The name "France" comes from the Latin word Francia, which means "land of the Franks” or "Frankland".
In the 4th century AD, the Germanic tribes, mainly the Franks invaded the Gauls. This is how the name Francia appeared. The modern name "France" comes from the name of the Capetian Kings of France around Paris. The Franks were the first tribe of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Christianity rather than Arianism. The French called themselves "the most Christian Kingdom of France".
The Treaty of Verdun (843), divided Charlemagne’s Empire into three parts. The biggest area was Western Francia. It is similar to modern France. France emerged from the fragmentation of the larger Carolingian empire, when Hugh Capet became King of West “Francia” in 987. Early wars were fought on land with English monarchs, including the Hundred Years War, then against the Habsburgs, when they inherited Spain and tried to surround France. At one point France was closely associated with the Avignon Papacy, and experienced religious wars after the Reformation between a twisting combination of Catholic and Protestant. French royal power reached its peak with the reign of Louis XIV (1642 – 1715), known as the Sun King, and French culture dominated Europe.
Royal power collapsed fairly quickly after Louis XIV and within a century France experienced the French Revolution, which began in 1789, overthrew Louis XVI and established a Republic. France now found itself fighting wars and exporting its world-changing events across Europe.
The French Revolution was soon usurped by a general called Napoleon. The Napoleonic Wars led France to dominate Europe, but later on France was defeated. The monarchy was restored, but instability followed and a second Republic, second empire and third Republic followed in the 19th century. The early 20th century was marked by two German invasions, in 1914 and 1940, and a return to a democratic republic after liberation. France is currently in its Fifth Republic, established in 1959 during upheavals in society.
Key People from the History of France
King Louis XIV (1638 - 1715): he succeeded the French throne in 1642, when he was still a minor, and ruled until 1715; for many contemporaries, he was the only monarch they ever knew. Louis XIV represents the apogee of French absolutism, being called ‘The Sun King’. He was criticized for letting other European nations to grow strong.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821): A Corsican by birth, was trained in the French army and success gained him a reputation, enabling him to get close to the political leaders of late-revolutionary France. Napoleon’s reputation and fame enabled him to seize power and transform the country into an Empire with himself at its head. He was initially successful in European wars, but was beaten and twice forced into exile by a coalition of European nations.
Charles de Gaulle (1890 - 1970): A military commander who became the leader of the Free French forces during the Second World War and then Prime Minister of the liberated country. After retiring he came back to politics in the late 50s to found the French Fifth Republic and create its constitution. He was in power until 1969.