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The Military history of France Portal

Henry IV at the Battle of Ivry, by Peter Paul Rubens. Ivry was the most important battle in the French Wars of Religion; victory there allowed a Protestant Henry to ascend to the French throne and establish the Bourbon dynasty, although he converted to Catholicism to soften the political transition.

The military history of France encompasses an immense panorama of conflicts and struggles extending for more than 2,000 years across areas including modern France, greater Europe, and European territorial possessions overseas. Because of such lengthy periods of warfare, the peoples of France have often been at the forefront of military development, and as a result, military trends emerging in France have had a decisive impact on European and world history.

Gallo-Roman conflict predominated from 400 BC to 50 BC, with the Romans emerging victorious in the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar. After the decline of the Roman Empire, a Germanic tribe known as the Franks took control of Gaul by defeating the Gallo-Romans and other competing tribes. The "land of Francia", from which France gets its name, had high points of expansion under the Frankish kings Clovis I, Charles Martel, and Charlemagne. In the Middle Ages, dynastic rivalries with England prompted major conflicts such as the Norman Conquest of England (1066) and the Hundred Years' War (1337 - 1453). With an increasingly centralized monarchy and the first standing army since Roman times, France came out of the Middle Ages as the most powerful nation in Europe, only to lose that status to Spain following defeat in the Italian Wars in the early to mid-sixteenth century. The Wars of Religion crippled France in the late sixteenth century, but a major victory over Spain in the Thirty Years' War of the early seventeenth century, with help from Sweden, made France the most powerful nation on the continent once more. The wars and military successes of Louis XIV in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries left France territorially larger, but fiscally bankrupt.

In the early to mid-eighteenth century, global competition with Great Britain led to several wars, including the Seven Years' War where France lost its North American holdings, but consolation came later in the form of preeminence in Europe and the American Revolutionary War, where extensive French aid led to America's independence. Internal political upheaval eventually led to 23 years of nearly continuous conflict in the French Revolutionary Wars (1792 - 1802) and the Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815). France reached the zenith of its power during this period, dominating the European continent in an unprecedented fashion by repeatedly defeating the numerous coalitions arranged against it, but after the defeat at the Battle of Waterloo of 1815 and the subsequent abdication of Napoléon, it had been restored to its pre-Revolutionary borders. The rest of the nineteenth century witnessed the growth of the French colonial empire and significant wars with Russia in the Crimea (a victor in the Crimean War of 1856), with Austria in Italy (a victor in the Second Italian War of Independence of 1859), and with Prussia within France itself (defeated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870).

Franco-German rivalry reasserted itself again in World War I (1914 - 1918), this time France, along with British and to a much lesser extent, American aid, emerged as the victor. Tensions over the Versailles Treaty led to the Second World War (1939 - 1945), where it was defeated, along with the British Expeditionary Force, by Germany in the Battle of France (1940). The Allies, including the Free French Forces, the French Resistance, and later France itself as a liberated and restored nation, eventually achieved victory over the Germans (1945). As a result, France was given an occupation zone in Germany and a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. The two world wars destroyed Franco-German rivalry and paved the way for European integration, economically, politically, and militarily.

During the post-war period, France participated in the Korean War of 1950 to 1953 as a member of the United Nations contingent. France joined Britain and Israel in attacking Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956. While successfully crushing the Malagasy Uprising (1947 - 1948), France was stalemated militarily in its lengthy colonial wars in Vietnam (1946 - 1954) and Algeria (1954 - 1962). France lost those two colonies because of a lack of political will to continue the brutal fighting indefinitely.

Today, French military intervention is most often seen in its former African colonies and with its NATO, European and American allies in places such as Kuwait (1991 Gulf War), the Balkans (mid to late 1990s) and in Afganistan (since 2002 as part of ISAF). In 2006, the French Armed Forces constituted the largest military in the European Union and the 12th largest in the world by number of service personnel. The French Armed Forces however have the 3rd highest expenditure of any military in the world, as well as the 3rd largest nuclear force in the world, only behind those of the United States and Russia.

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Northern Italy in 1494; by the start of the war in 1508, Louis XII had expelled the Sforza from the Duchy of Milan and added its territory to France.
The War of the League of Cambrai, sometimes known as the War of the Holy League and by several other names, was a major conflict in the Italian Wars. The principal participants of the war, which was fought from 1508 to 1516, were France, the Papal States, and the Republic of Venice; they were joined, at various times, by nearly every significant power in Western Europe, including Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of Scotland, the Duchy of Milan, Florence, the Duchy of Ferrara, and the Swiss. Pope Julius II, intending to curb Venetian influence in northern Italy, had created the League of Cambrai, an anti-Venetian alliance that included, besides himself, Louis XII of France, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and Ferdinand I of Spain. Although the League was initially successful, friction between Julius and Louis caused it to collapse by 1510; Julius then allied himself with Venice against France. The Veneto-Papal alliance eventually expanded into the Holy League, which drove the French from Italy in 1512; disagreements about the division of the spoils, however, led Venice to abandon the alliance in favor of one with France. Under the leadership of Francis I, who had succeeded Louis to the throne, the French and Venetians would, through their victory at Marignano in 1515, regain the territory they had lost; the treaties of Noyon and Brussels, which ended the war the next year, would essentially return the map of Italy to the status quo of 1508.

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The 1st Foreign Engineer Regiment (French: 1er régiment étranger de génie) (1er REG) is a Military engineer regiment in the French Foreign Legion. It is a part of the 6th Light Armoured Brigade. The regiment is station in Laudon.

It was created on 1 October, 1939 as the 6th Foreign Infantry Regiment. The manpower came from 3 battalions of the 1st Foreign Infantry Regiment and one from 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment. It was disbanded 1 January 1942 and its soldiers were transeferred into the 1st Foreign Regiment and Foreign Legion depots. (More...)

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Sir Jacques Le Gris was a squire and knight in fourteenth century France who gained fame and infamy when he engaged in the last judicial duel permitted by the Parlement of Paris after he was accused of rape by the wife of his neighbour and rival Sir Jean de Carrouges. Carrouges brought legal proceedings against Le Gris before King Charles VI who after hearing the evidence, authorised a trial by combat to determine the question. The duel attracted thousands of spectators and has been discussed by many notable French writers, from the contemporary Jean Froissart to Voltaire. Described as a large and physically imposing character with a reputation for womanising, Le Gris was a liege man (feudal retainer) of Count Pierre d'Alençon and a favourite at his court, governing a large swathe of his liege lord's territory in addition to his own ancestral holdings. Le Gris' insistence on defending his case in by chivalric trial by combat rather than opting for the safer church trial (to which as a cleric in minor orders he was entitled) attracted widespread support for his cause amongst the French nobility, and controversy continues to this day as to where the real guilt lies in the case.Jacques Le Gris was born in the 1330s, the son of a minor Norman squire Guillaume Le Gris. Unusually for the time, he was educated, taking minor orders as a cleric in the church. and able to read sufficiently well to officiate at mass. Like his father, Le Gris was first a man-at-arms and then squire in the service of the Count of Perche, a role at which he excelled. He also participated in several minor military campaigns in Normandy in the entourage of Robert d'Alençon.


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