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The French Republic or France (French: République française or 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. After Russia, France is the largest country in Europe (643,427 km² with its overseas départements). With a population of over 63 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 4.415 million people, and the third is Marseille with just over 2 million people, associated with Aix en Provence.

The French Republic is a democracy which is organised as a unitary semi-presidential republic. It has the seventh-largest economy in the world. 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 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 75 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.

Picture of the Month (Archive)


A sculler rowing in front of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France. Although Brussels is usually considered the 'capital' of the European Union, the Parliament meets monthly in Strasbourg. Photo credit: Andreas Tille

Article of the Month (Archive)

Fusilier-Grenadiers and Fusilier-Chasseurs of the Middle Guard, 1806-1814.

The Grande Armée (French for "the Great Army" or "the Grand Army") first entered the annals of history when, in 1805, Napoleon I renamed the army that he had assembled on the French coast of the English Channel for the proposed invasion of Britain and re-deployed it East to commence the Campaign of 1805 against Austria and Russia.

Thereafter, the name was used for the principal French army deployed in the Campaigns of 1806-07, 1812, and 1813-14. In practice, however, the term "Grande Armée" is used in English to refer to all of the multinational forces gathered by Napoleon I in his campaigns of the early nineteenth century (see Napoleonic Wars).

The first Grande Armée consisted of six corps under the command of Napoleon's marshals and senior generals. When Napoleon discovered that Russian and Austrian armies were preparing to invade France in late 1805, the Grande Armée was quickly ordered across the Rhine into Southern Germany, leading to Napoleon's victories at Ulm and Austerlitz.

The army grew in size as Napoleon's might spread across Europe. It reached its maximum size of 600,000 men at the start of the invasion of Russia against the Sixth Coalition in 1812. All contingents were commanded by French generals, except for a Polish and an Austrian corps. The huge multinational army marched slowly eastwards, with the Russians falling back before it. After the capture of Smolensk and victory in the Battle of Borodino, Napoleon and a large part of the Grande Armée reached Moscow on 14 September 1812; however, the army was already drastically reduced in numbers due to bloody battles with Russians, disease (principally typhus) and long communication lines. The army spent a month in Moscow, but was ultimately forced to march back westwards. Assailed by cold, starvation and disease, and constantly harassed by Cossacks and Russian irregulars, the retreat utterly destroyed the Grande Armée as a fighting force. As many as 400,000 died in the adventure and only a few tens of thousands of ravaged troops returned.

Napoleon led a new army to the Battle of Nations at Leipzig in 1813, in the furious defence of France in 1814, and in the Waterloo campaign in 1815, but the Napoleonic French army would never regain the heights of the Grande Armée in June 1812. Read more...

Person of the Month (Archive)

The house where Isabelle Romée raised Joan of Arc. Photo © Francis MONTIGNON) fr:GFDL Francis MONTIGNON (Francis241256 at fr.wikipedia)

Isabelle Romée, also known as Isabelle de Vouthon and Isabelle d'Arc (1377 – 1458) and Ysabeau Romee, was the mother of Joan of Arc. She was a native of Vouthon, a village near Domrémy-la-Pucelle where she and her husband Jacques d'Arc settled. Together they owned about 50 acres of land and a modest house. Isabelle Romée may have earned her surname from a pilgrimage to Rome. Surnames were not universal in the early 15th century and a woman could maintain a different one from her husband's.

Isabelle Romée gave her daughter a religious, Catholic upbringing and taught her the craft of spinning wool. She also had two surviving sons: Pierre and Jean. Like the rest of the immediate family, she was ennobled by royal grant in December 1429. She moved to Orléans in 1440 after her husband's death and received a pension from the city.

Isabelle Romée spent the rest of her life restoring her daughter's name. She petitioned Pope Nicholas V to reopen the court case that had convicted Joan of heresy. An inquiry finally opened in 1449. On 7 November 1455, after the reign of Pope Callixtus III had begun, she traveled to Paris to visit the delegation from the Holy See. Although she was over seventy years old she addressed the assembly with a moving speech. The appeals court overturned the conviction on 7 July 1456. Read more...

Recent events in France

October 13 - Actor Guillaume Depardieu Dies
The French actor Guillaume Depardieu died on October 13, 2008, at the Garches hospital the age of 37 after contracting severe viral pneumonia at a filming location in Romania, where he had been working on a new movie, L'Enfance d'Icare. AFP, BBC News

October 9 - J. M. G. Le Clézio Wins Nobel Prize
Franco-Mauritian novelist Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature.

July 27 - Carlos Sastre wins 2008 Tour de France
The Spanish cyclist Carlos Sastre won the 2008 Tour de France. Sastre is the third consecutive Spanish rider to win the Tour. Full story: NYTimes BBC CNN

July 5 - 2008 Tour de France begins
The 2008 Tour de France began on July 5 and will run through the 27th. This year's Tour differs from previous years' in significant ways. For the first time since 1967, the Tour will begin without a prologue time trial. Tour organizers have also decided to eliminate time bonuses. Full story: NYTimes Telegraph

More news from: Wikinews - Google - France 24 - Weather

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