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Famous people from France

This concise, hand-picked list represents the indispensable "must known people", the Who's Who of French history and modern French society.

Monarchs

  • Philip II Augustus (1165-1223), added the Counties of Artois, Valois, Amiens and most of Vermandois to the Royal domain; joined the 3rd crusade.
  • Louis IX (1214-1270), crusader and Catholic saint (Saint Louis). The Île Saint-Louis in Paris and dozens of places in North America (including St. Louis, Missouri) are named after him.
  • Philip IV "The Fair" (1268-1314), waged war with Flanders, added Lille and Douai to the Royal domain, and suppressed the order of the Knights Templar.
  • Francis I (1494-1547), first Renaissance King of France, the Father and Restorer of Letters
  • Henry IV (1553-1610), enacted the Edict of Nantes which guaranteed religious liberties to the Protestants.
  • Louis XIV (1638-1715), known as The Sun King, had the longest reign of any major European monarch, increased the power and influence of France in Europe, and gave his name to Louisiana.
  • Louis XV (1710-1774), ruled over one of the most prosperous age for France, but lost the colonies of India, Canada and most of Louisiana to Britain.
  • Louis XVI (1754-1793), last absolute King of France, was decapitated during the French Revolution.
  • Napoleon I (1769-1823), first Emperor of the French, exported the ideas of the French Revolution throughout Europe,
  • Napoleon III (1808-1873), expanded the French colonial empire and supervised the industrial revolution.

Politicians

  • Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838), diplomat under Louis XVI, Napoleon I, Louis XVIII and Louis-Philippe.
  • Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), WWI statesman and major player in the Treaty of Versailles
  • Henri Philippe Pétain (1856-1951), WWI hero, marshal of France, leader of Vichy France during WWII and collaborator with the Nazi regime.
  • Jean Jaurès (1859-1914), socialist politician and pacifist.
  • Aristide Briand (1862-1932), Prime Minister of France and Nobel Peace Prize in 1925.

  • Jean Monnet (1888-1979), architect of European Unity.
  • Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), French military leader during WWII and French president from 1959 to 1969.
  • François Mitterrand (1916-1996), president of France from 1981 to 1995.
  • Jacques Delors (1925-), President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995.
  • Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (1926-), president of France from 1974 to 1981.
  • Jacques Chirac (1932-), president of France from 1995 to 2007.
  • Nicolas Sarkozy (1955-), president of France from 2007 to 2012.
  • François Hollande (1954-), president of France since 2012.

Authors, Playwrights & Poets

  • François Rabelais (1494-1553)
  • Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585)
  • Pierre Corneille (1606-1684)
  • Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695)
  • Molière (1622-1673)
  • Marquise de Sévigné (1626-1696)
  • Charles Perrault (1628-1703), author of numerous fairy tales, such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Puss-in-Boots or Bluebeard.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac (1629-1655)
  • Jean Racine (1639-1699)
  • Pierre Beaumarchais (1732-1799)
  • Marquis de Sade (1740-1814)
  • François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848)
  • Stendhal (1783-1842)
  • Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869)
  • Honoré de Balzac (1799-1950)
  • Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), author of The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and The Man in the Iron Mask.
  • Victor Hugo (1802-1885), author of Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris
  • George Sand (1804-1876)
  • Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
  • Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), author of Madame Bovary
  • Jules Verne (1828-1905), author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, Journey To The Center Of The Earth, and Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Émile Zola (1840-1902)
  • Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)
  • Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)
  • Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893)
  • Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
  • Paul Claudel (1868-1955)
  • André Gide (1869-1951), Nobel Prize in literature in 1947.
  • Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
  • François Mauriac (1885-1970)
  • Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)
  • Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974)
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944), author of The Little Prince
  • Jacques Prévert (1900-1977)
  • André Malraux (1901-1973)
  • Albert Camus (1913-1960), Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957.

Philosophers & Thinkers

  • Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), Renaissance essayist and philosopher.
  • René Descartes (1596-1650), dubbed the Father of Modern Mathematics and Founder of Modern Philosophy
  • Montesquieu (1689-1755), social commentator and political thinker
  • Voltaire (1694-1778), Enlightenment writer and defender of civil liberties
  • Denis Diderot (1713-1784), philosopher & editor-in-chief of the Encyclopédie
  • Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717-1783), mathematician, mechanician, physicist and philosopher.
  • Condorcet (1743-1794), philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist
  • Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
  • Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)
  • Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
  • Michel Serres (1930-)
  • Bernard-Henri Lévy (1948-)
  • André Comte-Sponville (1952-)

Inventors & Scientists

  • Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher.
  • Buffon (1707-1788), , mathematician, biologist, cosmologist and author
  • Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794), father of modern chemistry
  • Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829), naturalist and an early proponent of the theory of evolution.
  • Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), microbiologist and chemist, confirmed the germ theory of disease, created the first vaccine for rabies.
  • Jacques Lacan (1901-1981), psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, and doctor
  • Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997), naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, scientist, photographer and researcher.

Painters

  • Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)
  • Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)
  • Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun (1755-1842)
  • Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867)
  • Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)
  • Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)
  • Édouard Manet (1832-1883)
  • Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
  • Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
  • Claude Monet (1840-1906)
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
  • Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)
  • Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
  • Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Composers

  • François Couperin (1668-1733)
  • Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
  • Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
  • Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
  • Georges Bizet (1838-1975)
  • Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
  • Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Musicians & Singers

  • Édith Piaf (1915-1963)
  • Georges Brassens (1921-1981)
  • Charles Aznavour (1924-)
  • Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991)
  • Claude François (1939-1978)
  • Johnny Hallyday (1943-)
  • Mireille Mathieu (1946-)
  • France Gall (1947-)
  • Jean-Jacques Goldman (1951-)
  • Mylène Farmer (1961-)
  • Vanessa Paradis (1972-)

Actors, Actresses & Filmmakers

  • Jean Gabin (1904-1976), actor and war hero.
  • Jean Marais (1913-1998), actor.
  • Louis de Funès (1914-1983), comic actor.
  • Yves Montand (1921-1991), actor.
  • Michel Galabru (1924-), actor.
  • Jeanne Moreau (1928-), actress and film director.
  • Jean-Luc Godard (1930-), filmmaker and one of the most influential members of the "French New Wave".
  • Jean Rochefort (1930-), actor.
  • François Truffaut (1932-1984), filmmaker, screenwriter, director, producer and actor.
  • Jean-Paul Belmondo (1933-), actor.
  • Pierre Richard (1934-), comic actor and film director.
  • Brigitte Bardot (1934-), actress, former fashion model, nationalist, singer, animal rights activist.
  • Alain Delon (1935-), actor
  • Claude Lelouch (1937-), film director, writer and producer.
  • Catherine Deneuve (1943-), actress.
  • Gérard Depardieu (1948-), actor.
  • Jean Reno (1948-), actor.
  • Daniel Auteuil (1950-), actor.
  • Gérard Jugnot (1951-), actor.
  • Thierry Lhermitte (1952-), actor.
  • Christian Clavier (1952-), actor.
  • Isabelle Adjani (1955-), actress.
  • Emmanuelle Béart (1963-), actress.
  • Juliette Binoche (1964-), actress, artist and dancer.
  • Valérie Lemercier (1964-), actress and filmmaker.
  • Sophie Marceau (1966-), actress.
  • Audrey Tautou (1978-), actress.
  • Eva Green (1980-), actress.

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