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European Kingdoms

Western Europe


France (Franks)

The territory which today forms France had its earliest periods of human habitation in various Early Cultures. The modern nation state emerged from what had been the Celtic territory known to the Romans as as Gaul or Gallia. The Germanic Franks migrated into north-eastern France and what is now Belgium during the fourth and fifth centuries as the Roman empire was fading, eventually becoming the chief power in the region.

Domination of all of what became modern France followed in the early sixth century, as the Merovingian Franks replaced the Roman empire and the Visigoth kingdom as the main authority in Gaul. That domination was subsequently extended to cover almost all of Western Europe under the Carolingian kings. By the end of the ninth century their empire started to break up. It was officially divided in AD 888, at which point modern France could be said to have truly been created.

MapSalii / Salian Franks (Germanic)

The Germanic tribes seem to have originated in a homeland in southern Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway, with the Jutland area of northern Denmark, along with a very narrow strip of Baltic coastline). They had been settled here for over two thousand years following the Indo-European migrations. The Germanic ethnic group began as a division of the western edge of late proto-Indo-European dialects around 3300 BC, splitting away from a general westwards migration to head towards the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea. By the time the Germanic tribes were becoming key players in the politics of Western Europe in the last two centuries BC, the previously dominant Celts were on the verge of being conquered and dominated by Rome. They had already been pushed out of northern and Central Europe by a mass of Germanic tribes which were steadily carving out a new homeland.

The Franks originated in Scandinavia and the northernmost limits of mainland Europe, although later legend claimed a homeland for them in the region of the Black Sea. They gradually migrated to the Rhine and were first documented when they were to be found occupying territory on the Lower Rhine valley (on the east bank, in what is now northern Belgium and the southern Netherlands), during the third century (the Period of Migration).

The Franks were one of several West Germanic federations, and were formed of elements of the Ampsivarii, Batavi, Bructeri, Canninefates, Chamavi, Chatti, Chattuarii, Cherusci, Dulgubnii, Salians, Sicambri, Tencteri, Tubantes, and Usipetes. At least the Bructeri, Tencteri, Tubantes, and Usipetes coalesced to form the Ripaurian Franks who remained on the east bank of the Rhine. The majority of this large group of tribes were living along the Rhine's northern borders in what was, by the third century AD, becoming known as Francia. The Salian (Western) Franks led the influx of Frankish and sub-Frankish peoples into the Roman empire from across the Rhine, where they were treated as foederati. They formed a kingdom that was acknowledged by the Romans in AD 358, although in reality it was a confederation of smaller states which were formed along the line of their advance, such as at Cambrai and Yssel.

The Frankish realm underwent many partitions and changes of border, since the Franks divided their property among surviving sons and, lacking a broad sense of a res publica, they primarily conceived of their realm as a large swathe of private property. By the fifth century the Hetware (Hætwere) were closely associated with the Franks, perhaps following them down from the lower Netherlands where they seem originally to have been associated with the Frisii. The Lesser Frisians mentioned by Tacitus seem also to have migrated southwards with the Franks. This new 'kingdom' within rich Roman territory must have been quite enticing.

Although at least three main branches of Franks were apparent by the fifth century, the only branch which seems to have retained a genealogy of any length was that of the Sicambrian Franks. They and the Salians eventually merged into a single Frankish entity, but for a long time during the formation of the Franks they were two separate and powerful groups. Their name - Frank - simply meant 'free'.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, from The Oxford History of England: Anglo-Saxon England, Sir Frank Stenton, from the Encyclopaedia of European Peoples, Carl Waldman & Catherine Mason, from The Barbarians: Warriors & Wars of the Dark Ages, Tim Newark (Blandford Press, 1985), from Histories, Annals, Tacitus, and from External Link: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars.)

c.AD 50

There is an invasion across the Rhine into the Roman empire by a Teutonic people whom later Roman writers name the Chamavi [tribe or group] of the Franci (of which West Germanic confederation they are later a part). This may be part of the migratory movement which later finds them in the lands of the Bructeri, as documented by Tacitus in AD 98. It may also be a trigger for the Roman clearance of this region in AD 58, which leads to conflict between Rome and the Ampsivarii.

Hückelhoven on the Rhine
The crossing of the Rhine by the Chamavi marks their first appearance in history, and perhaps also marks their first arrival in the lower Rhine


A group of Franks take advantage of a weakened Roman empire and penetrate as far as Tarragona in modern Spain. They plague this region for about a decade before Roman forces subdue them and expel them from Roman territory. Seemingly it is Emperor Postumus and his Imperium Galliarum which manages this rather than Rome.

By this time the Franks are first being documented when they are to be found occupying territory on the Lower Rhine valley (on the east bank, in what is now northern Belgium and the southern Netherlands). They are one of several West Germanic federations, and are formed of elements of the Ampsivarii, Batavi, Bructeri, Chamavi, Chatti, Chattuarii, Cherusci, Salian Franks, Sicambri, Tencteri, Tubantes, and Usipetes. Most of these peoples live along the Rhine's northern borders in what is becoming known as Francia. The fortunes of all of these tribes are now tied to the greater Frankish collective.


The Salii, or Salian Franks, seek Roman protection on the Batavian island after being expelled from their own lands by the Saxons. The Roman acceptance of their settlement there marks the beginning of the end for the Batavi as an identifiably separate people.

? - 306

Ascarich / Acaric

Frankish leader (of the Bructeri?). Executed.

? - 306


Co-ruler whose existence is uncertain. Executed.


Frankish leader Ascarich and his co-ruler lead a raid across the Rhine into Roman southern Gaul, apparently breaking a previous agreement. They are defeated, captured, and executed in an amphitheatre by the simple means of allowing them and their followers to be torn apart by animals to the applause of the crowd. They are the first Frankish leaders to have their names recorded for posterity. It is possible that an invasion of the territory of the Bructeri in 308 is also part of the retaliation against the Frankish confederation for this attack.

Emperor Constantine the Great
Emperor Constantine the Great is perhaps best known for confirming Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire, but he also did a great deal to stabilise the empire and ensure that it survived into the next century

fl 354 - 380


Frankish leader who served in the Roman army in Gaul.


Lodged in Toxandria, the former tribal lands of the Ambivariti, the Salian Franks and their Batavi allies are accepted into the northern Roman empire by Julian the Apostate. They are granted land in return for military service, and Salian formations are added to the Roman army lists in the form of the seniores and juniores. Also in Gaul is Mallobaudes, another Frankish chief, but one of unknown origin. Between 354 and at least 380, he serves in the Roman army, helping to defeat the Alemanni in 378 and killing Macrian, king of the Alemannic tribe of the Bucinobantes in 380.


From this point, rival Frankish divisions begin to be recorded, and the Sicambrian Franks themselves emerge more fully into history. The Salian Franks prove to be strong rivals to the Sicambri, although it appears that both branches soon merge under the Salian banner and follow a single, semi-legendary leader in the form of Merovée. The Ripuarian Franks are also recorded, although they are relatively marginal, remaining on the east bank of the Rhine.

fl 388


Salian Frank.

fl 388 / 392


Salian Frank.

fl 388 - 390s?

Marcomer / Marcomir

Brother. Salian Frank. Father of Pharamond?


Gendobaud, Sunno and Marcomer lead an invasion of the Roman provinces of Germania and Belgia. Their warriors break through the limes, destroying farmlands and killing people around the city of Cologne, before retreating across the border with their booty. Roman General Quintinus mounts a reprisal raid across the border but his troops are surrounded and beaten, and very few of them make it back.

A later source suggests that after the death of Sunno, Marcomer attempts to unite the Frankish tribes by proposing his own son, Pharamond as the first king, or perhaps 'high king' would be more appropriate. His success or failure is unrecorded, but in the early fifth century, Pharamond is certainly regarded as the first (high) king of the Franks.

fl 388 - 400s

Gendobaud / Gendobald

Son of Dagobert? Salian Frank.


In the late fourth century, Sulpicius Alexander writes a history of Germanic tribes that has since been lost but which has been quoted by Gregory of Tours. One of those quotes relates that Arbogast, the Frankish-born magister militum of the Western Roman empire, attacks the Franks across the Rhine, wreaking havoc amongst them. While there he sights on a distant hill a force containing Ampsivarii and Chatti under the control of Marcomer, but the two forces do not engage.


By now the Franks are settled on the west bank of the Rhine in minor 'kingdoms' which cover areas of north-eastern Gaul, along with some groups of Suevi. They defend the Rhine against invading fellow Germans and remain a strong force in support of Rome for most of the century, and eventually, under Clovis, even strive to replace Rome as a European empire-builder.

During the crossing of the Vandali (to avoid the Huns), the Franks attack this apparent threat to their own position. The Alani, also crossing the Rhine, come to the aid of the Vandali and save them from destruction.

409 - 426


FeatureFrankish leader. First 'high king' of Salian Franks.

fl c.410s

Chlodio (V)

Salian Frank.

fl 417

Merovée / Merovech

Frankish leader. Salian Frank. Semi-legendary.

418 - 486

Roman government in the area centred on Soissons is maintained, even though the region becomes more and more isolated from Italy and surrounded by Frankish states to the north-east and by the Visigoths to the south. From 461 it becomes fully independent in all but name.


According to Roman historian Prosper Tiro, Pharamond (probable son of Marcomer) leads his people across the Rhine to settle on the west bank, accompanied by the Chattuarii. As there are already Franks there (perhaps Sicambrian Franks), Pharamond's arrival could spell the first presence of the Salian Franks inside the Roman empire, leaving the Ripuarian Franks on the east bank (of which the Chattuarii may be a part).

fl 422

Theudemer / Theudemeres

Frankish leader. Details unknown.


Theudemeres is the son of the Roman commander, Ricimer (Richomeres). A Roman army enters Gaul, possibly in retaliation for Frankish support for the Roman usurper, Jovinus. Theudemeres and his mother Ascyla (Ricimer's wife) are executed by the sword.

426 - 448

Chlodion / Clodian / Chlodio (VI) the Hairy

FeaturePharamond's son. King of Salian Franks of Cambrai.


The Franks on the Rhine are defeated by Romans under the command of Aetius.

Roman town gates of Metz
The fairly insignificant Mosan Franks settled the area between Soissons and the Alemanni, taking the Roman town at Moguntiacum (Metz or Mainz) the gates of which are shown here


Gregory of Tours mentions Chlodio as the first king to start the conquest of Gaul by taking Camaracum (Cambrai) and Tournai in north-eastern Gaul (modern Belgium), and expanding the border of Frankish territory south to the Somme. This probably takes some time, and Sidonius relates that the Roman general Aëtius had surprised them at their first attempt in 431 and had driven them back. However, it marks the beginning of Francia as a settled kingdom with a foot on both sides of the Rhine.

448 - 458

Merovée / Merovech / Meerwig the Young

Son of Chlodian. King of the Salian Franks of Yssel (Cambrai).


To preserve his new domains, Merovech fights alongside the Visigoths on the side of Rome to halt the advance of the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (otherwise known as the Battle of Chalons, in the former territory of the Catalauni tribe of Celts). Merovech also becomes the founding figure of the Merovingian dynasty of kings, marking a sudden rise in Frankish dominance in the region, probably to the detriment of their Frisian neighbours to the north.


The Ripuarian Franks, less cohesive than their cousins on the west bank of the Rhine, capture the Roman city of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (modern Cologne, at the heart of the Rhineland) and make it their capital. The Ubii people who have occupied the region for around five hundred years are subsumed by the Ripuarian Franks.

458 - 481

Childeric I

Son. King of the Salian Franks of Yssel (bordering Frisia).

463 - 481

Childeric becomes an important ally for the Roman domain of Soissons on his southern border, probably as foederati. Aegidius helps him defeat the Visigoths in 463, the same year in which Childeric also dislodges a Saxon attempt to settle on the northern Gaulish coast at Angers. Childeric's death sees his son, Clovis succeed him to forge the main body of Franks into one Merovingian kingdom, killing off rival Minor Kings.


The Franks conquer the former Roman capital of Gaul, Trier (Augusta Treverorum). The city had already been sacked by Franks (probably in 413 and 421) and by the Huns in 451. As a result of the conflicts of this period, Trier's population decreases from an estimated 80,000 in the fourth century to 5,000 at the beginning of the sixth century. Its last Roman ruler is Arbogast, descendant of the man of the same name who had been magister militum under Western Emperor Valentinian II in the fourth century. Until its fall it had probably been one of a string of relatively friendly states stretching from Armorica to the Rhine in the mid-fifth century (including Soissons and the Franks themselves).

Merovingian Kings of the Franks
AD 481 - 751

The Frankish leader, Clovis, was the son of the Salian Frankish King Childeric of Yssel and his Thuringian wife, Basina. He succeeded his father in AD 481 as the Frankish ruler or Camaracum (Cambrai) and Tournai in north-eastern Gaul (now in Belgium). The exact chronology of his reign is imprecise, although the general events can be placed in an order which makes sense. What is certainly clear is that he consolidated a single Frankish kingdom which he was able to hand on to his sons. Before then he converted the Franks to Christianity in 497 and ruthlessly eliminated rival Minor Kings, uniting the Salian Franks with the Ripuarian (Eastern) Franks (by AD 509). All the time he was expanding his influence southwards from the Tournai region. He took the Western Roman province of Belgica Secunda in 486 (better known by this time as the enlargened domain of Soissons), the territories of the Alemanni in 496, the Burgundians in 500, and the Visigoths in 507. The Franks quickly became the dominant Germanic tribe not only in Gaul but throughout central and Western Europe. The territory that forms modern France and Germany, and south to central Italy, soon became known as Francia.

The Pactus Legis Salicae (Law of the Salian Franks) was a written code which combined customary law, Roman written law, Christian ideals, and royal edicts, and this most likely originated during the reign of Clovis. It had a strong influence on what would happen to the Frankish kingdom over the next few centuries. Another more immediate influence was the family that Clovis left behind him. He had a son prior to his official marriage, Theuderich, although his mother's identity is not known. He later married the Catholic Burgundian princess, Clotilda, and had five children by her. By the time of his death in AD 511 he had built an extensive kingdom which could be divided amongst his sons according to his own codified Salic Law. Theuderich gained Austrasia (the modern Netherlands, Austria, and northern Germany), while the others commanded in Neustria (now northern France), Burgundy (by 534), Orleans (upper central France), and eventually Provence too.

Despite being the standard form of reference, the use of 'Clovis' for this remarkable and ruthless king's name is not accurate. Instead it is the Latin mangling of his actual name. The usual reconstruction in Frankish is given as Chlodowig, but this may be inaccurate too. The 'd' may be a voiced 'th', and the final 'g' is probably a German 'ch' or an English 'ch'. This is West Germanic, a dialect close to Anglo-Saxon, so the soft 'ch' is the most likely option. This gives a much more likely pronunciation of Chlodowich.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Ethnology of Germany Part 3: The Migration of the Saxons, Henry H Howorth (Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 7, 1878), from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from Chronicon, Marius, from the Chronicle of Fredegar / Latin Chronicle (author unknown but the work has been attributed to Fredegar since the sixteenth century thanks to his name being written in the margin), from the Passio of St Killian, from The Barbarians: Warriors & Wars of the Dark Ages, Tim Newark (Blandford Press, 1985), from Atlas historique mondial, Georges Duby (Larousse, 1978), and from Genealogy of the Kings of France, Claude Wenzler (Editions Ouest-France, Rennes, 2008).)

481 - 511

Clovis I / Chlodwig / Chlodovech

Son of Childeric. Founded kingdom. m Chlothild.


Clovis moves quickly to occupy the remnants of northern Gaul which are still outside his kingdom. To achieve perhaps his greatest conquest in this period he he assembles an army which includes at least one allied Frankish Minor King, Ragnachar. At the subsequent Battle of Soissons, Clovis conquers the last of the Roman territory to be governed by Syagrius in the form of the administration of Soissons. Syagrius seeks refuge with the Visigothic king Alaric II, but is betrayed, captured, and sent to Clovis, who has him executed in 487. Clovis moves the Frankish capital to Paris, former capital of the Gallic Parisii, although two dates are offered for this move, the other being 508.

Map of Western Europe between AD 481-511
With the accession of Clovis, son of Childeric I of the Salian Franks, the Germanic occupiers of north-eastern Gaul had found a king who would change their fortunes out of all recognition (click or tap on map to view full sized)


Clovis achieves victory over a small group of Thuringians who border the Franks to the east. By this stage he has also conquered all of the Frankish Minor Kings west of the Maas, leaving just the Ripuarian Franks independent under Sigobert the Lame. The town of Blois is also captured by Clovis, probably the eastern limits of territory occupied by the Vannetais Britons within Gaul (Chronicles of Anjou). The Breton-controlled city of Nantes is captured around the same time, and is used as a headquarters for a 'Breton March', designed to contain the Bretons to its west. Vannetais now largely assumes the more traditional borders of Brittany.

496 - 505

The Franks conquer the Alemanni at the Battle of Tolbiac (496), although the victory is a narrow one and Clovis is aided by fellow Frankish Minor Kings, including Sigobert the Lame (the victory is possibly the cause of Clovis accepting baptism in the same year). Clovis also expands his kingdom to the Loire and is able to defeat the last of the allies of Soissons. In 500 he inflicts a defeat on the Burgundians, and by 505, the Alemanni have been absorbed into the Frankish kingdom.


In alliance with the related royal Frankish house at Cologne, Clovis defeats the Visigoths, forcing them out of Gaul and securing a dominant Frankish kingdom in their place. Saxon pressure from the north has slowly been forcing the Frankish peoples southwards from their original territory around Cologne and Cambrai, so that the northern border now lies along the Somme, giving them the same border as the former domain of Soissons. In the following year, Clovis makes the city of Paris of the Parisii his capital, although two dates are offered for this move, the other being 486.

509 - 510

The Ostrogoths intervene at Narbonne, driving out both Visigoths and Burgundians. This forces the Franks and Burgundians to withdraw from the Mediterranean coast. Clovis mounts a minor campaign to wipe out some of his rival Frankish Minor Kings, including Sigobert the Lame and his son, and Chararic and his son, annexing their territories.

Map of Western Europe at the death of Clovis in AD 511
Baptism of Clovis in Reims: http://www.museehistoiredefrance.fr/index.php?option=com_oeuvre&view=detail&cid=205
The baptism of Clovis in Reims in 496 made him the only barbarian Christian king and won him increased support from his former Roman subjects in Gaul. This romantic recreation of the event was by François-Louis Dejuinne (1786-1844), completed in 1837, while above that is a map showing the state of the Frankish kingdom at Clovis' death in 511 (click or tap on map to view full sized)


On the death of Clovis, the kingdom is divided between his four sons, each ruling Austrasia, Orleans, Paris, and Soissons. Chlothar, king of Soissons is nominally the senior king of the Franks (Chlothar is also credited with establishing the basis of early Frankish monarchy in Gaul). Three other Frankish regions, Bordeaux, Aquitaine and Auvergne lie to the south of Orleans. Bordeaux is held by the king of Paris, while Auvergne is part of the territory of Austrasia. Who holds Aquitaine is not known, but it seems likely that it is Frankish vassals who are contesting with the Visigoths to secure the region. The commander of the Breton March is entirely unknown at this time.

511 - 561

Chlothar / Clotaire I the Old

Fourth son. King of Soissons, and of all Franks (558-561).


Following the death of his brother, Chlodomer of Orleans, Chlothar marries his widow and has two of his children killed, although the third escapes. Much of Orleans is annexed by Childebert I, king of Paris, but Chlothar takes Turonensis (Tours, former capital of the Turones tribe) and Pictavia (Poitiers, former capital of the Pictavii but now home to the Taifali).


The Franks of Austrasia conquer the Thuringians and apparently rule the region directly, without appointing any sub-kings. This seems to be the point at which Franks also start to settle territory between Alemannia and the Thuringians themselves, in time creating a region that is known as Franconia. Portions of the newly-conquered Thuringian territory are lost to the Saxons, probably to the Continental Saxons, but there also seems to be a reverse migration of Germanics from the east coast of Britain, where the recent native victory at Mons Badonicus has cut them off from the acquisition of new lands. These returning Angles and Saxons appear to be given land in Thuringia by King Theuderich.

534 - 537

The Burgundians are conquered by Chlothar in 534, and he incorporates them directly under his rule. Provence is won in 537, apparently from the Burgundians shortly after they take it from the Ostrogoths.


The Bavarians are conquered, and Chlothar inherits the kingdom of Austrasia on the death of his nephew, Theudebald, briefly reunifying it with Soissons until his death. By this stage, he is clearly the most powerful of the surviving Frankish kings and the superiority of Soissons is fully established.

558 - 561

Paris and Orleans are drawn back under Chlothar's control until his death, making him king of all the Franks. Around this time, Clothar also kills Conomor, prince of the Bretons of Poher. Following his own death, then his domains are divided between his sons as per Frankish law. Charibert gains Paris and Orleans as Neustria, Sigisbert I gains Austrasia, Chilperic I gains Soissons, and Chlothar's third son, Gunthchramn - by his Thuringian wife Ingunda, daughter of King Baderich - gains the Burgundian kingdom. The partition unleashes further internecine rivalries and conflict.

561 - 584

Chilperic I

Son. King of Soissons, & Neustria (from 567). Assassinated.

573 - 575

Rivalry between Sigisbert of Austrasia and Chilperic flares up, and not for the first time. The two go to war, with Sigisbert winning Poitiers and Touraine, and much of the kingdom, before being assassinated.


Chilperic sends an army to fight Waroch of Bro Erech along the Vilaine. The Frankish army consists of units from Anjou, Bayeux, Maine, Poitou, and Touraine. The Baiocassenses, the 'men from Bayeux', are Saxons. They in particular are routed by the Bretons over the course of three days of fighting. Waroch is forced to submit in the end, and pays homage by sending his son as a hostage and agreeing to pay an annual tribute. He subsequently breaks the latter promise, but Chilperic's dominion over the Bretons (or at least their eastern borders) is relatively secure as evidenced by Venantius Fortunatus' celebration of it in a poem.

584 - 629

Chlothar / Clotaire II the Young

Son. King of Soissons & Neustria.

587 - 590

Gunthchramn of Burgundy compels Waroch of Bro Erech to renew his oath in writing and demands a thousand solidi in compensation for raiding Nantes. That compensation has not been paid by 588, even though Waroch has promised it both to Gunthchramn and Chlothar II of the Franks. In 589 or 590, Gunthchramn sends an expedition against Waroch under the command of Beppolem and Ebrachain. Ebrachain is an enemy of Fredegund, queen consort to the late King Chilperic, and it is she who sends the Saxons of Bayeux to aid Waroch.

Beppolem fights Waroch alone for three days before dying, at which point Waroch attempts to flee to the Channel Islands. Ebrachain destroys his ships and forces him to accept renewed peace, the renewal of his oath, and surrendering a nephew as a hostage. Despite all of this, the Bretons retain their spirit of independence and refuse to be cowed by the powerful Franks.


The Germanic tribe of the Warini, who are located in the modern region of Mecklenburg in north-eastern Germany, are crushed by the Franks, apparently so completely that their remnants are later absorbed by incoming Slavs.


With the acquisition of Austrasia and Burgundy, the Frankish empire is reunified under Chlothar II's rule. Neustria and Soissons are combined to form its heartland. Austrasia becomes semi-independent again in 622.


Chlothar II gives Austrasia to his son, Dagobert I, effectively granting the kingdom semi-autonomy in repayment for the support of its nobles, most notably Pepin I, mayor of the palace of Austrasia. The Saxons have been paying tribute to the Franks at the rate of four hundred cows a year until this year (alternatively shown as 631). The Liber Historiae Francorum (of AD 727) and the Gesta Dagoberti (of the 830s) both describe Berthoald's revolt against Frankish authority, beginning with the defeat of Dagobert. Clothar is forced to intervene and Berthoald is slain in battle. The Saxons pay a heavy price for their revolt, with many being killed in retaliation.


Dagobert I rapidly secures Neustria on his father's death, preventing his half-brother Charibert II from gaining it. Charibert instead is given Aquitaine. With that, Dagobert becomes sole king of the Franks, and can now concentrate his efforts against the Carinthian Slavs.

629 - 638

Dagobert I

Son of Chlothar II. King of Austrasia, Neustria & Burgundy.

631 - 632

Around 631, Duke Chrodebert of Alemannia participates in Dagobert's assault on the realm of the Carinthian Slavs to the east. The Alemannic host (exercitus Alamannorum, in the words of the Chronicle of Fredegar) is one of three columns formed by the Austrasian army (exercitus regnum universum Austrasiorum). While the Alemanni win a battle at an unknown location and their Lombard allies are successful against the Slavs in the Julian Alps, the main Austrasian Frankish army under Dagobert is defeated at the Battle of Wogastisburg.

Stymied in his attempt to expand eastwards, in the following year, Dagobert is probably behind the assassination of Charibert II of Aquitaine and that of his infant son in 632. The kingdom then passes to him. In the same year Dagobert leads an invasion force into Zaragoza in the Vascones territory of Iberia to support Sisenand of the Visigoths in his revolt against King Swintilla. The combined resistance against Swintilla is successful. Dagobert soon conquers the Vascones themselves.


Dagobert I has managed to re-establish a strong and stable sovereignty. After his death his sons once more tear the empire apart. Sigisbert III in Austrasia, and Clovis II in Neustria and Burgundy. They abandon power to the kingdoms' great dignitaries, in particular the mayors of the palace who had started as heads of the royal household and now hold the reigns of power. Shortly afterwards, perhaps encouraged by this apparent lack of control within the Frankish kingdom, the Thuringians manage to re-establish their independence.

638 - 656

Clovis II

Son. King of Neustria & Burgundy.


According to Fredegar's Chronicle, it is Leutfred II, duke of Alemannia, who now murders Otto, mayor of the palace of Austrasia. By doing so he places Grimoald I in the position for his overlord, Sigisbert III, strengthening the role of the Carolingian mayors of the palace.


Dagobert II

Son of Sigisbert III. King of Austrasia.

656 - 661

Childebert Adoptivus

Son of Grimoald, mayor of the palace of Austrasia.

656 - 665

Upon the death of Clovis II his spirited queen, the Sussex-born former slave Balthildis, acts as regent for their son, Chlothar III. She also becomes a campaigner against the slave trade. She is ousted from the regency in 665 and possibly retreats to Chelles Convent near Paris, of which she has been a generous benefactor.

656 - 665


Wife of Clovis II and regent for her son, Clothar III.

661 - 662

Chlothar / Clotaire III

Son of Clovis II. King of Neustria & Burgundy, & Franks (661).

662 - 675

Childerich / Childeric II

Son of Clovis II. King of Austrasia. Assassinated hunting.

675 - 691

Theuderich / Thierry III

Brother. King of Neustria, Burgundy, & Austrasia.

680 - 714

Pepin II of Herstal ('the Fat')

Grandson of Pepin I of Austrasia. Carolingian palace mayor.

689 - 719

The Franks conquer the kingdom of Friesland which borders Neustria to the north.


With the accession of Clovis IV, Merovingian power begins a downward spiral. Clovis is the first of the fainéants, the do-nothing kings, the others being Childebert III, Dagobert III, Chilperic II, Chlothar IV, and Theuderich IV. Instead, power is increasingly assumed by the Carolingian mayors of the palace, with Pepin of Herstal fully imposing his authority from 680.

c.700 - 709

During his short period of office as duke of Alemannia, Godefred fights a war against the mayor of the palace, Pepin of Herstal, over the duke's de facto independence. The situation remains unresolved when Godefred dies in 709. However, his sons, Lanfred and Theodobald, have the support of Pepin and succeed him as dukes of Alemannia (perhaps following a short delay).

691 - 695

Clovis IV (III)

Son of Theuderich III.

691 - 695

With the acquisition of Neustria and Austrasia by his father, the Frankish empire remains fully reunited under Clovis IV, although he exercises little power himself as the mayor of the palace, Pepin of Herstal, holds the reigns. Clovis is succeeded by his brother, Childebert III, and the empire also remains united under Childebert's son, Dagobert III. Both are dominated by the mayor of the palace.

695 - 711

Childebert III

Brother. King of Neustria, Burgundy, & Austrasia.


Bishop Willibrord of Utrecht in Frisia is given land by the mayor of the palace, Pepin II of Herstal, at Echternach, at which he founds a monastery to act as his new base. He is ultimately buried there, in the tenth century crypt of the church that bears his name. The territory is within the Frankish empire, but it ultimately forms part of the county of Luxemburg.

711 - 715

Dagobert III

Son. King of Neustria, Burgundy, & Austrasia.


The death of the powerful mayor of the palace, Pepin II, is the signal for bitter internecine warfare between his grandsons, their sponsors, and his illegitimate son, Charles Martel.

714 - 741

Charles Martel (the Hammer)

Son of Pepin II. Carolingian mayor of the palace.

715 - 721

Daniel Chilperich / Chilperic II

Son of Childerich II. King of Neustria.

718 - 719

Chilperich is initially protected by the mayor of the palace, Charles Martel, but is later abandoned in favour of Chlothar IV, son of Theuderich III. Charles Martel proclaims Chlothar king of Austrasia, dividing the empire for the first time since 691. In the civil war that follows, Chilperich is defeated and surrenders, handing Charles Martel unquestioned control over the empire. Chlothar apparently dies in 719, so Charles Martel keeps the defeated Chilperich as his figurehead king. The distractions of war allow the Frisians to declare their independence, while the independent Thuringians are re-conquered and entirely subsumed.

721 - 737

Theuderich / Thierry IV of Chelles

Son of Dagobert III. King of Neustria, Burgundy, & Austrasia.


Charivius, son of Chrotgar, duke of Le Mans, seizes the revenues of the diocese of Le Mans and, upon the death of Bishop Herlemund, takes control of the see, appointing his own son as bishop. Charivius is also the first-known dux Cenomannici (duke of the Cenomani, formerly a division of the Aulerci confederation of tribes in north-western Gaul), clearly with a broader remit than that of the dukes of Le Mans to hold the Breton March.


Effectively leading the Regnum Francorum (kingdom of the Franks) himself, the Carolingian mayor of the palace, Charles Martel, defeats an army of 90,000 Saracens at Tours in France, ending the northwards expansion of the Islamic empire through Iberia and into Aquitaine in southern France.

Charles Martel at Tours
Charles Martel defeats the Moors at the Battle of Tours


Duke Hunald of Aquitaine refuses to acknowledge the authority of Charles Martel, so the latter marches against him. Bordeaux is taken, as is Blaye, but Hunald is allowed to remain in Aquitaine after swearing to remain loyal.

737 - 743

There is a seven year interregnum during which the Carolingian mayors govern the empire. So sure are they now of their power that they don't feel the need for a figurehead Merovingian king on the throne. By 737, Iberian Navarre is formed as a Frankish march county in the face of the Islamic invasion of the peninsula.

741 - 747


Son of Charles. Carolingian mayor of the palace. Abdicated.

741 - 751

Pepin III the Short

Brother. Last mayor of the palace. Title abolished.

743 - 751

Childerich / Childeric III le Fainéant

Son of Chilperich II. King of Neustria, Burgundy, & Austrasia.

743 - 744

The mayors of the palace, Pepin the Short and Carloman, march first against the Bavarians and then the Saxons to bring them both back into line under Frankish domination. Finally, the duchy of Alemannia also has to be brought under control, with excessive violence being used to do so.


With the blessing of Pope Zachary, Pepin III, the Carolingian mayor of the palace deposes Childeric and the Merovingian royal house and takes control of the empire (Childeric is sent to a monastery and dies in 755). Pepin is crowned at Soissons in 752 and Saint-Denis in 754, and thereafter benefits from the legitimacy acquired by the creator of the Frankish kingdom, Clovis I. Neustria, Austrasia, and Burgundy are merged permanently within the empire, and the former two names fade from common usage.

755 - ?


Son of Childerich III. Last direct heir to the Merovingian crown.


With the eventual death of Theuderic, whose life is all but unknown in any detail, the Merovingian line of descent ends and the Carolingians have unquestioned control of the kingdom.

Carolingian (Frankish) Empire
AD 751 - 840

The early eighth century saw the rapid diminution of Merovingian power and influence. Instead it was their deputies, the Carolingian mayors of the palace, who exercised real authority throughout the Frankish kingdom. A palace usurpation took place, with the full backing of the Pope, in which the mayor, Pepin III was able to send the last Merovingian king to a monastery and become the first Carolingian king of the Franks in his place. Not a notable general, Pepin nevertheless remained undefeated in battle, but it was his son, Charles, later known as Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, who really reversed Frankish fortunes and created a vast European empire.

(Additional information from The Annals of Fulda (Manchester Medieval Series, Ninth-Century Histories, Volume II) Timothy Reuter (Trans) 1992, from Vita Karoli Magni (Life of Charles the Great), Einhard, from the Royal Frankish Annals (author unknown), and from External Links: The Latin Library, and the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and The Annals of St Bertin, Janet L Nelson (Translator, Manchester University Press, 1991).)

751 - 768

Pepin III

Former mayor of the palace. Nominal overlord in Italy (755).

755 - 756

The exarchate of Ravenna is briefly re-captured by the resurgent Lombards, but the following year the Carolingian Franks recapture the territory. The ex-Eastern Roman exarchate is handed back to Rome as the Papal States and northern Italy becomes part of the Carolingian empire.

Daufer of the Lombards
Daufer, or Desiderius, last native king of the Lombards, achieved the final conquest of Ravenna only to lose the entire kingdom to the Carolingian Franks

760 - 768

Pepin III conquers Aquitaine between these dates. Following his death, the kingdom is divided between his two sons, with Charlemagne gaining parts of Aquitaine, plus Neustria, Austrasia, and the Germanic dependencies, and Carloman gaining the remainder: Soissons, the Massif Central, the Languedoc, the rest of Aquitaine, Provence, Burgundy, southern Austrasia, Alsace and Alemannia.

768 - 814

Charles the Great / Charlemagne

Son. King of West Francia. Frankish emperor (800-814).

768 - 771

Carloman I

Brother. King of East Francia.

768 - 769

After leading an abortive uprising against increasingly powerful Carolingian rule in Francia, Duke Hunald of Aquitaine is captured thanks to the dislike of him by his neighbour, Lupus, duke of Gascony.


Carloman's death allows Charlemagne to inherit his territories at the expense of Carloman's son, Pepin, and the Frankish territories are fully reunited as one empire. Charlemagne proceeds to expand the empire over the following years, fighting the Lombards (from 771), the Saxons (777-804), the Arabs in Iberia (778), the Bavarians, and the Avars (791-796), whom he virtually exterminates.


According to the Royal Frankish Annals, the lands of the Angrivarii are conquered in this year by Charlemagne after laying siege to the Frankish court at Fritzlar. The Angrian commanders conclude a separate peace agreement with the Carolingian empire near Bückeburg, removing themselves from the destructive Carolingian-Saxon wars to follow, while the Saxons themselves are forced to accept incorporation as a Frankish march (border territory).


Charlemagne campaigns against the Islamic empire in Iberia. Tradition asserts that he grants the Andorran people a charter in return for their help in fighting the Moors of the Islamic empire, possibly following this campaign. However, while the Frankish army is returning northwards, Charlemagne's rearguard is cut off and attacked by rebellious Basques at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. The commander of the Frankish forces is Roland, military governor of the Breton March. He and his men stand their ground, falling in such valiant fashion that the example is later incorporated into the knightly code of chivalry (Roland is immortalised in The Song of Roland).

Charlemagne unified all the Frankish states under one ruler and created an empire which stretched deep into modern Germany, something the Romans had never managed - but this vast domain was too big to endure long as a single entity after his death


Pepin (born Carloman but renamed in this year by his father, Charlemagne), is given command of the Italian portion of the empire after the successful conquest of the Lombards. Charlemagne's youngest son, Louis 'the Pious', is given Aquitaine.

787 - 788

The looming threat of attack against the principality of Benevento by Charlemagne from the north of Italy is now realised. Charlemagne advances into southern Italy and besieges Capua, an important town in Benevento's territory. Duke Arechi is pressured into accepting Frankish suzerainty, and from this point, Benevento begins to issue silver coinage alongside its traditional gold coins, a short-lived influence that is ended when Arechi's son gains the throne and re-establishes the full independence of the principality the following year.


Charlemagne leads an expedition against Dragovit, king of the Veleti on the west bank of the Oder, with the Pomeranians on the other side. Charlemagne defeats him and makes him a vassal in the only venture he makes into what are now Slavic lands.

791 - 796

Pepin of Italy marches a Lombard army into the Drava valley to ravage Pannonia, with Duke Eric of Friuli assisting him. This strike is a diversionary tactic so that Charlemagne is able to take his own forces along the Danube into Avar territory. He suffers the loss of most of his army's horses to an equine epidemic during the summer of 791, and some of his more recently-acquired subjects rebel. In 792 Charlemagne breaks off from his campaign to handle such a revolt by the Saxons, but Pepin and Eric continue to attack the Avars, taking their capital twice. The Avars are forced to submit in 796. The Saxon revolt, however, rumbles on until 803/4.

800 - 811

Charles 'the Younger'

Son of Charlemagne. King of West Francia under the empire.

806 - 814

By the Act of Thionville in 806, Charlemagne announces the division of his vast empire between his three sons. By 814, Pepin in Italy has already predeceased his father (810), as has Charles 'the Younger', dux Cenomannici of the Breton March and also king of West Francia under Charlemagne following the latter's assumption of the role of emperor (suffering a stroke in 811), so Louis 'the Pious' is crowned Frankish emperor at Aix-la-Chapelle.

Map of the Frankish Empire in AD 800
Under Charlemagne's leadership, the Franks greatly expanded their borders eastwards, engulfing tribal states, the Bavarian state and its satellite, Khorushka, and much of northern Italy, with the Avars now an eastern neighbour (click or tap on map to view full sized)

814 - 840

Louis I the Pious or Debonnair

I of the Frankish empire. Lost Croatia.

814 - 818

As emperor, Louis 'the Pious' holds authority over Italy as well as his many other domains. Bernard remains on the throne there, but as a vassal-to-be of Lothar, Louis' son. In 818, Bernard is implicated in a move to regain his full independence. He is captured by Louis and blinded, but dies in agony two days later. Louis replaces him on the Italian throne with Lothar. At the same time he is forced to campaign against the Bretons to ensure that the empire does not fragment now that Charlemagne is dead.

818 - 827

Three Slavic tribes rebel in 818 from their territories along the middle Danube in what recently had been Avar territory. The Abodrites, Braničevci, and Timočani oppose increasingly centralised Bulgarian suzerainty over them. They seek support from Louis 'the Pious', but he is reluctant to negotiate, so Khan Omurtag enforces his dominion with military victories in 826 and 827, and increased resources being added to the region.


The earliest European reference to a potential Rus Khaganate comes from the Frankish Annals of St Bertin. A group of Vikings, who call themselves 'Rhos' (Rus) have visited Constantinople around this year. Fearful of returning home via the steppe which would leave them vulnerable to attacks by the Magyars, they are returning via East Francia.

When questioned by the Emperor Louis 'the Pious' at Ingelheim, they inform him that their leader is known as chacanus (Latin for 'khagan'), and that they live in the north of what is now Russia (which probably means Aldeigja-Ladoga or early Novgorod). Their ancestral homeland, though, is amongst the Swedes.

840 - 843

Before his death, Louis, who is also duke of Alemannia, promulgates the Ordinatio Imperii in 817, proclaiming, despite the ancient Frankish custom of dividing territory between surviving sons, that his eldest son, Lothar, will be sole beneficiary of the imperial dignity and sole inheritor of the empire. By means of this he hopes to avoid the fragmentation of territory which so weakened the Merovingians. The new idea proves too much, provoking rebellions and rivalries between all four of Louis' sons which last until after the king's death. (One of the sons, Pepin I of Aquitaine, has already predeceased his father.)

Lothar initially claims overlordship over all three regions and Louis and Charles have to go to war to convince him to relent. The counties of the Spanish March all take sides during this period, with the powerful Bernard of Septimania, count of Barcelona (along with a large number of other marches and counties, including Agde, Béziers, Girona, Melgueil, Narbonne, Nîmes, Septimania, and Toulouse, capital of Aquitaine) siding with Pepin II of Aquitaine.

Opposing them in favour of Charles are Sunifred, count of Urgel (and Andorra) and Cerdanya, his brother Sunyer I, count of Empúries, their sons (who collectively are sometimes referred to as the Bellonid dynasty or the Bellonids), Ricwin, count of Nantes (killed in battle in 841), and Lambert II, also later count of Nantes.

Lothar does relent in 843, and the Treaty of Verdun confirms the official division of the empire between Charlemagne's surviving three grandsons, with rule over the empire as a whole being nominal. Lothar receives Middle Francia (the Rhine corridor, the kingdom of Burgundy, and Italy); Charles 'the Bald' receives Western Francia (France and the duchy of Burgundy), as well as holding onto Aquitaine; and Louis the German receives Eastern Francia (Germany, including Alemannia (Swabia), Bavaria, Khorushka, and Saxony, plus regions that are already emerging as Franconia and Thuringia).

Carolingian Kings of the Western Franks (France)
AD 840 - 987

The death of Louis I, Carolingian ruler of the Frankish empire, caused the break-up of that empire. Frankish law demanded that the territory be divided amongst Louis' sons, with Lothar receiving Middle Francia (formed of the Rhine corridor and Italy), Charles 'the Bald' receiving Western Francia (later to become France), along with the duchy of Burgundy, and Louis the German receiving Eastern Francia (later to become Germany, and including Alemannia (Swabia), Bavaria, Khorushka, and Saxony, plus regions that are already emerging as Franconia and Thuringia). Charles 'the Bald' was the younger son of Louis I and Judith of Bavaria, and under him the early French court became a brilliant centre of culture.

Charles 'the Bald' faced an immediate reversal of fortune in 843 along the Breton March. Fighting in support of him during the succession crisis of 840-843 had been is Lambert II, presumed heir of the county of Nantes, who felt somewhat aggrieved when Count Renaud of Herbauges was appointed count of Nantes instead of him. Lambert sided with Nominoë of Brittany, Renaud was killed trying to attack them, and Lambert gained his county as a Breton ally.

(Additional information by Geoffrey Tobin, and from Province and Empire: Brittany and the Carolingians, Julia M H Smith, part of The Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought series (1992), from Sword, Miter, and Cloister: Nobility and the Church in Burgundy, 980-1198, Constance Brittain Bouchard (New York 1987), from The Third Crusade: Richard the Lionhearted and Philip Augustus, Sidney Painter (in A History of the Crusades - The Later Crusades, 1189-1311, Kenneth M Setton, Robert Lee Wolff, & Harry W Hazard (Eds, University of Wisconsin Press, 1969)), and from External Link: History Extra.)

840 - 877

Charles II the Bald

Son of Louis I. Duke of Alemannia (829-833). FRE (875-877).

840 - 855

Lothar I of the Middle (Italian) Franks nominally rules the Frankish empire.

Map of the Frankish empire at the Treaty of Verdun AD 843
King Louis 'the Pious' of the Frankish empire attempted to leave the empire intact for his eldest son, Lothar, but the others rebelled at the idea. The treaty of Verdun in AD 843 confirmed the official division of the empire between Charlemagne's three surviving grandsons (click or tap on map to view full sized)


Paris is sacked by the army of the Danish Viking king, Ragnarr Lothbrok (father of Ivarr the Boneless and Halfdan, rulers in succession of the Viking kingdom of Dublin).

In the same year conflict with Brittany also rears its head. With the accession of Charles 'the Bald' (Charles-le-Chauve) to the throne of West Francia, Duke Nominoë of the Bretons has been acting entirely independently. Charles now sends an army to quell this upstart but it is defeated at Ballon, near Redon, and the ambitious Nominoë, not settling for only one victory, boldly goes on to conquer Rennes and Nantes, as well as the provinces of Maine and Anjou, both at the heart of the collapsing Breton March.

Breton territory has by now spread into Frankish lands where the Breton language is not spoken. It is from these victories that the history of the dukes of Brittany really begins. In order to gain even more freedom. Nominoë snatches Brittany from the authority of the archdiocese of Tours. Instead he founds the archdiocese of Dol, in order to establish a self-governing Breton church which can continue and support the traditions of the Bretons.

851 - 852

Charles 'the Bald', emperor of West Francia, king of Aquitaine, and duke of Burgundy, invades Brittany in 851 in order to depose what he sees as an affront to his authority in the form of the newly crowned King Erispoe. The Bretons, though, are more than capable of defending their territory and Charles is defeated at the Battle of Jengland on 22 August 851. In the following year he appoints Ranulph I as duke of Aquitaine to govern the region in his name.

855 - 875

Upon the death of Lothar I, Louis II of the Middle (Italian) Franks nominally rules the Frankish empire. The kingdom of Burgundy is further divided between his sons. Lothar II receives Lotharingia and northern (Upper) Burgundy, while Charles receives southern (Lower) Burgundy, which includes Lyon, Provence, and Vienne (former city of the Allobroges tribe), and which comes to be known as the kingdom of Provence.

856 - 862

Charles gives his daughter, Judith, in marriage to Aethulwulf of Wessex. In the same year Aethulwulf is forced to abdicate by his son, Aethelbald, and dies in 858. Aethelbald quickly marries his widowed stepmother but the marriage is annulled in 860. Judith returns home and elopes with Baldwin Iron Arm and Charles grants the couple the county of Flanders.

All this time, Danish Viking activity in the basin of the River Seine threatens Paris itself from a base on the Isle d'Oissel. They are chased off by Vikings on the Somme who have been paid by Charles 'the Bald' to turn gamekeeper. While Charles raises funds from his hapless subjects to pay for his new defenders, the Somme Vikings take the summer off to go raiding across the Channel, and it is likely that they are the raiders who meet a sticky end in Wessex in 860.


Brittany's resurgence and power at this time is recognised by Charles 'the Bald' of the Western Franks. He negotiates the Treaty of Entrammes with Salaun, admitting the fact that western Anjou is now part of Brittany and granting lay abbacy of Saint-Aubin in Angers to the Breton king. In return, Salaun pays tribute to the Frankish king.


The Treaty of Meerssen (or Mersen) arises due to the death of Lothar II of Lotharingia. His territory is subsequently divided fairly by his uncles under the terms of the treaty, those uncles being Louis the German of the Eastern Franks and Charles 'the Bald'. One territory which is affected by this arrangement is the diocese of Liège.

875 - 877

Charles II is crowned emperor of the Romans by Pope John VIII and thereafter nominally rules the Frankish empire and Italy. His son, Louis II, after revolting against his father, succeeds him with difficulty and proves a weak king. During his reign, the kingdom itself weakens, with local lords gaining much more power at the expense of the throne. Aquitaine remains part of West Francia but is soon reduced to the status of duchy.


The death of Louis the German, king of East Francia, results in his territory being divided between his three sons. This is something that he had already foreseen, and portions of territory had been appointed to each of them in 865. Now in a peaceful succession, Carloman inherits Bavaria and the Ostmark, Louis the Younger gains Franconia, Saxony, and Thuringia, while Charles 'the Fat' succeeds to Rhaetia and Alemannia (Swabia). As the oldest son, Carloman also retains de facto dominance over the Eastern Franks as a whole.

877 - 879

Louis II the Stammerer

Son. King of Aquitaine.

879 - 882

The sons of Louis II - Louis III and Carloman - rule the kingdom together, confronting Vikings on the Loire and in Normandy. On the death of Louis III, Carloman reigns alone.

879 - 882

Louis III

Son. Died.

879 - 884

Carloman II

Brother. Duke of Aquitaine. Became sole ruler.

881 - 888

Charles III 'the Fat' succeeds as titular head of the Frankish empire, holding the position as Emperor Charles III. He is crowned by Pope John VIII. In the following year, 882, Louis the Younger dies and Charles, as the last remaining of the three brothers, inherits his territories of Bavaria, Franconia, Saxony, and Thuringia, thereby reuniting East Francia following its division in 876.

Charles the Fat
Charles 'the Fat' (not necessarily living up to his descriptive sobriquet) welcomes messengers into his tent as titular head of the Frankish empire, as depicted in the fourteenth century Grandes Chroniques de France


The son of Louis III is Charles the Simple. His right to succeed his father and uncle is contested by Charles 'the Fat', Charles III of the Eastern Franks (his numbering is not counted within the list of French monarchs), and it is the latter who wins the throne.


Charles III the Simple

Son of Louis II.

884 - 888

Charles 'the Fat'

Son of Louis III of Germany and king of the Eastern Franks.


Charles refuses to oppose the siege of Paris by Vikings. Instead he withdraws to Alsace. The task of repelling the Vikings is left to the count of Paris, Odo.


The rule of the Holy Roman empire (the former Eastern Franks) falls to non-Frankish emperors when the weak Charles is deposed by the Germans at the Diet of Tribur (November 887). The Frankish empire is officially divided between East and West. The western section becomes France, the eastern section, the Holy Roman empire (modern Germany). Count Odo of Nantes, son of Robert the Strong, dux & missus dominicus of the Breton March and later himself a count of Nantes (a branch which founds the Capetian dynasty in 987), is offered the western section by the great lords. Charles 'the Fat' takes refuge in the monastery of Reichenau in Alemannia (Swabia) where he dies the following year.

888 - 898

Odo / Eudes

Count of Paris. Elected by the nobility. Capetian ancestor.


In the autumn of 892 famine threatens north-east Francia. Vikings there make their way to Boulogne, where the Franks provide them with 250 ships so that they can cross the Channel 'in one journey, horses and all'. These heterogeneous war bands of diverse allegiances begin to raid along the English coast. One band, under the command of an experienced leader by the name of Hæstan, arrives with eighty ships at the mouth of the Thames and builds himself a fort at Milton on the island of Sheerness on the Kent coast. In the same season another host is at Appledore in Kent. But Wessex under Alfred the Great is ready. The king's system of burhs helps to pin the raiders down where they can be picked off, one by one. No serious damage is done.


The archbishop of Reims crowns Charles the Simple king of France. A confused struggle ensues between his forces and those of Odo (former count of Nantes) until the latter, noticeably ill, treats with Charles and arranges a power-sharing deal. Odo dies the following year, having recommended that his vassals recognise his former rival.

896 - 922

Charles III the Simple

Posthumous son of Louis III. Also king of Lotharingia.


To keep the peace in the face of Viking attacks, Charles grants territory in the north to the Danish Viking chieftain, Rollo (in modern Upper Normandy) under the terms of the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte The resulting duchy of Normandy proves to be far more powerful than the king could have feared.

Viking village
The Vikings who settled in Normandy would have seemed a rough and ready lot to the relatively sophisticated French court


The Loire Vikings invade Brittany, slaying Count Gourmaëlon in battle and occupying the land. They establish their main naval base at the mouth of the Loire (at the southern edge of Brittany's lands), laying waste to Nantes, and then they use Brittany as a springboard for attacks on the Western Franks and the English (possibly in support of their kin in East Anglia).

Mathuedoi, count of Poher is married to the daughter of the late Alain the Great, and his son, Alan, is the godson of Edward the Elder, king of Wessex and the English. Mathuedoi puts to sea with a great multitude of Bretons and travels to meet Edward: 'this king had great trust in him because of this friendship and the alliance of this baptism'. Brought up from infancy with Æthelstan (Edward's eldest son), 'Alan is strong in body and very courageous, and does not care to kill wild boars and bears in the forest with an iron weapon, but instead uses a wooden staff'.


Charles marries Eadgifu, daughter of Edward the Elder of Wessex. She bears him his heir, Louis IV.

920 - 922

The legitimacy of Charles is contested by Robert, count of Paris, brother of the former king, Odo. Robert is crowned in Reims in 922, but is attacked by Charles near Soissons. Robert is killed while defeating the forces of Charles, and the latter flees. He is subsequently caught in an ambush at Chateau-Thierry, and is imprisoned in Peronne, where he dies. His wife, Eadgifu flees with his infant son to England, which gains the boy the name 'Outremer' or 'over the sea'. Growing up in the English court, Louis becomes a firm friend of Alan, son of Mathuedoi, count of Poher.

922 - 923

Robert I

Brother of Odo. Count of Paris (and Nantes). Killed in battle.

923 - 936

Rudolf / Raoul / Rodolphe

Duke of Burgundy (921-936). m Emma, daughter of Robert I.

936 - 937

Rudolf, the son-in-law of Robert I, and still the duke of Burgundy, has ruled with the agreement of Robert's son, Hugh the White (referred to as Hugh 'the Great' by the time he becomes duke of Aquitaine in 955). Rudolf has been fighting the Hungarians, the Germans, and the Normans, but he dies without an heir.

Hugh the White, expecting to become king in his place, is forced to lead a coalition against the rightful heir, Louis IV d'Outremer. Louis allies himself to Otto I of Saxony and Conrad the Peaceful, king of Burgundy, and takes possession of Reims, whereas Hugh is excommunicated by the Pope. Hugh and Louis are reconciled, but Hugh the Black of the duchy of Burgundy has also been opposing Louis, so the latter sends Hugh the White against him. Auxerre and Sens are captured, and the duchy is divided between the two Hughs.

936 - 954

Louis IV d'Outremer

Son of Charles III. Had been exiled in England.


A desperate William Longsword of the Normans seeks reconciliation with the Flemish, but is assassinated at a peace conference. The Norman state collapses as Louis seizes its lands and captures William's infant heir, Richard.

954 - 986

Lothair V

Son. Acceded aged 14.

954 - 962

Bruno I

Regent and archbishop of Cologne.


Lothair's foreign policy causes Otto II to invade Lorraine. The king manages to repulse him, aided by Hugh Capet, count of Paris. In return, Lothair later tries to destabilise the Holy Roman empire when Otto's infant son succeeds to the throne.

Louis V the Indolent
The short-lived accession of Louis V proved to be the end for the once-mighty Carolingian dynasty, with their equally once-mighty empire now fractured and continuing to fracture further


Notger, a former Benedictine monk of Swabian descent, is appointed by King Otto II of Germany as the first prince-bishop of Liège, a tactic to keep out the Western Franks who claim the 'Land of Liège' and surrounding regions for their own state. The Western Franks have been supporting the rebellious local nobility in the diocese which is not prepared to accept the authority of the German kings without some sort of resistance.

986 - 987

Louis V the Indolent / le Fainéant

Son of Lothair. Died without an heir.


By this time the Carolingian kings and those drawn from the House of Paris have so weakened the effectiveness of the monarchy in France that it owns little land outside Paris. The Carolingian son of Louis V, Charles of Lower Lorraine, is ignored in favour of passing the crown permanently to the House of Paris in the form of the Capetians.

Capetian Dynasty (Robertians) (France)
AD 987 - 1328

The founder of the Capetian dynasty of French kings was Hugh Capet, eldest son of Hugh 'the Great', count of Paris. Both were descended from the Carolingian Robert the Strong, dux & missus dominicus of the Breton March and later count of Nantes, and it is for this Robert that the Robertians were named, a family of strong leaders who often provided the counts of Paris. His sons were Odo and Robert I, both kings of the Western Franks, in 888 and 922 respectively. His own father was Robert III, count of Worms and Rheingau (in Hesse), although the family's origins prior to that are hard to trace, going back only one generation further to Robert II, count of Hesbaye and also Worms and Rheingau. Most likely they were seventh or eighth century Frankish settlers on the east bank of the Rhine, towards the southern edge of Hessi lands.

By 987 the Robertians already possessed vast domains, including the now-declining city of Paris, former capital of the Parisii tribe of Celts. The family also ruled over numerous vassals when Hugh was crowned king at Noyon and consecrated at Reims in 987. He associated his son, Robert, with power from the start, creating a principle of dynastic hereditary which would last as long as the monarchy. Former Western Frankish desires to control the prince-bishopric and diocese of Liège are dropped by the new kings, allowing a degree of peace to emerge along the Meuse.

A cadet branch would become powerful dukes of Burgundy in the fourteenth century. However, by now the French throne held power only in a very weakened state. It had already given away Normandy to Vikings and watched them become more and more powerful, and little other territory in France actually remained in the hands of the king. Then, in 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Anjou, heir to the throne of England. When he became king two years later he also owned much of France, and the French monarchy faced potential extinction.

(Additional information by William Willems, from Histoire du diocèse et de la principauté de Liége, Joseph Daris (1890-1899, in French), from Liège et les principautés ecclésiastiques de l'Allemagne occidentale. Les relations de Liège avec Aix, Cologne et l'Empire - La fin, J E Demarteau (Tome XXVIII, 1899, in French), from Notger de Liége et la civilisation au Xe siècle, Godefroid Kurth (Tome I et II, 1905, in French), and from External Links: Catholic Encyclopaedia, and Archives de l'Université Catholique de Louvain, Michel Schooyans (in French), and Notger and his time, Henry Dupuis (Université Liège, in French), and The Rouen Chronicles (View from the Left Bank).)

987 - 996

Hugh Capet

Son of Duke Hugh 'the Great' of Aquitaine.

987 - 991

The Carolingian son of Louis V, Charles duke of Lower Lorraine, struggles to regain 'his' throne, but he is captured and imprisoned, and dies in Orleans. However, Hugh himself is little more than a feudal lord, and he relies on the support of other equally powerful personages in the kingdom.

Map of Paris
A medieval map of the city of Paris in the tenth century AD, under the rule of Hugh Capet. By this time Paris had declined from its two periods of greatness under the Romans and the Merovingians, but the map clearly shows the importance of the island at the city's heart

996 - 1031

Robert II the Pious

Son. Also duke of Burgundy (1004-1015).

1002 - 1004

Otto William succeeds as duke of Burgundy, but the supporters of Robert the Pious see an opportunity to oppose him. A two year war of succession results, with the duchy being permanently divided in 1004. A northern part of the duchy goes to the Free County of Burgundy, with ultimate control being vested in the kings of Germany and their successors (following the death of Otto William). The remainder of the duchy is annexed to France by Robert.


Following Robert's death, he is succeeded as king of France by his son, Henry. The duchy of Burgundy on the west bank of the Saône, however, is granted to another son, Robert I of Burgundy, founder of the House of Burgundy.

1031 - 1060

Henry I

Son. Duke of Burgundy (1015-1032).


Despite reigning for nearly thirty years, Henry is unable to achieve anything more than the preservation of the Capetian dynasty after facing incessant conflict with rebel lords. Many of them have shown pretensions for independence, including Henry's brother, Robert I, duke of Burgundy, the count of Blois, William, duke of Normandy, the duke of Brittany, and William VIII, duke of Aquitaine.

1060 - 1108

Philip I



The duke of Normandy, William 'the Bastard', invades England and defeats the last Anglo-Saxon king, gaining the kingdom for himself. Philip I now has a very powerful neighbour in Normandy.

William also invites the Jews of Rouen to enter England so that feudal dues can efficiently be collected - this is the country's first large-scale influx of members of the Jewish Diaspora. Initial Jewish settlement is in London alone, although Oxford sees settlement from about 1075. Given Rouen's long history of Jewish habitation since the Roman period, these are likely to be Ashkenazi Jews.


The princes of Cornouaille become rulers of Brittany, dukes by appointment of France, as Philip takes the first concrete steps to solidify the foundations of royal power.

1096 - 1099

The First Crusade finds a divided Islamic empire governed by the Seljuq Turks, and quickly and forcefully carves a large swathe of territory out of it. However, Philip I takes no part in the Crusade to Outremer, and loses the opportunity to become involved in the creation of the kingdom of Jerusalem.

1108 - 1137

Louis VI 'the Fat'



Henry I of England defeats an invasion of his Norman lands by Louis VI at the Battle of Brémule.

The coronation of Louis VI at Orleans
The coronation of Louis VI at Orleans, taken from the twelfth-thirteenth century Chronique de Saint-Denis

1137 - 1180

Louis VII the Young

Son. Duke of Aquitaine through marriage.

1147 - 1149

Louis departs the country for two years as he takes part in the Second Crusade in Outremer, against the enemies of the kingdom of Jerusalem.

1152 - 1154

Aquitaine, Anjou, and much of the rest of France becomes the possession of Henry II of England, although Louis manages to complete the submission of the feudal lords in the Ile-de-France, the area surrounding Paris.


Having vied with Louis VII for some of the border territories, Duke Hugh of Burgundy takes advantage of his death. He forces some of Louis' vassals to switch allegiance, but Louis' successor, Philip Augustus, is having none of it. He invades Burgundy, capturing not only the town and garrison of Châtillon but also Odo, Hugh's heir. Hugh is forced to pay a large ransom and give up his plans to increase his borders westwards.

1180 - 1223

Philip II Augustus



Upon his coronation, Philip is master of a prosperous but limited domain, comprising the Ile-de-France, the Orleanais, and a part of Berry. The rest of the kingdom is split into a dozen fiefs over which the king has little authority, while the territories of the west and Aquitaine still belong to the English king, Henry II. Over the course of his reign, Philip turns this situation around, properly establishing the monarchy as a power with which to be reckoned.

1189 - 1192

Philip joins Richard of England and Hugh III of Burgundy on the Third Crusade in an attempt to recapture Jerusalem. Whilst there, the choice of Conrad de Montferrat as king of Jerusalem at Acre is a contentious one. Despite being a major player in the crusade and being the rightful successor to the throne through his marriage to Isabella, younger sister of Queen Sibylla, Conrad is opposed by Richard. However, all the barons support Conrad, as do his cousins, Leopold V of Austria and Philip himself.

Satisfied, Philip returns home, meaning that Richard is now the leader of the Third Crusade, although Hugh III is left in command of the French troops. Manoeuvring politically against Richard for supremacy, Conrad is attacked in the street by assassins and dies of his wounds. Richard himself leaves the Holy Land, to be captured and imprisoned by Leopold of Austria. The pregnant Isabella, now heir to the throne of Jerusalem by near-universal agreement, is quickly married off to Henry de Champagne.

1202 - 1214

In a conflict which is vital to the French monarchy, the 'War' of Bouvines involves John of England, HRE Otto IV, and also Thiébaut of Lorraine on the one side, and Philip II on the other supported by Otto III of Burgundy. The culmination is the Battle of Bouvines on 27 July 1214. The French are victorious, while John loses the duchy of Normandy and his other French possessions. Thiébaut is taken prisoner during the rout but is freed soon afterwards.


Philip sends his son, Louis, and the count de Perche to invade England via Dover in order to defeat the child king, Henry III, and his regent, the famed knight, William Marshal. The Battle of Lincoln sees William lead the charge, and he personally kills de Perche and escorts the defeated French noblemen to a ship bound for France.

1223 - 1226

Louis VIII the Lion



With the Papal crusade against the Albigensian Cathar and Vaudois 'heresy' well underway (1209-1229), Louis joins in. He invades the Languedoc and campaigns against the towns and lords who support the Albigensians, although his participation is merely a pretext for the preparation of his annexation of the Toulousain.

1226 - 1270

Louis IX / Saint Louis


1226 - 1236

Blanche of Castile

Mother and regent.


The treaty of Meaux-Paris at the conclusion of the crusade against the Albigensians paves the way for effectively joining southern France to the north, under the regency of Blanche of Castile, between the young Louis and Raymond VII, count of Toulouse.


The conquest of the Languedoc is completed with the Treaty of Lorris.

1248 - 1254

The Sixth Crusade takes place under the leadership of the pious and devout, and militarily aware Louis IX. He is the first major European monarch in seventy years to contemplate a major crusade against the Muslims, and he effectively mortgages France to pay for a great army (about 25,000 fully armed professional troops) and a vast collection of ships (around 18,000) to carry them. He invades Ayyubid Egypt in 1249 while the Ayyubids are seriously disorganised, carrying a forced beach landing against withering enemy firepower at Damietta. The town is successfully occupied. However, Louis' crusade eventually comes to nothing, as a regime change in Egypt and a vigorous new leadership sees he and his forces cut off and made prisoner.


Louis IX leads the Seventh Crusade into Tunisia against the advice of the Pope and the reluctance of his lords, and dies of plague during the siege of Tunis on 25 August 1270. His son is proclaimed king under the walls of Tunis.

1270 - 1285

Philip III the Bold

Son of Louis IX.

1285 - 1314

Philip IV the Fair

Son. m Jeanne I of Navarre.


On 5 July Scotland and France form an alliance, the origin of their 'Auld Alliance', against England.

The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France
The Auld Alliance would benefit both Scotland and France because it served to distract the English when one was especially threatened


The culmination of his ongoing feud with Philip the Fair of France sees Pope Boniface captured and tortured at the hands of the king. His execution is almost ordered, but instead he is released, and dies shortly afterwards, partly from kidney stones but perhaps also partly through shock.


On Friday 13 October Philip leads the destruction of the Knights Templar in France, under agreement with the French Pope who is shortly to be installed at Avignon. The order's riches are confiscated and the grand master of the Temple, Jacques Molay, is arrested and tortured (and burned at the stake in 1314).

1314 - 1316

Louis X the Haughty

Son. Also Luis the Stubborn of Navarre.


Louis X dies without male issue, but his second wife is five months pregnant. The regent, Philip of Poitiers, the dead king's brother, takes advantage of the situation to make the principle of the exclusion of women to the French throne conclusive, even though it is a false interpretation of Salic Law. When the queen gives birth, Jean I lives for only a few days, and Philip is strongly suspected of being the instigator of his death. Philip claims the throne for himself, conducting a hasty coronation on 11 January 1317.


John / Jean I Posthumous

Son. Lived for eight days after his birth.

1317 - 1322

Philip V the Long

Uncle. Also Philip of Navarre.

1322 - 1328

Charles IV the Fair

Brother. Also Charles I of Navarre.


Following the election of Louis IV (Louis the Bavarian) as German king in 1314, a minority faction had elected Frederick the Fair of Habsburg as emperor. Louis now defeats Frederick at the Battle of Mühldorf (in which Frederick's supporter, Duke Ferry IV of Lorraine, is also captured). Ever keen to exploit a situation which can strengthen his own influence over Lorraine, Charles the Fair quickly manages to have the duke released on the promise that Lorraine will remain impartial in future imperial affairs.

Louis IV Wittelsbach
The vigorous king of Bavaria and HRE Louis IV also became king of Italy in 1327 despite many objections and opposition figures, with his strength of will and character being proof of his desire and eligibility to rule

1324 - 1326

The Pope recognises Robert the Bruce as king of an independent Scotland. Two years later, the Franco-Scottish alliance is renewed in the Treaty of Corbeil, by which the Scots are obliged to make war on England should hostilities break out between England and France.


Charles' daughter, Jeanne, is disqualified from occupying the French throne, confirming the new interpretation of Salic Law. Instead, she accedes the throne of Navarre,while the Valois succeed to France.

Valois Dynasty (France)
AD 1328 - 1589

Charles IV had no male heir, and due to the deliberate misinterpretation of Salic Law by his elder brother, Philip V, his daughter was disqualified from ascending the French throne. Instead, the crown passed to his cousin, Philip of Valois, head of a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. His son, John II, secured the duchy of Burgundy for the crown, and when he died, it passed to his fourth son, while the eldest gained the French throne. John's grandson was best noted for losing much of France to the English, who actually inherited the French crown upon his death, and for seven years an English monarch governed the country, before the tide of the Hundred Years War turned in France's favour.

1328 - 1350

Philip VI of Valois

Cousin to Charles IV.


A peasant revolt in Flanders forces Philip to fight the Battle of Cassel, thirty kilometres south of Dunkirk, bringing the revolt to an end and bringing Flanders fully under French control. Supporting the king, Duke Ferry IV of Lorraine is killed during the fighting, while Duke Odo IV of Burgundy is wounded.

Philip VI at the Battle of Cassel
Philip VI shown in oil on canvas at the Battle of Cassel in Flanders - the battle was a total victory for him, securing French control of Flanders after putting down a peasant revolt

1337 - 1453

Philip confiscates Gascony from Edward III of England so the English invade France to press their own claim to the weakly-held French throne. The Hundred Years War begins, with the fiefdom of Aquitaine part of the spoils to be won or lost. In 1346, Edward crushes Philip's army at the Battle of Crécy, killing Duke Rudolf of Lorraine amongst many others. But Philip has other problems, too, when the Great Plague and a serious economic crisis strikes the country. In 1347 he institutes a tax on salt in an attempt to build up some revenue.

1349 - 1354

Humbert II de La Tour du Pin, the last surviving dauphin of the Viennois (the region around Vienne), surrenders his title and the principality to the future Charles V of France. Humbert retires to a Dominican monastery and Duke Amadeus VI of Savoy is left fuming at this transfer that leaves him with a powerful, territorially hungry neighbour. He declares war and goes on to defeat the French in 1354. A treaty is agree in Paris in the following year in which Amadeus exchanges territory in Dauphiné, beyond the Rhône and the Guiers, for recognition of his undisputed sovereignty of Faucigny and the county of Gex.

1350 - 1364

John / Jean II the Good

Son. Also duke of Burgundy (1361-1364).

1356 - 1360

A hesitant and clumsy king, John is taken prisoner by the English at Poitiers during a conflict with Philip, brother of King Charles the Bad of Navarre. Duke John I of Lorraine fights at the king's side and survives the virtual massacre of the French nobility. Charles himself had been arrested by John while a guest of his son in Rouen. In 1359, John signs a treaty with the English to free himself at the price of a heavy ransom which is refused by the estates of Paris. The subsequent Treaty of Brétigny in 1360 renegotiates his release, allowing him to return to France while leaving his younger son, Duke Louis of Anjou as a hostage. Louis flees, breaking his parole, so the king is forced to return to London where he later dies.

1364 - 1380

Charles V the Wise

Son. Regent (1359-1364).


Upon the accession of Charles V, Burgundy is held by his brother, Philip the Bold, fourth son of John II of France, and the first of a series of so-called 'Great Dukes of the West'. Bit by bit, initially without much planning, but then according to a clearly-defined strategy, Philip and his successors reconstitute the Lotharingia of the Carolingian empire.

1373 - 1379

Duke John IV of Brittany is forced into exile in England when pressure exerted by Charles reveals that John has no support amongst his own barons. While the duchy is governed by those barons, however, Charles makes the mistake of attempting to incorporate it directly into France. Bertrand du Guesclin, constable of France, nicknamed 'The Eagle of Brittany', is sent to enact this in 1378 and is immediately faced by a barons' revolt. John is invited back from his exile and makes peace with Charles. But he maintains the duchy's independence.


Relations between Pope Urban VI and various of the Cardinals creates the Western Schism. Clement VII is elected at Avignon as the first anti-pope, in the second of the two periods known overall as the Great Schism. He is forced to retire permanently to Avignon after failing to establish himself in Italy, and becomes dependant on the French court.


Charles experiences a difficult but successful reign, as he pacifies a violent and dangerous France, eliminating the Great Companies, bands of brigands who had formerly been soldiers, and putting down a Parisian rebellion and a peasant revolt. At his death only the towns of Calais, Cherbourg, Brest, Bordeaux, and Bayonne remain in English hands.

1380 - 1422

Charles VI the Mad or Beloved

Son. Aged 12 when crowned.

1380 - 1388

Philip II the Bold, duke of Burgundy

Uncle and regent. The dominant figure in the regency.

1380 - 1388

John, duke of Berry

Brother and regent.

1380 - 1388

Louis II, duke of Bourbon

Brother and regent.

1380 - 1384

Louis, duke of Anjou

Brother and regent. Died after fighting to take Naples.


Charles is not able to govern until he reaches his majority in 1388 since his uncles hold power and take maximum advantage of their position. Upon his birthday he has them removed and recalls his late father's advisors into the government. His first episode of madness in 1392 allows the duke of Burgundy to seize power again, but it sparks a long-running dispute between various factions in France.

1392 - 1402

Philip II the Bold, duke of Burgundy

Restored his position after a lapse in the king's mental health.

1415 - 1420

In 1415, Henry V of England wins a surprise victory at the Battle of Agincourt. One of the relatively small number of commanders to survive on the French side is John I, count of Foix and co-prince of Andorra.

Five years later, Charles VI cedes France to him in the Treaty of Troyes. Charles VII, apparently dispossessed, refuses to heed his father's commands and sets up a rival claim to the throne, accompanied by John of Foix. Following his father's policy of opposing the French crown, the English claim is recognised by Charles' cousin, Philip the Good of Burgundy.

Battle of Agincourt
The overwhelming victory for the forces of Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt destroyed the flower of French chivalry and gave all of France to a Plantagenet king

1422 - 1429

John of Lancaster, duke of Bedford

Regent of France for his nephew, Henry VI of England.

1422 - 1429

Charles VII the Victorious

Son of Charles VI. Led the 'rebel' French faction.

1422 - 1429

France is rightfully ruled by the English king, Henry VI, through his regent who is based in Normandy and Paris. Charles VII is little more than a rebel until he is crowned king of France in 1429 following his first meeting with Joan of Arc and the near-miraculous liberation of Orleans from an English siege. Charles' illegal claim suddenly becomes a serious one, and his kingship more and more real as the tide turns in favour of the French.

1429 - 1461

Charles VII the Victorious

Crowned king by Joan of Arc as the war turned in his favour.

1429 - 1431

The Hundred Years War is over, with Charles VIII now king of France by right of conquest, if not by any other legal right. Aquitaine is returned to the king to rule directly as part of a newly united France. It also remains the direct possession of his successors.

However, in 1430, Charles' inspiration for the reconquest of France, Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d'Arc, the Maid of Orleans), is handed over to the English for the princely sum of ten thousand gold crowns by his rival, Philip the Good of Burgundy. She is tried for heresy and is found guilty, being burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. Then Philip, sensing the tide turning against the English, supports Charles so that he can be crowned king. In return, apart from receiving another handsome payment, Burgundy's full independence is confirmed, with Dijon its capital.

Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans
Joan of Arc began her fight against the English 'occupiers' of France as a freedom fighter who inspired others to follow her, but she ended as a pawn in political powerplays


Milan's brief flirtation with republicanism exists despite a legitimate claim by the heir, the duke of Orleans. He is unable to effect his claim and finds his title being usurped by the adventurer, Francesco Sforza, who marries the illegitimate daughter of Filippo Visconti, the last duke of Milan. Francesco seizes Milan and pronounces himself the new duke on 25 March 1450.

1461 - 1483

Louis XI


1474 - 1477

Duke René of Lorraine is facing increasing pressure both from Louis XI and Charles the Bold of Burgundy. He has already allied himself with Charles, but Burgundian garrisons have been established in Lorraine so René now switches allegiance to Louis. Charles invades Lorraine, forcing René to abandon Nancy on 30 November 1475. The city is recaptured on 5 October 1476 before René leads an army of Swiss mercenaries into the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477. Charles is defeated and killed, ending the Burgundian Wars. His death also ends Burgundian greatness. The lion's share of his domains are immediately annexed by Louis XI, while the sole heiress of Burgundy, Mary, marries Maximilian of Austria, future Holy Roman emperor.


The duchy of Burgundy reverts to the French throne through the efforts of Louis XI. He also gains Picardy. Burgundy's other possessions, the Free County of Burgundy and Flanders, pass to Austria, along with the county of Holland, creating a very different feel for the Low Countries. In 1493, with the accession of Maximilian, they become possessions of the Holy Roman empire.

1483 - 1498

Charles VIII the Affable

Son. Succeeded aged 13.

1483 - 1491

Pierre II

Seventh duke of Bourbon. Regent.

1483 - 1491

Anne of France / de Beaujeu

Wife of Pierre, sister of Charles VIII, and co-regent.

1488 - 1491

Brittany is defeated at the Battle of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier on 28 July 1488. The power-base of the warring Breton noble leaders is also destroyed. A few days later, on 10 August, Duke Francis is forced to sign the Treaty of Verger. He must submit himself and his duchy as a vassal of the king of France, and must also expel foreign princes and troops from Brittany. The treaty restricts his ability to marry his children to suitors of his choosing and requires that he cede territory in Saint-Malo, Fougères, Dinan, and Saint-Aubin to the king as a guarantee that in the absence of a male successor the king will determine the succession.

Anne, the last duchess of Brittany, is forced into an arranged marriage with Charles VIII in 1491, following his invasion of the duchy to prevent her marrying the Habsburg HRE, Maximilian I. This gains Charles governance of the region, but does not permanent tie it to the French crown.

1495 - 1496

An alliance is formed between Naples, the Pope, Milan, Venice, and the Holy Roman emperor in order to defend Italy from Charles.

1498 - 1515

Louis XII the Father of the People

Great-grandson of Charles V. Duke of Milan (1499).

1498 - 1499

The duke of Orleans succeeds to the throne as Louis XII, and immediately seeks to enforce his father's claim on Milan. He invades in 1499, also taking control of Lugano, and Ludovico Sforza is soon ousted. The seizure of Lugano serves to end a period of rebellions and uprisings that have been taking place against the dukes of Milan. It also introduces a new dynamic in the perpetual struggles between Como and Milan, with the Swiss Confederation now also becoming involved.


The League of Cambrai is formed with France, Castile, Hungary, the Papal States, the Holy Roman empire, and Ferrara against Venice. Venice is defeated at Agnadello.

1512 - 1513

The northern remnants of the kingdom of Navarre now lie within a French department while the rest falls permanently to King Ferdinand V of Aragon under treaty terms.

The following year, Henry VIII of England campaigns in France, capturing two towns and beating off the French in the Battle of the Spurs, named for the sight of the spurs of the French cavalry, as they flee at great speed.

1515 - 1547

Francis I of Angoulême

Great-great-grandson of Charles V & cousin of Louis XII.


The French invade Milan again, this time under Francis I. Victorious at the Battle of Marignano, they capture Duke Massimiliano and Francis I personally assumes the title of duke. The French have various allies assisting them, including Duke Anthony the Good of Lorraine.

1522 - 1523

Francis is persuaded by the Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, to allow an expedition to find a western route to China via what will become New France. The following year, Charles III, eighth duke of Bourbon, is dismissed by the king for supporting the Holy Roman empire against him. Antoine de Bourbon, father of the future Henry IV, from the junior Bourbon-Vendôme is installed in his place.

Discovery of the Americas
With Spain - perhaps the most powerful European nation at this time - having already conquered large swathes of the central and southern Americas, other Europeans headed northwards to discover fresh territory and perhaps their own route to China


The town of San German, in the south-west of Puerto Rico, is sacked and burned by the French as part of their efforts to dislodge the Spanish from the strategically important location. Several more towns are subsequently attacked.


Duchess Claudia of Brittany marries Francis I and the Union Treaty of Vannes is signed, creating a permanent personal union between the crowns of the duchy and France. Brittany and France continue to be regarded as separate countries, so that Breton aristocrats are classed as 'Prince Étrangers' ('Foreign Princes') when they attend the French court.



Son. Died in 1536 after a game of tennis.


A French invasion of the duchy of Savoy, the latest of many, wrests control of much of the Savoyard lands from Duke Charles. He is left sidelined and powerless for the rest of his life. His son inherits the title alone, and serves in the Imperial armies in the hopes of winning back his lands.

1547 - 1559

Henry II



The infant Mary, Queen of Scots is smuggled from Scotland to France where she is betrothed to the young dauphin, Francis.

1553 - 1555

The Italian War results in an invasion of Corsica in 1553 which disrupts Genoese rule of the island. French and Ottoman forces team up in the Mediterranean to disrupt coastal areas that are loyal to or controlled by the Holy Roman Emperor. The French are the driving force behind these operations in their attempt to gain control of Italy. They raid the coasts of Corsica, Elba, Naples, and Sicily. Then a force of French and Ottomans, together with Corsican exiles, capture the strategically important island, robbing the empire of a vital line of communications. Their fleets leave as winter approaches, with a fairly small garrison of 5,000 second line troops remaining behind. Genoa immediately organises a counter-invasion with 15,000 men, and much of Corsica is retaken in 1554, with the rest being gained in 1555.


The Italian War of 1551-1559 ends with the signing of the Peace of Cateau Cambrésis between England, France and Spain. Emmanuel Philibert regains his duchy of Piedmont and Savoy in full as part of the war's ending and he departs his post in the Spanish Netherlands to take up his duties. Corsica is restored to Genoa, while Spain is confirmed in its direct control of Milan, Naples, Presidi, Sardinia, and Sicily.

1559 - 1560

Francis II

Son. Died aged 16 without real power.

1560 - 1574

Charles IX


1560 - 1589

Catherine de Medici

Mother and regent. The power behind the throne.

1562 - 1565

A massacre of Protestants by Catholics near Paris in 1562 ignites the first of eight French Wars of Religion. Jeanne d'Albret and Anthony de Bourbon of French Navarre, Foix, Bearn, and Andorra have already introduced reforms in Navarre and Bearn in line with Jeanne's Calvinist beliefs. Anthony's own brother, Louis I Bourbon, prince of Condé, had already been arrested and sentenced to death (in 1560) for supporting the Protestant cause. As the conflict begins, Anthony is in Rouen, where he is harried and where he dies on 10 November 1562.

In the same period, one of the first French Colonies in the New World is founded in Florida in 1564, but the Spanish destroy it the following year.

1568 - 1571

Charles IX orders the confiscation of the lands of his Protestant opponents. The Catholics of Bearn, part of the holdings of Jeanne III of French Navarre, led by Terride, rebel and take power as royal troops do elsewhere. The peace of Longjumeau of 23 March 1568, ends the Second French War of Religion but almost immediately the Third French War of Religion begins in September 1568. The Battle of Jarnac on 12 March 1569 kills the prince of Condé, the Protestant leader, and Henry of Navarre is appointed the new political leader while military leadership is in the hands of Gaspard de Coligny.

In August 1569, Jeanne III regains her estates with the arrival of the forces of Duke Francis de Montmorency. On 8 August of 1570 the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye is signed. In 1571 the status of Calvinism is formalised in Bearn and French Navarre as the state religion, and shortly afterwards Jeanne negotiates a union between her son, Henry of Navarre, with Marguerite de Valois, sister of Charles IX, although she does not live to see the union effected.


FeatureHenry, duke of Anjou, begins marriage negotiations with Elizabeth Tudor of England, but it comes to nothing and his younger brother takes over before his own untimely death in 1584. Henry goes on to become king of Poland-Lithuania in 1573, and king of France in 1574.

1574 - 1589

Henry III

Son. Previously king of Poland-Lithuania (1573-1574).


With France embroiled in internecine conflict during the Wars of Religion, Duke Charles Emanuel of Savoy seizes the marquisate of Saluzzo, which his father had also attempted to capture. The marquisate had been under French protection, so the demand is made that Charles withdraws. Charles refuses, but it takes thirteen years for the problem to be resolved.


Henry recognises the Protestant Henry III of Navarre as his successor. The League and the Guise are far from happy about this, but Henry has the duke of Guise assassinated at Blois in 1588. Henry himself is stabbed to death on 2 August 1589 by the Dominican Jacques Clément.

Bourbon Dynasty (France)
AD 1589 - 1792

The foundation of the House of Bourbon, which takes its name from Bourbon-Archambault, capital of the duchy of Bourbon, dates back to the thirteenth century. It hinges on Robert de Clermont, who died in 1317, sixth son of Louis IX and husband of Béatrice de Bourbon. Two main branches emerged from this: the senior branch and the Marche-Vendôme. Descended from Pierre I (1311-1356), the senior branch notably produced Pierre II, ruler of Beaujeu, seventh duke of Bourbon, husband of Anne of France, and regent of the kingdom with his wife during the minority of the Valois Charles VIII.

Henry IV, however, was of the Marche-Vendôme line (or Bourbon-Vendôme). His father was Antoine de Bourbon (also a co-prince of Andorra, who died in 1562), who was given the duchy when Charles III, eighth duke of Bourbon and constable of France, was dismissed in 1523 by King Francis I for siding with the Holy Roman empire. This line gave birth to a number of collateral branches which included the Spanish Bourbons, which gained the Spanish throne in 1700 with Philip V, Duke of Anjou.

1589 - 1610

Henry IV Green-Gallant of Bourbon

King of French Navarre (1562-1589). Co-prince of Andorra.

1589 - 1596

The closest inheritor descending from Hugh Capet, Henry of Navarre is the new king of France on the death of Henry III of Valois. However, the League refuse to recognise him and he has to conquer his way to power. His conversion to Catholicism at Saint-Denis (1589) followed by his coronation at Chatres (1594), opens Paris to him. His reconquest continues with the Edict of Nantes (1594) and the taking of Amiens (1596), which ends the civil wars.

Henry IV enters Paris
The momentous point at which Henry IV entered Paris in 1594 - as depicted in oils - which marked the victory of the Bourbons of French Navarre in their efforts to claim the French throne


The Treaty of Lyon resolves France's claims for the restitution of Saluzzo. In exchange for Savoy keeping it, the duchy relinquishes Bresse, along with other territories that lie on the northern side of the Alps.


Following a hugely influential reign which sees a large programme of building work and agricultural improvement in France, Henry is assassinated by Ravaillac. His son succeeds him in France, while his cousin, Charles, becomes lieutenant-governor of the fledgling territories of New France in North America.

1610 - 1643

Louis XIII the Just


1610 - 1617

Louis XIII, just aged nine when he ascends the throne, is at first excluded from power by his powerful mother who acts as regent. Her co-regent, Concini, is assassinated on Louis' orders in 1617. Further afield during this century, French piracy in the Caribbean, mainly targeted at wealthy Spanish ships and the colony of Hispaniola, becomes firmly established.

1610 - 1617

Marie de Midici

Mother and regent.

1610 - 1617

Concino Concini, Count della Penna

Regent. Assassinated (24 April 1617).


The First Genoese-Savoyard War is part of the greater Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). Savoyard forces join those of France and the Netherlands to besiege Genoa, the capital of the eponymous republic, while the rest of its lands suffer occupation by the invaders. Spain sends a major naval expedition to relieve Genoa, which it does. The Genoese republic is restored and they and the Spanish turn the tables, invading Piedmont and securing the overland supply route between northern Italy and the Spanish Netherlands, known as the Spanish Road. The war ends in a stalemate with the Treaty of Monçon.

1627 - 1628

The siege of La Rochelle sees Cardinal Richelieu blockade the city for fourteen months as it protests against the king's central authority. This is the period of Alexandre Dumas' Musketeers, with Anne of Austria their key supporter at court.


French influence in Lorraine is becoming ever stronger, despite the intentions in 1542 of the Holy Roman emperor to use it as a buffer against France. Louis XIII pressures Duke Charles into abdicating in favour of his younger brother after having supported an opponent of France, Gaston d'Orléans, in his attempts to destabilise Richelieu's controlling hand in French politics. As soon as Nicholas succeeds as duke, France invades Lorraine as part of the Thirty Years' War and forces him to sign a treaty which acknowledges France's right to occupy the duchy. Nicholas then flees his lands and returns the title to his brother who is himself unable to return until 1661.

French troops during the Thirty Years War
The onset of the Thirty Years War was marked by the newly-elected Holy Roman emperor, Ferdinand II, imposing religious uniformity on all his lands, which meant that all Protestants would have to covert - an impossible demand

1643 - 1715

Louis XIV the Great

Son of Louis XIII. The Sun King.

With Louis' agreement, Cardinal Mazarin (along with the king's mother) governs the country until Mazarin's death in 1661, by which time the king is twenty-three. During his reign, Louis establishes an absolute monarchy, but is almost constantly at war internally, owing to revolts by a people who are overburdened by taxation and by opposition from princes of the blood, disappointed from being progressively excluded from power.

FeatureThis process is accelerated when the king removes his court to the newly-built Palace of Versailles, just outside Paris, where he is able to control the court and small council of the few faithful (see feature link).

1643 - 1661

Anne of Austria

Mother. Died 1666.

1643 - 1661

Cardinal Mazarin

Regent & Chief Minister. Died 1661.


Shortly after reorganising the administration of New France, Louis XIV officially recognises French colonies on the island of Hispaniola, while Huguenot Protestants are escaping his persecution by leaving for England and the new colonies in the Americas, including New Netherland.

1681 - 1683

Such is the nuisance caused by the Berber pirates of Algiers in the Mediterranean that Louis XIV charges Admiral Abraham Duquesne with the task of fighting them. A large-scale attack on Algiers is ordered in 1682 to assist Christian captives, and this is concluded the following year.


The Treaty of Ryswick draws to a close the Nine Years' War, otherwise known as the War of the League of Augsberg. It stipulates that Spain must formally cede the western third of Hispaniola to France, while Lorraine is handed back to its rightful rulers, ending over half a century of French occupation there.

1702 - 1715

Portugal initially supports France during the War of Spanish Succession but Britain alters the situation with the signing of the Methuen Treaty with Portugal on 16 May 1703. In December 1703 a military alliance between Austria, Britain, and Portugal sees them invade Spain. The allied forces capture Madrid in 1706, although the campaign ends in a defeat at the Battle of Almansa. The conclusion of the war in 1715 ensures that the Bourbon crowns of Spain and France can never be united under a single ruler.

1715 - 1774

Louis XV the Loved

Great-grandson. m Marie Lesczinska, heiress of Lorraine.

1715 - 1723

Phillip II Duke of Orléans

Regent for the five year old king. Resigned upon his majority.

1717 - 1720

King Philip V of Spain is unhappy with the arrangements set at the end of the War of Succession and occupies Sardinia and Sicily, triggering the War of the Quadruple Alliance. The war begins with Philip's first actions of 1717, and is formally declared in 1718. Austria, Britain, France, and Holland unite to defeat Spain, and peace is again declared with the Treaty of The Hague which is signed in 1720.

The Battle of Glenshiel in 1719
The Battle of Glenshiel in 1719 was the second and final defeat of a doomed small-scale Spanish-supported invasion of Scotland, part of the War of the Quadruple Alliance

1733 - 1735

The Polish War of Succession erupts, with Stanislas Lesczynski being supported by his son-in-law, Louis XV of France and Philip V of Spain. France grabs Lorraine, fearing that its pro-Habsburg bias will see it used as a base from which to attack France itself. The fighting ceases in 1735 and is concluded by the Treaty of Vienna in 1738. It stipulates that Stanislaw Lesczinski will receive Lorraine in settlement for being deposed as Poland's king, while Duke Francis of Lorraine receives the grand duchy of Tuscany in compensation for the loss of his family's ancient lands.

1740 - 1748

The War of the Austrian Succession is a wide-ranging conflict that encompasses the North American King George's War, two Silesian Wars, the War of Jenkins' Ear, and involves most of the crowned heads of Europe in deciding the question of whether Maria Theresa can succeed as archduke of Austria and, perhaps even more importantly, as Holy Roman Emperor. Austria is supported by Britain, the Netherlands, the Savoyard kingdom of Sardinia, and Saxony (after an early switchover), but opposed by an opportunistic Prussia and France, who had raised the question in the first place to disrupt Habsburg control of Central Europe, backed up by Bavaria and Sweden (briefly). Spain joins the war in an unsuccessful attempt to restore possessions lost to Austria in 1715.

War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession saw Europe go to war to decide whether Maria Theresa would secure the throne left to her by her father, but several other issues were also decided as a wide range of wars were involved in the overall conflict

The War of Jenkins' Ear pitches Britain against Spain between 1739-1748. The Russo-Swedish War, or Hats' Russian War, is the Swedish attempt to regain territory lost to Russia in 1741-1743. King George's War is fought between Britain and France in the French Colonies in 1744-1748. The First Carnatic War of 1746-1748 involves the struggle for dominance in India by France and Britain. Henry Pelham, leader of the English government in Parliament, is successful in ending the war, achieving peace with France and trade with Spain through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Austria is ultimately successful, losing only Silesia to Prussia.

1756 - 1763

The Seven Years' War - the first truly 'global' conflict - erupts as Britain declares war on France. At the end of it, under the terms of the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau of 1762, France cedes the vast and wild Louisiana Territory from New France to Spain.

As part of the subsequent Treaty of Paris of 1763, Spain itself loses the colony of Florida to the British but are happy to do so as they have already been handsomely compensated with Louisiana. The British have been confirmed as possessors of Canada following their victory at the Battle of Signal Hill in 1762. The French regain Louisiana in 1800 under the Treaty of San Iidefonso.

1757 - 1759

The British East India Company are victorious over the nawwab of Bengal, a French ally, which signals the end of any serious French ambitions in what was Moghul India. Two years later, General James Wolfe claims the Canadian territories for the British Colonies with victory over New France near Quebec.


The duchy of Lorraine passes to France through Louis XV's marriage. From 1745, Louis also shares his bed with the greatest of his mistresses, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, marquise (and later duchess) de Pompadour. Born on 29 December 1721, she is popularly known as Madame de Pompadour. The king remains devoted to her until her death at the age of forty-three on 15 April 1764.

1774 - 1792

Louis XVI

m Marie-Antoinette of Austria. Deposed 1792, beheaded 1793.


After being visited by a deputation of American diplomats, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, France declares war on Britain in support of the rebellion in North America, only too glad to make the most of Britain's misfortune.

1789 - 1792

Louis is unable to impose the reforms he wants and fails to support his more competent ministers. An economic crisis which is aggravated by the American War of Independence leads the government to convene the states general on 5 May 1789.

FeatureIll-advised and influenced by the queen, Louis leads the monarchy to its fall. The French Revolution begins on 14 July 1789 with the storming of the Bastille prison during a popular uprising in Paris. A Paris mob also invades the Palace of Versailles on 5-6 October 1789 (see feature link for a better view of the palace), and Louis and his family are forced to return to Paris.

On 10 August 1792 the Tuileries is taken by the Paris mob, signalling the end of the Ancien Régime. The king is deposed and imprisoned in the Temple with his family, and is condemned to death by a narrow majority. The parliament of Brittany is suspended and the duchy has no legal existence. Instead it is divided into five départements. France is now a possession of the sometimes chaotic 'First Republic'.

French First Republic
AD 1792 - 1804

With the monarchy deposed and the mob in control of the streets of Paris, the First Republic was created on 22 September 1792. By that stage the country was already at war with Austria and Prussia (the First Coalition), the two crowned heads having been appalled at the treatment of a brother monarch. The approach of the Prussian army caused chaos in Paris, with the mob of sans-culottes running riot. In the September Massacres, prisons were broken into and the nobility and political prisoners in them were murdered. As a result, the Legislative Assembly was forced to form a National Convention which formally terminated the monarchy, drafted a constitution, and instituted the republic. Then it put the king on trial for crimes of high treason.

(Additional information from Foreign Policy and the French Revolution: Charles-François Dumouriez, Pierre LeBrun, and the Belgian Plan, 1789-1793, Patricia Howe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), and from External Links: A Short History of Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg (available for download as a PDF from Stanford University), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Belgium from Revolution to the War of the Sixth Coalition 1789-1814, Dale Pappas (The Napoleon Series Archive).)

1792 - 1795

Louis XVII

Uncrowned son of Louis XVI. Died in the Temple in 1795 aged 10.


The ex-king, Louis XVI, is executed by guillotine on 21 January, while his brother (the future Louis XVIII) has already fled the country. On 6 April, the Committee of Public Safety is created, headed by Maximilien Robespierre. Charged with solving the problems of riots, food shortages, military defeats and a demoralised army, Robespierre begins executing 'enemies' of France - mostly from the nobility - in a period which is later known as the Reign of Terror. The former queen, Marie Antoinette is one of the most high-profile victims of the guillotine which is set up in the Place de la Concorde, just to the west of the Tuilleries.

Externally, a French invasion and occupation of the Austrian Netherlands in February 1793 swiftly collapses following defeat in battle in the following month. The threat to the neighbouring Dutch republic is ended, and Austria is able to regain control of its lost province.

The French Revolution's 'Terror'
The French revolutionary 'Reign of Terror' reached its peak between 5 September 1793 and 27 July 1794, with civil war mixing into desperate armed conflict with several hostile states, forcing the Revolutionary government to make terror the mainstay of its rule


The public want an end to the terror, and the only way of achieving this is to execute Robespierre. He is tried and executed on 24 July 1794. Militarily, France's fortunes look shaky when Great Britain, Naples, the Netherlands, and Spain join Austria and Prussia in the First Coalition. But the institution of a poorly trained but highly motivated and enthusiastic national conscript army begins to improve the situation, with the Austrian Netherlands and the Holy Roman empire's Rhine territories being occupied. The rise of General Napoleon Bonaparte is due to his own military brilliance against seemingly unbeatable odds.


The Directory is established on 3 November 1795, headed by Paul Barras, with some of the harsh restrictions of the previous two years being eased, and a more liberal form of rule being instigated. France's Revolutionary Wars against the monarchies of Europe begins to carve out a new empire for the country, both at home and abroad, where the entire island of Hispaniola is gained from Spain in 1795. The Netherlands is invaded and the puppet Batavian Republic set up, while the southern Netherlands are directly annexed to France (the French Netherlands). Subsequently a peace agreement is sealed with Prussia and Spain. Hessen-Homburg falls under near-constant French military occupation, having to pay contributions to the French war effort.

1795 - 1799

Paul Barras

Executive leader of the Directory.


The First Coalition is defeated, and the Savoyard kingdom of Sardinia is forced to sign the Treaty of Paris. The French are given free passage through Piedmont so that they can invade northern Italy.

Late in the same year, the Expédition d'Irlande sails for Ireland in support of Theobald Tone Wolf and his United Irishmen. They are republicans in the recently-instituted US mode. The expedition is made up of about 14,000 veteran troops under General Hoche. It reaches Bantry Bay in December 1796 but fails to make a landing thanks to a mixture of seasonal stormy weather and some weak leadership. The fleet is forced to abandon the mission.


Having been given command of the French army of Italy, Napoleon begins campaigning against Austria in northern Italy. He wins virtually every encounter between the two sides, starting with the Battle of Rivoli on 14-15 January.

Napoleon at the Battle of Rivoli
Napoleon commands at the Battle of Rivoli, 14-15 January 1797, the first French campaign in Italy against Austria, and the start of Bonaparte's highly successful command of the French forces in Italy

1798 - 1799

Following Napoleon's failed expedition to Egypt, the Directory is swept away by a coup on '18 Brumaire', 9 November. Although several members of the failing Directory support the coup, one of its main instigators is Napoleon himself. He becomes the head of the new government as 'First Consul'. The Second Coalition is formed by Austria and Russia in order to regain HRE and Italian territories.

1799 - 1804

Napoleon Bonaparte

First Consul.


The Louisiana Territory is regained from New Spain for the French Colonies. In Italy, Napoleon defeats the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo, which eventually secures the French client republics in the Netherlands and Italy.


In a major setback for French fortunes overseas, the colony of Hispaniola is lost to rebels.

1803 - 1804

On 30 April 1803, Napoleon sells the French Colonies territory of Louisiana in the Americas to the United States for eighty million francs. He also gravitates the country towards the creation of the First Empire, convinced that creating a new French monarchy and embedding it in the constitution will make a Bourbon restoration much harder.

French First Empire
AD 1804 - 1814

FeatureOn 18 March 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte was proclaimed emperor of the French. One of the world's greatest military commanders, he also radically reorganised France's legal and administrative system, introducing the Napoleonic Code, large sections of which are still in use today. Europe's crowned heads saw him as an upstart, a symbol of the menace of republicanism, and a direct threat to their sovereign authority, so they waged a series of wars against him and France, but such was the brilliance of his military tactics they were always defeated. Napoleon eventually defeated himself with one campaign too many, invading Russia in pursuit of his policy of a reverse blockade of Britain. Within two years he had been cornered in France and abdicated his throne.

When he married his first wife, Empress Josephine, Napoleon also adopted her two children. The boy was Charles Auguste Eugène de Beauharnais, who ably served Napoleon throughout the wars, and in 1829 his sister, Princess Amelie de Beauharnais von Leuchtenberg, married Emperor Peter I of Brazil. Eugène married Queen Maria II of Portugal in 1834.

(Additional information from Foreign Policy and the French Revolution: Charles-François Dumouriez, Pierre LeBrun, and the Belgian Plan, 1789-1793, Patricia Howe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), and from External Links: A Short History of Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg (available for download as a PDF from Stanford University), and Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Belgium from Revolution to the War of the Sixth Coalition 1789-1814, Dale Pappas (The Napoleon Series Archive).)

1804 - 1814

Napoleon I Bonaparte

Created the empire. Abdicated and exiled.


Napoleon is crowned king of Italy in Milan in May. Then the Third Coalition is formed against France, so in a swift campaign, Napoleon marches east and, in October, the outnumbered Austrian army of General Mack surrenders to him without battle at Ulm in Bavaria. The French go on to occupy Vienna.

Napoleon Bonaparte cornwed king of Italy in 1805
As depicted in 'The Coronation of Napoleon', by Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon was crowned king of Italy in Milan, in May 1805, virtually completing his domination of Southern Europe as far east as the Adriatic Sea

On 2 December, Napoleon defeats large armies of Austrians and Russians at Austerlitz, and the coalition lays in ruins. Bavaria is raised to a kingdom by Napoleon. However, at sea, the Battle of Trafalgar proves once and for all Britain's supremacy, pounding the French and their Spanish allies in a crushing defeat.


The Bourbon kingdom of the Two Sicilies is conquered in southern Italy and the Napoleonic kingdom of Naples is created in its place, incorporating much of Benevento. In the north, the kingdom of Italy is created out of acquisitions from Austria. Napoleon also heavily defeats Prussia and the Fourth Coalition, and liberates Prussia's holdings in Poland, forming them into an Imperial satellite state. Baden-Durlach is raised to a grand duchy, and Saxony and Württemberg are raised to kingdoms.

Prussians at the Battle of Jena in 1806
The once-formidable army of Frederick the Great was thoroughly beaten in just a month of campaigning by Napoleon Bonaparte, losing the decisive battle of Jena (shown here) and surrendering Stettin to just eight hundred French troops, making it necessary to overhaul Prussia's entire army after 1806

1807 - 1811

France defeats the Austrians and Russians at Friedland in 1807, and goes on to occupy Portugal and Pomerania. The Fourth Coalition is at an end. The following year, Spain falls. An Anglo-Portuguese army is created in Lisbon, eventually under the command of General Wellesley, and by 1811 Portugal has been liberated. Before that, Napoleon divorces the Empress Josephine in an attempt to secure an heir to the throne. He makes what he thinks is an important dynastic link by marrying Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, although her father has no intention of voluntarily allowing any unity between the two countries.

1812 - 1813

Incensed by Russia's refusal to join his blockade of Britain, Napoleon invades Russia with one of the largest armies Europe has ever seen. Frustrated by the Russian policy of using the vast space of the country to defeat him, he is forced to retreat to Germany. In early 1813, Europe's armies mobilise against him. His armies are pushed out of Spain by General Wellesley, and out of Germany by the allied armies.

French defend against Prussians. Leipzig 1813
French grenadiers of the line defend against an attack by Prussian infantry in the three-day Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, dubbed the 'Battle of the Nations' due to the number of states involved, in this 1914 painting by Richard Knötel


Napoleon is defeated and abdicates the thrones of France and Italy. His heirs, through the House of Napoleon Bonaparte, continue to claim royal status though. The Bourbon monarchy is restored under Louis XVIII, and northern Italy is regained either by its previous owners or it is drawn into the Austrian kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. The czar of Russia, less antagonistic towards the former emperor than other European monarchs, helps in the choice of the Mediterranean island of Elba as a small kingdom to which Napoleon can retire.

Bourbon Restoration (France)
AD 1814 - 1848

Upon the death of his nephew, Louis XVII, in 1795, Louis XVIII was able to proclaim himself king of France, even though, since 1792, he had successively taken refuge in Koblenz, Italy, Russia, and England. He attempted to mobilise the European monarchs against the revolutionaries, but it was twenty-two years before he was able to return home. France was a very different place: the king was hampered by the constitutional regime of the Charter, and former Bonapartists were watched constantly for signs of trouble. That came during the Hundred Days of 1815, when the king once more had to flee.

The last king of France, Louis Philippe, was a member of the junior line of Bourbon-Orleans, descended from Philip, duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIV. He actively fought against the king's forces in the July Revolution of 1830, and was seen as a liberal and progressive choice for monarch. All of these Bourbon monarchs also held the position of co-prince of Andorra.

1814 - 1815


Brother of Louis XVI.

1814 - 1815

Payments to Napoleon from France towards his upkeep, as promised by the victorious allies, never arrive because Louis XVIII blocks them. The Austrian monarch does his best to ensure Napoleon's wife, Archduchess Marie-Louise, is kept from making any contact with him, so he becomes increasingly isolated and financially weakened.


Napoleon I Bonaparte

Restored. Died 1821, in exile on St Helena.


FeatureNapoleon returns from exile for the Hundred Days rule, and Louis XVIII flees to Belgium. Europe mobilises against France and the duke of Wellington's Anglo-Dutch-German army defeats Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June in conjunction with the Prussian army, ending twenty-five years of war in Europe. Some weeks afterwards, Napoleon abdicates in favour of his son, Napoleon II of the House of Napoleon Bonaparte, and accepts exile to the Atlantic island of St Helena.

The resolution of the Hundred Days sees Corsica permanently become part of France. It is organised and governed as a French region although, due to its previous existence as an independent or foreign-controlled state, it enjoys greater powers. The island's history generally follow that of mainland France.

1815 - 1824




FeatureMuch of Europe's ruling elite breathes a sigh of relief when the news arrives that Napoleon Bonaparte has died in captivity of the island of St Helena in the south Atlantic. His son still lives, however, and as the new titular head of the House of Napoleon Bonaparte he is classed as a threat by the Austrians.

1820 - 1823

King Ferdinand VII of Spain is detained by rebels after refusing to adopt the new and liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812. It takes until 1822 for European states to react and in 1823, under general agreement by those states, French forces invade Spain to restore Ferdinand, supported by Charles Albert, the future Savoyard king of Sardinia. The Battle of Trocadero sees the French attack a fort from the seaward side to secure access to Cadiz itself, which falls after a three week siege. Ferdinand is freed to take his revenge, executing around 30,000 people.

1824 - 1830

Charles X

Brother. Deposed by July Revolution. Died 1836.

1830 - 1834

Algeria is annexed by France. The dey of Algiers surrenders and is exiled after just three weeks of fighting and, following early French military command, governors administer the country for the French state. France also now has a foothold in Tunisia.


Following his attempt to restore the Ancien Régime in full, the July Revolution overthrows Charles, and he abdicates in favour of his ten year-old grandson, Henri, duke of Bordeaux. The revolution also results in some instability in Belgium, Hessen-Homburg, and Saxony.

At home, Charles charges his cousin, Louis Philippe of a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, to announce the succession to the Chamber of Deputies, but Louis Philippe sees that failing to do so will improve his own chances of gaining the throne, so he does nothing. He acts as regent for Henri for eleven days before he is proclaimed 'King of the French' himself.

July Revolution of 1830
The July Revolution of 1830 in France fed on long-held and growing resentments and inequalities, while also sparking several smaller but similar revolts across Europe


Henry V, duke of Bordeaux

Grandson. King in name for eleven days. Returned in 1873.


Louis Philippe of Orleans

Cousin and regent, and then king in place of Henri.

1830 - 1848

Louis Philippe of Orleans

Abdicated under pressure.


On 1 December 1830, Louis Philippe orders René Savary, duc de Rovigo, to take command of the French possessions of Algiers. When he takes up his post on 6 December 1831, he secures Bone and begins to expand French control outwards, but his violent repression of resistance not only causes him to be recalled, it triggers the creation of an organised resistance movement in 1832.


Louis Philippe brings the body of Napoleon Bonaparte back to France where it is housed in the Eglise du Dôme in Paris in a state funeral.

The return of Napoleon's ashes in 1840
The return of Napoleon's ashes in 1840 in a painting by Jacques Guiaud, with the funeral cortege entering the Place de la Concorde


Ferdinand Philippe, duke of Orleans

Son and heir. Killed in a carriage accident in 1842.

Philippe VII, count of Paris

Son and nominated heir. Recognised claimant from 1883.

1843 - 1850

Great Britain and France are forced to go to war against Argentina for blocking their access to Paraguay during the Great War in South America. Assisted by Brazil, both countries blockade Buenos Aires until a peace deal is agreed between Argentina and Britain in 1849 and with France in 1850.

1847 - 1848

An economic crisis in 1847 is the final straw for the working classes, after a steady worsening in their general conditions under the king's rule. In a year of European revolutions in 1848 (Galicia, Hessen-Darmstadt, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Lombardy-Ventia, and Wallachia also experience problems), they revolt against the government and the monarchy is overthrown. Louis Philippe abdicates in favour of his grandson and flees to Britain, mindful of the fate of Louis XVI in 1793. Public opinion is against his grandson being crowned, so on 26 February the French Second Republic is declared.

Eglise du Dôme
The Eglise du Dôme stands at the front of the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris (External Link: Creative Commons Licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

French Second Republic
AD 1848 - 1852

The French public had the choice in 1848 of accepting another change of monarchy, or accepting a new republic, and they selected the latter. A democratic republic was declared and a constitution drawn up and promulgated on 4 November, albeit a constitution without much experience behind its construction. The remaining three years of the republic was taken up with constant struggles between the Assembly and the Imperialists under the president, Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. Perhaps its most long-lasting achievement was the official adoption of the motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.


One of the first acts of the new republic is to incorporate the occupied areas of North Africa into French departments, these being Algiers, Constantine, and Oran. French occupation still doesn't extend into the deeper inland territories, but French military control of those occupied regions outside the departments continues.


Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who has been president of France since December 1848, now declares himself emperor, and the republic is replaced by the Second Empire.

French Second Empire
AD 1852 - 1871

The Second Empire was created under Louis Napoleon III of the House of Napoleon Bonaparte. Initially, the crowned heads of Europe watched him nervously, worried that he would resume the empire-building ambitions of his uncle. What Louis Napoleon had to do was recapture some of the glory of imperial France. To this end he took part in the Crimean War alongside Britain, oversaw the recreation of the Suez Canal, the raising of the Eiffel Tower as part of the World's Fair, the modernisation of Paris (much of which still stands today), and he authorised the invasion of Mexico, supporting a Habsburg archduke who was placed on the throne as emperor. However, the last venture, which ended in embarrassing failure, began a slippery slope towards his downfall.

1852 - 1871

Louis Napoleon III Bonaparte

Founded the Second Empire. Died 1873 in exile.

1854 - 1856

Britain and France join the Ottoman empire in the Crimean War against Russia, to halt Russian expansion. The war ends with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, a severe setback to Russian ambitions.

French Zouaves in the Crimea
This illustration of French Zouaves (light infantry, generally drawn from North Africa) in the Crimea was published in The Charleston Mercury on 21 November 1861

1861 - 1863

France invades Mexico under the pretence of collecting loans which are overdue, setting up its own Mexican empire there. France also gains the former duchy of Savoy as the kingdom of Italy is formed out of the other Italian territories. In 1863, Cambodia becomes a French protectorate.

1870 - 1871

Napoleon III refuses to accept the possibility of the Prussian Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen gaining the Spanish throne, and ends up personally insulting the king of Prussia. The disagreement leads to France going to war against Prussia (the Franco-Prussian War), but the country is humiliated with defeat and an invasion by Prussia's armies (along with that of Saxony), leading to the siege of Paris. The empire collapses and Louis Napoleon goes into exile in England where he later dies and is buried.

French Republics
AD 1871 - Present Day

FeatureA series of republics replaced any further attempts at forming a monarchy or empire. The French Third Republic was formed in 1871, although it almost foundered with the crushing of the Paris Commune and the majority decision to select a new king. Henri, count of Chambord and former duke of Bordeaux, who had been unconfirmed king for eleven days in 1830, refused to acknowledge the tricolour as the national flag of France and the restoration was effectively sabotaged. Henri died soon afterwards, without recognising Philippe VII, the other claimant to the throne, as his successor.

The head of the House of Napoleon Bonaparte was also a factor in the succession. The former emperor was still seen as a leading figure by a sizable faction. With his death in 1873 his claim passed to his son, Eugène. His death at the hands of the Zulus in British-dominated South Africa in 1879 shocked many royalists and effectively ended any serious Napoleonic claim to the French throne.

Events in the modern republics of France are shown below, but also shown is the list of recognised claimants to the French throne. All of these are shown with a shaded background. Those shown in black can trace their inherited claim back to the very beginning of the modern republics period. Those shown in red inherit their claim from Jaime, duke of Segovia, one-time claimant to the Spanish throne and self-proclaimed head of the House of Bourbon.

(Additional information from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Links: Socialism in France 1874-1896, Paul Lafargue (1897), and Sarkozy threatens to renounce Andorra title (EUObserver).)

1873 - 1883

Henry V Dieudonné

Count of Chambord. Elected king but refused. Died 1883.


With France having annexed Tunisia in 1881, it and Italy disagree over their respective colonial expansionism so, seeing an opportunity to isolate France, Bismarck welcomes Italy into a Triple Alliance with Prussia and Austria. Italian relations with Berlin now enter their best period, although Vienna remains icily formal with its former subject.


The French establish a protectorate in Vietnam, and fight the First Franco-Hova War in Madagascar. In the same year, the monarchist claimant, Henry, count of Chambord, dies childless. Most monarchists support Philippe, grandson of King Louis Philippe, as his rightful successor, despite claims from the Spanish Carlists that they have a superior claim.

1883 - 1894

Philippe VII, count of Paris

Grandson of Louis Philippe. Recognised claimant from 1883.


France unites its Viet protectorates of Annam, Tonkin, Cochinchina, along with Cambodia, into the 'Union of Indochina', otherwise known as French Indochina.

1892 - 1894

France begins take control of the kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa during the Dahomey War, as well as conquering the nearby Tukulor empire. Out of what is becoming French West Africa, French Sudan is created to incorporate the conquests in what will one day become Mali.

In 1893 France creates a new state formation known as Laos out of the native kingdoms of Champassak, Luang Phrabang, and Vientiane, and the province of Xieng Khouang. Laos is added to French Indochina.

1894 - 1926

Philippe VIII, duke of Orleans



FeatureThe elections of May 1896 reveal the immense progress that socialism has made in France since 1893. Towns as important as Lille, Roubaix, Calais, Montluçon, and Narbonne, re-elect socialist majorities to administer their affairs. Even where there is only a socialist minority, a socialist mayor is elected. However, the rapid change and recent anarchist responses have unsettled some elements of society. One group of nuns flees to Britain where they take charge of a convent school in Exeter (see feature link).

1900 - 1901

Chad is conquered in 1900, while the following year, the Songhai empire of what is now Niger follows suit.


On 9 December France passes a landmark law relating to the 'Separation of the Churches and State'. The law has been drawn up to ensure the neutrality of the state, the freedom of religious practice, and public powers that are related to the church. It is on the basis of this law that later acts are also drawn up which strive to ensure the secularism of the state.

1910 - 1958

A federation of French colonial possessions in central Africa is formed which comprises Gabon, Middle Congo, Oubangui-Chari (or Ubangi-Shari, which is moved into the Federation of Central Africa), and Chad.


Morocco becomes a French Protectorate.


Having jointly guaranteed in 1839 to support the neutrality of Belgium, when the country is invaded by Germany, Belgium's allies, Britain, France, and Russia, are forced to declare war at midnight on 4 August against Imperial Germany and Austria in what becomes known as the Great War or First World War.

The German armies head towards Paris before being halted and retreating to what becomes the Western Front just inside French territory. The French army includes units from its various colonial territories, including Algeria, French Sudan, and Tunisia.

North African Spahis during the Great War
Spahis formed light cavalry regiments for the French armed forces during the Great War, being recruited from as far afield as Algeria, Tunisia, and Turkey, with a regiment of them surviving in today's French armed forces (albeit with horses swapped for tanks)


A ceasefire is agreed with the remnants of the Austro-Hungarian empire by British, French, and Italian forces on 3 November. Germany, now alone, sees its emperor abdicate on 9 November, and an armistice is agreed to come into effect on the eleventh hour of 11 November, signalling the end of the war, although many less widespread wars continue as a result of the upheavals caused by it.

1918 - 1920

A French mandate is established in Lebanon in 1918. Additionally in 1920, to ensure their control over Syria in line with their mandate, France ousts King Faysal of Greater Syria and administers the country directly.

1926 - 1940

John / Jean III, duke of Guise

Cousin and brother-in-law.

1939 - 1942

The Nazi German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 is the trigger for the Second World War. With both France and Britain pledged to support Poland, both countries have no option but to declare war on 3 September.

After a lightening march through the Netherlands and Belgium, France is occupied by the Nazi war machine in 1940, ending the 'Third Republic'. Vichy (Fascist) rule is allowed as a puppet state in southern France, Algeria, and Tunisia, although the Tunisians generally look on with an air of quiet satisfaction at France's humiliation.

The French protectorate in Vietnam ends, and by 1941 French Indochina and the Laos protectorate fall under Japanese overlordship. In 1942, Britain takes temporary control of the Madagascar colony.

1940 - 1999

Henry VI, count of Paris



The exiled king of Spain, Alfonso XIII, has until now been supported by a minority of Carlists in the hope that the rift between the rival Spanish royal houses can be healed. However, Alfonso abdicates his claim to the throne and dies just two months later. His eldest son had died in 1938 and his second son, Jaime, had been forced to renounce his rights to the constitutional succession in 1933. However, as duke of Segovia, Jaime proclaims himself the senior legitimate male heir of the House of Capet in 1941, making him the presumed heir to the French throne and head of the House of Bourbon. He and his successors are shown in red to differentiate them from the older claim of Henry VI and his ancestors to the French throne.

1941 - 1975

Jaime, duke of Segovia & Anjou

Son of King Alfonso XIII of Spain. Legitimist pretender.

1944 - 1947

A provisional government is established in France following the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944. Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain, hero of Verdun in the First World War, is condemned to death for his part in appeasing the Nazis, but his sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. During the existence of the provisional government, in 1943 Lebanon gains full independence from France, in 1945 France re-establishes its protectorate in Vietnam (which lasts until 1954), and Syria gains independence in 1946. Upper Volta is re-established and the territory taken back from French Sudan.

1947 - 1959

The Fourth Republic is declared, almost as a continuation of the Third Republic before it. This republic is discredited by inflation and colonial defeats, including a major defeat in Vietnam which effectively ends French involvement in Indochina.

1955 - 1956

On 7 May 1954 the Viet Minh defeat French forces at Dien Bien Phu, effectively ending Gallic involvement in French Indochina. The democratic republic of Vietnam is confirmed in the north of the country (North Vietnam), but this does nothing to end the fighting.

In 1956, Morocco gains independence from France, with Tunisia following suit when it declares itself a kingdom.

1959 - Present

The Fifth Republic is declared.

1960 - 1965

The sixties is a decade of withdrawal from colonial possessions. In 1960, the Central African Republic, Chad, Dahomey (Benin), Madagascar, Mali, and Niger gain full independence. In 1962, Algeria also wins independence.

Paris riots of 1968
The spring of revolution in Paris in 1968 brought social change to France as a whole, as did a similar revolutionary spirit across much of the western world


In France, the May 1968 spring revolution witnesses student riots and a general strike which brings the government of Charles de Gaulle to the point of collapse, and triggers social change throughout the country.

1975 - 1989

Alfonso, duke of Anjou & Cadiz

Son of Jaime, duke of Segovia. Legitimist pretender.

1989 - Present

Louis Alphonse, duke of Anjou

Son of Alfonso, duke of Anjou. Born 1974. Legitimist pretender.


Bishop Juan Marti Alanis of Urgel and President Francois Mitterrand of France are co-signatories of Andorra's new constitution. The principality finally becomes a parliamentary democracy. The new constitution retains the French and Spanish co-princes, albeit with reduced, and narrowly defined powers. Civil rights are greatly expanded to include the legalisation of political parties and trade unions, and provision is made for an independent judiciary.

1999 - Present

Henry VII, count of Paris, duke of France

Son of Henry VI.


Gonzalo, the son of Duke Jaime of Segovia in Spain, dies without issue. The claim to the ancient title of duke of Aquitaine which had been granted in 1972 dies with him.

Nikolaus 'Klaus' Barbie, 'Butcher of Lyon'
Nikolaus 'Klaus' Barbie, former Nazi SS officer, became known as the 'Butcher of Lyon' for having personally tortured prisoners, and he later surfaced in Bolivia until his arrest and deportation in 1983


Louis Alphonse marries Venezuelan commoner María Margarita Vargas Santaella in a civil ceremony in Caracas, on 5 November. A religious ceremony is held the following day in La Romana, in the Dominican Republic.


President Nicolas Sarkozy threatens to abdicate as co-prince of Andorra if the principality does not change its secretive banking laws to eliminate its longstanding status as a tax haven. Under considerable international pressure, Andorra announces that it will lift its banking secrecy in cases in which accords apply in regard to the interchange of tax data, promising a law by November 2009


The terrorist organisation that goes by the self-proclaimed name of Islamic State continues to export terrorism from its main base in northern Syria. At least two serious atrocities are pinned to their door, the first being the massacre in June of thirty-eight people in Tunisia, when a gunman opens fire on tourists who are staying in the popular resort of Port El Kantaoui, just to the north of Sousse. Thirty of the dead are British.

The second act takes place on 13 November, when 130 people are killed and up to 368 injured during a series of coordinated attacks across the French capital of Paris.

Louis, duke of Burgundy

Son and heir of Louis Alphonse. Born 2010.

Francis, count of Clermont

Son and heir of Henry VII, but disabled.

Jean, duke of Vendome

Brother and nominated regent.

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