Interesting Facts About France
1. The official name of France is The French Republic and its motto is 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.'
The head of the French Republic is elected by the people and is the President of France.
The new president of France is François Hollande. He was elected on 6 May 2012.
Below is the official emblem of The French Republic. The letters R and F are entwined in the centre.
The emblem is on the front cover of French passports.
Le Passeport Français.
2. The name France means 'Land of the Franks.' The Franks were a Germanic tribe who lived in Northern Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.
5. French is widely spoken in the following countries - Algeria, Andorra, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Dominica, Egypt, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United States (Louisiana, New England) and Vietnam.
6. People who speak fluent French are called 'Francophones.'
7. The flag of France is blue, white, red. It is known as Le Drapeau Tricolore (or the three-coloured flag) because of its three colours. It has existed since 1794.
8. The French national anthem is called La Marseillaise. It was composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792. It is called La Marseillaise because it was first sung by soldiers from the city of Marseille as they marched into Paris.
9. An important emblem of France is the cockerel (le coq). It is used on the sportswear of French national teams. It is a courageous animal, willing to fight.
10. The country of France is divided into twenty-two regions. These are -Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comte, Haute-Normandie, Île-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrénées, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Rhône-Alpes.
Each region is divided into sections called départements. There are ninety-six départements in France. Each département has a name and a number. Number 75 belongs to Paris. Post codes and car number-plates tell you which département they belong to, according to the numbers they contain. (The last two numbers of a vehicle number-plate are the ones that count.) The post code for Paris is 75000.
11. One of the most important dates in France is the 14 July. This is known as Bastille Day and it is a national holiday. In France it is called La Fête Nationale. It is a celebration of the storming of the prison in Paris called Bastille Saint-Antoine on 14 July 1789. The storming of the Bastille is called La Prise de la Bastille in French.
On that day, angry peasants invaded the prison, released the prisoners (there were only a few prisoners inside at the time) and seized the weapons stored there. This was the beginning of the French Revolution.
The poor people hated the Bastille because so many had been imprisoned there without having a fair trial.
Nowadays, on 14 July, there is a big parade in Paris, the French flag flies from L'Arc de Triomphe and there are celebrations and fireworks all over France.
(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)
12. The French Revolution took place because there were too many poor people in France. They thought that it was unfair that they were suffering from hunger, whilst the royal family and their rich friends were spending enormous amounts of money to live in great luxury.
So, the people of France protested but nothing seemed to change. The royal family seemed not to care. The king and queen and their friends were arrested. They were no longer allowed to be in charge of the country.
Eventually, many people (including the king and queen) were executed.
13. During the French Revolution, the King of France was Louis XVI and his wife was Marie-Antoinette (she was Austrian). She was only fourteen years of age when she married. In the portrait below, painted by Martin Van Meytins, she is only twelve years old.
14. The guillotine was the method of execution developed during the French Revolution. It was invented with the help of surgeon, Dr. Guillotin. In Paris, it was used regularly in La Place de la Concorde.
15. The guillotine remained the official method of execution in France until 1981 when the death penalty was abolished. The last time it was used was as recently as 1977.
16. The patron saint of France is Saint Denis. He is also the saint of Paris. He was Bishop of Paris in the Third Century and his feast day is 9 October.
17. The shrine of Saint-Denis is in the Basilica of Saint-Denis, Paris. Most of the kings and queens of France are laid to rest in this cathedral.
To visit the official website of Le Musée du Louvre,
19. Some of the most famous and valuable works of art are exhibited in Le Musée du Louvre. The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is kept there. It is owned by the French Government and was valued at 700 million dollars in 2009. It was bought by French King Francis I in 1519. In France, the Mona Lisa is called La Joconde.
20. La Tour Eiffel.
La Tour Eiffel is cleaned all year round by a team of cleaners. Each year they consume 4 tons of paper wipes, 10,000 doses of detergent, 400 litres of metal cleaner and 25,000 rubbish bags.
23. In France, you celebrate your 'name-day.'
24. The French people call the English people les rosbifs, meaning - the roast beefs!
25. In France, they eat snails (les escargots), frogs' legs (les cuisses de grenouille) and horsemeat (la viande de cheval).
26. Before eating a meal, it is polite to say Bon appétit. This means 'I hope you have a good appetite so that you enjoy your meal.'
27. The word Salut means both 'hello' and 'goodbye.'
28. The most popular French bread is la baguette (little stick). It is a loaf 5 or 6 cm. wide and up to a metre in length. If it is a thinner version, it is called une ficelle (a string) and if it is wider it is called une flûte. Bread rolls are called petits pains (little breads). La baguette magique is 'the magic wand'! The shape of la baguette makes it very easy to carry under your arm!
29. The word for breakfast is le petit déjeuner (the little lunch). In France you dunk your croissant into a milky drink at breakfast-time. The word 'croissant' actually means 'crescent' because the pastry is a crescent shape. The shape is very good for dunking!
Above is the symbol that inspired the invention of the croissant.
30. Officially, it is said that France produces 365 different types of cheese! That is to say, a different cheese for each day of the year. However, it is believed that there are even more than this!
31. France has won the Football World Cup only once - in 1998. The French football team is nicknamed Les Bleus (The Blues). The French word for 'football' has been 'borrowed' from the English language - le football.
32. France produces many cars. The makes are Renault, Peugeot and Citroën.
33. In the south of France, close to the Pyrenees Mountains, there is a little town called Lourdes. Millions of pilgrims from all over the world visit this place every year.
34. Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) is a national heroine of France. She was born in Domrémy, Northern France, in 1412. During this period, the English were invading Northern France. In fact, even Joan's village had been attacked by English soldiers.
Joan said that God, saints and angels spoke to her in visions and told her to lead the French soldiers in their battle against the English. She visited the future French King, Charles VII, and he believed her. Joan dressed as a soldier and led the French army into battle over a period of two years.
She was captured at the age of nineteen years. On 30 May 1431, she was executed by the English in the city of Rouen, Normandy.
She was made a saint in 1920. She is also known as The Maid of Orléans (or La Pucelle in French.)
Below, is a portrait of Joan dressed as a soldier
and her signature.
To learn more about Joan of Arc click HERE
35. Some famous French painters are -
16th Century, François Clouet and Jean Clouet.
17th Century, Nicolas Poussin.
18th Century, Antoine Watteau.
19th Century, Eugène Delacroix, Pierre-Auguste Renoir,
Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet,
20th Century, Jacques Villon.
(Paintings from left to right by Toulouse-Lautrec, Watteau, Matisse and Renoir.)
36. Mary Queen of Scots was half French. Her mother was Marie de Guise.
(Portrait from Wikimedia Commons. Image of signature from English history.net)
37. The French King Francis I was the grandfather of Mary Queen of Scots' husband. He was nicknamed 'Le Roi Grand Nez' (King Big Nose) because he had such a large nose!
(Image from Wikimedia Commons. Portrait by Jean Clouet, visible at Le Musée du Louvre.)
He bought the famous painting Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci and hung it and other works of art in his bathroom at Fontainebleau Palace. When taking a bath in the palace, Mary Queen of Scots was known to particularly admire the painting!
38. There is a story that the word 'marmalade' comes from the French words 'Marie est malade' (Mary is ill). Whenever Mary Queen of Scots was unwell, she liked to eat orange jam to make her feel better.
39. In French history, the heir to the French throne was always called Le Dauphin - which also means 'dolphin.'
40. Denim is a fabric that came originally from the French town of Nîmes (de Nîmes).
41. Le Moulin Rouge (meaning- The Red Mill) is a very famous cabaret club in Paris. It was built in 1889. It is recognised by an imitation red windmill on its roof.
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, by author Arpingstone.)
42. The cancan is a very energetic and acrobatic dance that first appeared in Parisian ballrooms in the 1830s. It is performed by ladies dressed in frilly skirts who have to kick their legs high, perform cartwheels and the splits. The ladies squeal and screech at moments as they dance.
43. The two most famous cancan dancers were Jane Avril and La Goulue. They were regular performers at Le Moulin Rouge. Below is a photo of La Goulue. Her real name was Louise Weber and she lived from 1829 to 1866.
44. A very famous singer from Paris was Edith Piaf.
She was very small and always performed wearing a black dress. It was said that she looked like a little sparrow, so she was given the nickname 'La Môme Piaf' which means 'little sparrow' in Parisian slang. Her real name was Edith Gassion and she was born in 1915. She died in 1963. She sang in Parisian nightclubs, including Le Moulin Rouge.
(Image from Wikipedia, source Brittanica.com. Copyright holder United Press International/Bettman Newsphotos. )
To hear Edith Piaf singing her two most famous songs,
46. The tradition of the white wedding dress began in France. Anne of Brittany is believed to be the first bride to choose a white gown when she married Louis XII in 1499. Then, in 1558, Mary Queen of Scots wore a white gown at her French wedding to the Dauphin.
(To find out more about Christmas in France CLICK HERE).
51. The Statue of Liberty (La Statue de la Liberté) was a gift from France to America in 1886.
52. In the south of France, near to Cannes, there is a town called Grasse and it is very famous for growing flowers. Every year there are two important flower festivals there - La Fête du Jasmin and The International Rose Festival.
53. In Avignon, a town in the south of France, there are the ruins of a very famous bridge. The bridge is known as Le Pont d'Avignon or Le Pont Saint-Bénézet. The bridge was built across the River Rhône between the years 1177 and 1185. Originally, it was a very long bridge standing on many arches. It was about 900 metres in length.
(Image from Wikimedia Commons, by Chimigi.)
The story of the bridge:-
A shepherd boy called Bénézet saw angels who told him to build a bridge across the dangerous river where many people had drowned.
So, obeying the angels, the shepherd-boy lifted a very large and heavy stone all by himself and declared that it was the first stone of the bridge that he was going to build.
The local people were very impressed and decided to help build the bridge. They believed that the boy's strength, when lifting the heavy stone, had come from God.
The shepherd-boy is now known as Saint Bénézet and many Christian pilgrims visit the bridge that he built.
Bénézet died young from exhaustion, at the age of 18 years. He did not live to see the completed bridge. The bridge took very many years to construct and was completed a year or so
after his death. Bénézet's feast day is 14 April.
Saint Bénézet is the patron saint of architects because of the great bridge that he built. He is often seen in images as a shepherd boy carrying a heavy stone. (Below)
(Image from Horizon Provence. La bannière de la confrérie des portefaix.)
Bénézet's tomb is in the Church of Saint-Didier, Avignon.
There is a famous French song about people dancing on the bridge. It is called Sur le pont d'Avignon.
54. The tallest bridge in the world is in the south of France. It is called Le Viaduc de Millau and it was opened in December, 2004. It crosses over the valley of the River Tarn and it belongs to the motorway called Autoroute A75. It has four lanes. At one part, it is 343 metres tall (1,125 ft.) and slightly higher than the Eiffel Tower!
(Photo by Mike Lehmann. Wikimedia Creative Commons)
55. Underneath Paris, there is a very famous and vast network of secret tunnels and passageways. It is forbidden to go down there because it is dangerous, but there are some adventurous people who go exploring the tunnels in secret. The name for these secret explorers is Les Cataphiles.
56. A very famous bridge is Le Pont du Gard in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France. It is a small part of a very long aqueduct (about 50km long) that crosses the River Gard (or Gardon), so that at that part it looks like a bridge crossing the river.
MORE INTERESTING FACTS WILL BE ADDED SHORTLY.