French History

French History
  • Prehistory
  • Ancient History
  • The Middle Ages
  • Hundred Years' War
  • The Black Death
  • Joan of Arc
  • The Renaissance
  • The 17th century
  • The French Revolution
  • The Era of Napoleon
  • The late 19th century
  • The early 20th century
  • The Fifth Republic

The Renaissance

The times of trials and tribulations of France's past had eased considerably by the end of the 15th century. It had recovered most of its territory back from the English, the signing of the Treaty of Étaples, settled France's outstanding difference with England, the feudal social arrangement of the past had given way to a more united social structure, under to rule of one king. The first three kings to reign during this period were Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I.

A more prosperous time was in store, not only for France, but for Europe as a whole. The Americas had only recently been discovered, with the Spaniards bringing over a lot of precious metals and economic growth was further enhanced by public works and military orders, generating work for merchants, tax collectors and bankers, thus further boosting the economy.

During the early 16th century, Francois I continued strengthening the French Crown. He banned use of Latin and implemented the exclusive use of the French language. A generous patron of the arts and learning, he welcomed many Italian artists such as Leonardo da Vinci to France, greatly contributing to the success of the French Renaissance.

During the late 16th century, there was a significant increase in the number of Protestants, known as Huguenots, who faced an increasingly harsh repression under King Henri II and this led to the outbreak of the Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants. Scores of Huguenots were massacred at the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre ordered by Catherine de Medici. The year 1589 saw Henry IV, a Protestant, become the first Bourbon king of France. He was wise to convert publicly to Roman Catholicism, which garnered the approval of the Catholic League, France's Spanish allies and the French themselves, most of who professed that faith. The Wars of Religion were brought to an end by Henry through the Edict of Nantes which granted the Huguenots religious freedom and political rights.

King Henry did much to improve the economic and social situation in France during these years of peace and he grew to be much loved by his people. He was assassinated in 1610 by a fanatic opposed to the official tolerance of Protestants.