List of French military leaders

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Key: Identity

The following is a list of famous French military leaders from the Gauls to modern France. The list is necessarily subjective and incomplete.

Famous French Military Leaders
(ordered chronologically)
Portrait Name Years Identity Notes
François-Louis Dejuinne (1786-1844) - Clovis roi des Francs (465-511).jpg Clovis c. 466-511 Frankish Successful leader of the Franks who quadrupled Frankish territory.
Steuben - Bataille de Poitiers.png Charles Martel 686-741 Frankish Famous victor at the Battle of Tours in 732. The Christian triumph has captured the Western imagination ever since.
Charlemagne and Pope Adrian I.jpg Charlemagne 742/747-814 Frankish Charlemagne established the strongest central administration in the Western world since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476.
Bayeuxtapestrywilliamliftshishelm.jpg William the Conqueror 1028-1087 Norman William, Duke of Normandy, won the Kingdom of England by conquest. The Norman Conquest tore England away from the Scandinavian sphere of influence and brought it to the French sphere of influence. The successors of William held extensive lands in France, challenging the authority of the French kings.
Philippe II Auguste.jpg Philip II Augustus 1165–1223 French Under his leadership, the French won at the Battle of Bouvines against the combined forces of England, Flanders and the Holy Roman Empire in 1214; France emerged as the most powerful state in Europe.
Du Guesclin Dinan.jpg Bertrand du Guesclin c. 1320-1380 French Carried out a wonderful ten-year campaign (1370–1380) during the second phase of the Hundred Years' War that saw the French recapture nearly all of the territory lost under the Treaty of Brétigny.
Xaintrailles and La Hire.jpg La Hire c. 1390-1443 French Most famous for leading the French vanguard in the spectacular victory at Patay.
Joan of Arc on horseback.png Joan of Arc 1412–1431 French Turned the tide of the Hundred Years' War by leading the French to victory at the famous Siege of Orléans.
Gaston de Foix Duke of Nemours.jpg Gaston de Foix 1489–1512 French Remembered for the great French victory at the Battle of Ravenna in 1512, where he also died.
Henry IV of france by pourbous younger.jpg Henry IV of France 1553–1610 French Succeeding to the throne at a low point in the history of the French monarchy, Henry IV's victories over the forces of Spain and the Catholic League restored stability and royal power, ending the French wars of religion.
Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne-Bouillon.jpg Turenne 1611–1675 French One of the greatest commanders of all time, Turenne dominated the battlefields of Europe for several decades throughout the 17th century. His death at Sasbach in 1675 was universally mourned.
Grandconde.jpg The Great Condé 1621–1686 French He and Turenne were the dynamic duo that carried French armies to victory after victory during the reign of Louis XIV. His victory at the Battle of Rocroi in 1643 ushered a new era in military history, with cavalry attaining an operational importance unseen since the Middle Ages.
Marshal luxembourg.jpg Maréchal Luxembourg 1628–1695 French Shined during the Nine Years' War, leading French armies to famous triumphs at Fleurus and Landen, among others.
Voban.jpg Vauban 1633–1707 French Arguably the greatest military engineer of all time, Vauban restructured the French defensive system so thoroughly that France became almost impregnable for much of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Maurice Quentin de La Tour 001.jpg Maurice de Saxe 1696–1750 French Maurice de Saxe was one of the foremost commanders of the 18th century, especially renowned for his brilliant campaign in the War of the Austrian Succession, which led to the capture of Maastricht in 1748.
Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham.jpg Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon 1712-1759 French Louis-Joseph de Montcalm was a French military leader best known as the commander of the forces in North America during the Seven Years' War (whose North American theatre is called the French and Indian War in the United States).
Latouche.jpg Latouche Tréville 1745–1804 French Perhaps the most reliable naval commander Napoleon ever had, Tréville repeatedly proved his abilities by beating off Nelson’s attacks on the French fleet.
Marquis de Lafayette 1.jpg Lafayette 1757–1834 French One of the most recognizable French personages during the American Revolutionary War, Lafayette was instrumental in convincing the French government to intervene on behalf of the colonies, providing the blueprint for ultimate victory.
Andremassena1.jpg André Masséna 1758–1817 French Great general of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. His memorable performances at the Second Battle of Zurich in 1799, the Battle of Caldiero in 1805, and various other actions throughout his career have earned him a spot among the top dignitaries in the French military pantheon.
Moreau 1763–1813 French Great general of the French Revolutionary Wars. Moreau’s decisive victory at Hohenlinden in 1801 proved pivotal in ending the War of the Second Coalition.
Michelney1.jpg Michel Ney 1769–1815 French Marshal of France during the Napoleonic Wars, famous for his great courage ("le brave des braves"). Won the Battle of Elchingen and distinguished himself in the Battle of Friedland. He led the rearguard during the retreat from Moscow, securing the withdrawal from constant Russian attacks.
Jean Charles Nicaise Perrin 001.jpg Jean Lannes 1769–1809 French Marshal of France during the Napoleonic Wars. A close friend of Napoleon himself, Lannes distinguished himself at the battles of Montebello and Friedland among many others before being killed on the battlefield at Essling. Napoleon later said of him: "I found him a pygmy and left him a giant."
David - Napoleon crossing the Alps - Malmaison1.jpg Napoleon Bonaparte 1769–1821 French Napoleon is often ranked among the greatest military commanders of all time. His campaigns established a new era in military history and are still studied at military academies all over the world. His victories at Rivoli, Austerlitz, Friedland, and Dresden still enthrall the popular imagination.
Louisdavout1.jpg Davout 1770–1823 French Widely regarded as Napoleon’s greatest marshal, Davout had a tenacious reputation for pulling off surprising victories. In 1806, 27,000 men of his legendary III Corps defeated 63,000 Prussians at the Battle of Auerstadt, inflicting 13,000 casualties and capturing 115 enemy guns.
Maréchal Mac Mahon.jpg Patrice MacMahon 1808–1893 French A brave and skilled general, distinguished himself in Algeria, the Crimean and Italy. He fought well during the Franco-Prussian War, but was wounded and his army was forced to surrender at Sedan. During the aftermath of the war he suppressed the Paris Commune.
Bazaine.jpeg Bazaine 1811–1888 French The great military hero of the Second Empire who proved himself in the Crimean War and at Solferino (1859) before conducting a horrible campaign during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.
Ferdinand Foch pre 1915.jpg Ferdinand Foch 1851–1929 French Foch was made the Supreme Allied Commander in 1918 during World War I and engineered the very successful counter-attack at the Second Battle of the Marne, a triumph that set off a series of Allied victories.
Joseph Joffre.jpg Joffre 1852–1931 French Famous French commander of World War I who regrouped the retreating Allied forces to defeat the Germans at the strategically decisive First Battle of the Marne in 1914.
Philippe Pétain 1856–1951 French Another great French commander of World War I, Pétain led the French to victory at Verdun and restored the army’s morale after the mutinies of 1917. In World War II, he at first fought against and later collaborated with the Germans by leading the government of Vichy France.
Louis Franchet D'Esperey.jpg Louis Franchet d'Espérey 1856–1942 French Known as ‘Desperate Frankie’ by the British, d'Espèrey led the famous Vardar Offensive of 1918 that captured much of the Balkans and knocked Bulgaria out of the war.
De Lattre.jpg Maréchal Tassigny 1889–1952 French Brilliant French commander during World War II. As part of Operation Dragoon in 1944, his French Army B captured over 28,000 Germans and liberated Marseilles and Toulon. He also conducted several brilliant campaigns in the First Indochina War, winning impressively at the Battle of Vinh Yen in 1951.
De Gaulle-OWI.jpg Charles de Gaulle 1890–1970 French His theories about armored warfare were ignored by the French military establishment. Mostly noted for his stalwart leadership of the Free French Forces during World War II.
JACQUESLECLERC.JPG Maréchal Leclerc 1902–1947 French Perhaps the greatest French military leader in the Second World War, Leclerc’s desert campaigns and his drive on Paris in 1944 are still immortalized in French history.