Portal:France

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Bienvenue sur le Portail France !

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Location
Location of Metropolitan France

The Republic of France, more commonly known as France is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in Western Europe and that also comprises a collection of overseas islands and territories located in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. France is the largest country in Europe (674,843 km² with its overseas départements). With a population of over 66 million inhabitants, France is the second most populous country in Western Europe (after Germany) and the 20th largest in the world. Paris is the most populous city in France with over 12 million people in its aire urbaine, Lyon is the second largest city with 2.2 million people, associated with Villeurbanne, and the third is Marseille with just 1.7 million people.

The French Republic is a democracy which is organised as a unitary semi-presidential republic. It has the fifth-largest economy in the world in nominal terms. Its main ideals are expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. France is one of the founding members of the European Union, and has the largest land area of all members. France is also a founding member of the United Nations, and a member of the G7, G8, NATO, and the Latin Union. It is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council wielding veto power, and it is also one of eight acknowledged nuclear powers. With almost 82 million foreign tourists each year, France is the most popular international tourist destination in the world.

French is the official language of France, but each region has its own unique accent; in addition to French, there are several other languages of France traditionally spoken, although use of these languages has greatly decreased over the past two hundred years. French is also an official language in 41 countries, most of which form what is called in French la Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations.

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Catherine had two galleries built on Diane's bridge over the Cher River at Chenonceau
Catherine de' Medici's building projects included the Valois chapel at Saint-Denis, the Tuileries Palace, and the Hôtel de la Reine in Paris, and extensions to the château of Chenonceau, near Blois. Born in 1519 in Florence to an Italian father and a French mother, Catherine de' Medici was a daughter of both the Italian and the French Renaissance. In 1533, at the age of fourteen, she left Italy and married Henry, the second son of Francis I and Queen Claude of France. On doing so, she entered the greatest Renaissance court in northern Europe.

King Francis set his daughter-in-law an example of kingship and artistic patronage that she never forgot. She witnessed his huge architectural schemes at Chambord and Fontainebleau. She saw Italian and French craftsmen at work together, forging the style that became known as the first School of Fontainebleau. Francis died in 1547, and Catherine became queen consort of France. But it wasn't until her husband King Henry's death in 1559 that Catherine came into her own as a patron of architecture. Over the next three decades, she launched a series of costly building projects aimed at enhancing the grandeur of the monarchy.

Though she spent colossal sums on the building and embellishment of monuments and palaces, little remains of Catherine's investment today. Catherine de' Medici's reputation as a sponsor of buildings rests instead on the designs and treatises of her architects.

Selected biography

Honoré de Balzac on an 1842 daguerreotype by Louis-Auguste Bisson
Honoré de Balzac was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled, La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac's works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics.

An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was an apprentice in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

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Napoleon's exile to Elba3.jpg


Napoleon Bonaparte's exile to Elba, from a British engraving, 1814.
Image credit: Published by J. Phillips, No. 32 Charles Street Hampstead road (London), May 1814.

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Pierre-François Palloy.

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Parent portals: Europe | European Union

Related portals: French literature | Lyon | Paris | Military history of France | Napoleonic Wars | New France | French language and French-speaking world

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