"La France" redirects here. For other uses of "La France", see Lafrance (disambiguation). For other uses of "France", see France (disambiguation).
République française (French)
Motto: "Liberté, égalité, fraternité"
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and largest city
48°51′N2°21′E / 48.850°N 2.350°E / 48.850; 2.350
|Recognised regional languages||See Languages of France|
and national language
• Prime Minister
• President of the Senate
• President of the National Assembly
|François de Rugy|
• Upper house
• Lower house
• Francia unified
• Treaty of Verdun[II]
• Republic established
|22 September 1792|
• Founded the EEC[III]
|1 January 1958|
• Current constitution[IV]
|4 October 1958|
|640,679 km2 (247,368 sq mi) (42nd)|
• Metropolitan France (IGN)
|551,695 km2 (213,011 sq mi)[V] (50th)|
• Metropolitan France (Cadastre)
|543,940.9 km2 (210,016.8 sq mi)[VI] (50th)|
• 2017 estimate
|104/km2 (270/sq mi) (106th)|
• Metropolitan France, estimate as of December 2017[update]
|116/km2 (300.4/sq mi) (89th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2017 estimate|
|$2.826 trillion (10th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2017 estimate|
|$2.574 trillion (5th)|
• Per capita
|HDI (2015)|| 0.897|
very high · 21st
|Time zone||Central European Time(UTC+1)|
• Summer (DST)
|Central European Summer Time[X] (UTC+2)|
|Note: various other time zones are observed in overseas France.[IX]|
|Date format||dd/mm/yyyy (AD)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||FR|
Source gives area of metropolitan France as 551,500 km2 (212,900 sq mi) and lists overseas regions separately, whose areas sum to 89,179 km2 (34,432 sq mi). Adding these give the total shown here for the entire French Republic. The CIA reports the total as 643,801 km2 (248,573 sq mi).
France (French: [fʁɑ̃s]), officially the French Republic (French: République française[ʁepyblik fʁɑ̃sɛz]), is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in western Europe, as well as several overseas regions and territories.[XIII] The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions (five of which are situated overseas) span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) which, as of October 2017, has a population of 67.15 million people. France is a unitarysemi-presidentialrepublic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban centres include Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Nice, Toulouse and Bordeaux.
During the Iron Age, what is now metropolitan France was inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people. Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, and held the region until 486, when the GermanicFranks conquered the region and formed the Kingdom of France. France emerged as a major European power in the Late Middle Ages following its victory in the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453). During the Renaissance, French culture flourished and a global colonial empire was established, which by the 20th century would be the second largest in the world. The 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots). France became Europe's dominant cultural, political, and military power under Louis XIV. In the late 18th century, the French Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy, established one of modern history's earliest republics, and saw the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day.
In the 19th century Napoleon took power and established the First French Empire. His subsequent Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of continental Europe. Following the collapse of the Empire, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments culminating with the establishment of the French Third Republic in 1870. France was a major participant in World War I, from which it emerged victorious, and was one of the Allied Powers in World War II, but came under occupation by the Axis powers in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, was formed in 1958 and remains today. Algeria and nearly all the other colonies became independent in the 1960s and typically retained close economic and military connections with France.
France has long been a global centre of art, science, and philosophy. It hosts Europe's third-largest number of cultural UNESCOWorld Heritage Sites and receives around 83 million foreign tourists annually, the most of any country in the world. France is a developed country with the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest by purchasing power parity. In terms of aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world. France performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, and human development. France is globally considered a great power in the world, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with the power to veto and is an official nuclear-weapon state. It is a leadingmember state of the European Union and the Eurozone. It is also a member of the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie.
Main article: Name of France
Originally applied to the whole Frankish Empire, the name "France" comes from the LatinFrancia, or "country of the Franks". Modern France is still named today Francia in Italian and Spanish, Frankreich in German and Frankrijk in Dutch, all of which have the same historical meaning.
There are various theories as to the origin of the name Frank. Following the precedents of Edward Gibbon and Jacob Grimm, the name of the Franks has been linked with the word frank (free) in English. It has been suggested that the meaning of "free" was adopted because, after the conquest of Gaul, only Franks were free of taxation. Another theory is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic word frankon, which translates as javelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca. However, it has been determined that these weapons were named because of their use by the Franks, not the other way around.
Main article: History of France
Prehistory (before the 6th century BC)
Main article: Prehistory of France
The oldest traces of human life in what is now France date from approximately 1.8 million years ago.Humans were then confronted by a harsh and variable climate, marked by several glacial eras. Early homonids led a nomadichunter-gatherer life. France has a large number of decorated caves from the upper Palaeolithic era, including one of the most famous and best preserved: Lascaux (approximately 18,000 BC).
At the end of the last glacial period (10,000 BC), the climate became milder; from approximately 7,000 BC, this part of Western Europe entered the Neolithic era and its inhabitants became sedentary. After strong demographic and agricultural development between the 4th and 3rd millennia, metallurgy appeared at the end of the 3rd millennium, initially working gold, copper and bronze, and later iron. France has numerous megalithic sites from the Neolithic period, including the exceptionally dense Carnac stones site (approximately 3,300 BC).
Antiquity (6th century BC–5th century AD)
Main articles: Gaul, Celts, and Roman Gaul
In 600 BC, IonianGreeks, originating from Phocaea, founded the colony of Massalia (present-day Marseille), on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This makes it France's oldest city. At the same time, some Gallic Celtic tribes penetrated parts of the current territory of France, and this occupation spread to the rest of France between the 5th and 3rd century BC.
The concept of Gaul emerged at that time; it corresponds to the territories of Celtic settlement ranging between the Rhine, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. The borders of modern France are roughly the same as those of ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by Celtic Gauls. Gaul was then a prosperous country, of which the southernmost part was heavily subject to Greek and Roman cultural and economic influences.
Around 390 BC the Gallic chieftainBrennus and his troops made their way to Italy through the Alps, defeated the Romans in the Battle of the Allia, and besieged and ransomedRome. The Gallic invasion left Rome weakened, and the Gauls continued to harass the region until 345 BC when they entered into a formal peace treaty with Rome. But the Romans and the Gauls would remain adversaries for the next several centuries, and the Gauls would continue to be a threat in Italia.
Around 125 BC, the south of Gaul was conquered by the Romans, who called this region Provincia Nostra ("Our Province"), which over time evolved into the name Provence in French.Julius Caesar conquered the remainder of Gaul and overcame a revolt carried out by the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix in 52 BC. Gaul was divided by Augustus into Roman provinces. Many cities were founded during the Gallo-Roman period, including Lugdunum (present-day Lyon), which is considered the capital of the Gauls. These cities were built in traditional Roman style, with a forum, a theatre, a circus, an amphitheatre and thermal baths. The Gauls mixed with Roman settlers and eventually adopted Roman culture and Roman speech (Latin, from which the French language evolved). The Roman polytheism merged with the Gallic paganism into the same syncretism.
From the 250s to the 280s AD, Roman Gaul suffered a serious crisis with its fortified borders being attacked on several occasions by barbarians. Nevertheless, the situation improved in the first half of the 4th century, which was a period of revival and prosperity for Roman Gaul. In 312, the emperor Constantin I converted to Christianity. Subsequently, Christians, who had been persecuted until then, increased rapidly across the entire Roman Empire. But, from the beginning of the 5th century, the Barbarian Invasions resumed, and Germanic tribes, such as the Vandals, Suebi and Alans crossed the Rhine and settled in Gaul, Spain and other parts of the collapsing Roman Empire.
Early Middle Ages (5th century–10th century)
Main articles: Francia, Merovingian dynasty, and Carolingian dynasty
See also: List of French monarchs and France in the Middle Ages
At the end of the Antiquity period, ancient Gaul was divided into several Germanic kingdoms and a remaining Gallo-Roman territory, known as the Kingdom of Syagrius. Simultaneously, Celtic Britons, fleeing the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, settled the western part of Armorica. As a result, the Armorican peninsula was renamed Brittany, Celtic culture was revived and independent petty kingdoms arose in this region.
The pagan Franks, from whom the ancient name of "Francie" was derived, originally settled the north part of Gaul, but under Clovis I conquered most of the other kingdoms in northern and central Gaul. In 498, Clovis I was the first Germanic conqueror after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Catholic Christianity, rather than Arianism; thus France was given the title "Eldest daughter of the Church" (French: La fille aînée de l'Église) by the papacy, and French kings would be called "the Most Christian Kings of France" (Rex Christianissimus).
The Franks embraced the Christian Gallo-Roman culture and ancient Gaul was eventually renamed Francia ("Land of the Franks"). The Germanic Franks adopted Romanic languages, except in northern Gaul where Roman settlements were less dense and where Germanic languages emerged. Clovis made Paris his capital and established the Merovingian dynasty, but his kingdom would not survive his death. The Franks treated land purely as a private possession and divided it among their heirs, so four kingdoms emerged from Clovis's: Paris, Orléans, Soissons, and Rheims. The last Merovingian kingslost power to their mayors of the palace (head of household). One mayor of the palace, Charles Martel, defeated an Islamic invasion of Gaul at the Battle of Tours (732) and earned respect and power within the Frankish kingdoms. His son, Pepin the Short, seized the crown of Francia from the weakened Merovingians and founded the Carolingian dynasty. Pepin's son, Charlemagne, reunited the Frankish kingdoms and built a vast empire across Western and Central Europe.
Proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III and thus establishing in earnest the French government's longtime historical association with the Catholic Church, Charlemagne tried to revive the Western Roman Empire and its cultural grandeur. Charlemagne's son, Louis I (emperor 814–840), kept the empire united; however, this Carolingian Empire would not survive his death. In 843, under the Treaty of Verdun, the empire was divided between Louis' three sons, with East Francia going to Louis the German, Middle Francia to Lothair I, and West Francia to Charles the Bald. West Francia approximated the area occupied by, and was the precursor, to modern France.
During the 9th and 10th centuries, continually threatened by Viking invasions, France became a very decentralised state: the nobility's titles and lands became hereditary, and the authority of the king became more religious than secular and thus was less effective and constantly challenged by powerful noblemen. Thus was established feudalism in France. Over time, some of the king's vassals would grow so powerful that they often posed a threat to the king. For example, after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror added "King of England" to his titles, becoming both the vassal to (as Duke of Normandy) and the equal of (as king of England) the king of France, creating recurring tensions.
Late Middle Ages (10th century–15th century)
Main articles: Kingdom of France, Capetian dynasty, Valois dynasty, and Bourbon dynasty
See also: List of French monarchs and France in the Middle Ages
The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of the Franks. His descendants—the Capetians, the House of Valois, and the House of Bourbon—progressively unified the country through wars and dynastic inheritance into the Kingdom of France, which was fully declared in 1190 by Philip II Augustus. The French nobility played a prominent role in most Crusades in order to restore Christian access to the Holy Land. French knights made up the bulk of the steady flow of reinforcements throughout the two-hundred-year span of the Crusades, in such a fashion that the Arabs uniformly referred to the crusaders as Franj caring little whether they really came from France. The French Crusaders also imported the French language into the Levant, making French the base of the lingua franca (litt. "Frankish language") of the Crusader states. French knights also made up the majority in both the Hospital and the Temple orders. The latter, in particular, held numerous properties throughout France and by the 13th century were the principal bankers for the French crown, until Philip IV annihilated the order in 1307. The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars in the southwestern area of modern-day France. In the end, the Cathars were exterminated and the autonomous County of Toulouse was annexed into the crown lands of France. Later kings expanded their domain to cover over half of modern continental France, including most of the north, centre and west of France. Meanwhile, the royal authority became more and more assertive, centred on a hierarchically conceived society distinguishing nobility, clergy, and commoners.
Charles IV the Fair died without an heir in 1328. Under the rules of the Salic law the crown of France could not pass to a woman nor could the line of kingship pass through the female line. Accordingly, the crown passed to Philip of Valois, a cousin of Charles, rather than through the female line to Charles' nephew, Edward, who would soon become Edward III of England. During the reign of Philip of Valois, the French monarchy reached the height of its medieval power. Philip's seat on the throne was contested by Edward III of England and in 1337, on the eve of the first wave of the Black Death, England and France went to war in what would become known as the Hundred Years' War. The exact boundaries changed greatly with time, but French landholdings of the English Kings remained extensive for decades. With charismatic leaders, such as Joan of Arc and La Hire, strong French counterattacks won back English continental territories. Like the rest of Europe, France was struck by the Black Death; half of the 17 million population of France died.
Early modern period (15th century–1789)
- Main articles: French Renaissance (c. 1400–c. 1650), Early modern France (1500–1789), French Wars of Religion (1562–1598) and Ancien Régime (c. 1400–1792)
The French Renaissance saw a spectacular cultural development and the first standardisation of the French language, which would become the official language of France and the language of Europe's aristocracy. It also saw a long set of wars, known as the Italian Wars, between the Kingdom of France and the powerful Holy Roman Empire. French explorers, such as Jacques Cartier or Samuel de Champlain, claimed lands in the Americas for France, paving the way for the expansion of the First French colonial empire. The rise of Protestantism in Europe led France to a civil war known as the French Wars of Religion, where, in the most notorious incident, thousands of Huguenots were murdered in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572. The Wars of Religion were ended by Henry IV's Edict of Nantes, which granted some freedom of religion to the Huguenots.
Under Louis XIII, the energetic Cardinal Richelieu promoted the centralisation of the state and reinforced the royal power by disarming domestic power holders in the 1620s. He systematically destroyed castles of defiant lords and denounced the use of private violence (dueling, carrying weapons, and maintaining private army). By the end of 1620s, Richelieu established "the royal monopoly of force" as the doctrine. During Louis XIV's minority and the regency of Queen Anne and Cardinal Mazarin, a period of trouble known as the Fronde occurred in France, which was at that time at war with Spain. This rebellion was driven by the great feudal lords and sovereign courts as a reaction to the rise of royal absolute power in France.
The monarchy reached its peak during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. By turning powerful feudal lords into courtiers at the Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV's personal power became unchallenged. Remembered for his numerous wars, he made France the leading European power. France became the most populous country in Europe and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the most-used language in diplomacy, science, literature and international affairs, and remained so until the 20th century. France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Louis XIV also revoked the Edict of Nantes, forcing thousands of Huguenots into exile.
Under Louis XV, Louis XIV's great-grandson, France lost New France and most of its Indian possessions after its defeat in the Seven Years' War, which ended in 1763. Its European territory kept growing, however, with notable acquisitions such as Lorraine (1766) and Corsica (1770). An unpopular king, Louis XV's weak rule, his ill-advised financial, political and military decisions – as well as the debauchery of his court– discredited the monarchy, which arguably paved the way for the French Revolution 15 years after his death.
Louis XVI, Louis XV's grandson, actively supported the Americans, who were seeking their independence from Great Britain (realised in the Treaty of Paris (1783)). The financial crisis that followed France's involvement in the American Revolutionary War was one of many contributing factors to the French Revolution. Much of the Enlightenment occurred in French intellectual circles, and major scientific breakthroughs and inventions, such as the discovery of oxygen (1778) and the first hot air balloon carrying passengers (1783), were achieved by French scientists. French explorers, such as Bougainville and Lapérouse, took part in the voyages of scientific exploration through maritime expeditions around the globe. The Enlightenment philosophy, in which reason is advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority, undermined the power of and support for the monarchy and helped pave the way for the French Revolution.
Revolutionary France (1789–1799)
Main articles: History of France § Revolutionary France (1789–1799), and French Revolution
Facing financial troubles, King Louis XVI summoned the Estates-General (gathering the three Estates of the realm) in May 1789 to propose solutions to his government. As it came to an impasse, the representatives of the Third Estate formed into a National Assembly, signalling the outbreak of the French Revolution. Fearing that the king would suppress the newly created National Assembly, insurgents stormed the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a date which would become France's National Day.
In early August 1789, the National Constituent Assemblyabolished the privileges of the nobility such as personal serfdom and exclusive hunting rights. Through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (27 August 1789) France established fundamental rights for men. The Declaration affirms "the natural and imprescriptible rights of man" to "liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression". Freedom of speech and press were declared, and arbitrary arrests outlawed. It called for the destruction of aristocratic privileges and proclaimed freedom and equal rights for all men, as well as access to public office based on talent rather than birth.
In November 1789, the Assembly decided to nationalize and sell all property of the Roman Catholic Church which had been the largest landowner in the country. In July 1790, a Civil Constitution of the Clergy reorganised the French Catholic Church, cancelling the authority of the Church to levy taxes, et cetera. This fueled much discontent in parts of France, which would contribute to the civil war breaking out some years later. While King Louis XVI still enjoyed popularity among the population, his disastrous flight to Varennes (June 1791) seemed to justify rumours he had tied his hopes of political salvation to the prospects of foreign invasion. His credibility was so deeply undermined that the abolition of the monarchy and establishment of a republic became an increasing possibility.
In August 1791, the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia in the Declaration of Pillnitz threatened revolutionary France to intervene by force of arms to restore the French absolute monarchy. In September 1791, the National Constituent Assembly forced King Louis XVI to accept the French Constitution of 1791, thus turning the French absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. In the newly established Legislative Assembly (October 1791), enmity developed and deepened between a group, later called the 'Girondins', who favored war with Austria and Prussia, and a group later called 'Montagnards' or 'Jacobins', who opposed such a war. But a majority in the Assembly in 1792 saw a war with Austria and Prussia as a chance to boost the popularity of the revolutionary government, and thought that France would win a war against those gathered monarchies. On 20 April 1792, therefore, they declared war on Austria.[XIV]
On 10 August 1792, an angry crowd threatened the palace of King Louis XVI, who took refuge in the Legislative Assembly. A Prussian army invaded France later in August 1792. In early September, Parisians, infuriated by the Prussian army capturing Verdun
"Côte d'Azur" redirects here. For other uses, see Côte d'Azur (disambiguation).
"Blue Coast" redirects here. For other uses, see Blue Coast Records.
The French Riviera (known in French as the Côte d'AzurFrench pronunciation: [kot daˈzyʁ]; Occitan: Còsta d'Azurpronounced [ˈkɔstɔ daˈzyɾ]; literal translation "Coast of Azure") is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France. There is no official boundary, but it is usually considered to extend from Cassis or Toulon or Saint-Tropez on the west to the France-Italy border in the east, where the Italian Riviera joins. The coast is entirely within the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) region of France. The principality of Monaco is a semi-enclave within the region, surrounded on three sides by France and fronting the Mediterranean.
This coastline was one of the first modern resort areas. It began as a winter health resort for the British upper class at the end of the 18th century. With the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century, it became the playground and vacation spot of British, Russian, and other aristocrats, such as Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales. In the summer, it also played home to many members of the Rothschild family. In the first half of the 20th century, it was frequented by artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, and Aldous Huxley, as well as wealthy Americans and Europeans. After World War II, it became a popular tourist destination and convention site. Many celebrities, such as Elton John and Brigitte Bardot, have homes in the region. Officially, the French Riviera is home to 163 nationalities with 83,962 foreign residents, although estimates of the number of non-French nationals living in the area are often much higher.
Its largest city is Nice, which has a population of 347,060 (2006). The city is the center of a communauté urbaine – Nice-Côte d'Azur – bringing together 24 communes and more than 500,000 inhabitants and 933,080 in the urban area.
Nice is home to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport, France's third-busiest airport (after Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris-Orly), which is on an area of partially reclaimed coastal land at the western end of the Promenade des Anglais. A second airport at Mandelieu was once the region's commercial airport, but is now mainly used by private and business aircraft. The A8 autoroute runs through the region, as does the old main road generally known as the Route nationale 7 (officially now the DN7 in the Var and the D6007 in the Alpes-Maritimes). Trains serve the coastal region and inland to Grasse, with the TGV Sud Est service reaching Nice-Ville station in five and a half hours from Paris.
The French Riviera has a total population of more than two million. It contains the seaside resorts of Cap-d'Ail, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, Cannes, Saint-Raphaël, Fréjus, Sainte Maxime and Saint-Tropez, It is also home to a high-tech/science park or technopole at Sophia-Antipolis (north of Antibes), and a research and technology center at the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. The region has 35,000 students, of whom 25 percent are working toward a doctorate.
The French Riviera is a major yachting and cruising area with several marinas along its coast. According to the Côte d'Azur Economic Development Agency, each year the Riviera hosts 50 percent of the world's superyacht fleet, with 90 percent of all superyachts visiting the region's coast at least once in their lifetime.
As a tourist center, French Riviera benefits from 310 to 330 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71 miles) of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants.
Origin of term
The term French Riviera is typical of English use. It was built by analogy with the term Italian Riviera, which extends east of the French Riviera (from Ventimiglia to La Spezia). As early as the 19th century, the British referred to the region as the Riviera or the French Riviera, usually referring to the eastern part of the coast, between Monaco and the Italian border. Originally, riviera is an Italian noun which means "coastline".
The name Côte d'Azur was given to the coast by the writer Stéphen Liégeard in his book, La Côte d’azur, published in December 1887. Liégeard was born in Dijon, in the French department of Côte-d'Or, and adapted that name by substituting the azure blue colour of the Mediterranean for the gold of Côte-d'Or.
In Occitan (Niçard and Provençal) and French, the only usual names are Còsta d'Azur in Occitan and Côte d'Azur in French. A term like "French Riviera" (Ribiera Francesa in Occitan, Riviera Française in French) would only be used in literal translation, or adaptations of it. For instance, in French, "Riviera Française" is found in the online Larousse encyclopedia to refer to the holidays of a group of English workers (moreover, in Occitan, the word ribiera "coastline" mostly works as a common name, whereas in French, the old-fashioned term Rivière de Gênes was used to refer to the Italian Riviera whose center is Genoa).
Disputes over the extent of the Riviera and the Côte d'Azur
The Côte d'Azur and the French Riviera have no official boundaries. Some sources put the western boundary at Saint-Tropez in the Var département. Others include Saint Tropez, Hyères or Toulon in the Var (departement), or as far as Cassis in the Bouches-du-Rhônedépartement. In her 1955 novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith describes the Riviera as including all of the coast between Toulon and the Italian border.
Main article: History of Provence
From prehistory to the Bronze Age
The region of the French Riviera has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Primitive tools dating to between 1,000,000 and 1,050,000 years ago were discovered in the Grotte du Vallonnet, near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, with stones and bones of animals, including bovines, rhinoceros, and bison. At Terra Amata (380,000 to 230,000 years ago), near the Nice Port, a fireplace was discovered that is one of the oldest found in Europe.
Stone dolmens, monuments from the Bronze Age, can be found near Draguignan, while the Valley of Marvels (Vallée des Merveilles) near Mount Bégo, at 2,000 m (6,600 ft) elevation, is presumed to have been an outdoor religious sanctuary, having over 40,000 drawings of people and animals, dated to about 2000 BC.
Beginning in the 7th century BC, Greek sailors from Asia Minor began to visit and then build trading posts (emporia) along the Côte d'Azur. Emporia were started at Olbia (Saint-Pierre-de-l'Almanarre, near Hyères); Antipolis (Antibes) and Nicaea (Nice). These settlements, which traded with the inhabitants of the interior, became rivals of the Etruscans and Phoenicians, who also visited the Côte d'Azur.
In 8 BC the Emperor Augustus built an imposing trophy monument at La Turbie (the Trophy of the Alps or Trophy of Augustus) to mark the pacification of the region.
Roman towns, monuments and amphitheatres were built along the Côte d'Azur and many still survive, such as the amphitheatre and baths at Cimiez, above Nice, and the amphitheatre, Roman walls and other remains at Fréjus.
Barbarians and Christians
Roman Provence reached the height of its power and prosperity during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. In the mid-3rd century, Germanic peoples began to invade the region, and Roman power weakened.
In the same period, Christianity started to become a powerful force in the region. The first cathedrals were built in the 4th century, and bishoprics were established: in Fréjus at the end of the 4th century, Cimiez and Vence in 439, and Antibes in 442. The oldest Christian structure still in existence on the Côte d'Azur is the baptistery of Fréjus Cathedral, built at the end of the 5th century, which also saw the founding of the first monastery in the region, Lerins Monastery on an island off the coast at Cannes.
The fall of the Western Roman Empire in the first half of the 5th century was followed by invasions of Provence by the Visigoths, the Burgundians and the Ostrogoths. There was then a long period of wars and dynastic quarrels, which in turn led to further invasions by the Saracens and the Normans in the 9th century.
The Counts of Provence and the House of Grimaldi
Some peace was restored to the coast by the establishment in 879 of a new kingdom of Provence, ruled first by the Bosonids dynasty (879–1112), then by the Catalans (1112–1246), and finally by the Angevins (1246–1382, elder branch, 1382–1483 (younger branch).
In the 13th century, another powerful political force appeared, the House of Grimaldi. Descended from a Genoese nobleman expelled from Genoa by his rivals in 1271, members of the different branches of the Grimaldis took power in Monaco, Antibes and Nice, and built castles at Grimaud, Cagnes-sur-Mer and Antibes. Albert II, the current Prince of Monaco is a descendant of the Grimaldis.
In 1388, the city of Nice and its surrounding territory, from the mouth of the Var to the Italian border, were separated from Provence and came under the protection of the House of Savoy. The territory was called the Comté de Nice after 1526, and thereafter its language, history and culture were separate from those of Provence until 1860, when it was re-attached to France under Napoleon III.
Provence retained its formal independence until 1480, when the last Comte de Provence, René I of Naples, died and left the Comté to his nephew, Charles du Maine, who in turn left it to Louis XI of France. In 1486, Provence formally became part of France.
Popularity with the British upper class in 18th and 19th centuries
Until the end of the 18th century, the area later known as the Côte d'Azur was a remote and impoverished region, known mostly for fishing, olive groves and the production of flowers for perfume (manufactured in Grasse).
A new phase began when the coast became a fashionable health resort for the British upper class in the late 18th century. The first British traveller to describe its benefits was the novelist Tobias Smollett, who visited Nice in 1763 when it was still an Italian city within the Kingdom of Sardinia. Smollett brought Nice and its warm winter climate to the attention of the British aristocracy with Travels through France and Italy, written in 1765. At about the same time, a Scottish doctor, John Brown, became famous for prescribing what he called climato-therapy, a change in climate, to cure a variety of diseases including tuberculosis, known then as consumption. The French historian Paul Gonnet wrote that, as a result, Nice was filled with "a colony of pale and listless English women and listless sons of nobility near death".
In 1834, a British nobleman and politician named Henry Peter Brougham, First Baron Brougham and Vaux, who had played an important part in the abolition of the slave trade, travelled with an unwell sister to the south of France, intending to go to Italy. A cholera epidemic in Italy forced him to stop at Cannes, where he enjoyed the climate and scenery so much that he bought land and built a villa. He began to spend his winters there and, owing to his fame, others followed: Cannes soon had a small British enclave.
Robert Louis Stevenson was a later British visitor who came for his health. In 1882 he rented a villa called La Solitude at Hyères, where he wrote much of A Child's Garden of Verses.
Railway, gambling, and royalty
In 1864, six years after Nice became part of France following the Second Italian War of Independence the first railway was completed, making Nice and the Riviera accessible to visitors from all over Europe. One hundred thousand visitors arrived in 1865. By 1874, residents of foreign enclaves in Nice, most of whom were British, numbered 25,000.
In the mid-19th century British and French entrepreneurs began to see the potential of promoting tourism along the Côte d'Azur. At the time, gambling was illegal in France and Italy. In 1856, the Prince of Monaco, Charles III, began constructing a casino in Monaco, which was called a health spa to avoid criticism by the church. The casino was a failure, but in 1863 the Prince signed an agreement with François Blanc, a French businessman already operating a successful casino at Baden-Baden (southwestern Germany), to build a resort and new casino. Blanc arranged for steamships and carriages to take visitors from Nice to Monaco, and built hotels, gardens and a casino in a place called Spélugues. At the suggestion of his mother, Princess Caroline, Charles III renamed the place Monte Carlo after himself. When the railway reached Monte Carlo in 1870, many thousands of visitors began to arrive and the population of the principality of Monaco doubled.
The French Riviera soon became a popular destination for European royalty. Just days after the railway reached Nice in 1864, Tsar Alexander II of Russia visited on a private train, followed soon afterwards by Napoleon III and then Leopold II, the King of the Belgians.
Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor. In 1882 she stayed in Menton, and in 1891 spent several weeks at the Grand Hotel at Grasse. In 1892 she stayed at the Hotel Cost-belle in Hyères. In successive years from 1895 to 1899 she stayed in Cimiez in the hills above Nice. First, in 1895 and 1896, she patronised the Grand Hôtel, while in later years she and her staff took over the entire west wing of the Excelsior Hôtel Régina, which had been designed with her needs specifically in mind (part of which later became the home and studio of the renowned artist Henri Matisse). She travelled with an entourage of between sixty and a hundred, including chef, ladies in waiting, dentist, Indian servants, her own bed and her own food.
The Prince of Wales was a regular visitor to Cannes, starting in 1872. He frequented the Club Nautique, a private club on the Croisette, the fashionable seafront boulevard of Cannes. He visited there each spring for a two-month period, observing yacht races from shore while the royal yacht floated, Britannia, was sailed by professional crewmen. After he became King in 1901, he never again visited the French Riviera.
By the end of the 19th century the Côte d'Azur began to attract artistic painters, who appreciated the climate, the bright colors and clear light. Among them were Auguste Renoir, who settled in Cagnes-sur-Mer and in Mougins, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
Inter-war period, American visitors and decline of the aristocracy
The First World War brought down many of the royal houses of Europe and altered the nature and the calendar of the French Riviera. Following the war, greater numbers of Americans began arriving, with business moguls and celebrities eventually outnumbering aristocrats. The 'High Society' scene moved from a winter season to a summer season.
Americans began coming to the south of France in the 19th century. Henry James set part of his novel, The Ambassadors, on the Riviera. James Gordon Bennett Jr, the son and heir of the founder of the New York Herald, had a villa in Beaulieu. Industrialist John Pierpont Morgan gambled at Monte Carlo and bought 18th-century paintings by Fragonard in Grasse – shipping them to the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
A feature of the French Riviera in the inter-war years was the Train Bleu, an all first-class sleeper train which brought wealthy passengers down from Calais. It made its first trip in 1922, and carried Winston Churchill, Somerset Maugham, and the future King Edward VIII over the years.
While Europe was still recovering from the war and the American dollar was strong, American writers and artists started arriving on the Côte d'Azur. Edith Wharton wrote The Age of Innocence (1920) at a villa near Hyères, winning the Pulitzer Prize for the novel (the first woman to do so). Dancer Isadora Duncan frequented Cannes and Nice, but died in 1927 when her scarf caught in a wheel of the Amilcar motor car in which she was a passenger and strangled her. The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald first visited with his wife Zelda in 1924, stopping at Hyères, Cannes and Monte Carlo – eventually staying at Saint-Raphaël, where he wrote much of The Great Gatsby and began Tender is the Night.
While Americans were largely responsible for making summer the high season, a French fashion designer, Coco Chanel, made sunbathing fashionable. She acquired a striking tan during the summer of 1923, and tans then became the fashion in Paris.
During the abdication crisis of the British Monarchy in 1936, Wallis Simpson, the intended bride of King Edward VIII, was staying at the Villa Lou Vieie in Cannes, talking with the King by telephone each day. After his abdication, the Duke of Windsor (as he became) and his new wife stayed at the Villa La Croe near Antibes.
The English playwright and novelist Somerset Maugham also became a resident in 1926, buying the Villa Mauresque toward the tip of Cap Ferrat, near Nice.
The Second World War
When Germany invaded France in June 1940, the remaining British colony was evacuated to Gibraltar and eventually to Britain. American Jewish groups helped some of the Jewish artists living in the south of France, such as Marc Chagall, to escape to the United States. In August 1942, 600 Jews from Nice were rounded up by French police and sent to Drancy, and eventually to death camps. In all about 5,000 French Jews from Nice perished during the war.
On 15 August 1944, American parachute troops landed near Fréjus, and a fleet landed 60,000 troops of the American Seventh Army and French First Army between Cavalaire and Agay, east of Saint-Raphaël. German resistance crumbled in days.
Saint-Tropez was badly damaged by German mines at the time of the liberation. The novelist Colette organized an effort to assure the town was rebuilt in its original style.
When the war ended, artists Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso returned to live and work.
Post-war period and late 20th century
The Cannes Film Festival was launched in September 1946, marking the return of French cinema to world screens. The Festival Palace was built in 1949 on the site of the old Cercle Nautique, where the Prince of Wales had met his mistresses in the late 19th century. The release of the French film Et Dieu… créa la femme (And God Created Woman) in November 1956 was a major event for the Riviera, making an international star of Brigitte Bardot, and making an international tourist destination of Saint-Tropez, particularly for the new class of wealthy international travellers called the jet set.
The marriage of American film actress Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco on 18 April 1956, attracted world attention once again. It was viewed on television by 30 million people.
During the 1960s, the Mayor of Nice, Jacques Médecin, decided to reduce the dependence of the Riviera on ordinary tourism, and to make it a destination for international congresses and conventions. He built the Palais des Congrès at the Acropolis in Nice, and founded a Chagall Museum and a Matisse Museum at Cimiez. High-rise apartment buildings and real estate developments began to spread.
At the end of August, 1997, Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed spent their last days together on his father's yacht off Pampelonne Beach near Saint-Tropez, shortly before they were killed in a traffic accident in the Alma Tunnel in Paris.
Places on the Côte d'Azur (following the broadest definition), following the coast from south-west to north-east, include:
Some data related to tourism on the Riviera in 2006:
- More than 14 million tourists
- 52% of customers from abroad
- 65 million nights stayed
- Tourists spending €5 billion
- 75,000 jobs; tourism is 18% of total employment in the Alpes-Maritimes.
- 500,000 tourists in the High Country
- 500,000 delegates
- 3 million admissions to museums and monuments
- More than 45% of tourists come by air
The French Riviera has a Mediterranean climate, with sunny, hot, dry summers and mild winters. Winter temperatures are moderated by the Mediterranean; days of frost are rare. The average daily low temperature in Nice in January is 5.4 °C (41.7 °F); the January average daily low temperature in Toulon is 6.2 °C (43.2 °F). The average high temperature in August in Nice is 28.6 °C (83.5 °F); in Toulon the average daily high temperature is 29.7 °C (85.5 °F)
The Côte d'Azur receives more rainfall than Paris annually (803.3 mm (31.63 in) annually in Nice and 684.8 mm (26.96 in) in Toulon compared with 649.8 mm (25.58 in) in Paris), but the rainy days are much less frequent; 111 rainy days a year in Paris compared with 61 days in Toulon and 63 in Nice. Toulon has 2,793 hours of sunshine a year, Nice has 2,668 hours.
Micro-climates exist in these coastal regions, and there can be great differences in the weather between various locations. Strong winds such as the Mistral, a cold dry wind from the northwest or from the east, are another characteristic, particularly in the winter.
|Climate data for Nice (1981–2010 averages)|
|Record high °C (°F)||22.5|
|Average high °C (°F)||13.1|
|Average low °C (°F)||5.3|
|Record low °C (°F)||−7.2|
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||69.0|
|Average precipitation days||6||5||5||7||5||4||2||2||5||7||7||6||61|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||158||171||217||224||267||306||348||316||242||187||149||139||2,724|
|Percent possible sunshine||54||58||59||56||58||66||74||73||65||55||51||50||59.9|
|Source #1: |
|Source #2: |
Nice and Alpes-Maritimes
Nice and the Alpes-Maritimes département are sheltered by the Alps. The winds are usually gentle, from the sea to the land, though sometimes the mistral blows strongly from the northwest, or, turned by the mountains, from the east. In 1956 a mistral from the northwest reached 180 kilometres per hour (110 mph) at Nice Airport. Sometimes, in summer, the sirocco brings high temperatures and reddish desert sand from the Sahara. (See Winds of Provence.)
Rain can be torrential, particularly in the autumn, when storms and rain are caused by the difference between the colder air inland and the warm Mediterranean water temperature (20–24 °C [68–75 °F]). The rainiest months are September (75.6 millimetres [2.98 in] average rainfall); October (143.9 millimetres [5.67 in]); November (94.3 millimetres [3.71 in]) and December (87.8 millimetres [3.46 in]).
Snow on the coast is rare, falling on average once every ten years. 1956 was exceptional, when 20 cm (7.9 in) blanketed the coast. In January 1985 the coast between Cannes and Menton received 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in). In the mountains, snow is present from November to May.
The département of Var (which includes Saint-Tropez and Hyères) has a climate slightly warmer, drier and sunnier than Nice and Alpes-Maritimes, but is less sheltered from the wind.
The mistral wind, which brings cold and dry air down from the upper Alpine regions via the Rhône valley and extends with diminishing intensity along the Côte d'Azur, blows frequently during the winter. Strong winds blow for about 75 days a year in Fréjus.
Events and festivals
Several major events take place:
- Monaco and southeast France: Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo, January
- Monaco: International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo, January / February
- Mandelieu-la-Napoule: La Fête du Mimosa, February
- Nice: Carnival, February
- Menton: Lemon Festival, February
- Tourrettes-sur-Loup: Violet Festival, March
- Monaco: Monte-Carlo Masters, April–May
- Monaco: Formula OneGrand Prix race, May
- Grasse; Rose Festival, May
- Cannes: Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Film Market, May
- Nice: Jazz Festival, July
- Juan-les-Pins: Jazz à Juan, late July.
- Grasse: Jasmine Festival, August
- Toulon: Toulon Tournament, Tall Ships' Race
The climate and vivid colors of the Mediterranean attracted many famous artists during the 19th and 20th centuries. They included:
- Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947); retired to and died at Le Cannet.
- Georges Braque (1882–1963); painted frequently at L'Estaque between 1907 and 1910.
- Roger Broders (1883–1953); Parisian travel poster illustrator.
- Paul Cézanne (1839–1906); a native of Aix-en-Provence, Cézanne painted at L'Estaque between 1878 and 1882.
- Marc Chagall (1887–1985); lived in Saint-Paul-de-Vence between 1948 and 1985.
- Henri-Edmond Cross (1856–1910); discovered the Côte d'Azur in 1883, and painted at Monaco and Hyères.
- Maurice Denis (1870–1943); painted at St. Tropez and Bandol.
- André Derain (1880–1954); painted at L'Estaque and Martigues.
- Raoul Dufy (1877–1953); whose wife was from Nice, painted in the region, including in Nice, Marseille and Martigues.
- Albert Marquet (1873–1947); painted at Marseille, St. Tropez and L'Estaque.
- Henri Matisse (1869–1954); first visited St. Tropez in 1904. In 1917 he settled in Nice, first at the Hôtel Beau Rivage, then at the Hôtel de la Méditerranée, then at la Villa des Alliés in Cimiez. In 1921 he lived in an apartment in Nice, next to the flower market and overlooking the sea, where he lived until 1938. He then moved to the Hôtel Régina in the hills of Cimiez, above Nice. During World War II he lived in Vence, then returned to Cimiez, where he died and is buried.
- Claude Monet (1840–1927); visited Menton, Bordighera, Juan-les-Pins, Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes, Beaulieu and Villefranche, and painted a number of seascapes of Cap Martin, near Menton, and at Cap d'Antibes.
- Edvard Munch (1863–1944); visited and painted in Nice and Monte Carlo (where he developed a passion for gambling), and rented a villa at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in 1891.
- Pablo Picasso (1881–1973); spent each summer from 1919 to 1939 on the Côte d'Azur, and moved there permanently in 1946, first at Vallauris, then at Mougins, where he spent his last years.
- Auguste Renoir (1841–1919); visited Beaulieu, Grasse, Saint-Raphaël and Cannes, before finally settling in Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1907, where he bought a farm in the hills and built a new house and workshop on the grounds. He continued to paint there until his death in 1919. His house is now a museum.
- Paul Signac (1863–1935); visited St. Tropez in 1892, and bought a villa, La Hune, at the foot of citadel in 1897. It was at his villa that his friend, Henri Matisse, painted his famous Luxe, Calme et Volupté in 1904. Signac made numerous paintings along the coast.
- Yves Klein (1928–1962); a native of Nice, considered an important figure in post-war European art.
- Sacha Sosno (1937–2013); French painter and sculptor living and working in Nice.
- Henry de Lumley, La Grand Histoire des premiers hommes européens, Odile Jacob, Paris, 2010. (ISBN 978 2 7381 2386 2)
- Aldo Bastié, Histoire de la Provence, Éditions Ouest-France, 2001.
- Mary Blume, Côte d'Azur: Inventing the French Riviera, Thames and Hudson, London, 1992.
- Patrick Howarth, When the Riviera was Ours, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1977.
- Jim Ring, Riviera, the Rise and Fall of the Côte d'Azur, John Murray Publishers, London, 1988.
- Edouard Baratier (editor), Histoire de la Provence, Editions Privat, Toulouse, 1969 (ISBN 2 7089 1649 1)
- La Méditerranée de Courbet à Matisse, catalog of the exhibit at the Grand Palais, Paris from September 2000 to January 2001. Published by the Réunion des musées nationaux, 2000.
- ^ ab"Côte d'Azur, côte méditerranéenne française entre Cassis et Menton" ("Côte d'Azur, French Mediterranean coast between Cassis and Toulon") in Dictionnaire Hachette encyclopédique (2000), p. 448.
- ^ ab