Famous 19th Century French Leaders

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Find out more about the greatest 19th Century French Leaders, including Charles de Gaulle, Philippe Pétain, Pierre Laval, Bernadette Soubirous and Georges Clémenceau.
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 1 
Napoleon Bonaparte
(Emperor of the French (1804-1814))
Napoleon Bonaparte
65
Birthdate: August 15, 1769
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ajaccio, France
Died: May 5, 1821
French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte ruled as the French emperor from 1804 to 1814 and again in 1815. He strengthened France’s position in Europe through the Napoleonic Wars and extended his kingdom. However, he was eventually defeated by the Seventh Coalition at the Battle of Waterloo and sent to exile. 
 2 
Michel Ney
(French Military Commander and Marshal of the Empire)
Michel Ney
7
Birthdate: January 10, 1769
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Saarlouis, Germany
Died: December 7, 1815

Michel Ney was a French military commander. One of the 18 Marshals of the Empire inaugurated by Napoléon Bonaparte, Michel Ney played important roles in the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolutionary Wars. Nicknamed the Bravest of the Brave by Napoleon himself, Ney was renowned for his valor in wars. 

 3 
Marquis de Lafayette
(Aristocrat and Military Leader)
Marquis de Lafayette
21
Birthdate: September 6, 1757
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chavaniac-Lafayette, France
Died: May 20, 1834

Marquis de Lafayette was a French aristocrat and military officer, who  is remembered for fighting in the American Revolutionary War, as the commander of American troops in several battles. After returning to France, he played key roles in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830. Considered a hero in both America and France, he advocated the end of slavery.  

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 4 
Napoleon III
(First President of France (1848-1852), Emperor of the French (1852-70))
Napoleon III
11
Birthdate: April 20, 1808
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 9, 1873
Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, was the first president of France, from 1848 to 1852, and the French emperor from 1852 to 1870. He rebuilt Paris and other French cities, apart from reforming the French banks, railways, and marines. He lost the Franco-Prussian War and eventually died in exile.
 5 
Billy Mitchell
(Military General)
Billy Mitchell
9
Birthdate: December 29, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: February 19, 1936
 6 
Philippe Pétain
(Marshal of France)
Philippe Pétain
10
Birthdate: April 24, 1856
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Cauchy-à-la-Tour
Died: July 23, 1951
French military leader Philippe Pétain, also known as “The Old Marshal,” led France to win the Battle of Verdun during World War I. During World War II, he became the president of the Ministerial Council and collaborated with the Axis. He was later convicted for treason and sentenced to life.
 7 
Georges Clémenceau
(Former French Prime Minister)
Georges Clémenceau
4
Birthdate: September 28, 1841
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mouilleron-en-Pareds, Vendee
Died: November 24, 1929

Georges Clémenceau, or The Tiger, who had served as the French prime minister, is remembered as a key figure of the French Third Republic. He not only played a major role in the Allied victory in World War I, but was also a key framer of the Treaty of Versailles.

 8 
Alfred Dreyfus
(Artillery Officer)
Alfred Dreyfus
4
Birthdate: October 9, 1859
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mulhouse, France
Died: July 12, 1935

Alfred Dreyfus was a French artillery officer whose trial and conviction on charges of treason in 1894 became one of the most polarizing political dramas in the history of modern France. The incident, which is referred to as the Dreyfus Affair, was a political scandal that ended with Dreyfus' absolution in 1906.

 9 
Joachim Murat
(Former King of Naples (1808 - 1815))
Joachim Murat
4
Birthdate: March 25, 1767
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Labastide-Murat, Cœur-de-Causse, France
Died: October 13, 1815
Joachim Murat, the king of Naples, came to be known for his outrageous dress sense and earned the nickname The Dandy King. Married to Napoleon’s sister, Caroline Bonaparte, he was also a Marshal of France and earned the title of the First Horseman of Europe.
 10 
Louis-Nicolas Davout
(Military commander)
Louis-Nicolas Davout
4
Birthdate: May 10, 1770
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Annoux, France
Died: June 1, 1823
 11 
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
(1st Prime Minister of France (1815), Ambassador of France to the UK (1830-34))
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
5
Birthdate: February 2, 1754
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 17, 1838

While his clubfoot prevented him from joining the army and also earned him the nickname The Lame Devil, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord later became the bishop of Autun. Known for his womanizing ways, he also went down in history as an opportunist who changed sides.

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
5
Birthdate: February 2, 1754
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 17, 1838

French diplomat and bishop Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord is counted among the most pragmatic and prominent diplomats in European history. He served King Louis XVI and thereafter changed sides several times, serving at highest levels of successive French governments of Napoleon I, Louis XVIII and Louis Philippe I. He served as the first Prime Minister of France under Louis XVIII.

Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau
4
Birthdate: July 1, 1725
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vendôme, France
Died: May 30, 1807
 14 
Pierre Laval
(Politician, Lawyer)
Pierre Laval
7
Birthdate: June 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Châteldon
Died: October 15, 1945

Pierre Laval was a French politician who served as prime minister of France for two non-consecutive terms. A lawyer by qualification, he defended trade unions and leftists against government prosecution. As a politician, he held many governmental positions. After the liberation of France in 1944, he was arrested by the new French government and executed following a flawed trial.

Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême
4
Birthdate: August 6, 1775
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Died: June 3, 1844
 16 
Félix Faure
(President of France 1895 – 1899)
Félix Faure
4
Birthdate: January 30, 1841
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 16, 1899

Born to a furniture maker in Paris, Félix Faure initially worked as a tanner. After gaining considerable wealth as a merchant later, he became the deputy mayor of Le Havre and then the president of France. He is remembered for his reluctance to reopen the case of Alfred Dreyfus.

 17 
Joseph Joffre
(Chief of Staff of the French Army (1911-16))
Joseph Joffre
3
Birthdate: January 12, 1852
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Rivesaltes, France
Died: January 3, 1931

Known as the Victor of the Marne and Papa Joffre, French military commander Joseph Joffre is remembered for his exploits at the Western Front during and after World War I. Following the German invasion of Verdun, he lost his command over the army and was made the Marshal of France.

 18 
Ferdinand Foch
4
Birthdate: October 2, 1851
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tarbes, France
Died: March 20, 1929

Ferdinand Foch was a French military theorist and general who played a key role during the First World War where he served as the Supreme Allied Commander. Ferdinand Foch played a crucial role in stopping a renewed German advance in the Second Battle of the Marne. Foch was promoted to Marshal of France for his role in World War I.

François-René de Chateaubriand
3
Birthdate: September 4, 1768
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint-Malo, France
Died: July 4, 1848

François-René de Chateaubriand was a French writer, diplomat, historian, and politician. Chateaubriand had a major influence on 19th-century French literature. François-René de Chateaubriand is also remembered for defending the Catholic faith by writing The Genius of Christianity when most intellectuals were turning against the Church. Chateaubriand was a food enthusiast; it is believed that Chateaubriand steak is named after him.

 20 
Jean Moulin
(An Emblem of the Resistance)
Jean Moulin
3
Birthdate: June 20, 1899
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Béziers
Died: July 8, 1943

Jean Moulin was a French civil servant who played an important role during the French Resistance, which took place during the Second World War. In 1943, Moulin served as the president of the National Resistance Council, a body that directed the various movements of the French Resistance. Today, Moulin is remembered as one of the heroes of the French Resistance.

 21 
Frédéric Bastiat
(Member of the National Assembly of France (1848 - 1850))
Frédéric Bastiat
3
Birthdate: June 30, 1801
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bayonne, France
Died: December 24, 1850

An ardent follower of Adam Smith’s ideas, French economist Frederic Bastiat propagated the concept of free trade. Apart from launching his journal Le Libre-Échange, he also penned the iconic satire Sophismes économiques and his most notable work The Law. He also introduced what later came to be known as opportunity cost.

 22 
Léon Blum
(Former Prime Minister of France)
Léon Blum
4
Birthdate: April 9, 1872
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris
Died: March 30, 1950

Born into a Jewish family in Paris, three-time French prime minister Léon Blum had initially studied law. He joined politics inspired by the Dreyfus affair. The first socialist and the first Jew to head France, he introduced reforms such as the 40-hour work week and paid vacations.

Georges-Eugène Haussmann
3
Birthdate: March 27, 1809
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 11, 1891
 24 
François Darlan
(Politician, Military personnel)
François Darlan
4
Birthdate: August 7, 1881
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Nérac
Died: December 24, 1942
 25 
Raymond Poincaré
(President of France from 1913 to 1920)
Raymond Poincaré
4
Birthdate: August 20, 1860
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bar-le-Duc, France
Died: October 15, 1934

Former French president and three-time prime minister Raymond Poincaré was a qualified lawyer and the co-founder of the Democratic Republican Alliance. He suggested a retrial in the Dreyfus Affair and was also largely responsible for France’s entry into World War II. He also introduced a highly debated denaturalization law.

 26 
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
(French Socialist and Politician Regarded as the 'Father of Anarchism')
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
5
Birthdate: January 15, 1809
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: January 19, 1865

Often referred to as the Father of Anarchism, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was born to a tavern keeper and grew up working on farms. Largely educated on scholarships, he later became known for his slogan “Property is theft!” and his idea of mutualism. His notable works include What is Property?

 27 
Paul Reynaud
(Politician, Lawyer, Journalist)
Paul Reynaud
3
Birthdate: October 15, 1878
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Barcelonnette
Died: September 21, 1966
 28 
Jean Jaurès
(Former Member of the Chamber of Deputies of France)
Jean Jaurès
3
Birthdate: September 3, 1859
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Castres, France
Died: July 31, 1914
 29 
Joseph Fouché
(Statesman)
Joseph Fouché
3
Birthdate: May 21, 1759
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Le Pellerin, France
Died: December 26, 1820
 30 
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
(French President of the Conservative Senate (1799 -1800) and Political Writer)
Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès
3
Birthdate: May 3, 1748
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Fréjus, France
Died: June 20, 1836

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, also known as the Abbé Sieyès, was a French Roman Catholic Abbé, clergyman, and political writer. He was a chief political theorist of the French Revolution and held offices in the French Consulate government. He is credited to have coined the term sociologie in an unpublished manuscript. He led a rather uninvolved social life.

 31 
Charles Maurras
3
Birthdate: April 20, 1868
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Martigues, France
Died: November 16, 1952
 32 
Eugène de Beauharnais
(French Nobleman and Military Commander Who Was Napoleon Bonaparte's Stepson)
Eugène de Beauharnais
3
Birthdate: September 3, 1781
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 21, 1824
 33 
Adolphe Thiers
(The Second Elected President of France and First President of the 'French Third Republic')
Adolphe Thiers
3
Birthdate: April 15, 1797
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bouc-Bel-Air, France
Died: September 3, 1877

Adolphe Thiers was a French historian and statesman who served as the French Third Republic's first President. He also served as the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of France in 1840. Apart from playing a major role in the French Revolution of 1830, which ended the Bourbon monarchy, Thiers also played a key role in the French Revolution of 1848.

 34 
Victor, Prince Napoléon
3
Birthdate: July 18, 1862
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Domaine National du Palais-Royal, Paris, France
Died: May 3, 1926
 35 
Lucien Bonaparte
(Statesman)
Lucien Bonaparte
3
Birthdate: May 21, 1775
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ajaccio, France
Died: June 29, 1840
 36 
Alphonse de Lamartine
(Politician, Writer)
Alphonse de Lamartine
3
Birthdate: October 21, 1790
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mâcon, France
Died: February 28, 1869

French poet and historian Alphonse de Lamartine is best remembered for his collection of poems Méditations poétiques. He was a chief force behind the formation of the Second Republic of France. The allowances he gave his sisters depleted his finances, and he died struggling and in oblivion.

 37 
Édouard Daladier
(Politician)
Édouard Daladier
3
Birthdate: June 18, 1884
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Carpentras
Died: October 10, 1970
 38 
Louise Michel
(French Anarchist Who Fervently Preached Revolutionary Socialist Themes)
Louise Michel
3
Birthdate: May 29, 1830
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vroncourt-la-Côte, France
Died: January 9, 1905

A significant figure of the Paris Commune, Louise Michel was born as an illegitimate child of a maid. She had initially been trained to be a teacher but later began developing an interest in revolutionary socialist ideas. She was also once sent behind bars for inciting riots.

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
3
Birthdate: April 1, 1755
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Belley, France
Died: February 2, 1826
 40 
Maxime Weygand
(Military personnel, Officer)
Maxime Weygand
3
Birthdate: January 21, 1867
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Brussels
Died: January 28, 1965
 41 
Vincent Auriol
(Former President of France)
Vincent Auriol
2
Birthdate: August 27, 1884
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Revel
Died: January 1, 1966

Vincent Auriol, former French president, was initially a lawyer and also headed the Association of Journalists in Toulouse. A Socialist Party member, he had also served as more of a conciliatory agent between the left and the right wings, as a minister in Charles de Gaulle’s cabinet.

 42 
Aristide Briand
(Prime Minister)
Aristide Briand
6
Birthdate: March 28, 1862
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nantes
Died: April 7, 1932

Nobel Peace Prize-winning French stateman Aristide Briand had been the prime minister of his country for 11 terms, apart from holding 26 ministerial posts throughout his career. He played major roles in the drafting of the Pact of Locarno and Kellogg-Briand Pact, and had founded journals such as l’Humanité.

 43 
Lazare Carnot
(Mathematician, Politician, Engineer, Officer, Physicist)
Lazare Carnot
2
Birthdate: May 13, 1753
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nolay
Died: August 2, 1823

Lazare Carnot was a French physicist, mathematician, and politician. His role in the Napoleonic Wars and French Revolutionary Wars earned him the sobriquet Organizer of Victory. Carnot is credited with developing innovative defensive designs for forts, such as the Carnot wall which served as a defensive mechanism against infantry and artillery attack.

 44 
Maurice Gamelin
(military personnel)
Maurice Gamelin
3
Birthdate: September 20, 1872
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris
Died: April 18, 1958
 45 
Georges Ernest Boulanger
2
Birthdate: April 29, 1837
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rennes, France
Died: September 30, 1891
 46 
Robert Nivelle
(Military personnel)
Robert Nivelle
2
Birthdate: October 15, 1856
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tulle
Died: March 23, 1924
 47 
Pierre-Charles Villeneuve
5
Birthdate: December 31, 1763
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Valensole, France
Died: April 22, 1806
 48 
René Coty
(President of France from 1954 to 1959)
René Coty
3
Birthdate: March 20, 1882
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Le Havre, France
Died: November 22, 1962

A qualified lawyer, René Coty had been the last president of the Fourth French Republic. His presidency was plagued by issues such as the Algerian question, and his threat to resign during the May 1958 crisis accelerated the election of Charles de Gaulle as the prime minister of France.

 49 
Léon Gambetta
(Former republican politician who proclaimed the French Third Republic in 1870 and played a prominent role in its early government)
Léon Gambetta
2
Birthdate: April 2, 1838
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cahors, France
Died: December 31, 1882
 50 
Paul Doumer
(President of France, June 1931- May 1931)
Paul Doumer
2
Birthdate: March 22, 1857
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Aurillac, France
Died: May 7, 1932

Paul Doumer initially worked as a math professor and an editor. He had a successful stint as the governor general of French Indochina and later became the president of France. He was assassinated by a French anarchist, who shot him at a book fair event in Paris.