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The Kingdom of France was organized into provinces until March 4, 1790, when the establishment of the department (French: département) system superseded provinces. The provinces of France were roughly equivalent to the historic counties of England. They came into their final form over the course of many hundreds of years, as many dozens of semi-independent fiefs and former independent countries came to be incorporated into the French royal domain. Because of the haphazard manner in which the provinces evolved, each had its own sets of feudal traditions, laws, taxation systems, courts, etc., and the system represented an impediment to effective administration of the entire country from Paris. During the early years of the French Revolution, in an attempt to centralize the administration of the whole country, and to remove the influence of the French nobility over the country, the entirety of the province system was abolished and replaced by the system of departments in use today.
The Kingdom of France was a medieval and early modern monarchy in Western Europe. It was one of the most powerful states in Europe and a great power since the Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War. It was also an early colonial power, with possessions around the world.
A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman provincia, which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire's territorial possessions outside Italy. The term province has since been adopted by many countries. In some countries with no actual provinces, "the provinces" is a metaphorical term meaning "outside the capital city".
In the administrative divisions of France, the department is one of the three levels of government below the national level, between the administrative regions and the commune. Ninety-six departments are in metropolitan France, and five are overseas departments, which are also classified as regions. Departments are further subdivided into 334 arrondissements, themselves divided into cantons; the last two have no autonomy, and are used for the organisation of police, fire departments, and sometimes, elections.
In some cases, several modern regions or departments share names with the historic provinces, and their borders may cover roughly the same territory.
France is divided into 18 administrative regions, which are traditionally divided between 13 metropolitan regions, located on the European continent, and 5 overseas regions, located outside the European continent. The 13 metropolitan regions are each further subdivided into 2 to 13 departments, while the overseas regions consist of only one department each and hence are also referred to as "overseas departments". The current legal concept of region was adopted in 1982, and in 2016 what had been 27 regions was reduced to 18. The overseas regions should not be confused with the overseas collectivities, which have a semi-autonomous status.
The list below shows the major provinces of France at the time of their dissolution during the French Revolution. Capital cities are shown in parentheses. Bold indicates a city that was also the seat of a judicial and quasi-legislative body called either a parlement (not to be confused with a parliament) or a conseil souverain (sovereign council). In some cases, this body met in a different city from the capital.
A parlement, in the Ancien Régime of France, was a provincial appellate court. In 1789, France had 13 parlements, the most important of which was the Parlement of Paris. While the English word parliament derives from this French term, parlements were not legislative bodies. They consisted of a dozen or more appellate judges, or about 1,100 judges nationwide. They were the court of final appeal of the judicial system, and typically wielded much power over a wide range of subject matter, particularly taxation. Laws and edicts issued by the Crown were not official in their respective jurisdictions until the parlements gave their assent by publishing them. The members were aristocrats called nobles of the gown who had bought or inherited their offices, and were independent of the King.
The French Parliament is the bicameral legislature of the French Republic, consisting of the Senate (Sénat) and the National Assembly. Each assembly conducts legislative sessions at a separate location in Paris: the Palais du Luxembourg for the Senate and the Palais Bourbon for the National Assembly.
Areas that were not part of the Kingdom of France, though they are currently parts of Metropolitan France:
Metropolitan France is the part of France in Europe. It comprises mainland France and Corsica, as well as other islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Partial display of historical provincial arms:
|Alençon||15. Anjou||28. Artois||2. Berry||13. Burgundy||20. Brittany||8.Champagne||7. Dauphiné||24. Foix|
|12. Gascony||Gévaudan||32. Lorraine||21. Maine||19. Marche||4. Normandy||37. Savoy||22. Touraine||Valois|
A coat of arms is a heraldic visual design on an escutcheon, surcoat, or tabard. The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the full heraldic achievement which in its whole consists of shield, supporters, crest, and motto. A coat of arms is traditionally unique to an individual person, family, state, organization or corporation.
Heraldry is a broad term, encompassing the design, display, and study of armorial bearings, as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology, together with the study of ceremony, rank, and pedigree. Armory, the best-known branch of heraldry, concerns the design and transmission of the heraldic achievement. The achievement, or armorial bearings usually includes a coat of arms on an shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.
Savoy is a cultural region in Central Europe. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps between Lake Geneva in the north and Dauphiné in the south.
There are currently twelve provinces of the Netherlands, representing the administrative layer between the national government and the local municipalities, with responsibility for matters of subnational or regional importance.
Languedoc is a former province of France. Its territory is now contained in the modern-day region of Occitanie in the south of France. Its capital city was Toulouse. It had an area of approximately 42,700 square kilometers.
Nancy is the capital of the north-eastern French department of Meurthe-et-Moselle, and formerly the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine, and then the French province of the same name. The metropolitan area of Nancy had a population of 434,565 inhabitants at the 2011 census, making it the 20th largest urban area in France. The population of the city of Nancy proper was 104,321 in 2014.
Midi-Pyrénées is a former administrative region of France. Since 1 January 2016, it has been part of the new region Occitanie. It was the largest region of Metropolitan France by area, larger than the Netherlands or Denmark.
Foix is a commune, the former capital of the County of Foix. Today it is the Préfecture of the Ariège department in southwestern France in the Occitanie region. It is the second least populous administrative centre of a department in all of France, the least-populous being Privas. Foix lies south of Toulouse, close to the border with Spain and Andorra. At the 2009 census, the city had a population of 9,861 people. It is only the second city of the department after Pamiers which is one of the two sub-prefectures. Foix is twinned with the English cathedral city of Ripon.
The County of Bar was a principality of the Holy Roman Empire encompassing the pays de Barrois and centred on the city of Bar-le-Duc. It was held by the House of Montbéliard from the 11th century. Part of the county, the so-called Barrois mouvant, became a fief of the Kingdom of France in 1301 and was elevated to the Duchy of Bar in 1354. The Barrois non-mouvant remained a part of the Empire. From 1480, it was united to the imperial Duchy of Lorraine.
Lower Navarre is a traditional region of the present-day French département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques. It corresponds to the northernmost merindad of the Kingdom of Navarre during the Middle Ages. After the Spanish conquest of Iberian Navarre (1512–24), this merindad was restored to the rule of the native king, Henry II. Its capitals were Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Saint-Palais. In the extreme north there was the little sovereign Principality of Bidache, with an area of 1,284 km2 (496 sq mi) and a decreasing population of 44,450, 25,356.
The Kingdom of France in the early modern period, from the Renaissance to the Revolution (1789–1804), was a monarchy ruled by the House of Bourbon. This corresponds to the so-called Ancien Régime. The territory of France during this period increased until it included essentially the extent of the modern country, and it also included the territories of the first French colonial empire overseas.
Bigorre is a region in southwest France, historically an independent county and later a French province, located in the upper watershed of the Adour, on the northern slopes of the Pyrenees, part of the larger region known as Gascony. Today Bigorre comprises the centre and west of the département of Hautes-Pyrénées, with two small exclaves in the neighbouring Pyrénées Atlantiques. Its inhabitants are called Bigourdans.
Nébouzan was a small province of France located in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, in the southwest of France. It was not a contiguous province, but it was made up of several detached territories, approximately half of them around the town of Saint-Gaudens in the south of the present-day département of Haute-Garonne, and the other half around the town of Lannemezan in the east of the present-day département of Hautes-Pyrénées. The capital of Nébouzan was Saint-Gaudens.
The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The term is occasionally used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, and civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority regularly overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.
The Secretary of State was the name of several official governmental positions – supervising war, foreign affairs, the navy, the king's household, the clergy, Paris, and Protestant affairs – during the Ancien Régime in France, roughly equivalent to the positions of governmental ministers today. The positions were created in 1547, but gained in importance only after 1588. The various secretaries of state were considered part of the Great Officers of the Crown of France.
The County of Nice is a historical region of France located around the south-eastern city of Nice, and roughly equivalent to the modern arrondissement of Nice.
The Council of Paris is the deliberative body responsible for the governing of Paris, the capital of France. It possesses simultaneously the powers of a Paris Municipal Council and those of a General Council for the Département de Paris, as defined by the so-called PLM Law of 1982 that redefined the governance of Paris, Lyon, and Marseilles. Paris is, in effect, the only territorial collectivity in France to be, at one time, a commune and a département, and this arrangement has been a fact even longer, since the passage of the law of 10 July 1964 which totally reorganized the Paris region.
The Kingdom of Sardinia was a state in Southern Europe from the early 14th until the mid-19th century.
This article describes the process by which the territorial extent of metropolitan France came to be as it is since 1947. The territory of the French State is spread throughout the world. Metropolitan France is that part which is in Europe.
Bourgogne-Franche-Comté is a region of France created by the territorial reform of French Regions in 2014, from a merger of Burgundy and Franche-Comté. The new region came into existence on 1 January 2016, after the regional elections of December 2015, electing 100 members to the regional council of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté.
Occitanie or Occitania is an administrative region of France that was created on January 1, 2016 from the former French regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. France's Conseil d'État approved Occitanie as the new name of the region on September 28, 2016, coming into effect on September 30, 2016.