Famous French Leaders

France has been a dominant force in Europe and the world over since times immemorial, be it culturally, politically or militarily. A global linchpin of art, fashion, science and literature, it has made significant contribution to the world history in every sphere. Till date, the country remains a great power with substantial cultural, economic, military, and political influence. And much of that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the chivalrous French leaders who exuded great power, authority and influence to make the country the powerhouse that it is today. Be it the valiant Emperor Napolean I or the heroic King Louis XIV, the exceptional Michel de Montaigne or the Nobel laureate Andre Gide, the avant-garde Erik Satie or the golden age superstar Hector Berlioz, the revolutionary Christian Dior or the contemporary Yves Saint Laurent, the gallant Charles de Gaulle or the pacifist Jean Jaures, French leaders have served as the perfect idols and role models for the world over. They have brought the country to the limelight and made France one of the world capitals in literature, science, music, fashion, commerce, trade, politics, military and tourism. Read this section for the life and works of great French leaders.

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 Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte.
35
Famous As: Emperor of the French
Birthdate: August 15, 1769
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ajaccio
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 Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle.
25
Famous As: Former President of France
Birthdate: November 22, 1890
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lille, France
Died: November 9, 1970

Charles de Gaulle was a French statesman and army officer. Charles de Gaulle fought against Nazi Germany in the Second World War by leading the Free French Forces. He also worked towards re-establishing democracy in France. He founded the Fifth Republic, France's current republican system, and rewrote the Constitution of France. He then served as the president of France.

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 3 Marquis de Lafayette

Marquis de Lafayette.
14
Famous As: French Aristocrat and Military Leader
Birthdate: September 6, 1757
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chavaniac, 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.  

 4 Oswald Mosley

Oswald Mosley.
17
Famous As: British Politician
Birthdate: November 16, 1896
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mayfair, London
Died: December 3, 1980
Named by BBC History as the “worst” historical British person of the 20th century, Oswald Mosley started off as an MP in the 1920s. He was part of the Conservative Party and then the Labour Party. He then formed the British Union of Fascists and the United Kingdom New Party

 5 Rollo

Rollo.
7
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.

 6 William the Conqueror

William the Conqueror.
16
Famous As: King of England
Birthdate: 1028 AD
Birthplace: Falaise, France
Died: September 9, 1087

William the Conqueror was the first Norman King of England who ruled from 1066 to 1087. William's conquest had a profound impact on England; his government merged elements of the Norman and English systems that laid the foundations of the medieval English kingdom. He is credited with building castles, mottes, and keeps, including the White Tower and Tower of London.

 7 Jacques Chirac

Jacques Chirac.
10
Famous As: Former President of France
Birthdate: November 29, 1932
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 26, 2019

Jacques Chirac was a French politician who served as France's prime minister on two occasions, first from 1974 to 1976 and then from 1986 to 1988. He also served as France's president from 1995 to 2007. Because of his long career in prominent government positions, Chirac was often caricatured or parodied. He was also depicted in films, such as W.

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 8 Louis XIV of France

Louis XIV of France.
10
Famous As: King of France
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.

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 9 Maximilien de Robespierre

Maximilien de Robespierre.
8
Famous As: Influential Figure of the French Revolution
Birthdate: May 6, 1758
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Arras, France
Died: July 28, 1794
Maximilien de Robespierre was a leading left-wing lawyer and leader during the Reign of Terror. He led the Committee of Public Safety and was part of the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club. He was accused of establishing a dictatorship and was guillotined in 1794, thus beginning the Thermidorian Reaction.

 10 Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen.
12
Famous As: Political Leader
Birthdate: August 5, 1968
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

French politician and lawyer Marine Le Pen, daughter of politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been the president of the National Rally since 2011. She is also serving as the member of the National Assembly for Pas-de-Calais's 11th constituency since 2017. She was previously a member of the European Parliament.

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 11 Napoleon III

Napoleon III.
9
Famous As: Emperor of the Second French Empire
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.

 12 Toussaint Louverture

Toussaint Louverture.
4
Famous As: Leader of the Haitian Revolution
Birthdate: May 20, 1743
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Saint-Dominigue (present day Haiti)
Died: April 7, 1803

Haitian general,  Toussaint Louverture, was the most prominent leader of the Haitian Revolution. A revolutionary leader, he was devoted to the cause of Haitian independence and fought hard until he was killed by the French in a treacherous manner. The revolution continued after his death, leading to Haiti’s independence. He is now known as the Father of Haiti.

 13 Christine Lagarde

Christine Lagarde
6
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: January 1, 1956
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France

Christine Lagarde is a French politician, businessperson, and lawyer. She is the current president of the European Central Bank (ECB), a position she has been holding since 1 November 2019. Prior to this, she was the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She is the first woman to head both the ECB and the IMF. 

 14 Michel Ney

Michel Ney.
3
Famous As: Soldier
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. 

 15 François Mitterrand

François Mitterrand.
7
Famous As: Former President of France
Birthdate: October 26, 1916
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Jarnac
Died: January 8, 1996
François Mitterrand served as the French president from 1981 to 1995, becoming the longest-tenured president in the history of his country. He was the first to name a female prime minister, Édith Cresson. He is known for his investments in several Grands Projets and his opposition of the Fifth Republic.

 16 Louis-Philippe I of France

Louis-Philippe I of France
8
Famous As: King of France
Birthdate: October 6, 1773
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Domaine National du Palais-Royal, Paris, France
Died: August 26, 1850

 17 Philip V of Spain

Philip V of Spain.
4
Famous As: King of Spain
Birthdate: December 19, 1683
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Palace of 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.

 18 Billy Mitchell

Billy Mitchell
5
Famous As: Military General
Birthdate: December 29, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: February 19, 1936

 19 Louis The Pious

Louis The Pious.
4
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.

 20 Nicolas Flamel

Nicolas Flamel
4
Famous As: Scribe
Birthdate: 1330 AD
Birthplace: Pontoise, France
Died: March 22, 1418

Nicolas Flamel was a French scribe and manuscript-seller active in the 14th century. He was also known to be an alchemist. He was married to a wealthy woman, and the couple owned several properties together. They were generous and donated money to numerous churches and hostels. He is often featured in fictional works as a legendary alchemist. 

 21 Jean-Paul Marat

Jean-Paul Marat.
4
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: May 24, 1743
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boudry, Switzerland
Died: July 13, 1793

French political theorist, scientist, and physician Jean-Paul Marat was a key figure of the French Revolution. He published his radical views in pamphlets and newspapers, such as L'Ami du people. He was held responsible for the September massacres. His assassination by a Girondin supporter made him a Jacobin martyr.

 22 Cardinal Richelieu

Cardinal Richelieu.
9
Famous As: French Clergyman, Noble and Statesman
Birthdate: September 9, 1585
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris
Died: December 4, 1642

Cardinal Richelieu was a French clergyman and statesman who was active in the early 17th century. He held powerful positions in both the Catholic Church and French government and served as the chief minister to Louis XIII of France in 1624. He helped the French maintain their dominance in the Thirty Years' War that engulfed Europe. 

 23 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
5
Famous As: Former President of the French Republic
Birthdate: February 2, 1926
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Koblenz, Germany

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was a seasoned French politician who served as President of France. During his presidency, Giscard d'Estaing promoted nuclear power and liberalisation of trade, pushed for development of projects like TGV, and took a more liberal attitude on social issues like divorce, abortion and contraception. He emerged as the longest-lived president in the history of France.

 24 Nicolas Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy.
14
Birthdate: January 28, 1955
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris
Nicolas Sarkozy served as the French president from 2007 to 2012. A qualified lawyer, he had held a number of significant administrative positions, such as the Minister of Finance, earlier. Among other reforms, he introduced a two-term limit for French presidents. He is married to popular singer Carla Bruni. 

 25 Georges Danton

Georges Danton.
6
Famous As: Revolutionary
Birthdate: October 26, 1759
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Arcis-sur-Aube
Died: April 5, 1794

Georges Danton was a major figure in the early stages of the French Revolution. While many historians state that he played a key role in the establishment of the First French Republic, a few scholars refute this claim. He served as the first president of the Committee of Public Safety and was beheaded by the advocates of revolutionary terror. 

 26 Alfred Dreyfus

Alfred Dreyfus.
4
Famous As: Artillery Officer
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.

 27 Georges Clémenceau

Georges Clémenceau.
3
Famous As: Former French Prime Minister
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.

 28 Ferdinand Foch

Ferdinand Foch.
4
Famous As: General
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.

 29 François Pinault

François Pinault
4
Famous As: Businessperson
Birthdate: August 21, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Les Champs-Géraux

 30 Joachim Murat

Joachim Murat.
3
Famous As: Military commander
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.

 31 François Fillon

François Fillon
5
Famous As: Politician, Lawyer, Legislative assistant
Birthdate: March 4, 1954
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Le Mans

Former prime minister of France and Republican party member François Fillon had also held many important portfolios, such as the ministries of education and ecology. An Anglophile, he is married to a Welsh-born wife. He was later found involved in a fake jobs scandal and was convicted of fund embezzlement.

 32 David Cage

David Cage
3
Famous As: Video game producer, Designer
Birthdate: June 9, 1969
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mulhouse

 33 Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.
3
Famous As: Politician, Diplomat
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.

 34 Georges Pompidou

Georges Pompidou.
6
Famous As: Former Prime Minister & President of France
Birthdate: July 5, 1911
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Montboudif, France
Died: April 2, 1974

Georges Pompidou was a French politician whose tenure as prime minister of France between 1962 and 1968 was the longest in the history of France. From 1969 to 1974, Pompidou served as president of France. He is credited with mending France's relationship with the US and maintaining positive relations with many other countries. 

 35 Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester.
6
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: May 23, 1208
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montfort-l'Amaury
Died: August 4, 1265

French nobleman Simon de Montfort gave away his family lands to become the Earl of Leicester instead. Though King Henry III married off his sister Eleanor to Simon without consulting his barons, Simon later turned against the king. After being killed by Roger Mortimer, Simon’s body was mutilated by royalists.

 36 Philippe Pétain

Philippe Pétain.
8
Famous As: Marshal of France
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.

 37 Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
5
Famous As: Politician
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.

 38 Saad Hariri

Saad Hariri
7
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: April 18, 1970
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Son of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic al-Hariri, Saad Hariri joined politics after his father was assassinated. After being educated in France and Saudi Arabia, Saad took over his father’s construction business and expanded into the telecom sector. The Future Movement member has also been Lebanon’s prime minister twice.

 39 René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle
3
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: November 21, 1643
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rouen
Died: March 19, 1687

 40 Tarrare

Tarrare
8
Famous As: Showman
Birthdate: 1772 AD
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: 1798 AD

 41 Philippe Cousteau

Philippe Cousteau
3
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: December 30, 1940
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Toulon
Died: June 28, 1979

 42 Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
5
Famous As: Politician
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?

 43 Ségolène Royal

Ségolène Royal.
4
Famous As: Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy
Birthdate: September 22, 1953
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ouakam

Born to a French colonel in Senegal, Ségolène Royal had met former French president François Hollande, her future husband, while studying economics at the Paris-based École Nationale d’Administration. The mother of four has also been a Socialist Party presidential candidate and the French minister of ecology.

 44 Pierre Laval

Pierre Laval
5
Famous As: Politician, Lawyer
Birthdate: June 28, 1883
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Châteldon
Died: October 15, 1945

 45 Robert Louis-Dreyfus

Robert Louis-Dreyfus
3
Famous As: Businessperson
Birthdate: June 14, 1946
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris
Died: July 4, 2009

 46 Anne Hidalgo

Anne Hidalgo
3
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: June 19, 1959
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: San Fernando, Spain

 47 Francis, Duke of Anjou

Francis, Duke of Anjou
5
Famous As: Duke
Birthdate: March 18, 1555
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fontainebleau, France
Died: June 10, 1584

 48 Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
5
Famous As: Economist, Politician, Lawyer, University teacher
Birthdate: April 25, 1949
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine
French economist and former MD of IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn grew up in Morocco, where his parents worked. Before joining politics, he taught economics. He has been in the midst of many controversies, including a sex scandal, in which a hotel maid accused him of sexual assault.

 49 André Masséna

André Masséna
3
Famous As: French military commander
Birthdate: May 6, 1758
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nice
Died: April 4, 1817

 50 Louis-Nicolas Davout

Louis-Nicolas Davout
3
Famous As: Military commander
Birthdate: May 10, 1770
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Annoux, France
Died: June 1, 1823