The Rulers of France: From 840 Until 2017

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, by Jacques-Louis David, 1812
National Gallery of Art/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

France developed out of the Frankish kingdoms that succeeded the Roman Empire, and more directly, out of the declining Carolingian Empire. The latter had been established by the great Charlemagne but began splitting into pieces soon after his death. One of these pieces became the heart of France, and French monarchs would struggle to build a new state out of it. Over time, they succeeded.

Opinions vary as to who the 'first' French king was, and the following list includes all of the transitional monarchs, including the Carolingian and not French Louis I. Although Louis wasn't king of the modern entity we call France, all the later French Louis' (culminating with Louis XVIII in 1824) were numbered sequentially, using him as the starting point, and it's important to remember that Hugh Capet didn't just invent France, there was a long, confused history before him.

This is a chronological list of the leaders who have ruled France; the dates given are the periods of said rule.

Later Carolingian Transition

Although the royal numbering starts with Louis, he was not a king of France but the heir to an empire which covered much of central Europe. His descendants would later fracture the empire.

  • 814–840 Louis I (not a king of 'France')
  • 840–877 Charles II (the Bald)
  • 877–879 Louis II (the Stammerer)
  • 879–882 Louis III (joint with Carloman below)
  • 879–884 Carloman (joint with Louis III above, until 882)
  • 884–888 Charles the Fat
  • 888–898 Eudes (also Odo) of Paris (non-Carolingian)
  • 898–922 Charles III (the Simple)
  • 922–923 Robert I (non-Carolingian)
  • 923–936 Raoul (also Rudolf, non-Carolingian)
  • 936–954 Louis IV (d'Outremer or The Foreigner)
  • 954–986 Lothar (also Lothaire)
  • 986–987 Louis V (the Do-Nothing)

Capetian Dynasty

Hugh Capet is generally considered the first king of France but it took him and his descendants to fight and expand, and fight and survive, to begin to turn a small kingdom into great France.

  • 987–996 Hugh Capet
  • 996–1031 Robert II (the Pious)
  • 1031–1060 Henry I
  • 1060–1108 Philip I
  • 1108–1137 Louis VI (the Fat)
  • 1137–1180 Louis VII (the Young)
  • 1180–1223 Philip II Augustus
  • 1223–1226 Louis VIII (the Lion)
  • 1226–1270 Louis IX (St. Louis)
  • 1270–1285 Philip III (the Bold)
  • 1285–1314 Philip IV (the Fair)
  • 1314–1316 Louis X (the Stubborn)
  • 1316–John I
  • 1316–1322 Philip V (the Tall)
  • 1322–1328 Charles IV (the Fair)

Valois Dynasty

The Valois dynasty would fight the Hundred Years War with England and, at times, looked like they were losing their thrones, and then found themselves facing religious division.

  • 1328–1350 Philip VI
  • 1350–1364 John II (the Good)
  • 1364–1380 Charles V (the Wise)
  • 1380–1422 Charles VI (the Mad, Well-Beloved, or Foolish)
  • 1422–1461 Charles VII (the Well-Served or Victorious)
  • 1461–1483 Louis XI (the Spider)
  • 1483–1498 Charles VIII (Father of his People)
  • 1498–1515 Louis XII
  • 1515–1547 Francis I
  • 1547–1559 Henry II
  • 1559–1560 Francis II
  • 1560–1574 Charles IX
  • 1574–1589 Henry III

Bourbon Dynasty

The Bourbon kings of France included the absolute apogee of a European monarch, the Sun King Louis XIV, and just two people later, the king who would be beheaded by a revolution.

  • 1589–1610 Henry IV
  • 1610–1643 Louis XIII
  • 1643–1715 Louis XIV (the Sun King)
  • 1715–1774 Louis XV
  • 1774–1792 Louis XVI

First Republic

The French Revolution swept away the monarch and killed their king and queen; the Terror which followed the twisting of the revolutionary ideals was in no sense an improvement.

  • 1792–1795 National Convention
  • 1795–1799 Directory (Directors)
  • 1795–1799 Paul François Jean Nicolas de Barras
  • 1795–1799 Jean-François Reubell
  • 1795–1799 Louis Marie La Revellíere-Lépeaux
  • 1795–1797 Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot
  • 1795–1797 Etienne Le Tourneur
  • 1797 François Marquis de Barthélemy
  • 1797–1799 Philippe Antoine Merlin de Douai
  • 1797–1798 François de Neufchâteau
  • 1798–1799 Jean Baptiste Comte de Treilhard
  • 1799 Emmanuel Joseph Comte de Sieyés
  • 1799 Roger Comte de Ducos
  • 1799 Jean François Auguste Moulins
  • 1799 Louis Gohier
  • 1799–1804 - Consulate
  • 1st Consul: 1799–1804 Napoleon Bonaparte
  • 2nd Consul: 1799 Emmanuel Joseph Comte de Sieyés
  • 1799–1804 Jean-Jacques Régis Cambacérès
  • 3rd Consul: 1799 Pierre-Roger Ducos
  • 1799–1804 Charles François Lebrun

First Empire (Emperors)

The revolution was brought to an end by the conquering soldier-politician Napoleon, but he failed to create a lasting dynasty.

  • 1804–1814 Napoleon I
  • 1814–1815 Louis XVIII (king)
  • 1815 Napoleon I (2nd time)

Bourbons (Restored)

The restoration of the royal family was a compromise, but France remained in social and political flux, leading to yet another change of house.

  • 1814–1824 Louis XVIII
  • 1824–1830 Charles X


Louis Philippe became king, chiefly thanks to the work of his sister; he would fall from grace shortly after she was no longer around to help.

  • 1830–1848 Louis Philippe

Second Republic (Presidents)

The Second Republic didn't last long chiefly because of the imperial pretensions of a certain Louis Napoleon...

  • 1848 Louis Eugéne Cavaignac
  • 1848–1852 Louis Napoleon (later Napoleon III)

Second Empire (Emperors)

Napoleon III was related to Napoleon I and traded on family fame, but he was undone by Bismarck and the Franco-Prussian war.

  • 1852–1870 (Louis) Napoleon III

Third Republic (Presidents)

The Third Republic bought stability in terms of the structure of government and managed to adapt to the First World War.

  • 1870–1871 Louis Jules Trochu (provisional)
  • 1871–1873 Adolphe Thiers
  • 1873–1879 Patrice de MacMahon
  • 1879–1887 Jules Grévy
  • 1887–1894 Sadi Carnot
  • 1894–1895 Jean Casimir-Périer
  • 1895–1899 Félix Faure
  • 1899–1906 Emile Loubet
  • 1906–1913 Armand Fallières
  • 1913–1920 Raymond Poincaré
  • 1920 Paul Deschanel
  • 1920–1924 Alexandre Millerand
  • 1924–1931 Gaston Doumergue
  • 1931–1932 Paul Doumer
  • 1932–1940 Albert Lebrun

Vichy Government (Chief of State)

It was the Second World War which destroyed the Third Republic, and a conquered France tried to find some sort of independence under WW1 hero Petain. No one came out well.

  • 1940–1944 Henri Philippe Petain

Provisional Government (Presidents)

France had to be rebuilt after the war, and that started with deciding on the new government.

  • 1944–1946 Charles de Gaulle
  • 1946 Félix Gouin
  • 1946 Georges Bidault
  • 1946 Leon Blum

Fourth Republic (Presidents)

  • 1947–1954 Vincent Auriol
  • 1954–1959 René Coty

Fifth Republic (Presidents)

Charles de Gaulle returned to try and calm social unrest and began the Fifth Republic, which still forms the government structure of contemporary France.

  • 1959–1969 Charles de Gaulle
  • 1969–1974 Georges Pompidou
  • 1974–1981 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
  • 1981–1995 François Mitterand
  • 1995–2007 Jacques Chirac
  • 2007–2012 Nicolas Sarkozy
  • 2012–2017 Francois Hollande
  • 2017–present Emmanuel Macron
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Your Citation
Wilde, Robert. "The Rulers of France: From 840 Until 2017." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Wilde, Robert. (2020, August 25). The Rulers of France: From 840 Until 2017. Retrieved from Wilde, Robert. "The Rulers of France: From 840 Until 2017." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).

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