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Facts About France

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One of the greatest disasters France has had was the downy mildew plague that struck vineyards in 1876. This fungus had been introduced to France eleven years earlier on American vine stock brought to France in order to solve the phylloxera epidemic of 1865. (source)

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In 1992, a troop of Les Eclaireurs de France (a French Protestant youth group similar to the Boy Scouts) went to la Grotte des Mayrières Supérieures, a cave in the Tarn-et-Garonne region of southern France, to clean off graffiti that covered the cave walls. However, after having removed the graffiti, they discovered that the "graffiti" had actually been prehistoric cave paintings between 10,000 and 15,000 years old, the only such paintings that had ever found in that part of France. (source)

View more facts about: Ancient People

France is the world's most popular tourist destination. According to the World Tourism Organisation, in 2001, 76.5 million tourists went to France, 11% of international travellers that year. (source)

One U.S. Civil War battle took place off the coast of France. On June 19, 1864, the sloops-of-war USS Kearsarge and CSS Alabama fought in neutral waters just off the town of Cherbourg in France. The Alabama was sunk after an hour's fight. (source)

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In the principality of Andorra, a 180-square-mile country consisting mainly of deep valleys and the Pyrenees Mountains, the heads of state are both foreign: the bishop of the Spanish town of Seo de Urgel, south of the Andorran border, and the President of France. Seven centuries ago, a Spanish bishop and the French Count of Foix settled a long-term land dispute by agreeing to become co-princes of the Andorran valley. The Spanish title was handed down the centuries to the present bishop. On the French side, the title was passed to the kings of Navarre, then to the kings of France, and now to the presidents of France. (source)

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King John II of France was captured by the English at the battle of Poiters in 1356 and was taken hostage. His gaol, such as it was, was London's Savoy Palace, and he enjoyed fine food, hunting, and horseback outings, as well as a busy social schedule. By 1360, England and France agreed on a ransom of 3 million gold crowns, and three of John's sons were retained as hostages in England while John went back to France to raise the cash. In spite of the burdensome taxes he imposed, he couldn't raise the required capital. So, when one of his sons escaped from custody, John returned to England to replace him and honour his commitment. He died there in 1364.

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Billiards were invented in France in 1471. (source)

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Cardinal Richelieu, who was Prime Minister of France under Louis XIII, exercised by jumping over furniture.

King Louis XIV of France hated washing. He took only three baths during his lifetime (1638–1715). (source)

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Around the end of the fourth century, about 20 great families in six large clans owned most of the land in Gaul (modern-day France) and Italy. (source)

View more facts about: Roman Empire

The army of Andorra, a small principality in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, consists entirely of officers. Its duties are mostly of a ceremonial nature.

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In the nineteenth century, there was a place in France whose name had no vowels: the hamlet of Ws, near Paris. (source)

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All practising Jews were expelled from England and France in 1292. In England, this law was not revoked for several centuries. (source)

View more facts about: Middle Ages

King Jean I (or John I) of France became king at birth (November 15, 1316), but died five days later. (source)

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The person with the longest documented lifetime ever was Jeanne Calment from Provence in France. She was born on February 21, 1875 and died on August 4, 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. (source)

The person with the longest verified lifespan ever was Jeanne Calment of France, who is believed to have been born on February 21, 1875, and died on August 4, 1997, at an age of 122 years and 164 days.

The word "dunce", meaning a dull-witted or ignorant person, comes from the name of John Duns Scotus (1265-1308), one of the greatest minds of his time. Scotus, born in Scotland, wrote treatises on grammar, logic, metaphysics, and theology. He was educated at Cambridge and Oxford and pursued his master's degree in theology at the University of Paris where, in 1303, he became embroiled in one of the most heated disputes of the day. France's King Philip IV had moved to tax the Church in order to finance his war with England; in response, Pope Boniface VIII threatened to excommunicate him. For supporting the pope, Duns Scotus was banished from France. He later assumed a university professorship in Cologne. The term "dunce" was coined two centuries later by people who disagreed with Scotus' teachings and his defence of the papacy. To them, any of his followers (a "Duns man" or "Dunce") was dull-witted, "incapable of scholarship and stupid". (source)

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The shortest place names in the world are only a single letter long. There is a village of Y (population 143) in France, which has been so named since 1241, and villages called Å located in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. (source)

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The oldest calendar may be 30,000 years old. An engraved bone plaque found at Blanchard, in the Dordogne region of France, contains a series of 69 engravings arranged on a curved line. The shape of the engravings resembles the phases of the moon, and some archaeologists believe that that is what the marks represent. (source)

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The French towns of Bezonvaux, Beaumont-en-Verdunois, Cumières-le-Mort-Homme, Fleury-devant-Douaumont, Haumont-près-Samogneux and Louvemont-Côte-du-Poivre have a mayor and a municipal council, even though they were all destroyed in the First World War and have been unoccupied since.

View more facts about: First World War

The first parachute jump occurred in 1783, when Louis-Sebastien Lenormand jumped from a 66-foot (20-metre) high tower in Montpelier, France. he used a 14-foot (4.25-metre) parachute that had a rigid wooden frame. The puarachute was originally designed with the intent of saving people from burning buildings. (source)

What is called a "French kiss" in England is called an "English kiss" in France. (source)

In the first half of the thirteenth century, there was a higher intensity of Crusading activity than at any other time. This period saw Crusades against Muslims in Egypt, Palestine, and Iberia, Orthodox Christians in Constantinople, heretics in France, Germany, and Hungary, non-Christian Baltic people, Mongols (although Crusader armies never met the Mongols in the field), and various enemies of the Pope. (source)

View more facts about: Crusades

King Richard the Lion-Hearted of England spent only six months of his ten-year reign in England, being there only briefly in 1189 and 1194. Much of his reign was spent either on the Third Crusade or in France. (source)

View more facts about: Crusades | Mediaeval England | Royalty

In 582, it rained "blood" on Paris. The terrified population believed this to be a sign of divine displeasure, and replied by indulging in an agony of repentance. The true cause of this weird event was the sirocco, the wind that sometimes blows from the Sahara across the Mediterranean into Europe. It is laden with a fine red dust from the desert interior, and this had dyed the rain that fell on Paris.

View more facts about: Middle Ages

At Carnac in Brittany, France, stand some 3,000 upright stones (or menhirs) between 18 inches and 20 feet high and laid out in parallel lines. These rows of local stone were created around 4,000 B.C., and stretch almost three miles across open countryside. No one knows why these stones were placed at Carnac. However, it is thought that the stones may be monuments to the dead, and it has been suggested that the stones may have formed some kind of lunar observatory. (source)

View more facts about: Ancient People

In the first Crusade in 1096, two armies of beggars set out alongside the knights, one army from southern France and the other from Germany, regions that had been suffering from famine. When travelling towards Palestine, these armies plundered many cities on the Rhine and in southern Germany, killing Jews and in some cases Christians. They never reached the Holy Land, being defeated in Turkey; many were slaughtered and the rest sold into slavery. (source)

View more facts about: Crusades

Various gatherings of bishops in southern France in 990 A.D. tried to set up a "Truce of God," a subjection of warfare to rules. The chief rule called for converting all ecclesiastical property and persons into a kind of neutral territory that was not to be touched. Eventually, this was extended to a complete ban on warfare from Wednesday evening to Monday morning of each week, and on numerous fast and feast days as well. In the end, as much as three-fourths of the year was put off limits to warfare—in theory. (source)

View more facts about: Middle Ages

The last person to be publicly guillotined in France was Eugene Weidmann, who had been found guilty of strangling Jean De Koven, an American tourist. Although the execution was held at 4:50 on a Saturday morning (June 17, 1939), it attracted a large crowd. The guillotine was so efficient that few saw anything, but photographs that found their way to the front page of French newspapers so outraged the public that, the next week, a law was passed forbidding public executions. (source)

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Queen Berengaria of England, the wife of Richard the Lion-Hearted, was the only English queen never to set foot on English soil. Berengaria, who was the daughter of King Sancho VI of Navarre, married Richard in Cyprus in 1191 while Richard was on a Crusade. She spent most of her eight-year reign in Italy and France. (source)

View more facts about: Mediaeval England | Royalty
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