Puneet Varma (Editor)

List of French monarchs

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Style  See article
Formation  486
First monarch  Clovis I (as King)
Abolition  4 September 1870
Last monarch  Napoleon III (as Emperor)
Residence  Palais de la Cité Louvre Palace Palace of Versailles Tuileries Palace

The monarchs of the Kingdom of France and its predecessors ruled from the establishment of the Kingdom of the Franks in 486 till the fall of the Second French Empire in 1870.


Sometimes included as "kings of France" are the kings of the Franks of the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled from 486 until 751, and of the Carolingians, who ruled until 987 (with some interruptions).

The Capetian dynasty, the male-line descendants of Hugh Capet, included the first rulers to adopt the title of king of France for the first time with Philip II (r. 1180–1223). The Capetians ruled continuously from 987 to 1792 and again from 1814 to 1848. The branches of the dynasty which ruled after 1328, however, are generally given the specific branch names of Valois (until 1589) and Bourbon (until 1848).

During the brief period when the French Constitution of 1791 was in effect (1791–92) and after the July Revolution in 1830, the style "King of the French" was used instead of "King of France (and Navarre)". It was a constitutional innovation known as popular monarchy which linked the monarch's title to the French people rather than to the possession of the territory of France.

With the House of Bonaparte "Emperors of the French" ruled in 19th century France, between 1804 and 1814, again in 1815 and between 1852 and 1871.


The title "King of the Franks" (Latin: Rex Francorum) gradually lost ground after 1190, during the reign of Philip II (but FRANCORUM REX continued to be used, for example by Louis XII in 1499, by Francis I in 1515, and by Henry II about 1550. It was used on coins up to the eighteenth century. During the brief period when the French Constitution of 1791 was in effect (1791–92) and after the July Revolution in 1830, the style "King of the French" was used instead of "King of France (and Navarre)". It was a constitutional innovation known as popular monarchy which linked the monarch's title to the French people rather than to the possession of the territory of France.

In addition to the Kingdom of France, there were also two French Empires, the first from 1804 to 1814 and again in 1815, founded and ruled by Napoleon I, and the second from 1852 to 1870, founded and ruled by his nephew Napoleon III (also known as Louis-Napoleon). They used the title "Emperor of the French".

This article lists all rulers to have held the title "King of the Franks", "King of France", "King of the French" or "Emperor of the French". For other Frankish monarchs, see List of Frankish kings. In addition to the monarchs listed below, the Kings of England and Great Britain from 1340–60 and 1369–1801 also claimed the title of King of France. For a short time, this had some basis in fact – under the terms of the 1420 Treaty of Troyes, Charles VI had recognized his son-in-law Henry V of England as regent and heir. Henry V predeceased Charles VI and so Henry V's son, Henry VI, succeeded his grandfather Charles VI as King of France. Most of Northern France was under English control until 1435, but by 1453, the English had been expelled from all of France save Calais (and the Channel Islands), and Calais itself fell in 1558. Nevertheless, English and then British monarchs continued to claim the title for themselves until the creation of the United Kingdom in 1801.

Merovingian dynasty (486–751)

The Merovingians were a Salian Frankish dynasty that ruled the Franks for nearly 300 years in a region known as Francia in Latin, beginning in the middle of the 5th century. Their territory largely corresponded to ancient Gaul as well as the Roman provinces of Raetia, Germania Superior and the southern part of Germania. The Merovingian dynasty rose to historical prominence with Childeric I (c. 457-481), the son of Merovech, leader of the Salian Franks, but it was his famous son Clovis I (481–511) who united all of Gaul under Merovingian rule.

Carolingian dynasty (751–888)

The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The family consolidated its power in the late 8th century, eventually making the offices of mayor of the palace and dux et princeps Francorum hereditary and becoming the real powers behind the Merovingian kings. In 751, a Carolingian, Pepin the Younger, dethroned the Merovingians and with the consent of the Papacy and the aristocracy, was crowned King of the Franks.

Robertian dynasty (888–898)

The Robertians were Frankish noblemen owing fealty to the Carolingians, and ancestors of the subsequent Capetian dynasty. Odo, Count of Paris, was chosen by the western Franks to be their king following the removal of emperor Charles the Fat. He was crowned at Compiègne in February 888 by Walter, Archbishop of Sens.

Carolingian dynasty (893–922)

Charles, the posthumous son of Louis II, was crowned by a faction opposed to the Robertian Odo at Reims Cathedral, though he only became the effectual monarch with the death of Odo in 898.

Bosonid dynasty (923–936)

The Bosonids were a noble family descended from Boso the Elder, their member, Rudolph (Raoul), was elected "King of the Franks" in 923.

Capetian dynasty (987–1792)

After the death of Louis V, the son of Hugh the Great and grandson of Robert I, Hugh Capet, was elected by the nobility as king of France. The Capetian Dynasty, the male-line descendants of Hugh Capet, ruled France continuously from 987 to 1792 and again from 1814 to 1848. They were direct descendants of the Robertian kings. The cadet branches of the dynasty which ruled after 1328, however, are generally given the specific branch names of Valois and Bourbon.

Not listed below are Hugh Magnus, eldest son of Robert II, and Philip of France, eldest son of Louis VI; both were co-kings with their fathers (in accordance with the early Capetian practice whereby kings would crown their heirs in their own lifetimes and share power with the co-king), but predeceased them. Because neither Hugh nor Philip were sole or senior king in their own lifetimes, they are not traditionally listed as Kings of France, and are not given ordinals.

Henry VI of England, son of Catherine of Valois, became titular King of France upon his grandfather Charles VI's death in accordance with the Treaty of Troyes of 1420; however this was disputed and he is not always regarded as a legitimate king of France. English claims to the French throne actually date from 1328, when Edward III claimed the throne after the death of Charles IV. Other than Henry VI, none had ever had their claim backed by treaty, and his title became contested after 1429, when Charles VII was crowned. Henry himself was crowned by a different faction in 1431, though at the age of 9, he had yet to come of age. The final phase of the Hundred Years War was fought between these competing factions, resulting in a Valois victory at the Battle of Castillon in 1453, putting an end to any meaningful claims of the English monarchs over the throne of France, though English (and later British) monarchs would continue to use the title "King of France" until 1801.

From 21 January 1793 to 8 June 1795, Louis XVI's son Louis-Charles was the titular King of France as Louis XVII; in reality, however, he was imprisoned in the Temple throughout this duration, and power was held by the leaders of the Republic. Upon Louis XVII's death, his uncle (Louis XVI's brother) Louis-Stanislas claimed the throne, as Louis XVIII, but only became de facto King of France in 1814.

Direct Capetians (987–1328)

The main line of descent from Hugh Capet is generally known as the "direct Capetians". This line became extinct in 1328, precipitating a succession crisis known as the Hundred Years War. While there were numerous claimants to succeed, the two best claimants were the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet.

House of Valois (1328–1589)

The death of the last Direct Capetian precipitated the Hundred Years' War between the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet over control of the French throne. The Valois claimed the right to the succession by male-only primogeniture, having the closest all-male line of descent from a recent French king. They were descended from the third son of Philip III, Charles, Count of Valois. The Plantagenets based their claim on being closer to a more recent French King, Edward III of England being a grandson of Philip IV through his mother, Isabella. The two houses fought the Hundred Years War to enforce their claims; the Valois were ultimately successful, and French historiography counts their leaders as rightful kings. One Plantagenet, Henry VI of England, did enjoy de jure control of the French throne under the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, which formed the basis for continued English claims to the throne of France until the 19th century. The Valois line would rule France until the line became extinct in 1589, in the backdrop of the French Wars of Religion.

House of Bourbon (1589–1792)

The Valois line looked strong on the death of Henry II, who left three male heirs. His first son, Francis died in his minority. His second son, Charles IX had no legitimate sons to inherit. Following the assassination of his third son, the childless Henry III, France was plunged into a succession crisis over which distant cousin of the king would inherit the throne. The best claimant, Henry, King of Navarre was a Protestant, and thus unacceptable to much of the French nobility. Ultimately, after winning numerous battles in defense of his claim, Henry converted to Catholicism and was crowned king, founding the House of Bourbon.

House of Bonaparte, First Empire (1804–1814)

The French First Republic lasted from 1792 to 1804, when its First Consul, Napoléon Bonaparte, was declared Emperor of the French.

Capetian Dynasty (1814–1815)

Following the first defeat of Napoleon and his exile to Elba, the Bourbon monarchy was restored, with Louis XVI's younger brother Louis Stanislas being crowned as Louis XVIII. Louis XVI's son had been considered by monarchists as Louis XVII but he was never crowned and never ruled in his own right before his own death; he is not usually counted among French monarchs, creating a gap in numbering on most traditional lists of French kings. Napoleon would briefly regain control of the country during his Hundred Days rule in 1815. After his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the Bourbon Monarchy was re-established yet again, and would continue to rule France until the July Revolution of 1830 replaced it with a cadet branch, the House of Orleans.

House of Orléans, July Monarchy (1830–1848)

The Bourbon restoration came to an end with the July Revolution of 1830, which deposed Charles X and replaced him with Louis Philippe I, a distant cousin with more liberal politics. The popular monarchy changed the styles and forms of the ancien regime, replacing it with more populist forms (i.e. replacing "King of France" with "King of the French"). Ultimately it was overthrown as well during the continent-wide Revolutions of 1848, to be replaced by the Second French Republic.

House of Bonaparte, Second Empire (1852–1870)

The Second French Republic lasted from 1848 to 1852, when its president, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, was declared Emperor of the French.

When he was declared emperor, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte took the regnal name Napoleon III, after his uncle (the Emperor Napoleon I) and his cousin (Napoleon II, who was declared but uncrowned as heir to the Imperial throne). He would later be overthrown during the events of the Franco-Prussian war. He was the last monarch to rule France; thereafter the country was ruled by a succession of Republican governments. (See French Third Republic.)

Later pretenders

Various pretenders descended from the preceding monarchs have claimed to be the legitimate monarch of France, rejecting the claims of the President of France, and of each other. These groups are:

  • Legitimist claimants to the throne of France: descendants of the Bourbons, rejecting all heads of state 1792–1814, 1815, and since 1830. Unionists recognized the Orléanist claimant after 1883.
  • Legitimist-Anjou claimants to the throne of France: descendants of Louis XIV, claiming precedence over the House of Orléans by virtue of primogeniture
  • Orléanist claimants to the throne of France: descendants of Louis-Phillippe, himself descended from a junior line of the Bourbon dynasty, rejecting all heads of state since 1848.
  • Bonapartist claimants to the throne of France: descendants of Napoleon I and his brothers, rejecting all heads of state 1815–48, and since 1870.
  • English claimaints to the throne of France: Kings of England and later, of Great Britain (renounced by Hanoverian King George III upon union with Ireland in 1800).
  • Jacobite claimants to the throne of France: senior heirs-general of King Edward III of England and thus his claim to the French throne, also claiming England, Scotland, and Ireland.
  • References

    List of French monarchs Wikipedia