France: Wars, Campaigns, Treaties

France: Wars, Campaigns, Treaties

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Austrian Succession, War of the (1740-18 October 1748
Cambrai, War of the League of, 1508-1510
Carnatic War, First, 1744-48
Carnatic War, Second, 1749-54
Cognac, War of the Leage of/ Second Hapsburg-Valois War (1526-30)
Crimean War, 1853-1856
Crusade, First, 1096-1099
Crusade, Second, 1147-1149
Crusade, Third, 1189-1192
Crusade, Seventh, 1248-1254
Crusade, Eighth, 1270
Devolution, War of (1667-68)
First Coalition, War of the (1793-97)
First Hapsburg-Valois War (1521-26)/ Fourth Italian War
First World War, 1914-1918
Fourth Coalition, War of the (1806-1807)
Francis I's First Invasion of Italy, 1515-16
Franco-Austrian War of 1809/ War of the Fifth Coalition (1809)
French and Indian War (1754-1763)
French Campaign of 1814
Gallic War, 58-51 B.C.
Hapsburg-Valois War, First (1521-26)/ Fourth Italian War
Hapsburg-Valois War, Second or War of the League of Cognac (1526-30)
Hapsburg-Valois War, Third (1536-38)
Hapsburg-Valois War, Fourth (1542-44)
Hapsburg-Valois War, Fifth (1547-59)
Holy League, War of the, 1510-1514
Hundred Years War (1337-1453)
Italian Independence, Second War of, 1859-61
Italian War, First/ Italian War of Charles VIII (1494-95)
Italian War, Second/ Italian War of Louis XII (1499-1503)
Italian War of Charles VIII/ First Italian War (1494-95)
Italian War of Louis XII (1499-1503)/ Second Italian War
Italian Wars, 1494-1559
King George's War (1744-18 October 1748) (America)
League of Cambrai, War of the, 1508-1510
Marengo Campaign, May-14 June 1800
Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815)
Overlord, Operation / Battle of Normandy (6 June to 25 August 1944)
Peninsular War (1807-14)
Polish Succession, War of the, 1733-38
Religion, First War of, 1562-3
Religion, Second War of, 1567-8
Religion, Third War of, 1568-70
Religion, Fourth War of, 1572-73
Religion, Fifth War of, 1575-76
Religion, Sixth War of, December 1576-September 1577
Religion, Seventh War of, 1580 ('Lover's War)
Religion, Eighth War of, 1585-89 (War of the Three Henrys)
Religion, Ninth War of, 1589-98
Scanian War, 1675-79
Second World War (1939-1945)
Seven Years War (1754-1763)
Thirty Years War (1618-48)


Desert War (1940-1943)
Egypt, French invasion of, 1798-1802
Estremadura, Marshal Victor's invasion of, March 1809
Estremadura, Marshal Soult's invasion of, January-March 1811
Estremadura, Beresford’s campaign in, March-May 1811
First Coalition, War of the: Rhine and German Fronts
Fuentos de Oñoro, campaign of, April-May 1811
Hundred Days, 18 July-11 November 1918
Liberation, War of, 1813 (Germany)
Medellin Campaign , March 1809
Napoleon's Campaign in Italy, 1796-97
Napoleon's Russian Campaign of 1812
North African Campaign (1940-1943)
Norway, German invasion of, 9 April-9 June 1940
Peninsular War (1807-14)
Peninsular War, First French Army of Spain, Spring-Summer 1808
Portugal, Junot’s invasion of, November 1807
Portugal, Marshal Soult’s Invasion of, 1809
Portugal, Wellesley’s Campaign in, 22 April-19 May 1809
Portugal, Masséna’s invasion of, September 1810-March 1811
Race to the Sea of September-October 1914
Russian, Napoleon's Campaign of 1812
Spain, French invasion of, February-May 1808
Talavera Campaign, June-August 1809
War of Liberation, 1813 (Germany)


Aix-la-Chapelle, Treaty of (2 May 1668)
Aix-la-Chapelle, Treaty of (18 October 1748
Alessandria, convention of, 15 June 1800
Amboise, Edict of, 18 March 1563
Amiens, Peace of; 27th March 1802
Basel, Treaty of; 16th May 1795
Bergerac, peace of, 14 September 1577
Blois, Treaty of, September 1504
Blois, Treaty of, October 1505
Bologna, Peace of, 23 June 1796
Campo Fornio, Treaty of, 17th October 1797
Champigny-sur-Veude, truce of, 21 November 1575
Chaumont, Treaty of ; 9th March 1814
Cintra, Convention of 22nd August 1808
Compiegne, treaty of, 10 June 1624
Fleix, peace of, November 1580
Florence, treaty of, 28 March 1801
Fuentos de Oñoro, campaign of, April-May 1811
Granada, Treaty of, 11 November 1500
Hampton Court, treaty of, 20 September 1562
Heilbronn, League of (1633-5)
January or Saint-Germain, edict of, January 1562
Joinville, Treaty of, 31 December 1584
Kalisch, Convention of, 28 February 1813
Kloster-Zeven, Convention of, 8 September 1757
Leoban, Peace of; 18th April 1797
Longjumeau, edict of, 23 March 1568
Lunéville, peace of, 9 February 1801
Nantes, Edict of, 13 April 1598
Nemours, treaty of, 7 July 1585
Noyon, Treaty of, 13 August 1516
Pacification (Boulogne), Edict of, July 1573
Paris, Treaty of, 10 February 1763
Paris, Treaty of, 30 March 1356
Pleischwitz, Armistice of, 2 June 1813
Reichenbach, Convention of, 27 June 1813
Ried, Treaty of, 8 October 1813
St.-Germain, peace of, 8 August 1570
Schönbrünn or Vienna, Convention of, 15 December 1805
Schonbrunn, treaty of; 14th October 1809
Steyer, armistice of, 25 December 1800
Tauroggen, Convention of, 30 December 1812
Tilsit, treaties of, 7 and 9 July 1807
Tolentino, Peace of, 19 February 1797
Tours, Treaty of, 30 April 1589
Trachenberg Plan, 12 July 1813
Troyes, peace of, 11 April 1564
Union, Edict of, 16 July 1588
Valencay, Treaty of ; 11th December 1813
Vervins, treaty of, 2 May 1598
Westphalia, Peace of, 24 October 1648

Military history of France

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, Europe, and a variety of regions throughout the world.

According to British historian Niall Ferguson, France is the most successful military power in history. The French participated in 50 of the 125 major European wars that have been fought since 1495 more than any other European state. They are followed by the Austrians who fought in 47 of them, the Spanish in 44 and the English (and later British) who were involved in 43. Out of 168 battles fought since 387BC, they have won 109, lost 49 and drawn 10. [1] [2]

The first major recorded wars in the territory of modern-day France itself revolved around the Gallo-Roman conflict that predominated from 60 BC to 50 BC. The Romans eventually emerged victorious through the campaigns of Julius Caesar. After the decline of the Roman Empire, a Germanic tribe known as the Franks took control of Gaul by defeating competing tribes. The "land of Francia", from which France gets its name, had high points of expansion under kings Clovis I and Charlemagne, who established the nucleus of the future French state. In the Middle Ages, rivalries with England prompted major conflicts such as the Norman Conquest and the Hundred Years' War. With an increasingly centralized monarchy, the first standing army since Roman times, and the use of artillery, France expelled the English from its territory and came out of the Middle Ages as the most powerful nation in Europe, only to lose that status to the Holy Roman Empire and Spain following defeat in the Italian Wars. The Wars of Religion crippled France in the late 16th century, but a major victory over Spain in the Thirty Years' War made France the most powerful nation on the continent once more. In parallel, France developed its first colonial empire in Asia, Africa, and in the Americas. Under Louis XIV France achieved military supremacy over its rivals, but escalating conflicts against increasingly powerful enemy coalitions checked French ambitions and left the kingdom bankrupt at the opening of the 18th century.

Resurgent French armies secured victories in dynastic conflicts against the Spanish, Polish, and Austrian crowns. At the same time, France was fending off attacks on its colonies. As the 18th century advanced, global competition with Great Britain led to the Seven Years' War, where France lost its North American holdings. Consolation came in the form of dominance in Europe and the American Revolutionary War, where extensive French aid in the form of money and arms, and the direct participation of its army and navy led to the independence of the United States. [1] Internal political upheaval eventually led to 23 years of nearly continuous conflict in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. France reached the zenith of its power during this period, dominating the European continent in an unprecedented fashion under Napoleon Bonaparte. By 1815, however, it had been restored to the same borders it controlled before the Revolution. The rest of the 19th century witnessed the growth of the Second French colonial empire as well as French interventions in Belgium, Spain, and Mexico. Other major wars were fought against Russia in the Crimea, Austria in Italy, and Prussia within France itself.

Following defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Franco–German rivalry erupted again in the First World War. France and its allies were victorious this time. Social, political, and economic upheaval in the wake of the conflict led to the Second World War, in which the Allies were defeated in the Battle of France and the French government signed an armistice with Germany. The Allies, including the Free French Forces led by a government in exile, eventually emerged victorious over the Axis Powers. As a result, France secured an occupation zone in Germany and a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. The imperative of avoiding a third Franco-German conflict on the scale of the first two world wars paved the way for European integration starting in the 1950s. France became a nuclear power and, since the late 20th century, has cooperated closely with NATO and its European partners.

Dominant themes

In the last few centuries, French strategic thinking has sometimes been driven by the need to attain or preserve the so-called "natural frontiers," which are the Pyrenees to the southwest, the Alps to the southeast, and the Rhine River to the east. [2] Starting with Clovis, 1,500 years of warfare and diplomacy has witnessed the accomplishment of most of these objectives. Warfare with other European powers was not always determined by these considerations, and often rulers of France extended their continental authority far beyond these barriers, most notably under Charlemagne, Louis XIV, and Napoleon. [3] These periods of incessant conflict were characterized by their own standards and conventions, but all required strong central leadership in order to permit the extension of French rule. [4] Important military rivalries in human history have come about as a result of conflict between French peoples and other European powers. Anglo-French rivalry, for prestige in Europe and around the world, continued for centuries, while the more recent Franco-German rivalry required two world wars to stabilize. [5]

Starting in the early 16th century, much of France's military efforts were dedicated to securing its overseas possessions and putting down dissent among both French colonists and native populations. French troops were spread all across its empire, primarily to deal with the local population. The French colonial empire ultimately disintegrated after the failed attempt to subdue Algerian nationalists in the late 1950s, a failure that led to the collapse of the Fourth Republic. [6] Since World War II, France's efforts have been directed at maintaining its status as a great power and its influence on the UN Security Council. France has also been instrumental in attempting to unite the armed forces of Europe for their own defense in order to both balance the power of Russia and to lessen European military dependence on the United States. For example, France withdrew from NATO in 1966 over complaints that its role in the organization was being subordinated to the demands of the United States. [7] French objectives in this era have undergone major shifts. Unencumbered by continental wars or intricate alliances, France now deploys its military forces as part of international peacekeeping operations, security enforcers in former colonies, or maintains them combat ready and mobilized to respond to threats from rogue states. France is a nuclear power with the largest nuclear arsenal in Europe, and its nuclear capabilities, just like its conventional forces, have been restructured to rapidly deal with emerging threats. [8]

Early period

Around 390 BC, the Gallic chieftain Brennus made his own way through the Alps, defeated the Romans in the Battle of the Allia and sacked Rome for several months. The Gallic invasion left Rome weakened and encouraged several subdued Italian tribes to rebel. One by one, over the course of the next 50 years, these tribes were defeated and brought back under Roman dominion. Meanwhile, the Gauls would continue to harass the region until 345 BC, when they entered into a formal treaty with Rome. But Romans and Gauls would maintain an adversarial relationship for the next several centuries and the Gauls would remain a threat in Italia.

Around 125 BC, the south of France is conquered by the Romans who called this region Provincia Romana ("Roman Province"), which evolved into the name Provence in French. [3] Brennus' sack of Rome was still remembered by Romans, when Julius Caesar conquered the remainder of Gaul. Initially Caesar met with little Gallic resistance: the 60 or so tribes that made up Gaul were unable to unite and defeat the Roman army, something Caesar exploited by pitting one tribe against another. In 58 BC, Caesar defeated the Germanic tribe of the Suebi, which was led by Ariovistus. The following year he conquered the Belgian Gauls after claiming that they were conspiring against Rome. The string of victories continued in a naval triumph against the Veneti in 56 BC. In 53 BC, a united Gallic resistance movement under Vercingetorix emerged for the first time. Caesar laid siege to the fortified city of Avaricum (Bourges) and broke through the defenses after 25 days, with only 800 out of the 40,000 inhabitants managing to escape. [9] He then besieged Gergovia, Vercingetorix's home town, and suffered one of the worst defeats in his career when he had to retreat to suppress a revolt in another part of Gaul. After returning, Caesar surrounded Vercingetorix at Alesia in 52 BC. The townspeople were starved into submission and Caesar's unique defensive earthworks, protruding towards the city and away from it in order to stop a massive Gallic relief force, [10] eventually forced Vercingetorix to surrender. The Gallic Wars were over.

Gallo-Roman culture settled over the region in the next few centuries, but as Roman power weakened in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, a Germanic tribe, the Franks, overran large areas that today form modern France. Under King Clovis I in the late 5th and early 6th centuries, Frankish dominions quadrupled as they managed to defeat successive opponents for control of Gaul. In 486 the Frankish armies under Clovis triumphed over Syagrius, the last Roman official in Northern Gaul, at the Battle of Soissons. [11] In 491 Clovis defeated Thuringians east of his territories. In 496 he overcame the Alamanni at the Battle of Tolbiac. In 507 he scored the most impressive victory in his career, prevailing at the Battle of Vouillé against the Visigoths, who were led by Alaric II, the conqueror of Spain. [12]

Following Clovis, territorial divisions in the Frankish domain sparked intense rivalry between the western part of the kingdom, Neustria, and the eastern part, Austrasia. The two were sometimes united under one king, but from the 6th to the 8th centuries they often warred against each other. Early in the 8th century, the Franks were preoccupied with Islamic invasions across the Pyrenees and up the Rhone Valley. Two key battles during this period were the Battle of Toulouse and the Battle of Tours, both won by the Franks, and both instrumental in slowing Islamic incursions.

Under Charlemagne the Franks reached the height of their power. After campaigns against Lombards, Avars, Saxons, and Basques, the resulting Carolingian Empire stretched from the Pyrenees to Central Germany, from the North Sea to the Adriatic. In 800 the Pope made Charlemagne Emperor of the West in return for protection of the Church. The Carolingian Empire was a conscious effort to recreate a central administration modeled on that of the Roman Empire, [13] but the motivations behind military expansion differed. Charlemagne hoped to provide his nobles an incentive to fight by encouraging looting on campaign. Plunder and spoils of war were stronger temptations than imperial expansion, and several regions were invaded over and over in order to bolster the coffers of Frankish nobility. [14] Cavalry dominated the battlefields, and while the high costs associated with equipping horses and horse-riders helped limit their numbers, Carolingian armies maintained an average size of 20,000 during peacetime by recruiting infantry from imperial territories near theaters of operation, swelling to more with the levies called upon when at war. [15] The Empire lasted from 800 to 843, when, following Frankish tradition, it was split between the sons of Louis the Pious by the Treaty of Verdun.

Middle Ages

Military history during this period paralleled the rise and eventual fall of the armored knight. Following Charlemagne and the breakdown of the Frankish Empire due to civil war and ceaseless Viking incursions, the larger and more logistically difficult to maintain infantry-based armies were abandoned in favor of cavalry supplemented by an improvement in armor: leather and steel, steel helmets, coats of mail, and even full armor added to the defensive capabilities of mounted forces. [16] A smaller and more mobile elite cavalry force quickly grew to be the most important component of armies within French territories and most of the rest of Europe, [17] with the shock charge they provided becoming the standard tactic on the battlefield when it was invented in the 11th century. [18] At the same time, the development of agricultural techniques allowed the nations of Western Europe to radically increase food production, facilitating the growth of a particularly large aristocracy under Capetian France. The rise of castles, which began in France during the 10th century, was partly caused by the inability of centralized authorities to control these emerging dukes and aristocrats. [19] While all vassals and knights were in theory bound to fight for their sovereign when called upon, this period was marked by many feudal local and regional lords using the knights and levied conscripts below them to fight amongst each other, often in defiance or even outright rebellion towards their sovereign. After campaigns designed for plundering, attacking and defending, castles became the dominant feature of medieval warfare. [20]

During the Crusades, there were in fact too many armored knights in France for the land to support. Some scholars believe that one of the driving forces behind the Crusades was an attempt by such landless knights to find land overseas, without causing the type of internecine warfare that would largely damage France's increasing military strength. [21] However, such historiographical work on the Crusades is being challenged and rejected by a large part of the historical community. The ultimate motivation or motivations for any one individual are difficult to know, but regardless, nobles and knights from France generally formed very sizeable contingents of crusading expeditions. [22] Crusaders were so predominantly French that the word "crusader" in the Arabic language is simply known as Al-Franj or "The Franks" [4] and Old French became the lingua franca of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. [5]

In the 11th century, French knights wore knee-length mail and carried long lances and swords. The Norman knights fielded at the Battle of Hastings were more than a match for English forces, and their victory simply cemented their power and influence. Between 1202 and 1343, France reduced England's holdings on the continent to a few small provinces through a series of conflicts including the Bouvines Campaign (1202-1214), the Saintonge War (1242) and the War of Saint-Sardos (1324).

Improvements in armor over the centuries led to the establishment of plate armor by the 14th century, which was further developed more rigorously in the 15th century. [23] However, by the late 14th century and the early 15th century, socioeconomic calamities such as the Black Death, and political crises such as the Jacquerie peasant revolt, and especially the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War combined with numerous English invasions, all led to French military power declining during the first two phases of the Hundred Years' War. New weapons, including artillery, and tactics seemingly made the knight more of a sitting target than an effective battle force, but the often-praised longbowmen had little to do with the English success. [24] Poor coordination or rough and soft, muddy terrain led to a number of bungled French assaults. [25] The slaughter of knights at the Battle of Agincourt best exemplified this carnage. The French were able to field a much larger army of men-at-arms than their English counterparts, who had many longbowmen. Despite this, the French suffered about 6,000 casualties [26] compared to a few hundred for the English because the narrow terrain prevented the tactical envelopments envisioned in recently discovered French plans for the battle. [27] The French suffered a similar defeat at the Battle of the Golden Spurs against Flemish militia in 1302. When knights were allowed to effectively deploy and attack their opponents in the open field, however, they could be more useful, as at Cassel in 1328 or, even more decisively, at Bouvines in 1214, and Patay in 1429.

Popular conceptions of the third and final phase of the Hundred Years War are often dominated by the exploits of Joan of Arc, but French resurgence was rooted in multiple factors. A major step was taken by King Charles VII, who created the Compagnies d'ordonnance—cavalry units with 20 companies of 600 men each [28] —and launched the first standing army for a dynastic state in the Western world. [29] The Compagnies gave the French a considerable edge in professionalism and discipline, being composed of paid full-time professional soldiers, at a time when the allegiances of the aristocratic knights would often shift to the opposing side. Strong French counterattacks turned the tide of the war. The important victories of Orléans, Patay, Formigny and Castillon allowed the French to win back all English continental territories, except Calais, which was later captured by the French.

Equipment of medieval French sergeants was based on their property: [6]

Property worth Military equipment
L60+ Hauberk, helmet, sword, knife, spear, and shield
L30+ Gambeson, sword, knife, spear, and shield
L10+ Helmet, sword, knife, spear, and shield
L10< Bow, arrows, and knife

Ancien Régime

The French Renaissance and the beginning of the Ancien Régime, normally marked by the reign of Francis I, saw the nation become far more unified under the monarch. The power of the nobles was diminished as a national army was created. With England expelled from the continent and being consumed by the Wars of the Roses, France's main rival was the Holy Roman Empire. This threat to France became alarming in 1516 when Charles V became the king of Spain, and grew worse when Charles was also elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1519. France was all but surrounded as Germany, Spain, and the Low Countries were controlled by the Habsburgs. The lengthy Italian Wars that took place during this period eventually resulted in defeat for France and established Catholic Spain, which formed a branch of the Habsburg holdings, as the most powerful nation in Europe, with their dreaded tercios dominating the European battlefield well into the Thirty Years War. Later in the 16th century, France was weakened internally by the Wars of Religion. As nobles managed to raise their own private armies, these conflicts between Huguenots and Catholics all but demolished centralization and monarchical authority, precluding France from remaining a powerful force in European affairs. [30] On the battlefield, the religious conflicts highlighted the influence of the gendarmes, heavy cavalry units that comprised the majority of cavalrymen attached to the main field armies. [31] The pride of the royal cavalry, gendarme companies were often attached to the main royal army in hopes of inflicting a decisive defeat on Huguenot forces, although secondary detachments were also used for scouting and intercepting enemy troops. [32]

After the Wars of Religion, France could do little to challenge the dominance of the Holy Roman Empire, although the empire itself faced several problems. From the east it was severely endangered by the Ottoman Empire, with which France formed an alliance. [33] The vast Habsburg empire also proved impossible to manage effectively, and the crown was soon divided between the Spanish and Austrian holdings. In 1568, the Dutch declared independence, launching a war that would last for decades and would illustrate the weaknesses of Habsburg power. In the 17th century, the religious violence that had beset France a century earlier began to tear the empire apart. At first France sat on the sidelines, but under Cardinal Richelieu it saw an opportunity to advance its own interests at the expense of the Habsburgs. Despite France's staunch Catholicism, it intervened on the side of the Protestants. The Thirty Years' War was long and extremely bloody, but France and its allies came out victorious, under the leadership of the legendary commanders Condé and Turenne, beginning a long line of unparalleled French marshals who would help usher in a new era of military strategy. After their victory, France emerged as the sole dominant European power under the reign of Louis XIV. In parallel, 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 French colonial empire.

The long reign of Louis XIV saw a series of conflicts: the War of Devolution, the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the Reunions, the Nine Years War, and the War of the Spanish Succession. Few of these wars were either clear victories or definite defeats, but French borders expanded steadily anyway. The west bank of the Rhine, much of the Spanish Netherlands, and a good deal of Luxembourg were annexed while the War of the Spanish Succession saw the grandson of Louis placed on the throne of Spain. The French strategic situation, however, changed decisively with the Glorious Revolution in England, which replaced a pro-French king with an enemy of Louis, the Dutch William of Orange. After a period of two centuries seeing only rare hostilities with France, England now became a consistent enemy again, and remained so until the 19th century. To stop French advances, England formed coalitions with several other European powers, most notably the Habsburgs. While these armies had difficulties against the French on land, the British Royal Navy dominated the seas, and France lost many of its colonial holdings. The British economy also became Europe's most powerful, and British money funded the campaigns of their continental allies.

Wars in this era consisted mostly of sieges and movements that were rarely decisive, prompting the French military engineer Vauban to design an intricate network of fortifications for the defense of France. [34] The armies of Louis XIV were some of the most impressive in French history, their quality reflecting militaristic as well political developments. In the mid-17th century, royal power reasserted itself and the army became a tool through which the King could wield authority, replacing older systems of mercenary units and the private forces of recalcitrant nobles. [35] Military administration also made gigantic progress as food supply, clothing, equipment, and armaments were provided in a regularity never before equaled. [36] In fact, the French embedded this standardization by becoming the first army to give their soldiers national uniforms in the 1680s and 1690s. [37]

The 18th century saw France remain the dominant power in Europe, but begin to falter largely because of internal problems. The country engaged in a long series of wars, such as the War of the Quadruple Alliance, the War of the Polish Succession, and the War of the Austrian Succession, but these conflicts gained France little. Meanwhile, Britain's power steadily increased, and a new force, Prussia, became a major threat. This change in the balance of power led to the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, when France and the Habsburgs forged an alliance after centuries of animosity. [38] This alliance proved less than effective in the Seven Years' War, but in the American Revolutionary War, the French helped inflict a major defeat on the British.

Revolutionary France

The French Revolution, true to its name, revolutionized nearly all aspects of French and European life. The powerful sociopolitical forces unleashed by a people seeking liberté, égalité, and fraternité made certain that even warfare was not spared this upheaval. 18th-century armies—with their rigid protocols, static operational strategy, unenthusiastic soldiers, and aristocratic officer classes—underwent massive remodeling as the French monarchy and nobility gave way to liberal assemblies obsessed with external threats. The fundamental shifts in warfare that occurred during the period have prompted scholars to identify the era as the beginning of "modern war". [39]

In 1791 the Legislative Assembly passed the "Drill-Book" legislation, implementing a series of infantry doctrines created by French theorists because of their defeat by the Prussians in the Seven Years' War. [40] The new developments hoped to exploit the intrinsic bravery of the French soldier, made even more powerful by the explosive nationalist forces of the Revolution. The changes also placed a faith on the ordinary soldier that would be completely unacceptable in earlier times French troops were expected to harass the enemy and remain loyal enough to not desert, a benefit other Ancien Régime armies did not have. Following the declaration of war in 1792, an imposing array of enemies converging on French borders prompted the government in Paris to adopt radical measures. August 23, 1793, would become a historic day in military history on that date the National Convention called a levée en masse, or mass conscription, for the first time in human history. [41] By summer of the following year, conscription made some 500,000 men available for service and the French began to deal blows to their European enemies. [42]

Armies during the Revolution became noticeably larger than their Holy Roman counterparts, and combined with the new enthusiasm of the troops, the tactical and strategic opportunities became profound. By 1797 the French had defeated the First Coalition, occupied the Low Countries, the west bank of the Rhine, and Northern Italy, objectives which had defied the Valois and Bourbon dynasties for centuries. Unsatisfied with the results, many European powers formed a Second Coalition, but by 1801 this too had been decisively beaten. Another key aspect of French success was the changes wrought in the officer classes. Traditionally, European armies left major command positions to those who could be trusted, namely, the aristocracy. The hectic nature of the French Revolution, however, tore apart France's old army, meaning new men were required to become officers and commanders. [43]

Besides opening a flood of tactical and strategic opportunities, the Revolutionary Wars also laid the foundation for modern military theory. Later authors that wrote about "nations in arms" drew inspiration from the French Revolution, in which dire circumstances seemingly mobilized the entire French nation for war and incorporated nationalism into the fabric of military history. [44] Although the reality of war in the France of 1795 would be different from that in the France of 1915, conceptions and mentalities of war evolved significantly. Clausewitz correctly analyzed the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras to give posterity a thorough and complete theory of war that emphasized struggles between nations occurring everywhere, from the battlefield to the legislative assemblies, and to the very way that people think. [45] War now emerged as a vast panorama of physical and psychological forces heading for victory or defeat.

Napoleonic France

The Napoleonic Era saw French power and influence reach immense heights, even though the period of domination was relatively brief. In the century and a half preceding the Revolutionary Era, France had transformed demographic leverage to military and political weight the French population was 19 million in 1700, [46] but this had grown to over 29 million in 1800, much higher than that of most other European powers. [47] These numbers permitted France to raise armies at a rapid pace should the need arise. Furthermore, military innovations carried out during the Revolution and the Consulate, evidenced by improvements in artillery and cavalry capabilities on top of better army and staff organization, gave the French army a decisive advantage in the initial stages of the Napoleonic Wars. Another ingredient of success was Napoleon Bonaparte himself—intelligent, charismatic, and a military genius, Napoleon absorbed the latest military theories of the day and applied them in the battlefield with deadly effect.

Napoleon inherited an army that was based on conscription and used huge masses of poorly trained troops, which could usually be readily replaced. [48] By 1805 the French Army was a truly lethal force, with many in its ranks veterans of the French Revolutionary Wars. Two years of constant drilling for an invasion of England helped to build a well-trained, well-led army. The Imperial Guard served as an example for the rest of the army and consisted of Napoleon's best handpicked soldiers. Napoleon's huge losses suffered during the disastrous Russian campaign would have destroyed any professional commander of the day, but those losses were quickly replaced with new draftees. After Napoleon, nations planned for huge armies with professional leadership and a constant supply of new soldiers, which had huge human costs when improved weapons like the rifled musket replaced the inaccurate muskets of Napoleon's day during the American Civil War.

This large size came at a cost, as the logistics of feeding a huge army made them especially dependent on supplies. Most armies of the day relied on the supply-convoy system established during the Thirty Years' War by Gustavus Adolphus. This limited mobility, since the soldiers had to wait for the convoys, but it did keep possibly mutinous troops from deserting, and thus helped preserve an army's composure. However, Napoleon's armies were so large that feeding them using the old method proved ineffective, and consequently, French troops were allowed to live off the land. Infused with new concepts of nation and service. Napoleon often attempted to wage decisive, quick campaigns so that he could allow his men to live off the land. The French army did use a convoy system, but it was stocked with very few days worth of food Napoleon's troops were expected to march quickly, effect a decision on the battlefield, then disperse to feed. For the Russian campaign, the French did store 24 days' worth of food before beginning active operations, but this campaign was the exception, not the rule. [49]

Napoleon's biggest influence in the military sphere was in the conduct of warfare. Weapons and technology remained largely static through the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, but 18th-century operational strategy underwent massive restructuring. Sieges became infrequent to the point of near-irrelevance, a new emphasis arose towards the destruction of enemy armies as well as their outmaneuvering, and invasions of enemy territory occurred over broader fronts, thus introducing a plethora of strategic opportunities that made wars costlier and, just as importantly, more decisive. [50] Defeat for a European power now meant much more than losing isolated enclaves. Near-Carthaginian treaties intertwined whole national efforts—social, political, economic, and militaristic—into gargantuan collisions that severely upset international conventions as understood at the time. Napoleon's initial success sowed the seeds for his downfall. Not used to such catastrophic defeats in the rigid power system of 18th-century Europe, many nations found existence under the French yoke difficult, sparking revolts, wars, and general instability that plagued the continent until 1815, when the forces of reaction finally triumphed at the Battle of Waterloo. [51]

French colonial empire

The history of French colonial imperialism can be divided in two major eras: the first from the early 17th century to the middle of the 18th century, and the second from the early 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. In the first phase of expansion, France concentrated its efforts mainly in North America, the Caribbean and India, setting up commercial ventures that were backed by military force. Following defeat in the Seven Years' War, France lost its possessions in North America and India, but it did manage to keep the wealthy Caribbean islands of Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe, and Martinique.

The second stage began with the conquest of Algeria in 1830, then with the establishment of French Indochina (covering modern Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) and a string of military victories in the Scramble for Africa, where it established control over regions covering much of West Africa, Central Africa and Maghreb. In 1914 France had an empire stretching over 13,000,000 km 2 (5,000,000 sq mi) (6,000,000 mile²) of land and about 110 million people. [52] Following victory in World War I, Togo and most of Cameroon were also added to the French possessions, and Syria and Lebanon became French mandates. For most of the period from 1870 to 1945, France was territorially the third largest nation on Earth, after Britain and Russia (later the Soviet Union), and had the most overseas possessions following Britain. Following the Second World War, France struggled to preserve French territories but wound up losing the First Indochina War (the precursor to the Vietnam War) and granting independence to Algeria after a long war. Today, France still maintains a number of overseas territories, but their collective size is barely a shadow of the old French colonial empire.

From 1815

After the exile of Napoleon, the freshly restored Bourbon monarchy helped the absolute Bourbon king of Spain to recover his throne during the French intervention in Spain in 1823. To restore the prestige of the French monarchy, disputed by the Revolution and the First Empire, Charles X engaged in the military conquest of Algeria in 1830. This marked the beginning of a new expansion of the French colonial empire throughout the 19th century. In that century, France remained a major force in continental affairs. After the 1830 July Revolution, the liberal king Louis Philippe I victoriously supported the Spanish and Belgian liberals in 1831. The French later inflicted a defeat on the Habsburgs in the Franco-Austrian War of 1859, a victory which led to the unification of Italy in 1861, after having triumphed over Russia with other allies in the Crimean War 1854–56. Detrimentally, however, the French army emerged from these victories in an overconfident and complacent state. [53] France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War led to the loss of Alsace-Lorraine and the creation of a united German Empire, both results representing major failures in long-term French foreign policy and sparking a vengeful, nationalist revanchism meant to earn back former territories. [54] The Dreyfus Affair, however, mitigated these nationalist tendencies by prompting public skepticism about the competence of the military. [55]

First World War

In World War I, the French, with their allies, managed to hold the Western front and to counterattack on the Eastern front and in the colonies until the final defeat of the Central Powers and their allies. After major conflicts such as the Battle of the Frontiers, the First Battle of the Marne, the Battle of Verdun, and the Second Battle of the Aisne—the last resulting in tremendous loss of life and mutiny within the army—the French proved to be enough of a cohesive fighting force to counterattack and defeat the Germans at the Second Battle of the Marne, the first in what would become a string of Allied victories that ended the war. [56] The Treaty of Versailles eventually returned Alsace-Lorraine to France. The French military, civilian and material losses during the First World War were huge. With more than 1.3 million military fatalities and more than 4.6 million wounded, France suffered the second highest Allied losses, after Russia. As a result, France was adamant on the payment of reparations by Germany. The organised failure of the Weimar Republic to pay reparations led to the Occupation of the Ruhr by French and Belgian forces.

Second World War

A variety of factors—ranging from smaller industrial base to low population growth and obsolete military doctrines—crippled the French effort at the outset of World War II. The Germans won the Battle of France in 1940 despite the French often having better planes and tanks than their opponents whereas they were lacking modern weaponry for the infantry, the main problem although was the unexistant doctrine to synchronize the tanks alongside the plane, as tanks were not used as a primary force but rather as support for infantry, without planning an anti-air protection for them. their use as primary force were made in very rare occasion, when commanded by Charles de Gaulle for example, only a tank crew division commander by the time of 1940. Prior to the Battle of France, there were sentiments among many Allied soldiers, French and British, of pointless repetition they viewed the war with dread since they had already beaten the Germans once, and images of that first major conflict were still poignant in military circles. [57] The costs of World War I along with the now stale doctrine employed by the French Army (while the Germans were developing a doctrine which stressed initiative from junior commanders and combining different arms, the French sought to minimize casualties through a rigorously controlled type of battle and a top down command structure) forced the French to look for more defensive measures. The Maginot Line was the result of these deliberations: the French originally allocated three billion francs for the project, but by 1935 seven billion had been spent. [58] The Maginot Line succeeded in holding off the German attack. [59] However, while the French thought that the main weight of the German attack would arrive through central Belgium, and accordingly deployed their forces here, the assault actually came further south in the Ardennes forest. [60] The Third Republic collapsed in the ensuing conflict.

After the defeat, Vichy France cooperated with the Axis powers until 1944. Charles de Gaulle exhorted the French people to join the allied armies, while the French Vichy forces participated in direct action against Allied forces, inflicting casualties in some cases.

The Normandy landings in that year were the first step towards the eventual liberation of France. The Free French Forces, under de Gaulle, had participated widely throughout previous campaigns, and their large size made them notable at the end of the war. As early as the winter of 1943, the Free French already had nearly 260,000 soldiers, [61] and these numbers only grew as the war progressed. The French Resistance had also a significant contribution, participating also actively in the liberation of France. At the end of the war, France was given one of four occupation zones in Germany, in Berlin and Austria.

Post-1945 warfare

Following the 1939–45 war, decolonization spread through the former European empires.

Following the First Indochina War, they withdrew from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The military also tried to keep control of Algeria during the Algerian War, when French forces attempted to defeat the Algerian rebels. Despite its military victory, France granted independence to Algerians. French Algeria was home to over a million of settlers (known as Pieds-Noirs), de Gaulle's decision to grant independence to Algeria, almost led to a civil war, supported by various Pied-Noir, Harki and nationalist factions, including the FAF and the OAS. Related to and during the Algerian war France participated in the Suez Crisis with Israel and the UK.

By 1960 France had lost its direct military influence over all of its former colonies in Africa and Indochina. Nonetheless, several colonies in the Pacific, Caribbean, Indian Oceans and South America remain French territory to this day and France kept a form of indirect political influence in Africa colloquially known as the Françafrique.

As President of the French Republic, Charles de Gaulle oversaw the development of French atomic weapons and promoted a foreign policy independent of U.S. influence. He also withdrew France from the NATO military command in 1966—although remaining a member of the western alliance. The effect of withdrawal was reduced by continued cooperation between the French military and NATO, though France did not formally rejoin the NATO military command until 2009. [7]

France intervened in various post-colonial conflicts, supporting former colonies (Western Sahara War, Shaba II, Chadian–Libyan conflict, Djiboutian Civil War), NATO peacekeeping missions in war-torn countries (UNPROFOR, KFOR, UNAMIR) and many humanitarian missions.

As a nuclear power and having some of the best trained and best equipped forces in the world, the French military has now met some of its primary objectives which are the defense of national territory, the protection of French interests abroad, and the maintenance of global stability. Conflicts indicative of these objectives are the Gulf War in 1991—when France sent 18,000 troops, 60 combat aircraft, 120 helicopters, and 40 tanks [62] —and Mission Héraclès in the War in Afghanistan, along with recent interventions in Africa.

African interventions during the early 21st century include peacekeeping actions in Côte d'Ivoire, which involved brief direct fighting between the French and Ivorian armies in 2004 French forces returned to Côte d'Ivoire in 2011 to remove the Ivorian president. In the same year, France played a pivotal role in the 2011 military intervention in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi. The year after, France intervened in Mali during that country's civil war, as Islamist militants appeared to threaten the south after seizing control of the arid north. Changes in the government of France, including Socialist François Hollande becoming president in 2012 after years of center-right governance, have done little to alter Paris' foreign policy in Africa.

Hollande also proposed French military involvement in the Syrian civil war in the wake of chemical attacks French intelligence reports linked to the forces of President Bashar al-Assad in mid-2013. [8]

France has encouraged military cooperation at an EU level, starting with the formation of the Franco-German Brigade in 1987 and Eurocorps in 1992, based in Strasbourg. In 2009 a battalion of German light infantry was moved to Alsace, the first time German troops had been stationed in France since the Nazi occupation of World War II. This process has not been immune to budget cuts—in October 2013 France announced the closure of her last infantry regiment in Germany, thus marking the end of a major presence across the Rhine although both countries will maintain around 500 troops on each other's territory. [9] As fellow members of the UN Security Council with many interests and problems in common, the UK and France have a long history of bilateral collaboration. This has occurred both at government level and in industrial programmes like the SEPECAT Jaguar whilst corporate mergers have seen Thales and MBDA emerge as major defence companies spanning both countries. The financial crisis of 2007–08 led to renewed pressure on military budgets and the "austerity alliance" enshrined in the Lancaster House Treaties of 2010. These promised close integration in both procurement and at an operational level, reaching into the most sensitive areas such as nuclear warheads.

Topical subjects

French Air and Space Force

The Armée de l'Air became one of the first professional air forces in the world when it was founded in 1909. The French took active interest in developing their air force and had the first fighter pilots of World War I. During the interwar years, however, particularly in the 1930s, the technical quality fell when compared with the Luftwaffe, which crushed both the French and British air forces during the Battle of France. In the post–World War II era, the French made a concerted and successful effort to develop a homegrown aircraft industry. Dassault Aviation led the way forward with their unique and effective delta-wing designs, which formed the basis for the famous Mirage series of jet fighters. The Mirage repeatedly demonstrated its deadly abilities in the Six-Day War and the Gulf War, becoming one of the most popular and well-sold aircraft in the history of military aviation along the way. [63] Currently, the French are awaiting the A400M military transport aircraft, which is still in developmental stages, and the integration of the new Rafale multi-role jet fighter, whose first squadron of 20 aircraft became operational in 2006 at Saint-Dizier. [64] In 2020 it was renamed the Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace, or French Air and Space Force.

French Navy

Medieval fleets, in France as elsewhere, were almost entirely composed of merchant ships enlisted into naval service in time of war, but the early beginnings of the French naval history goes back to that era. The first battle of the French Navy was the battle of Arnemuiden (23 September 1338), where it defeated the English Navy. [11] The battle of Arnemuiden was also the first naval battle using artillery. [12] It was later defeated by an Anglo-Flemish fleet at the Battle of Sluys and, with Castilian help, managed to beat the English at La Rochelle—both battles playing a crucial role in the development of the Hundred Years War. However, the navy did not become a consistent instrument of national power until the 17th century with Louis XIV. Under the tutelage of the "Sun King," the French Navy was well financed and equipped, managing to resoundingly defeat a combined Spanish-Dutch fleet at the Battle of Palermo in 1676 during the Franco-Dutch War, although, along with the English navy, it suffered several strategic reversals against the Dutch, who were led by the brilliant Michiel de Ruyter. It scored several early victories in the Nine Years War against the Royal Navy and the Dutch Navy. Financial difficulties, however, allowed the English and the Dutch to regain the initiative at sea.

A perennial problem for the French Navy was the strategic priorities of France, which were first and foremost tied to its European ambitions. This reality meant that the army was often treated better than the navy, and as a result, the latter suffered in training and operational performance. [65] The 18th century saw the beginning of the Royal Navy's domination, which managed to inflict a number of significant defeats on the French. However, in a very impressive effort, a French fleet under de Grasse managed to defeat a British fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, ensuring that the Franco-American ground forces would win the ongoing Siege of Yorktown. Beyond that, and Suffren's impressive campaigns against the British in India, there was not much more good news. The French Revolution all but crippled the French Navy, and efforts to make it into a powerful force under Napoleon were dashed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where the British all but annihilated a combined Franco-Spanish fleet. The disaster guaranteed British naval domination until the end of the Napoleonic wars.

Later in the 19th century, the navy recovered and became the second finest in the world after the Royal Navy. It conducted a successful blockade of Mexico in the Pastry War of 1838 and obliterated the Chinese navy at the Battle of Foochow in 1884. It also served as an effective link between the growing parts of the French empire. The navy performed well during World War I, in which it mainly protected the naval lanes in the Mediterranean Sea. At the onset of the war, the French—with 16 battleships, 6 cruisers, and 24 destroyers—had the largest fleet in the Mediterranean. [66] French defeats in the early stages of World War II, however, forced the British to destroy the French navy at Mers-el-Kebir in order to prevent its fall to the Germans. Currently, French naval doctrine calls for two aircraft carriers, but the French currently only have one, the Charles de Gaulle, due to restructuring. The navy is in the midst of some technological and procurement changes newer submarines are under construction and Rafale aircraft (the naval version) are currently replacing older aircraft.

French Foreign Legion

The French Foreign Legion was created in 1831 by French king Louis-Philippe. Over the past century and a half, it has gone on to become one of the most recognizable and lauded military units in the world. The Legion had a very difficult start there were few non-commissioned officers, many of the soldiers could not speak French, and pay was often irregular. [67] The Legion was soon transferred to fight in Algeria, performing moderately successfully given its condition. On August 17, 1835, the commander of the Legion, Colonel Joseph Bernelle, decided to amalgamate all the battalions so that no nationality was exclusively confined to a particular battalion this helped ensure that the Legion did not fragment into factions. [68]

Following participation in Africa and in the Carlist Wars in Spain, the Legion fought in the Crimean War and the Franco-Austrian War, where they performed heroically at the Battle of Magenta, before earning even more glory during the French intervention in Mexico. On April 30, 1863, a company of 65 legionnaires was ambushed by 2,000 Mexican troops at the Hacienda Camarón in the resulting Battle of Camarón, the legionnaires resisted bravely for several hours and inflicted 300–500 casualties on the Mexicans while 62 of them died and three were captured. [69] One of the Mexican commanders, impressed by the memorable intransigence he had just witnessed, characterized the Legion in a way they've been known ever since, "These are not men, but devils!" [70]

In World War I, the Legion demonstrated that it was a highly capable unit in modern warfare. It suffered 11,000 casualties in the Western Front while conducting brilliant defenses and spirited counter-attacks. [71] Following the debacle in the Battle of France in 1940, the Legion was split between those who supported the Vichy government and those who joined the Free French under de Gaulle. At the Battle of Bir Hakeim in 1942, the Free French 13th Legion Demi-Brigade doggedly defended its positions against a combined Italian-German offensive and seriously delayed Rommel's attacks towards Tobruk. The Legion eventually returned to Europe and fought until the end of the Second World War in 1945. It later fought in the First Indochina War against the Viet Minh. At the climatic Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, French forces, many of them legionnaires, were completely surrounded by a large Vietnamese army and were defeated after two months of tenacious fighting. French withdrawal from Algeria led to the collapse of the French colonial empire. The legionnaires were mostly used in colonial interventions, so the destruction of the empire prompted questions about their status. Ultimately, the Legion was allowed to exist and participated as a rapid reaction force in many places throughout Africa and around the world. [72]

Henry V: A Pious King Prepares for War

Henry IV died in 1413, and the 26-year-old prince took the throne as Henry V. Conspiracies soon arose among his onetime friends to unseat him in favor of Richard II’s heir Edmund Mortimer. In 1415 Henry executed Lord Scrope and the earl of Cambridge, the leading plotters, and defeated a rebellion led by his old associate John Oldcastle (the model for Shakespeare’s Falstaff).

Meanwhile, Henry was making demands of France𠅏irst for the return of Aquitaine to England in fulfillment of a 1360 treaty, then for a 2-million-crown payment, then for the king’s daughter Catherine’s hand in marriage. In 1415 Henry gathered his army and sailed for France.

Intriguing History

Wars, battles and campaigns in British history. This historic theme considers the small battles as well as the large campaigns in British history. The timeline and maps help to put them in context and explore them in more detail.

British history is littered with the names of famous battles and wars. When set in a chronological timeline, it seems as if Britain has been fighting a war or battle somewhere for thousands of years.

On the large scale of wars such as the Napoleonic Wars, World War I and World War II, much has been written. The smaller battles or less well known wars, had an equal impact on those involved.

Round shot that hit the Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, still lodged in the piece of timber it hit.

Majority of British Battles were fought on foreign shores

Many of these battles were fought on foreign shores and those who died in these far flung wars lie buried miles from home. The Afghan wars were fought over centuries, wars were fought in the Indian sub-continent and in the China Seas. The British have been engaged in conflict around the world for hundreds of years. Our Royal Navy, developed to become an invisible fighting force, was able to quickly move to the battleground. They kept many battles at sea and fought hard to ensure Britain was not invaded. So many well known conflicts, the Spanish Armada, the Napoleonic Wars, the English Civil War and our history textbooks of old reminding us of great battles, Waterloo and Ladysmith, of the Nile and Balaclava but what of those wars long forgotten except to enthusiasts, the Mahratta Wars, the Peninsular War or the Sikh Wars?

We will be building a chronology of British Wars and battles and putting them into context with British society at the time. If we find useful source material we will include that as well as all the intriguing aspects of this theme as we find them.

Napoleonic Wars

The Napoleonic Wars were a continuation of the French Revolutionary Wars led and dominated by Napoleon Bonaparte since 1796 and kick-off the start of the 19th Century. There had been a short-lived peaceful interlude following the collapse of the 2nd coalition and Peace of Amiens but anxieties and suspicions were arouse as Bonaparte annexed Piedmont and Elba together with his occupation of Switzerland and refusal to evacuate from Holland his forces. The British feared his designs were set on the Mediterranean and therefore refused to honour commitments they had made and withdrew British troops from Malta. It was on 18 May 1803 that hostilities were resumed and the Napoleonic Wars commence. Bonaparte for the British had become a personal issue as he was perceived as the personification of tyranny and deceit.

Peace of Amiens 1802

Treaty agreed between Britain and France officially ending the French Revolutionary Wars. Britain suffering from the unimpressive leadership of Addington had conceded too much for relatively little reward. For more on the Treaty of Amiens click here.

  • return all maritime conquests except Trinidad (taken from the Spanish) and Ceylon (taken from Dutch control) and the Cape of Good Hope was returned to the Dutch.
  • France to evacuate Southern Italy and Malta and Egypt which was to be returned to the Ottomans
  • Britain was left with no power base in the Mediterranean except Gibraltar
  • Amiens made no provision for the respecting of boundaries of existing European states

The British had been seeking a lasting peace, the French under Napolean were simply setting the scene for their complete dominance of the area and did not renounce their aspiration for expansion into the Eastern Mediterranean and the Americas. This was far from an effective treaty from the British perspective.

Key dates and events of the Napoleonic Wars

  • 1803
    • Bonaparte reinstates Slavery in Saint Dominique (modern Haiti)
    • Britain easily puts down the Robert Emmet rising in Dublin and prevent the French from interfering in India
    • Saint Dominque declares independence under the leadership of Jean-Jaques Dessalines
    • Pitt the Younger returns to office , having resigned in 1801, almost at the same time as Bonaparte arrogantly proclaims himself as Emperor of France. Pitt creates his 3rd Coalition whilst Bonaparte sets about planning and instigating an invasion of England.
    • French Army of 150,000 men assembled at Boulogne with a fleet of transports ready to cross the Channel. Bonapartes arrogance and confidence knew no ends he had struck medals already to celebrate the conquest of England. Before a single ship had sailed.
    • Were your Ancestors in the Battle of Trafalgar, find out here with National Archives Database
    • Treaty of Presburg cedes Venetia (Venice) to the French controlled Italy and he states of the Lower Rhine become the Confederation of the Rhine as a French dependency.
    • Napoleon recognises the electors of Bavaria and Wurtttemberg as Kings independent of Austria for a heavy war contribution of some 40 million francs.
    • Britain alone remained defiant, sound familiar? The Royal Navy bombards the Danish fleet at Copenhagen to prevent it from being used by Russia or France.
    • The allies plan to attack France from the South West through Alsace and Lorraine. Napoleon decides to attack the extreme right flank in Belgium before Wellington and Blucher’s forces can join together near Liege.
    • The Prussians are defeated in June at Ligny and retreat to Wavre on 16 June 1815. The same day Wellington resists Ney’s attacks at Quartre Bras, withdrew successfully and prepares with reinforcements for the final onslaught.
    • The Battle of Waterloo: Napoleon was on the defensive. Attacked by the British and Prussians by nightfall of the 18th June Napoleon is defeated and in flight. This famous victory deserves more attention as we approach another anniversary, but more to follow and our collection of posts follows and will grow over time.

    Napoleonic Wars the outcome and conclusion

    23 years of war against the French Revolution and the Napoleonic episodes had been colossally expensive for all in terms of lives lost and sheer expense. Britain lost proportionately more men in this period than during WW1. It left Britain in a a dire economic state, it had costs an unprecedented sum of more than £1,500 million by way of taxes and loans raised by the government. Arguably the war held-up progress and delayed the Industrial Revolution but in the longer term overseas trade would benefit hugely to the detriment of France.

    British Setbacks in North America

    Largely inactive in 1756, Lord Loudoun remained inert through the opening months of 1757. In April he received orders to mount an expedition against the French fortress city of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. An important base for the French navy, the city also guarded the approaches to the Saint Lawrence River and the heartland of New France. Stripping troops from the New York frontier, he was able to assemble a strike force at Halifax by early July. While waiting for a Royal Navy squadron, Loudoun received intelligence that the French had massed 22 ships of the line and around 7,000 men at Louisbourg. Feeling that he lacked the numbers to defeat such a force, Loudoun abandoned the expedition and began returning his men to New York.

    While Loudoun was shifting men up and down the coast, the industrious Montcalm had moved to the offensive. Gathering around 8,000 regulars, militia, and Native American warriors, he pushed south across Lake George with the goal of taking Fort William Henry. Held by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Munro and 2,200 men, the fort possessed 17 guns. By August 3, Montcalm had surrounded the fort and laid siege. Though Munro requested aid from Fort Edward to the south it was not forthcoming as the commander there believed the French had around 12,000 men. Under heavy pressure, Munro was forced to surrender on August 9. Though Munro's garrison was paroled and guaranteed safe conduct to Fort Edward, they were attacked by Montcalm's Native Americans as they departed with over 100 men, women, and children killed. The defeat eliminated the British presence on Lake George.

    Franco-American alliances signed

    During the Revolutionary War, representatives from the United States and France sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris.

    The Treaty of Amity and Commerce recognized the United States as an independent nation and encouraged trade between France and the America, while the Treaty of Alliance provided for a military alliance against Great Britain, stipulating that the absolute independence of the United States be recognized as a condition for peace and that France would be permitted to conquer the British West Indies.

    With the treaties, the first entered into by the U.S. government, the Bourbon monarchy of France formalized its commitment to assist the American colonies in their struggle against France’s old rival, Great Britain. The eagerness of the French to help the United States was motivated both by an appreciation of the American revolutionaries’ democratic ideals and by bitterness at having lost most of their American empire to the British at the conclusion of the French and Indian Wars in 1763.

    In 1776, the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee to a diplomatic commission to secure a formal alliance with France. Covert French aid began filtering into the colonies soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, but it was not until the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that the French became convinced that the Americans were worth backing in a formal treaty.

    On February 6, 1778, the treaties of Amity and Commerce and Alliance were signed, and in May 1778 the Continental Congress ratified them. One month later, war between Britain and France formally began when a British squadron fired on two French ships. During the American Revolution, French naval fleets proved critical in the defeat of the British, which culminated in the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.

    The Grand Empire

    Napoleon now had a free hand to reorganize Europe and numerous relatives to install on the thrones of his satellite kingdoms. The result was known as the Grand Empire. Having annexed Tuscany, Piedmont, Genoa, and the Rhineland directly into France, Napoleon placed the Kingdom of Holland (which until 1806 was the Batavian Commonwealth) under his brother Louis, the Kingdom of Westphalia under his brother Jérôme, the Kingdom of Italy under his stepson Eugène as his viceroy, the Kingdom of Spain under his brother Joseph, and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw (carved out of Prussian Poland) under the nominal sovereignty of his ally the king of Saxony, Frederick Augustus I. To link his allied states in northern and southern Germany, Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine. Even Austria seemed to fall into Napoleon’s sphere of influence, with his marriage to Archduchess Marie-Louise in 1810. (Since the emperor had no natural heirs from his marriage to Joséphine Beauharnais, he reluctantly divorced her and in 1810 married the Austrian princess, who duly bore him a son the following year.)

    War of the Sixth Coalition

    Francois Bouchot - Joconde database/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

    While the British became increasingly involved in the Peninsular War, Napoleon began planning a massive invasion of Russia. Having fallen out in the years since Tilsit, he attacked into Russia in June 1812. Combating scorched earth tactics, he won a costly victory at Borodino and captured Moscow but was forced to withdraw when winter arrived. As the French lost most of their men in the retreat, a Sixth Coalition of Britain, Spain, Prussia, Austria, and Russia formed. Rebuilding his forces, Napoleon won at Lutzen, Bautzen, and Dresden, before being overwhelmed by the allies at Leipzig in October 1813. Driven back to France, Napoleon was forced to abdicate on April 6, 1814, and was later exiled to Elba by the Treaty of Fontainebleau.

    Wars with France

    Charles and Francis I (king of France from 1515 until his death in 1547) were frequently in a state of war. The on-going hostility between the Habsburg and Valois families was made worse by Charles’ control of so many territories that threatened to surround France, and by the personal rivalry between the two monarchs. Both had wished to be elected as Holy Roman Emperor (an election that Charles won) and early in his reign Charles had commented: ‘My cousin Francis and I are in complete accord he wants Milan and so do I’. During the 1520s, 1530s and 1540s there were military conflicts and for much of the rest of the time they were conspiring to undermine each other’s position. Only occasionally were they at peace, such as when Charles travelled from Spain, through France to the Low Countries in the autumn of 1539 and early 1540.

    The scope of the wars was wide. Both had laid claim to lands in Italy Charles wished to regain Burgundy, lost to the French in 1477 rights in Flanders and Artois were disputed and in the Pyrenees the kingdom of Navarre was a bone of contention. Therefore most of these areas, as well as parts of France, experienced invasion by foreign troops, sieges, looted cities, land laid waste and all the horrors of warfare. Charles and Francis were at war in 1521 - 1525, 1526 - 1529, 1536 - 1538, and 1542 – 1544. Francis’ successor, Henry II, was also at war with Charles from 1552, a conflict that did not end until after Charles’ abdication and death. An account of the causes, events and consequences of these wars is available elsewhere (‘Duty and Dynasty: Emperor Charles V and his Changing World 1500-1558’ by Richard Heath) and here it is only intended to deal with some aspects of them.

    Renaissance Italy was ripe for foreign interference. It was seriously divided. The most important states were the republic of Venice, with its maritime empire, the duchy of Milan, the republic of Florence, the Papal States and the kingdom of Naples. Also of significance were Savoy, Genoa, Ferrara and additional smaller city states. A delicate balance of power had been maintained by means of subtle diplomacy and wars in which the citizens stayed at home while mercenary soldiers fought each other in campaigns that often involved more manoeuvre and posturing than hard fought battles. This balance was all too easily destroyed by the intervention of foreign powers eager for gain. Indeed, on occasions, they were invited in to assist a local Italian ruler. The fact that the Papacy was based in Rome was another incentive, for control of or influence over the Papacy provided an additional diplomatic weapon. The lack of this support could be a problem as Henry VIII was to learn to his cost in the late 1520s.

    The wealthy Italian states had little effective defence and offered rich pickings for foreign troops who had their own interests at heart. Italian rulers were therefore keen to side with whichever power might seem to offer the chance for gain and security. Growing instability encouraged existing ducal families and more recent condottiere (mercenary commanders) to attempt to carve out territories for themselves and their families. The Medici (Florence), the Borgia (the Papal States and Romagna), the Sforza (Milan), the Farnese (Parma), the Este (Ferrara), the Gonzaga (Mantua) - these are the names that frequently occur in any history of Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries, many of which are still familiar to us today. As well as being patrons of the famous artists of the Renaissance, they are usually associated with the rapidly shifting alliances, enmities, truces and double crosses that make a study of the period fascinating, but often complex. This was, of course, the world of Cesare Borgia and Machiavelli, as well as Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo.

    There is, however, a pattern that emerges from a study of late 15th and early 16th century Italy. French claims to a territory, backed up with the support of some Italian rulers and substantial military force, would have initial success. The allies would then fall out, either over the spoils of war or over fear of French domination. This would allow France’s rivals, initially Ferdinand of Aragon and Maximilian of Austria, and later Charles, to make local alliances, fight back and eventually defeat French forces. The Italian states and their ruling families would then be concerned about Habsburg control of Italy. This in turn enabled France to put together alliances and restart the cycle. As Pope Clement VII commented, most Italians did ‘not wish the eagle to land in Italy or the cock to crow there’.

    The damage done to Italy was immense. Although they had a part to play, the Italian states were no-longer in control of their own destiny, despite feelings of cultural and economic superiority, and however much they disliked foreign domination. They would switch sides frequently, fearful of first one foreign power and then another. They would aim to maximise their power at the expense of other local rulers, ever mindful of the need not to offend the monarch who held sway at the time, but ready to change allegiance if they judged circumstances to be right. The French, Spanish and Imperial armies, together with the feared Swiss and German mercenary troops, were much larger than anything previously seen. They frequently gave no quarter, either in battle or when looting a captured town, unlike some of the earlier choreographed campaigns which had much less material or personal cost. Long sieges and the devastation of the countryside had a major impact on food supplies. The lack of security, together with the cost of employing large mercenary armies, made further economic development difficult. The troops suffered from and spread diseases, whether it was cholera, the plague, or syphilis, of which the first major recorded outbreak in Europe was among the French soldiers at Naples in 1494, and which, known as the ‘French disease’, rapidly became widespread across Italy. By the second decade of the 16th century Machiavelli regarded Italy as ‘leaderless, lawless, crushed, despoiled, torn, over-run’.

    Charles’ plans for a ‘permanent peace’ in Christendom

    Charles always claimed that it was his deepest wish to live in peace, and regarded Francis as the aggressor. Nevertheless he made it clear that he would not back away from a conflict if he believed that his territories or his honour were under threat. On occasions he challenged Francis to a dual, such as in 1526 when angered by Francis’ breaking of the Treaty of Madrid he said to the French ambassador: ‘Had your king kept his word we should have been spared this… It would be better for us two to fight out this quarrel hand to hand than to shed so much Christian blood’. This was never likely to happen and indeed it was one of the few times that Charles showed his anger so clearly in public.

    Charles’ belief in the importance of dynasty is shown in the various plans that he put forward for marriages between the royal families that he hoped would lead to a more lasting peace. He was keen for his sister Eleanor (whose first husband Manual I of Portugal had died in 1521) to marry Francis I after the death of his wife, Claude, in 1524. This was arranged in the Treaty of Madrid in 1526 after Francis’ capture at Pavia but delayed by the renewal of hostilities until the idea was revived in the Treaty of Cambrai in 1529. The marriage took place in 1530 but did little to ease relations between the monarchs, although perhaps negotiations were facilitated by Eleanor’s presence on the rare occasions that they met.

    Later, in the mid-1540s, as part of the Treaty of Crepy, Charles agreed to an understanding about the marriage of Francis’ youngest son, Charles, Duke of Orleans and a related territorial settlement. Orleans would marry either Charles’ daughter Maria, or niece, Ferdinand’s daughter, Anna. If he married Maria, Orleans would inherit the Low Countries on Charles’ death if he married Anna, he would inherit Milan. Charles himself would decide who the bride would be after talks with Ferdinand and his own son Philip. It is often debated why Charles agreed to such a deal. At the time he had control in Italy and the upper hand in the Low Countries. Why did he feel the need to hand over significant lands to the French royal family as part of a marriage contract? He hoped to bring about a lasting settlement of the Habsburg – Valois conflict by using marriages and concessions, thus creating an all-embracing dynastic alliance. This was the latest, but not the last, of Charles’ ideas on how this ‘permanent peace’ could be achieved. He also wished to gain Francis’ agreement to fight not just the Ottomans but also the German Protestants if they could not be restored to the church by other means. Such a marriage alliance could help to bring this about.

    The Treaty of Crepy in many ways reveals the nature of international politics at the time - sometimes laudable aims, often duplicitous agreements, and then an open disregard for what had been signed.

    There was both an open treaty and a secret treaty. The open treaty enforced the main terms of the agreement made at Cambrai back in 1529, and stated that all territorial gains made since the truce of Nice in 1538 would be returned. Francis agreed to supply 10,000 foot-soldiers and 600 heavy cavalry to help fight the Ottomans. Charles agreed to the marriage plans. In the secret part Francis agreed to help Charles to bring about a meeting of the general church council that the Emperor had so long desired, to support him in removing the abuses of the church and to bring the German Protestants back into a unified church. What probably needed to remain secret was Francis’ agreement to provide troops (10,000 infantry and 600 cavalry – the same as promised against the Ottomans) for use against the heretics if other methods failed, whereas he had previously encouraged German Protestants to make difficulties for Charles. He also promised not to make any agreement with Henry VIII which would be disadvantageous to Charles and would support the Emperor in any future war with Henry. Charles had forced the French to agree to his wishes in both political and religious matters.

    Of course we know that, as in the past, rulers did not always regarded treaties as unbreakable, even while they were being negotiated. These marriage and territorial terms were bound to cause problems. Even in France, the royal family was split. The ambitious twenty-two year old Duke of Orleans, affable and popular at the French court, was undoubtedly his father’s favourite. He had been the subject of many marriage plans – into the English royal family, with the Farnese in Italy, with Jeanne d’Albret of Navarre - but was very keen for an independent principality that the treaty provided. The Dauphin, Henry, Francis’ heir, married eleven years earlier to Catherine de’ Medici, had never been close to his father since his years in Spain as a hostage. He objected to these terms, believing that too much was gained by his younger brother and that this would cause family divisions in the future. A divided French royal family would certainly suit Charles. But Charles would have his own dilemma. How was he to decide which marriage and territorial agreement to choose? His advisers were divided most of the Spaniards believed that Milan was essential to control in Italy and the links with the Low Countries, while those with a ‘Burgundian’ background, such as Granvelle, argued that the Low Countries were an invaluable asset. Both had a strong case and Charles was going to be in a difficult position when he came to decide. Within a year his dilemma was removed by the death of Orleans, of which Charles commented: ‘This death came just in time, and being a natural one, it could be said that God had sent it to accomplish his secret design’.

    The death of Francis I

    The rivalry of over 30 years between Charles and Francis ended with the latter’s death on 31st March 1547 at the chateau of Rambouillet, aged 52. Henry VIII of England had died three months earlier, aged 56 at Whitehall Palace. In some ways it was the end of an era. Charles, a few years younger than both, had outlived the two European monarchs most closely associated with him, although Suleiman, the Ottoman sultan, was to live on until 1566. However, Francis’ death did not mean that peace was going to break out over Europe. His successor, Henry II, was keen for military success and territorial gain, and had no love of Charles – his three years in Spain as a young boy, hostage to his father’s failure to carry out the terms of the treaty of Madrid, were not to be forgiven.

    Watch the video: Β Παγκόσμιος Πόλεμος: Βρετανία εναντίον Γαλλίας - Η Επίθεση στο Mers-el-Kébir (December 2022).

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