Famous French Leaders

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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.
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 1 
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.
 2 
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. 
 3 
Charlemagne
(Holy Roman Emperor (800-814))
Charlemagne
17
Birthdate: April 2, 0747
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Aachen, Germany
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.

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 4 
Oswald Mosley
(British Politician)
Oswald Mosley
23
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 
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.  

 6 
Louis XIV of France
(King of France (1643-1715))
Louis XIV of France
14
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.

 7 
Rollo
(King)
Rollo
9
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.

 8 
Charles de Gaulle
(Former French President & Army Officer Who Led 'Free France' against Nazi Germany in World War II)
Charles de Gaulle
51
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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 9 
François Mitterrand
(President of France (1981-1995))
François Mitterrand
9
Birthdate: October 26, 1916
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Jarnac, France
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.
 10 
Jacques Chirac
(President of France (1995 - 2007))
Jacques Chirac
21
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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 11 
Toussaint Louverture
(Leader of the Haitian Revolution)
Toussaint Louverture
6
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.

 12 
Charles Martel
(Military Leader)
Charles Martel
5
Birthdate: 0686 AD
Birthplace: Herstal
Died: October 22, 0741

Charles Martel was a Frankish military leader and statesman. From 718 until his death in 741, Martel served as the de facto ruler of Francia. He is credited with restoring centralized government in Francia and re-establishing the Franks as the masters of all Gaul through a series of military campaigns.

 13 
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. 

 14 
Louis IX of France
(King of France (1226-1270))
Louis IX of France
4
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 
Irène Joliot-Curie
(French Physicist, Politician and Winner of the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry)
Irène Joliot-Curie
5
Birthdate: September 12, 1897
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 17, 1956

Marie Curie and Pierre Curie’s daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, herself a brilliant scientist, won the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with her husband, Joliot-Curie, for discovering artificial radioactivity. She was also one of the first three female French government members. She tragically died of leukemia caused by exposure to radiation.

 16 
Maximilien de Robespierre
(French Lawyer and Statesman & One of the Most Influential Figures of the 'French Revolution')
Maximilien de Robespierre
13
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.
 17 
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.

 18 
Louis The Pious
(King of Aquitaine, King of Franks & Co-Emperor (Holy Roman Empire))
Louis The Pious
5
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.
 19 
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.

 20 
Marine Le Pen
(French Lawyer and President of the National Rally Group in the National Assembly )
Marine Le Pen
25
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.

 21 
Billy Mitchell
(Military General)
Billy Mitchell
9
Birthdate: December 29, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: February 19, 1936
 22 
Nicolas Flamel
4
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. 

 23 
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
(President of France (1974 - 1981))
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
7
Birthdate: February 2, 1926
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Koblenz, Germany
Died: December 2, 2020

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 
Charlotte Corday
(French Revolutionary Who Was Executed for the Assassination of Jacobin Leader Jean-Paul Marat)
Charlotte Corday
4
Birthdate: July 27, 1768
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Écorches, Normandy, France
Died: July 17, 1793

Charlotte Corday was an important figure of the French Revolution. She is remembered for murdering Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat, for which she was executed by guillotine. Her action changed the political position and role of women at the time. She was also considered a hero by those who opposed the teachings of Jean-Paul Marat.

 25 
Georges Danton
(Minister of Justice of France (1792))
Georges Danton
7
Birthdate: October 26, 1759
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Arcis-sur-Aube, France
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 
Cardinal Richelieu
(French Clergyman and First Minister of State (1624 - 1642))
Cardinal Richelieu
12
Birthdate: September 9, 1585
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
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. 

 27 
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.
 28 
Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
(French Royal, Statesman and Regent of France (1715 - 1723))
Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
3
Birthdate: August 2, 1674
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Saint-Cloud, France
Died: December 2, 1723

Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, was the regent of the Kingdom of France from 1715 to 1723. He was the son of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, and Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate. He was named the regent of France for Louis XV, who succeeded to the throne at the age of five. Philippe died months after Louis attained majority.

 29 
Louis VII of France
(King of France (1137-1180))
Louis VII of France
4
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.

Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester
6
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.

 31 
David Cage
(Video game producer, Designer)
David Cage
3
Birthdate: June 9, 1969
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mulhouse
 32 
Roch
(Catholic Saint)
Roch
4
Birthdate: 1348 AD
Birthplace: Montpellier, France
Died: August 16, 1379
Saint Roch, or Rocco, the 14th-century saint from Montpellier, had taken care of victims of the Black Death in Italy. Having fallen prey to the same disease, he was rescued by a dog in a forest. The illness changed his appearance and caused him to be imprisoned for being an imposter.
 33 
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.

 34 
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.
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.

 36 
François Fillon
(Politician, Lawyer, Legislative assistant)
François Fillon
5
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.

 37 
Christine Lagarde
(French Politician and Economist Who is the First Woman to Head the IMF and the European Central Bank)
Christine Lagarde
9
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. 

 38 
Ségolène Royal
(Former French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (2014 - 2017))
Ségolène Royal
5
Birthdate: September 22, 1953
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ouakam, Dakar, Senegal

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.

 39 
Robert Louis-Dreyfus
(Businessperson)
Robert Louis-Dreyfus
3
Birthdate: June 14, 1946
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris
Died: July 4, 2009
 40 
Simone Veil
(Member of the Constitutional Council 1998 - 2007)
Simone Veil
4
Birthdate: July 13, 1927
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: June 30, 2017

A Holocaust survivor, Simone Veil had lost her father, mother, and brother to Nazi concentration camps. She grew up to be a magistrate and became the first woman president of the European Parliament. She had also been an able health minister and rallied for abortion rights of French women.

 41 
Anne Hidalgo
(Politician)
Anne Hidalgo
3
Birthdate: June 19, 1959
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: San Fernando, Spain
 42 
Tarrare
(Showman)
Tarrare
9
Birthdate: 1772 AD
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: 1798 AD
 43 
Jean-Luc Mélenchon
(Former President of the La France Insoumise group)
Jean-Luc Mélenchon
0
Birthdate: August 19, 1951
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tangier, Morocco
Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau
4
Birthdate: July 1, 1725
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Vendôme, France
Died: May 30, 1807
 45 
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 Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
3
Birthdate: April 13, 1747
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Domaine de Saint Cloud, Saint-Cloud, France
Died: November 6, 1793
 47 
Jean-Baptiste Colbert
(Economist, Politician)
Jean-Baptiste Colbert
5
Birthdate: August 29, 1619
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Reims
Died: September 6, 1683

Born into a merchant family in France, Jean-Baptiste Colbert grew up to hold various administrative posts. Patronized by Cardinal Mazarin, he became affluent and later became one of the most efficient administrators during the regime of Louis XIV. He also established the French merchant navy.

 48 
Louis-Nicolas Davout
(Military commander)
Louis-Nicolas Davout
4
Birthdate: May 10, 1770
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Annoux, France
Died: June 1, 1823
Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême
4
Birthdate: August 6, 1775
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Died: June 3, 1844
 50 
Dominique Strauss-Kahn
(Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (1 November 2007 – 18 May 2011))
Dominique Strauss-Kahn
5
Birthdate: April 25, 1949
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
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.