'. We assume that they passed this law to prevent locals from misusing the name of the former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
There are around six deserted towns in France. These towns have no residents but they do have a mayor who takes care of the maintenance. Someone supposedly destroyed the villages during World War II.
The Louvre Museum in Paris is one of the most popular and largest museums in the world. There are an estimated 35,000 art pieces on display in the museum and around 460,000 art pieces in all total. The world-famous Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa are housed in the Louvre museum.
France is the largest country in terms of size in the European Union. France has a total land area of 213010.6 sq mi (551,695 sq km) and is twice the size of the United Kingdom and eight times the size of Ireland. To provide a comparison to other countries outside Europe, France is smaller than the state of Texas!
Instead of Rome, France could have been the catholic church's headquarters. Pope Clement moved the catholic church headquarters to Avignon, France, from Rome but it was resinated back to Rome in 1377.
After the Renaissance, chateaus were seen as a work and leisure place instead of the usual stronghold. Because of this, there are around 40,000 abandoned chateaus in France.
France is one of the most historically rich countries in the world and this is further proved with the presence of 41 UNESCO heritage sites throughout the country.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our French history facts, then why not take a look at French Canadian facts or facts about French-speaking countries?
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