Famous French Historical Personalities

Every country in the world has its own history and legacy that is rich and loaded with abounding tales and stories. And every story, in turn, has its own long list of personalities who helped turn a normal event turn into a historical episode for a country. France is one such country that has a rich legacy to boast of. Right from the monarchs who ruled the French throne to the influential philosophers, scientists and literary figures who left an indelible mark on the French history with their magnum opus, the country has been home to some of the world leaders and trailblazers who became front runners in their respective fields. Louis Pasteur, Blaise Pascal, Rene Descartes, Joan of Arc, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Victor Hugo, Gustave Eiffel, Marie Curie, Coco Chanel all call France their home. And the list does not end here for France has many more historical personalities, each of whom set the tone for the country’s progress and advancement. What’s more, their contribution did not just influence the country but the world at large. Browse through this section and discover details about the life and works of who’s who of French history.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Napoleon III

Napoleon III
10
Famous As: First President of France (1848-1852)
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.

 2 Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte
63
Famous As: Emperor of the French (1804-1814)
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. 

 3 Louis XVI of France

Louis XVI of France
7
Famous As: King of France
Birthdate: August 23, 1754
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Died: January 21, 1793

Louis XVI of France reigned as the last king of France from 1774 to 1792 before the French Revolution, which ended the monarchy in France. During his reign, Louis made attempts to remove land and labor tax, abolish serfdom, and improve tolerance toward non-Catholics. However, the proposed reforms were opposed by the French nobility.

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 4 Charlemagne

Charlemagne
22
Famous As: King of the Frank
Birthdate: April 2, 0742
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Herstal
Died: January 28, 0814

Also known as Charles the Great, Charlemagne ruled as the king of the Franks, king of the Lombards, and emperor of the Romans at different time periods. Not surprisingly, he had a major impact during the Early Middle Ages as he went about uniting the majority of central and western Europe, for which he is called the Father of Europe.

 5 Louis XV of France

Louis XV of France
4
Famous As: King of France
Birthdate: February 15, 1710
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Died: May 10, 1774
After losing his parents and his brother to measles, Louis XV became the king of France at the tender age of 5. Known for his extravagances and his reliance on his mistresses, Louis XV was disliked by most. His reign also witnessed judicial reforms and the Seven Years’ War.

 6 Catherine de' Medici

Catherine de' Medici
14
Famous As: Queen of France (1547-1559)
Birthdate: April 13, 1519
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: January 5, 1589

Catherine de' Medici was an Italian noblewoman who played a key role in the political affairs of France during the rule of her sons, a period which came to be known as the age of Catherine de' Medici. Catherine is credited with saving the monarchy from deposition during the French Wars of Religion

 7 Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine
5
Famous As: Queen of France (1137-1152)
Birthdate: 1122 AD
Birthplace: France
Died: April 1, 1204
Eleanor, the duchess of Aquitaine, became the queen of France after marrying King Louis VII. Their marriage was annulled later. She then married the Duke of Normandy, who became King Henry II of England. Eleanor was imprisoned for supporting a revolt against Henry, and was freed after his death.
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 8 Louis XIV of France

Louis XIV of France
10
Famous As: King of France (1643-1715)
Birthdate: September 5, 1638
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Died: September 1, 1715

Louis XIV of France reigned as the King of France from 1643 to 1715. Louis XIV is the longest-reigning monarch of a sovereign country in the history of Europe. Under his rule, France often asserted its military prowess and emerged as the most dominant European monarchy. His life inspired several films, such as The Taking of Power by Louis XIV.

 9 Louis XIII of France

Louis XIII of France
5
Famous As: King of France
Birthdate: September 27, 1601
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Château de Fontainebleau, Fontainebleau, France
Died: May 14, 1643

Louis XIII of France reigned as the King of France between 1610 and 1643. He is best remembered for saving the kingdom from the mismanagement of his mother Marie de' Medici, who was exiled by a 16-year-old Louis XIII. He is also credited with popularizing wigs among men, which had not been fashionable since antiquity.

 10 Henry IV of France

Henry IV of France
10
Famous As: King of France (1589-1610)
Birthdate: December 13, 1553
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Pau, France
Died: May 14, 1610

Henry IV of France reigned as the King of France from 2 August 1589 until his death on 14 May 1610. Remembered for his concern about the welfare of the people of France, Henry worked to eliminate corruption, promote agriculture, encourage education, and regularize state finance. The character of Ferdinand in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost was loosely based on Henry.

 11 Henry II of England

Henry II of England
11
Famous As: King of England (1154-1189)
Birthdate: March 5, 1133
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Le Mans, France
Died: July 6, 1189

Henry II of England reigned as the king of England from 1154 to 1189. During his long rule, Henry introduced many changes that had severe long-term consequences. Some of his legal changes are believed to have laid the foundation for English Common Law. Henry is often portrayed in films and plays; he has been played by actors like Peter O'Toole.

 12 Francis II of France

Francis II of France
11
Famous As: King of France (1559-1560)
Birthdate: January 19, 1544
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Fontainebleau, France
Died: December 5, 1560
Francis II, son of Henry II and Catherine de' Medici, reigned as the king of France from 1559 to 1560. He took over the throne at age 15, after his father’s death. His reign witnessed conflicts between the Protestants and the Catholics, including coups such as the Amboise Conspiracy.

 13 Philip IV of France

Philip IV of France
6
Famous As: King of France (1285-1314)
Birthdate: June 1, 1268
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Fontainebleau, France
Died: November 29, 1314

Philip IV, or Philip the Fair, was the king of France from 1285 to 1314. His marriage to Joan I of Navarre also made him the king of Navarre, as Philip I. He made France a centralized country. He clashed with English king Edward I, the Flemish, and the clergy.

 14 Louis IX of France

Louis IX of France
5
Famous As: King of France
Birthdate: April 25, 1214
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Poissy, France
Died: August 25, 1270
Louis IX, also known as Saint Louis, reigned as the king of France from 1226 to 1270. He remains the only French king who was canonized in the Catholic Church. He reformed the French justice system. His reign is remembered for its economic prosperity. He died fighting the Eighth crusade.

 15 Rollo

Rollo
9
Famous As: King
Birthdate: 0846 AD
Birthplace: Scandinavia
Died: 0930 AD

Rollo of Normandy, also known as Rolf, is part of Scandinavian lore. A Viking, he was known for his exploits as a pirate on the seas of France, England, and other lands. When he attacked France with his Danish army, he was given Neustria, or Normandy, as part of a truce.

 16 Francis I of France

Francis I of France
11
Famous As: King of France
Birthdate: September 12, 1494
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Royal Castle of Cognac, Cognac, France
Died: March 31, 1547

Francis I, son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, was the king of France from 1515 to 1547. He was an art connoisseur and invited Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci to his court. His contribution to the promotion of French language earned him the title Father and Restorer of Letters.

 17 Isabella of France

Isabella of France
7
Famous As: Queen of England (1308-1327)
Birthdate: 1295 AD
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 22, 1358

Isabella of France, also known as the She-Wolf of France, was the Queen of England as the wife of King Edward II. She was known for her diplomatic skills, intelligence, and beauty. Her marriage was a troubled one and she probably had an affair with Roger Mortimer. It is believed that Isabella then arranged the murder of Edward II.

 18 Henry II of France

Henry II of France
10
Famous As: King of France (1547-1559)
Birthdate: March 31, 1519
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Died: July 10, 1559
Henry II, son of Francis I, reigned as the king of France from 1547 to 1559. Though he achieved the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, which ended the Italian Wars, he died as a result of a would inflicted by Gabriel de Montgomery during a jousting event to celebrate the same.

 19 Charles VII of France

Charles VII of France
6
Famous As: King of France (1422-1461)
Birthdate: February 22, 1403
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 22, 1461
Charles VII, or the Victorious, reigned as the king of France from 1422 to 1461, as a result of the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War. The heroics of Joan of Arc who helped defeat the English at Patay, led to the coronation of Charles, who was initially disinherited by his father.

 20 Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa
12
Famous As: Emperor
Birthdate: 1280 AD
Birthplace: Mali
Died: 1337 AD

Mansa Musa was the tenth Mansa, or emperor, of the Mali Empire in West Africa and ruled from c.1312 to c.1337. Nicknamed the Emir of Melle, he was one of the richest people of his time, due to Mali’s gold reserves. He also patronized science, arts, and literature.

 21 Catherine of Valois

Catherine of Valois
5
Famous As: Queen Consort of England (1420-1422)
Birthdate: October 27, 1401
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 2, 1437
Catherine of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, was the queen of England from 1420 to 1422, as the wife of Henry V of England. Her marriage to Henry V was supposed to be a political stance to end the Hundred Years' War, but it was not successful.

 22 Charles IX of France

Charles IX of France
9
Famous As: King of France (1560-1574)
Birthdate: June 27, 1550
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Died: May 30, 1574

Becoming the King of France at the age 10, Charles IX presided over a kingdom which was torn apart by the Wars of Religion between Protestants and Catholics. The infamous massacre of Huguenot leaders in Paris, instigated by his mother Catherine, left a traumatic effect on the mind of the ruler who succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 23.

 23 Henry III of France

Henry III of France
8
Famous As: King of France (1574-1589)
Birthdate: September 19, 1551
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Château de Fontainebleau, France
Died: August 2, 1589

Henry III of France was the King of France from 1574 to 1589. He also served as the Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland from 1573 to 1575. Henry was known for his alleged sexual relationships with men. Although certain reports have claimed that the allegations were false, he is sometimes depicted in popular culture as being effeminate.

 24 Mary of Guise

Mary of Guise
4
Famous As: Regent of Scotland
Birthdate: November 22, 1515
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bar-le-Duc, France
Died: June 11, 1560
Mary of Guise, or Mary of Lorraine, was the regent of Scotland from 1554 until her death in 1542. She was the wife of King James V of Scotland and the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. Her main objective was to maintain healthy ties between France and Scotland.

 25 Vercingetorix

Vercingetorix
5
Famous As: King of Arveni Tribe
Birthdate: 0082 BC
Birthplace: Gergovie, France
Died: 0046 BC

Vercingetorix, king of the Arverni tribe, is remembered for uniting the Gauls for a rebellion against the Romans during Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars. He surrendered to Caesar in the end but was eventually executed, after being held as a prisoner for 5 years and paraded through the Roman streets.

 26 Marie Thérèse of France

Marie Thérèse of France
4
Famous As: Queen
Birthdate: December 19, 1778
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Palace of Versailles, France
Died: October 19, 1851

 27 Philip V of Spain

Philip V of Spain
6
Famous As: King of Spain (1700-1724)
Birthdate: December 19, 1683
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Versailles, France
Died: July 9, 1746

Philip V reigned as the king of Spain from November 1700 to January 1724, and again from September 1724 to 1746. Philip introduced the centralization of monarchy and imposed the Nueva Planta decrees. Philip's accession initiated the 13-year War of the Spanish Succession. His final years were marred by depression.

 28 Louis-Philippe I of France

Louis-Philippe I of France
9
Famous As: King of France
Birthdate: October 6, 1773
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Domaine National du Palais-Royal, Paris, France
Died: August 26, 1850

 29 Napoleon II

Napoleon II
7
Famous As: Emperor of the French (1815)
Birthdate: March 20, 1811
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tuileries Palace, Paris
Died: July 22, 1832

Napoleon II was the son of Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Marie Louise. He was the titular Emperor of the French for a few weeks in 1815. He was just a small child when he became the disputed emperor following his father’s abdication. He died as a young man before getting the chance to serve his nation. 

 30 Louis The Pious

Louis The Pious
5
Famous As: King of Aquitaine, King of Franks & Co-Emperor (Holy Roman Empire)
Birthdate: April 16, 0778
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chasseneuil-du-Poitou
Died: June 20, 0840
Son of Charlemagne, Louis The Pious, became the king of Aquitaine at age 3. He crowned himself the emperor of the Franks immediately after his father’s death. His reign was riddled with three civil wars, while his death caused another civil war, which finally culminated in the Treaty of Verdun.

 31 Françoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon

Françoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon
4
Famous As: Louis XIV of France's Wife
Birthdate: November 27, 1635
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Niort, France
Died: April 15, 1719

Françoise d'Aubigné was a French noblewoman. She was secretly married to King Louis XIV and was one of his closest advisers. She was never considered the queen of France and served as the royal children's governess. She was born in an impoverished family and was previously married to poet Paul Scarron. She married Louis years after Scarron’s death.

 32 Charles VI of France

Charles VI of France
5
Famous As: King of France (1380-1422)
Birthdate: December 3, 1368
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 21, 1422

Charles VI of France reigned as the king of France from 1380 to 1422. He is best remembered for his psychotic episodes and mental illness which troubled him throughout his life. Charles' defeat at the Battle of Agincourt led to the signing of the Treaty of Troyes, which eventually changed the course of history.

 33 Philip II of France

Philip II of France
6
Famous As: King of France
Birthdate: August 21, 1165
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Gonesse, France
Died: July 14, 1223

Philip II of France reigned as the king of France from 1180 until his death in 1223. He is credited with transforming France into the most powerful and prosperous country in Europe. He is also credited with building the Wall of Philip Augustus and bringing financial stability to France.

 34 Marie de' Medici

Marie de' Medici
3
Famous As: Queen consort of France and Navarre
Birthdate: April 26, 1576
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Palazzo Pitti, Florence, Tuscany
Died: July 3, 1642
Queen Marie de Médicis, the second wife of Henry IV of France, acted as the regent for her son till he came of age. An art connoisseur, she built the Luxembourg Palace in Paris. Known for her affinity for Concino Concini, she was eventually exiled for her excesses. 

 35 Margaret of Anjou

Margaret of Anjou
5
Famous As: Queen of England
Birthdate: March 23, 1430
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Pont-a-Mousson, France
Died: August 25, 1482

 36 Charles VIII of France

Charles VIII of France
4
Famous As: King of France
Birthdate: June 30, 1470
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Château Royal d'Amboise, Amboise, France
Died: April 7, 1498
Charles VIII, the only son of Louis XI, was a sickly 13-year-old when he succeeded his father. He made a few initial conquests in the Italian Wars. He died rather unceremoniously, after striking his dead against a door lintel while on his way to watch a game of court tennis.

 37 Margaret of Valois

Margaret of Valois
3
Famous As: Queen consort of France (1589-1599), Queen consort of Navarre (1572-1599)
Birthdate: May 14, 1553
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France
Died: March 27, 1615
Margaret of Valois, queen of Navarre and France, is remembered for her historically significant Memoirs, which throws light on major events such as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. She did not allow her husband, Henry III, to annul their childless marriage till the death of Henry’s mistress.

 38 Charles X of France

Charles X of France
3
Famous As: King of France (1824-1830)
Birthdate: October 9, 1757
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Died: November 6, 1836

Dauphin Louis had one of the most unpopular reigns as the king of France. Following the fall of Bastille, he became the first royal family member to go into exile. Decisions such as the imposition of the death penalty and press censorship led to the July Revolution and his abdication.

 39 Hugh Capet

Hugh Capet
3
Famous As: King
Birthdate: 0939 AD
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 24, 0996

 40 Elisabeth of Valois

Elisabeth of Valois
3
Famous As: Queen of Spain
Birthdate: April 2, 1545
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Fontainebleau, France
Died: October 3, 1568

 41 Joséphine de Beauharnais

Joséphine de Beauharnais
3
Famous As: Empress of the French
Birthdate: June 23, 1763
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique
Died: May 29, 1814
Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais spent her initial years in poverty and was shunned by her first husband for her lack of manners. She eventually learned the ways and means of the Parisian high society and married a young Napoleon Bonaparte. She survived a rocky marriage but enjoyed a lavish lifestyle.

 42 Joan I of Navarre

Joan I of Navarre
3
Famous As: Queen of Navarre (1274-1305)
Birthdate: January 14, 1273
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bar-sur-Seine, France
Died: April 2, 1305

Joan I of Navarre was the queen of Navarre from 1274 until her death in 1305, at the age of 32. She also became the queen consort of France in 1285 as she had married Philip IV of France who became King Philip IV on 5 October 1285. Joan is credited with founding the College of Navarre in 1305.

 43 Louis XVIII of France

Louis XVIII of France
3
Famous As: King of France (1814-1824)
Birthdate: November 17, 1755
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Versailles, France
Died: September 16, 1824

Louis XVIII of France was the king of France from 1814 to 1824, except for the duration of the “Hundred Days” in 1815.  He was the son of Louis, Dauphin of France, and his wife Maria Josepha of Saxony. He ruled for slightly less than a decade. He was not popular as a king.

 44 Madame de Montespan

Madame de Montespan
3
Famous As: Maîtresse en titre of Louis XIV
Birthdate: October 5, 1640
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lussac-les-Châteaux, France
Died: May 27, 1707

Madame de Montespan was the chief Royal mistress of King Louis XIV of France. Thanks to her strong influence over Louis XIV, Madame de Montespan was sometimes referred to as the true Queen of France during Louis' reign. One of the most celebrated chief Royal mistresses of all time, Madame de Montespan had seven children with Louis XIV of France.

 45 Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoleon

Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoleon
5
Famous As: Prince Napoléon
Birthdate: July 11, 1986
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Saint-Raphaël, Var, France

 46 Joseph Bonaparte

Joseph Bonaparte
4
Famous As: King of Naples and Sicily
Birthdate: January 7, 1768
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Corte, France
Died: July 28, 1844

Older brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte, had been the king of Naples and Spain. After Napoleon’s fall, he was exiled to New Jersey, U.S. Later, in Europe, he lived a lavish life at Point Breeze, surrounded by all the wealth he had inherited, along with a classy collection of paintings.

 47 Louis VII of France

Louis VII of France
3
Famous As: King
Birthdate: 1120 AD
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 18, 1180

Louis VII of France was the king of the Franks for over four decades from 1137 to 1180.  The second son of Louis VI of France and Adelaide of Maurienne, he unexpectedly became the heir to the throne following his elder brother’s death. He had a long but difficult reign and was succeeded by his son Philip II.

 48 Charles the Bold

Charles the Bold
3
Famous As: Duke of Burgundy
Birthdate: November 10, 1433
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dijon, France
Died: January 5, 1477

 49 Louis X of France

Louis X of France
3
Famous As: King of France (1314-1316)
Birthdate: October 4, 1289
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 5, 1316

Louis X of France was the king of France from 1314 to 1316. He was the eldest son of Philip IV of France and Joan I of Navarre. He reigned for a very short time marked by turbulence and tensions. He abolished slavery and allowed serfs to buy their freedom. He died under mysterious circumstances in 1316, aged just 26. 

 50 Charles V of France

Charles V of France
3
Famous As: King of France (1364-1380)
Birthdate: January 21, 1338
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Vincennes, France
Died: September 16, 1380

Charles V of France reigned as the king of France from 1364 until his death in 1380. Charles V was highly successful during the Hundred Years' War as his armies recovered almost all the territories held by the English. His reign also witnessed the construction of many significant buildings, including the Château du Louvre, Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and the Bastille.