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France History: Part II

During the early 16th century, Francis I strengthened the French Crown. He also welcomed many Italian artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, who was an Italian polymath: scientist, architect, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, engineer, painter, sculptor, musician, and writer. Their influence assured the success of the Renaissance style.

Between 1562 and 1598 there was an increase in the number of Protestants, which this led to the Religious Wars between Catholics and Protestants. Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, wife of King Henry II of France, ordered the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of hundreds of Protestants. Henry IV, of the Bourbon dynasty, issued the Edict of Nantes (1598), granting religious tolerance to the Huguenots (French Protestants).

The 17th century was a period of extravagance and power for the French Monarchy. King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu transformed France's feudal monarchy to an absolute monarchy. But the French King most associated with this period is Louis XIV. Also known as the Sun King, Louis strengthened his own power having all the local Princes and Lords engaged within the elaborate court life in his palace at Versailles. The objective of this court life was to keep the local Princes and Lords from focusing on trying to undermine his power. This period is also famous for the genius of the writers, architects and musicians who were promoted by the royal court. The extravagance of Louis XIV, the costly foreign wars that weakened the government, plunged France into an economic and financial crisis. Louis XIV died in 1715 and Louis XV assumed the throne. The Bourgeoisie began to demand more political rights, and this became a big problem for Louis' successors.

France was the scene of many battles during the French Revolution. At the beginning of 1789. The First Republic was also established and an authoritarian period under Napoleon Bonaparte began. He had successfully defended the infant republic from the enemy and then made himself first consul in 1799 and emperor in 1804. The Congress of Vienna (1815) tried to restore the pre-Napoléonic order in the person of King Louis XVIII, but industrialization and the middle class, were under Napoléon and they demanded change. Finally Louis Philippe, the last of the Bourbons was driven into exile in 1848. In 1852, Prince Louis Napoléon, a nephew of Napoléon I, declared the Second Empire and took the throne as Napoléon III. But he was against the rising power of Prussia and that ignited the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), and that war ended in his defeat, his abdication, and the creation of the Third Republic.

This is how the French Monarchy came to an end in 1871 and the Third Republic was formed. In 1889, what is now one of the world's most impressive and visited monuments was constructed. The Eiffel Tower was built to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. The paintings of the Impressionists, the works of the satirist Zola and the novelist Flaubert, and the Art Nouveau style also made a big and important contribution in nineteenth century France.


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