Christian Europe—Early Modern France

1485 to 1715
Italian Wars to Louis XIV-Sun King

Era Summary       Characters       Timeline       Reading Assignments      

Characters—Early Modern France

Character/Date Short Biography

Kings of France

Francis I of France
King of France who was a patron of the arts, and was involved in the Italian Wars.
Catherine de Medici
Queen of France who is generally held responsible for the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
Henry IV
Popular Huguenot King who converted to Catholicism, but decreed religious toleration.
Maria de Medici
Queen of Henry IV, and regent following his assassination.
Louis XIV
French King who expanded the borders of France, and lived in great pomp and splendor.


Cardinal Richelieu
Very influential Minister of Louis XIII. Consolidated royal power and crushed dissenters.
Jules Cardinal Mazarin
Minister of France during the early reign of Louis the XIV. Followed in the footsteps of Richelieu.
As minister of Finance, improved France's economy under the extravagant Louis XIV.

Martial Heroes

Henry of Guise
Leader of the Catholic cause in France during the Wars of Religion. Opposed Henry of Navarre for the throne until he became Catholic.
Gaspard de Coligny
French protestant military hero who was assassinated at the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.
Vicomte de Turenne
One of the greatest Marshall's of France. Served Louis XIII and XIV, in Thirty Years War, Fronde, and Dutch Wars.
Prince of Conde
Renowned Marshal of France during the age of Louis XVI. Fought in numerous wars including Fronde, thirty years, and Franco-Dutch.
Comte de Tourville
Naval Commander during War of the Grand Alliance. Defeated British at Barfleur.


Vincent de Paul
Parish priest who devoted life to helping the poor. Established home for foundlings.

Timeline—Early Modern France

AD YearEvent

Italian Wars: 1495 to 1559

1494 Charles VIII invades Italy, but is repulsed by the League of Venice.
1499 Five years later Louis XII sends another army to press his claims to Milan and Naples.
1508 The Papacy, France, Spain, and Germany establish the League of Cambrai, to defeat Venice.
1515 Wars in Italy continue throughout the 32 year reign of Francis I of France.
1516 Leonardo da Vinci enters the service of Francis I after Milan is captured.
1520 Field of the Cloth of Gold, tournament between Francis I of France and Henry VIII.
1525 Francis is defeated by Imperial forces under Charles V in Italy and captured.
1520-47 Construction of landmark buildings in Paris. The Louve, Fontainebleau, Hotel de Ville, etc. Royal Library established.
1541 John Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" published.
1547 ascends to throne of France, married to .
1559 Henry II renounces claims in Italy, ends Italian Wars.

Medici Regencies: 1559 to 1617

1559-89 Henry II dies, and acts as regent reigns sons Francis II, Charles IX, Henry III.
1562-98 French Wars of Religion fought mainly for political control rather than actual religion.
1562 Massacre of Vassy begins The French Wars of Religion.
1572 St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of French Protestants following Wedding of Henry IV.
1578 Henry of Guise forms the 'Catholic League' to prevent Huguenot Henry IV from ascending to the throne.
1588 Henry Guise is murdered by agents of Catherine d'Medici and Henry III
1589 Henry III is murdered by and agent of the Catholic leauge.
1589 Henry IV becomes 1st Bourbon King and converts to Catholicism.
1598 Henry IV issued Edict of Nantes to end persecution of Huguenots and end French Wars of Religion.
1610 Henry IV assassinated by Francois Ravaillac. acted as regent for Louis XIII.
1608 Samuel de Champlain founds the city of Quebec, establishes colony of New France.
1617 Louis XIII exiles his mother and takes control of the government

Richelieu and Mazarin: 1624 to 1661

1624-42 Cardinal Richelieu serves as chief minister of the state. Persecutes Huguenots in France, but provides funds for Protestant enemies of the Hapsburgs in Thirty Years War.
1643 Five-year-old Louis XIV succeed to throne of France with Jules Cardinal Mazarin as regent.
1648 Thirty Years' War: The Peace of Westphalia ended with France annexing eastern territories.
1648-59 Wars of the Fronde: Last effort of nobles to reduce the power of the French king.
1648 Cardinal Mazarin ordered the arrest of the leaders of the parliament of Paris, provoking widespread rioting.
1659 France ends war with Spain, annexes northern Catalonia and French Flanders.

Age of Louis XIV: 1661 to 1715

1661 Louis XIV assumes personal rule at age 23 after the Death of Mazarin.
1668 War of Devolution. France obtains Lille and other territories of Flanders from Spain.
1678 Franco-Dutch war. France obtains the Franche-Comte and cities in Flanders and Hainaut.
1678 Louis XIV begins large scale remodel of the palace of Versailles.
1684 War of the Reunions. France obtains territories in the north-west from Spain.
1682 Explorer Rene La Salle claims the Mississippi valley for France.
1685 Edict of Fontainebleau. Louis XIV revokes Edict of Nantes, removing the religious liberties of Huguenots.
1697 War of the Grand Alliance ends with French losses. Some territories returned to Hapsburg powers.
1701-14 War of the Spanish Succession
1715 Treaty of Utrecht: Bourbon prince Philip V assumes Spanish throne but renounces his descendants rights to French throne.
1715 Louis XIV is succeeded by five-year-old great-grandson Louis XV.

Recommended Reading—Early Modern France

Book Title
Selected Chapters (# chapters)

Core Reading Assignments

Guerber - The Story of Old France   Charles VIII. to Age of Louis XIV (34)
Finnemore - France: Peeps at History   House of Valois (cont.) to House of Bourbon (cont.) (4)

Supplemental Recommendations

Macgregor - The Story of France   Madame la Grande to Louis XIV and the Huguenots (22)
Morris - Historical Tales: French   Bayard, the Good Knight to The Man with the Iron Mask (9)
Abbott - Henry IV of France    entire book
Abbott - Louis XIV    entire book
Forbes - Life of St. Vincent de Paul    entire book

Easy Reading Selections

Dalkeith - Stories from French History   The Huguenots (1)
Haaren - Famous Men of Modern Times   Chevalier Bayard to Henry of Navarre (2)
Haaren - Famous Men of Modern Times   Cardinal Richelieu to Louis XIV (2)