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DisambiguationEdit

Poland and Poles may refer to any of the following:

Time of War: Rise of the Moderns 2Edit

Time of War: 1800Edit

Time of War: Rise of Kings 2:Edit

The Age of ConquestEdit

  • The Poles, a faction featured in The Age of Conquest.

HistoryEdit

From the conclusion of the Middle Ages until the Second World War, France would be a major power in Western Europe, and a major political and cultural force in the shaping of the modern world as we know it today by sheer size and population alone.

For two centuries after final victory over the English at Castillon, the kings of France would strive to obtain supremacy and dominance of Europe, first by attempting to influence the Italian city-states, and then by political intervention in Spain and Germany. Countless wars with the British, the heirs of the English, would eventually sap the kingdom of its vitality and lead to its rulers' downfall in the French revolution, but the French nation would eventually rise up stronger again, with French schools and industry paving the way for scientific and cultural progress well until the First World War.

Birth PangsEdit

Although the French had managed to regain possession of nearly all of France at the close of the 15th century from the English, conditions at home could only be best as described as far from satisfactory. In an Europe dominated by the Habsburgs in Iberia on the Atlantic and Central Europe, France was a nation being torn apart by religious-related unrest, an extremely inefficient military, and economic ruin. France was plagued by financial difficulties. Taxes were an especially difficult task for the government. Taxes were actually collected by citizens, called "tax farmers", who would pay for their job as tax farmer, and were hired to collect the taxes for the government. Multiple taxes (much like those levied on the American colonials in the 1770s) had to be levied to gather sufficient revenue for the operation and maintenance of the Empire. Wars in Italy and Germany did naught but bleed the French economy dry. The upper middle-class citizens helped raise large sums of money to aid the King and his wars, of course, they paid little or nothing in taxes to the Crown for their support

The ReformationEdit

The Reformation also did nothing to ease the pressure on France. By the 1530s, the ideas of John Calvin took hold of many of the lower class people in France. Huguenotism began, that is, French Calvinism. The tension between the Huguenots and Roman Catholics continued to mount until it erupted in March of 1562, when a congregation of Huguenots was slaughtered at Vassy. Calvinist and Catholic forces clashed at Dreux in December of that same year. Peace was concluded in 1563. This peace was short-lived, however. A second war broke out between September and November of 1567, ending with another battle and another peace in March 1568. In September of 1568, a third war began. Several more battles were fought, but no major gains for either party, and another peace was signed in August of 1570. The final war came about in 1572, after the massacre of three thousand Huguenots at a wedding festival. This war was concluded in 1576, after further bloodshed.

A fresh struggle occurred in 1585. Several Henries of various factions began a struggle for the throne of France. Henry III was assassinated. The Henry of Navarre, became King of France in 1589 upon Henry III's death, ending the war. The conflicts between 1585 and 1589 became known as the War of the Three Henrys. With this war's conclusion, the Wars of Religion, between the French Protestants and French Catholics, came to a close.

Richelieu: The Age of KingsEdit

The dawn of the seventeenth century presented France with one of the greats: Cardinal Richelieu. From a family of five, he rose in the ranks of the clergy to become bishop at age twenty-two. He did some various work with France's Estates General, a Legislative body, until he fell out of favor and was exiled in 1617. This did not last long, however, and he was brought back in 1619 and was made a cardinal. Louis XIII, King of France (1610-1643) made him the "first minister", one of the most powerful posts in France. One of the first moves of Richelieu was to suppress the nobles who staged several revolts between 1625 and 1627. He then went on and crushed Huguenot military forts, thus ending any military threat from within. Richelieu helped direct the construction of a better French navy and continued colonial expansion for France in the Americas and Indies. France became involved in the War of Mantuan Succession and the Thirty Years' War during this time. These conflicts ended in favorable terms for France. He had helped shape France for the better during his career. His passing away in 1642 left another cardinal, Jules Mazarin, to take over the helm of the state.

The Sun King: Golden Twilight of the MonarchyEdit

Louis XIV, the Sun King, is one of France's most celebrated leaders. His extremely lengthy rule, 1643-1715, is the longest in French history. In an effort to unify and rally an already fragmented and politically instable nation, Louis established a High Council of ministers who helped him rule the nation with efficiency. The Sun King stepped up efforts to eradicate and hinder Protestantism and various religious organisations outside of the Roman Catholic faith. He ordered the construction of Versailles, the vast palace that is a hallmark of French history.

It cannot be said however that the Sun King did it all alone. His Minister of War, Louvois, helped reorganise and bring the French army up from a small sixteenth century force, to a national army of fully four hundred thousand troops. This new army set out to enlarge France's "natural frontiers" (the Rhine, Atlantic, Mediterranean, Alps, Pyrenees, and the English Channel). Several wars were fought over territories on the French frontier, disputed by the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburgs. In 1667, Louis invaded the Spanish Netherlands and scored several victories, culminating in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle giving the French several fortresses in Flanders. Five years later, an invasion of Dutch lands resulted in the Treaty of Nijmegan ended the war with more forts in Flanders being turned over to France in 1678. Ever more ambitious, France entered the War of the Grand Alliance in 1688 by invading Germany. This invasion backfired as the whole of Europe suddenly turned on Louis and although the French won several victories, they were unable to make anything of them. By 1697, a movement for peace was made and accepted. It proved, short-lived however.

In 1700, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out as Charles II died heirless and left the throne to the ascension of Philip (V), Louis XIV's grandson. The English, Dutch, Austrians and some German states signed an alliance in 1701 to oppose Philip V and the ambitions of Louis. The armies of France were repeatedly defeated in all the theaters of the conflict, the Rhine, Italy, the Lower Counties. The ambitions of the new Emperor Charles of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, however, frightened Britain, and so the House of Bourbon was allowed to be established in Spain under Philip V and peace was concluded in 1713 and 1714. The emerging power of Britain over Continental affairs and the gradual decline of the Spanish and French colonial empires was becoming apparent.

In 1715, Louis XIV passed away. His successor, Louis XV was not the great man his grandfather Louis XIV had been. During his reign, 1715-1774, France became involved in increasingly unsuccessful military campaigns in both the Old World and the New World. Louis XV's reign continued its stagnation and decline. France made no gains during the partition of Poland - its influence in the central and eastern Europe was waning. Her great colonial empire had almost vanished. She still had the largest army and population in Europe, but she was starting to totter, from the inside. The next king, Louis XVI ascended to the throne. The first international event to affect his reign was the conflict that began in the Thirteen British Colonies. It was to France's great delight to see the American colonies rebel from the British crown, yet the success France achieved from this campaign could only be best described as a Pyrrhic victory.

The French Revolutions and the NapoleonsEdit

As the 1780s rolled on, trouble began to brew in France. The eve of arguably the most earth-shaking event in history had dawned. The aristocrats continued playing their power cards during the 1780s, hindering the monarchy and the already weakening government. Financing the American revolution also strained the budget. By 1789, things had worsened, with state bankruptcy, food shortages and crop failures aggravating the already mounting tension. Thus, it was in May of 1789, that the Estates-General were convened. The Estates-General were divided into three separate Estates: the Nobility represented the First, the Clergy the Second, and the rest of the people, the Third. With King Louis XVI too slow to take any action, the Third Estate "rebelled" after being refused the right to sit with the other Estates, declaring itself the National Assembly.

Fearful of the National Assembly, Louis XVI began to bring troops into Paris for security. In response, the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille on July 14 and a National Guard was formed by the citizens to protect the Assembly. Unwisely, Louis XVI and his family attempted to flee Paris, but were soon placed under arrest. Austria and Prussia sent forces into France, but this merely resulted in the king's deposition. Louis XVI, now merely called "Citizen Capet" was subsequently convicted of treason, and sent to the guillotine. In retaliation, the German monarchs formally organised the First Coalition and pushed the Republican armies back into France.

The threat of war, followed by initial defeats in the field to the Austro-Prussian forces in northern France sparked off more rebellions and France degenerated into a state composed of mob rule, ushering in the Reign of Terror in 1793. Thousands of people were arrested, imprisoned, or executed in a ruthless purge throughout France. In 1795, the First Coalition began to fall apart and the National Convention disbanded in turn leading to the creation of the Directorate. It was during the reign of the Directorate that a young general began his glorious rise to fame and power: Napoleon Bonaparte, who first shot to fame by his putting down a royalist mob in Paris. Subsequent military adventures in Italy and Egypt soon brought him success and fame, and by the close of the 18th century Napoleon was the most powerful man in all of France, and was soon crowned emperor following a popular referendum.

The writer HG Wells generally summed up Napoleon's imperial career as having given France "ten years of glory and the humiliation of final defeat". For a brief while, almost all of Europe west of Russia was French territory, but eventually the tide reversed at two points. British sea power and economic strength would play a key role in his downfall, allowing for men and supplies to be delivered to the continent unhindered. By 1812, the French were steadily losing the fight in the Iberian peninsula to the Anglo-Luso-Spanish coallition, while tensions with Russia over French ties with Turkey conquest led to a botched invasion of Russia. Moscow was reached, but the Russians refused to surrender, and eventually Napoleon was forced to withdraw with heavy losses. After further defeats, Napoleon was sent into exile but returned in 1815 for what is known as the "Hundred Days" when a renewed alliance defeated his army at the Battle of Waterloo in present-day Belgium. A new king was found for France by the victorious allies, but in 1848 the king, Louis-Philippe, was forced to abdicate and flee to Britain.

The Third Napoleon and the Third RepublicEdit

Although Napoleon and his regime had been effectively overthrown, Europe was still far away from peace. Ever since the National Convention and the Terror of the 1790s, the country flirted occasionally with charismatic regimes a number of times, waffling between dictatorial rule and democracy. The turmoil continued in France as it was embroiled in more wars and civil strife for the century. However, during this period it saw France drew closer to its former adversary Britain, as the continental ambitions of Germany for French territory proved too much for France to handle alone.

With the monarchy gone in 1848, history repeated itself once more. Shortly after the abdication of Louis-Philippe, elections were held, and elected a relative of the great Napoleon as president. This was Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. Bonaparte however was not content with being president, and in 1851 launched a coup d'etat, installing himself as Napoleon III of France. He would be the last emperor the French would ever see. Although Napoleon III worked hard to modernise France and brought stability to the nation, his military adventurism and lack of diplomatic tact worked against him and eventually led to how downfall. At first, Napoleon III's military adventures paid off, reasserting France as a global power with military expeditions all over the world: Annam was seized from China, while French adventures across the Mediterranean in Algeria would grant future generations a foothold in Africa. However, all this was dismantled in the Franco-Prussian War, when Napoleon III unwisely tried to invade Prussia in 1870. Humiliated and bloodied, the French declared a republic and forced Napoleon III into exile in England, where, already suffering from a variety of illnesses prior to the war, he died a broken man in 1873. Yet, against this backdrop many artists, writers and other visionaries drew inspiration. Attracting renowned artists from all around Western Europe, such notables as Monet, Rodin, Degas, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and later Picasso flocked to France to create their masterpieces. Literature flourished too with names such as Hugo, Dumas and Flaubert, whose works would even capture the imagination of France's traditional foil, the British people. Science and technology, too, was not neglected. The battles of the North American Civil War and the Boshin War in Japan were fought using French-designed weapons. Additionally, the French also pioneered steamships, with the first ironclad, La Gloire. In France herself, a visionary French engineer, Gustav Eiffel built the Eiffel tower in 1889, foreshadowing the mass usage of metal in construction. An author, Oscar Wilde, once commented that "when good Americans die they go to Paris". In the heyday of the Third French Republic, France was now enjoying a time of relative peace, prosperity and optimism, dubbed La Belle Époque, or the Beautiful Era in France.

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